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Talking About a Different Canada Day on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Lisa Kirbie. We discussed this years Canada Day, how it felt different from past years, does this mark a moment for hope for positive change, the burning of some Catholic churches and how society feels about that and speculation about the expected Fall election. You can listen to it all below.

Talking Teaching Residential Schools in Ontario with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s comments on the need for the teaching of Residential Schools, how his past actions hurt that very thing, the discussion about what to do with Canada Day celebrations this year, how this year feels very different, and Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s decision to step away from politics. You can listen below starting at the 19:00 minute mark.

Talking Infrastructure Minister Not Running in #Elxn44 on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the sudden decision of Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna to not run in the next election, what it might mean for the Liberal Party, why McKenna’s decision was understandable, Minister Carolyn Bennett’s texts at Jody Wilson-Raybould, why they were so bad, why the Prime Ministers reaction hasn’t been good enough, Conservative Erin O’Toole leaning into ethics attacks on the Liberals and why that approach might backfire on them. You can listen to it all below.

Talking Minister Bennett’s Texts with Kristy Cameron

On Thursday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now”. We talked about Crown/Indigenous Relationships Minister Bennett’s text to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, why it was so offensive and hurtful, why Bennett’s apology rings hollow, why this Prime Minister won’t likely punish Bennett, how this story cannot be separated from recent news of findings at former Residential school sites and why this makes this whole situation even more hurtful. You can listen below starting at the 9:00 minute mark.

751

Late yesterday Canada was given notice that a press conference would happen this morning hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan. We were all told that the press conference would be regarding a finding near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, involving hundreds of unmarked graves. After the news from Kamloops just a couple of weeks ago, we all knew that other findings like these would come. We knew it wouldn’t be the last, and since then we’ve heard of other findings in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. But once the release went out last night that this press conference was coming, I just felt deep down how bad this would be. And today this news spoke for itself:

Everyone, I can’t hide it, I’m beyond heartbroken and finding myself at a loss for the right words. The number is hard to stomach, but it’s the details coming out during these details are what are driving me to write. The one detail that is upsetting me more than anything else is how these graves came to be unmarked. According to the details released in the press conference, the Catholic Church removed the headstones from these graves back in the 1960’s. For 60 years, these places of eternal rest for these children were turned into just a field, where God knows what happened there. No remembrance, no respect, no nothing.

It’s also an act of a guilty party, because in removing those headstones, they were basically appearing to try to cover up a crime scene. Instead of giving those children the basic humane respect that the Catholic faith speaks of and dares to profess, they removed those goddamned headstones because it covered their own asses. As a Métis person and a catholic, I cannot tell you how furious and sad this makes me. But the one feeling it doesn’t bring is surprise, because the pathological conduct of the Catholic Church is clear as can be. They are guilty and need to apologize to Indigenous peoples in Canada, period, end of story.

Yet, as with much in life, this news today didn’t happen in a vacuum or in isolation. That’s a fact that I can’t ignore given two further things that have come to the surface in the past twenty-four hours that speaks to how hopeless this can all feel for Indigenous peoples. We’re in a moment where we’re expecting the Catholic Church and our political leaders to do the right thing, yet instead here is what we’ve gotten coming out at the same time as this devastating news from Saskatchewan:

I’ll start with Pastor Owen Keenan of the Merciful Redeemer Parish, Mississauga, the irony of the name of that church not being lost on me at given Pastor Keenan’s complete lack of mercy in this moment. He said that on Sunday, just 5 days ago, well after the finding in Kamloops and he had the nerve to spew that kind of hate, painful crap from the pulpit. That’s denialist, hateful and so far beneath any dignity that that church might have ever had. It would be so at any time, but it’s even worse in this moment of deep suffering and pain. And of course, Pastor Keenan is so proud of his words that as soon as they reached the wider public, he deleted the video from YouTube. Ahhh yes, more destroying of evidence in the hope that no one will notice. It’s comments like those from the pulpit, with apparently no pushback from the parishioners present, that not only shows how little the Catholic Church truly cares about the victims of their work and their loved ones (apparently even those who are Catholic included), it shows that they aren’t going to change. Comments like that are a middle finger to the Indigenous community, and further show that the Government of Canada needs to force compliance from the Catholic Church with all the means at its disposal.

But that brings us to the second story that came out just as this news from Saskatchewan was coming out and the ignorance coming from Crown/Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett. It was a simple one-word text message, that spoke to all the worst and most ignorant tropes about Indigenous peoples. It would have been bad enough if it came from someone who has publicly become known for such crap, but to get it from this minister, the one whose whole job is the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples? It’s beyond excusable and just stunningly bad. Seriously, if anyone in this bloody Liberal government “knows better” than to do crap like that, it should be her. Yet there, bang, there it is, without any inkling of awareness or shame in doing it. Until she got called out on it publicly that is.

