Sunday, January 31, 2021

European multiculturalism vs Indigenization as Inclusion, Reconcilliation and Decolonization.

This week's NS 115 class and reading has, yet again, forced me into thinking in a new way. I wanted to share some of those thoughts and possibly get some feedback and/or discussion.


The first theme was multiculturalism.  It came up in the lecture, but also a thread that Dr. Kim TallBear posted to twitter prior to the lecture.

 




To put the thinking in my own words, multiculturalism in a Canadian sense allows diversity in those spaces which are not predetermined by the systems of Canada.  Dr. Tallbear regularly talks of the collaboration between Church, State, and Science.

As a British subsidiary, the laws of Canada were adopted from British laws, and all its history including the fact that it is built upon Christian law. Until the Canada Act 1982 was passed in the UK parliament, when Canada is said to have "patriated" its constitution, laws passed in the UK were automatically treated as Canadian law. All the structures of Canada, right down to the British ceremonies carried out by the parliaments, are predetermined .

What is left are things such as clothing, fashion, music, dance, and food. The bulk of what makes you the person you were in the place you are from is replaced with European/British systems which you must adopt in order to live here.

This narrow definition of culture should be understood as predicated on indigenous erasure. Unlike if you immigrated to a non-colonial country where you would be expected to adapt to the laws of the land as they were developed over time, with "Canada" you are expected to adopt to foreign British systems, and the systems helps to ensure that you remain ignorant of the laws and social structures of the peoples and land you have moved to.

I know the power of these systems as I was born on this land and lived the majority of my life (I'm 52) without knowing what Canada was and how it actually exists, vs the propaganda I was told about so-called "nation building" (vs "nation replacing" or genocide).



This discussion of multiculturalism as erasure convinced me to read more.  With a quick search I found a masters thesis by Rebecca Shrubb titled: "Canada Has No History Of Colonialism." Historical Amnesia: The Erasure of Indigenous Peoples From Canada's History.


Multiculturalism and multicultural studies came to fruition in Canada in the seventies. Originally a political strategy introduced by the Trudeau Government, multiculturalism was intended to reduce the nation-claims of both Quebecois and First Nations to the status of ethnic groups. Prior to the induction of multiculturalism however, the Canadian government officially declared Canada a bilingual and bicultural nation. Commonly known as the Bi and Bi Commission, this new national identity was constructed by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

 

Some people are stuck on the "cult of individuality", which pulls them out of time as you don't see their connection to the past or future. We are talking about the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and not the current Trudeau government, although the current Prime Minister follows in his fathers footsteps in many ways.  This includes his progressive-sounding talk which masks the ongoing promotion of colonialism (which is itself a form of White Supremacy on Turtle Island) of that government.

I personally believe that when you adjust for the time period that the Trudeau's are as problematic as Sir John A. Macdonald. I don't consider any Prime Minister of colonial Canada as deserving of statues or airports/buildings being named after them.
 

 

This brings me to one of the articles assigned this week: Indigenization as inclusion, reconciliation, and decolonization: navigating the different visions for indigenizing the Canadian Academy (DOI: 10.1177/1177180118785382 )

The article was focused on the academy, but I kept thinking about governance and democratic institutions as that is one of my passions.  The article discussed a 3 part spectrum for indiginization.

 

  • Indigenous Inclusion, which is to try to include Indigenous students and faculty into existing institutions.  The idea is that if you include people, that this will automatically make those institutions more "multicultural".  Understanding multiculturalism as continuing colonialism, this ultimately isn't a solution to any problem beyond historical explicit exclusion.

From a governance level I always remember that at Confederation only a subset of white males were allowed to vote.

Only when the settler population had grown (through immigration and other policies) to overshadow the indigenous population was that indigenous population allowed to vote. While settlers watch the USA and their gerrymandering and voter suppression, there is little recognition that Canada uses voter suppression and immigration policies to achieve similar anti-democratic results.

While non-white immigrants may grow in population, the fact that they have been assimilated into British systems means that they will vote along the criteria set out to them by those systems ,and won't be putting pressure to fundamentally change democratic institutions to not be British or otherwise European.

While indigenous people are currently allowed to vote, and can be elected as members of parliaments, this requires conformity to the British systems and its values in order to have any political influence.

While the existing nations had their own governance pre-contact and pre-Confederation, and largely governance that had active participation across all genders, colonialism involved forcibly deposing and/or not recognizing the existence of these democratic governments.  Indian Act band councils are not responsible Indigenous governments, but a foreign bureaucracy responsible only to the Canadian Crown.

There are many pro-Democracy freedom fighting campaigns against the anti-democratic policies of Canada, but settlers continue to believe such pro-Democracy campaigns are only possible overseas against other foreign governments as they believe in "Canada the good" and not the real colonial Canada.

  • Reconciliation indigenization involves more than adding Indigenous people to existing institutions, but to remove “epistemic ignorance” of Indigenous knoweldges.

I wonder if we are seeing a start of this with how northern Territories are governed. While the Nunavut government is still situated under the Canadian Crown, and thus is not self-government, it does use a consensus government form that is very different from the extremely hierarchical (and monarchy-like) structures we see in the provinces and Canadian federal government.

It would be interesting if this trend could continue to include all of the Inuit Nunangat, separating Nunavik from Quebec and separating Nunatsavut from Newfoundland and Labrador, allowing at the minimum similar governance that has been enabled for Nunavut for all 4 regions.

