A humiliating demotion pure and simple for Jody Wilson-Raybould


Quick quiz:  Who are Albina Guarnieri, Kent Hehr and Seamus O’Regan?

From left:   Guarnieri, Hehr and O’Regan

What do they have in common with Jody Wilson-Raybould?

The three named in the first sentence each served as Minister of Veterans Affairs in a Liberal government, just as Jody Wilson-Raybould did.

But that is where the similarity ends.

Albina Guarnieri, MP for Mississauga East just outside of Toronto, sat on the Liberals’ back benches for 23 years from 1988 to 2011.  In  2004, it was Prime Minister Paul Martin who brought her into the cabinet for just two years as Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Kent Hehr, MP for Calgary-Buffalo, is slightly more memorable. He was Minister of Veterans Affairs in Justin Trudeau’s government from 2015-2017. But he got into hot water for criticizing the wife of a veteran.  She asked Hehr for help because her ex-military husband suffered from PTSD. Hehr gave her barely two minutes of his time, and crassly told her “You married him, he’s your responsibility.”  Hehr was then given the Sport and Persons with Disabilities portfolio, which could be classified as a demotion.  And amidst allegations of sexual harassment, he had to resign from the cabinet.

Seamus O’Regan, MP for St John’s-Mt Pearl also lasted two years as Minister of Veterans Affairs in Trudeau’s government.  Nothing remarkable about him, and no one has any idea if his new cabinet post as a Minister of Indigenous Services is a step up or down.

The word mediocre comes to mind when you read the Wikipedia entries for these three Liberal politicians.

Then there is Jody Wilson-Raybould.  raybouldAt age 47, she serves as MP for Vancouver-Granville.  She was Minister of Justice and Attorney General from 2015 to 2019; Attorney General is one of the top five cabinet posts. In January 2019 she was demoted to Minister of Veterans Affairs — where she served for less than a month before she resigned last week.   Not one of the last nine Ministers of Justice – under Liberal or Conservative governments  – no one has even come close to falling this far.  She was not only humiliated by the demotion, but she was also the victim of a whisper campaign likely initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office.   But who is Wilson-Raybould?  She is a former crown prosecutor for BC.  She was a Treaty Commissioner and Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations.  She was a Councillor of the We Wai Kai Nation.  She served as a director of Capilano University and as former Director of  the Minerva Foundation for BC Women.  She is an Indigenous woman who has fought hard for her people’s rights and recognition on her own terms.

Not one of the former Liberal Veterans  Affairs ministers comes close to Wilson-Raybould in terms of academic background, professional experience and expertise, community dedication or consistent advancement of progressive public policy.

It is sickening to listen to Justin Trudeau explain away her demotion to Veterans Affairs as anything but a reprimand.  The Liberals, including Trudeau’s new choice for Attorney General, have closed ranks.  They’ve thrown Wilson-Raybould under the bus because she refused to make a deal that would see SNC-Lavalin get away with a slap on the wrist for serious corruption charges.

Trudeau has done this to save his own skin with the corporate sector which donates to his party, notably SNC-Lavalin.  And to show everyone he’s the boss.  So much for “sunny ways” or bragging about women being 50% of his cabinet—not to speak of his crowing about Reconciliation with Indigenous people. He has deliberately smeared the first Indigenous Minister of Justice, and he’s done it gratuitously—Wilson-Raybould did nothing wrong.

Will you get paid for the Heritage Day holiday on Monday?

(first published on 15 Feb. in NSadvocate.org here)

Nova Scotia Heritage Day is one of the six measly public holidays in Nova Scotia.

Everyone is supposed to get Monday, Feb. 18 off work—but only some of you will be paid.  It is a retail closing day, which means most stores and businesses must close.

lily2 Model of Maud Lewis’ home (really a shack) in Digby County, NS.  This Heritage Day commemorates the late artist.  Her actual home was moved to a room in the Art Gallery of NS — you might go visit it, this weekend.

If you are a union member, or are covered by a collective agreement, your union has probably bargained the day off –with pay – for you.

If you are nota union member, you need to “qualify” to get paid for the day.  To qualify, you must have worked for 15 out of the last 30 calendar days AND you have to have worked your last scheduled shift before the holiday, and your first scheduled shift after the holiday.

If you “qualify”, you get the day off with your regular day’s pay.  If Monday is your normal day off, you should get another day off with pay.

However, if you do not “qualify” you still get the day off work– but without pay.

What if you have to work that day? For instance, bars, restaurants, some drug and corner stores, gas stations, and hotels are open .  If you “qualify” (see above), you will get your regular day’s pay plus1.5 times your regular pay for the hours you work that day.

If you do not “qualify” then you will just earn your regular pay for the hours you work.  Many small stores and coffee shops take advantage of part-time staff who do not “qualify” and make them work for straight time on the holiday!cowsPainting of cows by Maud Lewis.

If you are a farmhand, a car salesman, sell real estate, work on a fishing boat, or work in the petrochemical industry,  you are out of luck – you don’t get the holiday unless you are in a union and it has negotiated the holiday for you.

What to Watch and What to Read…

This is the most amazing and horrifying documentary you can watch this winter. Watch it now.  You may remember Sandra Bland was a 28 yr old woman who was stopped in Waller Texas — allegedly because she didn’t signal when driving.  The Latino cop escalated the interaction until he is seen hauling her out of the car, throwing her to the ground and kneeing her spine in order to handcuff her.  Bland was driving to the grocery store to stock her kitchen as she just landed a good job.  Two days later she was found hanging in her cell, dead.  The cops say she tied a large clear garbage bag to a rafter and then hanged herself. Yet there was not a fingerprint on the plastic bag.  She wasn’t depressed, she was angry — Bland was a black lives matter activist, a blogger and a woman full of life.  You need to watch this to see the cops lie, the prosecutor lie and an all-women family who continues to fight to know what really happened that July day in 2015.  The cop’s behaviour was reminiscent of another cop’s slamming a 15 yr old black girl’s head to the ground and assaulting her, handcuffing her when a pool party got a little loud and out of hand in McKinney Texas — one month before Bland was murdered.

What to read:  Rula Jebreal’s book Miral miralis an excellent novel about three Palestinian women.  When was the last time you read a political novel about women only?   Beginning in 1948 with a woman who operates an orphanage for girls in Jerusalem, the book recounts the lives of the women through Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in 1967, and to the charade of the Oslo Accords in the early ’90s.  Jebreal is a journalist by vocation and her voice and reporting was once heard on BBC and other news outlets that actually tried to portray the Palestinian reality.  This is an excellent read — I couldn’t put it down.  Though some of the novel takes place in Tel Aviv and in Haifa, most of it is located in Jerusalem — her descriptions are detailed and unnervingly realistic, especially for anyone who has travelled there.

Another good read is Exit West  by the author of the Reluctant Fundamentalist — which I highly recommend. east-westExit West is about two Muslims who become a couple because of their desire to find safety and a way out of unnamed city — perhaps Kabul, perhaps Riyad, perhaps a city in Pakistan.  Insurgents come to the city and destroy their families and their lives.  This is a very political book, as is the Reluctant Fundamentalist, which takes aim at the US backed wars, drone strikes and bombings through the Middle East, and South Asia.  This is a fast paced novel which is gripping and rings very true.  It explores immigration, refugees, and a Britain and a California of the future — which is not very rosy.


The Bear Clan, Thunder Bay

TB-50centsAt The Common restaurant and bar on Cumberland St. every time someone buys a Sleeping Giant beer, 50 cents goes to the Bear Clan.  The Bear Clan had a training session at RIVAL, and now 15 – 20 people go out in cars every Friday and Saturday night to check on Indigenous people.  Since the revelations in Seven Fallen Feathers sevenAeveryone recognises there are people in Thunder Bay (usually white men) who do harm and even kill Indigenous people.  There are also many women go missing  in Thunder Bay due to the sex trafficking of women on ships through Lake Superior .

The Bear Clan even patrols the waterways  in their efforts to save Indigenous youths’ lives.  This flies in the face of the Thunder Bay Police Service which-– due to racism —  does not have any capacity in seriously stopping the deaths.  The police are actively hostile to the Bear Clan, as are other good burghers. bear-clan

More Thunder Bay —

Kangas SaunaKaunga-sauna is renowned and probably the oldest public sauna in Canada. There are nice roomettes with your own private sauna for family groups or friends. We went with Omri. It was great. There’s also a nice small restaurant where they serve the super thin Finnish pancakes. We went today. This painting is above the entry door to Kangas — they do supply everything but the branches.

TB-J&L-bkgroundLarry and I on the waterfront at Lake Superior, grain silos on the side. Below are 8 ft tall snow sculptures in the waterfront park. It was about -28C but sunny. As you can see the theme is “travel”.

We spoke at City Hall at the Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn.  We spoke on how racism is NOT good for business. It went over quite well– we now have a great presentation for folks at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce!! If we get invited that is.

We interrupt the politics for a little tourism…

The photo on the top left is the Magnus theatre in the snowstorm the night we went to see Huff.  It’s a brilliant one-man play about growing up on the rez.  Tells whites a lot about Indigenous lives. 75 tough minutes and worth it. Here’s a link to the Ghomeshi Effect which played in Thunder Bay in January.

Eaton’s downtown, is an art deco building, which has been mostly vacant for decades. Now it’s about to be sold to U-Haul.  The problem with that is U-Haul is basically lockers that store condo-dwellers’ stuff.  So lockers don’t add to good  street life, to shops, to restaurants, to good public space.   Up to now, the old Eaton’s was the home of Definitely Superior Art Gallery — an artist-run collective which has been a prominent gallery and cultural centre in the basement for 30 years.  Now it’s being evicted for “renewal”.  Omri and Larry and I drove to Boulevard Lake, not far from downtown for a bit of a walk. It was -25C, but sunny… Here’s a bald headed eagle I spied. The wonderful sculpture of a man doing Tai Chi appears in the waterfront park.  Tai Chi Master Peng You, is also a city councillor, and pushed for this addition to the park.

TB-sketch-rival2TB-sketch-rivalTB-Manuel-bookTB-at-rival RIVAL is Max and Cassie’s activist lab, at Lakehead University.  It’s a wonderful place where people meet up, and have training classes, reading circles, and discussions.  On Tuesday night there is a reading circle and we read the Reconciliation Manifesto by  Arthur Manuel, an Indigenous thinker and writer who died too early. More than 20 of us, law students, community people and readers come once a week to read, each of us take turns to read 2-3 paragraphs and then we discuss what we read when the section or chapter ends. Brilliant.  Here’s a photo of Max and Omri enjoying a joke.  I though it was a bit forward to take photos, so I drew pictures of people in the reading circle.  The top left, shows Cassie with a big scarf on.  The other photo shows Max under the white board sign.  i

With friends we are having breakfast at the well known Hoito, Finnish community restaurant.  Omri is reading in the living room and the house he shares with Max and Cassie.  And here is a better photo of the snow and light that night we went to see Huff, the play.

Independent Police Review Reveals Racism & Worse

In December 2018, after a two-year investigation into Thunder Bay’s police force, Ontario’s independent police watchdog, the OIPRD, revealed evidence of widespread racism that informed shoddy investigations into the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous people in the city.

Gerry McNeilly, Ontario’s Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), called for the re-opening of at least nine sudden-deaths in Thunder Bay.  Noting that Thunder Bay has “one of the highest rates of hate crimes in Canada,” McNeilly found “significant deficiencies in sudden-death investigations involving Indigenous people that are due, in part, to racial stereotyping.”mcneillyGerry McNeilly

The OIPRD review entitled Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, made 44 recommendations.  Broken Trustnoted that since the early 1990s, Indigenous communities in and around Thunder Bay identified more than 30 suspicious deathsof Indigenous people which the Thunder Bay police refused to seriously investigate.

The review noted that  in the case of the sudden deaths, the Thunder Bay Police Service investigators failed “to treat or protect the deceased and his or her family equally and without discrimination because the deceased was Indigenous.”

To get a true feeling for what’s gone on and continues to go on with the Thunder Bay Police Service, see the report here:   http://oiprd.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/OIPRD-BrokenTrust-Final-Accessible-E.pdf