Americans Want More, Not Less, Immigration for First Time

Behind all the extreme partisanship and polarization, and political gridlock, a significant finding from Gallup, coming closer to mirroring the Canadian pattern of thirds (one third for more, one third for less, one third for about the same), with of course the Republicans not having changed their anti-immigration beliefs:

Thirty-four percent of Americans, up from 27% a year ago, would prefer to see immigration to the U.S. increased. This is the highest support for expanding immigration Gallup has found in its trend since 1965. Meanwhile, the percentage favoring decreased immigration has fallen to a new low of 28%, while 36% think it should stay at the present level.

This marks the first time in Gallup’s trend that the percentage wanting increased immigration has exceeded the percentage who want decreased immigration.

Immigration1

Line graph. The rate of those who want immigration increase reaches historic high of 34%. 28% of Americans want immigration decrease, and 36% want immigration kept at current levels.

These results are from a Gallup poll conducted May 28-June 4 and predate the Donald Trump administration’s recent decision to halt issuing any new H-1B and other worker visas through the end of the year. It also preceded the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that invalidated the Trump administration’s action to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, which offers legal protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. In terms of a public focus, the topic of immigration may have currently taken a sideline to issues of race relations, but just two years ago, Americans cited it as the most important problem facing the country.

Desire for More Immigrants Rises Among Democrats and Independents

Support for increased immigration is at historic highs this year among both Democrats and political independents. Republicans’ views on increasing immigration have not changed much over the past decade. The rise among Democrats and independents coincides with a period of time when Republican leadership has attempted to limit immigration via physical barriers or changes to visa restrictions and de jure bans of immigrants from over 10 countries.

Immigration2

Line graph. Half of Democrats prefer to see immigration increased in US; 13% of Republicans agree. 34% of independents also favor higher levels of immigration.

Most Say Immigration Is Good for America

Nearly 8 in ten (77%) Americans think immigration is a good thing for their country. When measured in this more general sense, public support for immigration shows far less of a partisan divide, and both parties express a more generally positive view of immigration.

Immigration3

Line graph. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say immigration is a good thing for America. This is virtually unchanged since 2018.

Bottom Line

Gallup’s 2020 update on Americans’ views about immigration finds that public attitudes toward immigration remain mostly positive overall, and support for expanding it is rising noticeably among Democrats and independents.

Immigration has been a key topic for President Trump since he arrived on the political scene. Yet many of his efforts, such as building a physical barrier across the border and opposing a path to citizenship for DACA immigrants, have failed to garner widespread support beyond his political base. But Trump may not be as concerned with getting majority support for his policies as he is in using the issue to energize his political base.

Trump’s policies and rhetoric on the issue are likely accomplishing that goal but may also be serving to make people outside his base more positive toward immigration.

Source: Americans Want More, Not Less, Immigration for First Time

How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

Above chart shows diversity data based upon the 2016 Census.

Good look at the diversity of British Columbia police forces:

As a growing number of protests in the U.S. and Canada call for reimagining how police are funded and structured, we wondered how closely B.C.’s various departments reflect the demographics of the people they serve.

We asked B.C.’s 12 municipal police agencies and the RCMP, which has jurisdiction in the rest of the province, how many of their officers identify as visible minorities and how many are women.

The significance of these numbers varies widely depending on who you ask.“Overall, I’d say it’s good to have these kinds of statistics. However, even if we made a lot of progress in terms of having RCMP and local city forces more reflective of the general population in B.C. in terms of proportions of visible minorities, I’m not sure how much actual change we could expect,” said Samir Gandesha, director of the institute for humanities at Simon Fraser University.

There needs to be a cultural shift within law enforcement, Gandesha argued, that addresses “deep-seated” inequities around racism and sexism. “Talking about the demographics, I think, is a great place to start, but there are some much harder questions.”

Protesters demanding a different type of policing have marched on local streets since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, after a white officer knelt on the Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Many local activists want the police to be “defunded,” a concept that would allocate some — or all — of hefty law-enforcement budgets to social workers or psychologists better equipped to respond to mental health calls.

For Sgt.-Maj. Sebastien Lavoie, a Black Mountie based in Surrey, the statistics mean the RCMP needs to find new, innovative ways to hire qualified officers from varied backgrounds, especially from communities in which recruitment has been challenging. The video of Floyd’s agonizing death was sickening to Lavoie, but he believes the vast majority of police officers are good people, and says sensitivity and cultural training of new recruits is “a million light years” ahead of when he went through the process 20 years ago.

“We do want to represent the society as best we can in terms of demographics,” said Lavoie, whose job is to advise rank-and-file members about decisions made by management, while also bringing officers’ concerns to the higher-ups.“So the challenge is how do we get the good candidates from those demographics coming to us? We want to get the quality and the equality. … For me the biggest focus has to be to reach out to the communities and bridge the gap and actually have people interested in policing in those communities.”

‘Not an overnight fix’

The RCMP polices large areas of the province, including parts of Metro Vancouver and most of rural B.C. It employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police. The RCMP says 18 per cent of its officers are visible minorities and another five per cent are Indigenous persons.

Those statistics come close to reflecting the demographics of a rural city like Prince George, where 24 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups, the census says, or in Kelowna, where the two groups comprise just 16 per cent of the population. But the statistics are out of whack for diverse cities such as Richmond, where visible minorities and Indigenous peoples represent 77 per cent of residents, or in Surrey, where they represent 61 per cent.
The Vancouver Police Department employs the second largest number of officers in B.C., and says 26 per cent of its 1,340 officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, which is one of the highest percentages in the province. However, the 2016 Census found twice that amount — 54 per cent — of Vancouver’s population identified as one of those two groups.

Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer agreed it is important for his department to reflect the community, and suggested it is “on the path” towards that, but cautioned “it’s not an overnight fix.” He said each recruiting class today is far more diverse than the officers who are retiring, that his officers speak a combined 50 languages, and that a quarter of the force is female.“I think a lot of people would think that, ‘Oh, policing in Vancouver, it’s a bunch of six-foot-tall, 200-pound white guys running around,’ when that’s not the case,” Palmer said.

He added, though, that hiring cannot be focused on demographics alone. “Diversity is important, but it’s also important to get the right person, the right temperament and background and just the right personality and mindset to be a police officer.”

