Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Conservative's Fear Budget 2015: Canada's Future Not High on Harper's Radar

One need only skim through the Conservative government's budget to see that this massive 528 page propaganda piece is Prime Minister Harper's last big election pitch - support Harper or the terrorists will get you. The political messaging goes even further and seems to suggest that the safety and security of Canadians in all facets of life are at risk and the only way to save themselves is support to support Harper's Cons.

This is a do or die budget - literally, according to Harper. Menacing words like: threat, evil, terror, danger, harm, hurt, pain, suffering, risks/threats to safety appear 231 times in the budget plan. By comparison, the word "peace" only appears 3 times, and words like: Charter rights, constitutional rights, anti-poverty, equality, climate change, women's rights, Aboriginal rights, treaty rights, Aboriginal title, self-government, or murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls do not appear at all. The word "sovereignty" only appears in a stark military context. There is no value placed in human rights freedoms, civil liberties, equality or Aboriginal rights. The climate does not seem to be on their "radar" any more than the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women. This is a true fear monger's budget.

I don't recall even hearing the words "First Nation" or "Aboriginal" in the budget speech - it's like we don't exist. Despite there being major multiple, over-lapping crises in many First Nations - like a lack of housing, water and sanitation, education, health care, flooding, children in care, and murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls - this budget completely ignores these life and death realities. Harper has sent another very clear signal that the lives of First Nation men, women and children mean less than various frivolities like Ottawa's tulips or Canada Day celebrations.

The majority of the funds promised in the budget are just old announcements and much of the other funding announced is not actually "new" money, but either ongoing funding or re-purposed. Many of the funding amounts are promised "over five years" and therefore only flows if you vote for Harper. Take for example the $33M Harper promised to conduct labour market surveys in First Nations - more than $22M of that money will be re-purposed from already allocated federal funding. In other words, another program will suffer with less money so Harper can survey Indians. Other funding announced will be minuscule in its impact. The $2M a year in mental health services for First Nations equates to a little more than $3k per First Nation or less than $1 per person in many First Nations.

Most of what appears to be big money will never find its way to actual First Nation communities. The $34M and $80M a year over 5 years for "consultations" will go to the Environmental Assessment Agency and National Energy Board - not First Nations. The federal government and its agencies are already well-funded and well-armed with Justice lawyers, policy analysts, technicians, researchers and administrative support to assist them in consultations - but First Nations have none of that. This budget makes consultations on major projects worse for First Nations.

The $12M in funds over 3 years to Indspire does not equal new funds, but represents an ongoing prior investment and does not go to First Nations at all. It represents a drop in the bucket of what is needed to provide real support to First Nations in post-secondary institutions. There are approximately 22,000 Aboriginal students in post-secondary institutions and declining every year due to lack of funding. The Auditor General estimated that about 9,500 or more are on waiting lists to be funded for university. This $4M a year for Indspire amounts to $180 per current student, or if it was intended for those on the waiting list - only $420 per student. This minimal investment has no potential to address the current underfunding or the education attainment gap. It wouldn't even be enough to buy text books.

Last year, Harper and former National Chief Atleo made a surprise joint announcement that the federal government would increase First Nation education funding by $1.9B - which turns out was not all new funding and most of it was not for First Nations, but for a new, additional bureaucracy to get First Nation schools in line with provincial curriculum. It was also conditional on agreeing to legislation allowing INAC to have greater control over First Nation education. The First Nation reaction was swift and led to Atleo's resignation and a failure by Harper to provide any of the funding promised. Harper's budget is a sign that his plan continues to be to starve us into submission.

The current educational deficit in First Nations is well over $6B and thus a $200M undefined investment does not address that deficit, let alone provide the much needed funding to catch up. $200M over 5 years is only $40M a year or a little more than $63k per First Nation - not even enough to hire one reading resource teacher. Keeping in mind however, that even this funding is conditional on modelling First Nation schools after provincial systems. This minimal investment should be compared to the $200M investment being made in Canada Day celebrations. Just like the budget for tulips in Ottawa instead of protections for murdered and missing Indigenous women - First Nations are clearly Harper's very last priority.

It should be no surprise that education was not a major investment by Harper either at the k-12 level or the post-secondary level. His focus is on skilled labour force for his resource projects. Aboriginal Labour Market Programming is set to receive $248.5M over 5 years to increase the skilled labour in Aboriginal communities. Harper has made no secret that he wants to employ as many Aboriginal people as possible in oil, pipelines, Ring of Fire, uranium, and mining industries to justify his aggressive resource and energy development plans (think hydro, nuclear, and tar sands).

It's hardly worth even mentioning the $30M over 5 years to permit 25 more First Nations into the First Nation Land Management Act regime as this amounts to $6M a year or $240k for only 25 select First Nations. No funding was allotted to address the billions in outstanding treaty, resource and land claims, or support for self-government agreements (for those who want them). There was nothing to address governance or crisis social issues like murdered and missing women or kids in care - despite major reports from the United Nations finding Canada to have committed "grave violations" of our human rights.

Parties and parades is Harper's priority along with pandas and hockey. He has not only cheated First Nations, but has cheated Canadians by selling GM shares and dipping into the reserves - in both senses of the word - to fake a balanced budget. This can't even be called a status quo budget or play it safe budget. By failing to address significant gaps in socio-economic conditions of First Nations, he and Minister Valcourt set up a budget that violates their own mandate to improve the economic and social well-being of Canadians. By refusing to address any of the crises, the lives of our men, women and children are at risk.

The real danger doesn't come from terrorists, but from Harper's destruction of the environment, his failure to address climate change, his failure to address education and health care, and his wilful neglect of First Nation lives and well-being. Perhaps is he spent less money criminalizing those who are protecting the lands, waters and people in Canada, he would have enough money to invest in our collective futures.

This Fear Budget 2015 shows that Canadians and First Nations alike have something to fear alright - and it's Canada's biggest terrorist: PM Harper. He represents the biggest threat to our collective well-being and future generations that Canada has ever seen.

If ever there was a time for treaty partners to come together - it is now.

Friday, April 10, 2015

RCMP Report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women is Statistically Skewed

In 2014, the RCMP released a report on their "National Operational Review" on the issue of "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women" which amounted to 1181 women total - 164 missing and 1017 murdered.  The core conclusion of the report was that "Aboriginal women"* were over-represented in the numbers of murdered and missing. They cautioned readers that their report contained a certain amount of "error and imprecision" given the thirty year period of review, the human error of investigators, inconsistency of collection, and definitional issues.

Let's look at that caveat a little closer. The RCMP had to "limit" their file review to missing women who had been identified by RCMP on CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) as "non-white" female or "blank". The category of "Aboriginal origin" was only recently added to CPIC and so could not possibly capture all Aboriginal persons. Similarly, the numbers do not include Aboriginal women who were mistakenly recorded as "white" or Aboriginal women who were reported missing but were never recorded. Given the high level of overt and systemic racism in policing as confirmed in the Donald Marshall Jr., Manitoba Justice, Ipperwash, and Pickton inquiries, the numbers of those missing never recorded could be extremely high.

Now, let's look at how the RCMP or other jurisdictions determine who is "Aboriginal". The RCMP report notes that they used "perception-based assessment". In other words, "how a police officer defines how an individual looks in terms of complexion and/or ancestry". However, even this determination is not consistent across jurisdictions. Any number of jurisdictions use the following to identify persons:

            (1) official Aboriginal "status";

            (2) officer discretion; and

            (3) self-identification.

Based on the above, it would seem logical that the RCMP would miss identifying a large portion or even majority of Aboriginal persons. In the first methodology, I presume they meant to say "Indian status" or "Indian registration" because there is no formal or official "Aboriginal status". I hope the RCMP know at least this much about the legislated identity of Indigenous peoples in Canada (hint: it's in the Indian Act). For those that only use "Indian status", that would exclude all the non-status Indians, Métis, and Inuit individuals in Canada. The most recent National Household Survey indicated that there were 1,400,685 Aboriginal people in Canada and only 637,660 of them were registered Indians. That leaves 763,025 individuals (more than half the Aboriginal population) excluded from possible identification as Aboriginal by RCMP standards.

Even those who are identified based on their official Indian status, the RCMP fails to take into consideration the fact that there are well over 20,000 people with Indian status who do not descend from nor identify as "Indian" or "Aboriginal". This is thanks again to the Indian Act which made non-Indian women and their non-Indian male and female children registered as Indians, despite their lack of Aboriginal ancestry or cultural connection. This equates to thousands of men with Indian status that are not in fact Aboriginal.

With regards to the second methodology, the RCMP are identifying Aboriginal peoples based on a racist set of biological and/or physical characteristics which they unilaterally assign to Aboriginal people. In other words, "Aboriginal people" are treated as one race of people with certain pre-determined physical characteristics - like hair, eye or skin colour. They ignore the fact that Indigeneity is social, cultural, political, legal, territorial, and nation-based - not an identity based on race. This racist methodology would be as useless as trying to identify a Canadian citizen gone missing in the USA based on skin colour. Clearly, the RCMP would miss the vast majority of "Aboriginal people" using this kind of methodology.

With regard to the third methodology of self-identification, the RCMP failed to indicate what percentage of jurisdictions actually rely on self-identification. This of course would not work in the context of a murdered or missing Aboriginal woman as she cannot self-identify. It might only work in the context of the woman's family or friends choosing to identify her as Aboriginal. It is impossible to know how many people would voluntarily self-identify given the extent to which every level of the justice system is infected with overt and systemic racism as per the numerous justice inquiries. Many Aboriginal people have a justified fear of the RCMP stemming from residential school days, Starlight tours, and deaths in police custody - as well as provincial police forces for similar reasons.

So, it is logical to conclude that the RCMP grossly under-counted the actual numbers of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada. This conclusion is confirmed by the RCMP's own admission that due to these methodological problems "a high number of Homicide survey reports where the identity of the victim (and/or accused) remained unknown". This admission on their part is extremely important in understanding the racist dialogue which has recently unfolded at the Ministerial level.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has been very vocal in his refusal to conduct a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls. He has publicly stated that part of the problem is that First Nation men "have a lack of respect for women and girls on reserve". Aside from the fact that he forgot Métis and Inuit people who don't live on reserves, Valcourt went on to tell Treaty 6 Chiefs that 70% of the cases, Aboriginal women were killed by Aboriginal men. The RCMP refused to release the statistics on the alleged perpetrators as they claimed a commitment to "bias-free" policing. That commitment did not last long as they issued a letter several days later to Treaty 6 Grand Chief seeming to back up Minister Valcourt.

The RCMP's exact words to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Martial were as follows:

"In considering the offender characteristics, a commonality unrelated to the ethnicity of the victim was the strong nexus to familial and spousal violence. Aboriginal females were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation in 62% of the cases; similarly, non-aboriginal females were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation in 74% of occurrences."

This statistic confirms that Canadian women are more often killed by their spouse or families than Aboriginal women. Yet, in the second paragraph of this letter, the RCMP explain that despite their bias-free policing policy and despite their confidentiality agreement with Statistics Canada, they would release the sensitive information relating to offenders anyway in order to back up Minister Valcourt's claims that "70% of offenders were of Aboriginal origin".

Some commentators rushed to conclude that the RCMP statement does in fact support the Minister's claims and (a) that this somehow reduces Canada's culpability for both creating and refusing to deal with this crisis; and (b) that, in fact, 70% of offenders were Aboriginal. Neither of these conclusions are correct. The RCMP's statistics, as noted above, are extremely skewed and unreliable when it comes to the identification of Aboriginal people - victims or offenders. It bears repeating that the RCMP's own assessment of problems in its methodology led them to conclude:

"a high number of Homicide survey reports where the identity of the victim (and/or accused) remained unknown".

This means that a high number of the accused in murder cases have an unknown identity. Therefore, the RCMP's claim that 70% of the accused are Aboriginal is highly suspect at best and completely inaccurate at worst.

