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CBC Must Halt Conflict Of Interest Between Govt & Advertorials

By @MsAmyMacPherson

December 11, 2020

 

 

This is an open letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, the Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau, the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) regarding the dangerous decision to pursue ‘branded content’, also known as ‘paid content’, ‘sponsored content’, and/or ‘advertorials’.

 

 

I’m a former CBC reporter who covered federal and provincial politics at CBC News and CBC.ca, as well as elections and economic segments for the Connect with Mark Kelley show. I will be forever indebted to them for providing my first shot at investigative journalism, before budgets were drastically cut to unsustainable levels that brought my craft to its knees. Over the years I’ve watched several intrepid reporters trying to come to terms with the effect of those cuts, as we found ourselves and the facts replaced by a stronger emphasis on editorial opinions. It’s true that fact-checking costs money and requires a strong cadre of producers with dynamic experience to support original content, but this death by a thousand cuts has finally hit rock bottom to the point that it will destroy the CBC.

 

 

I won’t waste everyone’s time banging the identical drum as www.stoppaidcontentoncbc.ca, though I do support every last word they’ve said. I believe I have a unique and legal angle to contribute that the Canadian government must thoughtfully consider. I believe it so deeply that I’m writing this despite recovering from eye surgery, because I became legally blind during the pandemic unexpectedly. I’m attempting to work through complete double vision as an artificial transplant begins to settle and this is my first experience with dictation software. The white computer screen is still overpowering and I won’t be healed until February, so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. But let that sink in that I would accept these consequences to share my counsel with you before I’m truly able to be back on the scene.

 

 

The open letter signed by a growing number of past and present CBC staff soundly explains the problem with CBC Tandem from a journalist’s perspective regarding trust and reputation issues. It makes reference to fake news, leveraging the CBC’s reputation to benefit advertisers, and confusing the public by letting ads masquerade as articles that mimic the news. (1. original / archive)

 

 

Plenty has been written about the damage caused by advertorials, but in the era of digital revolution and disruptive innovation, most mainstream media executives care very little when tasked with finding a magic wand to resolve the logistics of collapsing revenue streams. The situation is so dire that it gives new meaning to the slur presstitute. Fear has chipped away at integrity enough that we can sell our souls to put food on the table, or deal with toxic workplaces for taking a stand in the name of truth and transparency. We were once paid for our integrity but now it’s becoming somewhat of a liability in the battle against fake news and profit margins. For context, it’s considered scandalous that so many CBC journos would speak out publicly against the Tandem project that it’s a news story in itself. (2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive)

 

 

In any event, I made similar complaints in a Twitter thread that focused on selling the CBC’s reputation. I further condemned advertorials as blatant fake news because their entire purpose is meant to trick readers by hiding the fact that it is an ad behind the veneer of a news article. If advertorials weren’t meant to mislead anyone, then why do they to pretend to be something they’re not?

 

 

Letter continues below…

 

 

I didn’t have much space to elaborate on my concerns about the conflict of interest element that was introduced by CBC Tandem and I will do so now, because it’s dangerous to the Government of Canada in countless ways that even threaten our democracy. CBC is a Crown corporation and despite arms-length firewalls, it is funded by the government and public tax dollars. For better or for worse it’s a representative of the government and when anything goes wrong, blame is directed toward the prime minister. The board that oversees the CBC is appointed by the Governor in Council as well. (7. original / archive)

 

 

That sets up a formal legal relationship between CBC and the Government of Canada, with appointees swearing an oath to the Crown. Despite everything we’ve done in our democratic landscape to insulate the CBC to achieve press freedom, the rest of the world still views it as a state broadcaster. In that vein we’ve also done everything possible to distance ourselves from other state broadcasters such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea that are captured by political masters.

 

 

Our love was never for sale, at least until the CBC Tandem division was created. Now anyone can purchase the CBC’s integrity and by extension, that of its journalists. But that still isn’t the biggest problem confronting the government as a result of this development. The dark corner I’m trying to illuminate is much more ‘insidious’ than anyone’s reputation.

 

 

As an investigative reporter I spend ninety percent of my time researching and only ten percent of it actually publishing. In the bulk of my work I’ve discovered severe issues that are threatening western democracies, disorienting the public, and skewing the development of public policy. It would be impossible for me to recount the number of times I’ve come across opinion editorials (OpEds) insufficiently referenced in government studies on any given issue. So long as someone can get their viewpoint printed in the news, it’s assumed to be factual as a footnote that nobody verifies from a mountain of consultative submissions the government merely itemizes in transcripts and final reports.

 

 

There is no label to distinguish OpEds from bona fide news in our research systems and much of the public can’t tell you the difference between a columnist and a reporter. Even if a politician understands, the public isn’t taught to be skeptical about these footnotes because telling voters to be wary of government decisions based on that very material would weaken faith in our democracy and the process by which we evaluate issues. With no intention of being partisan, I came to understand this during the Harper administration. What I’m about to say next is motivated only by experience and the time frame any cobwebs of naïveté were being swept away from my vision.

 

 

In all my investigations during Conservative rule, I kept stumbling on right-wing organizations that held campaigns and competitions to flood Canadian media with OpEds in support of their various causes. Some of them even paid activists if they could manage to get published, so a politician could cite the opinion and present it to a House of Commons or Senate committee with the same effect as something factual. This happened on multiple issues, including but not limited to Indigenous rights, pro-choice rights, gay rights, gun rights, and climate change. This tactic of inorganic manipulation was successful and responsible for repealing human rights that used to protect Canadians against hate speech. (8. original / archive)

 

 

Since I discovered that deficiency in 2014, I watched the practice become adopted by left-wing organizations that sought to fight fire with fire. It’s quickly becoming a standard practice for various groups to pre-write letters of complaint and OpEds that supporters only have to sign and click to send through an agency’s automated system. Fake news was already automated in Canada before the term was coined or widely understood. It also taints nearly every government report on ideological wedge issues.

 

 

In addition to grassroots being harnessed to deceive legislators on an industrial scale, we also have partisan think-tanks that have grown more audacious. They too are spreading false information through Canadian media that becomes cited as fact, to form the basis of public policy on matters so integral to government as income tax. (9. original / archive, 10. original / archive)

 

 

Advertorials must be outlawed by the CRTC as a matter of false advertising. We already have tools to deal with it because it’s an unabashed and purposely misleading product. Even if the message is true the medium is not, inverse of ‘the medium is the message’. Something that isn’t fact-checked news should not be made to appear as if it is.

 

 

No democracy can afford the steep cost of advertorials becoming the basis of public policy. We don’t even have the manipulation of OpEds under control and this practice of influence deception will explode if given another avenue. Corporate retailers aren’t the only advertising clients and to ignore the rest would be worse than foolish, regardless of which side you might find yourself on pertaining to any issue. This will remove the science from poli-sci and turn back time to govern by folklore. If you have trouble believing, then enquire with climate scientists who spent the last decade contending with this exactly. Instead of making progress on carbon emissions we ended up with a new generation of flat-earthers and Creationism being taught in public schools again.

 

 

On that basis then consider that foreign governments are advertisers too. The Digital Cold War is upon us and most developed countries have entire units that pursue influence campaigns throughout the military-intelligence complex. Years ago I might have hesitated to make that statement and contemplated a more moderate description, but Canada was compelled to set up a task force to monitor that threat during the last federal election and it played a role in undermining Brexit in the United Kingdom, as well as a past election in the United States. None of us has devised a perfect solution yet and advertorials are set to open the floodgates.

 

 

If that wasn’t enough to give you pause for thought, then weigh the CBC’s relationship with domestic political parties and triangulate it with the government. From experience I can tell you how hard it is to avoid accusations of political bias at a Crown corporation. An inordinate amount of social media vitriol is hurled at CBC journos by partisans of every stripe, because tax payers sense their ownership of Crown reporters and they’re emotionally driven to have their own views reflected by them. As the line between advertising and journalism blurs, it further complicates this sticky wicket by lowering the bar for professionalism and respect. Most of us have received the odd death threat, a few of us have actually been assaulted, and female reporters have heard everything that would turn your hair blue about their sexuality and sometimes their children. Allowing political parties and/or fronts for political parties to purchase CBC advertorials will exacerbate these symptoms and increase the fever pitch.

 

 

Letter continues below…

Source: Michael DeAdder, Twitter

 

 

Advertorials present a tantalizing opportunity for dark money in politics, but even on the surface it creates a curious conflict of interest with registered partisan entities. Whether it’s the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, or Bloc, they could theoretically skirt advertising limits by using operatives to place advertorials on their behalf. Elections Canada doesn’t have the resources to police clandestine party spending and it would technically be subsidized by the Government of Canada because it’s the government that funds the CBC. I will leave that part for legal scholars to hash out, but I know enough to be sure that it doesn’t pass a sniff test. At the very least no sitting government would wish to subsidize an opposition party’s partisan propaganda. I’m not sure the public would be fine with paying taxes so the CBC could publish counterfeit news articles on behalf of anti-vaxxers either.

 

 

In the best case scenario, CBC Tandem is inviting public controversy every time it has to make a decision to run an advertorial related to any issue. They’ll be hauled in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal if they decline pandemic hoax pieces, anti-abortion pieces, anti-Indigenous pieces, anti-Muslim pieces, anti-immigration pieces, anti-climate pieces, anti-science pieces, or any of the opponents on the pro side. One way or another, one of these clients would be in a position to at least claim discrimination, often related to a religious belief. A Charter challenge could also result regarding the freedom of expression and Canada lacks a full skeleton of precedents to clearly define what press freedom is. What we do have though is a handful of constitutional activist organizations that prowl for opportunities to file cases like these, in the longstanding effort to shape our legal rights in the direction of libertarian ideology. The way journalism dealt with this problem is ‘both-sidesing’ everything, but that option isn’t available in the purchased marketing scheme.

 

 

Advertorials have no business defining Canadian law and the Canadian identity, but that’s exactly what they’re poised to do irrespective of the media agency that initiates open season on our Constitution. It doesn’t seem wise for CBC to become that brand new battleground that is muddled between journalism and advertising, or to waste its lean budget on successive legal challenges. It already can’t afford to perform regular, substantive, investigative journalism anymore, because the type of work that I do is cost prohibitive when it requires a small team of lawyers to vet it. I’ve been sitting on a major data breach investigation because everyone is constrained by budgets and adopting advertorials is not the path to pay for it. On the contrary and due to being in everyone’s political crosshairs, it could be a way to eventually bankrupt the CBC. I’m curious if there was a risk analysis performed for the Tandem project and if these perils were appraised holistically.

 

 

It would do no good to implement an advertorial policy that blanket-banned issues advertising in favour of retail products only. That’s because products are related to lifestyles and lifestyles are related to social issues. Take for example the gun. The morning after pill. Religious books and courses. Bicycles. Oil stocks. Green energy products. Indigenous cigarettes. Kotex. Natural medicines. The list goes on. So is CBC prepared to be the site of protests when those items are politically weaponized? And do executives believe it will boost the credibility or safety of its journalists?

 

 

It remains to be seen what the ramifications of advertorials might be from another perspective still. Based solely on retail products, who bears the legal onus when a consumer is harmed by a dangerous item that was misrepresented by what appeared to be a CBC article to a 65-year-old audience member? If the CBC was to indemnify itself in advertorial contracts, would it also not be jeopardizing the collective reputation of all reporters? After all,

 

 

CBC Tandem promises corporate clients they can “leverage” the CBC’s reputation by aligning their message with the “trust Canadians have in our brand”. (11. original / archive)

 

 

It’s also CBC staff that would write or collaborate on the counterfeit article, with final approval that lacked legal fact-checking to verify the claims made by a Crown corporation on behalf of its private ad clients. In essence that further implies government confidence in the client, even if tacit to a layperson. It creates stark inequality between company divisions as well, despite products that appear to be identical as articles except for a miniature sticker that says ‘branded content’ in a diminished corner. For that matter the term ‘branded content’ is deceptive and it’s meant to soothe the reader’s skepticism by avoiding words like ‘paid’ and ‘advertisement’.

 

 

This is a concept that hasn’t been legally tested and I was all for CBC setting journalistic standards, until this development posed a risky gamble to everyone who is still working there. If something looks too good to be true it usually is, and trying to take this easy way out of a funding shortfall is a catastrophe waiting to happen. There are no easy answers to the ripple effects of COVID-19, just as there are no simple steps to combat disruptive innovation in a digital revolution. These are both once-in-a-lifetime challenges that no echo chamber in a boardroom can solve by putting lipstick on a pig. I applaud CBC for its general open-mindedness but respectfully and with great concern, this Tandem advertorial venture needs to be put on ice.

 

 

I stress this is not a problem unique to the CBC and while they must cancel this project to maintain their own house, the government and/or CRTC must also act swiftly to prohibit the use of advertorials by any media organization in Canada. It must be a level playing field and one that is based on principles of the Fourth Estate, instead of a product that by its definition is masquerading as something it’s not. To put it plainly, advertorials are promoted and sold as counterfeit news articles, when the real news is in the fight of its life to save its own reputation and viability. Talk about inviting a ‘FOX’ into a henhouse.

 

 

May my letter greet you well and please don’t take it personally. This is just so important that it needed to be addressed frankly, as the implications of ignoring these impacts could cause irreparable harm on a grand scale. The startling and vast majority of Facebook users already can’t tell the difference between journalism and fake news. Neither can students. At the end of the day we need everyone to comprehend the facts to develop sound public policy, more than anyone needs a shot at quick money to make the business of journalism an easier ride. If we value our democracy we will have to commit to defending it with tax dollars to fund the CBC away from temptation and the advertorial mirage. (12. original / archive, 13. original / archive, 14. original / archive, 15. original / archive)

 

 

In closing, I kindly leave you with a sample of public sentiments to assist with your deliberations.

 

 

 

Yours very truly,

Amy MacPherson

COVID-19 Origin Mystery Solved?

May 7, 2020

By: @MsAmyMacPherson

 

Part of the challenge in finding a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic is determining the original source of infection. The majority of scientists are convinced it came from bats, but they don’t yet know how it transmitted to humans. Others suggest it was caused by accidental release from a research lab, while war hawks propose theories that relate to a bioweapon. But the best answer to complex mysteries is often simple and Free The Press Canada has determined the likely culprit.

 

The solution for this missing link is so unassuming that it was under everyone’s nose all along. The records have existed since the 1700’s and this bat-to-human conduit is cited as the legal basis for the American Empire. It’s the original cause of blackbirding (kidnapping) and Chinese slavery, Indigenous slavery, as well as Black slavery, in case anyone didn’t grasp the meaning of that famous Beatles song. It solidified Peru’s existence and reshaped entire countries in South America. It poured the foundation for British and European wealth. It won and lost wars as a prime ingredient to make gunpowder. Its Indigenous name appears in an early American law and it traces all the way back to 5,000 years ago, as a resource worshipped by the Incas. (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive, 6. original / archive, 7. original / archive, 8. original / archive, 9. original / archive, 10. original / archive, 11. original / archive, 12. original / archive, 13. original – PDF)

 

Today this product is exported by Africa and Asia and it can fetch as much as $350USD per ton, or $2,400USD every three hours with a very small crew of labourers. The organic food revolution, hydroponic agriculture, and the legalization of marijuana have made it so popular again that western grandmothers are trying to produce their own. The colloquial phrase ‘bat-sh*t-crazy’ may even be derived from this common carrier of several coronavirus types. So what could be in everyone’s garden shed that has the potential to elevate or wipe out the human race, depending on the quality of each batch? (14. original / archive, 15. original / archive, 16. original / archive)

 

Bat Guano – The Garden Saviour

 

Bat guano is the feces of this hideous looking creature that makes a cameo appearance each year at Halloween. It’s long been known as the best crop fertilizer on earth, at half the cost of chemical competitors and usually with no negative side effects. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that comes with organic certification and it gained special prominence with cannabis producers, as well as moms and dads with tabletop hydroponic kits. (17. original / archive, 18. original / archive, 19. original / archive)

 

The high concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and potassium are so effective that bat guano can rehabilitate soil and reduce the need for crop rotation in large agricultural operations. It is Mother Nature’s wonder drug and can be used in the pharmaceutical setting to grow the ingredients used in medicines that are increasingly sourced in China. That’s not to suggest guano residues could appear in medications, but the workers who handle raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain may certainly come in contact with it. (20. original / archive, 21. original / archive)

 

The versatility of guano is far greater than industrial grow-ops and it can be found just as easily at community gardens and retirement villas. Across the world in Portland, Oregon a seniors residence is getting into the guano business to support the retiree neighbourhood, in addition to a farmers market and popular local restaurant. Plants as delicate as lettuce are treated with the natural fertilizer and it’s reported to sweeten the taste of produce as an added benefit. (22. original / archive, 23. original / archive, 24. original / archive)

 

Bat guano is also easy to purchase, if you’re not down with keeping them as pets to generate a self-sustaining and free supply. It can be found through Walmart, Amazon, Alibaba, or any hydroponic store. It comes in dry and wet ‘tea’ slurries that are pre-mixed to make using it rather simple. This wonder-dust is so spectacular that it can allegedly grow pumpkins the size of Smart cars. It’s possible there may be off-label uses in the beauty market as well. (25. original / archive, 26. original / archive, 27. original / archive, 28. original / archive, 29. original / archive, 30. original / archive)

 

Story continues below…

Source: Amazon Canada (original / archive)

 

Needless to say there’s an obvious means of transmission between bats and humans that strikes at the heart of the global food chain and every nation’s ports of entry. It’s further been discovered that coronavirus and COVID-19 can be spread to humans through fecal matter. (31. original / archive)

 

Bat Guano – The Agent Of Death

 

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of home gardeners and organic farms, bat guano was confirmed by the Canadian government to be contaminated with the Ebola virus in years prior. (32. original / archive)

 

Story continues below…

Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

Bats are also an established carrier of several coronavirus types, according to the Wuhan lab researcher who is central to the current pandemic. A single cave can produce numerous samples of various strains, meaning they’re a plausible breeding ground for mutations as bats interact with each other and the natural environment. (33. original / archive)

 

Through the guano specifically, bats can infect humans with histoplasmosis and it has much in common with the symptoms of COVID-19. Although the former is bacterial and the latter is viral, complications can result in death for young children, seniors, and immuno-compromised patients in both examples. (34. original / archive, 35. original – PDF)

 

Research on the coronavirus family appears to be limited to the bats directly, or humans directly, but little is known about the bridge between them. At least that’s what the mainstream media and governments generally report. But bat guano serves as that very connection and Canada highlighted its ability to vector an even deadlier virus, many years before the appearance of COVID-19.

 

Despite the sparse availability of public data, relevant studies have been conducted involving bat guano since 2006. The World Health Organization (WHO) participated in that early sequencing more than a decade ago. It was determined that bat guano carries the family of coronaviruses in a study arising from the guano caves (mines) in Thailand. Deeper investigation of that yearlong data appears to indicate that positive samples follow a cyclical pattern that coincides with spring and fall flu seasons as well. The guano seems to test negative during the summer and winter months and this phenomenon may need to be considered in future research endeavours to achieve an unbiased interpretation. (36. original / archive)

 

Another study was conducted by scientists in Myanmar from May 2016 to August 2018. Testing was done by the University of California – Davis that produced results consistent with Thailand. They confirmed coronavirus pathogens in bat guano including new strains that hadn’t been discovered prior, as well as seasonal fluctuations. They also identified that guano samples produce a much higher rate of infection than oral and rectal swabs taken from bats. (37. original / archive)

 

Islands in the Western Indian Ocean were studied from 2014 to 2015, but the researchers failed to sample guano and only tested the bats. Even lacking that crucial context, several types of coronavirus were detected that share a relationship to COV strains in Africa. Unfortunately the authors pursued their study with a mistaken hypothesis that an intermediary host is required to affect humans, so they were left with questions about transmission pathways. Due to that regrettable bias, they overlooked the role of bat guano in the spread between different regions. (38. original / archive)

 

The Smoking Gun

 

Free The Press Canada did its own research to assess the prevalence of bat guano testing on Google Scholar. It was there that a noteworthy result appeared, amounting to a smoking gun. (39. original / archive)

 

In October 2018, genomic researchers completed the sequence for a bat guano miner who tested positive for a coronavirus in Thailand. Coincidentally, he worked in the same region referenced earlier in a separate study assisted by the World Health Organization, from 2006/2007. (40. original / archive, 41. original / archive, 42. original – PDF)

 

Story continues below…

Source: American Society For Microbiology (original / archive)

 

The results indicate that a bat guano miner in Thailand carried the same strain of coronavirus (99 percent match) as samples that were tested from Hong Kong in 2006. It came from the same group of pathogens (with a common ancestor) as samples arising from China and the United States in 2016 as well.

 

It’s unlikely that either superpower is responsible for infecting a bat cave in Thailand, where several coronavirus types are naturally occurring. The alternative is American and Chinese growers may have purchased guano fertilizer that originated from a Thai source. In any event what this demonstrates is an intercontinental transmission pathway that was indirectly established over a period of twelve years, specifically related to a guano mine.

 

Free The Press Canada stresses that this data via Thailand doesn’t pinpoint the exact origin of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t make any individual country responsible for the spread of coronaviruses. Guano mining occurs on every continent except Antarctica and every country may contribute to infection rates by failing to regulate this product as a hazardous substance. Every country that has bats also has a wide array of coronaviruses lurking within them. Therefore comprehensive study of bat guano in its wet and dry forms is immediately required and it may assist scientists to address COVID-19 from this perspective. (43. original / archive)

 

Origin of the Spanish Flu remains a mystery akin to the way COVID-19 developed. Researchers may wish to revisit those theories with the guano aspect in mind, because during that era it was the primary ingredient in gunpowder and explosives. It may explain the peculiar onset of cases geographically. (44. original / archive, 45. original / archive)

 

Lax Regulation

 

Successive years of ‘cutting red tape’ to appease the stock market and business class has led us to this place. Regulations might require commitment to one’s product, but they were not designed to be the enemy. Instead they’ve been developed to safeguard human health and avert the insurmountable cost of failing to do so.

 

The freedom gained by corporations to ignore those responsibilities has resulted in the entire world’s lockdown and loss of the most basic collective freedoms required to beat the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason why a Q4 profit margin should result in the loss of visiting family, ability to celebrate birthdays and weddings, or permission to walk out the front door. Imprisoning the working class is not sustainable to generate dividends and every taxpayer is on the hook to pay for this debacle over the next entire decade. That behaviour represents an untenable proposition for business to outsource its overhead to every citizen on the planet.

 

In the case of bat guano, the few rules that do exist are woefully insufficient and incongruent from one region to another. For example, Canada dragged its feet with respect to classifying guano as a fertilizer so it didn’t fall within any regulatory category whatsoever. The United States has a conflict between which agency oversees the product and each state compounds the problem with different rules or lack thereof, depending on various governors. Certainly no country around the globe is testing guano for coronavirus as a condition of import, export, and public sale. (46. original / archive, 47. original / archive, 48. original / archive)

 

Bat guano remains a superior fertilizer that is also appropriate for organically certified agriculture. It’s safe in the vast majority of cases, but it only takes one bad batch, one bad season, or one susceptible cave to result in a pandemic. Strict testing and parameters must be implemented to protect this valuable resource, guano mining labourers, and the public. Strict guidelines need to be established for home gardeners who plan to experiment with backyard production and strict enforcement surrounding guano must be genuinely contemplated.

 

Furthermore, the effects of climate change are now severe enough to impact human health. A warming planet is predicted to affect the emergence of viruses, mutations, and intensity of contagious outbreaks. Bat caves are environmentally sensitive and given the detrimental consequences to the global economy under quarantine, it doesn’t seem wise to ignore the guano they produce when it’s a common additive to the food supply. (49. original / archive)

 

How Was Guano Overlooked?

 

International media is in a state of disrepair since the disruption of digital technology. In Canada the regular ‘beats’ were axed in a process of austerity and downsizing. Remaining reporters are now expected to cover any topic that arises while lacking the expertise to tackle complex subjects, especially related to science. The industry is fighting for its life as artificial intelligence (AI) is introduced to automate articles based on business data and algorithms. It’s removing humans from the equation who were able to evaluate context, history, demeanour, insincerity, conflicts of interest, and most importantly, fact-checking. (50. original / archive)

 

(Full disclosure: I was forced out of mainstream media because investigative journalism is quite expensive and it was the first ilk to be cut. That’s why I started Free The Press Canada, because you can take the reporter out of the newsroom but you can’t take the inquiring mind out of any journo worth their salt.)

 

The Fourth Estate is what informs governments in any democracy, while holding lawmakers to account. That this bat guano information was always available is proof that something went awry in the absence of subject matter experts to edit, assign, and report.

 

In North America there’s an extreme problem with media ownership too. No matter what anyone says, the free press has been muzzled by the billionaire class and this guano issue punctuates that unfortunate reality.

 

Pertaining to the Thai cave that tested positive for coronaviruses at various intervals from 2006 to 2018, there was one report from China and another from a multinational agency that is headquartered in Canada.

