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Cannabis legalization ignores First Nations

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*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…

What You Need to Know About Sharon McIvor's Major UN Victory on Indian Status

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(Picture of Sharon McIvor and I at the United Nations in Geneva)
Sharon McIvor has won yet another landmark legal victory for First Nations women – this time at the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). On January 14, 2019, the UNHRC released their decision which found that Canada still discriminates against "Indian" women and their descendants in the registration provisions of the Indian Act. Despite the fact that Sharon had already proven her discrimination case at trial and on appeal here in Canada, the federal government refused to eliminate all the remaining sex discrimination from the Act. This meant that Sharon and her descendants still have lesser or no Indian status as compared to her brother and his descendants – simply based on sex. Sharon was therefore forced to bring a human rights claim to the UNHRC under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UNHRC found Canada had violate…

True Test of Reconciliation: Respect the Indigenous Right to Say No

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(Image from Unistoten Camp)

*This article was originally published in Canadian Dimension Magazine on May 15, 2018.

Conflict is coming. There is no getting around that fact. Anyone who believes that reconciliation will be about blanket exercises, cultural awareness training, visiting a native exhibit at a museum or hanging native artwork in public office buildings doesn’t understand how we got here. Reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples has never been about multiculturalism, diversity or inclusion. Reconciliation is not an affirmative-action program, nor is it about adding token Indigenous peoples to committees, advisory groups or board rooms. We cannot tokenize our way out of this mess that Canada created. Real reconciliation requires truth be exposed, justice be done to make amends and then Canada’s discriminatory laws, policies, practices and societal norms be reconciled with Indigenous rights, title, treaties, laws and jurisdiction. T…

Trump's "Crazy Town" Represents a Clear and Present Danger to Canada

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(Photo taken when I marched in Trump Protest in NYC)

Donald Trump shocked countries around the world when he won the election for President of the United States of America (USA) on November 8, 2016. Trump was formally elected as the 58th US President, together with Mike Pence as his Vice-President, by the Electoral College on December 19, 2016. However, the official inauguration ceremony did not take place until January 20, 2017. While most of us were in a state of shock during the weeks between Trump's election and his inauguration; millions of Americans immediately took to the streets in nationwide protests under the collective chant “Not my President!”.

Trump’s presidential welcome (or lack thereof) did not get any better at his inauguration. In fact, attendance at Trump’s formal inauguration ceremony was one of the lowest in modern history – the crowds were only a fraction of the size that attended former President Obama’s inauguration. Not only ha…

Saskatchewan: The Land of Living Skies and Lethal Racism

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(Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp, Wascana, Saskatchewan, 2018)

Saskatchewan is known as the “land of the living skies” for its breathtakingly colourful northern lights. It is also one of the most beautiful prairie-provinces in Canada, with stunning purple sand beaches and the incredible Sahara-like Athabasca Sand Dunes that stretch for nearly 100 kilometres. The province also boasts over 100,000 lakes and rivers, making it nearly 12% water. The diverse Indigenous Nations which have thrived on these territories since time immemorial have tied their customs, practices and traditions, and even their traditional Indigenous knowledge systems to the life-giving resources from these rich lands, waters and eco-systems. The very land that has sustained the Nehiyaw, Anishinabe and other Nations for thousands of years is firmly rooted in their identity as individuals, families, and Nations. Sadly, Saskatchewan is also well-known as one of the most racist provinces in Cana…

The Indigenous right to say no

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                                     (photo by Michelle Girouard)
This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily on October 12, 2018.
The federal government recently announced that it will not appeal the court decision which quashed Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Instead, Canada will engage with the 117 impacted First Nations in a consultation process led by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci.
If ever there was a sign that the government was going to force this pipeline expansion through the review process, this is it. After all, federal elections are just around the corner and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the face of the Trans Mountain pipeline dispute and all the broken promises that it entails.
Being criticized from all sides — the provinces, industry, Canadians and Indigenous peoples, and now the Federal Court of Appeal — Trudeau decided to bring out the big guns: Iacobucci.
There is little doubt that he…

It's up to Indigenous, environmental groups to protect the public interest

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(Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research, pic from Washington Post)
This article is Part 2 of a 2-part series which was originally published in The Lawyer's Daily on September 17, 2018. The link to Part 1 which was published Sept.11, 2018 is provided below.
Despite objections from some of the Indigenous groups about the consultation process, the Federal Court of Appeal (in Tsleil-Waututh Nation et al. v. Canada (Attorney General) 2018 FCA 153) held that Canada acted in good faith and that the consultation framework it used was appropriate.
This was a four-phase process which was to include (1) early engagement, (2) NEB hearing, (3) governor-in-council consideration and (4) regulatory authorization processes.
Where Canada fell down was in Phase III of the consultation process in that it did not meaningfully consider the concerns of the Indigenous groups or attempt to accommodate or mitigate those concerns. There was no substantive discussion about Indigenous rights and the FCA …