Blowback to the word genocide proves the national inquiry report was right

Jingle Dancers perform 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. It’s time Canada stopped being so defensive and started having the difficult discussions we need, Tanya Talaga writes.

I should have anticipated the blowback to the final report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls

For decades, news outlets chose not to report on Indigenous issues. Where were the investigative exposes on the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora while children were medically experimented on? Or the special projects on the pedophiles praying on the children of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School or on Ralph Rowe, the flying Anglican priest believed to have sexually abused hundreds of First Nations boys?

Where were the stories on First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, who were picked up off of sidewalks, raped and left for dead?

Tanya TalagaThere are exceptions of course. I [Tanya Talaga] have, since January 2019, been paid to cover Indigenous issues as a columnist for the Star. I’m not alone in the Canadian media landscape. But we are few.

The inquiry did not mince words in calling out the media. The commissioners found that media has not accurately portrayed Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people, too often reinforcing negative stereotypes, perpetuating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny — perpetuating the notion that Indigenous peoples are “less-than.”

But rather than listen, rather than take this opportunity for sober self-reflection, the media, on cue, proved the commissioners’ point.

Most major Canadian media organizations quickly published pieces dismissing the genocide finding, while mostly ignoring everything else in the 1,200-page report based on the testimonies of some 2,300 families, survivors and experts.

Wouldn’t it be better for those being accused of complicity in a Canadian tragedy to listen and consider rather than rushing to engage in precisely the sort of behaviour the report says is so dangerous?

In any case, surely something is wrong when so many expend so much more energy defending colonialism against the “genocide” allegation than grappling in good faith with the cruel consequences the commissioners chronicle or their 231 recommendations for redressing those consequences.

Maybe it’s no wonder. For the past 150 years this country has taught its children — its future police officers, politicians, doctors and editors — to look away from Canada’s true history, to avert their eyes to the “Indian problem” or to treat it as a problem of Indigenous peoples’ own making. MORE

UNDRIP Bill C-262 finally reaches the Senate committee and Conservative skepticism


NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s UNDRIP bill is inching toward passage. Sen. Murray Sinclair says equating free, prior and informed consent with a veto misses the point (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

If Bill C-262 is to pass before the House rises next month, some Conservative Senators will have to be convinced it won’t create new problems for Canada.

On Tuesday Cree MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill had its first day before the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

If passed, it would require Canada to align its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which articulates the global minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples.

But the proposed legislation, introduced in the House of Commons by Saganash in 2016, could meet its demise on the order paper if its proponents, and witnesses who will address the committee in the coming days, don’t convince Conservative senators the bill won’t have unintended legal and economic consequences for Canada.

“We all acknowledge that Canadians, I believe, overwhelmingly support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Conservative Senator and committee Deputy Chair Scott Tannas told APTN News Tuesday.  But if [the bill] involves more court cases and economic disruption, they’re not in support of it,” he continued, adding Canadians have “never been asked that question.

“We don’t know if they’re in support of it — but I suspect they’re not. So we need to get clarity around this, and that’s our job here in the Senate.”

UNDRIP(From the left, NDP MP Romeo Saganash, Wilton Littlechild, and Senator Murray Sinclair at the Senate hearings Tuesday. Photo: Justin Brake/APTN)

The committee heard from several witnesses Tuesday, including Saganash himself, and Senator Murray Sinclair, who is the bill’s senate sponsor and, a former judge and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A lot is being made of the possibility that the U.N. Declaration itself is going to become the law of Canada by virtue of this bill, and that is not the case,” Sinclair said in his opening remarks to the committee Tuesday.

“People need to stop suggesting that, because the only extent to which this bill will have an impact anywhere in that direction is that it will call upon Canada to look at its legislation and to make its legislation consistent with the principles that are set out in the Declaration.” MORE

First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

This warning by Russ Diabo posted in Ricochet, July, 2015 is even more timely today.

Image result for Ricochet: First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

For the past several weeks, I have observed with increasing frequency a call for First Peoples to get out for the upcoming federal election. The mainstream media and now the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, are urging Indigenous people to vote, particularly since it is looking like a three-way race between the federal leaders and their parties (sorry, Elizabeth May).

