Statement Archive



Dear Marit,
First, as members of the NDP, we want to welcome you as a breath of fresh air after a decade of ONDP leaders who treated the membership as an afterthought and election fodder. The inroads made by Doug Ford into our base in last June’s election resulting in a disastrous loss of seats were a wakeup call. The Party needs to reinvent itself boldly as you promise to do. It needs to shed its incremental and risk-averse inclinations that fall flat with those who need us the most but who we can’t even inspire to trek to the polls. With that in mind, we ask you to advance a programmatic profile that will be as committed to workers and their allies as DougFord is to the developers and his capitalist backers.

A public telecom, already established in Saskatchewan and other provinces, should be at or near the top of our agenda. It could provide low cost access to underserved and overpriced regions of the Province where Indigenous and other communities suffer poor service. Private telecoms in Ontario now feast on some of the highest profits in the world while generating widespread anger with service disruptions (think of the recent Rogers fiasco). This issue intersects with affordability, especially for students and youth, Indigenous rights, universal access to high-quality critical digital
networks essential to social life and employment, competent service and reliability.

We need a climate justice vision in the traditions of the Leap Manifesto and Green New Deal while resisting encroachments on the Greenbelt, the poisoning of our waterways (Grassy Narrows) and other specific environmental threats. An Ontario NDP government should proudly proclaim the creation of a program of public manufacturing of electrical vehicles to service all governmental transportation needs without private profiteering feeding at the public trough. Any Green Transition Plan must guarantee that not a single worker will be terminated on the road to a green economy.

Ford’s popularity with suburban motor vehicle owners and others compelled to use private cars because of inadequate public transport can be countered by campaigning for a public auto insurance plan. Already part of our program and wildly popular in Manitoba and other provinces where it has been implemented, such a plan will lessen the unequal financial burden on workers forced to drive and will undermine Ford’s carefully nurtured suburban and rural voting base.

Your call for democratizing the ONDP resonates with us. Central to any initiative in this regard must be ensuring the democratic prioritization of convention policy resolutions from ridings.These are now routinely buried at the bottom of resolution lists by persons whose thinking is not aligned with delegates’ actual preferences nor the number of a resolution’s endorsers. The Resolutions Committee is a graveyard for resolutions the Party bureaucracy wants to suppress. Wherever possible, new Party policies between conventions should be made in consultation with the membership after meaningful debate.This was not done when a Party official last summer declared ONDP support for a definition of antisemitism which equated it with valid criticisms of the Israeli state. Such policy statements made on the fly violate membership involvement. This practice should cease and we
can start by having the much-needed discussion on the Party’s acceptance of this definition at our next convention.

Once again, we admire your willingness to assume the reins of ONDP leader and commitment to openness and boldness in moving the Party forward during turbulent times. Ultimately, the current crises of capitalism require placing the needs of workers and their natural allies above those of the one percent. While resisting the onslaught on workers’ past economic gains by planned stagflation, we need to project a society where one’s ability to fulfil one’s basic needs should not be determined by an accident of birth. Public need trumps private profit. We need to be part of the renewed energy of youth, women and equity-seeking groups that increasingly yearn for a different society embodying collective interests and equality as its defining parameters. In sum, we need to inspire the public with the vision of a socialist democracy.

We hope you will share with us your views on our proposals and allow a
discussion to take place on the points raised here before your formal election.

We await your response to begin a discourse.

Courage Coalition statement in support of India’s farmers

On the International Day of Labour, Courage Coalition stands in solidarity with farmers in India, who have been protesting three new agricultural laws since they were formally passed in September 2020. These new laws will effectively dismantle the guaranteed prices farmers receive through the government’s purchase of staple crops. Crucially, it will open up the farming sector to exploitation by large corporations. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have braved police violence, state repression and a global pandemic to protest these laws, demanding that these reforms be rescinded.

These laws also mean that India’s food security is threatened, as the new laws will favour commodity production for trade rather than food production for the people. This spells a looming crisis for millions of daily wage labourers, farm workers and other poor and marginalized groups who rely on the price protections offered by the state. The neoliberalization of agriculture is intimately connected to food security, health justice, job security, and the well-being of millions of people in India.

As organizers, workers and unions in Canada, we recognize the fight of India’s farmers as an issue of global importance. While our situations may be different, our fights and demands for justice have much in common. We recognize the farmers’ movement as a workers’ movement against neoliberalism and corporate greed. We stand with the farmers in their demands to repeal these laws, to protect their livelihoods, and in their democratic right to protest.

This statement is published in collaboration with CERAS (Centre d’Étude et Ressources d’Asie Sud/Center for Study and Research in South Asia) and India Civil Watch-Montreal. Contact:

Half a sun above three stripes colors black, red and green

Courage Montreal statement on justice in Palestine

Initiated by Courage Montreal and allies

Justice in Palestine matters to the entire world and to our communities. Courage Coalition’s Montreal chapter asserts our support for the passing of the NDP motion that recognizes the injustice of the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestine and oppression of the Palestinian people. It is significant that this motion also speaks to the importance of taking action, calling for an end to trade with illegal settlements and calling for the Canadian government to institute an arms embargo on the Israeli state. Canada must not allow the continued export of military equipment and technology to be used by the Israeli state to enforce oppression against the Palestinian people who already suffer under a violent, brutal and illegal military occupation.

Justice means justice and Courage Montreal and our local allies express our support for this resolution. It is of critical importance that this resolution is being acted upon by NDP leadership, and vocalized by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. 

The local organizing work we have done throughout the pandemic – expressing support for frontline workers and building connections with local community groups and organizations – is rooted in how the pandemic has clearly illustrated the interconnected nature of our society and world. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. It is within this context that we must stand with the Palestinian people and pull apart the economic and political infrastructures within the Canadian corporate and political scene that normalize and propell injustice against the Palestinian people. 

Today it is essential to stand with Palestine, today we stand with the Palestinian people. Also in the context of the recent resolution at the NDP convention, we feel it is important to express our support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as an organizing tool that can build support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Just as global solidarity helped free South Africa from Apartheid, so too can it help Palestinians attain liberty. Free Palestine.

Free Palestine.

