Tag Archives: Genocide

Trudeau the Quant – “Deliverology” and the limits of data-driven governance

Image description: Justin Trudeau, in a grey jacket and white button-down shirt, stands by the side of a four-lane street, his mouth open, his brow slightly furrowed. (Image credit: Alex Guibord)

Image description: Justin Trudeau, pictured from the waist up wearing a grey pinstripe jacket and white button-down shirt, stands by the side of a four-lane Toronto street, his mouth open, his brow slightly furrowed. (Image credit: Alex Guibord)

The CBC is reporting that Sir Michael Barber, one-time “Chief Advisor on Delivery” to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is once against providing advice to the cabinet of Justin Trudeau at a retreat.

Barber first addressed the neophyte-heavy cabinet in New Brunswick in January, instructing the politicians on a delivery-focussed method for ensuring that the new government would be able to keep its promises.

If you’re unfamiliar with Michael Butler, well, lucky you. Continue Reading

Canada’s overlooked baggage of foreign colonialism

Image description: Several heavily armed Canadian soldiers in camouflage uniforms stand on a dusty Afghan road, rifles in hand, as a tank approaches. Off to the side, two Afghan men with bicycles lean against a partially destroyed building, watching the scene. (Image credit: ISAF/Wikipedia

Image description: Several heavily armed Canadian soldiers in camouflage uniforms stand on a dusty Afghan road, rifles in hand, as a tank approaches. Off to the side, two Afghan men with bicycles lean against a partially destroyed building, watching the scene. (Image credit: ISAF/Wikipedia)

Speaking to an audience at New York University this past week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set off a tempest of argument in Parliament and online with a seemingly off-the-cuff statement that Canada doesn’t have “the baggage” of a “colonial past”.

The remark was a reply to a question about peacekeeping, and Trudeau’s handlers and defenders were quick to point out that the Prime Minister was referring to colonialism in a foreign context, and not denying the legacy of colonialism in (so-called) Canada.

In fact, as the CBC pointed out, Trudeau delved into that painful legacy during the same talk:

Trudeau also spoke critically of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people — and specifically mentioned “colonial behaviours” — in comments that were not in the National Observer article.

“We have consistently marginalized, engaged in colonial behaviours, in destructive behaviours, in assimilationist behaviours, that have left a legacy of challenges to a large portion of the people who live in Canada who are Indigenous peoples,” Trudeau said, in answering a question from a student.

Nevertheless, Trudeau has come under fire for the comments. Some see the distinction between foreign and domestic colonialism as meaningless, as Canada is a product of colonialist ideology. It is a nation which was literally built on the colonial dispossession of land and resources from Indigenous peoples, a genocidal process which continues to this day.

Less discussed is this debate, however, is Trudeau’s erroneous assertion that Canada doesn’t have “baggage” when it comes to colonialism in other parts of the world. Continue Reading

History lesson: the Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake) standoffs

An open letter from Secwepemc elder Wolverine (also known by his colonial name William Jones Ignace) to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been making the rounds on social media recently. Wolverine was a major figure in the Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake) standoff between the RCMP/Canadian Armed Forces and Secwepemc Sundancers and their allies in British Columbia in 1995. In his letter, Wolverine urges the Prime Minister to launch a national inquiry into the standoff.

His letter is powerfully eloquent and well worth reading in full, as are his protege Harsha Walia’s comments on the man and his legacy. I’m quoting him at length but I strongly urge you to read the whole thing:

Today I am writing to you to request that you initiate a federal public inquiry into the events surrounding the month long standoff at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake), British Columbia in 1995, an event which cast a deep shadow on the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous nations, which to this day has not been adequately investigated.

In 1995, after a long history of peaceful attempts to have Secwepemc sovereignty respected, Indigenous people from the Secewpemc nation and their supporters took a stand on sacred Sundance lands at Ts’Peten, aka Gustafsen Lake. The incident began after a local white rancher, Lyle James began demanding that the sacred Secwepemc Sundance Camp leave land to which he claimed ownership. Approximately 24 Sundancers set up camp to defend Ts’Peten. I was one of those people.