Palmer, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, denied this week there is systematic racing in Canadian policing. His department, though, is falling under increasing scrutiny.Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart asked the province for a “comprehensive review” of policing in B.C., including investigating the “systemic racism and disproportionate violence” faced by Black and Indigenous peoples. Stewart, who chairs the police board, has also said he wants Vancouver police to end the practice of street checks, when people are randomly stopped and their identification often recorded, because the checks have disproportionately targeted Indigenous and Black people in his city.

On Thursday, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs and the Hogan’s Alley Society echoed calls for street checks to end, after alleging racist and other inappropriate behaviour by two Vancouver police officers.And Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry has introduced a motion asking council to support a “community-based crisis management strategy” that would send mental-health experts, rather than police, to help people in crisis.

Also this week, trustees with the Vancouver and Victoria school boards voted unanimously to review the use of police liaison officers, who often work with at-risk youth and sometimes coach sports teams.

‘Change in a radical way’

Meenakshi Mannoe, criminalization and policing campaigner with Pivot Legal Society, co-wrote a letter last week to B.C.’s attorney general and the RCMP’s B.C. commander, calling for immediate action to address issues such as the disproportionate policing of some groups and low-income communities.

Mannoe does not, though, believe the answer is hiring more Indigenous or visible-minority officers, but rather a defunding of law-enforcement budgets, with the money routed to areas that can “prevent a crisis,” such as housing, medical care, a safe drug supply, peer counselling and cultural programs.

“We are in a moment where people are really talking about change within the police in a radical way,” said Mannoe, a trained social worker.“If we address inequalities at their core, we wouldn’t need to over-police communities like the Downtown Eastside or communities with people who experience homelessness or use drugs.”

She rejects the argument that policing in B.C. is not as racist as south of the border and therefore doesn’t need a major rethink, pointing to several local police incidents involving visible minorities. In 2014, Tony Du, a schizophrenic man waving a piece of wood, was shot dead in a Vancouver intersection. And last December, police handcuffed an Indigenous man, Maxwell Johnson, and his 12-year-old granddaughter outside a Vancouver bank after tellers questioned the pair’s identification.

These high-profile incidents are not just happening in Vancouver, of course. This week, University of B.C. Okanagan nursing student Mona Wang sued the RCMP, alleging a Kelowna officer dragged her out of her apartment, kicked her in the stomach and shouted phrases like “stupid idiot” during a wellness check.

B.C.’s policing rules outdated: Minister

The province has not yet responded to Mannoe’s letter. But earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth promised to set up an all-party committee to modernize B.C.’s 45-year-old Police Act, “with a specific focus on systemic racism.” He added the “outdated” act is “out of step with our government’s approach” on issues including harm reduction and mental health.

Policing in B.C. is a patchwork quilt, with the RCMP taking up most of the fabric. Eleven municipal departments oversee 12 cities and communities, while the Transit Police patrols the SkyTrain, bus routes, the SeaBus and the West Coast Express.

After the two largest agencies, the RCMP and Vancouver, here is how the rest of the departments report on the combined percentage of visible minority and Indigenous officers they employ, based on statistics they supplied to Postmedia:

Transit Police: 31 per cent of officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, the highest percentage in B.C. It provided the most detailed breakdown of its officers’ ethnicities, which included three Indigenous and two Black officers.

New Westminster: 21 per cent of officers in a city where 42 per cent of the population identifies as visible minority or Indigenous. The agency is trying to recruit more diverse applicants through social media, community liaison officers, and lower application expenses for underprivileged people, said Sgt. Jeff Scott.Saanich: 11 per cent of officers compared to 25 per cent of the general population that is a visible minority or Indigenous. It provided detailed five-year data, which showed a slight improvement over 2016, when nine per cent of officers belonged to those two groups.

Central Saanich: It has one visible minority and one Indigenous officer, representing seven per cent of its 27-member department, numbers that have stayed roughly the same for a decade in a small community where 10 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups. “We are consulting with the Greater Victoria diversity committee to identify ways to reach a greater, more diverse audience” when the department is ready to hire new officers, said Sgt. Paul Brailey.

Nelson: It has two Indigenous officers but no visible-minority officers, representing nine per cent of its 22-officer department. Chief Paul Burkart noted his community is unique in B.C., because the census says its overall population of visible minorities and Indigenous people is only 11 per cent of the total.

Oak Bay: Like Nelson, nine per cent (two) of its 22 officers identify as visible minorities, compared to 12 per cent of the general population. It is seeking ways to find more diverse officers, but only hires from other departments, which limits its pool of potential candidates, said spokesperson Lindsay Anderson.

Victoria, the second largest department after Vancouver, and smaller Port Moody do not keep ethnicity statistics and did not explain why they don’t. Neither does Delta, but it “believes there may be value in collecting this data,” so in 2018 started asking recruits to volunteer this information. Since then, half of its new employees have identified as visible minorities, said Delta spokesperson Cris Leykauf.Abbotsford did not respond to requests for the data, and West Vancouver did not provide it by deadline.

To find more ethnically diverse officers, the VPD held information sessions for LGBTQ2S+ candidates, and attended events like Hoobiyee, National Indigenous People’s Day, the Chinese New Year Parade and Vaisakhi, said Simi Heer, public affairs director. The RCMP attends career fairs and cultural events, and has also launched a pilot program to help Inuit people navigate the recruitment process, said Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet.

‘This is the worst I’ve ever seen it’

The fallout from Floyd’s “heartbreaking” death and the public’s animosity toward police hit local Mounties harder than any other similar case that has been in the news, said the RCMP’s Lavoie.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. We have seen family members turn on each other, spouses turn on their spouse,” he said. “This is one of the most emotional topics that I’ve seen in my 20 years. It’s been really bad.”

He believes the RCMP does good work and is trying to make up for past errors with modern-day efforts to change. For example, before officers respond to a major situation involving Indigenous people, such as the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, Lavoie says he reminds them of the Mounties’ role in seizing children to force them into residential schools and that officers need to be sensitive about this history.

“We need to own exactly what we have done, and I think we are doing a much better job of this than ever before. And that is critical,” he said.Lavoie added he has not felt racism directed at him by anyone in the RCMP, noting he was promoted while on the emergency response team and into his position today with no consideration of the colour of his skin.

Gandesha, the SFU prof, argued that hiring more racialized, or ethnically diverse, people or even having them in positions of power is not a quick fix on its own, unless everyone in the organization believes in change. For example, Minneapolis has a Black police chief, but that didn’t stop a white officer from kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he died.

