He used to work for a site that promoted racists — now he edits a Canadian news outlet

Before Cosmin Dzsurdza worked for The Post Millennial, he worked for a pro-Kremlin site called Russia Insider and a blog that promoted racists. Illustration by Emma McIntosh, photos from Free Bird Media and screenshots

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa is an editor at what has quickly become one of the most widely shared right-wing news websites in Canada.

According to the About Us page on The Post Millennial’s website, the University of Waterloo graduate used to be a “researcher on The Oxford English Dictionary.” The dictionary’s publisher, Oxford University Press, said in an email that it has “no record” of Dzsurdzsa working for the company, but that he appears to have worked on an unaffiliated research project examining the text.

But that short biography leaves out a few steps. Before Dzsurdzsa was hired at the Post Millennial, he also worked for websites that promoted racism and peddled pro-Kremlin content.

While he was a creative director and correspondent at Free Bird Media, the blog promoted Richard Spencer, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S. as a “professional racist” and white supremacist. It did the same for Faith Goldy, who praised white nationalists at the deadly Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest, said a neo-Nazi slogan on a podcast for the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and added that she “doesn’t see that as controversial,” advocated to “return” Canada to a population that is “96 per cent Euro Canadian” and said she wants “launch the next Crusade” to “reclaim Bethlehem.” (Neo-Nazi ideology is driven by a hatred of Jewish people, along with other minority groups and the LGBTQ community, says the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Free Bird Media also gave a friendly platform to Kevin J. Johnston, who has advocated for physical violence against Muslims and lost a major defamation case for online hate speech directed at a Mississauga restaurateur. The judge in that case said Johnston’s words were a “loathsome example of hate speech at its worst.”

And for Russia Insider, a pro-Kremlin site that BBC and Newsweek have called “propaganda” — “Russia’s Arctic Military Drills Are Truly Massive,” reads one 2015 headline from the site — Dzsurdzsa once advocated for Canada to drop trade sanctions against Russia.

This editor used to work for a site that promoted racists and a Russian propaganda site. Now he works for The Post Millennial, a rising star in Canada’s conservative media scene.

The Post Millennial is seeking a larger presence in Canada’s media ecosystem ahead of the October federal election, planning to build a six-figure video studio and conduct its own polls. Its online following has grown quickly since it was founded in 2017.

But the outlet’s willingness to hire someone with a background working for sites that promoted hate is “disturbing,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

“Editors shape the climate and culture of the newsroom,” Perry said. “What does that say in terms of the kinds of stories (Dzsurdzsa is) assigning to whom, or not assigning?”  MORE


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You Must Be This Conservative To Ride: The Inside Story of Postmedia’s Right Turn

‘We Are Living in a Growing Corporate Dictatorship’

A Q&A with Leah Gazan, the ‘fearlessly progressive’ Indigenous socialist running for the NDP this fall.

NDP candidate for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan: ‘I’ll either fail miserably or I’ll do well, but I need to be true to who I am.’Photo submitted.

Leah Gazan had an important choice to make when she decided to seek the federal NDP nomination in Winnipeg Centre.

Should she take the regular politician route, calibrating her tone and message so as to inspire, but not freak out, whatever constitutes a moderate, middle-of-the-road voter these days? Or should she run, as she put it, on a “fearlessly progressive agenda rooted in socialist values?”

Gazan chose the latter. And as the Indigenous activist and University of Winnipeg lecturer headed into the nomination race against long-time Manitoba MLA Andrew Swan, she figured, “I’ll either fail miserably or I’ll do well, but I need to be true to who I am.”

Gazan, from the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, ended up clinching the nomination by signing up a record number of new party members, tripling the riding association’s membership.

She’s now taking her uncompromising style of grassroots politics into a federal election that could decide how aggressively Canada responds to the climate emergency, if progress will be made on human rights for Indigenous peoples, and whether we shut down or embolden a home-grown white nationalist movement. The riding was won by the Liberals in 2015, but had been held by the New Democrats for the previous 18 years.

The Tyee recently spoke with Gazan over the phone from Winnipeg. She laid out a revolutionary political vision and strategy that seems to have more in common with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than the moderate restraint urged during the previous election by former NDP leader Tom Mulcair.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

On being described as “a super competent feminist socialist”:

“Well, I’m a proud socialist. I think we need to start looking at things differently. You know, the Liberal government bailed out a pipeline company for $4.5 billion. Why not invest that in something like a guaranteed annual liveable income, free tuition for postsecondary students? I think that we’re at a point where we are living in a growing corporate dictatorship where the value of human life and human beings and the value of the environment means less than the wealth and prestige and power of big multinational corporations.”

On throwing out the traditional rules for politicians:

“We put a lot of stakes in individual politicians, but very, very rarely do we talk about people power. On the day of the nomination there were actually a thousand people who showed up. I don’t want it just to be made about me. I want to make it about a movement and the power of people coming together. And I think that is what grassroots movements do. People forget about the massive social change that has happened throughout history. The civil rights movement, for example. So I see my role as a community voice directed and led by the community.”

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Leah Gazan says she’s focused on the ‘power of people coming together.’ Photo submitted.

On the power of knowing and owning your identity:

“It becomes your shield. Especially if you come from groups that have historically been oppressed, so that when you go out in the world and you have to deal with things like racism, stereotypes and prejudice, you know clearly who you are and you have a pride in who you are. And that’s one of the things that was really attacked for Indigenous people through things like residential schools and what happened during the Sixties Scoop. When you strip somebody of their identity, their culture and the ability to live out who they are, you take away that shield and you make people really vulnerable.”

“I was really blessed to be brought up by two very progressive parents who understood the importance of me having a really clear foundation in my identity. My father was a Holocaust survivor. My mom was a Lakota woman from Wood Mountain Lakota Nation. She grew up in the child welfare system. That’s something we had to journey through as a family. So I feel really fortunate that with the kind of deck of cards my parents were dealt that I was able to have a clear sense of who I was. That’s a real gift.”

On why she’s spent years fighting for Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

“It’s a human rights document that was developed over 23 years at the United Nations with Indigenous people throughout the globe. And it’s the minimum human rights that any person, Indigenous or not, needs to have. Things like clean drinking water, access to housing, being able to speak your language. As we know with what’s going on in Attawapiskat where there is a growing crisis with clean drinking water, not everybody, particularly Indigenous Canadians, have been afforded basic human rights in this country.”

“I spent the last few years travelling across the country, meeting with thousands of Canadian from all walks of life. I have never met a Canadian who says, ‘I am opposed to children having access to clean drinking water.’” MORE


Fight for Vancouver Granville billed as choice between Justin Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould

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


‘Footsy with Freaks’: How Kenney Makes Room for Bigots in His Party
Seven Jason Kenneys: A Prep Memo for Albertan Voters

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

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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


Union leaders attend the UN Conference on the Status of Women

21 Things You May Not Have Known About The Indian Act

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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;