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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

How the new National Chief can restore the legitimacy of the AFN

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Newly elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Cindy Woodhouse

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Joseph Quesnel

At times, we lose sight of the fact that not discovering bodies would be a profoundly positive outcome for First Nations and for Canada. This could help reconciliation efforts and bring peace to First Nation communities, particularly for Indigenous individuals of Christian faith.

Cindy Woodhouse, the newly elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), has a lot of work to do as she sets out to unify the fractured organization and rebuild its legitimacy in the eyes of First Nations across Canada.

To begin, the new national chief should forge her own independent path. Instead of immediately prioritizing internal reforms, she could facilitate reconciliation within First Nation communities by showing leadership in addressing ongoing, challenging conversations that remain unresolved in First Nation communities right now.

Although engaging in these discussions will subject her to criticism, leading from the top on difficult topics will often do that.

The first topic of conversation is the matter of unmarked graves near residential schools.

In 2021, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Indigenous community in British Columbia made headlines by announcing the discovery of 215 unmarked graves, believed to belong to children, through ground-penetrating radar. The allegation sent shockwaves across Canada and around the world. Mainstream media extensively covered these allegations, creating impressions of mass murder of children and human rights atrocities.

In reaction to these allegations, churches, especially Roman Catholic ones, became targets of vandalism and arson. Some individuals on reserves expressed their anger by targeting churches within their communities. Records indicate that there were over 60 incidents involving churches in 2021 alone.

Regrettably, churches affiliated with First Nation communities are still reporting attacks on their properties. At last count, some alternative media outlets are reporting a total of 100 incidents of arson and vandalism on churches. Just recently, video footage revealed an attempted arson on a Roman Catholic church in Regina, which only conservative outlets seemed to cover.

The CBC – three years late to the issue – ran an investigative story on the incidents that only seemed to serve as a platform for anti-Christian bigotry and to provide justification for the indefensible actions.

At the time, National Chief Perry Bellegarde – to his credit – condemned these acts and called for an end to them. Other prominent Indigenous voices also spoke up.

However, it’s crucial to admit that these claims of unmarked graves remain unverified and lack concrete evidence. Without excavation or exhumed bodies, it’s impossible to conclusively determine whether these are indeed human remains.

Indigenous communities in Canada must openly express this sentiment, and the national chief of the AFN is a prominent voice to convey this message.

No one denies that children died at these institutions. Tuberculosis took the lives of thousands of indigenous children who attended residential schools, day schools, or no school at all. It was a major killer of Indigenous people at the time.

However, this issue is an open and festering wound, particularly for many Indigenous communities. It is also a stain on Canadians and our collective history. Even today, Christian places of worship within Indigenous communities are subjected to reprehensible attacks.

Woodhouse must lead the AFN in addressing this difficult discussion by stating the truth. There is no evidence to substantiate the allegations of widespread child murder, and it’s time for Indigenous communities to acknowledge this and focus on healing their communities.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has stated that Parliament should launch a comprehensive investigation into the allegations of unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Woodhouse should support his initiative and ensure the co-operation of all political parties. This would provide closure to many Indigenous families.

At times, we lose sight of the fact that not discovering bodies would be a profoundly positive outcome for First Nations and for Canada. This could help reconciliation efforts and bring peace to First Nation communities, particularly for Indigenous individuals of Christian faith.

No First Nation leader should want this festering wound to remain exposed.

Thankfully, the next conversation Woodhouse must address is not as difficult as the first.

As the debate rages over the carbon tax across Canada, it’s often overlooked that these taxes deeply impact First Nations. The federal government’s centralized energy policies are harming Indigenous communities. Imposing ‘clean energy’ mandates on many First Nations people who rely heavily on diesel and lack alternative options is simply not feasible for many communities. Woodhouse has said she will support a review of the impacts of the carbon tax on First Nations, but she must do more and vehemently oppose the government’s whole green agenda.

She must lead the AFN in rejecting all unnecessary and arbitrary Net Zero and clean energy targets. The government’s ‘Just Transition’ strategy – leaving resources untapped – is a direct threat to energy-producing First Nations. First Nations should have the opportunity to thrive in the energy sector just like any other community.

Both these conversations will be divisive and polarizing, but the AFN must lead them because the lack of resolution is harming Indigenous communities.

Joseph Quesnel, is a Senior Research Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The tale of two teachers

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Jim McMurtry

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

At L.A. Matheson, a high school in Surrey, B.C., a poster in Annie Ohana’s classroom suggests society is too moralistic about sex work, the quote coming from an avowed Satanist. National Post writer Jamie Sarkonak described her classroom in this way: “The walls are covered with Social Justice posters. Some of them sloganeer about ‘decolonization,’ others ‘inflame racial politics.’” Ohana drapes herself in a Pride flag and speaks openly of her pansexuality as well as her subscription to wokeism, identity politics, Social Justice, and DEI.

In March Ohana appeared on CTV after being roundly criticized on X by an Ottawa teacher, Chanel Pfahl, the latter chased out of the profession a few years ago for questioning Critical Race Theory. Ohana said that Pfahl “seems to be making a lot of assumptions that were simply based on misinformation, lies, and in fact, puts myself and other teachers and students and my community in danger.” She also argued she was teaching about “critical thinking” and creating “empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves.” A Canadian flag hangs forlornly in her classroom, atop it is scrawled, “No pride in genocide.”

So far, she has faced no direct consequences for her political position or trying to indoctrinate her students. Indeed, she has won three teaching awards.

I, on the other hand, was walked out of my classroom and career for suggesting the only thing buried in Kamloops was the truth. In the eyes of my employer, I had put students and the community in danger by saying students who died while enrolled at a residential school did so from disease and not murder.

Northrop Frye wrote in The Great Code that the aim is “to see what the subject means, not to accept or reject it.” There is nothing wrong with the teaching of either me or Ohana as long as we are not steering students toward belief. In a 100-page investigation report on my teaching, an assistant superintendent of the Abbotsford School District wrote:

It in my view cannot be overemphasized that Mr. McMurtry having no knowledge of his students and more particularly whether any of these students had Indigenous descent in making his comments that provoked a strong student response and which was contrary to the school’s message of condolences and reconciliation. Regardless of his intent he left students with the impression some or all the deaths could be contributed to ‘natural causes’ and that the deaths could not be called murder or cultural genocide.

My fault was that I didn’t promote a “message of condolences and reconciliation.” Not only was this message never communicated to teachers, the message runs counter to the educational aim of seeing what a subject means. The message is also that the deaths of at least some Indian residential school children were attributable to murder, for which there is still no evidence.

Senator Lynn Beyak was the first prominent Canadian to wade into the increasingly turbulent waters of Indian residential schools. Labelled a racist and facing the prospect of ejection from the Senate, she retired in 2021 from her senate position but not from her convictions.

Some have criticized me for stating that the good, as well as the bad, of residential schools should be recognized. I stand by that statement…. Others have criticized me for stating that the Truth and Reconciliation Report was not as balanced as it should be. I stand by that statement as well.

George Orwell wrote in 1945 in an introduction to Animal Farm, “At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it.” Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy wrote last year: “A new standard of practice is emerging for Canadian professionals: be woke, be quiet, or be accused of professional misconduct.”

Annie Ohana is a better approximation of that mythically average teacher than I. Most teachers appear woke or know enough to be quiet and go along, standing for land acknowledgments, using individualized pronouns with students, speaking of gender identity and sexual orientation, distinguishing students based on race, reading Social Justice books over literary classics, and accepting revisionist history. They go to school wearing the right colour for the occasion: rainbow, pink, orange, red, or black. At staff meetings they are woke and quiet.

I am an avatar of Lynn Beyak, standing outside the orthodoxy and condemned by “all right-thinking people.” Our issue is also the same. Indian residential schools were not the genocidal project that federal members of parliament voted as a genocide on October 27, 2022.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by two Indigenous men and a woman married to an Indigenous man, travelled for six years across Canada, and heard from 6000 former students. The Commission’s bias was evident in its final report:

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next. In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.

What the final report does not mention is:

o   the educational value of the schools;

o   the alternative was no education at all in remote areas where a day school was not feasible;

o   that both Indigenous chiefs and parents saw them as a treaty right and petitioned to keep them open into the sixties;

o   that parents had to apply to send their children to residential schools;

o   that the mandatory attendance which began in 1920 was to go to school (one-third going to day school, one-third to residential school, and one-third never going to any school);

o   that the schools took in orphans and served as a refuge for children and in some cases adults who were abused on the reserve or without the necessities of life; and

o  that many former students testified their time there was the happiest in their lives.

My natural allegiance is to fellow teachers, and I don’t doubt that Annie Ohana and others within the Critical Social Justice educational movement teach their students about critical thinking and create empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves. However, such critical thinking should also be directed against the orthodoxy these teachers are imposing on captive groups of students. As well, if their students are indeed empowered citizens, they should come to their own conclusions, no matter the ideological perspective of their teacher.

 Jim McMurtry, PhD, was formerly a principal of Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland and a college lecturer, but mostly he was a teacher. He lives in Surrey, B.C.

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Censorship Industrial Complex

Scotland’s crazy anti-hate law may be sign of things to come here

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

Scotland had 8,000 complaints in the first week. Is it likely that a similar avalanche of claims will result in Canada if C-63 becomes law?

Actually, there will probably be a lot more here.

For one thing, our population is many times the size of Scotland’s.

Some argue that Scotland’s new hate speech law is more draconian than Canada’s yet-to-be-enacted equivalent, Bill C-63. Others say this is not so — that portions of ’63’ are even greater threats to free speech than Scotland’s extreme new law.

Regardless of who wins in this radical experiment in mass censorship, one thing we can predict with certainty: Both laws will be a goldmine for the legal profession and a nightmare for anyone who has ever dared to write, say or broadcast anything controversial.

How? Well, in the first week that Scotland’s new hate legislation has been in force there has been an avalanche of new claims launched — 8,000, and counting. Every one of those claims will have to be defended by a person who believed that they were exercising their right of free speech.

Now, 8,000 of those people will be caught up in expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining litigation. Their cases will mostly be heard by officials and judges who were appointed specifically because they shared the same views as the government that appointed them — the same government that felt the need to prosecute these 8,000 people.

That 8,000 surpassed the total number of hate crime allegations in Scotland for all of 2023. A projection is that there will be an estimated 416,000 cases for 2024 if this rate keeps up. The complaints have completely overwhelmed Scotland’s police.

The Scottish Police Federation’s David Threadgold said this about how the new law was being used by angry citizens with an axe to grind: “…the law was being “weaponised” by the public in order to settle personal grudges against fellow citizens or to wage political feuds, while suggesting that the government encouraging the public to report instances of ‘hate’ has clearly blown up in their face.”

We have already seen this Scottish law in action when J.K. Rowling, who is famous not only for her wonderful Harry Potter books, but more recently for stating what we knew as fact for the first few hundred thousand years or so of human history — namely that men are men, and women are women — famously reposted that claim and dared the Scottish police to charge her.

The police announced that she wouldn’t be charged — at least that particular police officer wouldn’t charge her at this particular time.

The other person who has been the subject of many of those 8,000 complaints is First Minister Humza Yousaf — the very man responsible for this monstrosity of a law. Yousaf is himself quite famous for complaining that Scotland has too many white people. Who knew?

That odd observation resulted in a world famous spat with none other than Elon Musk. The online slugfest basically took the form of each man accusing the other of being a racist. At times it looked more like a schoolyard fight.

That a national leader seriously feels that the sledgehammer of the criminal law must be used to sort out such cat fights between citizens is rather alarming.

But, in this regard, Yousaf and Trudeau are birds of a feather. Both are convinced that only “acceptable views” — namely the views they agree with — will be allowed, while “unacceptable views,” namely, those they don’t like, must be disappeared by the machinery of the state.

It should be explained at this point that Scotland’s new law, unlike our C-63, requires police to determine whether or not the person under complaint has “stirred up hatred.”

Bill C-63 has those “hate” complaints heard by the Human Rights Tribunal.

In both cases however, one person’s opinion will judge another person’s opinion. However, one person will be paid to perform this function, while the other person might become a criminal if their opinion fails a completely subjective test.

Scotland had 8,000 complaints in the first week. Is it likely that a similar avalanche of claims will result in Canada if C-63 becomes law?

Actually, there will probably be a lot more here.

For one thing, our population is many times the size of Scotland’s.

For another, C-63 allows people to make complaints anonymously if the tribunal says so. It also promises up to $50,000 per complaint. That’s a powerful motivator. That $50,000 doesn’t come from some magic bank, by the way. If you are the person complained about, it comes from you. And you might be required to fork over an additional $20,000 to the tribunal for their troubles.

I’m not sure if they will expect a tip.. 

Much has been written about C-63. Many knowledgeable Canadians have discussed in detail the hundreds of objections they can see with this Bill. Senior Canadian voices, such former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and world famous author Margaret Atwood, have warned Canadians about this seriously flawed legislation.

But what no one has done — except for Trudeau apparatchiks — is to give any good reasons why Canada needs this legislation.

If Scotland’s projected number of complaints for 2024 is 416,000 and they have a population of less than six million, the projection for Canada would be into the millions of complaints. Even setting aside the obvious impossibility of paying for thousands of new tribunal adjudicators, staff, and the thousands of new lawyers required to help the million-plus people who are thrust into this hate complaint boondoggle, why would any serious government even wish such a thing on their citizens?

Do we not have a rather large bag of serious problems we must contend with?

We have a generation of young people, for example, who might never in their lives be able to afford a home of their own. How do we expect these young people to raise a future generation of Canadians without a home in which to raise them? Isn’t that a bigger problem than someone’s hurt feelings?

Another example… Trudeau has just noticed that we don’t seem to have an army anymore. Isn’t that a bigger problem than whether or not someone feels that they have been misgendered, or called nasty names?

There is a list, as long as the longest arm, of very real problems that need urgent attention. Why are we wasting time and money on the brainchild (yes, I use that term loosely) of a desperate prime minister and his few remaining fellow ideologues?

This legislation is totally unnecessary, and an appallingly disrespectful way to treat Canadians. We already have hate laws. We already have laws to protect children. C-63 is as useless as the tired apparatchiks pushing it.

We should definitely pay attention to what is happening in Scotland. It will be our fate if this perfectly awful Bill C-63 is not defeated.

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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