 

The South China Morning Post explained that despite the abundance of bat viruses, if they could make the leap to humans then we would already be extinct. The article emphasized the importance of bat meat to certain cultures and the value of guano to agriculture. It downplayed the rate of COVID-19 infections in Thailand and completely omitted that one of the cave’s miners contracted the coronavirus. It even disinformed readers by suggesting the guano is safe and that humans can only be infected through contact with bat saliva or urine. The erroneous article was then syndicated by Bloomberg in the United States. (51. original / archive)

 

In Canada, Reuters followed suit with an article about the same Thai cave a few weeks later. It produced a false title that claimed there was only a possible link between bat guano and human infection. Through that statement the editor denied evidence of the miner who contracted the coronavirus that was thoroughly studied. Reuters effectively denied the entire genomic sequence that was conducted on that person. (52. original / archive)

 

The body of the article goes on to describe the importance of bat guano to the agriculture industry. It implies that keeping the cave ‘clean’ protects miners from catching the coronavirus, at the same time discouraging belief that the guano could carry these pathogens. It further proposes the debunked hypothesis that coronaviruses require an intermediary to jump from bats to another host before the ability to infect humans. An interview with a miner (who’s in an absolute conflict of interest) reinforces this disinformation by claiming no one from the Thai caves has ever become ill from these bat-borne diseases. They assert the coronavirus didn’t originate there, despite undeniable proof in scientific journals that records several strains in that bat cave over a number of years.

 

No competing press agencies reported on the topic and neither of these entries was ever challenged in the headlines.

 

To understand how this could happen, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland used to work for Reuters as a managing director. Free The Press Canada is not in any way alleging collusion, but the Canadian government chose a sympathetic stance that is disinclined to point fingers. Reuters is also more than a media empire. It owns Thomson Financial, Thomson Legal & Regulatory, Thomson Reference, Scientific & Healthcare, as well as Thomson Learning. Under any of these banners, billionaire David Thomson could be looking to governments for various contracts and is therefore in a conflict of interest between serving the public and his personal wealth accumulation. (53. original / archive, 54. original / archive)

 

The bulk of competing newspapers in Canada are managed by Postmedia. This company is owned by American hedge funds, with a controlling interest that is deeply connected to David Pecker. Mr. Pecker is the same person who shielded President Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal at the National Enquirer and his immunity deal with the Department of Justice may be in jeopardy over what Jeff Bezos claims is extortion. This is due to Pecker’s company acquiring his private text messages and an alleged threat for Bezos to stop investigating Trump or face the embarrassment of his intimate photos being published. Two prominent journalists also claimed to receive blackmail threats in a campaign to end their reporting about Trump, Pecker, Daniels, and the National Enquirer. (55. original / archive, 56. original / archive)

 

Concentrated and foreign media ownership is not supposed to be permitted in Canada, but for unknown reasons the Competition Bureau has refused to intervene throughout the tenure of both Conservative and Liberal governments. (57. original / archive)

 

On the stateside, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos is owner of The Washington Post. He’s also the owner of Amazon, that has entered the media business to compete with Netflix while providing a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano. If all of this wasn’t confusing enough, Bezos is friends with Michael Bloomberg, who is the owner of Bloomberg News. Bezos is the person who encouraged Bloomberg to run for president as a Democrat, in the effort to dethrone the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. (58. original / archive)

 

Meanwhile in Asia, billionaire Jack Ma owns the South China Morning Post. He’s also the owner of Alibaba, that provides a marketplace for sellers to peddle their bat guano, in the identical manner as Jeff Bezos. Both men receive a cut for every bag of the natural fertilizer that passes through their platforms and could potentially carry the coronavirus around the entire world. Don’t forget that Ma further syndicates his articles through Bloomberg. (59. original / archive)

 

Canadian and American media are hopelessly compromised by partisan warfare, whether Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican. Chinese media is directly controlled by the Communist government. Each of these factions has a financial interest in the success of bat guano and matters of food security. But none of the billionaires appear to have an interest in the survival of average citizens in relation to a pandemic. Instead the press keeps bantering about herd immunity that would cleave the weakest demographics from the global population.

Wet’suwet’en Dispute: Be Careful What You Wish For

March 5, 2020

By @MsAmyMacPherson

 

I will begin this topic by declaring my conflict of interest, that in some ways facilitates my insight into the dispute about Indigenous hereditary chiefs, and in other ways may contribute to an unintentional bias. Due to that peril I submit this as an opinion-editorial, although facts will still be supported with hyperlinks throughout.

 

It’s been uncomfortable to watch the mob of Caucasian journalists attempting to cover this story when they know little-to-nothing about Indigenous affairs and are limited to the Crown’s point of view, whether sympathetic or indifferent. I didn’t want to be another ‘white’ person speaking above Indigenous voices, in an effort to frame their complaints in newspeak that ultimately silences them. Repeatedly I’ve stated that I don’t wish to pick sides and I’ve attempted to caution netizens against defining those sides, because it’s clear they’re unable to appreciate the full dynamics and destructive outcomes if their wishes are granted. But here we are and after much deliberation, I decided it was necessary to speak up before this situation devolves any further.

 

There is more at stake than anyone knows from their respective but insular silos, and that includes the Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, as well as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett. More than anyone, they need to grasp the legal landmines that await them and some of the hidden players who are interfering behind the scenes. This Coastal GasLink project in British Columbia will have severe ramifications for Ontario hydro but like all Indigenous affairs, this matter is also complicated. Please be patient as I explain something that is dear to my heart and has the potential to negatively impact all Canadians as well as First Nations. I’m taking a leap of faith that Miller’s personal experience with Mohawks and the Canadian Forces will enable him to see where I’m coming from and make the vitriolic blowback from all sides worth the risk to put my hand up (original / archive).

 

Full Disclosure

 

As for my disclosure, I was once engaged to a Mohawk hereditary chief’s grandson. It was nearly half my lifetime ago and our relationship began around the time of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw decision, that established Indigenous rights and title for the Wet’suwet’en people (original / archive). For the sake of respect and privacy, I will refer to my ex-partner as “EM”.

 

That relationship lasted for five years and prior to meeting EM, I had grown up in foster care with several Indigenous girls, who outnumbered Caucasian Crown Wards by at least two-to-one. I’m familiar with the most intimate details about their time in protective care and the way those situations are now portrayed by adults, advocates, newspapers, and much of government is utterly abhorrent. Over the past four decades I’ve seen the many ways our democratic system dehumanizes their struggles, to be little more than statistics and ones that only count after they are gone. But during those tender years in foster care together, there was no apparent racism to confront because we were all part of a sisterhood that bonded deeper than skin colour or either of our cultures. We were also too young to recognize the historic and societal racism that caused their family breakdowns.

 

Needless to say, my time with EM would be an incredible learning experience for both of us. Although EM barely escaped foster care in an extension of the Sixties Scoop (arguably it still happens today), he did suffer abuse that plagued his identity and led to numbing with substances on his journey to making peace with the past. I will not break confidence to describe his ordeal and my intent is not to shame anyone, but the polite terms for inter-generational trauma are a compounding factor in suffering from it.

 

As EM and I entered the adult world we both had to learn about racism. It was only then that I discovered the true identity of my country, in contrast to everything I was taught about Canada in school. In the left-leaning city of Hamilton, Ontario and seat of the provincial NDP leader, we were kicked out of restaurants for being a bi-racial couple, along with my toddler son. We were denied the ‘privilege’ of renting movies from certain convenience stores, and followed around in shopping malls that frequently ended with security guards wanting to search us for suspected theft. The majority of stores denied his ‘Indian’ status tax card and in one dispute about its legality, the police were called to have us removed from Sears. Once the police were called because I needed to use a bathroom at a sports complex and I wasn’t welcome to enter due to my ‘dirty Indian’ companion. The police always told us they agreed it wasn’t fair, but they had to enforce private business rules and we should take our complaints to the brick wall known as government.

 

Walking down the street together with a baby wagon in tow, we were regularly confronted with racist slurs from all manner of Canadians. I was the target as often as EM and attacks from foreign exchange students were particularly confounding. Racism was more common than acceptance, so when younger people with linguistic accents put us down it stuck out like a sore thumb. For years I wondered if relations were this volatile because of our close proximity to the Six Nations reserve, but a lifetime of experience that was enriched by the internet proved location had nothing to do with it.

 

EM knew this would happen in Hamilton, though he was unprepared for the racism we’d have to deal with on his reserve as well. His mother was incredibly supportive of us, but the same wasn’t true of nearly anyone else. When EM proposed to me at Six Nations on a visit for Christmas Eve, his family was disgruntled that a hereditary chief’s grandson would consider marrying a white woman. They felt the Mohawk warrior bloodline had to remain pure and they were incensed beyond belief that EM would give his mother’s ring to me. They further warned that I couldn’t live with him on the reserve and if he was making a choice to be with me, EM would have to abandon his Indigenous claim and basically become a Caucasian. On a couple of visits warning shots were fired in our general direction as a more forceful statement of disapproval. Thankfully I grew up with farming heritage so it didn’t scare the wits out of me.

 

Growth spurts can be painful and neither of us was comfortable, but as tragic love stories go, it was us against the world together. I consoled him, he consoled me, and the blindness of our youth caused us to believe that we could educate others about how to coexist. I enjoyed learning the details about his culture and the Two Row Wampum so much, that I encouraged EM to be heard in my Caucasian world by participating in venues such as elections and the long-form census. He gave crucial input for my letters to various authorities that explained the threats and consequences of our system to Indigenous relations. Little did I know how badly I was harming him by projecting my identity onto his, when his was in absolute crisis. Little could I appreciate the legal claims of the Two Row Wampum as an original treaty that purportedly granted sovereignty, over folktales and the way Caucasians approach Indigenous peoples as some sort of mystical entity (original / archive).

 

At the time of the Wet’suwet’en’s Delgamuukw case, the government still referred to “Indian Affairs”, but I knew from EM that “Indians are from India and Christopher Columbus was lost when he discovered the Americas”. It was funny to us then but more than twenty years later, his people are still governed by the Indian Act that hasn’t been updated to reflect our geography. I wasn’t even old enough to grasp that calling all brown people Indians was a racist slur against India in the same breath. Before the widespread use of internet, Gen X and Baby Boomers were confined to growing up myopically with whatever our televisions and governments told us.

 

I also knew from EM long ago about the division between First Nations band councils and their inherent incompatibility with the system of hereditary chiefs. After all, this was EM’s legacy to protect in a bloodline hierarchy that he nearly abandoned to be united with me. In a Caucasian nutshell, I was his Meghan and he was my Harry. (I mean no offence to Indigenous readers and I ask that they accept me as a white person, speaking to a predominantly white audience, in white terms they’ll find relatable. I might make small errors but my intentions and respect are genuine.)

 

EM never stopped complaining about Six Nations and Mohawk elected chiefs from a number of different angles that are paramount to resolving the rail blockades occurring today. I don’t claim to know all their grievances and this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s what I learned from EM that was exacerbated by the landmark Delgamuukw court decision at the beginning of our relationship.

 

Elected chiefs are an affront to most Indigenous tribes, or at least the families of clan leaders who became displaced by the imposition of colonial government over their way of life. Those who wish to remain true to their traditional ways call First Nations elected representatives “Indian agents” in the most derogatory sense. EM viewed band councils as sellouts who became an extension of the oppressive colonial government that’s lied to them for hundreds of years. For this reason it’s extraordinary that Jody Wilson-Raybould offered to mediate the current Wet’suwet’en dispute, because she was part of that illegitimate First Nations structure in the eyes of hereditary supporters who are now protesting across the country (original / archive).

 

I haven’t spoken with EM in more than a decade, but I’m positive that Jody Wilson-Raybould is one of the most inappropriate people to negotiate this situation. She may want to be the second coming of Joseph Brant for colonial history books, but the traditional narrative doesn’t favour Brant in the same way that Caucasians do.

 

Although the former attorney general claims to champion UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), Jody Wilson-Raybould abandoned her own effort to implement these measures within the Department of Justice upon exiting that position. It was her most important work that she never bothered to mention and neglected to defend when Michael Wernick made it an issue during the SNC Lavalin affair (original / archive).

 

Given the importance of understanding Mohawk and hereditary history to resolve the blockades, I strongly advise studying a basic background at the very least, to be able to gain one’s bearings. For that purpose I will link three Wikipedia entries that assist with an overview. I accept that Wikipedia is no authority and it’s subject to biased edits, but there is no comparable example of an overview on a single page with references. Readers are further encouraged to visit the copious reference links to original materials and mentally note all the times there is conflicting or absent information, due to the extermination of Indigenous languages and cultural history. Early and continuous efforts to force the assimilation of Indigenous tribes has a longstanding impact that undermines even their ability to legally defend their rights today. What’s clear through Wikipedia is the severity of that destruction and how it’s impeding the current reconciliation effort, but to its credit there is ample explanation of many of the points I will be touching on.

#1. Six Nations of the Grand River (original / archive)

#2. Iroquois/Haudenosaunee Confederacy (original / archive)

#3. Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (original / archive)

 

The next parts may offend my Indigenous friends and I apologize, but some of the Mohawks the government must negotiate with are direct relatives of EM. Therefore explaining EM’s point of view as cautiously as possible can illuminate some of the sticking points that Canadians don’t understand. All they see are court injunctions, either opposed or supported, and my colleagues in the Canadian media industry who keep pushing the government for an unreasonable and imaginary timeline to gripe about. Everyone wants publicity for their ‘hot take’ and this callous behaviour couldn’t be more damaging to sorting out one of the greatest problems facing our entire country (original / archive).

 

I warned about this during the federal election and despite my article going viral, it was quickly forgotten since the votes were tabulated. Now there’s more context and rail blockades to force everyone to do their homework, because failure to resolve the Wet’suwet’en dispute from a functional perspective will result in a domino effect that ripples across Ontario, Quebec, and the main artery of all Canadian energy, shipping, and transportation points. That means the business community will need to listen carefully too. This issue isn’t a simple matter of accommodating hereditary chiefs. Bullying won’t resolve this and neither will greasing anyone’s palms with a bit of extra cash or favours. The way business consults with Indigenous tribes is at stake and the ability of Canada to conduct business as a contiguous nation.

 

To drive the point home, here is a map of all 630+ Indigenous reserves in Canada. We can’t weave any national infrastructure around them and they can’t establish entirely sovereign services without going through colonial territory as well.

 

Story continues below…

Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

Time with EM taught me there are deeper divisions between First Nations band councils and hereditary leadership beyond the legal legitimacy of either to govern their nations. When one sees the other as a traitor to the people, negative words and actions ensue that have now been compounding for several decades and generations.

 

In EM’s case a different family took the helm of elected band council and this resulted in discrimination against EM and much of his family. The elected first family had running water, a paved driveway, new vehicles, and a newly built house; whereas EM’s family didn’t receive funding for running water, sanitation, or insulation, let alone a new structure. When we visited the home of his hereditary chief grandfather (deceased, RIP) we had to urinate in a bucket and the disparity between homes was visibly apparent while driving through neighbourhood streets. Some families were evidently prosperous and others were treated like second class citizens, depending on their relationships with band council. Eventually as EM’s grandmother grew older, she was forced into a rental accommodation within the City of Brantford. She had to leave the reserve because it became too hard to do maintenance tasks, like emptying the feces bucket far enough away from the garden and children’s play area.

 

It was hard for me to comprehend at the time, but as the years passed there were ample photos on social media of Indigenous families from across the country who are wrestling with similar issues. I always ask permission to share their content when it crosses my path because I don’t want to objectify or exploit their struggles. But every time it touches me deeply and I’ve experienced this degradation as a firsthand witness. I’ve seen what we’ve done to them and how badly they must fight to keep their dignity intact. They don’t run to the news with their stories and photos because it would weaken their position with government. Canadians already treat Indigenous peoples like second class citizens and revealing the reality of a third class can be too demeaning to recover from.

 

If you need a glaring example then consider Attawapiskat and what becomes of those who challenge the third class phenomenon. It invites scrutiny and blame, the opposite of reconciliation. It can result in third-party fiscal management that revokes Indigenous authority over the First Nation in question. During eras of Conservative government there can be extensive campaigns to undermine and emotionally destroy Indigenous leaders. The political right-wing absolves itself of wrongdoing and twists the narrative to accuse Indigenous leaders of stealing or hoarding the tribe’s (non-existent) riches (original / archive).

 

In fact, the previous Harper government went so far as to delegitimize First Nations by pitting off-reserve Indigenous populations against the families that remained. That was the purpose in naming Patrick Brazeau to the senate, to elevate the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples above the Assembly of First Nations. That was also the alleged purpose behind the controversial Wobtegwa Métis Nation (bi-racial), that was accused of diluting the Indigenous population with colonizers and the threat of overlapping land claims with legitimate Mi’kmaq to oust them from the region (original / archive).

 

The Métis themselves will complain of being treated like third class citizens, in comparison to full-blooded tribes. A few years ago I was forced to witness Métis contributors being banned from Idle No More groups, by a small handful of overzealous social media administrators. In the minds of many, the Métis are to First Nations what the Muggles are to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. The original Métis peoples from the prairies further decry other Métis claims that arise in Eastern Canada as impostors.

 

These divisions represent a paradox that occurs frequently when any oppressed demographics are kept in poverty. They may wind up standing on each other as a means of getting out, when everyone is really fighting for the ability just to feed their own children. The Conservative Harper government thrived on exploiting that human condition and it wasn’t pretty.

 

But for as much as it hurt EM to see band council homes thriving, it’s not due to an excess of First Nation riches like right-wing colonials have tried to convince him. The unvarnished truth is there isn’t enough to go around because Indigenous trust funds, of their own money, are controlled by the government and released in dribbles as if all Indigenous peoples are foster kids in perpetuity. This is an illness that impairs the colonial mindset in all political parties, exacerbated by extensive misinformation that suggests First Nations operate with colonial taxpayer handouts (original / archive).

 

When families on the reserve have to be prioritized there are winners and losers. Naturally the most popular who are closest to the purse strings will benefit before their perceived enemies, and sometimes this dynamic develops between elected band council and hereditary leadership that has oftentimes opposed them. No elected leader of any population will ration a nation’s income equally among its citizens. Even Bernie Sanders wouldn’t propose this type of extreme socialism in a capitalist society, because it would obliterate the incentive to be successful. But this is one of the ways Canadians contribute to dividing tribes like the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk Nations, by keeping the leash so short that their people aren’t treated equally within the same reservation.

 

In my early twenties everything EM said was gospel because he was my only source of Indigenous political information. I fell into the trap of division that plagues First Nations and remains at the centre of the Wet’suwet’en dispute that has spilled across Canada with an ultimatum to take one side or the other. This same division is used to split the left and it does so with alarming speed and efficacy. The left says, “protest” and the right says, “lock them up”. The left says, “environment” and the right says, “jobs”. All the while each side points at the middle and blames the Liberals for attempting to find balance and coexistence in the present day. The outcome is usually silencing the moderates and completely losing sight of Indigenous equality. So long as they’re kept unequal to one another Canada can keep squabbling and release the government from its duty to make them whole again, which will take more time than money to readjust our relationship with 630+ nations. This situation will be further compounded by the views of new political party leaders, inexperienced or opportunistic members of parliament, and partisan changes in government.

 

That’s hardly the only source of division that confronts our Indigenous neighbours. I also learned from EM about the impact of religion. I can only speak to Mohawk history but it does appear relevant because they’re the ones engaged in rail blockades. For the most part everyone is respectful of Christianity and it’s not a battle that non-believers invite because it can split the Mohawk Nation as a whole and reach straight into their families.

 

Some of EM’s family is religious while some of it is loyal to traditional spirituality, and others do their best to incorporate both belief systems. But it does present another source of division that represents yet another historical injury, that persists with damaging inner relations to this day. This was plainly apparent in a Globe and Mail editorial about the Wet’suwet’en, that was penned by an idyllic and Christian Indigenous professor (original / archive). He was not at all careful about the arrival of religion and its forced implementation through tortuous brainwashing in the residential school system (original / archive). Some of them accepted, some of them rejected, and it will continue to cause a ruckus in some of their families with every passing Easter and Christmas.

 

The Mohawk Nation was caught first in the battle between Canada and the United States before our countries formally existed. Their natural home spanned both sides of the eventual border but famine, smallpox, and consistent wars for land acquisition eventually pushed them back from what became upstate New York. Then battles ensued within the early stages of pre-Canada between the British and French, in what became Ontario and Quebec. If you’re lucky you might have spent one week in elementary school grazing over the 1600 and 1700’s, when none of this information would have impressed upon you. Most Canadians have never been taught the actual history of Indigenous tribes in the formation of our country and immigrants are entirely in the dark about the gratitude owed to them.

 

The Mohawk Nation in particular was a roving warrior tribe and they were split between Quebec and Ontario. Each allied the respective French or British forces and mostly kept a pact not to war with their own people despite the colonizers’ expectations. They concerned themselves with defeating competing tribes to become the dominant merchant in the lucrative fur trade business. But with the French came Catholic Jesuits and with the British came Anglican (Protestant) missionaries. Both played a significant role in colonizing Indigenous peoples and one of only twelve Royal Chapels in the entire world was constructed on their Grand River reserve in Ontario. That Grand River reserve (known as Six Nations) also contained the oldest, continuously operated residential school in Canada.

 

So EM’s ancestors were split by location, split by religion, and split from their families as children, to be violently conditioned against their culture. EM’s mother had to run away with her baby to the City of Hamilton to protect him from being taken – and that was as the hereditary chief’s daughter. She was additionally ridiculed by members of her family for leaving and taking up residence in a white man’s Canada. As far as I can tell, she couldn’t win for losing no matter what she did and I respect her unreservedly for making those difficult choices. I was too young to fully appreciate the ramifications when I knew her and for that I extend my apology.

 

EM’s childhood was then spent between the reserve and the city. He grappled with identity issues upon becoming an adult, but no one knew who or what to blame exactly. She bore the brunt of it and so did his mind, whenever he’d relapse into substance abuse to kill the pain. I did my best to support and encourage him, but eventually the effects of inter-generational trauma can cripple the best intentions of most people and extinguish the trust needed for recovery. I cannot emphasize enough that “inter-generational trauma” is a nice phrase Caucasians use to whitewash the awful details that impact entire families, entire tribes, and entire nations. Although I never caused this harm, I’m still sorry that Canadian voters don’t know how to stop the excruciating oppression of Indigenous peoples.

 

Adding insult to injury, the Ontario-based branch of the Mohawk Nation is split between the Grand River (Six Nations) and the Bay of Quinte (Tyendinaga). This happened because they lost traditional lands throughout the American, British, and French wars and these two parcels were the replacements, granted by colonial masters for assisting in battle at the incredible cost of their homes and formerly large presence in New York. But even rewards were backhanded, in that the new locations had to be settled and they would need to learn subsistence farming in harsh conditions to survive.

 

Joseph Brant And The Haudenosaunee Confederacy

 

Joseph Brant, a celebrated Indigenous leader and Canadian folklore hero, further divided the Mohawks at the Six Nations reserve. I learned a little about Brant again in elementary school, but the greatest lessons were taught to me by EM and the hereditary leadership point of view (according to EM and a selection of Canadian historians).

 

Whereas Canadians generally respect Brant and many landmarks reference his influence in establishing Southern Ontario (the politically coveted 905 region), EM saw this Mohawk giant as a sellout who ultimately betrayed his people. Joseph Brant wasn’t an Indigenous chief, but he did become a ‘war chief’ and paid army captain for the British. He studied at a missionary school (willingly, in comfort, entirely different from the residential schools that befell the Mohawk Nation) and proudly supported the Church of England. Brant also dedicated part of his life’s work to translating Anglican scripture into the Mohawk language.

 

During luxurious trips to Britain he became a Freemason. Brant was also a master of the scorched earth tactic and he burned several villages to the ground, including some that belonged to his Indigenous allies in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (aka Iroquois Confederacy, Five Nations and/or Six Nations). When Joseph Brant was flexing his muscles he participated in what can be described as the genocide of fellow tribes, whether they were friend or foe. He did it for land when the Mohawks over-hunted beavers in their own territory and he did it for colonial wars. Brant even killed one of his sons and kept slaves to service his mansion, while benefiting from riches bestowed to him by the Crown that elevated him above hereditary chiefs in his own tribe. One of his wives was a prisoner of war who was forced to assimilate with the Iroquois, before she was gifted to Brant to bear children. Tyendinaga is named after him (Brant’s traditional name), where the Mohawk hereditary chiefs are currently engaged in protests.

 

Although I’m trying to form the basis of the Wet’suwet’en dispute, it’s quite important to grasp the history of Joseph Brant and why the Mohawks are intervening in that situation. What’s unfolding now is reminiscent of Brant and the tactics he employed are being somewhat emulated. It’s as if someone took a page from his legacy to breathe new life into an old mission, that could potentially see strategic lands along the Canada-US border acquired by a Republican faction by way of Aboriginal title, hereditary control, and a bit of manipulation. It sounds far fetched, but stay with me.

 

Joseph Brant is the immediate cause of a modern Canadian land claim dispute brought by the Mohawk Nation. The Tyendinaga reserve was granted to Brant, but it was done by the Crown purchasing that land from a different First Nation. There are questions if that tribe gave its free and informed consent. The Six Nations reserve on the Grand River was also granted to Brant, as thanks and payment for his service in the British army. It’s at the latter location that he kept African-American slaves (original / archive).

 

More important is the fact that Brant sold large parcels of the Six Nations reserve to colonial settlers from New York. He tried to recreate his childhood with German, Irish, Scottish, and British friends who were his neighbours in the United States, but lost their own properties during the American Revolution. It’s a sordid affair that deeply altered the treaty and cost the Haudenosaunee people much of their land, including what became the colonized Town of Brantford. Today the Mohawk want their land back or proper payment for it and this claim is complicated by a scandal that confirms they were defrauded for much of this asset by the British, prior to the establishment of Canada. It’s also not their traditional lands since time immemorial, but rather a replacement for them. As a result, modern Canada was left with perhaps the most complex and contentious land claim that remains unresolved (original / archive).

 

EM blamed the Crown for taking away his land, but history puts some onus on Joseph Brant for betraying their interests and scholars debate if the responsibility lies with Canada or Britain to repay the defrauded amount. Indigenous scholars also debate Brant’s legal authority, given that he wasn’t a hereditary chief with the capacity to enter into treaties or land sales within the traditional system at the time. This is particularly troublesome, in light of the same dispute happening today within the Wet’suwet’en Nation and others.

 

EM was also in his early twenties when he shared this oral history with me and I couldn’t know if his viewpoint became more informed over the next two decades. What I do know is that after the Crown tried to stop Joseph Brant from selling Indigenous land to colonial settlers, he tried to play Canadians against the Americans, as well as a plot to play Canadians (British) against the French, in an effort to benefit himself first and foremost. Brant attempted to upend peace treaties between major countries by agitating to reignite wars, and sell his allegiance to any foreign power that would add to his bank account more than pre-Canada had already done. This is after he acquired colonial-type mansions and turned his back on Indigenous peoples, refusing to assist them in tribal wars when they had previously assisted him.

 

People have a way of romanticizing the past, but the details about Joseph Brant’s legacy include treachery and even the murder of non-combatant civilians and children. He embraced colonial settlers and betrayed the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on more than one occasion. He was called “Monster Brant” by some, for his depraved tactics in war such as the scorched earth policy. As with any historical figure there are disputes about certain points and he did good things for the Mohawk Nation, by keeping them alive and prosperous in the course of his lifetime. No one is all good or all bad, but Canadians are woefully unfamiliar with the negative aspects because our school system doesn’t teach them.

 

As I continue to bring these issues to the present day, I strongly advise reading something about Brant’s history to be able to understand what Canada is faced with. I’m including a link to his Wikipedia page, again with caution that it’s not an authority and it’s subject to biased edits. But the reference section contains an abundance of links to original material from historians and war memorials, and skimming through this single page will prepare you better than skipping over it. Some of Joseph Brant’s history is in the process of being repeated because Canadians have neglected to study and resolve it (original / archive).

 

UNDRIP Based On Two Row Wampum

 

Few Canadians know the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is predicated on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Mohawk Nation (original / archive).

 

Before the United Nations existed there was the League of Nations, that Mohawks lobbied for membership and recognition as a sovereign nation. Tyendinaga and Six Nations asserted the Two Row Wampum as the original treaty between the Haudenosaunee, Britain, and subsequently Canada. They argued that governors and the Department of Indian Affairs couldn’t override that agreement, because it was a nation-to-nation contract that recognized the Haudenosaunee as an ally and not as British subjects.

 

From EM I learned the Two Row Wampum to mean something like ‘two boats travelling in the same river, with a vow not to steer each other’s ship’. In many ways it guided the way we approached our relationship, from respecting our different belief systems to splitting household chores as equals and paying common bills. I could get behind that ideology because it made so much sense and it treated me more fairly than any boyfriend that came before him. EM’s struggles with identity and substance abuse caused our union to be on-again-off-again, but he never lost sight of the Two Row Wampum and trying to get his boat in the parallel position. To us it was less of a treaty than a philosophical approach to life.

 

But the Two Row Wampum is a political instrument designed by the Haudenosaunee people and I don’t mean to take away from that. What I’m trying to say is this treaty represents an Indigenous law that the Mohawks have never abandoned. It is so ingrained throughout every generation that regardless of one’s path, they do not lose sight of it. It is the founding principle for their relationship to Canada that would become adopted by the United Nations as a matter of human rights. It’s a beautiful concept, at least until it’s subject to government consideration when the issue of sovereignty arises.

 

Therefore I was not surprised when the Mohawks of Tyendinaga asserted the Two Row Wampum amid the current standoffs at transportation junctions in Ontario and Quebec. I even note that descendants of Joseph Brant are speaking with media to inform Canadians about their Indigenous legal justification. Anyone adhering to the Two Row Wampum can’t accept court injunctions from Canada as having legal force on their lands. Nor can they abide by any colonial police force attempting to set foot on the reservation as a sovereign nation, in their long held opinions and interpretation (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive 3. original / archive).

 

A particular sticking point for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the history of UNDRIP and how today mirrors their thwarted application to the League of Nations almost identically. Back in the 1920’s there were political hijinks that tilted the process, along with interference by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to subdue their aspirations (original / archive).

 

The Mohawk people have never given up, nor will they. And not only is UNDRIP based on the Two Row Wampum, but so is the United States Constitution as acknowledged by the US senate (original / archive). The only problem is that both provide for human and political rights, but neither extend full sovereignty to Indigenous nations within state, provincial, and/or international borders. The original Two Row Wampum does.

 

Contrary to wisdom from the global conservative movement that demands complete assimilation of Indigenous peoples, implementing UNDRIP is the only way to avoid these head-to-head confrontations over ultimate sovereignty. Rest assured that work on Indigenous rights at the United Nations has as much to do with maintaining national security as it does with treating anyone with respect.

 

I encourage Indigenous readers to inspect my prior investigation into Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Indigenous Rights Framework (based on UNDRIP). It was opposed by Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice, in addition to figureheads who come from the old INAC and balked at this reconciliation effort (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

I would suggest to everyone (Indigenous and colonial) that they’re unaware of their own blind spots and approaching this situation without a realistic long term goal and strategy could prove costly. These standoffs are not ad hoc dilemmas and there are no piecemeal magic solutions.

 

Moreover, revival of a push to assert sovereignty through the Mohawk’s Two Row Wampum and the Wet’suwet’en’s Delgamuukw case is being driven by Gen X, now in its prime and assuming positions of leadership. If there is an inability to repair the fractured relationship between Indigenous peoples and colonial governments at this time, the problem will rise again through Gen Y and Gen Z, just as it’s dogged every generation that kept us in this holding pattern since the late 1700’s. Colonials might not know their history, but Indigenous people sure do.

 

Reluctance and foot-dragging might have also been possible to avoid the hard lifting in earlier times, but procrastination can’t work in a digitally connected world that influences and organizes.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

That concludes the relevant background on the Tyendinaga and Six Nations Mohawks. I’m sure there are details missing because the establishment of Canada, the United States, and Indigenous reserves can’t possibly fit in one entry. I regret that portion had to be written from a personal perspective due to my conflict of interest, but I took the time to explain because those Indigenous protesters are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of anyone’s sentiments about the Wet’suwet’en crisis. I don’t know if EM is participating in a blockade but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was there, because he did attend Oka. Whether or not EM is present, his family is part of the negotiation process due to positions they hold. They also deserve to be humanized and any person engaging with them needs to be mindful of the serious damage caused by racism and betrayal that ever led us to this flash point.

 

In the end EM and I parted ways, due to massive historical wrongs and consistent clashes between our cultures. Eventually I came to see that love for love’s sake is not enough to heal either of our nations and that no two people can solve the deeply embedded divisions that dominate the entire ecosystem we found ourselves trying to navigate. This requires a concerted team effort on all sides that is committed to lasting peace.

 

As I learned from EM, you don’t have to be the person staring down the barrel of a gun to be harmed by the never-ending dissension. If you heard the slurs they have to put up with on a daily basis, it would change your entire opinion about Canada. I continue to wish him and his family well, regardless of how I may be cast by activists from all corners. For the record, EM was a professionally trained chef but due to racism that pervades all things, he was unable to get an apprenticeship to finish his red seal certification. Dejected and continuously injured by my colonial world, he then turned his focus to becoming a police officer to help Indigenous youths avoid the pitfalls that come with facing a Canada that confronts them with hatred every time they step off the reserve.

 

In the meantime, hereditary chiefs, First Nations, and Canadians will need to decide what UNDRIP and nation-to-nation means in this country. At some point all 630+ nations will need to be invited to the same table because the ‘divide and conquer’ approach is set to backfire spectacularly until we get this right.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

During The Federal Election

 

During the most recent federal election (Oct 2019), the Mohawk Nation came to my attention. I published an investigation about foreign interference from the fake news project led by the Buffalo Chronicle. Surprisingly it revealed connections to political trickster, Warren Kinsella, as well as American Republicans that include Roger Stone. But the most amazing development was that it connected to the hereditary chiefs that oversee Six Nations and Tyendinaga.

 

There were plenty of reports citing the Buffalo Chronicle for fake news attacks on Justin Trudeau. All of mainstream media attempted to warn audiences against believing anything published by that source. But they didn’t dig deep enough to investigate the publisher who has these contentious ties to political operatives. They also didn’t discover the Buffalo Chronicle was posting articles about hereditary chiefs for the same duration as their campaign against Justin Trudeau (pre-writ and throughout the writ, including voting day).

 

What it boils down to is an alt-right plot to exploit the legal void that was created by the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw decision, regarding the Wet’suwet’en’s confirmation of Aboriginal title (that neglected to define how the land title could be exercised, or by whom). The characters behind the Buffalo Chronicle published a detailed plan for what amounts to a hostile takeover of Six Nations’ land and resources, by asserting hereditary superiority over elected band council and claim to sovereign nationhood with respect to Aboriginal title.

 

It’s a re-imagined battle from the time of Joseph Brant, involving some descendants of the original rival clans. Except the modern version involves a plan to gain control of the transportation and energy corridor from Southern Ontario to Quebec (encompassing the entire interior Great Lakes region), and US President Donald Trump’s cronies with their fingerprints on this endeavour.

 

Cutting through the implausibility is the fact that a Buffalo Chronicle backer, who is loyal to Trump and best friends with Roger Stone, already gained control of Niagara Falls tourism on the Canadian side by exploiting our legal and political systems. The same people have their eye on manoeuvres to gain control of hydro-electric energy from the Niagara River. The propaganda they published about Six Nations and hereditary chiefs involves hostile manipulation of Indigenous band councils to get a piece of Hydro One as well.

 

My article about the Buffalo Chronicle went viral barely ahead of voting day.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

There are a few updates since that major investigation:

 

The Six Nations free press was firebombed immediately after the federal election and the plan for Indigenous land in Canada is flexing through the current standoffs, as it was similarly proposed by well-connected Republicans. I am not assigning blame or suggesting collusion, but my Indigenous friends will need to determine what’s happening. I hope no one wants to see Indigenous journalists harmed and this was a serious act of violence that could have easily resulted in death (original / archive).

 

The Mohawk warriors who are supporting hereditary chiefs are also being co-opted by a group of anarchists that appear to be based in the United States. Many interest groups are attempting to piggyback the Indigenous sovereignty cause, but this one is particularly organized, it operates anonymously, and it’s funded by untraceable Bitcoin. They’ve begun publishing about the Two Row Wampum as inspired colonials, in their efforts to spark a “revolution” in Canada. Our Indigenous friends will need to be cognizant and clear if the Mohawk Nation condones this association, because Canada and the United States may consider this element to be a threat to national security that has the potential to quash Indigenous aspirations should either country respond from a defence perspective as the right-wing has been urging (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

It came to my attention that Warren Kinsella was further employed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (hereditary chiefs), adding another layer of curiosity to his relationship with the Buffalo Chronicle, the plot against Six Nations, and the current standoff at Tyendinaga (archive only, original is now password protected). It is therefore important to mention his potential conflict-of-interest, having worked for INAC (Indian Affairs) in a government capacity, as well as First Nations and Mohawk hereditary chiefs (original / archive). Even that detail is reminiscent of Joseph Brant’s legacy and the amount of parallels in this whole saga is truly remarkable.

 

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Source: Daisy Consulting Group (original / archive)

 

Untangling Truth About Wet’suwet’en

 

Regarding the Wet’suwet’en dispute and untangling the vast amounts of misinformation, we should start with how the Coastal GasLink agreement began to unravel.

 

In 2014 the Christy Clark government issued an environmental assessment certificate with approval for the project to proceed. This was after Indigenous consultations occurred, according to standards set by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). It also took the Supreme Court of Canada decision for the Tsilhqot’in Nation into consideration, that was released before the EA assessment completed. For all intents and purposes, the government believes it performed proper due diligence and it was an early adopter of the carbon tax to mitigate emissions (original PDF).

 

As part of that process, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs submitted a 122-page rejection, that was in turn rejected by the BC government (original PDF).

 

The hereditary chiefs listed numerous reasons for declining the Coastal GasLink project that include:

 

A demand to resolve the Wet’suwet’en land claim before any environmental assessment could be performed

 

For those who are unfamiliar with the land claim terrain in British Columbia, there are several that overlap each another by different nations. Resolving one means resolving many and sorting out the boundaries of various nations. This can’t happen overnight, but arguably there should be more progress since the 1997 Delgamuukw decision that pertains to Aboriginal title.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment process formally include recognition of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ ownership and control of the Aboriginal title

 

This is an inappropriate venue to negotiate title claims and this appears to be an attempt at establishing a backdoor, to circumvent elected band council and tribal citizens from having any stake in the claim.

 

A claim that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are the rightful owners of the Aboriginal title because they were the moving parties in the Delgamuukw case

 

Although they were indeed the judicial applicants, I understood the Delgamuukw decision to apply to Indigenous nations and not individual people (evidence will be addressed in a subsequent section). The case was between the Wet’suwet’en and government, not the hereditary chiefs versus their citizens and band council.

 

A demand that hereditary control of Aboriginal title means the Wet’suwet’en chiefs have the right to complete sovereignty and veto of any projects

 

The reason given was a misinterpretation of the Delgamuukw decision, arguing that it established tribal sovereignty above and beyond Canadian law when it did no such thing. This was another attempt to nullify the elected band council as illegitimate in the Wet’suwet’en territory through the environmental assessment process and not a court of law (original / archive).

 

A demand that the BC government must challenge the hereditary chiefs legally to establish any constitutional authority over their land title

 

As far as I understand, Indigenous tribes possess Aboriginal title and unique rights within the constitution, but they still fall under the Crown’s jurisdiction with respect to land expropriation. Careful consideration and concessions must be made should the government need to infringe on those Section 35 rights afforded to Indigenous peoples.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment acknowledge the hereditary chiefs’ place in the governance structure

 

Several arguments are made to delegitimize the Wet’suwet’en band council as having no authority. This is another example, but it doesn’t hold with Indigenous experts that indicate it’s the hereditary chiefs who lack any recognized legal power (the Delgamuukw precedent is dissected in a subsequent section). Given the countless disputes about this very issue, it seems pertinent for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to release a statement addressing the Delgamuukw decision to resolve this impasse and misinformation that is wreaking havoc with Indigenous identities and leadership (original / archive).

 

A claim that all waterways passing through the Wet’suwet’en territory belong to the hereditary chiefs

 

This is an unrealistic demand because waterways also pass through colonial land and other Indigenous nations.

 

A claim that each of the 38 clans (Houses) within the Wet’suwet’en territory must receive individual environmental assessments specific to their exact locations in the same geographical area, followed by a claim that Indigenous consultation didn’t occur until that demand is met

 

If this rule was adopted, no environmental assessment process could be completed within decades. The goal seems to be gaining the ability for every family to veto an industrial project and/or for every family to be individually compensated in separate deals with any corporation that passes through the territory. Logistically this could make any development impossible due to individual holdouts and cost 38 times more for any business with Wet’suwet’en peoples. Don’t forget, the same rules would have to apply to the installation of solar farms and windmills.

 

A claim that Coastal GasLink must provide an inventory of every plant and tree used by the Wet’suwet’en people to fulfill a proper environmental assessment

 

There is no principle to back this up in any provincial, federal, or Wet’suwet’en law. Even environmental scientists can’t count every living thing in a region. This is a vexatious demand that can’t be met, likely concocted to deny the project.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink must rehabilitate all waterways that carry fish consumed by the Wet’suwet’en people, including damage from past naturally occurring landslides and over-fishing by colonial canneries since the 1950’s

 

This is another unrealistic request that has nothing to do with the project, nor would it succeed in a legal challenge.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink rehabilitate an old mine that belonged to an unrelated company because the Wet’suwet’en people weren’t compensated by the proper channels historically

 

Again, this has nothing to do with the project and TransCanada/TC Energy can’t be held responsible for corporations that operated in the area previously. It’s either an unflattering cash grab, or a reason to deny the project by making it impossible to meet their terms.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink mitigate widespread climate change, including rock acidification, ocean quality, fish populations, forest fires, historical logging, floods, and earthquakes

 

No government in the world has been able to do all these things and no single corporation could afford them or be held liable.

 

A demand for assessment of the cumulative effects posed by Euro-Canadian settlers over the past 150 years, also for each season

 

The legal terminology for this is ‘frivolous and vexatious’. While I agree these studies need to be done as part of a reconciliation effort, that duty doesn’t belong to Coastal GasLink or as a condition to approve any industrial projects.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment for Coastal GasLink take into consideration the historical wrongs suffered by the Wet’suwet’en people, including disease brought by settlers, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, racism, and residential schools

 

My heart goes out to them and I feel crass trying to write about it. I’m not an insensitive person and I did walk in their shoes to experience the pain firsthand. It’s apparent that healing is needed. It’s just that an environmental process isn’t the place to find it and Coastal GasLink is an inappropriate respondent. That hereditary chiefs would include this in an EA tells me the province should offer several long term counsellors. Surely they’re speaking in grief, among many other emotions that are the result of colonialism.

 

A claim that any access roads are unacceptable in the pristine wilderness, with this view supported by the Tsayu clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation

 

A few days ago an open letter to the hereditary chiefs was written by the Tsayu clan and published in the Vancouver Sun. It appears they’ve reconsidered their support and they accuse the chiefs of profiting from the Delgamuukw case in relation to logging, as they use the same argument to prevent young people from earning a living now that they’re comfortably retired. The letter continues to accuse dissenting chiefs of breaking Indigenous laws to manipulate the Coastal GasLink outcome. Ultimately it’s a plea to stop the hypocrisy that calls on tribal members for assistance and an honest respect for Wet’suwet’en traditions (original / archive).

 

Finally, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs reject the Coastal GasLink project because the company didn’t accept their alternate route through the McDonnell Lake area in the environmental consultations

 

This argument has been asserted by left-wing partisans, as well as the mainstream media, and some members of parliament. On February 16, 2020, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Green MP Paul Manley, and NDP negotiator Nathan Cullen all hit the circuit hard to misinform the public. Nearly all media outlets neglected to fact check their statements, preferring instead to produce fake news that tarred and feathered TransCanada/TC Energy and the federal Liberal government.

 

The common refrain was that Coastal GasLink ignored and disrespected the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. They claim the alternate route was declined because it would have cost $800 million more and delayed the project by a year. Some sources insinuated it was due to the proximity of colonial towns as well. Global News carried this propaganda (original / archive). The Globe and Mail carried this propaganda (original / archive). Only CBC News got it partially right, but limited bits of the correct information were buried at the end after the article reinforced the same inappropriate arguments (original / archive).

 

It was never possible for the Coastal GasLink pipeline to take the McDonnell Lake route, regardless of who it inconvenienced or the whopping addition to a final price tag. That space was already committed to the Pacific Northern Gas Looping Pipeline. The company has residential gas service that supplies the surrounding communities and it’s transported in a 12 inch pipe. An upgrade is in the works to twin that line with a second pipeline that is twice the size, with a 24 inch diameter to cover 525 kilometres (original / archive).

 

The Coastal GasLink commercial pipeline is 48 inches in diameter and there is nothing anyone could do to make it safe to run the three lines together. This could even raise liability issues between the two companies that PNG wouldn’t consent to, but on drone the rumours that this had something to do with disrespecting the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en. Elizabeth May and Nathan Cullen really pulled a fast one, but all this posturing has to stop because it’s preventing the facts from getting to the people who need them most. I’m just so sick and tired of seeing all the ways colonials look at Indigenous people as some kind of weapon to exploit for their causes.

 

Pertaining to accusations that hereditary chiefs broke Wet’suwet’en law, there appears to be some validity. The Tsayu clan went public with allegations and a local website posted supporting documents that outline the nation’s rules. It’s a scathing indictment of four male hereditary chiefs who stand accused of misogyny and illegally stripping three female hereditary chiefs of their titles, as punishment for supporting the Coastal GasLink project. Male chiefs who supported the women were also stripped of their titles in what’s being dubbed a hostile takeover of the Wet’suwet’en Nation (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive).

 

Technically that means Minister Bennett is negotiating a pipeline agreement and Aboriginal title rights with alleged criminals who stole that authority by holding the Wet’suwet’en people administratively hostage, according to traditional governance law. It’s expedient for the government but rest assured it will divide the community more, because colonials interfered and without legal justification, the Crown chose who holds the power over others in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. This same problem keeps recurring since the point of first contact (original / archive).

 

The further anyone digs, the issue only gets worse. The whole fiasco was initiated by Warner Naziel and his wife, Freda Huson. He laid claim to a hereditary chief title that does not belong to his clan and she was the spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en people of the Dark House clan. Together they set up the first protest camp to prevent Coastal GasLink workers from attending the construction site.

 

It was part of the hostile takeover that broke Wet’suwet’en law, because the Naziel family was already represented by a hereditary chief for their House. No clan is allowed to interfere with another family’s leadership or usurp it from another House. The hereditary title must be passed down within the same bloodline, but Warner Naziel stole the position from Sun House as a member of the Owl House clan. He was a replacement for one of the female chiefs who was illegally stripped of her title for supporting the pipeline project. So not only is the government negotiating with alleged criminals – they’re also supporting this social violence against the rightful female leaders (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Warner Naziel and Dark House have tried everything to prevent the pipeline from being built, against the overwhelming majority of Wet’suwet’en people who support it. He’s used hostile administrative force against women and led an encampment to cut down trees as well as set fires (in a wildfire zone), in the effort to defy a court order that already took into consideration the dispute about powers between hereditary and elected leadership. He’s also getting a divorce from his wife and manipulating media to spin his story by misinforming reporters about his hereditary status and alleged dubious actions (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

Dark House recently made headlines for obtaining a 30-day pause in construction due to a recall by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to provide more information. Because media hasn’t done its homework to figure out what’s going on, the headlines were presented as if the Coastal GasLink project did something wrong. An article addressing this by CBC News was predominantly filled with misinformation (original / archive).

 

The truth of the matter is that Dark House refused to participate with Coastal GasLink’s Indigenous consultation and they thought they could delay the process by refusing to respond to invitations and correspondence that were needed to perform a government assessment. But part of the regulatory process required the company to keep track of all its attempts and responses, so Coastal GasLink was able to prove that it fulfilled the duty-to-consult. A formal record was submitted to the EAO and the project received environmental approval because they did everything asked of them by the regulator and no one could force the Dark House clan to participate (1. original PDF, 2. original PDF).

 

It was only during the height of rail blockades that Warner Naziel’s (ex)wife complained to the EAO that Dark House wasn’t consulted, as a means of buying more time to delay the project and exploit violence that was spreading across the country. In the spirit of goodwill and reconciliation, the EAO and Coastal GasLink agreed to try one more time and on February 19, 2020 the environmental process was paused for 30-days to provide time for that communication.

 

A letter was sent to Dark House by the BC government that outlined the many ways Coastal GasLink complied with the environmental assessment. In very kind words it was communicated that several of the complaints lodged by Dark House were properly addressed before the approval was granted. The mitigation efforts were shared in the letter, along with numerous encouragements for Dark House to communicate with GasLink representatives. All the technical aspects were already underway and the only part left was this extension for Dark House to contribute its traditional knowledge and concerns for the healing centre that Coastal GasLink was always prepared to accommodate (original PDF).

 

It’s unclear and discouraging how that letter could be flagrantly misrepresented by the mainstream news. It was framed as hope the project could be stopped in the environmental process and that Coastal GasLink had run afoul with the regulator. Media deliberately concealed the letter from the article and took extreme liberties to portray it as some sort of private document that was obtained by an intrepid reporter. It was always available on the BC government website but that misinterpretation spread across all of social media like a virus intent to dis-inform the public, as well as negotiators and legislators (original / archive).

 

The hack jobs surrounding every facet of the Indigenous protests should become mandatory study material in journalism courses across Canada. It doesn’t matter which side or political persuasion, every last part of these Wet’suwet’en disputes have been severely misrepresented.

 

Still on a mission to set the record straight, Warner Naziel and his uncle filed a lawsuit against the federal government (based on the authority of stolen/fraudulent hereditary credentials). These two rogue chiefs are now being portrayed as the popular opinion in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. They won’t challenge the Coastal GasLink project in a proper legal venue. They won’t challenge the band council in a proper legal venue to test if the elected body can be declared illegitimate. They won’t pursue the Supreme Court for a decision to clarify who controls the Aboriginal title. But they did ante up to sue the feds for failing to meet targets within the non-binding Paris Agreement as a matter of constitutional obligation. It’s another frivolous claim that is guaranteed to fail and the only purpose is stalling the pipeline long enough to make the project too expensive to be viable. They’re also seeking to have energy projects cancelled across Canada retroactively (original / archive).

 

This disingenuous narrative is bolstered by a former BC treaty negotiator. The news is running with the word of Brian Domney, as if it’s gospel and he has any knowledge about sovereignty or constitutional law. The Wet’suwet’en Nation has been negotiating a land claim with British Columbia since 1997 and Domney worked on the file for the last seven years before retirement.

 

In articles that have gone viral with the misinformed left-wing, he claims the government knew it was hereditary chiefs who control the Aboriginal title all along. This is absolutely false and the Supreme Court of Canada decision will be dissected further on. Domney misrepresents that situation and accuses the provincial government of ‘shopping for Indians’, with racist implications that are meant to impugn them. He also reinforces the misconception that band councils lack the authority to sign agreements with industry (original / archive).

 

Opposing these few men who’ve taken the Wet’suwet’en Nation hostage are a greater number of women that include hereditary chiefs who claim the men are abusing their traditional tribal law. It caused them great pain to step forward and air the problems in their community, but things are so far out of control they felt obligated to correct the record (1. original / archive – Wet’suwet’en, 2. original / archive – Wet’suwet’en, 3. original / archive – Haisla, 4. original only – Skin Tyee, 5. original / archive – Witset).

 

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It’s a sorry reflection of Canada when matriarchs ask for help and everyone ignores them because the angry din of a few rogue men is preferable to honest women. The layers of exploitation against these fearless leaders are many, and they culminate with federal and provincial governments negotiating a deal with their oppressors in a desperate bid to keep colonial partisans and politicians happy.

 

This is not what reconciliation looks like and I’m stunned that Minister Bennett would capitulate to the men, after everything she absorbed during the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These matriarchs are just as capable of entering an agreement and nothing should have been negotiated in their illegally forced absence. The NDP and Green Party will also need to examine how they turned their backs on the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s legitimate hereditary chiefs who are women. Perhaps someone can explain to them how this arrangement meshes with UNDRIP.

 

Right-Wing Escalations

 

It’s hard to tell if Conservative parties across Canada are aware of the full implications of their adversarial behaviour in the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk disputes, or if they can only see in terms of an electoral cycle. In any event, their severely divisive and escalatory agendas should disqualify them from participating in negotiations about or between Indigenous and colonial governments, at least until they can get with the program (original / archive).

 

Although this is a highly partisan statement, it is not motivated by a partisan interest on my part. I’m speaking strictly to the futility of brutal assimilation policies that continue to be promoted by right-wing proponents, frequently resulting in the encouragement of systemic and vigilante violence.

 

Of all the measures needed, warfare is not one of them. Subjecting Indigenous residents to altercations, gun threats, and calls for vehicular manslaughter when they’ve already survived torture in residential school electric chairs is simply beyond the pale – so depraved that the only comparison is dictatorships in the Middle East.

 

Conservative parties used to be in lockstep with the Canadian business community, but their blatant racism toward the Indigenous plight has caused them to become tone deaf to that traditional base. Companies and even states are divesting from our economy due to the rise of technocracy that requires social license to operate. Partisans can bang their fists on the table however hard they please, but it can’t change the fact that larger corporations with the ability to invest also have entire departments dedicated to reputation management that are risk averse to blatant racism and violence.

 

Conservatives of every ilk can also deny this with a litany of excuses, but the proof is in the pudding that kept them out of government in the last federal election. It was theirs to lose and that’s exactly what they did, because CEO’s beyond the oil patch aren’t beholden to political masters at any cost. The pivot to hardcore social conservatism has come at an extreme cost to fiscal conservatism and nowadays there are few companies that would stand beside a Conservative leader to bear the brunt of this partisan-branded hatred. This behaviour can’t be justified to shareholders and that’s the bottom line.

 

It behooves right-wing partisans to take a look at what they’re selling and how that message is packaged, if they ever expect to be stably employed. The lack of a plan for climate change isn’t the only reason they had to campaign without traditional, high-powered endorsements in the last federal election. The following examples will serve as a mirror to demonstrate how they’re perceived by others.

 

Outgoing leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, believes the small group of American-led anarchists is responsible for denying Canadian prosperity. He blames Indigenous nations on the Canadian side for their cause. No matter what colonials do it must be the red man’s fault, including the policies of provinces that generate higher unemployment rates for his fellow white man.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Peter MacKay, endorsed physical confrontation by constituents against Indigenous supporters. As a former justice minister, he encouraged the public to meddle with a court injunction by taking the law into their own hands. After great backlash he deleted the controversial tweet, but proceeded to fundraise in the same vein (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Peter MacKay’s campaign manager, Alex Nuttall, conflated his religion with opposing Indigenous protests, in addition to shooting guns (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

After public intervention, the church was forced to denounce Alex Nuttall’s insinuation (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Erin O’Toole, proposes federal legislation to criminalize public protest without a court injunction. He claims to support the right to protest, just not anywhere the public will see it by Indigenous peoples. He would also revoke charitable status for organizations that challenge his rules, as well as appoint RCMP officers to monitor Indigenous peoples specifically (original / archive).

 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (of the United Conservative Party) tabled the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to criminalize the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests in the spirit of O’Toole’s proposal. It remains to be seen if this legislation can withstand a constitutional challenge, for revoking the right to associate, the freedom of expression, and Indigenous rights, while circumventing the need for a court injunction.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, called for the head of the RCMP to be fired if she won’t abandon peaceful negotiations, order officers to use force against Indigenous peoples, and ignore their nation-to-nation claims based on UNDRIP (original / archive).

 

Québec Premier François Legault (of the Coalition Avenir Québec) suggested that Mohawks possess AK-47 machine guns at the Kahnawake blockade. Despite denials from the Mohawk police force (that is recognized by provincial and federal governments), he refused to retract the inflammatory rumour or apologize. Many interpret this as provoking a fabricated military response to Indigenous peoples on their territory (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Also in Québec, political strategist Luc Lavoie mused about shooting Indigenous protesters between the eyes with a .45 calibre handgun. The Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador are looking into filing a professional complaint, as this violent speech transpired during a mainstream media broadcast (original / archive).

 

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Source: Le Devoir (original / archive)

 

Due to the violent provocations in Québec, an emergency meeting was held among the Mohawks of Kahnawake. Schools were closed and Indigenous children were transported home on buses that had to conceal the Mohawk logo for their protection from right-wing vigilantes (original / archive).

 

Conservative member of parliament, Pierre Poilievre, characterized the Indigenous protests as a “war on working people” in the House of Commons, as if Indigenous people don’t work and they’re an irritant to the Caucasian population (original / archive).

 

Conservative celebrity investor, W. Brett Wilson, who backs the Buffalo Project, urged a civil war against the Tyendinaga Mohawks with military force (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Near Morris, Manitoba a transport truck was caught on video driving into Indigenous protesters. One person was allegedly hit and the driver was stopped by police, but immediately released to carry on with his or her journey (original / archive).

 

An Alberta man is selling decals that depict a train running over Indigenous protesters. He claims it’s only a joke, but the sticker also displays the “Alberta Strong” stamp that belongs to the alt-right movement (original / archive).

 

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Source: Toronto Star (original / archive)

 

At a bathroom somewhere in Canada, an Indigenous journalist’s family is taught step-by-step how to stop being ‘dirty Indians’ (original / archive). I experienced similar racism on a near daily basis with EM, so nothing has changed in the past twenty years.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In Ontario, a bomb threat was issued against Casino Rama that resulted in a full evacuation. It’s billed as “Ontario’s only First Nations resort casino” and it’s located on the Chippewa reservation. All of mainstream media misreported the location as the adjacent colonial City of Orillia (original / archive).

 

International news organization Al Jazeera compiled a ‘mean tweets’ video that had Canada’s Indigenous people read a selection of racist tweets they’re forced to endure, to participate in social media amid the Wet’suwet’en dispute. The vast majority are implied death threats (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In Vancouver, British Columbia an Indigenous man was sucker-punched out of the blue at an intersection. The assailant allegedly threatened him over the Coastal GasLink pipeline and fled the scene immediately. In the same city a mom and her son were attacked in their vehicle while dropping the boy off at school. On that occasion a man is alleged to issue a death threat and smash a child’s wagon on their car for several minutes while spewing obscenities. The only apparent motive is the mother and son’s indigeneity (original / archive).

 

Speaking to the Vancouver reports, even a well-intentioned director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network downplayed physical altercations and death threats as not posing an imminent risk. Despite wanting to help, his attitude is dismissive of all the missing and murdered Indigenous women that other agencies classify as cultural genocide, now compounded by the racist uprising in response to the protests regarding Indigenous rights.

 

A school in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta was recently placed on lockdown due to a group of teenage boys who recorded a video while allegedly drinking and driving as they threatened to harm Indigenous students (original / archive).

 

A second video was discovered of the same alleged boys threatening to “scalp” Indigenous peoples (original / archive). It’s unclear if they understood the term to represent a death threat and desecration to a dead body, but what is apparent is they learned this racism from their families and/or community. According to research at Harvard University, racism can be learned by the tender age of 3-years-old (original / archive). That means the path forward will take at least two generations to rectify this injustice and that’s if everyone is committed to reconciliation from this point forward.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Meanwhile, if anyone wishes to harbour anti-Indigenous hatred and interfere with court injunctions, Ezra Levant and Rebel Media will provide them with a free attorney when his organization isn’t busy campaigning for the Conservatives (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

The last example that demonstrates how right-wing partisans appear to big business arises from Andrew Scheer and the threat of a non-confidence motion to throw Canada into a snap election. It was pointless and immature grandstanding to keep the public on edge, because the Conservative Party of Canada hasn’t chosen a new leader to even put a candidate on the ballot. It’s just more instability with the sole intention of stirring up more hatred toward First Nations, whether they agreed to a pipeline or not. I doubt executives overseeing the Coastal GasLink project appreciate endangering their allies in the Wet’suwet’en territory for little more purpose than indulging blatant racism (original / archive).

 

Left-Wing Escalations

 

Unfortunately left-wing leaders and partisans understand less about Indigenous rights than their political counterparts. As a result, their grandstanding on the backs of Indigenous tribes is trivial and selfish, in a way that ends up being communicated as misinformation to cloud the minds of voters.

 

Take for example the actions of Jagmeet Singh, as leader of the federal NDP. He has not been vocal against the swell of racist attacks, but he utilized them as a means of showboating against the prime minister for his own benefit. There are no calls for police to enforce criminal charges in response to the countless death threats and physical altercations that have become the norm against Indigenous peoples. Instead he produced a TikTok video that makes light of the situation, in what some described as a feeble attempt to become a social media celebrity (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Singh also misled the public about what was transpiring between the Wet’suwet’en and federal government. He claimed the Indigenous nation couldn’t get the ear of the prime minister, while ignoring the fact that the Coastal GasLink project is a purely provincial matter within British Columbia. The dispute only became a federal issue when NDP Premier John Horgan refused to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and NDP mediator, Nathan Cullen, failed to make progress as the province’s representative.

 

Instead of being honest about impending meetings between the chiefs and federal government ministers, Singh sought to hide shortcomings of the NDP that caused this dispute to spill across the country. Instead of being forthright he added to the public’s confusion about matters of jurisdiction and it’s only due to the NDP’s failures that federal government intervention became necessary (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

On the same day, NDP Premier John Horgan inflamed the situation by predetermining an outcome for the government meetings with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that he refused to attend himself. As the federal government dispatched Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to mediate with disenfranchised tribal leaders, Horgan declared through mainstream media that the Coastal GasLink project is proceeding no matter what, undercutting her efforts to ease the tension (original / archive).

 

No honest broker can enter mediation with a fixed outcome that entirely denies one side of the equation and what’s missing from partisan propaganda is the inner contradictions faced by this party that are causing it to behave badly. On one hand, the NDP relies on support from environmentalists who’ve piggybacked their cause onto the Wet’suwet’en people. On the other hand, the NDP is founded on labour unions that have a close relationship with the party. Those unions in turn are funded by worker dues from the oil and gas industry that are funnelled to NDP causes in solidarity with getting them elected. Although there’s a new ban on direct union donations, they still run third-party issue-based campaigns that support the interests of the party.

 

Behind the curtain the NDP is firmly on the side of industry because labour can’t exist without capital. That isn’t a partisan insult – it’s merely the truth of a complicated relationship. There could be no grander dilemma for the party when it forms a provincial government and has to negotiate with Indigenous nations about issues that involve industry, rights, and the environment (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

These inner conflicts are what explain the awkward responses from Jagmeet Singh, that have now inspired calls for a new party leader by a growing number of dedicated partisans. They’re confused because the NDP can’t reconcile these ideological collisions between their own activists.

 

This Twitter thread speaks volumes about the exodus of disappointed supporters (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In the absence of realistic leadership on the left, university students have conflated Indigenous rights with climate change and joined the protest in support of divestment. The extreme polarization of all issues in Canadian politics has deprived them of an education about Indigenous nations and the complex state of modern treaties, or how the people they think they’re campaigning for predominantly support themselves by facilitating oil, gas, and mining industries (original / archive).

 

I’m not saying the policy to link First Nations with fossil fuels as a primary path to prosperity is a sustainable choice, but so long as younger generations are kept in the dark they won’t brainstorm another way to help these tribes they claim to support.

 

Without realizing it, they’re victimizing Indigenous nations in an opposite but equal way to the Conservatives. The Wet’suwet’en people are torn straight through their families due to pressure tactics employed by the left-wing to abandon hope of middle class jobs if they infringe on climate issues. No one has a solution to ‘keep it in the ground’ that would offset lost income and replace one of Canada’s larger contributors to the economy. Nor do they have a solution to raise the billions of dollars needed to retrofit all homes and buildings with greener alternatives. Nor could they generate a charitable fund large enough to provide everyone with electric vehicles.

 

Canada and the world-at-large are in an incredible predicament. The middle of change is the most uncomfortable state of being, especially when the outcome remains undefined and unable to provide a specific goal to reach. The rampant dishonesty and hatred of opposing sides further clouds everyone’s vision, to the point that left and right persuasions had a conniption fit when the prime minister asked for patience.

 

What the country needs is for parties to work together to ensure a brighter future, but the parties would rather threaten to take down the government to keep Canada in limbo and avoid doing the hard lifting. Worst of all is that both sides exploit the Indigenous cause to use it as a proxy and dumping ground for colonial vitriol. First Nations already have enough problems to sort through the meaning of reconciliation, and rehabilitation from the centuries of abuse that we’ve already overburdened them with. It is therefore disheartening that we hold them up as human shields and tokens of colonial self-righteousness on matters of climate and economy. As much as people might hope, they’re not our saviours and they’re not responsible for presiding over Canadian disputes.

 

Ellis Ross is the MLA for Skeena in British Columbia. He’s the former chief councillor for the Haisla Nation and a respected Indigenous leader. His tribe signed the deal for a Kitmat LNG plant to be built on the reserve and he speaks to the damage caused by colonial proxy wars being fought through his people. Have a listen:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

The left-wing isn’t as innocent as it likes to portray and there have been acts of violence attributed to the wholesome warriors as well. The public is aware of assaults during a protest at the BC legislature, but it’s not cognizant that colonials committed them by appropriating the Wet’suwet’en name (original / archive).

 

Racism on the left takes a more obscure form but if partisans were brave enough to inquire with First Nations, they would learn it’s just as dangerous as the blatant displays by Conservatives. This might have been the most valuable lesson I learned from my time with EM, that appears to be reconfirmed today by the Mohawk leadership in Kanesatake. As the full power of news media descended on the BC legislature it did not amass at the Indigenous reservation west of Montréal, where the grand chief was also locked out of his government building and threatened for his job. This confrontation ensued because he asked for peace and patience (original / archive).

 

Band councils across the country are being silenced by supporters of hereditary chiefs, climate activists, and even anarchists, who far outnumber Indigenous protesters that are already wrestling with the legitimacy of elected chiefs within their own nations. Colonials have split Indigenous tribes so starkly that some of them are turning against the concept of their own democracy.

 

To be clear, it is not my position to decide what’s best for them and this is only a recap of the events that are transpiring. But it’s appropriate to be concerned when colonial placards and anarchist flags blot out Indigenous regalia at protest sites that result in dramatic repercussions for the Mohawk and Wet’suwet’en people (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has also experienced left-wing violence that could have endangered lives, equally threatening as the gun threats by aggressive pro-oil activists. A bridge on the service road in their traditional territory had its support beams severed and bolts loosened, so the structure would collapse if any Coastal GasLink workers, Indigenous local vehicles, or RCMP tried to cross it. I believe it’s fair to say the proxy war is getting out of hand and none of the factions manipulating Indigenous nations on either side of the equation have their best interests at heart (original / archive).

 

Media Still Promotes Racism

 

A few years ago the media was confronted with a racist scandal. In a magazine issue that was supposed to promote Indigenous writers, a non-Indigenous editor contributed an editorial that turned the industry on its head for revealing how deep the racism runs in Canadian journalism. He suggested a ‘cultural appropriation prize’ to encourage more stories about Indigenous peoples by colonials. He didn’t see anything wrong with it and was surprised when the debate exploded (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Numerous reporters and editors weighed in on social media, making the controversy worse. Some of them offered to contribute their own money to the prize pool and they doubled-down on the right of colonials to steal Indigenous voices. It was a rowdy session around the proverbial water cooler that the public doesn’t normally witness, yet these entitled attitudes persist in every corner of the industry. Most of the degenerates who revelled in the chance to flaunt their racism in the mainstream press went on to be promoted and continue to dominate the political discourse across Canada (original / archive).

 

It could have been an important learning opportunity, but that concept was lost on a blue blood culture that hijacked the topic and re-framed it as an issue of free speech. Ojibwe journalist and advocate, Jesse Wente, made a prescient comment at the time. He said:

 

“The biggest challenge coming out of this for the Canadian media is going to be how you re-approach the Indigenous community after this.” (original / archive) 

 

It’s now three years later and instead of getting better, the anti-Indigenous racism is more overtly entrenched. This can be seen today in the devil-may-care approach to covering the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests and how little it matters to get the story right when portraying their history and concerns. I don’t think any colonial reporters have bothered to research their stories before submitting for publication. The Twitterverse is even reluctant to check with APTN to verify information with Indigenous sources.

 

As mentioned earlier, the entire cadre of Canadian journalists couldn’t bother to report correctly about a bomb threat involving Casino Rama. They mislabeled the location as Orillia, Ontario, unaware of the Chippewa tribe and Rama reservation with its own Indigenous police force. This includes the social justice champions at Toronto Star, the venerable Canadian Press, and CBC News that had promised to do better after the cultural appropriation issue. None of them ventured to make a connection with the racist uprising surrounding the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests either. The story was entirely whitewashed and focused on restoring colonials’ ability to gamble and have fun (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

At CTV News, a story aired about a train derailment during the time of Indigenous rail blockades and tense counter-protests. They said an anonymous source claimed it was a deliberate act of sabotage, but CN Rail would not confirm and the rumour couldn’t be substantiated. The story was printed anyway, with no justification for protecting a source that also couldn’t be corroborated. This amounts to a racist insinuation that was meant to scare the public, void of any journalistic integrity. There was also no mention of Canada’s crumbling rail infrastructure that is resulting in regular derailments across the country (original / archive).

 

No one at Postmedia was able to figure out that a cartoon depicting ‘drunk Indians’ was racist before it was published. It took a public uproar to force them to reconsider, after the fact (original / archive).

 

Canadian news media has observed an influx of racist and violent comments on stories related to the Wet’suwet’en dispute. They’ve reached a consensus about how to handle them and comment sections may be closed if lines are crossed. Those lines include specific death threats, talk of shooting up public protests, vehicular manslaughter, and genocide by gas chamber. When this happens on social media, a post can be reported for moderation and possible removal (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

But notice how no one is reporting these crimes to police, and how police are reluctant to lay charges when they become aware of this material. These are criminal acts of hate speech, uttering death threats, and stalking/harassment that are widely condoned by closing our eyes to them. Instead of being responsible citizens, the industry would rather spin the racist feedback into a clickbait story that will fetch profits. This behaviour represents an incredible psychopathy and it’s in charge of informing the entire public. Is there any wonder why the Indigenous population doesn’t trust colonials?

 

The police will however arrest Indigenous protesters and commit alleged acts of excessive force when cuffing journalists who are trying to cover their protest events (original / archive).

 

Canadian media is additionally guilty of fabricating the news in their efforts to steer public opinion. It’s such a widespread problem that major outlets have their own pollsters to concoct headlines that are nothing more than fake news. The problem is that not all polls are created equal and the ones used by media procure results from ‘online panels’ that are neither legitimate nor scientific, no matter what they say in the methodology. It’s not a case of the old school rejecting modern technology. It’s because of biases, dishonesty, and anonymity that can’t be controlled in a limited digital pool (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive).

 

For example, anyone can sign up and lie about their age, gender, income level, and location. Anyone can create multiple accounts with fake information as well. Hacking scripts can be written to interfere with online polls. It also depends where the person found a link to join the panel. If ads are placed on partisan pages, you can be guaranteed that responses will skew a certain way (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

One of these corrupt polls was done on behalf of Global News and it trended on social media. It reported that 61 percent of Canadians are opposed to blockades related to the Wet’suwet’en cause (original / archive).

 

It was conducted by Ipsos and to make a point, I joined the online panel from an American website that was soliciting participants who hated Justin Trudeau. As far as Ipsos is concerned, I’m a 55-year-old man with a $100,000 salary and I have four kids living at home. (That would really surprise my family and throw Mother’s Day a curve ball.) But I’ve received these ‘random’ invitations that would result in corrupting the Ipsos data and some American guy, who happens to be an accountant for Koch Industries, has offered to pay me $5 every time I do (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Disclaimer: I do not intend to interfere with Ipsos polling and this was only done for the sake of investigation, to test how easy it is to skew online polls.

 

Needless to say, we still don’t know how many Canadians support the Wet’suwet’en people but Global News took that propaganda to the bank when its story went viral. This is another form of racism and exploitation against Indigenous peoples.

 

The National Post did the same darn thing with DART & Maru/Blue. They fabricated a headline that also went viral, claiming 69 percent of Canadians think the country is broken under Justin Trudeau’s leadership. It was conducted recently during the rail blockades by polling an online panel (original / archive).

 

Surely this news discouraged the Mohawks in Tyendinaga and made them believe that most of Canada is deeply racist against them. It made the prime minister stop asking for patience and the police engage in arrests, when otherwise they were trying to pursue a peaceful resolution. That’s how powerful fake news can be and even our officials don’t know how to spot it.

 

News also forms the basis of many events in parliament. These polls were used to dupe the public into supporting a Conservative motion against the Indigenous protesters. Then it was repurposed to raise vast sums of money for the party, causing partisans to think that more Canadians were coming around to their way of thinking (original / archive).

 

The other side of the coin isn’t any better. Ricochet is a media organization run by left-wing partisans and it produced fake news that was designed to intimidate Indigenous supporters of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It gave false hope to environmental activists that the project could be stopped and will no doubt be used to raise money for someone’s cause as well.

 

I’ve already addressed the issue of Dark House, Warner Naziel, and the BC Environmental Assessment Office, so I won’t go into too much detail. But Ricochet falsely framed Coastal GasLink as a delinquent company that didn’t fulfill its duty-to-consult or the EA requirements. They claimed this could delay the project by months! They implied Coastal GasLink treated Dark House and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs disrespectfully, except it’s not true and the 30-day extension was established to give Dark House a final chance to participate when it had previously boycotted the consultation process. I have to wonder if Ricochet read the EAO letters it reported on, or if they’ve never seen a technical process in writing before to understand what one looks like (1. original / archive, 2. original PDF, 3. original PDF).

 

The reason technical data is still needed for the area surrounding a healing centre is due to the blockade by Warner Naziel and his (ex)wife Freda Huson, popularly known as the Unist’ot’en Camp. Coastal GasLink has been respectful and not attempted to cross that barrier. They’ve kept track of all the times they attempted to receive traditional knowledge from Dark House about its interest in the centre. The accommodations for Dark House will be generated once they respond and suggest what those mitigation efforts should be. The environmental certificate has not been cancelled in the meantime. This is one component in a very large process and construction continues at other sites where blockades are not preventing entry.

 

If Dark House doesn’t participate at this point, Coastal GasLink will be allowed to proceed without their input and the court injunction will be enforced by the RCMP. They only have to show that reasonable attempts were made to satisfy the EAO. It is everyone’s hope that Minister Bennett will be able to negotiate a peaceful resolution so the RCMP doesn’t need to enforce the injunction. I’m not saying this is an ideal process for the holdouts, but it is the reality of the situation and work has already resumed (original / archive).

 

Even when the media is making its best effort to propose a path forward, it hearkens back to a plan from twenty years ago that warned the status quo is not sustainable. CBC News brought attention to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) that was spawned from collapse of the Meech Lake Accord. That implosion occurred partly because First Nations elected leaders were excluded from the process (original / archive).

 

That same alienation is repeating now in the negotiations between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the government. One elected chief is already expressing frustration that nothing has changed since the Delgamuukw decision that encouraged both Indigenous governance structures to work together. It’s shaping up to be another obstacle that could result in at least one affected First Nation rescinding support for the Coastal GasLink project, as the hereditary chiefs are brought on board and put in charge of a possible land title agreement to the exclusion of band councils and fully democratic ratification (original / archive).

 

Part of the problem with trying to apply the royal commission report to the Wet’suwet’en dispute is that it’s stuck in old thinking, based on a racist concept that obligates First Nations to accept a power sharing agreement with Canada. The idea doesn’t release Indigenous trust funds (of their own money) to their care and control and still envisions Canada as Indigenous money managers with supreme authority. That’s not a nation-to-nation relationship as envisioned by UNDRIP.

