Justice system still not protecting Indigenous women and girls

(Picture by Pam Palmater, Rally for Justice for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Winnipeg) This article was originally published in The Lawyer's Daily on May, 28, 2019.

“Her life mattered. She was valued. She was important. She was loved.” R. v. Barton [2019] S.C.J. No. 33.
Cindy Gladue was an Indigenous woman originally from Alberta, where she grew up with her four siblings and extended family. She was also the mother to three daughters and her family described her as both a loving mother and caring auntie. She had close friends and always dreamed about being the first in her family to go to university. Cindy Gladue loved and was loved. She did not deserve her violent death in 2011 nor the indignity done to her body after.
She is now one of the many thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada — a growing crisis that represents grave human rights violations. The trial of the man who admittedly committed this act of violence against Cindy is …

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Universities and Colleges

Reconciliation has become the buzz word of the decade ever since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada published their report on residential schools in Canada.* The TRC, headed by (then) Justice Murray Sinclair, heard from residential school survivors, families and native communities from all over Canada about their experiences in residential schools and their lives afterwards. These schools lasted for over 100 years, with the last one only closing in 1996.
Despite being called schools, residential schools were actually designed to separate native children from their parents, extended families and communities, for the express purposes of assimilating them into, what the TRC describes as "Euro-Christian society". Thousands of children were starved, neglected, tortured, medically experimented on, mentally, physically and/or sexually abused or even murdered. Their experiences have had long-lasting, inter-generational impacts on many more thousands of children, …

Bill C-92’s Indigenous Child Welfare Act: More Pan-Indigenous Legislation that Risks Continuing the Status Quo

Bill C-92 An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families has been heralded as a “historic turning point”, an “important first step”, a “major milestone” and other similarly over-used and under-impressive political phrases to describe yet another top-down initiative from the federal government. While the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde (AFN) claimed that this legislation was “co-drafted” by the AFN and the federal government, that was not the case. In fact, Dr. Cindy Blackstock confirmed that First Nations did not co-draft the legislation and First Nations were not even permitted to see the second draft before it was tabled. This should be no surprise as Justice Canada does not co-draft legislation with anyone other than the French and English legislative drafters at Justice Canada – this is their long-standing practice. Bill C-92 content is glaring evidence that First Nation experts in child welfare did not hold the pen on this …

Federal Budget 2019: Indigenous Women and Children Left Behind - Again

(Pam Palmater, photo by Ben Powless)
As expected, the Assembly of First Nations was first out of the gate offering glowing praise for this Liberal government’s federal budget, followed shortly thereafter by the Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – the three male-dominated national Aboriginal organizations. Their organizations have seen substantial increases in funding for their political organizations in recent years. Meanwhile, the Native Women’s Association of Canada – the only political organization representing Indigenous women at the national level - issued its own press release criticizing the government for failing Indigenous women. They accused the federal government of, once again, ignoring the pressing needs of Indigenous women and in so doing, not only hampering reconciliation but breaching their core human rights. NWAC is especially aggrieved about this lack of funding for Indigenous women and families, given the urgent n…

Bill C-91 An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages: More Hollow Reconciliation

There is no doubt that pre- and post-confederation governments in what is now known as Canada have developed policies, enacted laws and regulations, and engaged in practices that have had as their primary objectives: (1) to acquire First Nation lands and resources and (2) to reduce financial obligations acquired through treaties and other agreements with First Nations. Their primary methods have been to eliminate and/or assimilate “Indians”. Elimination took the forms of small pox blankets, scalping bounties, murders, starvation rations, and forced sterilizations. Attempts at forced assimilation took place in the form residential schools, forced adoptions (60’s scoop), and the Indian Act which outlawed certain cultural practices and created a legislative extinction date for First Nations. The impact of these laws, policies and practices have been nothing short of genocidal. The specific impact to First Nations languages have been devastating. The majority of the 70 different First Nat…

Cannabis legalization ignores First Nations

*This article was originally published in The Lawyer's Daily on Jan.30, 2019.

For decades, federal and provincial governments, through their local, regional and national police agencies and court systems, have arrested, charged and imprisoned thousands of First Nations people for engaging in the cannabis trade. Many had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stated commitment to renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples and his desire to legalize cannabis would help address many issues, one of which being the crisis-level over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples.

Despite legalization of cannabis in 2018, Trudeau’s Liberal government has not yet seen fit to provide relief for Indigenous peoples languishing in prisons for cannabis-related offences. This is disappointing on two fronts: the first being that Trudeau has not kept his promises to Indigenous peoples; and second, that the first ever female Indigenous Justice minister didn’t take steps to get Indigenous peoples…