Justin Trudeau made reconciliation a top priority. Four years later, what’s changed?

Since the Liberals took power in 2015, Ottawa has poured billions into programs and services for Indigenous peoples and vowed to “renew” the relationship. But many Indigenous leaders say there’s much more work to do

justin trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets attendees at the closing ceremony marking the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on June 3, 2019. After two and a half years of hearings, a Canadian inquiry released its final report on the disappearance and death of hundreds, if not thousands of indigenous women, victims of endemic violence it controversially said amounted to “genocide.” – ANDREW MEADE , AFP/GETTY IMAGES

OTTAWA—It started with a promise.

Like so many before him, Justin Trudeau spoke to Canada’s Indigenous peoples last February, and vowed to do better. For too long, he said, Canada has failed. It has fallen short of its own Constitution, which enshrines Indigenous rights even as successive governments neglected to recognize them.

From the floor of the House of Commons, the prime minister pledged to change that. At long last, Ottawa would work with Canada’s Indigenous peoples — hundreds of First Nations, Métis nations, and Inuit peoples of the North — on a new relationship, one in which the federal government recognizes their rights in new legislation and dismantles the colonial dynamic that has been so damaging for so long.

In short, it was key to the reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples that Trudeau and his Liberals have championed at every turn since they took power in 2015.

And it fell apart.

Protesters denounced the initiative in rallies across the country. The Assembly of First Nations charged the process was dictated by Ottawa and called for it to stop. It even caused a rift in Trudeau’s cabinet between then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and others, according to Canada’s former top bureaucrat. In the end, the promised legislation was shelved, and the government shifted to tinkering with internal policy and passing bills to support Indigenous languages and child welfare.

It’s just one chapter in the story of reconciliation over the past four years, a deep and complex challenge the Trudeau Liberals hoisted on their own shoulders through their words and actions in government. Billions have poured into infrastructure and social services, yet advocates and leaders say there are serious shortfalls. And while efforts to “renew” the relationship have been welcomed, many also doubt the government’s willingness to truly challenge the colonial foundations that have wreaked so much harm.

With less than three months before the next federal election, Indigenous leaders and policy experts say the prominence of reconciliation under this government has brought some positive changes, but also halting progress and disappointment.

“When we talk about the niceties of establishing and maintaining these respectful relationships, that also has to be married with tangible, substantive change,” said Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

“So long as we have these massive inequalities, we can’t really begin to have that conversation of reconciliation.” SOURCE

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Green technology will not save us

Putting our faith in technology alone to fight climate change is mistaken.

Image result for justin trudeau andrew scheerIn our climate emergency, technology alone is not a panacea.

Technology, not taxes. That’s how Canadian conservatives plan to fight climate change. Their long-awaited proposal — unveiled last week — promises plenty of fiscal goodies for going green. Under the plan, companies could see hefty cuts in corporate taxes for using eco-friendly technology while homeowners could receive thousands of dollars in tax credits for adopting energy efficient products. Conservatives say these measures will help Canada meet its emissions targets (the country is signatory to the Paris climate agreement), move the global needle on climate action, and establish Canada as an environmental leader.

One thing the proposal won’t do is tax Canadians. “Our plan does not have a carbon tax,” the 60-page write-up emphatically states. That position clashes with the ruling Liberal government — and the governments of 40 other countries — who see carbon pricing as the best way to fight climate change. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the move, “putting a price on pollution”. Trudeau’s conservative rival disagrees with punitive taxes. At a rally last week, Andrew Scheer told supporters, “conservatives fundamentally believe that you cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment.” For Scheer, the real solution to reversing climate change “lies in technology”, which should be encouraged via tax subsidies.

Scheer’s position has some merit. A recent United Nations report found energy-efficient technology could — on an annual basis — cut 25 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 17 million tons of particular matter (linked to respiratory illness), and three billion tons of human-toxic waste. Sensors and software could also improve the energy efficiency of buildings, homes and cabins by up to 50 per cent, reduce metal consumption by up to 75 per cent and save precious natural resources, like water and land, by 200 billion cubic meters and 150,000 square kilometres respectively.

