Policy Forecast – Issue 02 (Jan. 2021)
CRE’s Policy Forecast is a monthly roundup of what’s happening in policy – whether that’s at the grassroots or parliamentary level – and how it could impact you, your community, your politics, and your activism.
Highlights from this issue include: Anti-blackness and BIPOC solidarity, the United Nations slams Canada for discrimination against Indigenous communities (again), and Indigenous Services Canada increase COVID-19 relief funding for Indigenous communities. We’ve also got some 2020 stories we missed before the holidays, including Murray Sinclair’s retirement, the five year anniversary of the TRC, and Brayden Bushby’s manslaughter conviction.
Reconciliation: As he prepares for retirement from the Senate, Senator Murray Sinclair gave an interview to CBC and talked about the current government, reconciliation, and implementing UNDRIP. Last month, the Trudeau Government introduced a Bill aiming to align Canadian law with UNDRIP; you can read the Bill here.
Five Years on from the TRC: The Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) have expressed concern with the “slow and uneven pace” at which the Commission’s Calls to Action are being implemented. The statement was released to mark the five year anniversary of the final report of the TRC. While the commissioners welcome the Government’s commitment to implementing UNDRIP – the Government tabled a Bill to do this last month – they’ve also called on all levels of government, and all Canadians to renew their commitments to reconciliation and healing.
A recent progress update published by the Yellowhead Institute found that only 8 of the 94 Calls to Action have been completed, which is down from 9 last year. Read the full public statement from the Commissioners here.
*Content warning: violence, racism *
Criminal Justice: Brayden Bushby has been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Barbara Kentner from Wabigoon lake Ojibway Nation. The injuries caused by Bushby’s racist violence would directly result in Barbara Kentner’s death in July 2017 at age 34. The case has sparked conversation about racism in the justice system and racism and sexism in Thunder Bay, renewing calls for reform.
At the UN: The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a two-page letter raising concerns about Canada’s continuing work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the Site C dam without securing the consent of the Indigenous peoples on and of those lands.
UBC professor Sheryl Lightfoot, a Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics has noted that Canada’s process for consultation needs to lead to a consent-based outcome. “Canada is violating the human rights treaty that it signed. In the current situation, the party that actually has veto power right now is Canada,” said Lightfoot. Check out this piece from the Narwhal for more of Dr. Lightfoot on the decision from CERD.
Leadership News: At the beginning of December, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde announced that he would not be seeking re-election after six years in the position. Hear his interview with APTN about his decision here. Bellegarde says he will spend the rest of his tenure pushing Bill C-15 (the Act to implement UNDRIP) through Parliament.
Parliamentary Tidbits: On December 10, the Prime Minister and Premiers participated in the First Minister’s Meeting. The Ministers called for the meeting to talk about increasing health care funding from the federal government to the provinces and territories. Read the full press release here.
Parliament resumes this week, with the Standing Committees on Indigenous and Northern Affairs set to continue talking about Bill C-8. If passed, the Bill will amend the Citizenship Act to include “a solemn promise to respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, in order to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 94.” Read the full Bill here.
Government Departures: On January 21, the Governor-General resigned amidst a report that she and her Secretary created a toxic work environment at Rideau Hall. Along with the House of Commons and the Senate, the Governor-General is the third component to Canada’s colonial governance structure, which is a Constitutional Monarchy. The Governor General’s duties are largely ceremonial and will be carried out by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court until a new one is appointed, but the resignation has ignited conversations about the colonial and unnecessary nature of the position, as well as the lack of vetting processes in place for the role.
Also resigning from her Senate seat is Lynn Beyak, who defended the Residential School system in 2017. Last December, Wolastoqiyik Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas called Beyak’s presence in the Senate “an insult to myself and other Indigenous peoples” as Senator Lovelace Nicholas supported a motion to expel Beyak from the Senate. Beyak continued to stand by her harmful statements in her resignation.
Committee Updates: Before the holiday break, the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs met to talk about food insecurity in Northern Communities. On December 10, they heard from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed on the matter. Obed highlighted poverty, service gaps that have been worsened by the pandemic, and failing infrastructure. You can watch his full testimony here.
COVID-19: Earlier this month, Indigenous Services Canada announced $1.2 billion in additional funds for the public health response to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities. The $1.2 billion includes funds for procuring PPE, hiring more health care staff, adapting facilities, and additional supports for Indigenous seniors and elders in long-term care facilities. Read the full announcement here.
Displacement: The Hamilton Spectator published a report detailing how COVID-19 has displaced BIPOC people through limited access to housing, shelters and health care, and questions the idea of “displacement” in a colonized state, especially when held up to ongoing land defense occupations like the one in Caledonia.
Tools & Resources
- The Women’s College Hospital has launched Indigenous Wellbeing in the Times of COVID-19: Four Directions Virtual Support Hub, which includes an interactive Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Grandmother Wisdom guide for navigating wellbeing in the times of COVID-19.
- A piece from Yes! Magazine has been recirculating about how non-black POC can begin to address anti-blackness.
What did you think of this issue of CRE’s Policy Forecast? Send your feedback, ideas for future topics, and/or podcast suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.