Over time I wonder if similar can be done with other regions of the Dene peoples, extending territorial governance further south into more of the boreal regions within Canada.  There are primarily Indigenous populated northern parts of "provinces" which have absolutely nothing in common with the more colonialized southern parts. Those voices should not be suffocated by the foreign southern voices.

  • Decolonial indigenization discussed some varieties
    • Treaty-based decolonial indigenization which envisions a "dual university" structure, with exchanges between them modeled on what the treaties were intended to be treated as.

 

In governance this is the discussion of self-governance, restoring the ability of First Nations, Metis and Inuit to manage their own governance in parallel with Canada, rather than the current structure where Canada tries to make FNMI subservient to Canada. As discussed earlier, restoring rights of self-determination can start immediately as some nations have retained their governance structures that simply need to be fully acknowledged.

This is the most often discussed endpoint for decolonization, with the European created government and its citizens finally fully honoring the treaties they made to be allowed to exist on and share Turtle Island.

I personally hope that it is only a stepping stone to moving further.


    • Resurgence-based decolonial indigenization "where decolonization looks to transform existing institutions, to remake colonial structures in a new image".

 

This is not something I'm aware of being discussed in the context of governance, and I am interested to know if anyone has heard of this. I wonder if it is possible to transform all the systems of Canada to eventually be legitimately considered a domestic rather than a foreign system.

 

Until this article I had always been assuming the ultimate goal of decolonization to be to have Turtle Island governed entirely by Indigenous governments, with colonial governance fading into history.  This would be a complete form of #LandBack, recognizing the many centuries demonstrated inability of persons with western worldviews to peacefully share land.

This would involve any qualified settler eventually being adopted into a host nation.

I have my ideas, but I am curious to hear what other people believe is realistically to hope for, in what time period, and where we may eventually end up?

 

Is optimism naive?


While I have moments of optimism as I learn, I also worry about the opposite possibility.

Canada is current engaged in what could be called a "cold genocide" similar to a "cold war". I am quite worried about the possibility of Canada being unable to modernize and become what in modern times would be considered civilized. It is possible that Canada would launch a "warm genocide" against Indigenous peoples if the powerful felt too threatened by modern ideas of civilization.

If Canada didn't stand in the way of the full recognition of human rights, there will still be other threats.  What is the future of the USA?

I believe because of global dynamics that the nations of the northern part of Turtle Island would need to have adequately coordinated defense, something along the lines of what NATO did for Europeans. I worry that without such planning early that Europeans and/or their settlements might try to launch the conquest that many settlers incorrectly believe happened in the past.  Part of the excuse the British gave for their illegal westward expansion was to "protect" against northward expansion of the separatists of the United States. Veterans of the wars against US expansion have never been honored by Canada, including land grants.

Turtle Island Nations will need to have strong alliances with other nations at the United Nations to ensure they are not left entirely along in their defense.


Friday, January 29, 2021

Why not immediately formally denounce the racist doctrine of discovery and terra nullius as justifications for settler presence?

This article is in the form of a question. I don't know the answer, but it is something I hope people start to think about.

 

This comes up regularly on social media when people ask why Canada can't simply recognize the human rights of indigenous peoples (as articulated by UNDRIP), as well as formally denounce racist doctrines so that Canada is no longer so obviously a systemically racist country.

 

I've already discussed that I agree with all the people who believe that implementing UNDRIP requires a change to the Canadian constitution.  Given how hard it is to make changes to the constitution, this isn't gong to happen in the short term. Canada needs a process to change the large number of Canadian laws which are based on systemic racism and white supremacy before we can then change the constitution to allow full UNDRIP implementation.

 

But what about the racist doctrines?

We are all treaty people.

Anishinabek Nation provides a great reading of the children's book titled "We are all ... Treaty People". This is for anyone who hasn't thought before about the treaties that form the basis of Canada, or know about the Royal Proclamation (1763) or the Treaty of Niagara (1764).





Are we all treaty people?

This leads me to my next question, which is whether we are all treaty people?

Westward colonial expansion after the Treaty of Niagara happened very quickly, and quite regularly in violation of that treaty: that is whether we consider the British loyalists, or the separatists who didn't want to pay taxes (what is now called the United States).

I discuss the racist Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius in an earlier article suggesting how to help stop overt racism and white supremacy in Canada.

If we rid ourselves of those doctrines, what we end up with is treaties that European nations (or European created subsidiaries like Canada) made with the nations that already existed on Turtle Island.


Anyone quickly looking at a map of the areas of Canada covered by treaties may notice something interesting.



Several provinces that people consider part of Canada, including the bulk of "British Columbia", "Quebec", and "Newfoundland and Labrador", aren't covered by treaties.  There are some modern treaties relating to northern territories, so that work is already underway (even if currently far too tilted in favor of colonial interests).

Lacking any treaties, and absent the racist doctrines, by what legal right do these provinces exist?


This is a serious question:  The Holy See has already indicated these doctrines have been abrogated, and given the papal bulls from the Pope were the origins of this offensive legal concept, what is left?



I'm aware the Quebec government (they call themselves a "National Assembly" as part of their marketing to falsely claim they are a nation) believes they have the legal right to separate from the Canadian Crown. I don't see how that is legally possible as it appears to be the case that if the Quebec government separated from the Canadian Crown that it would cease to exist as it would have no land base. The same is true of the so-called WExit movement made up of people who seem to believe that the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments have the legal ability to separate from the Canadian Crown and still have a land base.


I'm currently looking for a Canadian (well, Turtle Island) source for a book written by the Grand Council of the Crees called "Sovereign injustice: Forcible inclusion of the James Bay Crees and Cree territory into a sovereign Quebec".

This was written in the aftermath of the Quebec referendum of 1995, based on a Cree Brief in the Debate leading up to the referendum.  It addresses odd presumption that the Government of Quebec had the legal authority according to international, Canadian or Aboriginal law to be sovereign from Canada.


While I look forward to reading this book, I don't see a way to believe that provinces have the legal authority to be sovereign from Canada, or that specific lands that Canadians consider part of Canada would remain so unless new treaties were signed to allow settlers to continue to share the lands.


I believe with the existence of the Quebec and Alberta sovereignty movements there is clearly work to be done for Canadians to have a shared understanding of the current legal situation before we can move forward, including the necessary upgrades of the constitution to conform to international law and recognized human rights.


There are many activities that can be done in the short term towards Canada honoring human rights and stopping the genocide, but I don't believe it is reasonable to believe everything can be done immediately.



My suggestion for a short-term list:

 

  • Launch a formal process to upgrade laws towards conformity with UNDRIP, with full indigenous consultation and cooperation, and with regular reporting on progress (so the international community can apply appropriate pressure).  This is the design of Bill C-15, and it is important to remember that this bill does not itself implement anything, whether UNDRIP or CANDRIP.
  • Correct the racist injunction process such that not destroying land is the status-quo, and that "developers" or other entities are disallowed from modifying the land until clear title is established for the land.
    • Apologies and adequate reparations made for all the racist abuses of this legal doctrine in recent years should be carried out, not limited to the high profile examples in Kanesatake,  Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, Wet’suwet’en Nation, Haudenosaunee (Grand River).
  • Restore rights of self-determination.
    • This means Canada recognizing these nations as nations, and addressing them on a nation to nation basis.
    • This will be different in different nations, and there can be no one size fits all.
    • In the case of the 6 Nations of the Grand River, their participatory democracy is intact and all that is needed is for the Canadian governments to fully recognize this democracy as the legitimate government, allowing the Indian Act band council bureaucracy to fold. It was never legitimate for Canada to send in the RCMP to depose a democratic government, and this offense should be corrected immediately.
    • In other cases some help will be needed to build back governance infrastructure which Canada destroyed. It should be up to the nation who (which other nation/nations) they receive that help from, and not imposed on them by the Canadian government.  The only thing the Canadian government must do is recognize the new national government once established, and fold the Indian Act band council bureaucracy.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

How I analyse and why I support Bill C-15, the UNDRIP related bill.

Since I discovered the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) I have been reading people's views about it. I later came to my own conclusions on UNDRIP, which is that while the declaration could have been better, it remains a critical recognition that the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was never "universal", and was authored (first draft by Canadian John Peter Humphrey) from a western worldview perspective.

I consider UNDRIP to be a modernization of our understanding of human rights, and not something that creates special rights for anyone.  In fact, I believe the UDHR granted special rights to a specific subset of peoples, a problem which UNDRIP starts to correct.

I pretty much reject all opposition to UNDRIP from western worldviews, as being opposition to human rights.  Western worldviews have received excessive privilege globally for hundreds of years, and I believe we as a species must modernize away from this injustice. For no other human right do people even entertain the concept of whether the protection of that human right constitutes a "veto" against an economic interest, and I do not consider that a valid conversation to have in this case.



I understand the frustration that indigenous peoples feel in how the version of UNDRIP that passed the UN General Assembly in 2007 was watered down from earlier drafts that were strongly opposed by specific countries. The countries that opposed this recognition of human rights are Canada, USA, Australia, and New Zealand. These are all creations of the British Empire, imposing British derived legal and governance systems outside of Britain, and where foreign descended settler populations currently outnumber indigenous.

I don't consider this a closed area of policy, but I believe it is harmful to wait until we have a perfect resolution before we support any resolution.  The world doesn't change overnight, and the human rights violations induced by colonialism have been ongoing for hundreds of years.


I also learned about a bill that Romeo Saganash and others have been working on for decades that relates to work to bring Canada in conformity with UNDRIP. I also became aware of opposition to this bill from the Truth Before Reconciliation Campaign (See First Nations Strategic Bulletin June - Dec 2020), in cooperation with Idle No More.

While this is not an area of policy I had prior experience with, I wanted to describe my process and thinking for anyone else who is trying to understand any controversies surrounding this area of policy.


The overall sections.

  • My background
  • My experience with federal government policy
  • The design of the bill
  • The text of this specific iteration of the bill
  • What is in the bill vs what people claim is in the bill
  • What is in the bill vs what people wish were in the bill

 

My background

My training and profession is as a systems administrator and software author. I harness the skills and experience I have from this technical work into policy work. 

In a way, computer software is a set of instructions for what computers should do and policy (laws, procedures, etc) are instructions for what people should do.  This concept of comparing computer code and legal code is expanded upon by law professor Lawrence Lessig in his book "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace" (which received a "Version 2.0").

While I have been politically active since the early 1990's on peace, environment and technology related policy, it wasn't until 2001 that I started to become more familiar with the workings of the federal government.

In the summer of 2001 I was alerted to the fact that Canada was planning on bringing the anti-circumvention aspects of the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to Canada.  This is a policy I was aware of since the mid 1990's that was part of the USA's National Information Infrastructure (NII) policy from 1995/96.  The theory was this: New communications technology could be abused to violate copyright, and thus private citizens shouldn't be allowed to control this technology. This communications technology would be locked down with digital locks, and the manufacturers (rather than the owners or users) would retain all the keys to those locks.

