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QUESNEL: First Nations cannot be ignored in the independence debate

The best thing Western sovereigntists could do is offer First Nations a much better deal than what they are receiving under Ottawa.

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Back in the 1990s, Ovide Mercredi – then National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations – warned the Quebec National Assembly’s committee studying Quebec sovereignty that, “There can be no legitimate secession by any people in Quebec if the rights to self-determination of First Nations are denied, suppressed or ignored in order to achieve independence.”

He continued, pointing to adverse consequences if he was ignored: “Our rights do not a take back seat to yours…Only through openness, of the mind and of the heart, can questions of such vital importance to your people and ours be reconciled. The alternative – which we do not favour – is confrontation…”

The Western independence movement should learn from the experience of the Quebec sovereignty vote. 

During that turbulent period, not all the rhetoric was confrontational. Some Quebec Algonquin leaders said they would be open to sovereignty if indigenous peoples were partners in the process. If the 1995 vote had favoured sovereignty, would Quebec’s indigenous communities have been open to negotiation? Likely, some would have and some wouldn’t have. The same would probably occur under a Western or Alberta independence vote. First Nations are not monolithic, however much the media portray them that way. 

The best thing Western sovereigntists could do is offer First Nations a much better deal than what they are receiving under Ottawa.

Alberta and the West are not Quebec, and the Crees and other indigenous groups of Quebec are not the same as the indigenous groups of Alberta and Saskatchewan, so it is not certain that the experience would be the same. There were linguistic and ethnic dimensions to the Quebec debate that don’t exist with the Western debate, but many of the political claims of Indigenous groups would be similar. 

For indigenous peoples, their treaty and fiduciary relationship is with the federal government. Under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government has responsibility for “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.” The Indian Act – the legislation overseeing band governance in Canada – is a federal statute. Various federal ministries and agencies deliver programs and services to Canada’s indigenous communities, leaving provinces mostly out of it. 

Any change in this political relationship would directly and fundamentally impact First Nations, so we must not underestimate how seriously indigenous communities would view this. 

We are also dealing with a post-Clarity Act political environment. Both indigenous and federalist leaders will most certainly point to it.  

The principles in the Clarity Act derive from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that there is no constitutional right to unilaterally declare independence, and that there was no such right in international law. However, should a province indicate its support for independence through a clear majority with a clear question, Canada would be obliged to negotiate. It’s further unclear how far the federal government would go to force a province to stay under its control if it unilaterally declared independence after negotiations failed. 

Given the constitutional position of indigenous peoples, they would need to be consulted and negotiated with. If one or more Western provinces wanted independence, they would have to negotiate with First Nations.

Indigenous peoples have a history of being justifiably miffed when political actors engage in major political initiatives and don’t include them. 

The strong rhetoric that Quebec’s indigenous communities expressed during the 1980 and 1995 referendums was unequivocal. Independence could not happen without indigenous input and even consent. Quebec’s indigenous groups valued their connection to the Canadian state too highly to support sovereignty. The Cree and Inuit peoples of Quebec held their own referenda in which over 90 per cent voted to remain in Canada. Likewise, Western indigenous communities could also argue for holding their own referenda. 

In Alberta, there are 45 First Nations in three treaty areas involving 140 reserves. Alberta is the only province that has government-recognized Metis land settlements. 

A Western government seeking to secede would have to deal with all these communities – as well as the federal government – in negotiating a new status and political relationship. Western governments would need to settle this prior to engaging with Canada. 

During the Quebec sovereignty debates in the legislature, many Quebec politicians asserted that responsibility for First Nations would simply transfer from the Canadian government to a sovereign Quebec government. 

If the First Nations and Metis of Alberta and Saskatchewan reject that sort of transfer of power in the case of Western independence, what would sovereigntists do? During the Quebec debates, those opposing sovereignty were quick to point out that if Quebec was divisible from Canada, then Quebec itself was divisible. 

It is likely that First Nations on the prairie provinces could argue the same thing. Thus, the divisibility of the Prairies could become a major issue; but while First Nations may end up having a legal right to secede, the desirability of existing as small Swiss-cheese enclaves is another thing.  

At present, First Nations in Alberta are open to working with Alberta and Saskatchewan in opposing federal policies that run counter to the Western interests, especially those dealing with the energy sector. It seems wiser to focus on that working relationship than to jump to the contentious sovereignty question. 

Joseph Quesnel is the Indigenous Affairs Columnist at the Western Standard. 

Joseph Quesnel the Indigenous Issues Columnist for the Western Standard. He is a Metis policy analyst and commentator who writes on Indigenous issues as well as energy and resource development policy.

Opinion

TURNBULL: Canada is not well prepared to come out the other side

These radical climate enthusiasts ultimately destroyed our ability to ride out the impending storm on the horizon.

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As the world wrestles with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, it is important not to lose sight of the dark horizon that’s coming at us in the shape of an ominous financial thunder storm.

There will be geopolitical, economic, social, and procedural changes that will need to be addressed in very short order. The necessary changes that are about to occur not only change the landscape of Canada, but the entire world. It’s virtually impossible to predict what the end result will look like. 

