Douglas Todd: Renowned sculptor touts ‘shock’ rebuttal to, not destruction of, historical statues

Yet another piece on sculptures and monuments of historical figures, with a similar sensible take to Tom McMahon’s Enough with John A. Macdonald. Where Are the Indigenous Monuments?:

Since he sees himself as a creator rather than a destroyer, one of Canada’s most renowned sculptors says his heart is broken almost every time another supposedly permanent public statue is vandalized, beheaded or toppled.

Timothy Schmalz, whose large figurative pieces are on display from Rome to Vancouver, has an alternative idea, which he says might shock.

Schmalz is putting the final touches now on Monument of Oppression in his massive studio in St. Jacob’s, Ont., where he’s also created life-sized statues dedicated to women workers, asylum seekers, veterans, homeless people, miners, Samuel de Champlain and Indigenous and African visionaries, not to mention his musical icon, Gordon Lightfoot.
Detail from Timothy Schwarz’s bronze monument to migrants and asylum seekers, installed last year in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. (Handout)

The Monument of Oppression is made up of two hands stretching up from what looks like a prison cell in the ground. “It’s almost like the figures from the past are coming back and reaching out — and the oppressed are having visibility, and it’s a haunting visibility.”

Instead of demonstrators beheading a statue of Macdonald in Montreal in August, or Victoria City council surreptitiously removing another statue of him in 2018, Schmalz asks us to imagine erecting the Monument of Oppression adjacent to a likeness of Canada’s first prime minister, “with the hands going through the bars and reaching toward the statue.”

That, Schmalz suggests, is a more productive way of dealing with the multi-edged legacy of Macdonald, a dynamic Scotsman who both created the vision for the nation of Canada but also supported establishing residential schools dedicated in part to “Christianizing” Indigenous people.

Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer associated with the “founding” of North and South America, also has a disputed history, which has led activists to recently haul down his statues.

Similar removals and debates have arisen over 19th–century B.C. Chief Justice Matthew Begbie, who had to sentence to death five Indigenous men that a jury had found guilty of murder, but who also learned Indigenous dialects, defended Chinese labourers and had strong friendships with many chiefs.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying some Europeans weren’t brutal, say, 100 years ago and further back,” Schmalz said.

“Some early British settlers came to Canada and had this idea they had the real culture and the superior morality. It was actually called the White Man’s Burden. They looked around at the natives and thought, ‘Oh, we’ll make them good British subjects.’ You can acknowledge the settlers’ error and insensitivity.”

But the sculptor says our diverse society should not deal with the inevitable messiness of history by defacing or smashing, in 15 minutes, works of craftsmanship that skilled artists took years to complete.

“You can’t destroy the whole idea of history. Instead of removing it, you have to face it and learn from it. It’s very dangerous to condemn people from 100 and 200 years ago with the morality of today, which is evolving. By doing so you’re saying that our cultural past is absolutely evil. But that’s historically inaccurate and simply untrue.”

Schmalz emphasizes the value of having figurative public statues over more abstract ones, whose meanings are usually vague. He’s created a powerful series called The Homeless Jesus, depicting a shrouded figure sleeping on a bench, one of which is in Vancouver. And he’s currently sculpting a stunning piece, as big as a truck, dedicated to the victims of human trafficking.

Schmalz hopes the piece will serve as a commentary on how slavery, via human trafficking, continues today. Yet somehow, he laments, the modern-day travesty of forced labour, including for sex, is often ignored, unlike slavery of the past.

“I can’t think of one single nation of the world that did not practise slavery, including among Indigenous people. It was a universal thing.” If every historic statue that had some link to past slavery was destroyed, he said, we’d have to eliminate most of the monuments of Rome.

“Should we destroy the Colosseum because it was built by slave labour? We don’t want to just go around the world and destroy. Simply because someone might be sensitive or offended, you can’t edit out our whole history. You have to learn from it.”

Schmalz has worked for three decades as a sculptor, typically 14 hours a day. In addition to standing up for the craftsmanship of artists who creating public monuments, he worries that people who just want to tear them down are revealing their arrogance.

“You are assuming, if you were in that place in that specific time, that you would do something different.”

But, at age 50, he knows most people are simply creatures of their era, conforming to whatever happens to be the unexamined moral beliefs, good, bad and indifferent, of the dominant culture.

That’s why Schmalz reacts when people become devoted to censoring figures of the past. He thinks it’s healthier to focus on the future, and what he calls “finding the truth within specific cultures and philosophies.”

His life-sized piece portraying victims of human trafficking gets us responding to problems in the here and now. And Monument of Oppression forces us to think about how things that many celebrated have caused damage to others.

Destroying symbols from history is easy. But truth-finding, he knows, requires facing up to the moral complexity of the real world.

Source: Douglas Todd: Renowned sculptor touts ‘shock’ rebuttal to, not destruction of, historical statues

Racism against Indigenous groups, immigration at issue as Chile debates new constitution

Of interest as a adopts to increased immigration and comes to terms with its history with Indigenous peoples:

With an era-defining vote for a new constitution fast approaching, issues related to racial diversity have led to outbreaks of violence and political strikes up and down Chile.

Like other parts of Latin America, Chile has grappled with racism against its Indigenous groups, but political events in other countries, such as Venezuela and Haiti, have added to a recent surge in immigration, heightening debates around ethnicity.

An increasingly diverse Chile is posing challenges to the current 1980 constitution, penned during the 1973-90 military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which treats all residents as simply “Chilean.” Conservatives argue that that includes Indigenous people, while opponents say it ignores Chile’s history of genocide against them.

An indigenous Mapuche leader, Celestino Córdova, ended a 107-day hunger strike last month over what he and fellow prison inmates saw as inadequate handling of their requests to serve sentences at home as COVID-19 threatened prisons — while many non-Mapuche prisoners were allowed to do so. Córdova’s strike was joined by 26 other Mapuche prisoners, many of who remain on strike. The U.N. sent a fact-finding team to investigate, and some protests broke out over the treatment of the Mapuche prisoners.

Some Mapuche groups showed solidarity with the prisoners, occupying municipal buildings, including one in the river-fringed town of Curacautín in the southern Araucanía region, which is home to most of the 2 million Mapuche people and is center stage in a centuries-long land dispute. The Mapuches claim ancestral rights over large territories in Araucanía.

When the national police forcibly evicted the occupiers, they were joined by a mob of townspeople breaking a coronavirus curfew, brandishing weapons and attacking Mapuche vehicles as they shouted racist slurs, which was captured on social media.

