B.C. takes historic steps towards the rights of Indigenous Peoples, but the hard work is yet to come

With the introduction of Bill 41, the province is on track to become the first government in Canada — and indeed anywhere in the English common-law world — to establish a legislative framework for putting the declaration’s human rights standards into concrete practice

BC Horgan UNDRIP
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks with press at the legislature after the government introduced Bill 41 to bring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples into law. Photo: Province of B.C. / Flickr

itish Columbia recently introduced groundbreaking provincial legislation to implement global standards for upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Those rights are set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

At the time, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called it such a positive development that he wondered if he might be asleep and dreaming it all up.

I had the honour of being in the legislature when the Bill 41 was introduced and fully share Grand Chief Phillip’s sense of elation, pride and, yes, a certain amount of disbelief. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this historic achievement — or the exhilaration over how far we’ve come.

The UN Declaration is the most comprehensive international human rights instrument setting out the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples and the obligations of governments to honour, protect and fulfil those rights. Implementation of the UN Declaration is at the heart of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

With the introduction of Bill 41, B.C. is on track to become the first government in Canada — and indeed anywhere in the English common-law world — to establish a legislative framework for putting the declaration’s human rights standards into concrete practice. In doing so, B.C. is not only making an important step toward reconciliation, it is setting an example for the rest of Canada and the rest of the world to follow.

Now comes the hard part: maintaining the courage of its convictions and fulfilling the promise of implementation.

Implementation questions linger

In some quarters, any talk of actually upholding the UN Declaration will spur anxiety and opposition. Readers may be familiar with the fact that Bill 41 is based on proposed federal legislation. Romeo Saganash’s private members bill, Bill C-262, died in the Senate in June 2019 after the delaying tactics of a handful of Conservative senators prevented it coming to a final vote.

Concerns over the implications of the UN Declaration have also popped up from time to time in B.C. media.

Speaking to the legislature after the bill was introduced, Cheryl Casimir, of the First Nations Summit, joked: “Did you hear that? The sky didn’t fall.”

I agree wholeheartedly. As someone who has intensively studied the UN Declaration, its content, its history and the work of Indigenous Peoples around the world to bring its provisions to life, I can say without hesitation that the fears and anxiety that have been stirred up around implementation are overblown and unwarranted.

Implementation of the declaration is already well under way, albeit in a patchwork and uncertain way. Courts, human rights tribunals and environmental impact assessment panels have already referenced and applied its provisions.

The importance of Bill 41 is that it provides a framework for the province to now engage more proactively so that implementation can unfold in a more predictable and consistent way. Bill 41 requires the province to develop a co-ordinated action plan “to achieve the objectives of the Declaration” and to report regularly to the legislature on the progress being made.

‘In consultation and co-operation with’

I was heartened to see the measured and cautiously optimistic response to Bill 41 from the Mining Association of B.C. After the introduction of the legislation, Mining Association CEO Michael Goehring told the Vancouver Sun:

“The truth is, the status quo has not engendered confidence in British Columbia’s economic future, nor has it served British Columbians or B.C.’s Indigenous communities.”

In contrast, Goehring said, implementation of the declaration could “enable greater certainty and predictability on the land base.”

The bill also requires that the government implement it “in consultation and co-operation” with Indigenous Peoples. The phrase “in consultation and co-operation” is crucial. The words come directly from the UN Declaration itself and signal the imperative of going beyond mere consultation to instead work together in what the declaration calls “a spirit of partnership and mutual respect.”

Legislative pathways have always been considered essential for domestic implementation of the UN Declaration. As the text of Article 38 states: “States, in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous Peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.”

Various UN bodies have called for legislative measures and public policies to implement the rights recognized in the declaration, yet they also recognize that legislation alone is generally not sufficient.

Without a doubt, there is significant work ahead to identify, prioritize and implement the reforms needed to bring B.C. in line with the requirements of international human rights law. Even with the framework provided by the UN Declaration, it will not be quick or easy work to uproot the legacies of colonialism present in provincial law and policy.

Action plans

While B.C. is about to become the first jurisdiction in the Commonwealth to adopt a legislative framework for implementation of the declaration, it will not be the first to develop an action plan for implementation. The collaborative development of a National Action Plan is already well under way in New Zealand.