Bennett’s apology couched in letting “interpersonal dynamics get the better of me” is no excuse at all. What it says is that she has that much animosity towards Wilson-Raybould that she spoke her mind and was seeking to hurt her emotionally. That was a comment that was clearly made out of anger, which makes that weak apology even worse. Given the context and timing of when this happened, this is very much akin to when Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre went on radio making ignorant comments about Indigenous peoples on the same day that Stephen Harper gave the residential schools apology. Yet do I expect Prime Minister Trudeau to punish his minister in any real way, shape or form? Nope, not for a moment. He just doesn’t do that and I doubt that he will now.

And that’s why I can’t ignore those two stories in the context of the news from Saskatchewan today. While the news made me sad and speechless, these other two stories happening at the same time just made me furious. I’m unable to separate these stories because they speak to the situation so clearly. We Indigenous peoples need the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada to do the right thing right now, more than ever. Yet what we get from both is fingers in the eye, contemptuous statements and ignorant invectives when those “interpersonal dynamics” get the better of them. So what are my expectations right now? I have none, because it’s clear that asking these two institutions to act like adults, grow up, own their responsibilities and act with the same degree of humanity that they do to most others in the country is clearly too much for them to handle.

Might they think that judgement is harsh? Sure, but that’s what they’re showing us. Do they want that to change? Then grow the Hell up and rise to the moment. I’m tired of trying to convince these people to treat us with basic human decency and respect. I’m flat out tired. It’s time for them to do their part and in the meantime, I’m going to go and mourn for those 751 children, their families, their communities and prepare myself for the next time to come. That’s all I have the energy left for and I’m tired of fighting a helpless fight against a government and a church that have shown no will to change. If you want me to think otherwise, tell them to prove it. I know I’m not alone in feeling that way.

Anti-Vaxxer Escalation in Nova Scotia

As we move further along through the COVID pandemic, we’re starting to see progress. More and more Canadians are getting vaccinated, things are slowly opening up and case numbers are going down. We’re progressing in the right direction yet still we’re seeing anti-vaxxers causing troubles and just, well, being their anti-social selves. But today we’re seeing a scene play out in Nova Scotia that not only involves anti-vaxxers, but also involves a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature. It all started with a video from said MLA yesterday:

Yep folks, that’s Nova Scotia Conservative MLA for Cumberland North Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin. If you’re not familiar with her “work”, she ran for the leadership of the Nova Scotia PC’s and lost. She also made comments in the Nova Scotia legislature that marijuana use in Jamaica led to “very low productivity” and “different work ethic” in the country, saying that “we already have a productivity problem here in Nova Scotia” and “we do not need something else making it worse”. And finally her alleged behaviour as an MLA led a former constituency staffer of hers to file a human rights complaint against for discrimination and harassment. A real piece of work we’re dealing with here. Anywho, that threat was followed through on this morning and led to scenes like these below. And if you have any question about the people that are doing this, listen right to the end of the video of “protest organizer” Jenn Moodie, as she gives up the plot:

Yep, anti-vaxxers are blocking the Trans-Canada Highway between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick because “freedom”. Moodie says they are protesting the lack of access between the two provinces with the new measures in place, but doesn’t see any contradiction at all when her own actions are in fact blocking access between the two provinces. She then when speaking about vaccinations, she goes onto claim that “people have gotten poisoned for their government to see their families”. Yep, vaccinations are not poisons, they just aren’t, except if you’re an anti-vaxxer. That’s the crew that Smith-McCrossin is teaming up with to blockade Nova Scotia.

Now in politics we naturally end up wondering things like “how would people react if this other person did this?”. It’s usually a good test for what’s happening because most times if it were someone else doing this, someone who they were agreeable to, they wouldn’t take this action. So with that test in mind, I did a quick search through Smith-McCrossin’s Facebook page with a question in mind: What if someone else was blockading?”. And folks, you’ll be shocked, SHOCKED I tell you to see the hypocrisy here:

I know, shocking right? Sadly, it’s hardly the least bit shocking at all. Ahh yes, when it was Indigenous people standing up for their constitutional rights, Smith-McCrossin was calling it “illegal” and demanding that her Premier pressure the Prime Minister to end them. She pointed out that “businesses are being affected in Cumberland North and layoffs are coming soon for many if they are not removed immediately.” When it was Indigenous people involved, she couldn’t wait long enough for calling for them to be locked away and have the book thrown at them. You know, “law and order”. And yet here we are and she’s supporting this over what exactly? Having to quarantine a bit? Seriously? That’s hardly comparable to Indigenous peoples having their rights that have been ignored for over a century recognized. Yet here she is, raging to the barricades like a Nova Scotian Karen.

