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Hey! It’s Samantha and Jack, the editors of Well-Versed. We’ll be with you right up until the federal election. This week, we got you well-versed on Indigenous issues − in case you missed that edition, you can find it here.

We’ll be rounding up the most thoughtful reader opinions every week and featuring them in Thursday’s newsletter.

If you’d like to be part of the conversation, e-mail − include your first name, age and city, if you’re comfortable with sharing.

Reader responses may be edited for length and clarity.

Well-Versed is The Globe and Mail’s twice-weekly newsletter that aims to jump-start your conversations about the 2019 federal election. Write to us about which issues you want to hear about and express your opinion on the policies and people we’ve examined. If you’re reading this through a browser, you can subscribe to the newsletter.


Kaycie Lane and Graham Gagnon: The lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities is unacceptable

Lane, a PhD student at Dalhousie University focusing on drinking-water safety in rural communities, and Gagnon, a professor in the Centre for Water Resources at Dalhousie University, wrote that the lack of access to clean drinking water in Indigenous communities across the country is a continuing and unacceptable problem that requires solutions with a view to sustainability in the long term.

“Water governance in Indigenous communities has suffered from a lack of clear, regulatory guidance inclusive of Indigenous perspectives and beliefs. Without proper engagement, water treatment design in Indigenous communities has not taken community goals for water operations and aligned them with the current best practices in the water industry. For example, the lack of access to STEM training that is designed for Indigenous learners and is appropriate for technical fields like water treatment has resulted in a broken system with insufficient capacity to address a basic need.”

The authors use the current water crisis at Neskantaga First Nation in Northern Ontario – which has resulted in hundreds of evacuations and the declaration of a state of emergency, and which was caused by a treatment failure due to a broken pump system – as an example of how unaddressed operational concerns endanger the health of Indigenous communities.

Much of the debate among readers centred on whose responsibility it is to maintain the water pumps, and to what extent Indigenous communities themselves should be held to account.

“Where did the money go and why did they not maintain the equipment,” user NEA2 asked. User Judith M. called this a “typical Conservative voice of concern” and asked if NEA2 would “support efforts to educate and improve the whole clean-water initiative, or will you be standing by accusing and blaming as usual?”

Most readers saw eye to eye on this being a serious issue; some saw it as a political failure. “Why hasn’t this Liberal government fixed this problem over the past four years? No excuse is a valid one,” user Derek B Cameron wrote.

One user spelled out the authors’ argument that ongoing operational concerns are at the root of the problem. “There is no reason why the existing plants with proper operation would not be producing good water that meets standards,” user Doug skis out west wrote.

Globe Editorial: The future of Indigenous Canada is more than an argument over pipelines

The Globe’s editorial board wrote that it was unfortunate that the Indigenous issues section of the official English-language leaders debate got sidetracked into arguing about pipelines.

“... Indigenous Canada’s future is about so much more than the pros and cons of Trans Mountain. Canada is one of the world’s richest countries, but the average Indigenous Canadian is not sharing in that prosperity. Our common future has to be one where Indigenous Canadians, whether on- or off-reserve, are at least as likely as other Canadians to have graduated from high school and gone on to college, apprenticeship or university. It has to be a future where they are just as likely as other Canadians to enjoy middle-class incomes, good health and long lives.”

The editorial goes on to outline how the past four years of a Liberal government has brought progress marked by contradictions on the Indigenous file. It also reviews the Conservatives’ opposition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – which Canada has endorsed. UNDRIP would give Indigenous peoples rights to free, prior and informed consent on the government use of their traditional lands and could stand in the way of pipeline expansions in B.C. and Alberta.

Readers expressed more concern about UNDRIP and its ramifications than anything else, and were united in agreeing that the current state of affairs on reconciliation is disappointing.

On UNDRIP, user Kate 2888 wrote that “the Liberals are foolish to promise UNDRIP as law since they have clearly not analyzed the long-term consequences of such an action.”

Other readers criticized Trudeau’s government for spending too much and doing too little to forward the cause of reconciliation.

“Billions of dollars spent by the Liberal government have merely increased the negative rhetoric and the demands have grown, user res ipsa loquitor wrote. “Reconciliation seems further away than ever with no comprehensible plan to reach it – from any party.”

“I don’t know what the solution is but throwing vast sums of money at the problem, without a realistic plan for an end goal with measurable improvements, is not working. We need to have an honest conversation and set a reasonable spending envelope.”

Cindy Blackstock: Will Canada continue to fail Indigenous girls?

Blackstock’s piece was published in June, after the release of the final report from the commission that investigated missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). The executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and professor at the School of Social Work at McGill University wrote that the response from government to the commission’s calls to justice hasn’t been encouraging.

“... It has taken seven (and counting) Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders to compel the federal government to begin to fix the funding inequalities in First Nations child welfare that contribute to the over-representation of children in care – inequalities that Canada has known about for at least 19 years,” she wrote. “In addition, meagre progress has been made to address the inequalities in other First Nations public services such as public safety, health care, early childhood education and basics such as water, sanitation and internet access. … Without a comprehensive and public plan, Canada’s incremental discriminatory approach to public services will continue for decades to come.”

The reader debate around Blackstock’s piece centred on a familiar narrative in discussions of issues facing Indigenous communities: Who is to blame? Some readers suggested that Indigenous community leadership should bear more responsibility, and questioned the continued role that the Canadian government plays in reconciliation.

Referring to the case of Tina Fontaine, which Blackstock also discusses, user Callahan wrote, “Tina’s circumstances were a tragedy. But why does all responsibility for this tragedy lie with government?”

DISCUSS: What does it mean to be homeless as an Indigenous person?

Discuss is a Globe Opinion feature in which two people – from politicians to journalists, academics to authors – engage in a conversation that flows out of a single question. The topic from October 11 was: Having nowhere to live on your native land.

The discussion was between Jesse Thistle and Helen Knott. Thistle is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Sask., and an assistant professor in Métis studies at York University in Toronto. He won a Governor-General’s Academic Medal in 2016, and is a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Vanier Scholar. Knott is a Dane-Zaa, Nehiyaw and mixed Euro-descent woman living in northeastern British Columbia. In 2016, she was one of 16 global change-makers featured by the Nobel Women’s Initiative for her commitment to ending gender-based violence.

“My work in Indigenous homelessness at the Canadian Observatory of Homelessness has described First Nation, Métis and Inuit houselessness as a kind of diasporic mobile community whereby the state has failed to spend on housing, infrastructure, education, work opportunities for home communities on par with the rest of Canadians – which is sad because these rights were enshrined in treaty,” Thistle wrote, opening the discussion. “Indigenous people have to travel vast distances to access services the rest of Canadians take for granted. Some don’t even have proper houses or safe drinking water.”

“I think the first step in healing, then, is understanding that colonial and capitalist processes are under way to profit from the land’s exploitation and that it continues to displace Indigenous people into various dimensions of homelessness.”

Thistle and Knott continued the discussion with personal stories of their families, experiences with sobriety, mental health and relationships with the land and urban spaces.


  • Former U.S. president Barack Obama has issued a statement urging Canadians to vote for Trudeau. He wrote, “The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.” Elections Canada has ruled that the endorsement doesn’t constitute foreign interference.
  • About one million more people voted in advance polls this year compared with 2015 – a record number. “The trend is non-stop,” Elections Canada spokesperson Paul Giroux said. But keep in mind: this doesn’t automatically mean that overall voter turnout will be higher. We’ll have to wait and see.
  • We’ve released our profile of Trudeau. The Globe’s Adam Radwanski dubs the Liberal Leader “the man in the middle” as Trudeau leans into the well-worn argument that voters must rally behind his party to stop the Conservatives.
  • Although household income is on the rise in Canada, many families are still feeling strapped for cash. Here’s The Globe’s explainer on the promises that the major parties have made to ease the financial burdens of raising a family.

Stay up to date with all The Globe’s federal election coverage here.

If you’re a Globe subscriber, be sure to also sign up for our regular Politics Briefing newsletter, written every weekday by deputy politics editor Chris Hannay. He will be ramping up his election coverage of all the big headlines and campaign trail news to keep you informed.