By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 0 Comments
ATTAWAPISKAT, Ont. – De Beers Canada says a group of Attawapiskat residents is blockading…
ATTAWAPISKAT, Ont. – De Beers Canada says a group of Attawapiskat residents is blockading the main winter road leading to the company’s Victor diamond mine in northern Ontario.
De Beers says the blockade began Monday evening on a road the company uses to move in supplies like fuel, machine parts and equipment that would be too heavy to fly in.
Spokesman Tom Ormsby says the blockade has not yet impacted the mine’s operations, but has forced De Beers to cease operations on the road.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 10:48 AM - 0 Comments
Attawapiskat chief in hospital after ending hunger protest
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence in hospital after ending hunger protest
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence remains in hospital on an intravenous line as she recovers following six weeks without solid food.
Her spokesman Danny Metatawabin says Spence went to the hospital Wednesday evening for a checkup after agreeing to end her 44-day hunger protest.
She had been scheduled to attend a news conference this morning in Ottawa, but now Metatawabin says she won’t be released until later today or on Friday.
Meanwhile, events marking the end of her protest are going ahead without her.
Chiefs and politicians are preparing for a gathering at midday at a downtown hotel.
Spence ended her protest after other chiefs and federal opposition parties promised to take up her cause of treaty implementation and improving conditions on reserves.
Statement by Liberal Leader Bob Rae on Chief Theresa Spence:
“I am encouraged that Chief Theresa Spence has decided to end her hunger strike. Chief Spence and those who have joined her fast have helped bring about substantial change, but their cause – however just – should not endanger their lives or their health. Liberals join with Canadians across the country who are deeply committed to carrying on the fight for justice, dignity and reconciliation, and we salute Chief Spence’s courage.
The commitments we are making flow logically from the work of the Charlottetown and Kelowna Accords, numerous Supreme Court of Canada decisions, and our commitments as a country made when we signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They represent the strongly held values of the Liberal Party of Canada.
On behalf of our Parliamentary Caucus, I would like to express our party’s continued resolve to work inside and outside Parliament – on a nation-to-nation basis – to address the gross inequalities facing First Nations, from the disparity in education outcomes and poor health to the lack of clean running water and safe housing.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 9:31 AM - 0 Comments
Three separate reports this morning that Chief Theresa Spence’s protest could be nearing an end.
The Canadian Press reports that negotiations involving interim Liberal leader Bob Rae are taking place to find a resolution.
Members of the delegation, along with Spence and a couple of her closest confidantes, are working the phone lines to craft a declaration of the chief’s concerns that would be signed by supporters. They also hope to design a ceremony to mark what her protest has accomplished. And they want to define a process that will allow Spence a recovery.
The Globe reports that Ms. Spence wants a pledge from Shawn Atleo, Thomas Mulcair and Mr. Rae.
Ms. Spence has indicated she will resume eating solid foods after the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, and opposition leaders Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Bob Rae of the Liberals agree to press the Harper government to move on an eight-point action plan crafted by the AFN, the sources said. She also wants a commitment from the opposition leaders to continue fighting omnibus budget legislation that has prompted country-wide protests under the Idle No More movement and which many native people say will negatively affect their communities because it reduces federal environmental oversight.
And APTN reports that a letter from Attawapiskat band councillors will end the protest.
By John Geddes - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
As Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan keeps a low profile
After last Friday’s high-stakes meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations, Jody Wilson-Raybould wasted no time flying back to the restful ocean views of her home in the reserve village of Cape Mudge, on British Columbia’s Quadra Island. But Wilson-Raybould, the AFN’s B.C. regional chief, and a key ally of its national chief, Shawn Atleo, couldn’t really escape. Atleo announced on Monday that he would be stepping aside temporarily to recover from a stomach flu and exhaustion. He left Wilson-Raybould, along with Perry Bellegarde, Saskatchewan’s regional chief, to take the lead in planning for the AFN’s crucial next meeting with Harper later this month. In a phone interview from Cape Mudge, she said the Prime Minister’s engagement gives her hope of being able to push past recent federal tactics, particularly in land claims talks, which she described as “an insult.”
The architect of those tactics is another British Columbian, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. Considering the intense focus on his department in recent weeks, Duncan’s profile has stayed low. He remains Harper’s lead minister on the file, though, and a key figure in the story being driven by Idle No More—the loosely coordinated protest movement, mainly of Aboriginal youth—and the month-long hunger strike of Attawapiskat, Ont.’s Chief Theresa Spence. Duncan denies the claim, so often asserted as the underlying cause of the upheaval, that First Nations are stalled in poverty. He points to some 70 reserves, for instance, that have signed a federal law that gives them greater freedom to manage their own land. “Those communities are, for the most part, really moving forward,” he said. “They are not the people that are out there demonstrating.” Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on Spence’s hunger strike and two ways forward
For a few hours on Jan. 11, several Aboriginal leaders, including Grand Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Matthew Coon Come, the long-time Quebec Cree leader, were in the Langevin Block meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Across the street, a succession of other figures in Aboriginal politics, some wearing Mohawk Warrior Society insignia, took turns speaking to an outdoor protest rally.
If nothing else, it was an efficient distribution of labour. Leaders who want to make concrete progress this year were inside the building, talking to the Prime Minister. Leaders who don’t were outside, doing what they do best.
It’s not that the people at the protest microphone don’t want First Nations’ lives to improve. It’s just that their preferred solutions—a fundamental rethink of Canada’s treaty obligations, a royal commission, an intervention from the Queen—are not on offer. And when I say “not on offer,” I don’t only mean not from the Conservatives. The extent to which NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has aligned himself with Atleo and the other leaders who are still talking with Harper is striking. So is the silence of the provincial premiers, who will have to share their resource revenues with First Nations if revenue-sharing is to be part of a solution. So the crowd outside was, in a very real sense, making best the enemy of the good. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 6:31 AM - 0 Comments
In the National Post yesterday, Kelly McParland coined a new term for the progressive social movements of our time: the Arab Spring, Occupy and Idle No More.
“The great International anti-The Man movement,” is what he likes to call them — a catch-all phrase for bacchanals of smelly young people clutching placards, weighed down by the billion Che Guevara pins on their canvas bags, the Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians who died brutally for democracy—and now—the aboriginal Canadians who block roadways to protest treaty violations. Who knew they had so much in common?
I would like to coin my own term for people like McParland, and Barbara Kay, and Margaret Wente, pundits who defecate rhetorically on every liberal protest movement that makes the nightly news. My term is easier to remember.
I like to call these people FAIPOFS—For all Intents and Purposes, Old Farts. Not necessarily physically old, that is (I’m not ageist), just unfathomable to fathom as young: like Ms. Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, who admits she doesn’t care for children because she never was one. You try to picture the FAIPOFS young at heart, at a party, maybe even sitting friendless in a high school cafeteria, but you can’t. Because unless their long-form birth certificates verify otherwise, it’s almost certain they exited the womb fully grown, hurling insults at shiftless grad students. Or in Wente’s case, imaginary shiftless grad students.
Yesterday’s star FAIPOF, Kelly McParland, actually doesn’t mind the original sentiment behind Idle No More, likely because it would have remained idle without the radicalism, road blockades and hunger strikes clogging news feeds every hour. Below, he writes approvingly of the original movement’s website.
“The photo section is like a suburban family’s Facebook page, with shots [of] kids and nature, and what looks like someone’s vacation snapshot from Beijing. It’s pretty harmless and well-meaning. But it’s been largely co-opted by the great international anti-The Man movement.”
That McParland wouldn’t be aware of the website’s existence without the great anti-The Man movement seems lost on him entirely. And that is—to everyone who looks at Theresa Spence’s tent with annoyed bewilderment—precisely the point.
Like clockwork, every time people take to the streets or roads or parks with a cause, they are celebrated and disdained. The Toronto Star says good for them, the National Post says get a life, and the Globe and Mail says something I can’t remember.
What matters though, is that right or wrong these people are seen and heard. If they stayed home, or as every FAIPOF suggested—went through the appropriate channels to voice their concerns—we wouldn’t know their names or their grievances. Now we do.
Now we can’t avoid them. Now, some of my friends, most of whom have never paid attention to aboriginal affairs, are talking about Idle No More. My extended family, at our weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner, is talking about Idle No More. Most of them (one FAIPOF in particular, you know who you are) don’t particularly like the movement, but the fact remains that without it, we would not have replaced our Israel-Palestine debates with discussions on First Nations policy—and thank God we did, because the Israel thing was getting really old.
Chances are, my friends and family will not heed the call of Chief Spence (they are still, as far as I tell, very much idle), but at least they’ve heard it loud and clear. At least they can pronounce Attawapiskat.
As for the old farts, they’ll fart on until the end of time, content, I’d imagine, with the recent discovery that two thirds of Canadians think “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers,” and the Aboriginal peoples themselves will be content that we’re thinking of them at all.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Travellers help up at Windsor border crossing
Thousands of aboriginal people and their supporters gathered across the country Wednesday, marching and setting up blockades to continue peaceful demonstrations as part of Idle No More.
The protests began as a way to speak out against Bill C-45, which makes changes to the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. The protests have since morphed into a larger discussion about aboriginal rights.
One of the more disruptive protests Wednesday was in Windsor, Ont., where several hundred people gathered and blocked traffic on Highway 401. Protesters there also blocked traffic to roads serving the Ambassador Bridge, greatly slowing down anyone trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border.
In Niagara Falls, Ont. about 60 people had gathered in a vacant parking lot by 3 p.m. to begin their protest, which was organized by Graham Paradis, 23, and Jamie McGean, 21.
“We’re here today in support of the whole Idle No More movement,” said McGean. “We’ve chosen Niagara because part of the movement is about protecting our lands and our waters and what better place for that than here?” Continue…
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM - 0 Comments
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM - 0 Comments
“We have arrived at a moment unlike any other in the history of our peoples,” ventured Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
And yet, here we are again.
“Generations of our leaders have delivered the same message to successive federal governments for over a century,” he explained, a few moments later. “From the battle against the destructive federal government white paper back in 1969 to the struggles to win section 35 in the Constitution in ’80, to the Charlottetown debates in the 90s, to our efforts to make effective the recommendations of the royal commission 16 years ago, we have never wavered. Our voices have always been clear. Continuing attempts to undermine our resolve, to divide our people, have and always will fail. Today our work in preparation for the meeting with the prime minister on January 11, 2013, stands on the shoulders of decades indigenous leadership.”
Mr. Atleo, the public face of an assembly of some 600 communities, was flanked on both sides by a regional chief. Around him, in the metaphorical sense, loomed a protest movement of marches, flash mobs, blockades and hashtags—a thousand different expressions of dissatisfaction. Seated at the front of the National Press Theatre, the 45-year-old father of two—he turns 46 next week—wore a black vest over a black long-sleeve shirt, his glasses perched on the end of his noise, a small black moustache and goatee framing his mouth. He leaned forward slightly on his elbows, his arms crossed in front of him.
He offered to summarize the results of two days of discussion with other chiefs in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting with the government.
“The demands of our people of the First Nations is the need for fundamental transformation in our relationship with the government of Canada, now,” he declared, emphasizing that last word. “That we need real remedies and real change for our people, now. And we action, in particular for our most vulnerable citizens.”
That’s it. Only merely that so many wrongs be righted. Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Scott Feschuk on Chief Theresa Spence and living on fish broth
According to its founders, Idle No More “calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty.” That doesn’t sound like a very fun revolution. The best revolutions are, like, “Hey, let’s kill the king!” or “Hang on, we preferred the original Coke!” Honouring and fulfilling stuff doesn’t usually cut it.
But the movement has taken off. We’re at the point now where it’s like Occupy, but with fewer hacky sacks and douchebags. And it’s splitting opinion pretty sharply. For many, your perspective on Idle No More may come down to how you feel about the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence. Many find inspiration in her commitment. Others feel Spence is cheating because she’s consuming tea, lemon water and fish broth. Fish broth is food! they say. Kind of but not really! comes the reply. Although, if we’re debating the calorie count of fish water, we have perhaps strayed some distance from the larger point.
There is one thing for certain: I would be the world’s worst hunger striker. I’d have the fish broth. I’d have the lemon water. I’d have the lemon and the lemon peel. I’d have the pizza—but just one or two slices because, you know, hunger strike. Worse still, if my hunger strike actually got me a meeting with the Prime Minister, as Spence’s did, I wouldn’t be able to say anything because for three hours my mouth would be full of muffin. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:59 PM - 0 Comments
“We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace and requesting that Queen Elizabeth II send forth her representative which is the Governor General of Canada. I will not be attending Friday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, as the Governor General’s attendance is integral when discussing Inherent and Treaty Rights,” stated Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Agenda convenes a panel.
Adam Goldenberg looks forward.
But none of it will come to pass if Idle No More loses its coherence, or if it becomes an unwieldy dog’s breakfast of protest and pageantry that alienates the very Canadians who should be its audience. The movement’s first task should be to resist the easy analogies of ordinary politics — of “stakeholder relations” — by making its case not to the Conservatives, but to the people who put them in office.
We will know when it succeeds. When no Canadian is able to shrug off as unreasonable a demand from an aboriginal leader to meet with the government officials who advise and represent the Crown — namely, the prime minister and the Governor General — and not with some lesser minister in their stead; when First Nations no longer need to hire professional lobbyists in Ottawa to make their case to the government of Canada; and when the federal government recognizes, once and for all, that aboriginal peoples are partners in Confederation, not just stakeholders in politics, then Idle No More will have made an important and lasting contribution to the way we understand and govern our country.
Bob Rae considers the concerns.
It is a universal in life that people want recognition and respect. The deeper meaning of last year’s summit, and the Prime Minister’s eloquent apology in the House of Commons, is that there is a hunger for this respect, and appreciation when it is offered and followed with effective action. The Prime Minister faces a deep challenge. Many in his party are opposed to the recognition and constitutional protection that Aboriginal people have achieved, and to its implications. At the same time, the old bromides of assimilation and “let’s concentrate on education and the economy” completely ignore the aspirations for self-government, autonomy, and a real transfer of power and resources that have the deepest roots in today’s aboriginal politics. Mr. Harper’s apology in the House of Commons, and the summit he called last year, have simply not been followed by effective action.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Attawapiskat audit landed yesterday with a thud. Theresa Spence deemed it a distraction. An Ontario judge is unimpressed with police inaction around two Idle No More protests. Two native bands are attempting to challenge the government’s last two omnibus budget bills in court.
Jonathan Kay looks back on a January 2012 CBC report from Attawapiskat.
Paula Simons talks to Tanya Kappo, an organizer of Idle No More protests in Alberta.
C-45 was passed Dec. 5. By then, Idle No More had taken on a life of its own — a life Kappo hasn’t always recognized, as the protest movement she helped kick-start has been adopted, even hijacked, by aboriginal activists across the nation, some with conflicting agendas. “When Theresa Spence announced her hunger strike, it was totally unconnected with what we were doing. We didn’t talk to her, and she didn’t talk to us,” says Kappo. Reading about the audit of Spence’s reserve, seeing the resulting public backlash, saddened Kappo. But she says issues at Attawapiskat shouldn’t undermine Idle No More’s call to aboriginal Canadians to disavow apathy and hopelessness, and unite in action.
It’s not enough, she says, for native people to blame the government or the chiefs for their problems. “We also need to talk about the kind of things we need to do to fix our own communities,” she says. “I’m not asking for anything huge. I know how complex these issues are and how deep they are. I’m just a space-maker. I’m making a space for the next generation to speak. And it can’t be only a First Nations initiative. It can’t be government directed. We need to make a big enough space for all Canadians, so we can do something together.”
And Postmedia talks to two former aboriginal affairs ministers.
By Paul Wells - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 10:01 AM - 0 Comments
My last blog post of 2012 made some guesses about politics in 2013 and included a throwaway line about Tom Mulcair: “Note the lack of photos with hunger-striking Chief Theresa Spence.” Today, following an orchestrated campaign of leaks of a new Deloitte audit showing that it has, for some time, been impossible to tell how federal money is spent in Attawapiskat — and the reappearance of some damning reporting a year ago by the CBC — let us note again Mulcair’s decision not to show up at Spence’s side.
Others played Chief Spence’s protest differently.
Joe Clark was quick to visit with Chief Spence, which led Keith Beardsley, who has worked for both Clark and Stephen Harper, to make the kind of amazing suggestion that
Harper should appoint Clark as his envoy to… to… to “this file.”[UPDATE: Beardsley tells me that's a misreading, and he was suggesting only that Harper ask Clark to brief him on Clark's visit with Spence. Sorry for the confusion - pw] Paul Martin, who presented himself as an improvement over Jean Chrétien in government accountability but who was prime minister during part of the Deloitte Attawapiskat audit period, visited Spence and returned to call her an inspiration, a term now open to multiple interpretations.
From Mulcair, nothing. Well, nothing visual. He did write an open letter that mentioned Spence, but reading it now what’s striking is that Mulcair did not call on Harper to meet Spence, only to “act swiftly to avoid a personal tragedy.”
This now looks like becoming prudence on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. My new suspicion is that last year’s slightly weird Conservative Party “Get to Know Mulcair’s Team” web ads were based partly on Conservative worries that Mulcair would not serve up as many gaffes as Harper might like, so he should be tied as closely as possible to his less cautious back bench. Mulcair, after all, comes from the province where this ad nearly sunk an opposition leader on the road to power:
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 3:41 PM - 0 Comments
A surprising item appears on the official Facebook site of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike near Parliament Hill.
A hunger strike with a bank account?
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 10:42 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Aboriginal protests against recent federal legislation are gaining momentum, with at least…
OTTAWA – Aboriginal protests against recent federal legislation are gaining momentum, with at least one prominent chief vowing to die for her people.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat started a hunger strike this morning, hoping to persuade the prime minister and the Queen to build a better relationship with aboriginal leaders.
Spence’s northern Ontario community was at the centre of an international media storm last year because of a winter housing crisis. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM - 0 Comments
Amid all else, the House voted unanimously last night—268 to 0—to approve the following NDP motion.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should adopt Shannen’s Dream by: (a) declaring that all First Nation children have an equal right to high-quality, culturally-relevant education; (b) committing to provide the necessary financial and policy supports for First Nations education systems; (c) providing funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools; (d) developing transparent methodologies for school construction, operation, maintenance and replacement; (e) working collaboratively with First Nation leaders to establish equitable norms and formulas for determining class sizes and for the funding of educational resources, staff salaries, special education services and indigenous language instruction; and (f) implementing policies to make the First Nation education system, at a minimum, of equal quality to provincial school systems.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
Band leaders are asking a judge to overturn Ottawa’s decision to send in an outside manager
Even though the issue has somewhat faded from view—what’s all this about an “honour killing” trial?—poverty and substandard housing remain in the northern Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat. Community leaders are in court today to fight the federal government’s decision to send a “third party manager” to take control of the First Nation’s finances. The band wants Chief Theresa Spence to regain that power, and accuses the government of trying to redirect attention away from the impoverishment of the community towards the band’s management of the community, which announced a state of emergency last year.
“Never did we think that one party would come to us and say, ‘You cannot deal with this yourself. We are the government here, and step aside, we’re coming in,’ ” said grand chief of northern Ontario Stan Loutitt, quoted by the CBC. “To me, that is morally and legally wrong.”
The decision to send in an outside manager is currently under judicial review. The result isn’t expected until late April.
Meanwhile, the government has promised to deliver 22 new modular homes to Attawapiskat. But their delivery has been delayed as officials wait for the solidification of an ice road, the only land route into the community.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, January 13, 2012 at 7:35 AM - 0 Comments
Tehran takes aim at Canada’s treatment of its Aboriginals, in the wake of the Attawapiskat crisis
On Jan. 3, Iran summoned Canada’s envoy to Tehran to protest Canada’s “blatant violation of human rights.” Tehran took aim at Canada’s treatment of its Aboriginals, in the wake of the Attawapiskat crisis. Three days later, on an Alberta radio show, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Iran “the world’s most serious threat to international peace.” This less than amicable exchange captures the current state of affairs between Canada and Iran, badly strained since the death of the Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in an Iranian prison in 2003.
“I couldn’t stop laughing,” says professor Saeed Rahnema, an Iran specialist at York University. “I mean, there are serious problems with Canada’s dealings with its indigenous peoples, but the Iranian regime is the very last government that could mention human rights. They couldn’t care less for human rights.”
Pointing fingers at Western countries to deﬂect pressure from abroad is common practice for Iranian diplomacy, and Canada, for years, has been at the forefront of the international push to improve Iran’s human rights record. The issue is at the top of a very short list of topics Ottawa will discuss with Tehran, which also includes Iran’s nuclear program and the episode resulting in Kazemi’s death. Canada-Iran relations have been severely limited for a long time, with Kazemi’s death sparking the downward spiral, says Reza Marashi, research director of the National Iranian American Council. But while Iran likes to amp up the rhetoric, it will also do what it can to avoid international isolation, says Marashi, including asking Canada to let it open consulates in cities like Vancouver. Ottawa has so far rejected the offer.
By John Geddes - Friday, December 30, 2011 at 2:07 PM - 0 Comments
Stages in the legislative process that make a bill law in the Canadian Parliament; ministers (not including the Prime Minister) on cabinet’s powerful Priorities and Planning committee; former political figures (not including sovereigns or social activists) memorialized in bronze around Parliament Hill—twelve is the number in each of these interesting categories. But for our purposes here, in this second annual stocktaking of the year just ending, it’s the 12 calendar months that matter. Pick just one political story for each page, and 2011’s kaleidoscope might just take a turn from jumbled to intelligible.
January: We glimpsed how Ignatieff thought a leader should look
By the start of 2011, we had long since figured out Stephen Harper’s disciplined style and thought we understood the limits of Jack Layton’s appeal. But Michael Ignatieff had taken over as Liberal leader in an odd way, with no conventional leadership race to bring him into focus. Instead, Ignatieff had been defined for many Canadians by Conservative attack ads. For those who had paid attention to him before politics, his globetrotting-intellectual persona still loomed large.
Then came his Jan. 25, tone-setting address on Parliament Hill to the Liberal caucus, with the media invited in. This was no detached thinker. Sleeves rolled up, Ignatieff ripped through a 15-minute speech in which he mocked Harper, invoked Barack Obama, and answered his own question—“Are we ready to serve the people who put us here?”—with a shouted, “Yes, yes, yes!” Hopeful Liberals saw a fiery campaigner, astute Conservatives a man ripe for ridicule. We didn’t know it then, but this was a clear foreshadowing of the campaign to come.
February: We watched Conservatives smoothly execute a key transition
As an opposition leader and especially as Prime Minister, Harper has shown a remarkable ability to shed and replace chiefs of staff, communications directors, and other key advisors. But the one constant in his electoral machine was the beard and brogue of Doug Finley, his campaign director. When Finley stepped down at the very end of January as he recovered from colon cancer, the party began a testing transition. Guy Giorno and Jenni Byrne stepped into new roles.
For a lesser partisan machine, the loss of a figure as dominant as the Scottish-born Finley would have been a marked setback. Instead, the transition seemed to go off without a hitch. Spring election speculation continued unabated. As for Finely—who ran Harper’s winning 2006 and 2008 campaigns and was rewarded with a Senate appointment in 2009—Twitter awaited.
March: We marveled as the PM fell, yet defined the moment his way
It was no surprise when the Conservative minority was voted down by the opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois on March 25. The House had been an increasingly fractious and angry place. The actual non-confidence vote, only the sixth in Canadian history, found the government in contempt of Parliament for refusing to supply full cost estimates for fighter jets, crime bills and corporate tax cuts.
Yet Harper largely succeeded in burying those reasons by asserting doggedly that the real issue was the opposition’s refusal to support his government’s budget. “There’s nothing, nothing, in the budget that the opposition could not or should not have supported,” he said. “Thus, the vote today that disappoints me, will, I expect, disappoint Canadians.” His refusal to even minimally acknowledge that the election was triggered by anything other than a clash over economic priorities carried him into the campaign and, arguably, to victory.
April: We absorbed the potential of Layton’s NDP surge in Quebec
The orange wave surged over Quebec so unexpectedly that even senior NDP veterans had difficulty knowing what to make of it. By April 23, when Jack Layton climbed to the podium at Montréal’s Olympia Theatre to address his party’s largest ever campaign rally in the province, the possibility of an NDP breakthrough was widely acknowledged. The Bloc was running scared. The Tories and Liberals were looking elsewhere in the country for any gains.
At the back of the Olympia, Layton’s young Quebec organizers spoke, wide-eyed, of a dozen or so new Quebec seats being within reach. That seemed remarkable enough. Yet had they been able to fully take in the spectacle of Layton podium performance, and the crowd’s reaction, they might have dreamed bigger. Holding his talismanic cane aloft, smiling as only he could, hitting his applause lines like the pro he was, “Bon Jack” embodied an unlikely convergence of long, careful political preparation and recent, inspiring personal determination. You can’t make this stuff up.
May: We experienced Harper’s majority win as an inevitability
It’s an illusion of course, maybe even a delusion, to think anything in politics had to happen the way it did. There are always too many variables. Still, Harper’s May 2 election victory had that it-was-written feel about it. He steadily built toward the moment, from his near miss in 2004, through his two minority wins in 2006 and 2008. The train was rolling toward this destination.
And Harper’s campaign-trail consistency was remarkable. His rallies were a model of methodical planning and error-free execution. He refused to be badgered by media complaints into taking more reporters’ questions or exposing himself to unscripted encounters with voters. He stuck to his key economic message even when Layton’s rise might have unnerved a more skittish campaigner. Election night was full of compelling stories—Bloc and Liberal failures, NDP ascent—but it belonged, in the end, to the Prime Minister.
June: We shrugged as a political financing experiment was cancelled
On June 6 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty reintroduced his spring federal budget, which was never passed in the rush to an election, with a key twist: Flaherty added a measure to phase out the $2-per-vote subsidy to political parties by 2015-16. The taxpayer subsidy was introduced by the former Liberal government in 2004, to compensate for the curtailing of corporate and union contributions.
The Conservatives’ first attempt to get rid of the subsidy, announced in the fall of 2008, triggered the ill-fated bid by opposition parties to form a coalition and replace Harper’s minority. But with Harper leading a majority, there was no chance of his being thwarted this time. Few Canadians took much notice. And so an attempt to make raising money less central to our politics comes to an end. Constant, clever, insistent fundraising appeals to the party faithful—a Tory strong suit—will be essential to any party’ success for the foreseeable future.
July: We saluted as our troops left a battle zone still in question
When Canadian soldiers moved in large numbers into Afghanistan’s violent southern province of Kandahar in 2006, military and political leaders were unprepared for how much the mission would come to dominate foreign and defence policy. The hard fighting they were soon engaged in was unlike anything Canadians had experienced in decades. Before exit day, 158 Canadian soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, along with a diplomat, two aid workers, and a journalist.
The last Canadian commander of Task Force Kandahar, Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, didn’t really want to leave. He would have preferred to stay a bit longer to help the Americans, whose troop surge into the province had put the Taliban on the run and stabilized previously volatile districts. Canadian troops remain in Afghanistan, but mainly engaged in training the Afghan National Army. But the years of fighting changed the place of the military in the Canadian public imagination—and Canadian political calculations.
August: We mourned Jack Layton, moved by what he’d come to mean
The death of the NDP leader on Aug. 22 at just 61 was not entirely surprising. The previous month Layton had announced that he was battling cancer for a second time, his ravaged face and desiccated voice shocking the country. But the way he died was unprecedented. He drafted a farewell letter and organized a public funeral in Toronto, knitting together the personal and political in his final weeks and days in a way that made them indistinguishable.
Layton came at the end to represent, in an era of deep cynicism about politics, an unapologetic zeal for total immersion in public life. All through the spring campaign, struggling back from a broken hip, Layton had exuded his relish for the democratic fray. Facing death, he didn’t shy from explicit partisanship. “Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us,” he told the New Democrats in that last letter, “that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.”
September: We were reminded by judges that even majorities face setbacks
With Parliament in session again, the Conservatives sitting pretty with their fresh majority, it seemed that nothing could slow the implementation of Stephen Harper’s vision. Then came the Sept. 30 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the federal government could not shut down Vancouver’s Insite supervised injection clinic for intravenous drug users.
The unanimous 9-0 decision delivered a rebuke to the Conservative position that Insite’s clear track record since 2003 of helping addicts avoid infections and overdose deaths should be trumped by the government’s desire to send a strong anti-drug, law-and-order message. The ruling also validated the pro-Insite positions of the British Columbia provincial and Vancouver municipal governments. For those left disheartened by Harper’s resounding spring victory, the court offered a fall tonic.
October: We witnessed the lasting emotional power of a populist cause
From the time it was implemented in 1995, the federal registry for rifles and shotguns was deeply controversial. In the broadest of strokes, rural gun owners resented it, while urbanites who feared gun crime approved. Opposition gathered steam after a 2002 report from Auditor General Sheila Fraser put estimated the registry tab would climb to $1 billion by 2005.
With hot-button right-wing populist issues like abortion and capital punishment largely off the table in Canadian politics, the long-gun registry took on disproportionate importance for that portion of the Conservative base. Harper extracted maximum political benefit from attacking the registry. On Oct. 25, the bill to eliminate it was finally tabled in the House. A drawn-out, culturally fraught episode in Canadian political life was coming to a bitter close. Even the data in the registry was to be destroyed, so no province or future federal government, not to mention police force, could make use of the information. Few outcomes politics are so categorically one-sided.
November: We took comfort from a Canadian’s prominence in troubled economic times
The Cannes summit of the G20 club of major developed and developing nations was dominated by gloomy, even alarming, news about Europe’s deepening debt crisis. This was the backdrop for the appointment of Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada’s youthful governor, to head a key oversight body called the Financial Stability Board. Never mind what the FSB does—highly technical banking stuff. Pay attention to what Carney represents—solid Canadian economic management.
Carney is a fascinating story in his own right. His assessments of the state of banking regulation, economic policy and its international coordination, are parsed closely by rapt global market players. Beyond his personal qualities, he embodies the new Canadian swagger concerning our sound banks and solid government finances. But can Canada’s political and business leaders build beyond those oft-mentioned fundamentals to more innovative manufacturing and competitive service sectors?
December: We watched a familiar national shame unfold in the hinterland
On the first day of the last month of 2011, the federal government imposed what’s called third-party management on the Northern Ontario reserve community of Attawapiskat. That meant an administrator appointed by Ottawa would run the Cree community of 1,800 on James Bay, where a crisis of abysmal housing began drawing national attention in late November.
It was yet another example—they happen every few years—of a burst of media attention to the plight of an impoverished, remote First Nations village briefly forcing Canadians to contemplate the worst policy failure of successive federal governments. But how to break that desultory cycle? As Attawapiskat took centre stage, the Harper government was quietly introducing legislation to reform band council elections and improve financial transparency. Maybe this incrementalism will help where past grand gestures did little.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
Money, goes conventional wisdom, comes with strings attached. Especially other people’s money. Especially when it comes as lump-sum transfer. And, as the ongoing Attawapiskat saga shows, the strings tie both ends of the money chain, with receivers accusing Ottawa of stinginess and neglect, and lenders always keen to point to suspicious accounting practices–or at least maladministration.
Yet, there’s a smart way around all this: borrowing from the markets. Though few seem to have noticed, First Nations are working on it. They plan to issue their first bonds in the fall of next year, in a collective offering worth at least $100 million. The money raised will serve for things like housing and to build badly needed infrastructure, which will create jobs and the conditions for banks and private business to set up shop on Native reserves, says Steve Berna, chief operating officer of the First Nations Financial Authority, the voluntary not-for-profit organization tasked with issuing the bonds.
By macleans.ca - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
Spence contradicts statement released by Aboriginal Affairs minister
The office of the federal minister of Aboriginal Affairs issued a statement Sunday wrongfully declaring that the chief of the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation had accepted the government’s imposition of a third-party manager to oversee the community’s expenses. “That’s a lie,” Chief Theresa Spence reportedly told the producer of CTV’s Question Period on Sunday when asked about the statement. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan then appeared on the show suggesting the information his office had released was correct. “The first nation is working with the third-party manager. The third-party manager’s in place. It’s been in, he’s been in place for some time now,” Duncan was quoted as saying in The Globe and Mail. The minister’s statement on Sunday also detailed how the government has pledged to send 22 modular homes to the community of 1,800—seven more than originally promised. The imposition of a third-party manager—who is being paid $1,300-a-day—has been roundly rejected by Attawapiskat’s leadership. Spence wrote in an open letter later on Sunday that “this continued insistence of Third Party Management is causing yet another crisis in our community.” She pointed to the interruption of the band’s cash flow as a major reason for her rejection of the government’s third-party manager.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Attawapiskat chief seem to have communication issues.
When the minister, John Duncan, said the band’s chief had agreed to have third-party manager Jacques Marion supervise finances, co-host Craig Oliver said he had just spoken to Chief Theresa Spence. She says that’s a lie,” Oliver said. “She did agree to everything else you said but did not agree to work with the third-party manager. We have a serious conflict here.” Then Duncan said, “We talked to her within the last hour.” To which, Oliver replied, “We talked to her 10 minutes ago.” The minister concluded: “The reality is the third-party manager is in place.”
In a telephone interview with CTV News after the program’s conclusion, Spence said: “He’s a liar, because I didn’t say I agreed. Third party is not the answer here. We declared an emergency crisis, not a crisis on finances.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 11 Comments
WELLS: Short attention spans will get the focus off Attawapiskat. Fixing the actual problem will take longer.
The Prime Minister’s Office distributes a daily “media barometer” that lists the stories getting the widest coverage and generating the most buzz on blogs and talk radio. Last week the public relations crisis at Attawapiskat First Nation entered its second week. The humanitarian crisis has been going on for longer. For the first time since the Harper government was elected in 2006, a story on Aboriginal affairs made it to the top of the PMO barometer.
Standard PMO procedure is to do what it takes to get a story off the top of the barometer. That’ll be easy enough for news of the appalling living conditions at Attawapiskat. Short attention spans will do the job without any help from the Langevin Block. Fixing the actual problem will take longer.
On Nov. 29, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan met until 10 p.m. with the cabinet subcommittee in charge of the strategic and operating review. He had prepared for his appearance for days. Every minister has to go through this. Their task is to explain how they will cut 10 per cent of their department’s spending, if needed.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 72 Comments
The third-party auditor will cost Attawapiskat about $1,300 per day.
Aboriginal Affairs officials told The Canadian Press they have an agreement to pay Jacques Marion of BDO Canada LLP a total of $180,000 to look after the reserve’s accounts from now until June 30. The money comes from the Attawapiskat First Nation’s budget. That rate over the course of a year would run up to $300,000 and easily pay for at least one nice, solid house, notes Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
Conveying a request from the community, the NDP says the military should be used to help get supplies to Attawapiskat. John Duncan is raising the possibility of evacuating those who do not have adequate housing.