After speaking with Rick Mercer the week before the Just for Laughs festival hit Montreal, I had high hopes for the show he was hosting. Comedy Night in Canada was unfortunately a disappointing mishmash of ethnic clichés and other safe topics that left me starving for the edginess that so beautifully defined the other shows I’d seen at Just for Laughs this year.
The roster of Comedy Night in Canada consisted of Mercer, Salma Hindy, Sophie Buddle, Ivan Decker, Dave Merheje, and Eman El-Husseini, whom I remember back when she was waitressing at the now defunct (due to a fire) Comedyworks club in Downtown Montreal. I must applaud the producers of this show for sticking with Canadian comedians, while not shying away from ethnic diversity, making the show reflective of the Canadian Mosaic. That said, I desperately wanted to love this show and I couldn’t.
The material most of the comedians stuck with was brutally safe, and often repetitive. Dave Merheje, whom I’ve interviewed in the past, stuck with family anecdotes and jokes about his own ethnicity, as did Salma Hindy. Ivan Decker and Eman El-Husseini’s stuff was about relationships and mundane activities. Sophie Buddle mainly rehashed the jokes she’d used in The Nasty Show.
Only Mercer and El-Husseini were about to add some edge to their comedy. El-Husseini’s joke about having a boy means having a child “that will masturbate all over your house” was funny, but it came too little too late in her set. Mercer’s material on conversion therapy, naming public property, and the dullness of space were by far the edgiest and funniest the show got.
It must be said that the quality of the comedy cannot be blamed entirely on the cast of Comedy Night in Montreal. As me and my plus one settled in our seats, we saw a sea of Baby Boomer and elderly mainly white faces.
When I saw the cost of the tickets, I understood that the audience was indicative of the generational and racial wealth gaps. The comedians who performed that night were clearly pandering to this audience, and the quality of the jokes suffered for it.
If Comedy Night in Canada comes back, I want the roster to unleash their inner beasts and come out with material that’s actually funny and not just comfortable for white Boomers who love ethnic clichés and bashing young people. I’ve seen these comedians do better and I want them to.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the Rogers outage which also knocked debit transactions and e-transfers out for over a day then switch gears and talk about the upcoming Just for Laughs Festival
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Pope Francis’ planned visit to Canada to meet with Residential School survivors, Elon Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter (and Twitter’s attempts to block him), the City of Montreal moving forward on Falaise St-Jacques Park and more.
At some point a duck needs to be called a duck: Any reliable source will show that Canada’s real estate market has been inflating proportionately higher than all other economic sectors for the past 20 years or so. If we look at the real cause and real effects of this, we’ll see very easily that no one, including the middle class, have to be left behind, problems such as homelessness can be greatly alleviated, and all that has to change is for government to do a better job of managing the economy.
Simply reading the definition of the term ‘hyperinflation’ on an economics site plainly shows that the real estate sector in Canada qualifies. Canada, like most western democracies, has been increasing its money supply while lowering interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis and even since the dot com boom and bust in 2000.
As is cultural practice and tradition, the middle class has been moving more and more of what is available to them of this new and cheaper money into real estate. This increase in money availability of course increases demand while flow of course raises prices.
The easy money and low interest rates also attract international investors into the sector, who in turn drive up prices even higher and faster. Of note is that a few recent policies, in Vancouver and Toronto for example, have finally begun to target international real estate speculators in Canada.
Where does this new money come from? The Bank of Canada, of course. Like all western democracies, Canadian currency is managed by a central bank with the goals of maintaining a healthy economy and keeping inflation low but still positive.
To do this in the past two decades, the Bank of Canada has had to increase the overall money supply and lower interest rates to such a degree that as a side effect it has substantially contributed to pushing Canada’s real estate sector into hyperinflation mode. Now, the Bank of Canada of course does not choose to or have the goal of facilitating hyperinflation in any sector, and of course not one as important as Canada’s real estate market.
Let’s ask why our central bank, which always acts in the public interest generally, has been increasing the money supply and keeping interest rates historically absurdly low. The reason is the overall poor management of the economy. Who manages the economy? Government, of course. The central bank is only a reactionary institution to overall economic trends and not a policy setter itself, all proactive policy is set by government.
Successive federal, provincial and municipal governments have been serving the needs of investors above and beyond those of the general population. When this happens, investors are put at the helm of the whole economy and any problem with the investor class needs to be solved above all problems.
If the stock market crashes or there is a dot com boom and bust or an international financial crisis, investors are propped up by subsidies and policies by governments with almost no questions asked. Central banks don’t have much choice but to follow suit and prop up investors as it has become their sole means of saving the overall economy.
All three levels of government have been serving investors above all, from federal corporate welfare and industry-specific subsidies at the provincial level, to permits, zoning changes and subsidizing gentrification at the municipal level. This policy direction from governments has itself also contributed to real estate hyperinflation through increasing the availability of investment capital for real estate purchases, increasing pressure for apartments to be converted into condos and for land to be sold to real estate developers.
