Tag Archives: Conservatives

Lynn Beyak kicked out of all Senate committees after First Nations remarks

Controversial Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak has been removed from all Senate committees following remarks about First Nations which have been widely condemned.

Beyak remains a member of the Conservative caucus, but has lost her spots on the Senate’s agriculture, defence and transportation committees.

Sen. Larry Smith, the leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, says in a statement today the decision is an internal party matter and Beyak has been given guidelines going forward.

He did not elaborate on those guidelines and says he considers the matter closed.

Beyak issued a letter earlier this month calling for First Nations people to give up their status cards in exchange for a one-time cash payment and said they could then practice their culture “on their own dime.”

She was removed from the Senate aboriginal affairs committee by former party leader Rona Ambrose in the spring after she said more good than bad happened at residential schools and that people were focusing too much on the abuse rather than the positive impact the schools had.

The Canadian Press


Activism, ID Clinics And Anger Fuelled Spike In Voter Turnout In Aboriginal Communities

Robert-Falcon Oulette was one of 10 aboriginal MPs elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday

Robert-Falcon Oulette was one of 10 aboriginal MPs elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday

The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – Aboriginal activists who spent months mobilizing First Nations communities say Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to disenfranchise aboriginal voters backfired and fuelled turnout so high that some reserves ran out of ballots.

Some aboriginal communities saw voter turnout spike by up to 270 per cent in the Oct. 19 election despite the Fair Elections Act which made it harder for someone to vote without approved identification.

In the riding of Kenora, which includes 40 First Nations in northern Ontario, voting on the reserves was up 73 per cent – almost 3,000 voters. At least four of those First Nations ran out of ballots and either used photocopies or waited for more to be brought in.

“It was so heartening to see,” said Tania Cameron, a driving force in getting those people out to the polls – many for the first time – both in Ontario and across Canada. “I was thinking we’re going to see a turnout that Harper never expected.”

 I was thinking we’re going to see a turnout that Harper never expected

The band councillor in Dalles First Nation started up First Nations Rock the Vote on Facebook and organized countless “ID clinics” where people could see if they were registered or had the required identification to cast a ballot. Others started up similar chapters across the country, urging First Nations people to vote.

Harper saw the increased political activism amongst First Nations during the Idle No More movement and thought “we’ve got to make sure these people don’t vote,” Cameron said. She wanted to prove him wrong.

“Harper’s intent was to suppress the indigenous vote and that motivated me,” said Cameron, a former NDP candidate. “It just caught on. I think the excitement of getting rid of the Harper government, showing Harper that his oppression tactics weren’t going to work – I think that was a huge motivator for many people who decided to step up.”


NDP Tania Cameron was a driving force in getting people out to the polls.

A record 10 aboriginal MPs were elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday, ending the Conservative rule of almost a decade. In Kenora, where aboriginal voter turnout was high, Conservative Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford went down in defeat.

Although Elections Canada has not calculated national aboriginal voter turnout yet, chiefs say the election “awoke a sleeping giant” amongst a usually quiet electorate. When some polling stations ran out of ballots, Cameron said no one walked away in disgust. They just waited until another batch was brought in.

Leah Gazan, a First Nations activist and education instructor at the University of Winnipeg, said the turnout was a direct reaction to the divisive tactics of the Harper government. Bringing in Bill C-51 – which many felt criminalized First Nations activists – and cutting funding for aboriginal organizations while weakening environmental protection only strengthened the resolve of First Nations voters, she said.

“He was quite violent with indigenous people through aggressive cuts and aggressive legislation that aimed to silence indigenous people,” Gazan said. “As much as he attempted to divide, he really brought people on Turtle Island together.”

It’s not clear how sustainable the political engagement is, she said. The Liberals have made a lot of promises to First Nations people, not least of which is to call an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

But this election has shown aboriginal voters are a force to be reckoned with, Gazan said.

“Part of the reason why they don’t pay attention is because of voter turnout – it doesn’t impact their privilege,” she said. “With a higher indigenous turnout, they’ll know they can’t take it for granted.”

