Renewed spirits, sense of optimism in Bigstone Cree Nation after election do-over results in new chief and council
After a tumultuous Fall election in which the results were called into question by multiple band members, members in Bigstone Cree Nation were awarded the opportunity to recast their votes in a do-over election this past Tuesday.
The results are now in and the members have elected an entirely new slate of council members and chief to represent them for the next 4 years.
New chief’s priorities
The new chief, Silas Yellowknee, who had ran in the original election and lost, ran again in the do-over election and was elected on a platform of “transparency, accountability and fairness”, according to his campaign pamphlet.
The Post Millennial was able to chat with Chief Yellowknee following his victory about what his priorities for Bigstone are going forward. In this interview, Yellowknee stressed the importance for the himself and the new council to work together with the members and focus on creating a safe and prosperous community.
Chief Yellowknee also mentioned that given the past issues surrounding Bigstone elections, the new leadership will be looking into the election code to see what changes, if any, are necessary.
Other priorities included looking into self government of Treaty 8 nations, clarifying rules around trapping and fishing, improving the relationship between band members and forestry officials, and continuing the work of the previous chief and council by continuing to investigate the cows and plows treaty benefits.
Support for oil and gas industry
Relying on his wide ranging experience as a RCMP officer, oilfield worker, logging trucker, and his 10 years as a councillor (2004-14), Yellowknee believes he can deliver on these goals in a collaborative way with the band’s membership.
As someone who has worked in the oilfields, Chief Yellowknee says he “100% supports” the oil and gas industry and wants to make sure that “all people in Wabasca have work.”
Chief Yellowknee also stated his opposition the federal bills C-48 and C-69 which look to ban oil tanker traffic off of B.C.’s north coast and raise the already high standards for getting pipelines built in Canada.
“Alberta would almost be nothing without the oil industry. No oil, no gas in your vehicle, everybody’s walking then eh?”
Opposition to Trudeau Sr. & Jr.
When asked about his view on the Trudeau government’’s reconciliation efforts Yellowknee said ’“I have never voted Liberal and I will never vote Liberal. His father was the one who created the white paper which means they were going to dissolve the treaties. I will never support that.”
The longtime resident of Wabasca and local minor league hockey coach said that his focus remains squarely on the community and building a better life for the next generation of Bigstone members.
Working with the members
Travis Gladue-Beauregard, founder of the Bigstone Empowerment Society, told The Post Millennial that he was very happy with the new election results.
Gladue-Beauregard originally founded the group back in 2016 to fight against what he saw as corruption amongst the leadership at the time.
“When I got involved three and a half years ago, there were a lot of battles with leadership. I’m very happy to see that the members have elected Mr. Yellowknee as chief.”
“I’ve spoken to him on the phone, congratulated him on his win and look forward to many positive discussions and a healthy relationship going forward” he said.
A trial underway in a Nanaimo B.C. courtroom this week is attracting controversy and strong opinions on both sides of the issue, as it forces school officials, the media and the public to reluctantly confront the question of what constitutes “religion” in the public sphere. The case of Candice Servatius v. School District No. 70 (Alberni) is about whether a public school can require children to participate in a spiritual ceremony, or in a ritual that appeals to the supernatural realm.
In September of 2015, Candice Servatius received a letter from the principal of John Howitt Elementary School (JHES) in Port Alberni, B.C., stating that JHES would be hosting a Student/Classroom “Cleansing” performed by a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth, a term used to describe fifteen related First Nation tribes who live on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The school’s letter described in detail how the cleansing ritual would “cleanse” the classroom of “energy” and cleanse the “spirits” of the students. The letter claimed that without cleansing, the classroom and even the furniture would harbour negative “energy” and would not be safe until the “energy” was “released”. Smoke from sage was fanned over the bodies of children, including Mrs. Servatius’ daughter, who was required to participate in this ritual against her will. Several months later, an aboriginal prayer was offered to a “god” at a school assembly that children were required to attend.
Skye Ryan, a reporter with CBC affiliate CHEK news, writes that the practice of Nuu-chah-nulth spirituality is “on trial” and implies that Mrs. Servatius is opposed to aboriginal spirituality. Ms. Ryan’s story largely ignores the court documents, which make it abundantly clear that the only issue on trial is whether public schools can impose spiritual rituals on children in the classroom.
If Mrs. Servatius is successful in her court action, the Nuu-chah-nulth will not lose any freedom to practice their spirituality, ceremonies and rituals, nor will public schools cease to teach about aboriginal history, culture and practices, including aboriginal beliefs. If the court rules in favour of Mrs. Servatius, the only difference will be that children are no longer compelled by the state to be present and participate in spiritual ceremonies, prayers or rituals. This is the only just result in a pluralistic society that includes a wide variety of spiritual beliefs and practices, including the complete absence of such beliefs.
In her story, Ms. Ryan quotes Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Judith Sayers complaining about smudging being banned from schools. But Ms. Sayers herself has given evidence that in Nuu-chah-nulth practice, smudging is always entered into by consent. Neither Mrs. Servatius nor her daughter consented to this young girl participating in the ritual in the classroom.
Another aboriginal leader, Harry Cadwallader, testified that learning about smudging is different than being smudged. Mr. Cadwallader agrees that children can learn about smudging in a number of different ways: “You can be shown a demonstration. You can be shown a video. You can be read a description.” Mr. Cadwallader has testified that “the infusion of aboriginal culture, content, language, history, of understanding, as a methodology to improve the success of aboriginal students and raise awareness of all students about aboriginal people” can be accomplished without compelling children to be smudged against their will. This evidence was entirely absent from Ms. Ryan’s story, although it was publicly available in filed court documents.
Ms. Ryan further reports that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is a “right-wing” organization, perhaps hoping this might somehow make Ms. Servatius’ claim worth dismissing out of hand. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not a “right-wing” document, and the Justice Centre works to uphold the Charter freedoms of all Canadians, regardless of where on the political spectrum they might reside.
If Ms. Ryan believes that defending freedom of religion (which includes the right not to be compelled to participate in spiritual practices) is “right-wing”, she is fully entitled to express that opinion. But Ms. Ryan should do so by way of an opinion editorial, and not insert her personal beliefs into what is supposed to be a straight news story. As the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines puts it: “We clearly identify news and opinion so that the audience knows which is which”.
The two Justice Centre lawyers in court in Nanaimo this week, Jay Cameron and James Kitchen, were not available to be interviewed for Ms. Ryan’s story, and they referred Ms. Ryan to me, also a lawyer. Ms. Ryan did not contact me, yet claims in her story that “Neither Servatius or her lawyers would be interviewed.” I was, and remain, available to be interviewed, but as of this writing Ms. Ryan has declined to contact me for comment.
Court cases, by definition, involve two competing “sides.” It behooves an objective media to remember that.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which represents Mrs. Servatius in her court action against School District 70.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has been fired.
The Leafs have hired Sheldon Keefe, who worked as head coach of the Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate in Toronto as head coach.
“Today, we made the decision to relieve Mike Babcock of his coaching duties and named Sheldon Keefe our new head coach,” said President Brendan Shanahan in the press release. “Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise.”
Babcock was hired by the Maple Leafs in May 2015.
“Mike’s commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here,” said Shanahan.
The Maple Leafs went 173-133-45 in 351 over five seasons with Babcock as coach. He also went 8-12 in three consecutive post-season appearances.
Babcock had originally signed an eight-year contract worth $50 million—an average of $6.25 million per season—making him the highest-paid coach in NHL history.
British Columbia politicians are investigating their options in ticketing individuals who engage in racist behaviour.
Delta North NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon submitted a letter to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth requesting that the province crack down on “racist and hateful behaviour,” by measures that would include financial repercussions.
“I understand that some jurisdictions have implemented new, non-criminal sanctions to deter this behaviour such as ticketing,” reads the letter. “I would be grateful if your ministry could determine what options might be available to better deter perpetrators.”
Kahlon’s letter comes from what he says is a perceived rise in racist groups such as the Soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant and white supremacist group founded in Kemi, Finland that has groups across North America—though Canada’s chapter claims they have substantial differences than the original group.
“People are afraid in their communities. They know that these hate groups are organizing in communities,” Kahlon said in an interview with Global News.
“My request to the solicitor general was to do a scan of what other jurisdictions are doing to address public hate speech.”
Kahlon says communities he’s spoken with have expressed concern regarding the rise of new hate groups in B.C.—groups attempting to legitimize themselves by registering as societies under the Societies Act.
Kahlon is turning to CSIS in hopes that the government agency is doing everything possible to stop the growth of these groups.
“We aren’t the only jurisdictions dealing with this, but we have to start,” Kahlon said.
As the country faces serious challenges at home and abroad, the proof will be in the pudding for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government cabinet picks, who were sworn in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Wednesday.
To address growing discontent in the West, whose voters denied Liberals seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Trudeau has tapped Winnipeg MP and former Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to serve as “special representative to the Prairies.”
While Bill Morneau stays in his Finance portfolio, Catherine McKenna has been shuffled out of the Environment and will take on the role of Minister of Infrastructure.
Chrystia Freeland was also shuffled from Foreign Affairs and will now serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Québec MP and former Infrastructure minister François-Philippe Champagne assumes Freeland’s portfolio as minister of Foreign Affairs.
Other notables include Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier’s cabinet posting to a new portfolio: Minister of Middle Class and Prosperity.
And the Ministry of Democratic Institutions appears to have gone the way of the dodo and its previous minister Karina Gould, shuffled to International Development.
The following is the new “gender-balanced” cabinet of 36 ministers in alphabetical order, as issued by the Prime Minister’s Office today:
Anita Anand becomes Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Navdeep Bains becomes Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Carolyn Bennett remains Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Marie-Claude Bibeau remains Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Bill Blair becomes Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Bardish Chagger becomes Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
Jean-Yves Duclos becomes President of the Treasury Board
Mona Fortier becomes Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate
Minister of Finance
Marc Garneau remains Minister of Transport
Karina Gould becomes Minister of International Development
Steven Guilbeault becomes Minister of Canadian Heritage
Patty Hajdu becomes Minister of Health
Ahmed Hussen becomes Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Mélanie Joly becomes Minister of Economic Development and Official
Bernadette Jordan becomes Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
David Lametti remains Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Dominic LeBlanc becomes President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
Diane Lebouthillier remains Minister of National Revenue
Lawrence MacAulay remains Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate
Minister of National Defence
Catherine McKenna becomes Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Marco E. L. Mendicino becomes Minister of Immigration, Refugees and
Marc Miller becomes Minister of Indigenous Services
Maryam Monsef becomes Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
Bill Morneau remains Minister of Finance
Joyce Murray becomes Minister of Digital Government
Mary Ng becomes Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and
Seamus O’Regan becomes Minister of Natural Resources
Carla Qualtrough becomes Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Pablo Rodriguez becomes Leader of the Government in the House of
Commons and the party’s Québec Lieutenant
Harjit Sajjan remains Minister of National Defence
Deb Schulte becomes Minister of Seniors
Filomena Tassi becomes Minister of Labour
Dan Vandal becomes Minister of Northern Affairs
Jonathan Wilkinson becomes Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Kirsty Duncan will serve as Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mark Holland will serve as Chief Government Whip
Ginette Petitpas Taylor will serve as Deputy Government Whip
Kevin Lamoureux will serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons