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B.C. board launches public effort to rename school named after ‘racist’ federal MP – BC


A Vancouver Island school district is embarking on what could be a difficult exercise to rename an elementary school named after a long-serving, controversial former municipal, provincial and federal politician.

The Alberni School District in Port Alberni, B.C., is setting the stage for a public consultation to rename A.W. Neill Elementary School, named for Alan Webster Neill, a former mayor, member of the B.C. legislature and a federal MP who represented the area in the House of Commons from 1921 to 1945.

Neill, known as and advocate for a blue-collar workers, an early backer of the Canada Pension Plan and a supporter of unemployment insurance, was also considered racist for his efforts in the House of Commons to deny voting rights to Asian immigrants, his support of anti-Chinese laws in the B.C. legislature and his approval of Indigenous residential schools.






First Nations’ students successfully petition B.C. government for provincial park name change


First Nations’ students successfully petition B.C. government for provincial park name change

Neill’s own home in Port Alberni included a restriction that it could never be sold to Asian people. He died in 1960 at 91. The home’s covenant was removed earlier this year.

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“In my opinion, his behaviour and his beliefs were so heinous that he doesn’t deserve a spot on a main plaque on any public building,” said Rosemarie Buchanan, a school board trustee who spearheaded a failed 2017 attempt to have the city council drop the name of Neill Street.

“To think we were sending children to a school named after somebody who was an Indian Agent, who believed the residential school system was good for kids,” she said. “He said the Japanese people were a cancer.”


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The district’s school board said in a statement last month it is considering a name change for the school.

“In the Alberni Valley, much discussion has taken place about the values and actions of A.W. Neill and whether or not A.W. Neill Elementary School should continue to bear this individual’s name,” said school board chairwoman Pam Craig.

She said board trustees propose A.W. Neill elementary become either Compton Elementary School or Kitsuksis Elementary School.


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Prof. Reuben Rose-Redwood, a social and cultural geography expert at University of Victoria, said there is a long, worldwide history of renaming places, including cities, streets and public squares. He cited the Soviet Union as an example of a country that underwent extensive name changes.


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Victoria’s council approved the removal of a statue of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, from the front entrance at city hall earlier this year.

Rose-Redwood said the two issues are similar.






City of Victoria removes John A. Macdonald statue


City of Victoria removes John A. Macdonald statue

“It speaks to what do we in the present hold as our values of who we choose to honour from the past,” he said. “How can we constructively engage with the past in the present to create a better future.”

He said the debate about to unfold in Port Alberni is healthy.

“We often learn our history, not by having monuments there, but by the debates that arise from people who suggest we should remove monuments.”

The Port Alberni school board will decide by next spring whether to make the name change, said Craig, adding the board is looking for public input.


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Buchanan said she knows that people don’t like change.

“Some people have said to me, ‘that was just the way that was at that time.’ There is no get out of jail free card because it was said so many years ago. It is still incredibly racist.”

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Former Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan said he expects old history to collide with today’s values during the debate.






Cost of removing John A. Macdonald statue growing


Cost of removing John A. Macdonald statue growing

“I can tell you it isn’t going to be an easy conversation because it isn’t just the name,” said Ruttan, who was mayor when the council rejected a name change for Neill Street.

“Without a doubt, A.W. Neill was racist, but also, we have to think about that time. It was a very racist time and there were what people perceived as a lot of threats to the economy, a lot of threats to safety and all that kind of stuff.”

Neill was the MP during the Great Depression, the years of the Second World War and the growth of residential schools.

Ruttan, a retired school principal, said he went to A.W. Neill school as a youngster. He said he did not know about Neill’s history while growing up in Port Alberni.


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“It’s going to be a really interesting community discussion and ultimately the decision, as I understand it, will be made by the school board,” Ruttan said. “Kudos to them if they can work through this decision without alienating people in the larger community.”

Prof. Ian Baird, a geography expert at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Neill’s views were strong even for the time period.

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“Even for his day and age, and I think this is the very important thing to recognize, he was one of the most racist politicians around,” said Baird. “He was fundamentally against all Asians from the first moment he entered politics. Asians were seen as an economic threat to white people, or at least to him.”

Baird, who owns property in the Port Alberni area, said changing the name of the school is up to the people of Port Alberni, but “it doesn’t seem to me he’s worthy of an honorific.”




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American Samoans should be recognized as US citizens, federal judge decides


People born in the U.S. territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday, in a hard-fought legal battle spanning decades.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups also ruled that American Samoans should be issued new passports reflecting his ruling. The disclaimer on their passports currently reads: “The bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen.”

“This court is not imposing ‘citizenship by judicial fiat,'” Waddoups said in his decision. “The action is required by the mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment as construed and applied by Supreme Court precedent.”

American citizens are defined as people “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

In this undated file image provided by nonprofit advocacy and legal group Equally American, John Fitisemanu, an American Samoan and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the United States seeking full U.S. citizenship. People born in the territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah decided Thursday in a case filed amid more than a century of legal limbo but whose eventual impact remains to be seen. (Katrina Keil Youd/Equally American via AP)

In this undated file image provided by nonprofit advocacy and legal group Equally American, John Fitisemanu, an American Samoan and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the United States seeking full U.S. citizenship. People born in the territory of American Samoa should be recognized as U.S. citizens, a federal judge in Utah decided Thursday in a case filed amid more than a century of legal limbo but whose eventual impact remains to be seen. (Katrina Keil Youd/Equally American via AP)

American Samoa became a U.S. territory in 1900, but those born there are only recognized as U.S. nationals, preventing them from being able to vote, run for public office or sponsor family members for immigration to the U.S.

Its status separates itself from other U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that ruled the Constitution doesn’t confer citizenship to those born in American Samoa.

The lawsuit was brought last year by three people — John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli — who were born on the cluster of islands southeast of Hawaii and currently reside in Utah. They claimed they faced restrictions from traveling abroad and were subject to fees that don’t apply to American citizens.

It was not clear if Thursday’s ruling applies outside of Utah. The Justice Department and State Department didn’t immediately return Fox News requests for comment.

“The takeaway from the ruling is that people born in American Samoa living in Utah are now U.S. citizens, and they have all the same rights as other Americans, including the right to vote,” said Neil Weare, president of Equally American and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “These individuals can now go and register to vote and participate in state, federal and local elections.”

Camel Rock near the village of Lauli'i in Pago Pago, American Samoa. A federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday that people born in American Samoa should be granted birthright citizenship.

Camel Rock near the village of Lauli’i in Pago Pago, American Samoa. A federal judge in Utah ruled Thursday that people born in American Samoa should be granted birthright citizenship.

American Samoans can apply for U.S. citizenship but have to pay the $725 application fee, in addition to any legal fees they incur to help them navigate the process.

Fitisemanu said his employment prospects have been diminished because of his rejection from jobs that specify U.S. citizenship as a requirement. In an interview with The Associated Press last year, he said he avoided political conversations because he couldn’t vote.

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After the ruling, Fitisemanu said he plans to register to vote. The American Samoan government claims automatic U.S. citizenship would undermine local traditions and practices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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Supreme Court Lets Block On Federal Executions Remain



The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday against the Trump administration and upheld a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking the Justice Department from carrying out federal executions.

The decision halts the pending executions of four men, which the Justice Department had scheduled for December and January. 

It’s been more than 16 years since the death penalty was last used at the federal level.

In July, Attorney General William Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to resume the federal death penalty so that he could schedule executions for five men: Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, Dustin Lee Honken and Lezmond Mitchell. (In Mitchell’s case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in October to stay his execution pending resolution of his appeal.) 

In November, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District of Columbia imposed a preliminary injunction, placing a temporary hold on federal executions while the four inmates legally challenged the Justice Department. The death row inmates have alleged that the Justice Department’s new lethal injection protocol ― which uses one drug instead of a three-drug combination it previously used ― isunlawful. 