Those with a technology and human rights background immediately opposed this policy, given we understood the impacts of having the technology we often use to express our human rights (democratic, property, privacy, etc) under the control of private corporations would allow those corporations to regulate those human rights.

While people didn't believe us at the time, we can look to recent events where the executives of companies such as Amazon, Apple,  Facebook, Google, and Twitter were the ones deciding if a controversial world leader and controversial social media platform (Parler) should be allowed to communicate. All the harms we are starting to feel from so-called "Big Tech" are rooted in this problematic policy, and unless this policy is reversed the problems will only get worse.

 

My experience with federal government policy

 

From 2001 until Bill C-11 was passed in 2012 I was active in this area of policy. This included a bit of a speaking tour, writing multiple submissions, giving presentations to government bureaucrats, talking to many politicians face-to-face, attending all the committee hearings (and live tweeting them as well as blogging each meeting (C-32 and C-11), as well as being a witness.  Many of the submissions and my intervention as a witness are available via a search of the House of Commons website.

Rina Sen, Russell McOrmond, and Justin Trudeau (July 18, 2010, when Mr. Trudeau was still a backbench MP)


Some key things I learned:

  • External pressure works on the Canadian Parliament

    The primary motivation for tabling any bill was to implement two treaties (WCT, WPPT) Canada signed at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). At the time I was unaware of the hypocrisy of Canada being concerned about treaties, given its disregard of treaties with First Nations.

  • The larger the bill, the worse the policy.

    A bill to implement the two treaties would have allowed for adequate scrutiny and debate about the implementation of the treaties. What happened instead was a 68 page bill was tabled with a massive amount of controversial policy, the vast majority unrelated to the treaties.  As the submissions to the government and time allowed to witnesses was restricted, everyone had to pick a small number of key areas to either support or oppose.  The vast majority of the bill did not receive any scrutiny.

  • Waiting for perfect might get you worse policy

    It was a Liberal government when the first bill was tabled in 2005 (C-60). Those of us on the technology/human rights side of the debate opposed it because it was a bad bill. Then there was an election and the Conservatives came to power.  The Conservatives tabled Bill C-61 in 2008 which was far worse, so bad that they rewrote it when yet another election later in 2008. In 2010 Bill C-32 was tabled, and then re-tabled as C-11 in 2011 after another general election.

    As it related to the implementation of the WIPO treaties and technological measures, Bill C-11 was far worse than C-60.  Bill C-60 was worse on actual "Copyright" policy, but that is a separate issue related to the fact that the bill was an omnibus bill, which generally produces worse policy.

  • The politicians studying the bill are not subject matter experts

    Who is assigned to each committee is sometimes up to individual MPs, but often the parties have specific interests they want promoted and will put in the person best able to push that perspective. It is hard to convince these people of alternative ways of understanding the policy, or even in the case of technology having them understand the difference between science and science fiction (How most MPs understood "technological protection measures" was more like Harry Potter magic fiction than science).

    In the case of this bill the same was true of the bureaucracy.  While the bureaucrats assigned to author and explain the bill were Copyright experts, they also lacked sufficient technical knowledge to differentiate between science and science fiction.

  • The individual politicians in the committee studying bill matter

    When discussing Copyright, as an example, the differences between MPs on the Heritage committee and the members on Industry committee were greater than the differences between a Conservative MP and an NDP MP.

    This may become an important factor for this bill, given the bill could be sent to the "Justice and Human Rights" committee or the "Indigenous and Northern Affairs" committee.


The design of the bill


The exact wording of the bill has changed several times since it was first tabled.  The House of Commons website lists all the times it was tabled so far.

  • Tia Keeper (Churchill, Liberal) in June 2008 (less than a year after UNDRIP passed the UN General Assembly)
  • Denise Savoie (Victoria, NDP) in February 2009, March 2010, March 2010 (reinstated from previous session)
  • Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, NDP) in January 2013, October 2013 (reinstated from previous session), December 2014 (defeated at second reading), April 2016 (passed house, filibustered in the Senate)
  • Minister of Justice (Liberal government) in December 2020




The overall design has remained consistent over this 12 year period, and those following the process will have provided their feedback:

  • Preamble discussing the overall purpose of moving Canadian law toward complying with UNDRIP
  • Government must take measures to amend existing laws to be consistent with UNDRIP
    • Newer versions more clearly state "in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples"
  • That there would be an annual report to parliament on progress.
  • Include the full text of the UNDRIP passed resolution as a schedule.


This basic design meets what I would consider design criteria for a successful bill.


  • It is a smaller bill that tries to do one thing.

    It is not an omnibus bill which can't receive adequate scrutiny, which would likely be much more harmful than if a larger number of small bills were passed over time.

  • It can be passed by the Parliament of Canada

    This is a necessary condition for any bill.  You can write anything you want in a bill, but if it has no chance of passing through parliament then it doesn't really have a point.  This includes bills which are inconsistent with the Constitution which, even if they mysteriously passed, would not stand up in court.  These types of bills are a protest, or part of an election campaign strategy, and not useful law making.

    It is already proven that this design can pass, as it already passed in the House of Commons in it's C-262 incarnation in May 2019. That incarnation would already be law if it were not for a filibuster (procedural trickery) carried out by dishonest Conservative Senators.

