David McLaren

David McLaren has worked for government, the private sector, arts groups, environmental groups and First Nations in communications and policy analysis. He is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigamiing (Cape Croker) on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, who finds himself in Toronto temporarily.


Jul 292013

Northern Ontario faces development similar to the Alberta tar sands.

by David McLaren

I’m looking at a map of northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire. It’s a pretty patchwork of colours in the shape of a crescent moon: deep sea-blue for Freewest Resources, orange for KWG, bright sun-yellow for Probe, grass green for Fancamp, sky-blue for the Freewest/Spider/KWG partnership.

They are some of the thousands of claims staked by mining companies in the Ring of Fire — 5,120 square kilometres in the water sheds of Hudson and James Bays and chock full of chromite, nickel, copper and zinc worth well over $100 billion. That’s a sizable chunk of boreal forest, itself a carbon sink of the order of the Amazon rain forest.

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Mar 252013

The MP for Owen Sound opens old wounds on Native fishing rights in the Bruce Peninsula.

by David McLaren

"With the Natives pushing to come into the Bays, it is a deliberate attempt at confrontation. That’s what they want.”  Larry Miller, (Con, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) chose somewhat inflammatory language when he criticized a new Aboriginal commercial fishing agreement signed between Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and released March 12.

That Agreement is the third since 2000. It sets the terms by which the two First Nations on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario will practice their aboriginal and treaty rights to fish commercially.

The Agreement has local sportsmen’s clubs steamed because, unlike the two previous Agreements, it provides no guarantees Native fishermen won’t set their nets deep inside Colpoy’s Bay at Wiarton and Owen Sound Bay. That’s where the clubs do most of their stocking of Chinook salmon and trout.

On an Owen Sound phone-in radio show on March 13, Miller said, “It’s common knowledge that the Natives don’t want any stocking done. Cuttin’ one finger at a time, except this time they cut off maybe a hand.”

Strong language such as this is bound to stir up hard feelings left over from the horrific events of 1995. The two bays are within the SON fishing territory and their Band members have every right to set nets there, as they did before they were pushed out a couple of generations ago.

Miller said: “The announcement they were going to fish in the bays was the insult. Now, to pay taxpayers money on top of it, it’s like puttin’ a man down and puttin’ the boots to him.”

The money he is referring to is $850,000 Ontario will stream to SON over 5 years to pay for monitoring and enforcement. That works out to roughly $85,000 a year for each reserve to pay a biologist, data collection, communications, and equip boats and trucks.

Miller said: “When they get done with this five-year Agreement, you think the fish count is down now, it’ll be a lot worse. … It’s not about fairness. What it is, is reverse racism.”

In fact, this is the third such Agreement. SON has been fishing commercially in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron (see map) for nearly 20 years — ever since 1993, when an Ontario court recognized their Constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights to do so. There is no evidence fish stocks have declined because of the Native fishery. However, there are other, more worrying factors: climate change, degrading habitat, shoreline development, and declining food biomass.

Miller said: “This won’t hurt just the city of Owen Sound. It affects everybody around, whether your business is in Owen Sound or Meaford or Leith or Lion’s Head. It’s all about tourism.”

Local sportsmen’s clubs hold several fishing derbies over the summer, culminating in the Salmon Spectacular at the end of August. Last year, they had one of their best years, with contestants catching salmon that were bigger and heavier than ever.

Miller said: “There’s a double standard out there. Nobody is anti-Native. What they’re anti is double standard. Everybody needs to be equal.”

To treat everyone “the same” would mean denying First Nations the protection section 35 of the Constitution affords their rights to fish, hunt and gather. The 1993 Jones-Nadjiwon decision ruled the Ministry of Natural Resources’ management regime had discriminated against the two First Nations and was therefore of no effect. That meant negotiating another arrangement. Hence the first Agreement in 2000.

Miller said: “This is a deliberate antagonism from the Natives. They know or should have known what the reaction would be.”

He has no evidence of this. However, to be fair, Miller had tried to get hold of Chief Kahgee and Chief Lee before going on the phone-in show. Neither Chief called him back and no one from Nawash or Saugeen has responded to repeated requests from the media for comment.

Nevertheless, the kind of statements Miller has been making, without first talking to the First Nations (or, it seems, the MNR), only serve to open old wounds, first inflicted in the 1990s "fishing wars" in the Bruce.

Words that inflame can lead to actions that injure, as Justice Linden pointed out in his Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry. In that confrontation, similar comments from elected officials served to ramp up tensions until things turned violent.

While one can understand the frustration of not being told of the Agreement beforehand, never mind not being consulted during its negotiation, everyone should take a step back and remember that Native nets have been in the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron for 20 years without damaging either the sports or the commercial fishery.

Those points were made by more responsible observers than Miller — Josh Choronzey in a column in the Sun Times, March 14 and Phil McNichol in his column March 16.

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation, worried about encroachment on their fishing grounds obtained a Royal proclamation from Queen Victoria 1847 asserting their fishing territory.  Notwithstanding the Royal document, their fishing areas (primarily around the islands) were leased to non-Native fishermen by the government; first with permission, then without either consultation or permission.

The sturgeon was gone by 1900 — fished for their eggs. Non-Native fishermen piled their carcasses on the FishingIsland in Lake Huron and burned them. The lake trout were gone by the 1950s, devastated by aggressive fishing and the lamprey eel (an invasive species). SON fishermen were squeezed into a postage size area north of Nawash.

Nawash fishermen were charged and convicted repeatedly for fishing over an imposed quota until the Jones-Nadjiwon decision of 1993. That decision:

  • Recognized SON’s right to fish commercially.
  • Judge Fairgrieve also found that the Crown had not consulted the First Nations on its regulatory regime and, in any event, had discriminated against Native fishermen. He ruled MNR’s management regime had no force against the FNs.
  • Opened the doors from a return (after some 150 years) to fishing for trade and      commerce anywhere in their traditional fishing waters—including Colpoy’s Bay and Owen Sound Bay.

