Economic recovery, reconciliation leading issues for young Ottawans as Parliament resumes

Economic recovery, reconciliation leading issues for young Ottawans as Parliament resumes

Alexander Zeppilli stands outside Leeds House at Carleton University in Ottawa. Photo by Andrew Stetson.

For Alexander Zeppilli, the primary issue facing the new Liberal government ahead of Monday’s opening of Parliament is the nation’s economy.

“They need to get the economy going again, they need to get people back to work,” said Zeppilli, 23, a graduate student at Carleton University.

Economic issues and the need for Indigenous reconciliation were among main issues stressed by young Ottawans who spoke to The Raging Twenties on Friday.

For Zeppilli, the need for increased focus on the Canadian economy comes down to the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19 for working people and business owners.

“I’ve seen how it can affect the middle-class,” he said.

A controversial election culminated in a near-identical Liberal minority for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sept. 20.

The Liberal government has pledged to create a more resilient Canadian economy by introducing affordable childcare and support for businesses to increase hiring through a campaign promise of $78 billion in new spending over the next five years.

The economy is also the issue Benjamin Purcell wants to see become a target of the government over the next four years.

“The economy and getting things back to normal needs to be the real focus,” said Purcell, 23, a graduate student in international security at Carleton University.

Max Lampert, 13, was on Parliament Hill with his family on Friday.

photo of Parliament Hill
Centre Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Young Canadians have many issues that they want to see addressed by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party ahead of the opening of Parliament on Monday. Photo by Andrew Stetson.

Lampert said the Liberal party needs to address inequalities facing Indigenous communities first and foremost.  

Although the prime minister has pledged to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories and address systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada, Lampert said he doesn’t have much confidence in Trudeau’s promises. The Liberal government has promised $2 billion investment in housing for First Nations communities and a $325 million annual allocation toward a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy.

“He has tried to please, but it falls short,” Lampert said.

Skepticism toward Trudeau’s weighty commitments was shared by Purcell back at Carleton University. 

“He promises the world, and nothing happens,” he said.  “It shows how much he is willing to say he’ll do, and they’re just empty promises.”

As far as Zeppilli is concerned, the Liberal party needs to act to prove that an early election was necessary and worthwhile. 

“Saying you are going to do something is a start, but you need to follow it up,” Zeppilli said.  “They need to lead by example.”

To learn more about the issues that youth are demanding from Parliament, check out William Eltherington’s article, With Parliament returning, young members of a defeated Green Party grapple with its racism and transphobia problem

Demands to defund police should “go to Queen’s Park,” says Ottawa city councillor

Demands to defund police should “go to Queen’s Park,” says Ottawa city councillor

Community members held a rally on Oct. 7 to mark the one-year anniversary of Anthony Aust’s death during a 2020 police raid. Residents attending the rally gathered outside of Ottawa police headquarters and laid out flowers, candles and banners. (Submitted by Vanessa Dorimain).

Community groups advocating to defund Ottawa’s police force are at odds with city council over which level of government is responsible for greenlighting police budget cuts, ahead of a key vote on the city’s $346.5 million police budget.

The Ottawa Police Services Board will vote Monday to determine whether the proposed 2022 police budget, which is requesting an increase of $14 million from last year, will be recommended for city council approval next month.

But according to Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, who is one of three city councillors appointed to the board, defunding a municipal police force is not as straightforward as some residents may believe.

For Ottawa residents calling for a freeze to the force’s funding, the vote will indicate how prepared the board’s seven members are to meet their demands and reallocate police funding to community supports and services.

“People have to remember municipalities are the creatures of statutes and legislation,” King said. “Any power a police board has is determined by the province. It’s not realistic for us to go to the public and say, ‘we’ll defund.’”

He points to language in Ontario’s Police Services Act that requires municipalities to ensure local law enforcement is adequately resourced. According to King, demands for defunding should “go to Queen’s Park” because the act significantly limits the board’s ability to freeze the budget in response to community demands.

If the provincial act says cities must provide adequate policing services, “we can’t just arbitrarily cut dollars from the police budget,” King said, adding demands to defund the force or freeze its budget should be made to the province.

Some community members say councillors are using the Police Services Act as an excuse to shift responsibility toward the province.

Samantha McAleese, a member of Coalition Against More Surveillance, said police board members are still responsible to the community they represent, regardless of constraints presented by provincial legislation.

“They use the Police Services Act as a reason not to freeze or decrease the budget,” she said. “But my question for the board is, what are they doing to push back [against] the Police Services Act to do what their community is asking them to do?”

Mandi Pekan, project director at the Street Resilience Project, said she believes the board needs to understand that community demands go beyond simply defunding the force’s budget.

“There seems to be urgency from the OPSB [Ottawa Police Services Board] of where this money should go, but I think they’re missing the point,” Pekan said. “The last delegations in general have been pushing back on OPS [Ottawa Police Services] in terms of the harms of policing rather than where the money needs to be allocated.”

Pekan emphasized any reallocation of funds, if done, needs to be done properly.

“A budget freeze isn’t about going to specific organizations on the city hierarchy list to replicate the same thing, but to reinvest [into the] areas of community infrastructure that continue to be underfunded,” Pekan said.

Should the board vote to adopt the 2022 police budget, it will go before city council on Dec. 8 for final approval.

This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of Coalition Against More Surveillance. Incorrect information previously appeared in this post.

With Parliament returning, young members of a defeated Green Party grapple with its racism and transphobia problem

With Parliament returning, young members of a defeated Green Party grapple with its racism and transphobia problem

Annamie Paul, centre, resigned on Nov. 10 amid poor election results and internal party disputes. Photo by courtesy of Rebecca Wood through Creative Commons license.

For Kayne Alleyne-Adams, 20, the Green Party of Canada represented an important voice for young people to address the issues of climate change and social justice.

Like other young Greens, he is now grappling with his place in the party following allegations of racism and transphobia within many of the party’s inner circles.

“There are a lot of party spaces that are extremely unsafe for members, especially members of colour, Jewish members and members from the LGBTQ+ community,” said Alleyne-Adams, who is Black and identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In a year that saw the hottest temperatures in Canadian history, and record-breaking floods this week in B.C., the stage was set for the Greens to take command of the climate issue in the Sept. 20 federal election. However, with Parliament now set to return on Nov. 22, the Greens are arriving back in Ottawa without a leader and with a host of internal equity issues, which has many supporters wondering how the party can move forward.

Internal Green Party report details strife

On Aug. 31, an internal report detailed complaints of racism and transphobia in the party. The complaints stem from a variety of “spaces” such as campaign events and Facebook groups. Members reported the comments and remarks made by other members in these spaces to senior levels of the party, who they say failed to address them.

Some generation Z and millennial members — who represent an important source of support for the party — are reckoning with their confidence in the party’s management of discrimination.

“I can’t be part of a movement where I don’t feel as if I can bring people in … If I feel guilty bringing in a friend or bringing in a family member. I just don’t see that as a space that I want to dedicate my time to,” Alleyne-Adams said.

“And until the Green Party of Canada makes it clear that organizationally, they want to create a safer environment, it’s just not the place for me.”

photo of Kayne Alleyne-Adams working at a desk
Kayne Alleyne-Adams says he was initially inspired by Annamie Paul’s vision for the Green Party. He became frustrated with senior members who failed to address systemic problems of racism, transphobia, and anti-Semitism. Photo courtesy of Darcy Higgins.

Growing up as the eldest of four, raised by a single mother with disabilities, Alleyne-Adams was inspired by Annamie Paul and identified with her story as the daughter of immigrants. He felt she had a passion for integrating diverse views and youth voices into her campaign and would go on to serve as the chair of the Young Greens of Canada Council and as Paul’s debate prep coordinator.

After over a year with the Green Party, he became frustrated with the party’s senior governance in addressing problems of racism, transphobia and anti-Semitism within the party. Alleyne-Adams said he reported the incidents of racism against him to the membership review and complaints process but received no resolution.

“Oftentimes, I wouldn’t even receive as much as a reply or even an acknowledgement that they’ve received this letter in the first place,” he said.

But racism is not the only issue facing the Greens.

‘Transphobia seems to go unchecked’: B.C. Green Party candidate

The Aug. 31 internal report also describes the governance level of the party failing to address complaints of transphobia.

“I’ve just noticed that transphobia within the federal party seems to go unchecked,” said Nicola Spurling, 31, a candidate for the provincial B.C. Green Party in Coquitlam-Maillardville and a member of the federal Green Party.

photo of Nicola Spurling
Nicola Spurling says federal party leaders stayed silent and allowed transphobia to occur in the party. She ran as a candidate for the B.C. Green Party in the 2020 provincial election. Photo used by courtesy of Nicola Spurling

During the 2020 provincial election, Spurling, who is openly transgender, was harassed and doxed by a man who claimed to be a fan of author J.K. Rowling and protested at several sign-waving events for her campaign with anti-transgender signs.

Spurling said she felt supported by the B.C. Green Party following the harassment who offered to pay her legal bills and provide any support she required.

“That, to me, was really impressive to have a party that really cared about me,” she said.

Although she felt supported in the provincial party, she says trans members of the federal Greens face a significant amount of transphobia and the party has not supported them.

“If the party continues the way that it has been, sort of staying silent on these important issues… I have doubts about whether it can last,” she said.

At this time, Spurling says she is unsure whether she will renew her membership to the federal party.

‘Struggle for the soul of the party’

In the 2021 federal election, the Green Party finished with 2.3 per cent of the popular vote, down from 6.5 per cent in 2019. Former leader, Annamie Paul, finished in fourth place in her riding of Toronto Centre, prompting an internal battle over what went wrong.

Paul, who officially resigned on Nov. 10, said in her resignation speech, “there is a struggle that is going on for the soul of the party.”

Despite the decline in the national vote and internal conflict within the party, the Greens were saved from a calamitous loss in seats by Mike Morrice, who won a surprise victory in the Ontario riding of Kitchener Centre.

For Morrice, who joined the party in 2019, running for the Greens wasn’t the most politically advantageous, but he felt he needed his first choice in politics to be one he believed in.

“I wanted to start myself on a track that ensured I could stay true to who I am and focus on democracy first and foremost and give me the best chance to hold on to my integrity,” he said.

Morrice, 37, will be one of two MPs in the Green caucus and is left to pick up the pieces of a fractured party.

“Racism is systemic, and we need to be calling it out and rooting it out. And that’s an ongoing process,” he said.

Morrice is calling for the party to centre anti-racism policy in the most senior levels of government and says they need to focus on listening to racialized voices and the issues they are illuminating.

“Those are voices that the party needs to be listening to and learning from, but like I said, this is the reality of systemic racism that exists in every institution across the country,” he said.

Many of these decisions need to come from the federal council which governs the complaints and membership review process.

Maya Linsley, 19, is also grappling with her place in the party, but feels the Green Party still represents an important platform for young people.

Linsley was a volunteer for Morrice’s 2021 campaign which was the first time she got involved in politics.

photo of Maya Linsley
Maya Linsley volunteered for Mike Morrice’s 2021 campaign. She says she was inspired by his campaign and his focus on community. She is disappointed with the senior levels of the Green Party. Photo courtesy of Maya Linsley.

Trust in new Ontario Green MP

While disappointed with how the party is handling its internal issues, Linsley said she felt inspired by Morrice’s campaign and his commitment to her community.

“When people see that their concerns are actually registering, that’s when they start caring because they really feel like they’re heard,” she said.

Linsley’s belief in the values that Morrice brings to the Greens helped her to reckon with the issues in the party.

“We trust him to represent the community, and I think a party like the Green Party, because of the way they’re set up, they bring those people forward, the people who will just represent the needs of the community, regardless of the party agenda,” she said.

The party, in her view, still has an important place in Canadian politics but needs to change.

“I think a Green Party is the thing that we really, really need,” she said. “And I wish they wouldn’t mess it up.”

For Alleyne-Adams, politics are taking the backseat for now, so he can focus on school (he’s studying sociology and creative writing at York University) and his mental health before getting involved again.

“I think there’s a necessity for parties to be inclusive, to be open, and to be willing to listen to and hear young voices,” he said.

“I don’t think the Green Party has that right now. I don’t think the Green Party has been that for a little while.”

To learn more about the issues youth are facing as Parliament resumes, check out Andrew Stetson’s article, Economic recovery, reconciliation leading issues for young Ottawans as Parliament resumes