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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘My whole life is political’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate adopts Indigenous Languages Act, with amendments

Will be interesting to follow implementation and impact:

The Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has adopted an amended version of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, with changes largely prompted by Inuit groups.

The legislation, introduced this past winter, would see the government establish an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, with a mandate to support and promote language revitalization efforts.

It would also give federal institutions the power to translate their own documents or offer interpretation.

“On the whole, the amendments passed strengthen the bill and better enable Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen their own languages,” said committee chair Senator Lillian Dyck on June 13.

“Of particular attention are a series of amendments that now include access to services and programs in Indigenous languages where there is sufficient demand and access.”

Dyck referred specifically to testimony by Inuit groups, who asked that the legislation ensure access to certain services, like education, health and justice, in Inuktut.

To that end, the committee passed an amendment that requires the minister of heritage and multiculturalism to review and report on the availability and quality of federal government services provided in Inuktut.

The committee also agreed to recognize the importance of Inuktut to Inuit Nunangat.

Though the legislation was touted as being co-developed alongside Indigenous groups, it received a cool reception from Inuit groups when it was tabled in February.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami chided the government for the absence of any Inuit-specific content; its president, Natan Obed, accused the government of “yet another legislative initiative developed behind closed doors by a colonial system.”

The national Inuit organization filed this submission last February, calling for certain amendments to the bill, including the development of a separate annex for Inuktut; recognition of Inuktut as an “original language of Canada,” and the negotiation of a separate funding agreement.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson credited the testimony of groups like ITK and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. over the last few months for re-shaping the legislation, though he said the process felt rushed.

“The government did pride itself on having worked hard to co-develop this legislation, but [for] the Inuit, was very clear to the committee that the process had fallen far short of fulfilling the government’s commitment to develop distinction-based legislation,” Patterson told the committee on June 13.

“I’m pleased that the committee agreed to recognize the importance of Inuktut to Inuit Nunangat, and appropriate funding levels based on a series of principles, including the use and vitality of a language and the objective of reclamation, revitalization, maintenance or strengthening of all Indigenous languages of Canada in an equitable manner.”

In a statement released June 14, ITK said it welcomed the Senate’s acknowledgement of some of its recommendations.

“It is regrettable that not all of the well-reasoned and thoughtful considerations put forward by Inuit were included by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples,” ITK said in a statement, calling on MPs to include all its recommendations before the bill’s final passage.

Bill C-91 will now go back to the House of Commons, where MPs will vote on the committee’s amendments and pass it into law.

Source: Senate adopts Indigenous Languages Act, with amendments

Erna Paris: The MMIWG report was searing and important, marred only by its inaccurate genocide charge

Erna Paris on why the word matters:

Watching the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls present its final report to federal government officials in Gatineau, Que., earlier this week was a searing experience. The ceremony helped to restore respect and dignity to the more than 1,000 murdered women whose lives were taken by perpetrators who preyed upon their vulnerability.

Many of the Inquiry’s hundreds of recommendations regarding the safety of Indigenous women and girls look like useful proposals, such as a possible shift to Indigenous-specific sentencing options, improvements to the restraining-order system for violent partners and inclusive police work. The Canadian government has vowed to move on the file.

For much of my professional life, I have explored the origins of racism, the retrieval of national historical memory after strategically forgotten crimes against humanity, the role of courtroom justice in bringing accountability to the victims of the worst crimes known to humankind and the importance of simple acknowledgement to the reconciliation process.

In doing so I have learned the importance of factual precision regarding criminal accusations, and in this respect, I believe the commissioners’ otherwise excellent report was marred by the gratuitous charge that Canada has committed, and continues to commit, genocide against its Indigenous populations. Not cultural genocide, a concept that is broadly accepted today with reference to the attempted obliteration of aboriginal culture in the Indian Residential Schools, but all-out genocide – without qualification.

In its report the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has conflated the recent murders of women and girls with the entirety of the Indigenous experience in Canada, past and present, then framed its conclusions under the powerful rubric of genocide, for which both past and present federal governments are held directly responsible.

But these extrapolations are overly broad. The men who killed Indigenous women were not génocidaires set on destroying a group. They were commonplace domestic criminals – murderers and predators who ought not to have been elevated to fit a paradigm.

We forget, at our peril, that genocide is a legal term, not a societal term. It is the worst crime in the lexicon of international law, the apex of “crimes against humanity,” the most powerful criminal designation ever codified. Genocide is a crime whose proper referent is the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) of 1948, and its most important characteristic is intent: “The deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group.” Genocide, as opposed to cultural genocide, is the planned extermination of peoples. It is not, as asserted by the Inquiry, “the sum of the social practices, assumptions, and actions detailed within this report.” Genocide (like all crimes) is an act. To lose sight of this fact is to jeopardize the usefulness of one of the most important tools of international criminal law.

