Sure, I had “Donald Trump Attempts to Cancel US Democracy Itself” on my 2020 Bingo Card. I even had the excuses he would use (mail-in voting/Coronavirus) and the method of notification (tweet). But, let’s be honest, so did pretty much everyone else.

It is, at the same time, an unprecedented and frightening attack on the fundamentals of American Democracy, plunging the US one giant step closer to dictatorship, and a move so predictable I could have written most of this post a few months ago and just filled in the blanks with details today.

This morning, US President Donald Trump tweeted:

No, He Can’t Just Do That

In case you were wondering, no, he can’t, on his own, postpone a Presidential Election, or any election, for that matter. Unlike parliamentary democracies such as Canada, where Minority Governments are a thing, US election dates are fixed.

The Presidency is a four-year term, no more, no less, period. That’s why, when a president is impeached, steps down, or passes away before the four years are up, the office and all of its powers transfer to the next one in line instead of holding an election when it’s not the appropriate time.

The only way to move the voting day, even slightly, is with a law passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. Changing the date a new president takes office or an incumbent president starts their second term, on the other hand, would take a constitutional amendment. (As a Canadian, thanks to Cenk Uygur of TYT for this info, which apparently most Americans learn in high school civics.)

Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi and her sometimes lackluster legislative opposition to Trump, there’s no way she lets him get away with this one in the House. Meanwhile constitutional amendments take years, not the weeks, and the election is fewer than 100 days away, so also a no-go.

So Why Worry?

So, if Trump can’t legally pull off what he suggested in his tweet, why worry? Putting aside the fact that legality doesn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle for him, the real concern is the tweet itself.

While it’s structured like a typical Trump toilet tweet, there are some noticeable differences:

  • He only uses all caps twice to highlight specific words.
  • He says there is a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting (there isn’t) in an attempt to preempt a common argument that his opposition to mail-in voting is hypocritical because he votes absentee himself and wrong because US troops stationed overseas have been doing it for years.
  • There are no glaring grammatical errors.
  • It was posted at 8:46am, a good time to be in the morning news cycle, and not at 3am like other tweets.

All this leads me to believe that someone else read it and edited it before he sent it. Maybe someone else even wrote it. This is Trump on-prompter written to sound like Trump off-the-cuff.

It’s not the unhinged ramblings of a troll. It’s a political test balloon.

They’re seeing how many people will go along with subversion of democracy either before or after the election and laying the groundwork for a challenge to the election results if Trump loses. And it looks like he might very well lose.

Sure, the polls in 2016 were saying that Hillary Clinton would win, but not by as much as they are saying Joe Biden will win this time. Also not in the same places – Trump’s poised to lose the suburbs hard.

Biden’s strategy of staying at home, poking his head out occasionally and letting Trump destroy himself in the spotlight seems to be working. Subverting American Democracy itself may be the current president’s last option.

We all knew it would come to this, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh came to the House of Commons Wednesday intending to get unanimous consent on a motion calling out systemic racism in the RCMP. He was forced to leave early because apparently calling out racism in other house members violates parliamentary decorum.

The motion calls on the House to recognize that systemic racism exists within the RCMP. It also calls on the government to review the federal police force’s budget as well as accountability measures and training and raise non-police spending on mental health and addiction support.

It should have been easy to pass. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has even admitted that systemic racism does exist within the force.

The Liberals supported the motion, so did the Greens. Even the Conservatives didn’t stand against the obvious reality that everyone knew and were ready to give it unanimous approval.

Enter the Bloc Québécois with a very audible objection. What happened next wasn’t picked up by the mics, but it turns out that it doesn’t really matter.

Singh told Speaker Anthony Rota, after Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille raised an objection, that there was no need to listen to a recording of the exchange as yes, he did indeed call Bloc MP Alain Therrien racist. When asked to apologize, Singh refused and Rota, at the Bloc’s urging, told Singh he would have to leave the chamber for the rest of the day for using “unparliamentary language” and not apologizing.

Apologize? No, an apology is something that is warranted when someone uses vulgar language or makes an unfounded insinuation. Or if someone uses racist language themselves.

At least that’s what it should be. I couldn’t find racist on this list of banned words in Parliament from 2011, but if it was added later, it shouldn’t have been.

What the speaker was asking Singh to do was retract an accusation while using the language of parliamentary decorum as a smokescreen. After leaving the chamber, Singh held a press conference (which you should watch) where he reiterated that opposing the motion was, in and of itself, racist.

The Bloc later claimed that it blocked the motion because it supports a request that a Commons public safety committee study the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP and that it would be “inappropriate” to jump the gun by saying systemic racism exists. Translation: Instead of doing anything about the problem we all know is there, let’s go back to debating if the problem exists.

But why? As Singh mentioned in his press conference, the RCMP is clearly under Federal jurisdiction, so there is no trampling of Quebec’s autonomy involved.

If it was a call to look into systemic racism in the SQ (which there is, btw), I’d get the Bloc being up in arms. But it’s not and now the Bloc is defending the RCMP in a way that the RCMP doesn’t even want to defend itself.

It’s, as Singh admitted, a small step but a logical one. If the Conservatives aren’t afraid of bigots in their base turning on them over this, I can’t imagine the Bloc being scared about it.

So if opposition isn’t about Quebec’s jurisdiction or even a political ploy and it’s clearly not about the public interest, what does that leave? Racism.

In his press conference, Singh referenced Therrien’s dismissive gesture after he caught the NDP Leader’s eye. That reads to me like “look at my privilege, I’m doing this because I want to. And you can’t stop me. What are you going to do? Call me a racist?”

And Singh did. And the Bloc cowered and begged the Speaker to punish the him for stepping out of line and calling out racism. And the Speaker obliged.

Or, as Niall put it:

Systemic racism is having the first racialized leader in Canadian history calling out racism in the HoC and then being asked to apologize for doing so… #Gaslighting101

Posted by Niall Meyshar on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Bloc are fucking racist for opposing this motion. If I was in Parliament, I would apologize for the curse word, but not for the assertion. And Jagmeet Singh has nothing to apologize for.

The history of colonization is dark. Indigenous peoples of Canada have been facing discrimination and racism since European setters began to occupy their land in the 1400s. Stolen land, the death of language, residential schools and centuries of abuse are still present in the Canadian justice system and in many Indigenous communities today.

Effforts to unveil the truths of systemic racism that run rampant in our society are a step in the right direction, but the media often misses the most obvious truths, the ones that lie right in front of our noses.

The death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement took over the news last week, shining the light on systemic racism within the judicial system in the United States. Thousands have been taking to the streets, protesting against racism and for police reform. We must, however, remember not to shine the light too far away from our own.

Colonization is ongoing. Though the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia has never signed over their land to European settlers, their 22 000 km of land has never officially been recognized as their own, and protected under Canadian law.

Montreal Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Protest June 5, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

That is why, last Friday, June 5th, On Friday, June 5th, a crowd of around 300 protesters gathered around the George-Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance Park to protest the CGL pipeline in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation.

Last January and February, a string of nation-wide protests and VIA rail blockades halted access from Montreal to Toronto. Media presence had waned since the COVID-19 pandemic took over, but the fight is still far from over.

Though a landmark Memorandum of Understanding was signed that recognizes some rights of the Wet’suwet’en people, it does not affect the construction of the CGL pipeline, which is still opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The protest was organized by student groups that focus on environmental protection.

“Climate justice doesn’t exist without indigenous sovereignty and being in solidarity with the indigenous people especially here in Canada,” said John Nathaniel Gurtler, a Dawson student in environmental studies and an organizer of the event for La CEVES, Student Coalition for Environmental and Social Change in English.

The event was supposed to take place on that Sunday, but changed when the protests against the murder of George Floyd were organized for the same date.

“We see it as all sort of under the same umbrella of justice and fighting for people who have faced systematic racism,” said Gurtler. “The Indigenous people, just like Black people here in Canada, are people who have for hundreds of years faced racism and oppression and have been put aside.”

