Over 20 years ago, we had a plan to repair the Crown-Indigenous relationship. What happened?

ANALYSIS: A glance back at the RCAP report offers a fascinating glimpse at the road not taken

Drummers share a moment during a rally in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Costal GasLink pipeline project in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

“The time seems opportune; indeed, the cracks in the existing relationship are coming starkly to the fore all across the country, and it should be apparent by now that trying to preserve the status quo is futile.”

Those words are almost a quarter-century old now. They could have been written yesterday.

That quote comes from the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) which sought to examine Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples and offer some proposals for reform.

The commission itself was born at a time when many thought the wheels were coming off Confederation. Commissioned by then-prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1991, it began its work following the death of the Meech Lake Accord (which was rejected in part by First Nations because they were left out of the process) and the alarming 78-day standoff in Oka, Que., between Mohawk protestors, police and the army.

Rene Dussault, co-chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, talks to reporters at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, March 23, 1995, while co-chair and Aboriginal leader Georges Erasmus listens. The commission culminated in a final report of 4,000 pages, published in 1996. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

 

By the time the commission’s 4,000-page final report was published, other conflicts had popped up — in Ipperwash, Ont. and Gustafson Lake, B.C.

The recent eruptions in the Crown-Indigenous relationship — over pipelines, territorial sovereignty and the use of rail blockades as a protest tactic — don’t mirror the situation that faced the commission back in the 1990s.

But at a time when many Canadians are wondering where a path forward for that relationship can be found, it’s worth remembering that we’ve been here before. And some of the proposals that have been gathering dust for 24 years are worth a second look.

‘A new beginning’

Over four years, the members of the commission visited 96 communities and held 178 days of public hearings to produce a massive document that outlined a strategy to build what the commission called a “new beginning with Indigenous peoples.”

“In just 20 years,” the report said, “the revitalization of many self-reliant Aboriginal nations can be accomplished, and the staggering human and financial cost of supporting communities unable to manage for themselves will end.”

That was over 20 years ago now. In the years since, little has changed for Indigenous people in Canada. Partly that was due to a lack of political will; partly it was due to a federal fiscal situation that put deficit-cutting at the top of the priority queue.

There were moments, over those two decades, when it seemed to some that a new Crown-Indigenous relationship was within reach. The Kelowna Accord, championed by then-prime minister Paul Martin in 2005, sought to close funding gaps and bring all parties to the table to negotiate new agreements. It died with Martin’s government in 2006; the accord itself was never supported by Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.

History being made: Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, in headdress, watches as Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologizes for more than a century of abuse and cultural loss involving residential schools on June 11, 2008. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

 

Another window opened in 2008 when Harper delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons for the residential school system. That apology, itself a direct response to the RCAP report, was followed by the establishment of a federal program for compensation of former residential school students and the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But RCAP was far more ambitious and comprehensive than any of that.

It called on Canada to build an entirely new framework to recognize Indigenous rights through the negotiation of modern treaties, treaty renewal, new agreements on independent or shared jurisdiction and new fiscal arrangements.

Still ‘relevant’

When asked about RCAP around the 20th anniversary of the report, one of the commission’s co-chairs, George Erasmus, said the “recommendations are still very, very useful” and still “relevant.”

The current Liberal government clearly agrees; it has said it’s using RCAP as a blueprint. Its attempt to legislate a Rights Recognition framework in 2018 was built on the report’s recommendations and on the notion that Indigenous rights should be recognized as a starting point for any negotiations. After some behind-the-scenes friction between then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and other cabinet members over timing, and complaints about a lack of Indigenous consultation, the legislative project was shelved.

Which brings us up to mid-February and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on the blockades. In it, Trudeau pointed out a painfully obvious fact: the dire state of the Crown-Indigenous relationship is the result of decades of government inertia and indifference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on all sides in the rail blockade to sit down and talk, but says that “finding a solution will not be simple” during a statement in the House of Commons Tuesday. 9:56

“It is past time for this situation to be resolved,” he said. “However, what we are facing was not created overnight. It was not created because we have embarked upon a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It is because for too long in our history, for too many years, we failed to do so.”

The idea of rights recognition didn’t vanish entirely with the failure of the framework. Ottawa joined forces with British Columbia and First Nations to provide a space to talk about rights and self-determination. Right now, some 23 First Nations in B.C. are engaged in some sort of discussions about their future. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett has said she still believes those discussions could provide a template for other First Nations across the country.