In spite of the court ruling, violence broke out in Owen Sound and in the Bays in 1995 — the same summer that Dudley George was killed by the OPP at Ipperwash. During that summer:

  • SON tugs were vandalized.
  • A Nawash woman selling fish at the Owen Sound farmers’ market was accosted by a group of sportsmen protesting Native fishing
  • A Native man was murdered, possibly over a dispute about the Ipperwash stand- off
  • Over 20 km of Native nets were stolen or cut adrift<
  • Four youth were beaten, two stabbed after being attacked by about 20 non-Native youths.
  • Francis Nadjiwan’s tug was burned to the hull at the government [dock] in Oliphant.

In 1999, MNR enforcement officers were still harassing SON fishermen by taking up their nets and arbitrarily closing sections of their fishery. During one such closure, the husband of the woman who had been harassed at the Farmers’ market in 1995 went out on a choppy Georgian Bay to retrieve his nets before the MNR could lift them. He fell out of his open motor boat and drowned. It was revealed later, during a judicial review, that the closure order was invalid.

Notwithstanding the clear ruling and the violence, it took the Harris government 7 years from the date of the Jones-Nadjiwon decision to come to the table. SON and MNR signed the first Fishing Agreement in 2000 and the second in 2005. Third party interests, such as sportsmen’s clubs, were (and are) supposed to be represented by the Crown during negotiations.

Feb 182013

Too often, vital stories killed for fear of angering advertisers. 

by David McLaren

 About a year ago, a mid-Ontario broadcaster asked me to provide short, 90-second commentaries on matters of my own choosing. Things went well until I submitted the following comment on low-wage big box retail (with special attention to Wal-Mart).

The broadcaster rejected the commentary out of fear it would upset one of their advertisers (guess which one). The comment itself is fairly benign, and I researched and referenced anything that might be challenged … well read it for yourself.

Such examples illustrate the necessity for ad-free journalism. Let's consider (again) advertising’s chill effect on main-stream media.

  • Journalists pull their punches in their reports and avoid fair comment when the story involves an advertiser. Often restraint starts in the executive suite, as with William Thorsell, former publisher of the Globe and Mail who, for years, refused to assign anyone to the environmental beat.
  • As a result of this self-censorship, certain stories are not printed or broadcast at all.
  • Media tend to maintain and promote a point of view and theory about the world that doesn’t stray too far from main-line culture – certainly not enough to ruffle the feathers of advertisers.
  • Conversely, they show deference to stories that portray advertisers favourably (eg, business reporting is full of these).

And it’s getting worse, due to the use of SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). Even just the threat of legal action can make journalists and civil society groups think twice or thrice about tackling tough stories, such as corporate behaviour in the third world.

There's a whole lot more media space for folks who like to be controversial (eg, Ezra Levant and Christie Blatchford) to slander and libel marginalized groups like the Roma and First Nations,  than it is for respectable journalists to report their investigations of corporations.

Worse, the Harper government's decision to cut the Canadian Human Rights Act's s.13 – speech “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” — has made hateful commentary even easier.  Meanwhile, mainstream media deflect  and decline articles and commentaries with any kind of pro-worker, pro-union, or pro-human rights angle.

Here's the commentary that the mid-sized Ontario broadcaster declined to air:

If you could lift one person out of poverty by spending 15 cents more every time you went shopping, would you? Sure you would. And so would I.

The question is, why the Walton Family won’t. They own Wal-Mart and their wealth now exceeds the wealth of 40 percent of all Americans — the ones at the bottom of the pay scale — like Wal-mart's sales force — er, associates.

All by themselves, the Walton family has the power to raise thousands of their own employees out of poverty. Not even the President of the United States has that sort of power. The best he can do is try to convince Republicans Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. Good luck with that.

Seventy percent of America’s economy is consumer driven. It’s a no brainer. The more people who can buy stuff (without falling too deep into debt as we Canadians are doing) the better the economy.

The Waltons seem unlikely to open their hearts or raise their prices. Their associates are looking for the same bargaining technique as workers used a hundred years ago — unionize.

But the Waltons close stores when their associates get too big for the boots they sell. Remember Jonquiere Québec in 2005?  So Wal-Mart employees have taken to organizing in other ways. Google OUR WalMart to find out how.


Nov 032012

Trade deal with China more than worrisome.

by David McLaren

I am a veteran of the free trade battles of the 1980s and I’ve got the political scars to prove it. NAFTA’s been in effect for some 18 years now, but I still don’t know whether it’s a good deal. I do know that of the 16 trade disputes we launched under NAFTA, we’ve lost every one. US companies, however, have won most of theirs and they’ve taken home $170 million of our money in compensation.

So when I look at the deal our PM signed with China in September, I worry. And you should too.

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Aug 222012

The situation is positively Kafkaesque.

From: David McLaren, Neyaashiinigmiing ON

What is making governments in the West so afraid of information?

Britain has platoons of police surrounding Ecuador's embassy in London lest Julian Assange tries to make a break for it. The PM is threatening to storm the place — an act of war by the way. Not that Ecuador would win, but still.

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Jun 122012

From: David McLaren

"Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"

With those words Republican Senator Joe McCarthy set off a 10-year witch hunt in the US for just about anyone whose political colour was a redder shade of pink. He was finally censured by the Senate but not before he ruined a lot of lives and dealt a body blow to democracy in the USofA.

Whenever I came across the old news reels of that time, I thanked God I didn't live in a country that would permit that sort of bigoted, callow, scape-goating attack on its own citizens.

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