Beginning in August 1995, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) surrounded the Ts’Peten Defenders. Over the next month police, politicians, and media escalated the situation to make the siege the most expensive and largest domestic military operation in Canada’s history: armoured personnel carriers, .50 calibre machine guns, land mines, and an astonishing 77,000 rounds of ammunition were directed at the land defenders. In the course of the standoff, RCMP shot at unarmed people and at people in negotiated no-shoot zones. RCMP Superintendent Murray Johnston expressed the belief that a resolution to the standoff would “require the killing” of the defenders, including myself. Although this thankfully did not come to be, the unjust and violent actions carried out against the Secwepemc people during the siege remains strong in our memories to this day.

Despite the twenty years that have passed since the Ts’Peten standoff, the core issues that so forcefully clashed against each other remain at the forefront of the hearts and minds of Indigenous people. That is our right to self-determination, autonomy and protection from the dispossession of our lands and territories. According to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Title to land exists inherently and will continue to exist until it has been ceded by treaty with the Crown. The land on which the Ts’Peten standoff occurred was, and remains to this day, unceded territory. The land at Ts’Peten was never handed over by the Secwepemc Nation to Canadian control through treaty or otherwise, and is therefore land that cannot have been sold to settlers by the Canadian or British Columbian governments. The use of Canadian paramilitary forces against the people of the Secwepemc nation asserting our inherent jurisdiction and title over our own territories therefore is a serious abrogation of the Nation to Nation relationship between the Canadian government and the Secwepemc Nation.

This abrogation has yet to be properly investigated, and remains one of the largest stains on relations between Indigenous nations and the Canadian state. A public federal inquiry is long overdue into the actions of the RCMP, the Canadian government and the provincial government of British Columbia.

Continue Reading

Trudeau’s reaction to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report provokes both hope and skepticism

The residential school system which was imposed upon generations of Indigenous people across so-called “Canada” is a permanent stain upon the history of this land.

The full extent of the horrors suffered by the children forced into these brutal institutions was for decades denied, then downplayed, then shrugged off as ancient history.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper did his best to put an end to discussion of the matter by offering a formal governmental apology, an apology that was clearly shown to be hollow when his government refused to cooperate with the survivor-funded Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it embarked on a systemic inquiry of residential schools some six years ago.

The TRC today released the final volume of its report on the residential school system. You may recall that the summary of their report, issued with 94 recommendations, was released with great fanfare back in June, on the eve of a federal election, and, in a pathetic commentary on white fragility, managed to make waves for its use of the term “cultural genocide” to describe the practice of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their parents, punishing them for speaking their languages, teaching them their customs were barbaric and savage, and employing extreme physical and sexual violence against them in an effort to make them conform.

One other moment from that event which sticks out in my memory is when TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair called for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, and the whole room stood and applauded except for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, whom Thomas Mulciar side-eyed the fuck out of.

The change in tone from the Conservatives at the release of the report’s summary to the Liberals at the release of the full report is night and day. Here’s what Prime Minister Trudeau had to say today:

But here’s the thing: at this point, the difference is only one of tone, and that needs to be pointed out, again and again, relentlessly, because saying nice and comforting and agreeable things is what politicians are best at, and what ultimately matters least. Harper was willing to say the nice and comforting and agreeable things when he apologized for the residential school system, and he had no compunctions about thereafter decimating funding for Indigenous people, refusing to consult First Nations on major resource extraction projects which affected them, refusing to meet hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and enacting policies which made it much more difficult for Indigenous people to vote.

Similarly, the Liberal Party doesn’t exactly have a sparkling history when it comes to Indigenous issues, including under the current Prime Minister’s father and his then-Indian Affairs Minister (and future PM) Jean Chretien. As Cree writer Harold Cardinal put it back in his 1969 book “The Unjust Society”: Continue Reading

This week in Electionland: Tar sands fever heats up, the press attacks Harper, and nobody talks about poverty

As a voracious reader of news, and as a blogger, I’m of two minds about the ridiculously long election campaign that we’ve just embarked upon.

