Indigenous issues largely absent from 2019 election

Still from debate livestream. Image: YouTube

The unofficial slogan for the 2015 Liberal election campaign was “there is no relationship more important to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.” It was a mantra shared repeatedly by Justin Trudeau pre- and post-election and stood in stark contrast to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s adversarial relationship with First Nations. In fact, it was Trudeau’s election promise to make Indigenous issues a political priority, together with his commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship grounded in respect for Indigenous rights, that helped his party win the Indigenous vote.

While not all Indigenous people voted for the Liberals, record numbers of them voted — largely to help the Liberals unseat the Conservatives. Fast-forward to this election and Trudeau started his campaign with a speech that focused on the middle class and ignored Indigenous peoples entirely. Indigenous issues then seemed to slowly disappear.

In addition to not mentioning Indigenous peoples in his first campaign speech, Trudeau also didn’t show up for the first leaders’ debate hosted by Maclean’s and Citytv, which is, in essence also failing to show up on Indigenous issues. While the Maclean’s debate started out well, with strong interventions from Elizabeth May of the Green Party, the void left by Trudeau’s absence allowed the leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer, to turn every question on Indigenous issues into a discussion on forcing approval of natural resource projects regardless of First Nation opposition. At one point, he spoke against Indigenous groups “holding hostage” resource projects — the same kind of aggressive stereotypes used by the former Harper government that paint First Nations as dangerous. While both May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called him on this disrespectful language, Trudeau was missing in action and not there to provide the kind of response Canadians expect of a leader who claimed to be committed to respectful nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous peoples.

Trudeau’s absence also allowed the candidates the extra time to turn questions about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the dire need for safe drinking water on reserves into a debate over Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin case. While the host, with the exception of one attempt at redirection, allowed the Indigenous issues segment to devolve into pipelines and SNC-Lavalin, the candidates also used their precious time to take digs at Trudeau and neglected to focus on Indigenous issues.

Given that the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls concluded that Canada is guilty of both historic and ongoing race-based genocide against Indigenous peoples, which specifically targets Indigenous women and girls, it is unfathomable that this was not even a question by the moderator or debated by the candidates. Early on Indigenous families feared that the urgent action required to end genocide against Indigenous women and girls would be lost to talk of pipelines and elections. Sadly, and shamefully, this has become a reality.

The first leaders’ debate which included Trudeau, focused more on pipelines, climate change and taxes for the middle class than on Indigenous questions asked or the multiple, overlapping crises brought about by ongoing genocide which is literally killing Indigenous peoples. While this is in part the fault of the host for framing the first question around Scheer’s proposed pipeline corridor and inviting debate about pipelines instead of focusing on Indigenous priorities, the candidates also had a responsibility to refocus the debate.

Trudeau, May, and Singh have platforms with significant commitments on Indigenous issues, yet all failed to promote these commitments during the debate or force discussion on the bigger issues like murdered and missing Indigenous women, the crisis of Indigenous kids in foster care, the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in prison, or the extreme poverty on many reserves. Neither Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, nor Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet made much of a contribution to the debate on Indigenous issues at all.

At this stage, it doesn’t look like Indigenous issues will feature prominently in the rest of the campaign and are at risk of disappearing entirely from focus. This development is in no way benign or the natural ebb and flow of election campaigns. This appears to be a purposeful strategy to take focus away from the national inquiry’s finding of genocide in relation to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finding of willful and reckless racial discrimination against First Nations children, the many interventions of the United Nations treaty bodies about Canada’s grave human rights violations of Indigenous peoples, and the failure to address water issues on reserve.

Moreover, Trudeau’s long list of promises — like the promise to repeal former prime minister Harper’s legislative suite imposed on First Nations, the amendment of Bill C-51 legislation to address its negative impacts on First Nations, the promise to review federal laws to ensure compliance with Section 35 of the Constitution Act (Aboriginal and treaty rights), and the promise to implement UNDRIP in an unqualified way — all remain unfulfilled.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is not without fault here. They are a major barrier to the development of an actual nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations and have failed to strenuously demand accountability for the deaths of Indigenous peoples from Canada’s own laws, policies and practices. Instead, the AFN has been so busy praising the Trudeau government and encouraging First Nations to vote, that they too have failed to really push the candidates to prioritize Indigenous issues.

