Kushner: Who gets Cherokee citizenship has long been a struggle between tribe, U.S.

Of interest:

recent decision by the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court struck down a law that Freedmen – descendants of people enslaved by Cherokees in the 18th and 19th centuries – cannot hold elective tribal office. The ruling is the latest development in a long-standing dispute about the tribal rights available to Black people once held in bondage by Native Americans.

National media reported this news as a victory against racism in the tribe. “Cherokee Nation Addresses Bias Against Descendants of Enslaved People,” reads a representative headline from The New York Times.

But as a scholar of Cherokee law and history, I argue this development can be seen another way: as only the latest chapter in a long struggle between the CN and the federal government over which has the power to determine who should be considered a tribal citizen, and which culture’s values should be most important in that determination.

Status of Freedmen

On Feb. 22, the CN Supreme Court struck the words “by blood” from the CN Constitution. 

This decision means that the 8,500 tribal descendants of Cherokee Freedmen can run for tribal office. Freedmen currently have access to voting and other benefits of citizenship that were not a part of this particular decision.

The CN has wrestled with the tribal citizenship status of Freedmen since U.S. officials forced Cherokees to adopt Freedmen into the tribe in 1866. Part of the tension, stems from the CN commitment to limit citizenship to those meeting certain eligibility requirements – in this case, those who are Cherokee by blood. For the Nation, keeping citizenship exclusive preserves both Cherokee culture and status as a distinct sovereign entity. 

Historically, U.S. officials, often encouraged by public opinion, have wanted Cherokees to adopt U.S. legal and cultural practices. When not attempting to terminate the tribe, U.S. officials have sided with Freedmen whenever tribal citizenship disputes reach U.S. courts. U.S. politicians have also repeatedly threatened to withhold federal money should the CN not grant Freedmen citizenship.

Origins of a conflict

Before living in Indian Territory – now Oklahoma – Cherokees lived for centuries in the American Southeast. Their society was a collection of towns held together by clan affiliation and kinship bonds. 

These clan and kin relationships were the basis of Cherokee social and political life. Their strong communal ethic, with each person playing a particular role in determining the health and strength of the community, supported and was encouraged by the practice of holding land in common; Cherokees did not own land privately. 

Cherokees were also intensely spiritual, believing that frequent personal and communal rituals maintained harmony and balance between all living things. Exclusive membership, limited to Cherokees with few exceptions, was one natural extension of their cultural beliefs and practices. 

Colonists, later U.S. citizens, wanted to acquire Cherokee land and to make Cherokees more like whites in terms of their religious, government and economic practices. That meant that Cherokees would have to abandon their practice of holding land communally, which made land difficult for U.S. settlers to acquire because they could not deal with individuals. 

By the 1820s, Cherokees had adopted many customs and institutions from Americans, including Black slavery, a written language and a constitution. But instead of making the tribe more white – and thereby giving up their lands, as settlers hoped – the CN Constitution declared the tribe’s intent to preserve its lands.

Hungry for Cherokee land and the gold in it, and disdaining the Cherokee way of life, Congress in the 1830s gave the president power to force the Cherokee west. Roughly 16,000 Cherokees, along with many slaves, walked the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory – some 4,000 dying as a result.

1866 treaty

Cherokees rebuilt their nation in what is now northeastern Oklahoma. Enslaved Black labor aided this process. 

When the Civil War began, the Cherokee first joined the Confederacy. The Nation, however, experienced a schism that led most, including Principal Chief John Ross, the Nation’s leader, to flee to the Union side. Ross’ rival, Stand Watie, and others remained with the Confederates.

After the war, the U.S. forced the CN to sign the Treaty of 1866. The tribe’s 1839 Constitution, affirming previous laws, had stated that CN citizens must be descended from Cherokees, not their Black slaves. But in this peace treaty, Cherokees agreed to make their former slaves full tribal citizens. 

This meant granting many who did not share in clan affiliation or Cherokee blood access to tribal services like education and potentially a portion of federal monetary payments.

For many, being a CN citizen was not merely about receiving things from the government – it was also about living the Cherokee lifestyle and dedicating one’s life to that culture. Many Cherokees opposed making Freedmen citizens, since most were not Cherokee by blood. 

Importantly, they did not want U.S. officials dictating who could be a tribal citizen. 

The 1866 treaty stipulated that only Freedmen living on Cherokee land within six months of the signing could be citizens. While some Freedmen did gain citizenship this way, Cherokees used that provision to deny it to those who did not return on time. 


After the Civil War, U.S. officials, settlers and Freedmen made demands on Cherokee land and resources. Freedmen wanted to build a life – most returned to Cherokee territory from surrounding states, as they were not wanted there.