He notes police budgets have risen as crime has fallen in Canada, and believes there should be a rebalance that results in more investment in social services. Then when someone is in distress, as happened west of Toronto on the weekend when Ejaz Choudry, who had schizophrenia, was shot dead by Peel police, social workers or psychologists would ideally respond to the call, not armed officers, Gandesha said.

‘It raises an eyebrow’

Another statistic we requested from B.C.’s police departments was the number of female officers they employed. That ranged widely, including 30 per cent in New Westminster, 26 per cent in the VPD, 23 per cent within the RCMP, and 15 per cent in Port Moody.

“It raises an eyebrow” that, in 2020, women are not closer to representing half of the police officers in the province, said Genevieve Fuji Johnson, an SFU political science professor who just published a study on the “whiteness” of the upper echelons of Canadian universities.She wonders about the retention rate of women in policing careers, if they perhaps leave prematurely if they don’t feel valued. Earlier this year, for example, an estimated 2,000 former female employees of the RCMP won final court approval to proceed with a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the force over gender-based abuse and discrimination.

Another question to ask these departments, she said, is whether women and visible minorities have a proportional number of high-ranking jobs or if they mainly fill the lower ranks.“Our police departments, and the RCMP, you want them to look, to the extent that’s possible, like the people they are serving. So you want that representation for a whole range of reasons,” said Fuji Johnson, who is not sure that substantive change will happen soon.

“Right now there are tons of demonstrations going on and people are making noise and I think that is super important. But is anything going to change? I don’t know.”

In a letter posted on the Stl’atl’imx website this month to the people of the St’at’imc Nation, near Lillooet, Doss-Cody wrote that many police agencies have promised to check past behaviour and build a better relationship with the people they serve.

“I wish them all of the best, but like you, I can only believe that this change can come about if there is a serious effort to deal with the systemic racism that has existed that has led to much strife with our people, including our interaction with police,” the police chief wrote.

Source: How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

Supreme Court’s chief justice calls for more diversity in Canada’s legal system

Of note even if the government has made considerable efforts to increase diversity of judicial appointments. My unofficial running total compared to the 2016 baseline:

Women Visible Minorities Indigenous
2016 Baseline 35.6% 2.0% 0.8%
New Appointments 56.2% 7.2% 2.9%

The Supreme Court’s chief justice is calling for more diversity in Canada’s legal system as protests mount around the world over anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

During an end-of-session news conference in Ottawa today, Richard Wagner said the top court has wrestled with cases that have underscored racial bias and the use of degrading stereotypes — and that a lack of diversity in the justice system is part of the problem.

“All Canadians should be able to see themselves reflected in their justice system. Justice should not make a person feel like an outsider or an ‘other’ when they confront it,” he said.

“I also think there is a growing awareness of the need for our courts, including our highest court, to reflect the diversity of Canadians. I certainly would welcome the insights and perspectives this could bring.”

Canada’s judiciary has become more diverse, with more women, visible minorities, LBGT and Indigenous people on the bench, but the number of Indigenous judges remains low compared to other demographic groups.

No Indigenous justice has ever been appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Liberal government overhauled the judicial appointments system in October 2016 in an attempt to recruit a more diverse array of candidates and make the selection process more transparent.

Cases show discrimination, bias

Wagner today cited some recent cases the Supreme Court has dealt with involving racism, including the case of Jeffrey Ewert, a Métis inmate who was convicted of the murder and attempted murder of two young women. The top court ruled that Canada’s prison service was using security tests that discriminate against Indigenous offenders and keep them behind bars longer and in more restrictive environments.

Wagner also cited the case of Ontario trucker Bradley Barton, which unleashed public outrageover how Indigenous victim Cindy Gladue was treated by Canada’s criminal justice system. During the trial, Gladue was described repeatedly as “native” and a “prostitute.”

Justice Michael Moldaver, who wrote for the majority in that case, said judges must do more to fight stereotypes against Indigenous victims of violence.

“As an additional safeguard going forward, in sexual assault cases where the complainant is an Indigenous woman or girl, trial judges would be well advised to provide an express instruction aimed at countering prejudice against Indigenous women and girls,” he wrote.

No call on systemic racism

Asked today if there is systemic racism in Canada’s justice system, Wagner declined to make a definitive statement. He said it’s the job of judges to weigh the facts in individual cases and speak through their judgments, while it’s up to elected officials and others to make more broad statements.

“As judges, we decide where evidence is brought forward,” he said. “We don’t issue broad statements generally without having a case to be decided upon.”

Lori Thomas, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, said she was disappointed by Wagner’s comments on systemic racism.

“The resistance to acknowledge systemic racism means that it will continue to be pervasive within the justice system,” she said.

“The fact that the perception by the community is that Black and Indigenous people are underserved or may not be given full justice in the justice system gives to mind that there is obviously a concern of systemic racism, and I can say that includes those acting in the legal community.”

Thomas said there is implicit bias within the justice system, especially given the small number of Black and Indigenous judges.

Even though Wagner said judges receive training to recognize and respond to bias and systemic discrimination, Thomas said that does not make up for a lack of diversity on the bench.

Indigenous people have long been over-represented in Canada’s courts and correctional system.

In his first news conference after being appointed as chief justice two years ago, Wagner called the incarceration rate of Indigenous people “unacceptable.”

“The rate is too high. It reveals a serious problem. And so far as the judiciary is concerned, I think that the court has a role to play whenever the case is presented to the court to decide those issues,” Wagner said at the time.

Source: Supreme Court’s chief justice calls for more diversity in Canada’s legal system

Bellegarde: Let’s just admit it: Canada has a racism problem

Good commentary:

As a Cree man, the outrage that has followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis resonates with my experience and my people’s demands for justice. Canadians cannot ignore the dangerous parallels that exist in how Canadian police officers interact with people of different ethnicities and how a distressingly high percentage of First Nations men and women end up either injured or dead at the hands of the people we expect to help and protect us.

Last week, a young mother, Chantel Moore, was killed by a local Edmunston, N.B. policeman who was supposed to be making a wellness check on her. She was reported to be holding a knife and in some emotional distress, but how a knock on the door turned into a confrontation in which the officer felt the need to discharge his weapon five times is hard to imagine. A day later came news that Chief Allan Adam was badly beaten and his wife roughed up during a routine traffic stop by RCMP officers in Fort McMurray in March. The pictures of Chief Adam’s battered face were disturbing, but it is the officers’ voices captured on tape and the speed with which the police escalated the confrontation that should alarm everyone. And Friday night, another First Nations man was shot dead by the Mounties, this time near Miramichi, N.B. The circumstances are always unique, but the resulting escalation and violent confrontation is not.