Instead, the AFN issued a laundry list of so-called priorities that focus on meetings, processes, dialogue and more paternalistic federal laws and policies. All of which translates into millions of dollars for the AFN, but little substantive change at the local First Nation level — the actual rights-bearing governments. Any party platform that grounds reconciliation in a relationship exclusively through the AFN condemns us all to the status quo.

Trudeau has deflected the growing national crises in First Nations thus allowing the Conservatives to downplay their political commitments, if any, to Indigenous peoples….

While the Green Party and NDP have made significant commitments in their platforms to address many of these urgent issues, practically speaking, neither will likely form the next government. So, while their attempts to elevate the urgency of these issues are commendable, their ability to raise the bar past the very low bar set by the two so-called governing parties is limited. The ripple effect will then be felt in the mainstream media coverage and the opinions of everyday Canadians.  MORE

David Suzuki’s message to you for Election Day 2019

David Suzuki asks you to vote for climate action on October 21. This video is in partnership with Artists for Real Climate Action a non-partisan group of actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians, directors and others who are encouraging voters to talk to politicians, friends and family about the issue of climate change. For more information about Artists for Real Climate Action visit:

How Would Our Wartime Conservative Leaders Have Acted on the Climate Crisis?

Real emergencies call for real plans.

The scale of Canada’s wartime production was nothing short of stunning, and it completely retooled our economy. We could do it again, this time to address the huge challenges of climate change. Photo of worker Veronica Foster inspecting a lathe at an Ontario gun plant, May 1941, via the National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, PA-129380.

…Yet today’s Conservative “leaders” say we can’t transition our economy to meet the greatest existential threat of our time. Where is the courage and imagination of their predecessors?

While the threat today may move in slower motion than war, the climate crisis we face isn’t really all that different. Only now, we need governments that can lead us not into battle against other nations, but rather, into the fight for our collective future.

Today’s extreme weather events — the floods, fires, forest epidemics and hurricanes — are attacks on our soil, and they will only get worse. It’s time we adopted a wartime-scale response to confront this emergency.

In the economic and societal transition that is now urgently needed to shift our country off fossil fuels, the Conservative Party of Canada has, sadly, taken itself out of the game. This despite a recent Abacus poll indicating that a majority of conservative voters believe climate change to be a serious problem that represents “a major threat to the future of our children and grandchildren.”

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the former Progressive Conservative party could legitimately claim to have climate leaders among its top ranks. No more. Today’s Conservatives have chosen to opportunistically campaign against genuine climate policies, and to conspire with those who would block real action. They are scoundrels who would put your children at risk for electoral gain.

Upon the release of the Conservatives so-called “climate plan” in advance of this federal election, the National Post’s Andrew Coyne described it as “a prop” rather than a plan — “a work, essentially, of mischief — an intentionally pointless bit of misdirection.” The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason described the plan as “a sad joke.”

As many noted, the Conservatives offered no estimates of how much greenhouse gases would actually be reduced as a result of any of the policies promised (few as they were). Perhaps with good reason. Leading environmental economist and emissions modeller Marc Jaccard predicted the Conservative plan would actually result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

When crises, such as a war, call for real plans, we see clear actions and timelines and expected outcomes. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s climate document contains no such thing.

Your grandparents’ Conservative leaders, in the face of an ominous existential threat, rallied us and declared, “We can do this!”

In the face of today’s clear and present emergency, these man-baby Conservative leaders whine, “Don’t make me do it!”

You’re better than them. MORE


Andrew Scheer’s Real Bad Climate Plan

Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows

Image result for the conversation: Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows
According to new research, the majority of Canadians in all but three ridings across the country believe their province has already felt the effects of climate change. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin

Canada’s fall election is in full swing and climate policy will likely be at the centre of debate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are trumpeting their carbon pricing policy, while Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives want to get rid of it. Meanwhile, Elizabeth May and her newly relevant Greens think Canada must do more to manage the climate crisis.

But where do Canadian voters stand on this issue?

