Indigenous Land Back Camp lists demands in a petition

Number one on the list, is to have all fees waived for Indigenous communities to host events in public spaces

The words “Land Back” tattooed across the knuckles of one of the organizers. Phi Doan/ Kitchener Today

Organizers behind the Indigenous Land Back Camp in Victoria Park have presented a list of their demands in a new petition.

The occupation camp has been set up since June 20, and have requested to speak with the mayors of Waterloo and Kitchener a number of times.

After their first initial meeting, communication between the camp and the mayors has been slow, outside ongoing email exchanges with other city staff, like Parks and Facilities.

Following the huge success of their Gofundme, the organizers wanted to keep the momentum going. The petition was the camp’s way of making their demands clear, and to keep pressure on the cities.

Their demands goes as follows:

      1. We demand that all fees be waived for the Indigenous communities to host events in public spaces.
      2. We demand that land in Victoria Park, and Waterloo Park, be given back to the Indigenous Peoples. These spaces will be used for gathering and ceremonial purposes.
      3. We demand that the cities create paid positions, at all levels, for Indigenous Peoples to be able to engage with the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples living on this territory.
      4. We demand that the cities create Indigenous Advisory Committees (paid) that will work with the Mayors and City Councillors in helping to address topics such as racial injustice, the lack of access to Indigenous services and community spaces, and addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Actions.

“One thing we always found was; there’s always so many fees, and red tape and permits that we have to have just for our community to come together,” said co-organizer Shawn Johnston of the Anishinaabe First Nations, originally from Treaty Three Territory. They said many other small organization have given up on holding events all together because of the fees. Johnston says local community members trying to raise the funds necessary are often short-lived.

“We don’t have a community centre. We don’t have a friendship centre for us to meet, so a place like the pavilion is really one of the only few places that we can go,” they said. Johnston cites the $500 fee to rent the pavilion as just one of the many hoops they as a community have to jump through to hold their event.

“It will be a requirement of the city to never asks us for all the paperwork,” said Co-organizer Amy Smoke of the Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan from the Six Nation of the Grand River. “The permits in Waterloo Park alone, we had to get so many permits; they do the locates; they have to have they tent sizes. It doesn’t change much year-to-year, and to have to go through that every single year.”

During their first meeting with the mayors, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said he would commit himself to taking away the fees.

According to Smoke, they hav a community of around 20,000 to 30,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Waterloo Region, but do not have a permanent physical space to hold their meetings and ceremonies at.

“All the other locations that we have access to, we are at the whim of the landowner or organization that we have good faith agreements with, and when they change their mind; if they change their mind; when they usually change their mind, those projects and spaces are clawed back from us.” she said.

Regarding their second demand, Johnston hopes the cities will follow Guelph’s example, and that one day they hope to return to the campsite location a year later to find a dedicated sacred fire space for Indigenous gatherings. Smoke goes a step further, wanting to see a physical groundbreaking ceremony. The land would be in addition to seeing an urban centre created for the Indigenous communtiy.

The rest of their demands would see the cities step up their reconciliation efforts by creating paid positions in all government offices for Indigenous people. It would ensure that their voices are heard during any decisions or projects the cities have. The paid Indigenous Advisory Committee would be working with the cities to make sure they address issues facing the Indigenous community, and make progress in realizing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s long list of recommendations.

Smoke says the cities’ slow response on these issues—as well as Canada at large—is frustrating. While the group does not want the camp to still be set up year from now, they will continue to occupy Victoria Park until they see their demands met.

To sign the petition, CLICK HERE.


Car tyres are major source of ocean microplastics – study

Wind-borne microplastics are a bigger source of ocean pollution than rivers, say scientists

 Traffic on a motorway. An average tyre loses 4kg during its lifetime, according to Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

More than 200,000 tonnes of tiny plastic particles are blown from roads into the oceans every year, according to research.

The study suggests wind-borne microplastics are a bigger source of ocean pollution than rivers, the route that has attracted most attention to date. The analysis focused on the tiny particles produced by tyres and brake pads as they wear down.

It estimated that 550,000 tonnes of particles smaller than 0.01mm are deposited each year, with almost half ending up in the ocean. More than 80,000 tonnes fall on remote ice- and snow-covered areas and may increase melting as the dark particles absorb the sun’s heat.

Microplastic pollution has polluted the entire planet, from Arctic snow and Alpine soils to the deepest oceans. The particles can harbour toxic chemicals and harmful microbes and are known to harm some marine creatures. People are also known to consume them via food and water, and to breathe them, But the impact on human health is not yet known.

Earlier work suggested microplastic particles could be blown across the world, but the new study is the first to quantify the effect. The scientists concentrated on fine tyre and brake dust as there is better data on how these are produced than tiny microplastics from other sources, such as plastic bottles and packaging.