The New Zealand government is working with the Maori people to identify key reforms necessary in their national laws and policies and co-develop their National Action Plan. As part of its process, the Human Rights Commission of New Zealand and Maori groups co-invited members of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to visit and provide advice. The government of British Columbia should follow suit.

While the action plan developed in B.C. must adapt to the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples in the province, it’s important to remain engaged with the ongoing processes of how the declaration is interpreted and applied globally.

Doing so is an opportunity to set positive examples for other countries, to learn from what others are doing and to ensure that domestic interpretation of the declaration not diverge from its international human rights foundations.

Terry Teegee, the Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, remarked after the introduction of Bill 41 that making history “is not for the faint of heart.” Further, Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit encouraged the Members B.C.’s Legislative Assembly to “be brave” as “change does require courage.”

Without a doubt, there is hard work ahead, both for the Horgan government and the Indigenous leadership in B.C.

It’s worth noting another historical aspect of Bill 41: it was co-developed between the Horgan government and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

In other words, a foundation for collaborative development of an action plan has already been established. The very fact that their collaboration has already resulted in the tabling of Bill 41 holds out hope for the progress that can be made by working together. SOURCE

 

Glass Half Full? Innovative Technologies Could Increase Global Water Security

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Irish Youth Assembly recommendations on climate change announced

The Youth Assembly recommendations have been revealed
The Youth Assembly recommendations have been revealed

STATEMENT

We, the youth of Ireland, call on our elected representatives and on adults to listen. We put forward our Recommendations for action to stop climate breakdown. We are NOT experts. In our Recommendations we offer ideas but we do NOT have all the answers. It is a starting point for adults and particularly for those elected to protect and progress our society. We call on you to listen to the science, to take on board our Recommendations and to work on our behalf to ensure that we – and you – have a future.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. From your corner store to your super market, we call on the house to incentivise and obligate the installation of glass doors on open refrigerators
  2. For Ireland to ban the importation of fracked gas and invest solely in renewables.
  3. Implementing measures that will allow that Irish goods be both eco- sustainable and affordable in todays’ Irish Market.
  4. Implement a tiered Tax on Emissions from large companies including those under capital ETS. This tax must be increased every year while threshold decreases, shifting the burden from individuals to corporations.
  5. Investment in industrial hemp processing facilities to provide a viable, sustainable and alternative land use for farmers as well as employment in rural Ireland.
  6. A labelling and pricing system showing the climate impact of food products based on criteria such as impact of packaging and distance travelled.
  7. Ireland to outlaw acts of ecocide – being the widespread and systematic loss of ecosystems, including climate and cultural damage.
  8. Protect existing forests and make compulsory that at least 10% of all land owned for agricultural uses is dedicated to forestry.
  9. A targeted nationwide Information campaign to educate the population about the climate crisis regarding the causes, the effects and the solutions.
  10. Mandatory “Sustainability” education from primary level to the workplace including a new compulsory Junior Cycle & optional Leaving Certificate subject.

SOURCE

 

Fighting climate change from the ground up

Image result for Fighting climate change from the ground upWatch the video

A year-long experiment is underway in Cork which aims to turn waste collected from a farmers’ market into soil.

The Cork Urban Soil Project (CUSP), based out of Mahon Farmers’ Market, says “waste is a matter of perception” and “climate change resilience is best built by communities”.

Virginia O’Gara, co-founder of My Goodness vegan food company, is one of the food producers involved with the project.

She spoke to RTÉ News for our “Climate and Me” series of reports which have featured people who are committed to making a difference on climate change.

Virginia said: “We are collecting and sorting waste from the market and bringing it back to place in our biodigester.

“By using microbes, heat and undulation we take that would-be waste, divert it from landfill and turn it back into soil.

“So, we are creating a closed loop system where would-be waste is now the input for the farmers to grow their food.”

Globally 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food is lost or wasted every year, which accounts for one eighth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

What Does Food Waste Have To Do With The Climate Crisis

Image result for What Does Food Waste Have To Do With The Climate Crisis

The holiday season is upon us, which means spending time with friends, family, and loved ones. For many, it also means spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. But one aspect of cooking and preparing meals during the holidays that we don’t think about as often is food waste.

Food Waste and the Climate Crisis

What Does Food Waste Have To Do With The Climate Crisis

While no one likes to throw out food we forgot about, or old leftovers, or even scraps from cooking – it happens more often than we realize, especially when cooking large meals during the holidays.

So, what does food waste have to do with the climate crisis and what kind of impact does it have on the environment? When we throw out food or leftovers, it goes to a landfill to decompose, which releases methane – a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere over 20 years.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), around a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. To put this into perspective, WRI says, “If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter—surpassed only by China and the United States.” That’s a lot of food.

So, what can we do to prevent food waste all-year, and even as we’re preparing our  holiday meals? Here are five easy to follow tips:

 1. Do a Food Waste Audit

One of the best ways to know how you can help fight the climate crisis is to be aware of your own impact. This can easily be done by performing a food waste audit. While we all want to be able to reduce waste and even spend less money at the grocery store, it can be hard to know how much food we really need when we go to the store. This is where food waste audits come in handy.

Ready to start your audit?

For a week, keep track of the amount of food you use and consume through cooking and performing your normal weekly routine. At the same time, keep track and record how much food you’re throwing away.

Then, with this new information in hand, spend the next week trying to only buy and consume the amount of food you’ll actually use. This can give you an idea of how much you need to live your daily routine, without altering anything besides the amount of waste.

Once you see how much you use compared to how much you don’t, it’ll not only help you save the planet but save you money too. And let’s be real – having some extra cash during the holidays is a nice perk!

 2. Be Prepared When You Shop for Groceries

 Now that you have an idea of the amount of food you actually use in a week, it’s easier to head out to the grocery store, farmers market, or wherever you buy your food.

A great way to prevent food waste is to plan ahead (and don’t go to the grocery store hungry). Before you get to the grocery store, try to plan out what you’ll be cooking, how much you’ll be making, and the number of ingredients needed.

Planning ahead allows you to both buy the amount of ingredients needed and save money, especially when buying a lot of food to prepare your favorite holiday dishes.

This also is an opportunity to go through your cabinets, pantry, and fridge to see what you already have at home. Why buy food that you already own? This is a really easy way to go green and save some green. If you’re someone who buys food in bulk, think about the shelf life for those items, how much you have at home, and when you would need to re-stock or if you’ll be able to use it all. After all, you only save money if you use food before it goes bad.

 3. Be Creative and Repurporse

Another easy way to reduce food waste and have fun in the kitchen is by being creative with how we use our food. Instead of throwing out lonely or mismatched ingredients, get creative!

Food scraps and leftovers can help create even more amazing foods to eat. We’ve all looked at our leftovers in the fridge and cans in the pantry wondering what to do with them. But instead of throwing them away, take this opportunity to mix it up and try something new.

Repurpose leftovers and scraps by using every part possible. Use bones for great stocks for soup. Many fruits and vegetables are usable from root to stem. You can even use leftover turkey meat to make sandwiches or stews.

There are so many lists online of recipes to do with leftovers, and especially as we head into the holiday season, the options are endless (and delicious).

 4. Start Composting

If you end up with food scraps too small to use, don’t fret or feel like you always have to find a way to repurpose them. There are ways to dispose of scraps that are much more environmentally friendly than throwing them away, including composting.

If the term is new to you, composting is the process of recycling organic material into a supercharged soil amendment that gardeners fondly refer to “black gold.”

What do we mean by “recycling organic material”? Basically, microorganisms break down piles of food scraps into nutrients that we can use to feed the soil.

There are many ways to compost. Some communities have municipal compost options where residents store and set their food scraps out for collection to feed the city or town compost pile. Growing numbers of young people and families use dedicated composting tubs or bins or build healthy compost pits outside.

So why compost? According to EPA, composting has many benefits along with enriching the soil, including reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and sequestering carbon.

It’s easy to start composting – and if you don’t want to set up a compost station in your home or apartment, communities around the world have food waste drop-offs. Want to see if there’s a location near you? Check out this resource.

5. Learn More and Talk About It

One of the easiest ways to help fight and bring awareness of the impacts that food scraps have on the climate crisis is simply talking about it. Educate your friends and family on how they can reduce their own food waste, and get them involved in helping the planet.

Want to learn more about the climate crisis? Join our email list for information and updates on how you can help make a difference.

SOURCE

BC teachers rally outside NDP convention after rejecting contract offer

Image result for BC teachers rally outside NDP conventionPresident of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring joins teachers who are protesting outside the BC NDP Convention where Premier John Horgan and Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be speaking at the Victoria Convention Centre in Victoria, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — Throngs of teachers hoping to draw attention to stalled contract talks have staged a rally outside a venue where British Columbia’s New Democrats are holding an annual convention.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring joined union members Saturday as NDP delegates gathered to vote on policy initiatives that could be adopted by the party.

Mooring said the union decided to hold its thrice-yearly meeting with school-district representatives in Victoria to coincide with the convention so members could speak with delegates and members of the legislature about their contract concerns.

The union has said more teachers must be hired but Education Minister Rob Fleming maintains the province made efforts to recruit over 900 out-of-province teachers last year and increased funding for all 60 school districts.

The B.C. Public School Employers Association has offered wage hikes of two per cent annually for a three-year term in keeping with what other public-sector employees have accepted, but the teachers’ union has rejected the increase.

Teachers have been without a contract since last June, but no settlement has been reached despite the involvement of a mediator.

Mooring said that as the Opposition, the New Democrats criticized the former Liberal government’s gutting of class size and student- composition provisions from the contract, but now the party is not standing up for public education.

A landmark Supreme Court of Canada victory for the union in 2016 restored class-size and composition provisions, forcing the government to hire more teachers.

However, the top court ruled the restored provisions could be bargained during negotiations.

“We have tabled improvements to those conditions, the class size and composition, and the employer has tabled concessions,” she said, adding that would amount to larger classes.

The current contract limits class size to 30 students from Grades 4 to 12 but the employer has proposed a limit of 32 students in Grades 4 to 9 and 33 students in Grades 10 to 12, Mooring said.

“They’ve also tabled a provision that would eliminate our class-composition language and would replace it with a committee to be headed by a district superintendent to decide the allocation of classroom resources.

“We wouldn’t have been shocked if it had been the Liberals still in power but we were shocked that we have an NDP government and their bargaining team tabled concessions, and such vast concessions as well.”

Teachers were shocked to see an NDP proposal to eliminate class composition language from the contract and the union won’t accept that from the employer, she said, adding a shortage of nearly 400 teachers in the province has led to the recruitment of uncertified and unqualified teachers.

Talks are expected to resume next month, and Fleming said he’s pleased the union and the employers’ association agreed to work with a mediator. MORE

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Ottawa in court this week over First Nations child-welfare compensation order

Federal government also in talks to settle proposed class action lawsuit on First Nations child welfare


Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, has been trying to get the federal government to compensate First Nations children since 2007. (Simon Gohier/CBC)

One of the most loaded and emotional issues facing the new Justin Trudeau government on its reconciliation agenda is heading to Federal Court over the next two days.

Justice Canada lawyers are set to argue against compensating First Nations children impacted by the on-reserve child welfare system.

In September, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 to each First Nations child affected by the on-reserve child welfare system since 2006. The compensation order followed a 2016 tribunal decision that found the federal government discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding the on-reserve child welfare system.

Ottawa has said the tribunal order could cost up to $8 billion and filed for a judicial review in October calling for the Federal Court to quash it, leading to two days of hearings beginning Monday on related legal manoeuvres.

The decision to challenge the order has drawn widespread condemnation from First Nations leaders, the NDP and the Green Party, and human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

Ottawa seeking stay of order

Ottawa will argue before the Federal Court on Monday that it should stay — or pause — the tribunal order until the judicial review application gets decided.

Ottawa has argued in court filings that the tribunal order was an overreach and that the original case was about systemic discrimination, which required a systemic fix, not individual compensation, which is the purview of class action law.


Justice Minister David Lametti said the federal government wants to settle the matter through negotiations. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Federal Court will also hear arguments from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations against the stay, so that Ottawa will be forced to discuss how a compensation model could work.

Cindy Blackstock, who heads the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society which filed the original human rights complaint in 2007 with the support of the AFN, said the government has been aware since that time that it could face a compensation order.

“Integrity is when words have meaning and, so far, this government’s had no integrity. It has really been putting out public statements to protect itself or to get itself a pat on the back,” said Blackstock.

“Well they’ve been ordered to make change overnight and they should be complying with the law, just like everyone else does.”

The tribunal has ordered all sides in the case — Ottawa, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations — to negotiate a method for dealing with the mechanics of the compensation and present it by Dec. 10. MORE

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