  • It does not presume to know anything about the outcome of the necessary series of collaborations and amendments to law.

    It requires measures to be made "in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples", but says nothing about what types of changes might be contemplated through that cooperation.

    I don't consider it valid for any government or parliament to believe they currently understand all the ways in which Canadian law violates the current standard for human rights. Canada automatically incorporated laws passed by the British Parliament until 1982, and those laws obviously didn't take indigenous peoples into consideration.

    Active indigenous cooperation is mandatory for any type of success.

  • It does not try to implement UNDRIP.

    My analysis has led me to the conclusion that actual implementation of UNDRIP will require a constitutional amendment. This is a separate process (a bill can't amend the constitution, and must obey the constitution), and will likely take decades. I believe this bill is an important activity that can happen early (this year if we are lucky, but maybe next year), knowing that other work will still be needed before Canada can actually implement UNDRIP.

    Canada's systems as a European-derived government imposed outside of Europe is an example of White Supremacy, so there is no single immediate change that can be made to bring Canada into compliance with international human rights. All of these changes must be in cooperation with First Nations, as well as international oversight given how untrustworthy Canada has been since it was created by Acts of the British parliament.

    In my Fact Checking of the 2019 Liberal platform commitment on UNDRIP I included the "The Six-Step Program to Decolonization" that Arthur Manuel (1951 – January 11, 2017) included in his book The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy. I consider it obvious that this is a long process that will require many activities within each step to do it correctly, and obviously should not be attempted to be done in a single action.


The text of this specific iteration of the bill

Amendments to bills can be made up to the point where they pass the senate and then receive Royal Assent to become law. Amendments have been made prior to many of the new tabling of the bill, and amendments can be proposed and passed by vote in a committee of the House of Commons or (less common) Senate.

While Bill C-262 was reported by the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs without amendment, this may not happen this time. This isn't the identical bill as C-262, and there may be cause to discuss and change some of the amendments that the Liberal Government made between C-262 that passed and Bill C-15.

While I may have opinions about the specific language, I will remain supportive of the bill as long as the overall design stays intact.  If, for instance, the bill is modified to impose policy that is not "in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples", or tries to limit what areas of law may be modified (presumes outcome of collaboration), then I may change from support to oppose.  

This is not yet known at this time, but I'll be honest to suggest I believe this to be unlikely.  In this minority situation the Governing Liberals and the NDP are the same parties that need to agree to amendments as well as to agree to pass the bill.  Neither party would benefit from being blamed for delaying the passage of this bill.
 

What is in the bill vs what people claim is in the bill

This is a huge source of pain, and the largest source of anger and confusion.

I already wrote a Fact Check of the 2019 Liberal platform commitment on UNDRIP, and the summary is that their platform commitment was nonsense. They promised to re-table Bill C-262 because "Andrew Scheer blocked legislation", but they claimed multiple times in their platform that C-262 was legislation to implement the declaration.  That is misleading at best.

Pretty much every time Justin Trudeau himself or a spokesperson from the Liberal government talks about C-15, it feels like they are campaigning against the bill by misinterpreting or misinforming about what is in the bill.

While this doesn't suggest we should oppose the bill, it does suggest we need to scrutinize what Liberal caucus members are saying about the bill as if they were an opposition party.  We need to consider that the Government of Canada, including the Trudeau Government, doesn't actually want to protect human rights -- they only want to be seen to be doing so by the international community and potential voters.

This becomes clear when you look at other government activities. The bulletin from the Truth Before Reconciliation Campaign  (also on the Idle No More website) gives a small sampling of the many violations of the human rights articulated by UNDRIP by the current and all past governments (provincial and federal).

Canada is "Very Clearly" guilty of genocide against Indigenous Peoples, and if anyone claims that passing this bill alone will solve this problem then they either don't know what Canada is or are lying to you.  This bill is at the beginning of a long process towards changing Canadian law to no longer violate human rights, and can in no way be considered the end of any process.






If you believe the Trudeau government that this bill alone implements something, and yet doesn't (and can't) modify the constitution, then obviously it is not UNDRIP that is being implemented.  The Truth Before Reconciliation Campaign suggests that it is implementing CANDRIP, a version of UNDRIP that sits under the Canadian constitution.  I disagree, as I don't believe Trudeau, and there is no evidence that this bill implements anything.  It sets up a process to incrementally change Canadian law to eventually become consistent with international human rights. Fully implementing UNDRIP is a later process that is separate from this or any other bill.

 

Where I differ from the Truth Before Reconciliation Campaign and Idle No More is that I don't consider this misrepresentation of the bill to be a reason to oppose the bill, only reason to treat the government as opposition. This includes considering the Trudeau Liberal Government as opposition to the bill, delaying so it can't pass before the next election, even though it was tabled as a government bill. I don't consider separate actions taken by the Governments of Canada (federal and provincial) which continue to violate human rights to be reasons to oppose the bill, only to cause separate anger about those human rights violations.

 

I recognize that this is potentially not going to be an indigenous way of thinking. If you are thinking about the relationship between various First Nations and the Government of Canada, it is obvious that it continues to be very poor.  People are still dying or otherwise being harmed from ongoing genocide. Many people believe reconciliation is dead.

In this case I am not thinking about the overall relationships between nations, but the specifics of this bill and who has been working on it.  The Government of Canada is a large system which seems to move in multiple different directions at the same time, and can't be thought of as an individual relationship.