“Roads are a very significant source of microplastics to remote areas, including the oceans,” said Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, who led the research. He said an average tyre loses 4kg during its lifetime. “It’s such a huge amount of plastic compared to, say, clothes,” whose fibres are commonly found in rivers, Stohl said. “You will not lose kilograms of plastic from your clothing.”

Airborne transport has received much less attention than rivers because only the smallest particles can be blown by the wind and their size makes them difficult to identify as plastic. “The really small particles are probably the most important in terms of health and ecological consequences because you can inhale them and the very small particles can probably also enter your blood vessels,” Stohl said.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, used two methods to estimate the amount of fine particles shed by tyres and brakes. The team then used well-established atmospheric circulation models to assess how they are blown around the globe.

Stohl acknowledges significant uncertainties in the data, such as how rapidly the particles fall to the ground in rain. The study suggests the finest particles can remain airborne for a month. But he is confident the results are the right order of magnitude. The next step is to accelerate development of measurement techniques for fine particles so that real-world samples can be checked.

Deonie Allen, at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and not part of the research team, said: “This very well conducted research shows there is an awful lot of microplastic pollution coming from sources that most people have never even thought of. This is one of the first long-distance transport modelling papers and it shows how far these pollutants can move and how important the atmosphere is at part of the plastic pollution cycle.”

Erik van Sebille, at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said: “The study shows how interconnected pristine remote areas are with what we’re doing in our cities and on our roads.” Sebille studies microplastic flows in the oceans and is planning to work with Stohl’s group to develop a global picture of plastic pollution, which will help determine how best to tackle the problem.

“We should be concerned,” he said. “We don’t still know really what the harm is of all these microplastics, but the precautionary principle says that we had better be careful and safe about these things.”

Stohl said the issue of tyre and brake pollution is likely to get worse before it gets better as electric cars become more common: “Electric cars are normally heavier than internal combustion engine cars. That means more wear on tyres and brakes.”

Reducing microplastic pollution from vehicles is difficult, he said: “The manufacturers will have to respond somehow, if this really becomes a matter of concern.” In the meantime, Stohl said people should reduce the use of plastics they can do without and ensure the rest is recycled.



Exclusive: London has highest level yet recorded but health impacts of breathing particles are unknown

The microplastic particles found in London are large enough to be deposited on to the airways when inhaled. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Standoff spurred land rights reckoning

Thirty years after Oka, Canada continues to promise change but rarely delivers

A rolling convoy commemorates the thirty year anniversary of the Oka standoff in Oka, Que., Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes



Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan aims to reframe debate

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden released a $2 trillion plan on Tuesday to boost investment in clean energy and stop all climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035, arguing that dramatic action is needed to tackle climate change and revive the economy.

In remarks near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sought to reframe the politics of climate change. He rebuffed arguments from President Donald Trump and his Republican allies that Democratic plans to invest in clean energy would cost jobs.

“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax,’” Biden told reporters. “When I think about climate change, what I think of is jobs.”

The climate package added to a series of detailed policy proposals Biden has released, including a $700 billion plan unveiled last week that would increase government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and invest in new research and development to frame a contrast with Trump, who has struggled to articulate a vision for a second term in the White House.

Biden’s proposal on Tuesday didn’t go as far as some measures in the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal from progressives in Congress that calls for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2030.

But it does align with a climate bill spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in reducing emissions to zero by 2050. And it goes farther than that bill on ridding the nation’s power sector from damaging fossil fuel pollution. House Democrats’ proposal sets a 2040 deadline for that goal, while Biden’s aims to achieve it five years faster.

The proposal would also include progressive priorities such as investment in retrofitting national infrastructure and housing to use and emit less carbon and addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change. Forty percent of the money he wants to spend on clean energy deployment, reduction of legacy pollution and other investments would go to historically disadvantaged communities.

Biden placed a heavy emphasis on updating America’s infrastructure, improving energy efficiency in buildings and housing, and promoting production of electric vehicles and conservation efforts in the agriculture industry.

As he spoke about infrastructure on Tuesday, Biden needled the president for what has become a trope that the White House frequently turns to infrastructure when Trump “needs a distraction” from negative news.

“He’s never delivered,” Biden said. “Never even really tried.”

Some of the ideas in the proposal began with Biden’s more progressive rivals during the primary, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose campaign centered on the issue of climate change.

“Joe Biden’s modern infrastructure and clean energy plan shows that he’s serious about defeating climate change and has a roadmap to become the Climate President that America needs,” Inslee said in an email to members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy group.

The proposals could open Biden to attacks from Trump that he will hurt coal and gas industries in critical states such as Pennsylvania and Texas, where Democrats are growing more bullish about their prospects.

Trump used a White House event on Hong Kong on Tuesday to attack Biden on an array of issues, including trade and the environment.

“As vice president, Biden was a leading advocate of the Paris Climate accord, which was unbelievably expensive to our country,” Trump said. “It would have crushed American manufacturers while allowing China to pollute the atmosphere with impunity, yet one more gift from Biden to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Biden’s proposal seemed designed to avoid antagonizing independents or moderate Republicans considering backing him.

The plan makes no mention of banning dirtier-burning coal or prohibiting fracking, a method of extracting oil and gas that triggered a natural gas boom in the United States over the last decade. The issue is especially sensitive in some key battleground states such as Pennsylvania.

Some progressives have called for outright bans on the practice. Biden’s plan instead describes cutting back on burning oil, gas and coal, and doing better at capturing emissions, through more efficient vehicles, public transport, buildings and power plants.

And instead of a ban on climate-damaging fossil fuels, he embraced carbon capture technologies to catch coal and petroleum pollution from power plant smokestacks.

Biden also backed nuclear power, unlike some of his Democratic primary opponents. He called for pumping up research on still-developing power technologies like hydrogen power and grid-size storage to stash power from solar and wind, overcoming a key drawback of those carbon-free energy sources now.

Biden would spend $2 trillion over four years to promote his energy proposals, a significant acceleration of the $1.7 trillion over 10 years he proposed spending in his climate plan during the primary.

The proposal doesn’t include specifics on how it would be paid for. Senior campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss strategy said it would require a mix of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and deficit spending aimed at stimulating the economy.

The officials said that many of the energy measures would be included in the first stimulus package Biden plans to bring to Congress but that some could be achieved through executive action.

“These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people,” Biden said Tuesday as he tried to build a sense of urgency around the issue.



By ALEXANDRA Jaffe reported from Washington and Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

The Energy 202: More than a dozen states unite to boost electric trucks

The Energy 202: The oil lobby is already finding fault with Biden’s new climate plan

More than a dozen states are teaming up to boost sales of pickup trucks, school buses and big rigs that run entirely on electricity and do not pump climate-warming pollution into the air.

Leaders from Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and 10 other states, along with the District of Columbia, say they will try to make sure every new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sold within their borders is fully electric by the middle of the century.

The agreement is not legally binding, and it promises to send a fleet of electric trucks onto the road before the technology to do so is fully developed. But it is the latest sign of Democratic-controlled states taking steps to combat climate change in the absence of federal action from the Trump administration.

The state-level moves are also an effort to diminish a source of air pollution that disproportionately chokes poor and minority neighborhoods, which often abut the highways on which diesel-guzzling trucks carry freight.

“We want clean air, reliable transportation, better health outcomes and cost effective climate solutions,” said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in Connecticut, one of the states that signed the agreement.

The states say they will work together to adopt policies meant to encourage the sale of electric commercial vehicles and the construction of charging stations for them.

Possible steps the states may take include giving rebates or tax breaks to buyers of heavy-duty electric vehicles, requiring cities to switch to electric transit buses and encouraging utilities to install charging stations for large commercial vehicles.

The goal is to have every delivery van, box truck and other large commercial vehicle sold in those states — which represent about a third of the U.S. market — be electric by 2050. Their interim target is 30 percent of sales be for zero-emissions trucks by 2030.

The agreement leaves the details of achieving all of that to the states. One crucial question for each jurisdiction is whether to follow in the footsteps of California — by far the most aggressive when it comes to cutting tailpipe pollution.

Last month, the liberal bastion became the first in the nation to require auto manufacturers to sell electric trucks. More than half of automakers’ truck sales need to be of zero-emission vehicles there by 2035.

Several major automakers are developing electric pickups, but a big question is if they will be ready to meet the demand the blue states are trying to juice.

Ford is working on an electric version of its F-series pickup, consistently the nation’s best-selling line of vehicles. And Tesla, the electric-car pioneer, last year unveiled its first electric pickup — cheekily named the Cybertruck.

But the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, especially long-haul trucks, is not as developed as the one for passenger cars, although several major companies — including Amazon, Ikea and PepsiCo — have publicly promised to electrify parts of their shipping fleets. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“That’s, frankly, the point of doing something like this: to give some kind of market signal and market certainty to those developers because they are investing significant amounts of money,” said Paul Miller, head of the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a Boston-based consortium of air-quality agencies that helped organized the agreement.

Most of the states have the option of imposing California’s new requirement that manufacturers sell electric trucks. But it remains to be seen whether they will do so in the face of both legal uncertainty opposition from the oil and auto industry.

California and a coalition of other states are locked in a lawsuit against the Trump administration after the Environmental Protection Agency revoked the state’s ability to set auto emissions standards tougher than the federal government’s.

One state considering adopting the California electric truck rule is Colorado. Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the state is evaluating whether enough cars will be available if more than one state has a mandate in place.

“It is still a more nascent market than the light-duty vehicles,” she said.

Kelly Crawford, associate director of air quality at the Department of Energy and Environment in the District of Columbia, said Washington will also consider adopting California’s mandate.

