Tag Archives: indigenous people

Senate suspends Lynn Beyak over refusal to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from website

A picture of Senator Lynn Beyak accompanies other Senators’ official portraits on a display outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 21, 2017.

The Senate voted Thursday to suspend Senator Lynn Beyak from the Red Chamber over her refusal to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from her website.

Senators voted on division – meaning, without unanimous consent – to adopt the recommendations of a Senate ethics committee report calling for Ms. Beyak to be suspended without pay for the remainder of the current parliamentary session. Ms. Beyak has rebuffed repeated demands to remove five letters posted to her Senate website that have been widely described as racist toward Indigenous people.

The ethics committee report, released last month, also recommended that Ms. Beyak apologize to the Senate and attend − at her own expense − “educational programs related to racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada.” In the case that Ms. Beyak refuses to remove the letters, the committee called on the Senate administration to do so.

The vote came after Ms. Beyak asked her fellow senators to reject the ethics committee’s recommendations, calling the penalties “totalitarian.” She stood by the letters, saying her website has become a “positive public forum” since posting them.

Ms. Beyak said the Senate should only scrutinize the speech of a senator if it’s “contrary to law,” warning that the decision to suspend her could set a risky precedent for others.

“If the Senate does not respect this legal bright line, then every activist senator will become fair game for political opponents, including interactions in the office, in the home, in the bedroom and at church.”

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said the Senate did the “right thing” by suspending Ms. Beyak and committing to take the letters down.

“It is truly sad that Senator Beyak still does not understand the gravity of her actions nor her role as a parliamentarian to lead by example. It’s not about political correctness − this is about racism that hurts people,” Ms. Bennett said in a statement Thursday.

The ethics committee’s recommendations came after a year-long probe by Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault, which found that Ms. Beyak breached two sections of the conflict-of-interest code by posting the letters on her website. The report said the letters imply that Indigenous people are lazy, opportunistic, inept, incompetent and greedy individuals who milk the government.

“Posting racist letters is incompatible with upholding the highest standards of dignity inherent in the position of senator. Senators are expected to protect Canada’s values and to represent the underrepresented, not to publish material on their Senate websites that denigrate them,” read the report.

Ms. Beyak posted the letters to her website to demonstrate that she had support for a speech about residential schools that she gave to the Red Chamber in March of 2017. In that speech, she said residential schools did “some good” for Indigenous children. However, many suffered widespread physical and sexual abuse and thousands died from disease and malnutrition.

Ms. Beyak was appointed to the Senate by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer kicked her out of the Tory caucus in January, 2018 after she refused to remove the letters from her website.

The Globe and Mail 

[SOURCE]

In Saskatchewan, Indigenous people are worried that a new trespassing plan may stoke racial tensions

Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 14, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

  • The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to ‘better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public’

A Saskatchewan grandmother who was confronted by a farmer with a gun says changing trespassing laws probably won’t stop crime but could increase racial tension.

Angela Bishop, a Metis lawyer, was driving on a rural road in Alberta in September with her two grandchildren who are visibly Indigenous. They were looking for a place to get out, stretch and go for a short walk during a long drive to Edmonton.

She noticed a vehicle driving up behind her, so she stopped.

A man got out and started to yell at her to get off his road, she said, despite her attempts to explain why she was there. She said she spotted a gun inside his vehicle.

Terrified for her grandchildren, Bishop said she tried to drive away — but the man pursued her.

She eventually pulled over, called law enforcement and requested a police escort. Officers told her that, in fact, it was a public road and she could be there.

As a rural land owner in Saskatchewan, Bishop said she can sympathize with frustration about property crime, but a life is more important.

“My concern would be that they believe they are legally entitled to take the law into their own hands,” she said from Quintana Roo state in Mexico.

The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to “better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public.”

The government said in an emailed statement that Justice Minister Don Morgan is prepared to meet with Indigenous people to discuss their concerns.

The province has already sought public input on whether access to rural property should require prior permission from a landowner, regardless of the activity, and if not doing so should be illegal.

A lawyer representing the family of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016, said she is worried the Saskatchewan Party government is engaged in political posturing which could stoke racial fear.