In recent years, the abuse of the word genocide has become almost commonplace, almost like a Twitter hashtag, an epithet and, in some places, a propaganda tool. State-controlled television in Russia is a prime (though not unique) illustration; for example, in 2017 both Ukraine and Latvia were accused of planning a “genocide” of minority Russian speakers. One is reminded of Lewis Carroll’s sly observation: “’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said…, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’”

The Inquiry’s conclusion that Canada is a genocidal state lines up with the distortion of language characterizing much of contemporary political discourse. It may also be an assertion of power, à la Lewis Carroll. In the era of Donald Trump, where insult is normalized, where journalists are characterized as “enemies of the people” and where Canada’s negotiable trade demands are improbably described as a “national security issue,” shock-and-awe language may be seen as a way of propelling one’s words above the din.

That this may be true is suggested by the surprising fact that although “genocide” was he framing concept of the report, many of its defenders have subsequently downplayed its import.

But words do matter. They matter because they have commonly agreed-to referents and because once they are stripped of these through misuse, we are in Humpty-Dumpty land.

I know from experience that the victims of violence and state-sponsored harm burn with the humiliation of generations, that reconciliation is a difficult, incremental process that sometimes looks out of reach and that it is dependent upon mutual respect. In this regard, the Inquiry’s report contains important lessons about the need for empathy for those who continue to suffer and for vigilance in opposing stereotyping and racism.

It is my personal observation that non-Indigenous Canadians have been sensitized to Indigenous history in recent years, and that many champion a vision of reconciliation. Whether we get there or not will naturally depend on government action. But it will also depend on the tenor of our shared public discourse.

Source: Opinion The MMIWG report was searing and important, marred only by its inaccurate genocide charge

Commentary on the use of the term genocide in the MMIWG report

Some of the more interesting commentary on both sides of the issue (I favour the critics on this one):

Starting with Jon Kay:

…….Discussing the number of people killed in a genocide has an inherently dehumanizing effect on individual victims. But numbers matter, since the term “genocide” becomes completely meaningless if is used as a catch-all to describe all forms of homicide that afflict disadvantaged groups. The government of Canada recognizes five genocides—corresponding to Armenia, Rwanda, Ukraine, Bosnia and the Nazi Holocaust. The average fatality count for these genocides was about three million. The total number of Canadian MMIWG killed over the last half century is about one thousandth that number.

A finding of genocide does not require the discovery of concentration camps and gas chambers: As with the Armenian and Ukrainian genocides, one may infer genocidal intent based on policies that inflicted deadly conditions on men, women and children by intentionally destroying their property and livelihoods, or casting them out into the wilderness to die by exposure, starvation or pogroms. This is in fact how many real historical genocides against Indigenous peoples were perpetrated. But that has no relevance to the manner by which MMIWG are dying in 2019—which is not by pogrom or rampaging militia, but by the same ordinarily horrible way that most homicide victims meet their end: domestic violence and street crime. Nor is there statistical evidence to suggest that Canadian constabularies as a whole don’t take these crimes seriously—though there are individual cases in which police have acted disgracefully. “In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims were solved by police compared with non-Aboriginal victims (85 percent versus 71 percent),” the government reportedin 2015.

The homicide rate for Aboriginal females in Canada, measured in 2014, was 4.82 per 100,000 population. This is about 30 percent less than the homicide rate for the entire U.S. population (6.2). So the statistical implication of this week’s report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (to cite the body’s full name) is that the entire United States exists in a daily state of permanent genocide.

Of course, one could attempt to prove the existence of such an ongoing U.S. genocide by claiming—truthfully—that the higher rates of black homicide are connected to the American legacy of slavery and other genocidal practices. But if this sort of historical analysis is invoked as a means to justify the use of the term genocide, then literally every killing known to humankind can be swallowed up by the word, since no human being exists in isolation from the past. And that is just one of the many bizarre corollaries that emerge from this inaccurate use of language: Since about 70 percent of MMIWG are killed by Indigenous men, the effect of this week’s declaration is to present Canada’s Indigenous peoples as genocidaires of themselves.

Despite this, many Canadians seem anxious to embrace the report, as it affirms the simple narrative that the challenges faced by Canada’s Indigenous peoples are largely the result of white racism, and so can be solved if Canadians simply awaken to their own collective bigotry. Indeed, the problem of MMIWG has been studied comprehensively on previous occasions, and so it was never completely clear what this new inquiry would supply Canada, except a sort of quasi-evangelical call to arms against the forces of racism. Given this, the inquiry commissioners no doubt felt enormous pressure to deliver a dramatic new re-formulation of the moral stakes at play in the MMIWG crisis, which perhaps explains their decision to supply a grandiose new label to stick on front pages.

In the long run, the effect of this will be not only to erode the moral force of the term genocide, but also to hurt indigenous people by encouraging the terrifying and condescending conceit that their status in Canada is akin to that of Tutsis in 1994 Rwanda or Jews in 1939 Germany. The MMIWG inquiry set out 231 recommendations, which deserve to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the whole $92-million exercise now is coloured by the rhetorical overreach surrounding the final report.

All societies lie to themselves about genocide. But the nature of the lies change over time. In Tacitus’ channeling of Calgacus, the Romans would “make a solitude and call it peace.” In Canada, we now do something closer to the opposite—summoning into being a spirit of genocide that hasn’t existed since those shameful days of universal plunder.

