In 2019, What Should We Do with Sir John A. Macdonald Statue?

SINCLAIR SPEAKS Author, educator and columnist Dr. Niigaan Sinclair spoke at St. Mary Magdalene Church Tuesday evening about all sides of the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

In a Letter to the Editor  (Nov 22, Picton Gazette) Paul Allen wrote:

“Good morning, Councillors

On Tuesday evening I attended a presentation by Dr. Niigan Sinclair on Sir John A Macdonald’s mistreatment of Indigenous children, women, and men in Canada.

I understand that Dr. Sinclair’s presentation was the first in a series of talks that is being scheduled in the County – and that is sponsored, at least in part, by the municipality.

The launch of this series is meant to coincide with the re-installation of “Holding Court” – a sculpture depicting the start of Sir John A Macdonald’s legal career in Picton – in front of the public library on Main Street.

I admit that I’ve not been particularly conscientious in my own response to Dr. Sinclair’s father’s call for truth and reconciliation. I learned many profoundly troubling things about the abuse of Indigenous peoples in Canada on Tuesday evening.

I’d heard of various controversies surrounding public monuments to Sir John A Macdonald and other figures who played major roles in this shameful part of our nation’s history, though I hadn’t paid any of them especially close attention.

On Tuesday evening, I learned much more about how different communities across Canada have been struggling with these difficult issues.

Which brings me to write to you this morning.

I would like to make a deputation to Council on November 26, 2019; meanwhile, I respectfully submit that Council should defer the re-installation of “Holding Court” until there’s been further opportunity for residents in the County to learn of this pending change in our common space and to share their perspectives with Council.

I worry that no amount of interest in people’s opinions after the fact will make up for an apparent lack of interest beforehand.

Thank you.
Paul Allen, Picton

The presentation that Mr. Allen that Mr Allen refers to was given by Dr. Nigaan Sinclair, the son of Dr. Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission.

In his presentation describing Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy, Nigaan Sinclair said,

“I’m aware of his vision of the railway, of a united Canada which we have all inherited. I’m aware he was driven, unwavering, forceful and the prototypical dream of every Canadian. I know that he is the vision that Canadian’s want to imagine themselves as and that even in his death, as Wilfred Laurier said, he is the history of Canada itself. But here is where we get honest. I’m a bit tired of having to defend the merits of Macdonald, because the conversatoin goes as follows: he is a man of his time. He needs to be viewed in the context of the way people viewed the world at that time. We need to forgive him for his complicatedness.”

“Violence is violence is violence,” echoed Sinclair. “What I mean by that is Macdonald’s career, while remarkable and important and impactful, is defined by incredible brutal and draconian violence, particularly against Indigenous Peoples.

“Violence is violence is violence.”—  Dr. Niigan Sinclair

“He is the primary perpetrator of genocide against Indigenous People, something that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged, recognized and accepted responsibility for. If the Prime Minister of of a country acknowledges genocide has occurred and the perpetrator is the man we’re speaking about tonight, it’s worth having a conversation and using the word itself.”

So what does the statue actually say to our children? At the very least, just re-positioning the statue must include a plaque that describes Macdonld’s full legacy: father of Confederation and perpetrator of the ongoing Indigenous genocide.

Here is where we need to be honest. Violence is violence is violence.




A burning case for a radical future: Naomi Klein says UBC needs to get with the program

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26 Chan Centre

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26, presenting at UBC’s Chan Centre for a sold out venue as part of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Klein opened the event with a discussion on her new book and was joined by Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous land defender from the Secwepemc territories as well as event moderator, UBC School of Journalism Professor Kathryn Gretsinger.

Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, focuses on the interconnectedness of what she refers to as simultaneous planetary and political “fires.” These fires are both literal in reference to rising temperatures and climate crisis, as well as in a metaphorical sense; With references to global political crises and the rise of fascism under figures like Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and Kashmir, and Duterte in the Philippines, to name a few she touched on.

“A clear formula is emerging between many of these fascist figures who are trading tactics,” she said.

In her opening address Klein emphasized themes from her book, particularly that climate destruction systematically intensifies pre-existing societal inequalities and vulnerabilities. She cited the historic 2017 wildfires in BC as an example, sharing that while smoke hung over the entire Lower Mainland for weeks on end, it was Indigenous communities whose wellbeing was disproportionately affected, along with undocumented migrant workers working in BC’s interior.

Klein brought hope to the on-stage conversation by addressing that while political and planetary fires are raging, metaphorical ‘personal’ fires are also on the rise, and continue to spark global social movements, from Haiti to Chile to Lebanon and beyond.

From racism to colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, extractivism, eco-fascism, climate destruction, poverty and despair, in Klein’s words, these struggles can be tackled all at the same time rather than as single-voter issues.

“The fight for Indigenous rights and title is absolutely inseparable from the fight for a habitable planet. They are one and the same,” Klein stated emphatically in the two hour event.

Klein’s book is dedicated to the late Secwepemc leader and activist Arthur Manuel. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel — founder of the Tiny House Warriors movement in BC — joined her on stage for the event. Manuel reiterated the interconnectedness of Indigenous land rights as central to movements for climate justice, particularly as the Canadian government has repeatedly stated it’s intent to go on with Trans Mountain Pipeline construction despite a lack of Indigenous peoples’ consent.

Image result for kanahus manuelBearing a broken wrist and a defiantly raised fist, in a voice that was calm and contained, Manuel recounted a chilling incident of police violence from the week before.

“As I stand here today, I have this cast as proof of what Canada does to Indigenous people when they stand up for Indigenous land rights. There are mothers and children on the front lines.

“I don’t want anyone here to ever have to feel how this feels — for the RCMP to come and break your wrist at your home and take you away for three days without medical attention.”

Manuel was referring to her arrest the week before, when she and other Secwepemc land defenders had been resisting as federal pipeline developers encroached onto unceded Secwepemc territories.

“We expected them to deal with the matter in a diplomatic way; this is supposed to be a first world country,” said Manuel.

As Manuel handed the microphone back to Klein, she received a standing ovation from the packed Chan Centre audience, members of the audience joining her in standing with fists raised in unison with her own stance. MORE

It’s time to affirm – and celebrate – Indigenous equality

It was inspiring last week to see the government of British Columbia become the first jurisdiction in Canada to move to enshrine in law the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This was the culmination of a process that began in 1981 with the inclusion in the Canadian Constitution of a clause recognizing and affirming the existing rights of Canada’s aboriginal peoples. Now, as we await passage of the B.C. legislation and the formal endorsement of UNDRIP by other provinces and by the federal government, we should think about why this journey has taken so long and faced so many obstacles.

The ceremony in the B.C. Legislature on October 23rd was one of high emotion.  With the support of all political parties and senior representatives of the business community and B.C.’s highly valued resource industries, Premier John Horgan welcomed First Nations into the chamber and promised to initiate a comprehensive review of provincial laws to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights and to support reconciliation.

The all-party solidarity shown upon the introduction of the bill was particularly important given our divisive history on the issue. During constitutional debates in the early 1980s, Canada’s Indigenous leaders argued passionately that their rights should be included in the country’s foundational document. The New Democratic Party agreed, withholding support until then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau acceded to what became Section 35, which states: “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

Note that this clause, controversial at the time and influential in the years since, did nothing to expand Indigenous rights. It simply “recognized and affirmed” existing rights that, even then, were being enforced by the courts – though often only after long and expensive legal battles.

The UN Declaration is similar in intent. It doesn’t create new rights or define Indigenous rights in a way that would supersede the rights of others. It simply reinforces the rights and freedoms recognized in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in international human rights law.

Specifically, the UN Declaration begins by “affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples.” Yet, as the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report indicated, often in tragic detail, many of Canada’s indigenous peoples do not yet enjoy equal status. Consider the record of all those Indigenous children whose social welfare standards are inferior to those of other children or of the many Indigenous communities still without safe drinking water.

The TRC recommended that provincial governments should “fully adopt the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as the framework for reconciliation.” To its credit, the House of Commons in the last Parliament passed NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s Bill 262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It’s disappointing that Mr. Saganash’s bill was obstructed and killed in the Senate.

Now, however, we have a fresh start. We have a provincial government showing leadership – in cooperation with a business community that recognizes the need to build effective relationships and a robust and sustainable economy, in partnership with Indigenous communities.

Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., was quoted on the day the provincial government tabled the UNDRIP legislation as saying that B.C.’s mining industry is cautiously hopeful that B.C.’s new bill will “enable greater certainty and predictability on the land base.” Noting how much development has been tied up in futile court cases challenging Indigenous rights, Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C., added, “This starts the process of enabling economic reconciliation, with the kinds of supports that the province should have been providing for decades.”

Now is the time for the new federal government to make good on its promise to re-introduce Romeo Saganash’s bill, or to champion a new one that will bring federal law into alignment with the UN Declaration. The Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens have all committed to supporting such legislation. Let’s use this collaborative spirit to start a new moment of reconciliation – to end, finally, the many decades of resistance. SOURCE

The Federal Government Picked a Fight With First Nations Kids. Three Years and Millions in Legal Fees Later, They Lost.

‘Canada’s conduct was willful and reckless’, Human Rights Tribunal sasy as it awards First Nations kids maximum compensation


The federal government lost its three-year long battle before Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal to avoid compensating Indigenous families and youth for discrimination in Canada’s child welfare system.

F. N. Caring Society@CaringSociety

BREAKING: Another HUGE win for First Nations kids! The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the Canadian gov’t to pay compensation to First Nations children, youth & families harmed by the child welfare system. Full ruling: 

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

The fee is to go towards compensating Indigenous families and youth harmed by the discrimination in Canada’s child welfare system or who were denied services owing to the discriminatory implementation of Jordan’s Principle.

Jordan’s principle, among other things, obligates the government to provide substantively equal access to housing, health and other services to Indigenous children and to safeguard the interests of children.

In its ruling, the tribunal found “Canada’s conduct was willful and reckless resulting in what we have referred to as a worst-case scenario under our Act.”

Cindy Blackstock

CDN Human Rights Tribunal finds Canada “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated v. First Nations children in a “worst case scenario” Awards maximum damages. Read the ruling: 
Summary of the ruling: 
More info: 

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The federal government’s legal battle has a lengthy history.

Soon after Trudeau’s Liberals formed government, the Tribunal issued a ruling that the federal government’s chronic under-funding of First Nations children on reserves was discriminatory, with 38% less being spent on kids on reserve compared to children in other communities across Canada.

The tribunal said funding for First Nations children needs to be equalized in comparison to kids elsewhere in Canada.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society which initially filed the human rights complaint, estimated compensation to First Nations kids could amount to nearly $1.7 billion.

Jorge Barrera

NEW: Ottawa must pay tens of thousands of dollars to every First Nations child who was placed in the on-reserve child welfare system, following a Friday ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that also provides compensation to some of their parents and grandparents.

Blackstock says the federal government’s full legal costs between 2016 and 2019 are not known because the government hasn’t released that information.

“It was at least 12 million as of 2016,” Blackstock told PressProgress, referring to the 9-year-long legal battle with Harper government over her initial complaint between 2007 and 2016.

In 2017, the Liberal government decided to fight the Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling, arguing it can’t force the government to give equal funding to Indigenous kids.

In December 2017, former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould disclosed that the Liberal government spent over $800,000 in lawyer’s fees between 2016-2017 fighting the Human Rights Tribunal’s 2016 ruling to implement Jordan’s Principle.