“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people. In Canada, it’s indigenous people, it’s not just black people,” Gurtler continued. “It’s all under the same umbrella of justice and showing up in solidarity.”

The CGL pipeline is set to run through 190 square km of traditional Wet’suwet’en land in Northern British Columbia. Though five out of six Wet’suwet’en elected band council members signed on to the CGL pipeline, the government never asked permission from the hereditary chiefs, who have had custodianship over the 22 000 km of unceded traditional land according to ongoing, pre-colonial tradition.

Last year, the Trudeau government ordered the RCMP to invade the Unist’ten camp – built on the borders of Wet’suwet’en territory during another contested pipeline project in 2010, where many other planned pipelines have been planned to cross over.

Montreal Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Protest June 5, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

Wet’suwet’en territory is unceded; the Nation have never signed a treaty or agreed to share the 22 000 square km of traditional land they have had since before European settlers began to occupy their territory in the 1800s. In November 2019, the BC provincial government passed legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act. The declaration includes 46 articles, covering Indigenous culture, community, identity, health, and more.

The provincial government’s decision not to engage in meaningful discussion counteracted their implementation of the UN Declaration. Hereditary chiefs asked for UN intervention after RCMP invaded their camps. In January, a UN committee fighting racism urged RCMP officials to leave the territory.

The situation sparked national and international outrage. Nationwide protests throughout January and February led to the shut down of Canadian VIA rail trains, and international support from Indigenous communities and land defenders worldwide. The Kahnawake community in Montreal stepped forward, as well, with hints of the 1990 Oka crisis thick in the air.

Though the pipeline isn’t yet in the ground, already two oil spills are being investigated by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Though the CGP pipeline, widely contested both nationally and internationally, is still in its’ early phases, 500 liters of oil have leaked onto Wet’suwet’en territory.

“They haven’t even started putting the pipeline in and they have a big mess already,” said Marlene Hale, Wet’suwet’en representative at the protest. The spills occurred close to Morice river, where the locals fish, explained Hale.

Montreal Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Protest June 5, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

Hereditary chiefs, whose traditional job it is to protect the land, and land defenders worry about the negative effects of the pipeline to the environment, and the effects it will have on future generations.

The situation is reminiscent of North Dakota’s Keystone pipeline, contested by Indigenous land defenders worldwide in fear of the repercussions of an oil spill that would affect members of the society, their drinking water and infrastructures. Over 380 000 gallons of oil spilled from the pipeline in November 2019.

Media presence of the anti-pipeline protests was strong in January and February, but quickly fizzled out as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The virus did not stop CGL pipeline workers from continuing construction.

The official website of the pipeline shows how far along each segment of the project is. Currently, 75% of the route has been cleared.

“The idea of the protest started during the pandemic when the federal government announced that they would be funding the pipeline project with up to 500 million dollars,” explained Gertler. “That happened sort of under the radar, and several of us said that this can’t happen. We were fed up with being behind our screens and we wanted to do something more direct.”

The issue is both environmental and social, tying in Indigenous land rights to misuse of the land.

The provincial government’s ability to supersede Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ wishes stems from the Indian Act. Though both the provincial and federal government have recognized Wet’suwet’en land as unceded during an MOU signing last month, land rights are still undefined.

“[The MOU] is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mention the Coastal GasLink at all, which is central to all of this,” said Gertler. “Even during the pandemic it was happening – while we were told to stay inside and limit ourselves to essential things, the pipeline, which is definitely not essential, is being built.”

“[It puts] indigenous communities in danger which are already at a heightened risk – communities that don’t have the systems in place to deal with outbreaks and don’t have running water sometimes to wash their hands,” he continued

“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people,” he added.

Protesters began the trek on wheels from the George Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance around 7pm, after Marlene Hale, a chef from Wet’suwet’en nation who lives in Montreal, addressed the crowd.

“The RCMP still taunt us, laugh at us,” she said. “They pretty much just want us to have the COVID and go away and die.”

Though the situation induces anger, Hale maintained that it’s important to stay positive. “Choose your words carefully, what you say to your neighbors,” she said. “Don’t get people angry for any reason. Keep it here [at the protest].”

“When I do meditation, I’ve learned all the time is – there’s a positive time and there’s a negative side. And when it gets negative, just flush it.”

The 300 or so protestors rode down Parc Avenue, all the way across the city to Parc Maisonneuve in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough, masked up with signs attached to bikes. The 45 minute trek ended as the sun began to set in the park.

The June 5th date held extra importance. It was that day that the BC government held the trial for 22 land defenders who were arrested by the RCMP in February. They were not charged.

On the same day, Bill 61 – a law that criminalizes folk who choose to protest the CGL pipeline with a $25 000 infraction or jail time – was passed in Alberta, where the pipeline starts at Dawson Creek.

“There’s no way that these people who are often disadvantaged are going to be able to pay $25 000. So it’s terrible. It’s a disgrace to democracy and it’s terrible,” said Gertler.

While not everybody has the health to protest, organizer Albert Lalonde, spokesperson from La Ceve, said that folks can show support and solidarity by becoming educated on systemic racism and microaggressions, signing petitions, and donating money to funds.

“I think we see it as a responsibility to just be allies to those who have always been the land and water protectors,” he said. “We’ve stolen their land, and we must hand it back, it’s our responsibility. We have to stop this system of oppression that they have to deal with every day. Not doing so would mean that we are complicit, and this is not a thing we want, it’s not a thing we can accept. They have their right to self-determination, we’re on their land,” he said.

La CEVES plans to continue environmental and solidarity protests throughout the summer.

Photos by Bree Rockbrand

Protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue as thousands gathered at Place Emilie Gamelin last Sunday.

Protestors spent their sunny afternoon marching peacefully in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, reignited by the death of African American man George Floyd, who died in police custody for a harmless infraction on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded for his life.

Protest against police brutality in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Montreal June 7, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

Floyd’s death sparked international outrage, with protests against police brutality and systemic racism uniting folks from across the world to take part in actions towards police reform.

Montreal’s second major Black Lives Matter protest since Floyd’s death, the event initially sparked local backlash after organizers, Nous sommes la ligue des noirs nouvelle génération, invited the Montreal Police (SPVM) Chief to join the protest. The decision was contested by locals, and a day later the invitation was withdrawn. In an open Facebook message, the organization wrote that “citizens are terrified of the idea that [the police chiefs] will be there.”

Still, the invitation did not stop police from teargassing the crowd around 7pm.

At 11am, after a two-hour solidarity event reserved for the Black community, the thousands of protesters, most following organizers’ directions to stay masked, began to move downtown.

Organizers offered free masks and gloves to protestors to maintain safety. For many, it was the first major outing since the COVID-19 pandemic halted large scale collective gathering at the end of March, though with a crowd so large it was difficult to follow the two meter social distance requirements.

Protest against police brutality in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Montreal June 7, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

Most protests held signs, with different messages; some more humorous, shedding light on the unity and togetherness of the situation while others alluded to the seriousness of the crimes. A simple sign, “8:46”, paid homage to Floyd’s death; it represents the amount of time Floyd suffocated under the officer’s knee.

Most protestors dispersed around 2pm, where the march ended at Dorchester Square, though many continued into the day to march around the downtown area, eventually coming face to face with a wall of police in full riot gear, shields, face masks, and rubber bullet guns.

Stanley Courages, a protestor at the event, said he joined in support of the Black Lives Matter movements. To him, it’s a symbol that things are going bad, “and going bad for a lot of people,” he said.

“The system is sick, but we all know that. Nobody has the nerve to say it out loud,” he continued. “This is nice to see, Black, White, Latin, a little bit of Asian… it’s nice to see all kinds of people. […] Somehow, some way, people can relate to it, the sadness, whatever the problem they have with this kind of system. So I’m here for that symbol.”

The spotlight is on what he calls the Black movement because Black folks have been put at the bottom since colonization, he said. But Black folks aren’t the only ones suffering, he explained.

“The black movement – the same thing as the Black Lives Matter – that’s what I see as a symbol that everyone is not okay with this system,” he said.
Pascale Lavache, another protestor at the event and who is Black, said she is marching for her nine year old son.

“I want him to not have to march when he’s my age, when he’s grown,” she said.

“I’m happy to see there’s lot of the youth is present,” she continued. “it’s not just black people, it’s everybody. Everybody feels the injustice. Everybody feels the injustice, and I feel like this is a great movement and I’m happy to see everybody is standing up for this injustice that touches everybody. So I’m really marching for myself.”

To her, the Black Lives Matter movement is about standing up for what is right, and standing up for equal rights for everybody. “I think people need to understand that this is not just for [Black folks], it’s for everyone. And it needs to stop, this needs to stop. It’s a disservice for everybody when there’s no justice.”

Though most protestors broke up around 2pm, protests continued around the downtown area until around 7pm. It was then that police opened fire on the remaining protectors without warning.

Protest against police brutality in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Montreal June 7, 2020. Photo by Bree Rockbrand

The use of tear gas, a chemical weapon that is banned in war, has been criticized by healthcare experts. It irritates the tear ducts, causing coughing, and potential irritation of the upper respiratory tract; all symptoms that could further spread the COVID-19 virus, experts say.

Already a violent weapon, its use at peaceful protests in the Canadian epicentre of the pandemic is problematic at the very least. Local healthcare professionals have called for police to cease its’ use – to no avail.

Though the protests have shed light on the systemic racism present in the Canadian justice system, Premier Francois Legault said publicly that systemic racism doesn’t exist in Quebec. The thousands of protestors that hit the streets last Sunday would disagree.

From racial profiling, economic insecurity, and a lack of representation in all facets, Quebec’s longstanding whitewashing of its’ history and culture and xenophobia; including the contested Bill 62 which bands all religious symbols in public, prove a different, darker reality.

One way to ease the injustice, Lavache said, is for there to be equal representation at every level – in both media, politics, and police force.

“We need to have equal representation, whether it’s for women, LGBTQ,” she said. “Everyone needs to be represented. The more there’s equal representation, the more there will be justice.”

Last Sunday, approximately 10 000 people took to the streets of Montreal demanding justice for George Floyd and all the other victims of racist police violence. This Sunday there’s another local protest against police brutality.

Before we go any further, I’d like to address what I knew every newscast would lead with the following day right after it happened: Yes, there was some looting. A bit of looting and some broken windows, nothing that should detract from the valid and necessary reason so many people were out, social distancing as much as possible during a pandemic.

Lenny Lanteigne, owner of Steve’s Music Store, the main target of the looters last Sunday, gets it. He told CTV that he thinks the protest was necessary and while he’s obviously not thrilled people stole his inventory, he knows what’s important. “They’re guitars, not human lives.”

In the US currently, there’s a strong argument that some of the rioting is actually quite necessary to be heard and affect change. In just over a week, the story changed from “the cops are fired” to “we’ve arrested one cop and charged him with third-degree murder” to (just yesterday) “we’re charging him with second-degree murder and the three cops who stood by with aiding and abetting second degree murder”.

The looting last Sunday in Montreal, though, came across more like a mini hockey riot with mostly white dudes using the opportunity to steal stuff than something tied into the message of police racism. The SPVM officers kneeling to put on their riot gear before teargassing the crowd (which preceded the looting), though, was a small reminder that the police here aren’t really all that different than those in the states.

We’ve Got A Long List Too

The protest last Sunday may have been in solidarity with demonstrations across the US and now across the world, but it was also demanding justice for victims of racist police violence in Canada and Montreal too. For every George Floyd or Eric Garner, there’s a Regis Korchinski-Paquet or Fredy Villanueva.

We also have a serious problem with Canadian police indiscriminately brutalizing Indigenous people. From the so-called “starlight tours” out west to a recent local incident next to Cabot Square where a Native woman in distress had to deal with 17 cops and the SPVM (Montreal Police) canine unit before getting an ambulance, it seems like our police don’t think that Native Lives Matter.

Or Black Lives, apparently.

In a CBC study of fatal encounters with police of all levels across Canada over 17 years, Black and Indigenous people were seriously over-represented when compared to the overall population. Meanwhile a 2019 report commissioned by the City of Montreal revealed that the SPVM was four to five times more likely to stop Black or Indigenous people than whites.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did admit that Canada has a problem with police racism, after 21 seconds of awkward, probably staged, silence, while dodging a question about US President Donald Trump. Of course, anything that came after the 21 seconds, he knew, would get lost in the shuffle.

Quebec Premier François Legault, while supporting the protest, denied that systemic racism exists in Quebec. This from the man that, pre-pandemic, was all about systemically discriminating against minorities through Bill 21.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, to her credit, admitted that systemic discrimination does exist in our city. The question now becomes what she is going to do to fight it.

After initially opposing outfitting police with body cameras, she now says it will happen as soon as possible. This is largely due to pressure from boroughs like Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce and the public.

The Spotlight and the Shadows

Body cameras on police would be a welcome improvement, because unlike their counterparts south of the border, our police are camera-shy when it comes to race-based brutality. This helps our political leaders propagate the lie that violent and murderous police racism is a shameful American problem, but there are only a few bad apples here.

In the US, violent racist cops are brazen and kill in the daylight, either not caring who is watching or filming or hoping to be the next white supremacist champion or MAGA hero. George Zimmerman has fans and he wasn’t even trained.

Here, they’re just as brutal, but know to avoid the spotlight as much as possible. For the person on the receiving end, though, the result is the same.

With the only real-world empire most of us have ever known burning before our eyes and crumbling into a failed state, the kind the US would usually think of invading, it’s easy to get distracted. When we see peaceful protesters teargassed and assaulted by gleeful cops, it’s easy to forget that we have problems here too,

Solidarity with those fighting to get out from under Trump’s boot is essential, but remember that the underlying problem of racist police violence is a Canadian one, too.

The next Montreal Anti-Police Brutality Protests starts Sunday, June 14th at 11am at Place Emilie-Gamelin

Photos by IK (see the album)

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of catching up to do,” said Chief Gisday’wa. “A hundred and fifty years of it.”

At a virtual Zoom meeting held on May 14, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs met with the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of British Columbia to sign a three way Memorandum of Understanding.

The agreement immediately recognizes that Wet’suwet’en rights and title are held by the nation’s own system of governance, and include a commitment to beginning negotiations on legal recognition of Wet’suwet’en title to their traditional land.

Chief Gisday’wa was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case, which led to a Supreme Court decision that recognized Wet’suwet’en system of laws that predates colonialism.

The deal was struck in February, amidst nation-wide protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation against the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, planned to run through 190 km of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

The slogans ShutDownCanada and All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en swept the nation in January and February, with protestors showing support from all around the Wet’suwet’en as rail blockades halted access from Montreal to Toronto in solidarity.

The 670 km long natural gas pipeline is planned to carry gas from a town in eastern BC to a liquefaction plant on the west coast of the province, where the gas will be exported to Asian customers. It is known as the largest private sector investment in Canadian history.

While five of six elected band council members agreed with the project, the hereditary chiefs, whose role within the nation is to make decisions over the land, say they never consented. The dispute made global headlines, with UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for immediate withdrawal as RCMP raided the Unist’ot’en camp with guns in tow.

The Wet’suwet’en are just one of many First Nations in the province that have been attempting to negotiate jurisdiction, recognition of ownership, and self-government since Europeans began to settle on their traditional land in the 1800s.

“This is not just an indigenous issue, this is a human rights issue, the rights for us to be who we are as Wet’suwet’en People,” Cheif Na’Moks said at the virtual signing.

The Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty or relinquished their rights to the 22,000km of land they have been inhabiting since pre-colonial times.

“There’s no turning back,” said Marlene Hale, a chef from Wet’suwet’en who led protests in Montreal. She says the MOU represents a step towards reconciliation.

“It’s a signal to the government that we may have agreed to start this work by starting the talks and negotiations,” she continued. “They will walk the path of reconciliation with us. That’s very important. The rights and titles will be recognized.”