But the RCAP report contains hundreds of detailed recommendations that could transform this country and the lives of Indigenous Peoples. None of it could happen quickly; much of the hard work is starting decades late. That’s something all sides likely would be willing to acknowledge.

The authors of RCAP knew what they were suggesting was ambitious, but possible. “What we propose is fundamental, sweeping and perhaps disturbing — but also exciting, liberating, ripe with possibilities,” they wrote.

The best time to start working on this was over 20 years ago. In the current fraught climate, getting started won’t be any easier now than it was back then. SOURCE

‘Enforcers of the colonizers’: Wet’suwet’en crisis casts spotlight on long, difficult history between RCMP and Indigenous peoples

The North West Mounted Police in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1885. The origins of the police force began as a paramilitary group that often treated Indigenous peoples violently.

They were the images that Terry Teegee did not want to see.

In the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 6, Mounties descended on a snow-covered forest road in northern B.C. where supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline had set up camp.

As images of the raid and arrest of six people spread on social media, it triggered waves of protests and blockades across Canada and brought up memories from a year ago, when heavily armed RCMP stormed through a barricade and arrested 14 people in a similar raid that grabbed international attention.

Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he got on the phone and asked senior RCMP officials to consider alternatives. “Do you really need to arrest people?”

While Teegee is grateful to have open communication with the Mounties, he admits he can’t help but feel an element of distrust and suspicion.

“There’s a very strained relationship with RCMP in Canada and Indigenous peoples,” he says.

Teegee, a member of the Takla Lake First Nation near Prince George, says Mounties are known in his community as nilhchuk-in, “those who take us away.”

It’s a reference to the Mounties’ historical role in removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in residential schools. “We describe them as these people who took our children, stole our children.”

A member of the Mohawk Tyendinaga nation walks past a sign as they block the CN tracks in Tyendinaga, Ont. earlier this month

Though RCMP have since relocated their base of operations and suspended patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory in an “act of good faith” to allow Indigenous leaders and federal and provincial government officials to try to resolve the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a tenuous backdrop remains.

“You see some positive movements in this relationship, but ultimately it’s very … what’s going on here is really testing that relationship,” Teegee says.

The RCMP’s history with Indigenous peoples dates back to the beginnings of the force itself.

Established in 1873 under Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, the police service was initially known as the North-West Mounted Police.

The force’s early relationship with Indigenous people has been the subject of “myth,” according to Steve Hewitt, a lecturer at Britain’s University of Birmingham who has written extensively on the RCMP.

“There’s the notion, increasingly challenged, that the Mounties played a protective role for Indigenous peoples, when in reality the Mounted Police were modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary colonial police force that the British used to control the Irish. In the Canadian case, the Mounted Police helped with the process of moving Indigenous peoples onto reserves to free up land for European settlers.”

In a recent online column, historian Sean Carleton, a professor at Mount Royal University, described a “long historical pattern of Canada using a “might is right” approach to suppress Indigenous resistance.” It’s an ugly history, he writes, that may be jarring to those Canadians who “cling to the mythology of the Mounties as red-coated riders who brought ‘law and order’ to the west.”

 

He cites many flashpoints over the decades.

There was the arrest in 1968 by RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police of a number of Mohawk citizens who had blocked a bridge near Cornwall, Ont., after the government decided to levy customs duties on goods brought back from the U.S.

In 1995, there was the deployment by RCMP of 400 tactical officers to Gustafsen Lake in B.C., where a group of First Nations Sun Dancers were locked in a dispute with a rancher over access to land.

And in 2013, there was the arrest by RCMP of some 40 Elsipogtog First Nation members in New Brunswick who blocked a road during a dispute over fracking activity in their territory.

It’s a far from exhaustive list.

While acknowledging that its relationship with Indigenous communities has at times been difficult, RCMP officials say they have been working to repair it.

In an email this week, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Caroline Duval outlined in detail many of the steps the force has taken to improve relations with Indigenous groups “based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership” and said the force was developing a Canada-wide “reconciliation strategy.”

“As we forge a new path towards change, mutual respect and trust, we cannot forget or minimize the errors of the past. This is the only way in which we can ensure we do not repeat past actions.”

Duval acknowledged that reconciliation efforts can be hampered “when our role as a law enforcement agency brings us into potential conflict with Indigenous peoples, land defenders and supporters.” But when a court injunction is issued, as happened with the blockades on Wet’suwet’en territory, the RCMP strives to take a measured approach, she said. The hope always is to reach a peaceful resolution, “without the need for police intervention.”

