Sunday, January 10, 2021

Canadian bills relating to UNDRIP: Romeo Saganash on his Political Career: Warrior Life Podcast

I recommend everyone watch this amazing interview of Romeo Saganash.  If you don't need convincing, just watch.




Romeo Saganash was born in 1961 in Waswanipi, a cree community in what some currently call Quebec. He is fluent in Cree, French and English.

He discusses his career as a policy maker within indigenous communities, internationally within Canadian politics and globally.  In 1984 he was invited to go to the United Nations, and became actively involved in the working groups that eventually were able to get the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed through the UN general assembly in 2007.


With his extensive political experience he was courted by nearly all the political parties except the Conservatives.  After having said "no" many times, he finally said "yes" to Jack Layton.  He promised two terms, and successfully won his seat both times in 2011 and in 2015.  He did not run in 2019.

He was not part of the government, but tabled bills focused on Canada moving forward with UNDRIP.  While the entire interview is not about UNDRIP, I believe the obvious expertise he has should help convince people who are supportive of Canada finally starting to respect the human rights of  indigenous peoples to support his work. His bill, re-tabled as C-15 in the current session, is an important step in the right direction.  We should all (indigenous and settler) be doing everything we can to pressure all activists, policy makers and parliamentarians to ensure that this bill eventually becomes law.

Romeo is aware of the critiques of the bill from some fellow indigenous peoples, but he believes they have misinterpreted the bill.  I have heard Romeo's explanations, read the critiques, closely read the bills, and read some of the history. I strongly agree with Romeo's interpretation of the bill. The bill does not entrench Indigenous peoples under a 4'th level of government (below municipalities).  It does not put UNDRIP below Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, but ensures that courts and politicians will interpret UNDRIP within the context of section 35 protected treaty rights.


The critiques I have read are legitimate critiques relating to the ongoing dishonesty of the Canadian government (regardless of party in power) and many parliamentarians, but are not critiques that apply to the text of the bill.  We should all be critical of the Liberals for delaying a year to re-table the bill, a lack of action that Romano considers yet another dishonest ploy to ensure the bill won't get passed before the next election. We should be critical of parliamentarians for not quickly passing this bill, not critical of any that are willing to pass it.


The losers from this bill passing are settlers and other foreign interests who want their violations of human rights to continue. The most vocal rights violators have been from resource extraction industries.  These people believe that their European concept of property rights should be supreme, and yet believe that their "theft" should continue.  I have no sympathy for the opinions of these settlers, and look forward to a future law which will make their actions clearly illegal.


While it was not discussed in the interview, I wanted to provide a list of the tabling dates and titles of Romeo's bills:

  • 2013-01-28: An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 2013-06-13: An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Vallée-de-l’Or, Anishinabe Aki and Eeyou Istchee regions)
  • 2013-10-16: An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 2013-10-16: An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Vallée-de-l’Or, Anishinabe Aki and Eeyou Istchee regions)
  • 2014-12-04: An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 2016-04-21: An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


People who do not follow parliamentary process may not realize that bills from one parliamentary session get re-tabled, with or without amendments, in later sessions.  Romeo first introduced "An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" in 2013.  The second-last time the bill made it to second reading, and the last time it was passed by the House of Commons but was filibustered by Conservative Senators.

While Romeo didn't run again in 2019, it is a slightly enhanced version of the bill which the Liberals finally (delaying a year) tabled as Bill C-15 in the current parliamentary session.  I have compared the text of Romeo's latest version and the version tabled by the Liberals, and I agree that the bill is a slight improvement based on feedback from the previous process.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Confederate flag in US Capitol, and other "not racist" myths we tell ourselves.

This is my opinion, and it is a controversial one. Skip this article if you will feel triggered by a conversation involving the confederate flag, and because of that be unable to read the entire thought before jumping to conclusions.

As I watched what was happening in the US Capitol yesterday, I noticed some familiar themes.


One of them related to a series of photographs of the flag of the Confederate States of America being flown outside and within the halls of the US Capitol.  It disgusted people because it is seen as a symbol of white supremacy. The USA fought a civil war and won against the separatists that fly that flag, which to most people that means that they aren't the white supremacists. Never during the civil war did that flag fly in the capitol, and yet it flew yesterday because of a riot incited by opportunistic politicians.