Our research team, based at the Université de Montréal and the University of California Santa Barbara, has new public opinion data to answer this question. Using recent statistical and political science advances, we can estimate Canadian opinion in every single riding across the country (except for the less densely populated territories, where data collection is sparse). And we’ve released on online tool so anyone can see how their local riding compares to others across the country.

Canadians are concerned about climate change

Our results reinforce what is increasingly clear: climate change is on the minds of Canadians, and not just in urban or coastal communities. A majority of Canadians in every single riding believe the climate is changing. The highest beliefs are in Halifax, where 93 per cent of the public believe climate change is happening.

Percentage of Canadians, by riding, who believe climate change is happening. Author provided

And a majority of Canadians in all but three ridings think their province has already experienced the impacts of climate change. These beliefs are particularly high in Québec, where 79 per cent feel the impacts of climate change have already arrived.

Canadians also want to see the government take the climate threat seriously.

A majority of voters supports emissions tradingCarbon taxation is more divisive, yet more people support carbon taxation than don’t in 88 per cent of Canadian ridings.

And the handful of ridings that don’t support the Trudeau government’s carbon pricing policy — Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, for example — are already in Conservative hands.

n other words, the path to a majority government — or even a minority government — goes through many ridings where Canadians are worried about climate change and want the government to take aggressive action. MORE

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde: First Nations Won’t Be ‘Pushed To The Side’ In Federal Election

He’s calling on members to influence “all party platforms” before the October vote.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde speaks during the AFN annual general assembly...
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde speaks during the AFN annual general assembly in Vancouver on July 26, 2018. DARRYL DYCK/CP

FREDERICTON — The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is calling on members to lobby all parties in an effort to influence political platforms ahead of the federal election in October.

“With the federal election coming, I want to say now the importance of voting and the importance of influencing all party platforms,” Perry Bellegarde said Tuesday as he addressed the AFN’s annual general assembly in Fredericton.

He said the national group was able to influence parties’ policy in 2015 with its Closing the Gap document spelling out priorities.

If you want to become prime minister or member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns.AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde

“We set up meetings with the people designing the party platforms. That’s the same process we’re going to do again for October,” Bellegarde said.

He said 61.5 per cent of eligible First Nations voters cast their ballots in 2015, and he wants that number to increase during the upcoming election.

“If you want to become prime minister or member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns, because we vote now and have impact,” he said. “That’s what’s going to happen in October. We’re not going to be pushed to the side anymore.”

Bellegarde said the group’s top priority is climate change.  MORE


Why Not an NDP-Green-Liberal Coalition to Battle the Climate Crisis?

Polls suggest a minority government, but we need a full coalition. 


A recent EKOS poll shows a Canada that, like much of the Western world, doesn’t know quite what to do or where to go.

But it also showed a way for us to get through our current whitewater politics, if enough of us are paddling in the same direction.

The poll is dated June 17, 124 days before the federal election. If a week is an eternity in politics, over 17 eternities lie between the poll and E-day, and this is just one poll out of many. Still, its findings raise some very interesting possibilities.

EKOS finds the Liberals supported by 30.1 per cent of the electorate, with the Conservatives at 34.2. Strikingly, the New Democrats are “moribund” at 12 per cent, trailing the Greens’ 13.2 per cent. The Bloc Québécois and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party are both at 4.0.

A thought experiment

Let’s do a thought experiment. It’s after the election. Green Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hold the balance of power.

They could keep at arm’s length from the Liberals, setting conditions for their support on confidence votes just as Andrew Weaver has with John Horgan here in B.C. The Liberals could govern very cautiously while taking flak from their allies as well as Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

Or May and Singh could have a quiet word with Trudeau the day after the election: “You’ve already declared a climate emergency. If you’re willing to treat it as a real emergency, we’re prepared to form an emergency coalition government with you, and stick with you until 2023.”

It would be a high price for Trudeau: a serious program to slow the climate crisis would include writing off the oil sands and cancelling the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline. What’s more, Greens and New Democrats would be in the coalition cabinet. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his Prairie backers would erupt with threats of separatism.

But an emergency coalition government could spike Kenney’s cannons and win over key Conservative groups. For example, the EKOS poll finds 42 per cent of those over 65 are Conservative supporters. Bring in pharmacare and other senior-support programs and woo them away. MORE