Good Sunday Morning!
This was a week for breaking through glass (and less fragile) ceilings for indigenous women.
Inuk leader Mary Simon will be our next Governor General. I could not be more thrilled. We have known each other so long I cannot remember when we first met. I know she was a friend before being appointed as Canada’s ambassador to Denmark in 1999. In the 1990s, she led Canada’s negotiations in the creation of the Arctic Council. In the early 2000’s, we were both on the board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. As President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, she championed climate change as a human rights issue. Her husband, former CBC journalist Whit Fraser, is also an old friend. She was serving as Canada’s Ambassador to the Circumpolar North when Harper eliminated the position, as he ended the role of Karen Kraft Sloan as Ambassador for the Environment. By the way, neither of those posts have ever been reinstated.
Mary Simon has massive diplomatic experience, is a brilliant advocate and is our first indigenous Governor General. She speaks Inuktitut and English, but not French. She pledges to work on her French, but frankly, I hope we hear Inuktitut a lot! There is no doubt in my mind that her appointment is brilliant.
In big news, another indigenous woman, RoseAnne Archibald of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation in Ontario, became the first woman chief elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Settler Canadians may miss the significance of the colonial governance structure of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The structure is intrinsically rooted in Indian Act. The elected chiefs are the only ones eligible to vote for National Chief of the AFN. The concept of elected chiefs flows directly from the racist legislation that made traditional forms of indigenous governance illegal. Those systems differed from nation to nation, but, in general, were grounded in consensus decision making, intergenerational concerns and hereditary status. Instead, under the Indian Act, chiefs must be elected.
Back in 2016, when I was on the special parliamentary committee on electoral reform, our committee visited Tsartlip First Nation within Saanich-Gulf Islands. Tsartlip is one of the five communities in the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. The place name “Saanich” is a mispronunciation of that traditional territory. Chief Don Tom, now a regional Vice President of the British Columbia Council of Indian Chiefs, explained to the visiting MPs why he favoured a change to proportional representation for fairer voting. One of the Conservatives asked him how he got elected. “Just like you,” said Don. The MP looked triumphant and may have said “harrumph!” But then Don continued, “Yes, I am an Indian Act chief trying to do myself out of a job.” He laid out so brilliantly how the Indian Act says there are five First Nations in the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, whereas the reality is that there are five villages all within that traditional territory. Under the traditional governance of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, decision-making was by family houses. In each house different elders held different roles. The power flows through a matriarchy. Don told the MPs that despite being “chief,” he had no role as a decision-maker within his community. He would not enter into the discussions; he deferred to the grandmothers. It was a real eye-opener.
We all hope for the best for newly elected National Chief RoseAnne Archibald. She must tackle the challenges of reconciliation, the ongoing nightmare of the stolen buried children – discovered and yet to be discovered – and the pursuit of justice as laid out in the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. (To be a good ally, start by reading both: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/ and http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf )
The last news this week about a strong indigenous woman was Jody Wilson-Raybould’s decision not to run again. I am so very heart-sick over this. Jody and I have become good friends. Sitting near each other in parliament, and in COVID, texting each other about issues and votes, I have relied upon her. Honestly, I love her and will miss her terribly in Parliament. Her letter to constituents is important reading. I cannot disagree with a word in her description of parliament as a toxic workplace.
Her whole letter is worth reading, but this segment brings into sharp focus where Jody and I are in complete agreement – only I am running for re-election to try to change this culture.
“We’ve been through and continue to go through incredibly challenging times: a pandemic and the first tentative steps down the road to recovery; shattering revelations about our history and the urgent need for true justice and reconciliation; a growing crisis of climate change that is setting villages on fire. If none of this can shake our partisan patterns of behaviour, what can? The fact that we even need to ask the question reveals the depth of change that is needed. And that change is not going to happen from within the system that itself needs to change.
“This crisis is not really about the individual people in politics, many of whom are well-intentioned and do good work. Rather, it is in the way we practice democracy in Canada and how we need to reconsider it moving forward. The privileges we give political parties. The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The lack of inclusiveness. The power of the prime minister and the centralization of power in the hands of those who are unelected. The erosion of governing principles and conventions to the point where there are limited or no consequences for wrongful acts undertaken for political benefit. The lack of courage to speak the truth—and the failure of bystanders to support those who do.”
I wish her well and hope her next steps will ensure Canadians hear her voice – loudly and clearly.
In closing, I had planned to say more about this John Horgan quote:
“We were a bit giddy at the prospect of saying goodbye to the (pandemic state of) emergency and stepping, of course, into the third step of our restart… We didn’t think about it as catastrophic hotter weather, we thought of it as hotter weather and I don’t think there are too many people that didn’t.”
I know I understood. I wrote about the unprecedented expected dangerous weather in GSM June 27. His callous disregard as as many as 700 people died, saying “fatalities are a part of life,” makes me wonder about his fitness for office. No wonder he keeps piling on the fossil fuel subsidies.
Climate is a non-stop emergency with wildfires across BC. Meanwhile in Manhattan, Tropical Storm Elsa flooded the streets and subways as commuters had to wade through filthy waste-deep water to get to exits.
From California to Iran, the extreme drought conditions are unprecedented.
And Horgan and Trudeau have a picnic and congratulate each other for climate leadership. Spare me.
Election fever seems to be in the air. I know the Green Party will be needed as never before. We must stand apart from fakery, demanding we address the climate crisis as the emergency it is.
I hope when the political history of 2021 is written it will be of how we surprised everyone by doing so well. If I wasn’t an optimist, I would never have thought I could be an elected Green MP in the first place. My confidence in this party, as ever, rests in our grassroots, with the volunteers across this country who truly are in charge.
Stick with us!!
Love and peace,
P.S. A brand new petition to sign to stop TMX!
e-3474 COVID-19 public health and safety response (closes July 15)
e-3348 Canada‘s alleged political interference in Haiti (closes July 29)
e-3408 Work with First Nations to immediately halt old-growth logging (closes September 8)
e-3483 Moratorium on deep seabed mining (closes September 9)
e-3398 Redefine our nation’s defence policy (closes August 25)
e-3364 Marine Protection (closes October 13)