The middle class acts as a whole with one of their primary or main goals remaining home ownership. They divert more and more of their disposable income into real estate, furthering the upward spiral of real estate prices and rendering much of them ‘house-poor’ and otherwise lowering their consumer purchasing power until their home is finally paid off.
As government funds are diverted to investors, fewer funds proportionately are available for public services. Health care and schools suffer, just for example. People become less healthy and educated negligibly on a yearly basis, but considerably over time.
Advocates and activists for societal causes such as homelessness have fewer resources while the number of homeless increases. The reduced availability of affordable apartments due to gentrification and condoization further causes an increase in homelessness. Hyperinflation in the housing market forces some middle class members to entirely abandon home ownership and choose rental apartments instead, further crowding out those in the rental market and increasing homelessness further.
While it is true that profit and investment gains are ultimately good for everyone, this goodness is allotted extremely unequally, with top investors benefitting greatly and lower income earners benefitting almost negligibly. The middle class can be easily persuaded to feel good about their investment gains while reaping a proportionately low percentage of these gains and having to divert increasingly larger amounts of their budgets toward housing. Government overly pandering to investors therefore causes the economy to be incapable of providing conditions favourable to universally affordable housing.
The simple subsidizing of social housing is often cited as a key solution by activists in response to this situation. This is a band-aid only, at best, as causal problems are not solved. The best long-term solution would be a large-scale shift in political momentum toward long-term investment in everyone’s health, education and well-being, which will create a society of more innovation, able and productive people.
Increasing funding of public services while simultaneously reducing funding of the investor class re-allocates resources from inflationary and already well-off recipients, to include disadvantaged and potentially seminal ones. Creating broad improvements in prosperity and economic conditions rather than simply inflating investment values requires less central bank corrective intervention, which in turn reduces inflationary pressures on the real-estate sector.
With less real estate inflation, the middle class would once again gradually increase its purchasing power, which in itself is a positive driver of economic conditions, and be able to leave more room in the rental real estate market.
Housing-as-a-human-right type policies can come and go as governments do, election-to-election. Correction of general economic conditions generally outlast any single government mandate and provide the economic conditions necessary for universal housing affordability and solve real estate hyperinflation entirely. Only then will central bank policies be able to be normalized and the housing market will correct.
The investor class must realize that investing in the health and education of everyone will provide them with better employees. Governments must realize that directing public funds to the public, rather than investing in investments, reduces drains on public funds and provides for better economic conditions long-term. The middle class must realize that their own governments are the cause of the real estate hyperinflation they suffer through.
Featured Image: Recreation of the UP balloon house from the National Geographic Channel
On Tuesday March 17, 2021 a white gunman walked into three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia and killed eight people, most of them Asian women. On March 18, 2021, a thirty-nine year old man was attacking people of Asian descent in San Francisco, starting with an 83 year old Chinese man. The attacker’s second victim was 76 year old Xiao Zhen Xie, who grabbed the first stick she found and fought back, resulting in her attacker having to be brought to the hospital on a stretcher.
Outrage exploded online in response, and hashtags like #StopAsianHate and #stopwhiteterrorism began trending. As an Asian Canadian, an artist, and an activist, I simply rolled my eyes and sighed.
Though the Chinese have been in North America since before Confederation, Asian Canadians are no strangers to racism. I’ve been fetishized when online dating due to misguided notions of Asian women as exotic and submissive. I have white relatives who refer to Filipinos – my and my mother’s people- as “the help”. Stereotypes about the alleged dangers of MSG, the exotic foods we eat, and myths about Asian bodies continue to exist among whites, even while they appropriate our fashions, our cooking methods and our fighting styles.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. It’s not just violent assaults like what happened in Atlanta and San Francisco. It’s the vandalism of Montreal’s Chinatown. It’s white vegans like Bryan Adams blaming Asian meat eating for the spread of the virus. It’s politicians calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu”. It’s harassment in the streets. It’s the refusal to support Asian businesses. For those of us who are mixed, like myself, it’s the refusal to accept “Canadian” as an answer when asked what we are. Whatever form it takes, it’s a pathetic attempt by whites to terrorize people and remind us of a truth we are well-aware of:
That no matter what we do, no matter how long we’ve been in Canada, no matter how well we speak English and French, no matter how much money we put into the economy, we will never be acknowledged as Canadians because we’re not white or white-passing.
It must be said that those attacking Asians are weak, pathetic, and stupid. They are weak and pathetic because those committing anti-Asian hate crimes are largely targeting women and the elderly, probably thinking they’d be an easy mark.
They are stupid because they cannot tell the difference between the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese etc., and are particularly dumb because they think that myself and the rest of the community will be polite in the face of all the abuse. The fact that an elderly Chinese woman with no grasp of English was able to put her attacker in the hospital is proof we won’t go quietly. When I saw that article I smiled because I know my mother and late grandmother would have responded in the exact same way: by fighting back.
It is reassuring that most responses to the hate crimes have been outraged and supportive, but it’s not enough. If you don’t speak out against hate crimes, you are complicit in perpetuating them, and you leave us, Canadians and Americans, to fight alone.
Speak out if you hear someone using anti-Asian slurs or speaking of Filipino immigrants as a commodity that can be bought and sold. Call out cultural appropriation and whitewashing when you see or hear it, and support organizations like the Center for Research Action on Race Relations that promote racial equality and combat racism in Canada.
That said: if you are fine with all of the harassment and assault and you truly believe Asians are to blame for this pandemic, do us a favour. Put down the soy sauce, the Sriraracha, sesame oil, and the Sushi. Quit the martial arts class you’re taking, give away your Bruce Lee movies and posters, and avoid our markets. You do not get to profit off the contributions of Asians in North America if you won’t treat us with the same dignity you expect from others.
We’re better off without you, and we’re not going anywhere.
Host Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Niall Clapham Ricardo discuss Canada’s Parliament voting for the Conservative Party motion to declare China’s treatment of the Uighur minority a genocide. Is this genuine concern for what is a real and tragic situation or is it political brinksmanship setting up the next Cold War? Are we ignoring other atrocities in China and around the world? Are we conveniently forgetting our own capitalist interests in the situation?
Canada’s COVID-19 numbers may be improving and the vaccine rollout continues, but the pandemic is still very much here with new variants of the virus showing up. That reasoning has prompted the Federal Government to extend recovery benefits.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced several extensions in a press conference early this afternoon. The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and Employment Insurance (EI) are all affected:
CRB (as well as the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit) will be extended to cover 38 weeks. It was previously covering 26 weeks.
The CRSB will now cover four weeks of missed work at $500. It previously covered two weeks at that rate.
EI availability will now be extended to 50 weeks. It was previously 26 weeks.
Trudeau applauded the province’s efforts to fight the pandemic but cautioned them against re-opening too quickly. He also repeated his promise that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated against COVID will be by the fall.
The Government of Canada wants to render the roughly 1500 assault-style guns they had previously banned last May effectively useless as a firearms. This is coupled with a buyback program for the banned weapons that were purchased legally before their sale was outlawed and red flag laws.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced Bill C-21 in a press conference, joined by Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who had tabled the bill in the House of Commons this morning, as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and others.
The Executive Order that followed the shooting spree in Nova Scotia banned the sale, use and transport of these military-style weapons, but it only affected those not yet in circulation. People who had legally bought these firearms prior to the ban were given an amnesty while the government figured out what to do next.
With Bill C-21, all weapons included in the May ban but purchased before it came into effect can no longer be legally fired (at a gun range or anywhere), transported, transported, sold or bequeathed to another person. Those, such as gun collectors, who want to keep their weapons, must store them in a safe way and will be held responsible if criminals end up with them.
This is meant to be incentive for people to take part in a buyback program and sell their now legally useless guns to the government. Details and cost of this program will be worked out in the coming months as the bill makes its way through Parliament.
The Government also wants to enact red flag laws that will allow friends, family and neighbours to report potentially dangerous situations (domestic abuse, self-harm) where a gun is present and have that gun taken away before it can be used.
C-21 would also allow municipalities to ban guns, handguns in particular, on their territory.
It’s official: As of last week, the Proud Boys are a terrorist organization according to the Canadian Government. Last Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair added the group, along with 12 others including two neo-Nazi groups, to the Federal Government’s list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday.
This was due, in part, to pressure from Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Also, the fact that the group took part in the violent attempted coup at the US Capitol last month probably motivated this decision more than a bit, despite Blair’s claims that it wasn’t a factor.
While this move, inevitably, has garnered Canada international coverage as well as praise, we can’t ignore the fact that the Proud Boys are, sadly, a Canadian export. Or at least they aren’t an import.
Founder Gavin McInnes is from Montreal, despite founding the group in the US. And while he isn’t the current leader, his ideas still dominate the Proud Boys.
It Took A While
Regardless, they are active here and have been since their founding in 2016 with hardly any pushback from the Federal Government. We can’t forget that.
We also can’t forget that this is the same group that harassed peaceful native protestors while carrying the Red Ensign Flag. Was that supposed to be a Canadian far-right attempt at a Confederate Flag?
We also can’t ignore the fact that, from the start, they have been and continue to be a white supremacist and misogynist (or as they call it: “western chauvinist”) organization. Their final initiation requirement is to get into a physical confrontation with a “member of Antifa.”
Since “Antifa” isn’t an actual organization and just means anti-Fascist, it’s been clear from the start that the Proud Boys are violent defenders of fascism. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Government of Canada to do something about them.
Neither was their participation in Charlottesville, where they marched alongside neo-Nazis and where one counter-protester was murdered. This is around when the US-based Southern Poverty Law Center classified them as a Hate Group.
But not Canada. No, it took their participation in an actual failed coup attempt in another country that resulted in multiple deaths for our government to act.
Canada Has No Excuse
The United States actually has an excuse for not trying to do anything about the Proud Boys on the federal level. The sitting President, up until a few weeks ago, was a wannabe fascist himself (albeit an inept and ineffectual one).
