Thursday, 8 September 2016

Participating in a Form of Consultation: The Electoral Reform Townhall in Calgary-Centre

Minister Hehr Addressing Those
in Attendance

This evening I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Town Hall on Electoral Reform, hosted by Minister of Veterans' Affairs and MP for Calgary Centre: Kent Hehr, with IPC-Alberta President, Michelle Robinson and her wonderful daughter Samantha.

The town hall was very interesting - with around 200 people in attendance, albeit some of the people who attended seem to be there to cause disruption rather then foster discussion for how Canada should elect its representatives in the future.

Joan Crockatt & one of the CPC plants
reviewing their notes
Joan Crockatt was there (The former CPC MP for the riding - who lost to Hehr on October 19th, 2015). Additionally, right in front of me was a table with a few CPCers attending - mostly there to cause problems, make fun of those who didnt agree with them, and to simply be vicious. Two women at this table were being rather rude, making fun of those who spoke and didnt share their views - they were being so loud I asked them to please quiet down as I couldnt here a participant speaking to the room. One turned around and viciously told me to move closer then. To which I responded: Wow, how pleasant. She then 'Shushed me'... I moved away after that and their table continued their banter and mocking of those not of their ideology (many of them going over to Crockatt at the conclusion of the discussion on electoral reform and what looked like them comparing notes, etc).

Additionally, during a Q&A portion on Electoral Reform, two individuals decided to speak up - both White & Male. The problem? They both decided to speak on behalf of Indigenous peoples - with one even using the sentence 'Our Indigenous peoples,' etc. Although they both were probably trying to do right, they didnt seem to comprehend their lack 'checking their privilege' - especially when their were Indigenous peoples in the room and we are very capable of speaking for ourselves. What does this highlight? That Settler-Colonialism and forgetting of one's 'privilage' exists accross political ideologies, class, liberalism, marxism, etc.

Furthermore, To hear people talk about the idea of Indigenous Electoral Districts without realizing or considering the fact that 'Indigenous' is a blanket term was concerning. Indigenous Electoral Districts cannot work in Canada if it is based on 'Indigenous population.' (1 seat per 100,000 Indigenous peoples = 15 seats overall to represent the Metis Nation, 3 Inuit Nations, and over 50 First Nations - see the problem with this one?)


I made sure to highlight this and also reminded those in the room that nation-to-nation relations includes listening to us - not talking for us. I also tried my best to remind people to stop saying "Our Indigenous peoples/Canada's Natives,' etc... I and other Indigenous peoples are not owned by Canadians... (so please, for those reading this - dont use that terminology - try Indigenous nations/peoples or 'Indigenous nations/peoples that Canada shares territory with').

Despite the above points, I commend Minister Hehr, and those who work/volunteer for him and Calgary-Centre, for doing an amazing job in hosting a very engaging town hall on something as diverse and debatable as Electoral Reform. People highlighted a need for less partisanship, more accountability to constituents, as well as the fact that a good amount of people expressed a want and need for a referendum on electoral reform.

I just hope Canadians, the government, and Ministers such as Maryam Monsef, remember that when discussing Indigenous inclusion it is important to talk with us, not about us and over us amongst yourselves.... because if we are not included and properly consulted and allowed to speak for ourselves, then any solution or form of 'inclusion' will fail... and settler-colonial mentality continues to prevail.

Indigenous Peoples' Commission (Alberta) President Michelle Robinson conversing with a table on Electoral Reform
at the Calgary Centre Town Hall. 


  1. for the record there were only 3 questions about first nations. one was from a you (I think you made more of a comment than a question) and I was one of the white men. I asked about how we can learn from the wisdom of first nations communities and the way that first nations organized politically before the white man came. This question was from a white male to our white male representative(our is not to be mistaken with ownership in this context) about how we respect the sovereignty of first nations. I was not speaking on behalf of first nations what so ever. I may have used the word our when referring to first nations and I often use our when speaking about our sisters and brothers, whether at a union meeting or other places as a collective word I.E, “we are our brothers keeper”, or “our human family” or “how do we engage with our brothers and sisters south of the 49th parrellel” I was a little nervous asking the question so I am not 100 % I used the word our but if I did, I will make sure to explain I am using it from the perspective of a shared experience. It is very easy to see what you want to see. It would have been nice if you had to have mentioned that one of the white men who asked a question had also spend hours making a banner that said stop c because he believe in the principles held in UNDRIP and the principles of free, prior and informed concent, something that Justin and the liberals are not upholding with site C

    If you took issue with something in my question I would have been happy to have a conversation with you and then maybe you would not have misrepresented me in your article. It is sad to know that some people will read this article and never know that one of the white men you references actually talked about holding the liberal accountable for their lack of respecting first nations sovereignty, specifically with respect to the peace river and site c

  2. Actually Aaron, what I said was accurate. You should have explained what you meant. It is my my job to do that. That is yours. And thank you for highlighting very clearly your lack of understanding your 'privileged' place in this society. What you said was problematic. And my retort publicly was to you and the other individual. What is sad here is your lack of understanding the problems with your comments. And your lack of understanding the issues with your settler-colonial mentality - perhaps learn from this situation rather then trying to defend your actions.

    In relation to your 'hours on preparing a stop site c banner' - can you explain to me why I should have commented on it when this was a post about electoral reform. Not Site-C?

    I stand by my assessment - it is up to you as an individual to learn from it and to learn to be careful of the words you use and how it is portrayed when you say it - not mine or the other Indigenous peoples in the room.


    1. It is not my job to explain what you said*. That is yours. And again. I hope you can learn to think about the words you use and how they come off as settler-colonial and privileged before you use them.