A spate of arson attacks erupted in Araucanía targeting private trucks traveling up and down the Pan-American Highway, Chile’s main thoroughfare for freight. Such incidents are commonly associated with the conflict between the state and the Indigenous group. The last major string of arson attacks occurred after police in 2018 killed a young unarmed Mapuche farmer, Camilo Catrillanca, in 2018, with an attempted cover-up sparking lasting outrage.

Last month, a 9-year-old girl needed surgery after she was seriously injured by a bullet when her father’s truck cabin was ambushed and set ablaze. Several truckers began a weeklong strike, which ended Sept. 2, to demand more protection from the attacks. Scores of colorful trucks with beaming headlights formed full and partial barricades up and down the Pan-American Highway and on a key road between the capital, Santiago, and its coastal port Valparaíso, over 400 miles north of Araucanía.

A new constitution and a multicultural Chile

Chilean voters will go to the polls Oct. 25 to decide whether they want a new constitution and, if so, which of two methods should be used to write it. Changes would be voted on in a second referendum expected in 2022.

Many see the plebiscite as a way to create fairer conditions for Chile’s native people, as well as the rising number of immigrants, two wider groups who together make up almost 20 percent of the population.

“We are in a huge transformation as a society in Chile,” said Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina and Chile’s Diego Portales University.

“The recent protests have brought about the combination of several movements, like the feminist movement to promote sexual diversity, and movements around ethnicity, all of who symbolically use the flags of the Indigenous groups during protests because they are seen as the worst affected and most discriminated,” Fuentes said. “A new constitution could change the way that Chile treats its minorities.”

Fuentes said Chile might become a plurinational country that recognizes the distinct nationality of its native people in its constitution, like New Zealand or Norway.

“Some are opposed to this, whereas others want a constitution with a broader recognition of its multicultural society, which is more inclusive of those who don’t necessarily identify as Chilean,” he said.

But with its historical roots, it could be hard for Chile to accept diversity, Fuentes said.

“Chile was built upon discriminatory values that saw Indigenous people and other ethnicities, like darker-skinned people from Peru or Bolivia, who Chile warred with during its formation, as second-class citizens, while the elite, with their European heritage from Spain, are seen as first class,” he said.

A dramatic increase in immigration

Immigration has increased massively in Chile, from just 1.8 percent of the population in 2010 to 7.8 percent, with about 1.5 million immigrants in the country, according to a 2019 estimate by the Jesuit Migrant Service.

Venezuelans make up almost a third (31 percent) of the immigrant population, and Peruvians are 13 percent. Chile has the largest number of Haitian immigrants outside the U.S.

The influx of mostly Black Haitians since 2014 has made immigration more visible, and coalition parties touted anti-immigration policies for the first time in recent history during the 2017 presidential elections. In August, #masinmigrantesmascesantia — which translates as “more immigrants more unemployment” — trended on Twitter.

“Since 2018, we have seen immigrants being used as scapegoats for unemployment, risks to the health system, housing and urban problems, low wages, unpredictability in the labor market and even COVID-19, which in Chile has obviously been caused by our insertion in global dynamics and the travel to Europe and the U.S.,” said Luis Thayer, a social scientist at Silva Henríquez Catholic University in Santiago.

It’s a dangerous trend for Chile, said Thayer, and an issue that should be tackled in a new constitutiion.

“As long as governments continue to promote nationalism in their responses to the recent crises we are seeing globally and in Chile, they are risking an extinction of our societies and the frameworks that support them,” Thayer said. “This referendum gives us a chance to redress this, at least in this country. We haven’t had a better chance to do so.”

Source: Racism against Indigenous groups, immigration at issue as Chile debates new constitution

Black, Native American, and Fighting for Recognition in Indian Country

Of interest:

Ron Graham never had to prove to anyone that he was Black. But he has spent more than 30 years haunting tribal offices and genealogical archives, fighting for recognition that he is also a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“We’re African-American,” Mr. Graham, 55, said. “But we’re Native American also.”

His family history is part of a little-known saga of bondage, blood and belonging within tribal nations, one that stretches from the Trail of Tears to this summer of uprisings in America’s streets over racial injustice.

His ancestors are known as Creek Freedmen. They were among the thousands of African-Americans who were once enslaved by tribal members in the South and who migrated to Oklahoma when the tribes were forced off their homelands and marched west in the 1830s.

In treaties signed after the Civil War, they won freedom and were promised tribal citizenship and an equal stake in the tribes’ lands and fortunes. But what followed were broken promises, exclusions and painful fights over whether tens of thousands of their descendants should now be recognized as tribal members.

Some of the descendants have won lawsuits seeking inclusion in the Cherokee Nation. Some gained nominal citizenship as Seminoles, but said they could not access tribal services. Others, like Mr. Graham, have nothing.

But now, a landmark Supreme Court decision for tribal sovereignty has breathed new life into their fight.

In July, the Supreme Court recognized a huge portion of eastern Oklahoma as reservation land under the terms of an 1866 treaty. The same treaty also guaranteed that freed slaves and their descendants would “have and enjoy all the rights and privileges of native citizens.”

To groups of their descendants, the logic was simple: If the United States still had to honor treaty promises it made to tribal nations, then tribal nations had to keep their word to the descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes.

“We’re making noise,” said Marilyn Vann, a Cherokee citizen and president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Ms. Vann estimated that there was a diaspora of some 160,000 descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes, many of them living in Oklahoma. There are groups representing descendants from each of the five tribes who meet to share sepia photographs of ancestors, compare genealogical records and plan protests.

Ms. Vann added: “There are chiefs who’d like to get rid of what they think of as the Freedmen problem. We have our rights.”

Now, as they file lawsuits in federal and tribal courts, they say they are fighting for tribal benefits including access to jobs, health care at tribal clinics and hospitals, housing, scholarship funds for their children and the right to vote in tribal elections. But also for something more fundamental: “My identity,” Mr. Graham said.

In a statement, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation said that the issue of the status of the descendants of enslaved people raised thorny questions about tribal citizenship that “cut to the core of self-determination.” They said the tribes had fundamental rights to run their own governments and decide for themselves who qualifies as a citizen. Some said that a reconciliation commission would be a better way to resolve the issue, rather than an edict from Congress.

“Many of our citizens feel that identity is at the heart of this issue and that blood lineage is essential to protecting it,” the Muscogee Nation said. “But, on the other hand, the grave injustice done to the slaves owned by some Creeks has to be acknowledged and discussed.”

