The News Rundown
- This week Danielle Smith announced the much-aligned as divisive parental rights policy collection.
- In the fall legislation and policy will be introduced that:
- Bans transgender top and bottom surgery for minors aged 17 and under.
- Bans puberty blockers for those aged 15 and under. Those who are 16 or 17 will require parental consent, physician consent, and approval from a psychologist.
- Parental notification will be required and an opt-in will be required for each instance a school teacher intends to give formal instruction on gender, sexual orientation, or human sexuality.
- For minors aged 15 and under, parental notification will be required for any change in name or pronouns. For minors aged 16 or 17 parental notification for name or pronoun change is required.
- And the government will work with sporting organizations to ensure biological women and girls have the choice to compete in athletic competitions in a women-only division without any trans-identifying males.
- The announcement was made in a 7 minute long video posted primarily to Twitter on Wednesday. In the video Danielle Smith cemented herself as the face of the issue and again by being the sole government official to take questions the next day.
- In the video she said, “I care deeply about your happiness and your wellbeing. I support you in becoming the person you want to be or who you already are. As Premier of this province I will ensure your rights are always protected.”
- The immediate reaction from journalists and those who claim to want to de-politicize this debate was that there was no immediate chance for questions.
- A journalist from Global Edmonton felt that releasing it through Twitter was because the government didn’t want mass coverage on the press release video and if they were proud of it they’d shout from the rooftops. Also that there should’ve been an immediate opportunity for questions.
- We’ll get into the politicization of kids that people are aiming to avoid a little bit later
- The media press conference came the following day which was a circus in its own right.
- The press conference started with real questions including a very real question: what arguments persuaded Danielle Smith that this pro-family policy was the right thing to do?
- Smith put it through the context of the children who are struggling with gender identity mentioning that she has a young person struggling like this in her family. She has observed that there are supportive loved ones, friends, and family and that kids are able to make decisions at the appropriate time is vitally important and the child-parent bond needs to remain strong and things are always better when a supportive family is involved.
- Good question and a good answer but not all the questions were that grounded in reality.
- Then perhaps the craziest question came from Lisa Johnson at the Edmonton Journal: My understanding is that your legal name is Marlaina and why did you decide to change your name? And why would you prevent children from doing the same?
- Danielle Smith answered this calmly and to the point: Her legal name is Marlaina Danielle Smith and her parents liked how that sounded better but her parents just decided to call her Danielle.
- The follow-up then said that this policy of “restricting rights” as asked was for the far-right of the party, a small portion of Albertans. The answer to this was that the goal is to preserve choice and support kids' right to make decisions about their journey when they are mature enough to make those decisions.
- It is at this point where we start to see the collective blind spot in the coverage of this story. The vast majority of the media out there is covering it from one angle and one angle alone and we see that even before the stories have gone to air.
- This is the media in action and how it works day by day yet it is not always on display for everyone to see.
- Last August a survey was done by the Angus Reid Institute that showed that 43% of Albertans believe parents must be informed and give consent if a child changes how they identify. 35% said parents must be informed about this change only.
- In fact you might think this is the view of maybe only Albertans or maybe only those in Saskatchewan or in the eyes of the media maybe Florida? But the reality is that this is a majority view all across the country.
- The only people who were slightly more agreeable that parents shouldn’t be notified were women in the 18-34 age group and a majority of those who are neither male nor female said that parents should neither be informed nor have a say.
- There has been an angle taken with the media and 2SLGBTQ+ advocates this week that this is the most extreme policy in Canada and rivals what is done in the most conservative parts of the United States but again international media and studies beg to differ.
- European countries, some of which have world renowned health systems have done similar. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and the UK have all brought in provisions to introduce “limits on the provision of gender-affirming care to minors.”
- The article examining this out of Forbes magazine also writes that 12 US states have banned similar while 5 Democrat-led states have passed legislation designed to protect transgender healthcare coverage and access for minors.
- The only place this is a political wedge issue is in the United States. Those in the media, NDP, and federal Liberal government seek to make it a wedge issue in Canada as well.