“At a time when the federal government is moving to dismantle clean transportation programs,” she wrote by email, the multi-state agreement “presents an important opportunity for states to lead on climate action and to improve air quality and public health in our most vulnerable communities.”

Other states in the non-binding pact are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont.

Environmentalists cheered the agreement, while industry is skeptical of other states adopting California’s stance.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Paul Cort, a staff attorney for the environmental litigation group Earthjustice.

“It’s not as aggressive as the California standard,” he said, adding: “The California standard is fresh. People are still digesting it.”

The air pollution from large vehicles often weighs on black and brown communities the most. All but one of Manhattan’s bus depots, for example, is above 96th Street — in Harlem and other historically black neighborhoods.

“The cleanest fuel we can get will make a big difference in air quality” in those places, said Peggy Shepard, executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a local green group that has sued New York over its placement of the bus depots.

But the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, which represents Daimler, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and other truck makers, said that while its members are developing electric trucks, California also need to require fleet owners to buy electric vehicles for its plan to work — something state regulators are working on but haven’t yet finalized.

The rule “is built on a flawed regulatory structure and thus it risks poisoning the market,” the trade group wrote in a comment to California in May. The association has also argued against imposing stricter regulations in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to a collapse in auto sales.

But Lew in Colorado argued that the spread of the virus only highlights trucking as a pollution source as so many people stuck at home and ordering items online.

“Over the course of covid,” she said, “we’re only seeing how important and how pervasive trucking is in moving goods and services that we rely on for every aspect of our lives.”


Cities need a rescue plan. $10B proposed by the Federation of Cdn Municipalities is a good start.

Canadian cities such as Vancouver represent more than 80 percent of our population, but only receive eight cents of every tax dollar. They need more financial relief to battle COVID-19. Photo by Shutterstock

The federal and provincial governments must roll out a powerful rescue plan for cities: the $10 billion emergency fund proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities would be a good start.

There is no financial or social recovery from COVID-19 without cities.

Cities are trying to help residents and small businesses by deferring tax deadlines, creating emergency grant programs and investing in stimulus projects. Still, the ten largest cities in Canada face combined operating budget shortfalls in excess of $3 billion and growing. Property taxes would have to rise by as much as 50 per cent to cover that gap. It makes no sense to hit our residents with massive tax increases when so many are fighting for survival. What’s equally destructive is to close the gap by laying off city staff and slashing services — that directly harms public health, and undermines the national economic recovery.

The federal government has committed an estimated $146 billion to emergency support during the pandemic. One critical sector of Canada’s economy has been bypassed: cities. Canadian cities represent more than 80 per cent of our nation’s population, but only receive eight cents of every tax dollar. COVID-19 relief funds are no exception to this rule.

Municipalities are ground zero for the COVID-19 recession. Our communities experience first-hand the catastrophe of closed businesses, evicted renters, mass unemployment and idled workplaces.

Additionally, some communities have been disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, including urban Indigenous communities, racialized communities, people experiencing homelessness and low-income residents. And it is municipalities that will ensure that the recovery from the pandemic addresses the needs of systemically vulnerable communities.

Seventy per cent of Canada’s GDP is created in metropolitan areas, and cities provide nearly all social programs. From job training programs to affordable housing, Canadian cities will execute the bulk of our recovery strategies.

Municipalities also face unique and unfortunate fiscal challenges from this pandemic. Cities are not legally permitted to run operating deficits, and costs incurred due to public health measures have ballooned for emergency shelters and cleaning measures. To make matters worse, municipal revenues are falling through the floor. Residential and business property taxes, user fees, transit fares and others have all been hammered.

“The federal government has committed an estimated $146 billion to emergency support during the pandemic. One critical sector of Canada’s economy has been bypassed: cities.”

Right now, the options for cities are mostly limited to slashing services or drastically raising taxes. Neither is the right answer. Public health and our commitment to building safe and high-quality communities require us to maintain essential services.

We, as Canadian municipal leaders, will do everything we can in the coming desperate months to preserve the critical front-line services essential to defeating the coronavirus and preserving healthy communities. We cannot succeed without strong, fast help from higher levels of government. The rules need to change. Now.

The federal and provincial governments must roll out a powerful rescue plan for cities: the $10 billion emergency fund proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities would be a good start. Flexible, regionally supported approaches to recovery should be prioritized. Access to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program is imperative. And the Bank of Canada, already buying federal, provincial and corporate bonds at near-zero interest rates, should offer the same for local governments.

Provinces also need to relax the restrictions on cities by waiving balanced-budget requirements and providing their own emergency aid for municipalities. Requiring any government to balance its books during an economic downturn and health crisis is old-fashioned, ideological and self-destructive. It’s a discredited and counter-productive policy, and still rules fiscal affairs for Canada’s municipalities.

Canada’s cities are a vital link in stopping contagion and returning our communities to health. Yet our capacity to do the job is becoming more difficult every day. If cities cancel essential services and eliminate thousands of jobs, the risk of renewed waves of infection will be predictably elevated — and the current recession will turn into a depression. Let’s move quickly to give cities the fiscal tools they need to help defeat this pandemic.

Cities are the economic engines of this country. If cities fail, Canada fails.


Trudeau urged to boost Canada’s post-COVID economy by investing in nature

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to media on Parliament Hill on July 8, 2020. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the government remains “fully committed” to preserving a quarter of natural land and ocean habitat by 2025, following a call from hundreds of groups to ensure conservation is at the heart of any post-pandemic recovery.

In an open letter published July 13 to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 235 environmental organizations, including about 50 B.C.-based groups, said they “stand ready to provide staff, research and resource support” to help Canada devise a strategy to achieve its biodiversity and climate targets.

The letter argues that government investments in forests, wetlands, grasslands, oceans, lakes and rivers can create jobs and help boost Canada’s economic recovery as it works to build capacity following the initial wave of COVID-19.

“Over the next six to 18 months, we urge the government to support investments in a variety of economic recovery solutions that support climate and biodiversity outcomes,” reads the letter, signed by Nature Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and others.

“Over the longer term, expert advice should be sought by relevant departments on how to structure programs and investments in order to achieve the transformative relationship between society and nature that is needed to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for Canadians.”

Proportion of conserved area in Canada from 1990 to 2019. The proportion of land area conserved, including protected land, has been trending steadily upward, while the portion of marine area remained relatively flat until recently. Government of Canada screenshot

Conservation targets, over the years

Canada set a target to conserve at least 17 per cent of land and freshwater, and 10 per cent of marine areas, by this year, as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity. According to federal government figures, by the end of 2019 it had reached this goal for marine areas, but not for land and freshwater.

Those figures show that Canada conserved 13.8 per cent of its marine territory, and 12.1 per cent of land and freshwater by the end of 2019. The proportion of conserved land and water varies widely across the country, with British Columbia conserving the most, at 19.5 per cent.

Last year, dozens of scientists warned the Trudeau government it was not on pace to meet its conservation goals. During the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to increase the amount of land, freshwater and marine areas conserved to 25 per cent by 2025.

The goals under the convention say the original target should be achieved “by 2020,” but Trudeau said during the campaign that the government was “on track” to its 17 per cent goal “by the end of next year.”

In an open letter to PM Trudeau, 235 environmental organizations, including about 50 B.C.-based groups, said they “stand ready to provide staff, research and resource support” to help Canada meet its biodiversity and climate targets.

In July, Canada also joined the Global Ocean Alliance, which has as its goal the protection of 30 per cent of the oceans by 2030. Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said Canada will work toward a new biodiversity target under the Convention on Biological Diversity, next year in 2021.

A map showing where land and marine areas are protected and conserved in Canada. The map shows how British Columbia contains the highest percentage compared to other provinces. Government of Canada screenshot

‘There needs to be a coherent policy’

Harry Crosby, president of North Vancouver-based BC Nature, a federation of more than 50 naturalist clubs across the province, said in an interview that he was “encouraged by the promises and the concern which the federal government is showing” on the issue of biodiversity and land protection, but wanted to see more details.

“Our concern is that there needs to be a coherent policy developed,” Crosby said. “It’s great to talk about spending money on biodiversity, but our concern is looking at the difference between the general policy statements and the practice, what’s actually happening on the ground.”

Wilkinson’s press secretary Moira Kelly said the government’s priority remains COVID-19, but “climate change and biodiversity loss still present a threat to our economic and physical well-being.”

“We remain fully committed to preserving 25 per cent of Canada’s land and oceans by 2025 and ensuring that nature-based climate solutions are embedded in our plans to fight climate change,” Kelly said.

“We are always open to hearing innovative and green ways to grow our economy while protecting the environment, and will consider these recommendations with interest.”

The letter points out that biodiversity loss is accelerating worldwide, and Canada has a responsibility, as a country with a large land mass containing many ecosystems, “for the welfare of planetary diversity.”

Out of 80,000 species in Canada, there is only enough information to assess the health of 30,000 — of which a fifth are imperiled, they said.

Natural landscapes are key to storing up to 20 per cent of carbon pollution over the next 30 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a fact that is key to avoiding the more severe effects of the climate crisis.

In Canada, human disruption is leading to habitat loss, which is putting its Paris climate target at risk, the letter said.

In addition to BC Nature, officially the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, there are 47 other B.C.-based organizations that have put their names to the letter, including West Coast Environmental Law, Wildsight and the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve Society.


Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

New Brunswick: Bill that would add Indigenous languages teaching to all schools wins all-party support

All MLAs on legislative committee back bill proposed by Green Party’s Megan Mitton

Members from all four parties voted on Tuesday afternoon in favour of the bill, which was introduced last month by Green Party MLA Megan Mitton. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

A bill that would require New Brunswick schools to teach Indigenous languages to all students has won unanimous support from a committee of MLAs.