Source: http://natpo.st/1LVpHdO

Native Vote Could Make The Difference In Canada’s Elections

Hundreds of supporters gather on Parliament Hill, in support of a group of young aboriginal people who traveled 1,600 km on foot from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Quebec on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday March 25, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Fred Chartrand

Hundreds of supporters gather on Parliament Hill, in support of a group of young aboriginal people who traveled 1,600 km on foot from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Quebec on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday March 25, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Fred Chartrand

The Huffington Post

But voter ID laws could prevent indigenous Canadians from exercising their democratic right.

Canada is facing a critical moment in its history.

The Canadian dollar is at an 11-year low, and some say the country is in a recession. Oil producers in the tar sands are selling at a loss. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which had banked on turning the country into a sort of petrostate, is now mired in scandals. Author Stephen Marche’s scathing critique of the Harper administration, entitled “The Closing of the Canadian Mind,” recently became the most-read story in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, in oil-rich and notoriously conservative Alberta, the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) swept to victory in the May provincial elections — a seismic shift that Globe and Mail columnist Doug Sanders described in a tweet as akin to “Bernie Sanders becoming Texas governor by a big majority.”

With national elections scheduled for Oct. 19, an unlikely voting bloc could play a key role in deciding the future direction of the country: Native people.

The Assembly of First Nations has identified 51 “ridings,” or electoral districts, out of a total of 338 throughout the country, where the Native vote could swing the election. The AFN is a national advocacy organization that represents more than 900,000 status Indians (indigenous peoples governed under the Indian Act) hailing from 634 Native communities across Canada.

“[O]f course, that can make and mean the difference between a majority government and a minority government,” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told The Huffington Post. “Our issues matter, our voices matter and our vote counts.”

Canada’s two minority parties, the left-wing New Democratic Party led by Tom Mulcair and the centrist Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, have taken notice. They’re counting on a strong turnout by Native voters to oust incumbent Harper’s Conservative majority.

This all might be a bit surprising to Americans — who have never had to think about the Native vote in national elections, and are accustomed to campaigns defined by a standoff between Democrats and Republicans, rather than a dance between three or four political parties. In the U.S., third parties rarely factor in national politics. In Canada, where three or four political parties are often embroiled in a tight race, any one political party could rarely, if ever, hope to win a popular majority of the vote.

This is partially because Canada uses a parliamentary system handed down from the United Kingdom. Instead of voting directly for prime minister, Canadians vote for the member of Parliament that will represent their riding in a first-past-the-post election. The party that wins the most ridings usually forms a government with its leader as prime minister.

Recent polls suggest that Harper’s Conservatives will likely lose their majority in October, and that the NDP will form a minority government with Tom Mulcair as prime minister.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

A rally against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. CREDIT: MARK KLOTZ/FLICKR

A rally against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. CREDIT: MARK KLOTZ/FLICKR

The Idle No More Movement

The Harper years have been defined by unrest among the poorest of Canada’s poor: Native people.

Under the banner of the Idle No More Movement, the indigenous Canadian equivalent of Occupy Wall Street, Native people led marches and protests against Harper government policies that underfunded aboriginal social services and promoted nonconsensual natural resource development in territories claimed by indigenous nations. The movement shut down railways, malls and highways across Canada and sparked solidarity protests around the world.

“We’ve had the Idle No More Movement … because we are saying the status quo is not acceptable,” said Bellegarde. “The poverty, the marginalization is not acceptable, and people want to see that change in our country.”

The impact of Idle No More continues to reverberate in Native communities across Canada, and in the runup to national elections, Mulcair’s NDP and Trudeau’s Liberals have tried to turn Native frustrations with Harper into votes for their respective parties.

Both opposition leaders spoke at last month’s AFN general assembly, taking shots at the Conservatives and making promises to promote reconciliation in line with the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission June 2015 report on widespread abuses inresidential schools that many Native people were forced to attend.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">MP Charlie Angus stands with Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, prior to challenging a federal decision to suppress police and court evidence of abuse against children at the St. Anne's Residential School in 2013.</span>

Charlie Angus stands with Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, prior to challenging a federal decision to suppress police and court evidence of abuse against children at the St. Anne’s Residential School in 2013. CREDIT: VINCE TALOTTA/GETTY IMAGESMP

Ambitious Book Rocks Tight Race

Now, less than two months before the national elections, NDP member Charlie Angus is coming out with a new book, Children of the Broken Treaty. Angus — the MP of the northern Ontario constituency of Timmins-James Bay and one of Maclean’s Magazine’s 25 most powerful Canadians in 2012 — details the fight for aboriginal education rights in the Cree community of Attawapiskat. The community is covered by Treaty 9 in northern Ontario, which was signed by indigenous nations in 1905, relinquishing vast northern territories to Canada.

