Romeo Saganash: Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

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

Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The justice system still fails to protect Indigenous women and girls

“Even though the SCC made some important findings in this case, their caution that the justice system has a lot more work to do applies equally to them. We need more than the “important step forward” they commended themselves for — we need a wholescale change. ” — Pam Palmater


“Her life mattered. She was valued. She was important. She was loved.”  R. v. Barton [2019] S.C.J. No. 33.

Cindy Gladue was an Indigenous woman originally from Alberta, where she grew up with her four siblings and extended family. She was also the mother to three daughters and her family described her as both a loving mother and caring auntie. She had close friends and always dreamed about being the first in her family to go to university. Cindy Gladue loved and was loved. She did not deserve her violent death in 2011 nor the indignity done to her body after.

She is now one of the many thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada — a growing crisis that represents grave human rights violations. The trial of the man who admittedly committed this act of violence against Cindy is an example of how defective Canada’s justice system is when it comes to Indigenous women victims and how negligent Canada has been in ensuring the basic human rights of Indigenous women and girls are met.

In this column, there will be no details about Cindy’s appearance, what she wore the night she was killed, where she was killed, whether she knew her killer, her level of education, her health status, or what she did for a living — because none of the facts is relevant to her death. Cindy is not to blame for her death. Cindy did not kill herself. Cindy did not engage in a dangerous knife fight or try to kill someone.

Regardless of which version of the story is accepted by the next trial judge — that she was killed by a male trucker who violently cut an 11-cm gash in her vagina, or that she died from a tear from his violent, but unarmed interaction with her — she still died as a result. According to the SCC quoting from evidence at trial, the trucker then tried to hide evidence, change the crime scene and lie about his involvement. His name doesn’t deserve to be said aloud, nor does he get to hide behind any of the racist or sexist excuses he used at trial to defend himself. None of the evidence referred to at trial or the SCC indicates that he should be believed. Cindy’s life story does not get to be narrated by the man who admits to committing this violence against her.

Sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada has been allowed to continue in plain sight by government officials, police officers, lawyers and judges who have treated Indigenous women and girls as though they are less worthy of life. In fact, were it not for the lengthy and persistent advocacy of Indigenous women and their allies, Canadians would still be unaware of the crisis. MORE

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These Canadian students are striking to demand action on climate change. Every single week

“I just couldn’t live with myself knowing these facts and not doing my everything to stop it”
— Aliénor Rougeot, student striker

Alienor Rougeot (centre) and other young activists reveal what action they would like to see leaders take regarding climate change and saving the planet.

What if you felt your future was literally going up in flames, but the politicians and business leaders in charge weren’t doing enough to fight it?

That’s the sentiment driving thousands of young people across Canada to rally outside government buildings and corporate centres every week to demand action on climate change, an issue they don’t have the option to ignore.

It’s called #FridaysForFuture, a global movement started by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. She sat in front of parliament every school day for three weeks in August 2018 because she felt Sweden needed to do more to tackle climate change. Canada became the third country to hold a rally in solidarity on Nov. 2, 2018.

Within months, students were holding events every week, including several large-scale rallies like the International Climate Strike on May 24, when thousands of youth across the country took to the streets alongside others in 133 countries.

“When we started we were less than 100, but since March 15 we are always above 400,” says Aliénor Rougeot, the 20-year-old University of Toronto student co-ordinating Toronto’s strikes.

As conservative governments and political parties across Canada fight carbon pricing and politicians are accused of dropping the ball on climate change, we asked Rougeot and other young activists what’s at stake, and what action they would like to see leaders take.

"While I was always told to listen to science and experts when it came to everything else, it seems that for climate change our whole world still lives in a haze of denial," says University of Toronto student Alienor Rougeot.
Aliénor Rougeot, 20, Toronto

Striking is a disruption of the “normal”, the “usual way of life.” And that’s exactly what we need to make people understand, because if we keep living our lives as usual and acting like everything is normal, we will not have much time left on this Earth.