The fight is unfolding as Oklahoma grapples with another bloody chapter of its history: A white mob’s massacre and destruction of a thriving Black neighborhood in Tulsa in 1921. Many of the Tulsa victims were descendants of people formerly enslaved by the tribes, activists say. This summer, crews excavated a suspected mass burial site searching for remains, and survivors and descendants of the victims recently sued the city.

The legacy of anti-Black racism in tribal nations can be a fraught, uncomfortable topic, one that forces communities who have suffered centuries of land theft, colonialism and genocide to confront the darker corners of their own past. Several tribal officials declined interview requests to discuss the issue.

“When we have that difficult history to deal with, we don’t talk about it,” said Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation. About 7,000 descendants of Freedmen were incorporated into the Cherokee Nation after a federal judge ruled in 2017 that they had tribal citizenship rights. That history is “a stain on the Cherokee Nation we’ve got to remove,” the chief said.

Spanish and English colonizers enslaved Native people across the Americas. But tribes in Alabama, Georgia and Florida also adopted the practice themselves, enslaving African-Americans to work on cotton plantations and in homes. When the United States government forcibly removed the Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Muscogee people to Oklahoma, their slaves also made the deadly march or were transported west in boats, according to historians.

The Civil War and the question of slavery divided tribes, with some fighting for the Union and other tribal members declaring loyalty to the Confederacy. Some enslavers retreated to Arkansas or Texas to escape skirmishes and raids. Black Indians joined the Union or Confederate armies, and later escaped to freedom in Kansas.

“It’s a history that still divides our citizens over what rights the descendants of those Freedmen should have, as well as the larger conversation concerning who is ‘legitimately’ Cherokee,” Rebecca Nagle, a Cherokee writer and host of the podcast “This Land,” wrote this summer after the Cherokee Nation removed two Confederate war memorials in eastern Oklahoma. “We need to do more to confront that history within our tribe.”

The Freedmen were granted tribal citizenship — and in some cases “an equal interest in the soil and national funds” of the tribe — in the treaties that Oklahoma’s tribes signed with the federal government after the Civil War, in which the tribes were forced to cede huge portions of their land to the government.

On the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, there were once three “colored” tribal towns that formed their own small governments. Despite segregation and racist legal structures, Freedmen served as council members, ministers, judges. Jesse Franklin, who was born a slave in Alabama in 1817, was named to the Creek Supreme Court in 1874 — some 93 years before Thurgood Marshall ascended to the United States Supreme Court.

But their descendants say they were edited out of existence over the past half-century by tribal constitutions and other laws denying them citizenship because they were not citizens by blood, or because they or their ancestors had been placed on a roster of ineligible people when government agents began sorting Oklahoma’s tribes into “citizens” and “Freedmen” in the 1890s.

Sharon Lenzy Scott said her mother was stripped of her Creek citizenship when a new constitution was passed in 1979, and spent the next 20 years until her death trying to ensure that her family never forgot.

“She called all her children into the living room and said, ‘I’m going to tell you who you are, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not,” Ms. Scott said. “She knew who she was.”

The N.A.A.C.P. has weighed in to support the descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes, and some members of Congress have proposed legislation that would sever ties between the United States and the Creek Nation, or withhold housing money from other tribes, until the descendants are granted tribal citizenship.

But to some tribal leaders, those threats undermine tribal sovereignty.

Gary Batton, the chief of the Choctaw Nation, wrote in a June letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that he objected to any legislative maneuvering, and said the “Freedmen issue is a problem caused by the United States, not the Choctaw Nation.”

“America should solve its own problems,” Chief Batton wrote.

Still, the descendants’ cause has supporters among tribal members. Eli Grayson, a Muscogee (Creek) citizen whose family once owned slaves, said the Freedmen’s descendants had been excluded for too long.

“These Freedmen lives don’t matter,” he said, echoing the Black Lives Matter mantra.

Mr. Graham said he has been petitioning for his Muscogee (Creek) status since he went to a tribal citizenship office in 1983 and told the office workers that his father was Theodore “Blue” Graham, who spoke the Creek language and went to traditional stomp dances. On that long-ago day, he said, the clerk told him his father had been nothing but a slave: “It tore my heart out.”

Mr. Graham can speak a few shards of Creek himself, enough to say “Come to dinner” or teach his children “Mvto” for thank you. He has come to dislike the term Freedmen, calling it a pejorative relic.

He would like, one day, to just be a citizen of his tribe.

Three contrasting narratives regarding statues of Sir John A and other historical figures

Three contrasting narratives: the first by Martin Regg-Cohn, of the Star (keep most statues but provide historical and social context), the second by Erica Ifill in the Globe (tear them down, lacking perspective) and the third, by Tom XXX in The Tyee, (focus on building monuments and statues to commemorate Indigenous history). In Hegelian terms, think thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Focussing on the symbolic, while important, can divert attention away from the long and difficult tasks of improving conditions for Indigenous peoples and can be seen as one form of virtue signalling. If there were easy and simple solutions, we wouldn’t be in this space now.

Starting with Regg-Cohn:

The tug of war over public statues keeps exposing our blind spots — not just our blinkered view of history, but of democracy in all its complexity.

Sir John A. Macdonald is merely the latest historical figure to be pulled down and covered up, his head lopped off or layered with painted graffiti. Protestors in Montreal toppled our founding prime minister last weekend, and Macdonald’s visage is visible no more at Queen’s Park — protected and padlocked in a massive wooden shell after demonstrators hurled paint at his statue this summer.

Unpopular statues, like unpopular governments, ought not to be toppled in a democracy — just put in their place, placed in context, or put in storage.

Controversies over politicians of the past — like those of the present — are as old as history itself, and rarely as simple as they appear on protest placards. How we deal with them, how we heal over them, also matters in the crusade to right historical wrongs.

Sometimes the decision is obvious — like removing Confederate statues that celebrate those who lost the civil war but still succeeded in keeping Blacks down. More often it’s complicated.

Shall we remove the monument to Mahatma Gandhi at Carleton University, given latter-day criticisms of the Indian independence leader for harbouring anti-Black views? What about the monument in Toronto’s Riverdale Park to Sun Yat-sen, the revered leader who brought China into the modern era?

“Other monuments, such as to Sir Winston Churchill, to Sun Yat-sen, have also been called into question,” Wayne Reeves, chief curator of Toronto’s culture division, told the city’s Aboriginal affairs advisory committee last month.