In 1984, leaders of the Gitxcan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations took the BC provincial government to court to establish jurisdiction over 58 000 km of both land and water. The fight for recognition of ownership of the land had climbed to urgency when a hydroelectric project established by the BC government in the 50s caused major damage to the area of multiple First Nations groups, including the destruction of homes and of sacred burial ground.

As clear-cut logging projects were approved by the BC government, members of the Gixdan and Wet’suwet’en nations opposed the building of a second hydro project, the First Nations appealed the decision and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. During the trial, The First Nations group provided evidence to their historical ownership of the land by using oral history; witnesses spoke in their own languages, using translators to tell the long history of the land and water in the territory.

Ceremonial songs and performances, reciting the adaawk, personal bloodline histories of the Gitxsan, and kungas, songs about trials between territories of the Wet’suwet’en.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled oral history to be evidence of pre-colonial land ownership, and ruled that the right to the Nations’ land had not been extinguished.

The Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case made headlines as the most comprehensive decision about Aboriginal title, which legally states that “the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed”. While the case affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en may still have ownership of their land, any further decisions were not made.

The MOU, Hale said, “leads to a consensus on the government to implement the 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa [case] – it was really putting it official.”

The fight was still far from over. Land rights have yet to be clearly defined and articulated in court, even though it had been acknowledged that the Wet’suwet’en never signed over their land in a treaty.

In 2010, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and land defenders built the Unisto’ten Camp as a means to block the development of numerous proposed pipeline projects that would cut through the First Nation’s territory. Hereditary chiefs held their opposition to Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, a pipeline project whose’ path was similar to the future CGL.

A permaculture garden and a traditional pithouse were built on site, bringing life to the conflict, used for shelter are included in the camp which lays at the exact point pipelines would cross into Unis’to’ten Wet’suwet’en territory.

Though the ENGP project never went through, the CGL pipeline was officially approved in 2015, with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs remaining in opposition.

In 2014, Tsilhqot’in Nation in B.C. became the first to prove title to their land in court.

In another landmark Supreme Court ruling, provinces cannot unilaterally claim a right to engage in clear-cut logging on lands protected by Indigenous Peoples; they have to engage in meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal title-holder before proceeding.

“This is the first time I think that any of the governments have taken any real steps forwards towards trying to find reconciliation towards Indigenous Peoples,” said Chief Smogelgem during the MOU signing.
“This is a significant time for our nation,” he continued. “It’s a significant time for everybody, all around the world. Not just because of the pandemic, but because of the work that we’re about to do today which is working actually towards true reconciliation. It is no longer a political catch phrase – this is something that is going into action.”

The 1876 Indian Act, which charted an assimilationist policy towards the Aboriginal peoples in Canada, made it illegal for Indigenous Peoples to raise money or hire lawyers for land claims. This was not lifted until 1951.

The Wet’suwet’en uses a “mixed governance system” that uses both hereditary and elected chiefs, who all play different roles within the community. The elected band council is a position that stemmed from the Indian Act to bridge Canadian government with First Nations. It is different from the traditional position of the hereditary chief, where hereditary chiefs attain governing power by consensus.

It is their job to protect the land and assure its safety for future generations, a continuation of the work of their ancestors that will be passed down to future generations.

“We always knew that we had 22 000 square kilometers of land,” said Chief Na’Moks at the virtual signing.

For Marlene Hale, May 14 is a new day to mark on the calendar – a celebration. “Wiggus – respect – rides high with our people,” she said. “And it was not respected, that word. It is now, it is existing and it is respected. By them signing, this wiggus has come to light again.”

“We’re here to make a future, because this is who we are. We’ve always held our integrity, we’ve always held our honesty, we’ve always held our respect. From this day forward, it has to be reciprocal. When we speak, we must be listened to. When we come to an agreement, it’s an agreement from the heart, the soul and for the future, and we have to do it for everybody.”

“When our children and grandchildren and great grand children look upon this day, I want them to look back on this for a smile on their face,” he continued. “Those ladies and gentlemen did it for us, and now we’re doing it for them. And it has to be done with honesty and hard work. Today the work starts, the real hard work starts. And there will never be another piece of legislation of policy that will ever silence the Wet’suwet’en again.”

It’s important to note that while the Memorandum of Understanding is an important step forward for aboriginal rights, it does not affect the Coastal GasLink Pipeline which is currently being built.

Featured image by James Hyett via WikiMedia Commons

We are in the midst of a global pandemic due to the Corona virus aka COVID-19. Montreal is not only the epicenter of the outbreak in Quebec, but in all of Canada.

In a move that Montrealers have been begging for since Quebec Premier François Legault announced his harebrained idea of reopening the province on May 11, he has agreed to delay reopening schools and businesses in Montreal until May 25, 2020, and only if the situation here has improved. The decision was made in consultation with Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s National Director of Public Health.

Parents in Montreal can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as reopening too early would only lead to a resurgence of the disease that would overwhelm hospitals already overworked and rapidly reaching capacity. David McLeod told this reporter that if elementary schools did reopen in Montreal on May 19 as planned he and his wife would not be sending their son:

“If we did it would be a prison we would be sending him to, not a school. It is a place for people to park their kids.”

Wendy, a mother with diabetes, had also decided to keep her son at home, declaring that he is not a guinea pig for the government. She worries that her son would pass the virus on to her with fatal results.

Parents were not the only ones worried. Educators in Montreal, who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity, were deeply concerned about the health, sanitation, and logistical nightmare of reopening the schools and daycares.

“It takes the whole summer for administration to organize class kits and teacher schedules. It’s not as simple as putting a teacher in a room with 8-15 kids,” said an elementary school teacher. “The school buses usually have 60-80 kids and now they’ll be only 12 kids on one bus…will there be enough busses for everyone?”

She expressed concern that keeping a two meter distance from students would make it harder for teachers to help them, adding that the problem would be worse for kids with ADHD.

A Montreal high school teacher expressed concern that Legault’s plan lacked clarity. She countered the Premier’s claim of reopening the schools for students’ mental health by pointing out that kids have more freedom of movement if they stay home. She also says it’s still not clear whether teaching high school has to be face-to-face or if content can just be posted for students to look at at their own speed.

“Lucy” a daycare educator, told me her loved ones were terrified of her going back to work. The stress of staying clean and safe scares her too, comparing a return to work to “going to war with no gun”.

“Mary”, another daycare educator thinks even reopening Montreal on May 25th is ridiculous.

“You know there’s been an outbreak in a daycare, right?” she said, referring to the recent COVID-19 outbreak at a daycare in Montreal North. “We will be wearing visors at my daycare. Can you imagine a child coming in after months and meeting a monster with a blue face and visors? I don’t see how this will not be damaging to the child,” she said.

As a member of the immune-compromised in one of the hardest hit boroughs in Montreal I have my own worries about what reopening schools will mean for my personal safety. I live within walking distance of two elementary schools, one high school, and one school for students with special needs.

My chronic medical conditions put me on the “Most Likely to Die from COVID-19” list, thus making leaving my home incredibly unsafe until the virus is contained. Reopening the schools would make it more likely that I could fall victim to the pandemic, and with hospitals overcrowded, there’s no guarantee I’d get the help I need.

Even former Montreal Canadien Georges Laraque sees the absurdity of the Quebec government’s initial decision, and though he himself has COVID-19, he was live streaming about his experience in our health care system from his hospital room.

Some parents are calling the change of heart a lot more sensible. Others think Legault’s initial plan of reopening Montreal was a business-oriented decision that showed the lack common sense people have come to expect from his government.

Whatever the reason, Montreal can at least be thankful that common sense has prevailed and that active resistance works. We just have to be loud enough.

Schools and non-essential retail businesses across Quebec are re-opening today, except those in the Greater Montreal Area. While schools in the 514, 438 and 450 area codes are on track to re-open in two weeks, Montreal-area businesses will not re-open on May 11th as planned, but May 18th.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced during the government’s regular COVID-19 briefing today that he was pushing back re-opening Montreal because Montreal-area hospitals were getting crowded. He noted that there are still beds available in Quebec’s largest city and coronavirus epicenter, but not enough to re-open in a week.

This decision comes amid a rise in virus transmission in Montreal Nord. Legault said that there is not enough leeway in Montreal to deconfine as planned as there is in other regions of Quebec.

He also updated his original two world view. Now, Legault says there are three Quebecs: inside seniors’ residences, Montreal and everywhere else.

Re-opening the manufacturing and construction sectors are happening as planned, even in the Greater Montreal Area.

On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders announced that he is suspending his campaign to be the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States. Thursday, his now suspended campaign released and ad.

Yes, you heard that right. They took a portion of his live announcement that he was no longer running and turned it into an inspirational video called The Struggle Continues:

So why would he drop out then produce an ad? Well, first off, he didn’t actually drop out of the race, he suspended his campaign.

Now usually the two mean the same thing, in fact, up to now, the two have always meant the same thing in practice. Technically, though, they’re not.

And Bernie made it clear in his announcement (a part that didn’t make it to the video) that he was remaining on the ballot in all the upcoming primaries. He also said that he hopes to amass as many delegates as possible.

While he admits that former Vice President Joe Biden will be nominee, Bernie knows that more Sanders delegates means a greater influence for him and his movement on the party platform at the Democratic National Convention. Bernie also knows that Biden will need much more than his support to beat Donald Trump, he will need to run on policies that the movement Bernie started can actually get behind.

A full-throated endorsement of Biden wouldn’t work at this time and would probably only sideline Bernie and make his personal support moot. This is still early in the campaign season and if it wasn’t for the fact that massive on the ground volunteer mobilization and huge rallies were a major public health risk and also illegal for good reason, Bernie would still be pushing forward to try and win the nomination.

Also, as Bernie mentioned in his statement, with the COVID-19 pandemic laying waste to the world, his time will be better spent in the US Sentate trying to push through legislation that will actually help people right now. It’s ironic that the health crisis that sidelined the Sanders Campaign is also the best argument for Bernie’s signature issue, Medicare for All.

So, while state governors are, in most cases, doing their best to keep their people safe, at the national level, Trump is just being Trump, shilling for a snake oil cure he stands to financially benefit from while treating the worst health catastrophe anyone has faced in over 100 years as a stumbling block to his re-election. Meanwhile Biden is pushing the narrative that he, as President, would handle it better without getting into too many specifics (yes, of course, he would handle it better, but that bar is really low).

And then there’s Bernie. Suspending his campaign so he can devote his time to actually helping and not put his volunteers and supporters in harm’s way.

Not me. Us. A slogan, sure, but also a mantra that it’s now clear Bernie Sanders actually lives by.

Did he get into the race to become President? Absolutely. Was that his ultimate goal? No.

The Presidency was a means to an end. A way to give his country universal healthcare, a living wage and more. If he can get those ideas into the White House without moving in himself, so be it.

The campaign may be over, but the movement Bernie started is most definitely alive and more than well. Bernie is no longer just a guy tossing a job application but the defacto leader of millions demanding to be heard.

He doesn’t need the Dems to nominate him to be heard and what he does over the next few months won’t be construed as a candidate trying to get coverage, but it will get coverage. Bernie is now the most important national political figure in the US.

After the pasting Elizabeth Warren and most of the other presidential hopefuls gave billionaire candidate Mike Bloomberg in the most recent Democratic Debate, dropping out of the race would be the logical thing for the former New York City Mayor to do. Of course he won’t, though.

Bloomberg, the sixth richest man in the US, has the cash to stay in and the ego to think it’s a good idea. Unfortunately, there are many in the Democratic Party establishment who think it’s a good idea too.

Their logic is simple: He’s like Trump, but different in the right ways.

The thing is, in many ways, Bloomberg is like the current US President. Unfortunately their differences actually help Trump in a general election, or at best don’t matter and their similarities scream unelectable for a Democratic candidate.

He’s A Billionaire From New York, But…

The narrative in favour of Bloomberg goes something like this:

“He’s a billionaire from New York but unlike Trump, he’s not a loudmouth anti-intellectual slob. And New York high society doesn’t laugh at him behind his back.”

Yes, that last part is actually part of the narrative that Bloomberg pushed in a tweet last week:

The intent is clearly to get under Trump’s skin and it probably will. However it will also harden the current president’s bogus narrative that he is an everyman and maybe even win him votes from those who feel they would also be mocked by coastal elites.

Aside from members of the Trump family and Rudy Giuliani, people who care what New York high society thinks didn’t vote for Trump last time. Most likely neither did people who think an expansive vocabulary, high intellect and public decorum are the most important traits a president should have.

Trump won in spite of being a rich guy from New York and largely because he came across as not your typical respectable presidential candidate. Well, that and racism.

Speaking of bigotry and prejudice, let’s move onto where Trump and Bloomberg are similar.

Bloomberg’s Political Track Record Hurts Him

While Trump didn’t have an elected political record when he ran for President in 2016, Bloomberg isn’t so lucky. He was Mayor of New York City from 2001 through 2013.

Those turned out to be 12 of the stoppiest, friskiest years the city’s young male African American population ever experienced. Bloomberg took Giuliani’s Stop and Frisk policy and, as Michael Moore said recently, put it on steroids.

While Bloomberg now claims that he is “embarassed” by stop and frisk having “gone too far” under his watch, audio from 2015 unearthed by Benjamin Dixon tells a different story:

Racial profiling was a top down policy and the guy at the top is only now “embarassed” by it because he is running for President and got called out. Racial prejudice is one of the traits Bloomberg has in common with Trump.

Another one is his problem with women working for him. Some have reported rather misogynistic things he said, and others, not sure how many others, have signed nondisclosure agreements. This came up during the last debate:

Following that exchange, Bloomberg decided to release three women from their NDAs and left the door open for others. The first signs that some of what transpired on the debate stage actually got through to the billionaire candidate.

Trump also has problems with sexual harassment and worse. But running as a Republican, that sadly doesn’t seem to matter, neither do his racist policies.

As a Democratic candidate, though, both do. Bloomberg is just a bridge too far for many voters who lean to the left but are willing to suck it up and vote for almost anyone running against Trump.

Bloomberg the viable Democratic presidential candidate is the embodiment of the incredibly wrong decades-old belief of many establishment Dems that you can only win swing states and flip Republican states by running as GOP-lite. In this case, it would actually mean running an officially former Republican with a few decent policies to keep the blue states in line.

You don’t turn a purple state blue by wearing a bunch of red. If you want to win over independents and even some Republicans, you need to be a bold alternative, not a watered down version of the other side.

The Bernie Factor

While it may have been Warren who eviscerated (in this case, such an over-the-top click-baity word is appropriate) the former mayor on stage, Bernie Sanders gained the most that night. He walked into the debate the front runner and left it still on top of the pack.

That wasn’t lost on anyone, in particular Bloomberg, who has squarely re-purposed a significant amount of his bottomless ad buying power to attack the Vermont senator. So much for attacking Trump…he is instead attacking the best chance the Dems have to beat him in November.

If Bloomberg truly wanted to use his fortune to remove Trump from office, he would have challenged him in the Republican Primary and then in the General Election as a third-party candidate. He’d take some of the old guard Republican vote and even some of the corporate Democrat vote and leave the working class and socially progressive voters all to Bernie.

Sure, he wouldn’t win, but neither would Trump. In the unlikely event he becomes the Democratic nominee, Trump would undoubtedly win.

Bloomberg won’t save the country from Trump. He’s trying to “save” the Democrats from Sanders, and if that means his old golfing buddy Donald gets another four years, so be it.

Bloomberg is a disaster that hopefully will never happen.

Jason C. McLean is a Canadian political observer who, like everyone else in the world who cares about politics, is following the 2020 US Election quite closely

In just over two years, Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante have gone from the seemingly closest of teammates to not even being in the same party let alone the same page.

For those who don’t follow Montreal municipal politics that closely, it’s turning into quite the saga. Like the Star Wars prequels: just as much politics but with better dialogue and no CGI. Though it’s not blatantly obvious at this point who the Emperor is.

I’ll do by best to reacap:

The Story So Far

Two Fridays ago Plante kicked Montgomery out of the Projet Montréal caucus. Why? Montgomery refused to fire a member of her borough staff accused of psychological harassment of other borough employees despite the Comptroller General calling on her to do just that in a report.

The same evening Montgomery posted on Facebook that both she and Plante didn’t have enough evidence to warrant firing someone. She also stressed that she takes harassment very seriously and also made it clear she will continue as Borough Mayor as an independent (for now, though I’m not ruling out her joining another party at some point in the future).

The following Monday, the Plante Administration countered by releasing some of what they know and arguing there was enough evidence to warrant firing. The next day, Montgomery went on CJAD, reiterated her previous stance and said that “this is about silencing a whistleblower in my borough.”

Montgomery was saying that someone looking into irregularities of CDN/NDG funding versus that of other boroughs may have played a part in all of this. Was she implying that the harassment charge was a smokescreen? Was the employee accused of harassment the whistleblower?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that people are taking sides.

This past Monday, a large and vocal contingent of Montgomery supporters showed up at the Borough Council meeting, where Montgomery effectively called the Comptroller General’s report BS. The three Projet councillors in the Borough, though, were singing a different tune.

Peter McQueen (NDG), Magda Popeanu (CDN) and Christian Arseneault (Loyola) held a press conference before the meeting where they argued that Montgomery was on a “personal crusade” that made it difficult to get actual borough work done. It seems like the two CDN/NDG opposition councillors Marvin Rotrand and Lionel Perez are on the same page as their local Projet colleagues on this matter.

On Tuesday, Plante said, in a statement, that she would be violating Canada’s Privacy Act if she released a confidential labour report, adding: “It is high time Ms. Montgomery stops fabricating stories and creating alternative facts.”

It’s a good time to let you know that I am a longtime Projet supporter and even volunteered in NDG/CDN for a day on the phones to help get out the vote for both Plante and Montgomery. As such, I’m not going to take sides, at least not in this piece.

Instead, I’m going to try and figure out how this will affect the next Montreal Municipal Election, which happens in just under two years time. And, no, I’m not going

CDN/NDG Isn’t the Plateau

Last year longtime Plateau Borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez quit not only his and Plante’s party, but his job as well. Projet didnt miss a beat, replacing him in a by-election, with another guy named Luc to boot.

That’s the Plateau, a borough where Projet won all the City Council and Borough Council seats plus the mayorship three elections in a row. CDN/NDG is a different story.

In 2009 only McQueen won a council seat under the Projet banner. Popeanu joined him in 2013, giving the party a larger presence on the council, but not control of it.

It wasn’t until the 2017 election, when Arseneault and Montgomery won, that Projet held a majority of the council and the mayorship, effectively giving the party control of the borough. Maintaining or building on that lead wasn’t a sure thing with Montgomery on board and becomes an even more uncertain prospect with a different candidate.

In short, giving up control of the most populous borough in the city on purpose two years after you finally got it is not politically expedient in the slightest. Plante either seriously miscalculated (unlikely) or really felt like she had no choice.

Running Without the Team

Montgomery, I suspect, also truly felt like she had no choice. Either that or thought she was calling the Mayor’s bluff by refusing to fire her staffer.

She must know that getting elected to another term will be considerably more difficult without the party apparatus and volunteer base that helped her win the first time around. Not to mention popular councillors like McQueen urging his constituents to check her box as well.

Even if she thought the Plante brand was tarnished in CDN-NDG, being on the same ticket wouldn’t hurt her chances of winning, as people frequently don’t vote along party lines in every box. Going it alone will.

And she will, most likely, be going it alone. Given what Perez, one of the two opposition councillors in CDN-NDG and interim leader of Ensemble Montréal (the former Équipe Denis Coderre) had to say about her, it’s doubtful the Official Opposition would welcome her with open arms (I predict they’ll run Perez as CDN-NDG Borough Mayor, he’s had the job before).

Yes, Montgomery was a public figure with name recognition before the last election and she does have supporters that will board a bus to cheer for her. The question is whether or not they will also canvas, call and get out the vote for her the way the Projet team did and would have done again.

Not Easy to Predict

While people are taking sides now, many had already taken them well before the last election. Projet supporters in the borough will most likely back Plante, the council candidates and whomever they run as Borough Mayor. Newer converts who came into the Projet fold thanks largely to Montgomery, may not.

Projet haters, though, may not latch onto Montgomery, especially if she is running against both her former party and the Official Opposition. She did get elected supporting the Projet platform, which is what most of the party’s haters hate, and her departure from the party had nothing to do with her shifting in policy .

Sure, she could change her tune, but that would seem opportunistic at best and probably wouldn’t help her much. Winning re-election is now a longshot for her, though not an impossible one.

Undoubtedly, Montgomery running again as an independent with a similar platform as that of her former party will hurt Projet’s chances of re-establishing control of the borough. It may, though, benefit the opposition more than it will her.

Plante’s best move right now would be to announce a project or immediate improvement in the borough alongside her city councillors. Something you need the Mayor of Montreal to authorize like more 105 buses.

In the long run, her best move is to pick a Borough Mayor candidate at least as strong as Montgomery was and hope for and work for the best.

This saga isn’t over yet.

American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.

In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.

I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.

It’s in the Cards

All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.

These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.

In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.

Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.

It’s Really Quite Simple

With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.

When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.

When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.

It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.

What’s Covered and What’s Not

In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.

We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.

In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.

Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.

A Different Mindset

That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.

If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.

Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.

When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.

Featured image of a Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles 2017 by Molly Adams via Flickr Creative Commons

Montreal politics in the 2010s saw quite a bit of change, followed by more change. The city had five mayors in ten years.

The decade kicked off with the final two years of Gérald Tremblay’s twelve year reign as Mayor. By November 2012, though, the Quebec corruption scandal had engulfed many of his closest associates, meaning he had to resign before his term was up.

While Tremblay may have avoided any personal repercussions for the crooked business-as-usual approach Montreal and Quebec were famous for, his successor Michael Applebaum wasn’t so lucky. Applebaum was arrested at City Hall just over seven months into his term as Interim Mayor and was subsequently (March 2017) sentenced to a year in prison March for bribery and extortion that happened when he was Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Enter Laurent Blanchard, temporary replacement mayor for the temporary replacement mayor. He had one job: not get arrested for six months until the election and he pulled it off! Great job M. Blanchard.

2013: Time for Change?

Mélanie Joly (photo Valeria Bismar)

The stage was set for 2013. In one corner, former Liberal Cabinet Minister Denis Coderre leading the cleverly named Équipe Denis Coderre, a group largely comprised of former team Tremblay members (the ones who weren’t arrested). In the other, Projet Montréal, still led by its founder Richard Bergeron.

That was the case until political upstart Mélanie Joly entered the fray with her newly formed Vrai changement pour Montréal party. Joly’s energy and political skill helped her overcome accusations that she was only using this run as a springboard to federal politics and that it was all about her, not her team.

She finished second to Coderre in the mayoral race, only six points down, but her party was fourth in the seat count, way behind Coderre’s team and Projet Montréal and also with less representation than Marcel Côté’s Coalition Montréal. Joly quit municipal politics shortly thereafter and ran federally for the Liberals two years later. She is currently our Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.

As for Projet, they held the Plateau and Rosemont boroughs and made significant gains elsewhere, most notably taking all but the Borough Mayor’s seat in the Sud Ouest (until Benoit Dorais eventually decided to join his councillors).

Denis “Cut the Mic” Coderre

For the next four years, though, Denis Coderre was running the table. And he had no problem reminding everyone of that fact whenever he felt he needed to or just wanted to:

  • Car sharing service downtown? Use the power the Mayor has as the defacto Bourough Mayor of Ville Marie to block it and admit it’s because of personal support from the taxi industry.
  • Montreal’s turning 375? Time to spend a ton of money on random stuff like granite tree stumps and a national anthem for a borough where support for the administration is strong.
  • A dog (that wasn’t a pit bull) attacks someone? Ban all pit bulls.
  • Someone brings up valid points about the pit bull ban? “Cut the mic!
  • Flooding in the West Island? Pull rescue workers off the job for a photo op.
  • Opposing federal party installs a community mailbox? Personally take a jackhammer to it. (Okay, that one was kinda cool)
  • Formula E organizers want the race to go through city streets even though there’s a perfectly good racetrack to use? Do their bidding, disrupt people’s lives and try to make the event look like a success with free tickets.

That last one, honestly, probably cost him re-election more than anything else. Yes, the Coderre era, brief as it was, ended.

Valérie Plante and a New Direction

On November 5, 2017, Valérie Plante, who was never supposed to have defeated former PQ Cabinet Minister Louise Harel for a council seat, was the underdog in the Projet Montréal leadership race and an extreme longshot to take down Coderre at the beginning of the campaign, became Montreal’s first elected female mayor. Her party also took control of not only City Council but also several bouroughs including CDN/NDG, the city’s largest.

Right out of the gate, Plante and her team undid two of Coderre’s most unpopular decisions: the pit bull ban and the prospect of a second Formula E race running through Montreal’s streets. They also recently overturned in council the Tremblay-era changes to bylaw P-6 which had previously been overturned by the courts in 2016 and 2018.

Plante and her team also voted early on to ban calèche horses, a law that goes into effect tomorrow. So they’re starting the new decade with a promise even Coderre tried to deliver on but failed.

One of Plante’s most controversial moves was the pilot project to bar private cars from using the mountain as a shortcut. They ultimately decided not to make it permanent after respondents to the public consultation process they had set up overwhelmingly rejected it (personally I thought it was a good idea that didn’t go far enough).

That decision to listen to the public most likely played into longtime Plateau Borough Mayor and Projet Montréal heavyweight Luc Ferrandez resigning. Earlier this year, he stepped down saying he thought his party wasn’t willing to go far enough for the environment.

For years, Ferrandez had been successful in the Plateau but harmful to his party in other parts of the city. Now, Plante and Projet’s opponents don’t have the Ferrandez albatros to contend with and his replacement Luc Rabouin handily retained power for the party in the borough.

This doesn’t mean Plante and company didn’t make mistakes in their first two years. They haven’t properly dealt with ongoing problems like systemic racism in the Montreal Police Force (SPVM) and in our institutions, the for-profit authoritarian leanings of our transit system and its ticket enforcer cops or adequately challenged the CAQ Provincial Government’s bigoted Bill 21, something Montrealers, by and large oppose, despite support in the rest of Quebec.

There are also some self-made mistakes like cancelling plans to rename a street in the Sud Ouest after the late Daisy Sweeney or the idea of naming the Griffintown REM train stop after former PQ Premier Bernard Landry. The latter an idea that didn’t need to be floated to begin with and should have been withdrawn after public outcry from the historic Irish community.

Plante was, however, successful, in securing funding for some of her signature campaign promise, the Montreal Metro Pink Line. In particular, the western portion that will travel above ground.

If the Pink Line starts to see the light of day and Plante fixes or starts to fix the problems I just mentioned, she’ll be on her way to another term. She has two years.

So, will the next decade be as bumpy on the Montreal political scene as this past one was? I honestly don’t know, I don’t have 2020 vision.

Featured Image by Jason C. McLean

The moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. America’s greatest conman, Donald Trump, the narcissist-in-chief has finally been impeached. While many people are celebrating, thinking this will be the end of the Orange Racist’s term as president of the United States of America, I’m sad to say that these celebrations are premature and I’ll tell you why.

This article is going to give you a crash course on the American impeachment process. Though impeachment can be brought against the president, vice-president, as well as any civil officer in the United States, for the purposes of this article I’ll focus on impeachment of a sitting president.

It should be said right off the bat that impeachment does not guarantee a president will be kicked out of office. It’s just a formal charge of misconduct against the president – kind of like a criminal indictment. Removing a president from office comes later, if at all.

Here’s how it works.

The power to Impeach is vested in the House of Representatives (hereafter, “the House”), one of two houses making up the US Congress – the federal legislative body in America, the other being the Senate. If the president is suspected of misconduct, the House of Representatives holds an inquiry.

Those massive hearings in Congress you saw on the news before the impeachment? That was the inquiry.

If the House decides there is sufficient evidence, any one member can draft articles of impeachment – which is a list of charges against the president. It is then up to the House to approve or reject the articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote. If a majority in the House votes in favor of impeachment, the president is impeached.

After the president is impeached, the case goes to Senate which holds a sort of trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Senate acts a jury of sorts, each side can present witnesses, and the president can choose to be represented by his own lawyer if he wants.

At the end of the trial the Senate votes – with a two thirds majority or 67 votes required to remove a president from office. If the Senate votes in favor of removal, the president is removed from office and loses any and all privileges and immunities he had while president and the vice-president would have to take his place in office.

So how does this all play out now?

The House – largely controlled by the American Democratic Party – brought two articles of impeachment against the forty-fifth president of the United States: obstruction of Congress, and abuse of power, though in theory they could have added violation of the Emoluments Clause in the US constitution – an anti-corruption clause that prohibits foreign interference in American federal government – given the whole Russia thing.

On Wednesday a majority in the House voted to impeach Cheeto-Head – so now Donald Trump is impeached.

The case will now go to the Senate for trial. Presiding over said trial will be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court John Roberts, a staunch Conservative appointed by George W. Bush and who is reputed to dislike the current president intensely. Once evidence is presented and witnesses are heard, the Senate will have to vote on whether or not to remove the president from office.

Historically we’ve seen presidents impeached before only to have the Senate vote to keep them in office. The most notable example being Bill Clinton, who was allowed to finish out his term despite being impeached, officially for lying to Congress during the Lewinski scandal.

Unfortunately the Senate is currently controlled by the president’s own political party – the Republican Party of the United States. Though there are people within the party who dislike the current president and the racist fascist direction the party is going in, most Republicans seem content to have any one of their own in office – even a bumbling rapey narcissistic whiner like Donald Trump. Among those happy to keep Trump in office is Senate Majority Leader and Republican Senator, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, so-called because of his own corrupt ties to the Kremlin.

Alex Pareene of The New Republic wrote an article on McConnell called The Nihilist in Chief. In it, Pareene describes him as a cold-blooded opportunist who will side with anyone within his party who won’t touch his money or chances of re-election.

McConnell’s previous claims to fame include blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and stalling progressive legislation to death in the Senate. It is people like Moscow Mitch McConnell and Cheeto-Head’s die-hard acolytes in the Senate that will unfortunately determine whether or not the most corrupt president in history will be removed from office.

If the Senate miraculously has a change of heart and votes to remove Trump from the presidency, vice-president Mike Pence will become president. It must be noted that Mike Pence is even less progressive than Trump, given Pence’s well-known homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny masquerading as evangelical Christianity. It is very likely that should Mike Pence assume the office of president following Trump’s removal, the human rights violations carried out by the current administration would likely continue.

The trial of the forty-fifth president will likely begin in the New Year. Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to change the current state of American politics for the better.

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

December 12th, 2019 was a sad day for visible minorities in Quebec. The Quebec Court of Appeal denied the application to suspend certain sections of the Laicity Act aka Bill 21 until the Superior Court decides on their constitutionality.

A lot of eyes were on the Quebec Court of Appeal in anticipation of this ruling. Some in favor of Bill 21 even tried to undermine the court by questioning the impartiality of the chief justice, Nicole Duval Hesler. Among them were historian and Dawson College professor Frédéric Bastien, who publicly argued ten days before the ruling that Hesler could not be impartial because she has spoken in favor of multiculturalism and religious accommodation.

While most people would consider Hesler an enlightened judge, her critics cried bias, going insofar to file a complaint against her with the Canadian Judicial Council, the body responsible for ensuring the quality of judicial services in Canada.

The authors of the law knew that Bill 21 could not withstand a legal challenge by an objective court. It’s why they wrote the Notwithstanding Clause into the law, and why in anticipation of the Court of Appeal’s decision, they attempted to undermine its chief justice.

Turns out the bigots were wasting their time questioning Hesler’s impartiality, for while Hesler voted to grant the appeal, she was overruled by her fellow judges. In the 2-1 decision, the court decided that the Notwithstanding Clause written into the law made suspension of articles within it impossible until the Superior Court gave their own ruling on its constitutionality.

Now let’s talk about the Court of Appeal decision.

The ruling was the outcome of an appeal of a Superior Court decision rendered on July 18, 2019. The plaintiff in this case is Ichak Nourel Hak, a student scheduled to complete her Bachelor of Education this winter. She hoped to teach high school French in Quebec, but the passing of Bill 21 last June made that impossible.

The law bans many public service employees – including teachers – from wearing religious symbols while working. Hak wears a hijab, and the law as it stands only allows existing employees who wear such symbols to keep their jobs.

New hires and people seeking a promotion would have to remove the signs of their faith in order to work. As it stands, and in spite of the teacher shortage in Quebec, many people have found their job offers rescinded or their applications denied since the enactment of Bill 21.

Hak and three other groups, among them the English Montreal School Board and the Canadian Council of Muslims, are all working to challenge the law in court, but until those challenges are heard and decided, the law remains in effect.

Hak went to the Superior Court seeking an injunction to suspend articles 6 and 8 of the Laicity law until the constitutional challenges were decided.

Article 6 prohibits certain public employees from wearing religious symbols. It also defines religious symbols as all objects, especially clothing, symbols, jewelry, accessories and headgear worn with religious conviction or belief, as well as anything that could be considered religious clothing. Article 8 requires that members or employees of public institutions carry out their duties with their faces uncovered, and that anyone wishing to receive government services must uncover their faces in order to receive them – a clear reference to the Niqab worn by some Muslim women. Though the Laicity Law is supposed to apply to everyone equally, experts agree its effects will be felt mostly by Muslim women in Quebec.

The Superior Court refused to suspend these parts of the law because of the Notwithstanding Clause written into it. The Quebec Court of Appeal maintained that decision.

So what is the Notwithstanding Clause and why can it affect a provincial court decision?

All laws in Canada, be they provincial or federal, are subject to the Constitution, which takes precedence over all other laws. Included in the Constitution is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Laws that violate the Constitution can be challenged in court, and in the case of a successful challenge, struck down. In order to avoid such challenges, governments can use the Notwithstanding Clause.

The Notwithstanding Clause is section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is written into our constitution to allow governments, provincial and federal, to enact laws that violate sections seven to fifteen of the Canadian Charter – sections referring to equality, freedom from discrimination, and the rights of the accused in criminal cases – provided they indicate within the law that it applies notwithstanding the Charter.

The Clause is not, however, the great block to legal challenges Premier François Legault makes it out to be, as it’s only valid for five years. At the end of the five year period, the National Assembly can let it expire thus opening it to new legal challenges, or they can renew it by another act of parliament.

The five-year limit allows for governments to change and in cases where a law has been struck down by the courts, it can buy governments time to keep the law in effect while they rewrite the law so that it conforms to the Charter.

Any legal challenges to the Laicity law will either have to wait for the five years to expire, or find ways around the Notwithstanding Clause to successfully challenge the law. Current challenges include, but are not limited to:

  • That the law violates section 28 of the Canadian Charter guaranteeing equal treatment before the law of males and females given that the law disproportionally affects women. In the past, section 28 has only been used to interpret laws, not challenge them.
  • That the law criminalizes the wearing of religious symbols in certain professions and therefore is unconstitutional on jurisdictional grounds as it was enacted by a provincial government when only the Federal government can enact criminal legislation
  • The law is too vague

The Court of Appeal was not there to render a decision on the Laicity law’s merits. It was there to decide whether or not the law allowed them to suspend certain parts of the law until its merits are decided by another court.

The Court of Appeal recognized that the Laicity Law causes harm to the people it affects, especially women. It recognized that the grounds for the legal challenges – set to be heard by the Superior Court in October 2020 – have merit. It refused to suspend the law until those challenges are heard and decided, stating that the use of the Notwithstanding Clause tied their hands at this stage.

Until the actual challenges to the Laicity law are heard and decided, do not lose hope. Be an open and vocal critic of François Legault and his government and step between those using the law as an excuse to harass and assault innocent people.

Support movements like “Non à la Loi 21” and wear one of their buttons with pride. Show solidarity with Quebec’s religious minorities and laugh openly and loudly at people who defend the law as anything but the legalized bigotry it is.

The fight is not over until we say it is. So keep fighting.

Featured Image of the Quebec Court of Appeals building in Montreal by Jeangagnon via WikiMedia Commons

Québec solidaire MNA Catherine Dorion has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. And it all has to do with her wardrobe choices.

Known for wearing what many call casual clothing when on the floor of the National Assembly, the elected official for Taschereau decided to flip the script for Halloween. She posted a photo of herself dressed in business attire, the common go-to look for MNAs, on her Facebook page as her Halloween costume.

It was a clever move and all in good fun. Of course it drew the ire of incredibly vulgar and mysoginistic trolls online, but it also drew official condemnation from the Quebec Liberal Party.

They took issue with the fact that she was sitting on the Speaker’s desk in the photo and wanted an official inquiry (while really wanting relevance for their failing brand). But that wasn’t the outfit choice that got Dorion in trouble.

Denied the Right to Represent Her Constituents

Fast-forward to yesterday. Dorion showed up at the National Assembly to represent her constituents as she was elected to do. She was wearing a hoodie, a fact that is only relevant because some as of yet unknown MNAs complained to the Speaker and she was kicked out of the Blue Room, the room she needs to be in to discuss and vote on laws.

According to Deputy Speaker Chantal Soucy:

“We have a decorum to respect, we reminded her of it several times, it was time to draw a line. She was not wearing clothing worthy of an MNA within the Blue Room.”

Chantal Soucy in a statement to the press

Now, putting aside, for a moment, the Quebec Government’s ongoing and borderline fetishistic obsession with what women wear, which really is at the root of this, what happened on Thursday was a disgusting attack on democracy. People in the Taschereau riding had no voice in the National Assembly yesterday and it was in no way their representative’s fault.

If Soucy’s statement seems lacking of any reference to an actual rule Dorion was breaking, it’s because there isn’t one. Quebec’s National Assembly doesn’t have an official dress code, nor should it.

Why is Corporate Attire the Norm for Government?

When people commenting on the story in support of barring Dorion reference the fact that they would be sent home for coming to work dressed as she was forget one crucial fact. They work, most likely, in a corporate office, while Dorion doesn’t.

The business world has its dress code, so do farms, so do transit workers and so do police. If a banker shows up in jeans, they will be sent home. If a farm worker shows up in a suit, they’re in for a sweaty day and torn clothes. If a cop wears camo pants to work, it’s a protest.

Dorion showing up in a hoodie, Doc Martens or jeans and a t-shirt isn’t a protest, or at least it shouldn’t have to be one. Elected officials are supposed to represent the people, not corporations.

When Dorion wears a t-shirt promoting Franco-Ontarian poet Patrice Desbiens produced by Quebec writer Mathieu Arsenault on the floor of the National Assembly, she’s doing just that. When she wears a hoodie, there may not be a particular reason, she’s just wearing a hoodie, and that’s fine.

I wear hoodies sometimes, too. I don’t wear Doc Martens, but that doesn’t mean someone who does isn’t representative of me when speaking in the National Assembly.

Why is business formal or even business casual the default dress when it comes to elected officials? If the argument for is that they are conducting the “business of the state” which includes things like budgets, then it’s important to note that non-profit co-ops and other organizations without corporate dress codes also deal with budgets.

Insisting that corporate dress is the only way for a politician to appear professional is an implication that, for them, professionalism means serving corporate interests. This is sometime Catherine Dorion clearly doesn’t want to do and we should applaud her for it.