Romeo Saganash: Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

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NDP MP Romeo Saganash stands during question period in the House of Commons on Sept. 25, 2018.

Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

In 2011, I set myself the task of advancing Indigenous rights, as defined by knowledge keepers and elders, into Canadian politics. I introduced a bill, now known as C-262, in two separate parliaments, under different Prime Ministers, and worked with the hundreds of people elected to represent Canadians. Over the past two parliamentary mandates I have been given, I have worked diligently to promote human rights and Indigenous values not just in bill C- 262 but in every piece of legislation that passed my desk.

After travelling to speak about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with people in community centres, auditoriums, on picnic tables in baseball parks and in art galleries, people from coast to coast to coast have become champions of justice. Millions of people have had a conversation about Indigenous rights, what they mean, and how they will bring us forward into a beautiful new future.

I am devastated and regret that my bill, that so many people have worked so hard to promote and educate on, will not become law.  Nonetheless, I have been inspired and reassured by the broad representation from civil society in the support for this bill: churches, labour unions, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, Indigenous leadership and grassroots that have made it possible to get to the recognition and respect that we see today.

I do know that we have made tremendous advances in human rights by getting this far in the legislative process. It is rare for non-governmental bills to pass through the House of Commons and to get as far in the Senate as it did. This is an indication of how important bill C-262 is, of how much has changed, and of the general willingness of everyone to move towards a new future together. We cannot go back to how things were before. New understandings of human rights and what they mean and who they include means that society is can only get better because of the work that we have done.

The struggle for human rights is a long one; it takes us away from our families and loved ones; we work too many hours, we sacrifice our health and spirit. Yet our ancestors took a path before me, one that is for dignity, justice and a good life.  Others have not only followed the path but imagined new possibilities. I am grateful for the sacrifices they also have made in the belief that Indigenous law, rights, and ways of being will be one day be restored to these territories. I am honoured to follow in their work, and I dedicate any accomplishments I have made to my family.

I want to thank the countless people who have worked so hard with their whole body, heart, mind and spirit because they believe in the values listed in the Declaration. I remain strongly convinced of the potential for the UN Declaration to be the framework for reconciliation; as a set of standards created by Indigenous peoples for Indigenous peoples, and as a reminder to nation-states like Canada, that we are still here, and we not only deserve but we demand the rights that have been denied us for so long.

There are and always have been obvious flaws in a governing system that is designed to maintain a status quo and deny rights to people who power rejects. The process of bringing C262 along the legislative path has highlighted this for me and I believe there are many parts in this struggle and many people lead; its not enough to create legislation that holds the colonial governments accountable to International human rights standards and to Indigenous ways of being; it will take structural and institutional change in order to see justice on stolen lands. Let us rise with more energy. Let us stand with a greater determination. On behalf of the millions who are building resistance and beauty in our communities: our spirit is not broken.

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Canada Reckons With Genocide

A damning new report on the deaths of indigenous women highlights post-colonial nations’ failures.

A sign at a Canadian First Nations protest in Toronto references the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada on April 21, 2018.

A sign at a Canadian First Nations protest in Toronto references the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada on April 21, 2018. ROBERTO MACHADO NOA/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Every page of testimony from Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is heartbreaking.

It is a mammoth effort—and one that might provide a way forward for the United States and other post-colonial countries, such as Australia and Brazil, trying to grapple with the past treatment of indigenous peoples.

But for Canadians, it’s also a challenge, one that calls for their country to decolonize and fundamentally change its relationship with indigenous peoples. The report demands the country recognize its role in perpetrating a “deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide”—language that already has irked some commentators.

The public inquiry into the deaths or disappearances of thousands of indigenous women was one of Justin Trudeau’s first acts after becoming prime minister of Canada in 2015. The stories contained in the report, gathered by four years of fact-finding work, are harrowing and frustrating. They detail police inaction, cycles of intergenerational violence, and failed government policies that have broken families and locked indigenous peoples into poverty.

The inquiry heard from 1,484 family members and survivors, but it also initiated a forensic document review, poring over police records to identify gaps and problems in the law enforcement response. Officially, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified 1,017 homicides of indigenous women between 1980 and 2012—a homicide rate nearly five times higher than that of non-indigenous women—as well as 164 disappearances. The report maintains the real number is much higher.

The stories of these cases play out through the report, detailing tragedies from every corner of the country.

The calls to action in the report—not merely recommendations, as the commissioners underscored—are aimed at achieving nothing short of decolonization

On the West coast, the inquiry heard from Robin Rain, who lost her daughter Isabella Rose in 2005. She was killed by Rain’s partner at the time, an abusive man who she remained with out of financial necessity, she told the inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Even when I was sitting in the hospital beside my daughter’s corpse, the detective told me to get away from her body,” she said. “He stood guard over her body to make sure that I didn’t touch her. I couldn’t even hold her hand. I could only sit across the room and look at her little lifeless body.”

In Quebec, Gilberte Vachon told the inquiry about the night her daughter Adèle-Patricia headed out the door. “She came back after and told us ‘I love you.’ That was the last time I heard her voice.” Her daughter was found, beaten, outside a community center in Pessamit. She died in a hospital. MORE

How a flock of sheep protects one B.C. First Nation’s land


The Saulteau First Nation teamed up with Australian and French shepherds to replace toxic chemical sprays with the services of sheep. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

Did you know sheep can protect vulnerable tree seedlings better than chemical sprays?

The Saulteau First Nation sure does. Last year, the B.C. band invested in a herd of sheep and teamed up with two shepherds experienced in sheep veg-management to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in their territory.

Vegetation management is an important reforestation activity in that it involves preventing wild plants from stealing sunlight needed by young tree seedlings. The seedlings are planted in most new forest sites established in areas that have been logged or affected by wildfire, insects and disease. Toxic chemical sprays are one form of vegetation management, but there are non-chemical options available and growing in B.C.

The Saulteau First Nation invested in a non-chemical vegetation management plan that uses flocks of sheep, rather than toxic chemicals to protect young tree seedlings planted by forestry companies in their region. #FirstNationsForward

Sheep-based vegetation management is one of many positive ways their people resist the violent implications of oil and gas, mining and forestry companies. The Saulteau First Nation is located in the heart of the Peace River Region in northeastern B.C., also known as “the industrial zone,” Juritha Owens told me during an interview in her home. MORE

Extinction Rebellion: Our Demands

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Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We have three demands in the UK:

01 TELL THE TRUTH

Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.

02 ACT NOW

Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

03 BEYOND POLITICS

Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

WHAT IS A CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY?

A citizens’ assembly brings people together to learn, deliberate and make recommendations on an issue of public concern. Similar to jury service, members are randomly selected from the population by a process called sortition. Quotas are used to ensure that the assembly is representative in terms of key characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography. Assembly members learn about critical thinking before they hear balanced information from experts and stakeholders. The members spend time deliberating in small, facilitated groups and then they draft and vote on recommendations. Citizens’ assemblies are conducted by non-partisan organisations under independent oversight. They are transparent, inclusive and effective.

The UK Parliament already uses deliberative democracy processes, such as citizens’ assemblies, for example the Citizens’ Assembly on Social Careworked with House of Commons Select Committees and there are three deliberative democracy projects currently running as part of the Innovation in Democracy project. Citizens’ assemblies around the world – for example in IrelandCanadaAustraliaBelgium and Poland – have demonstrated that the general public can understand complex information, deliberate on options, and make fair and impartial choices.

Citizens’ assemblies are often used to address issues that are deemed too controversial and difficult for politicians to deal with successfully by themselves. In recent years, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly has broken the deadlock on two controversial issues: legalising same-sex marriage and the repeal of the ban on abortion. The recommendations of the citizens’ assembly informed public debate and emboldened politicians to advocate for change regarding these issues. The recommendations of their citizens’ assembly on Making Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change is currently being incorporated into the Government’s action plan.

Why is Extinction Rebellion demanding a citizens’ assembly?

This is an emergency. The challenges are big, wide-ranging and complex. And solutions are needed urgently.

Extinction Rebellion believes that part of the problem is the way our parliamentary democracy operates:

    • In the UK’s form of parliamentary democracy, power is in the hands of a few representatives (MPs) who are elected by the public. Over the last 40 years, this form of government has proved itself incapable of making the long-term policy decisions needed to deal effectively with the climate and ecological emergency. The five-year electoral cycle in the representative system of democracy discourages governments attending to long-term issues like climate change.
    • Democratic representatives are lobbied by powerful corporations, seek sympathetic media coverage, and calculate their policies based on potential media and public reactions, as measured by opinion polls. This means politicians often feel unable to propose the bold changes necessary to address the emergency.
    • Opinion polls often gather knee-jerk reactions to loaded questions, and they do not inform the respondent or enable them to explore the implications of different options with others. For an issue as complex as the climate emergency, opinion polling is of limited value.

Here is how a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice can break the deadlock:

  • A citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice will break this deadlock by giving politicians access to public judgements that have been reached in a fair and informed way. This will help politicians to commit to a transformative programme of action justified by the mandate they receive from the citizens’ assembly, reducing the potential public backlash at the ballot-box.
  • Citizens’ assemblies are fair and transparent. Assembly members have an equal chance of being heard and information regarding experts, stakeholders and the materials given to assembly members is shared publicly. This produces informed and democratically legitimate judgements.
  • Citizens’ assemblies can be used when difficult trade-offs are necessary. For example, experts might propose policies on how to meet a 2025 target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the assembly would then decide which one they prefer. For example, they might consider how to mitigate the effects of any changes in economic policies for those in society on low incomes.

You can find out much more on our citizens’ assembly page.

MORE

Indigenous drummers lead pipeline protesters on 22-km march in Victoria

First Nations drummers led 300 anti-pipeline protesters along the route that passed through Victoria to Island View Beach


Demonstrators march down Government Street during a protest against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on Saturday, June 22, 2019.Dirk Meissner / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — The government approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion won’t stop efforts in British Columbia to halt the project, protesters gathered outside Victoria’s city hall said Saturday.

About 300 demonstrators were adamant in their commitment to fight the pipeline twinning project, approved this week by the federal Liberal government, as they prepared to embark on a 22-kilometre march to a beach south of Victoria.

Indigenous drummers led the anti-pipeline protest along the route that passed through Victoria to Island View Beach, located near Victoria International Airport. The demonstrators, some carrying placards saying, “Don’t be Crude,” and “What part of NO do you not understand,” walked down the middle of downtown streets escorted by police vehicles with their lights flashing.

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Luisa Alvarez@LuisaAlvarez95

A Protest against the trans mountain pipeline expansion is underway down Douglas st @CHEK_News

Eric Doherty said he was prepared to walk more than 20 kilometres to join what he believes will be a public groundswell against the pipeline expansion.

“Governments approve all sorts of things and then they face the people on the street and they get cancelled,” he said. “That’s how societies turn around is people hit the streets.”


Kanahus Manuel, a leader of the Tiny House Warriors, speaks to reporters prior to a demonstration against the Trans Mountain pipeline in Victoria. The Tiny House Warriors are one of the organizing groups for the protest. (Dirk Meissner/The Canadian Press)

Victoria Indigenous leader Rose Henry told the demonstrators Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline approval decision could hurt his government’s chances of re-election this fall.

“We can stop it,” said Henry. “We can stop it by saying, ‘No,’ to this unwanted pipeline. You know in the next few months we have two elections coming up.” MORE

 

B.C. Green’s Weaver ‘very worried’ about civil disobedience after pipeline approval

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WATCH THE VIDEO:  B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver tells Mercedes Stephenson he understands if there is civil disobedience by opponents of the Trans Canada pipeline expansion project, and says the decision will cost the Liberals at the ballot box this fall.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver says he is “very worried” about the potential for civil disobedience in light of the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The controversial pipeline, which will triple the amount of tanker traffic in the waters around B.C.’s Lower Mainland, was approved by the Liberals last week after a Federal Court judge blocked it from going forward in the fall of 2018.

That decision prompted a fresh marine impact assessment by the National Energy Board as well as renewed consultations with 117 Indigenous communities along the pipeline route from Alberta’s Fort McMurray to Burnaby, B.C.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets green light to proceed

And while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed construction will resume this year, Weaver suggested he would not be surprised to see pipeline opponents take matters into their own hands to try to stop it moving forward.

“As a political party, you will not see me standing up and condoning or participating in civil disobedience. I don’t believe as a lawmaker it behooves me as such a person to actually break said law,” he said in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.

“However, I understand that in times of strife, people find different ways of expressing themselves. I’m very worried about how this is going to end up.” MORE

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is being built

Is it possible to come up with a solution to the climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the global crisis, all at the same time? New Consensus aims to find out.


Grist / mediaphotos / Maskot / kali9 / Getty Images

wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, a progressive group called the Justice Democrats jumped into action. If the liberal establishment had failed to keep Trump from power, clearly it was time for some fresh political blood. The group embarked on a hunt for potential candidates, putting out a nationwide call for nominations of community leaders who might make good members of Congress.

The following year, Justice Democrats invited a few standouts among those nominees to “The Candidate Summit,” a gathering in Frankfort, Kentucky. You’ve already heard a lot about one of them: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — now a freshman Congresswoman, social media maven, and pied piper for American progressives.

But you probably have not heard about another one of the people there: 35-year-old grassroots organizer Demond Drummer, who was at the time cofounder of a group that teaches computer science to kids on Chicago’s South Side. At that summit, Drummer realized that running for office wasn’t for him, at least for the time being. Instead, it sparked another idea: Creating a new progressive think tank that would explore how to jumpstart a more equitable society.

That thought remained preliminary until the summer of 2018, when Drummer attended the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. He sat through the talks, but he wasn’t hearing about ideas that could begin to address the problems we face in this country. He had a realization: The people who are in power have no clue what has to happen next. That was his aha moment, he said. He went from being interested in starting up an organization to thinking, “this is the goal of my life.”

He wondered: What are the ideas that might fix the economy and heal the planet? Would it be possible to build an organization that could come up with a solution to the “climate crisis, the economic crisis, and the global crisis, which is rooted in the history of systematic injustice,” as he put it, all at the same time?

“That really got me interested in jumping in on this idea of building an organization,” he said. “That was the idea of New Consensus.” MORE

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The Atlantic: A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy

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