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Negative news overshadowed a strong year of reconciliation for Indigenous people

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To assess the progress or lack of it for Indigenous people in 2018 you must go back and look at a few events in isolation.

First the trial of Gerald Stanley for the killing of Colten Boushie was a watershed event for race relations for Saskatchewan. When a visibly all-white jury acquitted Stanley, racial polarization in Saskatchewan came to the surface.

After the verdict was read, Stanley was rushed out the door and the jury took flight. Boushie’s family was upset but violence was never contemplated. Both the accused and the jury could have left the courthouse with much less drama instead of the fear and panic that followed. This action showed the apprehension that exists toward Indigenous people among settler society.

Members of Colten Boushie’s family leave the Court of Queen’s Bench after a jury delivered a verdict of not guilty in the trial of Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of killing the 22-year-old Indigenous man. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

The anonymity and convenience of social media allowed racist comments to spread across the province. For Indigenous people it was a stressful time. Parents feared for their children, people avoided rural roads and felt the conversation hush when they entered a rural coffee shop or any other public place.

Later in the year, the Saskatchewan government would introduce legislation amending trespass laws eliminating the need to post private land with no trespassing signs.

Indigenous people saw it as fallout from the Stanley trial that would allow rural landowners to shoot first and ask questions later. It also raised the issue of property rights versus human rights.

On the other hand, Indigenous people continued to grow and develop. We graduated record numbers of students from high school, university and technical training. Rural-urban migration continued, and our standard of living continued to increase.

This is the side of our people that gets lost in the politics of the day. Our people want to earn a living, raise their family and send the next generation into a better world than the one they grew up in.

Also, the rebirth and renaissance of our culture and religion continued to fly under the radar. Powwows brought out increasing numbers of people and sundances and other ceremonies grew in importance.

Powwow on Ochapowace Nation. (Alex Soloducha/CBC)

This was supposed to be a year of reconciliation but much of the news indicated otherwise. However, men and women of goodwill from both the settler and Indigenous community stepped up and worked together to improve race relations.

In Saskatoon, we named the new bridge the Chief Mistawasis Bridge in honour of a great leader who worked to build bridges between his people and the newcomers.

Chief Mistawasis Bridge opened this year in Saskatoon. (Graham Construction)

In Regina, teepees went up on the legislature lawn and stayed from February to September. The province demanded that they be taken down and ordered the police to act on it.

The police chief, to his credit, refused to storm the camp and create a legal and public relations nightmare; instead, he met with the protesters and gained their confidence. The camp stayed up and order prevailed. When the camp finally came down, it was the teepee owners who did it and their point had been made.

Court of Queen’s Bench ordered the camp out of Wascana Centre in September. (Glenn Reid/CBC News)

Meanwhile, in October, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations held its election and Chief Bobby Cameron was re-elected along with incumbent Edward Lerat and a retread, Morley Watson.

The big story that ended the year came in under the radar on the Friday before Christmas.

Earlier in the year the chiefs from the Robinson Huron Treaty had taken the government to court alleging that the $4 annual annuity was based on 1850 money and the rate of inflation and the resource revenue that was realized from their land had to be considered.

The judge agreed, stating that treaties are not one-time transactions and must grow to reflect the value of the land and resource revenue. While the judge stated that the First Nations should negotiate with the federal and provincial authorities, they could also have a court-imposed settlement.

This decision is a game changer in Indian Country. Our elders have told us for years now that the text of the treaties is only a part of the agreement and the oral promises as well as the spirit and intent of the treaty must be considered.

This issue will continue to move forward in 2019 and I fully expect that it will change our relationship with the federal and provincial governments.


This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ. 

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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