Which raises the question of who decides. Protestors deserve to be heard but not automatically heeded. A representative democracy defined by pluralism, mindful of minority rights and majority sentiments, requires consultation and conciliation, debate and deliberation.

A statue of Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax was a festering sore given his infamous Scalping Proclamation of 1749 offering a bounty for any Mi’kmaq adult or child. Ultimately, the statue was removed when elected representatives took a vote in 2018 (they voted again last month to erase his name from city streets and relocate the statue in a new museum of Mi’kmaq history).

That may not be as satisfying as spray painting, or as gratifying as graffiti. But the decision is more enduring.

The controversy over Macdonald is complicated — and in many ways intertwined with the debate over Egerton Ryerson, whose statue at Ryerson University was covered in pink paint by the same protestors this summer. As one scholar looking into Ryerson’s relationship with residential schools noted, his name is “incorrectly linked to the ‘architect’ label;” instead, wrote Sean Carleton, “Macdonald must be understood as its architect.”

(Full disclosure: as a visiting practitioner at Ryerson’s Faculty of Arts, I walk by his statue on campus; I see his visage again inside the legislature when I walk by the Ryerson bust perched just outside NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s office).

Perhaps that’s why Ryerson University added a plaque in 2018 introducing more context: “As Chief Superintendent of Education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System,” it reads.

That he also pioneered the modernization of Ontario’s educational system remains beyond dispute. The question is how to reconcile conflicting legacies for people like Ryerson, Macdonald, Churchill, Gandhi, and others.

At Queen’s Park, Macdonald lies boarded up. What’s interesting is that few other statues, such as one honouring Queen Victoria — who presided over so much of our complicated colonial history — get much attention.

A few steps away, a monument honours the “memory of the officers and men who fell on the battlefields of the North-West in 1885,” which surely invites historical context and Indigenous input. The previous speaker of the legislature, Dave Levac, campaigned for years to erect a new to monument to the Métis leader Louis Riel, who led the Northwest Rebellion and was later executed during Macdonald’s time as PM.

Surely the answer to our complicated historical record is to clarify and contextualize it, rather than censor it — which is why the recent addition of anonymous historical plaques adding context to some of Toronto’s most problematic landmarks and street names is so interesting and educational. Far better to fill in the gaps of history rather than create new historical vacuums in a country where few of us have taken the time to learn it.

“The problem I have with the overall approach to tearing down statues and buildings is that is counterproductive,” said Sen. Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating the Residential Schools disaster. “We are trying to create more balance in the relationship.”

That’s similar to the approach taken by Nelson Mandela, who launched a pioneering truth and reconciliation commission when he became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa. As president, he avoided reflexively razing the statues of his racist predecessors, opting for a more deliberative approach (some came down, others remained).

Mandela, like Gandhi, understood the frailty and flaws of all humans, not least our leaders. Let he who is without sin cast the first bronze.

In a classic example of what the late John Lewis called “good trouble,”Montreal demonstrators removed the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from a public space without injury at a protest to defund the police last Saturday. And the outrage from the white Canadian men in whose image Canadian history is taught was swift.

But context has been missing from so many pearl-clutching responses. In this second civil rights movement, where Black Lives Matter has brought global attention to police violence and death wrought on Black people, the traditional framing of criminality is being challenged. Even our current Prime Minister has engaged in at least the pageantry of it; just months earlier, Justin Trudeau attended an anti-police brutality march in Ottawa, going so far as to take a knee reminiscent of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s years-long protest over the same issue.

Fast forward to his response to the statue toppling, and his tone has changed. Much like his reaction to the protests in support of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Mr. Trudeau has morphed from white ally to condescending white settler colonialist. “We are a country of laws, and we are a country that needs to respect those laws even as we seek to improve and change them,” he said on Monday. “Those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country.”

With allyship like this, who needs enemies?

In doing this, Mr. Trudeau was eager to show off his law-and-order bona fides. But if he is still seeking to advance “greater justice and equality,” he undermines his own allegedly progressive message by vaunting the very laws that underpin many of the problems being protested – including laws Macdonald helped establish at the start of Confederation. (And imagine having the temerity to scold Canadians about respecting the law after proroguing Parliament to avoid judgement from those same laws, in your second ethics scandal in as many years.)

It’s not as if this issue came out of nowhere for Mr. Trudeau, either. The removal of monuments exalting the father of Confederation has been in the national discourse for years. However, Canadians like to engage in the vanity exercise of cherry-picking the history we’re comfortable with, leaving out the icky bits that don’t uphold our worldview of being “good people.” The reality, though, is that Canada’s first prime minister was an oppressive colonist whose deployment of state violence was instrumental in the formation of the nation. These aren’t “mistakes made by previous generations who built this country,”as Mr. Trudeau falsely characterized them; rather, this was a man who committed real atrocities that formed and informed how the Canadian state interacts with Black, Indigenous and people of colour, to this day.

Here are just a few achievements on his résumé: The creation of the federal residential school system, which was used as a form of genocide against Indigenous peoples; the creation of the pass system, a program of social control requiring Indigenous people to attain permission to leave the reserve (and which was then exported to South Africa, where it was used to control Black South Africans during apartheid); the execution of Louis Riel; a starvation policy to clear Indigenous people off their lands and make way for the Canadian Pacific Railway; the largest mass execution in Canadian history, when eight Indigenous men fighting that starvation policy were hanged in what is known as the Frog Lake Massacre; the implementation of the Chinese Head Tax; and the passage of the Electoral Franchise Act, which denied Black and Indigenous people the vote.

Those same racialized groups targeted by MacDonald in the formation and dominion of Canada continue to be the targets of systemic racism and oppression today.

Ignoring inconvenient truths makes for bad leadership. And the paucity of leadership from Mr. Trudeau is evident, or else there wouldn’t have needed to be a protest in Montreal in the first place. Five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, we are still waiting on this government to implement its recommendations. Nearly three months after Mr. Trudeau took the knee, we are no closer to systemic reforms, despite the credible plans on the table. And in June, the Parliamentary Black Caucus called on the federal government to dedicate real resources toward ending anti-Black systemic racism: “This is not a time for further discussion – the Afro-Canadian community has spoken for many years and is no longer interested in continued consultation or study. Extensive reports and serious proposals already exist.” That call appears to have gone unheeded.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, his ability to deliver on promises of transformational change has long been in dispute. Now, he has condemned protesters on the destruction of property more than he has the RCMP, for the gratuitous violence against Black and Indigenous people.

The time for double-talk is over. The time for action is now – and it’s not being well used in defending Canadian history’s leading man.


Lastly, and I think most useful, Tom McMahon:

Every so often, the removal of a statue or place name causes a minor media moment in Canada. Like this weekend, when protesters in Montreal pulled down a statue of the country’s first prime minister, the notorious racist John A. Macdonald, and beheaded him.

The media dove in. “Trudeau ‘deeply disappointed’ after demonstrators topple John A. Macdonald statue” read one headline. The prime minister’s thoughts on this “act of vandalism” filled papers across the country.

Rarely does news coverage of such stories place the topic of statues in a broader context. And political parties are usually completely silent about it too.

What is the broader context? It’s that while we can seemingly talk forever about whether a statue or place name should exist, we never seem able to discuss what does not exist. And why that might be.

What doesn’t exist in Canada, for the most part, are statues and monuments highlighting great Indigenous leaders, or highlighting exactly which Indigenous groups live in a particular place and their contributions to Canadian life. What doesn’t exist is any effort to create these monuments.

Justin Trudeau is deeply disappointed that a headless John A. Macdonald was put on the ground? Well, I’m disappointed that Trudeau has not lived up to his promise to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Specifically, Call to Action #81:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with [Residential School] Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

I see that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, responsible for Parks Canada, has announced that the residential school system is an event of national historical significance and that two residential school buildings in relatively remote, unpopulated areas will be designated national historic sites.

Not in the capital cities. Not particularly publicly accessible or highly visible.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney volunteered to bring the statue of the headless racist to his province. But who will ask Kenney what he is doing to implement TRC Call to Action #82?

We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

In Winnipeg, we have a monument to the Holodomor in the Ukraine in front of our city hall. A monument to the Winnipeg Rifles who were sent to put down the Riel Rebellion in Saskatchewan in 1885 is across the street.

Or for a more exhaustive example, look at Manitoba. On its legislative grounds alone you’ll find a massive monument to Queen Victoria and a smaller one to Queen Elizabeth II; one for General Wolfe who led England’s takeover of New France from France; two to Lord Douglas, to whom the London governing committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company gave a huge grant of land to settle Scots in Manitoba; one to Scottish poet Robert Burns; one to the Sieur de La Verendrye, the first European to travel to Manitoba from Lake Superior; one to Father Ritchot, Louis Riel, Marc-Amable Girard and John Norquay as early Manitobans who got the province included in Canada through the Manitoba Act (and a monument to George-Étienne Cartier who worked with them); several memorials to Manitoba soldiers killed in wars and to others who served the war efforts; one to the internment during the First World War of Ukrainian and other eastern Europeans as potential enemies of Canada; one to Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian poet and symbol of the important contributions of Ukrainians to the Canadian West; one to Jewish victims of the Holocaust; one to Jon Sigurdsson who led the country of Iceland to be independent from Denmark, symbolizing the important contributions of Icelandic immigrants to Manitoba; a B.C. totem pole to commemorate the 100th anniversary of B.C.’s entry into Confederation; and a commemoration of the tenth year of an exchange program between Manitoba and Japanese students.

Plus, there’s a monument to the controversial Famous Five, who won the right for propertied, well-connected women to be appointed to the Senate. Some of the five were also famous for their racism, support of eugenics and advocacy of racist drug laws.

The Famous Five should be controversial because support for being appointed to the Senate did almost nothing for women’s equality generally, and Indigenous women and children in particular are still fighting for equality in various ways nearly 100 years on.

At the University of Minnesota football stadium in Minneapolis there is a marvellous plaza showing the names, maps and a summary of information about each Tribal Nation that is in Minnesota. I have never seen a similar plaza in Canada.

Go to any provincial capital city and see what monuments there are, especially on legislative grounds. How are Indigenous peoples included in those monuments? Are they there at all?

Now go ask your premier what is happening with Call to Action #82.

Every time there’s a news article about monuments to John A. Macdonald, Cornwallis, Amherst, Langevin, Wolseley, Osborne, Douglas, Begbie, Vancouver, etc., do the media show any awareness of what monuments are not there?

Do the media have any awareness of TRC Calls to Action #81 and #82? Do the media ask the first ministers and leaders of the opposition about those Calls to Action?

Did the media ask the federal government: thanks for the announcement about the new Portage la Prairie and Shubenacadie residential school sites, but what is happening with Call to Action #81 for the capital cities?

Let’s get on with building a publicly accessible, highly visible, residential schools monument in each capital city to honour survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

Let’s get on with building prominent public monuments that show exactly which Indigenous peoples live in a specific region, showing the extent of their traditional territories and the dates and contents of the treaties that we signed with them.

Let’s get on with building prominent public monuments to Indigenous contributions to our lives and to Indigenous heroes.

It’s history by addition.  [Tyee]


When we debate complex legacies such as Sir John A.’s, we must not be ahistorical

Good commentary:

These are perilous times to have been a monumental historical figure from the 19th century. The list of names of those under reconsideration is long and growing, with the country’s first prime minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald, regularly at the top of it.

The latest disgrace to be inflicted upon Macdonald – a leader without whom the very existence of this country may be questioned – occurred on Saturday when protesters in Montreal disdainfully toppled a statue of our first prime minister. A debate quickly ensued around Macdonald and his legacy. In predictable fashion, there has been no middle ground.

That legacy is currently subject to the death of a thousand cuts. Just last month, Queen’s University – an institution from Macdonald’s own hometown – wrote to its community to ask for input on a consultation process about the name of Sir John A. Macdonald Hall on its Kingston campus. Et tu, Brute?

The continued targeting of Macdonald is really as much about our own times as his. But that has always been the case with history. As renowned University of Toronto historian Margaret MacMillan – a continuing voice of reason in our challenged times – once wrote: “We argue over history in part because it can have real significance in the present.”

Canada’s continuing work toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, as well as the systemic racism and violence in all its forms that has been a part of the lived experience of many Canadians, are the issues of our times. But defacing and vandalizing statues of a former prime minister is not going to advance any of those causes. Nor is it justified by history – although it may make some feel better.

“For those who do not have power or who feel they do not have enough,” Prof. MacMillan wrote in The Uses and Abuses of History, “history can be a way of protesting against their marginalization.”

The debate over statues in general, and of Macdonald in particular, also reveals the polarity of 2020 writ large. There are only extremes. In the place of dialogue and tolerance, there is more shouting at each other and less listening. This is not the Canadian way. Nor is tearing down a statue – which, by the way, is illegal.