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously rejected Barr’s motion to lift the injunction, sending the case up to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying: “While we are disappointed with the ruling, we will argue the case on its merits in the D.C. Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice is committed to upholding the rule of law and to carrying forward sentences imposed by our justice system.” 





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Republicans Confirm Lifetime Federal Judge Opposed To Fertility Treatments



WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to confirm Sarah Pitlyk to a lifetime seat on a federal court, despite her extreme views on fertility treatments having “grave effects on society” and her unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

Every Republican present but one, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), voted to put Pitlyk, 42, onto the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Every Democrat present opposed her. The final tally was 49-44.

You can see how every senator voted here.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of two pro-choice Republicans in the Senate, along with Collins. She did not vote. Her spokeswoman Karina Borger said the senator was not there because she is attending the first meeting of the International Energy Agency’s Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency, of which she is an honorary member.

“She would have voted no” if she were present, Borger said.

Pitlyk, who is special counsel to the Thomas More Society, a conservative, anti-abortion law firm based in Chicago, argued in a 2017 amicus brief that in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and surrogacy lead to “diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.”

In a related 2017 interview with the National Catholic Register, she said that “surrogacy is harmful to mothers and children, so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.”

Nearly one in six U.S. couples face infertility, according to a 2014 National Institutes of Health study. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is among them. She had been urging her colleagues to oppose Pitlyk over her “deeply insulting” views on fertility treatment.

“As a mother who struggled with infertility for years and required IVF to start my family, I would be one of the many Americans who could never enter Ms. Pitlyk’s courtroom with any reasonable expectation that my case would be adjudicated in a fair and impartial manner,” Duckwork wrote in a letter to her 99 Senate colleagues.

Pitlyk fits the mold of many of President Donald Trump’s court picks: young, white and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers’ group that has served as a pipeline for judges for this White House. Most Federalist Society-backed nominees also tend to have records of opposing abortion, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

In private practice and in her work at the Thomas More Society, Pitlyk built a clear record of attacking reproductive rights. She defended anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who broke federal and state laws by secretly recording and deceptively editing videos that falsely claimed to expose Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal tissue. She defended Iowa’s six-week abortion ban that was later struck down as unconstitutional. In another case, Pitlyk argued that it is “scientific fact” that “human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg.” (It is not scientific fact.) 

After losing that case, Pitlyk lamented that “the trial court’s judgment treated the embryonic children as inanimate objects, not human beings with the same interests as other unborn children.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Pitlyk also filed multiple legal briefs with misinformation about fertility treatments, including the claim that children conceived by IVF have “higher rates of birth defects, genetic disorders and other anomalies.”

“I think it is disqualifying for any judicial nominee to make unfounded and unsupported claims, especially in a court of law,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Beyond the controversy over her views on fertility treatments, Pitlyk earned a rare and embarrassing “not qualified” rating by the ABA given her lack of courtroom experience: She has never tried a case in civil or criminal court. She has never examined a witness. She has never taken a deposition or argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. The ABA’s rating was unanimous.

Pitlyk previously clerked for Brett Kavanaugh, also a Federalist Society member, when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. When Kavanaugh was credibly accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Pitlyk came to his defense, writing in a Fox News opinion piece that his critics were “trying to tarnish the character of a man we and so many other people admire and respect” on the basis of “a single, unsubstantiated, anonymous allegation about an alleged incident in high school – some 35 years ago.”

Pitlyk also publicly dismissed Ford’s story, saying in a CNN interview that it was “hard to take it seriously … in light of the transparently, politically motivated manner in which it has come to light,” and that “it defies credibility to believe that it is just a coincidence.”

You may be wondering, why on earth would Republicans confirm a lifetime federal judge with such extreme views who was rated unqualified by a panel of senior lawyers?

By all appearances, and in keeping with the agenda of this White House, it is because she is a young Federalist Society member who publicly defended Kavanaugh when Republicans needed it the most. A lifetime seat on a federal court is a pretty sweet thank you present.

It isn’t the first time Republicans have confirmed an unqualified judicial nominee after they went to bat for Kavanaugh.





