Good news Thursday: Canada pays $800 million in reparations to victims of cultural genocide

Marcia Brown Martel began eight years ago a lawsuit claiming damages against the Canadian government for an operation that would come to be known as the “60s scoop.” The Indigenous communities, destabilized by the lasting effects of ghettoization and the cultural genocide program we call the residential schools, were frequent clients of Child & Family Services. Unlike today, placement practices for children removed from their parents’ care had little regard for reunification as a possible goal. Indigenous children were effectively trafficked out of their communities and placed in white, Catholic homes, far away from home. Some were even sold to the United States and various countries in Europe.

Now the Canadian government has announced that it will not only consolidate the various lawsuits filed against it, but will settle for all of them, earmarking $800 million for the remaining survivors.

TORONTO — The federal government has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors of the ’60s Scoop for the harm suffered by Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities by being placed with non-native families, The Canadian Press has learned.

The national settlement with an estimated 20,000 victims, to be announced Friday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, is aimed at resolving numerous related lawsuits, most notable among them a successful class action in Ontario.

Confidential details of the agreement include a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant, to a maximum of $750 million, sources said.

In addition, sources familiar with the deal said the government would set aside a further $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, a key demand of the representative plaintiff in Ontario, Marcia Brown Martel.

Spokespeople for both Bennett and the plaintiffs would only confirm an announcement was pending Friday, but refused to elaborate.

“The (parties) have agreed to work towards a comprehensive resolution and discussions are in progress,” Bennett’s office said in a statement on Thursday. “As the negotiations are ongoing and confidential, we cannot provide further information at this time.”

The sources said the government has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees — estimated at about $75 million — separately, meaning the full amount of the settlement will go to the victims and the healing centre, to be established in the coming months, sources said.

Read more about the settlement here.


Good news Friday: Alberta finally socializes abortion access

Alberta Health Services recently announced that coverage of Mifegymiso, a 1st trimester abortifacient, will be provided as part of its provincial medicine.

The decision from Rachel Notley’s NDP government makes Alberta the second province in Canada to say that it will offer universal access to Mifegymiso, a two-drug medical abortion kit that received an important endorsement from an expert committee on Thursday.

“The Alberta government strongly supports women’s reproductive health options,” Tim Kulak, a spokesman for Alberta Health, said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail. “In light of the [Common Drug Review] Canadian Drug Expert Committee’s positive listing recommendation, Alberta will be taking steps to make this drug available free of charge to all women in Alberta who may need it.”

Related: Canada considering global fund to counter Trump abortion directive

The province does not yet have a firm date for when public funding will take effect.

Other provincial governments canvassed by The Globe said they need more time to consider public funding for the medication, which became available in Canada in January, usually at a price of $300.

Right now, women have to pay that cost out-of-pocket unless they have a private health insurer that covers the drug.

Some provinces, including Manitoba and Ontario, said they would wait for the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), which negotiates confidential deals on behalf of the provincial, territorial and federal public drug plans, to reach an agreement with Celopharma Inc., Mifegymiso’s Canadian distributor.

“This [pCPA] process will occur before we make a decision whether to add Mifegymiso to our provincial drug formulary,” a spokeswoman for the government of Manitoba said by e-mail.

Every province except New Brunswick – which earlier this month promised public funding for the abortion pill – has been saying for months that it would not move to cover Mifegymiso until the Common Drug Review, which advises the public drug plans on whether to cover new medications, weighed in.

The CDR’s expert committee released its final report on Thursday.

As first reported in The Globe, the document endorses public reimbursement for Mifegymiso because of its safe and effective record, and its cost competitiveness with surgical abortions.

“We’re delighted. [The report] really is good news,” said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers in Canada and the United States. “Now I think we really will see [Mifegymiso] expanding to the more rural areas and it can finally live up to its promise of increasing women’s access to very safe, effective abortion care.”

The only down side to good news is that there’s not much to add. Hurray!


Good News Monday: Harm reduction advances in Alberta

Content Notice: Opioid addiciton.

Alberta, as with many places in the United States, is in the midst of an opioid crisis, with a particular cocktail called fentanyl (10x more powerful than heroin, 100x more powerful than morphine) and it’s sadistic cousin carfentanyl (like fentanyl but somehow even worse) making the rounds, especially among vulnerable populations. It’s been clear to the evidence-based policy crowd that the best way to intercept the casualties in this crisis is to treat the issue as one of public health rather than of public crime, building relationships between addicts and health services instead of making them afraid to seek out help. Decriminalization of possession is a vital step. Officially, possession is still on the books in most municipalities as well as the Criminal Code of Canada, and we are in the precarious position of asking police to exercise discretion when dealing with addicts.

However, Alberta is taking a few steps towards harm reduction, a series of policies designed to simply keep addicts alive long enough for them to access help. Edmonton announced several safe injection sites integrated in existing emergency housing and hospital services.

The supervised-injection locations would offer individuals a list of resources:

  • Sterile injection supplies
  • Education on safer injection, overdose prevention and intervention
  • Medical and counselling services
  • Referrals to drug treatment, housing, income support and other services
  • Attention to medical needs that require an immediate response.

The services would also be intended to be an entry point for users to receive further social supports, primary health care and treatment.

Each location would be staffed with a nurse, social worker/addiction worker and peer support worker.

While the police chief has the right attitude…

“I think the big issue is the unmet care issues – the people that are mentally ill that are homeless that are addicted and they need help,” Knecht added. “I think if we can get them to a place where they have a safe warm bed at night, some meals, proper medication – they will become productive members of the community.”

…His officers might not.

I’m glad Alberta’s health and social services are stepping up, but we ought to be decriminalizing possession, too. Still, this is an important step to reducing the fatalities, and for once our provincial government isn’t cutting the essential services to try and give a helping hand here.


Good news Monday: Victim’s advocates debunk transphobic bathroom bills

The Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Woman has several hundred signatures from various women’s advocacy groups pointing out some of the obvious fallacies present in transphobic bathroom bills such as North Carolina’s HB2:

Nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people have existed for a long time. Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. In some cases, these protections have been in place for decades. These laws have protected people from discrimination without creating harm. None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state. We operate and advocate for rape crisis centers and shelters all over the country, including in cities and states with non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Those protections have not weakened public safety or criminal laws, nor have they compromised their enforcement.

Discriminating against transgender people does not give anyone more control over their body or security. Those who perpetuate falsehoods about transgender people and nondiscrimination laws are putting transgender people in harm’s way and making no one safer. We cannot stand by while the needs of survivors, both those who are transgender and those who are not, are obscured in order to push a political agenda that does nothing to serve and protect victims and potential victims.  We will only accomplish our goal of ending sexual violence by treating all people, including those who are transgender, with fairness and respect.

The letter is from April 2016 but I missed it amid my early blaggage. Still, I appreciate knowing that actual experts in victim’s advocacy agreed with my observations that these bills are solutions in search of a problem.


Good news Thursday: French Fascist Marine Le Pen is broke

Candy-coated fascist Marine Le Pen seems to have found her party without purse-strings: The Russian bank financing the Front National campaign went under.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen is struggling to raise the 20 million euros ($21 million) she needs to fund French presidential and legislative campaigns in 2017 after the party’s Russian lender failed, the party treasurer said.

The Central Bank of Russia revoked the license of the National Front’s Moscow-based lender First Czech Russian Bank OOO in July and the party has still to find another backer, according to treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just. Saint Just said he’s seeking international financiers in countries including Russia because French banks have refused to fund his party.

I just want to repeat this, without comment:

Saint Just said he’s seeking international financiers in countries including Russia because French banks have refused to fund his party.

Eat shit, fascists.


Good news Tuesday: Alberta to boost affordable housing programs by $18M

Mostly for the sake of my admittedly precarious sanity, I’m starting a Good News ____day series in which I will share positive news (or find positive news, if I have to).

Today’s issue of Good News blankday: Albertan government to expand affordable housing program by $18 million in partnership with the federal government.

Sigurdson made the funding announcement Wednesday morning at Bridgeland Place.

Owned by the City of Calgary and operated by the Calgary Housing Company, Bridgeland Place will receive $648,000 for suite renovations, replacing shut-off valves, a roof inspection and sidewalk replacement.

Similar projects will take place in more than 120 buildings in Calgary for seniors, community and special needs housing, owned or operated by 29 social housing providers.

Sigurdson noted that Alberta is one of only three provinces without an affordable housing strategy.

Coun. Brian Pincott, who is also chair of the Calgary Housing Company, said the repair costs are higher than they should be, as funding from governments hasn’t kept up.

He welcomes the injection of funds.

“For the first time, at the provincial, municipal and federal levels, we have government partners who are understanding that this isn’t really about bricks and mortars and how we build buildings, this is actually how do we support people,” he said.

The funding was made available through the 2016 – 2018 Social Infrastructure Fund, a two-year federal and provincial agreement to help Albertans in need of affordable housing.

Hopefully our provincial government will plug the gap in our senior/disability housing plans. Still, this is a much needed start!