They were in his base. He called them “good people” and told them to “stand back and stand by” during a debate.
He was happy to give the terrorist label to Antifa, despite them being more of a concept than a group. This left the Proud Boys to be covered by the country’s anything goes free speech laws.
Canada, on the other hand, has hate speech laws. We also have (currently and during every year of the Proud Boys’ existence) a Prime Minister who espouses inclusivity and other progressive values every chance he gets.
We have no excuse for waiting this long. Of course, I’m not the least bit surprised:
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the federal, provincial and municipal governments’ responses to the COVID pandemic. They cover the curfew, museums re-opening, summer street terrasses, outsourcing benefit service and more.
Dawn McSweeney is an author and occasional FTB contributor. Follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy
Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of forgetthebox.net Follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean
On the latest FTB Fridays, Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Jon Weisz of Indie Montreal and the Canadian Independent Venue Coalition talk about helping independent Canadian music venues survive during the pandemic and why we should #SupportCanadianVenues
Featured Image from the Canadian Independent Venue Colaition
On this edition of FTB Fridays, Jason C. McLean and special guest Niall Clapham-Ricardo discuss Canadian Politics, Minority Parliaments, Canada getting the COVID Vaccine after Mexico, International working-class solidarity and Jagmeet Singh Twitch streaming with AOC.
Featured Image via WikiMedia Commons (from Sam on Flickr)
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is ravaging the United States and the European Union and other countries are slowly easing their lockdown restrictions as doctors, epidemiologists, paramedics, and other essential workers scramble to get it under control.
As a member of the immune-compromised I have been extremely careful. I haven’t been to a store, restaurant, or bar in months, and I don’t let anyone in my home unless they wash their hands, remove their shoes, and keep two meters apart during their visit. When I go out, it’s always straight to a car and to a private home where I am extra careful to minimize physical contact and wash my hands regularly. When I’m in any public space, however briefly, I always wear a mask.
That said, while it is highly unlikely that I have COVID-19, it’s not impossible. I am having flu-like symptoms that started with a mild sore throat and a little chest congestion.
After mulling it over, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself tested yesterday. If you’re having any cold or flu-like symptoms, have been to a bar recently, or come in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested too.
Not sure how? I’m here to help.
This article is about how to get tested for COVID-19 in Quebec and what to expect. I hope you’ll be encouraged to at the very least get assessed to see if being tested is necessary. We’re all in this together, so let’s keep each other safe and informed.
If she thinks you need to get tested for COVID-19, she will ask you for your postal code, find the nearest test center, and book you an appointment that best fits your schedule. You will also need to provide your phone number, Medicare number, and email address.
You should get an appointment confirmation by email almost immediately. You can also expect to get multiple reminders by text message in the day or two before the appointment. They will give you the option of cancelling your appointment online.
While it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do, I will say that it is better to know one way or the other than to not know if you have COVID-19, so keep that appointment.
Bring a mask with you and be prepared to wait in line outside the test centre. The one closest to me was at 5800 Cote des Neiges in Montreal, in a sort of construction trailer in the parking lot of the Jewish General Hospital. Every once in a while someone in full mask and protection gear will come out and ask if anyone has an appointment. If you do, they will call you in.
Once inside, you are immediately required to put on a fresh mask and sanitize your hands. Then you are sent to a waiting area with chairs divided by walls to ensure social distancing.
You’ll feel a bit like a sideshow display, but it’s comfortable. The ambiance of the test centre feels like the pop up lab the government set up in the movie ET and you will be required to sanitize your hands nearly every step of the way.
After a few minutes, the worker who called you in will sanitize the phone allowing you to speak to the administrator who is protected by a wall with a window, not unlike the setup in some prisons. You are required to press your Medicare card to the window for the admin worker who will register you, which includes confirming your email address and emergency contacts. They will ask if you’re ok getting a negative result by email as well.
You are then sent back to the waiting area. I cannot vouch for wait times, as I know they vary, but I was called in less than thirty minutes.
A nurse in full protective gear will then bring you to a room near the exit. Another nurse similarly dressed will be seated at a computer and will ask you questions about travel, who you have been in contact with, and what your symptoms are. They will then give you a sheet with a number you can call if you don’t get your results in two to five days and your file number.
If the results are negative you will get an email. If they’re positive, expect a phone call.
Then the dreaded moment comes: the nurse asks you to lower your mask below your nose, holds out a giant flexible swab, and tells you to tilt your head back.
You know that expression “Mind if I pick your brain”? That’s exactly what the test itself feels like. You think that swab can’t possibly go further up your nose, that there simply isn’t room, and yet it does.
However, the test is quick, and the nurses are as gentle with administering such an uncomfortable test as can be. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the swab is out and you’re free to go with your information sheet and instructions to self-isolate for five days.
You are warned that the phone call when and if it comes will say “Private Number” in your caller ID and won’t leave a message. A healthcare worker will then instruct you to sanitize your hands immediately before you go out the exit. You are then free to go home to self-isolation.
That said, if you are having any symptoms resembling a cold, flu, or sinus infection and/or have been anywhere or in contact with anyone that puts you at risk of catching COVID-19, get yourself tested. The comfort of knowing one way or the other far outweighs the speedy discomfort of the test itself.
We’re all in this together. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Featured image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The history of colonization is dark. Indigenous peoples of Canada have been facing discrimination and racism since European setters began to occupy their land in the 1400s. Stolen land, the death of language, residential schools and centuries of abuse are still present in the Canadian justice system and in many Indigenous communities today.
Effforts to unveil the truths of systemic racism that run rampant in our society are a step in the right direction, but the media often misses the most obvious truths, the ones that lie right in front of our noses.
The death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement took over the news last week, shining the light on systemic racism within the judicial system in the United States. Thousands have been taking to the streets, protesting against racism and for police reform. We must, however, remember not to shine the light too far away from our own.
Colonization is ongoing. Though the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia has never signed over their land to European settlers, their 22 000 km of land has never officially been recognized as their own, and protected under Canadian law.
That is why, last Friday, June 5th, On Friday, June 5th, a crowd of around 300 protesters gathered around the George-Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance Park to protest the CGL pipeline in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation.
Last January and February, a string of nation-wide protests and VIA rail blockades halted access from Montreal to Toronto. Media presence had waned since the COVID-19 pandemic took over, but the fight is still far from over.
Though a landmark Memorandum of Understanding was signed that recognizes some rights of the Wet’suwet’en people, it does not affect the construction of the CGL pipeline, which is still opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The protest was organized by student groups that focus on environmental protection.
“Climate justice doesn’t exist without indigenous sovereignty and being in solidarity with the indigenous people especially here in Canada,” said John Nathaniel Gurtler, a Dawson student in environmental studies and an organizer of the event for La CEVES, Student Coalition for Environmental and Social Change in English.
The event was supposed to take place on that Sunday, but changed when the protests against the murder of George Floyd were organized for the same date.
“We see it as all sort of under the same umbrella of justice and fighting for people who have faced systematic racism,” said Gurtler. “The Indigenous people, just like Black people here in Canada, are people who have for hundreds of years faced racism and oppression and have been put aside.”
“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people. In Canada, it’s indigenous people, it’s not just black people,” Gurtler continued. “It’s all under the same umbrella of justice and showing up in solidarity.”
The CGL pipeline is set to run through 190 square km of traditional Wet’suwet’en land in Northern British Columbia. Though five out of six Wet’suwet’en elected band council members signed on to the CGL pipeline, the government never asked permission from the hereditary chiefs, who have had custodianship over the 22 000 km of unceded traditional land according to ongoing, pre-colonial tradition.
Last year, the Trudeau government ordered the RCMP to invade the Unist’ten camp – built on the borders of Wet’suwet’en territory during another contested pipeline project in 2010, where many other planned pipelines have been planned to cross over.
Wet’suwet’en territory is unceded; the Nation have never signed a treaty or agreed to share the 22 000 square km of traditional land they have had since before European settlers began to occupy their territory in the 1800s. In November 2019, the BC provincial government passed legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act. The declaration includes 46 articles, covering Indigenous culture, community, identity, health, and more.
The provincial government’s decision not to engage in meaningful discussion counteracted their implementation of the UN Declaration. Hereditary chiefs asked for UN intervention after RCMP invaded their camps. In January, a UN committee fighting racism urged RCMP officials to leave the territory.
The situation sparked national and international outrage. Nationwide protests throughout January and February led to the shut down of Canadian VIA rail trains, and international support from Indigenous communities and land defenders worldwide. The Kahnawake community in Montreal stepped forward, as well, with hints of the 1990 Oka crisis thick in the air.
Though the pipeline isn’t yet in the ground, already two oil spills are being investigated by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Though the CGP pipeline, widely contested both nationally and internationally, is still in its’ early phases, 500 liters of oil have leaked onto Wet’suwet’en territory.
“They haven’t even started putting the pipeline in and they have a big mess already,” said Marlene Hale, Wet’suwet’en representative at the protest. The spills occurred close to Morice river, where the locals fish, explained Hale.
Hereditary chiefs, whose traditional job it is to protect the land, and land defenders worry about the negative effects of the pipeline to the environment, and the effects it will have on future generations.
The situation is reminiscent of North Dakota’s Keystone pipeline, contested by Indigenous land defenders worldwide in fear of the repercussions of an oil spill that would affect members of the society, their drinking water and infrastructures. Over 380 000 gallons of oil spilled from the pipeline in November 2019.
Media presence of the anti-pipeline protests was strong in January and February, but quickly fizzled out as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The virus did not stop CGL pipeline workers from continuing construction.
The official website of the pipeline shows how far along each segment of the project is. Currently, 75% of the route has been cleared.