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Court rejects federal government’s bid to put Indigenous child welfare ruling on hold


OTTAWA — The Federal Court has rejected a request from Ottawa to press pause on a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling ordering compensation for First Nations children who were unnecessarily removed from their families and communities due to underfunding of the on-reserve child welfare system.

The decision means the federal government will have to submit a plan to the tribunal by Jan. 29, 2020 detailing how compensation could be paid out. However, Ottawa will continue to fight the tribunal’s ruling in court, arguing there are flaws in its decision.

The government maintains it does want to compensate First Nations children who suffered due to underfunding of child and family services. On Monday, federal ministers announced Ottawa is looking to negotiate compensation through a separate class-action lawsuit that would cover a larger number of people than the tribunal ruling.

“Nothing changes our strong belief that we must compensate First Nations children harmed by past government policies,” Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller’s office told the National Post in a statement on Friday. “We will continue to seek a solution that will provide comprehensive, fair and equitable compensation for First Nations children in care.”

The case concerns a human rights complaint initially filed in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations. In September, the tribunal found the government wilfully and recklessly discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child and family services on reserve and in the Yukon, which created an incentive to remove Indigenous children from their homes and communities. It found each child who was unnecessarily taken into care starting on Jan. 1, 2006 is entitled to $40,000 in compensation.

It also ruled the government should pay compensation to parents and grandparents and to Indigenous children who were denied essential services covered under Jordan’s principle, which states that the needs of First Nations children should take precedence over jurisdictional disputes about who should pay for them.

The government filed a legal challenge of the decision in October, and also asked the Federal Court to stay the ruling pending the outcome of that judicial review.

We will continue to seek a solution that will provide comprehensive, fair and equitable compensation

A hearing on the motion to stay was held in Ottawa earlier this week. On Friday, Federal Court Justice Paul Favel denied Ottawa’s request to put the process on hold, finding there would be no harm in the government discussing a compensation plan with the other parties. He pointed out that Canada doesn’t yet have to pay out compensation — it just has to make a plan.

“I’m pleased with it, because it allows the tribunal to continue with its work on the compensation process, so that’s the most important thing,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the Caring Society, in an interview.

She said the decision brings First Nations children one step closer to receiving compensation, but added that Canada continues to throw up roadblocks. “Are they going to stop fighting and do the right thing for kids, or are they going to continue to fight?” she said. “In which case, we will meet them in every courtroom.”

The tribunal originally ordered the parties to submit a compensation plan by Dec. 10, but this week pushed that deadline back to Jan. 29. In a letter on Wednesday, the tribunal wrote that the approaching deadline and Canada’s refusal to enter into discussions left it feeling “cornered.” There is no set date when Ottawa would have to start paying compensation.


Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

Codie McLachlan/Postmedia/File

During the hearing on Monday, a Justice Department lawyer argued the tribunal’s decision was flawed in part because it ordered the government to pay each child the same amount — the maximum $40,000 in compensation the tribunal is allowed to award. Robert Frater argued the decision took a “one-size-fits-all” approach that didn’t make distinctions “based on harms actually experienced.” He estimated the ruling would require payment of at least $5 or $6 billion.

Frater also argued the decision forces Canada to “take a piecemeal approach to settling,” because the ruling only affects Indigenous people who were involved in the child welfare system since 2006.

In contrast, the class-action lawsuit the government wants to settle covers children affected by the underfunding of child and family services dating back to 1991, but not their parents.

However, the Caring Society argues the children covered by the tribunal ruling shouldn’t have to wait longer simply because others also suffered. “If we wait for perfection, we’ll be back here again and again and again and again, and we’ll never have a solution,” said Barbara McIsaac, a lawyer for the Caring Society, during Monday’s hearing.

The Caring Society had sought to have the judicial review put on hold until the tribunal has issued another order with details about the compensation process. But Favel denied that motion as well, meaning both the tribunal process and the legal challenge seeking to have it overturned will proceed simultaneously.

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