But one academic who has studied the policing of protest movements says he’s skeptical of these overtures given the RCMP’s “strong institutional culture” and failure to become a more demographically diverse force. (As of April 2019, the force consisted of 22 per cent women, 11.5 per cent visible minorities and 7.5 per cent Indigenous).

Jeffrey Monaghan, a criminology professor at Carleton University, said there’s a tendency for Indigenous demonstrators to receive more scrutiny and surveillance than non-Indigenous ones. It stems from a long-held policing bias — stretching back to colonial times — that views Indigenous communities as more prone to violence, aggressive and risky.

“Police culture is really hard to change. It’s highly ingrained,” he said. “These are really inbound, tight and fraternal organizations. The RCMP is at the forefront of that.”

Duval said the force has offered two official apologies for the role RCMP played in the Indian Residential School legacy. Last year, she noted, the RCMP announced a land swap with a private land owner in Regina to enable the transfer of a residential school cemetery — containing the graves of dozens of Indigenous children — to an Indigenous commemorative group.

Further, Indigenous committees have been set up nationally and regionally to advise senior RCMP leadership on the delivery of policing services in Indigenous communities. And all cadets at the training academy now participate in an interactive “blanket exercise” that teaches Indigenous history.

In what was described as a watershed moment in late 2015, Bob Paulson, then-commissioner of the RCMP, told a gathering of the Assembly of First Nations there were racists in his force and that he wanted to get rid of them. At the time, Indigenous leaders praised the top Mountie for his candour. The Star reported that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the top Mountie his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect.”

In 2018, Brenda Lucki, Paulson’s successor, issued an apology to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at a national inquiry, saying “the RCMP could have done better.”

AFN Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras said Friday these are all positive steps and is hopeful relations will improve.

In the village of Fort Chipewyan where she grew up, she says, RCMP officers have done a much better job of integrating themselves in the community.

But like her counterpart in B.C., she says it’s hard to erase the darker moments from her memory.

“RCMP have always been enforcers of the colonizers,” she said, adding that high incarceration rates of Indigenous people remain a top concern. (Just last month, Canada’s corrections watchdog released a report saying that the number of Indigenous people in federal custody had risen to 30 per cent).

There’s no question communication between Indigenous communities and police has improved, Teegee said. But “even though there has been great efforts made, it certainly hasn’t changed enough to make it a good and functional relationship.”

The news this week that the RCMP in B.C. had agreed to stop police patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory to allow hereditary chiefs and government officials to negotiate an end to the pipeline dispute is a constructive step, Monaghan said. But why did this take so long?

“I think they’re going to be stuck with these very colonial images of super-militarized police storming a barricade in remote Indigenous territory … for a long time.”  SOURCE

Police removal of Tyendinaga Mohawk is a thumbnail in the violent mosaic of Canadian colonization

 

Mood optimistic as talks with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs resume in B.C.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks says 1st day laid groundwork for ‘heavy’ discussions

Hereditary chief Na’Moks, right, returns to meetings with federal and provincial ministers in Smithers, B.C., on Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

he mood seemed optimistic Friday as meetings between the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and senior ministers from Ottawa and B.C. resumed, with the groups working to break an impasse in a pipeline dispute that has sparked protests across the country.

“There’s progress. It’s slow but there’s progress,” hereditary chief Na’Moks said during a brief break from negotiations in Smithers, B.C., late Friday morning.

Na’Moks is one of several hereditary chiefs who opposes the Coastal GasLink pipeline set to run through traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en. This week’s meetings are discussing the $6.6-billion pipeline project, as well as concern around Indigenous rights to land and title.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser seemed hopeful, saying everyone is committed to working through the “complex and difficult” issues at hand.

“It feels like a good day,” Fraser said Friday.

“The important thing is that we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and get to the complex and difficult issues, and we began that yesterday and we’re going to continue that today.”

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser speak to reporters ahead of meetings in Smithers, B.C., on Friday. (Philippe Leblanc/CBC Radio-Canada)

‘Heavy discussions’ ahead

Friday’s round of meetings went ahead after preliminary discussions on Thursday.

“This first day … lays out the groundwork. [On Friday] we’ll get into the heavy discussions,” Na’moks told CBC News.

“I expect these to be long days, because they’re getting here late in the game,” he added.

A previous statement from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan declined invitations to attend the meetings.

On Friday, Bennett said progress needs to be made before the senior politicians take part.

“We need to do some hard work. We would want any meeting with the prime minister and the premier to be a good meeting,” Bennett said.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks said Thursday’s talks laid the groundwork for heavier discussions on Friday. (Chris Corday/CBC)

 

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he has no plans to go to Smithers in the near future and he’s been advised that talks have been co-operative, cordial and respectful.

“I am hopeful, as I have always been, that there can be a peaceful resolution and a way forward, not just in Wet’suwet’en territory, not just in British Columbia, but indeed across the country.”

Discussions go beyond a pipeline

The first day of meetings wrapped up after about three hours. Fraser said the day was productive and the mood in the room was respectful. The B.C. minister declined to give specifics on progress, saying he didn’t want to “jeopardize anything.”

Na’moks left Wet’suwet’en offices without making a statement, but told CBC that the issues at the heart of the discussions go far beyond a single pipeline project.

“We’ve seen what’s happening across Canada and we have more than a willingness for that to cease, but there has to be some positive, progressive changes — and we’re talking about the relationship between all Indigenous people and Canada and British Columbia and each of the provinces themselves,” said Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale. “That’s the goal here.”

Construction work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road, near Smithers, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

 

Both the RCMP and Coastal GasLink have agreed to conditions requested by the chiefs to allow the discussions to progress.

No RCMP patrols

Mounties ended patrols along the Morice River Service Road, a critical roadway, while negotiations unfold. The natural gas company agreed to a two-day pause on construction in the area in a similar vein.

The hereditary chiefs’ opposition to a natural gas pipeline cutting across their traditional territory, coupled with their efforts to limit police presence on their lands, have sparked shows of support across the country, which have halted rail service for the past three weeks.

The dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project began months ago, but tensions rose on Dec. 31, when the B.C. Supreme Court granted TC Energy an injunction calling for the removal of any obstructions from roads, bridges or work sites it has been authorized to use in Wet’suwet’en territory.

The RCMP moved in to enforce that injunction on Feb. 6. Hours later, protesters started holding up railway traffic outside of Belleville, Ont., in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, thwarting freight and passenger rail travel SOURCE.

RELATED:

Blair says RCMP best left to patrol Wet’suwet’en territory, not Kahnawake peacekeepers

 

Chris Hall: Can net-zero and the energy sector co-exist?

While federal and provincial governments cast blame, the business sector is running out of patience

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland insists that a climate strategy must make room for a healthy energy sector. But federal-provincial sniping over the Teck mine isn’t leaving much room for consensus. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Chrystia Freeland says there’s nothing inconsistent about the federal government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a thriving oil and gas sector on the Prairies.

The deputy prime minister admits there is no national concord yet on how to reconcile the two.

“I do not think that today in Canada that we have yet achieved a true national consensus on how we get to ambitious action on climate and have a strong robust economy,” she said in an interview on The House.

Freeland insists Canadians recognize that the two goals are compatible.

“And I truly believe we can do both.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reflects on how the government is preparing for the possibility of coronavirus becoming a global pandemic, and whether it’s possible to develop oil and gas projects when the government is also promising to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 11:13

The Liberals’ climate plan came under renewed scrutiny earlier in the week when Teck Resources abandoned its plan to build the  $20.6-billion Frontier mine in Alberta’s oilsands.

The project faced considerable economic challenges. But many observers focused on another factor raised by company CEO Don Lindsay in his letter announcing the decision.

More than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing. We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.– Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible projects,” he wrote. “This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate over this issue has placed Frontier at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved.”

Lindsay didn’t assign blame. Politicians were more than happy to do it for him.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blamed the federal government. So did Conservartive MPs. Liberals insisted Kenney’s hardline stance in favour of the project — and his dire warnings about the likely effect of a rejection on public sentiment in favour of Alberta’s separation from Canada — were to blame.

Freeland was more nuanced in her interview with The House. She pointed out that companies in this country — including those in the energy sector — are already cutting their emissions, even as governments fight over a carbon tax.

“For Canada to have any hope of achieving our climate targets, we need the oil and gas sector to be involved,” she said. “We need our country’s leading emitters to be part of the solution.”

Canada is committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Teck committed to the same goal.

But there’s no political agreement over the federal price on carbon — the main policy vehicle chosen by Ottawa to reach that goal.

“Let’s just say there’s a hardening taking place on the left and the right,” Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said in a separate interview with The House.