Renewable energy: a thermo-solar power plant. World Bank/Dana Smillie

But that not the whole story. The UN also warns that using green technology may be less beneficial (and in some cases, more harmful) than expected. It’s called the rebound effect – instances where technologically-driven advances in energy efficiency increase, rather than decrease, consumption leading to net-zero (or worse) emissions. For example, because electric cars cost less to run, consumers may drive them further and more often which wipes out the eco-advantage these vehicles have over their gasoline-powered counterparts. According to the Breakthrough Institute, a research centre that promotes tech solutions for environmental and human challenges, this effect means that “for every two steps forward we take in energy savings through efficiency, rebound effects take us one (and sometimes more) steps backwards.” This may erode up to 50 per cent of the eco-benefits promised by green technology by 2030, according to a paper by Barker, Dagoumas and Rubin.

Consumer behaviour affects energy efficiency in other ways, particularly at home. For example, British researchers have found buildings designed to save energy don’t always perform as expected, “partially because occupants behave in more complex ways than designers account for; they open windows, leave doors open, generate body heat, keep tropical fish tanks and install plasma TV screens”. To put it simply, buildings don’t use energy — people do. And predicting what people will do is notoriously difficult. A family must insulate their home to save energy only to then use those savings on buying home appliances that use even more energy.

This reality undercuts the idea that economic prosperity and climate action can — thanks to technology alone — go hand-in-hand. MORE

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Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent

The federal government’s skewed view of Indigenous consent, and its apparent conflict of interest on the pipeline, could pose a legal problem.

Image result for policy options: Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent
Photo: Indigenous drummers perform a drum circle prior to a demonstration against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on June 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

he latest cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline came less than a day after the federal government declared a climate emergency. While the irony was a dream for satirists, it wasn’t the biggest contradiction of the day. Instead, it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre definition of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) with regard to projects that will impact Indigenous land and rights: “[FPIC] is what we engaged in doing with Indigenous communities over the past number of months. It is engaging, looking with them, listening to the issues they have and responding meaningfully to the concerns they have wherever possible.”

By Trudeau’s definition, consent is: listening to issues, responding to concerns wherever possible, and then forging ahead. As Indigenous lawyer and scholar Pam Palmater pointed out, imagine if that definition of consent was applied in the context of sexual relations?

The prime minister’s comments largely went unnoticed in the mainstream media, but his government’s skewed understanding of FPIC and half-hearted attempts at consultations with Indigenous communities remain the core reason it will be unable to move the project forward. Moreover, Ottawa’s purchase of the pipeline created an inherent conflict of interest as it purported to sit down for meaningful consultations.

“Listening to the issues”

So, what exactly was the government “engaged in doing” with Indigenous communities since last August, when the Federal Court of Appeal found that “Canada did not fulfil its duty to consult” on the pipeline and quashed the National Energy Board’s approval of it?

Many of the First Nations that had appealed to the court expressed their dissatisfaction with the renewed Stage III consultation process that the court had mandated.

The Squamish First Nation said it had been assured there were no time limits for the consultations, only to discover that cabinet did have an end date in mind. Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation spokesperson, told a news conference that they had been sent documents for feedback after May 22, the federal government’s self-imposed deadline for comments.

“What we experienced was a shallow attempt at consultation that resulted in a failure to address our concerns,” said Khelsilem. “The failure to meaningfully engage with rights holders means this government is either not serious about building this pipeline or not serious about respecting Indigenous rights.”

Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band said, “The meaningful dialogue that was supposed to happen never happened.” A study of the community’s aquifer had not yet occurred, and an existing pipeline spill has yet to be remediated.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said that consultation once again fell well below the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada in a number of key decisions, including Tsilhqot’in. This constitutional obligation of the Crown’s was re-emphasized in the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. George-Wilson also noted that the federal government was in a conflict of interest – that its multiple hats as proponent, decision-maker, enforcer of laws and fiduciary to First Nations and all Canadians made it impossible to make an open-minded, unbiased decision.

Trudeau’s Climate Change Policy Is Strategically Inadequate

Approving a pipeline while declaring a climate emergency is ‘climate change denial with a human face.’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
‘This is how climate change denial will increasingly look in the future.’ Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

The Trudeau government’s recent actions — declaring a climate emergency and re-approving the Trans Mountain expansion project within two days — aren’t just hypocritical: they’re morally equivalent to climate change denial.

The United Nation’s authority on climate change recently recommended“rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to counter an imminent crisis, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent decisions have flagrantly ignored the UN’s counsel.

