Greetings once more Passengers,

It’s Monday. Yeah, Monday. We love this day, don’t we? My brain is absolutely not just a smooth bunch of mush sloshing around my skull. Not at all. It’s, at least I think it is, Robert (@robert_hiltz) with you once again.

Today we’ve got a few stories for you: the federal government argues the United States is safe for refugees; Canada underfunds First Nations water treatment badly enough that the infrastructure doesn’t last as long as it should; the provinces aren’t using a system designed by the feds to track vaccinations; a First Nation in Saskatchewan had to set up a blockade against the workers of a mining company.

Hey, news:

The Government Insists The U.S. Is Safe For Refugees

Is the U.S. a safe country for refugees? The Canadian government is trying to argue that it is, in an attempt to keep alive a law that allows it to send back refugee claimants to the U.S. if they first arrived there before trying to claim asylum in Canada.

“Detention for returnees is discretionary and for those detained, there exists a robust detention review scheme, including the right to counsel,” the government argues in its latest filing to the Federal Court of Appeal. “Where detention does occur, it is only for short periods and followed by release, unless extended detention is lawful according to the circumstances.”

Over the summer, the Federal Court declared the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) as unconstitutional because it violated the charter right to personal safety. In her July decision Justice Ann Marie McDonald wrote: “The accounts of the detainees (in the U.S.) demonstrate both physical and psychological suffering because of detention, and a real risk that they will not be able to assert asylum claims.”

The government’s claims of a “robust detention review scheme” in the U.S. are countered by the legal team that had the STCA overturned, who claim U.S. detainees “face considerable difficulty accessing counsel or working with their lawyer if they manage to obtain one.” 

At the heart of the argument is whether the Charter should apply to U.S. laws. Canadian officials argue that because the American legal system is theoretically fair and has the possibility for refugees to have an appeal heard, that’s enough for Canada. The legal team arguing against the government says that’s not enough. The government has to take into account the actual system they’re sending refugees into, one that is demonstrably cruel and where those appeal mechanisms are functionally unreachable.

Canada’s rhetorical pose is that refugees are welcome in the country. In practice, of course, the truth is much more brutal. Refugees are only welcome under specific circumstances. A government actually serious about accepting refugees wouldn’t be fighting this judicial order — it would welcome it.

DIG DEEPER: Trudeau’s Decision To Return Asylum Seekers Will Be A Costly Mistake

First Nations Water Infrastructure Is Perpetually Underfunded, Leading To Unnecessary Breakdowns

  • The federal government is underfunding First Nations water treatment plants by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. 
  • In a 2018 presentation by Indigenous Services Canada just obtained by APTN, federal officials said the government’s policy fundings “directly contributed” to problems with First Nations water systems, and because of this many will not “remain operational for their [full] lifecycles.”
  • Federal funding for federal systems should have been at least $361 million per year, according to a 2017 estimate. But between 2015 and 2018 — that is to say, after the Liberals were elected on a promise to fix Indigenous water treatment — federal funding averaged only $146 million. 
  • The government told APTN new funding announcements would assist First Nations to maintain their systems. But, the government wouldn’t give a breakdown of how the new money would be spent, leading APTN to write, “Without more detailed information, it’s unclear whether total annual funding will meet the …[estimated need of] $361 million.”

National Vaccine Data Incomplete Because Provinces Use Outdated Systems

  • Canadian provinces use a patchwork of data tracking for the COVID-19 vaccine, rather than a central digital system developed by the federal government for pandemic vaccination campaigns. 
  • “We can’t look at immunization coverage nationally,” University of Alberta professor Shannon MacDonald told the Globe and Mail. Most of the data collected isn’t even automatically shared with the federal government.
  • The federal system includes things like a barcode scanner to keep track of doses, whereas many provinces just input this data manually. Only Quebec, British Columbia, Yukon and Saskatchewan use the federal system, though not necessarily all its features. Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories developed their own systems.

ICYMI: A Saskatchewan First Nation Erected A Barricade After A Mining Company Entered Their Territory Without Permission

A First Nation in northern Saskatchewan briefly set up a blockade at the entrance to their territory after a mining survey crew entered without permission.

While the Birch Narrows Dene nation has pulled down the physical blockade of the road into their territory, they still have community members patrolling the area. A survey crew for Baselode Energy Corp. were twice seen on their territory.

The chief says the company declared after a meeting with the community it would wait until a second meeting before beginning the survey work. Instead workers showed up two weeks in a row. 

“It was very disrespectful, totally uncalled for,” Chief Jonathon Sylvester told CBC News.

For its part, the chairman of the company said the survey would have no environmental impact and all the necessary permits in order. But, Baselode’s Chairman Stephen Stewart said, “I will note that we are permitted to do this work, but permit and the consent of the community are different things.”

Indigenous consent for projects on their territory is a constitutional right that has been continually affirmed by courts at multiple levels, and has to be an ongoing process. Both the company and the community are open to further dialogue, but this is a setback to that concept.

DIG DEEPER: Blockades Need To Disrupt The Economy To Work

That’s it for today’s Passage Daily. Hope your Monday has been less, y’know, Monday than usual. Come back tomorrow for some more progressive news from the very great Jeremy Appel.

Quick question: do you think the article you just read would be published elsewhere?

Odds are that it would never run in Canada's corporate media. That's why we're asking you to be a part of building a real, left alternative to corporate media — so that more people are exposed to viewpoints and ideas like this one.

But without your support, it's an impossible task. We depend 100% on readers like you becoming members to pay writers and fund our operations. We don't take money from wealthy backers and we don't run ads.

If you want to see more work like this published, become a Passage member today.

Become a member