Until Friday, when Commissioner Brenda Lucki finally admitted her police force has a problem, the RCMP had insisted that its officers respond to situations in the same ways, regardless of whether the civilian on the other side is white, Black or First Nation. But the statistics simply don’t support this claim. Worse, the sentiment among police and First Nations youth is now rife with contempt and distrust.

Let’s spare ourselves another futile debate over whether systemic racism exists in Canada. There have been countless reports over the past 50 years, and the conclusion is always the same: First Nations face systemic racism in every aspect of life and from every institution of Canadian society. This is a fact. It should be clear to everyone by now that Canada’s unwillingness to address systemic racism is killing people. It’s killing Black people and it’s killing First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. We have to move past this unnecessary debate about whether or not systemic racism exists and we have to do it now.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made considerable efforts toward reconciliation and creating economic opportunities for First Nations, his government remains notably silent on dealing with systemic racism within the justice and corrections systems. Restorative justice delayed is restorative justice denied. It is clear this is not a problem that will heal itself.

Canadians spend so much money on policing despite knowing that it can’t solve the pressing social problems facing marginalized communities. In recent days, there have been mounting calls all over the world to “defund the police.” My question is this: When our young First Nations, in distress, call for help, are the police the right people to answer?

As a country, our focus must be on peace and justice more than law and order. Some would try to argue that the difference between those two philosophies is minimal, but I believe it is the difference between life and death. Instead of putting more guns and armoured cars in the hands of police forces, let’s try funding better schools and after-school sports programs that are proven to successfully reduce drug use and gang violence. Instead of more police officers, let’s focus on ones that are better trained, with higher compensation available to retain those with the best records for de-escalating conflict and not harming those they’re supposed to be helping.

The memory of Martin Luther King has been evoked many times over the past few weeks. One thing he said has always stood out to me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is hard to imagine more challenging times than these, yet it is precisely now that we need Mr. Trudeau and his team to finish the job that they started.

Source: Let’s just admit it: Canada has a racism problem Perry Bellegarde

Desmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

I expect part of the reason has to do with the shrinking newsrooms and employment insecurity compared to the stable number of teachers and job security that provide more time for these discussions:

If there’s one thing The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole makes clear, it is how integral racism is to Canadian life. It winds its way through the justice system, military decisions, child welfare, the education system and of course, the media, and leaves in its wake a trail of destruction for many, but particularly cruelly for Black, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The burden of educating society always falls on those with the least — not just the least amount of wealth but the least social capital, too. The people society is accustomed to ignoring have to make themselves heard, be taken seriously and then force a change in behaviour. This is gargantuan cross-generational work, and Cole’s national bestseller, much like Robyn Maynard’s Policing Black Lives, is also an ode to that resistance.

One example of that resistance, the work of influencing change, that The Skin We’re In inspired, was a series of conversations among Ontario teachers.

Colinda Clyne, an Anishinaabe woman and curriculum lead at the Upper Grand District School Board, had read the book and appreciated how Cole wove together colonial history and anti-Indigenous racism with anti-Black racism. “There are many great resources to support one or the other, but not often together, and rarely with the Canadian context,” she said. Late in March, she sent out feelers to see if fellow teachers would be interested in a discussion based on this book, expecting a discussion involving about 10 people.

Instead, she ended up hosting a weekly panel titled “Anti-Racist Educator Reads” on VoicEd Radio, an educational broadcast/podcast site, with more than 500 listeners on the fifth and final week, May 13, that featured Cole himself. (For those who missed the discussions, the episodes are online.)

The people tuning in, Clyne said, were “mostly white educators with thoughtful reflections on the learning and unlearning they were doing with the book and our conversations, and the actions they were willing to commit to. It gave me a boost of hope for this anti-racism work in a way that I have not felt in a long time.”

The discussions ran deep, including the impact of police presence in schools, how Canada’s “humble colonialism” plays out in society and schools, what ignorance on racism looks like and the easily dismissed but vital role of anger to bring about change.

A sketch note by educator Debbie Donksy of a panel discussion of Anti-Racist Educator Reads that aired April 22 on VoicEd Radio in which curriculum lead Colinda Clyne hosted Camille Logan, a superintendent of education, and Kevin Rambally, a social worker and former chair of Pride Toronto.

I listened with envy to these conversations between Clyne and other leaders in anti-racism education from various Ontario school boards such as Debbie Donsky, Pamala Agawa, Melissa Wilson, Tisha Nelson and Camille Logan.

The education system is nowhere near where it should be in terms of nurturing all students with care. But teachers are at least engaging in these critical and uncomfortable reflections. Clyne also seeks an action that teachers can commit to. While I’m not one to pat people for being at the “at least it’s a start!” stage, I raise it to make the point that other sectors are not even there.

A case in point is my own industry. Journalists are duty bound to demand accountability — but this is rarely focused inward. Race and attendant issues are an extra or an “inclusion” issue, maybe even as a new-fangled lens of discussion that could bring in new audiences. It’s why solutions look like hiring a journalist of colour or two, using images of racialized people to suggest representation or speaking to a few sources of colour.

As a journalist, Cole makes extensive references to media in his book. Of course, he mentions his fallout with the Toronto Star. His blunt reporting on CBC and CTV reporters’ rude — and chiefly arrogant — questioning of Indigenous elders and activists at a 2017 press conference on the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIWG), should at least make every journalist squirm.

But I don’t hear of critical inquiry-based collective reflections in newsrooms based on that or on Cole’s highly contextualized reporting of Black Lives Matter shutting down the Pride Parade in 2016. For instance, “What role did white supremacy play in guiding our coverage on it?”

Or, “Did media, with our overwhelming whiteness, have the authority or even a balanced perspective in declaring the MMIWG inquiry’s conclusion of genocide as wrong?” Or, “Whose voices did we privilege in the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests?”

No, journalists are supposed to be a bunch of eye-rolling cynics, the know-it-alls above self-reflection. There are, after all, “real” crises to be dealt with every day. Discussions on racism are usually held among journalists of colour, on the sidelines to the main business of journalism. In newsroom after newsroom, these journalists tell me, they struggle to be heard.

That explains why it’s taken weeks after Canada was hit by the global pandemic for media to start waking up to who was most badly hit — Indigenous and racialized people — and that too after relentless advocacy by rights groups and by the bravery of those risking everything to tell their stories.