Settlers wanted Cherokee lands. Christian and philanthropic organizations also pressured U.S. politicians to hasten the “civilization” of Indians. This meant forcing them to adopt American economic and social norms – especially private land ownership. 

The federal government used Freedmen’s petitions for CN citizenship to undermine tribal authority. Freedmen who wanted to live among the Cherokee but were stymied by tribal leaders appealed to the Office of Indian Affairs. Federal representatives, called “Indian agents,” stepped in, superseding Cherokee sovereignty, giving Freedmen (and white settlers) Cherokee land. 

Congress forced the conversion of Cherokee communal lands into individual lots in 1887 with the Dawes Act. As part of this process, U.S. agents counted those living on tribal land – creating the Dawes Rolls, which divided the inhabitants into three categories: Cherokee, white and Freedmen. 

Congress’ ultimately successful goal was to dissolve tribal governments, freeing up land for new American cities and farms in Oklahoma, which achieved statehood in 1907. 


In the 1970s, Congress passed legislation enabling Cherokees to re-form their sovereign government, recognized by the U.S. 

Cherokees drafted a constitution in 1975, re-articulating their sovereignty, including citizenship requirements. 

The CN, 40,000 strong, used the Cherokee Dawes Rolls – excluding the Freedmen list – to determine citizenship. Identifying individual Cherokee by blood had become impossible without some arbitrary reference point; they chose the 1906 list that U.S. agents had compiled to reestablish exclusive citizenship as a sovereign nation. 

Descendants of Freedmen objected to Cherokees not including the Dawes Freedmen list too; Freedmen had wanted citizenship to gain access to tribal services and suffrage. This became an even greater issue as the CN expanded to 200,000 people in the 1990s. 

Cherokees have legally and socially wrestled with whether excluding Freedmen was an act of racism or a show of strength against the U.S. for repeatedly denying tribal sovereignty. 

Freedmen struggled against the CN for decades to secure citizenship, often getting the U.S. involved. In 2017, a U.S. district judge ruled that the Cherokee do not have the sovereign authority to deny citizenship to Freedmen, since they agreed to make them citizens in the Treaty of 1866. 

The 2021 decision to strike “by blood” from the candidate requirement is the next step in that process of debating what Cherokee citizenship means – and how to keep it exclusive despite (U.S. interference).

Source: OPINION: Who gets Cherokee citizenship has long been a struggle between tribe, U.S.

Diversity is on a collision course with bilingualism at Canada’s top court

Tend to agree:

Should all Supreme Court of Canada judges — or at least the next one — be bilingual? Should the next vacancy go to a Black, brown or Indigenous jurist, whether they are bilingual or not, to reflect Canada’s population in all its diversity?

It’s a legal dilemma wrapped up in a language debate, tinged with electoral politics, and an existential question about what kind of country Canada is.

The Trudeau government has kicked off both.

On the same day it announced the launch of a search for an Ontario jurist to take the seat of soon-to-retire Justice Rosalie Abella, the Liberal government said it plans to put into law Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s practice of appointing only “functionally bilingual” judges to the top court.

It was a campaign commitment, and with a whiff of a possible election in the air, Trudeau is ticking off political boxes.

But the “how?” he proposes to do it is less clear. And advocates of greater diversity say mandatory bilingualism will block many qualified candidates from being elevated to the Supreme Court.

Six months ago the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers wrote an open letter to the Trudeau government urging swifter action to address systemic anti-Black racism throughout the justice system and noting “only three Black judges have been appointed under the Trudeau-led government.”

Raphael Tachie, senior counsel for TD Financial Group and president of the association, in an interview said the top court should be a bilingual institution but the requirement “that each individual justice be bilingual disqualifies a lot of really qualified Black and racialized jurists that we think would be great appointments to the court.”

Many practising outside Quebec have not been exposed to French language or training, or “come to the language later on in life and might not always be as proficient as they ought to be. That’s the challenge,” he said, adding “I think the court can compensate for that,” using translators and interpretation. He urges Trudeau to look beyond the Ontario Court of Appeal to lower courts and the bar: “You need to elevate your talent,” he said.

Brad Regehr, the first Indigenous lawyer to lead the Canadian Bar Association, says the same is true for Indigenous candidates who “already face systemic barriers in terms of achieving that proficiency in official languages.” Regehr says it’s time for Trudeau to name someone who is Black, Indigenous or a person of colour to the Supreme Court.

