Truth and Reconciliation? What Truth and Reconciliation?

By ignoring Indigenous rights and child protection, our parties have sentenced a vital national inquiry to a quiet death.

MurraySinclair.jpg
Murray Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which in 2015 issued 94 ‘Calls to Action’ for Canada. As of July 2019, only 10 had been implemented. Where are our federal leaders on reconciliation? Photo via Shutterstock.

The fact that reconciliation isn’t a headline issue during this year’s federal election campaign, despite government and business determination to build a new pipeline for Alberta bitumen, is just one indication that ‘we’re not there yet.’” — Senator Murray Sinclair

Remember when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action? That was memorable.

The CBC’s Beyond 94 is the best collection and summary available of Canada’s implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action. Beyond 94 shows that, as of July 2019, 26 of the 94 Calls to Action had not even been started, and only 10 were fully completed.

The Conservatives never promised to follow the TRC’s Calls to Action, and it’s clear they are utterly opposed to any reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. So a little balance is necessary in assessing the government’s performance.

Let’s look at four of the TRC’s Calls to Action. Where are the political parties on these four items?

Implement UNDRIP

Calls to Action 24, 27, 28, 42, 43, 44, 48, 50, 57, 67, 69, 70, 86 and 92 commit Canada, churches, universities and Canadians to implement through domestic legislation and other measures the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In response, the House of Commons passed Bill C-262 in 2018 to require Canadian law to harmonize with UNDRIP. After it became apparent in 2019 that Conservative efforts to prevent a third and final reading in the Senate for C-262 would succeed, the Liberals announced they would once again campaign on a promise to legislate UNDRIP if re-elected in the fall.

But C-262 was a private member’s bill by NDP MP Romeo Saganash, who is not running again in this year’s election. Exactly why wasn’t his bill a Liberal government bill?

The Greens and NDP have also promised legislation to implement UNDRIP. But let’s unpack this a bit.

UNDRIP’s most important provision is that Indigenous nations have a right to free, prior and informed consent about anything that will happen on their lands. Conservatives especially, and others, are petrified this might mean that Indigenous peoples can say no to pipelines and any other proposal their colonial governments set their minds to. In their view, the right to consent cannot possibly mean the right to say no. This is the fundamental reason that former prime minister Stephen Harper refused to allow Canada to endorse UNDRIP in 2007 at the United Nations.

After Bill C-262 died in the Senate, the Liberals said again that if re-elected they will implement UNDRIP. Fool me once, shame on you…

And what about the NDP? I find their position to be very confusing. Do they support the liquefied natural gas pipeline and gas plant in northern B.C. even though hereditary chiefs are opposed to it?

The NDP seems to be in favour of the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline beginning in Dawson Creek and ending at a plant in Kitimat. This position seems to be their only chance of retaining retiring MP Nathan Cullen’s seat in northern B.C. But how can the NDP tell the Liberals: “You. Bought. A. Pipeline.” and then support a different pipeline (kinda sorta, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) even if hereditary chiefs are opposed? The same problem applies to the Site C dam and other projects that require major intrusions onto Indigenous lands. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told Canada that it is concerned “that the realization of the Site C dam without free, prior and informed consent, would permanently affect the land rights of affected Indigenous peoples in the Province of British Columbia. Accordingly, it would infringe Indigenous peoples’ rights protected under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.”

Again, for balance, let’s recognize that the Conservatives do not believe that Indigenous peoples have any right whatsoever to free, prior, informed consent over developments on their land. All fossil fuel projects are good. Indigenous peoples lost their land rights because England said so. End of story. God save the Queen and all of the colonialism and white supremacy she gave to Canada.

Independent Senator Murray Sinclair told APTN: “That [UNDRIP] doesn’t mean that we’re vetoing [proposals]. It doesn’t mean that First Nations people, or Indigenous people outside of Indian reserves, are vetoing anything. Just because they say you can’t run a pipeline across my land doesn’t mean you can’t run it somewhere else.”

582px version of Idle No More signs
NDP MP Romeo Saganash took it upon himself to create a bill aligning Canada’s laws with that of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Conservatives killed it in the Senate. Photo by rmnoa357Shutterstock.com.

 

Child welfare

As you would expect, the TRC’s first five Calls to Action are about child welfare. The Government of Canada, and therefore the people of Canada, have discriminated against Indigenous children and youth for well over a century. In 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act was finally enacted, but it included the odious provision that no one was allowed to allege discrimination under the Indian Act. Finally, in 2008, section 67 was repealed. MORE

It’s time for a Recognition of Wrongs framework

Image result for policy options: It’s time for a Recognition of Wrongs framework
Photo: Shutterstock, by Nalidsa

pon taking power in 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau characterized Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples as of primary importance: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” As a token of this friendship, Trudeau promised an extensive review and reconfiguration of federal laws and policies that concern Indigenous peoples.