“The idea of the protest started during the pandemic when the federal government announced that they would be funding the pipeline project with up to 500 million dollars,” explained Gertler. “That happened sort of under the radar, and several of us said that this can’t happen. We were fed up with being behind our screens and we wanted to do something more direct.”
The issue is both environmental and social, tying in Indigenous land rights to misuse of the land.
The provincial government’s ability to supersede Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ wishes stems from the Indian Act. Though both the provincial and federal government have recognized Wet’suwet’en land as unceded during an MOU signing last month, land rights are still undefined.
“[The MOU] is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mention the Coastal GasLink at all, which is central to all of this,” said Gertler. “Even during the pandemic it was happening – while we were told to stay inside and limit ourselves to essential things, the pipeline, which is definitely not essential, is being built.”
“[It puts] indigenous communities in danger which are already at a heightened risk – communities that don’t have the systems in place to deal with outbreaks and don’t have running water sometimes to wash their hands,” he continued
“What we need here is a real revolution for oppressed people,” he added.
Protesters began the trek on wheels from the George Etienne Cartier monument at Jean-Mance around 7pm, after Marlene Hale, a chef from Wet’suwet’en nation who lives in Montreal, addressed the crowd.
“The RCMP still taunt us, laugh at us,” she said. “They pretty much just want us to have the COVID and go away and die.”
Though the situation induces anger, Hale maintained that it’s important to stay positive. “Choose your words carefully, what you say to your neighbors,” she said. “Don’t get people angry for any reason. Keep it here [at the protest].”
“When I do meditation, I’ve learned all the time is – there’s a positive time and there’s a negative side. And when it gets negative, just flush it.”
The 300 or so protestors rode down Parc Avenue, all the way across the city to Parc Maisonneuve in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough, masked up with signs attached to bikes. The 45 minute trek ended as the sun began to set in the park.
The June 5th date held extra importance. It was that day that the BC government held the trial for 22 land defenders who were arrested by the RCMP in February. They were not charged.
On the same day, Bill 61 – a law that criminalizes folk who choose to protest the CGL pipeline with a $25 000 infraction or jail time – was passed in Alberta, where the pipeline starts at Dawson Creek.
“There’s no way that these people who are often disadvantaged are going to be able to pay $25 000. So it’s terrible. It’s a disgrace to democracy and it’s terrible,” said Gertler.
While not everybody has the health to protest, organizer Albert Lalonde, spokesperson from La Ceve, said that folks can show support and solidarity by becoming educated on systemic racism and microaggressions, signing petitions, and donating money to funds.
“I think we see it as a responsibility to just be allies to those who have always been the land and water protectors,” he said. “We’ve stolen their land, and we must hand it back, it’s our responsibility. We have to stop this system of oppression that they have to deal with every day. Not doing so would mean that we are complicit, and this is not a thing we want, it’s not a thing we can accept. They have their right to self-determination, we’re on their land,” he said.
La CEVES plans to continue environmental and solidarity protests throughout the summer.
The agreement immediately recognizes that Wet’suwet’en rights and title are held by the nation’s own system of governance, and include a commitment to beginning negotiations on legal recognition of Wet’suwet’en title to their traditional land.
Chief Gisday’wa was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case, which led to a Supreme Court decision that recognized Wet’suwet’en system of laws that predates colonialism.
The deal was struck in February, amidst nation-wide protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation against the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, planned to run through 190 km of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.
The slogans ShutDownCanada and All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en swept the nation in January and February, with protestors showing support from all around the Wet’suwet’en as rail blockades halted access from Montreal to Toronto in solidarity.
The 670 km long natural gas pipeline is planned to carry gas from a town in eastern BC to a liquefaction plant on the west coast of the province, where the gas will be exported to Asian customers. It is known as the largest private sector investment in Canadian history.
While five of six elected band council members agreed with the project, the hereditary chiefs, whose role within the nation is to make decisions over the land, say they never consented. The dispute made global headlines, with UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for immediate withdrawal as RCMP raided the Unist’ot’en camp with guns in tow.
The Wet’suwet’en are just one of many First Nations in the province that have been attempting to negotiate jurisdiction, recognition of ownership, and self-government since Europeans began to settle on their traditional land in the 1800s.
“This is not just an indigenous issue, this is a human rights issue, the rights for us to be who we are as Wet’suwet’en People,” Cheif Na’Moks said at the virtual signing.
The Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty or relinquished their rights to the 22,000km of land they have been inhabiting since pre-colonial times.
“There’s no turning back,” said Marlene Hale, a chef from Wet’suwet’en who led protests in Montreal. She says the MOU represents a step towards reconciliation.
“It’s a signal to the government that we may have agreed to start this work by starting the talks and negotiations,” she continued. “They will walk the path of reconciliation with us. That’s very important. The rights and titles will be recognized.”
In 1984, leaders of the Gitxcan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations took the BC provincial government to court to establish jurisdiction over 58 000 km of both land and water. The fight for recognition of ownership of the land had climbed to urgency when a hydroelectric project established by the BC government in the 50s caused major damage to the area of multiple First Nations groups, including the destruction of homes and of sacred burial ground.
