Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Modern misunderstanding of secularism.

This is based on something I wrote as feedback after listening to a Canadaland episode.

I was cringing during parts of your discussion with Former Executive Director of the World Sikh Organization Jaskaran Sandhu.  I thought I would offer a different perspective.

The term secularism has been co-opted recently by those with a very specific political viewpoint that differs from the secularism movement. They are suggesting that secularism is the separation of state from church, meaning only that the state doesn't intervene in the church.

The term is more broadly understood to be the separation of church from state, meaning that it was understood that over humanity's history that it is the church that is the aggressive entity that needs to be removed from any attempt at fair/impartial governance infrastructure.

Some shortformed it by saying "separation of church and state", to include both the times when the state was the aggressor as well as the more common situation when the church is the aggressor.

Prior to British occupation, religious groups in India were able to coexist fairly peacefully.  This is in relative terms, considering how "peaceful" other regions of the world were in the same eras, and the occupation of India by the Mughal Empire.

In a far worse version of what Trump can be seen doing today, the British lit and fanned flames of religious tension as a divide-and-conquer technique.

At the time of independence there was widespread opposition to partition from across religious groups (including Hindus, Muslims, Indian Christians, Sikh, etc).

The leadership of the Muslim League would not agree to Indian independence without partition. Partition resulted in massive deaths (estimates between 200,000 and high estimates at 2,000,000, and it was so messy that we will never know).

Partition looms over the thoughts of Indians to this day as one of India's darkest moments (and considering the occupations, "The Emergency", and other events that is saying something).  My mother-in-law survived it, living near Kolkata at the time.  She won't talk about it, but what I have heard is horrifying.

I am someone who believes in Indian reunification, and one of the many things that stands in the way of that ideal is the reduction of secularism that happened in India post-partition. With some Muslims being seen to "take their ball and go home" and cause so much death during partition, this eroded secularism such that Hindu nationalists have been trying to take over the remaining parts of India. Narendra Modi's BJP is an obvious result of partition, with Muslims being less safe in India and elsewhere as the years go on.

It is understood that some horrible things have been done in India to the Sikh by Hindu nationalists.  This is because of a lack of separation of church from the state (true secularism) in India, and not as you and your guest were suggesting that it was a lack of separation of state from church.  Creating a separate Sikh state will not make Sikh more safe, but will result in further segregation and make Sikh living outside of their separate state less safe.

I would hope it is recognized that segregation is not some ideal we should actively strive for, whether we are talking about different races or people with different religious views.

Note: I am not advocating for assimilation, with Canada being a country that claims to be secular but pushes Christian world views onto occupants. This includes peoples that pre-dated European/Christian colonization/occupation.  Residential schools aren't the only Christian atrocities against non-Christians in North America.

I'm advocating for the government to be free from any religion within the operations of government, and religion to be free of government within one's home and religious communities.

As to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, you won't be surprised I have views on that as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

This isn't just an issue in Caledonia: Canadians should support the long-standing democratic nations within Canada

I sent a letter as feedback to 'This isn't just an issue in Caledonia': Muskokans show solidarity with 1492 Land Back Lane

A few suggestions to improve these types of articles.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is widely recognized as one of the oldest participatory democracies in the world (possibly founded in 1142). Elected Members of the Canadian Parliament, as well as Canadian immigrants, are required to swear allegiance to a foreign hereditary monarch. Band councils are bureaucrats that serve the federal government, often elected by a tiny number of people given it is a foreign government.

I am Canadian, not British. I believe that Canadians should support the long-standing democratic nations within Canada and not a foreign barely-democratic government or its monarch.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Patriatism, national pride, and pride of place.

Searching YouTube for #LandBack related videos, I was recommended a video by activist Lindsay Shepherd on why she rejects Indigenous Land Acknowledgements. I had been struggling with land acknowledgements, so was curious.

Antiracism and the "settlers" terminology

There was some thinking in the more recent video that sounded familiar from my ongoing antiracism training, as she focused on individuals rather than systems.  As I compared Indigenous Peoples Worldviews vs Western Worldviews, I came to understand the basis of the laws and systems that are built from those world views.

There will always be persons of European descent (such as myself) who will hold world views closer to indigenous North Americans, and people of indigenous descent that hold views closer to European world views.  This is why I don't find it useful to focus on individuals, but on systems which impose world views on societies even where individuals will disagree.

Listening to Lindsay talk about her objection to people calling themselves settlers, even though they were born here, I more clearly realized how I felt. I agree this language goes to the very relationship people have to their homeland, which is exactly why some of us refer to the Canadian government as a settler-state. She will never feel like an uninvited guest in the country she was born into and have a deep attachment to. I don't feel like a guest where I was born, but still recognize that there are considerable legitimacy problems with the current formation of the Government of Canada.

I am Canadian, not British. I don't recognize or have allegiance to any monarch. The current Canadian government still requires that "elected" members of parliament swear an oath to the British hereditary monarch. The same is true for immigrants who are not required to be faithful to Canada or Canada's democracy, but a foreign monarch.

Where I came from

I was born in 1968 in a town called Sudbury, from parents primarily of Irish descent. Human inhabitation of the area I was born began approximately 9,000 years ago. By the time Europeans arrived, this area had been dominated by the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) people for hundreds of years.

In 1850 the Robinson Huron Treaty was signed between the Anishinaabeg and the British Crown. As with other treaties where differing world views meant that the parties were agreeing to quite different things, the British Crown believed the Anishinaabeg were ceding European property-like ownership of the land, while the Anishinaabeg were offering to share (consistent with other peace and friendship treaties).

At the time of the passage by the British parliament of the British North America Act (July 1, 1867, AKA Dominion Day), this was part of Rupert's land, a territory in which a commercial monopoly was operated by the Hudson's Bay Company between 1670 and 1870. The British crown admitted the territory to Canada effective 1870, subject to the making of treaties with existing sovereign indigenous nations.

The specific site was used as a temporary worker' camp in 1883-84 during the construction of the CPR. A railway executive named the community for the birthplace of his wife in Sudbury, Suffolk, England.

While I was born in territory shared at that time by the Anishinaabeg and a British Commonwealth nation, it was the British created Canadian government that issued a birth certificate and other official government documentation.

When Canada finally patriated its constitution from England in 1982 (when I was 14), it included section 35 which stated that "existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed". Canada is still not a republic, the British hereditary monarch is the head of state. Governance is still dominated by British traditions and world views, which includes a disregard for North American traditions and world views.


When I was in my 20's I was asked a few times if I would be willing to serve in the Canadian military.  My answer was that I would not volunteer, and it wouldn't be advisable for the government to conscript me as I would not be able to blindly follow the orders of a government simply because of where I was born.

If a member nation of the Anishinaabeg Nation offered me a birth certificate and other official government documentation, I would also not blindly trust that government. I suspect that since my world views are more North American than British that I would have stronger alignment with the Anishinaabeg Nation.

While I have a pride of place, I do not feel patriotic towards any of the overlapping nations I was born into.

Earning my respect

As I read about the ongoing relations between these treaty partners, it is hard not to believe that the British and later British created Canadian governments have been dishonorable. Even as it relates to the annuities required as part of treaties where I was born, court cases against the Canadian government are ongoing. Of the two, it is the Canadian government that has been less trustworthy, and thus the least deserving of my pride or respect.

I think it is important to remember we are talking only about what governing structure and related world views have legitimacy over this land. Anyone confused that #LandBack means kicking people of European descent off this territory should view Decolonizing and landback: they don't want your pool.

While I don't feel patriotism, I understand the patriotism of those who are fighting against the Canadian Government's ongoing disrespect for treaties and the rule of law. I recognize the Haldimand Treaty of 1784, and thus support 1492 Land Back Lane.


I suspect my respect of the Haldimand Treaty would upset Lindsay Shepherd as she lives in Waterloo and apparently is still a teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier.  Where she lives and works is within the Haldimand Tract, some of the land which I strongly believe should be put back under the legitimate control of Six Nations (and not control by Indian Act bureaucrats).  I believe the same of where I currently live in Ottawa, as this is Algonquin territory that isn't under any treaty and thus there isn't much legitimacy to the British-created parliament (which is also here) to claim political and legal control over this area.