That amount is likely larger today. MORE

‘Serengeti of the north’: the Kaska Dena’s visionary plan to protect a huge swath of B.C. wilderness

The First Nations that have lived in the north for thousands of years are out to prove that a conservation economy and extractive economy can thrive side by side — but first they need the B.C. government to get on board

Tanya Ball Taylor Rhodes Kaska Dena
Tanya Ball heads the Kaska land guardians program. Land guardians would have a greatly expanded role in the new conservancy area. Currently, eight Kaska guardians are spread out among the three B.C. Kaska communities. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Flying north from Fort Ware, an isolated community in northern British Columbia at the terminus of a rough logging road, there’s something different about the landscape below. It becomes clearly visible, through parting cumulus clouds and glinting sun, about half-way into the 50-minute flight up the Rocky Mountain Trench, known locally as the “warm wind valley.”

Unlike flights over most of B.C., Van Somer doesn’t see a single clear-cut. There are no mines, no oil and gas development, no hydro reservoirs, no settlements and not a single road. He could walk for weeks on the land below and not meet a soul in the tapestry of boreal forest, sapphire lakes, rivers and snow-crested mountains that stitch together one of North America’s last intact major landscapes.

Donny Van Somer Taylor Roades Kaska Dena

Donny Van Somer, chief of the Kwadacha Nation, at the Kaska annual general assembly in Lower Post, B.C. Van Somer, who lives in Fort Ware, is working to permanently protect part of his people’s traditional territory in a new conservancy. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

“We have an area that’s very pristine and very beautiful, one of the most beautiful places, I think, in the world,” Van Somer, a grandfather of 12, tells The Narwhal.

“We call it the Serengeti of the north. There’s an abundance of wild animals. It’s untouched, no roads, just the ancestral trails that we use for getting back and forth.”

New conservancy would be larger than Vancouver Island

The Kaska Dena call this land Dene Kayeh, which translates as “the people’s country.” The Kaska, a nomadic people who followed the seasonal rounds, producing food, shelter, clothing and medicine from forested landscapes, have occupied this region continuously for at least 4,500 years.

Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area Maureen Garrity Kaska Dena

The proposed Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in Kaska Dena traditional territory. Scientists say species will more easily adapt to climate change in areas such as this, where they can move from valley bottom to mountain top. Photo: Maureen Garrity

In recent times, they have politely declined to put the proposed Eagle Spirit pipeline through their territory, insisted there be no logging north of Fort Ware, negotiated with a Vancouver company that wants to explore for zinc deposits and declined to use their guide outfitting licence because the area has been over-hunted and needs time to recover.

“Now we’ve decided we don’t want to see much development there,” says Van Somer, who is mustached and wears a leaf-patterned shirt in camouflage colours.

“I think it’s very important for us, being First Nations stewards of the land, to protect a piece of the land we can enjoy in its natural state.” MORE


Meet the Kaska land guardians

Agreement paves way for Indigenous-owned company to manage forestry, harvest in eastern Manitoba

Four First Nations communities enter 2-year deal with province to determine viability, pursue partnerships

The goal of a new agreement is to have four First Nations create a proposal for an Indigenous-owned company that would eventually manage forestry in an area east of Lake Winnipeg. (CBC)

Four First Nations communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg have signed an agreement with the province of Manitoba to explore an Indigenous-led commercial forestry opportunity.

Black River, Brokenhead Ojibway, Hollow Water and Sagkeeng First Nations signed a two-year forestry management option licence to explore the viability of harvesting trees in the area.

The goal is to have the First Nations create a proposal for an Indigenous-owned company that would eventually manage, harvest and renew the area’s forest. They would then need to apply for a long-term licence after the two years.

