Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Some interesting voices. A more comprehensive survey would be of interest:

As a First Nations leader, what would you think of Canada’s immigration policy?

“It’s a bit late to ask that question,” answers Tsawwassen First Nations Chief Ken Baird, with a wry smile.

Indeed, Canada’s Indigenous people have never really been asked how they feel about immigration policy, despite experiencing wave after wave of newcomers.

A small number of First Nations leaders over the years, however, have said they want more influence in shaping immigration. There came a point more than a decade ago when the Assembly of First Nations resolved to “freeze all immigration coming into Canada until the federal government addresses, commits, and delivers resources to improve housing conditions, education, health and employment in First Nations communities.”

But not much came of the Assembly’s demand. Immigration policy in Canada continues to be made mostly behind closed doors, particularly in the Prime Minister’s Office.

First Nations are often said to be in a double-bind when it comes to the issue of large-scale immigration, which has shaped Canada more than most nations.

“Regarding immigration, Aboriginal peoples are caught between a rock and a hard place,” academics Bonita Lawrence, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation, and Enaskhi Dua have said. Either Indigenous people become implicated in anti-immigration rhetoric, they said, “or they support struggles of people of colour that fail to take seriously the reality of ongoing colonization.”

Outstanding questions are many: How does increasing Indigenous self-determination fit with immigration? And how does it connect to official multiculturalism, which supports the thriving of all of Canada’s subcultures? Should an umbrella organization for the country’s 1.6 million Indigenous people help set immigration levels, as Quebec does?

While the Tsawwassen First Nation’s elected chief says Indigenous people, like others, have a wide range of views about immigration, he is personally mostly sanguine about it.

“I’m all for people who want to come here and work hard and build themselves a life and have good family values. And 99 per cent of immigrants do. And I think that’s pretty admirable,” Baird said.

While Baird is among the First Nations leaders who don’t intend to push on immigration issues, University of B.C. sociologist Rima Wilkes and colleagues have made public presentations in which they ask questions about immigration and Indigenous peoples. Their questions are designed to urge Ottawa to take First Nations perspectives more seriously.

“What does it mean to settle people on someone else’s land?” Wilkes asks in a presentation. “Why is there ‘consultation’ (with First Nations) on natural resources such as mining, oil and gas and timber, but not on the human resources such as immigration policy? What about real decision-making?”

Veteran B.C. Indigenous leader Bill Wilson, who helped found the First Nations Summit, has said he is open to most forms of immigration, particularly for refugees.

When asked about immigration, the member of northern Vancouver Island’s Kwak’wala-speaking peoples, who is also father of former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, told a story about the late Vancouver Sun aboriginal affairs reporter Ron Rose, with whom he became close friends.

“It may have very well been Ron Rose asking me the same question (in the 1980s): ‘What do I think about immigration and the people coming in?’” said the blunt-talking hereditary chief. “I said to him, ‘Well, at least the colour is getting better. He and I laughed. And he said, ‘You’re an a–hole.’ And then we moved on.”

The citizenship exam that is required of all new immigrants, Wilson believes, should include more on Indigenous history in Canada.

“I don’t have any problem with people coming to this country. But what I object to is they’re not required to understand the history,” he said. “Hopefully they could start to embrace some of the laws we are finally resorting to as a country in terms of (Indigenous peoples’) relationship to the land and the water and the sea resources.”

The First Nations lawyer believes a portion of new immigrants, the majority of whom are now non-white, “are basically oblivious to Indigenous issues” at the same time they are becoming more influential. “WASPS are obviously becoming a minority and losing a great deal of their power.”

Baird, who worked as a fisher and water-system specialist before becoming chief of the self-governing Tsawwassen First Nation, believes the coming together of Indigenous people with early settlers and immigrants has “turned us all into minorities in a way. And that’s a good thing.”

Although some wonder whether Canada’s official multiculturalism policy ignores the special status of First Nations, Baird said, “I don’t see a problem with it. At the end of the day, we all want to be treated equal and have the same rights and prosperous lives. And your colour and blood and race and religion shouldn’t matter. That’s part of being in a free country.”

Wilson values bringing in more refugees, but he questions the country’s immigrant-investor programs, both national and provincial, which have urged wealthy foreign nationals to gain Canadian passports by promising to divert money into the economy.

Wilson strongly opposed such “selective citizenship,” saying “money-backed immigration is not sincere and it’s not necessary.” But “accepting refugees makes sense,” he said, because their inclusion “is based on need.”

Although Wilson generally agrees First Nations should get more say in immigration policy, especially over their own traditional territories, he is not sure how that would work.

“How do you implement that? We have a multiplicity of tribes. There are 27 separate tribes in the province of B.C. alone.”

When it comes to questions of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and immigration, the conversation is only beginning.

Source: Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Indigenous public servants pursue class-action lawsuit against feds for harassment, discrimination in workplace

On the heels of the class action lawsuit initiated by Black public servants (my sense of looking at employment equity and public service employment survey data is that disparities are greater with respect to Indigenous public servants).

Likely coincidental, but announcement happening in parallel to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

Systemic racism in federal Indigenous departments and agencies has led to human rights and Charter violations, allege two First Nations public servants—one current, one former—pursuing a multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuit against the federal government. 

statement of claim—the opening salvo for a possible class-action suit—outlining the experiences of lead plaintiffs Yvette Zentner and Letitia Wells was filed with the Federal Court in Calgary on Sept. 14. The pair are represented by lawyer Mathew Farrell of Guardian Law Group LLP. 

Ms. Zentner is a member of the Siksika Nation in Alberta and has been working for Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC), a special operating agency within Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), since 1997. Ms. Wells is from Kainaiwa First Nation, a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy from the Treaty 7 Territory, and is a former contract employee of IOGC, where she worked from September 2015 until the end of March 2020. 

Both women say they experienced harassment and discrimination at work as a result of their Aboriginal identities, including through belittling gestures, microaggressions, racist remarks, and denial of fair advancement opportunities, but felt disempowered from reporting their experiences through internal processes and were denied “Indigenous practices and cultural methods of conflict resolution.”

The proposed class action, first reported by APTN News, is on behalf of all former employees of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and all current and former employees of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada (CIRNAC), ISC, or IOGC who experienced harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, culture, ethnicity, or gender.

The claim outlines that Ms. Zentner has “frequently” been denied training for advancement offered to others and has been denied “promotions for which she was qualified,” with, in one case, the non-Aboriginal family friend of someone she has filed two formal harassment complaints against being hired instead. Both complaints against that individual were found not to meet the threshold for harassment—one having been handled by the individual’s superior, rather than an independent third party—after which, the statement of claim describes that the person laughed at Ms. Zentner at work. 