Critics of Macdonald act as though his regrettable actions against Indigenous peoples in the West were happening now. But his policies, which we rightly chafe against today, took place primarily in the 1880s. “Quite unlike Canadians of today,” wrote the late Richard Gwyn in his two-volume biography of one of this country’s greatest prime ministers, “nineteenth-century Canadians felt no guilt about their country’s treatment of Indians.”

The real historical vandalism is not so much the destruction of public property, but in the singular and contemporary lens with which people are trying to judge actors from the past such as Macdonald. Unlike statues of Confederate “heroes” in the United States, which were raised in homage to the South’s support for slavery and to remind people of it, the statues of Macdonald were not put up in celebration of his genuine and ugly mistakes but for his larger legacy: his undeniable contribution to creating the Dominion of Canada.

It is ahistorical to take Macdonald out of his times and thrust our causes and our fights for justice onto him. “Macdonald has been unfairly abused for being a man of the 19th century,” University of Toronto historian Robert Bothwell told Maclean’s magazine in 2016. “He had moral failings, and was sometimes indifferent to or negligent of serious problems. He did not have our sensibilities, and had many of the characteristics of his period that at the time passed without comment because they were so widely held.”

So, where does that leave us in 2020 as these debates continue? For starters, let’s agree there are complexities to history and this issue – significant ones when you are evaluating someone who was prime minister from 1867 to 1891, save for four years from 1874-78.

Let’s continue to be sure we educate ourselves about not only historical legacies, but also about the nature of history itself. Let’s not cherry-pick the unsavoury parts, but rather add contextual plaques to statues that explain the many facets to readers.

The world is not black or white. And history is as grey as a late November sky.

J.D.M. Stewart is a Canadian history teacher and the author of Being Prime Minister.


Alberta Teachers’ Association president calls for curriculum advisor to be dismissed after racist articles surface

The adviser in question, Chris Champion, was the lead staffer under then IRCC minister Kenney on citizenship and the point person on the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, which remains in use.

My account of the development of the guide and some of the issues and challenges can be found in ch 2 of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism. While discussions were at times intense, we had the opportunity to provide our advice and comments and maintained a good working relationship.

Although Discover Canada improved coverage of Indigenous history compared to the earlier vapid, A Look at Canada, the unreleased draft guide will have more in-depth discussion of Indigenous peoples. Hard to know why, almost five years since then Minister McCallum promised a revision, still not released.

Equally hard to imagine one making such a comment about Indigenous histories being a “fad” in 2019, both substantively and politically:

On Wednesday August 27, 2020 the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) called for the resignation of a Dr. Chris Champion from the Alberta Curriculum Review Panel.

It was recently brought to light that the member of the Alberta Curriculum Review Panel – which was made in order for the UCP Government to overhaul and review the previous NDP school curriculum – was a writer of racist articles which was titled “Alberta’s Little History War,” which called the inclusion of First Nation perspectives in school lessons a “fad.”

This particular article was written just last year, and it was written by Dr. Champion who is advising the social studies curriculum of Alberta.

The ATA, as the professional organization of teachers, promotes and advances public education, safeguards standards of professional practice and serves as the advocate for its 46,000 members.

In a news release by the ATA, an advisor who has called the inclusion of First Nations perspectives in school lessons a fad needs to be dismissed from his role in advising on Alberta’s social studies curriculum, says ATA President Jason Schilling.

“Minister LaGrange, Chris Champion has got to go,” said Schilling.

Given the well-documented writingsand publications that have recently surfaced, Schilling says that Chris Champion has no place advising the curriculum writing work currently under way in Alberta.

“Champion’s appointment to advise curriculum is in direct opposition to the Joint Commitment to Action that both Alberta Education and the ATA signed in 2016. The minister must either dismiss Champion or rescind its endorsement of the Joint Commitment.”

In June 2016, the Joint Commitment to Action was signed by representatives of the Government of Alberta, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and five Alberta education stakeholder organizations as part of an enduring commitment to respond to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Schilling says that in his school re-entry meeting with Minister LaGrange on August 19, he told the minister that they needed another meeting dedicated to discussing curriculum and that Champion had to go.

Acknowledging that the Association has been almost exclusively focused on a safe return to schools in September, Schilling says the Association regrets not issuing an earlier statement on this important matter.

This is just the latest in the story of the Albertan Government’s racist employees. There is not only Dr. Chris Champion, but there is still Jason Kenney’s racist speechwriter Paul Bunner. The ATA is just the latest to call for the firing of either of the racist state employees; the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA), Grand Chiefs of Treaty 8, Chiefs of Treaty Six, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Alberta have also voiced their concerns.


New controversy flares up over Lynn Beyak’s Senate-appointed anti-racism training

Hard to see this ending:

The “flames of negativity” that were stirred up by Lynn Beyak’s racist statements as a senator are being “reignited” by a controversy at the University of Manitoba, according to a residential school survivor.

Garnet Angeconeb questions the suitability of the man tasked with overseeing Beyak’s second attempt at cultural awareness and sensitivity training after Jonathan Black-Branch quietly left his post as dean at the University of Manitoba.

The university is not saying why. In an email to CBC news, a spokesperson said Black-Branch is no longer employed by the University of Manitoba and that his leave began on June 5, but would not elaborate.

Black-Branch was also removed from his position on the governing body of the Law Society of Manitoba, a position reserved for the dean of the law school.

Both moves speak to the need for a wider probe into the handling of Beyak’s discipline and the qualifications of the man tasked with educating her, said Angeconeb who is from Lac Seul First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

“The issue with Lynn Beyak continues to throw flames on a fire that was under control,” Angeconeb said of the harm the on-going saga is causing. “It stirs up unresolved trauma for survivors.”

Beyak, who has publicly praised residential schools as “well-intentioned”, was first suspended from the Senate in 2019. The move came after she declined to remove letters from her website that described First Nations people as lazy and inept and refused to apologize for posting them.

She was ordered to complete education and training to improve her understanding and awareness of Indigenous issues before returning to her senate seat.

Beyak failed her first attempt, when the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres said Beyak created an “unsafe learning environment” with false claims to a Metis identity and other comments. Beyak denied making those claims.

In May, the Senate appointed Black-Branch as an “eminently qualified” person to design and deliver a new training program for Beyak.

