Glavin: Weaponizing the term ‘reconciliation’ doesn’t help anyone

Needed commentary:

“Reconciliation is dead.”

Those were the words emblazoned on a mock Canadian flag that went up in flames atop a bonfire blocking the Morice River Service Road, 66 kilometres into the bush from Highway 16, just west of Houston, British Columbia, at a place in Wet’suwet’en country that has come to be called the Unis’tot’en camp. It was Monday, Feb. 10.

For four days running, the RCMP had been making arrests at checkpoints and camps along the road in aid of enforcing an injunction aimed at allowing access to crews working on the right of way for the disputed Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is intended to carry natural gas from the Treaty 8 territory in the Peace River country to a massive new refinery near the town of Kitimat in Haisla territory on the coast.

The pipeline’s transit through the 22,000-sq.-km. traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en people is opposed by most of the nation’s hereditary chiefs, but the project is supported to one extent or another by the elected Wet’suwet’en councils, and by all the other First Nation communities from Dawson Creek, east of the Rockies, to the Pacific Ocean. The $40-billion megaproject promises construction work for 10,000 people and as many as 950 full-time permanent jobs, and it comes with a variety of job training and benefits packages for the First Nations communities along the route.

There’s really no point in asking whether this vaguely comprehended public good is alive or dead if reconciliation means anything you might want it to mean.

Nevertheless, the call that went out from the Unis’tot’en camp on Feb. 10 was clear and plain. The declaration: Reconciliation is dead. The admonition: Shut down Canada. Circulated and broadcast and replicated on placards and in hashtags and headlines, it was all very melodramatic, and there have been freight train blockades and sit-ins and commuter-rail blockades and highway blockades and on and on, all across the country. Splendid.

At the moment, things have gone a bit quiet while a hastily concluded, confidential and tangentially related concordat between Ottawa, Victoria and the dissenting hereditary chiefs is put to the Wet’suwet’en people for their consideration. So it’s worth taking the opportunity of the interregnum to ask a question or two, in light of all this:

A Toronto Star headline: “RCMP’s dastardly defiling of reconciliation on Wet’suwet’en lands cannot be undone.” The CBC: “’Reconciliation is dead and it was never really alive.” The Globe and Mail: “Reconciliation isn’t dead. It never truly existed.” The National Post: “There isn’t any reason to declare reconciliation dead. Maybe the opposite.” A random placard: “Reconciliation was never alive.”

There’s really no point in asking whether this vaguely comprehended public good is alive or dead if reconciliation means anything you might want it to mean. If that’s the way things are going to be, the term can be weaponized for any old rhetorical purpose you like. Fat lot of good that will do anyone.

But the term does have what you might call objective meaning. The Concise Oxford Dictionary has “reconcile” as “make friendly after estrangement,” which has a nice ring to it, as do its subsidiary meanings. To purify, by special service after profanation or desecration. To make acquiescent or contentedly submissive. To heal, to settle, to harmonize, to make compatible. That kind of thing.

More importantly, and of direct relevance to the current unpleasantness, we have several decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to draw upon, each of which addresses this business of reconciliation as it relates to aboriginal rights and title. Most useful is the case of Delgamuukw versus the Queen, which – conveniently for our purposes here – involves the hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en.

The whole point of aboriginal rights in Canada – the whole purpose of Section 35.1 of the Constitution Act, which explicitly recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of Canada’s indigenous peoples – is “the reconciliation of the pre-existence of aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown,” as the Supremes’ Chief Justice Antonio Lamer put it.

And reconciliation doesn’t at all mean that the will of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs must necessarily prevail over the rights of all those other First Nation communities who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline built. And whatever you or I might want, the very real and enforceable rights of those Wet’suwet’en chiefs are not inviolable.

As for consent, in all dealings where aboriginal rights or aboriginal title might in some way be trespassed upon, a First Nation’s fully free and informed consent should be the overriding objective of the Crown’s good-faith negotiations. That’s been the law for a quarter of a century now.

The Crown can’t outright extinguish aboriginal rights without consent. But the Supreme Court in Delgamuukw was unambiguous: “Constitutionally recognized aboriginal rights are not absolute and may be infringed by the federal and provincial governments,” and there are massive hurdles that the Crown has to surmount in order to infringe upon those rights. But they’re by no means insurmountable. Any infringement of aboriginal rights and title must be constrained by a clear and valid justification. Among the justifications the Supreme Court judges in Delgamuukw identified as being available to the Crown are “the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power, the general economic development of the interior of British Columbia, protection of the environment or endangered species, the building of infrastructure and the settlement of foreign populations to support those aims.”

The whole point of aboriginal rights and title is reconciliation, and the whole point of reconciliation is to bridge Crown sovereignty with the ancient and complex laws, customs and traditions of Indigenous communities who have persisted in what is now Canada from time out of mind. Put another way, the point is to simply muddle through. There’s nothing stirring or glamorous or especially exciting about it. As Justice Lamer put it, so succinctly and eloquently: “Let us face it, we are all here to stay.”

So do let us face it, then. The rumpus out at Kilometre 66 on the Morice River Forest Service Road has provided all kinds of thrilling opportunities to shout ourselves hoarse about how reconciliation is dead and Canada is a disgusting racist colonial settler state, or to alternatively make spectacles of ourselves yelling that reconciliation is a hustle and aboriginal rights are “rights based on race.” Either way, it’s vulgar and stupid, it won’t get you a leg to stand on in a court of law, or a ride back into Houston from the Hagwilget Bridge, or even the price of a cup of coffee at the Two Sisters Café in Smithers.

Source: Glavin: Weaponizing the term ‘reconciliation’ doesn’t help anyone

The shifting lens through which Canadians see the Wet’suwet’en crisis

Interesting analysis by Michael Adams and Andrew Parkin:

Canadians have lived through many confrontations over Indigenous rights and resource development, but few have had such high stakes as the one that erupted last month and is still unfolding, with a proposed deal newly announced after weeks of rail blockades across the country as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have protested the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would run through their territory in British Columbia. Hanging in the balance, depending on one’s perspective, are not only the rights of particular First Nations but the coastal environment, the livelihoods of people travelling or shipping by rail, Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner, the survival of the federal minority government and the future of reconciliation itself.

Also at stake are the hearts and minds of the Canadian public. Some worry that the prolonged blockades of roads and railways has put public buy-in to the reconciliation agenda at risk — and with good reason. A look back at survey data from 1990 shows that the Oka crisis did erode public support for Indigenous land claims. While few Canadians approved of how the federal and provincial governments handled the crisis, there was little sympathy for the Mohawk barricaders, either. Tellingly, the only actor in the Oka dispute whom the public did support was the army. Two-thirds of Canadians backed the decision to call the army in to deal with the situation.

But Canada is a very different country than it was 30 years ago. Using excessive force to bring down the barricades would likely have been seen by many Canadians as a strategy that is three decades out of date. It would also have set back the clock on years of slow but steady bridge-building.

One big change in the public’s mindset is the emergence of climate change as a major concern. At their heart, both the Oka crisis of 1990 and the current conflict are about Indigenous control over Indigenous lands. But the current conflict can also be framed as being about whether the need to move fossil fuels to market should continue to trump all other concerns. It comes at a time when more Canadians name climate change than name the economy as the most important issue facing the country. The interweaving of Indigenous self-determination with the fight against climate change has shifted the lens through which the public is gauging the federal government’s reaction to the crisis — and, as a result, has affected the government’s room to manoeuvre.

A second change has to do with the bumpy journey toward reconciliation. As distant as the end point of this journey may seem, it would be a mistake to think that the past several decades of public discussion has left Canadians no better informed than before. In fact, most Canadians now recognize the wrongs that Indigenous peoples have faced and support actions to redress those wrongs.

For instance, most Canadians believe that Indigenous peoples experience discrimination in our society and are disadvantaged in their standard of living. And overwhelming majorities support policies such as equalizing funding for Indigenous education and spending more to improve the quality of housing and drinking water in Indigenous communities.

More important, two in three Canadians believe that individuals like themselves have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation. This points to a recognition that reconciliation is not just about what governments do; it is also about broadening understanding and promoting dialogue more widely across society.

Generational change will likely keep the momentum for reconciliation going. Almost two-thirds of non-Indigenous youth in Canada now have an awareness of the history of Indian residential schools. And young Canadians want to know more: over 80 percent agree that everyone will benefit from looking more closely at Indigenous perspectives on community, land and culture, and almost 90 percent agree that it is important to understand the true history of how Indigenous peoples have been treated by governments and society in this country.

None of this is to suggest that the public can be counted on to support those who disrupt the country’s transportation networks. There remains a gap between the public’s strong desire to see improvements in the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and its uncertainty about the nature and extent of Indigenous rights and what these mean in practice for resource development. And if the lines between peaceful protest, civil disobedience and resistance get more blurred, most may once again side in the short term with those entrusted to reimpose order.

But Canada has moved on from where it was in 1990 — before reconciliation entered the public’s lexicon. Canadians don’t just want things to get back to normal, they want things to get better. That is why the onus is on Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders alike to find a way out of this crisis that differs from what was done in the past.

Source: The shifting lens through which Canadians see the Wet’suwet’en crisis

Coyne: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Unfortunately, applies to many areas of public policy and debate, where the challenge for any serious government is to seek a balance between different or competing objectives:

Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.

The past few days alone have seen deepening national divisions over the paralysis of the country’s rail system by protesters acting, so they claim, in the name of Indigenous rights; the cancellation of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil-sands mine proposal, the latest in a string of major energy projects to be killed, withdrawn or indefinitely delayed; and the rejection of the federal carbon tax by the Alberta Court of Appeal, signalling that the tax’s constitutional status, when it is finally determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is anything but certain.

There is room to debate the Prime Minister’s particular responsibility for this state of affairs. Was he too quick to raise expectations among Indigenous people about the possibilities of reconciliation, too slow to deliver? Has his approach to environmental regulations been too heavy-handed in principle, too dilatory in practice? Was the whole strategy behind the carbon tax’s implementation, namely to dragoon the provinces into levying it on the feds’ behalf, too clever by half?

But for now it’s worth reviewing just where we have landed and how we got here. Whatever mistakes there were in execution, the basic idea – that reconciliation, development and carbon pricing, far from being mutually exclusive, could be achieved together – was sound enough.

Indigenous people, rather than being the helpless victims of development, could be partners in it, with appropriate mitigation of costs and sharing of benefits. Carbon pricing, instead of impeding resource extraction, could make it more possible, if not by purchasing social licence directly, then by encouraging the reductions in emissions intensity that would do so in the long run. In the decades to come, as the world moved away from fossil fuels, Canadian oil could continue to be extracted and sold as the last best barrel on Earth.

There was, in short, a balance to be struck between these objectives that could simultaneously meet the needs of Indigenous people, the energy sector and the planet. And there was a coalition to be assembled out of the more co-operative elements of each constituency – pro-development Indigenous leaders, socially responsible corporations, market-oriented environmentalists – on the basis that, though none would get all of what it wanted, all would get some of it.

Instead, the debate has been dominated by the most extreme, uncompromising, all-or-nothing voices. While an overwhelming majority of band councils have endorsed project after project, from the Trans Mountain expansion to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Frontier mine, a fanatical cult has grown up around the handful of Indigenous leaders in opposition to each.

While an array of business executives, not least within the oil patch, have endorsed carbon pricing as the cheapest and least-intrusive means of driving reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, conservative politicians have mounted their own barricades against it, while proposing vastly more expensive alternatives in its place.

While those with actual responsibility for governing have focused on encouraging more responsible development, including extensive consultation with affected Indigenous communities and the smallest possible carbon footprint, left-wing activists have demanded, with increasing absolutism, that no oil be drilled or pipelines be built anywhere.

So instead of everyone getting something, the growing probability is that no one will get anything. We seem not to care whether we get what we want, so long as we can prevent others from getting what they want.

As, of course, we can. There shouldn’t be any doubt that each side of this conflict can, should it feel thwarted in its ambitions, make it virtually impossible for the others to succeed in theirs. The problem is, so can they; everyone’s got a veto of one kind or another. Yet all seem to think that, while their position is impregnable, their opponents can be made to surrender. And it is this belief that, more than anything, has brought us to this pass.

People who think we can just send in the cops to dismantle all the barricades have not begun to think through how this could be enforced over thousands of miles of rail line.

People who think Canada’s territorial sovereignty can just be waved away, when the very courts on which they depend for enforcement of their rights have consistently ruled to the contrary, are blind to both legal and political reality. People who think we can just shut down the oil sands today have not remotely contended with the consequences, not only for the economy, but the federal union. People who think we can just do nothing about climate change make themselves permanent exiles from power.

But that, alas, is what too many people do think. Only when all sides dispense with the fantasy of total victory will there be a way out of this stalemate.

Source: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Rail blockades could affect vote to change citizenship oath: Conservative critic

May be more virtue signalling to the Conservative base or just another way to raise the profile of the blockade issue and the government’s response. But we shall see (for my earlier commentary on the proposed change to the oath, C-99 New Citizenship Oath: Dead on the Order Paper):

Blockades by Indigenous protesters will make it harder for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to adopt planned legislation to add respect for First Nations treaties to Canada’s citizenship oath, says Conservative immigration critic Peter Kent.

“It will be difficult to engage in debate of this piece of legislation without the shadow of this week’s illegal blockades and the refusal of some in the Indigenous community, and many beyond the Indigenous community, to respect the rule of law,” Kent told CBC News on Friday.

Blockades by Mohawk protesters near Belleville, Ont., have snarled train traffic and stalled shipments of goods by rail. They are calling on the RCMP to leave Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia, where hereditary leaders were blocking roads leading to a construction site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has served notice that he plans to reintroduce a bill first tabled last May in the dying days of the last Parliament. The bill would require new citizens to promise to observe the laws of Canada, “including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which studied the impact of Canada’s residential school system, recommended adding respect for treaties to the citizenship oath.

Trudeau made changing the oath one of his instructions to former immigration minister Ahmed Hussen in his 2017 mandate letter. By the time legislation was finally tabled, however, there wasn’t enough time left before the House of Commons rose for the summer — then dissolved for the election — for it to be adopted.

Now, the 157-seat Liberal minority government is facing a very different Parliament — one where it needs the support of one or more opposition parties to get legislation passed.

Mendicino has started that process; he reached out to Kent on Friday to discuss the bill.

Kent said it’s too early to predict whether the 121-member Conservative caucus will vote to change the oath. However, he said, the blockades should trigger a “dynamic” debate in the House of Commons and within the Conservative caucus.

“This would have received, I think it is fair to say, dynamic debate in the previous Parliament if it had been tabled in time for a responsible consideration,” he said. “But I think in this minority Parliament, and given the realities that we see today, it’s going to be perhaps more dynamic than it might have been.”Kent said the Conservative Party respects treaty rights and the quest for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. He also said it could be argued that a promise in the existing citizenship oath — to observe Canada’s laws — encompasses treaty rights.

“Although I stand to be convinced in debate, I’m not sure that the specificity of including treaties, which are respected and which are among our body of laws, need to be specifically added,” Kent said.

“This is an opportunity to discuss and debate and hear from all quarters.”

Carolane Landry, spokeswoman for the 32-seat Bloc Québécois caucus, said the party will wait to read the bill before deciding whether to support it.

The 24-seat New Democratic Party caucus has not yet responded to questions from CBC News about whether it plans to endorse Mendicino’s bill.

Source: Rail blockades could affect vote to change citizenship oath: Conservative critic

Australia Can’t Deport Indigenous Aboriginal People, Court Rules

Would appear to have been self-evident!

Australia’s highest court ruled Tuesday the government can’t deport Aboriginal people as part of its policy of ridding the country of foreign criminals.

The High Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that indigenous Australians cannot be deported even if they do not hold Australian citizenship.

The court had heard the case of two men who were born overseas but identified as being from indigenous tribes.

The government attempted to deport them after they served prison sentences for violent crimes. The government has been criticized for deporting some criminals who have lived in Australia since where were children but had never become citizens.

The court found that Brendan Thoms, 31, who was born in New Zealand to an indigenous Australian mother, was an Aboriginal Australian.

Thoms had lived in Australia since he was 6, is accepted as a member of the Gunggari tribe and is recognized as a native title holder of their traditional land.

But a majority of judges was not convinced that Daniel Love, 40, was indigenous and was accepted as a member of the Kamilaroi tribe.

He was born in Papua New Guinea to an indigenous Australian father and has lived in Australia since he was 5.

His lawyers say he will provide more evidence of his Aboriginality and another trial could be held to decide the issue.

Both Love and Thoms were placed in immigration detention and threatened with deportation on their release from prison after serving sentences for unrelated crimes.

Love has had his visa restored since his lawyers initiated court action and lives on the Gold Coast.

Thoms has been in immigration detention in Brisbane for the 16 months since he completed a six-month prison sentence.

Their lawyer Claire Gibbs demanded that Thoms be immediately released.

“He’s very anxious to be released and to be reunited with his family after all this time,” Gibbs said outside court.

“The High Court has found that Aboriginal Australians are protected from deportation. They can no longer be removed from the country that they know and that they have a very close connection with,” she added.

The Home Affairs Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gibbs said both Love and Thoms would sue the government for wrongful detention.

“Both of my clients have suffered severe embarrassment about being Aboriginal men in immigration detention and they’ve been subject to a lot of ridicule,” Gibbs said. “So it’s been a very, very tough time for them both.”

The court found Aboriginal Australian have a special cultural, historic and spiritual connection to Australia which is inconsistent with them being considered “aliens” in the meaning of the Australian constitution.

Indigenous Australians make up 3% of the population and are the most disadvantaged minority group in a range of measures. Indigenous Australians die younger than other Australians and are overrepresented in prisons.

Indigenous citizenship test: lawyers argue up to a third of Australians at risk of deportation

Weird case and arguments. Unlikely that this would happen in Canada but if anyone knows  of any comparable Canadian cases, would be of interest:

Indigenous Australians’ connection to the land is “important but not equivalent” to allegiance to Australia, the commonwealth has argued in a landmark case fighting for the right to deport two Aboriginal non-citizens.

Lawyers for the two Indigenous men, backed up by the state of Victoria, are arguing the Australian government cannot deport Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders even though they don’t hold Australian citizenship because the constitutional definition of “alien” can’t be set by the government of the day through citizenship law.

The plaintiffs, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, were born in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, each with one Aboriginal parent, and face deportation due to laws which allow the cancellation of visas on character grounds. Their fight to stay now hinges on a special case arguing that although they are non-citizens, they are also not aliens.

At a hearing on Thursday, counsel for the two men, Stephen Keim, argued that the high court’s second Mabo decision contained an “understanding of the history of European settlement and imposition of the sovereignty of the crown” which should guide the common law in the way it deals with “a multiplicity of legal issues” beyond native title, such as citizenship.

Chief justice Susan Kiefel suggested that Victoria’s submissions had taken the court into the territory of “Mabo No 3” – a “much wider proposition” that could have implications in many other areas of law.

Keim submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs that Aboriginal people are “permanent Australian nationals and not aliens in Australia” unless they abandon that status.

Source: Indigenous citizenship test: lawyers argue up to a third of Australians at risk of deportation

Parties must work between elections to improve diversity, say MPs, candidates

Some of the results of our recent analysis:
The 43rd Parliament will include 51 visible minority MPs, up from 47 after the 2015 election, while the number of Indigenous MPs will remain the same, at 10 out of 338, despite a record number running.

Parties have moved in the right direction when it comes to recruiting and selecting diverse political candidates, but more has to be done between elections to make federal politics accessible, say recent candidates and newly elected MPs.

“It’s not going to cut it,” if parties only focus on bringing in politicians that better reflect Canada’s makeup during pre-election candidate searches, said Liberal MP-elect Han Dong for Don Valley North, Ont.

“Between elections, all parties have to make a deliberate effort to reach out to communities to get them involved in policy discussions,” as a starting point, said Mr. Dong, a former Ontario MPP. “It is so important to generate that interest, to give a sense of involvement in decision-making. That’s how you’re going to get more people step forward and going for public office.”

For Andrea Clarke, who ran unsuccessfully as the NDP’s candidate in Outremont, Que., this year, the question of class and income disparity also makes running for Parliament less accessible to some, often racialized, Canadians.

How to make sure electoral politics are accessible and representative of the population isn’t something that should be discussed for just a few months each campaign season, she said.

“It’s something we need to intentionally build into how we hold our elections, and unfortunately folks who are the farthest have to fight the hardest to make the case that this is what we should be doing,” she said, adding that a lack of representative politics means losing out on having “different voices at the table, advocating for their communities, and their lived experience.”

Source: Andrew Griffith, from dataset created by The Hill Times, The Samara Centre for Democracy, and research partners.

The next Parliament will see a slight increase in visible minority representation in the House, with 51 MPs compared to 47 in 2017. The 43rd Parliament has 26 South Asian MPs, eight Chinese, five Black, six Arab, three West Asian, two Latin American, and one Korean, according to data pulled by researcher Andrew Griffith, based on a candidate database he created with The Hill Times, The Samara Centre for Democracy, and researcher Jerome Black, drawing from candidate biographies, media articles, social media, and photo analysis. The data may be missing some MPs, as it’s gleaned from publicly available information, and largely based on self-reported details.

Improving representation means striking a balance between “having candidates that run that reflect the composition nationally and yet making sure nominations are grassroots,” said Conservative MP-elect Marc Dalton, who is Métis and among the 10 MPs who identify as Indigenous in this Parliament.

Though a record number of 65 Indigenous candidates ran this election, the number who made it into the House didn’t budge from the 10 elected in 2015.

That amounts to three per cent of MPs, while 4.9 per cent of Canada’s population identified as Indigenous in the 2016 census. The party make-up has slightly changed, with six MPs in the Liberal caucus, two new MPs for the NDP, one Conservative, and Liberal turned Independent Jody Wilson-Raybould (Vancouver Granville, B.C.) remaining in the House.

The number of visible minority MPs is out also of line with the Canadian population, according to the 2016 census, which puts the visible minority population at 22.9 per cent—compared to 15 per cent of MPs in the 43rd Parliament. The Liberals lead with 38 MPs, followed by 10 in the Conservative Party, and three with the NDP. None of the Green Party’s three MPs or the Bloc Québécois’ 32 MPs are visible minorities.

If that’s the benchmark, Canada has “a serious underrepresentation problem,” said Mr. Griffith, a researcher at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, who uses a narrower comparison, looking instead at the level of Canadian citizens, rather than residents, who are visible minorities—17.2 per cent.

In that respect, he said parties are doing “reasonably well” especially compared to other political systems.

There were also small gains in the number of visible minority candidates who ran overall this election, from 12.9 per cent of candidates running for the main parties in 2015, to 15.7 per cent, including the new People’s Party of Canada, which had more visible minority candidates than the Green Party.

As with women, Samara researcher Paul Thomas said there’s a similar problem with visible minorities being less likely to run in seats where parties have a strong chance of winning. Gains in diversity are more likely made through seats that open up each election when incumbents leave, said Mr. Thomas, but his analysis found that the most competitive seats weren’t as open to diverse candidates.

This was especially true for the Conservative Party, which ran three visible minority candidates out of 42 competitive ridings—those with no incumbent running for re-election, or which were lost by a margin of five per cent or less in 2015.

Mr. Thomas also noted the Bloc’s “very poor performance” on this front. Despite its caucus tripling in size, only four of its 78 candidates were visible minorities, none of whom were ultimately elected.

When breaking down the results by ethnic background, a better picture emerges, noted Mr. Griffith, one that shows clear gaps in federal representation by community. For example, Filipino-Canadians are the fourth-largest visible minority group, but parties fielded only four candidates with that background overall, and none were elected. At 1.5 per cent of the House, Black representation is also low, he said, with five elected of the 49 candidates nominated across the major parties, despite making up 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population.

Mr. Dong is one among a record eight Chinese-Canadians elected to Parliament this year, but he noted it’s still half what it should be to reflect the Chinese-Canadian population, which makes up 4.6 per cent of the country.

“I think all parties, when it comes to candidate searches, are stepping towards the right direction,” said Mr. Dong. “In the beginning, it’s always hard, but when you start generating interest” and bringing candidate numbers into the double digits, as was the case with his community this election, he said it means there’s less of a mystery to political candidacy, and that more will come. Based on Mr. Griffith’s assessment, there were 38 Chinese-Canadian candidates in the running this past election.

‘We need to be at the table’: nominated Indigenous candidates near 2015’s record high

Of note (have added Indigenous percentage of riding populations):

With at least 43 Indigenous candidates running for federal office in 2019, the number is nearing the record-breaking 54 contenders in 2015, and almost doubling those nominated in 2011.

Most are running under a red banner, with 13 Indigenous people confirmed as Liberal candidates, followed by 11 for the NDP, eight for the Conservatives, seven for the Green Party, and three with the People’s Party, according to party-submitted numbers and a Hill Times analysis of public information. The PPC said it doesn’t have the resources to track demographics for its candidates.

That total is likely to increase, given the NDP and Liberals represented the bulk of nominations in 2015, for a combined 39 of the 54, and both have yet to nominate their full complement of candidates. The Liberals had named 231 out of 338 candidates as of July 29, and the NDP has less than half, with 130 names posted to its website as of Aug. 2.

The 2015 federal election saw a historic 10 Indigenous MPs elected and a historic number of Indigenous voters who cast ballots, with 61.5 per cent turnout on reserves, up from 47.4 per cent in 2011.

Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield, who is running in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C., [8.3 percent Indigenous] said she’s excited by the numbers, thinking about the opportunities that are available now to her 20-year-old daughter and the voice historically marginalized First Nations people can have in government.

First Nations people were denied the right to vote until 1960, and long after that children were taken from their homes and put into residential schools. Up to 2015, there had only been 34 Indigenous MPs elected since Confederation, and 15 Indigenous Senators appointed to the Red Chamber.

“All of these things compounded how people perceived the relationship with the Crown” and affected the perception of participation in politics among Indigenous people, said Ms. Corfield, a former chair of the Nanaimo Port Authority and the Ucluelet First Nation legislative council.

“For decades, people have been making legislation for them but without them, so in order for us to have a voice in significantly designing how legislation informs and impacts Indigenous people, we need to be at the table,” said Ms. Corfield, who’s been a Liberal since she could vote and is one of two Indigenous candidates running in the riding where Green MP Paul Manly won a byelection earlier this year.

‘My whole life is political’

While it’s difficult to pinpoint why record levels of Indigenous people have run for office over the last decade, Liberal candidate Trisha Cowie said she doesn’t have the option not to be political.

“My whole life is political,” she said, pointing to the Indian Act, which determines who has official First Nations status, and historically stripped it from those who fought in wars, pursued post-secondary education, or women who married non-First Nations men.

“It governs my identity to an extent, whether you’re on reserve or off reserve, when there’s a settlement. Everything is political. You could sit back and watch it unfold, but it’s all very personal, so it’s very difficult to do,” said Ms. Cowie who ran in the previous election in Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont., [5 percent Indigenous] coming less than five points behind Conservative-turned-Indpendent MP Tony Clement, who won’t run again.

“You can actually affect change from the inside instead of always fighting from the outside,” she said.

For the last two years NDP Winnipeg Centre, Man., [18.1 percent Indigenous] candidate Leah Gazan tried to work from outside Parliament, lobbying MPs and Senators to pass Bill C-262, enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights Of Indigenous Peoples into law. Ms. Gazan said it was “horrific” to watch the Senate effectively kill the bill in the waning days of the session, by not moving to put outgoing NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s (Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou, Que.) private member’s bill to a vote.

A few hundred kilometres away on the East Coast, Liberal candidate Jaime Battiste [Sydney-Victoria, 10.4 percent Indigenous] was equally frustrated by the outcome, following the weekly developments and delays with his father James Youngblood Henderson, who helped draft the 2006 declaration.

If the Liberals take a second mandate, Mr. Battiste, who is the first Mi’kmaq person to be on a federal ballot and would be Nova Scotia’s first-ever Indigenous member of Parliament, said he’s heartened by the party’s promise to make it a government bill—and therefore more likely to pass —while Ms. Gazan recalled the “years of stalling” by the Liberals before it moved forward.

When looking at the increasing number of Indigenous candidates running, she said it’s important to avoid drawing broad conclusions, because Indigenous people are often “lumped into one group with the same values,” said Ms. Gazan, who’s been fighting for human rights and on the front lines of climate justice for three decades.

The best match for her values, she said, was the NDP, which has several high-profile leaders on its ballot, including former vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Bob Chamberlin, and Grassy Narrows First Nation chief Rudy Turtle, who has said the Liberals haven’t done enough to help his community with the impacts of mercury poisoning.

Over the last decade, Ms. Gazan said political parties have approached her to run, but this time she said she felt the country is at “a critical juncture” and needed strong voices like hers, willing to speak truth to power.

Voting Liberal this election is “not the strategic vote,” a tactic she said helped take Winnipeg Centre from the NDP in 2015, because of the strong desire to boot former prime minister Stephen Harper. Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette beat out six-term New Democrat Pat Martin by a margin 26.5 percentage points in the previous election.

“This is one of the few ridings in the country that you can vote your conscience,” she said, and that’s the message her “community-based, community-led campaign” is giving. “I feel like our campaign is starting a movement and we are planning on getting this riding back.”

Lydia Hwitsum, who is running in Cowichan–Malahat–Langford, B.C., [9.4 percent Indigenous] for the Greens, also said without the strategic anti-Harper vote in play, her chances are better. One-term NDP MP Alistair MacGregor is running again after taking it in 2015 with 35.9 per cent of the vote, while the Greens came in fourth, with 16.9 per cent.

Born in 1964, Ms. Hwitsum is acutely aware that the right to vote came shortly before her lifetime. Cultural leaders like her “bright and brilliant” mother would never have had the chance to put their name on the ballot.

“The door’s open now and it wasn’t for them.”

So far, B.C. has the most Indigenous candidates running, with 10, followed by nine in Manitoba, and eight in Ontario. B.C.’s only Indigenous incumbent is Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Liberal cabinet minister who will run as an Independent this time around in Vancouver Granville.

The Liberal candidates said they were saddened to see a powerful First Nations woman no longer with the party. In the midst of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her as attorney general, Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet and later was booted from caucus.

Ms. Corfield said Ms. Wilson-Raybould made her choice and “knew the consequences of those choices,” while Mr. Battiste said “this election isn’t about Jody and Justin,” but the Conservative policies that had him protesting in the streets four years before.

At the December 2018 Assembly of First Nations national conference, Mr. Battiste said he stood up and asked Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) for one policy that made him different from Mr. Harper.

“And he couldn’t,” said Mr. Battiste, recalling how hundreds of chiefs booed his response that they’d have to wait until the party’s platform was released.

The “big move” by the Liberal party to open membership up made a difference during membership drives signing up supporters who helped him win the Sydney-Victoria, N.S., contested nomination a few weeks ago, said Mr. Battiste, showing the party is “taking strides to make sure Indigenous people are now more involved than ever in the political process.”

Indigenous voters “can be a swing vote in a riding,” said Mr. Battiste, a point the Assembly of First Nations has made to parties and politiciansthrough the 51 ridings it will target this election, 13 of which have Indigenous candidates running.

The Liberals will face their record on reconciliation, which Ms. Gazan said falls far short of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) promise as Canada’s most important relationship.

Four years can’t change 150 years of colonization, said Ms. Corfield.

“Maybe the expectations were set too high,” of the Liberals, but like Mr. Battiste she said this government has done more than any previous. Legislation addressing Indigenous languages and child welfare, and progress on boil water advisories are all signs of progress, they said.

In early March, before Mr. Battiste decided to run for the party, he captured some of that frustration in a Chronicle Herald op-ed, coming to the same conclusion he offers today: more Indigenous candidates must get politically involved.

“The only way to decolonize some of the processes of government is by having more Indigenous voices,” he said.

Source: ‘We need to be at the table’: nominated Indigenous candidates near 2015’s record high

Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

Although intemperate in language and tone, does not diminish some uncomfortable parallels within both the Canadian (e.g., residential schools, 60s scoop) and US context:

Donald Trump and his nasty administration are anything but unique. In fact, whether they know it or not, they are repeating U.S. history in more ways than one.

Here, in McAllen, Texas, indigenous people fleeing violence and seeking asylum are, right now, locked in chain-link cages and lying on concrete floors, where the sound of frightened, crying kids and mothers and fathers fearing for their children is eerily audible if you just listen closely.

I know because, on Saturday, I joined a caravan of fellow Native Americans who traveled to McAllen from as far away as Los Angeles and Denver and New York City to protest and call for the immediate end to these camps of loss and anguish.

As Native Americans, we have a unique perspective on such cruel American government policies that rip brown babies from their mothers’ arms and, in some cases, turn them over to white families to raise in the white way.

That has already happened to at least one woman locked in the fangs of this immigration crisis, Encarnacion Bail Romero. A judge gave her baby to a white family, and they immediately changed his name to Jamison. But the boy already had a name; his name is Carlitos.

Even the Trump administration’s former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Scott Lloyd, admitted in a deposition to trying to connect a pregnant minor in his agency’s care — who wanted an abortion — with a couple that had written the agency interested in adopting babies to which the American government might have access, as though they were some child repository for white folks.

This is a frightening thing for these brown, immigrant families because only after their child is taken from them do they learn U.S. law allows the government to terminate parental rights of any child in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months — and the same groups handling many of the foster care arrangements for separated children are well known in the mostly-discredited international adoption community.

But this type of evil behavior — separating families and stealing children — is nothing new, says Juan Mancias, the tribal chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “They’ve been doing [this] for 500 years,” he said. McAllen is on Mancias’s ancestral territory.

“When [the white people] came we didn’t consider any of them illegal,” he said. “We were open to them. They were two-legged; we knew they were relatives.” But it didn’t take long, he said, before “they began taking our women and children and killing our men. Then we got an idea of who they really were.”

Chrissie Castro, the organizer of the protest and chair person of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, said Native peoples have migrated freely across this continent since time immemorial, and now they’re being demonized for crossing an imaginary border. “The false narrative that our relatives are somehow foreign to these lands is inaccurate and hateful,” she said. “We’re not going to sit by and let this cruelty and injustice happen again.”

At the demonstration, indigenous folks lined the street holding banners reading, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” and “Ban ICE” and “Can’t call my folks illegal if yours crossed the sea!” and “No ban on stolen land!”

At one point, an elder, Emma Ortega, of San Antonio, Texas, who is of the Carrizo Comecrudo and Lipan Apache tribes, took the microphone and denounced a colonial government who’d dare call this “their land.” “This is free land. This is our land!” she bellowed. “And it will always be our land, no matter what they say!”

This is all part of a larger movement: All across the nation, people of all stripes and creeds are protesting America’s latest concentration camps. Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis, peace activists and parents who have never even carried a sign are turning out and even getting arrested in protest of the Trump administration’s family separations, the cruelty of ICE, the foul treatment of children in their care and the ongoing, forcible separation of brown families seeking safety.

But this is America being what America has always been — racist, vicious and vile to indigenous people, whilst standing on a soapbox of morality as a beacon for the world. There’s no decency in this country because there never was any, not from day one when Columbus and the rapists he towed with him blundered onto our shores.

And that’s what we saw at McAllen on Saturday — the same racism with a different name in a different century, and many of the descendants of the very same people brutalized by Columbus and those who followed in his footsteps locked in new chains.

We’ve seen this type of raw racism when Native babies were ripped from the loving embrace of moms and dads, stolen away to Christian boarding schools in the east where they were flogged with Bible passages and pierced with sewing needles through the tongue if they dared speak their language.

For more than 500 years, this country has viewed the original inhabitants as nothing more than animals. They’ve called us “savages” and “uncivilized,” and in places like North Dakota and Washington, D.C., they still do. Even prison inmates and dogs are treated more humanely than the indigenous peoples in these concentration camps, one congresswoman said.

“Prisoners in the United States in my estimation are treated better than migrants,” House Representative Jackie Speier, Democratic representative from California’s 14th Congressional District, wroteafter visiting the McAllen. “If dogs were kenneled in the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions we observed at the Border Patrol Station, the Humane Society would immediately shut it down,” she added.

And this is just one of many of the new concentration camps sprawled across this morally bankrupt nation. But it’s nearly as old a concept as separating indigenous babies from indigenous parents.

Today, the president is resurrecting that kind of good ol’ American racist fear with his wretched propaganda, and he has convinced millions of Americans that caging these children is part of making American great again. But this is a lie. This country was never great; it was always the opposite of great, because it has always had this capacity for cruelty, and it has, more often than not, acted on that capacity with the flag in one hand and the Bible in the other.

If this capacity for cruelty is what we deem great, it’s a great testament to our depravity as a nation, and as humans, because there’s nothing as perverse and disturbing as a country that voluntarily separates families and tortures and traumatizes innocent children.

There were no walls or borders or prison camps until the white man came. Now they’re everywhere — and that’s not patriotism, that’s hate.

Source: Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

C-99 New Citizenship Oath: Dead on the Order Paper

Did seem a tad cynical to introduce this bill so close to the election, not to mention my concerns regarding the proposed expanded wording (Liberals propose changes to citizenship oath to respect Indigenous rights):

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s (York South-Weston, Ont.) bill to change the citizenship oath is also poised to die on the Order Paper when Parliament is dissolved for the upcoming election, at some point this summer.

The bill would have changed the oath taken by new Canadians during their citizenship ceremony, to recognize that the Constitution “recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

Mr. Hussen introduced Bill C-99 in the House on May 28. It was never debated.