- The initial studies done showed that access to gender-affirming care yields improvements in health outcomes including less depression, anxiety, and suicide risk.
- But caution has been exercised in Europe in that a series of European based systemic reviews of evidence for the benefits and risks of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones have shown a low certainty of benefits.
- Specifically, longitudinal data collected and analyzed by public health authorities in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and England have concluded that the risk-benefit ratio of youth gender transition ranges from unknown to unfavorable.
- As a result, across Europe there has been a gradual shift from care which prioritizes access to pharmaceutical and surgical interventions, to a less medicalized and more conservative approach that addresses possible psychiatric comorbidities and explores the developmental etiology of trans identity.
- As such many European countries do not allow the use of cross-sex hormones until age 16 and then only after completing psychotherapy sessions and most European countries ban surgery until 16.
- Justin Trudeau has said that Danielle Smith should instead by fighting for Canadians by attacking affordability and the price of groceries.
- Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youths aid “Everything is on the table, anything that we can do…”
- Edmonton-Centre Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault said that “this is our NATO moment… an attack on one of our communities is an attack on us all and I need allies and champions to stand up.”
- This marks the third week in a row where the Trudeau government and some of its ministers have lined up to attack Alberta. This legislation will happen and it will go forward. The endgame is probably the same as Saskatchewan where the Notwithstanding clause will be invoked and that’ll be the end of the story.
- But as with all things, we have to ask why now?
- The NDP leadership race. This policy was announced just days after the NDP leadership race kicked off. The plan from the Premier is to likely try and get the NDP to run their leadership race as far to the left as possible which if polling is to be believed, is out of the view of the majority of Albertans.
- Which from a political standpoint is masterful if true but raises the question of if such an approach needed to be taken.
- In the meantime the media needs to come clean on their angles with this story.
- They need to talk to everyday Albertans, both rural and urban, about this policy and actually show some people who are for this policy rather than just being the advocacy channel.
- The debate on this policy has been a one way street this week and that has to change.
- Last weekend a BC story started picking up steam and it could have huge consequences for how the BC government manages its public lands, natural resources, and capital projects. Very quietly, the BC NDP put out public consultation on their plan to begin co-management of government-owned land with B.C.’s 204 First Nations, and how exactly that would look going forward.
- The call for submissions on the government website reads: “The province wants to know your thoughts on sharing public land-use decision making. The government hopes to be able to negotiate agreements with Indigenous governments and begin sharing decision-making on public land use in the late spring of 2024.”
- While the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship posted the call for submissions online at Engage B.C. earlier this month, the ministry did not publicize the invitation with a news release, suggesting the government is not all that keen to attract attention to the exercise.
- The NDP are currently drafting amendments to the Land Act for introduction this spring. The Act governs access to and use of the 95 per cent of the province that is provincially owned, for purposes as varied as agriculture, communications towers and waterpower, and there are roughly 40,000 active tenures for activities and infrastructure, such as forestry and transmission towers. The proposed amendments will allow for joint statutory authority over new projects that require Crown tenure. The changes would also allow the minister of lands (currently Nathan Cullen) to enter into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies regarding lands within their traditional territories.
- The agreements are said to be grounded on principles of joint management and consent, as laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the supporting legislation unanimously enacted by the legislature five years ago. Other amendments to the Land Act would allow the NDP cabinet “implement the agreements in a timely and repeatable manner” and “ensure the agreements have force of law.” The revised Act would also “support predictable and durable land use decisions by providing a mechanism for Indigenous peoples to fully participate in decisions that affect them.”
- The implications of these changes are far reaching and practically irreversible once set in place. Robin Junger, a lawyer specializing in indigenous law with McMillan LLP, who has worked as a deputy minister of energy, head of the environmental assessment office, and treaty negotiator, is the lead on the analysis for the firm.
- McMillan says: “The subject matter of the consultation is unprecedented and of profound importance to any company that requires authorization to use Crown land in B.C. These include things like grazing leases, mining leases, license of occupation, dock permits, rights of way, etc. These types of decisions are a major part of governing the land base and economy of B.C.”
- There are many different reasons why a person or company may need to use crown land, such as farming, resources, or even just getting around various properties split up by crown land. However, with these proposed changes, permission would need to be given by more than just the government.
- McMillan concludes: “Up until now, these decisions have always been made by the minister responsible for the Land Act (or...delegates in the senior ranks of the public service), with a corresponding duty to consult affected First Nations. Under the amendments being proposed by the B.C. government, changes will be made to enable agreements with Indigenous groups such that they will be provided a veto power over decision-making about Crown land tenures and/or have ‘joint’ decision-making power with the Minister. Where such agreements apply, the Crown alone will no longer have the power to make the decisions about Crown land that it considers to be in the public interest.”
- This veto power is something that many British Columbians were worried about when the province committed to the principles of UNDRIP, or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Because unsettled land claims hang over most of the province, development on Crown land is frequently held up in litigation over Indigenous rights.
- And yet, the Fraser Institute argues that these land act changes would be a "death [knell] for investment in the province", saying that between 2010 and 2019. BC attracted less private investment per worker than the national average and well behind Alberta, Saskatchewan and even Manitoba, and as expected, the lack of business investment has produced lower incomes in a province that already had a huge cost of living.
- Junger said: “This is a radical change. With these proposed amendments, they are moving to give actual rights of First Nations governance over non-First Nations parties. That’s different than Indigenous self-government and to my knowledge, it’s the first time it has been contemplated anywhere in Canada,”
- Cullen tried to suggest that the pending change in the provincial Land Act was no big deal. He sees it flowing naturally from the passage, back in 2019, of the Declaration Act, incorporating the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- This isn't true, as there is nothing automatic nor inevitable about it. The Land Act currently puts the disposition and use of provincial Crown land in the hands of the Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. He can’t establish co-management without legislative change, a point that the government itself emphasized in calling for public submissions.
- Cullen said this week that “the public will be engaged as they are now on decisions on public land”, which is part of the problem, as they neglected to advise the broader public of the opportunity for revisions, by either news release or any other announcement.
- Ironically, Cullen claims the New Democrats are getting better at keeping the public informed about the ongoing shift to co-management of lands and resources with Indigenous people: “I’m happy to engage. There’s this, I think, a narrative or a sense that there’s something defensive in the government or something that’s not being forthright about it. But it’s the opposite. We’re keen. We’re keen to talk about this.”
- Never mind that the only reason he was talking about it at all was the backlash over his failure to directly inform the public on a decision with far-reaching implications for virtually all of the land in the province.
- By Wednesday, Cullen had climbed down and admitted — “with humility” as he put it in our interview — that he had made a bad call. He described as “fair comment” the criticism from Green MLA Adam Olsen, house leader for the Greens and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation on Vancouver Island. Olsen said: “To drop this without a press release, without the information, without walking people through exactly what’s happening, without reminding people that this was part of a process that we started back in 2019, I think the government has made some missteps. And I think they owe it to Indigenous leaders to clean that up.”
- The submission window for suggestions is open until March 31st, but the NDP say they will start drafting the amendments to the Lands Act in February. The government intention is to introduce the amendments by the end of April and get them passed before the house adjourns on May 16.
- The tight time frame, like the minimal publicity for the consultations, suggests the New Democrats have already made up their minds on how to proceed, and there won’t be much time to incorporate any necessary revisions. With such a high level of popular support, it's clear that public feedback will not sway them from their course. No question the New Democrats have the votes to make it so. But the spectacle would not restore public trust in a process already tainted by government secrecy and stumbling.
- The October 7th attacks by Hamas into Israel have been revealing for the world in terms of the sheer organization that Hamas has in Gaza. This was shocking to many.
- The world’s response has been mixed while Israel tears down Hamas’ tunnels and infrastructure in Gaza.
- Over the weeks and months since October it’s become clear that organizations out of the west supported Hamas and one of those was directly run by the United Nations.
- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency or UNRWA was implicated in the October 7th attacks where a number of its employees participated in the attacks.