As clear-cut logging projects were approved by the BC government, members of the Gixdan and Wet’suwet’en nations opposed the building of a second hydro project, the First Nations appealed the decision and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. During the trial, The First Nations group provided evidence to their historical ownership of the land by using oral history; witnesses spoke in their own languages, using translators to tell the long history of the land and water in the territory.
Ceremonial songs and performances, reciting the adaawk, personal bloodline histories of the Gitxsan, and kungas, songs about trials between territories of the Wet’suwet’en.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled oral history to be evidence of pre-colonial land ownership, and ruled that the right to the Nations’ land had not been extinguished.
The Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case made headlines as the most comprehensive decision about Aboriginal title, which legally states that “the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed”. While the case affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en may still have ownership of their land, any further decisions were not made.
The MOU, Hale said, “leads to a consensus on the government to implement the 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa [case] – it was really putting it official.”
The fight was still far from over. Land rights have yet to be clearly defined and articulated in court, even though it had been acknowledged that the Wet’suwet’en never signed over their land in a treaty.
In 2010, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and land defenders built the Unisto’ten Camp as a means to block the development of numerous proposed pipeline projects that would cut through the First Nation’s territory. Hereditary chiefs held their opposition to Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, a pipeline project whose’ path was similar to the future CGL.
A permaculture garden and a traditional pithouse were built on site, bringing life to the conflict, used for shelter are included in the camp which lays at the exact point pipelines would cross into Unis’to’ten Wet’suwet’en territory.
Though the ENGP project never went through, the CGL pipeline was officially approved in 2015, with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs remaining in opposition.
In 2014, Tsilhqot’in Nation in B.C. became the first to prove title to their land in court.
In another landmark Supreme Court ruling, provinces cannot unilaterally claim a right to engage in clear-cut logging on lands protected by Indigenous Peoples; they have to engage in meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal title-holder before proceeding.
“This is the first time I think that any of the governments have taken any real steps forwards towards trying to find reconciliation towards Indigenous Peoples,” said Chief Smogelgem during the MOU signing. “This is a significant time for our nation,” he continued. “It’s a significant time for everybody, all around the world. Not just because of the pandemic, but because of the work that we’re about to do today which is working actually towards true reconciliation. It is no longer a political catch phrase – this is something that is going into action.”
The 1876 Indian Act, which charted an assimilationist policy towards the Aboriginal peoples in Canada, made it illegal for Indigenous Peoples to raise money or hire lawyers for land claims. This was not lifted until 1951.
The Wet’suwet’en uses a “mixed governance system” that uses both hereditary and elected chiefs, who all play different roles within the community. The elected band council is a position that stemmed from the Indian Act to bridge Canadian government with First Nations. It is different from the traditional position of the hereditary chief, where hereditary chiefs attain governing power by consensus.
It is their job to protect the land and assure its safety for future generations, a continuation of the work of their ancestors that will be passed down to future generations.
“We always knew that we had 22 000 square kilometers of land,” said Chief Na’Moks at the virtual signing.
For Marlene Hale, May 14 is a new day to mark on the calendar – a celebration. “Wiggus – respect – rides high with our people,” she said. “And it was not respected, that word. It is now, it is existing and it is respected. By them signing, this wiggus has come to light again.”
“We’re here to make a future, because this is who we are. We’ve always held our integrity, we’ve always held our honesty, we’ve always held our respect. From this day forward, it has to be reciprocal. When we speak, we must be listened to. When we come to an agreement, it’s an agreement from the heart, the soul and for the future, and we have to do it for everybody.”
“When our children and grandchildren and great grand children look upon this day, I want them to look back on this for a smile on their face,” he continued. “Those ladies and gentlemen did it for us, and now we’re doing it for them. And it has to be done with honesty and hard work. Today the work starts, the real hard work starts. And there will never be another piece of legislation of policy that will ever silence the Wet’suwet’en again.”
It’s important to note that while the Memorandum of Understanding is an important step forward for aboriginal rights, it does not affect the Coastal GasLink Pipeline which is currently being built.
Featured image by James Hyett via WikiMedia Commons
The Canadian Federal Election is October 21, 2019 and it stands to be an important one.
It’s important because for the first time the baby boomers are no longer the dominant voting block and younger people who’ve felt ignored or dismissed by the system can finally have their voices heard within it. It’s important because many politicians are realizing this and trying to cater to our needs, not the entitled uninformed whiny ones of our parents’ generation.
In my last article I tackled the four mainstream federal parties running in this election and how they fare on issues concerning voters under the age of 60. In this article I’ll be tackling two fringe parties on how they fare on similar criteria – specifically where they stand on climate change, LGBTQI2+ rights, and income inequality.
Once again, this is not to say that these issues do not concern older voters. It IS to say that these are the issues that younger people feel have been insufficiently addressed by mainstream politics in the past.
In cases where a party does not have a specific platform on the issue, I will elaborate in broader terms based on their track records and publications. Unlike the previous article, I’ll be going party by party instead of topic by topic.