Numerous complaints of harassment and abusive conduct by the same individual prompted a 2014 Workplace Assessment, reads the statement of claim, but while meeting with the third party hired to conduct it—who was later awarded a multi-year contract at the IOGC—no notes were taken and Ms. Zentner was allegedly told it was because they’d “already heard it before.” That assessment “was vague and resulted in no meaningful change,” and the individual who was the subject of complaints was given authority over the “steps of action taken to remedy the harassment.”

In another instance in 2016, someone found guilty of harassing Ms. Zentner by an external company was later promoted within IOGC. 

Ms. Zentner, through the statement of claim, reports having been “threatened with legal action in slander for bringing harassment concerns to the human resources manager.”  

“The harassment and dismissal of her complaints have taken a serious toll on Yvette’s physical and mental health, and she has experienced significant depression as a result,” reads the statement of claim. 

Ms. Wells is a single mother of two and is currently studying a double major in law and society and international Indigenous studies at the University of Calgary. She is also a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse, she told The Hill Times

As outlined in the statement of claim, she said she believes she lost her contract as “retaliation for speaking up about her experiences of harassment at the IOGC.” She reports having “frequently” had her “intelligence questioned”; facing “microaggressions, belittling physical gestures” and overhearing “racist language at the IOGC”; and being “singled out as a victim of aggressive micromanagement.” 

In one instance outlined in the claim, Ms. Wells experienced a “trauma flashback when her supervisor aggressively grabbed her arm in an effort to physically remove her from her cubical to have a private meeting in a board room.” An unofficial complaint over this incident “and the surrounding harassment she experienced” resulted in “no meaningful change.” 

Days after a complaint was launched by a superior over the harassment Ms. Wells was experiencing, she was demoted from her position “as retaliation for filing a complaint,” alleges the claim, and when her contract was terminated roughly two months later—after she had gone on sick leave—“no reason” was indicated. The claim also alleges that Ms. Wells “was denied promotions because she resisted sexual advancements by” a superior.

“The assault, ongoing harassment, and dismissal of her complaints have taken a serious toll on Letitia’s health, and she has suffered serious mental health consequences, including suicidal ideation as a result,” reads the statement of claim.

In an interview with The Hill Times last week, Ms. Wells spoke about her experiences and her decision to pursue a class-action suit. 

She said when she left the IOGC, she had intended to “walk away in peace,” but continued to reflect on her experiences and pray for guidance.

Last April, she was contacted by the APTN’s Brett Forester, who was working on a story about Indigenous public servants’ experiences. The resulting piece, “Death by a thousand cuts,” included interviews with “several former and current employees, many of them First Nations women,” who described a “work environment frequently marred by systemic racism, sexism, bullying, insidious revenge and fear,” reads the piece. 

After it went public, Ms. Wells said Indigenous people across Canada contacted her to thank her for speaking out and share stories of their own. Among them was Ms. Zentner—the pair were acquainted from their time working for the IOGC—and it was then that they decided to find a lawyer and pursue a class-action case, driven by their experiences and “the failure of the grievance processes within” the federal government.

“Within that company, we have seen the violence that we’ve endured, the harm that we’ve endured, the microaggressions, the micromanagements, the piling of the exec team, the tactics of toxic authority,” said Ms. Wells. “It’s a poisonous environment for authentic Indigenous people, and all we’ve ever wanted to do was make a change—make a change and contribute to the federal government, and help them reach reconciliation. And they’re failing at it, they don’t understand it.” 

While she’s now gone from the company and “safe,” Ms. Wells said it’s about “the safety of those that are still in there and the hardships they’re continuing to go through.” 

In May, the plaintiffs began to compile the experiences of other current and former Indigenous public servants as evidence of the systemic harassment and discrimination faced within the federal government and now have “well over two dozen” such accounts. 

Specifically, the statement of claim argues their section 15(1) Charter equality right was unjustifiably infringed “through discriminatory harassment which directly and adversely affects Aboriginal and female workers.” 

Moreover, it argues the federal government owed a duty of care, including to “maintain a workplace that is safe and free of harassment,” which was breached, and that multiple sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act have been breached, including for “differentiating against employees based on their Indigeneity and gender,” “limiting advancement opportunities” based on Indigeneity and gender, and for harassment based on “gender, race, colour, and ancestry.” 

It lays out that they are seeking unspecified damages and $25-million in punitive damages. 

But beyond that, Ms. Wells said she wants to see Indigenous-led, trauma-informed “safety outlets placed within the federal government for Indigenous people to turn to,” something she said wasn’t available to her.

“I felt dismissed right from the top. I felt that nobody understood what I was trying to say because they didn’t carry the inter-related trauma experience … to understand the microaggressions and how they triggered me, and the continuous attacks after that from a hierarchy of management,” said Ms. Wells. 

“Those grievance processes aren’t there to support you, they’re there to support the government,” she said earlier in the interview.

“The federal government has absolutely no safety outlets for Indigenous people who govern themselves by Indigenous laws to turn to.”

The federal government’s response

The Hill Times reached out to all three ministers’ offices last week, as well as the Treasury Board Secretariat, seeking a response to the allegations outlined in the Sept. 14 statement of claim and an update on the “thorough review” that had been pledged. Questions to the minister’s offices were directed to their departments’ shared media relations team.

Danielle Geary, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, said “senior officials” at CIRNAC and ISC “began the dialogue of developing a Deputy Minister Action Plan to address the alleged racism, harassment, and discrimination against Indigenous employees” in April, the “groundwork” for which is being led by the Indigenous Employee Secretariat, which serves both departments “in collaboration with the Indigenous Voices Council and sector heads.” No deadlines have been “imposed” on this effort, which is instead “working with an urgency, while at the same time recognizing that an opportunity to engage with Indigenous employees must be provided.” 

CIRNAC, ISC, and IOGC have developed their own workplace harassment and violence prevention policies in compliance with Canada Labour Code regulations which came into force in January 2021, she said, and between March and August of this year an “initial assessment was conducted with all sectors” of the departments to “identify the risk factors, internal and external to the workplace, that may contribute to harassment and violence in the workplace,” including identifying preventative mitigation measures. 

Ms. Geary highlighted the Centre for Integrity, Values and Conflict Resolution as a “resource available” to all departmental staff, including employees of the IOGC, which “can provide support and explore options” for those who have “experienced or witnessed workplace harassment or violence.” The government is also “actively advancing the creation of an Ombudsperson Office in order to help employees and managers navigate existing systems, services and resources, and provide impartial advice on options for resolution to further supplement existing services and resources,” she wrote. 

She also highlighted the ISC’s launch of a task force on diversity and inclusion, equity, and anti-racism last May, and noted that CIRNAC and ISC have developed Indigenous cultural competency learning policies informed by a First Nations expert advisory committee.

“Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), and Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC) are committed to the health, safety and well-being of all employees. As departmental leaders within the federal government when it comes to advancing reconciliation and issues impacting the lives of Indigenous peoples, we recognize that discrimination against Indigenous employees is unacceptable and must be addressed,” reads the statement. 

“Harassment and discrimination can take many forms and can have significant repercussions. We take all allegations of harassment and discrimination very seriously,” she wrote, noting later that “senior management is committed to continued discussions with employees to address any employee concerns raised and further build a supportive environment, adapted to employee needs and experiences.” 

Mr. Farrell told The Hill Times he expects further documents related to the certification process—determining whether the court will hear the case as a class-action suit—will be filed in the coming months. That includes a certification record from the plaintiffs, laying out detailed evidence from the many stories collected.

Hundreds of current and former Black federal public servants are already pursuing a proposed multi-million-dollar class-action suit against the federal government. Launched in December 2020, it alleges the government has failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees by failing to provide a harassment- and discrimination-free workplace and by actively excluding Black public servants.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, a spokesperson for Black Class Action Lawsuit, said of the proposed Indigenous lawsuit: “We welcome this legal action and we are open to working with this group and providing any support for the Indigenous community, which has been left behind for way too long and it must be addressed now.”


GSS – Social Identity, 2020: A snapshot of pride in Canadian achievements among designated groups

Some of the more interesting and revealing findings for me:

  • Recent immigrants have more favourable views than longer term immigrants;
  • Children of visible minorities have less favourable views than than their parents;
  • Visible minorities have more pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society than non visible minorities, with differences between groups;
  • Visible minorities have more pride in how democracy works in Canada;
  • Indigenous peoples have the least pride in how Canada treats all groups and how democracy works; and,
  • Young people have less pride in how Canada treats all groups and how democracy works.

In one sense, this represents integration, as the initial reactions change with the lived experience and immigrants over time, along with their children, move closer to the non-immigrant, no-visible minority population:

“Today’s Daily article presents a snapshot of results from the General Social Survey – Social Identity (GSS SI). This first release focuses on the pride that Canadians feel for selected Canadian achievements and how it is similar or different across diverse population groups. The survey asked respondents about their pride in 13 different Canadian achievements. For this analysis, three Canadian achievements were chosen because of their relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are pride in Canada’s health care system, pride in the way democracy works in Canada and pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society.

As part of the data pillar of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, Canadian Heritage sponsored an oversample of six population groups designated as visible minorities for the latest cycle of the GSS SI. This oversample will allow data users to further disaggregate data to better represent the unique experiences of different groups of Canadians.

Canadians are most proud of Canada’s health care system

At a time when Canada’s front-line workers were treating COVID-19 patients in clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals, Canadians were most proud of their health care system. The highest share (74%) of respondents who said that they were very proud or proud of an achievement reported feeling proud of Canada’s health care system. People who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were especially proud, with 82% reporting feeling proud of Canada’s health care system, compared with 71% of non–visible minorities. Among the different visible minority groups, Filipino (96%) and South Asian (87%) respondents were the most likely to report being very proud or proud of Canada’s health care system.

Almost half of Canadians report feeling proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society

COVID-19 shone a light on the systemic inequities that many people in Canadian society experience—the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic were not experienced equally by all Canadians. In addition, movements such as Black Lives Matter brought greater attention to the systemic inequities and racism faced by Black Canadians and other population groups designated as visible minorities. Against this backdrop, 49% of the population expressed pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. However, there were differences among Canadians who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities; 64% of respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities felt pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society, compared with 44% of individuals not in a visible minority group. Canadian-born respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were less likely than respondents in groups designated as visible minorities who immigrated to Canada to report pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society (45% compared with 68%).

It is important to note that there are differences between population groups designated as visible minorities. A lower proportion of Black (52%) and Chinese (57%) respondents expressed pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. This contrasts with West Asian (77%), Filipino (73%), Arab (72%) and South Asian (70%) respondents, who were more likely to report pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. This could be partly attributable to experiences with discrimination, which were particularly high for some population groups designated as visible minorities during the pandemic. For example, crowdsourcing data collected in August 2020 by Statistics Canada indicated that Korean (64%), Chinese (60%) and Black (55%) participants were more likely to report experiencing discrimination or being treated unfairly during the pandemic (see the publication “Experiences of discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic“).

Chart 1  
Pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society among population groups designated as visible minorities, Canada, 2020

Chart 1: Pride in Canada's treatment of all groups in society among population groups designated as visible minorities, Canada, 2020

Men were more likely than women to report feeling pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society—52% of men compared with 46% of women. Pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society is the achievement with the biggest gender difference, with only minor differences between men and women for the other Canadian achievements included in the survey.

Canadians are generally proud of the way democracy works in Canada, and this is especially the case for many people who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities

Almost 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) said that they felt pride in the way democracy works in Canada. This increased to close to 8 in 10 (79%) for respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities, compared with 64% of those who did not belong to a visible minority group. Some visible minority groups had a high proportion of respondents reporting pride in the way democracy works in Canada, with 80% or more of West Asian, Filipino, Latin American and South Asian respondents reporting pride in this Canadian achievement.

Canadian-born respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were less likely to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada, with 65% reporting pride in this achievement, compared with 82% of respondents in groups designated as visible minorities who immigrated to Canada. Similar to Canadian-born respondents belonging to groups designated as visible minorities, 62% of Canadian-born respondents not belonging to a visible minority group were proud of the way democracy works in Canada.

Immigrants who arrived to Canada within the past five years are more likely to feel pride in how Canada treats all groups in society

Immigrant respondents (63%) were more likely than Canadian-born respondents (43%) to be proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. For immigrants, pride in how Canada treats all groups in society is connected to the time since their arrival in Canada; the longer they have been in Canada, the lower their pride in how Canada treats all groups in society. Nearly 8 in 10 immigrants who arrived in Canada 5 years ago or less (78%) expressed pride in this achievement, compared with 65% of immigrants who arrived 6 to 10 years ago and 60% of immigrants who arrived more than 10 years ago. However, regardless of the time since their arrival to Canada, the immigrant population was more likely than the non-immigrant population to report pride. 

The different levels of pride between immigrant respondents and Canadian-born respondents were observed not only for how Canada treats all groups in society but also for the health care system (79% versus 72%) and the way democracy works in Canada (81% versus 62%).

Indigenous respondents also report feeling the most pride in Canada’s health care system but are less likely to report pride in how Canada treats all groups in society and the way democracy works in Canada

As with non-Indigenous respondents, Indigenous people also reported feeling the most pride in Canada’s health care system. Among the Indigenous population living off reserve, 67% were proud of Canada’s health care system. This was the case for 63% of First Nations people living off reserve and 69% of Métis. This compares with 72% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous respondents. Because of the small number of Inuit respondents, estimates for Inuit are not available. It is important to note that the GSS SI did not collect information for people living on reserve. Thus, the information for Indigenous people reflects only the answers of respondents who live off reserve, which may be different from those of people who live on reserve.

