PHOTOS: The damage done by residential schools is part of every Canadian’s legacy and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better off we all will be. Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, B.C. Premier Christy Cark, singer Raffi Cavoukian, Opposition Leader Brian Jean and Tory MLA Sandra Jansen.


From the vantage point of the capital city of another Western Canadian province, it was hard not to feel enormous pride in Alberta Premier Rachel Notley after she apologized in the Legislature yesterday for the failure of Alberta’s past political leaders to speak up against the residential schools system, its goals and the national tragedy to which it has contributed.

It is particularly important in this context, in the words spoken by Premier Notley, that Alberta has now joined the chorus of voices calling for a national inquiry into the parallel tragedy of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Taking her lead from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the occasion Sunday of National Aboriginal Day, Premier Notley tied these two issues together, as they deserve to be connected. “This complex interplay of factors is part of the legacy of residential schools, and this must be examined alongside the lack of success that police forces experience in solving these crimes against aboriginal women.

“Today our government joins these voices,” she said. “Our hearts and a strong sense of justice and humanity compel us to speak loudly and clearly for these young beautiful women, who were mothers, daughters, sisters, who were deeply loved and are now deeply missed.

“We join the families, national aboriginal organizations, the provinces, the territories to lend our voice to the call for a national inquiry because it is the right thing to do. Together all of us in this House must openly face the root causes that place aboriginal women and girls at such high risk. Harsh realities like poverty, racism, inadequate housing, and lack of educational opportunities are amongst those realities, and until these root causes are addressed, the violence will continue.” (Emphasis added.)

Sunday was the longest day of the year, Ms. Notley noted. “I want that light to illuminate the hearts of all Albertans. I want the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women to come out of the shadows and to be viewed with compassion and understanding in the clear light of day.”

Of course members of past generations of political leaders are not the only ones who need to acknowledge these realities. Appreciating and acknowledging the magnitude of these tragedies and the enormity of acts perpetrated in all our names has been a long time coming – too long – and is still being resisted by some powerful voices in our society. Premier Notley’s powerful statement is an important step in the search for a way to right those wrongs.

If you haven’t read Ms. Notley’s remarks in Alberta’s Hansard, the record of the Legislature’s proceedings, I recommend you do so.

Here in British Columbia, Premier Christy Clark apparently failed to notice the uniquely Canadian significance of June 21 when she promoted closing a major bridge in downtown Vancouver to promote yoga – at least until she was shamed on Twitter by Raffi Cavoukian, the singer of well-loved children’s songs who also possesses a compelling social vision.

Not that there’s anything wrong with yoga, but there’s a time for everything, and Sunday obviously wasn’t the right time for Namaste om the bridge. It’s a telling commentary on the power of social media that when Raffi made the obvious link in fewer than 140 characters, Premier Clark skedaddled from the crossing – which occupies in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations First Nations – and the event.

Upon reflection, Ms. Clark would probably have preferred to have taken the example of Ms. Notley and marked the same circumstances with a more dignified and serious performance.

The West Coast fiasco, notwithstanding the large amount of publicity surrounding it, seemed less embarrassing in some ways that Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean’s decision to use his response to Ms. Notley’s remarks in the Legislature to all but campaign for his former boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Many Albertans and Canadians are far from persuaded, Mr. Jean’s advocacy notwithstanding, that the Harper Government has a particularly good record on this issue.

Call the Whip! Calgary Tory MLA Sandra Jansen supports bill banning corporate donations

Bill 1, officially called An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, passed third reading in the Legislature yesterday.

The bill’s somewhat hyperbolic title probably overstates the act’s potential impact, but just the same it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction if restoration of democracy is your goal.

Only the lonely Tories opposed the bill, having long benefitted from a system in which corporate donations kept their dynasty afloat and held their opponents under water. So it was interesting to note from afar via Twitter last evening that even the much shrunken Progressive Conservative caucus couldn’t muster unanimous support for the party’s position.

Leastways, Tweeted Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, she was “pleased to support Bill 1 banning corporate and union donations” in defiance of PC Leader Ric McIver’s position.

The former broadcaster, once known as one of premier Alison Redford’s most determined loyalists, can probably expect a cranky call from PC Whip Wayne Drysdale, MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti. In the situation the once-mighty PC caucus now finds itself, however, that may not trouble Ms. Jansen as much as it likely would have once upon a time.

Such divisions in the ranks are the least of the PCs’ problems now, of course. The are more compelling reasons – notably the lack of money and the inability thanks to Bill 1 to raise much more – that suggest the prognosis for the party’s survival is not particularly bright.

NOTE: Well, never mind calling the Whip. I learned this morning that third reading of Bill 1 passed unanimously 64-0, and five Tories, including Mr. McIver, voted in favour. This is a remarkable turnaround from what the PC leader first said about the bill, remarkable enough, indeed, to qualify officially as what is known in conservative circles as a “flipflop.” I suppose the Tories just didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history with legislation that is bound to be popular, even with people who don’t necessarily support the NDP. Voting with Ms. Jensen and Mr. McIver in favour of the bill were Manmeet Bhullar, Mike Ellis and Richard Starke. This post also appears on

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  1. yes of course, Hooray to Rachel et al for saying the right thing
    Now, how about doing something about it!
    And of course there are the hundred’s (according to CBC this morning) of children dying in the care of the Alberta gov’t; what about them? Many are aboriginal, many are Aboriginal girls.
    Speaking of aboriginal, you can’t be any more so than local flora and fauna, much of which is still under unrelenting attack by this (and other, many others) gov’t. Even the Pope gets it for chris’ sakes!

    There is a much bigger problem here than some missing dead people. Let’s enquire about that. Those deliberations will attend to all these individual problems.
    Like I said, if a peasant cleric from a third world country can enunciate the problem in 200 pages then we so-called world class citizens can surely understand it and arrive at some solutions.

  2. Absolutely shameful that Notley treats aboriginal people better than others. What about murdered and missing people of all races? Notley is one of the most racist politicians ever elected.

    1. Because of my profound commitment to free speech, I continue to be inclined to allowing comments like this by “Grant” – who is the same person as “Jack,” “John,” Brian,” “Janet” and several other first-name Albertans. They are not particularly useful, at time contemptible and only occasional entertaining. However, from this is a “marketplace of ideas” fashioned.

      1. Hi David,

        On-line anonymity is absolutely crucial in many political spheres and countries in order to keep activist and regular citizens from being arrested, tortured or maybe just losing their employment. (Sorry for captain obvious statement, has to be made every time anonymity issue gets raised)

        More obviousness, anonymity does not always equal *trolling*. This *trolling* word is often conflated or confused with on-line harassment.

        Anonymous accounts can be run with full manners, etiquette, politeness, thoughtfulness as I have seen and been many of them….. Oh oh.

        “Grant/Jack/John/Brian/Janet” are clearly the correct definition for once of *trolls*. Hint: [email protected]@( K ’em.

        Thanks for having free speech on your blog. The mindless trolls have absolutely zero effect either on my personal point of view of of your excellent web site.

    1. Idiocy is Grant’s principal problem. I continue to tolerate him and his multiple personalities, I suppose, because he represents a real constituency in Alberta political discourse. My guess is his pronouncements will grow more violent and unrelated to the facts until I am forced, as I was once before, to ban his commentary for a spell.

  3. In regards to the corporate donation ban legislation passing unanimously, what’s forgotten in your piece was that, according to the Globe and Mail, “PC Leader Ric McIver said an amendment, proposed by the Wildrose and passed by the house, to block a loophole allowing unions and corporations to make loan payments to political parties, made the bill more palatable.” Context is important in the whole discussion, even though I agree with you that the PCs flip-flopped on this.

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