A member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan who lives and practices law in Winnipeg, Regehr argues that Canada is “not just a bijuridical state where there’s English common law and French civil law; Indigenous legal traditions form part of the law of Canada and that seems to be forgotten or ignored and the only way you’re going to get any perspective on that is by having an Indigenous judge.”

Both want Trudeau to walk his progressive talk, and do something concrete to promote reconciliation and diversity.

Right now, the Supreme Court of Canada is the only federally-appointed court that is exempt from the Official Languages Act which says all Canadians must be able to access services in federal courts in either English or French. In other words, it puts the onus on federal courts to provide bilingual services, not on prime ministers to appoint only bilingual judges. The Liberals propose to drop the exception.

Trudeau does not intend to change the Supreme Court Act which sets out the eligibility criteria for judicial appointments to the top court.

Rachel Rappaport, a spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti, says the bilingual services exemption for the Supreme Court “was never intended to be permanent.”

In 1988 Conservative justice minister Ray Hnatyshyn said during debates on the Official Languages Act that, “It is probably in the national interest at this time that we not put any constraints on the court in the way in which it does its business.” He said that “until we reach a more developed stage of bilingualism across the country,” governments should be able pick from among “the best people who are unilingual, in both languages.”

There have been at least 10 bills introduced over the past 10 years to require top judges be bilingual, according to Jean-Christophe Bédard-Rubin, a doctoral candidate at University of Toronto’s faculty of law. None has passed.

But unilingualism has had an impact, says Bédard-Rubin, who with a colleague has done the first empirical study of the impact of unilingualism on the Supreme Court’s operations. They analyzed cases from 1969 to 2013. In an interview, he said, “There tends to be a linguistic separation of labour at the Supreme Court.”

Despite access to interpreters and translation, anglophone judges “will sit more and write more in cases argued in English and francophone judges will sit more and write more on cases argued in French. And this is regardless of their areas of expertise,” he said. Unilingual judges are less assertive on cases argued in another language and litigants “might lose that expertise” where unilingual judges stand down or just “go with the flow.”

“The general picture that emerges is that language proficiency superimposes itself as another kind of legal specialization in the inner-working of the court,” he wrote.

There’s another twist. Some legal scholars suspect that the Liberals are trying to do through a back door (via the Official Languages Act) what they may not be able to do through the front door (via the Supreme Court Act): that is, rewrite the eligibility rules for judges. That’s because in 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Parliament “cannot unilaterally modify the composition or other essential features of the court,” saying it requires a constitutional amendment.

Gerard Kennedy, assistant professor in the faculty of law at the University of Manitoba, said it’s debatable whether making bilingualism mandatory is the kind of “essential” characteristic that is protected by the Constitution. And if the Liberals took that route, he said it would quickly become very divisive. “By amending the Official Languages Act, it draws less attention to it.”

But the government seems to have allowed itself some wiggle room — at least for the next appointment. There is one Ontario vacancy coming open on July 1, and another one within two years when Michael Moldaver will turn 75.

The languages law reform document states in drafting the change, the government is weighing the appointment of Indigenous judges to the Supreme Court of Canada along with case law on the court’s “composition and eligibility criteria.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals are using their plan it as a “political chip” as Bédard-Rubin calls it, part of a political strategy to paint the Conservatives as soft on bilingualism.

Trudeau challenged Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole outright in the Commons two weeks ago to commit to naming only bilingual judges on the top court, claiming Conservatives do “not support bilingualism in Canada.”

Conservative justice critic Rob Moore declined an interview request but in an email said, “Conservatives expect appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada are based on competency and legal excellence. Bilingualism or a commitment to learn or improve one’s French will also be a key principle in appointments to the Supreme Court for a future Conservative government.”

The NDP and the Bloc Québécois have long called for bilingual Supreme Court judges.

It’s not clear if the latest proposal will come to pass before a federal election, whenever it comes.

Source: ANALYSIS Diversity is on a collision course with bilingualism at Canada’s top court

Public Service Disaggregated Data for Visible Minorities and Indigenous peoples, Citizenship status

Over the past few months, I have been analyzing the various datasets breaking down public service employment and employee survey data by the individual visible minority and Indigenous groups.

The three articles, What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service diversity (Policy Options, October 2020), What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion (The Hill Times, November 2020) and Diversity and Inclusion: Public Service Hirings, Promotions and Separations (The Hill Times, March 2021) allow for a more comprehensive view of visible minority and Indigenous groups in the federal public service. Moreover, recent Public Service Commission studies analyzing recruitment of employment equity groups add an important element to discussions on public service staffing and recruitment practices.

Much of the debate and discussions have understandably focussed on Blacks in the public service. Yet public service data indicates that their situation is not unique in terms of representation, hirings and promotions and the employee satisfaction, with many commonalities with the other groups. A more granular analysis within each occupational group (i.e., comparing representation at each level by occupational group, as some departments are conducting, may very well provide such evidence).

Key findings are:

  • Overall EE analysis shows considerable variation among the different visible minority and Indigenous groups
  • Visible minorities
    • Correlation between lower educational attainment and representation for most groups save Chinese
    • Overall under-representation common to most groups
    • Blacks, West Asian/Arab small over-representation
    • EX: All groups under-represented save Japanese with Filipino, Latin American and Blacks having the largest gaps
    • Hirings: Hirings of visible minorities have increased for all groups in most occupational groups save for technical and administrative support. Hirings at the EX level have increase for Black, Chinese, South Asian/East Indian and West Asian/Arab, with other groups showing no increase.
    • Promotions: While promotions have increased marginally for virtually all groups at the agregate level, promotions by occupational category provide a mixed picture, with most groups and most occupational categories experiencing a marginal decline in promotions.
  • Indigenous peoples
    • First Nations under-represented, Métis and Inuit over-represented
    • Hirings: While hirings at the EX level have increased slightly, this is less the case for the other occupational categories. Hirings of Métis have increased the most in the operational category, hirings of First Nations the most in the technical category, while hirings of Inuit the most at the EX level.
    • Promotions: A marginal decline across all Indigenous groups and occupational
  • Harassment/Discrimination experiences vary
    • Harassment: Japanese report the most as do First Nations and Métis, Chinese and Filipino least satisfied with resolution as is the case with Métis
    • Discrimination; Blacks report the most, but all groups encounter discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin or colour. Black, Japanese and Latin American least satisfied with resolution. All Indigenous groups report having been discriminated against, mainly based on race or ethnic origin, with Métis also least satisfied with resolution

The recent PSC Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment provides some interesting data and analysis of the staffing process and how the different employment equity groups, and visible minority largest sub-groups, fare at each of the five stages in the staffing process: job application, automated screening, organizational screening, assessment and appointment (FY 2016-17 data).

The most significant stages were organizational screening and assessment where most filtering took place as shown in the table below:

The next table breaks down visible minorities by the largest groups:

As noted in the audit, Blacks have the largest decrease in representation at all stages save for appointment, with a non-negligible being screened out by automatic screening. Chinese are screened out more by organizational screening whereas West Asian and South Asian are more likely to be screened in as the assessment stage.

The audit provides the following explanation for visible minority groups. Overall, visible minority women have higher success rates than visible minority men at the organizational screening and assessment stages. Visible minorities screened out at the organizational screening stage due to citizenship status (Canadian citizens are given preference over non-citizens) and experience qualifications. Those with public service work experience were more likely to be screened in at this stage but overall “experienced less success than their counterparts regardless of whether or not they had federal public service experience.”

At the assessment stage, visible minorities were less successful when written tests were used, particularly the case for Black candidates.

A separate PSC report addresses the Citizenship of applicants and external appointments. While Canadian citizens have a hiring preference, the share of non-citizen applicants has risen from 9.4 percent in 2015-16 to 14.5 percent in 2018-19, with the share of hires has increased to 2.5 percent from 1.5 percent over the same period

Non-citizen visible minority applicants account for 22.9 percent of all visible minority applicants, for non-visible minorities, the share is only 12.1 percent.

The table below contrasts applicants and appointments by citizenship status for the past four years. For Canadian citizens, the percentage of applicants and appointments are comparable, for Permanent Residents and others, appointments are significantly greater than applicants suggesting that citizenship may be less of a barrier than commonly believed.

Visible minority Canadian citizens represented 17.2 percent of all applicants and 19.5 percent of all hires (2018-19).

Omidvar: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Good op-ed and practical recommendations by Senator Omidvar:

As we celebrate Black History Month, we continue to hear loud calls for more diversity in newsrooms across the country, in corporations, and in Parliament. Canadians have correctly pointed out a diversity gap in all those power structures.

But the diversity deficit doesn’t end there; it’s also in the boardrooms of charities and non-profits. It’s always been an open secret that, despite the amazing work it does to help Canadians from all backgrounds, the sector’s leadership wasn’t that diverse.

In June last year, I issued an open letter challenging charities and non-profits to take a hard look at themselves, and ask what they could do to increase diversity in the sector. Many heard my call and wanted to do more. The first step was getting data.

After learning about my challenge, Statistics Canada, along with sector leaders, designed a survey to provide the first-ever snapshot of diversity in governance. The recently released survey found that, outside of gender, the boards of charities were not yet inclusive of Indigenous peoples, racial minorities, LGBTQ2+, and the disabled.

From Dec. 4, 2020, to Jan. 18, 2021, 8,835 people completed the survey. Among them, 14 per cent identified as immigrants to Canada; 11 per cent said they belonged to a visible-minority group; eight per cent identified as LGBTQ2+; six per cent said they had a disability; and three per cent identified as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.

Readers may well ask: Why does it matter who sits on the boards, as long as people receive their services? It matters, because the boards of charities set the course, decide on priorities, determine how money gets allocated and spent, and approve institutional policies ranging from hiring to procurement, from harassment to promotions.

Charities are not an insignificant part of our society. More than 85,000 charities and 85,000 non-profits are registered in Canada. Before the pandemic, they employed close to two millions Canadians and contributed eight per cent to the GDP. What they do and how they do it matters.

Now there’s some hard evidence to stand on, we have a clear way forward. Both the government and the sector must respond.

The government must collect diversity data every year. The StatCan survey is a start, but no further studies have been planned. For the sake of certainty, the Canada Revenue Agency should include questions about diversity on boards of directors on the T3010 and the T1044 tax forms.

This way, the data could be fulsome, disaggregated, and provide an accurate picture of diversity in the sector every year. Based on clear, ongoing evidence, the country and the sector could see if progress is being made.

The government should also compel the sector to disclose its diversity plans, as it did with corporations under Bill C-25. Only 30 per cent of the survey participants said their organization had a diversity plan. That is unacceptable, and the government should require that this information be made public.

I’m encouraged that the sector responded to the survey by saying, “(These data are) an important opportunity for us to look critically at who is at the table and who has decision-making power in our organizations.” Now that the evidence is clear, it needs to take concrete action.

First, charities and non-profits must proactively create diversity plans and publish them for their members and Canadians to see; they mustn’t wait for the government to compel them. Second, the plans should include diversity targets to increase the representation of under-represented groups on boards and in senior management. Last, they should convene a sector-wide conversation about race, racism, and diversity.

If we’re truly determined to stamp out racism, we need all sectors to step up to the plate. Charities and non-profits do so much good for Canadians. Now is the time for them to look inward, be intentional, and truly reflect the diversity of Canada.

Source: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment

PDF Version

Significant and useful, in that it breaks down the various steps in staffing and how different groups are affected at the organizational screening and assessment stages.

Like all research, this begs further work to assess the particular factors that resulted in visible minority and Indigenous candidates being rejected at those stages.

Notable that Black candidate respresentation declined more than other visible minority groups, again suggesting the need for some qualitative analysis of the reasons and rationales for them being selected out:

This audit was undertaken as part of the Public Service Commission (PSC)’s oversight mandate to assess the integrity of the public service staffing system. It is part of a series of initiatives that looks at the performance of the staffing system with respect to the representation of employment equity groups.

Achieving priorities related to diversity and inclusion in the federal public service will ensure that Canadians benefit from a public service workforce that is representative of Canada’s diversity. To date, progress towards a representative federal public service is being made. Of the 4 employment equity groups, 3 are represented at or above workforce availability; persons with disabilities are currently underrepresented in the federal government. These results show that more work and a sustained focus on diversity are required.

This audit focused on advertised recruitment processes as one of the key drivers to improving the representation of employment equity groups in the federal public service. The audit had 2 objectives:

  1. to determine whether the 4 employment equity groups remain proportionately represented throughout recruitment processes
  2. to identify factors that may influence employment equity group representation

This audit looked at 15 285 applications to 181 externally advertised appointment processes from 30 departments and agencies.

We examined employment equity group representation at 5 key stages of the external advertised appointment process (Figure 2 in this report provides more detail on each of these stages):

5 key stages of the external advertised appointment process: job application, automated screening, Organizational screening, Assessment, Appointment

Our focus was to explore whether employment equity groups experienced changes in representation at each stage of the appointment process, and to examine these stages for factors that may have influenced their representation.

Main findings

We found that employment equity groups did not remain proportionately represented throughout the recruitment process.

Our audit results showed that:

  • women were the only group to experience an overall increase in representation from job application to the appointment stage
  • Indigenous candidates experienced a reduction in representation at the assessment stage
  • persons with disabilities experienced the largest drop in representation of any of the employment equity groups, with decreases in representation at the assessment and appointment stages
  • visible minority groups experienced reductions in representation at the organizational screening and assessment stages
  • of the visible minority sub-groups examined in our audit, Black candidates experienced a larger drop in representation than other members of visible minorities, both at the organizational screening and assessment stages

Our ability to identify factors that may influence employment equity representation in recruitment was limited to the information available in the staffing files. Some factors were identified to partially explain the drop in representation of members of visible minorities at the organizational screening stage. However, limited information in staffing files did not provide conclusive evidence of other factors that may be associated with lower success rates of employment equity groups at later stages of the recruitment process. More research will be required to determine potential barriers in externally advertised appointment processes and to develop concrete solutions.

This audit report makes 3 recommendations intended to address the lower success experienced by some employment equity groups in external advertised recruitment processes. The development and implementation of concrete corrective measures will require collaboration between multiple stakeholders including deputy heads, the PSC, other central agencies and employment equity groups.

The audit makes clear that despite efforts across departments and agencies to advance diversity, work remains to achieve inclusive hiring processes in the public service. The PSC will need to further support organizations by providing systems, tools and guidance for implementing a barrier-free appointment process. Most importantly, deputy heads are responsible for reviewing their staffing framework and practices to ensure barrier-free appointment processes for all employment equity groups, including visible minority sub-groups.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-service-commission/services/publications/audit-of-employment-equity-representation-in-recruitment.html#2_0

Australian national anthem changes by one word to reflect ‘spirit of unity’ and indigenous population

Of note. Commentary that I have seen to date suggests not having much impact, with more critical voice included below:

The Australian national anthem has been changed to reflect the nation’s “spirit of unity” and its indigenous population, the country’s prime minister has said.

The one-word change to Advance Australia Fair, from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free” takes effect on Friday.

Speaking on New Year’s Eve, Scott Morrison called Australia the “most successful multicultural nation on Earth,” adding that “it is time to ensure this great unity is reflected more fully in our national anthem”.

“While Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, our country’s story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect,” he said.

“In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we ensure our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation.”

The move has been welcomed by the first indigenous Australian elected to the federal parliament’s lower house.

Ken Watt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, said in a statement that he had been asked about the change and supported it.

He called the one-word alteration “small in nature but significant in purpose”.

Mr Watt added: “It is an acknowledgement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures date back 65,000 years.”

The change is not without its critics, however.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian has expressed support for indigenous Australians who said the national anthem does not reflect them and their history.

University of New South Wales law professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam nation in southwest Queensland state, criticised the lack of consultation with indigenous people about the change.

“This is a disappointing way to end 2020 and start 2021. Everything about us, without us,” she wrote on social media.

Last month, Australia’s national rugby team, the Wallabies, became the first sporting team to sing the anthem in an indigenous language before their match against Argentina.

Advance Australia Fair was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick and first performed in 1878.

It was adopted as the national anthem in 1984.

Source: Australian national anthem changes by one word to reflect ‘spirit of unity’ and indigenous population

And a critical Indigenous voice,

Last night the Morrison government announced that they were changing the national anthem, to be more inclusive of Indigenous peoples and of migrants (the not white ones anyways), by changing a single word, ‘young’. It’s now ‘one’.

We are one and free.

We are One Nation.

Pauline must be stoked.

This, from the same political party who every Invasion Day assure us that Indigenous peoples aren’t interested in meaningless symbolic gestures like Australia no longer throwing a party on the anniversary of invasion, are now confident that Indigenous peoples will be so excited about this meaningless symbolic change that presumably we will no longer refuse to sing it at national sporting events.

Changing the anthem from ‘young’ to ‘one’ is not only problematic because it’s symbolic tokenism aimed at silencing dissent that completely misses the nature of the dissent in the first place, but it’s also problematic because it’s the same wrongly labelled ‘one’ as the one made famous by ‘One Nation’.

The original version of ‘we are one’ was a view of multiculturalism which tried to encourage white Australia away from its traditional view of a fair go meaning ‘if your skin ain’t fair, you gots to go’ and to accept instead the notion that we could be ‘one nation with many cultures’. This was quickly co-opted by racist ideologues who replaced that sentiment with the assimilationist idea that one nation meant ‘one culture with many races’ and that was quickly cemented into the national consciousness by Pauline Hanson who seized the moment and took the name for her political party ‘One Nation’.

Despite One Nation tainting the concept of ‘one nation,’ both meanings have persisted in Australia without much national discourse or reflection on which one we should have, but it’s been pretty clear from a Liberal Party standpoint since the days of John Howard that they aren’t huge fans of the multiculturalism actually meaning multiple cultures. They are generally more on the side of white/western supremacy, which many liberals have hinted at, and which Tony Abbott flat out stated on multiple occasions when he was PM.

Their views on Indigenous assimilation are much the same.

This can be seen by their political insistence that reconciliation can only be achieved by ‘closing the gap’ rather than by recognising Indigenous Rights as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Having an ambiguous working definition of multiculturalism began as a contest between the two, which the nation should have chosen between by now. Instead, both definitions have been left unchallenged to ensure that politicians can conveniently dog whistle to both sides whenever they talk about us being the ‘most successful multicultural country on Earth’.

This change plays right into that blurring of the lines between the two definitions.

We are one. And we are free. And from all the lands on earth we come.

You’d have thought they would have just straight up changed the anthem to ‘I am Australian’ by the Seekers, but I guess it has too much brand association with QANTAS these days, and because you don’t want to be seen as caving in to the politically correct demands of the slightly left of centrists who were presumably campaigning for this change.

Yesterday, on the last day of 2020, IndigenousX published a powerful piece from Gregory Phillips called ‘Can We Breathe?’ talking staunchly about truth telling, and about Indigenous empowerment.

Today, on the first day of 2021, we are talking about the anthem, or at least we are meant to be.

Instead of continuing to explain why the new anthem is just as shit as the old one though, I’m going to remind people of what some of our Indigenous Rights are:

Article 3: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article 8.1: Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

That’s only four of them, there are 46. Read them. There will be a test.

This is the test, and Australia is failing at it.

These are what needs to be informing our discussions around change.

Australia has worked hard for decades now to poison the well of Indigenous Rights discourse by reframing any such discussion as ‘Indigenous people want special treatment and free handouts’.

We need to move beyond the fear of being shown in this light and embrace the reality that being the Indigenous peoples of these lands and waters is special, and it brings with it special rights and responsibilities.

This is not us wanting something for nothing. This is us demanding our rights, and we have already paid far more than we should ever have had to for them.

Source: We are One Nation?

Order of Canada Appointments: 2013-20

With the second batch of 2020 appointments announced, I have updated my analysis of the appointments looking at diversity from the angle of women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, province, and area of activity.

While the percentage of women appointed in 2019 was lower than average, this rose to a more typical one-third of appointments in 2020. Representation of visible minorities was higher than previous years, representation of Indigenous peoples also rose from 2019 but remained lower than 2017 and 2018, but still higher than previous years.

There is a certain subjectivity with respect to area of activity. For example, activist, academic, public service or business and philanthropy. I have tried to be as consistent as possible.

The presentation below provides the details.

Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

Of note:

Racism against Indigenous people is pervasive in British Columbia’s health-care system, concludes an investigation that is being touted as the first complete review of racism in a Canadian medical system.

It’s racism that is hurting the health of Indigenous people and leaving them more harshly affected by health crises in the province, including the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, finds the newly released report.

“What it looks like are abusive interactions at the point of care; verbal and physical abuse; denial of service,” Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a well-known Indigenous lawyer and former B.C. advocate for children and youth, who led the investigation at the request of the provincial government, said Monday.

“We have a major problem with Indigenous-specific racism and prejudice in B.C. health care.”

Turpel-Lafond said her team’s recommendations could provide a blueprint for the rest of the country for rooting out racism and discrimination.

The B.C. probe was initiated in June, after B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said he found out about allegations that health-care workers in an emergency room had played a game in which they guessed the blood-alcohol level of largely Indigenous patients before they received treatment.

Métis Nation British Columbia told CBC that health-care staff called the game “The Price Is Right.”

Turpel-Lafond said the investigation did not find evidence of an organized “Price is Right” game, but that it unearthed an even more insidious picture of a system rife with racism and prejudice, that is making the B.C. health-care system an unsafe place for Indigenous people to seek care.

The report, called In Plain Sight, is based on input from 9,000 people, including Indigenous people and health-care workers.

Turpel-Lafond said a second report, a data-analysis of Indigenous-specific health outcomes, will be released in the next month.

The report’s 24 recommendations deal with implementing systems and cultural expectations to root our implicit and explicit racism in B.C.’s health-care system, including the creation of a B.C. Indigenous officer of health and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health at the provincial government.

Dix on Monday offered an “unequivocal” apology for the findings of racism in the report, and vowed to implement recommendations immediately, including by introducing new Indigenous health liaisons in each of the province’s health authorities.

Indigenous leaders were quick to express their support for the recommendations, saying they were especially urgent in view of the ongoing pandemic.

“There is no time to wait; the current COVID-19 pandemic necessitates constant engagement by First Nations with the health care system, and we categorically demand a safe health care system for our people at this time and going forward,” reads a portion of a statement by the First Nations Leadership Council.

The treatment of a Quebec woman in hospital earlier this year also served to highlight the barriers Indigenous people face to getting care.

Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven, died soon after she filmed herself from her hospital bed in late September while she was in clear distress and pleading for help. Toward the end of the video, which was streamed live, two female hospital staff enter her room and are heard making degrading comments, including calling her stupid and saying she’d be better off dead.

The video has created widespread indignation, several inquiries and a lawsuit from Echaquan’s family against the hospital where she died in Joliette, Que.

Source: Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

Ousted from Labrador Inuit government, ex-politician questions ‘blood quantum’ method

“Blood quantum” was a central part of US slavery and discrimination and Lawrence Hill, in Blood, captures some of the inhumanity (and is critical of the Indigenous focus on blood):

A former member of Labrador’s Inuit government is questioning the methods used to quantify whether he is sufficiently Indigenous after he was removed from his government roles last week.

Edward Blake Rudkowski said he was informed Nov. 20 that he was no longer a beneficiary of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement after a review of his status determined he had just 17 per cent Inuit blood. According to the land claims agreement, beneficiaries must have at least 25 per cent “blood quantum,” as it’s called, to be registered as Labrador Inuit, Blake Rudkowski said.

“This development is entirely related to a group of people throwing darts at a genealogy board,” he said in an interview Friday. “You can sit there with your membership for over three decades — over three decades — and then someone says, ‘Hey man, you’re not in anymore?’”

Blood quantum is a controversial practice of determining the percentage of one’s Indigenous ancestry. Blake Rudkowski calls it “junk science” and says his predicament is an example of how it’s an inadequate and inaccurate measure of who belongs and who doesn’t.

He said he’s been a beneficiary under the claims agreement for 34 years, and in all that time, nobody questioned his status as a Labrador Inuk. His family has a long, respected history in Goose Bay, in central Labrador, and his grandfather was one of two Inuit families in Sheshatshiu, an Innu community about 40 kilometres north of Goose Bay, he said.

“The footprints of my grandparents are all over Labrador, and my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandparents,” he said.

He now lives in Toronto. In a 2017 byelection, he won a seat as an ordinary member in the Nunatsiavut Assembly representing Labrador Inuit who live outside the land claim area in Nunatsiavut, and outside the Upper Lake Melville area in central Labrador where many beneficiaries live. He won the seat again in 2018 in the regular election. In 2017, he was also appointed Speaker of the assembly.

On Friday, after he was told he was no longer a beneficiary, he says he got a call from Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe, who said he could no longer hold his seat in the Nunatsiavut Assembly nor his role as the assembly’s Speaker — only Labrador Inuit can be members of the assembly.

“I feel raw, I feel disappointed, I feel distraught, I feel upset,” he said. “Obviously there’s a whole myriad of negative emotions that get associated with a life event like this.”

In a statement Monday announcing Blake Rudkowski’s removal, the Nunatsiavut government said it “plays no role whatsoever in determining the membership of any individual,” and the beneficiary enrolment process is independent from the Nunatsiavut government.

Nobody from the Nunatsiavut government was available Friday to speak about its decision to remove Blake Rudkowski from government, or about the blood quantum determination process.

Blake Rudkowski said the documents he received indicating his status was under review showed the review was triggered by a political opponent.

“I had to apply as anyone who never had any experience with Nunatsiavut would have to apply,” he said. “It’s as if that previous 34 years didn’t exist.” As required, he included extensive details of his family history in his application.

“Their determination was that my blood quantum was 17.4, or it might be 17.3 . . . . So you would think with a number that precise would imply there was an empirical calculation . . . to arrive at that output. And for love nor money, I couldn’t tell you what the process was,” he said.

Blake Rudkowski said he hasn’t been offered any means to appeal the decision. He wonders what kind of precedent the decision sets. “If it could happen to me, then who’s next?” he said.

As for his own next steps, Blake Rudkowski said he hasn’t yet figured those out but he’s not defeated.

“I feel a calling to public service, and my days in the political arena aren’t over,” he said. “I’m really upset that my path with Nunatsiavut came to a halt the way it did, especially when it came to questions of my heritage, which are not questionable in my mind.”

Source: Ousted from Labrador Inuit government, ex-politician questions ‘blood quantum’ method

Saskatchewan election: MLA diversity

Saskatchewan 2020 Election MLA Diversity

With the election results and new Cabinet appointments, the above chart shows the representation of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous peoples in relation to the overall population and the two parties.

Most striking to me is the significant under-representation of Indigenous peoples overall, with only the NDP having its elected MLAs largely reflecting the overall population (but not with respect to visible minorities.

Will update British Columbia once Cabinet appointed.