You’ve got to give full points to the Green Party for putting out a platform so concerned with Indigenous issues and for calling for an end to the genocide of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
This is the first mainstream political platform I’ve ever seen that repudiates the doctrine of terra nullius (the idea that Turtle Island belonged to nobody before Contact), promises to tear down the Indian Act, and vows to work with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in implementing the party’s policy agenda.
The Greens acknowledge Canada’s true, violent history against First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, and that is a start. They say Canada has a “profound legal obligation to reconcile and provide restitution for the colonial relations — marked by violent expropriation, displacement and forced assimilation — that have undermined the cultural, governance and economic foundations of the Indigenous Peoples of this land.”
This platform is in stark contrast to what the Conservatives are offering. It’s like they come from two different planets.
The Greens have a lot of interesting ideas such as taxing sugary drinks; their climate-change plan is the strongest of the lot; and abolishing RESPs is novel because who needs those when the party would abolish tuition fees?
However, many Indigenous voters cast a skeptical eye their way — and for good reason. While the Green platform sounds rosy, some of it is unclear. I’m all for replacing the Indian Act, but with what? And who is going to be making those calls? From the platform, it’s unclear.
There’s the fact the Greens have far fewer Indigenous candidates running in this election than other parties do: seven, compared with 27 for the New Democrats and 18 for the Liberals, according to a Canadian Press count.
They do have Racelle Kooy in their inner circle — she is a member of the Samahquam First Nation, was the bilingual co-chair of the AFN, and is running as a candidate in Victoria.
But I have problems with some of party leader Elizabeth May’s ideas and stances.
For example, May floated the wonky idea of forcing SNC-Lavalin to pay for its alleged corporate crimes by delivering safe drinking water to all First Nations communities in need of clean water and working sewage. All this would be done without SNC-Lavalin receiving any profits.
And then there has been her long-standing opposition to the commercial seal hunt (though CBC reports her saying a few days ago that she isn’t against Inuit seal hunting). Any ban on the seal hunt harms Inuit. Full stop. Two prominent Inuit women — performer and writer Tanya Tagaq and the director of Angry Inuk, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril — have taken May to task on social media. Arnaquq-Baril said, “Despite the situation being carefully explained to her, she sticks with her anti-seal hunt stance. Being against seal hunting is anti-Inuit and also makes it easier for development to encroach on communities living in poverty so it’s not even an eco-friendly stance.”
All these important factors aside, the Greens have some solid election promises. They support a suicide prevention strategy aimed at youth and Indigenous people — $100 million annually for four years. They would spend the same fighting the opioid crisis, which they say is a national emergency; they would increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits widely available. In a forward-thinking move, they would decriminalize drug possession.
The NDP also promises an Indigenous suicide prevention plan but wraps it into Indigenous health spending — funding between $200 million to $215 million annually over the course of four years.
Specifically concerning “reconciliation,” the NDP says it will contribute $750 million annually for four years to prioritize high-quality, safe and affordable housing, particularly in the north, and ensure an “equitable distribution of resources for energy efficiency retrofits.”
True to May’s word, the Greens would honour the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and set aside $2 billion to compensate children born after 2006 who were taken from their homes on reserves and unlawfully put into the child welfare system.
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.
However, the Greens do suffer a bit from the overpromise virus that also plagues the NDP, including vows to fulfil all Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action along with the recommendations to come out of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) national inquiry.
Indigenous people have been promised and let down too many times.