- Intelligence reports suggest that 12 of the UN agency’s Palestinian relief agency participated in the attack while as many as 10% or 1200 of their staff have connections to extremism.
- The numbers go up when we look at male employees. 23% of UNRWA’s male employees had ties to Hamas which is higher than the Gaza average of 15%.
- Of the 12 Unrwa employees with links to the attacks, seven were primary or secondary school teachers, including two math teachers, two Arabic language teachers and one primary school teacher.
- And taking a wider view, nearly half or 49% of all UNRWA employees had close relatives who also had official ties to militant groups.
- There has been the thought as of late that given these demographics UNRWA was actually nurturing anti-Israeli sentiment in refugee camps which have served as recruiting grounds.
- The United States suspended funding to UNRWA in 2018 and later on the Biden administration renewed funding in 2021.
- How this will be cleaned up is anyone’s guess. Since October 7th Hamas has stolen more than $1m in UNRWA supplies including fuel and trucks. The intel reports also suggest that Hamas operatives are so deep in UNRWA that they are able to coordinate transfers for the organization.
- Looking back to Canada on this, we have questions for the federal government that weren’t immediately answered.
- At first International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen would not say if Canada made its quarterly $25m donation to UNRWA.
- It was later found out that the money was sent and not just $@5m but $48m by the time Canada was able to pause funding.
- Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Pierre Cuguen said, “This funding includes a $20 million contribution to meet the urgent needs stemming from the crisis in Gaza as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict, $1.25 million to the flash appeal for West Bank and Gaza, as well as $25 million in line with the disbursement schedule under Canada’s multi-year funding commitment to the UNRWA programs across West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.”
- Canada will not be retroactively revoking the funds.
- On its own this is a troubling issue but we need to come to grips with the breadth of the hate perpetuated by Hamas.
- In a letter this past week Liberal MP Salma Zahid praised UNRWA.
- In a letter posted on X she said UNRWA “is the only major organization helping Palestinians on the ground in Gaza” and while saying the allegations need to be taken seriously we should not “tarnish the whole organization with the actions of a few.”
- Going forward Western Context will be on the lookout for other organizations and institutions that have links to Hamas or Palestinian organizations that may be directly or indirectly funding terrorism and extremism.
- We have to come to grips that this is a UN organization and it has been receiving millions in funding from our taxes.
- We bring this story to Western Context because it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of UNRWA funding Hamas and it’s even more unlikely that you’ve heard of how extensive the infiltration of Hamas into UNRWA was.
- We enter February already in 2024, and February is known as Black History Month, a time where we in Canada celebrate the achievements and successes of Black Canadians. With this, we have to highlight a bizarre story from the National Post titled: "Black-only swim times, Black-only lounges: The rise of race segregation on Canadian universities".
- For many Canadians this is a chilling reminder of Canada's rough past with segregation, harkening back to official government segregation policy of the 1800's and first half of the 1900's. With policies such as the Chinese head tax, the Dominion Lands Act banning Black settlers on the prairies, and segregated schools that operated even up until the 1980's, this is a place that rational Canadians are not wanting Canada to head back to.
- And yet, Canada's universities are going too far in the other direction, ironically implementing segregation and not learning from the histories of the past which is baffling for institutes of education.
- The National Post's Tristin Hopper details several university's policies that are honestly quite baffling. First up is Ontario's University of Waterloo.
- Twice a week, the University of Waterloo athletic centre suspends its usual calendar of mid-morning swim lessons, and reserves its 25-yard pool for the exclusive use of a demographic that, in their words, does not have a good “relationship with water.”
- “The aim is to get more Black Folx into a space where they haven’t always been welcomed,” reads the official description for the “Black Folx swim,” a 60-minute Black-only pool time. Users can swim lengths, practice diving or sign-up for a lesson. But they — and all the instructors — must be “Black folx.”
- “This time is dedicated to building a better relationship with water for the Black community,” reads a bolded statement on the Black Folx Swim webpage.
- The University of Waterloo is home to more than 30,000 international students. Many Canadian newcomers lack basic swimming skills and are at an outsized risk of drowning. This is why many lifesaving societies specifically target new Canadians for swim lessons.