After delivering a total of 24 hours of training, by video, Black-Branch concluded that “Senator Beyak is now better equipped ‘for approaching her professional work and her personal beliefs'”, according to the report of the Senate ethics committee, in June.

Senators are set to discuss the report on September 22.

‘Racism is a disease’

“There are a lot of questions about how this training was delivered, how meaningful it was,” said Danielle Morrison, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Remove Lynn Beyak from Senate, of which Angeconeb is also a member.

Residential school survivors should have the final say when it comes to determining whether Beyak’s training was a success, she said.

“Racism is a disease. It is one of the biggest pandemics affecting our world right now,” Morrison said. “This is a moment when people should ask themselves ‘am I on the right side of history?’

“How do you measure someone’s success in being an anti-racist? That assessment has already been made by survivors.”

‘Political fluff’

Angeconeb said Beyak could show her training was a success through her actions. For him that means another apology, beyond the carefully scripted ones she gave in the Senate.

“It needs to come from somewhere in her home-town of Dryden, in front of Anishinaabe people,” he said. “Otherwise these are just apologies of convenience to save her Senate seat. It’s just political fluff.”

After decades of anti-racism work and advocacy on behalf of survivors, Angeconeb said he is heartened that residential schools are “at the forefront of the conversation” about reconciliation in Canada.

But he said “side-bar issues” such as Beyak’s behaviour and the on-going legal wrangling over compensation for survivors of St. Anne’s residential school are “really hurtful.”

“I continue to be upset and I continue to be angered by that,” he said.

Source: New controversy flares up over Lynn Beyak’s Senate-appointed anti-racism training

Racial disparity in Vancouver drug charges revealed by new data

Nuanced analysis of the data and disparities:

Black and Indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in drug charges recommended by Vancouver police, an analysis of new data shows.

The police say, and some experts agree, that these findings are not evidence of racial bias in the Vancouver Police Department, but instead reflect inequalities and failings in broader Canadian society. Others say those wider problems don’t absolve police in Vancouver or elsewhere of a need to confront racism within their own institutions.

These findings emerge from data obtained from the VPD and provided to Postmedia by a University of B.C. PhD student, Ryan Moyer, who said he filed the FOI request “to better investigate the disproportionate impacts of punitive drug policy.”

“While we cannot infer that the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black communities in drug-related crimes is due to racism specifically,” Moyer said, the “disproportionately frequent interactions” with these populations is concerning and shows the need for more cultural training and more dialogue with leaders of these communities.

In B.C., police do not decide on charges. Instead they make recommendations to Crown counsels, who then decide whether to approve charges. Moyer’s FOI records include 1,268 files where VPD recommended a range of drug charges, 76 per cent of which were approved and went to court, 17 per cent were pending or unknown and seven per cent were not approved by Crown.

In mid-June, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer talked to Postmedia about racism and policing. Palmer said that while he believes systemic racism doesn’t exist in Canadian policing, racism is still a problem in Canada.

VPD officers undergo more extensive training than other B.C. police agencies on issues including implicit bias, cultural competency and sensitivity, and Indigenous culture, Palmer said then.

Palmer also pointed to broader societal problems that can precede the point in a person’s life when they encounter a cop: “The police officer (is) sometimes dealing with the end result of 20 years of trouble that that person has gone through.”

Palmer is not wrong there, said University of Toronto criminologist Akwasi Owusu-Bempah.

“The chief makes a great point: The police are left to deal with many of society’s failures, and if those societal failures have racially disparate outcomes, then policing is going to have racially disparate outcomes as well,” said Owusu-Bempah.

However, he was surprised Palmer so forcefully denied systemic racism in Canadian policing, considering “the police are a microcosm of society.”

The stakes are high, Owusu-Bempah said, because drug charges, even those resulting in acquittals, can have long-lasting affects on a person’s prospects for employment, education and housing. This adds urgency, he said, to calls to decriminalize, or as he’d prefer, fully legalize all drugs in Canada.

On that point, the data show drug possession charges in Vancouver have fallen sharply in recent years: VPD recommended 142 possession charges in 2015 but only 36 last year, a 75 per cent reduction. In the first half of this year, only 10 possession charges recommended.

“I think (the VPD) should be commended for that approach. But it raises questions of who doesn’t benefit from that?” Owusu-Bempah said. “It seems like decriminalization’s in practice for some, but not for others.”

It’s a good thing this data has now been made public through Moyer’s FOI request, Owusu-Bempah said, “because if they don’t make it public, we can’t identify problems.”

The public should be careful of drawing the wrong conclusions from this data, said VPD spokeswoman Simi Heer.

“It’s simplistic to compare the percentages related to the data in the spreadsheet based on ethnicity,” without taking into account several “long-standing, complex issues,” Heer said.

“Canada has a troubling history of systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples,” Heer said. “We recognize that this discrimination continues to perpetuate significant problems today, including overrepresentation in all aspects of the criminal justice system, the homeless population, and more recently, the number of overdoses during the fentanyl crisis.”

“The VPD’s approach on drug issues has been to target the most serious harms to society, as the number of deaths in our communities related to the fentanyl crisis have reached crisis proportions,” Heer said. “This means we’ve been targeting drug trafficking, drug production and organized crime.”

Heer also pointed to the preliminary findings of Metro Vancouver’s homeless count released this week, showing Black and Indigenous people were significantly overrepresented in the region’s homeless population.

The overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in both drug charges and homeless populations are “totally connected,” said Neil Boyd, a lawyer and Simon Fraser University professor of criminology.

Boyd said he can’t say racism definitely doesn’t exist in the VPD, but these statistics don’t definitively prove that it does.

“The disproportionate numbers, there might be people who would want to argue that reflects a kind of racism, but I think if it’s racism, it’s not racism within the police department, it’s the racism of our culture, in which we see such an overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people on the street,” said Boyd.

People from all walks of Canadian society buy, sell, and use drugs, but the police are more likely to come into contact with people with fewer resources, and especially less access to private space, Boyd said. In other words, officers are far more likely to come across a homeless person selling opioids to support his own addiction than an affluent person in a Yaletown condo buying cocaine for a night out.

Others say these racial disparities underscore how much work remains to be done to combat racism and oppression in Canada.

“What we’re seeing is a continuation of oppression,” said Patricia Vickers, a psychotherapist and the First Nations Health Authority’s former director of mental health and wellness services. “Nothing has really changed all that much, as far as our relationships go. When we look at reconciliation, we’re not really seeing what that means in society.”

“The incarceration of Indigenous people is just another symptom of this continuation of domination, control, oppression,” Vickers said. “This is just one of the pieces of evidence we have.”

Harsha Walia, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said these numbers are “not surprising, but it’s still deeply disturbing.”

Racial inequalities exist in many aspects of Canadian society, including the economy, education, health care and more, Walia said. “It’s also not accurate that somehow the armed institutions of the state … are somehow immune from this either.”

“We have study after study that shows over-criminalization and over-incarceration of Black and Indigenous people is absolutely both a symptom and a cause of systemic racism in other institutions,” Walia said. “It’s not a linear A leads to B, it’s a cyclical process.”

In June, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the NDP government plans to modernize the province’s Police Act, “with a specific focus on systemic racism.”

Source: Racial disparity in Vancouver drug charges revealed by new data

Harald Bauder: Indigenous input vital to a just immigration policy

While the characterization of colonization and the lack of consultation with Indigenous peoples regarding immigration, Bauder is unclear on what that would mean in concrete terms.

The TRC immigration-related recommendations are relatively straightforward to implement, but he fails to provide specifics regarding the objectives  and impact of a greater Indigenous role in immigration policy and programs:

The outrage against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has once again brought into sharp focus the violence experienced by Indigenous people in Canada.

A key responsibility of Canadian settler society is to address a root problem of centuries of colonialization that underlies this violence: the settling of the land through immigration without Indigenous consent or consultation.

Last year, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded that colonial structures continue to be a source of violence and genocide.

Earlier, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had drawn attention to immigration. The Commission’s Calls to Action contained 94 recommendations, the final two of which covered the topic “Newcomers to Canada:”

Recommendation No. 93 calls “upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”

And Recommendation No. 94 asks “to replace the Oath of Citizenship” with a new one that acknowledges Canada’s “Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” and the responsibility of new Canadians to honour these treaties.

Although the current federal government is working on implementing these two recommendations, they fail to address the ongoing colonialism ingrained in Canada’s immigration system.

When I reflect on my own immigration experience as a setter in Canada, I become painfully aware of how colonialism continues to work through our immigration system.

After I left my native Germany in the early 1990s and began university studies in Canada, I received a student visa because the Canadian government deemed me a desirable student. While I completed doctoral studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, I had enough education to qualify under Canada’s points system to immigrate.

A few years later, I met the residency and other requirements to become a Canadian citizen. The terms of qualifying for a student visa, receiving immigration status, and eventually being naturalized were entirely those of the Canadian settler state. Indigenous communities had no say in the process.

Had I come to Turtle Island on the invitation of Indigenous peoples and became a settler on Indigenous terms, I suspect the conditions for immigration and naturalization would have been very different.

Would I have been required to speak English or French? Would it have mattered that I was an advanced student in an educational system that was responsible for the horrors of residential schools? Would I have been required to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs and successors? I don’t think so.

Indigenous people are sidelined when it comes to deciding who settles on this land. The entire immigration system — from initial entry to naturalization — remains steeped in colonialism. This system fails to foster a setter community that affirms the rights of Indigenous people as the original occupants of the land and that honours the treaties Indigenous people have made with the settlers.

Instead, current immigration policies disproportionately emphasize the value of newcomers to Canada’s economy, which does not counteract the ongoing colonialization and environmental degradation of the land.

Canadian immigration policy must be decolonized. Including Indigenous voices in the decisions about who is invited to immigrate and under what terms they are allowed to settle on Turtle Island would be a significant step toward demolishing underlying structures of colonialism in Canada.

Ottawa adding new census questions on gender, Indigenous people, linguistic and ethnic minorities

Not surprising. The 2021 Census will also include religion (done every 10 years):

The 2021 census will for the first time count transgender Canadians and include questions designed to get better data on Indigenous communities, linguistic minorities and ethnic groups.

According to federal officials, the new census questionnaires will address long-standing requests from groups who said the previous census questionnaire did not count everyone in their communities or that the numbers were imprecise.

In particular, the changes will affect the way Statistics Canada counts members of Indigenous communities, ethnic communities such as Jews, transgender Canadians and members of anglophone and francophone minorities. In the case of linguistic minorities, the new short-form and long-form census questionnaires are designed to improve their access to public schools, as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Globe and Mail is not identifying the federal officials because they were not authorized to speak about the matter before the new questionnaires are made public in the Canada Gazette on Friday afternoon.

While the 2016 census asked people to list their sex as male or female, the officials said the 2021 census will ask a question about the respondent’s sex at birth and another question about the person’s current gender, marking the first time the census has counted transgender Canadians.

It will also aim to provide more data on Indigenous groups, who will no longer be referred to in the document as Aboriginal. For example, the new questions will help identify the beneficiaries of Inuit land-claims agreements and determine the number of members of the Métis Nation.

Officials said the government will also address criticism from Jewish groups who said a change to the question about ethnic identity in the 2016 census left them drastically underrepresented. With the omission of “Jewish” as one of the listed examples of ethnic ancestry, the official count of Canada’s Jewish population fell from about 309,000 in 2011 to little more than 143,000 in 2016. As a result, the government will add a significant number of examples of ethnic origin to the 2021 census, which will once again include “Jewish” as a possible answer.

After coming to power in 2015, the Trudeau government made it mandatory for recipients of the long-form census to fill out the questionnaire, reversing a decision by the Harper government.

A new law adopted in 2017 gave Statistics Canada more independence, but the power to determine census questions remains in the hands of the government, with Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains acting as the lead minister on the file.

Federal officials said cabinet recently approved changes to both the short-form census questionnaire, which goes to 80 per cent of households, and the more detailed long-form questionnaire, which goes to the remaining 20 per cent. Statistics Canada had set this month as the deadline for the final versions to be approved in order to be ready for next year’s census.

Both will include new questions about education history as part of an effort to determine precisely how many Canadian children are eligible to go to an English-language school in Quebec or a French-language school in the rest of the country.

The proponents of the census changes have argued that provinces and school boards currently lack the necessary data to plan the construction of new schools, leading to a shortage of spaces in many parts of the country. They say the new questions will help them obtain an exact count of Canadians known as “rights-holders,” who have the right to send their children to either French- or English-language public schools.

By making all Canadians answer questions about language skills and schooling history, Ottawa will be providing linguistic minorities with another victory on the education front. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, even when their numbers are relatively small, linguistic minorities have a right to their own high-quality schools.

Source: Ottawa adding new census questions on gender, Indigenous people, linguistic and ethnic minorities