Members from all four parties voted on Tuesday afternoon in favour of the bill, which was introduced last month by Green Party MLA Megan Mitton.

“There’s a long history of Indigenous languages being systematically excluded from our public school system,” Mitton said during the debate.

“This is an opportunity for the revitalization of Wabanaki languages in our public school system.”

The bill would add a requirement for the teaching of Indigenous languages to a section of the Education Act that already requires the teaching of Indigenous history and culture.

That section was adopted in 2017 through a bill by Green Party Leader David Coon.

Mitton said the goal was not to make all New Brunswick schoolchildren fluent in the languages but to “foster an understanding” about the languages.

‘There’s a long history of Indigenous languages being systematically excluded from our public school system,’ Mitton said during the debate. (CBC)


Progressive Conservative, Liberal and People’s Alliance MLAs all spoke in favour of Mitton’s bill Tuesday afternoon. No one opposed it.

“This is all part of a very necessary process that this province and this country needs to undertake as we examine issues around systemic racism in our country and society,” said Education Minister Dominic Cardy..

“Clearly, in New Brunswick, our biggest challenge as a society is examining the serious issues that have affected our First Nations communities now for hundreds of years.”

Few speakers

Mitton said there are fewer than 100 Wolastoqey speakers and about 2,000 who speak Mi’kmaq.

Last year the federal government passed an Indigenous Languages Act in response to calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages.

The law sets out a funding system for those languages.

Calls for inquiry

Mitton introduced her bill June 16, amid calls by First Nations chiefs for the Higgs government to establish an inquiry into how Indigenous people are treated by police and the justice system.

Those calls came after the death of two Indigenous people, Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi, in two separate shootings by police. Both incidents are being investigated by Quebec’s independent agency that reviews police shootings.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart supports the idea of an inquiry but has yet to persuade Premier Blaine Higgs.

Cardy said Tuesday the language bill was “our opportunity as legislators to be part of moving toward some form of redress but also establishing some sort of foundation for a more harmonious relationship going into the future.”

He introduced an amendment to, as he put it, “broaden the scope” of Mitton’s bill.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Tuesday the language bill was an opportunity for lawmakers to move toward ‘redress’ and to establish ‘some sort of foundation for a more harmonious relationship.’ (Ed Hunter/CBC)


It added the Passamaquoddy people to the existing section of the act and changed the word “Maliseet” to “Wolastoqiyik.”

It also changed the wording of a phrase that requires the province to “respond to the unique needs” of Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqi and Passamaquoddy children.

That section applies only to on-reserve schools run by the province under agreements with chiefs and band councils, but Cardy’s change means if the bill passes, it will apply to off-reserve Indigenous children as well.

Liberal MLA Chuck Chiasson and People’s Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy both supported Mitton’s bill but asked how it will be implemented.

Mitton said the goal of her legislation wasn’t to prescribe a specific approach but to create a general requirement.

“The department would then need to work on the curriculum and on implementing, while doing consultation” with First Nations, she said. “There are different ways this could look.”


Jacques Poitras has been CBC’s provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union, province to face off in court

Teachers staged a march to then-Education Minister Karen Casey’s riding office in Truro in November 2017. – Harry Sullivan

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is redoubling its push to get school specialists reinstated in the bargaining unit.

“We are going on two years in which the working lives of school psychologists and speech language pathologists have been much in turmoil because the government refuses to respect the law as it relates to arbitration awards,” said union president Paul Wozney.

Before 2018, non-teaching professionals working in the school system were required to obtain a special teacher certification from the province. They were members of the NSTU.

The province struck a committee in 2017 to revamp its policy on inclusive education and, in 2018, the province said it would continue to hire specialists, but would no longer require them to be certified as teachers.

The teachers union filed a grievance over the issue in June 2018, asserting that the government had unilaterally changed the teachers’ certification system to exclude specialists.

A ruling by arbitrator Eric Slone in November 2019 restored the specialists to the NSTU and ordered the government to reinstate specialist certifications and to reimburse the union for lost dues, plus interest.

The union maintains that 60 of the province’s approximately 300 school-based speech language pathologists, psychologists and social workers have been excluded from the NSTU by the government’s action.

In the wake of Slone’s arbitration award, specialists were still being told by their employers that they would remain outside the union.

“We know that if Eric Slone had delivered an arbitration award that really disadvantaged the teachers union and advantaged the government, they (government) would be calling on the union to follow through,” Wozney said.

The province has applied to stay the Slone certificate award pending the education minister’s application for a judicial review of the arbitration awards to be heard on Oct. 8. The stay application will be heard Aug. 5 by Justice Darlene Jamieson and a pre-hearing telephone conference on the stay proceeding will be held Thursday.

Halifax lawyer Gail Gatchalian, representing the union, said if Jamieson decides not to stay the arbitration decision, “then arbitrator Slone’s decision is of legal force and the minister of education should comply with that award.”

“That’s what usually happens, if an arbitration decision goes against an employer, they comply with it,” Gatchalian said.

But the union is taking an additional step.

“Just in case they continue not to comply with it, which would really be unfortunate, we have scheduled an enforcement application,” Gatchalian said.

The enforcement application, if needed, is scheduled to be heard on Aug. 31.

“Because the government is unwilling to honour the terms, this is the only recourse that we have,” Wozney said. “Effectively if we are successful in our application, if the government continues to refuse to implement the arbitration award, they will be in contempt of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.”

Wozney said the positions in question have always been bargaining unit positions.

“They must be repatriated to the union and then anybody that has been treated other than that, there has to be a remedy for the harms they suffered because they haven’t enjoyed the benefits of union membership. The longer the government refuses to abide by the arbitration award, the more significant those harms become for each and every member.”

Wozney said specialists working outside the union no longer accrue seniority and their jobs are not permanent positions.

“The government can force regional centres to arbitrarily adjust the working conditions of specialists,” he said. “You can have five people technically doing the same job with five very different sets of working conditions.”

Gatchalian said the 60 or more affected employees “don’t have union representation, access to the grievance procedure, they don’t have just-cause protection, they are not enrolled in the teachers pension plan,” all the  things that go along with being part of a union.

“We want them to be treated as they should be, as part of the union and protected by the collective agreement as we wait for the judicial review decision.”

The teachers union will also be asking a presiding judge this week to set down dates for a hearing related to its charter challenge of Bill 75, the controversial piece of legislation passed into law on Feb. 21, 2017, that imposed a contract on Nova Scotia’s public teachers after a series of unsuccessful and contentious bargaining sessions.

Gatchalian said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the backlog of cases it has generated, she had hoped that dates could have been set for that hearing before year’s end.


Prison watchdog has ‘grave’ concerns that CSC rates Indigenous, Black inmates as higher risk

Disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous offenders placed in higher security institutions by the CSC ‘doesn’t add up,’ says Sen. Bernard.

Correctional Investigator of Canada Ivan Zinger, pictured in October 2017, says he’s frustrated the CSC has yet to say how it will address a 2018 Supreme Court decision that found its risk assessment tools may be discriminatory. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Indigenous and Black prisoners continue to be more likely to be placed in higher security prisons, which justice advocates say is a clear example of systemic racism within the Correctional Service of Canada, leading to longer sentences and unfair treatment.

Faced with already high rates of federal incarceration disproportionate to these populations numbers in Canada, new data released by the Correctional Service of Canada show how it exacerbates the unfair treatment both Black and Indigenous prisoners face, said Independent Senator Kim Pate.

“At the root is a fundamental misunderstanding, or refusal, to accept that systemic discrimination exists,” said Sen. Pate (Ontario), calling it a “massive problem.”


Independent Ontario Senator Kim Pate says CSC must accept systemic discrimination exists in its prisons. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

The latest numbers, released to The Hill Times last week, are yet another data point in a long trend Canada’s correctional investigators have tracked over the past two decades, and come as no surprise to the current watchdog, Ivan Zinger.

Both he and Sen. Pate pointed to silence from the CSC following a 2018 Supreme Court decision that found the agency’s risk assessment tools may discriminate against Indigenous offenders, a determination also made by the Canadian Human Rights Commission years before. Those assessment tools help determine whether a prisoner should be placed under more security, and are considered when deciding parole eligibility. Both Black and Indigenous offenders are more likely to serve longer sentences, and remain beyond their eligibility for statutory release, successive reports by the prison watchdog have found.

“If the risk assessment tools aren’t reliable and valid for Indigenous people and are over classifying people, then you’ve got a systemic issue and that’s of grave concern to my office,” said Mr. Zinger.

The CSC did not respond by filing deadline to questions about what it has done to address that court decision and Mr. Zinger’s concerns.

“Even when the Supreme Court of Canada judgment tells the service to retool their risk assessment measures, the service has yet to do that, to publicly respond to that,” to ensure those tools are both culturally sensitive and are reliable for these populations, said Mr. Zinger.

Such tools need to be designed “from the ground up” and better assess an inmate’s circumstances so they aren’t penalized—as is the case now, he said—for coming from communities where there are low unemployment rates, a breakdown in the welfare system, a lack of work opportunities, or high rates of substance abuse.

Though Indigenous people make up less than five per cent of Canada’s population, they accounted for 30.14 per cent—or 4,135 inmates—of the total in-custody prison population of 13,720 in 2019-20. Of that, 36.5 per cent were sent to maximum security, 31.6 per cent to medium, 24 per cent to minimum, and 23.2 per cent weren’t classified. In 2014-15, the CSC’s numbers indicate 28 per cent of the maximum security prison population was Indigenous.

The number of Indigenous people in prisons has been “creeping up”every year, noted Mr. Zinger, and that’s true of where they are placed.

For Black prisoners, the CSC’s totals are still slightly under those provided by the Office of the Correctional Investigator, which reported a total of 1,328 Black inmates by the end of 2019-20, while the CSC reported 1,308 offenders classified as Black, and in the Caribbean and sub-Saharan African ethnic groupings, which the CSC said are counted separately though the categories likely represent Black offenders, are not limited to them. Using the CSC’s numbers for these three groups, (which the prison watchdog counts together) Black inmates make up roughly 9.5 of the prison population, but only 3.5 per cent of the Canadian population. A further 12.7 per cent were in maximum security last fiscal year, followed by 9.7 per cent in medium, 6.5 per cent in minimum (with 10.1 per cent not yet classified).

For comparison Caucasian prisoners make up 49 per cent of the prisons, and 39.8 per cent in maximum security, 49 per cent in medium, and 56.2 per cent in minimum.

Placement of Black inmates ‘doesn’t add up’: Sen. Bernard 

These numbers aren’t new to Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard (East Preston, N.S.),  a researcher who has long studied anti-Black racism and before being named a Senator in 2016 was contracted by the CSC to prepare a policy paper for the service’s National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee to address the needs of ethnocultural inmates.


Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard pictured during a prison visit last Parliament wearing a durag, which she said was a point of protest given many Black men are labelled as part of gangs for wearing the head wrapping. Photograph courtesy of the Senate of Canada

Canada needs a very serious review of the classification system, she said, to unpack how systemic racism affects a person’s sentence. From her observations over the years and a recent Senate committee study, she said it’s clear racial bias and stereotyping has an impact on where prisoners are placed.

Black men have also spoken about how time is added to their sentences, said Sen. Bernard. In some cases, a fight might be racially motivated and in response to a slur, but the reaction is punished rather than the person who utters the slur

“How is it that Black prisoners are classified at a higher level of risk, but research shows they’re less likely to reoffend?” said Sen. Bernard of data that was laid out in a 2013 prison watchdog case study focused on Black experiences in prisons. “That doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t add up.”

In particular, Black offenders are labelled as gang members based sometimes solely on the neighbourhoods they’re from, the colours they wear, or the use of what guards might consider gang signs, noted human rights lawyer Anthony Morgan, who co-founded of the Sentencing and Parole Project.

“It could be all or none of those things and an individual’s life ends up being dramatically shaped by this amorphous definition,” said Mr. Morgan, adding that the definitions the CSC uses to determine gang affiliation aren’t clear and amount to an “enormously broad layer of discretion.”

That gang affiliation label comes with a heightened risk in the system’s eyes, and it’s “the one issue that seems to both distinguish and define the Black inmate experience,” said the 2013 case study, noting that while Black inmates are twice as likely to have a gang affiliation, the vast majority—70 per cent—were not gang members.

“This notion of Black dangerousness is something that pervades our society, but ends up being most pernicious when enacted through our systems, like our justice system,” he said.

The CSC has “proven they cannot do this job efficiently,” added Mr. Morgan, who has advocated for these sorts of assessments to be handled by outside mental health or community organizations.

Better program, rehabilitation at lower security

Classification also affects a prisoner’s potential for rehabilitation. The higher the security classification, the fewer the available programs and work opportunities, noted Mr. Zinger.

“The higher the security, the tougher it is to address the unique needs of that population. It’s not in maximum security that you will find innovative programs that have been tailored to be responsive to Indigenous culture,” he said, adding it’s also difficult for offenders to access substance abuse, anger management, and family support programs.

The recidivism rates among Indigenous offenders is “excessively high,” and well over 60 per cent in the Prairie regions, said Mr. Zinger.

“That’s within the control of correctional services,” he said, and once people are in prison there are correctional outcomes they can improve, “and they have failed to do that.”

His reports have also outlined how Indigenous offenders are released much later after statutory release eligibility, are more likely to be placed in segregation, more likely to be subject to use of force, and more likely to self harm. And, once back in the community they’re more likely to be suspended and revoked.

Meanwhile, Black prisoners, as Sen. Bernard noted, have better release outcomes, according to the 2013 case study which at the time called it a “counter-intuitive” finding that was considered beyond the scope of the analysis at the time.

The CSC has the leverage and spends an “inordinate amount” costing roughly $120,500 per year to house an inmate, Mr. Zinger noted, with an inmate-to-staff ratio that exceeded one-to-one, making it among the richest correctional systems in the world.

That price tag should come with outstanding correctional outcomes, argued Mr. Zinger, who has echoed his predecessor’s calls for significant reallocations of this budget.

Though there’s broad recognition at the political level and among experts that something has to be done, Mr. Zinger said no government has been able to stop or reverse the trend of what he’s called the Indigenization of Canada’s prison system.

“It is time now to act, and I hope that this becomes a priority for the government.”

Samantha Wright Allen is a reporter for The Hill Times.