The community of Attawapiskat is familiar to many Canadians, and has become a symbol for the government’s neglect of Native people. It’s kind of like the Ferguson, Missouri, of Canada.

It’s notable that Angus published a book about Native education in Attawapiskat the same year the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report. It would be like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) writing a book about policing in Ferguson in the runup to the 2016 presidential elections.

Although Angus claims he didn’t write Children of the Broken Treaty to win the Native vote, the publication of a book by a prominent NDP leader suggests that Native issues and Native voters will be important to this campaign.

Children of the Broken Treaty focuses on the story of Shannen Koostachin, a young Cree woman who insisted upon her right to a decent education. Before Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010, she had became a well-known Canadian activist: TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos described her as one of “five teenage girls who kicked ass in history.” After her death, Canadian youth carried on her legacy through the Shannen’s Dream campaign, which Angus introduced as a motion to the House of Commons in 2011 to provide adequate funding to deliver equal education to Native communities. It passed unanimously in 2012.

Throughout the book, Angus makes the case that Canada has denied Native children their basic rights to education through a callous history of broken treaties, empty promises and bureaucratic neglect — an ongoing reality that is central to Canadian history.

“Treaty 9 transferred some of the richest hydro, mineral and timber wealth in the world to the province and the federal government,” Angus explained to HuffPost. “At the signing of the treaty, Ontario is an economic backwater — it’s nowheresville in terms of the economy. Yet, from the access to those resources, Ontario emerges as one of the economic powerhouses on the continent, while the treaty partners [First Nations] in Treaty 9 are some of the poorest, most underfunded failed communities in Canada.”

Angus emphasizes in his book that the promise of education was key to convincing Native communities to sign treaties that relinquished their lands to Canada. But those promises were never kept, and their legacy remains in the chronic underfunding of Native education by the Conservative government, he argues.

“We need to be talking about the systemic inequity in this country towards indigenous children and indigenous rights,” said Angus. “The Harper government is actually trying to set the colonial clock back.”

With the NDP holding a small lead, and Native issues continuing to make headlines, Children of the Broken Treaty could play a key role in the fight for the Native vote leading up to the elections.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Robert Falcon-Ouellette is challenging NDP incumbent Pat Martin in inner-city Winnipeg, Manitoba.</span>

Robert Falcon-Ouellette is challenging NDP incumbent Pat Martin in inner-city Winnipeg, Manitoba. CREDIT: RHODA KWANDIBENS

Liberals Recruit Young Native Politician

Although the Liberals are not releasing any books from the campaign trail, they too are making a case for the aboriginal vote, and their first policy announcement focused on Native education.

In the riding of Winnipeg Centre — which covers the poor inner city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, an area populated by an underclass of Native people — the Liberals have nominated Robert Falcon-Ouellette, a Cree hailing from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, to challenge incumbent NDP MP Pat Martin.

Ouellette, 38, was somewhat of a Cinderella candidate in Winnipeg’s mayoral elections, coming out of nowhere to finish a respectable third by talking about issues of race and class facing the city’s indigenous poor.

Ouellette had opportunities to join other parties, but ultimately decided to run for the Liberals. He considered joining the NDP, but said he was deterred by the Manitoba provincial NDP’s troubled record of removing Native children from their communities and families through the provincial foster care system, in which Native children comprise nearly 90 percent of the system’s 10,000 children. Native leaders and critics have compared the foster care crisis in Manitoba to the residential school system.

“The NDP [in Manitoba] has actually contributed to creating this situation of this large indigenous underclass with their child and family services system,” Ouellette told HuffPost. “The reason I believe [this injustice] is perpetrated by a socialist government, the NDP — a government that should be for the people — is because they just take [the Native vote] for granted.”

Ouellette says there are advantages to being positioned in the political center, and sees being a challenger as an advantage. “The Liberal Party is in the middle: it gives me the opportunity to talk to people on the right of the political spectrum and on the left of the political spectrum,” Ouellette said. “This is why I love the Liberal Party: it’s a party that has to prove itself every day.”

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">A Native boy outside his house on the Lil'Wat Nation reserve in Mount Currie, British Columbia.</span>

A Native boy outside his house on the Lil’Wat Nation reserve in Mount Currie, British Columbia. CREDIT: ANDREW MEDICHINI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Voter ID Laws

But in their pursuit of the Native vote, both Ouellette and Trudeau’s Liberals and Angus and Mulcair’s NDP will have to overcome the new, so-called “Fair Election” voting law imposed by the Harper government. The legislation requires potential voters to provide proper identification that includes their address — or to have another person with two forms of proper identification vouch for them. It also eliminates the practice of issuing voter information cards, which enabled potential voters to corroborate their address if they didn’t have the right ID.

The Conservative government claims the law will prevent voter fraud. However, critics say that the new more stringent rules are unnecessary, and will prevent students, the poor and indigenous people from voting — much like the voter ID laws the Republican Party has implemented in the U.S.

For Native people in Canada, an Indian status card is sometimes their only form of identification. Status cards do not include an address, and many rural Indian reserves where Native people live do not demarcate streets and house numbers anyway.

Ouellette illustrates this problem when he discusses his door-to-door campaigning in inner-city Winnipeg. There, Native people are so poor they have no telephone or TV bills to prove their residency, no driver’s licenses or money to pay for government-issued IDs, and no credit cards or health papers, either. It all adds up to no opportunity to participate in elections — when, for the first time, many are actually expressing an interest in voting.

“The Fair Elections Act is the bane of my existence,” Ouellette said. “I think it’s just taking some of the things the Republican Party has been putting forward in the United States to disenfranchise voters and take away their constitutional rights.”

For its part, the Conservative Party is pushing back against the bad name it has received from the opposition parties and many Native people. Against Angus’s research, which points to the Harper government’s underfunding of social services in Native communities, spokesman Stephen Lecce touted the party’s record on education and other issues in an email to HuffPost.

“Under Prime Minister Harper, we have taken action to improve the quality of life of Canadian First Nations by increasing investment in Aboriginal education by 25%,” Lecce wrote. “We have built over 40 new schools for Aboriginals, gave women living on reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians and enhanced skills training to ensure they take full advantage of Canada’s economic prosperity.”

He also defended the Fair Elections Act. “Our changes enable voting while protecting the integrity of the system,” Lecce added. “These changes also reflect that almost 90% of Canadians believe it’s reasonable to require some form of identification in order to vote. Elections Canada now permits the use of over 40 different pieces of identification, including an Indian status card, band membership card or Métis card.”

No polls currently have data that predicts how Native voters will cast their ballots in October. However, history can be instructive, and an analysis of Elections Canada data from 2011 shows the NDP was the favorite on Indian reserves, garnering 43 percent of the vote — an eye-catching 12 points higher than the party’s performance among the general population.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption"><span style="color: #262626; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 16px;">The Idle No More Movement holds a protest on Parliament Hill.</span></span>

The Idle No More Movement holds a protest on Parliament Hill. CREDIT: AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Native Visions For Canada

Despite these new bureaucratic obstacles, Bellegarde and the AFN are encouraging all Native people to get out and vote. “We have an opportunity on October 19th to make the difference between a majority and a minority government, to make sure that our issues and concerns are heard,” he said. “We can’t be put to the side any longer. We need to work collectively together to close the gap that exists [between Native people and the rest of Canada], and it’s a great opportunity now to take advantage of that and bring about that change. Our people have a vision for Canada as well.”

Angus agrees that now is the time to seize a historic moment for Canada and its indigenous peoples.

“We will never be the nation we were meant to be until we understand that the real wealth in our nation isn’t what’s in the ground; it’s in these underfunded, isolated reserves where these children are,” he said. “When you look into their eyes and see the possibility of change and power — these are our future leaders. And woe to us if we don’t recognize that we simply can’t afford to squander another generation.”


Anti-terror act risks creating ‘grey area’ with RCMP

Members of the RCMP Tactical Troop guard a roadblock. Beefing up the powers of Canada’s spy agency will come at the expense of the RCMP’s ability to investigate and prosecute terrorists, security and legal experts are warning. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/The Globve and Mail)

Members of the RCMP Tactical Troop guard a roadblock. Beefing up the powers of Canada’s spy agency will come at the expense of the RCMP’s ability to investigate and prosecute terrorists, security and legal experts are warning.
(Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail

Beefing up the powers of Canada’s spy agency will come at the expense of the RCMP’s ability to investigate and prosecute terrorists, security and legal experts are warning.

In addition, giving new powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to “disrupt” security threats will increase the role of political officials in law-enforcement operations in Canada, experts said.

The federal government’s proposed Anti-Terrorism Act has sparked a fierce debate between proponents of security and defenders of civic rights. The Conservatives and Liberals voted to send the legislation to committee for further study – against the opposition of the NDP – on Monday night.

Security experts are already raising questions over the government’s decision to provide CSIS with new powers to disrupt terrorist threats, which stands to increase its overlapping areas of responsibility with the RCMP.

In particular, CSIS agents would be able to stay much longer on a case before they call in the Mounties to open up a criminal investigation, as they frequently do under their joint responsibilities over national-security matters. Instead of facing a criminal investigation, potential terrorists would continue to be monitored, and potentially disrupted by the intelligence-gathering agency, but not face the possibility of being charged, which is the sole purview of the RCMP.

In announcing the legislation last month, federal officials said the goal is to provide CSIS agents with the ability to act on threats to Canada’s security “while they are in the planning stage.” For example, CSIS agents could disrupt shipments of chemicals to would-be terrorists, or speak to a would-be terrorist’s family members and friends to try and influence his plans, the government said.

But it also means that in many cases, CSIS could continue to track a target rather than calling on the RCMP to launch a criminal investigation.

“It’s blindingly obvious that it’s creating a potential problem area, not just in terms of the co-operation between the two agencies, but the efficacy of their work,” said Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one-time member of the Prime Minister’s now defunct Advisory Council on National Security. “If CSIS gets involved in too many disruption operations, under a quasi-intelligence mandate, this means that you are removing cases from the reach of criminal prosecutions.”

Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a former RCMP deputy commissioner, said the new powers stand to create a new “grey area” between the two agencies’ mandates.

“I can’t help but reflect on the Air India inquiry, where CSIS hung on too long to particular information that would have been very valuable to the RCMP. It’s something you have to bear in mind, looking at this legislation, to ensure that both CSIS and the RCMP will co-ordinate their efforts,” he said. “We have to learn from the lessons of the past.”

National-security lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo – who was the lead commission counsel at the Arar Inquiry – said the increased powers of disruption could have been provided to the RCMP, which is already active in the field.

“One wonders why this was given to CSIS, which has absolutely no experience and expertise as far as this kind of activity is concerned,” Mr. Cavalluzzo said. “It seems to me that when you start giving them overlapping functions, there is going to be less co-operation between the two agencies and less sharing of information.”

Mr. Cavalluzzo added that CSIS operates more closely to the government than the RCMP, and will need ministerial approval every time it seeks a judicial warrant to engage in disruption activities.

“CSIS’s primary role is to advise government, whereas as a law-enforcement agency, there is an independence with the RCMP that has been developed over hundreds of years,” he said. “Law enforcement was intended to be independent from government, that is a very cherished principle in this country and it could be eroded by this new law.”

The RCMP and CSIS declined to comment on the legislation, which is still in front of Parliament. The government has defended its plan by stating that speed is of the essence in the current fight against jihadi terrorism, and that CSIS needs more flexible tools as it monitors its targets.

“What we are proposing would instead strengthen Canada’s national security by allowing CSIS to act rapidly to disrupt a threat. In all of its work, as it does today, CSIS would co-ordinate with its national and international partners, as appropriate,” said Roxanne James, parliamentary secretary to the Public Safety Minister.

Former senior CSIS agent Ray Boisvert added the spy agency is most likely to use its new powers in regards to low– and medium-security threats, while letting the RCMP keep its responsibility over the “higher-level, higher-risk events.”

“There are a lot of low-hanging fruit that do not require the resources and the big hammer of the RCMP,” said Mr. Boisvert, who retired as assistant director of intelligence in 2012. “The RCMP would much rather stick to more complex conspiracy-like investigations, like the Toronto 18 and others, where you need to collect evidence to bring it in front of a court of law.”

Mr. Boisvert said Bill C-51 provides CSIS with “more flexibility to deal with things so it doesn’t overly burden the RCMP.”

“It’s almost like an alternative justice approach,” he said.