Another spokes-group that is controversial is the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).  This is an assembly of Indian Act band council leadership. Band councils are a creation of Canada, and they are accountable to Canada. While the bureaucrats are "elected", this cannot legitimately be considered responsible government: these band councils are not responsible to the people, but responsible to the Canadian Crown.

Given the current formation of the AFN, it cannot be seen as representing indigenous peoples.  I reference a press conference after the tabling of the bill, and it should be noted that the government primarily used AFN and other similar representatives in their presentation.  While this is helpful to settlers in making them feel there is indigenous support, this isn't helpful with indigenous people who often do not trust the AFN and similar organizations.  In fact, there is a common opinion that it was AFN that is behind the bill, thus the poor relationship with AFN is causing people to not trust the bill.


There is also a related dynamic that many Canadians may not be aware of. As part of the silliness of the Canadian "democracy", elected Members of Parliament must swear or solemnly affirm allegiance to the Queen as Sovereign of Canada. Many people, including some settlers but mostly indigenous, will have a hard time trusting anyone who swears allegiance to a foreign monarchy. Even as a settler Canadian I have problems with this as anyone who takes it seriously feels like they are either a traitor or a liar.

There are many people who look at the bill and oppose it based on "guilt by association".  The association with the Government of Canada, Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, AFN or even indigenous MPs may cause opposition based on that relationship and not based on anything in the actual text of the bill.


The Conservatives will oppose any bill that prioritizes human rights over resource extraction, and the Bloc may oppose any bill that recognizes the existence of systemic racism.  A whole set of odd interpretations will come from people representing these special interests which make no sense, aren't in the bill, or are sometimes even offensive.  While there may be individual Conservatives that support protection of human rights, the party isn't likely to put these individuals on the committee (or allow them to speak their conscience) as the current narrow policy focus of the Conservative Party seems to be on unimpeded and greatly subsidized resource extraction.


What is in the bill vs what people wish were in the bill

 
People wish Canada could just honor the treaties, respect human rights, and stop the genocide!

That feels like it should be simple!


I wish that as well, and now that I have learned the truth about Canada and its ongoing genocide, I am disgusted that Canada isn't what I was always told it was. I believed the propaganda that suggested that even if some mistakes were done in the past, that Canada is long past that -- this is false and human rights violations continue today.

Unfortunately, I know how oblivious most Canadians are -- partly because I was one of them until recently.  While I know there are Canadians who know the truth and receive personal benefit (often financial) from these known violations of human rights, I don't think this is the majority of Canadians. I believe that if we can break people free from government propaganda they will want Canada to eventually become the country they always believed it was.
 
If not for for their own moral reasons, Canadians will be concerned that Canada's reputation globally is going to decline as more people realize the truth. This could easily impact Canada's economy, where so many seem narrowly focused, because law and human rights abiding countries don't like to do business with scofflaws and human rights abusers. Those who want to push this policy forward should be helping to alert the international community to what Canada is doing.



I also have experience with the systems of Canada, and know how hard it is to get good policy passed through this system.  Even if indigenous peoples and their many nations came together and drafted a consensus bill, and it was constitutional, I doubt such a bill would pass through parliament. Many First Nations people feel it is inappropriate for them to participate in Canadian politics (Two Row Wampum, etc), and with few indigenous politicians in Canadian governments what we are left with is largely oblivious settler politicians who won't be able to recognize the need to amend Canadian law such that it doesn't continue to violate human rights.

This all leads me to support a bill that will push the process forward, including to help Canadians to recognize that Canadian law and even the constitution needs to change for it to become the law abiding and human rights protecting country they think it is.

Actually implementing UNDRIP is a long process, but it will be longer if we aren't able to start.  Any opposition to this bill because it doesn't do more that is outside of the design of this bill is effectively a delay.  If we can't pass this level of bill, then I seriously doubt we can ever pass anything stronger.  Only by passing this bill, and then the next, and then the next, will we ever see progress.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fact Checking the 2019 Liberal platform commitment on UNDRIP

Prior to the 2019 federal election I wrote an article discussing what Justin Trudeau and the 2015 Liberal platform team did wrong on electoral reform.  The short form is that either the platform team was completely ignorant of the complexities of electoral reform and the differing (sometimes opposing) criteria for success, or they were deliberately misleading potential voters about what the party executive was intending to do.

The 2019 platform commitment

Given my recently discovered interest in decolonization, I wanted to offer something similar for the 2019 Liberal Platform Commitments relating to The UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples.

Quoting from their platform:

We will take action to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of a new mandate.

This is a very poor start.  Anyone who understands UNDRIP and Canadian law recognizes that a constitutional amendment is required to fully implement UNDRIP. It should be obvious that a constitutional amendment can't be made within a year, and isn't made alone by the federal government, so this statement is nonsense. Like the 2015 campaign platform statements on electoral reform, this statement indicates either incompetency or dishonesty, neither of which can be seen as positive.

While the statement was nonsense, they still broke their platform commitment given they did not table an UNDRIP related bill until the second year of their mandate, in the second session of parliament (after a second speech from the colonial throne).

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples charts a path “for reconciliation to flourish in 21st century Canada.” The last Conservative government dismissed it as an “aspirational document,” and Andrew Scheer blocked legislation to implement the Declaration – Bill C-262 – from being voted on in the Senate.
 
Bill C-15 was tabled on December 3, 2020, and is effectively a re-tabling of  Romeo Saganash's bills that sought to start the process towards making Canadian law consistent with UNDRIP.  Since it isn't possible to implement UNDRIP with a bill tabled in the House of Commons, Romeo and anyone familiar with the process would never claim that a single bill or series of bills alone can implement UNDRIP.

Romeo's bill, at that time numbered C-262, passed all stages of the House of Commons (first reading, second reading, committee, report, third reading), but was filibustered by Senate Conservatives so the bill would not become law before the 2019 general election.

The Liberals sorta fulfilled this part of the platform in that they eventually re-tabled Romeo's bill.  Unfortunately, they waited and did it in December 2020 when people were already discussing the possibility of a general election in the spring. It should have been tabled a year earlier, soon after the election.

Romeo Saganash's take:

Read:


While I still have hope, I worry that this analysis is correct and there will be an election before this bill can pass the house again and make it through the Senate.  The Liberal executive isn't going to be motivated to pass as they want to dangle this in front of human rights activists yet again during an election.  Their campaign team might claim we need to vote for Liberal candidates so that they can yet again go through the motions of saying they are trying to do the right thing, rather than a possible Conservative government who will outright oppose human rights.

The last paragraph of the commitment was:

We will move forward with introducing co-developed legislation to implement the Declaration as government legislation by the end of 2020. In this work, we will ensure that this legislation fully respects the intent of the Declaration, and establishes Bill C-262 as the floor, rather than the ceiling, when it comes to drafting this new legislation.


There is that phrase "implement" again, which is simply not possible.

While there were some amendments made in the drafting language of Romeo's bill from the earlier version, it is important to realize that this is not a new bill, a Liberal bill, or a Trudeau bill, but a re-tabling of Romeo's previously passed bill with a few amendments.

I will likely do a clause-by-clause commentary at a later date, but my comparison of the differences is that Bill C-15 largely provides additional clarity which will be helpful for judges using it to help frame the interpretation of other laws. The Assembly of First Nations created a bulletin which lists the changes between C-15 compared to C-262 previously passed.

I think the overall structure and concept of Romeo's bill was co-developed over a long period of time, even if the specific recent amendments weren't.  This Bill is only documenting the beginning of a process and can't itself be claimed to respect the intent of anything other than launching a process. Whether that process eventually respects the declaration is work yet to be seen from the process.


Given this is a re-tabling of a bill that had already passed the House of Commons, I don't personally see a need to consult yet again or have debate beyond what is required on the amendments. What is needed is to quickly pass the House of Commons again and ensure that the Conservative senators are not able to filibuster a second time.

So, what now?


The Liberals might not be motivated to quickly pass this bill before the next election, and the Bloc and Conservatives aren't going to support it for ideological reasons.

However, this is a minority parliament, and it is possible that the NDP and Greens can be convinced to help.

The NDP could put passing C-15 in the House of Common and using all the government influence to pass through the Senate as a condition of support for other Liberal legislation. While for partisan gain the NDP might like to show the Liberals breaking another promise, I believe there are sufficient NDP MPs that respect Romeo Saganash's work to push this forward anyway.  Having this bill pass now, and to impose additional pressure on future governments to move forward on human rights, will be a major policy win for the NDP even if not a partisan win.


Federal information about the 24 MP's in the NDP caucus , as well as the 3 MPs in the Green caucus, is available on the House of Commons website.  It is quite quick to grab their email addresses and send a letter to each of them indicating your desire for them to use any political pressure they can to get C-15 into law.

Regardless of their party affiliation, I also suggest sending a letter of support to your own member of parliament.  The House of Commons website has a search interface which allows you to type in your postal code to find them if you have never written before.

If you wish to write a letter, but have never done that before, I am happy to help.

 

The larger context the platform ignored

People who are familiar with truth, reconciliation, and decolonization will know that this is a longer process.  Passage of Romeo Saganash's bill is only an early step in that process.

One of the best summaries I've seen of the larger process is "The Six-Step Program to Decolonization" that Arthur Manuel (1951 – January 11, 2017) included in his book The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy.

 

1. The first step is a simple one and has been advocated by both the RCAP and the TRC: Formally denounce the racist doctrine of discovery and terra nullius as justifications for settler presence on our lands, as well as any other doctrines, laws or policies that would allow you to address us on any other basis than nation to nation.

This is the step we are at now, and where the process described in Romeo Saganash's bill is important. The bill itself doesn't explicitly denounce the racist doctrine of discovery and terra nullius, but does include some relevant clauses in the preamble.  Contrary to what others have suggested, Article 13 of the interpretation act indicates that the preamble is important.

From the first reading of C-15:

Whereas all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating the superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust; 
Whereas the Government of Canada rejects all forms of colonialism and is committed to advancing relations with Indigenous peoples that are based on good faith and on the principles of justice, democracy, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and respect for human rights;

The bill will force current and future government movement on changing laws and policies that currently treat indigenous peoples other than on a nation to nation basis. A future government may want to move backwards, but given this process will receive international attention it will expose Canada in a light that few politicians wish to admit.

Also from the first reading:

(2) This Act is to be construed as upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and not as abrogating or derogating from them

This clause ensures that interpretation of law that uses this bill is placed in the context of section 35 treaty rights. This does not say that UNDRIP itself (A UN Declaration) is below the constitution as some have suggested, and does not itself place First Nations as a fourth level of government (below municipalities).

Other government policies and procedures might be attempting to push in different directions, but that needs to be though of as separate from this specific bill. "The Government" isn't a monolithic thing, and different parts of the government contradicting each other isn't all that unusual. Often people refer to the government by a person's name (Trudeau Government, Mulroney Government, Chrétien Government, Harper government, a different Trudeau Government), but that only describes a time period as the government is made up of many thousands of people regularly doing different things.

As an important example, search for and read about the "Indigenous Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework", such as an article by Russ Diabo. the overview from the Yellowhead institute, or an article in Policy Options. This is problematic policy that is happening at the same time as this bill which demonstrates we can't trust the government as a whole, but isn't text within the bill itself or reason to reject this specific bill.

 

Passage of this bill can be used to help fix some of these contradictions, and we can't (or shouldn't) expect everything to be solved in a single bill.

 

Romeo's bill is important to launch a process, but does not complete this first step in the six-step program.

It is worth being aware of the long journey we have before us once that bill is passed, and as Canada moves through additional recommendations from RCAP and TRC.

Continuing the next of the six-step program:

2. As part of the nation to nation negotiation you must, logically, recognize our right to self-determination, which is the essential decolonizing remedy to move Indigenous peoples from dependency to freedom.

There are more than 630 First Nation communities, representing more than 50 nations, on this northern part of Turtle Island. There are also several unions/confederacies bringing some nation together for hundreds of years, demonstrating far more success than the European Union where Brexit demonstrates an inability to remain stable for more than a few decades.

I have been following one confederacy fairly closely.

Canada must reverse it's attempt to remove the participatory democratic Haudenosaunee Confederacy (five nations possibly in 1142, six nations as of 1722) tribal council. The Canadian government forcibly replaced a democracy with a so-called "elected" band council that is undemocratic and is only responsible to the Government of Canada (the Canadian Crown).

Canada can't pretend to respect basic concepts of democracy domestically or internationally while it has sent in the RCMP to forcibly dissolve democratic governments and install foreign government bureaucracies.

While the democratic confederacy council still exists and is still the only legitimate body that can represent the Haudenosaunee peoples, the Governments of Canada (federal, provincial and municipal) refuse to recognize the concept of responsible government.

This is only one example among many where Canada has continued to act as a strong opponent of democracy, freedom, and human rights. While Canadians like to talk about pro-democracy freedom fighters overseas, they seem unwilling to do their part to support the pro-democracy freedom fighters whenever Canada is the aggressor.

See:

Continuing the steps in the six-step program:

3. Acknowledgement of our right to self-determination must be according to international human rights standards and include ecological and equitable development principles, Indigenous knowledge systems, laws, relationships to land, world views, technologies, innovations and practices and, of course, recognition and affirmation of our Aboriginal title and rights to the lands that the Creator has given each nation and which we have inhabited since time immemorial.

4. At this point we can finally sit down together for the long, grown-up talk about who we are and what we need, and who you are and what you need, and w can then begin to sort out the complicated questions about access to our lands and sharing the benefits. These talks can, indeed, lead to reconciliation, but only after our rights as title holders and decision makers on the land and our economic and cultural needs are met.  We in turn will ensure that your every real human right to be here after for hundred years is respected and your economic and cultural needs are also met.

5. Anything that we agree to in access and benefits must also include clear jurisdictional lines of authority based on the standard of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and decision making that incorporates environmental reviews and oversight in accordance with Indigenous laws.

6. In concrete Canadian terms, Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution must be made to comply with Article 1 of the ICCPR/ICESCR and Article 3 of UNDRIP and all of the colonial laws must be struck from Canadian books, thereby implementing the Indigenous right to freely determine our own political status and freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development.


Please notice that amendments to the Canadian constitution, which is required to fully implement UNDRIP, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is the last step and not the first.  This is a process that will require international oversight, given Canada has not been acting in good faith or in accordance with international law or norms.

We are talking about many decades (possibly generations) of hard work, so it is completely ludicrous for any policy maker to have suggested they could do this in the first year of any government mandate.

There are many people who have tried to take this platform at its word, and then noticed everything that is totally missing if we were to pretend the bill is at Step 6.  Everything from steps 1 through 6 are missing from this bill, but that isn't so much a problem with the bill itself but the dishonest marketing from the leader and platform team.

Started two new online courses from the University of Alberta Faculty of Native Studies

This fall I took the Indigenous Canada course from University of Alberta.  It is available for free, but I got the certificate and made a donation.

When I read the announcement, I jumped at the chance to take the two new courses offered this winter term.  I signed up, paid my tuition, and am working on the first week's lessons for both.

I am privileged in many ways, and that includes currently working for an employer who has been willing to consider these two courses as professional development.

 

NS 161: Countering Stereotypes of Indigenous Peoples


NS 115: Indigenous Peoples and Technoscience



I'm a mature student (turning 53 at the end of March), so I'm not taking these courses for credit or for career advancement.  I have been a political activist since the early 1990's on policy areas such as the environment, democracy, and technology law.

Since I started my self-directed antiracism training I have come to a very different understanding of what Canada is. I have 52 years of life experiences to reevaluate, and to move away from the pro-Canada/pro-European propaganda I grew up and lived with. I want to do anything I can in my remaining years to help Canada to come into compliance with international law, treaties, and human rights.

The reason why I'm taking the first course is likely obvious from what I hope to be able to contribute to in the future.

I have a science background (and my wive is a high-school biology teacher), and thus learning about the differences between western concepts of science and the concepts from the diversity of indigenous peoples of this homeland will be important to me.  I want to ensure that as I continue with work relating to the environment and technology law that it is consistent with domestic worldviews rather than informed only by European worldviews.


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?