- But aside from a weekly trans-friendly swim and some scattered women’s only events, the Black Folx Swim is the university’s only demographic-specific swim time, and the only one targeting students of a particular ethnic heritage.
- And Waterloo is not alone in this. While the idea of explicitly race-segregated spaces at Canadian universities would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, recent months have seen a wave of Black-only lounges, study spaces and events at Canadian post-secondary institutions.
- The University of British Columbia recently cut the ribbon on a Black Student Space featuring showers, lockers and even a nap room. To gain access, students must apply and affirm that they are one of the following: “Black African descent, African-American, African-Canadian, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Afro-Indigenous.”
- Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson, opened a Black Student Lounge in 2022. The space is intended as a shelter from “the harms of institutional racism.” In multiple public statements, TMU has referred to itself as a hotbed of colonialist institutional oppression, and the lounge is intended as a place where students can “heal” and “recharge” from said oppression, and “promote Black flourishing.”
- The University of Toronto maintains a distinctive office of Black Student Engagement that curates a series of Black-only frosh and orientation events. While there are university-sanctioned “engagement” programs for Latin American and Southeast Asian students, these are mostly limited to mentorship appointments and workshops.
- And it’s not just U of T pursuing Black-only frosh events. As noted in a feature by VICE, as recently as 2015 Canada didn’t feature a single Black-only frosh. But after Ottawa universities debuted BLK Frosh that year, the practice soon became commonplace.
- Canadian university campuses have always been home to student societies or clubs whose membership is determined via national or ethnic characteristics.
- McGill University, for instance, maintains more than 40 on-campus “culture clubs” targeted at student demographics ranging from Tamil to Moroccans to “North American born Asians.” But the newly-opened “Black spaces” are different in that their explicit purpose is to demarcate Black-only areas in the interest of providing “inclusive spaces.”
- And there may be a reason for Canada's universities adopting affirmative actions that effectively promotes the segregation of Black students from other demographics.
- When Simon Fraser University announced plans to build a Black Student Centre, administrators said the project was a direct outgrowth of their adoption of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism, a 2021 document signed by 46 Canadian universities.
- The charter states that Blacks are underrepresented at Canadian universities due to institutional anti-Black racism. As such, it prescribes keeping close tabs on the ethnic characteristics of students and faculty at Canadian universities, and implementing a number of “deliberative processes” to ensure that a representative number of them are Black. One of these processes is the construction of “affirming, accessible spaces … that foster Black belonging.”
- At TMU, the Black Student Lounge was an outgrowth of a 2020 report known as the Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review.
- Authors concluded that even after 10 years of concerted anti-racism efforts, the university was still awash in anti-black racism, which the report said was primarily manifest in “intuitive” ways such as “a sense of not belonging” and “lack of representation in the curriculum.”
- Among its recommendations were a “dedicated Black student space on campus with the necessary resources allocated to it for Black students to feel safe.”
- “Universities have historically been an unsafe place for Black students. The lounge is just one step towards dismantling this harmful reality,” Eboni Morgan, a Black student support facilitator, said upon the space’s launch.
- While it cannot be argued that Black Canadians have been marginalized over the years, and that there are still many challenges facing the community today, segregation cannot be one of the solutions. That is a pathway that only leads to trouble.
Quote of the Week
“This is a radical change. With these proposed amendments, they are moving to give actual rights of First Nations governance over non-First Nations parties. That’s different than Indigenous self-government and to my knowledge, it’s the first time it has been contemplated anywhere in Canada.” - Robin Junger, a lawyer specializing in indigenous law with McMillan LLP in response to the BC government’s plan to reform the Lands Act.
Word of the Week
Segregation - the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by social barriers, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Equal But Separate
Teaser: Danielle Smith debuts Alberta’s parental rights policy, the BC NDP quietly makes changes to the Lands Act, and the Trudeau Liberals give $48M to UNRWA. Also, segregation is on the rise in Canadian universities.
Recorded Date: February 3, 2024
Release Date: February 4, 2024
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes