As I’ve noted here about this campaign, there hasn’t been a lot of new policy or ideas that have been brought to the fore. This hasn’t been a campaign about ideas as much as it has been about recycling them, which has just felt weird. But despite all of that, there are some things you just really didn’t expect to see happen on the policy front.
Among those things is seeing Indigenous rights take a step backwards. Sure, we’re used to seeing lots of promises to Indigenous peoples broken, commitments never kept and just plain double speak, that’s been part and parcel of Federal governments in this country for as long as there have been Federal governments in Canada. But rarely do you ever see a party take an action in the midst of a campaign, a tangible one, that actually highlights that in one of the ugliest ways possible. Today we saw that, and man, it speaks for itself:
Let’s be clear everyone about what just happened here; this wasn’t some procedural corner that the Liberals were backed into. They could have chosen not to appeal this ruling, they could have decided that enough was enough and its time to pay up. But like they’ve done time and time again when dealing with decisions from the Human Rights Tribunal, they are going to fight it, fight it and fight it some more. I was thinking of how I could put into words just how ugly this all is but Cindy Blackstock, in two separate TV appearances today said all that needed to be said to explain what just happened. Here is what she had to say to CTV and APTN:
Ms. Blackstock, whose work is something amazing to behold, completely put Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals lines from today to waste. Firstly, as she pointed out, while the Liberals say they agree with the decision, in their submissions to the court the governments lawyers are saying clearly that they don’t agree with the decision. They want it thrown out, period. Secondly, the government is crying poor on this matter, telling the courts that paying out a $2 Billion payout to these children and families who suffered because of the underfunding of their care, and some who died while in that care, is just too much for the government. They say it would cause the Canadian government extreme hardship. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so stunningly insulting given all the money in promises that the Liberals have been throwing around in this campaign for everyone under the sun.
Thirdly, not only do they want it thrown out, they want the groups representing First Nations children in the foster care system to pay their legal fees. They want these groups, who have no resources and funds, to pay THEM. Let that sink in for a moment. And finally, the Liberals are saying that they want to work with partners to come with a better solution for the compensation for this case. But as Ms. Blackstock points out, it’s those same people the Liberals are calling partners today who are actually the people who brought this case forward. These partners are the same people that faced stonewall after stonewall from this government and were forced to go down this route to get some kind of result, and now the Liberals are saying that they need to talk it out some more? What crap folks, seriously what crap. With this move, Justin Trudeau and his party joined the Scheer Conservatives in thinking that this was the right move to make. Quite the company, wouldn’t you say? So much for reconciliation, am I right?
It’s clear that there was a political calculus that was made here by this government. If the reaction I’m seeing tonight from across the Indigenous community on social media is a guide, the Liberals might have just managed to give so many Indigenous peoples who were thinking of sitting this campaign out the motivation to get out and vote, more than likely against the Liberals.
But beyond the immediate political calculations to be made, I have to admit that this news is so very hard to swallow. After 2015, even though I am a New Democrat, I had hope that Mr. Trudeau and his team would follow through on his promises of reconciliation. And being someone who was working on the Hill at the time, I wasn’t expecting perfection and everything to be completed right away. But there were certain things that I expected that would come with his promises of reconciliation and bringing a true Nation to Nation relationship to Canada.
Among those things was to simply stop the appeals of cases just like these, stop wasting the money on losing cases, put those funds towards solving the actual problem. The approach of appealing everything under the sun hasn’t solved any of those problems and has only made the lawyers well-paid and busy. So for me, one of those things that could be done easily right away, without structural changes and huge amounts of money, was to simply stop these bloody appeals. All it would take is the will to stop and get to the damn table. Yet nope, Mr. Trudeau couldn’t even bring himself to do that. And to make it all worse, his government has decided to continue to force children and families of lost loved ones to fight them in court to get the same funding that every other Canadian gets in this way. How do you reconcile that crap with his lofty promises? You can’t, and tonight a lot of people are calling BS on Justin Trudeau, Seamus O’Regan and this Liberal government. That BS is completely earned and it smells not like reconciliation but the crap that it is. Indigenous peoples expected better because he promised better, but today he proved just how badly he’s delivered on that. So take this act, along with everything else we’ve learned about Mr. Trudeau in this campaign, and try to reconcile that with the progressive leader he claims to be. I’ve tried to, and folks, it doesn’t add up. That’s Mr. Trudeau’s own doing, and this move today just drives that home.