Source: The Ultimate ‘Concept Creep’: How a Canadian Inquiry Strips the Word ‘Genocide’ of Meaning

Neil Macdonald, on the other hand, avoids the issue:

Buller, with her serene smile, was explicit at the ceremony: “The significant, persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human and indigenous rights violations and abuses perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state … is the cause of the disappearances, murders, and violence experienced by Indigenous women … and this is genocide.”

I’m not going to argue with that, as some foolish people like former Conservative minister Bernard Valcourt have already loudly done. Quibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.

Source: Opinion: Our casual racism causes Indigenous suffering: Neil MacdonaldQuibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.Opinion |8 hours ago,

Tanya Talaga makes the case in favour, but one that I find less convincing than the arguments against:

Almost four years to the day after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Canada committed a cultural genocide against Indigenous people, the national inquiry into our murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls took it a step further.

They said the death of our women, by the thousands, was simply a genocide.

The echo is not coincidental.

The genocidal process was the same.

In the words of the four-person commission, the epidemic of deaths and disappearances is the direct result of a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered … rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”

As expected, the protests quickly emerged. This is no “genocide,” the critics said. The coast-to-coast-to-coast commission, which interviewed over 2,000 families, survivors and knowledge keepers, exaggerated or got it wrong. Former aboriginal affairs minister Bernard Valcourt, who served under Stephen Harper, started off the bashing with a bang:

“What has been the cost to Canadians for this propagandist report?” he tweeted.

For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say the word “genocide” as he addressed the assembled families, survivors and commissioners.

But those of us who have been on the wrong side of the “persistent and deliberate pattern” know that “genocide” is the right word.

As the ceremony began, it was Chief Commissioner Marion Buller who said the hard truth is that “we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to a genocide.”

Buller, the first appointed First Nations female judge in British Columbia, took a lot of heat when the inquiry began. Members of her team were quitting, families weren’t being properly notified or compensated. Many said her mandate was overly narrow. Yet she weathered it all and fulfilled her highest purpose. She gave voice to the victims.

The inescapable conclusion of all their harrowing and beautiful testimony is that “genocide” is the only word for the state-enabled deaths of thousands of sisters, aunties, grandmothers, cousins and friends.

So why won’t our prime minister say it? What’s he afraid of?

Perhaps he understands that calling the genocide a genocide would acknowledge that his government — and others — are morally culpable for the losses of the thousands of our women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Or maybe it was the legal culpability that worried him; lawyers no doubt advised Trudeau not to say it. The pollsters, too, were probably against it, as we edge towards an election. It isn’t as easy to take a principled stand when votes are potentially at stake.

Whatever his reasons, his omission was telling. But it hardly dampened the power of the day.

“We don’t need to hear the word genocide come out of the prime minister’s mouth because families have told us their truth,” Buller said during the press conference.

The families of the taken, not forgotten women, agree. They don’t need to hear arguments over what constitutes genocide. They know it to be true because they live it.

As the ceremony drew to a close on Monday, Thunder Bay’s Maddy Murray stopped me and asked me to remember Alinda Lahteenmaki, who died in Winnipeg on Jan. 30, 2009 after plunging 11 storeys. She was 23 years old and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

“There is no closure,” she said to me as the drums began to beat the warrior song.

But there can be an end to the violence.

The murders and rapes, the violence against Indigenous women and girls will continue until Canada confronts the genocide and the long-promised new relationship is finally delivered.

This requires that Canada confront the historical disadvantages, intergenerational trauma, and discrimination experienced by Indigenous people, the report explained. And that begins with making significant strides toward substantive equality through changes to our justice system, to policing, to social and health services, to education, to everything Canada prides itself on and holds dear.

To many, these institutions are a symbol of what makes Canada great. But the report makes clear that they are far from perfect. That they are rigged against Canada’s first peoples. That they are tools of colonial violence, of genocide.

That is the conclusion of Buller and her team of commissioners.

It is disappointing that many of our politicians refuse to say the word. It would be far worse — a terrible tragedy — if they continued to be complicit in the act.

Source: Tanya Talaga: Why can’t we use the word genocide 

The more pragmatic takes include Chantal Hébert:

As opposition leader in the lead-up to the last federal election, Justin Trudeau did not waste a single day to commit to implement the 94 recommendations of the truth and reconciliation commission.

He made the promise mere hours after the commission reported on the damage inflicted on Canada’s Indigenous peoples by the residential school system and the way forward.

Almost four years into the Liberals’ current term, Trudeau’s government is still struggling to honour that pledge.

That goes some way to account for the contrast in the reception he gave on Monday to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The prime minister refrained from embracing its 200-plus recommendations, sticking instead to a more general promise to not let the report gather dust.

Most notably, Trudeau steered clear of endorsing the group’s core finding that a planned genocide was the root cause of the violence endured by past and present generations of Indigenous women.

It remains to be seen whether the provocative conclusion that tops the inquiry’s prescriptions will eventually resurface in an official government of Canada statement or in Trudeau’s promised action plan.

Equating the violence Indigenous women have and, in many cases, continue to endure with the interracial mass killings that saw thousands massacred by their compatriots in Rwanda in the late nineties will not come easily to many Canadians or their elected officials.