 

In a nutshell, the grand vision from twenty years ago recommended what exists today. It called for a new Indigenous affairs ministry that is split between Crown relations and services, but fundamentally serves the same purpose as the old INAC. The only difference with the RCAP is the Crown expected to have First Nations introduce Indigenous taxation so colonials could keep a greater amount of resource revenue that’s derived from Indigenous land as the middleman (original / archive).

 

Suggesting that we reconsider implementing recommendations from the royal commission is offensive to Indigenous nations, the same as it was when it was first written. The report contains no magic wands and would lead to the same impasse that’s being challenged now. It also dictates a need for colonial-style government to be imposed on, or with, hereditary governance, that both the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk Nations are trying to resolve without much success. Colonial courts continue to be the arbiter between band councils and traditional leadership, as a byproduct of resource contracts and determining who has the authority to enter agreements.

 

If Canadian journalists don’t learn to research before publishing arguments and resolutions, we will ensure Indigenous peoples continue to distrust our agendas. That makes for an awful starting point in any negotiation.

 

Nisga’a Not A Panacea Either

 

Columnists and pundits have mentioned the Nisga’a First Nation as a possible template for Indigenous tribes moving forward. They were the first group to sign a modern treaty in British Columbia with fee simple, municipal-type ownership that adopted taxation and allowed for colonial residents on the Indigenous territory. In many ways it resembles Joseph Brant’s approach that seriously backfired on the Mohawk and Six Nations (original PDF).

 

At the time this treaty was established (in the year 2000), British Columbia was led by the NDP and Canada was led by the Liberal Party. Hereditary chiefs within the Nisga’a Nation were disenfranchised as a result of the agreement because it removed their powers from a legal perspective and gave full control to an elected band council. The treaty recognized hereditary chiefs, but only in their capacity to provide advice on cultural matters. The nation embraced full democracy with elections every five years (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Politics often make for strange bedfellows and a legal dispute ensued about the constitutionality of extinguishing traditional governance rights for the hereditary chiefs. It was partially instigated and funded by Ezra Levant, in his younger years at the Canadian Constitution Foundation (original / archive). Today Levant is offering to pay for lawyers on the opposite side of the equation, to stymie hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. This disparity can be explained entirely by partisan politics and Levant’s commitment to Conservative Party interests.

 

In 2011 the Nisga’a hereditary chiefs were unsuccessful at the Supreme Court of British Columbia (original / archive). In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the case and let the provincial decision stand as a precedent (original / archive).

 

That outcome could mean that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs wouldn’t be able to challenge the elected band council for legal authority over Aboriginal title matters, despite the social peacocking and emphatic claims by the political left-wing and environmental protesters. It also means if Minister Bennett negotiates an agreement with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in the absence of elected chiefs, the latter may have grounds to legally challenge it. The Wet’suwet’en aren’t operating within the confines of a treaty yet, but it stands to reason there can’t be extreme adversity between the constitutional rights of one First Nation over another.

 

Since band council won at the BC Supreme Court, the Nisga’a elected government has come under fire regarding accusations of nepotism and financial mismanagement. An IT worker photographed documents pertaining to alleged excess spending on consultants and lawyers. The tribal government denies wrongdoing and calls the allegations malicious. It then obtained a gag order, so the details remain unavailable to the community that began protesting for a forensic audit (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

Only twenty years into its treaty, it appears the Nisga’a Nation is still struggling to merge Canadian law with its culture. The whistleblower scandal has in turn led to allegations about the lack of a free press and press freedom issues with Indigenous governments in general (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Financial independence through a taxation system has also stumbled. Economic conditions were reportedly worse under the new treaty compared to the Indian Act, and the community had a difficult time with reduced services through the Indigenous government. The president of Nisga’a Nation rejected the study that resulted in these findings, however (original / archive).

 

I don’t proclaim to know which side is correct, nor am I attempting to vilify the Nisga’a government. My point in addressing the Nisga’a community is only to explain the legal precedent they set, how it may affect the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk situations, and to demonstrate how it’s a dog whistle whenever someone in the Canadian media points to this nation as the blueprint for a solution.

 

Federal Government Missteps

 

Proving that I haven’t written this analysis with any political bias, the federal Liberal government does not escape scrutiny either. Needless missteps have occurred because parliament is prone to knee-jerk reactions and the prime minister is best advised to steep himself in the Indigenous history, over taking direction from wayward or manipulative opposition parties. There is too much at stake to allow partisan hijinks to derail sober thought and if Indigenous nations lose any more confidence in the Crown’s commitment to reconciliation, Canada could be impeded from any national strategies for the foreseeable future.

 

Cabinet ministers must be reeled back in because some of them are casually fanning the flames without recognizing the harm it causes in a situation as delicate as this. Attorney General David Lametti didn’t need to insult Mohawk warriors by calling them ‘stupid’ for throwing debris at trains passing through their protest area. It was said in defence of the Mohawk Nation when the Conservative Party pushed to classify them as terrorists, but there were thousands of other respectful words to use that wouldn’t have added to the tension (original / archive).

 

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett will need to be informed of all the legal precedents that could interfere with her intentions. I’ve outlined cases that I’m aware of previously, but another decision arose from the BC Supreme Court regarding the Haisla Nation (also part of the Coastal GasLink project). It came in the form of a libel lawsuit that involved a dispute about the authority to represent, between elected band council and supporters of the hereditary system.

 

I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong, just that the Canadian justice system appears to come down firmly on the side of elected band council in most disputes that make it to court. Hereditary supporters will cite this as colonial oppression, but the Canadian government can only operate within the bounds of Canadian law and it won’t help anyone if her draft agreement with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs could be vulnerable to a legal challenge. A setback like that could cause immense delay that would backfire politically and deepen the wedge between Wet’suwet’en peoples that she’s trying to help overcome (original / archive).

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was correct when he sought patience pertaining to the enforcement of rail blockade injunctions. When he became hyper-sensitive to opposition criticism and caved to pressure in support of police intervention, it was an ill-considered mistake that comes with serious consequences (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Here is how that decision appeared to Indigenous peoples, Canadian voters, and international media:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

As an influential Indigenous person explained, he’s not sure if Canada realizes what it did:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

That’s because of the tactical disaster that Canada inherited from the British. Early colonizers placed Indigenous nations all along the Canada – US border as a means of insulating settlers by using Indigenous peoples as a barrier. I know I’ve already used this picture for reference, but now it’s time to study it carefully to let the implications sink in.

 

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Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

The Indigenous protest response was mild compared to what is possible and it still paralyzed the Canadian economy as well as transportation. A new protest closed the border between Ontario and New York. A new protest closed Route 344 and the Mercier Bridge on Montréal’s south shore. A new protest closed the border between Ontario and Michigan. And a new protest closed a busy intersection in the heart of Ottawa (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive)

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair also didn’t need to add insult to injury when Mohawk police offered support to help de-escalate the standoff in Wet’suwet’en territory. As a colonial police officer himself, Blair sought to bolster the image of the RCMP by rebuffing Indigenous officers who are trained and recognized the same as federal police. The minister said:

 

They’re [a] very good and competent police service and the people in that territory deserve the very best in police service that can be provided. And today that’s by the RCMP (original / archive). 

 

Colonials can be unaware of their demeanour and harsh insensitivity toward Indigenous peoples because that prejudice has been ingrained for the past few hundred years. If the Liberal government wishes to avoid accusations of racism, they will need to overcome those biases and stop being so abrasively careless.

 

Reconciliation isn’t only about treaties and rectifying the past. It involves correcting the present mindfully as well. I appreciate the pressure that everyone is under, but they all promised to lead to gain the confidence of voters and this is what the job entails. I’m not perfect and I may have slipped in the course of drafting this editorial, but the point is I’m trying hard to respectfully communicate these difficult issues.

 

The Rule Of Law – Unspun

 

All the opposition parties keep barking about the rule of law, yet all the people pushing this point have little awareness about the law’s intricate details. The best place to start is with the Two Row Wampum, because it’s one of the original tribal laws that influenced the foundation of Canada. Everyone wishes to forget this, but that pesky little detail is what motivates the Mohawk, as well as the majority of Indigenous nations that claim they have a right to sovereignty.

 

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy may be the only entity that could attempt to pursue a claim of Indigenous sovereignty, because the Supreme Court of Canada already decided that Aboriginal title does not confer this status. Still, it is likely the Two Row Wampum would fail because British documentation of the arrangement was a Crown instrument known as the Haldimand Grant, that is governed by Crown sovereignty and fiduciary duty over the Mohawk lands. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice, rather it is an educated opinion.)

 

Former Green Party leader, MP Elizabeth May, was once a trusted member of parliament who had an acute handle on legal matters. But that academic and congenial stance has gone out the window, for her chance to infect the Wet’suwet’en Nation with a dose of toxic partisanship. It appears that May has chosen her fight against the energy industry over Indigenous rights, because she hit the television circuit to spread a whack of misinformation (original only – video).

 

May wrongly informed media that the Delgamuukw case recognized Indigenous sovereignty existed on the Wet’suwet’en territory. It absolutely did not. Instead, the landmark Delgamuukw decision said the following:

 

“As a result of the flexibility and uncertainty of the customs and rules, McEachern C.J. rejected the appellants’ claim to jurisdiction or sovereignty over the territories, (original / archive)” 

 

As well as:

 

“Macfarlane J.A. essentially agreed with the trial judge with respect to his analysis of the jurisdiction, or sovereignty issue. He characterized the claim as the right to control and manage the use of lands and resources in the territory, as well as the right to govern the people within the territory… He stated that the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en peoples do not need a court declaration to permit internal self-regulation, if they consent to be governed. However, the rights of self-government encompassing a power to make general laws governing the land, resources, and people in the territory are legislative powers which cannot be awarded by the courts. Such jurisdiction is inconsistent with the Constitution Act, 1867 and its division of powers. When the Crown imposed English law on all the inhabitants of the colony and when British Columbia entered Confederation, the aboriginal people became subject to Canadian (and provincial) legislative authority. For this reason, the claim to jurisdiction [and Indigenous sovereignty] failed (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“The aboriginal rights recognized and affirmed by s. 35(1), including aboriginal title, are not absolute. Those rights may be infringed, both by the federal (e.g., Sparrow) and provincial (e.g., Côté) governments. However, s. 35(1) requires that those infringements satisfy the test of justification (original / archive).” 

 

Elizabeth May then falsely claimed that the province and RCMP are breaking the rule of law (by entering the Wet’suwet’en territory for the purpose of Crown enforcement and development). Again an actual reading of the Delgamuukw decision proves her to be absolutely wrong. It says:

 

“In other words, notwithstanding s. 91(24), provincial laws of general application apply proprio vigore to Indians and Indian lands. Thus, this Court has held that provincial labour relations legislation (Four B) and motor vehicle laws (R. v. Francis, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 1025), which purport to apply to all persons in the province, also apply to Indians living on reserves (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“In the context of the present case, I agree with the Chief Justice that the general economic development of the interior of British Columbia, through agriculture, mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power, as well as the related building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations are valid legislative objectives that, in principle, satisfy the first part of the justification analysis (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“Under the second part of the justification test, these legislative objectives are subject to accommodation of the aboriginal peoples’ interests. This accommodation must always be in accordance with the honour and good faith of the Crown. Moreover, when dealing with a generalized claim over vast tracts of land, accommodation is not a simple matter of asking whether licences have been fairly allocated in one industry, or whether conservation measures have been properly implemented for a specific resource. Rather, the question of accommodation of “aboriginal title” is much broader than this. Certainly, one aspect of accommodation in this context entails notifying and consulting aboriginal peoples with respect to the development of the affected territory. Another aspect of accommodation is fair compensation. More specifically, in a situation of expropriation, one asks whether fair compensation is available to the aboriginal peoples; see Sparrow, supra, at p. 1119. Indeed, the treatment of “aboriginal title” as a compensable right can be traced back to the Royal Proclamation, 1763 (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“In summary, in developing vast tracts of land, the government is expected to consider the economic well being of all Canadians. But the aboriginal peoples must not be forgotten in this equation. Their legal right to occupy and possess certain lands, as confirmed by s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, mandates basic fairness commensurate with the honour and good faith of the Crown (original / archive).” 

 

In the video interview, Elizabeth May also parrots the few rogue hereditary chiefs. She claims it’s acknowledged by law that elected band council oversees the reserve area (only) and hereditary chiefs oversee the larger traditional territory. But the Green Party is wrong again because the Delgamuukw decision said this:

 

“It does not matter, in my opinion, that the present case is concerned with the interest of an Indian Band in a reserve rather than with unrecognized aboriginal title in traditional tribal lands. The Indian interest in the land is the same in both cases (original / archive).” 

 

Additionally clarified by this:

 

A further dimension of aboriginal title is the fact that it is held communally. Aboriginal title cannot be held by individual aboriginal persons; it is a collective right to land held by all members of an aboriginal nation. Decisions with respect to that land are also made by that community. This is another feature of aboriginal title which is sui generis and distinguishes it from normal property interests (original / archive).”

 

The last paragraph seems intent to create problems for Minister Bennett, in that she had no business negotiating with the hereditary chiefs to the exclusion of elected band council. The following section further indicates that any land agreement with the Wet’suwet’en people must include the other First Nations that have an overlapping interest. No quick fix was appropriate for this situation and the resulting agreement, even if ratified by the Wet’suwet’en Nation, can still be challenged by other Indigenous tribes because the Delgamuukw decision said the following:

 

“I conclude with two observations. The first is that many aboriginal nations with territorial claims that overlap with those of the appellants did not intervene in this appeal, and do not appear to have done so at trial. This is unfortunate, because determinations of aboriginal title for the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en will undoubtedly affect their claims as well. This is particularly so because aboriginal title encompasses an exclusive right to the use and occupation of land, i.e., to the exclusion of both non-aboriginals and members of other aboriginal nations. It may, therefore, be advisable if those aboriginal nations intervened in any new litigation (original / archive).”

 

As well as this:

 

“Finally, this litigation has been both long and expensive, not only in economic but in human terms as well. By ordering a new trial, I do not necessarily encourage the parties to proceed to litigation and to settle their dispute through the courts… Those negotiations should also include other aboriginal nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. Moreover, the Crown is under a moral, if not a legal, duty to enter into and conduct those negotiations in good faith. Ultimately, it is through negotiated settlements, with good faith and give and take on all sides, reinforced by the judgments of this Court, that we will achieve what I stated in Van der Peet, supra, at para. 31, to be a basic purpose of s. 35(1) — “the reconciliation of the pre-existence of aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown”. Let us face it, we are all here to stay (original / archive).” 

 

In the video interview, Elizabeth May followed up by invoking the Tsilhqot’in decision as a modifier. But that case isn’t what she claimed it to be either. Here is a direct quote that corrects the Green Party position:

 

The Court is not able, in the context of these proceedings, to make a declaration of Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal Title. The Court offers the opinion that Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title does exist inside and outside the Claim Area.” (original PDF)

 

What’s been decided is that Aboriginal title does exist and it wasn’t relinquished (ceded) to the Crown, but these precedents didn’t go far enough to precisely determine who has legal control of the land title, or who within the Indigenous government has authority between elected and hereditary chiefs. Instead the court indicated that all Indigenous members share an equal interest.

 

A reading of these cases implies malicious misrepresentation by Elizabeth May, so egregious that she could be at risk of complaints to the BC Law Society. As a lawyer she should be ashamed of dis-informing the public and Wet’suwet’en Nation, for the sake of advancing her own cause that opposes their participation in the resource economy. It’s still possible to protest fracking without manipulating anyone and tampering with Indigenous rights to make a point.

 

Several articles in mainstream media are guilty of the same, that I have to wonder if any of them were vetted by libel lawyers before going to print, as used to be standard in the journalism industry. It could be argued that many of them libeled the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the Chief Justice. As a country we used to be better than this and I am severely disappointed. It shouldn’t be up to me to perform this fact checking service unpaid, but I felt compelled to do this because my Indigenous neighbours and friends are being sold a fake bill of goods and my government has become scatterbrained trying to please everyone in the opposition.

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

 

All in all it seems that Canada isn’t having the correct discussions about Indigenous rights and relations. The facts are being constantly derailed by anyone with an agenda and the fixers that have been dispatched to appease every faction are treating the symptoms instead of the infection. Nothing can be resolved if we can’t be honest with one another. It’s difficult, discomforting, and requires massive amounts of integrity, but it remains the only viable way forward.

 

We have no choice but to respect the law when sorting through the minutiae, but it also does no good to enter anyone’s venue with guns blazing and ultimatums. In addition to the legal facts there are tactical facts as well, that have polka-dotted the entire country forcing us to find a way to live together.

 

The Supreme Court has already ruled on Indigenous sovereignty, but let’s propose for a moment that it was possible. How many reservations could build their own infrastructure and staff their nation with only local tribal members? If Canada was transformed into 630+ sovereign nations, what would the import fees cost for mailing a package from one coast to the other? What would a train ride cost to pass through a few hundred countries to visit a relative? How would each nation afford things like medicine and health insurance? Would all the people living off-reserve accept being forced to come home? And could every one of those 630+ nations defend itself against American conquest?

 

Likewise, how would Canadians afford up to 630 tariffs on every product they purchased that wasn’t locally generated? How expensive would the commute to work become if we had to pay tolls every time we crossed an Indigenous piece of land? What would happen to all the mining, gas, and oil workers when the vast majority of deposits are found on Indigenous territory? Could our senior citizens survive if their pensions imploded because they were heavily invested in natural resources? How would the logging, construction, and real estate industries fare if we had to purchase our wood from Indigenous nations that didn’t like us very much? And what would be the damage to our GDP if we had to pass through Indigenous land to export to the United States? Could our country afford socialized health care anymore, or even the grain for a loaf of bread?

 

Very few people, regardless of race, would be able to turn the lights on or heat their homes if energy transmission lines had to account for Indigenous sovereignty. The same would be true for telephones and internet. Basically we would all get punted to the Dark Ages if we can’t learn to work with each other.

 

Tolerating racism is one of the biggest things that must change. The right-wing complains when injunctions aren’t enforced, yet we have hate speech law that isn’t being enforced either. Maybe if colonials didn’t take so many vicious liberties, the police would be in a better position to attend Indigenous land to peacefully and respectfully communicate.

 

Allowing this to spiral out of control comes at a great cost to everyone. Our country is predicated on immigration and we need foreign experts in many fields to fill important gaps that Canadians can’t cover alone. We are an extremely large country with a small population. But the current snapshot of Canada portrays an angry and violent culture that could cause anyone to rethink the upheaval of relocating here. I’ve seen just as many left-wing activists attack immigrants for asking questions about the Wet’suwet’en dispute, as there are right-wing activists who threaten to run over Indigenous women and children.

 

It defies all logic for those on the left to alienate other racial minorities, as they try to learn about our controversial history and oppression of every Indigenous tribe that was here before us. Any sentient being should want to understand how we can continue to harm the Indigenous fabric that underlies the entire country to the present day. It’s so bad that politicians can become heroes for promising to allow them access to clean drinking water, or curtail a few of their deaths in our wildly prejudicial criminal justice system. The Crown-Indigenous relationship is the most complex Pandora’s box that the majority of colonials born here are still unable to grasp. If the left continues behaving this way, all it will accomplish is ironically reinforcing Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Black, and anti-Asian racism.

 

Equally disturbing is the right’s inability to take responsibility for its own actions and the negative consequences that come along with them. They could re-record Led Zeppelin’s hit and call it Anybody’s Fault But Mine. The obsession with hating Justin Trudeau because his father was prime minister four decades ago for a whopping four years is super unhealthy. If your main engine is hate and your only plan for the future is threatening to kill Indigenous people along pipeline routes, then expect investors to abandon you like the plague. Planning to get elected based on inflaming Indigenous relations is a guaranteed losing strategy.

 

Voters told this government to work together. They didn’t say to blame the Wet’suwet’en or Mohawk and hold them hostage for climate change, nor did they say to punish them because your province may be landlocked. They’re already on the hook for a dying fossil fuel industry because it’s the only prosperity we would allow them. They’ve now reminded us of their mettle because they were pushed to the limit from every possible direction. Exploiting and dividing their families to fight for colonial causes is reprehensible.

 

Moreover, they shouldn’t be contemplating a draft agreement with any government until everyone, including nations with overlapping land claims, has independent legal counsel to advise them about their interests. The law already favours the Crown in these matters and that lopsidedness could constitute duress. The Assembly of First Nations also shouldn’t abandon the band councils in their greatest time of need. If activists on either side of argument truly wanted to help, they would establish a legal fund and donate to this Indigenous cause so they can be adequately informed about their rights and limitations.

 

I see you, Canada, and it’s your legislated duty to be honourable negotiators.

Special Report: Fracking Nuclear Waste, Say What? #cdnpoli #onpoli

Ontario residents have been kept in the dark, but Canada’s most populous province is about to become an unlikely and international battleground. After all, how many times does the Great White North threaten the drinking water of more than 40 million people, including their neighbours in America?

 

Legislators from south of the border have already taken issue with plans for a deep geologic repository. Less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron, Bruce Power intends to store 200,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste within the natural rock formation. Senators and congressmen shared their dissent with the Canadian government, but the fed responded by sending police to the homes of eco protesters, in what some would call an act of intimidation.

 

013opg

(photo credit: Ontario Power Generation)

 

It will take at least 300 years for the nuclear waste to decay, to a point that radioactive catastrophes are not a threat to human populations. This Kincardine, Ontario location was also chosen for its low seismic activity, reducing the likelihood of water and soil contamination by earthquake.

 

This much we’ve always known, due to the federal environment assessment that required public consultation. The Harper government has since levied time restrictions to speed the process along, but this is one project that was too big and too perilous to keep from the radar at all.

 

Seemingly unrelated, the controversy over fracking and in-situ technologies to harvest oil has been raging around the world. Ohio experts claim it causes earthquakes. Texans say it releases benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air, causing everything from cancer to nosebleeds and skin rashes. British scientists say it causes radioactive contamination. Researchers at Duke University say it makes water flammable in Pennsylvania and New York, where investigators cite enough contamination to blow up homes with families in them. In Canada, the Idle No More movement continuously defends First Nations from plans to frack their tribal territory and there’s still the argument of numerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction process.

 

014Gasland

(photo credit: HBO, GasLand)

 

The topic of hydraulic fracturing is so polarizing that countless provinces, states and cities have sought a moratorium. The mayor of New York City added his voice to the opposition, with strong reservations about the impact to water safety. By contrast and north of this shared water source, scientists from Canada were abruptly silenced by the federal government and environmental laws were gutted, so there is no mechanism or freedom to complain above the forty-ninth parallel any longer.

 

This much we also knew, but how could it possibly relate to a nuclear waste dump?

 

Critics warned that sweeping changes to de-monitor water, curtail public input and failure to assess smaller power projects would have a grave and lasting impact on the Canadian ecosystem. They denounced newly legislated secrecy and threw their hands in the air when the government conducted a good old-fashioned, scientific book burning. They went so far as to accuse the Harper administration of oppressing Canadians for the sake of Alberta oil profits, meant to benefit the Prime Minister’s friends at a cost to every other industry in the country. With few studies or consultations required anymore, the public wouldn’t be privy to projects that conflict with each other either.

 

It was a Nostradamus moment that wouldn’t take a thousand years to come true. It’s just that our first example arises in Ontario, further east than they predicted when pitted against bitumen, LNG or coastal pipelines as the likely candidates. When people think about oil, they don’t naturally imagine the Great Lakes region as an epicenter for this development.

 

No one can blame residents for being remiss, when information became inaccessible to the public and for that matter to Americans who are impacted by Canadian activity. Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty claimed there would be no fracking until the province studied evidence to determine if the practice was safe. The new premier has never commented and no elected officials have alluded to anything different.

 

With all this government subterfuge from provincial and federal levels, the only way to learn about energy projects is through private company investor reports and knowing which ones to research now.

 

Bruce Power, meet Dundee Energy Limited. The former is an Ontario nuclear giant and the latter has the largest stake in Ontario oil. The two may operate side by side, but you’d never know from asking any level of government including municipal managers. These companies also favour the same rock formation, but for very different reasons.

 

Nuclear proponents believe the shale is strong enough to store radioactive waste, while oil competitors have chosen the area due to rich deposits and the porous nature of the same rock, making it a perfect specimen for fracking. It’s hard to see how both could be correct, but everyone drinking water along the Great Lakes is in the crosshairs of this corporate aggression.

 

From Neil Young to Yoko Ono, concerned stars have raised alarm bells regarding each of these topics, but no one thought to consider the impact of running these operations together. Fracking beside nuclear waste is a new concept for sure. The consequence of either practice is still a new frontier and combining them won’t be studied in Canada, nor will anyone be informed to care.

 

This situation is complicated by a few key players. Nuclear behemoth Bruce Power is technically owned by TransCanada Corp, that is better known for the KeystoneXL oil pipeline and tribulations visiting the White House. It’s also owned by Cameco, recently accused of tax evasion related to uranium sales. This partnership is completed by the retirement funds of municipal employees and the Power Workers Union, otherwise known as an affiliate of the left-wing labour movement and CUPE. As these strange bedfellows negotiate long term destruction of the environment for short term gain, the public is none the wiser because every brand of elected official appears to have taken a vow of silence.

 

In the case of Dundee Energy, it’s a subsidiary of the Dundee Corporation and federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch was implicated in an alleged conflict of interest with this very consortium. While sitting on a board of directors for Dundee (REIT), Leitch was also debating legislation that impacted her environmentally averse tenants. In addition to meeting the needs of numerous oil clients under the Dundee real estate umbrella, this MP’s company position included an asset-based relationship with the National Energy Board (pgs 20-26).

 

The National Energy Board is Canada’s environmental regulator and the body that oversees public consultation in a situation like the Bruce Power nuclear waste dump. It no longer needs to conduct environmental hearings related to Dundee’s oil pursuits, as a result of the Labour Minister and Conservative government’s plight to de-monitor water and “streamline” approvals.

 

It’s now come to light that Leitch’s business associate was buying considerable land for oil extraction, with an eye for the riding she continues to represent. Dundee Energy also purchased junior speculators with rights to harvest oil in Ontario, around the same time she was named a trustee to the sister company with shared executives.

 

For context, the Labour Minister’s family established the Fort McMurray oil sands town in Alberta, before her career was transferred to Ontario where the process may be repeating. This time brings us to Collingwood, Ontario and begins with thousands of acres around Blue Mountain that the oil industry took an interest in.

 

This location boasts a farming heartland and world class ski resort, with waterside tourism in the summer. It’s unlikely Intrawest realizes the surrounding property is on the fracking horizon. It doesn’t bode well for stable snow formations if earthquakes are indeed caused by fracking. Yacht owners may pull their boats from oil-slicked waters and tourism around the protected Niagara Escarpment Biosphere may soon resemble the tar sands on this deregulated trajectory. The groundwaters sustaining agriculture in the bins at your local grocery store may also become poisonous if the experience of early adopters is any indication.

 

To manage a complex and conflicting set of developments, here’s a recap to give clarity that illuminates who might have known what.

 

1857 – 1863: Canada’s first shale gas operation was founded in Collingwood, Ontario. It originally supplied the market in Toronto. This enterprise eventually failed due to competition from Lambton County and this local history would be forgotten, until the present day when it’s repeated.

 

April 2008: Bruce Power begins drilling boreholes to test Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay and Manitoulin shales, in preparation for the nuclear waste deep geologic repository. A layout of the project is included, depicting the proximity to Lake Huron and a railway passing directly above the proposed radioactive location.

 

September 2008: Mooncor begins aggressive acquisition of Ontario shale oil assets. They have access to 23,000 acres with the ability to develop Collingwood and Blue Mountain formations.

 

November 2008: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Talisman and Torque Energy, as well as Enbridge, Haliburton and the US Energy Development Corp. Exhibitors include the Government of Newfoundland and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The latter presents “Shale Gas Opportunities in Ontario” during the session dedicated to fracking. The Ontario Power Generation also speaks about the Bruce Power waste site. That seminar is sandwiched between the effect of petrochemicals and how to fight back against eco protesters.

 

February 2009: A Calgary based oil and gas consultant is hired to conduct seismic testing for the Ontario Bruce Power nuclear site. Data is borrowed from a nearby Texaco well and Shell oil pipeline. Many gas wells are noted in the area and previous studies failed to indicate a seismic fault line. With newer technology however, faults were discovered around the nuclear site and this information will be submitted to the National Energy Board.

 

May 2009: The federal government finalizes a process of environmental review for the proposed Bruce Power nuclear waste site.

 

November 2009: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Torque Energy, Talisman Energy and Enbridge. Shale gas opportunities are promoted in Ontario and the Minister of Natural Resources is a keynote speaker this year. Numerous reps from the Ontario government provide seminars as well as a report for oil companies, enticing hundreds of new explorations. The Collingwood and Blue Mountain deposits are given special attention, closest to the nuclear waste site. Health Canada is also an exhibitor.

 

March 2010: Central Ontario oil was predominantly owned by Mooncor and Talisman Energy. The Dundee Corporation purchases “the largest accumulation of oil and natural gas assets in Ontario” for $131 million from Talisman, to overtake their interest in the area.

 

May 2010: Kellie Leitch becomes a trustee at a Dundee company that oversees real estate. These portfolios include a considerable roster of oil companies and the National Energy Board.

 

June 2010: Simcoe and Bruce Counties experience an uncharacteristic earthquake. The area surrounding a proposed nuclear waste dump and fracking locale, shakes enough to startle half the province awake.

 

October 2010: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsor information was withheld this year, but exhibitors include the Canadian Consulate General and various members of the Ontario government. Keynote speakers include disgraced Congressman Chris Lee (R-NY) and seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources, in addition to the Ministry of Northern Development. Dundee Energy updated their progress in purchasing Ontario shale assets, as the government updated its list of shale assets for promotion. Additional seminars were offered regarding hydraulic fracturing and the difficulty moving enough sand, water and chemicals to supply the fracking industry.

 

April 2011: The Bruce Power nuclear site tests for the presence of gas. It’s found in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations, among others. Upon detailed analysis, the highest concentration of oil is noted in the Collingwood shale samples (closest to the nuclear repository), while the highest gas concentrations can be found in the Blue Mountain companion. This study and many more were submitted to the National Energy Board.

 

April 2011: Mooncor creates spinoff company DRGN Resources to handle its Ontario shale oil and gas assets. The long term strategy includes overtaking smaller companies to become a major player in the province.

 

May 2011: Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, after accusations of being parachuted from out of town. This riding consists of Collingwood, Blue Mountain and much of Georgian Bay. She still works with Dundee REIT and will not resign the executive position until the end of the next quarter, representing both the public and a corporation at the same time.

 

June 2011: Dundee Energy Limited establishes 100 percent ownership of its Ontario oil assets, further retained by the Dundee conglomerate as the parent company. New horizontal wells are planned for extraction.

 

June 2011: Several fish begin dying in Lake Simcoe. It’s part of the same glacial movement that created the Great Lakes system and it’s a 30 minute drive from the shores of Lake Huron. A magnificent amount of oil and gas tests are occurring at the same time (from government, the fracking and nuclear industries), but this is not considered a possible culprit because the public is unaware.

 

August 2011: Dundee Energy purchases Torque Energy – a former sponsor of the Ontario Petroleum Institute and a remaining holdout competitor. Torque Energy includes oil assets in Ontario and the acquisition helps to pad Dundee’s dominant market share.

 

September 2011: Mooncor retains a small amount of stock in Torque Energy, now owned by the Dundee corporation (pg. 12). At the end of this month, Member of Parliament Kellie Leitch resigns from her position with Dundee’s real estate branch as well.

 

October 2011: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Dundee Energy, Torque Energy (under Dundee ownership) and Mooncor (with stock interest in Dundee). Keynote speakers include the Mayor of London and First Nations elders. Seminars are provided by the federal government’s Indian Oil and Gas Canada agency, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Energy Board. Topics covered Aboriginal affairs and fracking, with a hydrofracturing demonstration to close the event.

 

October 2011: Six thousand dead birds and fish scatter the shores of Wasaga Beach. It’s the longest freshwater beach in the entire world and lines much of Georgian Bay, connecting to Collingwood at Lake Huron. Both shale formations were being tested for oil and gas reserves, but botulism is the suspected culprit with little explanation regarding changes to the lake’s chemistry. The area never saw a die-off like this before and experts were left to guess a reason.

 

November 2011: Mooncor engages the Dundee conglomerate for help to raise $5 million toward expansion.

 

November 2011: An executive lawyer for Bruce Power and the nuclear waste site is appointed to the Ontario Centre of Excellence, to guide the provincial economy. This centre is funded by the Ontario government and Bruce Power continues to be owned by the same curious partners.

 

May 2012: Thousands of dead fish appear on the shores of Lake Simcoe. The second time is worse than the first. The Ministry of Natural Resources waited a number of months before informing the public of a widespread infection and no detailed cause was ever given.

 

September 2012: The Ontario government promotes shale fuel extraction at a conference in the United States. Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations are the focus, with 31 percent oil saturation and 77 percent gas saturation to encourage deeper investment. One of the wells cited is adjacent to the Bruce Power nuclear waste site. (A similar situation between oil wells and nuclear generators occurs in the Pickering location on Lake Ontario.)

 

September 2012: Dundee Energy invests $13.7 million in Ontario assets. Another $3.4 million is spent to acquire maps with seismic data, needed to plan the next harvesting sites. Inland extraction has become a priority to increase production, that offsets lower gas prices affected by greater American penetration and the Canadian petro dollar. A rig is purchased to assist with new drilling, allowing expansion in the Toronto gas market. In the process, they reserve $3.3 million for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, in anticipation of future environmental costs.

 

October 2012: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. The sponsor list is excluded again, but the Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservative MPP Bob Bailey and a National Post editor were mentioned as speakers. Embattled Liberal Energy Minister Chris Bentley was invited to give the keynote address and topics narrowly focused on pipelines, fracking and promoting Ontario’s shale assets for exploration.

 

November 2012: The Ontario government releases a comprehensive report (490 pages) meant to attract investment, reform applicable laws and assist corporations in negotiating with First Nations. Shale gas and oil in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay, Nottawasaga and Manitoulin areas is given special attention (pgs. 222-240), with specific mention of fuels (pgs. 275-286). Each is promoted as having the best potential for fracking related extraction. At least 360 samples were tested from wells and new boreholes in the years preceding, as part of the larger “shale gas assessment project” the public was never informed about. Groundwater mapping for Simcoe County is thoroughly noted (pgs. 295-306) and includes data from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, the Nottawasaga River, Newmarket Till and Oak Ridges Moraine. It is further identified as one of the most significant glacial aquifers, responsible for drinking water obtained from the Great Lakes and every connecting path from Canada to Chicago, Illinois.

 

November 2012: At the same time Ontario promoted shale extraction, Premier Dalton McGuinty informed the media there was no reason to worry about fracking in the province. He offered this reassurance despite public objection to Dundee Energy and Mooncor buying land for the same purpose. This message was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources when they confirmed one new shale well was drilled, but denied any knowledge of plans to continue. All political parties responded as if the premise of fracking was hypothetical, but each shared a connection to this series of concrete developments. The Liberal government spent millions to encourage fracking extraction and accepted millions from interested companies. Elected Conservatives spoke at fracking events and/or occupied an executive table with the most aggressive corporation. The NDP also enjoys considerable input from the labour movement, as business partners with an oil giant involved in testing the area.

 

December 2012: The federal government passes controversial legislation to de-monitor Canada’s water and reduce environmental assessments, in favour of oil lobbyist demands.

 

June 2013: Dundee Energy plans to invest $13.2 million in new Ontario wells and exploration to increase production. Another $2 million will be spent to map 314 kilometers of prospective shale opportunities. The corporation pays an extra $270,000 to the Ministry of Natural Resources in anticipation of future abandonment costs (pgs. 8, 28). This expansion is again reported to offset losses incurred by the American market and complication from the petro dollar (pgs. 10-13).

 

September 2013: Dundee’s rig is used in Lambton County, Ontario to fracture-stimulate a new well. Additional projects are planned for summer the next year.

 

October 2013: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. This time it’s at the Windsor casino and sponsors are dwindling as companies are bought up, but Dundee Energy has attained the gold level. Seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Dundee itself, regarding radial jet drilling and its benefits to the fracking industry. This talk was followed by a presentation regarding the Blue Mountain shale formation and the majority of that day was dedicated to hydraulic fracturing topics. The smaller event was then closed by the Ontario Minister of Rural Affairs. It should be noted that a few days earlier, First Nations made international news with a government standoff against fracking. A Chief close to Bruce Power was also protesting the nuclear waste dump.

 

In other curious developments, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources defers to the oil industry as its spokesperson. Visiting the government internet page to learn about provincial resources not only misinforms about Ontario’s history (forgetting Collingwood as the first producer), but it also directs readers to the “Discovery Education Centre” as the government’s source for facts.

 

It just so happens the Discovery Education Centre is owned by Discovery Drilling Funds. They were purchased by LongBow Energy Corp and this business is steeped in the Alberta oil sands. Head office is located in Calgary, Alberta and one of the key executives is a former Koch Petroleum manager (of Koch Industries fame). It’s unclear why a private group of five western oil companies is now speaking for the Government of Ontario.

 

Regarding competition between fracking and nuclear waste, the town of Walkerton, Ontario is located at the midpoint between them. Driving half an hour west, residents will arrive at Bruce Power and driving half an hour east, they’ll arrive at the heavily promoted Collingwood oil deposits. If they dare to drive south, they’ll arrive at Sarnia’s petrochemical industry and advanced plans for fracking in Lambton County as well.

 

This tiny hamlet was foisted to world news when the water supply was contaminated and more than 2,300 residents became severely ill. Several died. Criminal charges were laid. The Conservative government of the day was blamed for legislation that privatized the testing of water safety. Now the same families may serve as a test, to see what happens when government policy allows fracking beside nuclear waste, fourteen years later in a repeat performance.

 

Everyone who obtains drinking water associated with the Great Lakes will also be affected, if any part of this experiment goes wrong. And despite Ontario denying plans to frack, taxpayers footed the bill to produce widespread tests for shale oil, in addition to yearly seminars designed to entice extraction.

 

These water tables come from one of the most important Precambrian aquifers. It supplies the local area and stretches deep into the United States. This underground water highway also supports Toronto and all the towns branching out along the way. The only thing that doesn’t appear to support 40 million North Americans, is politics north of the border and its friends in the energy industry. If all bureaucracies have skin in the game, who’s left to speak for the water?

 

Is Labour Minister In Conflict Of Interest?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/mp-leitch_b_4124776.html

Will the Ethics Minister Investigate this MP’s Failure to Disclose Her Income?

Posted: 10/21/2013 1:30 pm

 

Surprising developments continue to challenge the Harper government and it doesn’t appear the recent cabinet shuffle was enough to contain the party’s troubles.  In July, the prime minister embarked on a public relations makeover to soften the blow from repeated allegations of criminal activity and impropriety against a growing number of Conservatives.

 

To quell chatter about Duffy and the senate spending scandal — followed by charges against Del Mastro, the Prime Minister appointed a fresh batch of faces to populate his inner circle. In this rejuvenation process, a faithful MP from Simcoe-Grey was promoted to Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women. It seemed a safe bet, as the member was not only a minority female but also a paediatric surgeon who proved her loyalty by supporting the export of asbestos. Surely her silence in the face of criticism from the health care industry could merit responsibility for two portfolios in a beleaguered government.

 

Doubly minted Minister Kellie Leitch keeps a low profile with the local public, but she’s been a staple in the Conservative party since the days of her youth. The doctor wasn’t familiar to residents of Simcoe-Grey until the 2011 federal election, because she normally hailed from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario in London. Leitch’s life was centred many hours away and she survived this controversy with stellar endorsements from CPC stars like Jim Flaherty, Peter MacKay, Hugh Segal, Julian Fantino and Stephen Harper. The campaigning efforts of Pamela Wallin weren’t quite as glowing, since her visits have become a point of contention in the senate investigation (see April 26 and 29, expanded to include Jan. 17).

 

This prominent attention must have felt remarkable. In a rural region known for farming and rustic getaways, the area was transformed into a political Hollywood for the election. The only caveat is it required this much effort to help Leitch overcome the toxic atmosphere she was about to inherit. Her predecessor in Simcoe-Grey was also a Minister for the Status of Women, but Helena Guergis was in the process of being turfed as her replacement was parachuted by the Prime Minister. It was a timely campaign of false and tawdry allegations. Ms. Guergis saw her career destroyed to create a vacancy in the riding and much of the local executive quit to protest their loss of democracy.

 

Amid the many accusations against Kellie Leitch, it became apparent she would need to open up and endear herself to the locals. In a rare interview with the tiny Wasaga Beach newspaper, a limited number of constituents received a glimpse into the world of our prospective Labour Minister. This included a rare epiphany explaining just how far she traveled. In her own words, Kellie Leitch professes it wasn’t in her plans to become a doctor and she was keen to build on her father’s legacy as a founder of Fort McMurray.

 

The Alberta oil sands are more than a stone’s throw from the shores of central Ontario and according to Leitch, her family should be credited with bringing the oil rush to Canada because they’re the ones who built the infrastructure to make the harvest area inhabitable. This MP was proud of the environment she helped create, despite Neil Young’s comparison of Fort McMurray to Hiroshima. Of course the latter was banned from the former’s radio station, so perhaps Minister Leitch will never hear about the opposition.

 

This brings us to the ethical hurdles facing the Conservative party and whether Harper’s judgement would improve in time for the cabinet shuffle, meant to save the government’s reputation. These new ministers should be impervious to criticism, or rather investigation. Ideally they would lead the way by filing items properly and insulate the Canadian Parliament from any more questions of fraud or conflicts of interest. Or contempt. Or bribery. Or voter suppression. Or criminal charges. With such a turbulent track record, it only seems reasonable the Prime Minister would benefit from hindsight and wisdom in selecting his next executives.

 

It was previously reported that Minister Leitch was in good standing with the Ethics Commissioner and she did not declare any additional income in her report for the public registry. This is the information she provided to media in a congenial, receptive email. But that registry and the Canadian Securities Regulators at Sedar appear to have a different opinion.

 

The following is a public version of events, expressed in a timeline with commentary:

 

May 4, 2010 — Kellie Leitch causes a stir with Conservatives in Simcoe-Grey, when she attends private meetings as a star candidate who was parachuted from Toronto.

 

May 6, 2010 — Kellie Leitch becomes a paid trustee at Dundee REIT (see also May 10, 2010 – report of voting results). As part of a Declaration of Trust, she must agree to a non-competition clause with the company. She is not permitted to acquire an interest, even indirectly from commercial real estate, without first allowing Dundee the option of purchasing said investment (see page 37).

 

Dundee REIT is a subsidiary of Dundee Corporation and Ned Goodman is the owner, occupying a seat at the same table as MP Leitch. Mr. Goodman is better known as one of the richest people in Canada (see page 18). The REIT is better known for its main accounts, as landlord to the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Government of British Columbia, Government of Alberta, Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Quebec, Government of Northwest Territories, Enbridge Pipelines and SNC Lavalin. This is in addition to the Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Cities of Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Health Services, CAE and Ministry of the Attorney General (see page 20).

 

In media it’s not mentioned that Dundee REIT is behind the Toronto Pan Am village, but annual filings detail the company’s $15 million investment, with an expected profit of $50 million when the properties are finally sold (see page 12).

 

In the same report Mr. Goodman shares his executive insight with underlings like Minister Leitch. He says,

 

“Inflation is a certainty because without any other reasons, and there are many, it is a political and financial tool that allows for de-leveraging of debt and payment of deficits. In addition, politicians very seldom get elected by causing deflation. Almost everyone likes inflation. If you are a government and inflate prices, then you keep people struggling and working hard to keep pace with inflation. The poorer the people are, the more likely they can be kept under control. In addition, inflation for rich people is taxable and deflation is less so. No government ever has an incentive to deflate, but has incentive in fact to inflate. Voters prefer inflation to deflation.” (seepage 19)

 

He would have said this while also acting as the Chancellor of Brock University.

 

May 10, 2010 — The appointment of Dr. Leitch to Dundee REIT is confirmed by Sedar.com (see May 10, 2010, report of voting results).

 

May 2010 — Kellie Leitch is slated to receive 4,607 deferred REIT units for her services as a trustee in the first year (see April 18, 2011, management information circular – within report, view page 6). Her access to sensitive information about the company and advice from owners like Mr. Goodman is granted (view page 9). The compensation structure is outlined and as a trustee, Dr. Leitch will play a role in determining these amounts, including the amount of payment due to Mr. Goodman and approval of deferred units like she received (view pages 12-13). In addition to receiving property investments and a personal stake in government tenants, Leitch receives $21,000 in cash for meeting fees (see page 18). It’s important to understand this compensation was negotiated at the onset, but actual payment would be received into the next year. The deferred units go through a 5 year vesting period, with parts maturing at each anniversary. This would provide Dr. Leitch with steady income for a minimum of 5 years (view page 16).

 

May 2010 — Dundee REIT confirms it will invest $20 million to construct a building for the Government of Canada in Yellowknife, fully leased to the government for 10 years (see May 6, 2010, interim financial statements – within report, view page 21).

 

December 31, 2010 — Kellie Leitch is confirmed to receive $21,000 in cash, for her services at Dundee REIT (see page 18).

 

March 21, 2011 — Much of the Conservative riding executive quits in Simcoe-Grey, due to the ouster of Helena Guergis and the parachuting of Kellie Leitch.

 

March 31, 2011 — As Defence Minister, Peter MacKay visits the riding of Simcoe-Grey to campaign on behalf of Dr. Leitch. On the same day, Dundee REIT releases a business update to Sedar.com that includes important information about its trustees. Leitch is legally reported to live in the municipality of Toronto (see March 31, 2011 – annual information form – within report, view pages 30, 31). This supports the accusation that she was parachuted to another riding.

 

April 12, 2011 — Leitch’s business partner and Dundee Corporation owner, Ned Goodman,purchases considerable interest in resource extraction from the Ring of Fire – a point of deep contention for Northern Ontario Native communities.

 

April 19, 2011 — Peter Cosgrove donates $1,000 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 29). If this was a misspelling, a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT also goes by the name of Peter Cossgrove.

 

April 27, 2011 — Robert Goodall donates $500 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 51). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

April 29, 2011 — Joanne Ferstman donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 48). She is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

April 29, 2011 — Robert Tweedy donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 123). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

May 2, 2011 – Don Charter donates $500 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (seeentry 19). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

May 2, 2011 — Michael Knowlton donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 69). He was the president, COO, executive vice president and CFO at Dundee REIT. He made this contribution two weeks before retiring from the president’s position.

 

Most donations were recorded at the last minute. Forty per cent arrived on Election Day and this indicates Leitch was in contact with her business partners from Toronto, while the riding of Simcoe-Grey was busy voting. No trustees at Dundee REIT are residents of this riding, according to available financial records. In addition to these individuals, the majority of political donors hail from the Toronto area and their contributions were accepted on May 2, 2011.

 

The return submitted to Elections Canada includes donor names such as Lara Zink (136),Dori Segal (106), David R. Wingfield (133), Kevin Warn-Schindel (128), Linda Rorabeck(100), Lori Turik (122), Kim Shannon (107), Michael S. Ras (95), Partick Meneley (83),Frank Magliocco (77), Onorio Lucchese (75), Blair Levinsky (73), William E. Lardner (71),Landon French (49), Victor Dodig (40), Bradley Cutsey (34), William J. Corcoran (28) andRita Ciccolini. It is this calibre of GTA powerhouses that funded an election campaign in rural Ontario.

 

(To view a candidate’s return within the Elections Canada database, a fresh search must be performed. Once the information for Leitch, Kellie, in the riding of Simcoe–Grey is displayed, select Form 2A to browse donations. Screen captures of this information are also provided below. Please be advised there is nothing improper about the donations, but they did arise from out of town, predominantly on the day of election.)

 

May 2, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, defeating Helena Guergis as a new face for the Conservatives.

 

May 12, 2011 — Ten days after the election, MP Leitch accepts paid re-appointment to the Board of Trustees at Dundee REIT (see May 16, 2011 — report of voting results). This happened at a specially scheduled event, in the Toronto Board of Trade, East Ballroom. It would have been clear to everyone that Kellie Leitch was celebrating her election, when she accepted their overtures to oversee a business that relied heavily on the favour of federal government (see pages 1, 6).

 

May 16, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is recorded in the Canada Gazette as being elected to Parliament. According to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, she has 60 days from this moment to file her private interests with the Ethics Commissioner for inspection. Since Dr. Leitch was immediately appointed to parliamentary secretary, her ability to engage in private employment would not have been appropriate (seeitem 7). She would not have been able to engage in contracts with the government for which she received benefit, without the Commissioner’s permission and only if the arrangement wouldn’t affect her parliamentary obligations (see items 16, 17, 18). MP Leitch was also required to disclose any income greater than $1,000, including its source, for the 12 months preceding election (see item 21).

 

May 19, 2011 — Dundee REIT acquires the Realex portfolio (see page 84). It includes parts of the University of Waterloo.

 

May 25, 2011 — MP Leitch is appointed to parliamentary secretary by the Prime Minister.

 

July 16, 2011 — MP Leitch was due to submit her disclosure of private income and conflicts of interest to the Ethics Commissioner, in keeping with the 60 day mandate. She failed to do this within the required time and remained engaged with Dundee REIT as a parliamentary secretary.

 

August 15, 2011 — Dundee REIT acquires the Blackstone portfolio for $703 million (seepage 23). It was the largest portfolio ever purchased by a REIT in Canada and this transaction contained significant addresses in the heart of Toronto’s financial district (Bay Street).

 

2011 — Dundee REIT becomes landlord to the National Energy Board, numerous oil and resource companies, WSIB and Government Services for the Department of National Defence (see pages 20-26). Due to the nature of their tenants, Dundee’s liability for environmental protection and the cost of remediating contaminated sites is considered (seepage 27).

 

September 22, 2011 — Parliamentary Secretary Leitch resigns from her position at Dundee REIT. The company attributes this departure to her successful election nearly five months earlier. They note she attended four of five regularly scheduled meetings, meaning it’s probable that some of them occurred while she was a Member of Parliament — unless all the company’s business was conducted prior to May 2nd and the federal election. Leitch accepted remuneration for her service in 2011, in the form of $6,000 cash, 35,000 REIT units and 110,000 deferred REIT units, for a reported value of $151,600 (see April 11, 2012 –management information circular – within report, view page 20 – or see alternate source atpage 20, here).

 

September 26, 2011 — MP Leitch discloses her private interests to the Ethics Commissioner on the public registry. She reports a blind trust and income from the University of Toronto, University of Western and the Ministry of Health. She does not report the $21,000 plus $6,000 received in cash, for her previous twelve months at Dundee REIT, or the current term. She does not report her significant interest in the company’s contracts with government tenants or the oil and resource industries. In fact, there is no mention of Dundee REIT, even though this report is filed four days after resigning the private position and two months after the parliamentary due date.

 

September 29, 2011 — Three days later, MP Leitch makes a correction to her Ethics disclosure. This time she adds ownership of the Khristinn Kellie Leitch Medicine Professional Corporation, but still there is no mention of Dundee REIT.

 

2010 – 2011 — During the first year of Dr. Leitch’s tenure at Dundee REIT in 2010, the Government of Canada leased 333,187 square feet from the company (see page 21). Although she was elected to Parliament in May 2011, MP Leitch didn’t resign the position with Dundee until the end of September. During this period of dual representation, the Government of Canada became the company’s largest tenant, increasing their lease to 1,209,973 square feet in 2011 (see page 19). That’s an unprecedented increase in the company’s history of 263 percent, around the same time this parliamentary secretary was working for both entities. Since her departure from Dundee REIT, the federal government expanded their account to 1,658,129 square feet.

 

2012 — Dundee REIT releases an annual report that cites considerable political influence on their business ventures (see page 44).

 

As the current Minister of Labour, Kellie Leitch could impact the employment concerns of Dundee REIT. She will continue to receive income until her payment cycle completes in 2016, with incentive to meet their needs. There is no concern from government to abstain from voting in parliament, on matters that affect the company or any of the tenants. There is no mention of the environmental pressures to keep many of these clients profitable. The REIT units owned by the minister are more than security investments and there is nothing to indicate the Ethics Commissioner identifies these holdings as remuneration. Minister Leitch could choose between cash and securities, opting for the latter as a lion’s share of compensation. This relationship is further complicated by Dundee’s political interest in the outcome of government decisions from a number of different perspectives.

 

January 17, 2012 — Dundee completes their acquisition of the Whiterock portfolio, becoming a landlord to the Government of New Brunswick, Government of Nova Scotia, Quebec public health, Air Canada, provincial hydro organizations, the US Bank, TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank, Molson, PEI Liquor Control Commission, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (see last pages, B-1 to B-4).

 

February 14, 2013 — MP Leitch makes the last update to her ethics disclosure file. This time she adds publicly traded securities and an extra blind trust to the assets column. It’s likely these securities arise from her payment at Dundee REIT; but still there is no cash declared, no mention of remuneration and no mention of the company or its interests.

 

July 15, 2013 — MP Leitch is appointed to Minister of Labour and Minister of the Status of Women.

 

Minister Leitch has been contacted for comment, but none has been forthcoming. The only question that remains is if the commissioner will evaluate these potential conflicts of interest, the primary address of MP Leitch on Election Day and the apparent failure to disclose earned income.

 

***February 13, 2014 UPDATE:  It is now known that MP Leitch donated to the Rob Ford election campaign.  In his financial documents, it lists her home address in the City of Toronto.  FreeThePressCanada will not disclose the exact location, but the election documents are a matter of public record, stored online.

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Ontario Poverty Overview, The Finer Points

(Originally published by Open Government projects and universities in 2010, but mainstream media wasn’t interested in the topic to amend for newspaper format.)

Poverty is a growing epidemic in the province of Ontario, costing us billions of dollars across a wide range of government ministries.  Normally we hear critiques focused on philosophy, program names and groups of people; but while many debate the grander principles, I’d like to discuss the finer points.  No matter anyone’s focus on reducing poverty, there still remains great conflict in the way we deliver patchwork service and agendas.  It is through a collaboration of competing interests, motivations and tunnel vision that cycles of dependency are born and further nurtured by our oversight.  The following is an overview of these conflicts and their impacts on society.  We mustn’t downplay its importance, for this is the very foundation upon which all else is built.

Contributing Factors:

 

1.  Public assistance rates – Are calculated in accordance with the inflation level of 1995.  In 16 years the amounts allotted for rent, utilities and food have not been adjusted to address current reality.

2.  Ontario Works and ODSP lost frontline funding for children – When the Ontario Child Benefit was created, the Basic Needs portion of public assistance was literally clawed back to zero, for anyone under the age of eighteen.  Welfare no longer provides food, clothes, personal care or school supplies to children.  Under the new funding module, the government expects families to access this income via tax returns (OCB), in theory to make it more accessible (ex. working poor).

However, the “new” groups were only accounted for by taking directly from our most vulnerable.  At the end of the day, those on public assistance saw an average increase of $1 – $19 while working families gained closer to $350 per month.

3.  The recession – Placed a considerable amount of new clients into our social welfare system.  The middle class has been chipping away but the last few years have made a stunning impact on the gap between rich and poor.

http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/12/06/GapKiller/

4.  Housing inflation – Has been uncontrollable since our move to a market fetching system.  This practice makes it near impossible for low income families to afford living anywhere at all.  The vast majority of those on public assistance only receive enough to pay the rent with their entire month’s income.  The same is true of many working minimum wage, part time, contract and seasonal positions.

5.  Near abandonment of subsidized housing – Has been the norm as counties see little incentive to invest in this protection of community.  This is an issue that’s been placed in local hands, where the greatest bias has the potential to exist, conflicts of interest and no motivation to act charitably.

6.  Total abandonment of the Poverty Reduction Strategy – Painstaking consultations were procured by government, remedies were put in place, promises were made, but very little has been enacted.  Here’s a copy of that mandate:

http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/breakingthecycle/index.aspx

7.  Uninspiring wage penalties via OW and ODSP – The public assistance system has been revised countless times, in the name of progress and yet always at a cost to its recipients.  The current method actually deters people from working and sets up an atmosphere of all or nothing.  It also divides families believe it or not.

Anyone on welfare who obtains employment pays deductions from their monthly allowance.  In the case of ODSP, a client will pay the same taxes, EI premiums, CPP contributions and union dues just like anyone else.  They are further penalized 50% from their gross earned wages by ODSP in the following month, so they’ve lost well over 75% of their take-home pay by the time government is done.

Ontario Works is worse yet.  The client pays all taxes like everyone else and then faces 100% deduction of gross pay, thereby leaving them with even less than if they hadn’t worked.  This happens for the first 4 months and if the client has managed to maintain the same position for consecutive months, they will finally be converted to the 50% deduction schedule.

If children in these low income families attempt employment (even part time at McDonald’s during high school) it will be considered family income.  They will face the same deductions as their parents and be forced to support the adults in their family.  Therefore we can assume they will never be able to save up for a class trip, extra curricular activity or proper clothing.

While it’s not entirely a provincial issue, recipients of CPP Disability are only allowed to make $4200 per year without being disqualified from benefits.  This speaks for a great amount of mentally ill, terminally ill and physically challenged persons.  If they manage to recover for a period of time and make an effort to seek employment, they may find themselves abandoned from support and forced into the regular welfare system.

In any event, all methods discourage participants from working, as they stand to receive less income for even trying.  And so the cycle is born.

8.  No access to social care – Exists in smaller communities.  These “towns” account for the majority of Ontario and struggle with lacking support systems.  Most do not have a domestic violence centre or transportation to one.  They don’t have soup kitchens, Out of the Cold programs, parenting courses, child counseling or a host of other interventionist measures.  They also don’t have community resource agencies connecting them with information and referral.  In cities with better access there are waiting lists and countless thousands turned away.

 

Complications and Mounting Costs:

 

1.  Cost of living is insurmountable – And has resulted in numerous consequences.  When incomes don’t nearly reflect basic expenses, we find our vulnerable population living on the very fringe of existence.  The onus of getting families by has been placed on the shoulders of charity and grassroots, who are not capable of being responsible for an entire province alone.

 

The Winter Warmth program runs out of funds in its first month every year for the last 3 years running (locally).  This means anyone who is facing heat disconnection will have to go without if they didn’t apply for help by the end of December.

The Barrie, ON food bank recently invested in a warehouse twice the size because it can’t keep up with local demand.  They’re serving 21,000 families per year and turning away an average of 800 per month.  Smaller communities have to export their poor to the nearest urban centre because they are isolated from support in the vast in-between.  In the meantime, small town food banks appeal to their municipalities for thousands more when their cupboards run bare:

http://anewsvideo.ca/play.php?vid=322

(Watch at 9:25 for newscast on food banks & 10:13 for confirmation of amount without service)

We know 100% of income is going to shelter in many cases and the only sustenance families receive comes from the food bank.  Except these supplies weren’t designed to last more than a week and records show around 1/3rd of visitors are children and 1/3rd are senior citizens.  Many people think food bank users are lazy or spend their money on drugs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s a copy of an especially thorough report titled The Cost of Poverty.  It was written by the Ontario Association of Food Banks at the end of 2008 and is the first study of its kind to tie the majority of elements together.  They’ve calculated poverty-induced, health related costs at $2.9 billion alone.  They find our methods of ignoring poverty come with a price tag of $13.1 billion annually, which trickles down to $2895 per Ontario household.

 

The report goes on to look at the characteristics of our system and determines 45.4% of single mothers struggled with poverty in 2001.  But the recession has since hit our economy and numbers have only skyrocketed.   Whereas minorities might have been able to secure available part time positions, today the competition is fierce.  At the time, 40% of Ontario’s disabled were skimping by at the lowest possible income quintile as well:

http://www.oafb.ca/assets/pdfs/CostofPoverty.pdf

2.  Ontario children no longer have access to emergency food, clothing or personal care– Since basic needs were removed from the public assistance structure, there is no ability to provide them with immediate support outside of foster care.  This is forcing countless families to remain in abusive situations.

Here is a prime example:  A husband and wife or common law couple has children together.  She’s a stay-at-home mom and he earns a good wage at $80K per year.  They don’t qualify for the Ontario Child Benefit together when claiming income tax.

The husband is abusive however and the mom enters a shelter with her children.  She technically has no income and applies to Ontario Works so they can find a home and begin rebuilding, until she can develop skills and secure employment.

Because the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) and National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) are processed by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), mom will have to file for separation from her husband and 6 months to a year must pass before the government accepts their new family structure.  Even so, it may take longer before a full year’s income tax will reflect what she’s entitled to, as CRA calculates from the year prior.  Countless months will pass before this newly single parent will be able to access “baby bonus” (to provide food for her children) and she may feel she is not able to afford leaving the situation.

In the meantime the only contingency is what’s called the Transitional Child Benefit (TCB), administered by public assistance.  A client must first prove they’re not entitled to baby bonus which can take months in itself.  Welfare can then loan $189 per month to make up for the shortfall.  If the family receives money from any source in the future (child support order, baby bonus, inheritance, insurance, EI, gifts), they will have to repay the amount “borrowed” in full however.

This was the most oppressive policy against children in recent memory.  Taking funds from the frontlines put them directly in harm’s way and more than 350,000 kids had to line up under a Salvation Army sign for dinner last year.  In rural communities they don’t even have that.

http://thecapitalworks.cusjc.ca/2010/11/16/food-bank-use-sets-13-year-high/

The Children’s Aid Society has also seen an influx of calls.  As mentioned, when a family can’t provide the necessities of life, the state has an obligation to step in.  Here is the Canadian Bar Association’s depiction of the overload.  It also illuminates a lack of access to Legal Aid.  Since that program was clawed back it added even more complication:

http://www.cba.org/CBA/National/junjul03/feature1.aspx

3.  Social Services require complete loss of all worth before stepping in – This has only taken the recession and made it worse.  Countless families are trying to cope with job loss and the death of our traditional manufacturing sector.  They’re running out of EI benefits now.  They’ve missed as many payments as possible before the bank gets cranky and we’re standing at the precipice of foreclosure due to unpaid property tax (normally spanning 3 years of non payment).

These are oftentimes educated people who were directly impacted by illness or a cutthroat economy.  A former Director from Queen’s University befell the same fate, demoted from an executive lifestyle to homelessness because of disability:

http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO.woa?videoid%3F756011455001

We expect them to sell their homes and live off the proceeds until there is truly nothing left.  They must be near a state of bankruptcy before public assistance will qualify anyone.  This policy destabilizes the population directly, at a time when it is trying desperately to rebuild and reinvent itself.  An Ontario mother and former Bell executive explains in her own words:

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/906127

4.  Homelessness is frighteningly on the rise – Families carry the highest rate of homelessness today.  There was a 51% increase in those housed at shelters and a 60% increase of children taken into foster care “as a direct result of housing deficiencies”.  If only I could surround those numbers in neon lights to grab your attention.The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario offers a more concise look at the characteristics of this situation:

http://www.rnao.org/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=2085&SiteNodeID=398

In areas outside the city, we don’t have Out of the Cold programs or shelters, nor can any low income family technically afford market rent.  The only alternative is hospitalization to the tune of $2500+ per month:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/homeless-patients-cost-2500-more-per-hospital-stay-study-finds/article1933517/

5.  Affordable housing is not a priority for municipalities – A good example is Collingwood, ON who just disbanded their housing committee, or Toronto who suggests getting out of the business entirely.  Placing subsidized options in the hands of municipalities makes it hard to convince one neighbour to dish out the $2895 to support the fellow next door (amount of tax burden per household).  Despite any government subsidy, this is what the situation amounts to and why we’ve lost so many units.  From 1995 to 2003 the affordable market cut 127,680 offerings while 158,456 families joined the waiting list.  Since the recession we’ve only seen more needing assistance and a brazen unwillingness to respond:

http://www.thestar.com/news/torontocouncil/article/952130–new-tchc-director-has-criticized-management-and-said-the-city-can-t-afford-social-housing?bn=1

Please view the attitude Ontario’s most vocal mayor is sharing with his constituents (26 sec):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YZQ4oQjxgc

Just today a new report was released by the reputable Wellesley Institute to confirm the federal government is quashing affordable housing of every type as well.  They’re cutting another 50,000 spaces in addition to dissolving the home repairs fund.  This means families who manage to find an abode will be forced to live in dilapidated conditions and the cuts will be unanimous by every level of government:

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/uncategorized/latest-federal-spending-estimates-confirm-sharp-cuts-to-national-housing-homelessness-investments/

6.  Forsaking the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy – Is destroying the base by which we can be measured.  When contemplating the economic recovery of Ontario, we must consider our reputation to business.  Our statistics dropped so dramatically that we were rebuked by UNICEF and the UN.  Canadian children are worse off for shelter, food and clothing than those in Portugal or the Czech Republic:

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/900891–rich-countries-let-poorest-children-fall-behind

In 2007 we ranked 15th and have since fallen to 17th place.  In more detailed categories like family relationships we sadly scored dead-last.  Hopefully these are warning signs the good people of Ontario will take to heart:

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20070214/child_wellbeing_070214/

7.  Our poverty help system is punitive in nature – Promoting patterns of absolute breakdown and continued dependency.  “Zero Dollar Linda’s” story went viral amongst health and social work groups and she’s a perfectly good example of this conundrum:

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/894037

Adding to the confusion is the method in which we collect deductions from public assistance.  When a recipient of OW or ODSP works in March they will report their earnings before the end of the month.  The penalty won’t be taken until April 30th however.  This delay only leaves a client vulnerable if they can’t maintain the status quo.  This happens frequently to seasonal, temp and disabled workers, where an entire month will have to lapse before their family could receive support.  It doesn’t matter if they paid bills or lived responsibly.  The qualifier is going 30 days without any income first.  And by the time benefits are reinstated, the family is already receiving disconnection notices.  This will result in being a month behind for the rest of the entire year.

We have threatened our most vulnerable population in the most intimate of ways.  They must live without food, shelter and without their children for trying to make the climb out of poverty.  Their health and stability will be affected and the cost of putting kids in state care is astronomically greater than providing the basics to their parents.

8.  Isolating communities from social support – Turns early intervention opportunities into full blown emergencies.  When a woman can’t seek counseling for domestic violence or information about getting out; this can result in terrible injuries, police, court involvement and tremendous cost to public agencies.  According to the OPP these charges have doubled since the recession.

When a wayward parent can’t access a Triple P parenting program (the gold standard in correcting discipline issues, promoted by every regional health unit), an issue that could have been resolved with education may grow into child abuse.

When they can’t access Legal Aid they end up in a holding cell for 6 months for stealing a loaf of bread.  And when they can’t access counseling for their troubled children, they too grow up through the court system instead.  Despite the social safety we’re so proud of, it’s not within reach for Ontario’s in-between places.  Our services have eroded so far that they’re only offered in larger cities.

Strategies to Make a Real Difference:

 

1.  Establish the $100 Healthy Food Benefit – As outlined at PutFoodInTheBudget.ca, this would directly infuse our most vulnerable households with an increase in groceries.  It must be calculated per person and would make sense to expand to children.  It should also come with protections so no corresponding clawbacks could defeat the purpose (ex. further deductions from the Basic Needsportion of public assistance cheques).

2.  A strong commitment to affordable housing – Is imperative to avert an epidemic in homelessness, especially that of families who constitute the heart of a stable society.

3.  Put children’s Basic Needs back in frontline funding – And enable families to deal with their own fundamental survival.  By canceling coverage through Ontario Works and ODSP offices, we knowingly oppress our own kids from eating for months at a time.  The Ontario Child Benefit did nothing to alleviate our most poor and put them in greater danger, just because of how the program is administered.  This is hardly different from Third World countries where residents obtain “rations” from federal government and aid agencies now.  It also goes a long way to explain the troubling spike in young food bank visitors.

The Ontario Child Benefit may provide relief at the end of a tax year, but it doesn’t help with the onset of an emergency.  In fact, 5% of eligible, low income families haven’t managed to access “baby bonus” at all.  This means imperative funds are diverted to government coffers to collect interest, while more and more children go without.  It’s also a good indicator that federal management of our provincial poverty initiatives is strikingly ineffective.

http://www.moneyville.ca/article/939401–roseman-benefits-go-begging-when-rules-unclear?bn=1

4.  Increase public assistance rates to reflect current inflation – 16 years of tax and rate increases have gone by without recognition.  Back in those days gas sold for 45 cents a liter and bread was 49 cents a loaf.  Today those amounts have tripled and they’re only going up.  Most families are afraid to even mention the word hydro.  It’s just not possible to afford basic staples in the present market with a pay schedule from 1995.  With respect, I feel this expectation is rather curious.

5.  Restructure the way deductions are taken from public assistance recipients – So the program will encourage families to make more frequent attempts at employment opportunities and allow them to contribute to their own support in a fair and just manner.  Remarkably, no one else in Canada pays a higher rate of combined “taxes”, penalties and deductions.  No other group of children is required to support their parents either.  By deducting 100% of children’s wages, we only teach them not to participate in the workforce.  And so the cycle continues.

6.  Provide reasonable access to childcare – And maintain full day kindergarten.  Canada has one of the lowest birthrates, producing only 1.5 children per household.  The biggest part of the problem is mom and dad can’t afford to raise a family.  The average cost of daycare is $200 – $300 per week, per child and that’s over half a family’s income in many cases.  So if childcare is $1000 per month, rent is $900, hydro $200 and groceries at $500; the couple would have to earn $5200 per month to surpass the Low Income Measure.  This doesn’t account for telephone, internet, tv, vehicle, bus pass, insurance, personal needs or clothes.  If they add a second child to their home they will have to boost their income to $7200 per month to live without risk of homelessness or hunger.  If one of them fell sick for 2 weeks it would be enough to put the family unit in danger.  By comparison, the most this family would receive from welfare is $1062 if times ever got tough.  (The LIM suggests spending 50% of income to cover basic needs is too uncertain.  To qualify for a mortgage banks stipulate these expenses can only account for 30%.)

 

Childcare is the Achilles Heel of every working family, but it poses the greatest barrier to those still looking for a job.  This is the future of Ontario and we need to invest in its care more wisely.

7.  Allow those on public assistance to apply for student loans – otherwise we have yet another cog in the cycle of dependency.  Any person has a greater chance of employability with education and again, this is the only group barred from equal access.  If they accept a student loan for books and course fees, they will become disqualified from Ontario Works and ODSP for food and shelter in return.  This particular discrepancy contributed to the death of a Sudbury, ON woman:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberly_Rogers

By denying education to the impoverished we are only teaching future generations the same, unengaged behaviour.  We also prevent a great number of disabled persons from a life of productivity, showing them barriers instead of a method to overcome them.  We take ready minds, able bodies and shut them down instead of providing the tools to flourish and earn returns for our province.  Then society points fingers and claims this group made a choice not to participate, when some of them have literally died trying.

8.  Implement a Guaranteed Annual Income strategy – For all adults, not just senior citizens.  This method has proven successful with the target group and a past pilot project in Dauphin, Manitoba produced the same results for families in poverty:

http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/40308.html

Dr. Evelyn Forget conducted the study on behalf of government with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research from 1974 – 1979.  Despite its success however, politics and economy of the day brought a swift end to poverty reduction concerns.  This option has been debated for 30 years by members of every political party and Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is the Guaranteed Annual Income’s most current proponent:

http://www.hughsegal.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=126%3Asocial-inclusion-and-poverty-reduction&catid=21%3A2010&Itemid=27&lang=en

While I understand there are drawbacks to implementing such an overhaul, the payback is worth its weight in gold and healthcare.  The latter raises particular concern when we consider changes to Ontario (and Canada) demographics on the horizon.  In the near future 1/3rd of our population will have to support the remaining 2/3rd of aged residents.  The older group will be subject to a higher rate of illness while the younger workforce won’t have access to pensions or benefits for their own growing families.

We have to expect some bumps in the road and making it impossible for the working class to recover from challenges will be at our own peril.  Food, utilities and shelter have become precious luxuries already.  Add the cost of carrying the majority of our population with the smaller, remaining tax base and compound that with 50% – 100% deductions from gross wages, along with no childcare and we have a recipe for disaster.  At the end of the day a Guaranteed Annual Income appears to be the most successful answer to circumvent countless oppressive policies, encourage productivity and maintain the health of families as they take on this daunting, historical task.

9.  Promote a provincial structure to provide community resource in rural areas – This will make great strides in coping with isolation.  With the least amount of dollars we can accomplish the most good, by making our social safety net accessible to a larger audience.

This would require a parent body to oversee grassroots providers in smaller populations, where they could tap into core programs essential to their communities.  They may include parenting courses, educational material in elder issues or other staples of community support.

Community resource acts as a satellite for information and referral.  It is often early intervention in a wide array of social challenges and saves a heavy burden on more expensive responses like 911, OPP, ER, CAS and the court system.  It’s a vessel to solutions and a catalyst of self sufficiency when residents are faced with difficult events.

I’ve mentioned how poverty and homelessness relate to health care, but our population is about to experience its greatest growing (shrinking) pains in history.  This will be a new phenomenon as baby boomers age out of the workforce and become more dependent on their much smaller group of offspring.  They will be adapting to changes such as ill health, lost pensions and widowhood.

In the case of the latter, perhaps a husband did the banking and drove all these years so his wife would be at a disadvantage without him.  Or a wife cooked and looked after her husband’s medication, but he lacks culinary skills and isn’t sure what the pink or blue pill was for.  They are now lost without their partners.

With access to community resource we can teach the woman pertinent life skills and arrange for volunteer drivers.  We could also teach the gentleman how to cook in a group with others who are facing the same challenges, so he remained independent and developed the support of friends.  We could further arrange plans through his local pharmacy to manage the medication safely.  In these 2 examples we’ve saved the cost of a nursing home, ER and putting stress on CCAC homecare before it was truly necessary.

To ensure this project is viable for rural communities the province would need to provide central management of core resources.  The cost of operating this way comes with savings in itself and any common programs or literature can be shared amongst regional areas.  This structure can accommodate the hiring of 1 course provider to float between grassroots offices, from month to month.  In January they can run a 6 week course in Collingwood and in the middle of February the same person can spend 6 weeks in Wasaga Beach etc.  In another area 1 employee could be responsible for Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Winona and West Lincoln.  It’s a cost effective means of reaching far more isolated people.  The alternative is providing transportation to “the city” and Social Services already complain that’s one of their most overwhelming budgets.

I’m not suggesting we provincially mandate all social groups, but providing a small office filled with information to populations of 10,000 (grouped or alone) seems like a good option to manage dwindling resources.  It’s a social emergency location where clients will be met by a guidance counselor of sorts.  If we don’t give people a place to speak and be counted, they will find it on the other end of 911.

I know there are many “solutions” to poverty, but the important part is that we take action on some of them.  Access to life sustaining employment is obviously the foremost concern in everyone’s minds.  But while our economy rebuilds and numerous families have found their way to the margins, we have a duty to ensure the whole process of recovery is cohesive and productive, as opposed to conflicting and punitive.  In reflection of these fears, TVO reported social services ranked in the top 3 issues according to the electorate.  It notably surpassed both healthcare and education:

http://www.yourvote2011.ca/?p=1222

And finally I’ll leave you with the 2010 report card on child and family poverty in Ontario:

http://www.campaign2000.ca/reportCards/provincial/Ontario/2010OntarioReportCardEnglish.pdf

The Occupy Movement, A Detailed Explanation

(This was previously published by CBC when I was an Occupy Toronto correspondent.  All Occupy related articles have since been migrated to the archives section.  A live link is no longer accessible and the original would need to be sought by request from the broadcaster.)

 

It’s a widespread, global phenomenon; the greatest revolution of our time – and yet no one can seem to put their finger on it.  The participants haven’t summarized the problem in three weeks’ time and the media isn’t sure where to begin.  So what’s this Occupy Movement all about?

 

On Saturday, October 15th, I will join with citizens from every nation in what is set to be a record breaking event, with the Toronto chapter.  Representatives for 99% of the world’s population are intent to be heard, uniting their voices as one.  This movement now spans every continent except Antarctica.  But is this for teachers, pilots, unionists, the unemployed, middle class, impoverished… or is it a bunch of communists as some corners have suggested?

 

The first question that begs answering is who are the 99% and how did they get that way.  They are you and me and everyone we’ve ever known.  Unless you’re part of the 1%, you’re part of the 99 and it’s just that simple.  The middle class has a tendency to view themselves separate from the woes of common man, but rest assured the consequences apply to them too – especially them, in fact.

 

Ultimately the occupation results from “trickle down economics”, to put a very complex set of circumstances in a single nutshell.  According to the Conference Board of Canada, the gap has been growing between rich and poor for more than two decades.  The disparity grew by the greatest proportion in Canada, where average incomes remain stagnant with levels of the 1970’s.  After factoring inflation and debt, our value from wages has actually decreased 10%.   The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paints a stark contrast for the top 1%, who happened to increase their value 219 times greater than any of us.

 

The score is -10 versus +219.  This kind of disparity hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression and even then society’s wealthiest only controlled 8% of income growth, whereas they control an entire third today.  In response to that historic calamity, governments were forced to respond with public policy that addressed fair taxation and wages.  The goal was to redistribute prosperity even-handedly to prevent another collapse of the country.  Presently however, they control as much as 42.5% of our wealth and government has insisted on lowering their taxes, again to levels not seen since the Depression.  It’s apparent those lessons have been forgotten and astute historians are intent on getting the message out before lines under Salvation Army signs quadruple.

 

The theory to cut taxes for the 1% says this will result in trickle down benefits for the other 99.  It’s supposed to create jobs and cause the market to remunerate us properly based on natural forces.  It’s supported by both the IMF and OECD in the global view of financing.  Except all data shows the benefactors continue to pocket the overwhelming profits and fail to invest in our workforce.  They’reinvesting 40% less in their businesses than they were before the gift of major tax reductions.  That means our so-called stimulus is filtered straight to their bank accounts and they’re taking even more from profit margins.

 

This is like asking us to ignore an elephant in the room.  There have been 11,724 foreign takeovers of Canadian companies in the last 25 years and all our jobs are exported with them.  It was thought through even distribution of global competition that we could replace these countless industries.  But we’ve been forced to reckon with the inability to maintain a system of minimum wage, health or safety regulations and remain competitive with countries that don’t have them.  We’ve already cut costs at a detriment to safety and felt the repercussions through Walkerton and Maple Leaf.  The utilization of employment agencies and repeated attempts at union busting already serve to decrease our wages or any access we had to benefits.  All in the name of shining us up, so we look our best for the 1%.

 

In another bid to win their favour, our governments are deregulating everything from banking to trade, takeovers, wheat, power, food and pharmaceuticals.  Canada has been undergoing a personality makeover to morph into the US and it’s been a harsh battle to keep our social network balanced with the shift toward total capitalism.

 

The FIAT monetary system also bears mention.  At the same time a gap defining rich from poor was allowed to establish, so too was this currency adopted.  No longer was money gold-backed and instead it became traded on the stock market based on debt, wars, ability to repay, GDP, employment rates, investment and poverty.  Since debt is now factored into dollar value, governments have found themselves printing money without the ability to repay it and as a result cause hyperinflation.  The history of FIAT currency has ended in complete failure, without exception, since the beginning of money in 800 AD and bureaucracy only turns to this method of calculating wealth in times of trouble to artificially pad their value.

 

But the moment of truth has arrived and 99% can no longer afford to live within reason.  We’re not making enough to afford inflation, depreciation of wages, or repayment of a deficit to cushion the elite.  We can least afford the cuts to public services that are sacrificed to maintain this pretense of funny-money in our time of suffering.

 

Financial industry employment already outnumbers public sector jobs by 4% to 0.82% respectively.  By the year 2023 they are predicted to control the majority of employment across Canada, should present trends continue.  For every doctor, teacher, police officer, fire fighter, social worker, EI counselor, garbage collector and soldier –  there are four stock brokers, insurance agents and bankers to steer our agendas and speak for our needs.

 

This is how pressure becomes placed on our governments to accommodate deregulation that increases prices, again in an effort to pad the 1% at our expense.  They’re the folks who do the advising, they approve loans for governments in trouble and they fund a majority of major political parties.  Talk about a conflict of interest!  And yet the current Canadian federal government is making laws to end subsidy based on votes and force every party to embrace financing from the 1%.  They also do what they can to prevent unions representing public interests from participating.

 

When that wasn’t enough, the deregulated markets took up the art of speculating.  For those who don’t understand, speculation is the process of buying something (in large quantities) without the need or perhaps intention to sell it.  This artificially manufactures shortages and drives up prices for the 99%.  You’ve watched the result of this activity unfold at the gas pump increasingly throughout the years.  We’re paying the same price per barrel of oil today, as we were when it cost 79 cents at the gas station.  The price has only risen to $1.30/litre now, specifically because of speculation.

 

Since middle class incomes haven’t risen effectively for more than a quarter century and the cost of living has gone through the roof, we also lost our buying power – which is essential to keep a capitalist system functioning.  We were thoroughly supported by manufacturing to meet our own demands, but can only need so many TVs, cars or new clothing patterns and our ability to purchase them on a whim has diminished.

 

So enters the business of speculation and commodities.  We still must eat, drive and light up our homes.  Again through deregulation and privatization, we’ve seen hydro, insurance and interest only climb and once those avenues were saturated they started tinkering with our food.  The 1% is now gambling with our ability to eat, the same way they did with hedge funds and everything else that bubbled over.

 

Global markets are now speculating on corn, grains, sugar and water – the basis we need to make all else.  Like clockwork it’s already doubled our prices at the grocery store, the same as they did with oil.  The 1% has run out of things to increase their incomes beyond the 220% benchmark and they haven’t stopped at anything to maintain their status quo.

 

Further complicating matters is the logistical problem with 1% holding everyone’s wealth.  We’re told they’re “too big to fail” and have to cover their tab for unbridled, vicious grabs at even more of the economy.  They created the internet bubble, housing bubble, finance bubble, food bubble and oil bubble, but the system is set up so they continue to benefit no matter what they’ve done to the economy while you and I are forced to pay for it – WE, the 99%.

 

Last but not least this eats into our tax base, as they lobby governments for deeper cuts and fewer regulations still.  The bulk of our services like health care, child care, education, pensions, EI and housing are on the chopping block because we can’t afford to provide public services while covering the debts of the rich.  The 99%’s debts are forever owed to the 1% and the 1% shift their debts to the 99%.  It might be brilliant if it wasn’t so blatant.

 

The result of these high stakes experiments is the disappearance of a middle class.  It’s predicted for 2025 in Toronto and most cities around the world are similar.  I don’t think there’s any coincidence between financial markets dominating the workforce by 2023 and the collapse of families on its heels 2 years later.

 

I hope this explains why we’re the 99% and everyone needs to support this movement, no matter which path they take to get there.  Ultimately you’re not protesting the people who work on Bay Street, or the police for that matter (they’re the 99% too)!  The financial district was chosen as a symbol of capitalism gone awry, without the courage of governments to control them in the best interests of their people.  And make no mistake; while Canadian banking is more regulated than our counterparts, the entire act of trading, speculation, lending and borrowing is still done on the same global playing field, to the same rules and repercussions.  The attitude of governments is how to become a bigger player in that game, as opposed to moderating the Billionaires Gone Wild before we’re manipulated to ruin.

 

The Occupy movement is not asking for “a” program.  They’re not asking for “a” tax rebate.  What they’re asking for is fundamental change within our system and readdressing priorities like our forefathers had to do in times of disparity past.  This is no easy task on a global scale, but it’s precisely why we elect governments and it’s their job to enter an open discussion in favour of solutions.  The gig is up and 99% of us are ready to take our balls home – or stare through windows in every financial district until they have the courage to notice.

 

This isn’t a fringe group of radicals or anyone holding a grudge from the G20.  This is Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad; Suzy, Bobby and Rufus too.  The most people ever documented in history will be joining together to begin a dialogue with their governments on Saturday.  We can’t afford what amounts to trickle down economics to support the 1% anymore.  Two thousand new entries were made on the critical housing list in Toronto just last month.  40% of our food bank users are now children.  A full third of many communities are already dining there.

 

When situations were radically unfair and unmanageable in the 1960s, our families united and led the way for reluctant governments then too.  Call them hippies, call them whatever you like.  But I call them honest and courageous, agents of positive change.  No one in history will argue they didn’t do something necessary that shaped our future for the better.  The time has come for us to show the same care to our children.

 

***Added February 13, 2014 for educational value.  Please see this fantastic animation that makes the economic situation crystal clear.

Was Rob Ford Talking Drugs On The Danforth?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/mayor-rob-ford-danforth-disaster_b_3737576.html

 

Was Rob Ford Talking About Drugs on the Danforth?

Posted: 08/11/2013 9:18

 

This weekend marks a staple celebration in Toronto, and the mayor of Canada’s largest city was there. Rob Ford attended Taste of the Danforth; not as a proper ambassador, but rather as a patron intent to enjoy the festivities intoxicated.

 

YouTube users have been flooding the site with video evidence of their concerns, prolonging the mayor’s woes with media inquiries into his suspected struggles with substance abuse. The Toronto Star as well as the Globe and Mail have addressed the recent spectacle, but what seems to be overlooked is a poignant entry that may indicate a reference to cocaine.

 

As Ford poses for pictures with festival goers on the street, he comes across a fellow who he repeatedly refers to as “brother”. Amid the intoxicated slurs, the mayor appears to ask if someone in the group is looking for “blow” and confirms that he has some (although what he claims to possess is unproven).  See this clip at 0:17 (UPDATE: The Toronto Star enhanced this audio and found Rob Ford said “cologne” not “blow”)

 

(Video now removed from source, a copy can be found at the Toronto Star)

 

Blow is a nickname for cocaine, raising new suspicions about the infamous crack video first covered by Gawker. The fallout has claimed numerous members of the Ford political entourage, as they departed from City Hall and the world at large encouraged the mayor to seek help for drug addiction.

 

The newest “drug video” has been viewed nearly 18,000 times on some sites, as listeners attempt to discern a controversial quote attributed to Rob Ford,

 

“You want some blow? I’ll get you some blow. I have it, seriously!”

 

These words do appear to be uttered by Toronto’s mayor and whether Ford raised the issue of drugs with constituents or one of them inquired about his troubles, it should be noted that he didn’t condemn the conversation. Instead it was a jovial and carefree moment that substances can induce, when a user isn’t sober enough to realize the consequence of their words and actions.

 

Toronto is a world class city that deserves to be represented in kind and regardless of any smack talk about illicit drugs, there is still the issue of alcohol to contend with. Sarah Thomson previously accused the mayor of inappropriate behaviour while under the influence and despite his denials, the Danforth reinforces similar concerns.

 

Another resident posted video citing worries the mayor was drunk and had driven to the festival. In fairness to Ford he does say that he isn’t driving when pressed on the issue, but others reported him by the vehicle later in the evening.

 

 

Ford used his party time to seek the spotlight while posing for countless pictures. He knew all eyes were on him because he was smiling for the attention. He knows the cloud of suspicion that surrounds him is darkening the city’s reputation and causing dysfunction within city council. He didn’t use this opportunity to speak about responsible drinking or provide a good example, nor did he address the economic and cultural benefits that come from hosting events like Taste of the Danforth.

 

That was too much to ask from a man who is tasked with managing the concerns of millions and the only business Rob Ford wishes to discuss is where to find the next venue with mind-altering substances. In lieu of drumming up support for business and community, the mayor was concerned with partying. He promoted public intoxication over public safety and couldn’t see beyond enjoyment of self in what some would call a slurring stupor.

 

So the question begs to be asked, is this the face constituents want to represent their interests while attracting committed business to the metropolis? Is this how the mayor behaves when negotiating deals with corporate friends? Are these the actions of a leader or truly Conservatives ideals? Is Ford’s judgement sound or is it really shaded by addiction?

 

Let us not forget the mayor is a fishing buddy to our Prime Minister and a previous party to celebrate their pursuit of a Tory trifecta was attended by the most powerful CPC personalities.


 

They say we’re judged by the company we keep and to date the mayor is alleged to be friendly with convicted, stabbed and/or dead drug dealers.  Stephen Harper considers Ford to be part of his inner circle and our country’s leader was surrounded by Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Patrick Brazeau, and Mike Sona as well.  All individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but can we name another Prime Minister who was dogged by so many illicit allegations in his entourage, or intoxicated partners who repeatedly star in questionable videos?

David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth To Wake Up Canada

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/david-suzuki-wake-up-canada_b_3212833.html

 

David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth to Wake Up Canada!

Posted: 05/05/2013 10:16 pm

The saying goes, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? According to 8,000 Ontario youths it surely does. You just wouldn’t know from media outside this Windsor community despite their resounding hollers and applause.

 

On April 25, 2013, renowned scientist Dr. David Suzuki attended the WFCU Centre to empower the crowd with his Wake Up Canada call. It’s a campaign organized by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC) to support a day of action, encouraging kids to advocate for their environmental future through the very media that overlooked them this time around.

 

The event was broadcast province-wide with the help of TVCogeco, but still there was little response from adults or acknowledgement of this priceless opportunity for students across Ontario. Guest speakers came all the way from British Columbia to help unite Canadians and foster our understanding that we’re all in this together — that the legacy we leave our children really does matter, especially to them.

 

This jam-packed hockey stadium hosted fellow speakers in the Wake Up Canada entourage. They included a First Nations activist with Greenpeace, Melina Laboucan Massimo. She explained the damage of Alberta bitumen harvesting practices and oppression that caused her to leave the reserve she always knew as home.

 

Pictures of tailings ponds shocked the crowd on the overhead screen. Although most of the kids were high school students, some of them were a bit younger. Explaining the threat of chemical leachates contaminating drinking water wasn’t lost on any of them though.

 

Next was Sam Harrison, from Kids for Climate Action. His message was politically focused and it packed a memorable punch. He’s only a young fellow and talking politics to children might have seemed out of place, until he riled his peers with tremendous enthusiasm for what he came this far to say.

 

Six-million children will turn 18 in time to vote in the next federal election. If they all participate, these newly minted adults could be the difference between a minority or majority government of their own doing. He proudly sported a button saying “Future Climate Voter” and the idea of kids having a say in their destiny penetrated deeper than society gives them credit.

 

Some may see our children as playing in parks without a care in the world; but the truth is we uprooted the trees, paved over the grass and polluted the air so badly that they can’t breathe during summer. We replaced their time at parks with a reliance on air conditioning and slathering their bodies in sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. It’s not so much that kids are maturing faster in modern times, as we’re responsible for forcing them to grow up and solve the issues they’ve inherited.

 

Mr. Harrison’s message dovetailed with Dr. Suzuki’s description of the environmental challenges we’ve bestowed upon our children. He candidly offered,

 

“You see, my generation and those that followed, we partied like there was no tomorrow and forgot that there were consequences. We now see the results of living so extravagantly in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. My generation left a legacy that you will have to deal with.”

 

He also mentioned that he was speaking with students as a concerned grandfather, after political bullying forced him to abdicate his own board of directors at the David Suzuki Foundation. He wasn’t shy to explain his challenges and this example of muzzling Canada’s scientists brought a rare moment of silence to the arena. Suzuki was genuine and heartfelt in his delivery. The effect was disarming and somehow more real than hearing these issues discussed by concerned pundits on television.

 

But the guests of honour wouldn’t let this gathering end on a sore note. The sobering moments were perhaps so powerful because the rest of the time was filled with laughter, hope, a ton of cheering and a positive plan for the future. On May 30, 2013, kids will share their Wake Up Canada messages to let us know how much they care and that we can all do something about it! It’s a national event, there’s enough time for schools to get involved and the only thing they need from us is a moment to truly listen.

 

Following the grand production a smaller group broke away to meet with Dr. Suzuki and the cast of traveling speakers, barely five minutes away in Tecumseh, Ontario. At the local museum they were joined by Cameron Fenton from the CYCC and Kevin Millsip from Next Up, known for youth leadership training.

 

The purpose of this detour was meant to inaugurate a very special project that was co-founded by the CAW’s Ken Lewenza Jr. (Full disclosure: Lewenza Jr. organized the larger event in Windsor and both were planned together. I’m connected to the latter through social justice initiatives.)

 

The Canvas Campus is a “street tank” of sorts, akin to a think tank but for ordinary people. Young, old, experts and beginners are welcomed to sign on. Its purpose is to offer free education and the Dean of Canvas Campus is the respected Len Wallace, a professor from the University of Windsor.

 

With blessings from David Suzuki and a collective pledge of $50,000 from the labour community, things were off to a good start. The Ontario Federation of Labour‘s Antoni Shelton stopped by for the celebration as well.

 

The Canvas Campus is situated in an Aboriginal Tipi adjacent to the museum and it was launched through consultations with First Nations elders. They cautiously lent Indigenous support and friends of the project attended for the inspiring grand opening. Native art adorns the interior of this culturally respected structure and teaching is shared in the spirit of Tecumseh. (See pictures below)

 

The Tipi is cherished by locals in the Windsor-Essex area, but the initiative isn’t limited by its physical location. Equipped with audio, video, Internet and Skype; the Canvas Campus began its first class by reaching out long distance.

 

Fifty-five students were present with Dr. Suzuki and the many guests who came to share their knowledge. A classroom from Peel Region joined them on a screen set in the centre and this is where the real magic happened, as youths were able to interact and ask questions.

 

Here’s one of the more poignant answers regarding the corporate agenda, the politics of environment and the power of children in this equation:

 


In case anyone thought our kids didn’t care about corporate responsibility, here’s another glimpse of the business minds and curiosity that propelled their teach-in forward:

 

(A full list of video clips can be found on the Canvas Campus website here and photos from the inauguration with links to all speakers is located here.)

 

In the end these grand ideas and global challenges circled back to our own communities. As Dr. Suzuki explained in his experience, it’s been too overwhelming for individuals to contemplate climate change on an international scale. Trying to solve the problems of entire industries or continents can become daunting in a hurry, but it doesn’t need to be that way if we focus on issues in our neighbourhoods.

 

The overarching theme that tied everything together is we can each do our small part and combined it makes a difference. Training ourselves to pick up a piece of garbage each day can equate to 33-million plastic water bottles or cardboard sandwich containers being recycled, also in a single day (Canada alone).

 

The Canvas Campus will continue to provide free learning opportunities and it hopes to grow through membership. Upcoming guests include quantum physicist Bill Baylis and while this educational street-tank began with scientific issues, experts from social justice fields will be added to the roster shortly.

 

If you wish to share your expertise or request a class in the physical and/or Skype audience, you’re invited to contact the Canvas Campus. Topic proposals will be accepted and they’ll do their best to provide an appropriate instructor to meet your needs.

 

This project is dedicated to uniting knowledge from all across the country, as well as fostering a sense of unity and strength at the local community level. Eventually there may be satellites and those interested in expansion should direct their inquiries to Ken Lewenza Jr. Finally, here’s a photo album to demonstrate what all the hype is about.

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Part 1/2 – Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/cpp-war-crimes_b_2487424.html

Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes

Posted: 01/17/2013 12:09 pm

How would you feel if someone told you that every one of your paycheques was being used to support war crimes and keep the companies accused of these atrocities rolling in lucrative business? And how would you feel if you lived off the avails of torture and bloodshed through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), upon your long-awaited retirement after paying into it? This appears to be our dirty little secret, that Canadians enjoy prosperity at the unethical demise of others.

 

In a recent interview with Harry Fear we touched on CPP investments and how they contribute to the Israel-Palestine conflict; through complicity in drone warfare, an illegal wall, the death of children and suppression of human rights.

 

While this was enough to make anyone angry, it wasn’t until I received mortified responses from baby boomers that I investigated further. The messages from this demographic were compelling and show that we’re ready to take action to restore our reputation and the shame of these transgressions will not be tolerated.

 

It’s claimed the amounts we contribute to CPP are not enough to cover the population’s living expenses and as a result, the plan turns to the stock market in an effort to generate a sustainable future. We’ve done well enough that organizations are pushing for expansion, to allow Canadian retirees a degree of pride that sustains them above the poverty line. With the amount of privatization, downloading and user fees they will surely need it; but the Harper government says we can’t afford to treat our own a little better.

 

It may indeed be a matter of priorities, but not as we are led to believe from a lack of funding. Instead it’s the difference between humanitarian care for Canadians, versus the pursuit of power in a vicious, military-industrial complex. At the end of the day CPP relief is not available to seniors because the government wants a greater share to invest in pet projects of warfare.

 

Our domestic (PDF) and foreign portfolios (PDF) are available on the CPP Investment Board website. Scanning through the foreign list we come across L-3 Communications Holdings, where we invested $10 million in solidarity with a company held responsible for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

 

Everyone remembers the horrifically iconic photographs that circulated media from the darkest corners of Iraq. What Canadians may not have realized is that our holding, L-3 Communications, was the first private contractor to settle with victims for $5.8 million to account for their role in the torture and inhumanity.

 

Reprieve is a UK charity focused on the human rights of prisoners. They cite L-3 Communications as not just a violator in the Abu Ghraib case, but also as a”key drone component manufacturer” for the American-made predator. This is the weaponized, remote control aircraft responsible for increasing attacks on civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.

 

According to international law it’s illegal to use armed drones in non-war zones, but no one from the company will acknowledge these concerns. In the meantime, as many as 885 innocents were killed, accounting for 176 children in Pakistan alone. That means every working person in Canada paid about $5 in CPP contributions to make it happen and we continue to perpetuate violence in this corner of the world.

 

But our unethical investments don’t end there. We support Elbit Systems Ltd., on the forefront of miniature drone cars that also kill by remote control. They can take action of their own accord, without the need for human intervention to shoot whatever these Guardium models deem a threat in their computerized judgement. Automatic killing machines pose a challenge to human rights and yet the Canada Pension Plan is behind pushing them to market.

 

Canadians hold another $16 million in CAE, as a partner to Elbit for the purpose of developing Integrated Soldier Systems. Most information has been removed from public view by the Department of National Defence since the project was approved for a tendering process by the Canadian government. Earlier research (PDF) indicates the creation of veritable robo-cops like what we’ve seen in the movies, complimented by eyepieces with pop-up TV screens to feed intel to the troops. This is the military meets Xbox and CPP facilitates this development too.

 

With the presence of hacktivist groups like Anonymous watching over the battlefield and increased warnings from CSIS regarding digital espionage as the biggest threat to our security, a new industry of war games is birthed against conventional wisdom that places profit front of mind with little regard for human beings.

 

In fact, Chinese-based servers are responsible for hacking into Canada’s defence research, treasury and finance departments in an unprecedented breach of our most classified information. Ironically, the Integrated Soldier System was housed in a compromised department and it may still come to pass that the government looks to Anonymous for protection at the rate we’re going.

 

By no means are these the only examples of our financial stake in conflict, but they do represent some of the most heinous crimes and self-inflicted danger that our savings are used to promote. With every paycheque we’re breaking human rights around the world. CPP has been manipulated to terrorize Palestinian children by the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds more are killed across the Middle East and a majority of countries where drones are hovering equipped with missiles. The ones that aren’t weaponized perform surveillance to challenge North American civil liberties and we’re so heavily invested in warfare that if peace occurred, our retirement fund would become bankrupt.

 

It’s important to understand that CPP is not a tax and therefore doesn’t qualify as government revenue (PDF) to do with as it pleases. Despite this, the investment board is a crown corporation that is directly responsible to the federal government and immediately after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, they updated their policies to encourage aggressive tactics.

 

Dramatic changes followed quickly. In 2007, new legislation altered CPP practices through measures contained in Bill C-36. By April 2007, all CCP assets were transferred to control of the investment board (PDF, see pg. 18, New Investment Policy) and in 2012 they changed from passive management to active management techniques. Aggressive trading requires a team of involved experts and staff at the CPP ballooned from 70 to 811 in the same short period. They’ve opened offices in Hong Kong and London, took on riskier markets, decreased Canadian equities in favour of foreign projects, hedged currency and shifted public holdings to private interests. Our hard-working dollars used to find their place in safer government bonds, but the lion’s share was migrated to a war-centric market.

 

The investment board explains they’re unique from other retirement funds and they’re padded to take on the risk. They’re only expected to share 25 per cent of profits to provide for CPP benefits and the working class pays the rest. With $170 billion in assets now and 18 million people to cover, the plan can already sustain itself for another 75 years. (PDF, see pgs. 1-21, CCPIB Annual Report 2012).

 

Since Conservative rule and the CPP makeover, we’ve borne the brunt of losses great as 18.6 per cent. We must divest from the war machine and put our money where it doesn’t kill, if not for humanitarian grounds then because financially it doesn’t make sense. As international diplomats have said, “Canada is not the good guys anymore — we all have a bit of blood on our hands.”