I am striking because our governments, but also the private sector and many individuals, are not taking the climate crisis seriously. I was born under the threat of climate change and while I was always told to listen to science and experts when it came to everything else, it seems that for climate change our whole world still lives in a haze of denial.

I am also striking because I care very deeply about human rights and justice, and climate change is fundamental a symbol of injustice. It was created by a few and will affect disproportionately those who have not contributed to it. It is going to affect marginalized communities, Indigenous people, lower-income families, and people from poorer countries. Climate change is going to lead to more wars, more water shortages, more floods and fires, and that is going to lead to more refugees and death than we are already seeing right now. I just couldn’t live with myself knowing these facts and not doing my everything to stop it.  MORE

Protecting water in a post-capitalist economy

This posting is part 3 of a series on the role of water justice movements in a post-capitalist economy. (Read blogs one and two.) Emma Lui writes, “We can learn from communities in JacksonvilleNew York, South America, and globally that have begun the inspiring work of transitioning to the next economy.”

"Capitalism Isn't Working" Photo: Jonny White/Flickr
Emma Lui is an activist, a writer and a contributor to the book, Corporatizing Canada: Making Business out of Public Service.Photo: Jonny White/Flickr

If we think about where power is manufactured and deployed, it is helpful to think about actual sites of struggles.

Some examples include:

  • Creation of legislation: House of Commons, Standing Committees or Senate Committees, public consultations.
  • Government departments: National Energy Board, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment
  • Courts and legal challenges
  • The physical location of projects: Nestle’s bottled water plants, along a pipeline route
  • Government or corporate spaces: shareholders meetings, LNG event at Canada 2020
  • Educational institutions: classrooms (Big Oil influencing what students learn at school), museums, university campuses
  • “Public debate” in traditional media, social media

Examples of communities contesting power include Climate Strike rallies on Parliament Hill, legal challenges against the Trans Mountain pipeline, the Tiny House Warriors with their mission to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory, as well as creative actions at the Canada 2020 LNG event and at Catherine McKenna’s recent town hall.

It is also helpful to think about other areas where neoliberalism and capitalism, broadly, are strengthened, reinforced, and advanced:

  • Collective consciousness and how a society understands and talks about an issue, e.g. the federal government frames pipelines as a matter of national security rather than a threat to clean water.
  • Within ourselves (our goals, the work we do, the beliefs we have), within our relationships and families (the roles we play, what work is paid and unpaid) and within our communities (how we relate to one another).
  • Consumer and business relationships: where we shop, what is considered a good for sale, what we buy and if we buy.

It is important to think about and contest power structures at these sites and areas in order to advance water justice, climate justice, social justice, Indigenous rights, and human rights more generally.

At the same time, we need to be working to create the next economic system.

Writer and activist Rev. angel Kyodo williams points out, “…why has our imagination been stolen by capitalism in such a way that we can’t even imagine a different possibility for different economies and different ways of trading and being in relationship to one another?”

Activist and PBI-Canada’s Executive Director Brent Patterson notes that anti-capitalism is entering the mainstream — see recent comments by George Monbiot on BBCNaomi Klein on Twitter and Phil McDuff’s article “Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism” in the Guardian.

This creates opportunities to imagine and explore ideas — some that have long been discussed and debated as well as new ones — for the next economic system. MORE

Tsilhqot’in leaders get standing ovation at United Nations forum in New York City

First Nations have to go to the UN to try to implement their 2014 Supreme Court of Canada title victory, attain jurisdiction, and secure basic human rights. The Trudeau government continues to try to define and implement reconciliation in a purely colonial framework. 

The opportunity allowed the chiefs to advocate for the Tsilhqot’in people on the international stage


Chief Joe Alphonse speaks at the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City Wednesday, May 1. Photo submitted

Representatives from the Tsilhqot’in Nation took centre stage Wednesday in a rare opportunity to speak before the United Nations — and they knocked it out of the park.

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Tsilhqot’in@tsilhqotin

The Tsilhqot’in Nation was proud to take the floor at the @UN Permanent Forum on Issues, honouring their ancestors and the sharing their spirit and culture with Indigenous Nations from around the world.

