Here are the Indigenous issues that were ignored during the 2019 leaders debate

Federal political party leaders Elizabeth May (from left), Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier, Yves-François Blanchet and Jagmeet Singh at the Oct. 7, 2019, English-language debate in Ottawa. Photo by Justin Tang/Canadian Press

It took eight minutes for leaders gathered for the first and only commissioned English-language debate of the 2019 election campaign to make a reference to Indigenous people.

The reference was made by Green Leader Elizabeth May, who noted that before answering an audience member’s question, she wanted “to start by acknowledging that we’re on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, and to them, miigwetch.”

Twenty minutes of the Oct. 7 debate were allocated to a discussion about Indigenous issues among all six Canadian federal leaders vying for control of the country’s top office. But as quickly as this segment began, it derailed into a haphazard conversation about pipelines, Quebec and climate change, none of which were discussed constructively, or at all, in the context of Indigenous Peoples.

The segment was moderated by Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt, who posed the first question to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer about his proposed energy corridor: “Practically speaking, how will you consult, accommodate and obtain consent from Indigenous Peoples, and what will you do when your plans come into conflict with Indigenous rights and interests?”

Scheer prefaced his remarks by noting he is “someone who has 12 First Nations reserves in his riding” before speaking of the importance of balancing treaty rights with a path to economic prosperity for Indigenous groups.

He promised a “dynamic” consultation process, but failed to mention the Conservative platform has no dedicated section on Indigenous issues.

Twenty minutes of the Oct 7 debate were allocated for a discussion about Indigenous issues among all six leaders. But as quickly as this segment began, it derailed into a haphazard conversation about pipelines, Quebec and climate change.

Scheer was also one of two leaders onstage (People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was the second) who did not openly state a willingness and commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law. He demanded, instead, more clarity on the right of “free, prior and informed consent” in relation to energy projects and more.

But all leaders, not just those heading the right-of-centre parties, failed to reckon with Indigenous voters’ concerns.

In June, the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls found Canada to be guilty of both historic and ongoing genocide. Yet on Monday night, no leader mentioned the term “genocide,” despite being asked about how they would each work with provinces to adopt the recommendations of the MMIWG inquiry.

No leader other than Scheer mentioned the calls to action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, despite also being asked how they would implement them.

The fact is, of the 20 minutes allocated, much was spent on back-and-forth offensive exchanges between the leaders that were completely off-topic or not grounded in the betterment of life for Indigenous Peoples. As NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Scheer, it became more of a debate about “who is worse.” MORE

The Maclean’s / Citytv National Leaders Debate 2019

On Thursday, Sept. 12, Maclean’s and Citytv are hosting the first leaders debate of the election calendar, moderated by Paul Wells
Maclean’s and Citytv are hosting the first National Leaders Debate of the 2019 election calendar, to take place on Thursday, Sept. 12 starting at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT). 

The two-hour debate in English will centre on four major themes: the economy, foreign policy, Indigenous issues and, lastly, energy and the environment. After the main segment of exchanges, each leader will have 90 seconds for a closing statement.

The event will take place in Toronto while airing live on and Facebook, as well as on Rogers news radio stations and their websites and CityNews websites. CPAC will carry the debate with a French translation, while OMNI Television will carry it with interpretation into Mandarin and Cantonese (in broadcast) and Punjabi (online).

“We are continuing our tradition of early debates after the 2015 federal leaders’ debate ignited a cross-country conversation and set the agenda for election day,” says Maclean’s editor-in-chief Alison Uncles. “We are looking forward to a civil, spirited discussion of ideas, moderated by the extraordinary Paul Wells.”

The leaders of the Conservative Party, the Green Party and the NDP have confirmed their attendance. The Liberals have not yet confirmed Justin Trudeau’s participation but an invitation remains open and the debate will go forward regardless. MORE

Why the CBC needs to hold a climate debate

Students of all ages and their supporters marched to the offices of Environment and Climate Change Canada in Vancouver on March 15, 2018, demanding stronger climate policies. Photo by Brenna Owen

On June 19, the Canadian government declared a climate emergency in Canada. But, if we’re in an emergency, why aren’t we acting like it?

The same government that declared the emergency is standing behind a climate plan that would ensure devastating global heating of 4 C or more. At the provincial level, premiers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario took the federal government’s inadequate carbon price to court, trying to weaken action further. And, all the while, the fossil fuel industry has been ramping up its plans to try to use the federal election to further gut climate action.

But it’s not just the government and big oil falling short of emergency-level action. Our public institutions, including the media, have a responsibility to respond to the climate emergency.

It’s past time we held them accountable.

With the federal election a mere four months away, the most important information for people to have is a clear sense of which federal parties have a real plan to tackle the climate crisis ⁠— and we need it before heading to the polls on October 21.

According to the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, it’s the public broadcaster’s role to make “itself available to get important information to Canadians in a timely fashion” in the event of national emergencies. That’s why the CBC should commit to hosting a federal leaders debate on climate change ahead of election day: to ensure people in Canada have important climate information in a critical, timely fashion.

In 2015, over the course of five federal leaders debates, there wasn’t a single serious conversation about climate action. The few times it did come up, the conversation didn’t give voters the information they needed to truly understand each party’s climate plan. With climate consistently landing near the top of the issues people are thinking about before heading to the polls this fall, we need a dedicated climate debate to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Hosting a leaders debate would also make it clear the CBC is taking climate change seriously. It was, after all, only a few weeks ago when Paul Hambleton, the CBC’s director of journalistic standards, argued using the words climate “crisis” and “emergency” might “sort of imply, you know, something more serious” is happening with climate change. The CBC faced a public backlash for the comments, with hundreds of tweets to the broadcaster, such as writer Derrick O’Keefe’s comment that the “CBC embarasses itself” and Elizabeth May’s comment that “the CBC needs to get a briefing on #IPCC 1.5 degree C report.” The CBC was forced to affirm its commitment to reporting responsibly on climate change. They did so by quickly rolling out a special climate series as a direct response to people “asking the media to do a better job by providing more facts about what is happening and more coverage of possible solutions.”

There will, of course, be those who argue against the idea of a specific debate on climate change. Some won’t want it because they continue to downplay the importance — or existence — of a climate crisis. Others will argue it’s just one issue among many.

However, as demonstrated by the thousands of people who turned out to still-growing conversations about a made-in-Canada Green New Deal, people concerned about climate change refuse to see it as a single issue. That’s because it isn’t a single-issue crisis. MORE


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