In 2018, Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, initiated consultative rounds with experts for what would become the draft Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework (RIIRF) legislation. The stated intent was to provide a legislative framework to recognize and animate Indigenous rights. The experts consulted were highly critical of the assumptions and objectives of the legislative draft, and after a couple of redrafts the matter was consigned to the political closet of failed initiatives. The RIIRF initiative left many participants suspicious of the federal government’s intentions, its truthfulness and its competence. After all, given the gap between Indigenous aspirations, current law and the proposed recognition legislation, one had to assume either bad faith or stupidity in the conception of the initiative.

The RIIRF was deeply problematic because it functioned to limit rather than enable the exercise of existing Indigenous rights. Moreover, the draft did not measure up to the requirements set by Canadian constitutional law and was inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). UNDRIP is the international gold standard for recognition of Indigenous rights. The Harper Conservatives were part of a cabal of four states resisting the 2007 adoption of the declaration by the UN, and once the declaration was passed, they continued their foot-dragging at home, maintaining Canada’s “objector” status. It wasn’t until 2016 that the Trudeau Liberals removed the objector designation, fully endorsing Canada’s adoption of the declaration. Now, Canada must attend to implementation — to making its policy and legislation consistent with UNDRIP.

The RIIRF framework does not refer to Indigenous nations as governments, instead describing them as legal entities likened to “natural persons,” a legal term with the potential for the corporatization of Aboriginal and treaty rights. Corporation models reframe Indigenous government so that Indigenous rights resemble those of corporations — whose duties are to shareholders rather than citizens — rather than being a distinct form of rights that arise from our prior existence on our territories (inherent rights) and from treaties. This model does not produce governments with constitutional status in a federal order. This provision was recycled from the failed federal 2002 First Nations Governance Act, which was rejected by most First Nations.

Governments of settler states have a most difficult time accepting responsibility for actions that violated the rights of Indigenous peoples, and in particular with acknowledging that the state itself is built on an expropriated base of Indigenous territories, sovereignties and resources. In Canada, reconciliation initiatives have been focused on a few high-profile historical errors, such as the residential school policy, the criminalization of Indigenous religious practices, the forced relocation of certain Inuit communities and the incarceration and state execution of Indigenous resistance leaders in the 1885 Metis and Indian resistance to colonial occupation of their lands. It has not been applied to the intergenerational consequences of these and related practices or to settler state positions and practices that continue colonialism today.

Moreover, reconciliation has not taken up the ideology, the structures and the processes that animated these and other fundamental human rights violations and that facilitate the contemporary continuance of those violations. In spite of the evident contradiction with its claims about the importance of the relationship with Indigenous peoples and the objective of reconciliation, the Trudeau government is hell-bent on continuing the Canadian tradition of appropriating Indigenous lands and resources and ignoring Indigenous dissent, including by ignoring the UNDRIP requirement for free, prior and informed consent over the use of unceded traditional Indigenous territories. Pipelines, anyone? MORE

‘This is Our Land’: An Interview with Ellen Gabriel about Ongoing Land Fraud at Kanesatake

Land back is land back.

For the Kanien’kéha:ka (Mohawk) of Kanehsatà:ke, the return of stolen land – fraudulently sold first by a religious order and then by the municipality of Oka, Quebec and the Government of Canada – has been at the heart of their demands for 300 years. Mohawk resistance to the ongoing theft of Kanien’kéha:ka homelands is well-known. Most notably, in the summer of 1990, during the so-called “Oka Crisis,” Mohawks defended a forested area known as the Pines from development. Since then, community members like Ellen Gabriel (Katsi’tsakwas, Turtle Clan) have continued to protect the Pines and call on all levels of settler government – municipal, provincial, and federal – to return the land.

So when news broke in July that a developer was going to gift 60 hectares of land, including the Pines, to the community, many people declared it a win for the Mohawks. The developer – Gregoire Gollin – said that he is making the gift “in the spirit of reconciliation.” What’s more, Gollin has stated that he’s willing to sell an additional 150 hectares of the disputed land to the Government of Canada to then transfer back to the community.

On the surface, this story seems to offer a model for what reconciliation in Canada could look like. Stolen land is being returned.

But the devil is always in the details.

Gollin’s “reconciliation” comes with strings attached. His “gift” to the Mohawk does not actually return the land to the community, and his promises to stop development on disputed land is contingent on the federal government compensating him for land he fraudulently purchased with no guarantee that the land will be returned to the Mohawks.