This is rank hypocrisy of a hypocritical politician who has a track record of bad judgement and putting her feet in her mouth while trying to swallow them whole. She literally threatened the Premier of Nova Scotia to bend to her demands, on a deadline no less, or else this would happen. This is not political speech or remotely acceptable. The fact that this tactic is being used by anti-vaxxers to advance their anti-public health agenda makes it all the worse in the midst of a global pandemic. This would be the time for the RCMP to go in, clear these people out and throw the book at them. I hope that Smith-McCrosson gets the Max Bernier Manitoba treatment and gets her own trip in the back of an RCMP cruiser.

Enough is enough with this crap, seriously. Governments and public authorities cannot leave the impression in place that these anti-vaxxers can take illegal actions like these. If they want to stand beside the highway and protest, go ahead, fill your boots. But this is going way too far and to not step up against this strongly will simply embolden these anti-vax fools. We’ll see how things turn out today but if blockade this goes beyond this morning, it will have already gone on far too long.

The Missed Chance for the Red Chamber

This is the last week of this Parliamentary session and is most likely the last week of the 43rd Parliament. If the election comes as expected, this week is really all about clearing the decks and trying to wrap up any important outstanding legislation, so it doesn’t die when the writ drops. We’ve seen that with UNDRIP, which received Royal Assent yesterday and we’re seeing that play out with important items like the budget. But not all the items that any government may want to “wrap up” before an election are legislative, oh no, no, no. Today the Prime Minister took some action on one such thing that raised a few eyebrows:

Yes folks, three new Senators to join the ranks in the Red Chamber and three vacancies were filled, two from Ontario and one from New Brunswick. Yes, it’s noteworthy to see now former Canadian Labour Congress President (and one-time Federal NDP Vice-President) Hassan Yussuff get the call. You can quibble with the appointment if you like (I personally have no issue with his qualifications to be appointed) but given the whining and grousing from the CLC convention on the weekend that elected Yussuff’s successor, it’s an appointment that will surely widen splits in the House of Labour. Also, the timing of the appointment surely won’t help those comments about Yussuff from those corners, hobbling him going into such a prestigious position.

But for me that’s not the major problem with these appointments, or at least the ones in Ontario. I’m a believer that when it comes to appointing a new Senator one should consider who they are replacing. When it comes to the vacancies in Ontario, one of those came to be due to the “retirement” of Lynn Beyak, whose departure was far too late. As I noted at the time, this was a chance to “appoint someone from our region who is fully committed to reconciliation and serving all people who call our region home.” Given all the pain and cruel suffering that she brought upon Northwestern Ontario with her words, this was a chance to appoint a voice from the region who would speak to our better angels and work to help our region move forward. There were many qualified and amazing people from Northwestern Ontario who put their names forward for consideration, so there were many good names to choose from.

And this is where my problem comes in. Instead of taking this moment to do something more profound and make some good out of the legacy of this awful former senator’s term, what we got was a clear patronage appointment from Toronto and another from Cornwall. That’s no knock on Yussuff and Clement as individuals and their qualifications, but it speaks to a choice that the Prime Minister made here. In making that decision, the Prime Minister also ensured that Northwestern Ontario has precisely zero representation in Canada’s Senate. In fact, there are now zero senators sitting in the Senate from west of Sudbury all the way to the Manitoba border. As a result, not only didn’t we get a new voice to do better for our region, but we also got nothing at all while other strongly represent regions of Ontario got more voices and more voting power.

Yeah, that’s a failure on many levels beyond any personal feelings you might have able the individual bodies who are filling those seats. And because of the arcane way that our Senate is set up, who knows when Northwestern Ontario will have any representation in the Senate again. Given the political pressures to appoint from regions with greater political payoff, it’s likely to be a long time that Northwestern Ontario’s voice in the Senate will be silenced for political expedience. So yeah, add one more log on the fire, another missed opportunity and chance to do things differently from this government. Yet again we from Northwestern Ontario are left empty handed and disappointed. What a “real change”, right?

Talking Ontario Cabinet Shuffle with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet shuffle, what it says about what the government is thinking and what it says about the depth of their caucus, the first details of Canada’s border re-opening planning, what we still need to know, the celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day and why the current government needs to wear their whole record on promises to Indigenous peoples. You can listen below starting at the 18:00 minute mark.

Talking COVID Re-opening Plans on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Will Stewart. We discussed the roll-outs of COVID re-opening plans, the pressures to re-open faster, the risks involved in doing it too soon, the politics behind it all, is this National Indigenous Peoples Day different because of recent news, is there hope for better and more speculation around the timing of the next election. You can listen to it all below.

What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast – The Summer Ahead

On Friday I was happy to record the latest episode of Bluesky Strategy Group’s “What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast” with my colleagues Susan Smith, Neil Brodie and Alyson Fair. We talked about the end of the spring session of Parliament, how silly season is playing out, what people should expect and what this might mean for a potential fall election. You can check it all out below: