APTN InFocus with Cheryl McKenzie:In October leaders, Elders, members and supporters of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) rallied at the Federal Court in Vancouver.Today, they’re waiting for the court’s response on a judicial review.They want federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s decision to allow expansion of the Alberta tar sands, quashed.In addition to ACFN’s argument that their section 35 Constitutional rights were violated in the process, they also have results of an environmental health study on their side.The study links contaminants from the tar sands to incidence of illness in their community.Video courtesy: One River News (onerivernews.ca)
APTN InFocus It’s been over a year since the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls began its mandate.But it hasn’t come without much criticism and controversy.In this episode of InFocus, we talk about some of those issues such as how many staff have left or been let go, the lack of after-care for families testifying and the anticipation to a request for an extension.Our panel include Hilda Anderson-Pryz, she is a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Liaison in northern Manitoba, APTN reporter Kathleen Martens and women’s advocate Lorelei Williams.We also talk about our hope for the Inquiry to serve families affected by losing a loved one to this national tragedy.Subscribe to the APTN InFocus podcast below:
Senator Lillian Dyck has co-authored a soon to be released study that she says has found disproportionate sentencing for offenders in female homicide cases. File photo.Justin BrakeAPTN NewsAn Indigenous Senator who is trying to change how perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women are sentenced in Canada says a soon to be released report shows that courts are more lenient to people who kill Indigenous women and girls than to those whose victims are not Indigenous.Cree Senator Lillian Dyck shared some of the report’s findings with APTN News.The co-authored paper analyzed data from around 800 cases involving violence against women between 1980 and 2013.The cases were selected because they reveal the ethnicity of both the victim and the perpetrator, Dyck explained in a phone interview.Among the researchers’ starkest findings is a disparity between the punishments for those who kill Indigenous women and those who kill non-Indigenous women.“Even though with murder there is very little wiggle room [with convictions], we did find that if you looked at the type of convictions by the victim’s race, when it was an Indigenous victim most often it was second-degree murder or manslaughter. If it was a non-Indigenous victim it was more likely first or second-degree murder,” Dyck said.First degree murder convictions are more likely to be given to those who killed a non-Indigenous woman–33 per cent–compared to perpetrators who killed an Indigenous woman, at 20 per cent.For second degree murder convictions, the rates were 39 per cent in cases where the victim was Indigenous, versus 46 per cent when the victim was not Indigenous.In contrast, the researchers found 39 per cent of manslaughter convictions in cases where the victim was Indigenous, versus 21 per cent when the victim was non-Indigenous.“That shows there’s something going on. It doesn’t prove there’s a racial bias, but it’s an indication that you should look into it further.”Dyck and her collaborators also found that in some homicide cases Indigenous male perpetrators “got a much higher sentence” in cases where the victim was not Indigenous, compared to cases where the victim was Indigenous, Dyck explained, adding the number of such cases was “not very high” but enough to warrant further investigation into the matter.The researchers found that non-Indigenous offenders received roughly “the same number of years before parole” regardless of their victims’ race.“But it was very different for the Aboriginal perpetrators if it was a non-Indigenous victim. He has to wait many more years before he got parole,” Dyck said.The Senator said in most homicide cases involving non-Indigenous female victims, the perpetrator was an intimate partner.But in cases where the victim was Indigenous, “usually it’s an acquaintance.”According to the study, 32 per cent of perpetrators or accused offenders were not known to Indigenous victims, while 12 per cent were unknown to non-Indigenous victims.“Contrary to the widespread belief that Indigenous women are only killed by persons known to them, this data shows the significant role of persons not known to Indigenous victims,” the report reads.The research also substantiated claims by former federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and former RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson in 2015 that upward of 70 per cent of female Indigenous homicide victims were killed by Indigenous men.Valcourt came under fire from First Nations leaders after he told Alberta chiefs of the unpublished RCMP statistic during a meeting in Calgary.Paulson later confirmed Valcourt’s assertion.But Dyck said those claims haven’t been corroborated with evidence until now.People rally on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada in October 2018, seeking justice for Cindy Gladue. Justin Brake/APTN“Before colonization women were not seen the way they are now — there was respect for women,” she said.“And that respect has been eroded through centuries of colonization, through the residential schools, and so on.”By contrast in the authors’ findings, only two per cent of those accused in homicide cases involving non-Indigenous women were themselves Indigenous.“This data disputes stereotypical beliefs that non-Indigenous women should be most fearful of Indigenous men,” Dyck and her co-authors write in the study.Dyck said 92 per cent of the offenders in the study were male.The authors say the findings reveal a “racialized dimension” to the homicide of women.They say Indigenous women are targeted by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous killers, while non-Indigenous women are targeted “almost exclusively by non-Indigenous perpetrators.”Bill S-215 pushes for legal reformDyck’s partial release of her research results coincided with the second reading of her Senate Bill S-215 in the House of Commons Monday.The proposed legislative change would require courts, in cases of violent offences, to consider the fact that a victim is an Indigenous woman as an aggravating factor when sentencing offenders.Effectively, those accused of crimes like sexual assault, aggravated assault, manslaughter or murder could face stiffer sentences for harming or killing an Indigenous woman than if the woman was not Indigenous.At the very least, the Senator hopes, judges will be compelled to address the vulnerability and disproportionate targeting of Indigenous women in their decisions and sentencing.Having already passed three readings in the Senate, the bill was sponsored on Monday by Indigenous Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre Robert Falcon-Ouellette, who said S-215 will “rebalance the scales of justice.”He said the cases of Indigenous women and youth like Tina Fontaine, Cindy Gladue and Helen Betty Osborne are proof that “the combination of being Aboriginal female and living in a colonial society has devalued and dehumanized our women, and they are seen as inherently less worthy than other women.”Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette sponsored Bill S-215 Monday in the House of Commons, saying if passed it would “rebalance the scales of justice” for female Indigenous victims of violent crimes.He referenced the Canadian justice system’s “so-called subtle discrimination against Aboriginal women and girls” and said Dyck’s proposed legislative changes would “increase the likelihood that the consequences of assaulting or murdering an Aboriginal woman or girl are appropriate and meaningful.”Dene NDP MP Georgina Jolibois also supported the bill, admitting it’s “not a catch-all solution for the problems Indigenous women face in the justice system,” but that it’s “an opportunity for us to examine and question the belief systems judges, lawyers, police officers and court workers have and calls on them to see indigenous women from a new perspective.”But the bill isn’t receiving support from some MPs in the Liberal and Conservative caucuses.Conservative MP Michael Cooper questioned the bill’s constitutionality and suggested it might contradict the Gladue principle in sentencing.He asked if S-215 would violate Section 15 of the Charter, which guarantees all Canadians equal protection and benefit under the law without discrimination.“What the bill would do with respect to the Criminal Code is quite novel from the standpoint of aggravating circumstances,” he said, “because it would create a special class of victim, namely indigenous women.”Cooper said race, gender and vulnerability can already be considered aggravating factors in sentencing.He said under Dyck’s proposed legislative changes “it would not even matter if the offender knew that the victim was an Indigenous woman.”Cooper was joined by colleague and Conservative Crown-Indigenous Relations Critic Cathy McLeod, and Liberal MP Randy Boissonneault, in his concerns about the bill’s potential contradiction of the Gladue principle, which compels judges to consider all reasonable alternatives to jail when sentencing Indigenous offenders.“There would certainly be some litigation and some degree of uncertainty around sentencing,” Cooper said, in situations where a judge may be compelled to consider a victim’s Indigeneity as an aggravating factor while also considering alternative sentencing for Indigenous offenders.If S-215 were passed into law, “a judge could be under contradictory obligations both to lengthen the sentence for an Indigenous offender’s criminal conduct against an Indigenous woman and, at the same time, to consider alternatives to incarceration and reduce the sentence because the offender themselves has an Indigenous background,” Boissonneault said.Jolibois said Monday under Bill S-215 “the practitioners of violence would still get the punishment the law calls for, even with the aggravating circumstances the bill would put in place.”She said the Supreme Court has ruled that for serious offences, there may not be any reduction in imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders.Dyck said the Gladue provisions as they currently exist have “created a situation of unfairness” for Indigenous women “whereby [they’re] worth less than the man.”“Really what you’re saying to Aboriginal offenders is that you’re going to get special provisions and that maybe your crime of sexually assaulting someone—maybe even your spouse—is not that serious because of the circumstances of your life — which I understand. But those same exact factors are what made the Indigenous women vulnerable to that.“Indigenous women are seen as the lowest. In terms of racial hierarchy, we’re on the bottom.”Dyck said she is open to amendments of the bill and had previously considered making it applicable to all women, “with special consideration given to First Nations, Inuit and Metis women.”But there’s an urgent need for the reform, she adds.“The longer we wait the more Indigenous women and girls go through the court system and don’t get a fair deal — 30 to 40 a year, 450 I think in the last three years,” she said.“We could be making a difference for them rather than sitting and waiting. It’s certainly frustrating seeing it happen, to know the families are wanting this.”With endorsements from the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, it remains to be seen if the bill will garner enough support in the House of Commons.But Falcon-Ouellette suggested Monday that if Conservative and NDP members “decided to support the bill, I suspect there might be enough members on this side of the House, whether the government supports it or not, to move it forward.”Dyck said “it’s hard to know” if her bill would deter offenders.She said if the bill is passed and a judge decides to hand down a harsher sentence to an offender who has killed an Indigenous woman, the impact could be that people’s views “gradually start to change.”“It’s not going to be instant; it’s going to take time.”[email protected]@JustinBrakeNews
FacebookTwitterPrintEmailAddThis ShareCONTACT: Franz BrotzenPHONE: 713-348-6775E-MAIL: [email protected] Study: US biofuels policies flawedRice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy paper cites economic, environmental and logistical shortcomingsThe United States needs to fundamentally rethink its policy of promoting ethanol to diversify its energy sources and increase energy security, according to a new policy paper by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.The paper, “Fundamentals of a Sustainable U.S. Biofuels Policy,” questions the economic, environmental and logistical basis for the billions of dollars in federal subsidies and protectionist tariffs that go to domestic ethanol producers every year. “We need to set realistic targets for ethanol in the United States instead of just throwing taxpayer money out the window,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, one of the report’s authors.Jaffe is a fellow in energy studies at the Baker Institute and associate director of the Rice Energy Program. As an example of the unintended economic consequences of U.S. biofuels policy, the report notes that in 2008 “the U.S. government spent $4 billion in biofuels subsidies to replace roughly 2 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. The average cost to the taxpayer of those ‘substituted’ barrels of gasoline was roughly $82 a barrel, or $1.95 per gallon on top of the retail gasoline price (i.e., what consumers pay at the pump).” The report questions whether mandated volumes for biofuels can be met and whether biofuels are improving the environment or energy security.The report, which includes analysis by environmental scientists, highlights the environmental threats posed by current biofuels policy. “Increases in corn-based ethanol production in the Midwest could cause an increase in detrimental regional environmental impacts,” the study states, “including exacerbating damage to ecosystems and fisheries along the Mississippi River and in the Gulf of Mexico and creating water shortages in some areas experiencing significant increases in fuel crop irrigation.” Moreover, the report challenges claims that ethanol use lowers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and argues, “There is no scientific consensus on the climate-friendly nature of U.S.-produced corn-based ethanol, and it should not be credited with reducing GHGs when compared to the burning of traditional gasoline.”In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that mandated production targets for “renewable fuels,” mainly biodiesel and ethanol. The bill mandated ambitious production targets of 9 billion gallons of biofuels a year in 2008 and rising to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022. Corn ethanol is capped at 15 billion gallons a year in the law, but even that level will be difficult to reach given logistical and commercial barriers, according to the study. The Baker Institute report finds, however, that the use of flex-fuel vehicles is not likely to be extensive enough to overcome the barriers to achieving the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates for U.S. ethanol market saturation. The EISA also called for 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, produced from sources like switchgrass, corn stover and algae, to be used in the nation’s fuel supply by 2022. But the report determines “existing mandated targets for advanced biofuels are not currently achievable — scientifically or commercially — and should be revisited.”As a result, the report’s authors wrote, “we encourage Congress to revisit these mandates and revise them to be in line with realizable targets and time frames to create an improved policy that will reduce uncertainty for refiners and allow a more orderly implementation of achievable goals and mandates by the EPA.”Finally, the report questions the tariff imposed on ethanol imported from Latin America and the Caribbean. Because sustainable production of U.S. domestic corn-based ethanol faces limitations, the report finds “tariff policies that block cheaper imports are probably misguided.” As a result, the report states that, “we believe on balance that the economic and geopolitical benefits to this trade with select regional suppliers would outweigh any ‘energy security’ costs to having some larger percentage of U.S. ethanol supplies arriving from foreign sources.”In addition to Jaffe, the report’s authors include Pedro J. Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; James Coan, Baker Institute Energy Forum research associate; Marcelo E. Dias de Oliveira, consultant to the Baker Institute; Rosa Dominguez-Faus, graduate student researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Diego E. Gomez, graduate student researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Kenneth Medlock, the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics at the Baker Institute; Ronald Soligo, Baker Institute Scholar and professor of economics; Lauren Smulcer, Baker Institute Energy Forum research associate; Joel G. Burken, professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology; and Susan E. Powers, professor of environmental engineering and associate dean of the Coulter School of Engineering at Clarkson University.The study was supported by a research grant in environmental engineering from Chevron Technology Ventures.To read the complete study, go to http://www.bakerinstitute.org/programs/energy-forum/publications/energy-studies/the-fundamentals-of-a-sustainable-u.s.-biofuels-policy. To interview Jaffe, Coan, Medlock or Alvarez, contact Franz Brotzen at [email protected] or 713-348-6775.