There is also a problem with the assumption that because 64% of Aboriginal women are killed by their spouses or families, that those offenders were in fact "Aboriginal". Aside from having to make the racist assumption that Aboriginal people only have relationships with other Aboriginal people, the statistics do not bear this out. If you look only at the case of First Nations people, the vast majority of First Nations have out-parenting rates (children with non-Aboriginal people) that are moderate to high. Specifically, 246 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 40-60%; 162 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 60-80%; and 49 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 80-100%. It is safe to say that no less than half of First Nations are in spousal or familial relationships with non-Aboriginal people. So, even if 64% of Aboriginal women are murdered by their spouses, it does not follow that those spouses are "Aboriginal". Statistically, they are just as likely to be non-Aboriginal.

One must also keep in mind that the RCMP did not include statistics on the number of RCMP and provincial police officers who have been accused of physically and sexually assaulting, murdering and/or causing to go missing, Aboriginal women in Canada. Despite a Human Rights Watch report which details accounts by young Aboriginal women and girls at the hands of the RCMP - the RCMP has refused to investigate its own members. We know at least one RCMP officer who lost 7 days pay for violating an Aboriginal women and one provincial court judge who plead guilty to physically and sexually assaulted Aboriginal girls as young as 12 years old.

This shell game of numbers and statistics is meant to blame the victim and deflect attention away from Canada's continued inaction to address this crisis which the United Nations has called a "grave violation" of our basic human rights. The crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls continues while Canada (through Valcourt) blames the victim and the RCMP fail to live up to their duty to serve and protect everyone in Canada.

Shame on them both. Nothing in the RCMP numbers changes anything. Canada has a crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls regardless of who is doing the killing - and we need to address it.

Don't be fooled or distracted by Canada's games. 

We should all stay focused on pushing for both a national inquiry and for an emergency action plan to protect our women and girls and address the underlying root causes and inequities which make them vulnerable to begin with.

* I use the term "Aboriginal" in this blog to reflect the terminology of the RCMP report only.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Response to Questions from Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-51

*Mr. Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Welcome and thank you to both of our witnesses this morning.

 I want to start with Ms. Palmater. I've been in this business for more than 30 years as well. I've been called many names, too. All of our protests and challenges posed by aboriginal peoples in this country are always related to the economy of this country: resource development is, of course, an important aspect to all of that.

The far-reaching proposed provisions in Bill C-51 are therefore somewhat a direct threat to section 35 rights. National Chief Bellegarde recommended that we scrap this bill. You say that this bill must be withdrawn because it's not fixable. I happen to agree with that.

For 150 years in the history of this country, governments have always been adversaries to aboriginal peoples in this country. We both know that. What we've always considered as rights issues have always been viewed or treated as police issues or law and order issues, on the other hand—by successive provincial, federal, and municipal governments, I might add.

Will this proposed legislation make matters worse or better for indigenous peoples in this country, and why?

 Dr. Pamela Palmater: Thank you for your question. It's an important one because, as I stated, it doesn't just impact indigenous peoples, it impacts the rest of Canada: environmentalists, unions, women's groups, children's advocates.

We have to get real about what is the clear and present danger here. How many Canadians on Canadian soil have died from acts of terrorism? Compare that with how many thousands of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls there are. Where is the Bill C-51 to protect them? How many husbands have killed their wives? How many serial killers have we had? Yet we're focusing on Bill C-51.

The problem is this bill isn't really about terrorism. If you do an analysis of this omnibus bill, the focus is, just as you've said, less about being anti-terrorism and more about protecting the status quo in terms of power relations and economic relations. This new national security law focuses on threats to sovereignty, territorial integrity, diplomatic relations—of all things—economic stability, critical infrastructure. All of these things are an essential part of the daily lives of Canadians and first nations. Passing this bill for any activity, any person, any purpose that threatens national security so defined as financial stability and territorial integrity, makes us all suspects.

Canada won't even have to pass this bill, the terrorists will have won. What is terrorism? Fundamentally it's the denial of life, liberty, and security of the person. If Canada goes ahead and takes those rights away, terrorists just have to sit back, job done.

We worked far too hard in our treaty negotiations. We worked far too hard in the development of the charter, and the Constitution, and all of the international laws that protect core, fundamental human rights, to allow that to happen because we want to protect some corporate economic interests.

Mr. Romeo Saganash: Given that your access to information request has shown that you've already been surveilled for perfectly legal civic actions, is it reasonable to assume—let me put it that way—that if this law is passed, this legislation is passed, you could be viewed as a terrorist for the same lawful activities?

Dr. Pamela Palmater: Bill C-51, as currently written, would capture everything under Idle No More. Imagine, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come of the Grand Council of the Crees offered a quote for my submission as well that said that had their activities been done today as opposed to back then, there wouldn't be the negotiation of the the James Bay Agreement, they would all be in jail. The Idle No More movement, which was a historical coming together of first nations and Canadians peacefully dancing and singing and drumming, would now all be monitored—if it isn't already, as the media has indicated that we are clearly monitored—and perhaps arbitrarily detained. All of these things are very frightening for this country.

Keep in mind that the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples protects us, grants us, and recognizes under international customary law that we can act autonomously, that we can occupy our lands. Under the Department of National Defence's manual, occupying our lands, advocating for autonomy, and advocating for political rights is described as “insurgency” alongside jihadists. It is no comfort that there is a proviso saying that lawful activity, lawful dissent, lawful protest, lawful art—whatever that is—won't be captured by this bill, because the second we do a round dance in the street without a permit, it very quickly becomes unlawful.

We have to remember that I already went over all of the very validly enacted laws that Canada has had that have ended up in the killing, murder, rape, violence, sterilization, and scalping of our people. Those were valid laws. The only way to protect ourselves was to act unlawfully in resistance. What we're saying now is that the clear and present danger to first nations and Canadians is in the environmental destruction and the contamination of our water, and that we have a right to defend our life, liberty, and security to protect our future generations. Under this bill that will all be captured as a threat to national security and/or terrorism.

 The Chair: Thank you very much. Your time is up, Mr. Saganash.

Hon. Diane Ablonczy: Okay, thank you very much.

I just wanted to give Ms. Palmater time to put her legal training to work. And her activist knowledge and just to help us to understand how you feel that Section 2 Activities might impact you.

The Chair: Ms. Palmater, we've already expired the time but I will certainly give you an opportunity to just briefly to respond to that if you wish.

Dr. Pamela Palmater: Thank you for asking because as you probably know I was a lawyer for Justice Canada and worked on legislation and have taken training in legislative interpretation and regulatory drafting. Which is why I was quite shocked that this legislation ever made it here. The Justice Canada lawyers, that I know would never have said that this is any where near constitutional.

The problems are that little list that you just read, is just a list. It's just an example, some examples of what would be threats to national security. There is no limit on the threat to national security. That “any activity”, means any activity.

My problem is under the Bill, who gets to decide? Clearly, it's Canada and independent law enforcement officers. What's happening here is there is an infinite number of offences that are created, it's not knowable. And we have a right as citizens to basic tenet of law. We have a right as citizens to know the offence for which we're being charged, to be able to predict it in the future. We know we aren't allowed to steal things, so we don't steal things, or we know there's consequences.

Under this Bill, it's literally anything. And that's a problem in law, basically, and it's certainly doesn't correspond, it would never survive a Constitutional or Charter challenge, and I think that the former Supreme Court Justices have been pretty specific about that.

Thank you.

The Chair: Excuse me, Mr. Palmater, you are well over the time.

Thank you very much.

We will now go to Mr. Easter, please.

Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.): Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Thank you to both witnesses for your presentation today. And also for both your efforts out there beyond your appearance at the community, one on policing and one of legitimate public dissent, that profiles issues. I think that both are important in a democracy.

First starting with you Ms. Palmater. You've mentioned the need for special first nations advocate. And I'm making an assumption here, I expect that relates to the section in the Bill where CSIS can apply for a warrant to do certain things.

I take from your comments you're suggesting that if the Bill goes through, there needs to be an amendment in that area that would allow for special advocates, in this case, first nations, that would be able to, I guess, provide the other side of the argument, before a judge in terms of whether or not a warrant is granted.

Am I correct in that? Do you want to expand on that a little bit?
Dr. Pamela Palmater: Sure, just to be clear, I'm saying there is no way to save this bill at all.

Hon. Wayne Easter: I understand that.

Dr. Pamela Palmater: My recommendations were how to address the problem right now. We have a crisis right now, first nations being targeted by police officers and the government at large. If this bill were to pass and they added this provision of a special first nations advocate for all of these core processes, that wouldn't stop first nations from being targeted to begin with. That's like trying to provide compensation to murdered indigenous women after they've already been murdered. It's too little, too late. So I don't think it would be effective to counter all of the rights violations that are 
currently under Bill C-51.

Hon. Wayne Easter: Coming back to the request. One of the problems with the current bill where CSIS goes to a judge, the Minister of Justice called this judicial oversight. It's not. It's traditional authority to allow CSIS to do certain things. There are some that feel you need the balance before that judge that makes that decision. That's what I'm trying to target on. Would there be better balance if you had a special advocate with first nations expertise where CSIS was asking a judge for that warrant to do certain things?

Dr. Pamela Palmater: I think it would be more balanced than the current unbalance that there is in the bill keeping in mind that this bill also turns the justice system on its head and how our constitution works. That in fact, judges are, their role is to uphold the constitution and charter rights and not to find ways to get around them. So really asking them to undo all of their training or how we govern ourselves, even with the first nation advocate isn't going to really address the core problem.

Hon. Wayne Easter: I hear what you're saying. Thank you.

*Taken from Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Committee Meeting March 24, 2015 - Evidence #57 - Unedited Transcript Copy provided by House of Commons Canada.

Transcript of my Testimony on Bill C-51 Anti-Terrorism Act - March 24 2015

Dr. Pamela Palmater (Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University, Department of Politics & Public Administration, As an Individual)* 

Thank you for inviting me here today to speak. I want to first acknowledge that we're on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation and that's not just the polite acknowledgement. That's the very reason why all of you get to sit here today. Were it not for the cooperation, generosity, kindness, and political alliances, Canada wouldn't be what it is. Were it not for the peace treaties between our nations that are now constitutionally protected and form part of the foundational aspect of Canada, none of us would be sitting here today. I think that goes to the very heart of Bill C-51 and why I am opposed to it.

Canada has placed Bill C-51 before indigenous peoples without any information, analysis, details on how it will impact our nations, any consultation, information or consent from our part. It is a gross violation of our nations to nation relationship.

I don't have time to go through all of the technical legal details and problems with this bill except to say that I echo all of the concerns that have already been brought and will be brought by the thousands of lawyers in this country, security experts, former prime ministers and former Supreme Court of Canada justices. My main concern is how this bill will impact me, my family and indigenous peoples all over Canada and our treaty partners, other Canadians.  

Canada has a long history of criminalizing every aspect of indigenous identity. From the scalping bounties in 1949, which nearly wiped out my Mi'kmaq Nation, to the Indian Act, which has outlawed our culture, our right to educate our own children, and even excluded indigenous women from our communities. Every aspect of our identity has been criminalized, both historically and continues into present day. In every single instance, we've had to resist all of these laws, keeping in mind these were all validly enacted laws. It was legal to take Mi'kmaq scalps; it was legal to confine us to reserves; it was legal to deny us legal representation. All of these things were law in Canada. We had to be criminals as in, we had to break the law in order to preserve our lives, our physical security, and our identities. We are being faced with this very problem again with Bill C-51.

Over the years, these laws have morphed into provincial and municipal regulations that deal with even our traditional means of providing subsistence—hunting, fishing, gathering have all been so criminalized for indigenous peoples that we end up skulking around in the forest just to be able to provide food for our families. Every single court case that has been won at the Supreme Court of Canada has been a battle between indigenous peoples trying to live their lives and exercise their rights and identities facing some kind of criminal or regulatory charge.

In every single instance, we have been labelled as criminals, treated as criminals, and one need only look at the current prison population to understand that this is still the case; not just the case, but as Howard Sapers, from the Office of the Correctional Investigator, has indicated, a “national crisis and embarrassment.” And why? Not because we're actually terrorists; not because we're more culturally predisposed to being criminals, but as a direct result of Canada's discriminatory laws and policies. There have been endless justice inquiries, which have pointed to the infection in our Canadian justice system of racism. The Donald Marshall wrongful prosecution inquiry, the Manitoba justice inquiry, the Ipperwash Inquiry, say that every aspect of our justice system, from the arresting officers, to the lawyers, to the judges, to the prison systems, overtly and systemically discriminate against indigenous peoples. That's our current reality.

Bill C-51 proposes to take that to the last and final step. All we have left now, as indigenous peoples are our thoughts. Our private thoughts will now be criminalized. It will now be possible to be considered a terrorist for storing alleged terrorist propaganda on our own personal computers. My declaration of sovereignty, and I'm going to say it before Bill C-51 passes, I'm part of the sovereign Mi'kmaq Nation. That kind of material on my computer could be considered terrorism, a threat to national security because it's a threat to Canada's sovereignty.

Welcome to the new terrorist.

My name is Pam Palmater. I'm a lawyer, I'm a professor, I'm a mom, and I'm a social justice activist. I've won numerous awards for my work in social justice, women's equality, and children's rights but depending on whose radicalized view you speak of I have also been called a radical, bad Indian, eco-terrorist, enemy of the people, top-five-to-fear Canadian, dangerous militant, and Waco extremist.

My biggest concern isn't how I'm presented in the media or by government officials, I'm stronger than that. My biggest concern concern is how this impacts me right now, the level of government surveillance for a law-abiding, peaceful, social justice activist, who's never been arrested or convicted of any crime.

In my ATIP to CSIS they explain that they have a right to prevent subversive and hostile activities against the Canadian state which is why they have a file on me. However they don't offer me the courtesy of saying why I would be considered subversive or hostile, in fact everything I do couldn't be more public.  

In my ATIP to Indian Affairs they would not confirm that they monitor me. However they said they do conduct an analysis of me and my activities because I'm an active voice. That analysis comprised 750 pages of documents which tracked all of my whereabouts, what provinces I was travelling to, where I was speaking, and the dates and times. However they could not provide my security file because it was destroyed.

When I attend gatherings, rallies, protests, or public and private events I often cannot make cell phone calls, send texts, or access my social media, my bank cards, or my credit cards. I can be at an Idle No More rally or protest and text my children but I cannot communicate with the very chief who has the same protest. This causes me great concern for my safety. How am I supposed to help ensure the comfort and safety of the people at rallies and myself if I can't communicate with anyone...and I don't have to remind this committee the staggering statistics and vulnerabilities of indigenous women in this country.

I contacted the RCMP as well. They never responded to my ATIP, however individual RCMP officers at various events have confirmed that they were there to monitor me. At numerous protests I have been informed by RCMP and provincial police that I had to keep my protest peaceful. Sometimes they didn't identify themselves. At speaking engagements the host first nation would demand that any undercover RCMP, or Ontario, or other police officers identify themselves and in many cases they did.

What's more concerning is the number of government officials that follow me around from speaking engagement to speaking engagement and often identify themselves when called upon to do so. Probably the most shocking is when I travel internationally in countries like Samoa, Peru, England, and Switzerland only to be informed by local authorities that Canadian officials are there to monitor me. That's very frightening in a country where I have committed no crime, but to advocate peacefully on behalf of my people.

In the Prairie provinces the RCMP are very active. They will often call ahead to the University of First Nations where I'm speaking and ask them to identify what my target will be or where I plan my protest. This isn't just a problem for me. We've all heard about Cindy Blackstock and others. Skipping of course to what my recommendations are because I can see that I'm out of time.

Bill C-51 must be withdrawn there is no way to fix it. There must be proper public information consultation, specific consultation for indigenous peoples, and a proper parliamentary study. Directing Justice Canada to rubber stamp the bill is compliant even if it has a 95% chance of being overturned in court is not democratic.

We need an independent review body to report on the ongoing surveillance of indigenous peoples that will take complaints, do proper investigations, and offer redress.

Finally, we're in desperate need of a special first nation advocate to be appointed for any and all court processes in all provinces and territories whenever applications are made in secret for court warrants. This person would be an amicus, a friend of the court who would be independent and can speak to all of the various constitutional and indigenous rights at stake. This is absolutely essential especially if Bill C-51 is to be passed.

The Chair: Fine thank you very much, Ms. Palmater.

*Taken from: Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Committee Meeting March 24, 2015 - Evidence #57 - Unedited Transcript Copy provided by House of Commons Canada.