“Something’s got to give. In the case of the business community, more than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing, We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.”

But Hyder said Canadian industries can’t wait forever for a coherent plan to reach those goals. He said he believes this country has come to a defining moment as it looks to the future of its energy sector — a moment that calls for the same Team Canada approach that Freeland used in mobilizing support for the new NAFTA agreement.

“We need business. We need labour. We need provinces and the federal government to come together to figure out what we are going to do to protect our national interest here,” he said. “I think that exact same moment … has arrived on this question of how you square the circle between the economy and the environment.”

He added that any working climate plan that reduces emissions has to recognize the importance of the Canadian oil and gas sector, and the fact that it’s subject to some of the strictest regulations and standards in the world.

“We’re speaking out much more aggressively today because we’re concerned by what we see, which is a hardening of positions, a use of the courts and other (tactics),” he said. “There’s an urgency here.”

Freeland also compares the current squabbles over climate strategy to the original debates over free trade with the United States — at a time when her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, was running for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1988.

“And one of her main issues was opposition to free trade,” she said. “Fast forward to today, and we now have a strong national consensus across the country, and across parties, that trade is the right thing for our country. And it was every bit as divisive an issue.”

For now, Hyder and other business leaders just want politicians to get on with the work — because until they do, there’s little hope that future natural resource projects like Teck’s Frontier will fare any better. SOURCE

 

‘A desperate act’: Imperial Tobacco Canada under fire for ‘misinformation’ ad campaign

Health policy expert calls the campaign a ‘classic tobacco industry technique’

An Imperial Tobacco ad is seen in downtown Toronto on Feb. 20. Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, says the ads are implying that a news story about the harms of vaping is ‘misinformation.’ (CBC)

A major Canadian tobacco company has come under fire for a national advertising campaign that appears to downplay the risks of vaping and accuse the media and anti-tobacco groups of intentionally spreading false information.

Imperial Tobacco Canada, which sells the Vype brand of e-cigarette and is owned by the world’s second largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco, recently launched the campaign in major Canadian newspapers, and on billboards and websites across the country.

The Canadian Press reported earlier this month that the campaign was under investigation by Health Canada and health officials in Quebec to determine if it violated advertising rules.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said this week that it deemed no further action was necessary, while Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services says it has not yet made a decision on the advertisements.

The ads show headlines from news stories about vaping, with one of three slogans superimposed over them: “hypocrisy kills,” “quit the lies” and “the dangers of misinformation.”

The headlines used in the campaign are from media outlets largely in the U.S., including The Associated PressPolitico and The Hill, with none from Canada.

Local outlets were also targeted, including an NBC television station in Massachusetts that reported on a school district trying to combat a rise in youth vaping, and a newspaper in San Diego that wrote about county restrictions on vaping.

Ad campaign called a ‘Hail Mary’

Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta who studies health misinformation, calls the strategy used in the campaign a “classic tobacco industry technique.”

“They’re using the current conversation about misinformation, about fake news, in order to forward their agenda,” he said. “They are implying that a story about the harms of vaping is misinformation.”

Marketing expert Tony Chapman says he’s surprised the company moved forward with the campaign, calling it a “Hail Mary,” but says there is a deliberate strategy behind the move.

“The reason they’re taking the risk is vaping was their big play … and if vaping ends up in the same penalty box as smoking, you’re talking about billions of dollars of investment down the drain,” he said.

“So it’s a desperate act, and sometimes when you’re in danger of irrelevancy, risk is better than irrelevancy.”

In an interview with CBC News, a spokesperson for the company denied the ads were accusing the media of spreading misinformation, hypocrisy or lies and instead were “just a visual” aimed at regulators, adult consumers and anti-tobacco groups.

University of Waterloo researcher David Hammond says it’s ‘deeply ironic’ that Imperial Tobacco Canada would accuse others of spreading misinformation on the health risks of nicotine products. (CBC)

“We felt it was important to bring the other side of the story, so that both adult consumers and regulators can make informed decisions around vaping,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada.

“Health Canada continues to believe that vaping — if you’re a smoker, you’re better off vaping.”

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Health Canada said it advises Canadians to seek out information from sources that are independent and rely upon scientific evidence, such as a physician or local, provincial or federal government health officials.

“The department recognizes that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking for adults who have a dependence on nicotine,” the statement says.

“However, it is important for Canadians to know that vaping does pose health risks and that the potential short- and long-term effects of vaping remain unknown.”