For the purposes of this article, I am defining a fringe party as a party that either caters to a very specific, niche group of the population, or that expresses views far too extreme to fit within a mainstream party. I will elaborate further in my discussion of each political party.
Many will argue that the Bloc Québécois is a mainstream party because they’ve actually succeeded in getting seats in the House of Commons more often than the Green Party and they once even formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa. I argue that the Bloc is a fringe party for though they claim to advocate not just for Quebeckers but for French speaking Canadians across Canada, all their MPs are from Quebec and their platform seems focused only on advancing Quebec interests in Federal Parliament.
The Bloc Québécois’ platform shows a clear understanding of what their base is – specifically older white French Islamophobic Canadians. Nearly a third of their platform is devoted on improving care for seniors, while younger voters are not mentioned at all.
On climate change their plan includes:
• Imposing a carbon tax on provinces with higher greenhouse gas emissions than the national average – up for revision every four years • Funneling the proceeds of such a tax into provinces with lower emissions in order to facilitate green innovation • Introduce a law that gives Quebec a right to consent or refuse federal construction projects involving land allocation and environmental protection • Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies
On LGBTQI2+ rights, the Bloc does not have a specific policy, so I am evaluating them on how they address the broader issue of hate. Bloc Quebecois signs promoting a xenophobic form of state secularism have been found in Montreal within a few steps of Islamic centers and aspects of their platform include pushing this notion across Canada. Their platform includes excluding Quebec from a federal law recognizing Canadian multiculturalism.
Recently the Bloc came under fire when party leader Yves-François Blanchet tweeted that Quebeckers should vote for people that look like them – a tweet widely and appropriately criticized for being racist, despite Blanchet’s claims that that’s not what he meant. If their attitude towards visible and religious minorities is any indication, Canada’s sexual and gender minorities would be right to be worried for their own safety should the Bloc get seats.
On Income Inequality, the Bloc’s platform is focused on those not paying their fair share of taxes and making things easier for elderly Canadians. Their plan – which almost entirely excludes young people -includes:
• Having Ottawa demand that companies, especially businesses and banks, repatriate funds hidden in tax havens • Offering a tax credit to employers to train and keep employees over the age of sixty-five • Offering a tax credit to immigrants and recent graduates willing to work in remote areas • Allocating Federal grants for social and affordable housing
The People’s Party of Canada
The People’s Party of Canada is a party that has received a lot of media attention, mostly negative. In Hamilton, their people clashed with protesters who have branded them Nazis, and looking at their platform and leader’s comments, it’s easy to see why.
Many of the party’s values, which include the abolition of multiculturalism in favor of a broader national identity, claiming that being called racist for saying racist things is somehow persecution, and resorting to personal attacks rather than countering arguments on their merit (see Maxime Bernier’s tweet about Greta Thunberg) are right out of the neo-Nazi playbook. But, in the interest of fairness, let’s discuss what they’re actually saying.
The People’s Party platform on climate change claims that there is no scientific consensus on the issue (fact check: there IS). Their plan includes:
• Withdrawing Canada from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change • Abolish federal subsidies for green technology • Abolish the carbon tax so provinces can come up with their own plans to reduce emissions • Implement practical solutions to make Canada’s air, water, and soil cleaner, including bringing clean water to remote First Nations communities
On LGBTQI2+ rights, the People’s Party platform is pure hate. Their website actually berates the Trudeau government for allegedly forcing “Canadians to express support for the existence of various gender identities beyond the biological categories of male and female, and to use pronouns demanded by those who identify with these other genders.” Fact check: Trudeau actually just amended the Criminal Code so crimes motivated by hate based on gender identity or expression would be considered hate crimes.
Their platform on LGBTQI2+ rights includes:
• “Restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to expression which explicitly advocates the use of force against identifiable groups or persons based on protected criteria such as religion, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation,” thus rolling back Trudeau reforms so people outside the gender binary and transgender people would not be protected under the legal definition of hate. • Roll back Trudeau administration changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act that had expanded the definition of prohibited forms of discrimination to include “gender identity or expression” • Pull federal funding from universities restricting free speech • “Ensure that Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions” – with a specific reference in their platform to the Trudeau government’s refusal to provide funding to anti-choice groups as part of the summer jobs program
On the issue of income inequality and the economy, the People’s Party is focused on lowering taxes to boost the private sector and benefit the wealthy. There is nothing in their platform to directly address poverty and the growing housing shortage. Their plan includes:
• Gradually reducing corporate income taxes from fifteen percent to ten percent • Over the course of one mandate eliminate the current capital gains tax by reducing the inclusion rate from 50% to 0% • Eliminate corporate subsidies and government bailouts of failing companies
If you’re under sixty and have felt like your voice has not been heard by politicians in the past, remember that things are different now and your votes matter more than ever. On October 21st, 2019, you have a chance to finally see your choices determine the outcome of the federal election.
Take twenty minutes and go tick a box on a slip of paper. Our future is at stake.