…I took particular notice of an opinion piece by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post. Kheiriddin was responding to Regina Crowchild, a councillor with Alberta’s Tsuu T’ina Nation, who said that she would not want to see “an alien government’s polling station” on her reserve, adding that “if we join Canada in their election system, that’s a part of genocide.”

Here was Kheiriddin’s counterargument:

The reality is that, paradoxically, if First Nations are truly interested in more autonomy, they will never get it without cooperation from the federal government. That means electing a government that is sympathetic to their perspective — and they will never do so unless they go to the polls. Voting is not capitulation, but a recognition that in a democracy, you need to participate if you want your voice to be heard.

Despite the mainstream media’s pleas, we must remember as First Nation individuals we are connected to our families, communities and nations. Therefore we have collective or group rights, which Canadian citizens — whether founding settlers or recent immigrants — cannot claim.

In fact, Canada (including the Supreme Court of Canada) bases its asserted sovereignty and territorial integrity on the racist, colonial Christian doctrine of discovery. Kheiriddin’s argument makes sense only if Indigenous peoples already consider themselves as “Canadians.” MORE

Are we really okay with Jason Kenney?

Jen Gerson: The UCP is supposed to win back this conservative province. But it’s becoming clear that more and more Albertans are uneasy with what the party represents


Kenney speaks to the media after the 2019 Alberta Leaders Debate in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)

Since the writ has dropped, I have been slow to write about what has become a clear and malignant “bozo eruption” problem within the United Conservative Party. Other media outlets and columnists are already offering reporting and insight into the numerous examples of UCP candidates who have publicly offered dodgy, racist, or homophobic comments in various fora. UCP leader Jason Kenney appears to have promptly dropped every problematic candidate and nominee to date.

But Jason Kenney’s disastrous interview with radio talk show host Charles Adler on Wednesday night was uncomfortable, and even disturbing to listen to. It warrants dissection.

Kenney’s vow to dump bozos seemed to last only until he found a bozo he couldn’t eject after the deadline to replace him had passed; the leader has decided to stand behind Mark Smith after an extensive sermon was released in which he questioned whether homosexual love was “good love,” obliquely comparing it to pedophilia. MORE

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Justice system an ‘industry’ profiting off Indigenous offenders and victims

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InFocus
Less than five per cent of the population in Canada is Indigenous, yet Indigenous men make up 28 per cent of those behind bar, Indigenous women 43 per cent and Indigenous youth 46 per cent.

And while incarceration rates are on the decline for the general population, they’re trending upwards for Indigenous people.

Poverty and family and community breakdown are contributing factors to being both a perpetrator and a victim of crime.

But Treaty 3 Grand Chief Francis Kavanaugh says there are plenty of people profiting off this – jobs rely on it.

“We’re becoming commoditized,” Kavanaugh told InFocus Host Melissa Ridgen. “We’re providing job opportunities for others. That’s one of the problems. MORE

Hundreds in Toronto rally against racism and white supremacy

A Toronto rally for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Photo: Marites N. Sison

About a hundred pairs of shoes sat around an Indigenous medicine wheel banner laid out at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, as nearly 400 people gathered to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Thursday, March 21.

Some of the shoes — including a child’s pair of pink sandals and battered Birkenstocks — were brought by migrant workers and refugees in Canada to “represent anti-racist and migrant struggles,” said organizers of the rally. The banner symbolized the fight for Indigenous self-determination.

Not far from the circle of shoes was a black board with photos — a makeshift memorial to the victims of last week’s shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

As the sweet smell of incense wafted in the early evening breeze, people were invited to sign a pledge “to always confront anti-Muslim hatred, racism and xenophobia at home, in public, at my workplace and in laws and policies.”

The rally, organized by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and the Migrant Rights Network, was part of a co-ordinated action in over a dozen cities across Canada, including Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax.

The Migrant Rights Network — a new cross-Canada alliance of 36 grassroots migrant and refugee groups, labour unions and civil society organizations — said it would hold more rallies in the coming months to combat racism and fight for migrant justice. MORE

Liberal budget leaves behind Indigenous women and children — again

Prime Minister Trudeau attends the budget speech delivered by Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in the House of Commons. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO
At every turn, First Nations women and children are forced to wait for justice and are denied their basic human rights and access to the same programs and services available to their fathers, brothers and uncles.

As expected, the Assembly of First Nations was first out of the gate offering glowing praise for this Liberal government’s federal budget, followed shortly thereafter by the Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami — the three male-dominated national Aboriginal organizations. Their organizations have seen substantial increases in funding for their political organizations in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Native Women’s Association of Canada — the only political organization representing Indigenous women at the national level — issued its own press release criticizing the government for failing Indigenous women. They accused the federal government of, once again, ignoring the pressing needs of Indigenous women and in so doing, not only hampering reconciliation but breaching their core human rights. NWAC is especially aggrieved about this lack of funding for Indigenous women and families, given the urgent need to address murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

The exclusion of Indigenous women and girls as a priority in this federal budget is a glaring example of the ongoing racism and sexism that is so deeply embedded in Canada’s laws, policies, practices and institutions — the very same racism and sexism the Liberal government claims to be against. MORE

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21 Things You May Not Have Known About The Indian Act

Image result for 21 Things You May Not Have Known About The Indian Act

Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian.

“The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” – John A Macdonald, 1887

The Indian Act has been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy over the years, widely attacked by First Nations people and communities for its regressive and paternalistic excesses.

Here are some of the restrictions and impacts imposed on First Nations (some have since been removed in revisions of the Act).

The Indian Act:

    1. denied women status;
    2. introduced residential schools;
    3. created reserves;

MORE

LANA PAYNE: The Conservatives have a racism problem

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 28. — CP file photo
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer – Canadian Press

No one should be surprised that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is playing footsie with racists and refusing to condemn acts of hate and threats of violence.

His social media feed contains an endless litany of hate-coded messages, inaccuracies and sometimes downright lies. His party’s infinite attack against asylum seekers is just one of the ways they are stoking xenophobic fears.

It’s the latest political trend for conservatives across the world. History shows it is nothing new.

Too often racialized people are exploited as scapegoats when incompetent and ineffective politicians are unable or unwilling to do anything to fix challenging economic and societal problems. Blame the victims, the vulnerable, the exploited, the newcomer, Indigenous people. Too many politicians have had success based on this nasty recipe.

It’s much easier apparently to blame the newcomer than do something about rising inequality and wealth concentration or tackle climate change.

It is also dangerous. You may win an election, but in the end all you have achieved is a divided nation, divided by hate rather than united by the possible, by friendship and compassion.

There are so many issues crying out for a good debate in this country. The state of homelessness and affordable housing; the lack of affordable childcare; the rising costs of post-secondary education; the impact artificial intelligence and automation will have on the future labour market; how we can best meet the needs of an aging population; or the shift towards a greener economy and a truly just transition for workers; democratic reform. Pick one. Pick another.

ndeed, from all appearances he has had no trouble cavorting and courting with Yellow Vests or appearing on a stage with white nationalists and smiling through it all as if he was attending a potluck at the local Legion hall.

He has refused to denounce the Yellow Vest elements within the United We Roll group who have accused the prime minister of treason, called for violence against Justin Trudeau and who have been spewing hate and violence against immigrants. He has refused to condemn statements by one of his own Senators who asked the truckers participating in the United We Roll rally to “roll over every Liberal left in the country.”

This is a matter of character. And Andrew Scheer has obviously decided that lining up with racists is preferable to finding some political courage and condemning the indefensible. MORE

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Bill McKibben: Climate Change Is Scary—Not the Green New Deal

It’s very clear that conservatives have one plan for dealing with the popularity of the Green New Deal: scaring the hell out of people.

AOC.jpg

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey announce Green New Deal legislation in Washington on February 7, 2019. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a “back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto.” That’s language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right’s most influential spokesman on climate change.

Ebell’s complaint (and that of the rest of the Right) is that the set of proposals to address climate change and economic inequality put forth last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey would do too much, and cost too much. Indeed, he describes the Green New Deal this way: “It calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, ‘upgrading all existing buildings’, and replacing our vehicle fleet with electric cars and more mass transit. And turning our energy economy upside down must be accomplished while ending historic income inequities and oppression of disadvantaged groups.” All of which sounds good not just to me, but to most people: Polling for the Green New Deal is through the roof, especially among young people so ably organized by the Sunrise Movement.

But even if ending historic oppression doesn’t catch your fancy, it’s not a return to the Dark Ages. A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit: Survivors dying in the convention center of a modern American city, locals organizing a makeshift “navy” to try to pluck people from rooftops after levees collapsed. MORE