More information, and a longer view of colonization at Kanehsatà:ke, reveals that Gollin is not unselfishly contributing to reconciliation but is rather continuing accumulation by dispossession. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ellen Gabriel to shed more light on the situation. MORE

Green Party unveils plan to transition oil, gas workers to renewable energy jobs

Leader Elizabeth May says workers should not fear for their future as she ramps up pre-election campaign


Green Party Leader Elizabeth May held a press conference Wednesday to unveil the party’s plan to support workers in the fossil fuel industry as they transition to a renewable energy economy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has unveiled a multi-pronged plan to help workers in the gas and oil sector transition to a renewable energy economy, working to allay fears that her climate action plan would bleed jobs as she ramps up pre-election campaign efforts.

The Green worker transition plan, which includes skills retraining programs and massive retrofit and cleanup projects designed to create employment, fleshes out details from the Green Party’s climate action plan called Mission: Possible, that was released in May.

Making the announcement in Vancouver on Wednesday, May said she understands the anxiety among workers in the fossil fuel industry and wants to take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to transform Canada’s economy.

“It’s critical that workers in fossil fuel industries and fossil fuel-dependent communities not fear for their future. We are not at war with fossil fuel workers. We are not at all willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind.”

Platform priorities

Along with climate action, she said the key platform priorities will be democratic reform, pharmacare and real conciliation with Indigenous people.

The Green Party plan to transition fossil fuel workers includes:

    • Investing in retraining and apprenticeship programs to refocus the skills of industrial trade workers for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
    • Start a massive cleanup of “orphaned” oil wells; some of which can be transformed to produce geothermal energy.
    • Create a national program to retrofit all buildings to optimum energy efficiency.
    • Establish a transition framework to factor in the unique resources and circumstances of each province.
    • Form partnerships with Indigenous people to ramp up renewable energy development in First Nations communities and on Indigenous lands.

MORE

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

RELATED:

 

 

Calls to action: exploring and understanding Indigenous life in Canada

One way to decolonize this Canada Day

Slideshow image

July 1 is here again and I’m still unable to celebrate Canada’s birthday so long as celebrations ignore the reality that the creation of this nation meant the demise of the Indigenous nations that were living and thriving here for generations before first contact and colonization. And because Canada and Canadians continue to journey down a path that fails to acknowledge our history of genocide, systemic racism, broken treaties, and dearth of meaningful remedial action that’s needed before true reconciliation can happen.

This year, I encourage Canadians to spend the next 17 days exploring and understanding Indigenous life in Canada. Lived experience makes someone an expert and only they can tell their true story, but by hearing and seeing glimpses into First Nations, Inuit, and Metis lives, settlers can begin to understand their long journey out of the darkness of colonization and into the light of reclamation.

Urban. Indigenous. Proud is the National Film Board’s (NFB) latest collection of short films focusing on the role Friendship Centres play in the lives of urban First Nation, Inuit, and Metis peoples.

“Friendship Centres show that we are still here! They are places where we can be Indigenous, can be urban, and that is what the films show. The stories shared in these films are about the re-emergence of culture as urban development occurred and demonstrate how Friendship Centres contribute to a positive vision of Indigenous people,” said Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).

Since the 1950s, Friendship Centres have been a little bit of home, community, and sense of belonging for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in urban settings. As of 2016, 85 per cent of First Nations people lived in cities across this country. The history of this migration from the land can be traced directly to the residential school system, which severed ties with traditional communities and ways of life.

Full Circle takes us inside the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, where the urban Indigenous community feels safe to learn and grow. Council Fire uses cultural teachings and creates space to restore Indigenous identity, especially for its youth. At the core of Council Fire’s history and teachings is the drum, which they refer to as “our mother.”

We get to know members of the Toronto Council Fire Youth Program as they embark on new journeys. We meet a drum group that lays down tracks at a professional recording studio and a group of young dancers who showcase their moves at a dance studio.

Places to Gather and Learn shares the lives of Indigenous students at N’Swakamok Alternative School. Run in partnership with the N’Swakamok Indigenous Friendship Centre, and as a satellite of Sudbury Secondary School, N’Swakamok Alternative School offers students a supportive and culturally activated space to learn life skills while pursuing their academic and personal goals.

The school focuses on the needs of students, some of whom are also parents, and creates an accessible learning environment that welcomes their children. Students are also encouraged to take part in the Friendship Centre programs, through which Indigenous culture and values are put into practice and nourished, ensuring the students’ and the school’s continued success.