He’s bent over backwards to ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline’s expansion, propping up the project with extensive financial and rhetorical support. In the process, the Trudeau government has perpetuated the prerogatives of an industry that has funded climate change denying research and (knowingly) pollutes the planet.

Make no mistake: Trudeau’s actions represent climate change denial “with a human face,” a darker version of Czech communist leader Alexander Dubček’s 1968 description of his ill-fated liberalization program as “socialism with a human face.”

Trudeau and the Liberal party affirm the reality of global warming in theory, but they effectively deny the phenomenon in practice by facilitating a harmful status quo and belittling the urgency of radical change.

This is how climate change denial will increasingly look in the future: a mixture of symbolic proclamation and strategically inadequate policy.

With flooding, suffocating wildfires and abnormal temperatures across much of the country, the climate crisis isn’t just a theoretical concern for most Canadians. Global warming’s impacts are now apparent, a fact that’s reflected in a recent poll showing that over two-thirds of Canadians consider stopping climate change “a priority.” MORE

Trans Mountain approval met with promised resistance by First Nations

Trans Mountain
Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday the government has fulfilled its duty to consult Indigenous peoples and will move ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline despite opposition from several First Nations who say they do not consent to the project.

The Trudeau government has approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and is promising to have shovels in the ground this summer.

But First Nations are responding swiftly with commitments to resist the pipeline in order to protect the land, Indigenous rights, and to address the climate emergency.

The long-awaited decision was announced Tuesday in Ottawa, following months of renewed consultations with Indigenous communities as ordered by the Federal Court of Appeal last August.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justified the government’s decision on the basis it “has the potential to create thousands of solid middle class jobs for Canadians,” and that expanding the existing Trans Mountain pipeline’s oil sands output remains within the government’s carbon emission targets under the Paris agreement.

On Monday parliament passed a non-binding motion from Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna declaring a climate emergency in Canada.

Trudeau announced Tuesday the government will work with Indigenous stakeholders who have expressed interest in purchasing the pipeline in part or in whole.

He said up to 100 per cent of the pipeline could end up in Indigenous investors’ hands.

But the government’s consultations with First Nations, and its interpretation of free, prior and informed consent — a principle it has vowed to respect to through its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) — fall far short of Indigenous peoples expectations.’

Speaking at a press conference in Vancouver Tuesday, Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) Chief Leah George-Wilson responded to the government’s decision to approve the pipeline with a promise of renewed litigation in the Federal Court of Appeal.

“We believe that the consultation, once again, missed the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada — and we will defend our rights,” she said.

“TWN continues to withhold our free, prior and informed consent and are prepared to use all legal tools to ensure our governance rights are respected.”

First Nation leaders in B.C. also predicted a swell of grassroots resistance if the government attempts to begin construction in territories where consent has not been granted. MORE

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Extreme weather may finally make climate change a ballot-box issue

In Prince Edward County we  are still recovering from flooding as waves nibble at our shoreline. The County’s soon to be formed Environmental Committee will have its work cut out for it as it will be forced to reexamine past policies, revise them,and set out a vision for a new, local, and sustainable green economy . There is no doubt that  climate change will be a ballot box issue.

Voters have long been unmoved by scientists’ dire climate predictions, but fires, floods and other catastrophic weather events might cause a shift.


A fire burns near High Level, Alta., in May 2019, forcing thousands from their homes (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta/CP)

Back in the spring of 2016, when images of a voracious forest fire menacing Fort McMurray, Alta., were dominating the news, reporters asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if climate change was to blame. As the unofficial capital of Alberta’s oil sands, Fort McMurray figures prominently in the bitter debate over fossil fuels and global warming, so Trudeau responded carefully. “It’s well-known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet,” he allowed, before quickly adding, “Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘This is because of that’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate.”

Trudeau drew criticism from some who thought he had missed a chance to highlight the heavy price humanity is already paying for making the planet hotter and drier. But his answer was a pretty standard political dodge at the time. Even Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said “no credible climate scientist” would draw a neat cause-and-effect link between climate change and the Fort Mac fire. Then-NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said, “It’s not time to start laying blame.” 

A lot has changed, though, in the past three years. During severe flooding in Eastern Canada this spring, for instance, Trudeau didn’t hesitate to raise the alarm about climate change. “Canadians are already seeing the costs,” he said.

READ: Bill McKibben on how we might avert climate change suicide

Other Liberals were even more outspoken. “Yes, climate change is real,” said MP Will Amos, whose Quebec riding, on the Ottawa River, was hit badly by the floods. “Yes, it is wreaking havoc on our infrastructure.” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the senior voice from Western Canada in Trudeau’s cabinet, linked global warming to the floods, as well as fires on Prairie grasslands and in boreal forests. Goodale said he didn’t want to get into a partisan argument, but stressed, “I think we all have to learn the lessons of climate change—the impacts here are powerful and dangerous and damaging.”

The shift from pussyfooting around how climate change leads to more extreme weather events to talking about it so forcefully hasn’t happened by chance. It’s the result of a concerted effort by researchers to create a new field called “attribution science.” The challenge they faced was that climate is so complicated that teasing out a single cause for, say, a flood or a fire is impossible. So they devised methods for calculating how much climate change had contributed. The watershed report was published by researchers from the University of Oxford in 2004, explaining how global warming caused by humans had at least doubled the risk of the heat wave that baked Europe the previous year.

Since that landmark study, attribution science has taken off, including in Canada. The federal government’s “Canada’s Changing Climate Report,” released early this year, listed 14 Canadian attribution studies published from 2015-17, on everything from forest fires, to flooding, to thinning Arctic sea ice. 

In a widely noted report, Environment Canada researchers analyzed the awful 2017 forest fire season in British Columbia, when 65,000 were driven from their homes and millions left breathing smoke-filled air. They concluded that the extreme summer temperatures behind those fires were made more than 20 times more likely by human-caused climate change.  MORE

Fact checking Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau’s comments about carbon taxes and wildfires


Jason Kenney meets with Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on May 2, 2019. File photo by Andrew Meade

Last Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the causes of wildfires are “complex” and carbon taxes won’t stop them. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a carbon tax is a way to reduce the pollution that causes extreme climate events such as wildfires.

Which one of them is right?

Short answer: Kenney’s comments aren’t false, but they are misleading, experts say. While Kenney is correct in saying that many factors lead to wildfires, the premier’s comments fail to mention that the global climate emergency is worsening the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and that top economists, including two Nobel prize winners in 2018, generally agree that putting a price on carbon emissions is an effective way to slow down and eventually reverse the crisis.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a carbon tax won’t stop wildfires, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the opposite. Which one is right? Short answer: experts say Kenney’s statements aren’t false, but Trudeau is more right. #cdnpoli #ableg

“It’s not untrue, but it’s totally missing the point,” said University of Calgary climatologist Shawn Marshall, referring to Kenney’s comments.

Speaking in Calgary under a thick fog of smoke from fires in the northern part of the province on Friday, Kenney told reporters that Alberta has always had wildfires, and some parts of the boreal forest were overdue to burn. “They’ve had a carbon tax in British Columbia for 10 years. It hasn’t made a difference to the pattern of forest fires there … or in Alberta,” he said.

In B.C., the carbon tax introduced in 2008 by former premier Gordon Campbell’s government has generally reduced emissionsand affected some sectors that rely on fossil fuels, while allowing cleaner sectors to benefit.

“We need to be taking real action to prevent climate change,” Trudeau said Monday, referencing this spring’s wildfires in western Canada. “That’s why we’re moving forward on a price on pollution right across the country, despite the fact conservative politicians are pushing against that.”

Trudeau also said natural disasters are “becoming unaffordable” for Canadians and society. “We need to act in a way that puts more money in the pockets of Canadians, which is what we’re doing (with the carbon tax),” he added, referencing the rebate that means most Canadians will profit from the tax.

Kenney, who said he believes in climate change, is correct that wildfire is a natural part of the life cycle of Canada’s forests, said Mike Flannigan, a wildfire researcher at the University of Alberta. However, increased carbon emissions in the planet’s atmosphere are causing global temperatures to warm and conditions to become more favourable to wildfires, he added. Not only does the changing climate have longer, hotter and drier summers that leave the landscape more fire-prone — which Kenney correctly noted Friday — increased temperatures also increase the likelihood of lightning that can ignite more flames.

“We are seeing more fire on our landscape because of climate change,” Flannigan said. MORE