  3. you are right about language and I do recognize that as a white person who desires to be a good allie of first nations I have to be aware that the intentions of my words are not always what is inferred. Although "our" is often a term if endearment like "our union brothers and sisters", In the context of the relationship between the colonial settler state of Canada and the first peoples of turtle Island, north or the 49th,excluding Alaska, using "our" can be problematic, even if I had to have said our neighbours from first nations, it could still be seen as a pompous and condescending.

    I have been told in the past that I should write my questions down and I will do that more in the future

    If I as a worker was at a forum where a upper middle class person who has shown solidarity with the working class and shown a desire to be a good Allie and even brought a sign about the need for independant working class politics predicated on economic justice and liberation from wage slavery, the theft of surplus value, and even mentioned it in a question where they ask "how do we go forward to respect our workers" if I were to cherry pick what classist language was used and ignore the call for independent workingclass politics and liberation from wage slavery, then I think I would be putting the personal above the political. (sorry for the shitty run on sentence)

    If the political, social, cultural, intellectual and technological aspects of society are defined and shaped by the economic reality in said society then no matter how hard we work to sanitize our society of colonial language, Which we need to work to do, as long as we do not address the systemic economic realties of capitalism and how we use it to justify land theft, specifically from first peoples within the arbitrary boarders of what we call Canada than all of our attempts to use non oppressive language and all our attempts to reform our electoral system will all be for not. Capitalism produces the cultural realities that are todays forms of sexism, racism, homopobia, classism etc, along with the opressive language that goes along with it and the economic realities of capitalism will always reproduce cultural oppression. Even if our governments institute laws that forbid certain language, cultural opression will still exist and we will only fooling ourselves(and being tokenistic) in believing that we can be liberated by following a non oprressive way of speaking

    If we want to liberate ourselves from our colonized minds, our colonized politics our colonized culture, then we need to free ourselves from economic colonization and the theft of peoples lands by capitalism, specifically first nations and first peoples lands

    I believe in self determination of peoples and nations and respecting nations and peoples soveringty weather it is me saying hands of Syria or hands of the peace river

    You had an opportunity to discuss economic sovereignty when critiquing what I said but you choose not to, instead, you choose to define me as, that guy who has a settler-colonial mindset rather that a guy who used settler-colonial language this one time I heard him while also calling for respecting sovereignty of first nations land,specifically the land of the peace river valley

    I realize I am white and that I have been conditioned with a colonialistic settler mentality, and although I may not always be a great allie and sometimes I may use colonialist language, the fact that you criticized my language while not acknowleging the concept behind the language, i.e, how can we listen and engage first nations in a respectful way that Justin says we must while justin and the liberals are violating the Dene-zaa people, to me is not in keeping with blogger integrity and it is giving a free pass to The liberals

    I want you to know I am more than someone who sometimes is not cognizant of his language.

  4. Aaron, I was appreciating you accepting some of the problems with what you said. However, you then turned around and tried to explain/justify it despite an Indigenous person (2 actually) highlighting the issue with your words.

    Additionally, you are looking at this through a lens of your specific ideology - communism, Marxism, capitalism, liberalism, feminists, etc - all have their basis in western constructs and mentality and do not necessarily all fit, nor do any of them fully fit well, with Indigeneity. Again, this discussion in my blog was on electoral reform. Not the negatives or positives of capitalism, Marxism, communism etc.

    Again, it is not my job or duty to come to you for understanding on what you said when you opted to speak up, speak out, and, whether you understand it or not, speak for Indigenous peoples. So again, I hope you can learn from this situation, choose your words more carefully in the future (trying to fit all Indig ppls into a Marxist-state, capitalist, communist, et al ideology is problematic - and settler-colonial). Some indigenous nations do have more of a relation to it because of colonization (such as the Dene). But you cannot paint with one brush stroke their experience as the same for all of us.

    You want to do good and do better? Learn from this rather then rebuttal or learn without saying 'sorry/true but....'

    And again - this post was on electoral reform, not the capitalist/class/colonial/elite/Marxist-state complexities that exist in relation to the debates on ideology.

    I've presented a critique on specifically the electoral reform debate and the problematic word-usage and settler-colonial mentality that exists throughout the political and ideological spectrum - perhaps you can assist with the deconstructing of it in your own personal ideological views and the ideological views that you choose to push... Chi-Miigwetch

  5. I am someone who worked hard to overcome conditioned prejudices and discriminatory attitudes. I believe that actions speak lauder than words and that even though liberal pladitudes, vis-a-vis a new nation to nation relationship with first peoples may give us the warm fuzzies inside, We should be cognizant of how this government uses such slight of hand tricks to continue colonialism as usual.

    Maybe we will see each other at the roundance and fundraiser in solidarity with Standing Rock.

  6. sorry about the split with the last bit. the blog would not accept such a long post so had to split it up

    I will read that critique you mentioned

  7. My above points stand Aaron. I commend you for overcoming some conditional prejudices and discriminatory attitudes - I hope you can also work on deconstructing settler-colonialism. Within yourself and in Calgary, etc.

    And remember. We as Indigenous peoples can speak for ourselves - we do have voices and power. Being an ally instead of speaking for us is what is needed.

    I also suggest remembering, all of Canada's political parties need to decolonize their thinking and views too - CPC, LPC, NDP, GPC, even the Marxist and Communist Parties - settler-colonialism has no ideological bounds and, as I said, can be found from the extreme left to the extreme right and in between.

    In relation to the fundraiser, I am no longer in Calgary but at a conference presenting a paper on the need for including Indigeniety in Canadian Political Science. And then I head to the east.

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