In education, too, one of the issues raised through the VoicEd Radio episodes, “are the barriers constantly put in place in our systems, a big one being denial of white supremacy and that folks ‘aren’t ready’ to have the conversations and do the work of anti-racism,” Clyne said.

It’s worth reflecting, across sectors, on who these folks who aren’t ready are, and why, when lives are at stake, we feel compelled to wait for them at all.

Source: Shree ParadkarDesmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

New book explores the relationships between Indigenous people and new Canadians

Of note. Have included the chapter to give a flavour of the thinking of the more activist immigrant perspective:

A new collection of essays, Reconciliation in Practice: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, is exploring the intersection of immigration and reconciliation.

The book’s editor, Dr. Ranjan Datta, explains his motivation for the exploration of the subject this way, “I know that as an immigrant, I am a guest in this Treaty 6 territory. I came here for a secure life that I did not have in my motherland; therefore, I am grateful to the Indigenous people in Canada for providing the opportunity to learn from them and build solidarity with their struggle. I also know as an immigrant in Canada that learning about reconciliation from Indigenous people is not only beneficial to them but will also create many benefits for me, including educating me, creating a sense of belonging in this land, and empowering me. I not only have a strong commitment and passion for learning the meaning of reconciliation from Indigenous perspectives, but it is also my responsibility.”

Here we offer an excerpt from chapter author Ali Abukar.

Reconciliation and New Canadians

By Ali Abukar

In this chapter, I share stories explaining why, as a new Canadian and a former refugee, I feel grateful to live and work on Treaty Six Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. I discuss my two years of community-based professional experience with reconciliation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Through my reconciliation activities in Saskatoon, I claimed my identity as a global citizen and a promoter of diversity and multiculturalism. In this chapter, I argue that reconciliation means working together to meet shared needs and celebrate shared successes through dialogue and relationship building. I also believe that reconciliation means standing together against injustices, remembering and learning from the past, ensuring past injustices are not repeated, and moving toward healing as a community and as a country. Through my work with newcomers to Canada, I will continue the important process of truth and reconciliation, and community and nation building.

The welcoming atmosphere of this country, which I now call home, was established when its Indigenous Peoples greeted the initial newcomers to Canada centuries ago. The Indigenous Peoples of Canada showed the early settlers generosity and shared their land and resources with them. However, as a country, we have a history of colonialism, racism, and injustice in the way that our government systems have treated out Indigenous sisters and brothers and this land. After a long struggle, we finally have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, which documents the cultural genocide that residential schools inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples. It also brings to light what can be done to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, as immense suffering and damage were inflicted upon the Indigenous children who were sent to the residential schools and on their families. It also noted that these schools were funded and operated by the Canadian government and Canadian religious institutions.
The impact of the residential schools left Indigenous Peoples, both Survivors and those indirectly affected, with intergenerational trauma. The experiences and the related trauma resulted in loss of language, culture, Traditional Knowledge, and ways of doing things for many generations. As a new Canadian social activist and refugee advocate, I care about reconciliation and relationship building in Canada because it is an important way to promote diversity and inclusion in our community and our country.This chapter will explore some of the commonalities in the cultural practices of newcomers to Canada and Indigenous Peoples, and their shared understanding of the importance of maintaining one’s culture and identity. I discuss this commonality to establish a relatability between the two groups in the hopes of promoting relationship building and reconciliation. I also touch on the importance of cultural bridging and relationship building between newcomers to Canada and our Indigenous sisters and brothers, specifically regarding the role that settlement agencies and ethnocultural community organizations can play in reconciliation, community building, and nation building. In order to see these commonalities, I must first situate myself, acknowledge my privileges, and explore what reconciliation means to me. Through my own experiences, both my lived experience and the work I do with other new Canadians, I explore what reconciliation means to a new Canadian and how newcomers approach reconciliation by trying to establish relatability between Indigenous, newcomer, and new Canadian communities so as to create a potential for relationship building, alliances, and reconciliation.

Situating the selfI am a young black man who was born and raised in Somalia. I have lived and worked in various countries and I consider myself a global citizen. Global citizenship is a way of living that recognizes our increasingly complex, connected, and interdependent world where our actions and choices may have an impact on people and communities locally, nationally, and globally. As political scientist Michael Byers said in a talk at the University of British Columbia in 2005:

“It empowers individual human beings to participate in decisions concerning their lives, including the political, economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions in which they live. It includes the right to vote, to express opinions and associate with others, and to enjoy a decent and dignified quality of life. It is expressed through engagement in the various communities of which the individual is a part, at the local, national and global level. And it includes the right to challenge authority and existing power structures, to think, argue and act with the intent to change the world.”

Having fled my home country as a teenager, I developed empathy for the concerns of my fellow humans. This empathy grew as I learned about my own privileges and the importance of equity and social justice for humanity in the course of my post-secondary education. I am university educated and earn a decent wage at my job. My family and I have a home in a safe neighbourhood, clean drinking water, and access to basic services. I acknowledge my privileges and I am grateful for the life I live as a Canadian citizen. However, being aware of my privileges makes me question the ongoing inequities and injustices perpetrated against our Indigenous sisters and brothers. What continues to happen in the Indigenous communities is unacceptable and goes against what Canada should stand for, to me as an immigrant and new Canadian.
It is unacceptable that historical injustices against the Indigenous Peoples of this great land should persist. Although former prime minister Stephen Harper issued an apology for the residential schools in June 2008, the legacy of the schools has contributed to social problems that continue to exist in many communities today. In addition, this 2008 apology was not extended to the Survivors of the residential schools in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador: however, these Survivors did receive an apology in 2017 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed hundreds of former students and their families in Goose Bay:
“Saying that we are sorry is not enough. It will not undo the harm that was done to you. It will not bring back the language and traditions you lost. It will not take away the isolation and vulnerability you felt when you separated from your families, communities and cultures.”Trudeau apologized on behalf of the Canadian government and all Canadians, including new Canadians like me. He also acknowledged that there is still a lot to be done to engage in reconciliation and fix the systems, such as the current foster system, which removes so many Indigenous children from their homes in a continuation of the country’s colonial policies.

What reconciliation means to meAs a new Canadian, I see reconciliation as acknowledging the past, respecting the land on which we live, and building relationships based on respect, equity, and inclusivity. I am grateful to live and work on Treaty Six Territory and the Homeland of the Métis and Cree Nations. I stand with our Indigenous sisters and brothers against the injustices and inequalities they continue to face. To me, reconciliation will only work if we acknowledge the truth of the past, build meaningful relationships, and stand with one another against injustices and inequities. The process of reconciliation involves both Canadian society as a whole and all levels of government. Furthermore, it must be nation-to-nation, as our current government promised, and action-based. I acknowledge that there is encouraging work being done toward reconciliation and bettering the conditions in Indigenous communities, yet not much has been achieved thus far. It remains to be seen whether these promises will come to fruition.