A Saskatchewan farmer was acquitted in the fatal shooting of a 22-year old Indigenous man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

“Indigenous people aren’t feeling safe that the authorities or the police are going to protect them or that they are not going to be shot at,” Eleanore Sunchild said from Battleford, Sask.

“It seems like there’s more of an approval to take vigilante justice in your hands, and if you are an Indigenous victim, nothing is going to happen to the non-native that shot you.”

Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder after testifying that his gun went off accidentally. He said he was trying to scare away young people he thought were stealing from him. The Crown decided not to appeal.

Sunchild said the throne speech sends the message that the farmer was right to shoot the Indigenous man and that trespassing fears are justified.

Sunchild wonders what advice she would give her own children if they have car trouble or need help on a rural road.

“Do I tell them to go ask a farmer? I don’t think so.”

Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the Boushie trial and provincial response have many Indigenous people feeling afraid.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Southern Alberta doctor under fire for alleged Racist confrontation with Indigenous people

Witnesses say Dr. Lloyd Clarke told a group of Indigenous people outside the Reddi Mart in downtown Cardston to “get a job.” (Google Maps)

Doctor told Indigenous people who are homeless to “get a job” and asked if they wanted prescriptions for Tylenol 3

A southern Alberta doctor is engulfed in controversy after he allegedly told a group of Indigenous people who are homeless to “get a job” and sarcastically asked them if they wanted prescriptions for the addictive painkiller Tylenol 3.

Alberta Health Services has placed Dr. Lloyd Clarke on administrative leave from his position as the associate medical director for the southern region of the province, while the health authority investigates the incident.

A lawyer representing two of the Indigenous people involved filed a complaint with the regulator and watchdog for physicians, alleging Clarke’s “racism against my community members impairs his ability to treat us as patients in a proper way.”

After reviewing the case, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta rejected the complaint. But Ingrid Hess, the lawyer and a First Nations advocate, is appealing.

Hess says the alleged incident, which witnesses say took place outside a Cardston convenience store in May, has triggered outrage among members of the neighbouring Blood Tribe and inspired efforts to document other claims of racism in the region.

Clarke doesn’t confirm or deny

The lawyer says she didn’t witness it, but took a statement from some of the people involved, and filed the complaint on their behalf. She also notified Alberta Health Services.

Clarke, who practises at the Cardston Health Centre’s emergency department and at a separate clinic in the town, didn’t confirm or deny the incident occurred when reached by a reporter.

“I’m aware that the appropriate bodies are investigating this and I’m co-operating with that,” he said.

When asked in a follow-up interview to comment on allegations he has racist views toward Indigenous people, Clarke said, “It’s not appropriate for me to comment. I’m working with the investigation to go through this in the proper channels. I am co-operating completely with them.”

According to AHS, if any of the First Nations people involved in the alleged incident seek care at Cardston’s emergency room, they don’t have to receive care from Clarke, unless they have life-threatening problems that require immediate attention.

“There is no excuse for the comments that were allegedly made in this instance, and we want to assure those involved in this incident that this sort of alleged language in no way reflects the beliefs or values of AHS,” the health authority said in a statement.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons, which regulates the medical profession and investigates complaints against doctors, told CBC News Clarke’s alleged behaviour is “damaging” and “appears to show poor judgment.”

Ingrid Hess filed this complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. (CBC)

But the college said it doesn’t believe Clarke is prejudiced toward Indigenous people, concluding the incident didn’t amount to professional misconduct.

In a letter responding to Hess’s complaint, the college said it “cannot dictate the behaviour of what a physician does outside a clinical setting, excluding extreme circumstances.”

‘Blatant biases and negative views’

Hess has appealed the decision, calling for an investigation into whether “Dr. Clarke’s blatant biases and negative views of Indigenous people might influence his care of the Indigenous patients he treats, especially if they are drug-addicted, alcoholic or homeless.”

Clarke works in Cardston, where an estimated one in seven residents is Indigenous.

Nicole Gros Ventre Boy, one of two people Hess is helping with the complaint, told CBC News she was sitting outside a Cardston convenience store in May when she claims Clarke emerged from the exit.

“He stood there and he told us, ‘You guys should get a job’ … then he’s like, ‘My family are scared to come and shop here. You guys just bother people for money,'” she recalled.

‘I just felt like he was racist’

“Afterwards, he said, ‘Should I write you a prescription of Tylenol 3s?’ and he put his hand out and acted like he was writing.”

Gros Ventre Boy, who received health care from Clarke in the past, said the comments hurt her.

“I just felt like he was racist, like he didn’t like natives,” she said. “There was no reason for him to come up to us and talk. We were not doing anything.”

Gros Ventre Boy’s account lines up with the description of events outlined in Hess’s complaint. It’s also consistent with how Scott Many Grey Horses remembers the confrontation.

Many Grey Horses said he was not involved with the group, but was walking by when he heard Clarke say, “All you people need to get jobs.” In an interview with CBC News, Many Grey Horses said he didn’t hear the comment about Tylenol 3, but he intervened in defence of the group.

Downtown Cardston. (Google Street View)

Clarke called police

He said he was worried at the time the confrontation could come to blows, though Gros Ventre Boy said she didn’t believe there was any risk of violence.

“I said, ‘You need to get out of here; you’re just here to cause trouble,'” Many Grey Horses recalled.

The college said in its letter to Hess that Clarke had called police.

Hess said she has known most of the Indigenous people involved for most of her career and described them as having “overlapping social disadvantages,” including homelessness, poverty and chronic health conditions.

She said the allegations concerned her, especially because of the social and power imbalance between a doctor and people who are homeless.

“The people that we’re talking about were living in tents on the edge of town,” she said. “Those aren’t the kind of people who can just go out and get a job at the Reddi Mart in downtown Cardston.”

‘Concerns like this are damaging’

Steve Buick, spokesman for the college, said the regulator didn’t investigate whether the alleged incident actually happened. He said it reviewed the incident to determine whether the claims, if true, violated the college’s code of conduct and standards of practice.

“We have no doubt that there is an issue here of behaviour, and we will be telling the doctor that concerns like this are damaging and that he needs to avoid them in the future,” Buick said.

“We cannot have a physician practising in a community where the community has good reason to believe that he or she is racist or has other discriminatory views,” he said. “But let’s be clear: on the basis of this complaint alone, our judgment in the first phase of review is we don’t think it necessarily comes up to that standard.

“We don’t think that this complaint, on its face, would justify sanctioning a physician or removing him from practice.”

Buick said Hess can escalate her complaint to a second stage in the college’s process — an appeal to its complaint review committee — if she feels the first decision was unreasonable. She has done that.

“It will be up to the physician in this case to assure patients when he sees them face-to-face, if they’re concerned about it at all, that he does not have views that should disqualify him from treating them,” he said.

Dr. Lloyd Clarke, who is accused of making discriminatory comments toward Indigenous people in May, works at the Cardston clinic. (CBC)

Hess calls case ‘extreme’

Buick said the college’s priority when assessing complaints is the behaviour of physicians when they are treating patients. Still, he said there have been “extreme” cases in which the college took action against doctors for their behaviour outside the clinical setting.

He cited the case of Dr. Fred Janke, whom the college said would not be allowed to continue practising while he faces child exploitation charges.

Hess said she believes a doctor “exhibiting biased and discriminatory conduct toward a vulnerable and identifiable group of people is pretty extreme.”

Clarke’s alleged comments were the catalyst that inspired several members of the Blood Tribe to set up camp near the Cardston border in June to document claims of racism. The group said its goal is to raise awareness about prejudice against First Nations people, and to build healthier relationships between the two communities.

Last week, the group dismantled its camp along Highway 5, the dividing line between the town and reserve, after documenting a number of other alleged cases, which members plan to pass along to authorities, including the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Members of the Blood Tribe held a peace camp along the reserve’s border with Cardston to document cases of alleged racism. The group dismantled its camp last week. (CBC)

‘No excuse’ for alleged comments, AHS says

AHS said it’s also continuing to investigate the alleged incident involving Clarke, “and will take any necessary action once that investigation is complete.”

“We know that trust is a significant barrier to First Nations people accessing the health-care system, and acknowledge that institutional racism and stereotyping have kept people from getting the care they need,” AHS said in its statement.

“We also know that the relationship between AHS and First Nations people must continue to improve, and we are committed to building, nurturing and growing those relationships.”

CBC News

[SOURCE]

Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 

[SOURCE]