“I was taken back by the responses from all the delegates that were in attendance as I (the Tsilhqot’in) got the loudest applause and a standing ovation,” TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said Thursday, thrilled by the response of the crowd.

“Our case gives hope beyond what we could have ever imagined on a world stage.”

Alphonse presented to the Permanent Forum and to hundreds of visiting Indigenous Nations, countries and UN Delegates, speaking about how the Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs of 1864 continue to guide and give strength to the Tsilhqot’in as they seek to implement their 2014 Supreme Court of Canada title victory, and to secure recognition of title and jurisdiction to their Territory.

Alphonse said the chiefs attended the UN to advocate for the Tsilhqot’in people on the international stage, forge alliances and hold the governments accountable for fully implementing their title, jurisdiction and human rights. MORE

NDP MP asks public safety minister to trigger RCMP probe into coerced sterilization

 

Cultural genocide? Forced sterilizations of Canadian Indigenous women are occurring and the Trudeau government is ignoring the UN Committee Against Torture’s report calling on Ottawa to investigate “all allegations of forced or coerced sterilization” and hold those responsible accountable.  The response? The federal government said it wouldn’t amend the Criminal Code to outlaw it, saying existing criminal provisions were enough. Here is a list of MPs emails

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office says it recognizes barriers keep victims from coming forward

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale’s office is encouraging victims of coerced sterilization to come forward. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

An NDP MP has written to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale urging him to use “all legitimate tools” to have the RCMP open an investigation into coerced sterilization allegations that have come from mostly Indigenous women across the country.

About 100 allegations of coerced sterilization have surfaced across the Prairies and in Ontario and Quebec since 2017, when a lawsuit was filed in Saskatchewan.

Don Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway, handed the letter to Goodale on Thursday after question period.

“I … request that you use all legitimate tools at your disposal to ensure that the RCMP opens an investigation into all allegations of forced or coerced sterilization within its jurisdiction in Canada and lay appropriate charges against those responsible for committing them,” wrote Davies in the letter.

In a statement, Goodale’s office said coerced sterilization was “a serious violation of human rights.”

However, the statement sidestepped Davies’ request saying that the RCMP is one of 300 police forces across Canada and can’t investigate crimes outside of its jurisdiction. “We encourage anyone with specific criminal allegations to report them to the police of jurisdiction,” said the statement. “There is no time limit to report an assault to police.”

Davies said in an interview that Ottawa was ignoring its international obligations as a party to the UN Convention Against Torture which requires governments to proactively investigate violations of human rights.

  MORE

Horgan bullish on Site C, LNG

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Premier John Horgan speaks with an attendee at the Northern Resource Forum on Wednesday.- BRENT BRAATEN, PHOTOGRAPHER

Horgan also noted that some of the things done by the current government might seem surprising to an industrialist/business crowd.

He was bullish on developing liquefied natural gas. After careful review, he supported Site C Dam construction which he described as a “very controversial but fundamental project.”

He also stressed that two sub-topics of government were actually keystone enablers of natural resource development.

He said all the investment a government could make in the burgeoning tech sector was tantamount to investment in mining, forestry, oil and gas, agriculture and so forth because contrary to mental image, the tech sector did not mean making better video games, but rather making better tools for the natural resource sectors to use.

That might mean software, but it also might mean the 18-storey all-wood skyscraper now standing on the campus of UBC in Vancouver. SOURCE

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VALÉRIE CABANES: ICC SHOULD RECOGNIZE THE CRIME OF ECOCIDE

Valérie Cabanes

Lawyer and activist Valérie Cabanes has seen situations on all the world’s continents where people’s fundamental rights are being undermined by harm to their natural environment.

I realized the direct link that exists between major damage to a local ecosystem and human rights violations against a population that relies on it for survival.

Here she describes some of these situations,  analyses recent environmental pressure on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and  proposes an international legal structure putting as its priority the respect of the global ecosystem to restore security and peace. MORE