Initiated and supported by Courage Montréal:

  • Stefan Christoff, Courage Montréal 
  • Laura Dunn, Courage Montréal
  • Cayley Sorochan, Courage Montréal
  • Christian Favreau, Courage Montréal
  • Darin Barney, Courage Montréal
  • Victor Tardif, Courage Montréal

A statement with community support from: 

  • Norma Rantisi, Academics for Palestine-Concordia
  • Bianca Mugyenyi, Director, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
  • Yves Engler, Author
  • Jessie Stein, Musician and PhD student, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Kevin Gould, Academics for Palestine-Concordia
  • Pierre-Alexandre Rochette, PhD, Courage Montréal

#VoteWithCourage — Priority Resolutions for the 2021 NDP Convention

Electronic voting opens shortly on priority order of resolutions for convention. This is the first time in the NDP’s history that delegates will get to democratically vote on the order of resolutions, a change won by Courage members and allies in 2018. Delegates will have the choice to rank 10 resolutions per category. This is important change allows members to decide which resolutions will get discussed and voted on, and which will unfortunately have to wait for another convention. 

Convention delegates will be able to vote online for 24 hours on Wednesday, April 7th, from 12:01am to 11:59pm ET. 

Below is a suggested ranking of resolutions per category. We have prioritized resolutions based on their impact and urgency, and based on feedback from allies and frontline communities. 

We encourage delegates to prioritize resolutions in this order so that the NDP can offer the most bold and compelling vision of the world we not only want but need. 

Suggested resolution priority by category

Section 1 – Innovating and Prospering in a New Energy Economy

  1. 01-04 Creations of a publicly-owned telecom
  2. 01-01 Abolish billionaires
  3. 01-02 Re-establish Connaught Labs as a crown corporation for domestic pharmaceutical production
  4. 01-63 Raise the minimum wage
  5. 01-31 Repeal the Red Tape Reduction Act

Section 2 – Building a Clean and Sustainable Canada

  1. 02-01 Free transit for all
  2. 02-25 Build out a national public transit network
  3. 02-31 Stop carbon intensive energy projects
  4. 02-29 For rapid conversion to renewable, green energy, no new pipelines
  5. 02-14 Working towards energy independence

Section 3 – Investing in a Canada where No One is Left Behind

  1. 03-70 Directive on free tuition, debt, and youth consultation
  2. 03-30 Decriminalization of sex work
  3. 03-18 Providing income support for election candidates
  4. 03-46 People first #COVIDzero
  5. 03-56 Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty
  6. 03-47 Access to reproductive health measures
  7. 03-21 Reproductive rights

Section 4 – Redefining Canada’s Place in the World

  1. 04-10 Justice and peace in Israel-Palestine
  2. 04-11 Opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism
  3. 04-17 Protection for children of undocumented immigrants living in Canada
  4. 04-21 Immigration status
  5. 04-33 Hands off Venezuela

Section 5 – Governing in an Inclusive and Fair Canada

  1. 05-19 Acknowledging pre-confederate, numbered treaties and self-government agreements
  2. 05-36 Supporting 1492 Land Back Lane
  3. 05-11 Land Back
  4. 05-01 Adoption and implementation of calls for justice from the Final Report of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  5. 05-13 Need for high-speed internet in rural, remote and Indigenous communities
  6. 05-15 Acknowledging pre-confederate agreements with Indigenous Peoples

Section 6 – Strengthening Human Rights and the Canadian Identity

  1. 06-16 Defund the RCMP
  2. 06-04 Clean water in Indigenous communities
  3. 06-34 Gender affirming healthcare
  4. 06-07 Conversion therapies
  5. 06-33 Rights of non-binary people and women
  6. 06-17 Record suspension program returning to the term ‘Pardons’ section 3.9

Section 7 – Constitutional Amendments and Internal Party Affairs

  1. 07-33 EDA autonomy
  2. 07-19 EDA engagement
  3. 07-05 Renaming of Aboriginal Commission
  4. 07-02 Seats for Indigenous representatives on EDAs
  5. 07-26 Democratizing the election platform
  6. 07-12 Put socialism back into the federal NDP constitution


Courage will be active and digitally present at convention, offering a space for progressive delegates to connect and collaborate. If you would like to join other delegates fighting for transformative change, please sign up to join our NDP Convention Organizing List

Building Solidarity: A Conversation with Jeremy Corbyn & Niki Ashton

A Message of Support and Solidarity for Progressive International’s Discussion of International Solidarity Featuring Niki Ashton and Jeremy Corbyn

As Canada’s labour party, the NDP has a duty to act in solidarity with the social justice struggles of working people, the racialized and those who suffer from injustice because of disAbility or sexual orientation or gender. The March 20, 2021 online event, “Building Solidarity”, features a conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and British Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn. The event is being held as a fundraiser in support of Progressive International, a global network of progressive thinkers and politicians of which Ashton is a Canadian member. The organization, co-founded by Sanders Institute, includes on its Council Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Yanis Varoufakis, Cornel West, and others. Member groups include many social movements including, for example, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, Solidarity Party of Afghanistan and Chile’s Convergencia Social, and Code Pink. Such international collaboration provides a welcome and necessary opportunity for organizations of the left to work together.

The Ashton-Corbyn dialogue is meant to unite efforts against neoliberalism and capitalist oppression. It is also a welcome echo of the 2019 meeting during which NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh spoke in the same spirit of solidarity with then British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

It is gratifying to those who struggle for social justice that a prominent representative of the NDP should join hands with a proven progressive and anti-militarist from the UK Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn’s list of commendations includes: the fight against South African apartheid (in opposition to the British Conservative Party), opposition to Tony Blair’s support of George Bush’s imperialist assault against Iraq, and support for minority rights in his work as a Parliamentarian.

This inspiring meeting has been attacked by the conservative establishment in the media and apologists for Israel’s settler-colonialism who repeat false slurs against the reputation of brother Corbyn. One can find a very apt repudiation of the witchhunt against him and the tendentious nature of the report of anti-Semitism against him in this article by Jacobin Magazine.

What is much more disturbing, however, is the Broadbent Institute’s Rick Smith’s public tweet repeating the same calumny against Jeremy Corbyn. Mr. Smith is thus content to act as a mouthpiece for a vicious anti-justice right wing, but also, by implication of his ties to the NDP, positioning the NDP on the wrong side of social justice. It is up to the NDP to repudiate the criticism which is based on a relentless smear campaign carried out by an unprincipled combination of the Blairite wing of the BLP, the capitalist press, the racist Conservative Party, and well-funded right wing pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian organizations.

Corbyn has shown himself over many years to be a fighter against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. Corbyn’s record is one of solidarity with victims of racism and classism. He has fought against neo-Nazis, against Holocaust deniers, and attacks against the Jewish community over his entire career. And still, within the BLP, the pro-Israel lobby has succeeded in sabotaging Corbyn’s leadership and producing a report replete with inaccuracies and innuendo to condemn him as compromising with anti-Semitism. He and his fellow socialists in the BLP have paid the price for being principled anti-imperialists. It should be noted that many of those whose memberships have been suspended are Jewish socialists, supporters of the Palestinian cause.

The attack by the right wing CIJA, a conservative Canadian lobby group for the Israeli government, purports to represent Jewish opinion in Canada. In fact, there are more than 40 Jewish groups in Canada and the UK who support Corbyn as an anti-racist and a friend of the Jewish people as well as of the oppressed Palestinian people. Independent Jewish Voices in Canada has expressed its solidarity with the Progressive International event and dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn.

We, of Courage Coalition enthusiastically support the Progressive International dialogue between Niki Ashton and Jeremy Corbyn. We call upon NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to support this international effort of solidarity and to refuse to  be bullied into accepting scurrilous attacks against Niki Ashton. The vision of the NDP must be to resist the forces of hate, inequality, militarism, and imperialism and to help build a just future by allying with the victims of injustice. 

In Solidarity,


Missed Deadlines and the NDP’s Policy Resolution Process

After many missed deadlines, unexplained delays, and false starts, it is time to address the New Democratic Party’s Convention failings

Members at the 2018 Convention in Ottawa passed a clear resolution to Modernize and Democratize the Convention Resolution Process (7-45-18). It directed the Federal Council to “conduct research into methods of modernizing and democratizing the resolution prioritization process.” The resolution required the party to “disseminate a proposal at least 10 months prior to the next convention… directly to members” and “within four months of that convention, the National Director [must] operationalize an online mechanism for presentation, discussion and prioritization of policy resolutions.” 

It is unacceptable to see that none of the resolution’s deadlines or milestones were met, despite postponing the Convention for a full calendar year.

Today, it is less than a month before the party’s 2021 Policy Convention. While we are aware work is in progress, it is unacceptable to see that none of the resolution’s deadlines or milestones were met, despite postponing the Convention for a full calendar year. Members to this day still have no understanding on how they will participate in their own party’s convention. Do not let them tell you it cannot be done because delegates to the Liberal Party convention have been prioritizing and debating their resolutions since February 19th and have already published the results.

Digitalization of Convention may simply look like the natural result of COVID-19, but a more democratic policy process has been a demand fought for by countless riding associations and allied organizations (Courage included). This resolution was meant to be a long overdue step to end the closed-door system of unknown prioritization committees and Convention re-prioritization panels at inaccessible times. In the 21st century, we can move beyond this inaccessible system and encourage participation of NDP members across the country to set the policy priorities of their party.

We are dismayed that the NDP has failed to meet the deadlines set by this resolution. It is unacceptable that the NDP continues to leave its membership in the dark about how they will participate in this crucial democratic process. We must be vocal to ensure that the NDP adheres to the will of its membership by implementing a democratic prioritization system immediately.

In solidarity,

Courage Coalition 

Join other delegates fighting for transformative change at convention

Courage will be active and digitally present at convention, offering a space for progressive delegates to connect and collaborate. If you would like to join other delegates fighting for transformative change, please sign up to join our NDP Convention Organizing List

#UsToo: Uprooting assault, harassment and the culture of silence in the NDP

Recently a young member of the NDP came forward with the story of her rape. Her predator? A former Saskatchewan NDP provincial candidate and party vice-president.

What happened in Saskatchewan

In her account, she details the years of sexual harassment that she endured, beginning prior to the 2015 federal election, shortly after her assailant was nominated. She talks about the suggestive text messages that she received, asking her—a teenager—for nude photographs, which then led to her assault this past August. It is an intimate and heartbreaking look at how her pain went undetected (or, perhaps, unacknowledged) by the party she’s cared so deeply for and the people, primarily men, in positions of power in the Saskatchewan NDP.­

Unfortunately, it is also because people are sometimes afraid of hurting the Party, or the reprisals they will suffer if they do

It’s important to recognize that a network of young activists were aware of this particular survivor’s harassment, and they are aware of the harassment that other, specifically young, members of the NDP have been subjected to. But out of fear of the reaction of their colleagues and higher-ups, they don’t come forward. This is certainly not because they don’t want to, but rather because they don’t feel that their experiences (or the experiences of others) will be believed until someone is brave enough to blow a whistle and the story hits the media circuit and blows up.

Unfortunately, it is also because people are sometimes afraid of hurting the Party, or the reprisals they will suffer if they do. Within political parties, the message most often given to victims of abuse is gaslighting, telling them to swallow it, or at the very most deal with it internally. Anything taken up in public or through the judiciary system amounts to the thing that political operatives avoid at all costs: bad press for the Party.

The Party

From a multitude of cases known by Courage members alone, abuse and violence is often covered up by people who value protecting the Party and its politicians more than justice for less “important” Party operatives. We feel confident extrapolating from these repeated stories that this problem is endemic, that the NDP has a role to play in ending the hierarchal structure that perpetrates rape culture and enables abuse, and that this statement’s function as a “call out” is valid.

Sexual assault and harassment do not exist in a vacuum. When the status of people in powerful positions as candidates, Members of Parliament, elected Party officials, or management-level political operatives are valued more than the voices of volunteers, riding association members, and lower level political staff, we create a political culture that perpetuates fear and fosters silence. The reward for silence in the political world is a clean reputation, career advancement, or the opportunity to maybe, hopefully, seek out an electoral nomination in the future.

Next to the culture of silence, a sexist and racist political culture ensures that there are very few female and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) candidates to begin with. When people do decide to put their names on ballots they are often subject to egregious scrutiny, misogyny and racism. Which is to say, if you are a woman, queer, trans or BIPOC and you want to be a politician, you are more afraid of political reprisal than white straight men are. Also, there will often be a powerful male in the Party machine who is taking credit for your rise, and who is congratulating himself for “carving out” space for you.

We do not agree that the Party can say that it has adopted a feminist, human rights, or labour rights based approach…

It is important to note that this culture is not specific to the NDP. We know it to be replicated among all Parties and other intensely hierarchical structures that value loyalty. However, it is also important to state that the NDP is a party of professed feminists, labour rights advocates, and human rights defenders. Notwithstanding accusations of hypocrisy, the Party has done almost nothing to entrench systems and processes in respect to these principles within its own structures. In short, while we agree that these may be the “politics” of the Party, we do not agree that the Party can say that it has adopted a feminist, human rights, or labour rights based approach until it develops systemic ways to protect against violence, violations and abuse. This is part of the reason Courage foregrounds and values a return to grassroots democracy, and transformative power shifting within the NDP.


This is an important moment. Women, trans, and nonbinary folks have been peppering social media with the hashtag #MeToo, sharing personal stories of assault and harassment en masse. While this recent movement is in response to the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, it is crucial that we address toxic masculinity where we experience it. We are declaring #UsToo (referring to our members who know this abuse from within the Party) and actively pursuing solutions that will eliminate sexual violence from our collective experiences as non-men and members of the NDP.

Of course, men also suffer harassment, abuse, and the negative impacts of cisheteropatriarchy. (Although it is important to note that femininity and the feminine are oppressed by patriarchy while the masculinity and the masculine are privileged.) We are aware of many stories where mens’ labour rights are being abused, or they are suffering harassment from their bosses within the Party and those abuses are also covered up. However, Courage believes that the intersections of misogyny, racism and transphobia compound to make politics less safe for women, trans and nonbinary people than for cis men, and less safe for BIPOC than for white people. To deny that this is a gendered problem is to deny the problem altogether.

Unrealistic expectations

Space must be made by Party officials for non-men and BIPOC to express ourselves and speak to the sexual violence, harassment, and abuse that we encounter as members of our political movement. Our accounts must be believed and swift action taken to mitigate future threats of violence within the political sphere. “Everyday” sexism, misogyny, and racism must be treated seriously and training to detect and deal with that oppression must be routinely mandated at every level of operations, especially among managers and politicians.

Meetings, retreats, and conventions are not safe places for those of us who experience threats, violence and harassment

Anti-harassment policies are only effective so long as they are acted upon; however, we must go even further and dismantle the patriarchal systems, such as the “old boys club”, that promote misogyny and sexism, and sustain problematic patterns of harassment. Simply put: meetings, retreats, and conventions are not safe places for those of us who experience threats, violence and harassment to engage in freely without consequence. Older men monopolize convention and council microphones, and use condescending terms like “sister” to bully women into submission and discourage dissent. Those who do speak up at conventions are reprimanded, either by not being voted into executive positions, having slates brought together to make sure they cannot be elected, or having other riding executives told to try and get them back into “the Party line”. Caucus meetings happen concurrently, forcing folks who identify with more than one equity-seeking group to choose which is “more important” for them to attend.

Parliaments, legislatures, political offices and campaigns are also tremendously unsafe and unregulated spaces. Parliament is not subject to the labour code of Canada and no harassment policy exists to protect staffers from sexual abuse. The only reprisal offered is court, which is very public, particularly when a politician (perhaps a beloved one) is the perpetrator. When cases are brought to court, politicians can use “parliamentary privilege” to defend themselves from charges of labour violations. Interns have no protections at all. Campaigns are notorious for running on the inhumanely long hours demanded from campaign staff. The emotional, frenetic and panicked nature of campaign spaces often overshadows the needs of staff and volunteers all in the name of the “greater good”.

As women, trans and nonbinary people, we are constantly aware of our surroundings, and actively avoid the men our whisper networks tell us are dangerous. Some of us, usually staff, are recruited to play interference in protecting known predators from public reprisal. Within these halls of power, we are routinely “tested” on our ability to be “one of the boys” and to act aggressively in a conflict-driven profession. Our complaints are routinely devalued within a workplace that demands absurd displays of masculine strength in the “fight” against opposing Parties. This must change.

Taking responsibility

Our toxic political culture is experienced, but too often goes unnamed.

The onus is not on us—labourers, volunteers, and interns—to control our environments. Responsibility lies at the feet of the NDP to ensure that the places in which our work is done are safe, are free of violence, and are friendly to young women, older women, trans, nonbinary folks, and parents. To imply that we need to dress a certain way to be respected, or that we must conduct ourselves inauthentically in political spaces to be treated with dignity is to blame and shame the victim. To sweep reported and rumoured instances of sexual violence under the rug is to allow predators to escape unscathed, reputation intact, and deflate the validity of our experiences.

It comes as no surprise to those Courage members with years of experience within the NDP, that a woman was raped on the Saskatchewan NDP’s watch. Our toxic political culture is experienced, but too often goes unnamed. If rank-and-file New Democrats fail to believe that the problem even exists, then they haven’t been listening.

It’s the job of the Party, and every person who holds power, no matter where they stand on the organizational “ladder”, to recognize and validate us and fix the problem. Otherwise the NDP risks losing a variety of talented, diverse activists to movements that will allow us to speak up. Additionally, they will be exposed.

As society itself becomes more comfortable with public exposures of rape culture, violence and other violations, that were until recently unheard of, it will be only a matter of time before the NDP finds itself the focus of historical and current-day scandals and cover-ups.

Courage wishes to take this moment to invite all NDPers who have suffered abuse, and who agree with our Basis of Unity to join our movement, and we wish to say three simple but meaningful words to all NDPers who have experienced abuse: we believe you.

Singh’s victory is historic, but this is no time for wait-and-see

Jagmeet’s Singh’s decisive victory in the New Democratic Party leadership race is unquestionably an historic event. Never before has a major federal political party in this country been led by a person of colour. Furthermore, Singh won by mobilizing thousands of people who before, might never have seen themselves as taking part in the NDP.

If members cannot democratize the party and empower the grassroots, the presence of thousands of new members will be meaningless.

If the party can build on that resonance, and embody the aspirations of those tens of thousands, it could be powerfully revitalized as a political force in this country. However, the “if” is a big one. Singh’s victory is also a victory for the party establishment’s status quo, which is dead-set on running a deeply centralized and anti-democratic party. The bellwethers here are Brad Lavigne, who recently cashed in his relationships with BC politicians to become a lobbyist, and James Pratt, who was charged with removing mildly pro-Palestinian candidates in 2015 through intimidation tactics.

Singh’s appeal can win the NDP a few new seats, but if members cannot democratize the party and empower the grassroots, the presence of thousands of new members will be meaningless.

Promises worth remembering

Jagmeet Singh campaigned on several encouraging promises, many of which he was pushed to make thanks to the work of social movements and activists from all campaigns. These policies were popular amongst an NDP membership hungry for democratic socialist policies, and we should hold Singh to these promises, which include:

As we know, because something is promised in a winning leadership campaign doesn’t mean that the party will use its considerable media platform and election campaigning to actually promote those policies.

It will be a vigilant and organized membership that will ensure that the boldest proposals actually become the core of the NDP’s identity.