Some vaping-related illnesses tied to nicotine e-cigarettes

As of Feb. 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 2,807 hospitalizations related to vaping-related illness and 68 deaths.

There were 18 cases reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada as of Feb. 18. Six occurred in Quebec, four in Ontario, four in British Columbia, two in New Brunswick, one in Alberta and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Imperial Tobacco ad campaign also links to a “facts not fear” website that claims “impulsive regulations” by government and health groups “won’t do anything to reduce youth vaping” and “hysteria” in media coverage over vaping-related illness has “spilled over to Canada.”

Marketing expert Tony Chapman says the company took a risk with the ads because of huge investments in vaping products. (CBC)

 

It also says vaping-related illness has been linked to THC products and the harmful additive vitamin E acetate, which was identified as a “chemical of concern” by the CDC.

Yet in the U.S., 57 per cent of vaping-related illness cases reported using products that contain nicotine and 14 per cent reported exclusively using nicotine e-cigarettes. In Canada, 10 of the 18 cases reported using nicotine e-cigarette devices only.

The World Health Organization says e-cigarettes are “harmful to health and are not safe,” but it is “too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them.”

Researcher Timothy Caulfield says the goal of ad the campaign is to create doubt about the relevant science around vaping-associated harms, while exploiting the lack of long-term research on vaping.

“There is an international consensus that there are harms associated with vaping and there have been deaths associated with vaping,” he said.

“Their broad implication is more suggesting a fraudulent agenda behind the vaping research by using the term ‘misinformation.'”

Rise in youth vaping across Canada

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond, who researches youth vaping, found the number of Canadians aged 16 to 19 who reported vaping in the preceding 30 days rose from 8.4 per cent in 2017 to 14.6 per cent in 2018.

Rates of weekly use climbed from 5.2 per cent to 9.3 per cent over the same period. Hammond says his latest research is showing an even more dramatic increase.

“Most concerning, the prevalence of using e-cigarettes daily or near daily doubled between 2018 and 2019 alone,” he said.

“The increase in frequent use is consistent with the emergence of high nicotine salt-based products on the Canadian market.”

Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Vype e-cigarettes use nicotine salt technology to deliver high doses of the addictive drug to the user, much like those of popular U.S. company Juul.

Rob Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society calls the ad campaign ‘entirely hypocritical.’ (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

 

The maximum amount of nicotine content allowed in e-cigarettes in Canada is currently 66 milligrams per millilitre of vaping liquid, according to Health Canada. Vype products contain 57 milligrams per millilitre and Juul contains 59, while previous generations of e-cigarettes sold in Canada typically had upward of 20.

“It is deeply ironic that Imperial Tobacco would accuse others of spreading misinformation on the health risks of nicotine products,” Hammond said.

“I suspect that most people will regard this public relations campaign with the same level of credibility as the tobacco industry’s historical claims that nicotine isn’t addictive and smoking did not cause any serious diseases.”

Campaign is ‘standard tobacco industry doublespeak’

Gagnon, with Imperial Tobacco Canada, said health groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation “jumped on the opportunity” of the increase in youth vaping to push an “excessive regulatory agenda in Canada.”

“We have been wanting to meet with health officials across Canada. They do not want to meet with us. We would rather not do a campaign like that, if I’m honest with you,” he said.

“After looking at all the regulation that was coming up and what was being said and considered, we thought that we needed to get out and to try to balance the debate and influence a little bit what people believe around vaping.”

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, says the tobacco company has decades of experience in public relations strategies to “oppose effective regulation” and mislead the public.

He described the ad campaign as “entirely hypocritical.”

“Imperial Tobacco is laughing all the way to the bank with this whole new generation of young people addicted to e-cigarettes,” he said.

“This has been an incredible bonanza for them and they want to protect it. They’re in the business of protecting their sales. They have absolutely no credibility.”

Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada, says the company is trying to ‘balance the debate’ and ‘influence a little bit what people believe around vaping.’ (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

 

Dr. Andrew Pipe, board chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and a smoking cessation physician in Ottawa, called the ad campaign “standard tobacco industry doublespeak.”

“It just speaks to the degree to which the tobacco industry swaggers around with almost complete impunity because of the timidity that public agencies have shown for decades in terms of dealing with this industry, which kills 47,000 Canadians a year,” he said.

“The hypocrisy and duplicity of this industry is unparalleled and it continues to be expressed in these kinds of activities.” SOURCE