There are two ways we can deal with the impending change: actively work towards creating a constructive way forward (proactively) or ignore the lessons of the mistakes that have been made and act out of necessity when the time comes (reactively).

Canada does not have the economic capacity to absorb the extreme negative cash flow caused by the extraordinary financial stresses this economic shut down has created. People’s day to day needs and survival at this point must be our primary focus with the survival of small, medium and large businesses a close second. In order for recovery to even begin, the population will need to know where our governments have failed and how we got to where we are.

It’s funny how silence can do more harm than words, particularly when it comes to failure. Ignoring the past is a self-imposed sentence to repeat it, unless we take this lesson and put it to practical use. 

Canada has a blank slate that gives us the opportunity to redefine our economic and political future. That future can be a story of success or another chapter in a sad and dark tragedy. The choice is ours. The painful part is admitting that we made mistakes and understanding that others are also accountable for where things went drastically wrong.

Writing a success story requires an unbiased assessment of what actually happened based on the facts and not opinion. Hiding, denying or intentionally misinterpreting facts or intentions by suggesting racism or discrimination is denying the truth and sets the plot in the wrong frame of reference. How the story of our future is written is something that will have a profound impact on the lives of all Canadians – with no exceptions.

The radical green movement took a very short-sighted approach to affecting the change they were trying to achieve. They neglected to educate people on the unintended economic consequences that accompanies their policies. 

It is a common opinion amongst Albertans that the actions of the radical green movement have greatly contributed to the struggles of the Canadian energy industry. Through inflammatory rhetoric, organizations such as Greenpeace, the Tides Foundation and LeadNow crippled investor confidence in the Canadian energy markets.

These radical climate enthusiasts ultimately destroyed our ability to ride out the impending storm on the horizon. In order to avoid those potholes in the road, the Kenney government would be well-advised to invoke a mentality that sternly deals with illegal attempts to blockade in any way our road to economic recovery. 

The Trudeau government’s failure to react to the situation in a responsible fashion has contributed more to the storm clouds than any other factor. They failed to close our borders, trusted suspect information coming out of China early in January and they failed to assess the situation for threats – all acting as catalysts for an economic storm causing substantial damage to the mental health of all Canadians. 

Canada may have been blessed with an abundance of resources; however, we have also been burdened with governance that is far too lenient and tolerant of those who break the law in an attempt to disrupt our progress. Most Canadians believe that we should develop our resources intelligently and responsibly, but our leadership has failed to understand that it is their job to advocate to fulfill our wishes. 

An uncertain future awaits us all in the coming months, which means the time to start creating the narrative is now. 

It is time to come to grips with reality and make the story of our future a success story instead of the dark sad tale it has become.

Pat Turnbull is a former legislative staff member of the Wildrose Party

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NAVARRO-GENIE: Eco-ideologues at the ready to profit from crises

In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realised eco-nirvana.

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When professors around the country were busy figuring ways to deliver their classes online, two faculty members at the University of Alberta wrote a letter and enlisted the endorsement of some 200 of their leisured colleagues at 33 universities in Canada. A crisis must not be wasted.

From the privileged positions of publicly paid jobs, the Alberta authors urge Ottawa to stall the COVID-19 help to the oil industry with an old idea minted in bureaucratic hell: they want the prime minister to start a new cycle of consultations.All other aid should be expedited. Only aid to oil companies need be trapped in nightmare. 

Their dream is to shut everything down that can be shut down in the oil patch, start an endless process of consultations while oil workers are sent to retrain. The recommendation does not include training camps for oil workers. 

It’s hard to imagine such a rushed petition from level-headed people during a national emergency. In what seems a lack of awareness of the consequences, they advise to get on it right away because “we have no time to lose.” The classic let’s-hurry-up-and-wait!

It is radical ideology at work. Ideologies are grids of interpretation (and we all use them). In radical cases, however, ideology descends into zealotry and induces the adopter into a self-inflicted disconnect from reality. There is no greater evidence of a mind infected with a radical ideology than when ideologues subordinate all things to their awaited goal, including human lives and their welfare. 

Radical ideologues are prepared to inflict pain and suffering for the sake of accelerating the advent of the future they expect to arrive soon. Some skilfully use crises to rush their goals. Typically, they see the misery they unleash in the process as the price to pay for the application of the ideas to create a new world, a new society, or a new natural equilibrium – in the case of eco-radicals.

The Twentieth Century is littered with examples of enlightened creatures who have unleashed unfathomable suffering upon more than 100 million people. 

Some great works of literature have depicted the inner workings of ideological systems. They make excellent quarantine reading.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston and Julia fall victim to extraordinary indignities at the hand of the state apparatus, are subjected to constant surveillance, abuse and torture, to enforce a status quo of squalor and oppression that had long betrayed the society of equality and prosperity the enlightened revolutionaries once promised. 

In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler depicts the experiences of Nicholas Rubashov, a Communist party official charged with enforcing ideological purity, until the repressive machine he helped to build turns toward him. Slowly, he becomes aware that the compassion he now hopes from others has been replaced by the conviction of ideas, discernment has been replaced by the dreams of the future, and decency thoroughly eroded by ideology. 

In both novels, people who belong to a group deemed politically or economically undesirable are sacrificed by the designs of a few enlightened figures, who claim to know and speak for the collective good of all. Only the final goal mattered.

In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realised eco-nirvana. Earth First!ers once relished the thought of millions of people dying of HIV, viewing people as parasites. Today, with similar impulses, Extinction Rebellion seeks to place environment ahead of all things and replace governments with eco-sensitive assemblies to rule over us.

It is not that concern for the environment is bad. It is no worse than the Communist concern for workers. But deep-ecology ideologues favour “Nature” to the detriment of human welfare (as though humans were not natural) in the same way that communists sacrifice workers to create a “New Man.”

To be clear, I am not suggesting UofA academics want oil patch workers exterminated. They only want oil workers’ job to disappear by incantation. But I am saying they want to use the COVD-19 crisis to push their agenda of ecological purity at the expense of human welfare in Alberta. Their position is radically ideological. It demonstrates three disconnects in certain corners of academe: an unusual disconnect with compassion, with the socio-economic realities of the present crisis, and with the sentiments of the common Albertan, who is wisely capable of simultaneously supporting environmental concerns and responsible energy extraction.

Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, the President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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MORGAN: Supply management is bad policy in good times. It’s terrible policy in bad times.

We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system.

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My wife grew up on a small farm near Rockyford, Alberta. Her father had a small dairy operation with a dozen cows. Cream would be separated from the produced milk and sold. Remaining milk would be used to feed the household and supplement livestock feed. There would still be a large amount of milk remaining every day as the family could only consume so much. That milk would be poured into a nearby ditch. 

Why would a farm family with limited income pour away a product which other families have to pay dearly to purchase? 

They had to. It is was, and still is the law. The family farm only had a government-issued quota to sell cream. It would have been illegal for my wife’s father to sell a single drop of milk. 

Welcome to Canada’s supply management system. 

As the world enters an unprecedented economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are going to have to find ways to reduce the cost of living for struggling families. Canada’s Soviet-style supply management system on dairy and poultry products adds nearly $600 per year to the average family’s grocery bill in order to benefit a small number of producers, primarily in Quebec. It is time to examine why we are punishing consumers with this terrible system. 

The government controls the number of producers and the amount of product they may produce through a rigid quota system. If a farmer is found to have 301 chickens on their farm without having a state-issued quota for them, the farmer can be charged. The same applies to turkeys, geese, eggs and dairy products. 

It is not an exaggeration to compare this system to that of the former Soviet Union. This is exactly how the USSR managed their agriculture, with predictable results. 

Currently, Canada’s dairy farmers are pouring milk down the drain as the Coronavirus shutdown has decimated demand for dairy products, and it is illegal for them to drop their prices in order to adapt to the change in demand. Families are literally rationed in how much expensive milk they may purchase right now, while producers are not allowed to sell them more.

Just ask any senior citizen of Ukrainian descent how well a centralized food supply management system served them in the 1930s. Governments manage pretty much everything poorly. Food is one of the areas where we least need their intervention. 

A diverse local food production system with a myriad of producers throughout the nation is the best way that consumers can avoid price and supply shocks due to global market incidents. It is impossible for producers to diversify their production under the current supply-managed system. 

When dairy supply management began in 1971, there were approximately 145,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today there are less than 10,000 and it is dropping as large operations continue to buy up limited quotas and push their competitors out of business. The average dairy farmer has a net worth of over $5 million. It’s pretty easy to prosper when the government literally makes it illegal for people to compete with you. 

In shedding our archaic supply management system, we would give agricultural producers a means to diversify their outputs while solidifying a more localized food supply. It would provide opportunities for increased local employment on these farms and competition will spurn innovation which would lead to entirely new value-added products for agricultural producers to sell. 

Dairy and poultry cartels jealously protect their monopoly through aggressive and effective lobbying of federal politicians. It was embarrassing to watch Andrew Scheer groveling to the dairy cartels as he was obligated to due to their propping up his leadership bid for the Conservative Party of Canada. The cartels have their hooks deeply embedded into the flesh of politicians in every (major) federal party and it is going to take a strong public call for an end to supply management in order to break these politicians loose. 

Federal Liberals have even begun musing about extending supply management to other agricultural sectors, citing the present crisis as their excuse. The Tories would have few legs to stand on in opposing its expansion into other sectors, since they so vigorously support its mandatory application in dairy and poultry. 

New Zealand and Australia used to have supply management systems like ours. They shed those systems and producers prospered despite the fear-mongering of their local cartels. Our agricultural producers will flourish with the constraints of supply management lifted as well. 

We are entering difficult times as a nation. We need to examine every possible way to help citizens recover from the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Food is a need and it must be kept as affordable as possible for citizens. We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why we haven’t done this already.

Cory Morgan is a columnist for the Western Standard

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