 

Canadians regularly tell a similar story, of how they (well, their British loyalist ancestors) fought a series of wars against the separatists (American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc). They feel it is those separatists who are white supremacist racists, and those of us not on that side of the negotiated treaty border are therefore not racists or white supremacists.



Last Monday I wrote an article discussing how I consider Canada to be a subsidiary of the British government that is an ongoing example of systemic white supremacy.  The United States and Canada are similar in this respect.  Even if the USA wasn't created by the UK parliament (British North America Act, 1867 , Canada Act 1982), it was still British settlers that created that non-domestic government.

While the history of Mexico is quite different, I would summarize the history of Europeans on the rest of Turtle Island fairly simply:


  • When they first started to visit Turtle Island, Europeans had legitimate trade with Turtle Island nations.
  • Europeans consider themselves separate from nature and superior to everyone else, so decided they didn't need to pay for land or resources they extracted from Turtle Island to bring to Europe.  They started colonies, also not paying for land or resources.
  • Europeans kidnapped people from Africa and elsewhere to bring to the colonies, not being willing to pay for labour.
  • Various Europeans fought each other, each allied with different Turtle Island nations at different times, to be the exclusive European trade ally and have colonies on this continent. With the end of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), it was pretty much only the British that were left on the largest part of the mainland (There are still colonies elsewhere near the mainland, such as the French colony of Saint Pierre and Miquelon near the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador).
  • A subset of the colonists objected to paying taxes to pay for all those wars so that they could have free land and resources, so started a revolutionary war (1775–1783) to not even pay taxes. The United States were allowed to claim independence, and took control over a large portion of what the British considered British North America.
  • The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was passed in the UK after many decades of debate.  The debate within the USA was also fierce, and a set of southern US states fought for independence from the USA between 1861 to 1865 so they would not be forced to finally pay for labor. The Confederate States of America lost that war, and were not allowed independence.



I disagree with those who believe that the Confederate States of America and its flag represents white supremacy, but the rest of USA or British North America (Canada) does not. The fact is, the entire concept of having Europeans come to Turtle Island and seek to impose their governance systems on the peoples of this homeland is pretty much the definition of white supremacy. Immigrants to USA or Canada aren't immigrating to any of the domestic governments, but foreign European derived governments.


There are many symbols of this white supremacy.  For many First Nations, the primary symbol of white supremacy is the Christian Cross. For others it is the British, US or Canadian flags.

I understand that people are upset that the flag of the Confederate States of America was flown in the US capitol yesterday.  What I find frustrating is that there is outcry if any of the other symbols of white supremacy are even questioned.  If we want to reduce the white supremacy on Turtle Island we need to recognize all the symbols of white supremacy, not only the symbols that "lost" and thus we can pretend the problem is in the distant past.

There is a different image of white supremacy that was circulated yesterday, and that was the difference in police presence between the unarmed peaceful Black Lives Matter protests and the armed insurrection yesterday.

People locked in western worldviews can only focus on individuals, and thus want to either blame Donald Trump and/or the specific people who entered the capitol buildings yesterday.

The reality is that it is the systems of the United States and Canada that is the problem, not individuals who happen to have been granted citizenship by these systems.  Unless we stop our tunnel vision on individuals and start paying attention to systems, there is no mechanism to deal with white supremacy on Turtle Island or anywhere else.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Help stop overt racism and white supremacy in Canada!

The NDP have a fundraising campaign where they wish to Dismantle white supremacist and neo-nazi groups in Canada. While that is a feel-good campaign that might bring them money, I think Canadian political parties and elected members of Canadian parliaments should look closer to home if they wish to solve this problem.


Canadians believe that Canada is not a racist country, largely because they are looking for individuals who use specific keywords they are looking for.  They want to hear someone say that they believe whites are a superior race, and that whites should rule over all the other races. As it is only a small minority of Canadians who use the keywords they are looking for, they can feel good about themselves and confident that Canada isn't a racist country.

This focus on individuals should be recognized as a form of white privilege and part of European worldviews.  If we wish to stop racism and white supremacy in Canada we should instead be looking at the systems of Canada: governance systems, laws, law enforcement, and so-on.