“This agreement represents a strong step towards shared management of our natural resources and greater participation of Indigenous people in the economic development in eastern Manitoba,” Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said at an announcement ThursdayMORE


‘Damage is done’ in Indigenous community over Wilson-Raybould’s treatment: Kinew

Jody Wilson-Raybould
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould take part in the grand entrance as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released, Tuesday December 15, 2015 in Ottawa. Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is quitting the federal cabinet days after allegations became public the Prime Minister’s Office pressured the former justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the federal Liberal government’s treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould in the SNC-Lavalin scandal has done serious damage to the party’s reputation with Indigenous people in Canada.

Indigenous people have “made up their mind” on the issue, Kinew told CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon during an interview airing Sunday.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould appears to be the one conducting herself with integrity and the prime minister seems to be playing politics as usual,” he said. “I think that has damaged Trudeau’s reputation as being Canada’s first woke prime minister.” MORE


Liberals risk ‘brand damage’ over Wilson-Raybould controversy, says former Martin government official
Wilson-Raybould resignation spells trouble for Liberals

What is the Green New Deal and how would it benefit society?

This story was originally published by The Guardian and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, along with dozens of co-sponsors, have introduced a vision for the Green New Deal. One Republican called it a “socialist manifesto”. Many environmental advocacy groups have hailed it, but some say it doesn’t go far enough. Others warn that its broad scope and the long list of progressive social programs it endorses could hinder its climate efforts.

So what is the Green New Deal?

The proposal outlines the broad principles of a plan simultaneously to fight inequity and tackle climate change. It does not contain policy details or advocate for specific ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But with a broad brush it aims to make the US carbon-neutral – net zero carbon emissions – in 10 years.

The Green New Deal recognizes that transition would require massive change. It endorses ways of ensuring that vulnerable populations – including the poor, people of color, indigenous populations and communities already facing environmental degradation – take part in the planning process and benefit from the green economy.

Would it end the use of coal, oil and natural gas?

No. But it would aim to offset any remaining greenhouse gas pollution with forests that absorb carbon dioxide, for example. It does not specifically address what role nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon capture technologies would play. Nuclear power represents half of the carbon-free energy in the US, but it runs on mined uranium. Fossil fuels with carbon capture would still require drilling and cause pollution.

How ambitious is the Green New Deal?

Incredibly ambitious, both on climate change and with its reimagining of society.

Fossil fuels are deeply embedded in the US economy. Of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2016, 28% were from electricity, 28% were from transportation, 22% were from industry, 11% were commercial and residential and 9% were from agriculture. MORE


Activists protest the Line 3 decision, Thursday, June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota regulators approved Enbridge Energy's proposal to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, angering opponents who say the project threatens pristine areas and have vowed Standing Rock-style protests, if needed to block it. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Activists protest the approval of Enbridge’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline on June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune/AP

MINNESOTA POLICE HAVE spent 18 months preparing for a major standoff over Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline that has yet to receive the green light to build in the state. Records obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement has engaged in a coordinated effort to identify potential anti-pipeline camps and monitor individual protesters, repeatedly turning for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016.

Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company that claims to own the world’s longest fossil fuel transportation network, has labeled Line 3 the largest project in its history. If completed, it would replace 1,031 miles of a corroded existing pipeline that spans from Alberta’s tar sands region to refineries and a major shipping terminal in Wisconsin, expanding the pipeline’s capacity by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day.

The expanded Line 3 would pass through the territories of several Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota, home to sensitive wild rice lakes central to the Native communities’ spiritual and physical sustenance. Given that tar sands are among the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel sources, Line 3 opponents underline that the pipeline is exactly the kind of infrastructure that must be rapidly phased out to meet scientists’ prescriptions for mitigating climate disasters. MORE

We asked Jagmeet Singh about his support for one pipeline and his opposition to another

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in full campaign mode on Sat. Jan. 19, as he got the backing of some star power in the middle of a byelection campaign in the Vancouver region.

Jagmeet Singh answers questions about why he expressed his support for the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline, while he opposes the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker expansion project. Singh was campaigning in Burnaby on Jan. 19, 2019. Video by Michael Ruffolo