Category Archives: First Nations

Trudeau government rocked by scandal: A Different Law for SNC Lavalin?

by Gary Porter

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau often brags about his “feminism” and his devotion to indigenous rights in Canada. His surprising demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) from Justice Minister to Veterans Affairs Minister, and her subsequent resignation from the Federal Liberal cabinet made a mockery of his claims, and raised eyebrows across Canada. Wilson-Raybould, a respected Indigenous lawyer, is reputedly a champion of good governance and accountability. Her crime was to take her job seriously.

The Globe and Mail revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Trudeau himself pushed the Justice Minister to allow SNC Lavalin, a Montreal-based mega corporation, to negotiate a Deferred Prosecution Agreement instead of SNC facing charges of fraud and corruption in court. One might ask, why, in the first place, was legislation permitting such an escape clause for corrupt corporations approved by Parliament on September 18, 2018? And why was it made to apply retroactively to criminal charges in progress? Needless to say, SNC lobbied hard for the new act. Wilson-Raybould’s apparent refusal to accede to demands by the PM, choosing instead to do her job, meant she just had to go.

On February 27, Wilson-Raybould shocked many observers with her testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee. Trudeau, under great pressure, had just lifted the constraints of client solicitor privilege and cabinet confidentiality. JWR revealed that between early September 2018 and at least January 2019, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Prime Minister Trudeau and senior staff persistently urged her, even in a threatening way, to reverse the decision of her chief prosecutor not to offer a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) to SNC Lavalin. JWR warned Trudeau that this pressure was in violation of the independence of the judiciary and subverted the rule of law. She advised them to cease, but they did not. She explained that as a lawyer who had seen how the law and judicial independence have been applied selectively to Indigenous people, she swore it would not occur on her watch.

SNC Lavalin employs 52,000 people worldwide. It reaps $10 billion USD annually in revenue from its global project management and infrastructure construction and operations business. SNC is considered by Canadian capitalism to be “too big to fail”.

The unfolding scandal has tarnished the image of Trudeau.  It may even topple the government. But deeper lies the lesson. Myths about respect for the rule of law and the independence of Canada’s ‘justice’ system have taken a beating. These myths underpin the social contract according to which private corporations obtain natural resources, social infrastructure such as energy, transportation and communications systems, and the labour of millions, supposedly in exchange for creating wealth to the benefit of society as a whole.

Part of the bargain is that the vast surpluses created by labour during this process are appropriated by private owners who operate under laws which supposedly enforce fairness and regulate the greed into which unregulated masters would otherwise sink.

SNC Lavalin has a long history of anti-competitive, anti-market practices and other insidious acts. This behaviour is not limited to foreign jurisdictions where, according to arrogant racists, corruption is the norm. SNC executives were found guilty of making illegal payments to obtain huge contracts to build the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal and the McGill University Health Centre.

Canadians are taught that in a liberal capitalist democracy, politicians do not interfere in the even-handed application of reasonable laws. We are assured that politics and politicians cannot corrupt the Canadian justice system. In truth, the only thing that is never violated under capitalism is the soulless drive by owners and bosses to maximize private profit, however corrupt and destructive their behaviour is.

Apologists for Trudeau and the unelected bureaucrats of the PMO insist that SNC Lavalin must be saved. Think of those 9,000 jobs situated in Canada and the families involved. But corporations and their executives who violate the public trust, abuse their wealth, and misallocate social resources should lose their freedom and their wealth. A truly ‘just’ society would jail the criminal executives and expropriate SNC Lavalin, so that those who do the hard, honest work can run this massive enterprise in the public interest.

RCMP Ambush Indigenous Land Defenders

by Gary Porter

The Canadian state brutally violated the Rights of Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, in the interests of the Oil and Gas Barons. Demonstrations immediately occurred in over 30 cities as thousands of Canadians showed they are fed up with Official Racism.

The RCMP moved to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow pipeline workers to pass through two Wet’suwet’en checkpoints on January 9. A heavily armed SWAT team attacked peaceful indigenous protesters and violently arrested 14 land defenders. Over the next two days, virtually spontaneous demonstrations occurred in dozens of towns and cities in reaction to repeated state violence against indigenous people and against the pollution that emanates from the global corporate profit machine. Mass media was excluded by the cops from the site of the attack, but photos taken by indigenous bystanders show protesters being cruelly attacked by multiple police, pushing their faces into the snow.

The permanent Unist’ot’en camp, and the more recently established Gidimt’en checkpoint, are part of an ongoing effort by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders and members to protect unceded lands from pipeline construction. “The proposed pipelines are a threat to the watershed, as well as to the plants, animals and communities that depend on them,” the Unist’ot’en Camp states on its website.

While more than one proposed pipeline would cross through Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, Trans Canada’s Coastal GasLink project is at the centre of the current injunction dispute.

The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline would span 670 kilometres across northern British Columbia. It is intended to supply natural gas from near Dawson Creek, B.C. to the planned LNG Canada export facility near Kitimat, B.C., where it would be converted to liquefied natural gas for export. Construction is estimated to cost about $4.8 billion.

According to LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink would be the only pipeline to supply its facility in Kitimat, B.C. on the Pacific coast. A company spokesperson called it an “essential component of the LNG Canada project.” This $40 billion project to be built by a global consortium will subject the entire area to heavy gas fracking operations. Preliminary fracking was recently halted in the wake of earthquakes. Moreover, the project makes it impossible for B.C. to meet its carbon reduction goals.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, recently demoted by Prime Minister Trudeau from Justice Minister to Veterans’ Affairs Minister, issued a 1,100 word tract on her demotion. Citing the PM’s own words, that the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people is the “most important” one, she reminds all that “the work that must be done is well known,” and “legislative and policy changes based on the recognition of title and rights, including historic treaties, are urgently needed.” Toward the end of her letter she pledges to “continue to be directly engaged” in advancing “fundamental shifts.”

Wilson-Raybould is a woman of Kwakwaka’wakw heritage who was previously the Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations. And her words were being written the week after a heavily-armed RCMP contingent used force to remove Wet’suwet’en activists from a ‘checkpoint’ on the road to a work camp for gas-line workers. The line crosses lands where, courts have ruled, hereditary chiefs hold historic and traditional title. Those chiefs, it seems, were not part of the ‘consultation and accommodations’ promised for the project.

The elected band council is a creation of the colonial settler federal government-imposed Indian Act of 1876 which treated indigenous people as wards of the state, essentially as children. In an attempt to destroy the traditional basis of indigenous government, the Act created elected Band Councils which, the government assumed, could be more easily swayed than traditional hereditary chiefs. Turns out that was true in this case. The band council came to terms with the Trans Canada Pipeline. But the hereditary Chiefs were not included and do oppose the pipeline. The clans for the most part are following the hereditary chiefs.

The big question remains: By what right is Trans Canada Pipeline able to get a court injunction to allow their workers onto un-ceded indigenous land in the first place? By what conceivable logic can the RCMP, claiming to be “neutral” and merely “enforcing the law”, send heavily armed SWAT team members onto Indigenous land and brutally attack a peaceful road blockade, arresting 14 native land defenders in the process. The cops are far from neutral. They are imposing the will of settler capitalism on the indigenous people. They are enforcing the laws of the white man to seize indigenous land and using it to generate white profits.

The settler government has consistently violated indigenous sovereignty and the right to self determination in the interests of white capitalist profit and racist social policy. The Canadian federal government, for decades, organized the forced removal of indigenous children to brutal Residential Schools. In those schools, many were physically, sexually and psychologically abused, over-worked, under-fed and punished for speaking their own language. Many children died.

In 2010, Ottawa endorsed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The latest Trudeau/RCMP action violates the declaration dramatically. The racist policy and practice has to cease. Trans Canada Pipeline should get off indigenous land. Protesters should be released and RCMP excluded from indigenous land. No to the pipeline. No to the LNG Canada fracking operation. Self-determination for indigenous people.

Photo: Elizabeth Wang / The Ubyssey

Will Indigenous Languages Survive?

Cultural genocide is an explosive term – but not too strong when applied to the fate of many languages of Indigenous people across North America, Turtle Island.

According to 2016 Canadian census data, the mother tongue of over 213,000 people was an Indigenous language.  In Ontario, it was over 25,000.

In September, parents of Indigenous children enrolled at the Toronto District School Board petitioned trustees to expand the Indigenous language programme.  Board officials acknowledged the need for more.  Seven schools have provided Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) classes for over a decade.  But of the 53 languages taught to 30,000 students during the International Language Elementary Programme last year, none were Indigenous.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action highlights the need to preserve and strengthen Indigenous language and culture.  Clearly, there is far to go.

Gisele Gordon, one of the TDSB-petitioning parents, told the Toronto Star “My mother-in-law is a fluent Cree speaker.  My husband, like most of his generation, is not.  This is a direct result of residential schools.”

On October 5, the Canadian federal government agreed to pay $800 million to survivors of the “60s Scoop” for the harm suffered by an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities when seized by the state and placed with non-native families between 1965 and 1984.  There is no “settlement” on the table for the victims of the infamous Residential Schools programme, which placed more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children in church-run schools from the 1870s to 1996. Many of those children were beaten, sexually abused, and starved for speaking their mother tongues.

Meanwhile, in the secret talks to re-write the North America Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian government’s promise to “modernize” the NAFTA by demanding it include a new chapter on Indigenous peoples, seems to be empty. It is reminiscent of the Jay Treaty of 1794, signed by Britain and the USA, which pledged free cross-border movement of Indigenous people and the goods traded by them, along with protection for Indigenous cultural properties and traditional knowledge.

Can there be “reconciliation” before there is real, substantial restitution, to the tune of trillions of dollars, from the treasury of the corporations and business elites who have profited from Indigenous genocide and the plunder of natural resources?

— BW


Photo: Amnesty International

Big turnout for SA “Celebrate 150 Years of Resistance” on July 7!

A mostly young crowd of about one hundred, including several indigenous women activists, attended the Socialist Action gala “Celebrate 150 Years of Resistance to Colonialism, Genocide, Exploitation and Environmental Plunder” at OISE U of Toronto on the evening of July 7.

They heard seven speakers, including Carrie Lester, Mohawk Land Defender and Water Protector and Idle No More activist. Plus musical performances by singers-songwriters Mama D, Glen Hornblast, and  Mohammed Ali Aumeer of Socialist Hip Hop.

After the presentations, which highlighted the ugly truth about the Canadian state, a lively, at times emotional Q&A took place.  At the conclusion, the meeting chair, leading Socialist Action member and retired postal worker Elizabeth Byce, presented the following resolution, which was approved by unanimous vote:

“Whereas:  There can be no reconciliation without restitution.  No peace without justice.

No shift from carbon fuel to clean green energy without public ownership.  And no democracy without equality.

Therefore, we do not celebrate capitalism and the Canadian state.  We seek to overthrow them, and to build a cooperative commonwealth under workers’ and community control.”

SA recorded the proceedings of the gala.  The video will be posted on  http://www.socialistaction.ca/

Two people applied to join SA at the event.  Another three, by correspondence, expressed a similar interest.

The next SA event is Socialism in the Park, three talks/discussions on revolutionary theory and practice.  It will be held at Toronto’s Christie Pits Park, Bloor St. at Christie Ave., 7 p.m. on July 26, August 2, and August 9.  For more information, respond to this e-message and/or phone 647-986-1917 .

 

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Guest speaker Ajamu Nangwaya on Apartheid Did Not Die

Video of the Socialist Action Rebel Film night discussion that followed the screening of John Pilger’s documentary ‘Apatheid Did Not Die.’  Guest speaker, Ajamu Nangwaya, educator, and organizer with the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity, spoke about the role of the ANC and Nelson Mandela in the perpetuation of economic apartheid in South Africa, and the need to build an anti-capitalist, working class alternative.

Ajamu Nangwaya on Apartheid Did Not Die