Quite the opposite. Jack Layton, for example, won a similar first-ballot victory in his leadership contest while agreeing with the spirit of the New Politics Initiative (and with the backing of some of the NPI’s key proponents), which called for deep democratic reforms to the party. Instead, once Layton took the reigns, the party became even more centralized, undemocratic and disconnected from its membership, leading to current and ongoing crisis of member involvement.

It will be a vigilant and organized membership – not a wait-and-see attitude or a deference to the leadership – that will ensure that Singh’s boldest proposals actually become the core of the NDP’s identity.

The necessity of a transformative agenda

There are many key issues where Singh’s campaign has been less visionary and more vague.

The NDP must make up for these gaps. Transitioning  to a post-carbon economy, decommodifying housing, and enacting redistributive policies that tackle income inequality — these tasks cannot be left to the whims of party leadership.

The NDP must be a serious voice in pushing for the needs of our political, economic and ecological moment:

The bad news

And then there are issues where Singh must be held accountable. These include:

  • A total lack of a plan for party democracy (unlike Ashton, Angus, and Courage)
  • The presence of individuals who presided over the party’s drift to the right and worse
  • His silence about Tara Hart’s account of her assault by Wab Kinew, and Kinew’s denials (Update: Singh now says he believes Tara Hart, but has not said if that changed his position with in relation to Kinew.)
  • His alignment with the retrograde views of the NDP’s foreign policy critic
  • His proposal to scrap Old Age Security (OAS) in favour of a means-tested benefit understandably raised serious controversy within a party committed to universal social programs. Any proposed changes to pension benefits will require more thought and discussion among party members to ensure both broad coverage and sufficient financial support.
  • Opposition to privatization does not appear once in Singh’s campaign materials. Stopping the Liberals’ billions in infrastructure bank giveaways ought to be a priority, and the NDP should campaign to reverse the privatization of the last few decades.
From the beginning, it was clear that no single leadership candidate was going to do everything that needed to be done.

With that said, it is important that criticism of Singh, when required, be rooted in verifiable facts and his policies. We should aspire to not only abstain from invoking racist ideas, but actively challenge any dog-whistle rhetoric around religion, culture or skin colour. The leadership campaign showed us that there is a lot of learning to be done among NDP supporters around how to be effectively anti-racist. We all have a role to play in making left-wing and NDP organizing a welcoming space for everyone.

Organizing: the way forward

From the beginning, it was clear that no single leadership candidate was going to do everything that needed to be done. Nor could they; the establishment would be too powerful to overcome without the help of an organized force promoting an alternative agenda.

The reason we started Courage was because we knew that we – NDP members; the left at large – had to do it ourselves. We plan to.

No matter who you supported for leader, if you want to help build the power of social movements and an activist, grassroots, democratic, and solidly left and progressive party, then join us! 

To find out more about becoming a Courage member, click here!

The NDP leadership race

Our analysis

In July of this year, Courage members voted in an internal referendum to determine how best to intervene in the upcoming federal NDP leadership election. Options on the ballot were: 

1. Endorsement: recommendation of a particular candidate

2. Scorecard: a ranking of each candidate against Courage’s Basis of Unity

3. Analysis: a neutral examination of the candidates against Courage’s Basis of Unity

The results of the vote were close, but the majority of the membership did favour Option 3: Analysis. It is in recognition of that decision that we present our analysis of the NDP leadership race, measured primarily against Courage’s ‘Basis of Unity’, as well as on a broader leftist perspective. Our Basis of Unity comprises the core values that Courage’s members agree upon and support, and includes such demands as; democratic control over our economy; a society which includes and empowers all people, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion or class; environmental sustainability; international solidarity with oppressed people everywhere, including the Palestinian people and all migrants and refugees; decolonization and self-determination for Indigenous peoples everywhere; and inclusive and asymmetrical federalism. We offer our survey of the four leadership campaigns as interpreted through this unique lens. This analysis will not however address issues of personality such as popular appeal and charisma, as it is our feeling that these aspects have been given adequate coverage in other sources. It is important to note that our survey is not exhaustive—it leaves out policies for all of the candidates—and as it is the work of a collective it will not align perfectly with the views of any one member.

A note on foreign policy: at the time of writing none of the campaign platforms contained significant foreign policy, nor has there been a debate dedicated to the subject; a glaring oversight on the part of the candidates and also the party. An area where there is some distinction between the candidates is on the subject of Israel and Palestine. As the plight of the oppressed is of special interest to Courage, and as pro-Palestinian candidates have been known to be “turfed” by the NDP, a decision was made to limit our foreign policy analysis to where the candidates stand on this issue. We feel it necessary to point out that criticism of the State of Israel does in no way equal anti-semitism, and that Courage stands strongly against racism in all its forms.

Charlie Angus

Charlie Angus is the veteran in the NDP leadership contest, elected as an Ontario MP in 2004. Being the second to declare (after Peter Julian, who has since dropped out) and thought to be the initial frontrunner, the Angus campaign has presented its candidate as a champion for the typical Canadian, the worker: Charlie “has your back.” Angus does have a solid history organizing for social justice—particularly in championing Indigenous issues—that backs up this claim.

On the environment, Angus would like to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel industries, and legislate a “hard-cap” on emissions over a five-year period, but has not taken a particularly hard stance against pipelines, with the Hill-Times identifying him as the “most pipeline friendly candidate” in the race. This conclusion, however, is contradicted by his passionate advocacy for Indigenous peoples, his commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to not oppose Indigenous rights in court. Angus also aims to promote Indigenous child welfare, work to hand over programs to Indigenous communities and improve access to housing and education.

Angus’ platform offers no specific gender-based or LGBTQ+ policy, and while thin on migrant rights, he does promise to fund EAL programming, employment assistance and other services. On Palestine, he has criticized Israel on the issue of settlements, supports the labelling of goods originating in the occupied territories, and opposed parliamentary condemnation of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, though it should be noted he does not support boycotts or sanctions against Israel.

Apart from not presenting a taxation plan, Angus has advanced strong economic proposals, pledging to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, introduce anti-scab legislation, and—of particular interest to Courage—to create a program which would make it easier for urban neighbourhoods to set up democratically controlled cooperative enterprises. Among other progressive housing initiatives (a $1.1 billion low income housing benefit, $2 billion to social housing) he also pledges to expand cooperative housing, promoting democratic control of local resources and community land trusts. We view cooperatives as a key element in the transition to a democratically controlled economy; any program that encourages their development is something that we support. [*]

While Angus has made a return of the party to its grassroots base a central promise of his campaign—commendably promising to hire regional organizers for example—some in the party have alluded to a troubling tendency toward autocratic rule during his time as caucus chair. This potentially represents a weakness in what one could reasonably expect to be Angus’ strongest area—intra-party relationships and support. Additionally, given Courage’s stance on improving internal democracy within the NDP, any notion of a ‘top-down’ leadership style is cause for concern.

Niki Ashton

On the issue of strengthening the internal democracy of the NDP, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton has pledged to make the NDP a ‘bottom-up’ organization in which left-wing grassroots organizations and activists have a greater say in policy and direction of the party. The candidate in the NDP leadership race to most vocally identify as a democratic socialist, Ashton’s campaign messaging and rhetoric has for the most part supported that label.

Ashton supports public ownership and democratization of the economy through the nationalization of key sectors—though she has not been thoroughly specific on her plans to do so. Likening herself to Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, Ashton has also promised free post-secondary education, offered positive gender-based policy such as a well-funded national action plan on gender-based violence, and plans to take “decisive action” on employment discrimination against gendered, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ+ persons. It should be noted here that some have found Ashton lacking in her allyship; during and after the Victoria debate, the issue of Ashton’s blatant cherry-picking of quotes to misrepresent candidate Jagmeet Singh’s stance on LGBTQ+ changes to Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum was the subject of critique from both party members and the media.

Ashton’s tax reform plan is ambitiously redistributive, seeking to close loopholes and ensure corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Canadians pay a commensurate rate by limiting capital gains tax exemptions and increasing wealth and estate taxes. She also proposes the creation of a Postal Bank, and an end to corporate giveaways and trade deals which benefit executives and corporations over workers here and across the world—though again without a great deal of specificity. Through aggressive taxation and a plan to end corporate subsidies, Ashton proposes a robust climate justice plan, including green job guarantees, retraining for oil sector workers, a national retrofit strategy, phasing out the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040, and the creation of a new crown corporation to lead a green energy transition.

On support of oppressed peoples, Ashton has been vocal on Indigenous rights in Canada—particularly around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), increasing funding for Indigenous education, and issues of access in the North—and has taken a bold position on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. While Ashton has not officially endorsed BDS, she does support it, and we acknowledge her strong defence of the Palestinian people. She also maintains a clear pro-migrant rights and pro-refugee position, and opposes military expansionism.

Guy Caron

The role of economic steward has been assumed by Québec MP Guy Caron in this campaign, who has made his Basic Income Guarantee the signature component of his platform. A guaranteed basic income as implemented by a Caron-led government would be a supplement provided by the state, serving as a top-up to help low-income Canadians reach the so-called ‘low-income cut-off’ (LICO) line. Guaranteed basic income is regarded with mixed opinions on the left: there are some who see it as ameliorative; a good first step toward alleviating some of the cruelest effects of income and wealth inequality. Others view it as possible ammunition for conservatives to point to as justification for cutting—or even eliminating entirely—the broader social support offered by the state. It should be noted that Caron has gone on record stating that his approach is definitively ameliorative, however more clarity is needed with regard to how his Basic Income Guarantee would interact with other social programs such as daycare or tuition-relief. Further to the economy, Caron also promises an ambitious taxation plan which aims in part to net $2 billion from a new inheritance tax and $12 billion from a new wealth tax.

Caron has pushed electoral reform to the top of his campaign’s agenda, promising that the first piece of legislation in a Caron government would be to institute Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) as Canada’s new electoral system. While we applaud this, it should be noted that MMPR has been promoted by all of the candidates as the system with which they would replace Canada’s current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system, and that doing so is already official NDP policy.

Often overshadowed by his Basic Income Guarantee, Caron’s environmental plan is significant. He opposes the Kinder Morgan, Energy East and Keystone XL pipeline projects, and like the other candidates, he plans to end fossil fuel subsidies. Caron also wants 50% of vehicles on the road by 2041 to be electric, and would create a Secretariat to coordinate this electrification strategy by incentivizing electric vehicle purchases. Additionally, Caron promises that a government under his leadership would invest in green infrastructure projects, immediately begin accepting climate change migrants, and would align the National Energy Board with the Paris Agreement and UNDRIP. Further to UNDRIP, Caron pledges to implement it as law in Canada, as well as adopting and implementing all the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). He also plans to reset and modify the National Inquiry into MMIW and seek a new nation-to-nation dialogue with Indigenous peoples around revenue sharing from resource extraction, which are all positive efforts. Caron’s stance on Palestine earns mixed reviews from the left, in that while he voted against a Parliamentary motion to condemn BDS, he remains unsure that it is a constructive method of intervention. Lastly, the Caron platform has offered no specific LGBTQ+ or gender-based policy.

In August, the Caron campaign released a Québec policy platform that pledged to respect the Québec legislature’s “authority” to pass laws on secularism, citing an alleged emerging consensus from both the left and right in that province on legislation that would impose limits on religious clothing, such as niqabs and burkas (candidate Niki Ashton also initially agreed with this approach before later changing position, calling restrictions on clothing “a line in the sand”). It is worth noting here that a theory held by many in the pundit class that Thomas Mulcair’s position against the niqab ban ultimately cost the NDP Québec in the 2015 federal election. We must be clear: Courage absolutely condemns the process of “othering” in any case, and doing so in a misguided attempt to gain political favour in a particular province or region is no exception to this condemnation.

Jagmeet Singh

A frontrunner in the campaign even before he declared, Singh has been called the candidate to beat—that observation seemingly borne out by his being the frequent locus of the most heated leadership debates. Initially, the national press’ interest in Singh tended to be based more on style than substance, presenting him as an NDP answer to the Liberal’s Trudeau. That thought was of little comfort to many on the Canadian left, some of whom were already concerned that Singh would skew towards centrism in a bid to power. This concern momentarily appeared warranted early in the campaign when Singh refused to rule out support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, though he did eventually release a climate change plan that opposes both the Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects, and more recently has also come out against Keystone XL. Singh’s climate change plan includes a Green Building Compact, the phasing out of coal, a new tax on high emission vehicles, fossil fuel worker retraining and a commitment to UNDRIP. It should be mentioned here that other than his commitment to UNDRIP, there was a notable lack of any other Indigenous policy in the Singh platform until after online voting began [*], and Courage would also like to see a clearer policy on immigration/citizenship from his campaign.

The strongest policies in Singh’s platform are in the area of justice, as one might expect from a former criminal justice lawyer. For example, his Racial Justice Agenda calls for a federal ban on racial profiling and street checks (‘carding’), the uprooting of systemic discrimination within the criminal justice system, and an examination of the collection of race-based data—all actions that Courage agrees are long overdue. Singh’s Criminal Justice Reform Agenda is equally ambitious, with key plans being the full decriminalization of all drugs and the decriminalization of sex work. The Singh platform contains a number of positive LGBTQ+ initiatives such as repealing the blood ban and requiring LGBTQ+ training for the CBSA and RCMP, and has recently added a gender-based violence policy [*].

It has been mentioned that as the campaign has progressed, Singh has moved leftward in his policy decisions, recently promising free post-secondary education being one notable and welcome example. As well, his pledges to increase the capital gains tax from 50% to 75%, to impose an estate tax of 40% on assets over $4 million dollars, and to introduce higher tax brackets on incomes of $350K and $500K are welcome efforts at redistribution. On the issue of Palestine, Singh spoke out against a motion in the Ontario Legislature to condemn BDS, citing it as an attack on free speech and criticism of government. He also supports a labelling regime on goods imported from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Finally, it is no secret that Courage in its earlier incarnation—Renewal—was a key player in the grassroots-led ouster of Tom Mulcair as leader of the NDP at the 2016 party convention in Edmonton, and tentative embrace of the Leap Manifesto. That move pitted us against the will of the NDP establishment. With that and our commitment to restoring internal democracy in mind, the presence of party establishment figures (e.g., Brad Lavigne, James Pratt) among Jagmeet Singh’s supporters remains an area of concern to us.

Racial discrimination in the leadership campaign

Before closing, it is profoundly important that we highlight the racism Jagmeet Singh has been forced to endure during this campaign, both from outside the party—such as the infamous racist verbal assault at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ontario—but also from within. We must be clear that Courage will not tolerate racism in any form, be it in the form of race-baiting campaign tactics, or in letting racism, xenophobia or Islamophobia slide in an ill-advised desire to appeal to “the Québec vote.” We also reject the notion that racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia are problems that are somehow unique to Québec—these despicable traits are present in all corners of Canada and must be fought and educated against with urgency. We must be loudly and actively anti-racist.

Toward a better world

Widening global economic inequality, civil war, famine, cataclysmic weather events, hideous demonstrations of fascist politics, mass killing in Yemen, the Philippines, Myanmar—each day reinforces that we as a species face critical, structural crises. In response to these, we are given two options; we can devour one another in a desperate scramble to hoard what resources remain, or we can revolutionize our systems of social organization and interaction to create a world wherein wellbeing and prosperity are truly shared among all.

If there was ever an appetite for unabashed leftism the world over—and a truly leftist NDP in Canada—this is it.

[ * After this document was finalized for review by our membership on September 18, several campaigns have released new policy that could alter elements of our analysis. Due to time constraints, we were not able to analyze the further information, but areas that we highlighted include the Charlie Angus campaign with a new Justice policy, and the Jagmeet Singh campaign with a new Indigenous policy as well as a new Gender-Based Violence policy and encourage readers to link to these additions ]

Indigenous Land Rights

Toward real nation-to-nation relationships

Canada’s government has used words like “nation-to-nation relationship” and “reconciliation” with regard to Indigenous nations. However, the government has continued the same colonial policies as its predecessors, albeit with a change in rhetoric. Recently, Canada’s policies have earned it condemnation from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

A true nation-to-nation relationship requires Canada to completely rethink its approach to how decisions are made about land, and who controls it. Though much of the country is governed by treaties, and much more land is unceded, Indigenous nations control a mere 0.2% of Canada’s land mass. We arrived at this result through violence and treachery. Treaties were broken, or were never intended to be honored. Lands were stolen through violence displacement of entire populations. All this was legitimized by the ridiculous story that Canada was an “empty land” – a Terra Nullius – when it was “discovered”.

A true nation-to-nation relationship requires Canada to completely rethink its approach to how decisions are made about land, and who controls it.

Even as reconciliation has become one of the government’s top buzzwords, terra nullius remains to this day the core of its policy toward Indigenous land and who makes decisions about it. As the late Arthur Manuel put it, “the land issue must be addressed before reconciliation can begin.”

Respecting Indigenous sovereignty would benefit all people in Canada. It’s our best chance for committed long-term environmental stewardship of the vast lands within Canada’s borders, and the best way to ensure that long-term economic development respects ecological limits while protecting and expanding the value of interconnected watersheds, human systems, and plant and animal life.

Making fundamental changes to Canada’s approach to Indigenous land rights – as outlined below – would bring government policy in line with these stated values, and the treaties and alliances to which the country owes its existence.

Many non-Indigenous people in Canada are only now beginning to understand the violence of Canada’s colonial policies, as residential schools, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Sixties Scoop, the Millenial Scoop, and other injustices become more widely understood. As parts of our history become more widely known, we run the risk of becoming satisfied with only a partial understanding of what happened.

Colonialism was always about land

These injustices were not the result of mistakes or outdated thinking. Instead, these and other violent actions by the Canadian state, corporate interests and settlers themselves were part of a coordinated assault on the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land.

In many European cultures where settlers come from, centuries of unspeakable violence were required to separate people from land… a legacy embedded in settler values.

In many Indigenous nations, culture, way of life, and identity are inseparable from the land. One cannot exist without the other. It’s actually remarkable to have a large population separated from its relationship with the land. In many European cultures where settlers come from, centuries of unspeakable violence were required to separate people from land. From enclosures to witch burnings, many European-descended people living in Canada are still living with the legacy of that violence, which is embedded in settler values.

The belief that land is a commodity to be owned and exploited is deeply embedded in the culture and language of Canada’s settler population. By actively attacking Indigenous nations’ relationship to the land, settler governments and corporations have attempted to destroy the basis of culture, identity, and governances for entire peoples. Stopping these attacks, unlearning the values that drive them, and understanding the violence that created those values is part of settler Canada’s path to decolonization.

Colonialism at its core is about erasing Indigenous nations’ sovereignty over their lands.

Canada doesn’t follow its own rules

Canada’s corporations continue to acquire billions in profits from colonial policies. From Hudson’s Bay Company to Inco, from Barrick Gold to Syncrude, colonial violence has been directly and indirectly sanctioned by the Government of Canada to weaken and divide Indigenous peoples so that corporations can generate profits from land without concern for the well-being of the people who live on it.

In both Treaty and Unceded territories, when Indigenous people stand up for their rights, they are forced to fight in court, in many cases spending millions on legal fees (while the Canadian government hires battalions of lawyers with taxpayer dollars to fight them), as appeals drag on for ten years or more. (If a court challenge is lost, First Nations sometimes must pay the legal fees of their opponents). These costs divert resources from social services in the essential fight to make the Canadian government respect its own laws.

For decades, the federal government has used structural violence as a bargaining chip.

When communities take action to prevent the government from breaking its own laws, the result is often overt violence from the police or even the army.

Every Indigenous community experiences some form of structural violence, whether it be chronic underfunding of education (children on reserves receive 30% less funding on average), denial of access to healthcare, racist policing, or lack of access to food and housing. They’re also subject to tight control by the bureaucrats at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, who can use their authority to simply take away the nation’s ability to govern itself.

Indigenous nations face impossible choices

For decades, the federal government has used these forms of structural violence as a bargaining chip. When it comes to land rights, the approach of both Conservative and Liberal governments has been to force Indigenous nations to “terminate” their claims forever.

Indigenous leaders are often faced with a horrific choice: give up their (and their future generations’) rights as a nation in exchange for funding that could help their communities escape the effects of the federal government’s violent policies. The federal government controls the rules of the game, ignores the law at will, and plays to win.

Sovereignty over land is the fundamental issue. As long as Indigenous nations are relegated to what Arthur Manuel called the “0.2% economy,” their people will remain in a state of dependence. “I found out very early,” Manuel wrote, “how futile it is to tinker with programs and services within the 0.2 per cent land base.” Land rights and true nation-to-nation relationships that reject terra nullius and the doctrine of discovery are how we break that cycle.

First steps toward real nation-to-nation relationships

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has an extensive list of recommendations (published 2015) for how to begin to reverse the damage done to Indigenous people and nations. However, it doesn’t discuss land rights in any depth. And yet, who governs and has access to land is both at the heart of why colonization happens, and is the way we will reverse it.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (passed by the General Assembly in 2007), which Canada nominally adopted in 2016, speaks directly to land rights. The UNDRIP is a very important international framework for protecting the lands, lives and cultures of Indigenous nations. However, the broad framework has been watered down by 25 years of negotiations, and does not provide any Canada-specific vision or recommendations.

Despite initially claiming to uphold UNDRIP unconditionally, Trudeau’s Liberals have, since they took power, placed conditions on its implementation. These conditions amount to an attempt to “domesticate” Indigenous people by subordinating their rights to the government’s laws and policies.

For a look at what Canada would like like if it truly respected the spirit and letter of its own laws, a robust source and foundational starting point is the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, convened by the federal government in the aftermath of what is known in colonial Canada as the Oka Crisis. It published its extensive recommendations in 1996.

Decolonizing: some first steps

While some policies were acted on (the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was originally an RCAP recommendation), many of the transformative demands have gathered dust. These include:

  • Abandon terra nullius and the doctrine of discovery. The legal concept that the Canadian government’s orientation to the territory within its borders is still based on is the offensive, dehumanizing and inaccurate claim that when Europeans “discovered” Canada, that it was an “empty land”. (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also demanded this in #46 and #49 of its “calls to action”.)
  • Take responsibility for all colonial policies of the past and present. Recognizing the damage of residential schools was an important first step, but the full range of colonial policies, including significant parts of the Indian Act and the current land claims regime are ongoing.
  • Replace the Indian Act with legislation that makes inherent and treaty rights of Indigenous nations the law of the land. Nations would not have to fight endless decade-long legal battle to assert their rights if the government respected them. The Indian Act protects inherent and treaty rights in limited ways, but is also the main instrument of colonial oppression. New legislation created with extensive consultation and the free, prior, and informed consent of First Nations, Métis and Inuit would expand recognition of inherent and treaty rights while dismantling colonial control.
  • Move from toothless “consultations” to shared governance. On treaty lands, Indigenous nations should be integrated into decision-making about land use and equipped with veto powers, not treated as a group that can be nominally “consulted” and ignored thereafter.
  • Establish, strengthen and expand Indigenous self-government. Through funding for training and other resources, the Federal government should help create the capacity to devolve social, cultural, economic, housing, health, and educational services to Indigenous governments. The commissioners make a convincing case that these investments would pay for themselves. Control of a vastly expanded land base would make self government effective in the long term.
  • An immediate freeze on extraction projects that don’t have the consent of the title or treaty holders. We shouldn’t wait for any of these major policy changes to implement free, prior and informed consent using existing powers.

Implementing all of the above is not a complete answer to Canada’s legacy of colonialism or a complete reversal of its current colonial policies. It would, we believe, represent a step towards a true nation-to-nation relationship between settlers and Indigenous nations.

Art by Dustin George

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Courage invites Indigenous people and groups to share their responses to this statement (email us at, which will appear below.

Kaella-Marie Earle:

In addition, many non-Indigenous people do not understand the inherent identity crisis involved in land theft of Indigenous people. Anishnaabe amoung many other Indigenous nations have very culturally significant views on land. All beliefs are wholistic in connection with nature.

Indigenous people do not believe land can be owned and made private. The land and waters are very sacred and part of a circle of life in which people are also a part. Shkagamik kwe (Mother Earth), is the mother of all life. However Shkagamik kwe is treated is how the people are treated; however Shkagamik kwe is sick is how the people will become sick.

Indigenous people have a deep understanding that humans are made of the earth. Anishnaabe people know they are made of the earth and will go back to her when they die.

This belief leads Indigenous people to hold the land in the highest regard. The land is where the Creator can be found, where every bountiful thing is given, and where healing can be had. Every single life lesson and method of learning and teaching youth is land-based. Every plant and animal has a story, and each story has either cultural or wholistic scientific significance. Every word in many Indigenous languages has land-based significance. The Anishnaabe word for medicine, “mshkiki”, has the word “ki” in it twice. This is the word for “earth”. The word “biimadziwin”, meaning “life”, has the word “bi” in it, meaning water. “Biinojiinh” (baby) also has the word for water in it. The connection to the land in plentiful ways provides Indigenous people with cultural and personal identity.

Traditional Indigenous governance also takes root in the land and removal of land further contributes to violent colonialism. Every governmental role is related to the role and responsibilities of different animals.

Different animals in nature teach Indigenous people different things about their identity and life role, and provide a structure of family and community. The loon communicates with both land and water animals so is often the leader role. The bear is strong and patient so takes on the role of protecting and policing the people. The eagle flies the highest and so provides wisdom and insight. The clan animals as identity markers (last names) also act as supporters of biodiversity within Indigenous populations. No one marries within their clan. All within the clan are considered family and welcomed as such when travellers go through communities.

Taking the land and treating it as a reductionist commodity to be raped and sold is extremely offensive to the Indigenous people, resulting in violent genocide of Indigenous culture and identity.