Newcomers and reconciliationNewcomers to Canada may relate to some of the experiences of Indigenous Peoples. Many new Canadians and newcomers to Canada come from countries that were colonized by European nations. Some countries are still fighting and sacrificing many lives to protect their land and people from ongoing colonization: for example, Palestine and Somalia. The land of origin of many of these newcomers to Canada was taken by force, its resources exploited, and its people deprived of their rights. Unlike Indigenous Peoples, however, the European colonizers to these countries of origin did not stay and continue to colonize the inhabitants. This is not to say that colonization did not leave many of those countries with lasting, devastating effects. For instance, European colonizers from Britain, France, and Italy, along with Ethiopia, divided Somalia, where I was born, among themselves. Although Somalia gained independence in 1960, parts of it are still occupied by Ethiopia and Kenya. The people living on that occupied land are of Somali origin but live under either Ethiopian or Kenyan rule. What countries like Somalia and Palestine underwent at the hands of colonizers and settlers may not be the same as the Indigenous experience, but it may facilitate a relatability between the struggles of Indigenous Peoples and those of newcomers to Canada/new Canadians, whether the struggles resulted from inequality, racism, and underemployment or from colonization and oppression prior to arriving in Canada.

Many newcomers to Canada, mainly refugees and other forced migrants, witnessed forms of systemic oppression and violence that forced them to flee their home countries and seek safety and security elsewhere. For examples, we can look at what is happening in Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, and Afghanistan, among others. As a refugee, I can relate to some of the injustices that my Indigenous sisters and brothers continue to face. As shared earlier, I fled my home country of Somalia as a teenager due to civil war and violence following the fall of Somalia’s central government in the early 1990s. I lived in Cairo, Egypt, as a refugee and experienced racism and discrimination firsthand. After moving to Canada as a permanent resident and completing my graduate degree, I faced barriers to entering the labour force. I can relate to some of the struggles that other immigrants and refugees face as newcomers to Canada. However, what I found missing in educating newcomers to Canada was the history of the Indigenous Peoples — the history of colonialism and residential schools in Canada. As a new Canadian, I have an obligation to engage in reconciliation and relationship building here because I am a treaty person.
Systemic oppression has been another effect of colonialism for both Indigenous Peoples and many newcomers to Canada. The residential schools run by the Canadian government and settler religious institutions, which were intended to break the Indigenous children’s links to their culture and identity, are a particularly poignant example of this systemic oppression. The use of colonial policies by Canada’s colonial governments, including the Indian Act and residential schools, were intentional, systemic attempts to eliminate Indigenous governments, ignore Indigenous Rights, terminate treaties, and, through a process of assimilation and elimination, cause Indigenous Peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities. This is evident in the words of one senior government official in 1920: “Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into body politics.”
The Indian residential schools have all closed now, but their legacy and the devastating impacts of them on the Indigenous communities remain, including intergenerational trauma. As an example, I want to share what I learned from a session by an Indigenous educator. He said that, although he did not go to a residential school, he and his siblings were still affected, due to his parents, other relatives, and community members being Survivors. He said that growing up, he witnessed a lot of drinking in their house and his parents struggled to parent him and his siblings. There was a lot of hurt and suffering in the community where he grew up. He believes that things have now changed, and people use political correctness in general when engaging in discussions around Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation, despite the apparent racism faced by members of the Indigenous community. He was sharing his experience of residential schools and engagement with reconciliation through storytelling with some non-Indigenous community members, including newcomers to Canada and new Canadians. It was fascinating to see how engaged the immigrants were in this session, which was organized by our volunteer management program at the Saskatoon Open Door Society.
To engage in reconciliation, we need to confront the impact of ongoing racism and discrimination on marginalized communities. We must also recognize the stigma, myths and stereotypes that abound about these communities: “they do not pay taxes”; “bogus refugees/queue-jumpers”; or “they are here to abuse our welfare system and take our jobs.” The colonialism and systemic oppression of these communities include forced and unforced assimilation, capitalism, exploitation, and the degradation of resources. As discussed above, Indigenous Peoples experienced forced assimilation, whereas newcomers to Canada are expected to assimilate into Canadian society. Thanks to colonial multiculturalism and Canada’s use of the so-called integration policies to promote the full participation of immigrants in Canada’s social, economic, and political life, integration policies are not applied as strictly as in other immigration-based societies. This was evident when, in 1960, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism clarified the distinction between assimilation and integration, noting that “man is a thinking and sensitive being; severing him from his roots could destroy an aspect of his personality and deprive society of some of the values he can bring to it.” This was not applied to the Indigenous Peoples. Instead, they were forced to assimilate through systemic oppression and colonialist policies. Current newcomers to Canada are favoured in this regard because this integration policy was put in pace when immigration to Canada was not as diverse as it is currently. Most of the immigrants were European, white, and primarily Christian. In addition, it is argued that multiculturalism, albeit a good thing as a concept, is used by Canada as a tool to assimilate newcomers into the mainstream society. David MacDonald argues that “a critical approach seeks to uncover the unspoken assumptions about assimilation at the heart of some multicultural policies, while unpacking whiteness as an invisible norm by which other ethnicities are judged.” This Canadian multiculturalism fails to recognize “the histories of oppression experienced by Indigenous Peoples and people of colour and there is a little talk of colonialism, racism, white privilege, sexism, patriarchy, heteronormativity and capitalism.”
Cultural commonalityOn the cultural level, there are shared perspectives between the Indigenous Peoples in Canada and newcomers to Canada. I share this principle of cultural commonality because it helps to bring communities closer together when they have more commonalities than differences — it facilitates connections and relationship building. In the course of my professional career in the settlement sector, I have seen both newcomers to Canada and Indigenous members of our community connect through sharing their common experiences. For example, at one of the orientation sessions organized for a group of newcomer men with our local police services, a Sudanese refugee shared that in his culture they have a tribal lineage, and one of the police officers who identified as Indigenous shared that she too has a tribal lineage in her culture. the orientation session was intended to introduce newcomers to policing in Canada; at first, there was a tension and some mistrust, but after establishing the shared cultural experiences between the Indigenous police officer and the newcomer, the two groups realized that they have a lot in common, more than they initially thought.

