A young Inuit woman addressed the assembly at the UN Conference on Climate Change on Canada’s behalf this past Wednesday in Marrakesh.

Maatalii Okalik, president of the Inuit Youth Council, accompanied the Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna to the 22nd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 22) where she pleaded for the world leaders to take native communities into account.

“With your continued leadership that will define our future on climate action, I am hopeful that it is done in cooperation with Indigenous peoples,” Okalik said.

Okalik’s brief allocution was showcased in Canada’s national statement. The Minister introduced her as “an incredible young leader for the Canadian Arctic and a strong voice for Inuit youth.”

The liberal government seems determined as ever to display its good intentions to include indigenous communities in its decisions, at least on social media. On Tuesday, McKenna shaed a picture of Okalik on a stage with several indigenous leaders on Snapchat. The picture was captioned “Amazing panel on Indigenous role on climate action. I want Canada to be a leader on this.”

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According to National Post, the Canadian delegation in Marrakesh comprises around 17 representatives from various indigenous groups.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) decided to send its own delegation to Marrakesh. Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart and Elder Francois Paulette of the Dene Nation are both attending. Their mission is to ensure that First Nations have “a strong voice” in the plan for climate action.

“First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action,” Elder Paulette declared in a communiqué.

Chief Hart, who is also co-chair on the Chiefs Committee for Climate Change, insisted on the importance of indigenous rights and responsibilities being fully recognized.

Both he and Okalik alluded to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the Canadian government officially supports this treaty, the Trudeau administration deemed it “unworkable” as a Canadian law.

Although Trudeau is not attending this year, Canada sent a sizable delegation. Several provincial Premiers and environment ministers are there, including Quebec’s Philippe Couillard and David Heurtel. Union representatives as well as environmental advocacy groups like Equiterre and Ecojustice Canada are also there.

Where does Canada stand in Marrakesh?

COP 22 is a two week long event that will end on Friday the 18th. Its purpose is to form strategies to reach the goals set one year ago in Paris for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In November 2015, freshly-elected Justin Trudeau arrived at the COP 21 with nothing but the timid goals set by the Harper government: bring GHG emissions down to 30% under 2005 levels before 2030. But according to the grapevine, Canada will revise its ambitions upwards. Greenpeace Canada told La Presse Canadienne that Canadian officials in Marrakesh said that the new goal was to bring GHG emissions 80% below 2005 levels before year 2050.

The measures to be deployed in that regard are vastly unknown. Last month, the federal government announced that all provinces and territories will have to implement a carbon tax of at least 10$/ton by 2018, to reach 50$/ton in 2022. Canada had already promised $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries access and create clean technologies.

On Wednesday, the government announced a contribution of $2.5 Million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network to that effect. The CTCN is an agency created by the UN to help emerging countries access and develop new technologies, both to fight climate change and to deal with its effects.

The government also promised an investment of $1.8 Billion to “mobilize” the private sector to do the same.

A more detailed national strategy is awaited in the next couple of days.

 

The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) took a startling position during the inquest into the suicide of Lena Anderson in the back of one of its police cars. On Wednesday, they asked the five members of the jury to recommend that their service either be brought under the Police Services Act before April 2017, or disbanded.

The inquest shone a grim light on the deficient resources of the largest First Nations-administered police service in the country and the role it played in Anderson’s death. NAPS board chair Mike Metatawabin told the inquest that there was no point in keeping the service when it didn’t have the resources to fulfill its duties.

“Enough is enough. We can’t do this all the time where you promise something and then turn around and say you can’t do it,” he said, as quoted by CBC.

No Cells, No Radio and No Help

Lena Anderson, a 23 year old native woman, died in the back of a police car on February 1st 2013 in the remote aboriginal community of Kasabonika Lake in Northern Ontario.

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Earlier that night, Anderson’s daughter had been apprehended by a child welfare worker after being found drinking at a party in Kasabonika Lake First Nation, where alcohol is prohibited. Anderson became frantic when she learned the news, to the point where Cst. Jeremy Swanson took her into custody for her own safety.

Since Kasabonika doesn’t have proper holding cells, the standard practice is to hold detainees in the passenger compartment of the police cruiser until they are let go or transported out of town.  Swanson said that he intended to release Anderson once she had “sobered up”.

During his testimony, he recounted how he tried to contact the other officer over the radio but couldn’t get through. Since NAPS uses an old radio system instead of the modern ones that would have allowed him to leave a message to a dispatcher, he had no way of getting assistance without leaving the car.

According to Swanson’s notes, he left Anderson in the car for 16 minutes while he stopped at the door of a local social worker to get her to try to contact an off-duty officer. When he came back, the young woman had hung herself with a drawstring from her pants.

“I checked for a pulse. There was nothing…I tried to yell as loud as I could. No one was coming to help me.”

Swanson cut her down but the conditions made it impossible to “perform CPR efficiently.”

He got the social worker, Tina Nevins, to alert the nursing station that they were coming. Still, nobody was waiting for them outside when they arrived, so Swanson “carried and dragged Lena to the building, and started yelling for help.” Anderson was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.

When Swanson was asked about alternatives for holding detainees in the absence of cells, he said “there should be cells. Otherwise there shouldn’t be police officers, because they can’t do their jobs.”

History repeats itself

On Thursday, the coroner’s council issued 27 recommendations to avoid future incidents. The coroner’s office’s recommendations are not binding, contrarily to the jury’s. They stopped short of endorsing the idea of disbanding the NAPS, advising instead the jury to be careful in how far they take their recommendations.

They largely insisted, however, on the importance of ensuring that First Nations communities have access to the same level of policing and services as other communities.

The inquest into the Kashechewan fire deaths of 2009 brought essentially the same recommendations forward, but they still haven’t been followed.

“Lena Anderson would be alive today,” said NAPS legal councillor Julian Falconer in an interview with a local paper. “She died in 2013, because of the very same problems the jury identified in 2009.”

The NAPS board chair also referred to the failure to follow up on the 2009 recommendations in his emotional testimony: “For me it’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking that we’re still here, we’re still waiting, we’re still trying to make it better.”

First Nations Policing Program Called into Question

As per the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP), aboriginal communities in Canada are either policed by the RCMP or by a self-administered police service.

The Nishnawbe Aski police service is the largest First Nations police force in the country, with over 134 uniformed officers. Those 134 officers are in charge of 35 communities, spreading from Thunder Bay to James Bay.

First Nations administered police forces like NAPS were first instated when the FNPP was created in 1992 and their legal framework has not been updated since then.

They are mostly constituted of micro-sized services mandated to serve remote communities under provincial police regulations. In 24 years, 58 such services were created. Twenty of them were disbanded due to various crisis and failures.  Recent government research found that the diminutive size of these services was a primary cause of their failures.

Metatawabin and Falconer, with Swanson’s lawyer, Mike Maher and the lawyer representing the Anderson family, Christa Big Canoe, all called the entire First Nations policing program into question:

“From the perspective of my client, if they’re not willing to put their money where their mouths are, we just need to fold the whole program.”

* Featured image via netnewsledger.com

For many true dippers, through and through New Democrats, the last Canadian Federal Election was an excruciating ordeal. What looked like a historic run towards the first Social-Democratic government in Canada history turned into a nightmarish scenario for thousands of NDP volunteers, hundreds of NDP teams, candidates and their staff from coast to coast to coast.

It is a secret to no one that I participated in one of the NDP campaigns on the Island of Montreal, in the borough of Lachine and Lasalle and in the city of Dorval. During the three years of working in the riding of Lachine, I saw first hand what elected representatives with heart and courage can accomplish for social justice by fighting against poverty, racism and xenophobia.

MPs offices and staff can truly be at the service of the people, front-line services like fighting deportations, fighting for the betterment of poor working people’s pensions, fighting for mothers to receive their rightful universal child care benefit and most importantly creating a space of listening, a true channel between the voices that are silenced in our political system and Parliament. A true, though minor, revolutionary occurrence.

It was three years of seeing firsthand the gruesome side of the political spectacle. The daily sexism that young women and women in general faced both inside and outside of the House of Commons. The political plays and the political playbooks. The clientelism and tokenism and racism that is tenfold within our political system. The centrifuge forces that boil politics all down to the same one disconnected narrative, the photo-ops that are nothing more than smokescreens for the worst of political maneuvers.

As NDPers we get involved in a broken political process to bring about transformative change, to deconstruct the toxic power dynamics that keep voices outside of the political process. As an NDPer I got involved not for power as the sole objective. Instead, like many other dippers, it was for my heartfelt objective to fight alongside disenfranchised communities and sections of Canadian and Quebec society against all types of exclusions and all phobias.

It was to craft alongside members of marginalized, radicalized and ostracized groups a space in which their voices are heard. A space in which their stories are the narrative, the focal point and not a skit or a footnote.

I got involved in the NDP to share, to learn, to have the voices that are offend muted influence our decision making process and our policy and platform. I got involved with the NDP to uphold human rights, equity and social justice everywhere, both within Canada’s borders and outside.

In the last election, it seems we forgot that change beings within the realm of our own party. It must flow through the structure of the party itself. We failed terribly in last election and during the four years leading-up to e-day in creating the structure and environment that empowered and enabled change.

When we so badly needed change to be the fuel that would propel us to a historic victory, we were running on empty. Let it be clear from here on, the NDP won’t get into 24 Sussex Drive through the back door.

What hurt the most in the last election is that we underestimated ourselves. We underestimated the potency of the values and principals that are at the foundation of our political movement. Canadians weren’t asking for caution, they were asking for courage.

Courage to stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people. Courage to tackle fiscal inequity and financial deregulation. Courage to tackle poverty and to fight “deficit zero,” the golden rule of austerity, through progressive budgeting. Courage to have a vision for Universal Free Education, to work with the provinces–respecting provincial prerogatives, differences and jurisdiction– to create a framework for universal access to post-secondary education for all Canadians.

Canadians expected us to stand up to big oil, gas and mining companies and to offer a clear plan to bring the Canadian economy into the 21st century through the overhaul of toxic pipeline projects.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities were expecting the NDP, during the campaign, to put the spotlight on the suffocating poverty, disrespect and disregard they’ve been the victims of for centuries. To have a bold plan to deconstruct the dynamics of systemic racism that are embedded within the structure of our democracy.

It was our duty to put forward a global plan to create new structures and institutions, to change the structure of political system and our electoral model, to ensure that the concerns and aspirations of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are not merely heard but the benchmark for all policy debate within this country.

Like many Quebeckers, I added my name to the initiative calling for a structural and ideological renewal of the NDP which appears in the pages of Le Devoir and the Toronto Star today. This implies a board debate within Canadian society that engages with activists and militants of all stripes, environmentalists, students, anti-poverty, anti-racist, LGBTQIA, First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Here in Quebec we must reach out to the anti-austerity movement and campaigns that are happening right across this province. We must make the NDP the movement of movements again, a synthesis and space of debate and true participatory democracy for all Canadian progressives.

We have an obligation to our past and to the future to reinvigorate our internal democratic proceedings, to start a big conversation about what’s the future of the Canadian political left and what is the role of the NDP within the bigger picture, alongside grassroots mobilization, community and local initiatives and organized labor.

If the NDP is to have any relevance in the future, our party must create the space within itself where true democracy flourishes, that empowers the spaces of democracy that are already existent within the Canadian left, the spaces of democracy that have flourished in resistance to the policies of austerity, racism and the destruction of the environment.

For the NDP to be the vehicle of true democracy, of a more just, free and equitable Canada, this debate must start now.

Panelists Pamela Fillion and Cem Ertekin discuss Fantasia (includes a segment from a forthcoming interview with the director and star of We Are All Still Here), zombie movies, a zombie apocalypse, the very real actions of Montreal police stopping a Unist’ot’en solidarity protest and Just for Laughs. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

 

Panelists

Pamela Fillion: FTB music and film contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Read the rest of our Fantasia and Just for Laughs/OFF-JFL coverage and Cem’s report on the protest

FTB PODCAST #9: Fantasia and Zombies, Unist’ot’en Solidarity Protest Arrests and Just For Laughs by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

For over eight weeks, photographer Robert Van Waarden travelled from Hardisty Alberta to Saint-John New Brunswick in order to talk with and photograph residents living along the projected path of TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline. He has chronicled his many stops and is now in the process of curating his images and short films for an upcoming travelling exhibit that will revisit the communities he visited along the pipeline’s route.

While travelling the country by car, he has witnessed first-hand the generosity and hospitality of countless Canadians. Van Waarden has been able to discuss at length with those who will bear the brunt of the risk if ever the pipeline is built, and says that the main concerns residents have with the project is water safety, spills and climate change. These are legitimate concerns.  Gaspé is fighting Petrolia over regulations that would protect the town’s drinking water from harm caused by hydraulic fracturing while in Alberta, the lakes surrounding the oil sands are being polluted at an alarming rate.

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TransCanada’s EnergyEast pipeline is slated to cross the Nipigon River which flows into Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh-water lake that millions of Canadians and Americans rely on for drinking water.  Van Waarden interviewed Keith Hobbs, mayor of Thunder Bay and Chair of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities, an opponent of  the EnergyEast pipeline.   

Despite environmental concerns, some see the pipeline as a positive economic force that will create jobs and stimulate Canada’s economy. Some figures seem to back them up: in the last year, nine out of ten new jobs in Canada were created in Alberta, and while countries across the globe still struggle to reboot their economy, Canada’s export markets has become an engine of growth.

Some people are ready to take on the immediate environmental risk to their community (let alone the global reach of tar-sands pollution) for the promise of some direct or trickle-down economic gain. It’s unfortunate that people are being put in this situation and that the discussion is constrained to tar-sand jobs vs. no jobs when in fact, green energy initiatives have the potential to create even more jobs , stimulate technological innovation and sustainable growth with less risk for both people and the environment.

Van Waarden also met with First Nations people who have opened their homes and hearts and shared their experience among them Kanesetake Grand Chief Serge Simon who discussed his community’s oppositions to the pipeline.

Along the Pipeline | Serge Simon, Grand Chief Kanesatake, Quebec from Robert van Waarden on Vimeo.

If First Nations have often been sidelined when it comes to natural resources development and extraction, the recent Supreme Court decision in favour of the Tsilhqot’in in British Columbia will no doubt shake things up a bit. Van Waarden says that the “First Nations could stop this pipeline and that they are taking it seriously. From what I have seen and heard they are going to be a force to reckon with.”

“We live in a beautiful country and there is an incredible amount of land and people that would be impacted by this pipeline. There are many strong voices and opinions in this country and the common thread throughout is that Canadians and First Nations are questioning the direction we are headed. It has been an honour to listen to and photograph so many diverse individuals and communities”

For more images and video, please visit link http://alongthepipeline.com

I’ve never been overtly nationalist, and I’ve never really felt the need to engage in a public display of affection for my country of birth: Canada. Having travelled throughout the world, nationalism has always bewildered me, made me feel uncomfortable to some extent, but on rare occasion – though there’s been a few — I’ve found pleasure in seeing others proudly parade their national colours. This is only when I’ve felt that it’s a sort of inclusive festivity open to all, a celebration of sharing instead of a chest-boasting competition that emanates close-mindedness and some form of repressed aggressively.

All this to say, I’ve rarely celebrated any national holiday, that supposedly I would be entitled to through my array of nationalities and divergent cultural backgrounds. But this year more than ever, I will not celebrate Canada Day.

This year more than ever the Canada Day celebrations seem void of any substantial meaning. But I can understand why this Conservative government would strive with such ardour to mark the 147th anniversary of the signing of the British North American Act. For the Conservatives, those were the golden days, and if they could revert Canadian society back to that point in time they certainly would.

In the first place I never really related to Canada Day because I don’t relate to exercises in nationalism in general. Once I dug deeper into the symbolic meaning of Canada Day, I truly disassociated. The celebration of Canada Day is the celebration of a certain vision of Canada, an antiquated one. It’s a vision of Canada that does not include a majority of current population of Canada, and that doesn’t take in account the peoples that lived on this soil prior to colonialism.

But given the recent Conservative agenda, Canada Day for me this year has become much more significant than previously. This year Canada Day isn’t just a misfit, an anachronistic celebration; it’s unfortunately become the manifestation of a Canada in which colonialist attitudes are still rampant. Its a celebration of a country in which too many are marginalized and disenfranchised, relegated to the sidelines of society, and stripped of their voices within the Canadian political arena.

The question that must be asked as the Canada Day celebrations are in full-swing is what are we celebrating exactly? Are we supposed to celebrate our allegiance to the flag and to the institutions, the Canadian government? Or are we supposed to celebrate the diversity of this country, the principals and values that Canadians cherish, the potential that resides within this population, this land?

How can we celebrate Canada Day or Canada, when Indigenous communities are in a dire fight to defend their right to their land that was supposed to be guaranteed under the Canadian Confederation. If the 1st of July 1867 is to mean anything to Indigenous communities of Canada, it is certainly a promise to build a nation to nation relationship, a confederation that would include and shape itself with First Nations. Canada Day indirectly is the celebration of a string of broken promises towards our native sisters and brothers.

This 1st of July should serve as a reminder of the shortcomings of the Canadian state in these past 147 years, but also as a reminder that Canada has changed and that as long as we do not built a sustainable relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities throughout Canada. Canada Day will be but the celebration of a colonial system that might have changed in appearance, but is rather far off from changing in substance. If we truly want to celebrate the diversity of Canada, then we must strive to craft a confederation in which Canadians of all backgrounds are represented, not only Caucasian Canadians of European decent.

We must dissociate the celebration of Canada from the colonial system that was prevalent in 1867. It is my hope that it will be one of the steps forward toward decolonization. Thus the best way to celebrate Canada is to resist… resist the Northern Gateway Pipeline for example.

A luta continua.

Creating sustained and respected dialogue between Indigenous communities and settler society has long been a struggle in decolonization movements. Most recently, the approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline in BC exemplifies the damage that the lack of  dialogue, and by extension, free, prior and informed consent, can do.

A new initiative, Skills for Solidarity, is attempting to work on mending, or at least, beginning a dialogue by exploring the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The initiative plans to offer a free program designed to “renew the relationship between nations” by exploring shared histories and offering tools for solidarity work.

There’s still a long battle ahead toward decolonization, however perhaps Skills for Solidarity could be considered a step toward it.  The full modules and program syllabus are listed on the initiative’s site (part of leadnow.ca).

 

 

Concordia University’s Department of Theatre will debut their production Attawapiskat Is No Exception, an original play conceived in response to 2011’s housing crisis at the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.

The play is influenced by the historical events and cultural practices of three northern First Nations communities: Sayisi Dene of Manitoba; Lake St. Martin, Manitoba; and Attawapiskat Cree Nation. It draws attention to the problems surrounding living conditions on northern First Nations Reserves, and enacts the troubled relationship between native leaders and non-native policy makers.

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Broad-based research about First Nations issues was carried out by all participants in the early stages of collaboration during the fall semester. Students involved in the production took a required course about First Nations dramaturgy, co-taught by Favel and Neuerburg-Denzer. In addition, Karl Hele, chair of First Peoples Studies at Concordia, gave an in-depth lecture on land rights, and participation in such activities as a visit to Kahnawake’ s Cultural Center, Mc Gill’s First Peoples Week, and the March for the Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women aided students in their research.

First Nations theatre is a new research field for Neuerburg-Denzer, whose area of study has focused extensively on emotion studies for performers. “Through the research and creation of Attawapiskat is No Exception, I expressly aim to help conserve and develop knowledge specific to Canada’s First People” she says, “so that the relations between native and non-native individuals and groups might be improved.”  Floyd Favel is a theatre and dance (contemporary and native traditional) director, performer, writer and teacher from Poundmaker Reserve in Saskatchewan. He is currently in writing and co-producing a feature length film, Sweet Cherry Wine, that will be performed entirely in Cree.

There will be a roundtable discussion after Saturday’s matinee performance about the issues raised by “Attawapiskat” and the ways the performance addresses the intersection between aboriginal and “western” playmaking strategies, including the special responsibilities of a predominantly non-native co-creative team. The roundtable will be moderated by M.J. Thompson (Art Education) with Floyd Favel, Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer, Karl Hele, Anik Sioui and Emilie Monnet of Odaya Drum Group, Chelsea Vowel (activist blogger and Cree instructor) and the student actors Tyson Houseman and Brefny Caribou-Curtin. A talk back session with the cast and designers will take place directly following the Friday night show.

Attawapiskat Is No Exception runs April 2 to 5 at 8pm, April 5 and 6 at 2pm at D.B. Clarke Theatre (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West). Tickets ($10 regular, $5 student) available at the door or in advance. To purchase tickets, email  your name, phone number, number of tickets requested, and the date and time of performance.

 

Last week, people in several cities around the country held peaceful demonstrations  demanding that the government disclose everything that it knows about the crimes of Canada’s disgraceful residential schools. Predictably, the old media ignored it, much as they have done with other Idle No More type actions recently.

The latest outrage was prompted by a shocking discovery made by a researcher at the University of Guelph that in the 40s, the Canadian government conducted secret experiments on aboriginal school children, at least one of which involve deliberately depriving hungry children of milk to see what effects it might have on their already extreme malnutrition (an idea that would no doubt make infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele proud). This news comes at a particularly tense period in relations between the government and First Nations over the lack of progress being made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with exposing the atrocities committed in the name of “civilizing” aboriginal kids by members of the churches running these schools.

The courts, in particular the Ontario Superior Court, have also ruled in favour of the TRC with regards to the obligations of the government to hand over all relevant documents (read about the Ontario Superior Court decision here ) despite the government’s attempts to bog it down in legal bickering over the definition of what “relevant documents” is ( is it any wonder people hate lawyers???). Basically, the Aboriginal affairs department made the intellectually dishonest and lazy argument that, under the definition contained in mandate of the TRC, it was not required to go beyond its own archives and provide historical documents only available through the National Archives of Canada.

Might this have something to do with the cost of searching and producing such materials? Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s 2013 report on the Fed’s expenses seemed to hint that it was. The cost of gathering all the documents is estimated by Library and Archives to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 million and would take 10 years to digitize.

Aboriginal Affairs already complained to the AG that they were given less than 20 million to do the job, so far. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the TRC’s mandate which expires in 2014.

As Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations recently said in an op-ed published in the Globe, it’s Harper’s responsibility to make good on his 2008 apology to First Nation Canadians and our responsibility as a Country to see that the government reveals our shameful past: “Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together.”

* For more on residential schools in Canada, please watch the documentary Unrepentant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqUvhDG7x2E