Wet’suwet’en: Why are Indigenous rights being defined by an energy corporation?

Written by Shiri Pasternak, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Wedzin kwa River, an important source of fresh water for the Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en people near Houston, B.C.

An unsigned agreement between a Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Coastal GasLink along with financial documents, obtained by Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led research centre, provide reinforcement to Yellowhead’s assessment of the ways these private contracts can dramatically undermine First Nation rights and jurisdiction.

The Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) and other documents were drafted in 2016, two years before the first payments were made to the First Nation. Because official agreements are not available to the public due to confidentiality clauses, these documents provide a valuable record of Coastal GasLink’s negotiating objectives.

In light of present RCMP raids, these documents offer important insights that support an emerging analysis around how resource extraction companies work with provinces to limit the scope of the Aboriginal and treaty rights.

One of the most alarming clauses in the document is one that positions the band as paid informers to quell internal dissent within the First Nation against the project at the cost of “financial consideration” or payouts.

The document also introduces the possibility of future negotiations with the band on the pipeline’s conversion to crude oil.

Operating on unceded lands

The pipeline, a natural gas project by Coastal GasLink owned by TC Energy, has been approved by the B.C. government, but it is being opposed by Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary leadership in the region.

It has been criticized by Amnesty International, B.C.‘s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who say all First Nations affected by the pipeline should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline took part in a rally in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10, 2020. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Provincial and federal governments, industry and the First Nations LNG Alliance have responded to criticism about the contentious project by citing the consent of elected band councils along the route. Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 First Nations, including with each band council in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

But the terms of consent this unsigned agreement seeks to secure should raise serious concern for those watching the conflict unfold.

Irrevocable consent

According to the unsigned IBA, Coastal GasLink aims to secure “irrevocable consent” for the project from the First Nation.

The First Nation must also act to dissuade band members from engaging in any internal dissent within the First Nation against the project. The unsigned agreement reads:

“[The First Nation] will not take, and will take all reasonable actions to persuade [First Nation] members to not take, any action, legal or otherwise, including any media or social media campaign, that may impede, hinder, frustrate, delay, stop or interfere with the Project’s contractors, any Authorizations or any Approval Processes.”

Experts on IBAs have been warning for years that serious issues can arise when commercial law is used to interpret Aboriginal constitutional rights. With these agreements, we now see how. The draft agreement states:

“[this is the] full and final satisfaction of any present or future claim by [the First Nation] … against Coastal GasLink Pipeline … for any infringement by the Project of [the First Nation’s] Section 35(1) Rights.”

Chelsea Flook holds a protest sign referencing RCMP actions at the Wet’suwet’en Nation in B.C., during a town hall at University of Regina in Saskatchewan on Jan. 10, 2019. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell.

The extent of constitutional Aboriginal rights is being defined here by a private energy corporation, specifically limiting the exercise of Aboriginal rights. A separate provision affirms that the band can take legal action against British Columbia.

Future protection is granted to Coastal GasLink in the case that Aboriginal rights are expanded to the nation through legal or policy means. The draft agreement states:

“If [the First Nation] obtains any interest in land including Aboriginal title or ownership or jurisdiction over lands used by the Project … [the First Nation] affirms the Authorizations … will continue” and that these changes will not affect the Agreement.

Dayna Nadine Scott, a law professor at York University, has recently completed a research project interviewing lawyers who have experience drafting IBAs, due out in the spring. She says this language is highly problematic and is often referred to as “gag orders,” preventing communities from raising concerns when new issues come to light.

Therefore, the unsigned agreement restricts the band from challenging any of the company’s legal rights of development, even in the case of changes to the First Nation’s legal rights, as recognized by courts or governments.

Possibility for natural gas to crude oil conversion?

The unsigned agreement also raises the issue of the possibility of converting the pipeline for other uses. Previously, First Nations in the region were almost unanimously opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge, because it carried significant environmental risks, such as oil spills in coastal waters. Coastal GasLink garnered significantly more support, in part because of its pipeline would carry natural gas, not bitumen.

The unsigned agreement says: “Coastal GasLink will not convert the pipeline component of the project to use for transportation of crude oil, bitumen or dilbit without the consent of [First Nation].”

That line, “without the consent of First Nation,” means the subject of conversion was very likely raised in negotiations between the parties. The First Nation protected itself by confirming this change would require an amendment or a new agreement altogether to obtain consent for the change.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and who oppose the Costal GasLink pipeline, chop wood for a support camp just outside of Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 9, 2020. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the project have not consented and signed an agreement. Therefore, it remains to be seen if Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the project would be afforded the same opportunity.

Though B.C. introduced a regulation in 2015 against the conversion of LNG pipelines, it has yet to be tested and could be repealed.

A once-shuttered energy corridor could re-emerge if the LNG pipeline is built. Hydrocarbons are Canada’s biggest export commodity, with $129 billion in exports in 2018. Enbridge was unable to secure a corridor through the region previously, but TC Energy, the owner of Coastal GasLink, is aiming to succeed.

Subsidizing dispossession

LNG Canada is already subsidized by the province of B.C. for $5.35 billion. A further $1 billion in estimated subsidies will be provided by the federal government in exemptions from tariffs on steel imports.

The provincial funding arrangement puts B.C. Premier John Horgan in a conflict of interest with Wet’suwet’en hereditary governments opposing the project.

Horgan has expressed concern about First Nations experiencing “systemic poverty” and characterized the Coastal GasLink investment into First Nations as “a pathway to prosperity,” according to recent statements in the press.

But a substantial amount of financial support to First Nations are derived from public coffers. Rather than alleviate “systemic poverty” in communities directly, the B.C. government is channelling these dollars through energy companies. Therefore, making First Nation funding contingent upon support for pipeline deals.

The summary of financial benefits obtained by Yellowhead shows that B.C. will put up $1 million to the band in signing payments, $5 million in construction and in-service payments, and an estimated $40 million total in annual operation payments over 40 years. These numbers confirm amounts committed in a Natural Gas Benefits Agreement signed between the parties.


As the RCMP descend on Wet’suwet’en territory it is worthwhile to reflect on how social license is achieved by industry to access Indigenous territories.

The provincial government has downloaded its constitutional obligations to energy companies to determine the scope and assertion of Aboriginal rights.

A hand-in-glove system, the B.C. government has supported the current raids through financial incentives that have forced communities apart.

With upwards of $7 billion on the line in government subsidies, the interests of Coastal GasLink’s viability appears to have been put far ahead of Wet’suwet’en rights, title and justice.

In defence of Michael McCain: Speaking out is what strong leaders do

Written by Deborah de Lange, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese. Originally published in The Conversation.

Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leafs Foods, speaks during the company’s annual general meeting in Toronto in April 2011.

While leaders often take pains to avoid controversial topics and the glare of hostile publicity, it is the sine qua non — the absolute necessity — of strong leaders to speak out about what’s right and wrong, especially at critical moments in history.

As one researcher has argued:

“Leaders fill the role of mythical heroes through actions such as saving companies, championing causes for the poor or disenfranchised, and defending our closely held beliefs.”

That includes those helming companies, in my opinion.

Michael McCain, the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, demonstrated such leadership with his recent tweets defending liberal institutions and expressing outrage about the deaths of 57 Canadians, including the wife and son of one of his employees.

This activist CEO called out an aggressive American act, undertaken at U.S. President Donald Trump’s behest, to assassinate a high-ranking Iranian official in Baghdad.

The targeted killing escalated tensions between the United States and Iran. Iranians then mistakenly directed missiles at Flight PS752 shortly after takeoff, killing 176 people, many of them bound for Canada.

Even though he’s faced mixed reactions on social media, McCain has helped to enhance a distinctly Canadian brand, Maple Leaf Foods, by defending Canadian values as the country still reels from the tragedy.

McCain wealth

McCain has been the president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Foods for a couple of decades. The billionaire is one of the wealthiest people in Canada. Although we may not like income inequality in Canada, it helps when we see wealthy people standing up for what’s right.

McCain has a track record of leadership and trying to do what’s right. In fact, he has said that doing the right thing was his goal, and in line with the company’s values, during the company’s 2008 listeria crisis. Instead of covering up the extent of the outbreak, McCain was fully transparent and took full responsibility.

Knowing there is a desire to assign blame, the buck stops here,” he said. “I emphasize: this is our accountability and it’s ours to fix.”

McCain knew that Canadians have to trust a company producing the food they eat, and the Maple Leaf brand recovered from the crisis.

The CEO’s actions were not only ethical, but they also demonstrated his business acumen and effective communication skills. He understood the value of a corporate brand and that a good reputation must back it up. Indeed, research has shown reputation can motivate consumer purchase intentions.

Siemens’ puzzling coal move

Contrast this to the recent baffling announcement made by Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens, the German engineering giant. Kaeser, the company’s highest paid executive with an annual salary of US$9.6 million, says that although he knows it’s the wrong thing to do, his firm will remain on the controversial Adani project, a huge coal mine in Australia.

As Australia’s horrific, climate change-fuelled bush fires rage on, possibly wiping out entire species, Kaeser’s decision shows incredibly poor judgment. He has dismayed employees by seemingly tossing aside Siemens’ carefully cultivated environmental corporate reputation and tarnished the brand, all for a relatively small US$20 million project. Siemens is a US$100 billion company.

Activists attend a protest rally against Australia’s climate policy in front of the Australian embassy in Berlin, headquarters of Siemens, on Jan. 10, 2020, over the Adani coal mine. Photo credit AP Photo/Michael Sohn.

The mine stands to add to climate change and further damage Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, already battered by bleaching due to rising ocean temperatures and marine heatwaves. Dubbed the “world’s most insane energy project” by Rolling Stone magazine, protesters around the world have made their opposition known.

A Bloomberg opinion writer called Kaeser’s announcement one of the “strangest pieces of executive communication,” noting that the Adani project doesn’t even make economic sense, especially with the declining price of coal.

In fact, Siemens has cut thousands of jobs from a related energy division it plans to spin off. In other words, Kaeser sold out his multinational’s reputation for a project not even part of Siemens’ future. He says that he doesn’t see a legal way out of the contract the company signed with India’s Adani.

Although some may claim that it’s easy for McCain to use his company’s corporate Twitter feed however he likes because he owns a good chunk of the business he leads, both men lead publicly traded companies and have shareholders to consider.

With all of Kaeser’s millions, and Siemens’, he could walk away, just as McCain could risk a dent in his company’s stock price with his surprising tweets about Trump. As it were, Maple Leaf Foods share prices dipped briefly but soon recovered, suggesting there will be no lasting damage from McCain’s tweets. In fact, many of us may recognize the brand now even more when we’re in grocery stores, and Maple Leaf Foods’ employees, customers and other stakeholders will know the Canadian company can be trusted to do the right thing.

The difference is leadership, not corporate structure. Both men can make independent decisions. But only one is a leader, and that’s Michael McCain.

The long history and current consequences of the Iranian-American conflict

Written by Arne Kislenko, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi. Originally published in The Conversation.

Protesters chant slogans and hold up posters of Qassem Soleimani during a demonstration in front of the British Embassy in Tehran on Jan. 12, 2020.

Understanding historical cause and effect can be difficult and contentious. The downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 is a prime example.

While there’s now no question about the Iranian regime’s responsibility for attack, the broader blame game is ongoing. Indeed, it is integral to Tehran’s defence in the face of international condemnation and increasing domestic unrest.

Historians trace the state of Iranian-American relations to 1953, when the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a coup against Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a puppet ruler for 25 years.

In this September 1951 photo, Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh rides on the shoulders of cheering crowds outside Tehran’s parliament building after reiterating his oil nationalization views to his supporters. The U.S. overthrew his government two years later. Photo credit AP Photo, File.

The 1978 Iranian Revolution ensued, ultimately producing the authoritarian theocracy in power today. Iran’s brutal war from 1980 to 1988 with neighbouring Iraq, then an American ally, helped to entrench the Islamist regime and fuelled further enmity with the U.S.

So too has constant American support for Israel and Saudi Arabia, and Iran’s wide-ranging “proxy wars” in the Middle East through militias and terrorist organizations.

More recently, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq provided a lightning rod for conflict. It simultaneously threatened Iran with perceived regime change while creating the conditions for the country’s expanded influence in the region through control of disaffected Shia. The subsequent civil war in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State (IS) and the ongoing conflict in Yemen furthered opportunities for Tehran to project its power.

Support for reformists

To be sure, there have been glimmers of hope for a better relationship over the years.

The so-called Green Movement in Iran in 2009 signalled that not all was well with the fundamentalist regime. Support for reformists since the late 1990s, while intermittent, also points to a more diverse, progressive society in Iran than is often imagined.

On the international stage, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (better known as the Iran nuclear deal) provided at least an initial framework for dialogue, however debatable its effectiveness. But that process ended with the withdrawal from the protocol in 2018 by Donald Trump’s administration.

The more recent decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, major general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commander of the Quds Force — and one of the most important officials in the Iranian government — was an even more obvious hard turn away from any diplomacy with Tehran.

Soleimani’s murder necessitated a response from Iran.

After many threats, that response was Iranian missile attacks on American military bases in Iraq. It was an expected and relatively restrained response from a regime cornered between appearing tough in the face of American aggression and running the risk of a major military escalation with the U.S. that could conceivably imperil its very existence.

It is of course too early to know if that’s the extent of Tehran’s response. Soleimani’s death is a major blow to Iranian operations in Iraq and Syria, where he served as the political and military point-man. At the head of the Quds Force, he ran myriad clandestine operations through proxies in Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Afghanistan. The U.S. ranked him as one of the most important terrorists in the world.

Soleimani a national hero

Soleimani’s assassination was taken as a clear, personal attack on the regime and particularly Iran’s theocracy.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to a group of residents of the city of Qom, in Iran on Jan. 8, 2020. Photo credit Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP.

Quite separate from the Iranian military, the IRGC answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Historically, the IRGC has also been a kind of barometer of the regime’s integrity with the Iranian populace.

Initially the vanguard of the revolution, the IRGC came to epitomize the oppressive nature of clerical rule and had lost much of its support among Iranians.

Soleimani was key to its rehabilitation, especially in the face of what many saw as American military adventurism in the Middle East.

His status as a national hero was premised largely on the notion that the IRGC was, once again, defending Iranian sovereignty: challenging the U.S. and its allies throughout the region. In many respects he had tapped into an even deeper sense of Persian nationalism — he represented the legitimate regional aspirations of an ancient and proud people, long besieged by enemies on all fronts. He was, to some degree, a symbol of unity in a fractured state.

It is dangerous to leap from Soleimani’s death to the downing of Flight PS752, or to ultimately blame Washington as Iran now seeks to do. But cause and effect still cast their shadows.

Iran feared further escalation

Clearly Iranian authorities feared military escalation from the U.S. after their reprisal for the assassination. And clearly their fears were exacerbated by incompetency evident now on multiple levels, particularly the Iranian Civil Aviation Authority for not closing airspace over Tehran.

Most problematic for the regime is that the IRGC — the only unit with the Russian-made Tor system in question — ultimately bears responsibility for launching the missiles. Admitting to the attack, especially after a series of vigorous denials, has humiliated the regime.

Evidenced by anti-government protests in Iran soon after its admission, it’s also exposed the leadership to precisely what it fears most: the domestic opposition it has been battling for years.

Often overlooked by Westerners in this calculation is the 1988 Iranian Airlines Flight 655 incident, when missiles from the USS Vincennes were mistakenly launched at the civilian jet, killing all on board.

That event became a central pillar of the clerics’ attempts to carve a collective Iranian identity built principally on vehement anti-Americanism, and to consequently legitimize their own control.

In this July 1988 file photo, a funeral procession is held for six Pakistani and Indian nationals who were killed aboard Iran Air Flight 655. Photo credit AP Photo.

Commemorated in speeches, educational curriculums, even postage stamps, Flight 655 reinforced notions that Iran was perpetually under attack. Indeed, just a couple of days before the attack on Ukrainian International Airlines, tweets from senior Iranian officials reminded followers about Flight 655.

Now, with Flight PS752, Iran was the attacker. Hypocrisies were revealed, and opportunities to exploit both domestic and international support in the face of American actions were lost.

Justification changes

So what about the United States? As Trump so quickly pointed out, the “mistake” most definitely came “from the other side.” But his decisions still loom large in a fair discussion of cause and effect.

There are serious questions about what went into the decision to kill Soleimani. Parallels to Osama bin Laden are inevitable, but neither the context nor the consequences are analogous.

Attacks on Iranian interests have the potential of far greater, and faster, escalation than any involving al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations. And the initial rationale — that Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests — has changed. Instead, Trump argued, the hit was for past actions.

That’s a very different calculation, especially in the eyes of public opinion.

Even if the assassination is still considered legitimate, questions about possible consequences seem to have been ignored. Soleimani’s status as a national hero doesn’t seem to have registered. A sophisticated understanding of the Iranian regime and its need to respond to any attack on its interests also seems to have been lacking.

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 9, 2020. Photo credit AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana.

Historical calculations were probably never even entertained in calculating what might happen after the hit. In an administration notorious for its revolving door of senior officials and advisers, whose expertise was instrumental in making a decision of that magnitude? Was any sought at all?

Regardless of any moral and ethical considerations, the assassination of Soleimani constitutes a dramatic escalation in a region already dangerously volatile, and it was arguably disproportionate to the threat he posed.

Stephen Harper cut diplomatic ties

Questions about cause and effect don’t spare Canada, either. The 2012 decision by the government of Stephen Harper to cut diplomatic ties with Iran now significantly complicates Ottawa’s efforts to take part in the investigation of Flight PS752 and to best represent Canadian victims.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s demands for a full, open, international investigation into the incident are helped by Iran’s belated admissions, but he cannot expect the regime to fully comply in straightforward fashion. A significant improvement in Iranian-Canadian relations remains a distant dream.

Perhaps even more important is the disturbing fact that Ottawa was left in the dark about Trump’s Soleimani intentions. Especially with allies so close, it is customary — and necessary — to consult in matters of national security.

Members of the Iranian community break down during a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane disaster in Iran in Edmonton on Jan. 12, 2020. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol.

Canadians, both soldiers and civilians, who were potentially in danger in the region could have been warned if Ottawa had been informed. It also raises serious questions about the current state of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Trump’s personal dislike of Trudeau, and evident disregard for Canada, is obvious. Less clear is how the historically high degree of communication and integration between the two countries has changed under Trump’s watch.

Asked directly about whether he thought the U.S. bore some responsibility for the downing of PS752, Trudeau said: “I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions or assigning blame or responsibility in whatever proportions.”

It was a quiet but obvious suggestion that the Trump administration was not above reproach in a great tragedy with significant international consequences.

Women in engineering: Barriers remain 30 years after École Polytechnique shooting

Written by Wendy Cukier, Ryerson University. Photo credit Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

Engineering programmes can learn about recruitment, inclusion and retention from different fields.

The 30th anniversary of the Montréal Massacre is an opportunity to reflect on what has changed after three decades of advocacy on violence against women, on gun control and on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Three years after the massacre, the Canadian Committee on Women in Engineering released its “More Than Just Numbers” report. The report detailed the barriers women face in engineering and issued a national call to action.

Here we are, 27 years later. The proportion of women enrolled in undergraduate engineering programs is marginally better, increasing to 22 per cent from 16 per cent. But Canada still lags behind other industrialized countries. And despite the burgeoning tech sector, women in computer science make up a smaller proportion (16 per cent) today than in 1989.

Three unidentified women hug each other after laying flowers in front of École Polytechnique in Montréal on Dec. 9, 1989. Fourteen women were killed after a gunman went on a shooting spree three days prior. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shaney Komulainen.

This has occurred at a time when business, law and medical schools have doubled their female enrolment. And mathematics programs have more than 40 per cent women, belying the myth that “math is hard” for women. In spite of the good intentions and massive investments in programs — the engineering camps, the posters of girls working with robotics, the astronauts in schools talking about the joys of science and technology — we are proceeding at a snail’s pace.

Cultural influences

Consider this:

“The cultural influences that channel girls and young women away from non-traditional roles start with parents and other caregivers in the preschool years. Once in school, many girls and young women continue to be discouraged from pursuing interests in mathematics and science and from considering careers in engineering by teachers and guidance counsellors who are not sensitive to gender stereotyping. Once in the workplace, women engineers encounter attitudes and activities that are systemically biased against women. Many face discrimination in hiring, promotion, job assignments and salary, and experience sexual harassment in their workplaces. Many have to cope with the isolation of being the only female engineer in a company or on a job site. As well, not enough employers have policies that enable employees to balance family and career responsibilities.”

This description from the “More Than Just Numbers” report remains pretty much unchanged since 1992. More recent reports — for example TD Bank’s 2017 report “Women and STEM: Bridging the Divide” or the Canadian government’s “Persistence and Representation of Women in STEM Programs,” released in 2019, tell the same story. The TD study also notes that women working in STEM fields earn less than their male counterparts even though they earn higher wages in STEM occupations relative to others.

Necessary changes

We need to apply what we know about innovation to drive diversity and inclusion. Education is one of the least effective ways of shifting behaviour: knowing that more women in STEM would be good for the economy, inclusive systems design and innovation is not enough.

For example, if we look at the proportion of women enrolled in engineering schools across Canada, we see massive variances between institutions. Some, like Queen’s University, University of Waterloo and University of British Columbia, have approached or exceeded 30 per cent. The University of Toronto reports that 40 per cent of its 2019 incoming class was female. Other schools are closer to 10 per cent.

The data are hard to find. Engineers Canada does not publish gender data by school and its 30 by 30 goal — raising the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by 2030 — seems modest given that so many schools have hit that target already.

Of course there are pipeline issues as well as structural challenges — women are better represented in disciplines such as biomedical, chemical and environmental engineering than they are in civil, mechanical or aerospace. But we need to look at program design, pedagogy, recruitment and support. We need to challenge the systems that have embedded barriers.

Attracting women into STEM professions means committing to more than inclusive programming for girls. Photo credit Shutterstock.

Programs of change

Part of the challenge has been that good intentions are not matched by action. Few stakeholders — associations, universities, governments, certification bodies — are using the levers at their disposal, including funding, procurement, accreditation, reporting and transparency, to effect change. Money talks, and if they had prioritized female representation in engineering and other STEM disciplines — and backed it up with real consequences — we would have seen faster change.

There are shining examples of programs focused on increasing women in computer science. Carnegie Mellon University and Harvey Mudd College documented strategies that reached between 30 and 40 per cent female enrolment. But most universities are slow to innovate, and without committed leadership and a results-oriented, multi-layered strategy, words are often not matched by actions.

Of course, we also have to start further upstream. Girls’ choices are influenced by many factors: broad societal stereotypes and expectations by teachers, peers, family and friends. Again, programs can dramatically increase girls’ interests in math, science, engineering and technology at an early age, but they are fragmented and often dependent on haphazard support and funding.

To make gains, there must be clear targets, support and accountability tied to funding.

Employers are critical to tackling the issue. Women often report high levels of discrimination and harassment and a culture often referred to as “brotopia.”

Some companies are making progress. Some organizations have set targets supported with intentional strategies and tied to management compensation. Others have used innovative approaches to attract women by addressing corporate culture.

For example, one reached 30 per cent female participation by focusing on hackathons for social good as part of its recruitment strategy. And other companies are trying to address the pernicious problem of the leaky pipeline — women leaving the profession at a higher rate than men — with a range of tactics.

Finally, we need to make more space for innovative blended programs that combine technology with social science and humanities. When we look at female executives of the top information and communications technology companies — Xerox, Twitter, HP, IBM, Facebook — half of them do not have STEM degrees.

We should encourage girls and women to pursue engineering and computer science but we should also recognize that there are other pathways into technology roles. With this dual perspective we should be able to advance the participation of women in technology. Developing multi-layered and collaborative strategies with specific targets will help us avoid having the same well-intentioned but ineffective conversation for another 30 years.

Chrystia Freeland will have to navigate misogyny in her new roles

Written by Tracey Raney, Ryerson University & Loleen Berdahl, University of Saskatchewan. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken. Originally published in The Conversation.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Chrystia Freeland meet in Edmonton after she was named deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs.

Chrystia Freeland’s influence in the new Liberal minority government has been upgraded significantly with Justin Trudeau’s recent cabinet announcements.

She now serves in dual roles as deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs. Freeland will also play key leadership roles on the “agenda, results and communications” and the “economy and the environment” cabinet committees.

In addition to her new formal mandates, however, Freeland will likely have to face another ongoing problem in Canadian politics: growing resentment and anger directed at women politicians.

As deputy prime minister, Freeland is now second in command. Whether her position will be ceremonial or substantive remains to be seen. Deputy prime minister duties are determined entirely by individual prime ministers.

Since the position was created in 1977, the importance of this role has varied. Under some prime ministers, the role was substantive, under others it was symbolic and under still others it was completely absent.

Only two other women have been deputy PM

Two other women, Liberals Sheila Copps and Anne McLellan, have held the position. Of the nine preceding deputy prime ministers, only one, Jean Chretien, has gone on to become party leader.

As intergovernmental affairs minister, Freeland is responsible for federal-provincial/territorial relations. She does not head a department, but leads the Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat, located in Privy Council Office, which serves a co-ordination role for the federal government.

With only one woman premier in Canada (Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories), Freeland has been given a much-needed opportunity to inject a woman’s perspective into important intergovernmental concerns of the day, such as health care, the environment and equalization.

Freeland is also being asked to clean up some of the biggest Liberal messes of the last four years. This follows a typical gendered pattern: women leaders who inherit from their male predecessors a poisoned chalice.

Inheriting Trudeau’s national unity woes

The biggest mess left to Freeland is national unity. The dramatic re-emergence of western alienation, including strong political rhetoric and a fringe separatist movement, has frayed the national politics.

Many in Alberta and Saskatchewan argue that Trudeau’s actions have crippled the oil and gas sector. Specifically, they point to the failure of the Energy East pipeline, the overhaul of infrastructure approval processes (Bill C-69, referred to by critics as the “No More Pipelines Bill”), and the “tanker ban” (Bill C-48) on the northern Pacific coast but not the Atlantic coast.

Trudeau and Freeland are seen during the swearing-in of the new cabinet on Nov. 20, 2019, in Ottawa. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

Trudeau’s comments, later retracted, about phasing out the oilsands further stoked resentments. The delays in Trans Mountain Pipeline construction, despite the government’s purchase of the project, have caused suspicion.

Rising western alienation was evident prior to the election and reflected in the 2019 election results: the Liberals dropped from 29 to just 15 seats in the West. The Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with veteran parliamentarian Ralph Goodale losing his seat.

Trudeau has struggled to establish effective relationships with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, neither of whom appear motivated to extend an olive branch. At best, Trudeau has failed to contain regional tensions. At worst, he has fostered it through policy, personal style and neglect.

Sky-high expectations

Expectations of Freeland in her dual roles are exceedingly high. She has been described as “indispensable” to Trudeau, and poised to “save the Liberals.”

This media framing is consistent with research that shows that women politicians are often elevated by media early in their careers or when they take on new positions. But this same research finds that women are attacked more fiercely than men when they fail to meet such high expectations.

Already, Freeland has signalled a more collaborative approach to western interests, and Moe has responded positively. Kenney also emerged from his first meeting with Freeland, aimed at finding “common ground,” to say:

“I appreciate Minister Freeland’s willingness to listen and work with us, but the measure of the prime minister’s sincerity will be swift action on these urgent issues.”

With no real policy tools in her portfolio, Freeland’s capacity to affect change is questionable. Her collaborative approach may quickly be reframed by her critics as a weakness and indicative of women’s leadership inadequacies.

A mandate accompanied by misogyny

Freeland’s new challenges are formidable, and will be even more difficult given the gendered nature of the issues she’s been tasked to address. Western alienation is tied to both male-dominated natural resource industry interests and regional identity.

Public vitriol directed at Catherine McKenna, the former environment and climate change minister, illustrates the challenges faced by women politicians who occupy positions of real power, especially when advocating for climate change policies.

Given that Freeland is now responsible for some of the most volatile files facing the country, it is highly likely that she too will face misogynistic attacks.

Without anyone from Alberta or Saskatchewan appointed to cabinet, Freeland is Trudeau’s point person in dealing with these regional tensions and economic issues. She will likely be the conduit through which western anger towards the Liberal federal government will channelled.

Like other women leaders around the world, Freeland can expect that the anger directed at her will be gendered in nature, with the goal of such attacks to punish her for being a powerful woman in politics.

Sexism amplified

Her role as deputy prime minister is likely to amplify the sexism directed at her, whether or not she assumes more power in this position.

If successful, Freeland’s efforts may bolster national unity, the economy, the environment and Canada’s relationships with the United States and Mexico. But relentless sexist attacks against Freeland could also derail progress on these issues altogether.

There is growing awareness of the need for strategies to address sexism, violence and threats of violence against women in Canadian politics.

Given Nov. 25 marked the first day of the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, now is an appropriate time for Canadians to discuss and address these issues.

Québec is wrong to raise its legal cannabis age to 21

Written by Brad Poulos, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. Originally published in The Conversation.

Cannabis plants are seen during a tour of a Hexo Corp. production facility in October 2018 in Masson-Angers, Québec. The province is raising the legal cannabis age to 21.

The Québec government has dragged its feet on cannabis legalization from the moment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a task force to study the subject three years ago.

Its recent decision to raise the legal age for cannabis consumption to 21 is simply bad policy, poorly thought out. It’s also very likely to further thwart primary legalization objectives, which were to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth and take the profits out of the hands of illegal vendors, particularly organized crime.

Policy has to be coherent at all levels of government to work. Achieving federal objectives across the country means that the nascent legal market must capture the vast share of cannabis consumption, and that the illicit market, also known as the “black” or “legacy” market, must be significantly marginalized in the short term and ultimately eliminated altogether.

Keep in mind this illicit market is a fierce competitor, and the cannabis enthusiast has been well-served by it for decades. Users feel little stigma in frequenting it, which they still do 80 to 85 per cent of the time. It competes well on the key market variables: price, selection, quality, safety and access.

Government policy at all levels must be aligned with the primary objectives, otherwise this great social experiment will fail, at least in some areas. And that will leave all members of society, users and non-users, worse off.

Feds set cannabis policy

The federal government sets policy related to production of cannabis and derived products, including what formulations can be sold, in what packages and at what strengths and sizes, and how they can be promoted.

As with alcohol and tobacco, it’s left to the provinces to determine age limits, retail policy and where you can consume cannabis. This inevitably leads to a mishmash of retail and online distribution frameworks and varying levels of permissiveness in terms of consumption.

Perhaps surprisingly, Québec has been among the most reluctant to embrace legalization given that it’s taken a vastly different approach on the distribution of alcohol in the province.

Hundreds of people line up at a government cannabis store on Oct. 17, 2018 in Montréal as the legal sale of cannabis began in Canada. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz.

The federal government can be criticized for some inconsistency in its policy relating to its original goals, most notably taxation that raises product prices, and the extreme packaging, branding, advertising and other restrictions. Those restrictions stymie licensed entities as they try to compete with robust, capable and popular black market purveyors of all things cannabis.

The new product formulations coming with the second step of cannabis legalization pertaining to edibles, topicals, concentrates and all kinds of other products should help to attract customers to the legal framework, evening the playing field somewhat.

But don’t count the illicit market out yet.

Canadians have been among the world’s most ardent cannabis users for some time. On the eve of legalization, 26.9 per cent of Canadians aged 15-24 had used cannabis in the previous quarter, a figure that has stayed relatively flat in the year since.

Québec move will help the black market

On Jan. 1, 2020, Québec will raise the age limit for purchasing or consuming legal cannabis from 18 to 21, the highest in the country. This shuts out current legal users aged 18, 19 and 20, pushing them to illegal sellers who already enjoy a price and point-of-presence advantage over legal players, along with their advantage in product variety.

The ostensible motivation for the age change is to reduce harm to young people, but there’s strong evidence that this policy will do the opposite.

It is becoming common knowledge that high levels of usage of cannabis by those under age 25 increases risk of permanent cognitive and emotional effects. There is also ample evidence that prohibition, of cannabis in particular, isn’t the way to reduce usage by youth.

Previous legalization initiatives in the United States have shown that access does not increase youth usage. Education, not prohibition, is the best way to ensure that young people use any restricted substance responsibly. That includes access to the cannabis stores by youth of a reasonable age to interact with and purchase from certified, knowledgeable staff.

Graph displaying Cannabis use in the past three months by province in third quarter 2019 (Canada 17.1%, N.L. 24.2%, P.E.I. 25.8%, N.S. 32.8%, N.B. 23.7%, Que. 11.5%, Ont. 16.9%, Man. 17.3%, Sask. 17.2%, Alta. 18.8%, B.C. 20.4%)
Canadian cannabis use in July to September of 2019, by province. Image credit Statistics Canada Cannabis Stats Hub.

Québecers already consume less cannabis than almost all other Canadians. Whether this is the cause or the effect of the Québec government’s lacklustre efforts at making cannabis available to consumers is moot, but it raises questions about what problem Québec is addressing with this change.

Québec and Ontario have opened a mere 21 and 24 stores respectively (to serve eight million and 14 million residents), which is one of the reasons for the slow uptake of legal cannabis in the first year of legalization.

Québec’s new policy solves no apparent problems, but does work at cross purposes to federal government policy that has been principally designed to minimize harm.

It’s a potential boon to illicit market players, and why the government of Québec doesn’t recognize that is difficult to comprehend.

Chrystia Freeland: Promoted or doomed to failure?

Written by Peggy Nash, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. Originally published in The Conversation.

Chrystia Freeland, newly named deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs, speaks following the swearing-in of the new cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

The new Liberal cabinet has mostly familiar faces, with just a few shuffled deck chairs and some new ministers.

Much of the focus has landed on Chrystia Freeland, the new minister of intergovernmental affairs and deputy prime minister.

Freeland is clearly Justin Trudeau’s most powerful minister, with a bundle of political problems on her plate. Regional tensions are brewing across Canada and she will need all her negotiating skills to forge solutions.

So is this a promotion for the high-profile former foreign affairs minister who spearheaded the negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s team to nail down a new NAFTA, and who told the world that Canada had returned as an important middle power and defender of women and all human rights?

Or is this a dead end, a no-win situation where she will now be the lightning rod for anger across the land?

The Liberals were elected in 2015 to a majority government after an aspirational campaign that focused on middle-class prosperity and aimed to restore Canada’s place in the world.

Due to their majority, the Liberals could pass confidence bills like the budget or initiatives like the assisted suicide law or the legalization of marijuana provided they accepted some input and tweaking from the Senate.

They could also block what they didn’t want, especially at committees, such as the shutdown of the SCN-Lavalin inquiry.

A new reality

Trudeau’s new minority government in 2019 now faces a different reality.

The Liberals looked vulnerable to defeat in the wake of a number of ethics scandals, the expulsion from the Liberal Party of two key women cabinet ministers, the leader’s multiple blackface and brownface episodes and backtracking on election promises such as effective climate change action, Indigenous reconciliation and electoral reform.

Arguably, the Liberals won in part by demonizing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who ran a weak campaign, and by linking him to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Trump. Many people voted Liberal out of fear, but the Conservative Party actually won the most votes.

The Liberals were reduced to a minority government as regional divisions flared. The Bloc Québécois won 32 seats after a surprisingly strong election campaign by BQ Leader Yves-François Blanchet, and the Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

A “Wexit” separatist movement has now emerged, with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney throwing gas on the flames of western anger and alienation.

Collaboration required

To pass bills now, the Liberals will need to negotiate with other parties. Many votes will depend on regional priorities. For example, if the Liberals decide to take greater action on climate change, they can likely win support from the NDP and the Bloc.

But the West wants action on pipelines and job creation. Squaring this circle on the environment and the economy, the West and the rest of Canada will be this government’s biggest challenge. This is where the Alberta-born Freeland comes in.

Many women, in particular, are cheering Freeland’s high-profile appointment and wish her well. Women remain greatly under-represented in Canada’s Parliament at 29 per cent, edging up slightly from the 26.9 per cent of the previous parliament by electing 10 more women, but still trailing more than 50 other countries in women’s representation, according to the Interparliamentary Union organization.

Significant barriers still confront women who want to get elected to public life. The danger, of course, is that often when women get to the top or near the top of an organization, they can face either a glass ceiling or a cliff. Most women premiers in Canada don’t get re-elected.

Canada’s first woman prime minister, Kim Campbell, was elected by Conservative convention delegates. But left to face the fury of voters towards the government of Brian Mulroney, she led the party to a crushing defeat with just two seats in 1993.

So whether this new position is a promotion or a dead end for Freeland depends on where party and regional alliances can be built.

Skilled negotiator

As we saw in the North American free-trade negotiations, Freeland is a talented negotiator. But she will need to check herself on her tendency to lecture others. Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe are in no mood for virtue lecturing by federal Liberals.

Saskatchewan’s Moe will likely be a challenge for Freeland. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

While Freeland is the third woman to be named deputy prime minister, it’s unclear whether this role will be simply ceremonial or more substantive. The latter would be better suited to Freeland. And her role as minister of intergovernmental affairs, a job that prime ministers often keep for themselves, suggests she’ll have lots of room for breaking new ground.

However, the deputy prime minister role doesn’t necessarily lead to the top job. In fact, no deputy prime minister has ever gone on to lead the country. Many see Freeland as ambitious and a possible successor to Trudeau. So does this position favour that aspiration?

Time will tell. And women will be watching.

Eritrean migrants face torture in Libya: What the international community can do

Written by Anna Triandafyllidou, Ryerson University and Katie Kuschminder, United Nations University. Photo credit AP Photo/Renata Brito. Originally published in The Conversation.

A migrant hugs an SOS Mediterranee rescuer aboard the Ocean Viking ship before stepping into the port of Messina, Italy, Sept. 24, 2019. He was among 182 people aboard the Ocean Viking rescued in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya.

Tens of thousands of East and West African migrants face violence, abuse, torture and loss of life as they transit through Libya to reach the Mediterranean.

Are the migrants victims of human smuggling, human trafficking or neither? In the absence of a stable government in Libya, what can European countries do to prevent the loss of life and torture of migrants in Libya?

As a crime against humanity, the international community is obligated to protect these migrants under the United Nations responsibility to protect commitment, meaning that international states should take action to collectively protect migrants in Libya.

We have been researching irregular migration, migrant smuggling and human trafficking from Asia and Africa to Europe for several years. Our research has made us aware of the complexities of the realities on the ground for migrants. We compared those realities with international conventions and policy categories designed to help migrants.

Despite the torture and extortion that these transit migrants may face, they cannot benefit from some form of protection, upon arrival in Europe. This is because they lack a clear codified status corresponding to their situation.

Video explainer: Moral and legal obligations to help?

Smuggled, trafficked or neither?

Migrant smuggling involves a voluntary agreement between a prospective migrant and a smuggler, at least in theory. The smuggler facilitates the irregular transit and entry into a country, the migrant pays for their services. Their relationship finishes at the completion of the agreed journey.

By contrast, human trafficking involves an element of deception and coercion and also exploitation at the place of arrival not present in migrant smuggling. Again, this is in theory. Also, trafficking does not require the crossing of international borders.

According to the UN definition of human trafficking, acts can include recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons. These are all acts that are also involved in the smuggling of migrants.

But the purpose of these acts may not be simply about profit. They also involve exploitation such as sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or the removal of organs.

These definitions and the distinction that arises from them tend to become meaningless in situations such as those along the trans-Saharan African routes where there are no clear state authorities.

Although many migrants pass through Libya, our most recent study looked specifically at the experiences of Eritrean migrants coming to Italy via Libya. Our research does not represent all migrants in Libya.

Eritrean migrants enter Libya in the southeast; this is Tebou territory. Since the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi and the end of his 42-year-long brutal regime in 2011, Libya has been ruled by tribal regimes and the Tebou have strong control over their territory.

Migration controls are enforced by para-state actors such as the different tribes and their semi-formal accords with the UN-recognized government of Libya as well as other tribes and actors in the country.

Kidnapped and extorted

Eritreans leaving Sudan for Libya know and expect that they will be kidnapped and extorted in Libya. There is no deception involved. They are brought to the Libyan-Sudanese border by smugglers from Khartoum and are told to wait.

When the Libyans arrive, they are taken to compounds where they call their families and connections to transfer money for their release. They are not allowed to leave until their family pays. Many are abused while they wait for the payment.

Once the payment is made, most often, the Eritrean migrants are brought North and pushed toward the Mediterranean sea. When they arrive in Italy, the ordeal is over and they no longer have a relationship with their captors in Libya.

We argue that this is not migrant smuggling as there is no initial agreement made between two parties. This is also not human trafficking — there is no deception nor coercion and the relationship ends after leaving Libya. This is kidnapping and extortion, and can best be addressed as a crime against humanity.

What can the international community do?

What are the moral and international law obligations for countries of arrival when migrants or asylum seekers have been victims of a crime against humanity?

Can we break free from the migrant smuggling and human trafficking definitions and adopt an international protection regime for these migrants or asylum seekers when they arrive in European Union territory?

Today, Libya witnesses the emergence of a tribal regime that has replaced the state and has its own informal rules. Libya’s history is based on tribal authorities that were united for its independence in 1951 and were carefully managed and appeased under Muammar el-Qaddafi. Post-Qaddafi, we note the return of the tribe as an important political actor.

Paradoxically, out of fear of uncontrolled migration, actors like the International Organization for Migration and the European Union provide operational support in Libya and Niger, hoping to re-establish the basic rule of law conditions and control the borders.

This effectively, however, contributes to the reinforcement of the tribal regime by indirectly legitimizing tribal authorities.

As the EU seeks a durable solution to the Mediterranean migration flows, countries of arrival could adopt an international protection regime for these migrants or asylum seekers when they arrive in European Union territory and protect people who have been victims of crimes against humanity.

Green with rage: Women climate change leaders face online attacks

Written by Tracey Raney and Mackenzie Gregory, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. Originally published in The Conversation.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has had to hire security due to sexist vitriol aimed at her in public.

Women leaders who support climate action are being attacked online with increasing regularity. These attacks should be viewed as a problem not only for the planet, but also to the goals of achieving gender equality and more inclusive, democratic politics.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment and climate change minister, recently announced that she’s had to hire security to protect herself and her family while in public. With an election now on, it’s likely she’ll face further abuse in the weeks to come.

McKenna hired security after she was out with her children and a driver rolled down his window and shouted: “F-k you, Climate Barbie.” This sexist taunt was popularized by Conservative MP Gerry Ritz, who once used the slur in reference to McKenna on Twitter.

It resulted in a tsunami of #Climatebarbie hashtags and variations of the slur ever since. Ritz has since apologized and deleted the original tweet.

A worldwide problem

Unfortunately, vitriol directed at women leaders who support climate action is becoming more frequent in Canada and beyond.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the Peoples’ Party of Canada, recently tweeted at 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, calling her:

“…clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.”

Other “green” women leaders have spoken out about the sexism they have experienced, including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Tzeporah Berman from Stand.Earth and Catherine Abreu from the Climate Action Network.

Following the proposal of the New Green Deal by U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, critics attacked her intelligence and her personal and professional background. National Review writer Charles Cooke referred to her as an “unmarried, childless bartender” who “somehow has the temerity to fancy herself a congressional representative.” He claimed the New Green Deal she supports is:

“ …an untrammeled Dear Santa letter without form, purpose, borders, or basis in reality.”

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about climate change, an Australian “shock jock” broadcaster said someone should “shove a sock down [her] throat.”

Nothing new

Violence and threats of violence against women leaders are certainly not new. According to research by Rutgers University professor Mona Lena Krook and University of Florida professor Juliana Restrepo Sanỉn, women in politics experience violence, sexism and sexual harassment because of the threat they pose working in a male-dominated field.

Sexist attacks and threats of violence therefore serve to discredit women’s ideas and delegitimize their power, with the ultimate goal of excluding them from the public sphere.

Other research shows that the higher their position of power, the more threatening women become.

Although male politicians are also attacked online, recent research in the United Kingdom reveals that the effects of online attacks are particularly difficult for women politicians to deal with. That’s because women MPs are more likely to fear for their safety compared to their male colleagues.

Attacks against women climate leaders specifically can be further explained by the relationship between misogyny and climate denialism.

Misogyny at work

Unlike sexism, an ideology that promotes patriarchal social relations, misogyny is an enforcement mechanism that seeks to punish women who challenge the traditional patriarchal order, according to Cornell University professor Kate Manne.

Climate denialism has also been linked to traditional assumptions of masculinity. Research shows that climate deniers are more likely to adhere to older forms of industrial modern masculinity that helped to push society towards “industrialization, mechanism and capitalism.”

Accordingly, some climate deniers prefer this older form of masculinity over a newer “eco-modern masculinity” of care and compassion for the environment.

A 2019 study found that some men will avoid certain environmental actions, such as recycling or using reusable shopping bags, in order to maintain “an outward-facing heterosexual identity.”

These versions of heterosexual masculinity appear to be predicated upon the domination and exploitation, rather than the preservation, of the environment.

A double threat

Women leaders who promote climate policies are therefore doubly threatening to those who hold misogynistic attitudes. First, simply by being women in a powerful position and, second, by espousing policies that directly challenge traditional norms of masculinity.

“Green rage” directed at women climate leaders thus serves the function of safeguarding male dominance by punishing women who challenge the patriarchal social order. The result is a toxic brew of masculinity directed at women climate leaders by way of sexist attacks and threats of violence.

Even Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, has faced misogynistic online abuse, including from Canada’s Maxime Bernier. Photo credit AP Photo/Jeenah Moon.

Social media reactions to McKenna’s announcement that she now requires security for her and her family reveal how deeply embedded misogynistic attitudes are about women today.

After she tweeted about how difficult it is for women working on climate issues, some tweeters expressed support and sympathy. But many others denied that gender played a role in the attacks against her. Others continued to degrade her with sexist language, using hashtags #hypocriteBarbie and, once again, #climateBarbie.

Canadians go to the polls soon and the climate crisis is bound to be a heated campaign issue in the weeks to come.

Understanding the complex and challenging terrain women leaders must navigate is an important requirement of an informed electorate.

While some women politicians like McKenna have attempted to tackle head on the problem of online attacks against them, it should not be left to women alone to combat this issue. Dismantling patriarchal assumptions about gender is not just good for women, it is also good for men — and for the planet.

Call the crime in Kashmir by its name: Ongoing genocide

Written by Binish Ahmed, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Dar Yasin. Originally published in The Conversation.

An Indian paramilitary soldier checks the bag of a Kashmiri man during curfew in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir. The lives of millions in India’s only Muslim-majority region have been upended recently.

The Kashmir conflict, referred to as a “territorial dispute,” has been central to tense relations in Asia for more than 70 years, particularly between the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan.

Tensions have escalated between the countries many times in the past and have sometimes resulted in military confrontation.

Kashmiris are an Indigenous people living under colonial occupation who have been fighting for their right to practise sovereignty through self-determination and self-government. Multiple colonial borders run through the Kashmiri peoples’ territories (Indian, Pakistani and Chinese), separating families and friends.

Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world, with more than half a million armed Indian troops deployed in the Indian-administered Kashmir over the past 30 years.

They are occupying Kashmir through use of colonial war measures acts, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Public Safety Act and martial laws that have given Indian troops complete impunity.

Gross human rights violations have occurred under their watch, according to a 2018 United Nations report. They include gang rapes by military and mass disappearances of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people. As many as 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed and several thousand wounded, blinded and maimed, including through torture tactics in custody

As a result of the war, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri (Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Pandits) have left Kashmir, and become internationally displaced and dispossessed following the 72-year Indian occupation.

India’s latest invasion

On Aug. 4, India ordered all tourists and outside students to leave Kashmir effective immediately. They simultaneously implemented emergency measures to protect tourists and Indian Hindu yathris doing an annual Hindu pilgrimage. It also airlifted almost 10,000 more soldiers into Kashmir within a matter of two days.

Approximately 28,000 additional armed troops then invaded Kashmir Valley in trucks and tanks.

On Aug. 5, the Indian Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament that the president had signed a decree abolishing Section 35a and Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

The Indian government eliminated Kashmir’s special status in an effort to assimilate the Kashmiri people, extinguish their unique Indigenous title to land and claim their land as federal territory. This obliterated any last set of rights Kashmiris enjoyed as a semi-autonomous people in the Indian union of states.

Jammu and Kashmir State has been bifurcated into an Indian federal union territory.

A mountain view overlooking the Kashmir Valley. Photo credit Binish Ahmed, Author provided (No reuse).

These unilateral moves by the Indian state obliterate the rights Kashmiris had as citizens of India as well as their Indigenous rights. Under the United Nations Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), India is obligated to ensure decisions pertaining to Kashmiri are made with them, using the principle of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) that recognizes Kashmiris as a sovereign Indigenous people.

The UNDRIP was adopted and signed by India, China and Pakistan in 2007.

Millions under house arrest

Since Aug. 4, India has eliminated all access to and communication with Kashmir. The internet, mobile and landlines have been severed, and 14.7 million people have no access to essentials like food and medical support while Indian advances to take full control of their land using military power.

Aside from extremely rare media, Kashmiris have not been able to communicate with each other or with the outside world. The entire Jammu and Kashmir region is essentially imprisoned under house arrest.

Since 1949, Article 370 has granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir semi-autonomous constitutional status. Under its provisions, the region has its own legislative assembly, constitution, flag and independence in all matters except communications, foreign affairs and defence.

Revoking this status is the latest attempt to annihilate the Kashmiri people, extinguish their rights and eliminate their linguistic, social, cultural, economic and political existence as Indigenous people. The legality of dissolving the special status is being challenged by India’s legal and constitutional experts, and goes against the country’s Supreme Court rulings of recent years.

With these recent changes to Article 370 and Section 35a, India permits the permanent settlement of non-Kashmiris in Kashmiri land. Membership and settlement had previously been determined by the Kashmiri constitution. Non-Kashmiris are now allowed to purchase, acquire and permanently settle on land in Kashmir.

Under these changes, the Gujjar-Bakarwal people in Kashmir, for example, are immediately at greater risk. They migrate seasonally with animals on pastoral grounds, caring for both the animals and the land. India’s laws concerning land as individual property will not permit them to continue living on the land as they’ve historically done.

The Gujjar-Bakarwals are seen in this 2004 photo taken in Kashmir. Photo credit CC BY-NC.

These changes will also result in a reconfiguration of the population in Kashmir. Kashmiris have long speculated that India intends to settle military and paramilitary families in Kashmir. As a Kashmiri, I have personally already seen semi-permanent military colonies in Kashmir.

Using an Indigenous framework

Indigenous peoples in Asia like the Kashmiri have long faced threats to their existence and their inherent rights, particularly “relational” land rights, as colonizing relations between Indigenous peoples and settler nations make land encroachment profitable and treat Indigenous lives as disposable.

Media, academics, legal and policy analysts barely touch on Indigenous rights, as outlined in the UNDRIP, when discussing Kashmir. But the Indigenous rights framework is necessary to accurately assess the distinct set of rights abuses Kashmiris face. India is in violation of multiple international human rights conventions and declarations it’s signed that apply to Kashmir.

Under UNDRIP, India is obligated to consult with Indigenous people rather than make decisions that impact them unilaterally, and to grant them the greatest possible opportunity for self-government and self-determination.

This right of Kashmiris to determine their future was also affirmed by a UN resolution on Kashmir in 1948. But this resolution limited self-determination to a decision on whether to accede to India or Pakistan.

There has been a reluctance to use the term genocide to describe the events that have unfolded in Kashmir over the decades.

In this May 2018 photo, supporters of separatist People’s Political Party (PPP) Leader Hilal Ahmad War hold banners and shout slogans during a protest against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Photo credit AP Photo/Dar Yasin.

But the legal definition of genocide fits. The Kashmiri people have been targeted for a demographic transformation on their territory by an outsider group by introducing mass permanent settlements of outsiders. The outsider group is the Hindu nationalist Indian state under the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Targeted for being Muslim

As a group, Kashmiris are additionally being targeted because they are predominantly Muslim as well as culturally and linguistically distinct. Muslims are treated as threats in India, including in Kashmir. They have been targeted for elimination in part through military force and economic oppression.

Kashmiri youth have been criminalized and put into state custody for “reform” programming for throwing stones to protest the injustices they face and the impunity of the Indian military. This treatment is a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.

Refusal to call out genocide has happened before, in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and elsewhere. The United Nations Convention on Genocide states that it must never be permitted again. The convention also states that at-risk groups must be protected.

Instead, there has been an eerie silence from world leaders on naming the unfolding crime in Kashmir.

Kashmiris have been the guardians, gardeners and caretakers of Kashmiri land, water, each other and non-human life. Regardless of colonial borders, what is most fundamental is what Kashmiris, as a sovereign Indigenous people, want.

According to a popular Kashmiri protest chant that has reverberated through Kashmiri history:

“Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha! Woh Kashmir hamara hai!” “The Kashmir that has been drenched in our blood! It belongs to us, the Kashmiris!”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is shaking up old politics with her new style

Written by Peggy Nash, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Charles Krupa. Originally published in The Conversation.

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in New York’s 14th Congressional District, asks 2014 Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai a question at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. on Dec. 6, 2018.

The youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a force to contend with. With clear and forthright language, she speaks the truth of people’s reality – and one that is rooted in her own lived experience.

With a megawatt smile and a wink to her demographic, she also has verve and style. Two days after she debated 10-term incumbent congressman Joe Crowley last June during the primaries, she tweeted her lipstick shade, which promptly sold out on the Stila and Sephora web sites.

Social media powerhouse

AOC, as she is popularly known, has more than three million followers on her Instagram account and four million follow her @AOC Twitter account, a 600 per cent increase from last June and more than 2.6 million gained in the past eight months. How does she do it?

Unlike other politicians, she speaks the language of now, especially to her generation. She is down-to-earth and personable. In some of her video postings, she shares her life both in Congress and at home, as if you are getting caught up with a friend.

As a former member of Parliament in Canada, I can tell you, it would be a mistake to brush AOC off a just the flavour of the month. She is no lightweight. AOC’s social media presence is based on trust and authenticity. Her messages are about taking action. And they are a perfect foil to what U.S. President Donald Trump represents.


The fury of the U.S. public

On Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. elected a president who bragged about sexual assault and racism. In addition, right-wing parties were on the rise in Europe and inequality in the U.S. had intensified. People were angry.

The Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration has been called the largest one-day demonstration in U.S. history. There followed Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees and the spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. The proceedings echoed the Clarence Thomas hearings, which discounted the testimony and courage of law professor Anita Hill. The committee even had some of the same members as a generation earlier.

The fury of the American public led to the greatest number of diverse candidates to ever run in the U.S. midterm elections last fall. Many of those candidates lost. But several of them won.

Indigenous, queer, Muslim, Black and women candidates are now represented in greater numbers than ever before. And many of those who lost had a strong showing. This means they have teams in place, voters identified, name recognition and often money in the bank. They just have not won yet.

AOC’s appeal drives Republicans crazy

Enter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She campaigned in a safe Democrat seat but argued that milquetoast Democrats were enabling the growing divide between the one per cent and the 99 per cent. Her campaign video blew up the internet and thrust her into the lives of New Yorkers like a force of nature. That she could beat a congressman as powerful as Crowley shows that she tapped into the reality of her fellow New Yorkers.

Most importantly, Ocasio-Cortez began shaking up the Washington establishment with her bold proposal to reshape America with her Green New Deal, in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Her stimulus plan aims to phase in renewable energy sources and rebalance the social and economic pie in the United States with a proposed tax hike on the richest Americans.

She is also advocating for free tuition, universal single-payer health care, a job guarantee with decent wages and benefits and transitioning the U.S. economy to 100 per cent renewable energy sources. Her vision is far to the left of the cautious and ultimately uninspiring Hillary Clinton, but current Democratic presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves to endorse her plan.

Both her audacious goals and her bold style drive her Republican opponents crazy. They believe that her socialist politics will lose the Democrats the votes of more moderate Americans so they have fixed a negative spotlight on her.

Alternatively, AOC might just be tapping into the anxiety of Americans across party lines as they struggle to make ends meet while harbouring anxieties about climate change.

Women’s rising power in politics

One thing is clear, Ocasio-Cortez is making an imprint on a generation of Americans, especially young women, with a message to get informed, get organized and get involved. Young women in the U.S. are becoming more politically engaged, from the Parkland students to the #MeToo movement.

Here in Canada, we can see a similar pattern in the number and diversity of candidates running for election and applying to programs like Women in House, Daughters of the Vote and the Institute for Future Legislators at Ryerson University and UBC.

To old-style politicians, AOC supporters say “step up or step aside.” She may not be a vampire slayer or have an army or a quiver of arrows. Nevertheless, she’s as fierce a fighter inspiring young Americans to seek change as any cultural superhero, a combination of Buffy, Okoye and Katniss.

In addition to her bold platform, her real superpower seems to be her fearless confrontation, her spirited style and her ability to inspire others to action.

The test will be if it continues to spread beyond the Bronx.

Another barrier for women in politics: Violence

Written by Cheryl N. Collier, University of Windsor and Tracey Raney, Ryerson University. Photo credit The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld. Originally published in The Conversation.

Independent Members of Parliament Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould speak with the media before Question Period in the Foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa, April 3, 2019.

Despite Canada’s self-proclaimed feminist prime minister and gender parity in the federal cabinet, our country falls well short when it comes to women’s representation in federal politics.

Canada has just 27 per cent women in its Parliament and currently ranks 62nd in the world in rankings of women’s representation: 62nd!

As we gear up for the federal election in October, much more needs to be done to attract and keep women in politics in this country.

Canadian women in politics encounter long-standing and stubborn barriers that are hurdles to running and staying in politics. These barriers include the usual suspects: family responsibilities (and lack of child care supports); lack of networks and financial support; few women role models — to name a few.

But recently, researchers have uncovered violence as an additional barrier for women in politics.

As more women have entered politics and have shared their experiences often through interviews and memoirs, more attention has been drawn to the phenomenon of violence against women in politics. The #MeToo movement has helped too and recent surveys by international organizations point to violence against women in politics as a worldwide problem.

Violence against women MPs in Canada

But the history of violence against women in politics is not entirely unknown. When Agnes Macphail took her seat for the first time in the Canadian House of Commons in 1921, she faced ridicule and sexism. She was physically blocked from entering the building.

Former politician Sheila Copps was sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by different male colleagues when she was an Ontario MPP and later federal MP in the 1980s and 1990s.

More recently, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel has been frequently targeted with sexually harassing threats, especially online. She won a court case against a Twitter stalker that threatened to rape her while she attended a campaign event in Winnipeg.

Power and violence

The #MeToo movement has shown that female victims of violence are not alone. More public space has been created to share personal experiences of violence and women are standing up to declare that they are survivors, creating room for politicians to tell their stories.

When we say violence against women in politics we include: physical violence, psychological violence, economic violence and symbolic actions or threats against women who seek or obtain political power. This violence is aimed at women in politics strictly because they are women and has one goal in mind — to prevent them from accessing political power.

A 2016 international study found that 81.8 per cent of women politicians globally had been psychologically abused and 44.4 per cent had received death, rape, beating or abduction threats.

In Europe, 85 per cent of female politicians suffered psychological violence, 68 per cent had been the target of sexists comments and 58 per cent the target of online sexist attacks on social media. A 2018 survey of Canadian female politicians on Parliament Hill found that 58 per cent had been the target of sexual misconduct. Further research found that racialized minority, LGBTQ and young women are more likely to experience that violence.

This election year we have already seen Canadian women politicians targeted, with criminal charges filed against one man for uttering threats against an Ontario female cabinet minister, while former federal parliamentary secretary Celina Caesar-Chavannes announced her decision to not run again in the 2019 election, in part due to threats to her safety.

Federal politics anti-harassment rules

There have been some steps taken in the House of Commons to address this problem. In 2014 and 2015, the government enacted a policy and later a code of conduct to try to curb instances of sexual harassment and assault against women political staff and politicians. The 2015 code for elected MPs was the first of its kind in the world.

Unfortunately, the Canadian MP Code has many flaws. As far as workplace harassment policies go, it falls short. It calls for MPs to launch formal complaints if they are ever the victim of sexual harassment or “non-criminal” assault. But our research shows the complaint process to be secretive.

This hidden-from-view system allows political parties to police themselves under the watch of party whips and chief human resource officer of the House. There are also no reporting requirements in the code, which means Canadians will likely never know whether an MP has been found to have harassed another MP and if they have, what punishment (if any) they faced.

The definition of sexual harassment is also vague and not well understood by MPs, despite training sessions offered to educate them and to set the stage for a harassment-free environment.

It fails in its ability to support women victims and to instil confidence that they will be afforded due process if/when they are victimized. The code problematically includes a provision that warns potential victims that if their claim is found to be “false” they could be punished for bringing the claim forward in the first place.

This provision acts as a deterrent to victims to report sexual harassment, and relies upon a troublesome myth that women are prone to make false claims of sexual harassment or assault.

Canada’s approach also fails by comparison. The 2012 Bolivian law went further in its language against violence against women in politics that includes jail time for convicted offenders.

In the United Kingdom, a new harassment scheme in the House of Commons prohibits multiple forms of violence, including bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. It also provides specialist support for victims of sexual misconduct and includes an independent parliamentary standards commissioner throughout much of the claims process. Although not perfect, the U.K. approach offers more victim-support and a more independent process than Canada.

In a report on violence against women in politics that we wrote for Equal Voice, a Canadian non-profit advocacy group, we make 12 — recommendations to combat the problem of sexual harassment and violence against women in politics.

We call on our governments, legislatures, political parties, NGOs, social media companies and ordinary Canadians to play a part in ending violence against women in politics. This should include revisiting existing and insufficient policies discussed above.

Because it’s 2019. Isn’t it time to fully open the door to women to be equal participants in politics in Canada and elsewhere? For democracy’s sake.

This article is part of The Democracy Project series, a joint initiative between The Conversation and CPAC designed to help Canadians access thought-provoking, original takes on democracy and the issues that will shape the next federal election in October 2019.