The boundaries of what is currently called Ontario was drawn up by the British parliament between 1774 and 1912 to favor the British, and I strongly believe should be corrected to properly recognize nations other than the British.

See also:

Friday, October 9, 2020

Donation to help elect Annamie Paul in Toronto Centre.

I just made the maximum $1625.00 donation to help elect Annamie Paul in Toronto Centre.

I'm of European descent, born in 1968 in what was recently called Northern Ontario.  This year I stated my antiracism training, and it has been a major eye opener.

I've spent decades fighting against treating land, animals, people and ideas as "property", and the treatment of "property" as exclusivity without responsibility.  In taking a course on Indigenous Canada I have learned that this is down to world views, with the view I've been fighting against being one of the core aspects of European world views.

Now that I'm aware of the differences in world views between those indigenous to North America and those indigenous to Europe, I have come to understand that my personal views are more North American than the Canadian federal, provincial or municipal governments that claim to represent me as a citizen. I've come to understand that fighting for environmental, economic and social justice is very wrapped in decolonisation, antiracism, and fighting against "white supremacy" (I mean the systemic kind, not focused on individuals).

I have watched a few videos and Q&A sessions with Annamie Paul at this point, and I'm happy to see that she represents a perspective I want to see in parliament. She isn't a person of Caribbean descent that is going to simply work within the existing Eurocentric political culture in Canada, but work to change it.

She isn't running in my electoral district, so my views on her won't affect my vote, but I can still donate to help encourage people in Toronto Center to support and vote for her.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Participatory democracy vs corporate media

I watched a video which CPAC put up of the new Green Party leader Annamie Paul speaking with reporters.



I became increasingly annoyed at the number of times reporters asked the same form of question. In their corporate minds, Annamie Paul was just placed as the CEO of the corporation called the Green Party of Canada. They wanted to know the many different ways that she would dictate commands to those the media insisted were subordinate to her, whether that be staff at the party, elected members of parliament, or candidates.  She had to constantly remind them of what a "healthy democracy" looks like.

Many of the biases of these reporters were obvious, even though these reporters would likely falsely claim they weren't biased.

As I have watched Canada's democracy decline over my lifetime, I have noticed that rather than the corporate media holding politicians to account that they are only making things worse.  Rather than recognize that democracy is more healthy the more decentralized it is, the corporate media has constantly manufactured fake scandals when any group displays healthy democratic traits by having disagreements in a bottom-up rather than top-down fashion.


The Global Greens Charter sets out the principles that bind Greens from around the world together:

  • Participatory Democracy
  • Nonviolence
  • Social justice
  • Sustainability 
  • Respect for Diversity
  • Ecological Wisdom


My greatest critique of Elizabeth May and the current federal council has been their willingness to abandon the first principle (participatory democracy) in order to appease Canada's anti-democratic corporate media or align themselves with the corporate structured parties.

I believe Elizabeth Mays support of "party proportional representation" (measured via the Gallagher index) was itself an abandonment of this first principle. Political parties are merely corporations, and a centralizing focusing on corporate brands over participants or representatives is unhealthy for democracy.  While Canada needs electoral reform in the form of ranked ballots in single and/or multi-member districts to make representatives more representative of citizens, electoral systems focused on corporate proportionality only makes the existing corporate focus worse.

I also believe the idea of having a leadership 'vetting committee' was an example of the problem.  While I strongly oppose the adoption of US-style primaries as it is unhealthy for Canadian democracy, having a top-down group deciding who is allowed to be nominated makes this bad situation worse. While the party may sometimes need a media spokesperson separate from the caucus elected leader (especially whenever there isn't an elected caucus), that person should never be falsely treated by the media as some sort of CEO.

It is beyond time for reporters employed by Canada's corporate media to recognize their harmful role within Canadian democracy.  The media can't oppose a healthy democracy and then be surprised when fewer and fewer people are willing to go to them to find out what is happening in Canada.  If they want public support, they need to switch to offering the public service of holding politicians to account.  This means treating elected representatives as accountable to citizens, not acting as if MPs were employees working within "elected" corporations (IE: political parties).

While I support participatory democracy over representative democracy, lets at least ensure that elected representatives are never expected (or preferably even allowed) to have loyalty to corporations over citizens.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

European vs Indigineous North American hereditary leadership.

When Italian explorers happened upon Turtle Island in 1492, they found existing nations with governance structures different than what they had experienced with European nations.

While Europeans had a very top-down hierarchical structure largely based on hereditary monarchs or "elections" with a tiny number of elite electors, some of the nations in North America were using what is often called a participatory democracy. Kainerekowa (the Great Law of Peace) of the Haudenosaunee is widely recognized as one of the oldest democracies in the world (possibly founded in 1142).

The North American nations often had hereditary leaders that would help talking circles come to a consensus. This leader is a trained facilitator and promoter of group values and interests, and is able to act as a spokesperson with others about these common interests. Many roles in various societies worldwide are inherited, often because training is required from an early age.

Each nation had their own words for this leadership. Europeans called these facilitators chiefs, an anglicization of the french word chief.

Europeans and North Americans had hereditary leadership, but they were extremely different. People with european worldviews need to remember that their bad experiences with hierarchical hereditary leadership doesn't apply to other forms of hereditary leadership.

England incrementally became more democratic (Magna Carta in 1215, Kings removed in the 1600's), but it wasn't until 1918 with the Representation of the People Act that England had a system which we could recognise today as a democracy. Typical of patrilineal societies, it wasn't until a decade later that women received a more equal vote, something that wasn't a problem in matrilineal societies such as seen in many north american first nations. With European history coming from a top-down hierarchical feudalistic system, the form of democracy that was formed was similarly top-down hierarchical with Prime Ministers or Presidents having far more power than is reasonable for an individual to have. While these positions are periodically elected, they have the ability to impose top-down decision making between these elections.

Rather than allowing indigineous peoples of North America to retain their existing governance systems, colonial governments imposed top-down colonial structures on them. This can still be seen today with the Indian Act imposed "elected" bureaucrats the colonists called "elected band councils", with the colonial government still ignoring obligations towards restoring indigineous self determination and governance.

While indigineous peoples of North America have been forced to adjust to interacting with the hierarchical colonial state and society, many have been able to retain their more participatory governance traditions. In some cases the hereditary facilitators work with "elected" band councils, in some cases those facilitators overlap between both systems, and in some cases the Indian Act councils have no legitimacy at all. In some cases the hereditary leadership were killed off by colonists, so these nations are forced to only have the imposed hierarchy. How great an impact the imposition of European hierarchy has had on a nation is specific to that nation.

Personal belief...

While I only recently started to learn the truth about North American history, I have always believed in the decentralisation of power.  I believe it would be greatly beneficial for Canadians to abandon European world views about governance (and many other things), and to adopt some of the more decentralised decision making methods that are indigineous to this continent.  There are many ideas imported and imposed from Europe that we would be best to move away from.


One of the most interesting thing I have found in my antiracism and indigineous north american studies is that all the information is widely available, if only people are interested to look for and read it.  I could provide a huge list of references, but I have arrived at my current beliefs through reading, listening to and watching a wide variety of sources authored by people living within areas which Euopeans histocally declared to be the "United States" and "Canada".

Two examples might help to start.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Decolonizing and landback: they don't want your pool.

As part of the Indigenous Canada course , Dan Levy has been hosting some informal conversations after each module.  When the topic of indigenous peoples wanting their land back comes up, Paul Gareau has jokingly said something along the lines of "we don't want your pool".

I heard another version of that thought during the Q&A section of a talk given in February by Dr. Kim TallBear titled  "Decolonizing (≠ Reconciling): Science, Technology, and Indigenous Relations".  The entire talk is amazing and worth listening to, but if nothing else please listen to this 4 minute clip.

"Settlers are always afraid you are going to do to them what they have done to everyone else.  So whatever their fears are, it tells you they know what their ancestors really did. Nobody is going to kick anyone out."

"You can be kin to us without being us." ... "Be careful about making those types of appropriative claims".

"The settler state cannot be redeemed.  It is not the project."

"We are telling ourselves the wrong story, and its very difficult to make changes with the wrong narrative guiding us."

The person asking the question referenced a paper by Tuck and Yang titled "Decolonization is not a metaphor".