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

Forged in Fire: California’s Lessons for a Green New Deal

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2018 file photo, flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. A federal hazard tree-removal program will remove destroyed trees from last year's deadly Camp Fire that remain on private property and could fall on public roads and facilities. But the Chico Enterprise-Record reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency program will not take down trees that could fall on homes. Some arborists have estimated there are half a million to a million burned trees remaining from the fire that wiped out 14,000 homes and killed 85 last November. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

WE WERE JUST TAKING PICTURES. Of the ash, stray bricks, and weeds. Of twisted metal and charred patio furniture. Of the pine trees still standing on the edge of the lots, their towering trunks now charcoal black. Of the lonely white brick fireplace in the middle of it all, the only surviving structure, metal pokers hanging expectantly by the grate.

“Get the hell off my property!”

The words came bellowing from a burly man who had just pulled up to the pile of ash that once was his home in Paradise, California. As he shouted a litany of complaints, it became clear that his rage wasn’t only reserved for us trespassers — and there have been plenty who have gone to Paradise to gaze at the eerie emptiness where a thriving community once stood, before it was decimated by California’s deadliest fire one year ago.

The target was myriad forces that had conspired to twist the knife, again and again, on his already wrenching property loss — from the insurance company that wouldn’t pay up, to the county that wouldn’t let him clean up, to the state that wanted his (now contaminated) well to be sealed up. His rage was also directed at the absence of decent temporary housing for fire victims like him, not to mention the electric utility that had started the blaze and was still evading responsibility.

When the complaints petered out, I approached the man to introduce myself and apologize for our intrusion. But as I got closer, I felt his volatility: I have been in many disaster-struck communities and know how quickly the gale-force of emotion these events churn up can direct itself at the closest available target. We wished him luck and left.

The encounter was a reminder of the kind of stress that is in the air in the parts of California recently scorched by fire, as well as in the communities that have welcomed thousands of newly homeless neighbors to towns now bursting at the seams. The intersecting hardships experienced by so many in the region also explain why, days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Camp Fire that burned down Paradise and killed 86 people, local politicians in neighboring Chico unveiled a plan calling for the small city to adopt its own Green New Deal.

Like its national inspiration, the Chico Green New Deal framework marries rapid decarbonization targets with calls for more affordable housing; a safe and sustainable food system; investments in “clean, 21st century” public transit; green jobs creation, including projects earmarked for the poorest residents; and much more.

Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy.

“Your city council has heard the call of its community that has resounded locally and across the nation,” said Chico Vice Mayor Alex Brown when the plan was announced. “We are choosing to walk the walk of this movement and to take the leadership being demanded of us.” In an interview, Brown told me that the Camp Fire’s impact on both Paradise and Chico was a glimpse of the future unless action is taken to both radically lower emissions and build “communities that are more resilient to these shifts.” Brown is well aware that a small city like hers isn’t going to make much of a dent in global emissions. But, she said, “We can demonstrate what a Green New Deal looks like at the local level.

The Chico plan is one of many similar local initiatives that have sprung up in the year since the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with young demonstrators demanding that the Democratic Party embrace a sweeping Green New Deal to meet the twin crises of climate disruption and deepening inequality. Since then, as the Green New Deal proposal has picked up momentum in the Democratic primaries, several states and big cities have unveiled their own frameworks, including Maine and Seattle, where city council recently passed a resolution that included the city’s most ambitious climate justice targets to date. It also pledged to create an oversight board to hold the city to its commitments, a body that will be made up of representatives from communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustice, as well as climate experts and representatives from trade unions and green groups.

And yet the contribution now coming from humble Chico — a scrappy northern California college town with a population of approximately 100,000 — may be the most politically significant. Because the Chico Green New Deal is based directly on this region’s hard-won experience of living through the 2018 inferno; it was forged, quite literally, in fire.

Ever since the Green New Deal landed on the political map, liberals have attacked it for its supposedly impractical scope and ambition. Fighting poverty, racism, and homelessness are worthy goals, we have been told — but what do they have to do with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Surely a carbon-centric approach — like a simple tax or cap-and-trade and some narrow regulations on polluters — would be more likely to succeed. And besides, connecting greenhouse-gas reductions with building a fairer society just confirms Republican beliefs that climate change is a vast left-wing plot: Better to focus exclusively on pollution and worry about the rest down the road. Conservative Chico city council members have gone on the offensive against the Green New Deal with precisely this kind of attack.

PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire October 21, 2019 in Paradise, California. It has been one year since the the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise, California charring over 150,000 acres, killed 85 people and destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An aerial view of a destroyed neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 21, 2019, one year after the Camp Fire. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yet Chico’s lived experience over the past year is a devastating rebuke to this line of criticism. As the community that housed the vast majority of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy, one that is willing to make major nonmarket investments in housing, transit, health (including mental health), water, electricity, and more. MORE

Ontario First Nation newsroom set on fire in ‘targeted’ attack: publisher

Damage to the The Turtle Island News newsroom building in Ohsweken, Ont. on Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation.

The office of an Ontario First Nation weekly newspaper was set on fire during a “targeted attack” earlier this week, the outlet’s publisher said Thursday.

Lynda Powless, who is also the owner of Turtle Island News in Six Nations of the Grand River near Hamilton, said the incident happened around 5 a.m. on Monday, when an unknown assailant drove a truck into the building.

“Police told me we were targeted,” she said in an interview. “This was an attack on free speech and a free press in First Nation communities.”

Six Nations police and the fire department did not respond to a request for comment.

Powless said security video shows a black pickup truck driving into the north end of the one-storey building. After the collision, the cameras melted in the fire and no images of the perpetrator were captured, she said.

Police told her that gasoline was used to set the building ablaze.

“It scared the hell out of me because this is a wooden building,” Powless said. “Thank God no one was hurt.” SOURCE

Trudeau’s Promised Indigenous Housing Strategy Still Nowhere in Sight

We spoke to Indigenous leaders and housing advocates to learn what’s at stake and what they want to hear from the parties.

UBCIC’s Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the failure to fix the Indigenous housing crisis is ‘a dimension of racism.’ Photo by David P. Ball.

Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the Trudeau government’s launch of Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy.

But Indigenous people, whose ancestors have lived here for tens of thousands of years, were barely mentioned, with no new funding marked solely for Indigenous housing.

This despite the fact that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people — just five per cent of the overall population in Canada — are far more likely to live in overcrowded or unsafe housing, pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing or become homeless.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, an umbrella organization of First Nations governments, says the failure to address the Indigenous housing crisis is easily explained.

“It’s a dimension of racism,” he said. “And society’s attitude is ‘Indigenous people have always been poor. They’ve always lived in substandard, dilapidated housing. What would one expect? They’re Indigenous peoples,’ right?”

The Liberal government pledged in 2017 to create housing strategies for Inuit, Métis and First Nations people.

But almost two years later, there are still no Indigenous housing strategies.

Only the NDP has included such strategies in its election platform, although former Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said in a recent debate on housing that his party is “committed” to a separate national urban Indigenous housing strategy by and for urban Indigenous people.

Robert Byers, chair of the Indigenous housing caucus for the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, an umbrella group for social and Indigenous housing providers in Canada, is not surprised by the delay.

He cites his own experience working on the national homelessness strategy released earlier this year.

“Imagine how slow something can go, and then slow it down about three or four more times,” he said, adding he understands federal policies and procedures need to be followed when creating a national strategy and that takes time. But it only accounts for some of the delay, Byers said, and he doesn’t know what else could be holding the strategy up. MORE

Candidates say little on Indigenous issues as race grabs headlines

Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. | Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

Canada’s Indigenous communities had high hopes that their priority issues such as public safety and drinking water quality would be in the headlines during this year’s national election, on the heels of a damning report that found the country hasn’t protected Indigenous women and girls.

But despite race issues being thrust to the forefront in the election amid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, party leaders are saying little on the campaign trail about Indigenous inequalities.

The lack of discussion is especially noticeable after a government-appointed commission in June released the results of the three-year Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, highlighting Canada’s complicity in “deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide.” Some Indigenous leaders were hoping the confluence of the probe and the election would propel the issues they care most about into the spotlight.

“There’s nothing earth-shattering about what the parties are promising right now,” said Veldon Coburn, a professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Ottawa, saying Indigenous priority issues aren’t getting top billing in the parliamentary campaigns. “It’s just a matter of degrees of difference between one or the other.”

Urging all leaders to speak out

In September, the Assembly of First Nations, which represents nearly a million Indigenous people in Canada, released a policy document urging all political parties to recognize top issues for Indigenous people.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May endorsed the First Nations’ agenda at a press conference last week, adding that if her party took control of government, she would introduce legislation to implement calls to action of both the National Inquiry and the previous Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools.

“It’s time to end the era of colonial oppression and genuinely support Indigenous Peoples’ work and efforts towards self-determination so no one is left behind or excluded from their rightful heritage,” May said in a statement.

Among the top issues presented by the Assembly is clean drinking water. Throughout his 2015 election campaign, Trudeau promised to eliminate all long-term water advisories on First Nations by March 2021. A new report shows 56 long-term water advisories still await removal.

Trudeau is again promising action following the disturbing findings about Indigenous women and girls, but has said little on the campaign trail unprompted.

“The work of the commissioners, the stories they have collected and the calls they have put forward will not be placed on a shelf,” Trudeau said in June when the National inquiry was initially made public.

Since the report came out, Trudeau has said little about how he plans to prevent more murders. In his first speech after calling the election, Trudeau said he wanted to “move forward with everyone” but did not include Indigenous people among the Canadian communities he called out.

The National Inquiry, which split the nation with its use of the word “genocide,” detailed inequities and violence toward Indigenous women and girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community over the country’s colonial history.

“The calls for justice [provided in the report] are legal obligations and not just recommendations,” Native Women’s Association of Canada President Lucy Lorraine Whitman said at an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights panel in September.

Liberals losing support

Trudeau sailed through his 2015 election with the help of Indigenous people turning out to vote, in large part to expel then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper from office. A new poll conducted by Environics Research shows 51 percent of Indigenous people voted Liberal in the last election. This election, the poll found only 21 percent of Indigenous people plan to vote Liberal.

In 2015, Indigenous voters had a 15 percent rise in voter turnout compared with the 2011 election. The result was a record 10 Indigenous Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons — or 3 percent of the 338 seats, which is proportional to the number of Indigenous adults who live in Canada.

This year, 40 indigenous candidates are running for Parliament, according to CBC News.

Rudy Turtle, chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, who is running for Parliament with the New Democratic Party in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario, said at a press conference where he announced his decision to run in July that he chose the party because it has “done more for [Grassy Narrows] than the other two parties.” Kenora has been plagued with mercury contamination since the 1960s.

Turtle’s campaign themes mirror those of the NDP, which is attacking Trudeau for ignoring Indigenous people and other minorities.

“What bothers me the most about this is Prime Minister Trudeau raised the hopes of the most impoverished people of this country, but he forgot to say, ‘I’m just kidding,'” Bob Chamberlin, the NDP candidate for Parliament from Nanaimo-Ladysmith said in September at his campaign office in British Columbia. “The actions certainly did not live up to the commitments.”

Indigenous rights have come up in the party leader debates, although Trudeau skipped the first one in September to hold a rally in Edmonton, Alberta.

During Monday night’s debate the candidates were asked how they will handle concerns from Indigenous communities regarding the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The conversation quickly shifted toward a corruption scandal involving Trudeau’s government.

“I have nothing to learn from Mr. Trudeau who fired the first Indigenous attorney general for doing her job,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said. “She said she would do politics differently, and you fired her when she did.”

Scheer was referring to allegations made in January that Trudeau pressured former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin, an engineering firm facing corruption charges.

“Trudeau wanted to fight hard to keep SNC-Lavalin out of the courts, but he’s going to drag Indigenous kids to court,“ NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said. “That is wrong.”

In an earlier debate, Scheer did not directly respond to questioning about whether a Conservative government would appeal the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s September ruling that requires Canada to reimburse First Nations children who were made wards of the state under the on-reserve child welfare system.

But during a press conference last week at the Upper Kingsclear Fire Department, Scheer said, “It would be appropriate to have a judicial review” of the ruling.

When asked last Thursday during a press conference addressing supporters in Montreal if he would appeal the ruling, Trudeau side-stepped his answer saying, “We have always moved forward in a responsible way, and we will always make sure to do that as we move forward.”

The following day, the attorney general of Canada filed an appeal just days before the Oct. 7 deadline. In a statement released by his office, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government wants time to “address important questions and considerations such as who is to be compensated and the role of the Tribunal.”

Not one of the candidates brought up the National Inquiry during the debates.

But with the election in full swing, the government as well as federal public services are required to “act with restraint,” according to Canada’s Caretaker Convention. This means the calls for justice from the National Inquiry will stay in limbo until the new government can reassemble.

Critics argue there is no time to wait. Indigenous women and girls make up about 4 percent of the female population of Canada but 16 percent of all female homicides, according to government statistics.

“If there was a terrorist attack, there would be an emergency action,” said Pamela Palmater, a professor at Ryerson University. “There’s always a reason to not accept genocide.“ SOURCE


Reconciliation, Indigenous engagement in question ahead of election

Report aims to put poverty on the agenda in federal election campaign

Arafa Ahmada and her three children, Manaal, 13, Malik, 11 and Mahbeer, 9, among the 39 per cent of families living in poverty in Toronto Centre, the urban riding with the second-highest rate of child poverty in the country.

Child and family poverty has dropped significantly across Canada since 2015, but a new report shows the problem persists in all 338 federal ridings, with First Nations and recent immigrant children impacted the most.

“The latest data continue to paint a stark portrait of inequality with high- and low-income families living in close proximity while divided by wide social and economic gaps that leave too many children hungry, sick and stressed,” says the report by Campaign 2000, a national, non-partisan coalition committed to ending child poverty.

“Every community, every candidate and all political parties have a stake in the eradication of poverty,” says the report being released Monday.

Between 2015 and 2017, almost 134,000 Canadian children were lifted out of poverty, a decline of nine per cent, according to the report.

But nearly 1.4 million — or 18.7 per cent — continue to live in families struggling to survive on low incomes, says the report based on 2017 income tax data, the latest available.

The report considers children to be poor if their families are living below the Low Income Measure, after taxes, or 50 per cent of the median Canadian family income. That was about $33,000 for a single parent and $47,000 for a family of four, in 2017.

The numbers vary dramatically across the country with the highest levels of child poverty found in federal ridings with the largest proportions of Indigenous, racialized, immigrant and lone parent families. MORE


New National Report on Child Poverty Shows Modest Decreases, Some Troubling Increases

A Brief History of Canada’s Failure to Fund Indigenous Kids Equitably

Instead, we’ve spent millions of dollars to avoid doing it.

Cindy Blackstock
The Trudeau government has challenged a decision ordering Canada to compensate Indigenous people hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, to the tune of $2 billion. Advocate Cindy Blackstock has said such a challenge would represent ‘racial discrimination of the worst kind.’ Photo by Jeff McIntosh, the Canadian Press.

[Editor’s note: In light of the news that the Trudeau government is challenging a “landmark ruling” that orders Canada to compensate Indigenous children and families hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, we publish a recent essay by Tyee reporter Katie Hyslop that explores the federal government’s history of chronic avoidance when it comes to funding Indigenous kids equitably. The essay, titled: “Why fund Indigenous child welfare equitably, when you can spend millions to delay instead?” recently appeared in our free Tyee newsletter, The Run. You can subscribe to The Run here.]

Two-thirds of the kids in British Columbia government care are Indigenous; nationally it’s over 50 per cent. Most are First Nations. Yet only about 10 per cent of children in Canada and B.C. are Indigenous. They’re vastly over-represented in care. And that’s partly because the federal government continues to uphold a racist child welfare system.

Let’s look at the tape.

In 2005, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society released a report on federal funding for status First Nations kids showing their medical and child welfare services received 30 per cent less funding per child than services for non-Indigenous children.

That same year, the society’s executive director Cindy Blackstock began lobbying the federal government to adopt Jordan’s Principle. Jordan River Anderson was born with multiple disabilities; disputes between the federal and provincial governments over who would pay for his treatment delayed his care for three years. Blackstock wanted governments to pledge to pay for care, and sort out the bills later.

She got her wish in 2007. Kids would come first next time.

Except they didn’t.

That same year Blackstock, along with the Assembly of First Nations, launched a new campaign. She filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission arguing the government had been discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding services. The next year, the commission sent the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Years of legal battles ensued. Stephen Harper’s federal government pulled out all the stops to get the case thrown out and — when that didn’t work — delay it. It also spied on and “retaliated” against Blackstock.

Eight years later, on Jan. 26, 2016, the tribunal ruled that the federal government knowingly underfunded child welfare and medical services for 165,000 First Nations kids living on reserves and in the Yukon.

The government knew it wasn’t spending enough to meet provincial/territorial standards for care. But it still didn’t provide enough money.

It was ordered to cease its discriminatory practices immediately, as well as reform and broaden the scope of its child welfare services and supports. Compensation for the discrimination was to be decided at a later date.

But the rights tribunal ruling didn’t bring change. The tribunal has issued eight non-compliance orders, to little effect.

While the government was unwilling to equitably fund services for Indigenous children, it was prepared to spend to deny them services. For example, from 2015 to 2018 the feds spent $100,000 in legal fees to avoid paying $6,000 for one First Nations child’s braces. The government eventually settled with the family.

This isn’t just about medical expenses. The main reason kids are in care is neglect. Child welfare researchers say this is another word for poverty, which is only exacerbated by underfunded services.

The government’s discrimination against Indigenous children, established by the action launched 12 years ago, comes with a price. Canada must pay every on-reserve First Nations child who was removed from their families (since 2006) for reasons other than abuse $40,000. The guardians who they were taken from receive $20,000 per child apprehended.

Status kids on or off reserve who were denied or delayed in receiving necessary medical services from 2007 (when the government adopted Jordan’s principle) to 2017 also receive $40,000. Their guardians get $20,000.

The Assembly of First Nations says the child apprehensions payments alone apply to about 54,000 people and will cost more than $2 billion.

Scheer says he’d seek ‘judicial review’ of First Nation child welfare compensation

Deadline to appeal passes Oct. 7 — two weeks before election day

If he was prime minister, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would seek a judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision on First Nations child welfare compensation. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer today called for a “judicial review” of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision to compensate First Nations children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system.

The tribunal ordered the federal government on Sept. 6 to pay $40,000 — the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act — to each child apprehended from homes and communities under the on-reserve child welfare system.

The ruling also directed Ottawa to compensate some of the parents and grandparents of children who were apprehended.

Scheer said the decision could leave the federal government on the hook for billions of dollars in compensation.

“This is a far-reaching decision that has major impacts on multiple levels of government,” Scheer said.

“It would be appropriate to have a judicial review.”

A party spokesman later clarified Scheer’s statement by saying the Conservative leader would appeal the decision if he were prime minister right now. The deadline for the federal government to appeal is Monday — two weeks before election day.

Scheer has not said specifically what a Conservative government would do with this file if it forms government after Oct. 21. MORE


Ottawa ordered to compensate First Nations children impacted by on-reserve child welfare system
Trudeau ducks question on whether he’d accept First Nations child welfare compensation ruling


Indigenous communities need authority over child welfare says legal advocacy group

New report calls for better resources to keep First Nations families together

Indigenous children are 15 times more likely to enter government care than a non-Indigenous child in B.C. (Costea Andrea M/Shutterstock)

The current child welfare system in British Columbia has been called the Millenium Scoop because of the high rates of Indigenous children in care and a new report says the government could do more to help First Nations families stay together.

The report, prepared by Vancouver-based non-profit legal group West Coast LEAF, includes the experiences of 64 parents who engaged with the child welfare system, eight service organizations and three communities on the territories of the Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo, Secwepemc First Nations in Kamloops, and the Fraser Salish People in Surrey.

It recommends that Indigenous communities have authority over the welfare of their children and calls for better resources to establish family support programs in these communities.

“We know that this framework works,” said report author Elba Bendo in an interview on CBC’s The Early Edition. “The problem is that the progress toward shifting authority to Indigenous communities, and funding community-based supports has been incredible slow.” MORE


Paul Andersen: Climate is the Civil Rights of today

Childrens Crusade
In the year 1212, tens of thousands children, put down their ploughs, carts, the flocks they tended, claiming it be God’s will, and joined the Children’s Crusade to the Holy Land.

Greta Thunberg’s youthful innocence while protesting environmental degradations is akin to the innocent faces of the Children’s Crusades from the Middle Ages. How pure and desperate are these missions of youth.

Greta’s cohort of young, worldwide climate activists has swelled into the millions, rising up in a challenge against ecocide in the same way the Civil Rights movement challenged the status quo of racial tension that continues to embroil America.

When Martin Luther King wrote his famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he brought to bear the moral and ethical underpinnings of Western civilization, in particular decrying the “white moderates” who understood the gravity of racism but failed to act.

Image result for martin luther king birmingham jail

“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily,” impugned King. “Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.”

So it is that Greta challenges today’s environmental moderates who recognize ecological threats but fail to act, resulting in threats to the dreams of future generations. Thunberg’s soft, piping voice is as much a clarion call as MLK’s sonorous baritone in defending basic human rights in the face of social disregard for an imperiled future.

MLK recommended four steps for activism: 1) Collection of the facts. 2) Negotiation. 3) Self-purification. 4) Direct Action.

Greta and her peers have checked off the first three and are now engaged in direct action. Hopefully, with the moral authority of youth, they can effectively change hearts and minds.  MORE