Indeed, one of the first to reject the equation on Monday was none other than Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led a UN force of peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time of that genocide and who continues to suffer mental anguish from having been powerless to prevent it.

The risk here is that the argument over the use of the term “genocide” steals the show from the reforms the report advocates.

No one — least of all the Indigenous women whose future the inquiry is determined to help make brighter — will be advanced by a fight over what to call an undeniably dismal legacy of discrimination.

As the distinct society debate demonstrated at the time of the Canada/Quebec constitutional wars, words often take on a life of their own, to the detriment of the reconciliation they are meant to advance.

The commission sets ambitious goals and the authors of the report insist their prescriptions are a package deal that has to be accepted as a whole by all levels of governments.

In so doing, they may be programming their report to fail.

One only needs to look at the federation’s difficulty in coming to a common federal-provincial approach to climate change and carbon pricing to know that even with the strongest political will no federal government has it in its power to force the provinces to sing from its hymn book.

The combination of an all-or-nothing approach to the report’s implementation combined with the implication that anyone not on board with its findings is somewhat complicit in a genocide was likely designed to induce a greater sense of public urgency. But it could achieve the opposite.

In the ongoing debate over climate change, increasingly dire predictions about the impact of global warming have as often as not overwhelmed large segments of the target audience. Many simply tuned out.

Every prime minister since Brian Mulroney has either had an Indigenous-related inquiry in progress or had a multi-year commission report on his watch.

It has been 26 years since the Erasmus-Dussault commission handed the federal government of the day a 20-year plan to reset the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous peoples.

That report was the fruit of five year’s work. It was 4,000 pages long and it listed 440 recommendations. Most of them have not been implemented.

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation report — at more than 2,500 pages over six volumes — produced 94 recommendations. (That comparatively modest number is somewhat misleading as more than a few had multiple subsets.) Their implementation is, at best, still a work in progress.

On Monday, the national inquiry recycled many of its predecessors’ recommendations. It expanded the scope of previous prescriptions that have yet to be even partly followed up on.

The 2015 truth and reconciliation report described the residential schools as a feature of a “cultural genocide” and issued “calls for action.”

The national inquiry’s report concludes that the violence against Indigenous women and girls is part of a planned genocide and issues “calls for justice.”

When it comes to achieving reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous peoples, Monday’s report like the others before it makes it clear that Canada still has miles and miles to go.

But when it comes to the federal government tasking commissions of inquiry with drafting road maps, this report should probably mark the end of the road.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2019/06/03/murdered-and-missing-women-report-risks-being-ignored-with-its-all-or-nothing-approach.html

John Ivison in the National Post:

….The MMIWG probe was launched by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government as part of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was a reasonable gesture of reconciliation, charged with symbolism, in the face of truly appalling statistics of violence against Indigenous women. The RCMP has said they made up 16 per cent of all female homicides between 1980 and 2012, despite comprising just 4 per cent of the population.

Victimization rates are not only triple those of non-Indigenous women, they are double those of Indigenous males.

While Indigenous identity does not explain the high victimization rate among native men — analysts suggest the increased presence of other risk factors such as homelessness, drug use or poor mental health are more responsible — Indigenous women are the country’s most vulnerable citizens simply by virtue of being Indigenous and female.

As Trudeau said, this is “not a relic of our past.”

No parent could read Bernice C.’s testimony and not be moved — certainly not this parent.

But the report’s release seems set to stoke division rather than engender good will.

It could have offered a focused blueprint on how to improve the safety of Indigenous women; instead the inquiry commissioners have produced a sprawling report that demands transformational change in all corners of Canadian society.

Despite Trudeau’s assurances that the document will not end up gathering dust, it appears destined to join the growing bibliotheca of mothballed Indigenous reports.

For that, the commissioners have themselves to blame.

They were asked to investigate violence against Indigenous women and to recommend concrete actions to increase their safety.

They chose to make the broadest possible interpretation of that mandate, rather than limit it to the specific issue of murdered and missing women.

The report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates

Their conclusion is that the disproportionate rate of violence against Indigenous women is a direct consequence of hundreds of years of colonialism and discrimination that constitutes a “genocide.”

If it is a genocide, it is not one recognized by retired Lt.-General Romeo Dallaire — and he should know, having seen the real thing up close while commanding the UN mission in Rwanda in 1994. He said Monday that for him, genocide is the deliberate act of killing people of a certain ethnicity.

But the commissioners chose instead to use the interpretation of Polish-Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin, who deemed that genocide is a co-ordinated plan to destroy the foundations of a national group with the aim of annihilating the group.

Systemic racism, sexism and colonialism has produced “institutional violence,” perpetuated by institutions such as the military, the church, the educational system, the health system, the police, emergency responders and the justice system, the report asserted.

The commissioners called on everyday Canadians to help “decolonization” by becoming strong allies. But even right-thinking people who are appalled by the victimization statistics are likely to recoil at the charge they are complicit in genocide. Canada has added three million new citizens in the past decade. Are newly-arrived Canadians going to feel remorse for a colonial past for which they bear no responsibility? To ask the question is to answer it.

While focusing on “institutional violence,” the report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates that are significantly higher than those for non-Indigenous Canadians.

The inquiry’s time would have been better spent detailing the report’s principle recommendation — the creation of a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women. It calls for equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care but offers few specifics.

In his sober response Monday, Trudeau said his government will develop a national plan to augment its efforts on housing, boil water advisories, education and indigenous languages.

He called the report’s release “an essential day in the history of this country” — but, noticeably, he made no mention of genocide.

Many of the report’s “calls for justice” from government are sensible; others are unworkable.

In the former category, the production of an annual report of ongoing action; the creation of an Indigenous rights ombudsman; the delivery of violence prevention programs; and improved access to major crime units in the north appear to be good ideas.

Among the less pragmatic recommendations are the suggestion to re-open the Constitution to bring it into conformity with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People; and, the creation of a guaranteed annual liveable income.

Some are borderline satirical — such as the recommendation calling for the promotion of Indigenous women to leadership positions (this government has tried that, with unfortunate consequence).

Others are set to get a frosty reception from the Liberals — for example, the suggestion that in murder cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse, a harsher sentence is awarded. Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett has already said she has heard a negative response to the idea because it removes the discretion of judges in similar fashion to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Most of the recommendations can be debated by reasonable people as part of a public policy discussion.

What is regrettable is the uncompromising claim by chief commissioner Marion Buller that all Canadians, except the country’s Indigenous inhabitants, are party to a “deliberate, race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

The final report offered the chance for closure and for families to put their pain behind them. The world is full of weeping but it does not go backward.

Yet, rather than a new dawn, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians could come together to condemn an unacceptable past and commit to build a better future, the opportunity has been eclipsed. Instead, we have the indictment that the bulk of the citizenry is engaged in annihilating its Indigenous minority.

That is not going to help the healing to begin.

Source: John Ivison: MMIW report is devastating, but its uncompromising nature may limit its impact

Lastly, a thoughtful exploration of the issue by:

Il est temps, peut-on lire dans une explication juridique publiée en marge de l’Enquête nationale sur les femmes et les filles autochtones disparues et assassinées, « de regarder la réalité en face : les politiques, actions et inactions coloniales passées et actuelles du Canada à l’égard des peuples autochtones constituent un génocide, lequel, conformément au droit liant le Canada, exige l’imputabilité ». L’Enquête affirme que « les structures et les politiques coloniales persistent aujourd’hui au Canada et qu’elles constituent l’une des causes profondes de la violence ».

Pour certains critiques, cette vision plus large des causes du drame qui touche les femmes décentre la portée du rapport qui leur est consacré en le propulsant dans un procès qui concerne toute l’histoire coloniale du pays. De fait, l’usage même du terme « génocide » est remis en cause.

Mais de l’avis même du rapport, l’Enquête nationale « ne prétend pas démontrer pleinement tous les éléments de la politique génocidaire », faute d’avoir entendu « l’ensemble de la preuve ». Mais elle penche néanmoins de ce côté, au point de ne pas se refuser un usage abondant du terme, tout en répétant que « la détermination formelle de la responsabilité pour génocide doit être déterminée par des organes judiciaires ».

Un abus de langage ?

Est-ce donc un abus de langage ou encore le fait d’une inflation verbale que d’user ainsi du terme « génocide » ?

Oui, dit l’ancien militaire Roméo Dallaire. À l’occasion d’un colloque organisé lundi par l’Institut d’études sur le génocide et les droits humains à l’Université Concordia, l’ancien commandant de la Mission des Nations unies au Rwanda a dénoncé cet usage du mot génocide. À son sens, la condition des femmes autochtones ne tient pas à l’effet d’un génocide, puisqu’il n’y a pas eu de volonté formelle de détruire un groupe humain au nom de leur caractère ethnique. L’ancien militaire n’en dénonce pas moins la condition faite aux Autochtones au Canada.

Sa définition, fondée sur une idée de la destruction physique d’un peuple, est partagée par l’historienne Deborah Lipstadt, professeure en études juives à l’Université Emory. Sans vouloir se prononcer sur la condition historique des Autochtones du Canada, mais tout en étant au fait de leur réalité, l’historienne affirme au Devoirqu’« il doit y avoir une volonté de destruction intentionnelle, une volonté d’éradiquer » pour parler de génocide. « Il faut consulter les documents, écouter les peuples concernés, analyser les décisions gouvernementales ». Le génocide, dit-elle, conduit à une destruction physique ou, à tout le moins, à une tentative de destruction.

Pour l’historien Pierre Anctil de l’Université d’Ottawa, spécialiste de l’histoire juive, l’usage du mot « génocide » en ce cas est étonnant. « Un crime contre un peuple est annoncé et planifié ». Il ne saurait être « le fait d’une série de gestes individuels, qui ne sont pas coordonnés. Je ne pense pas que ça corresponde aux sévices subis par les femmes autochtones. Je ne crois pas que ce soit concerté. Mais c’est par ailleurs une tendance de parler de génocide culturel. Dans ce cas, on rend difficile, voire impossible, la perpétuation d’une culture. Ce peut être une autre forme de génocide ».

Les mésusages

Dans Génocides, usages et mésusages d’un concept(CNRS éditions), un livre qui vient de paraître, l’historien des idées Bernard Bruneteau met en garde contre l’utilisation du terme dans une spirale inflationniste. Cette escalade rhétorique s’inscrit désormais « dans le registre émotionnel et le désir de souffrir par comparaison ».

Il existe des cas de génocides, selon la définition de 1948 des Nations unies, qui sont consacrés par l’alignement de la mémoire du groupe victime, de l’histoire scientifique de l’événement et du droit : le génocide des juifs européens (1941?1945), des Tutsis du Rwanda (1994), des musulmans bosniaques de Srebrenica (juillet 1995), des Khmers rouges à l’encontre des minorités Chams et vietnamiennes (1975?1979). Il existe aussi d’autres cas « en attente de pleine reconnaissance et à ce titre parfois contestés ou relativisés », dit l’historien Bruneteau. Par exemple, l’Arménie (1915?1916), l’Ukraine (1932?1933) ou le Cambodge (1975?1979).

Mais on trouve aussi désormais des cas où « le droit et l’histoire sont en retrait d’une mémoire sociale souvent militante qui entend sensibiliser le monde à la réalité d’un préjudice passé ». Des demandes de reconnaissance pourront sur cette base se multiplier, dit-il, par une extension de l’idée de génocide, « notamment chez les descendants des peuples indigènes victimes de la destruction de leur environnement (aborigènes d’Australie, Maya Achis du Guatemala, Yanomanis d’Amazonie, Achés du Paraguay…), chez les porte-parole autoproclamés des minorités ethniques opprimées aux quatre coins de la planète et chez les descendants de tous les groupes se percevant comme victimes de l’histoire ». En d’autres termes se profile un divorce entre la définition juridique du génocide et la réalité qu’elle est censée résumer, affirme Bernard Bruneteau.

Source: Inflation verbale ou définition élargie?

Australia: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Can’t resist following this absurd argumentation by the Australian government:

The federal government’s attempts to deport two Indigenous men have gone before the high court, examining what lawyers for the two men have said are “absurd” circumstances.

The two men in the separate cases, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, were both born overseas to at least one parent who is Indigenous and holds Australian citizenship. They both have Indigenous children, and Thoms is a native title holder.

However, neither formally applied for Australia citizenship and, after being convicted of “serious” crimes and given jail sentences of 12 months or more, both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial character test provisions.

The law firm Maurice Blackburn is now asking the high court to determine if an Aboriginal Australian in the men’s circumstances is an “alien” for the purposes of the constitution.

It is the first time the court has been asked to rule on the commonwealth’s use of its alien powers in this way, and the lawyers now representing the two men argue the term must be defined by the court, not parliament.

“Historically we are a nation of immigrants and our ancestors come from other places, except for Aboriginal Australians,” said Claire Gibbs, senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, who is acting for the two men, before the hearing. “The importance and significance of that should be reflected in the common law.”

Love and Thoms are not the only Indigenous people who have faced deportation under the character test provisions. Guardian Australia has previously reported on the case of Tim Galvin, and it is believed there are a number of others.

Love was born in Papua New Guineain 1979 to a PNG citizen mother and Australian citizen father, and automatically acquired PNG citizenship.

The family travelled back and forth until they settled permanently in Australia when Love was five and he was given a permanent residency visa. Love is a recognised Kamilaroi man.

Thoms was born in New Zealand in 1988 to an Australian citizen mother and New Zealand citizen father. He automatically acquired New Zealand citizenship at birth, and was entitled to apply for Australian citizenship, but never did.

He has lived permanently in Australia since November 1994 under a special category visa. Thoms is a recognised Gunggari man, and a native title holder under common law.

In 2018 both men were separately convicted of crimes and sentenced to 12 and 18 months respectively. Both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial section 501 of the migration act, relating to character, and were taken to immigration detention.

Gibbs said being put in immigration detention had taken a devastating toll on her clients’ mental health. Gibbs said bringing the case before the court was not seeking to interfere with the government’s power to deport people who were “genuinely non-Australian”.

“What we think is wrong is the government using the power to detain and deport people who, on any commonsense measure, are Australians, like my clients.”

Love was given his visa back under ministerial discretion but Thoms remains in immigration detention after more than seven months.

Gibbs welcomed the return of Love’s visa but said there there were clearly “inconsistencies” between the two cases and that was why the high court needed to determine if the government was using the power lawfully.

In submissions to the court, the men’s lawyers argued that Indigenous people “cannot be alien to Australia” and were “beyond the reach” of that constitutional power.

Indigenous people are known to have inhabited Australia for as much as 80,000 years and are “a permanent part of the Australian community”, they said, and the two men “do not, and have never, owed allegiance to a foreign sovereign power”.

“The statutory definition of citizen is distinct from, and does not control, the constitutional definition of alien and, therefore, that the plaintiffs are not Australian citizens pursuant to Australian citizenship legislation does not automatically mean that they are aliens.”

In defence, the Australian government submitted that whether the men were Indigenous or native title holders was “irrelevant” to the question of their alien status.

“Acceptance of the proposition that Aboriginal people, as a class, were not and are not ‘aliens’ does not entail the proposition that any particular Aboriginal person is not an ‘alien’,” the government’s submission said.

It said certain principles, which were “fatal” to the plaintiffs’ case, “ought now to be regarded as settled”. They said it was an agreed fact that neither plaintiff was a citizen, and “non-citizen” was the same as “alien”.

Numerous cases supported these findings, the submission said, and the plaintiffs had not sought to reopen those cases.

Legal arguments began on Wednesday, with the government citing the high court’s section 44 ruling on MPs, and the men’s lawyers citing significant cases including the Mabo decision, and the high court ruling on Amos Ame, a Papua-born man who was an Australian citizen by birth but who could be treated as an alien.

The government’s push to deport an increasing number of people under the character test provisions has raised numerous complications, including for Indigenous people and those born in PNG before its independence in 1975.

A complex web of citizenship laws and successive changes to them in both PNG and Australia has threatened to leave some people stateless, as both countries assumed people had citizenship of the other and revoked their own, but failed to properly communicate it to individuals.

Source: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Australia High Court to Decide if Aboriginals Without Citizenship Can Be Deported

Odd case for the Australian government to be defending:

Australia, a country taken over by white colonizers after the Black indigenous population had lived there for 65,000 years, will now determine if Aboriginal people without Australian citizenship are aliens who are subject to deportation.

There is a case before the High Court of Australia that will establish whether an indigenous person can be considered an alien under the nation’s constitution. Two men, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, have filed a lawsuit in which the court will determine whether an Aboriginal Australian with at least one Australian parent — one who was born in another country, came to Australia as a young child and has only left the country briefly — and is not an Australian citizen is an alien under section 51 (xix) of the Australian Constitution. That section allows the Parliament to enact laws concerning “naturalization and aliens.”

The answer the plaintiffs have gotten is no. “For descendants of Australia’s first peoples, an indelible part of the Australian community, to be ‘aliens’ for the purposes of Australia’s Constitution, is antithetical to their indigeneity and to the social, democratic and political values which underpin and are protected by the Constitution The concept of Aboriginality is inconsistent with the concept of alienage,” the men say in their filing with the court.

Under a 2014 federal immigration law, known as a “bad character” law, deportation is mandated for people living in Australia with visas who are sentenced to at least 12 months of imprisonment. The Australian government wants to make their immigration laws even more draconian by broadening the government’s power to revoke visas of people with criminal records. The policy has increased the deportation of people who have lived in Australia most of their lives to countries such as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea or other islands in the Pacific, even when those people have no ties to the country to which they are returned. One third of the 1,300 people in immigration detention are there based on bad character, and in New Zealand, where the Australian deportation plan has been criticized, 600 people were returned in 2017.

Daniel Love, 39, is a member of the Kamilaroi people who was born in Papua New Guinea to an Aboriginal Australian father and a Papua New Guinean mother. Love is also a common law holder of native title —traditional land rights claimed by Aboriginal Australian people under the original ownership of the land.  He has been a permanent resident of Australia since the age of 6, but his parents did not complete the necessary paperwork to obtain his Australian citizenship.  Last year, Love was sentenced to 12 months in prison on an assault charge. The government canceled his visa and Love was placed in immigration detention. After spending seven weeks in detention, Love was released and the government revoked the cancellation of his visa.

Love sued the government for AU$200,000 (US$142,920) in compensation for false imprisonment, claiming the government illegally detained him and that he has suffered loss of appetite, sleep deprivation and anxiety. He was unable to see his five children, all of whom are Australian citizens, and feared for his safety with the prospect of being sent to a country with which he has no family connections.

Similarly, Brendan Thoms, 31, is a Gunggari man born in New Zealand to an Aboriginal Australian mother and a New Zealander father. Thoms was entitled to Australian citizenship by birth but has not acquired it, and has lived in Australia since the age of 6. He was sentenced to imprisonment of 18 months for assault causing bodily harm, and his visa was canceled because he was deemed an “unlawful non-citizen.” Thoms, who has one Australian child, remains in detention.

In its own court filings, the Commonwealth of Australia claims that whether Love or Thoms is an Aboriginal person or is a common law holder of native title is irrelevant in determining if they are aliens. Rather, the government argues that what is important is the men are not citizens and they owe allegiance to a foreign country, and that having an Australian parent or deep ties to the country is irrelevant. “Accordingly, as persons who are not Australian citizens, the Plaintiffs are, and always have been, aliens,” the government argues, adding “it was recognised that the effect of Australia’s emergence as a fully independent sovereign nation with its own distinct citizenship … that the word ‘alien’ in s 5 l(xix) of the Constitution had become synonymous with ‘non-citizen’.”

The state also claims that “Aboriginality does not prevent a person from being an alien,” particularly when that person is a citizen of a foreign country. The citizens of Papua New Guinea, the commonwealth claims, may have traditional and cultural associations with the Torres Strait Islands of Australia — which lie between Papua New Guinea and Australia — yet they are still regarded as aliens.

This case comes in a country that granted citizenship to indigenous people only relatively recently, with a 1967 referendum to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national census for the first time. Prior to that time, Black people were rendered invisible and treated like animals, supposedly “discovered” by the British in 1788, although they had lived on the land for millennia. Now there is cruel irony in the fact that indigenous Black people would be regarded as aliens on land stolen from them.

Source: Australia High Court to Decide if Aboriginals Without Citizenship Can Be Deported

Chris Selley: Here’s why Justin Trudeau’s identity-politics troubles were inevitable

Identity politics is practiced by all political parties, the variation lies more with respect to which identities they are trying to court compared to others.

That being said, Selley notes correctly some of the risks.

And it is amazing the extent to which the PM appears to have destroyed whatever remained of his brand over the past week: “sunny ways,” transparent government, gender equality and Indigenous reconciliation:

One assumes Jody Wilson-Raybould would prefer still to be Canada’s Minister of Justice. But there are certainly worse ways to go out. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau squirms before the cameras, mooting unsatisfying explanation after unsatisfying explanation as to just what transpired between his office and Wilson-Raybould in the matter of the SNC Lavalin prosecution, she’s practically soaked to the bone with praise.

There are serious questions as to how Wilson-Raybould could have stayed on in cabinet, or indeed not resigned as soon as the bad thing happened — whatever it was, assuming it happened. But when she finally threw in the towel on Tuesday, even NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh lauded her record: “Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous woman AG of Canada, fulfilled her duties with courage and conviction,” he tweeted. “She spoke truth to power and in return she was fired by PM Trudeau.”

One notes Singh praised her record as Attorney-General, not as Justice Minister. Had Wilson-Raybould been shuffled to another relatively high-profile portfolio instead of being kicked down the stairs, the dominant narrative might have concerned what a terribly disappointing Justice Minister she was: Among many other complaints are the insane, likely unconstitutional impaired driving law and inaction on mandatory minimum sentences and victim surcharges, each of which is likely to disproportionately affect Indigenous and other visible minority Canadians; and of course, the continued wildly disproportionate number of Indigenous defendants and prisoners.

Indeed, Wilson-Raybould had plenty of Indigenous critics when she was in office. Now the dominant narrative is that her firing represents a major repudiation of Trudeau’s reconciliation agenda. It’s more than passing strange, but that’s the politics we have right now: Anywhere centre or left of centre, one’s identity and background count massively in or against your favour. That being the case, the Liberals’ current travails seem almost inevitable.

Trudeau’s first cabinet featured some very impressive resumes from a wide variety of people — but it was “because it’s 2015” that knocked half of Canada down in a swoon. From Day One, there were obvious questions: Why no black cabinet ministers? Why so many Sikhs? Why privilege one kind of proportional representation above another? Liberals waved such complaints away like mosquitoes: Can’t you people just enjoy a landmark achievement from a government that means well?

Well, no. Love identity politics or hate it, that’s not how it works. Eventually it was bound to fall apart. We’re seeing it right now.

At his Tuesday press conference, Trudeau repeatedly referred to Wilson-Raybould as “Jody” and Harjit Sajjan, who takes over from her at Veterans Affairs, as “Minsiter Sajjan.” To some, this smacked at worst deliberate sexism, at best of accidental sexism. To many others, this parsing will seem like a petty reach. (He couldn’t very well call her “Minister Wilson-Raybould,” could he?) But Trudeau can hardly complain. His party banged on forever about how disrespectful it was for the Conservatives to call him Justin.

When an MP or minister (or ex-MP or ex-minister) causes a political leader trouble, what does he do? Same thing an NHL GM does to justify a lousy trade: He has a friendly reporter explain what a nuisance that person was in the locker room. So we have heard various anonymous reports about Wilson-Raybould’s pugnacious, difficult and self-centred performance in cabinet. It’s standard operating procedure — but it’s also anonymously slagging off an Indigenous woman. That doesn’t fly in 2019.

At this point, the Wilson-Raybould demotion looks like a spectacular unforced error. But it would have taken a very, very different kind of politician to have avoided forever the trouble in which Trudeau now finds himself. Trudeau is not a very different kind of politician, and his staffers are not very different kinds of staffers. Several, including principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford, cut their teeth in the office of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty — another supposed breath of fresh air that went rapidly stale and eventually left everyone at Queen’s Park gagging in a green haze of egg fart. McGuinty’s former deputy chief of staff just got out of jail.

The Trudeau gang does seem to truly believe in their own inherent virtue — that when they call up The Canadian Press to slag off a former cabmin, it’s literally not the same thing as when a Conservative staffer does it. They still seem utterly transfixed by the power of symbolism over action. But that doesn’t help any real people who need real help. Setting aside their words and their symbolic gestures, their actions have been little but conventional.

It’s a great disappointment to many — perhaps not least some of Trudeau’s own cabinet ministers. Several have expressed support and praise for Wilson-Raybould’s works since her resignation. Treasury Board President Jane Philpott even posted a photo of the two together.

It would be easy to read too much into that. But it raises the intriguing prospect that some of Trudeau’s MPs might be truer believers in his agenda than he is. These people were promised “government by cabinet,” after all. If they decide to insist on it, even more interesting days may lie ahead.

Source: Chris Selley: Here’s why Justin Trudeau’s identity-politics troubles were inevitable