Close to one-third (31%) of Indigenous people living off reserve reported feeling pride in how Canada treats all groups in society, compared with 43% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous Canadians. Indigenous people were also less likely to report feeling pride in how democracy works in Canada. Overall, just over half (52%) of Indigenous people living off reserve felt proud of the way democracy works (46% of First Nations people and 56% of Métis), compared with 63% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous Canadians.

These results partly reflect the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization, as well as the long-standing historical inequities experienced by Indigenous people in Canada, including social, democratic and economic inequities. As well, other achievements not listed in the survey may be more relevant to Indigenous respondents.

A slightly lower percentage of persons with disabilities report pride in Canada’s health care system 

Persons with disabilities were most proud of Canada’s health care system (72%), lower than what was reported by persons without disabilities (76%). This could be attributable to barriers that persons with disabilities experience trying to access health care services. For example, slightly over three-quarters (77%) of crowdsourcing participants with long-term conditions or disabilities reported that they required a health care service but were unable to access it because of the COVID-19 pandemic (see the publication The changes in health and well-being of Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic). Results are based on participants in the 2020 crowdsourcing initiative Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians – Living with Long-term Conditions and Disabilities (Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians: Data Collection Series).

Persons with disabilities were also less likely than persons without disabilities to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada (64% compared with 71%). Regarding pride in the treatment of all groups in society, persons with disabilities were less likely than persons without disabilities to express pride in this achievement (43% compared with 53%). Many persons with disabilities have experienced barriers in society, including in the workplace, or have experienced discrimination. For example, almost half (48%) of participants with disabilities in the 2020 crowdsourcing initiative Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians – Living with Long-term Conditions and Disabilities reported that they were discriminated against during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 25% of those without disabilities (see the publication The changes in health and well-being of Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Younger Canadians are less likely to be proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society and the way democracy works

While similar proportions of Canadians of all ages were proud of the health care system, Canadians aged 15 to 34 were less likely than those aged 35 and older to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada and pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. While 62% of Canadians aged 15 to 34 reported pride in the way democracy works, 70% of those aged 35 and older reported feeling proud. Canadians aged 15 to 34 were also less likely than older Canadians to be proud of the way all groups in society are treated, with 43% of 15- to 34-year-olds saying they were proud of this, compared with 53% of people aged 35 to 54 and 50% of people aged 55 and older. “


Black, Indigenous mothers say they were sterilized without full consent at Quebec hospitals

Recent. And discussions should have taken place earlier:

On a cold autumn morning in 2018, a 44-year-old Haitian woman was in labour at a Montreal hospital, hours away from welcoming her seventh child into the world.

After learning that she would have to undergo an emergency C-section, the woman was asked whether she’d like to have her tubes tied at the same time.

She recalls telling the obstetrician on duty that she didn’t know what the procedure — called tubal ligation — was or what it entailed.

Source: Black, Indigenous mothers say they were sterilized without full consent at Quebec hospitals

Comment décoloniser sa bibliothèque sans faire scandale

Good and pragmatic approaches, based on addition, not subtraction:

Décoloniser les bibliothèques ? Ce terme en hérisse plus d’un. Surtout depuis que les manchettes, la semaine dernière, ont montré des bibliothèques scolaires catholiques ontariennes confondre allègrement décolonisation, censure, élagage et réconciliation. Et si on revenait, avec des bibliothécaires et des spécialistes, au sens des idées, maintenant que la poussière de l’autodafé commence à retomber ? Retour, donc, aux fondamentaux : faut-il décoloniser les bibliothèques ? Et comment, sans faire scandale ?

« Décoloniser, ce n’est même pas le bon terme pour ce qu’on fait », précise d’abord Manon Tremblay, directrice principale aux directions autochtones. « À Concordia, on identifie les obstacles qui existent », ceux qui empêchent certaines personnes d’accéder aux lieux de savoirs que sont les bibliothèques et l’université. « Ça ne sert pas seulement les Autochtones. C’est pour tous les gens auxquels on n’a pas pensé quand on a mis les structures et les organisations en place. »

« La décolonisation passe par l’intégration de la perspective autochtone », continue Cyndy Wylde, professeure en service social à l’Université d’Ottawa. L’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) est un excellent exemple de cette intégration, dit celle qui y enseigne aussi : « Aménagement physique, développement de collection, organisation des recherches par thèmes, intellectuels ou culturels, afin que ça nous redonne aussi quelque chose. »

Mme Wylde poursuit : « La bibliothécaire de l’UQAT connaît les termes, les différentes nations, les grandes époques, etc. », ce qui lui permet de faire de la sécurisation culturelle. « Ça passe aussi par la connaissance des étudiants autochtones et des différentes cultures, au moins celle où l’université se situe. Sur quel territoire traditionnel cette bibliothèque est érigée. »

Du savoir en plus

La décolonisation en bibliothèque, résume Manon Tremblay, n’est pas une soustraction de savoirs, qu’ils soient datés, racistes ou litigieux. C’est plutôt une addition. On portera attention au vocabulaire, surtout celui qui sert de références. On augmentera, par exemple, les livres, les auteurs, les contenus, les voix — autochtones ou de la diversité. On ajoutera du contexte pour les contenus datés. On augmentera aussi l’accessibilité et la compréhension de ces voix-là pour et par tout le monde. En s’assurant qu’il y a assez de copies des populaires recueils de poésie de Joséphine Bacon, par exemple. Ou en offrant des conférences sur la spiritualité autochtone afin de mieux la comprendre.

Même ajouter des livres d’auteurs autochtones n’est pas chose si facile. Daniel Sioui, cofondateur des éditions et de la librairie Hannenorak, en témoigne. Depuis 2010, la maison d’édition sort une dizaine de nouveautés par année. « On n’a pas tant de communautés représentées par nos auteurs. On a des Innus. Des Wendats. Des Mohawks, pas tant. Anichinabés, ça s’en vient. Cet hiver, on sort un collectif, avec des auteurs de toutes les nations du Québec. C’est la première fois que ça arrive. »

La maison a dû faire un concours pour trouver un représentant de chaque nation. « Sinon, y en a pas, d’auteurs autochtones. Notre littérature est toute neuve, ça fait peut-être 25 ans qu’on a commencé à avoir des auteurs. C’est juste depuis les années 1960 que les Autochtones ont le droit d’aller à l’université. Plus il va y avoir d’éducation, plus il va y avoir d’auteurs. C’est sûr que les écoles dans les communautés, c’est tellement de la marde comparé aux écoles québécoises, c’est difficile de se rendre au cégep, pis après à l’université. La clé, c’est l’éducation. »

Faciliter la formation

Une autre clé donc, c’est l’éducation. Augmenter l’accessibilité de la bibliothèque pour les Autochtones : qu’ils viennent, usagers, emprunter des livres ; ou professionnels, y travailler. « Le problème, précise Guylaine Beaudry, directrice et bibliothécaire en chef à Concordia, c’est qu’on ne reçoit pas de candidatures. On s’est dit qu’il fallait alors agir sur la formation, pour faciliter l’entrée dans la profession de futurs collègues autochtones. »

Un programme incitatif a donc été mis en place il y a quelques années. McGill et l’Université de Montréal offrent la scolarité à ceux qui veulent venir, en anglais ou en français, à leurs écoles de bibliothéconomie. Concordia offre un poste d’étudiant-bibliothécaire, 15 heures par semaine. « Comme pour tous nos étudiants-bibliothécaires, ça les aide à entrer dans la profession, à créer leur réseau », continue-t-elle.

À ce jour, l’Université de Montréal n’a pas réussi encore à attirer un étudiant, alors qu’il y en a trois, actuellement, à McGill — un de première année, deux de deuxième. « On n’a pas beaucoup de crédibilité à dire à des gens qui ne nous connaissent pas : “Venez chez nous, on va vous aider” »,explique la directrice de l’école de bibliothéconomie de l’Université de Montréal, Lyne Da Sylva. « Il faut qu’on trouve le moyen d’aller leur expliquer pourquoi il est important que les Autochtones soient formés pour gérer leurs propres archives. Il y a énormément à gagner pour des populations qui veulent faire entendre leur voix. » Et probablement toute une conception des archives à remettre en question, et à faire bouger.

Commencer par écouter

L’ex-bibliothécaire et archiviste du Canada adjoint, Normand Charbonneau, rappelle que les manières de décoloniser les archives et bibliothèques sont déjà tracées. Le chemin est décrit, presque comme une recette, dans les appels à l’action du rapport de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation. Il souligne le numéro 57 : « Offrir une formation axée sur les compétences pour ce qui est de l’aptitude interculturelle, du règlement de différends, des droits de la personne et de la lutte contre le racisme ».

« Le développement de ces compétences culturelles est la clé », croit M. Charbonneau. « Trop souvent les organisations se mettent en marche avec des modalités avant d’avoir franchi cette étape essentielle. » Manon Tremblay le nomme autrement. « Ça demande un engagement soutenu et mutuellement respectueux avec les communautés autochtones. Pas une consultation, faite une fois : un engagement. Une relation, de longue durée. » Plus tard, elle corrigera : «DES relations, en fait, puisqu’il n’y aura pas un porte-parole qui décidera pour tous, ni une nation qui représentera toutes les autres. On voit qu’une des clés, c’est de faire affaire avec des communautés locales, en proximité d’abord. »

Manon Tremblay est crie des plaines de la communauté de Muskeg Lake. Cyndy Wylde est anicinape et atikamekw de la communauté de Pikogan. Daniel Sioui est wendat.


La censure, encore?

Of note:

La destruction, parfois par le feu, de presque 5000 livres tirés des bibliothèques du Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, en Ontario, en est l’illustration parfaite : dans la marmite de la rectitude politique, à trop vouloir lisser les rugosités de nos sociétés en redéfinition, on en vient à perdre tout sens de la mesure, toute notion de discernement essentiel. Au nom de valeurs phares nommées justice sociale et respect, on succombe à la censure. Et tout ça sous le couvert supposément bienveillant de l’école. Quelle époque confuse !

Le reportage percutant de Thomas Gerbet, publié par Radio-Canada cette semaine, dépasse tout entendement. Ce qu’il raconte et révèle de notre époque est à la fois loufoque et scandaleux. « Atroce », a utilisé le premier ministre François Legault pour parler de l’autodafé d’une trentaine de ces 4716 livres jugés discriminatoires et racistes, et véhiculant des préjugés contraires aux principes de l’inclusion. On peut souscrire à cette épithète : la destruction de livres, si noble soit l’intention derrière cette action folle, renvoie à des pratiques d’un temps révolu. La censure est une action bien lâche, en fait, voire hypocrite ; elle ne règle rien et envenime les choses.

Face au tollé, le conseil scolaire a reculé. Huit bédés de Lucky Luke et les aventures de Tintin dans L’oreille cassée auront la vie sauve, entre autres livres sauvés de la bêtise. Fiou ! La Belgique peut respirer. Cette histoire abracadabrante a commencé en 2019 dans le sud-ouest de l’Ontario, mais ne nous défaussons pas trop vite : elle aurait bien pu survenir plus près de chez nous. Sous couvert d’inclusion et d’ouverture à l’autre, les excès se multiplient au fil des mois et des années, qu’on pense seulement aux dérives comme l’affaire SLĀV ou encore la mise au ban de la professeure Verushka Lieutenant-Duval à l’Université d’Ottawa — pour avoir utilisé le mot en n dans un contexte, rappelons-le, pédagogique et respectueux des différences.

Ces histoires, et nombre d’autres, ont toutes en commun ceci de déroutant : dans le camp de la rectitude politique, de nouveaux moralisateurs dictent la marche à suivre, mais ne font pas toujours preuve de discernement.

Pour effectuer son épuration littéraire, le Conseil scolaire catholique Providence s’est adjoint les services de la « gardienne du savoir » Suzy Kies, qui a eu l’idée de brûler les livres pour fabriquer avec les cendres un engrais destiné à faire pousser des arbres, de quoi « tourner du négatif en positif ». La dame se réclamait d’une lignée autochtone finalement inventée de toutes pièces, ainsi que les reporters l’ont démontré mercredi. L’affaire rejaillit sur la campagne du chef libéral Justin Trudeau, apôtre de la réconciliation, qui a fait de cette fausse Autochtone la coprésidente de la Commission autochtone de son parti. Elle a renoncé mercredi à cette fonction. Tout ça ne s’invente pas.

On s’indigne du moyen choisi par ce conseil scolaire pour atteindre son but, mais son objectif n’était pas futile pour autant.

Il va de soi, bien sûr, que lutter contre des préjugés et stéréotypes associés aux Autochtones est de la plus haute importance. Il est aussi très noble de souhaiter raconter l’histoire autochtone sous de meilleurs auspices aujourd’hui, surtout quand on sait combien ce récit fut relaté sans respect pour la vérité et qu’on en porte le boulet encore aujourd’hui. Il est enfin absolument louable de reprendre avec les jeunes une conversation respectueuse et inclusive avec les Autochtones, et en cela, l’école est en effet une plateforme idéale pour rebâtir un dialogue. Mais détruire des livres — et avec eux des points de vue différents et des angles dignes d’une autre époque — n’est pas exactement la façon la plus efficace de développer l’esprit critique.

On ne peut s’empêcher de noter au passage la profonde hypocrisie que camoufle cette opération bidon. En s’attaquant aux livres du passé pour dénoncer le colonialisme dégoulinant de certains ouvrages datés, on oublie bien vite que les peuples autochtones sont encore soumis, ne serait-ce que sur l’enjeu crucial de la propriété de leurs terres, aux diktats des autorités en place. En dénonçant à grands cris l’utilisation du mot « indien » dans des romans jeunesse ou des bandes dessinées, on élude le fait que la grande Loi sur les Indiens, dont la première version remonte à 1876, porte toujours son libellé d’origine malgré le fait que tous s’entendent pour dire que cette référence perpétue une erreur.

Cette bêtise entérinée par des gens qu’on voudrait avisés, car nommés dans un conseil scolaire, aurait aussi reçu l’aval du ministère de l’Éducation de l’Ontario, qui a participé au projet de cérémonie de destruction des livres.

L’Éducation, le sanctuaire des écoles, le ministère dont la mission première tient à la formation des esprits, notamment par le truchement des livres ; l’Éducation, censeur d’une portion de l’histoire, comme jadis l’Église avec ses ouvrages mis à l’Index ? Cette époque produit décidément son lot d’extravagances et de reculs.

Source: La censure, encore?

How CBC is diving deeper when it comes to newsroom diversity

While promotional, some interesting data of diversity within the CBC, both in the newsroom as well as management, highlighting the relative under-representation of the different visible minority and Indigenous groups. Also some interesting analysis regarding the diversity of people being interviewed (but not the thought diversity that is harder to measure and assess):

Soon after the news broke about the discovery of unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, we convened a small group of our leaders and Indigenous journalists from across the country to act as an advisory committee for the CBC division of News, Current Affairs and Local.

We knew the story would only grow. There would be more discoveries in many different parts of Canada in the months ahead. We knew there was important accountability and investigative journalism to be done, building on years of excellent work tracking Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. (See Beyond 94, for example.)

We were also aware of the pain and trauma our journalism could create, not only for survivors and their families, but for our own staff with ties to this terrible legacy.

The committee was quick to identify areas in which we could support our staff. We rolled out a special edition of our “Reporting in Indigenous Communities” training course to about 30 leaders and assignment editors involved in deploying people to cover the story. We connected with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University to create a training program specific to the residential school story that will help our journalists understand trauma and how to approach people in affected communities, while also managing their own mental well-being.

And we created a dedicated residential school unit to ensure sustained, focused investigative journalism in the months ahead. The unit created an email tip line,, which received more than 200 messages in the first few weeks. It now has a toll-free number: 1-833-824-0800.

That early and proactive impulse to set up a committee and regularly consult with our Indigenous staff as this difficult story emerged resulted in greater sensitivity and understanding — and ultimately better, more nuanced journalism.

It’s a good example of what’s possible when a news organization like ours embraces the call for greater racial representation, equity and inclusion in everything it does, at every level. It’s a step forward on a long journey, with many more steps and undoubtedly years of hard work still to come.

We are 15 months into the cultural and social revolution sparked by the murder of George Floyd. As I’ve written before, this revolution swept news organizations the world over and resulted in some profound self-reflection about how we hire and promote, our core journalistic values and who defines them, and the stories, voices and perspectives we include — or exclude — as we cover the news.

To be clear, we started this important work long before May 2020 in many parts of our organization. We have always had a duty and responsibility to authentically portray this country and, as a result, the root of nearly every inclusion challenge we face are four key questions: Who’s at the table? Who’s speaking? Who’s missing? Who’s deciding?

Here’s a brief update on some of the work happening at CBC News, Current Affairs and Local to keep us on the path forward:

Newsroom diversity survey

We are participants in the Canadian Newsroom Diversity Survey led by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). The results, expected this fall, will offer a comparative analysis of the gender and racial makeup of at least 170 news organizations in Canada.

CBC/Radio-Canada is an industry leader when it comes to tracking and reporting on equity and staffing, having done so since the 1980s. As a federally regulated Crown corporation, CBC reports annually on our overall staffing composition per the Employment Equity Act, but many of us want more detail.

Are we reflective of Canada’s demography in the voices you hear, see or read each day? What about behind the scenes? Does management look different from part-time staff? Can we get more detail about specific racial groups as opposed to broad Employment Equity Act definitions such as “visible minority” or terms like “people of colour”?

We saw a great opportunity to get some of these answers in the CAJ initiative.

The measurement is imperfect. For instance, our numbers — a now-outdated snapshot in time as of December 2020 — come from self-declarations on a “cultural census” that we ask staff to complete. Many employees are captured under the broad equity definitions, but they have not completed the cultural census declaration for various reasons, which means we are forced to report many “unknowns” when asked for specific information about ethnocultural identity. Our gender data is binary (CBC is in the process of changing that to include non-binary). Biracial and multiracial staff may self-identify with one or more of the available categories in the survey. How should they be more accurately represented?

Still, the data will offer a baseline and provide some clarity on where we need to focus our recruitment and promotion efforts as a news organization. Here are few of the topline results for CBC’s journalism division, with more detail to come in the CAJ release this fall:

On gender, our newsrooms skew female at all levels: senior leadership is 54 per cent female and 46 per cent male; journalists are 56 per cent female and 44 per cent male; supervisors are 59 per cent female and 41 per cent male; part-time staff are 60 per cent female and 40 per cent male.

Of senior newsroom leaders in management positions, 22 per cent are people of colour or Indigenous. Here are a few graphs that show breakdowns in more detail:

Journalists (full time):

Journalists (part time):


Senior leadership:

* Notes on Senior Leadership: As this is a relatively small group of leaders, we addressed inconsistencies in the CBC cultural census data with what we know to be our leadership. We tallied leaders identified under one of the five ethnic categories and grouped everyone else under uncategorized. 

JSP and inclusion

We are also months into a review of how our Journalistic Standards and Practices (JSP) — the framework that guides our journalism — are interpreted through the lens of inclusion. A staff-led consultation led to 65 recommendations. We are moving immediately on 20 action items and continuing consultations on the rest. Among the biggest commitments included in that first set of 20:

  • We will create an advisory group involving Black, Indigenous and journalists of colour to support the JSP office.
  • We will create a separate staff advisory committee with representation from various communities to consult and support ongoing changes to our internal language and style guide.
  • We will reinforce that lived experience and being a part of any one community does not constitute a conflict of interest when covering those communities. We will remind all that we value lived experience and community connections in our journalists because it helps us to broaden and deepen our journalism.
  • We will continue to hire and promote representation at all levels of our organization, including leadership and decision-making roles. We will exceed 55 per cent representation for new hires from three equity deserving groups (people of colour, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities) in the year ahead.

Content tracking

In addition, more than 25 CBC journalistic programs have been involved in a staff-led content-tracking pilot project that tracks who appears on our airwaves and websites. Each team aims to identify at least three aspects: gender, race/ethnicity and whether or not the subject is speaking about their race or ethnicity. We are also tracking people who have publicly identified themselves as non-binary. Additional customized questions, such as the role of the guest on the program, can be added by the teams participating in this content-tracking project.

The results provide a baseline; a check on our assumptions and intentions around gender and racial equity. We learned, for example, that of nearly 5,000 guests counted across all the participating programs, 60 per cent were male. Hard numbers like that give our teams direction and ensure they course-correct. One consumer program saw that male experts appeared more often than females, for example, and the team made a concerted effort to bring more female guests onto their show.

We learned that 64 per cent of Indigenous guests and story subjects who appeared in our programs during the pilot spoke about their race and ethnicity, compared to 34 per cent of Black guests and story subjects. There is no right or wrong with these figures, considering how prominent the story of the Indigenous experience in Canada has been in recent months of news coverage. But the data forces us to self-reflect and discuss how we should incorporate the perspectives and experiences of these equity-deserving groups in all stories we are doing, beyond just issues related to aspects of their identities.

We aim to make this project a permanent, consistent practice across News, Current Affairs and Local. The staff leading this change have done extensive research and have years of experience in content tracking in Canada. They have already been asked to share their learnings with other newsrooms with similar efforts, including the BBC, NPR and many more.

What’s next?

We’ve come a long way. We have a long way to go.

The goal is clear: We will deepen our journalism and relevance to Canadians by broadening the perspectives at all levels of our organization and in the stories we tell.

Those four fundamental questions continue to guide us: Who’s at the table? Who’s speaking? Who’s missing? Who’s deciding?

Because as Canada’s public broadcaster, with one of the most trusted news services in the country, it is critical we are authentically and truly representing this country and all of its diversity.

Source: How CBC is diving deeper when it comes to newsroom diversity

Policy allowing traditional names on passports criticized for not going far enough

When ideology runs against the reality of international travel:

A change in federal policy allowing traditional Indigenous names on passports and other travel documents is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough, says the vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

Mariah Charleson notes that the Nuu-chah-nulth language uses special characters and letters to help with the pronunciation of words, but currently, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can only print in the Roman alphabet, with some French accents.

“If I just tried to anglicize [the words] and write them in English or French text, it wouldn’t be the same,” said Charleson. “It wouldn’t sound the same.”

Charleson said many First Nations people want to reclaim their names, and recognizing the special characters is important. “A lot of our culture and who we are is enshrined in our language.”

The move, which came into effect in June, was in response to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action, which appealed to the government to allow residential school survivors and their families to use their Indigenous names on government documents.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada took it further to include travel documents, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards, for all Indigenous peoples.

IRCC’s systems are developed in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which set the requirements to “help ensure all passports and travel documents are machine-readable,” said Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“All systems that handle passenger data, including personal identity information, follow the ICAO standards,” she said. “This makes sure no matter where you travel, your passport or travel document works across computer systems.”

For the next five years, any Indigenous person can apply to reclaim their Indigenous names on travel documents, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards free of charge.

“Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in reclaiming and using their Indigenous names is an integral part of the shared journey of reconciliation,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino.

“Traditional names are deeply connected to Indigenous languages and cultures, and an individual’s identity and dignity. This change means that Indigenous peoples can proudly reclaim their name, dismantling the legacy of colonialism and reflecting their true identity to the world.”

Layla Rorick, who prefers to be called by her traditional Hesquiaht name chuutsqa, said she will not be changing her government documents.

The Hesquiaht First Nation language teacher said she worries that if all her travel documents don’t match with corresponding names, she might be denied access to cross borders.

“I don’t feel that the border service agents will be educated enough to understand why my passport would have my traditional name on it,” she said.

In order to avoid any possible issues, Caron said the IRCC recommends travellers have other identification documents that match their reclaimed names.

chuutsqa received her traditional name from the late Simon Lucas when she got married in 2005. It is short for čuucqiłamuʔuqʷa, which was the name of her great-great-grandmother who lived in the Hesquiaht Harbour, where her parents continue to live today.

By using it, chuutsqa said she is helping to normalize the use of traditional names.

“It’s important to honour and remember the names that you’re given in your language,” she said.

While chuutsqa said she thinks it’s important for First Nations people to use their traditional names every day with their families and in their communities, “using it to cross borders” isn’t a priority for her.

“I really appreciate that [the government is] addressing a call to action,” she said. “It’s one more step towards reconciliation … it’s just not something that holds a lot of value for me.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report was published in December 2015. It outlined 94 calls to action to address the legacy of residential schools and to promote reconciliation in Canada.

According to IRCC, name change requests were being considered on a case-by-case basis until the formal process was established.

“A person’s name is fundamental to who they are,” IRCC said in a statement. “Indigenous names are endowed with deep cultural meaning and speak to Indigenous peoples’ presence on this land since time immemorial. Yet the impact of colonialism means that many Indigenous people’s names have not been recognized.”

Although chuutsqa said she doesn’t intend to change her government documents, she will continue to use her traditional name every day.

“It’s a way to reconnect to what our ancestors would have called us,” she said. “And to help others feel comfortable in knowing that using our language is safe, it’s fun, it’s part of living a good life.”

Source: Policy allowing traditional names on passports criticized for not going far enough

Canada should Indigenize the Senate

Hard to see any government making such a significant change, given the constitutional and institutional impact and the likely Charter issues that such a policy would raise. About 17 percent of the current government’s Senate appointments are Indigenous.

And of course, given that such an ongoing process of new senators being Indigenous, this would require national and provincial consensus for future governments to follow such an approach. Not going to happen:

The appointment of Inuk leader Mary Simon as Canada’s 30th Governor-General is a vital step toward recognizing the significance of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s past, present and future. A northerner with decades of experience and a woman grounded in culture, she represents a true shift in Canada – and beyond.

We are all celebrating. In early July, Kahnawà:ke, Que., elected its first woman and 2SLGBTQ+ member as Grand Chief. And now RoseAnne Archibald is the first woman to be Assembly of First Nations National Chief. I agree with those who say this is an era of matriarchs.

This paradigm shift gives me hope, especially after a Canada Day unlike any other. There were fewer fireworks and less flag-waving, while orange shirts appeared to outnumber red-and-white ones in some communities. The nation took pause to reflect on the disturbing discoveries of children’s remains outside of former residential schools.

Canadians are increasingly recognizing the horror of their country’s deep-rooted colonial past and have begun looking for, and demanding, remedies. Now is the time for change.

One place where significant and meaningful change is immediately possible is in the Canadian Senate, which might be this country’s ultimate colonial institution. A remnant of the undemocratic legislative councils that governed the colonies before Confederation, the Senate was created both to represent the provinces, but more importantly, also as a check on elected government. Like the House of Lords in Britain, Canada’s Senate was created to safeguard the interests of propertied elites.

Following a series of scandals and a larger conversation about the purpose and nature of the institution, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau disbanded the Liberal caucus in the Senate several years ago. In its place, he vowed to appoint only independent senators, which would be recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, established in 2016. The effect has been positive, and already he has appointed 60 senators – a majority of its current members – in this way.

Further Senate reform should be Mr. Trudeau’s next step. He can reform the Senate to be not only independent but also Indigenous, which would mean a vital shift in how Canada is governed and power is shared. Indeed, Mr. Trudeau should ask the Senate advisory board to recommend only exceptional Indigenous candidates who are well-regarded by recognized Indigenous communities.

Transforming the Senate to truly reflect and include a majority Indigenous representation would be a significant gesture toward reconciliation. It would have natural legitimacy as a custodial body safeguarding the land and all peoples. In using his discretion to establish this new convention, Mr. Trudeau would set Canada on a new and more equitable constitutional path. “Indigenizing” the Senate could be among the Prime Minister’s most consequential legacies.

Of course, Indigenous perspectives vary and not all will welcome a dedicated parliamentary chamber within an apparatus some view as illegitimate. An Indigenized Senate would grapple with adequately representing the diversity of Indigenous perspectives, Nations and interests while preserving Canada’s constitutional commitment to bilingualism and representation of the provinces.

An Indigenous Senate would continue to scrutinize and improve legislation, while at the same time place Indigenous perspectives at the heart of Parliament and at the centre of our national conversation. It would exercise its responsibilities on behalf of all residents of this land – not only Indigenous ones.

With today’s 105 senators serving until age 75, the transition to a fully Indigenized Senate would happen over several decades. This would allow the Senate’s newest members to learn its traditions while also providing time for new practices to evolve.

In an interview before retiring as a senator, Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman and former judge Murray Sinclair referred to his vision of the Senate as a “council of elders” that would provide thoughtful, non-partisan government oversight. An Indigenized Senate takes Justice Sinclair’s vision at face value – and to heart – and considers that his idea might be applied literally.

Ultimately, reconciliation will mean ceding and sharing power. The Prime Minister, acting of his own initiative, could and should demonstrate his commitment to Indigenous people with this act of political imagination.

Kluane Adamek has served as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Yukon Regional Chief since January, 2018. She is a proud northerner and citizen of Kluane First Nation. Regional Chief Adamek belongs to the Dakl’aweidi (Killer Whale) Clan and comes from a diverse background with Tlingit, Southern Tutchone, German and Irish origins.


Hayden Taylor: For some, the definition of ‘settler’ is as difficult to pin down as reconciliation

Interesting reflections on the term “settler:”

In a lot of my writing, I frequently use the term “settler” in referring to those comprising the dominant society of Canada. In another time and age, they might be referred to as white people – i.e. the colour-challenged, or people of pallor. But in these more politically correct times, we in the Indigenous community prefer “settler.” It sounds more neutral and historically relevant.

However, some disagree with that title. Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Mike who objects to the term. After several paragraphs on how his Irish family were abused by the English and ended up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Canada, he adds, “When writers, almost always Indigenous, use the term ‘settler’ to describe people like me, I can’t help picking up a tone of, what is it? Bitterness, anger, maybe even submerged hatred. At a minimum, what I sense is passive aggression.”

He finishes his complaint off by asking me, specifically, “that you please not refer to people as ‘settlers’ unless they really were ‘settlers.’ ”

I mentioned this to some friends and they called it settler fragility.

Let’s deconstruct the argument. Technically, who are these settlers of which we speak? That has been an intense topic of discussion in recent times. For some, its definition is as difficult to pin down as reconciliation. Some would argue it’s anybody whose ancestors were not a part of this land since Time Immemorial. Similarly, others might further define settlers as all the non-Indigenous peoples living in Canada who form the society we live in today, politically, economically and culturally. Basically, if your ancestors came here, and you are enjoying and revelling in the end product of turning Turtle Island into Canada, you are a settler. So enjoy your latté and non-fat Greek yogurt.

Numerous settlers I have talked with accept and acknowledge that. Many have told me “guilty as charged,” “I’m a settler. It is not an insult, it’s a fact” or “where do I sign up for Settlers Anonymous?” Instead of a 12-step plan, their charter includes the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But let’s face it, not every person walking the streets and roads of Canada can claim the divine right of terra nullius. If you were brought here, either by physical force (i.e. that all-expense-paid boat trip from Africa) or through intense economic coercion (i.e. come for the railway-building and stay for the racism), you might have a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Still, is it a nasty, critical moniker? It appears it can be. One person on Twitter reported they got a five-day ban on Facebook for calling somebody a settler. When you think about it, “settler” seems to be one of the least offensive terms that could be used. Others that have been suggested during a brief and highly unscientific poll I did online (from mostly settlers responding) include colonizer, occupier, original boat people, squatters, second-generation settlers, beneficiaries of genocidal Canadian Indigenous policies, colonial invader, Euro invaders, economic refugees, and my personal favourite, the Second Nation people, as opposed to First Nations. Actually, no, this is my favourite suggestion: the year-round multi-generational campers. It’s kind of a mouthful, but you get the picture.

Additionally, it would make a hell of a good name for a sports team. I hear a few out there are looking for a new one.

And I don’t think Mike is alone, although I am puzzled why he wants me, and it seems just me, to stop using the term. Everybody else is okay, I guess. I’m getting used to responses like this. Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about how many First Nations people find themselves sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It was just a report on conversations I had with many Indigenous people and listing the reasons I had been told.

The response to the article, some positive but mostly negative, was surprising. I had e-mails from quite a few people telling me that I should tell those same Indigenous friends how wrong they are. Several different people, possibly settlers, sent detailed lists breaking down why Indigenous people should stay clear of the Palestinian perspective.

To the settlers of the world – Mike, this includes you – I know many of you may disagree with the argument I have posted, and may find it a little … unsettlering. If you don’t agree, just remember, I earn most of my salary from making things up.

Additionally, we could spend the next pandemic playing the “what if …” game: i.e. “what if my ancestors fled in religious terror and found themselves in Canada because they weren’t allowed into … let’s say Monaco?” As of yet, I can’t answer those. But I am currently putting together a detailed chart that should be able to answer all those questions.