Some Stories… follows a group of young Indigenous artists in Nipissing (Nbisiing) First Nation territory, North Bay, Ontario, as they share stories about family, community, place, and all things related to life. Young artists explore the challenges and celebrations of rural and urban Indigenous life through written and oral stories, poetry, rap and drawing. Even though these young people come from different home communities and backgrounds, their stories and friendships have built a strong sense of community at the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre.

That Old Game Lacrosse recounts this ancient game being gifted to the First Nations by the birds and four-legged animals from the time of creation. Through lacrosse, children and youth learn responsibility and conflict resolution. Their coaches are teaching far more than simply how to win a game, they’re ensuring the next generations learn humility, respect, and how to become good members of the community. The medicine game, passed down from generation to generation by the Haudenasaunee at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, is helping to revive their cultures, restore their communities, and reinforce the collective nature of the Indigenous view of the world that is inclusive of settlers.

We also learn that the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action make space so Canadians can recognize they are better than their past and can live up to the expectations of who they can be.

Zaagi’idiwin, one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings which refers to the unconditional love between all of creation from yesterday, today and tomorrow, takes viewers through a day at the United Native Friendship Centre in Fort Frances, Ontario.

By engaging in ceremony and celebrating their language, culture and land, the people are creating “Zaagi’idiwin” — “a symbol of their truth, their story and their own reconciliation, which is community-defined, beautiful and inspiring.”

Each ten-minute film is a glimpse into a present and future filled with reclamation, hope and happiness. They make a wonderful segue to the CBC Gem Series Future History. Each 20-minute episode is jam packed with well researched and documented information about the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in Canada. But it also shows what life is like and how much better it could be in the future.

Each episode is co-hosted by Kris Nahrgam and Sarain Fox. Nahrgam is an archeologist and artist whose Anishinaabe grandmother survived residential school and then chose to hide her indigeneity. He is on a personal journey to recover his Indigenous heritage. Fox is Anishinaabe from Batchewana First Nation who is shifting colonial narratives by harnessing Indigenous knowledge.

This amazing series will introduce you to people and ideas that will rock your colonial world. People like Cindy Blackstock of the Gitxsan Nation and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society; Mohawk activist and author Russ Diabo; Metis artist and water warrior Christi Belcourt; Anishinaabe water activist and grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who passed away this February 22 at the age of 77; cultural educator and storyteller Lenore Keeshig of the Shippewa Nation; Sage Paul artist, designer and member of English River First Nation; as well as historians, dancers, chefs, traditional healers, and lawyers.

You’ll gain an understanding of the intergenerational impact of the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop and the current child welfare system; the Indian Act; the importance of water as a human right; and a better understanding of cultural exploitation and appropriation.

You’ll also get to share in the celebrations of today and indelible hope for the future that includes reclaiming, rematriating, and revitalizing the knowledge, languages, and culture that is being cultivated and shared as Indigenous people decolonize.

This July 1, I’d like to say “chi miigwech” in Anishinaabemowin, or big thank you in English, to those settlers who make the time to watch the Urban. Indigenous. Proud collection of short films as well as the first season of Future HistorySOURCE

2019 is the year young people rise for climate justice


Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

In Ottawa, Canada — unsurrendered lands of the Algonquin Anishnabe, water protectors and land defenders from across the country gathered on February 14–18th for the mass youth climate convergence, Powershift: Young and Rising, organized by 20 youth. Young and Rising came at a critical time in Canada, falling months after the worst wildfire season on record in the country and reports that glaciers are melting much faster than expected in the North.

Even with the latest UN report stating we have less than 12 years to radically transition off of fossil fuels to prevent the worst possible climate crisis, the Canadian government continues to invest in the oil industry at the cost of Indigenous rights and a liveable planet, while promoting a public image of reconciliation and climate leadership.

Within the past year, the Canadian government purchased an oil pipeline for $4 billion taxpayer dollars, and forcefully removed the Wet’suwet’en Nation from their unsurrendered lands (which they had already proven title to in the Supreme Court) for the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc Tiny House Warrior, aptly dubbed pipelines in Canada as “transportation corridors that are taking stolen resources off of Indigenous territories,” in her keynote at Young and Rising.

“We are told that we have 12 years to act before irreversible catastrophe yet the urgency of the crisis is flatly denied or met with false solutions. We must build mass power capable of actually reversing this trajectory,” Nayeli Jimenez, Powershift Organizer told me.

Nayeli affirmed that the real solutions are being championed at the grassroots level, “Indigenous communities are standing on the frontlines against resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure across Turtle Island.” MORE