Other shared cultural practices include naming oneself in relation to family or ancestors, drumming and dancing, the use of traditional herbs as medicine for healing, storytelling, and placing emphasis on oral tradition. Knowledge and traditional ways of life are preserved and passed on through the generations by grandparents sharing their wisdom with their grandchildren. In many newcomer cultures, grandchildren spend time with their grandparents to learn these traditions. Celebrations of coming of age, fasting, piercing, and tattooing are also traditions common to Indigenous and newcomer communities. It is worthwhile to note similarities in important cultural practices, such as the celebration of the seasons, a relationship to the land (and the loss of that relationship through colonization and/or forced migration/capitalism and land grabbing), tribal identity, and respecting Elders and Knowledge Keepers. I cite these examples of commonalities among our Indigenous Peoples and newcomers to further illustrate what the newcomers to Canada may have in common with their Indigenous counterparts. Newcomers cannot only relate to Indigenous experiences but may also contribute to building bridges and engaging in reconciliation.
Like Indigenous Peoples, many newcomers to Canada see the importance of keeping one’s culture and identity. This is evident in how many newcomers to Canada stay within their own community for interaction and to preserve their cultural heritage. Culture and identity help both Indigenous People and immigrants maintain their ways of life. This is what makes us human beings. We tend to seek familiarity, and this tendency is greater when we move to a new community or a new country. The importance of keeping your culture and identity has to do with maintaining your heritage so that your offspring do not lose it. This was made possible through multicultural policy and the recognition of cultural and ethnic identities of immigrants as a key feature of Canadian immigration policy; however, as discussed above, this opportunity was not afforded to Indigenous Peoples in the early settler-Indigenous relationships. There seems to be a sense of familiarity between the Indigenous and newcomer communities whenever there are opportunities for storytelling and sharing through cultural activities and celebrations.
There is a strong sense of relatability between the two, and I believe the reason is that they share an understanding of the importance of maintaining and nurturing one’s culture and heritage. This will pave the way for opportunities to build relationships, bridge the gap between the communities, and engage in reconciliation in a positive way.
Cultural bridging activities as enablers of reconciliationIn Saskatoon, we have been engaging newcomers in activities that facilitate education about the history of Indigenous Peoples, including treaties. We have partnerships with various Indigenous organizations, including the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, which sends speakers to provide treaty education. We have programming for youth where both Indigenous and newcomer youth are provided with activities that respond to their needs and create opportunities for friendship and community building. We have been involved in Reconciliation Saskatoon, and we continue to partner with organizations in our community to further the conversation around reconciliation and build relationships for the betterment of our communities, society, and nation. We have hosted events specifically to promote reconciliation between newcomers to Canada and the Indigenous communities, for example, a blanket exercise to learn more about the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We organize many community events for the Indigenous and newcomer communities in Saskatoon that aim to build relationships and promote reconciliation and inclusion in our community. We invite Indigenous and Elders, educators, and speakers to come and engage our clients, volunteers, and staff in reconciliation and conversations about Indigenous history, knowledge, and ways of doing things. We are in the process of partnering with one of the local Indigenous community organizations to create an educational program called Reconciliation through Multiculturalism, in which members of the Indigenous communities and newcomers to Canada would share, learn together, and build relationships. I believe that these cultural bridging activities are enablers of reconciliation and relationship building and therefore will facilitate community and nation building.

A lot has changed for Indigenous Peoples in the last few decades. The last federally supported residential school remained in operation until the late 1990s, and the Survivors, their families, and their communities are still experiencing intergenerational trauma. More recently, the Indigenous communities’ struggle for equal rights and equal access to services and resources has been gaining momentum through movements such as Idle No More. It is promising that the current government has made commitments to better the relationship with Indigenous Peoples, but these commitments must include nation-to-nation relations and the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I believe that to engage in truth and reconciliation is the responsibility of everyone living in Canada, both citizens and residents alike. I feel proud to live and work in a city like Saskatoon, which declared 2015-16 the Year of Reconciliation. Since then, the city has seen many community efforts to engage in reconciliation. This has not been achieved by the provincial or federal government, but through the efforts of many community organizations and support from the city of Saskatoon. Fifty-eight organizations, including non-profits, businesses, faith communities, and other partners, came together to initiate a city-wide conversation about reconciliation and provide opportunities for everyone to engage in the TRC’s call to action at the grassroots level. From this, Reconciliation Saskatoon was born. This movement allowed the Saskatoon community to engage in a walk for reconciliation called Rock Your Roots, which has taken place for the past few years. In addition, conversations and other activities, including celebrations with music and food, are a part of the National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.
Indeed, it is not all negative. Our Indigenous sisters and brothers and their ancestors have welcomed many people from diverse backgrounds and shared their land with them. They have shown us all a great deal of generosity, settlers and newcomers alike. Although there are still ongoing injustices and inequities toward many Indigenous communities, we have come a long way, and we have an opportunity to work together through dialogue and relationship building. That is what reconciliation is all about. I find that there is a lot of engagement and education about reconciliation, as well as awareness of Indigenous Land Rights, cultures, and heritage. Still, the injustices and inequities against the Indigenous communities continue, whether it is access to services, involvement in decision-making on resource development, or self-determination and governance. Some scholars have argued that these injustices continue, in part, because of conflicting desires on the part of settlers. As Indigenous scholar Taiaiake Alfred said, “In relation to settler colonialism ‘Canadians are in denial in extremis.’ Denial can be inferred from our failure to reconcile our conflicting desires.” Although many of us want Indigenous Peoples to have their full rights and have a say on how resources are developed on their land, we still want to enjoy cheap consumer goods and maintain our economy, and we may fear Indigenous sovereignty would mean the loss of land and our homes. These conflicting desires may be preventing us from dealing with the injustices and inequities some communities face. Indigenous scholar Glen Coulthard argues that “for Indigenous nations to survive, capitalism must die.” I agree there may be conflicting desires within us; however, we need to find ways to examine our conscience regarding what is happening in our society. One important issue that resonates with me is how we can focus on a damage-centred narrative without thinking about how to effectively build bridges and relationships and facilitate healing that deals with the ongoing injustices together as a community and society while keeping our elected officials accountable. I believe in embracing reconciliation over and above all the conflicting desires and competing priorities for the betterment of our communities and society.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action (new Canadians)There have been some concerns that immigrants and refugees coming to Canada do not know about Indigenous Peoples and the history of colonialism. The orientation materials provided to newcomers to Canada lack information on the history of Indigenous Peoples. In my own move to Canada, I was not given the opportunity to learn enough about the Indigenous Peoples, their history, and their positive contributions to Canadian society. I had a brief orientation that only covered topics like living in Canada, what to expect, and how to access available services. It was about preparing newcomers for life in Canada. What is not included is the history of the Indigenous Nations, their relationship with the Government of Canada, and the current realities in many Indigenous communities in this country. One of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) calls to action, number 93, addresses this specific situation, exhorting the federal government, in collaboration with national Indigenous organizations, to revise its information kit for newcomers and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Indigenous Peoples, including information on treaties and the history of residential schools. Further, the calls to action recommend that the citizenship oath include the obligation to faithfully respect Indigenous treaties. Though promises were made to incorporate these calls to actions in the Canadian Orientation Abroad program for newcomers to Canada and the citizenship oath, they have not yet been implemented, partly because modifying the citizenship oath requires an amendment to the Citizenship Act.