On the one hand, I find myself wanting on an almost daily basis to throw in my two cents on the latest scandal or outrage or prime ministerial press conference. There’s a natural drama to a campaign that makes continuous running commentary both easy and lazily compelling; like the dramatic twists of a five-day-a-week soap opera, each juicy detail and revelation leaves you wanting more, even though the plot only creeps forward incrementally each day and the overall story arc going forward is pretty obvious to anybody who’s watched this sort of thing happen before.

And that’s what’s on the other hand – I don’t want to get too sucked into the petty drama of the whole orchestrated spectacle. As I noted last Friday in my coverage of the first leaders’ debate, electioneering in our current system is little more than well-organized propaganda and manipulation. The goal of party messaging is not to inform voters, but to persuade them, largely on a subconscious level. To engage seriously with such a process is, in many respects, to legitimize it, and that I do not wish to do.

All that being said, however, it is an important event, and it has the potential to be extremely revealing in terms of the actual functioning of the broken party system and the business-captured political class. I would be remiss to ignore it entirely.

So my compromise with myself is this: each Sunday, I’m going to be writing up the week that was in the election. This will, hopefully, undercut my impulse towards gossipy commentary, result in more insightful and thoughtful coverage, and allow me to focus more on broad trends than the frenzied daily news cycle. Continue Reading

Oka, 25 years later (or, Indigenous land defence, 523 years later)

On July 11, 1990, a long-simmering dispute over a stand of pine trees escalated into a major stand-off between Indigenous land defenders and local and provincial police just outside of Oka, Quebec. Eventually, the Canadian army would be called in by a nervous provincial and federal government.

Throughout the 78-day standoff, the people of Kanesatake, who were trying to protect their land (including a burial ground) from being turned into a golf course, were vilified, slandered, attacked physically, dismissed, demonized, and denied the basics of life:

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon remembers seeing the SQ [Sûreté du Québec]  tactical squad moving in the morning of July 11.

“I thought, ‘They’re going to kill everybody up there,’” he said.

When he heard a police officer had died, he had one thought: “We’re going to pay for this one. This is not going to go under-answered.”

What happened next, Simon said, left his community traumatized.

“It was incredible. The SQ would not allow any food to come in to our territory. Our people were systematically searched illegally,” he said.

Ultimately, the mayor of Oka called off the proposed golf course and the dispute was seemingly resolved. The usual blue-ribbon government panel made recommendations which were ignored, and the media’s attention moved on.

Today, the typical “On this day in ___” stories recap the basic narrative as it was established at the time – a narrative which is resolutely ahistorical. The issue of the golf course and the pines is presented without context.

What goes unmentioned is that this indigenous burial ground was located where it was because for generations, white people in Oka wouldn’t allow indigenous bodies to be buried in their graveyard.

What goes unmentioned is that land which had been guaranteed to them by the French crown in the 1700s was covertly signed over to the government without their knowledge in the early 1800s, and never returned.

What goes unmentioned is hundreds of years of aggression both macro- and micro-, of the daily violence of settler colonialism, of the slow-motion genocide which has been perpetrated against Indigenous people.

What goes unmentioned is that Oka was just the latest – and most eye-catching – in a long tradition of Indigenous land defence. Continue Reading

The government’s residential school system was genocidal. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Today, after more than five years of fact-finding, interviewing, and researching, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a summary its long-anticipated report on Canada’s residential schools system. The report’s headline-grabbing conclusion is that the residential schools were a key component in a deliberate program of cultural genocide against Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

For a long time now, there’s been a lot of contention about the use of the word “genocide” to describe the colonial government’s treatment of this nation’s indigenous peoples. And for the life of me, I can’t see why. Let’s look at the internationally accepted definition of “cultural genocide”, as explained in this excellent summary of the report’s release from the Aboriginal People’s Television Network: Continue Reading

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