#RealChange wearing thin: A look back at Trudeau’s first year

We’re one year into Justin Trudeau’s government of #RealChange, yet it’s mostly the rhetoric not the policies that have changed. Some of the shine is finally wearing off. Whether approving pipelines, settting electoral reform up to fail or privatizing airports and transit, the Liberals are showing themselves to be the good capitalist managers they’ve always been, not the anti-austerity crusaders of the last election campaign.

Today, three guests—Derrick O’Keefe, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Luke Savage—take a look back at this first year of the Liberal government and look forward to how opposition to it can develop. Derrick is a journalist, author and editor at Ricochet Media. He’s based in Vancouver and currently working on a book on BC politics and history. Clayton Thomas Muller is a climate campaigner with 350.org based in Winnipeg. Luke Savage works for the Broadbent Institute at its Press Progress media outfit and writes frequently on US and Canadian politics.

All the best to you and yours! Back in the New Year!

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Canada’s spring of occupations

Welcome back to the first podcast episode after a two-month hiatus! This week, three guests talk about two significant occupations of public space that have happened in Canada in the interim: the Black Lives Matter occupation of police headquarters plaza in Toronto and the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices across the country.

In this first half, I speak with journalist Desmond Cole about the Black Lives Matter occupation of the police headquarters plaza in Toronto. Activists took over the plaza for two weeks in March and April over continuing police brutality and lack of unaccountability. Desmond reported regularly from the camp and spent several nights there. Aside from his column in the Toronto Star and his other print and radio work, he is also currently writing a book about black history and black politics in Canada.

The second half features my conversation with two activists and organizers behind Occupy INAC in Regina, Robyn Pitawanakwat and Susana Deranger. Susana is a veteran of the long struggle for justice for Canada’s First Nations, an activist for over 40 years in Saskatchewan. Robyn is from a younger generation, though as the daughter of a long-time Indigenous activist, she too has deep roots in the same fight. The Colonialism No More camp has been up for 50 days in front of Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Regina. It started as part of a wave of occupations of INAC offices across the country in response to the state of emergency in Attawapiskat over youth suicide.

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Truth, reconciliation and restitution

The summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was released last week. The work of the Commission took seven years, gathering public and private testimony from survivors and families of survivors of Canada’s state- and Church-sanctioned residential school system—a system that forcibly removed from families, assimilated and often killed Indigenous children. The Commission’s conclusion was stark: Canada committed cultural genocide on Indigenous peoples.

My first guest is Indigenous scholar Vanessa Watts-Powless. Vanessa is Mohawk and Anishnaabe and teaches in Indigenous Studies at McMaster University. With Hayden King, a previous guest, she penned an important article in the Globe and Mail calling for action on restitution in the wake of the TRC report. The meaning of restitution was the topic of our conversation.

As my second guest, I’m happy to finally have the chance to talk with Greg Albo, who teaches political economy at York University and is the co-editor of the Socialist Register. I spoke with Greg to get a sense of how the arguments for restitution made by Vanessa fit into the context of Canada’s political economy.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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First Nations and the political economy of land

 

This episode looks at the political economy of land in Canada and the Canadian state’s relationship with First Nations as mediated by land. I’m happy to bring together two guests who deal extensively with these issues and pose challenges to rethink the way land is governed.

My first guest is Hayden King, Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation in Ontario and director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Toronto’s Ryerson University. He joined me to discuss his recent piece in the Globe and Mail on land and the institutions that govern it.

My second guest is Lynn Gehl, an Algonquin Anishinaabe researcher, writer and activist with a PhD in Indigenous Studies. We discuss her recent article in Ricochet, written with Heather Majuary, on how the current Algonquin land claims process may be undermining those First Nations. It is based on her book The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process.

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Industrious immigrant vs idle Indigenous meets reality

Here’s a familiar trope: immigrants are industrious and hard-working. Here’s another, opposite trope: First Nations are idle and lazy. And here’s a graph that beautifully calls into question this neat pair of stereotypes.

Source: Angella McEwen, Progressive Economics Forum.
Source: Angella McEwen, Progressive Economics Forum.

It turns out that off-reserve First Nations workers and recent immigrants face the same unemployment rate – one that is much higher than that faced by workers born in Canada. As Angella MacEwen, who posted this graph, points out it highlights that “there are systemic barriers that need to be addressed” in the labour market.

On the one hand, there is a gaping disconnect between right-wing rhetoric that extolls immigrants and the actual struggles faced by new immigrants. Indeed, the irony is that the right’s discourse when confronted with reality brings out the systemic barriers rooted in racism better than the facts by themselves. (more…)

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BC teachers and First Nations on the frontlines

My guests today help take a fresh look at two issues where British Columbia is on the front lines of bigger social conflicts: that over the future of public education and that over resource development on First Nations lands.

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