Another concern about newcomers to Canada, both immigrants and refugees, is that they will learn negative stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples from the settlers or newcomers who have arrived before them. While this is certainly happening (as Datta argues in his chapter), it is not inevitable. In research conducted by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg in 2014, participants from both Indigenous and newcomer communities were found to hold negative perceptions of the other that they acknowledged were not accurate. However, they also expressed sympathy regarding the similar challenges the two communities face, and they agree that they have a lot in common and many shared experiences.
ConclusionI learned more about Indigenous Peoples in my first year of graduate studies after I moved to Canada. I was studying at a university on the Traditional Territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe, and Haudenosaunee peoples in what is now known as Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. During my studies, I was exposed to the traditions of the Indigenous Peoples in the specific areas of smudging, dancing, drumming, songs, and food (soup and bannock). These traditions were observed regularly throughout the year and more so at events. In addition, I learned about the land acknowledgment and honouring the Elders from the Indigenous community. All this was made possible thanks to the Indigenous Field of Study program at Wilfred Laurier University. I believe I was lucky as a newcomer to Canada to have had these opportunities. They encouraged me to maintain a strong sense of social justice and to stand with all disadvantaged peoples in Canada. To be honest, I was quite shocked to learn of the living conditions of many disadvantaged people(s) in Canada — I did not expect that this country would fail to take care of its people.

Talking about the challenges many Indigenous Peoples face is not enough. Land acknowledgments are not enough. We need to build relationships and act on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples. The question is, what can we do beyond land acknowledgments to truly engage in reconciliation work, community building, and nation building?

  • Learn — We should learn about oppression, privilege and the history of colonization of the Indigenous Peoples and their cultures.
  • Build relationships — Building relationships is a vital aspect of standing together with our Indigenous sisters and brothers against the injustices and inequities the Indigenous communities face.
  • Act — Being accountable to Indigenous communities, supporting their causes, and standing up against unacceptable abuse, myths, and racism toward Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, we need to align with their struggle and speak up when something problematic is said.
As an organization in the settlement sector in Saskatchewan, we at the Saskatoon Open Door Society realize the importance of working with the Indigenous communities to build relationships and promote diversity and inclusion. We have been doing this for years now through co-programming and creating venues for dialogue, storytelling, and sharing experience between the newcomers to Canada and the Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. As a community member and leader of a settlement organization whose values include respect, inclusion, empowerment, engagement, and equality, I am committed to continuing to promote reconciliation and relationship building on our community as we work toward a diverse, just, and more inclusive community and country.

Source: New book explores the relationships between Indigenous people and new Canadians

Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

Big miss here IMO, given the confluence of race and socioeconomic disparities.

While it may not be an immediate priority during the pandemic, better data of health disparities among visible and non-visible minorities would be helpful, not just during pandemics:

Despite a growing awareness in the United States that some minority groups might be at higher risk for the coronavirus, provincial health officials in two of Canada’s hardest hit provinces say race-based data isn’t needed here yet.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Friday that statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors. The World Health Organization hasn’t yet said that’s the case for coronavirus, he added.

He said resources are much more effectively used tracking down the people each infected patient had been in contact with, rather than targeting entire groups.

“Right now we consider our main risk groups (to be) the elderly, those with other co-morbidities, regardless of what race they are,” he said. “Regardless of race, ethnic or other backgrounds, they’re all equally important to us.”

There is early evidence from the United States that shows African Americans may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Some large cities are seeing higher rates among their large Black populations who historically have had poorer access to health care and higher rates of poverty.

Among them is Chicago, whose mayor vowed Monday to launch aggressive public health campaigns aimed at her city’s Black and brown communities after numbers showed Black residents accounted for 72 per cent of deaths from complications from COVID-19, despite making up only about one-third of the population.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot told The Associated Press that the disparities in Chicago “take your breath away” and required an immediate response from the city, community activists and health care providers.

In Alberta, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said they know some groups in Canada are systematically disadvantaged based on their appearance or socioeconomic status.

While the province also doesn’t currently collect the race of someone who is tested or treated for coronavirus, she suggested it’s something that may be looked at in future.

“The information that we collect is really focused more on risk activities and less about ethnicity,” she said Friday. “But it’s certainly something we need to look closely at to determine if we need to start collecting that going forward.”

Hinshaw said the province has good information-sharing agreements with many First Nations in particular, so that is one way they might be able to compare numbers, though it’s not something they could release publicly without the Nations’ consent.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who co-chaired the Indigenous Health Conference at the University of Toronto, says First Nations are almost certainly at higher risk.

“A lot of Indigenous people have a lot of co-morbidities. For almost any disease out there they have higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease,” she said.

They were also significantly overrepresented in the last pandemic to hit the country. Despite representing 4.3 per cent of the population, they accounted for 27.8 per cent of hospital admissions reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada during the first wave of H1N1 in 2009, according to the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health.

Many First Nations are small or remote and face the added challenge of a historic lack of funding for things like medical services.

Banerji launched a petition last week to demand more action from the federal government, arguing Indigenous leaders have asked for more access to things like health care workers or rapid testing, but their communities have not received the same financial support as non-Indigenous towns and cities.

But while Banerji said it’s important to document how coronavirus is affecting Indigenous communities, she stresses that information is only useful if it leads to more supports.

“I think it’s good to collect that data,” she said. “But collecting data on how we failed Indigenous people is not a very useful thing, unless you act on it.”

Source: Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

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