Systemic Canada

The Doctrine of Discovery was part of a set of papal bulls issued by the pope in 1493. It "authorized" the subjects of Christian European monarchs to travel to other countries and claim that they "discovered" land if the inhabitants weren't also subjects of Christian monarchs. These European monarchs and subjects would then, via this doctrine, rule over the land and peoples that they "discovered".

 


 

 

I would hope that today we would all recognize this as fundamentally flawed thinking. While in April 2010 "The Holy See confirms that Inter Coetera has already been abrogated and considers it without any legal or doctrinal value", several countries including Canada continue to base their legal systems on this policy. A simple look at a dictionary definition of "White Supremacy" should allow us to recognize that this policy is white supremacist.


To avoid those who want to claim "the past is the past", lets focus our thinking on overt activities carried out by the Governments of Canada based on this white supremacist policy that happened in recent years and/or are ongoing today.

While there was 300 years leading up to it, in 1990 a group of Mohawk finally put their feet down and said "no" when the Canadian state yet again planned to illegally take more land from them. The Mohawks are one of the elder nations part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an advanced democratic union of nations dating back to 1192. The Mohawks are considered the keepers of the eastern gate to the Haudenosaunee Conferderacy.

The Secret Life of Canada offers a 2-part audio on Kanesatake: Let's talk about what happened long before the 'Oka Crisis'.


A point-form summary of the racist actions of the Canadian Government, some of its subsidiary governments, courts, police forces, and military:

 

  • The Government of Canada claims, based on the clearly racist Doctrine of Discovery, that it exclusively "owns" (in a European sense, meaning entitlements without responsibility) all the land within the borders that it negotiated with the USA (another European-derived government in North America) and documented in treaties with the USA.
    • This includes land that was clearly never ceded to Europeans or their subsidiary governments, as well as land where there are treaties to peacefully share which Europeans dishonestly believe were ceded.
  • A racist municipality "sold" land it did not own to be "developed".
  • A court issued a racist injunction against land defenders
    • Indigenous people feel responsibility to land while Europeans feel only entitlements.  We need to understand the term "land defenders" to mean the rightful "owners", but with a less racist conceptualization of ownership.
    • The purpose of an injunction is to protect the status-quo while a dispute can go through the courts. A less racist injunction process would have an injunction against destruction of the land until clear title was established.  Injunctions should never be against land defenders.
  • Police were called in to enforce the racist injunction, and when the land defenders (AKA: rightful owners) didn't leave the police carried out racially motivated violence.
  • Additional land defenders came in to help protect those trying to stop foreign destruction of their land. Additional locations became part of the land defense.
  • The Canadian military was brought in to remove these land defenders.

 

While we could be very European and be critical of each of the individuals that were involved in these racist activities, they would each claim they were merely "following orders".  To understand why potentially good people were willing to carry out racially motivated violence we need to look closely at the systems that gave them those orders.


This same activity has been carried out in many different instances, so I will only pick a few of the higher profile instances:

  • In 1995 the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation tried to reclaim land that had been "temporarily" expropriated during World War II. The racially motivated violence from the Ontario government, lead by Mike Harris, resulted in the murder of an unarmed land defender named Dudley George.  There was an inquiry, but for his part Mike Harris is being granted the Order of Ontario.  (To learn more, the Secret Live of Canada did an episode on Ipperwash in their first season).
  • Wet’suwet’en Nation land defense against expropriation of their land to put in risky pipelines. I believe it is hard for Canadians to claim they weren't aware that something was going on given most railways were blocked as part of this anti-racism protest. I think it is our duty to go past the government propaganda and learn about the overt racist activities carried out by the Government of Canada (theoretically on our behalf).
  • To bring us back to the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations of the Grand River, was forced to occupy some of their land after yet another parcel was illegally sold in 2020 by a municipality to a developer.  They renamed this land 1492 Land Back Lane, and I have written extensively why we should support these land defenders.
    • While there has been racially motivated violence by police and settler protesters, fortunately Canada hasn't murdered anyone yet.
    • This group has been forced to retain occupancy on this land with tents and temporary housing through COVID and through a cold winter to stop land destruction. We should be actively thinking of our complicity in this white supremacy every cold evening this winter. Make a donation.

 

 

Roadmap away from racism and white supremacy in Canada

There is a roadmap of what the Government of Canada, and each elected member of a Canadian parliament, should be doing to reduce this white supremacy.  As an example, two of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls-to-Action from 2015 directly address the Doctrine of Discovery and the racist litigation strategies based on this policy.

 

Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation would include, but not be limited to, the following commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships into the future.

iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements. 


47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.


These are actions that need to be carried out by the Governments of Canada.  If the NDP wanted to fight against white supremacy in Canada they should be focused on actively forcing fellow parliamentarians to pass a bills that would honor these calls to action.

I am aware that there are several members of parliament that are members of the Catholic Church.

49. We call upon all religious denominations and faith groups who have not already done so to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has started the process . In April 2010 there was a Statement by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See on the Doctrine of Discovery and Inter Coetera that clarified that "The Holy See confirms that Inter Coetera has already been abrogated and considers it without any legal or doctrinal value".

Given this, why does the Canadian Governments still cling to the idea that this doctrine ever had any validity?


UNDRIP in Canada

It is important to notice that "Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation" is part of the calls to action.  The Government of Canada has tabled a bill, based on a previous bill C-262 that was killed by the senate, to start a process. The Assembly of First Nations provided a table comparing C-15 from the previous C-262 which had already passed once in the House of Commons.


There is strong opposition from within some indigenous communities to that process.

 

Why?

 

Russ Diabo provided some useful links on Twitter (thread 1, thread 2).  He specifically mentioned support for Arthur Manuel's 6 Step Decolonization Program.

The clear suggestion is that Canada must stop ongoing racism and white supremacy being carried out by the Governments of Canada before there is any reason for Canada to be trusted to move forward with UNDRIP.

The first step is to denounce the racist doctrine of discovery and terra nullius. It then moves on to removing the white supremacist idea that a European created government should rule over indigenous peoples (indigenous self-determination).  Once this has been accomplished, and Canada has demonstrated a little bit of maturity, a "grown-up talk" can happen nation-to-nation.

For those following these 6 steps, the last step is to modify the Canadian constitution to fully implement UNDRIP.

Bill C-15 does not implement UNDRIP, but documents a specific process to move forward. It also incorporates the text of the UN resolution into that process, and many have suggested this will encourage courts to include ideas from the resolution in rulings where the law is otherwise unclear.

The debate within indigenous communities seems to be around whether Bill C-15 or any Canadian process around UNDRIP should be boycott until Canada demonstrates some willingness to stop its racism and white supremacy, or if the passage of C-15 can be used as part of the process to stop Canada's ongoing racism and white supremacy.


Sadly, outside of indigenous communities the debate seems to be about whether Canada should be continuing or even increasing the strength of racist and/or white supremacist policies, or if we are willing to slowly tiptoe forward to become a tiny bit less white supremacist.

My own thinking has been focused on political strategies to get anti-racist policies passed into law and enforced without constantly being blocked by the racists within the Canadian Parliaments (federal and provincial), Federal Senate, courts, lawyers and police.


Where exactly is the NDP looking for these white supremacist groups in Canada?


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Decolonization: Is C-15 an action to encourage the gradual civilization of Canada?

Quoting from the Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

In 1857, the Province of Canada passed an act to "Encourage the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes". It provided the means for Indians "of good character" (as determined by a board of non-Aboriginal examiners) to be declared, for all practical purposes, non-Indian. As non-Indians, they were invited to join Canadian society, bringing a portion of tribal land with them. Only one man, Elias Hill, a Mohawk from the Six Nations, is known to have accepted the invitation.
The full text of that bill is available on Canadiana, a site hosted by my workplace where I am the sysadmin.

People who think of themselves only as individuals, as is encouraged in European/western cultures, will not see any responsibility for the past or responsibility towards the future. Even for those where that is the case, the reality is that Canada still exists today and its governing institutions still has aggressive and paternalistic attitude towards the nations that have existed in parallel with Canada since the British created these provinces and later the Dominion of Canada (see: Systemic Canada).

A conversation we should be having is whether we have a different understanding of the concept of "Civilization" today than subjects of the British Crown had at the time.  Are Canadians still subjects of "Her Majesty", or is it possible we have become something different.  And if we have become something different, shouldn't we change the underlying systems that govern us to reflect this change?


What is Canada?

To avoid confusion I want to clarify that when I say "Canada" I mean the systems (government, courts, laws and law enforcement, etc) which were created by the British as a subsidiary to be part of the British Empire by the British North America Act 1867.

When I say "Canadians" I mean those persons which the systems of "Canada" have granted citizenship.  I was born on this homeland and feel loyalty to the peoples of this homeland. I am a Canadian citizen, but I am not British citizen or a British subject.  I do not feel any loyalty to this foreign nation or their subsidiary government, and when this foreign nation and the peoples of this homeland come in conflict I will always choose the peoples of this homeland.

Other language biases

We need to be aware of biases built into language, with language forming part of the systems around us. Historically European anthropologists used the term "tribe" to describe human social groups that were not structured like Europeans had, but were just as legitimately understood as nations as European nations were. In most cases when you read the word "tribe" you should understand it in the same way you would think of a nation in Europe.  You may notice the difference in western cultures between the term "tribalism" (something that has a negative connotation) and "nationalism" (something that is granted a positive connotation).

What is civilization?

Do Canadians today have a different idea of what constitutes civilization than the British did in the 1800's?

Much of the focus on what defined a civilization was based on European worldviews, with the roots of the English word civilization coming from the Latin word "civitas" or city. Some Europeans suggesting that non-nomadic European style urban development was a requirement of being considered "civilized".  I doubt many would consider this a relevant part of the concept today.

Europeans thought of any society which was different than Christian European societies to automatically be inferior, and that forcibly converting other civilizations to become more European and Christian was not only civilized behavior, but was required to make these "others" civilized. Do a majority of Canadians still consider this to be civilized behavior?

When Europeans first started to take control over Turtle Island, it was the subjects of Christian Monarchs that were sent there by the Catholic Pope as part of a series of papal bulls that created the doctrine of discovery.  In many cases what these subjects found were advanced civilizations, but that was ignored because what they found weren't subjects of Christian Monarchs. Do Canadians believe that what the pope did was civilized behavior? (See: resources from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on this question)


If we take the example of the Haudenosaunee, this was a group of nations that joined into a confederacy similar to what the European Union eventually became within Europe. While scholars debate whether the first five nations (Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca) came together in 1192 or 1451, there seems to be consensus that the sixth nation (the Tuscarora) joined in 1722. That is almost 300 years of the Haudenosaunee nations remaining together.  The European Union was founded in 1992, but with Brexit it seems that union won't even last 30 years.

Canada was created as a subsidiary of Britain to rule over what they called British North America. Given the UK isn't capable of getting along with other nations well enough to remain part of the European Union, why should we trust a British subsidiary to be capable of getting along with the peoples of this homeland?


This all makes me curious to know if Canadians, even if living under 150+ years of pro-European government propaganda, would have a different evaluation of which nations or groups of nations should be considered at "the stage of human social and cultural development and organization that is considered most advanced." (Definition from Oxford Languages).

The Formation of Canada

Many Canadians believe that Europeans came to Turtle Island, won a war against the inhabitants, and that this conquest was completed a long time ago. They believe that even if mistakes were made in the past, it has nothing to do with them today.

The reality of Canada is very different. Europeans set up many treaties with the many different nations on this homeland. Some of these treaties were clearly to only share the land in peaceful coexistence, and some look far more like rental agreements. In most cases the Europeans broke their own laws, and continue to do so today.

Canada is in violation of its own laws even if you only accept the European interpretation of that law.  It gets worse when you compare what the Europeans claimed to indigenous leadership when these "agreements" were being signed. Europeans regularly lied about what was in the text, even when not "negotiating" with the barrel of a gun.  This is why international human rights law is finally recognizing the need to require "free, prior, and informed consent". Treaty making, and the honoring of treaties, should not be treated with less respect than governments interpret contract law.

The Canadian government has quite a bit of work to do to to deal with all its ongoing and historical violations of domestic and international law.

Decolonization should be the goal

In my mind, decolonization should be the goal.  The systems which govern this land should be based on domestic laws and worldviews rather than foreign.  Those persons who wish to live in a European country have many options available to them in Europe, and should not be demanding that this homeland also be European.

I believe in this century that people are starting to recognize the nature of having a European derived system of government ruling over the peoples of non-European lands.  A typical dictionary definition of "White Supremacy" is:

the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups.
If we disagree with the idea of white supremacy, then we should disagree with the idea that what we call North America (and many non-Europeans who already lived hear call Turtle Island) should be governed by European systems.

This does not mean going back in time. While indigenous civilizations have changed over time as all peoples do, many of the civilizations that existed prior to European contact still exist today. While the concept of indigenous self government is an appropriate early step, the long-term goal should be to remove the foreign European governance entirely.
 
This also does not mean that non-indigenous persons will be asked to leave (See: Decolonizing and landback: they don't want your pool).  What it should eventually mean is that anyone who is not currently a member of a domestic nation would go through an immigration process, and become a citizen of a domestic nation. I was born on this homeland, and should have become a citizen of a nation that is not foreign to this homeland.

Gradual


This is going to be the hardest part of this change. While there are many people who feel they have waited long enough already, I don't believe Canada is at a stage to allow for some quick fix.
 
One set of opponents you will see are representatives of the Conservative Party who are opposed to the concept of "free, prior, and informed consent". This is the suggestion that Canada shouldn't need to treat treaty partners with at least the same level of respect that is expected with enforceable contracts. It is not surprising that this dishonor of treaty partners regularly ends up in the courts, and finally Canadian courts are acting in a less racist manner and recognizing when the Canadian Governments are at fault.


Another set of opponents I've seen are indigenous representatives and groups that are opposed to Bill C-15 tabled on December 3, 2020 , primarily because it doesn't do much to fix the problems of Canada. The First Nations Strategic Bulletin June - Dec 2020 includes an example of this discussion.

While I agree that the bill is only a tiny start, I have yet to be convinced that it is a backward step. Canada's design flaws aren't going to be corrected overnight, and at this point I suspect the vast majority of Canadians aren't yet even aware that Canada needs correction.

The Bill is quite small (Look for "Latest Publication" under Text of the Bill). It is worth everyone reading on their own before reading someone else's summary.
 
Most of the summaries I have read are much longer than the bill itself. This bill does not make major changes to Canadian law, but includes a copy of UNDRIP resolution adopted from the United Nations assembly and provides a mechanism to (in the future) amend Canadian law to be consistent with the declaration. Most Canadians should focus attention on sections 1-7 which is the Canadian bill. I don't consider it legitimate for the resolution text itself to be critiqued as somehow being "too much human rights" for Canada to be willing to respect.

This bill does not attempt to modify the Canadian Constitution, and clarifies that it remains consistent with the constitution. This is why it is able to be passed into law by the federal parliament and senate at all.  The process for modifying the constitution is quite hard, and I believe that modifying other laws to make Canada more consistent with human rights and other international law will be a prerequisite for any successful amendment of the constitution.


Russ Diabo correctly notes that Bill C-15 doesn't modify the constitution, and doesn't repeal the colonial Doctrine of Discovery within Canadian law. While I look forward to that change being enacted, I don't consider it reasonable to expect that to happen within a bill designed to start the process of making Canadian law consistent with international human rights.  Canadians generally believe they are citizens of a law abiding country that promotes human rights domestically and internationally, and it will be a gradual process for people to discover this isn't the case in order to move forward with fixing this problem.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Lets work to fix parliamentary flaws which block holding a Premier or Prime Minister accountable.

In my New Years note yesterday, the last paragraph was about Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips, and why I felt he should be fired from his position. What he did was not a mistake, but a well prepared dishonesty that made him unworthy of being a cabinet minister. He was appropriately asked to resign.


I feel the same way about Justin Trudeau.  We could discuss the SNC Lavalin scandal, his treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the WE scandal, and his general flaunting of his lifelong privilege and belief in his own entitlement. Why I think Justin Trudeau is a bad Prime Minister isn't really my point.

 

My point is that with decades of manipulation by political parties and the media, there is no mechanism to hold Justin Trudeau accountable the same way that Rod Phillips was held accountable.  A bad cabinet minister was turfed from the cabinet for their individual incompetence, and parliament and the government moves forward without some alleged crisis. The same should be possible with any cabinet minister, including a Premier or Prime Minister.

 


Here are some of the barriers to holding Justin Trudeau to account.

 

  • During a general election there are 338 separate electoral district elections, and some subset during a by-election. The question posed on the ballot in each electoral district is different. The media and political parties falsely claim and aggressively promote the notion that we have a national election with a common question on a common national ballot.
  • Contrary to popular misconception, Canada doesn't elect the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the current leader of the party that has the confidence of the elected House of Commons to form government. There is no direct way for Canadian citizens to elect or un-elect a Prime Minister.
    • It is an extreme corruption of our political system to suggest that I should treat my one vote for a representative in the House of Commons as merely a US-style electoral college vote for some concept of a "President of Canada". The USA should be abandoning its electoral college if it wishes, but Canadians should never be pretending we have one.
    • Parties can change leaders (including Primiers and Prime Ministers) between elections, and this is considered normal. The current problem is that it is unelected party executives that make these decisions, not elected parliamentarians holding that cabinet minister to account.
  • Due to gradual internal party changes (not law), a party leader is currently decided by political tourists (anyone willing to pay $5 to temporarily become a member) outside of parliament, rather than the leader being accountable to elected party caucus members.  While some claim allowing the general public to elect leaders is more democratic, it is actually far less democratic as it makes the leadership position unaccountable.
  • Justin's daddy put party names on the federal ballot, and changed the law to allow party leaders to directly manipulate the electoral district nomination processes. This has granted the executives of parties extreme power, and over many parliaments has reduced the power of elected members of parliament and passed power to the unelected leaders offices (PMO, OLO, etc) and party executive. Each successive parliament since has become less democratic.
  • The mainstream corporate media reports federal elections as a horse race between party leaders.
    • They constantly repeat the false concept of "party popular vote" which incorrectly assumes that everyone votes strictly along party lines, greatly diminishing the actual meaning and value of every vote.  This misunderstanding has benefit unaccountable party executives at the expense of elected MPs and their constituents, and has created a block for electoral reform in Canada.
    • While there is no "national" election, the media is allowed to report nonsensical time-zone based "national races" as if votes cast in the east have more impact than votes cast in the west.  This generates national unity issues, with some people in the west falsely believing their votes have less of an influence.
    • Generally, rather than the media making parliament more accountable, they actively promote myths about Canada's democracy that make it less accountable.

 

 

I believe there are a number of changes that need to be made to make all of parliament more accountable.

  • Remove party names from the ballot
  • Elections Canada and other official reports from government must stop reporting the false notion of "party popular vote"
  • Remove the ability of party leaders or other party executives to manipulate electoral district nomination processes.  While the party can approve riding associations, they should not have the ability to centrally control the democratic process.
  • Stop having party leadership "primaries", and return to a party leader being the elected MP that has the current confidence of the party caucus. The current process for electing the speaker, including use of preferential voting, would be appropriate to also use for party leaders within caucus membership.
  • Provide for appropriate ceremonies for the election of party leaders within the house of commons, and the official vote to decide which party will form government. It must be made clear that these decisions are not made during a general election, but by the parliamentarians who are elected to parliament.
  • Impose some accountability for party and media misinformation related to democratic institutions, possibly administered by elections Canada.  The role of the media should be to educate the public and hold parliamentarians to account, and not to corrupt democratic processes through misinformation.

 

The Samara Center for Democracy discusses many of these issues, and has many suggestions to improve the functioning of parliament and the empowerment of its elected membership.  This includes a series of books which I strongly recommend reading.

 

I will, however, not be holding my breath on any of these as the "opposition" parties have thus far been advocating for one or more of these problems.


  • All parties now have primaries where leadership is decided outside of parliament
  • The Conservatives fight for the PM being the leader from the party with a plurality of seats, and falsely claiming that a coalition government is less democratic
  • The NDP have suggested multiple times that a by-election should be held if an elected MP wants to change party affiliation.
  • The NDP and Greens have been strongly pushing for granting seats based on "party popular vote", increasing the influence of party executives and thus reducing voices in parliament.  They want a special party question on the ballot, and thus are clearly opposed to removing party names from the ballot.  We could have used Ranked Choice Voting (Instant Runoff Voting, or Single Transferable Vote) in the 2019 election if the NDP/Greens were not narrowly focused on "party popular vote".

 

It is convenient for people to believe that the lack of accountability that Justin Trudeau enjoys is entirely because of the Liberal party of Canada, but this is not the case.  If the opposition parties really want to hold Justin Trudeau to account then they must stop blocking measures to increase the accountability of party leaders in general, and Premiers and Prime Ministers specifically.  If you are a member of a political party, please work within that party to convince them to work toward rather than against parliamentary and cabinet accountability.