This week's Deloitte audit on Senator Pamela Wallin has raised numerous questions about a troubling lack of accountability in the Senate. I am asking you, as the new Minister for Democratic Reform, to undertake a review of both residency requirements as well as the process through which potential Senators are vetted, in order to prevent problems like these from happening in the future. When the Senate and government of the day is unwilling to even address whether Senate appointees are eligible to sit, it serves to further erode any remaining confidence in the institution.
DeThank you for your letter of July 17 in which you respond to the failure of the Federal Government to fulfill its legal obligations to the survivors of St. Anne's Residential School. Of particular concern was government's breach of the Independent Assessment Process by failing to inform the claimants and adjudicators of the large body of police evidence and court transcripts that confirmed widespread criminal abuse at St. Anne's.
Whenever an article is posted on Idle No More, treaty rights or First Nation poverty, the comments section is quickly overwhelmed with abusive attacks. In cyber space the racists are loud, proud and determined to define the terms of discussion on First Nation issues. Now I know that online commentary isn't generally known for its erudite reflection. After all, troll culture seems to revel in trashing everyone. Thus, some might say, First Nation readers shouldn't be so sensitive. But if you read through the comments it is impossible not to recognize a relentless pattern of malevolent attacks that would be considered inexcusable if they were used against other social, ethnic or religious minorities.
I am often asked the question "What got you into politics?" I always think back to a cold October night in 2000, when I stood on a makeshift barricade on the Adams Mine Road. Across the road, police were lining up for mass arrests. But the people who were holding the line weren't radicals, they were my neighbours -- many of them senior citizens and farmers. Up until that moment, I had never considered a life in politics. This is the story of how a dump fight morphed into a two-decade campaign of creative and determined civil resistance. Along the way, we trashed Toronto's Olympic bid in Switzerland, organized road blockades, and hired private detectives to track down backroom investors.
On a warm evening last May, officer Pauline Nguyen went into her backyard and shot herself with her police service revolver. The death of this popular 24-year-old police officer stunned people in her hometown of Thunder Bay. There have been other attempted and threatened suicides from overstressed officers. And the pressures are about to get worse. On March 31, the Conservative government will terminate the Police Officer Recruitment Fund (PORF). The loss of this funding will mean lay-offs of 11 more police officers. Such a loss will add pressure to an already overstretched force.
Chief Theresa Spence hasn't eaten in over 11 days. The weather has taken a big turn for the worse and her tent home on Victoria Island is far from ideal. This was a serious business and she told me she wasn't backing down. I knew then I was watching the beginning of a revolution.
Chief Spence has put her life on the line. This is not a game. This is not a stunt. Every day that Mr. Harper tries to wait out the crisis, the stakes rise higher. Mr. Harper has a very short window to show leadership. He needs to come the table and begin to address the issues that have driven so many First Nation communities into poverty and despair.
The notorious online "snooping" bill, C-30, looks like it may be coming back for round two. But people shouldn't be complacent as efforts are underway to put C-30 back on the agenda. Towes claims that getting access to subscriber data is simply like getting access to a phone book. The privacy commissioners of Canada disagree.
Canadians aren't fools. Privacy matters to us. So does balance. Justifications for online snooping by the state are not going to be solved by invoking buzzwords and bogeymen.
This week will mark the first anniversary since Attawawpiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency over the abysmal housing situation on the James Bay coast. Footage of the living conditions in this isolated community shocked Canadians and resulted in a media firestorm.
The crisis became a cultural Pandora's box that unleashed numerous issues and misconceptions regarding our relationship with Canada's First Peoples. Now on the eve of this dark anniversary, Canada's "Katrina" moment has made it to the big screen. And who better equipped to tell the real story of the 2011-housing crisis than iconic filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin?
They call it "Black" Friday -- September 28th, the day passenger train service died in Northern Ontario. The loss of public transit has exposed a deep political divide between the north and south in Ontario. The train has always been the primary symbol of who we are as a region, and the decision to kill the Northlander will set the political discourse in Northern Ontario for years to come.
Public transit is on the chopping block in Northeastern Ontario. On September 28, the McGuinty Liberals are planning on silencing the whistle of the Northlander passenger train once and for all.
To tell you the truth, I can't really imagine life in the north without the familiar shriek of the Northlander. Every morning and evening I hear the sound cutting across the timberline pretty much as it has done for more than a century. It is as much a sound of the north as the cry of a loon on Lake Temagami. But the fight to save the train is about more than nostalgia.
Pussy Riot's trial and conviction for hooliganism and "religious hatred" has been a travesty from start to finish. And yet the poise with which these young artists have faced down the Russian court has revealed to the world the real face of the anti-democratic government of Vladimir Putin.
Pussy Riot's 30-second poem has been a wake up call that political music and dissent can still affect change. They remind us that the artist plays a unique role in society. And they are just the latest in a long stream of artists who have been persecuted for threatening to the established order. Sure they entertain us, but the also have the role of serving as a cultural mirror and conscience.
We are disturbed that in the days following a Federal Court decision you refused to provide a ministerial guarantee to support a plan to build 30 new duplexes in Attawapiskat through rents established at market rates.
Thirty new units would have gone a long way towards alleviating the serious levels of overcrowding in the community. As the band had already been approved by CMHC, your role was simply to sign a ministerial guarantee. This was not a hand-out but a forward-looking plan that to provide safe housing for families who are living in very precarious conditions.
It's been five months since a unanimous vote by the government to build a new school in Attiwapiskat. This was Shannen's school. To them, it wasn't the government or the politicians who had made this school a reality, it was Shannen Koostachin. She was one of their own. She was their voice. After 13 long years of heartache and struggle, the community was finally getting a real grade school.
Last Thursday, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan suddenly pulled the third-party manager from Attawapiskat with a dubious statement about an improvement in bookkeeping. Guess what John? The situation hasn't gone away.
Last weekend, I sent my last Twitter message: "Dear Twitter - Adios. Free at last. Free at last, Great God almighty I'm free at last." Since then I've had a number of politicians come up to me and say they can't believe I actually did it.
One of the last times I saw her was when she and Serena spoke at the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention in Toronto. She blew the room away. Tough-assed union leaders cried when they heard her speak. There was something so vulnerable but so fierce about Shannen. She had moxy.
The thought seemed simple enough -- head over to Nathan Phillips Square and take some time to thank the people who were waiting in the long lines to say goodbye to Jack Layton. But the solemnity of the moment was overwhelmed by the enormity of the public outpouring.
We are now two months into the crisis. Temperatures have dropped well below -20 Celsius. If it had not been for the work of the Red Cross, people may have died. And yet, Christmas will come with families still living in tents and sheds. This is completely unacceptable.
Attawapiskat is Canada's Katrina moment. It may not be the same scale, but it is the tip of the iceberg for the numerous Bantustan-style homelands of the far north. Years of chronic under funding and bureaucratic indifference has created a Haiti north where dying in slow motion on ice-filled shantytown is considered the norm.
The Red Cross will help address many of the short-term problems facing the community, however, this disaster wasn't an accident of nature. It was the direct result of the failure of the federal and provincial government to work with the community. This problem remains.