Media should re-evaluate ties to ‘anti-Indigenous’ Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Clearly situating the Canadian Taxpayers Federation within the ecosystem of neoliberal advocacy, a recent article analyzed more than 400 documents released by the COTF over 21 years to argue that the organization has pushed “anti-Indigenous political rhetoric and politics.” .

Lead author Kyle Willmott, a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and research assistant Alec Skillings have read nearly every blog post, press release, report, or other material posted on the site. CTF website on Indigenous peoples and policies between 1998 and 2019. Many materials were intended for use by mainstream media.

In their article,Anti-Indigenous Policymaking: Settler Colonialism and Neoliberal Policy Advocacy”, published in the November 2021 edition of Canadian Journal of Sociology, they concluded that the CTF showed “demonstrable opposition to the idea the existence of sovereign indigenous nations and a demonstrated hostility to the exercise of autochthony outside the narrow confines of ‘culture’.

Based on their analysis, Willmott and Skillings wrote, “The CTF conveys a resentment that fosters white settler backlash against Indigenous sovereignty, Indigenous forms of governance, and the legal concept of ‘Indian’ itself. »

Based on what the article calls CTF “Chief-bashing” in articles alleging wasteful Indigenous governments, the authors argue that it is reasonable to conclude that “the politics that drive CTF cannot be seen as mere anti-state neoliberal populism,’ but as specifically anti-indigenous.

Additionally, the researchers argued that “CTF has largely resisted changes in language about how to describe Indigenous peoples, only very recently and in extremely limited circumstances using the term ‘Indigenous’.

However, Willmott and Skillings noted, CTF’s interest in Indigenous issues has waxed and waned over the two decades they examined, and its tone has also varied over time, since 2015, relying less about what researchers interpreted as divisive language. Nonetheless, they argued, over time, “CTF’s adversarial political tactics have had an outsized impact on one specific target of its campaigns: Indigenous peoples and nations.”

One might have expected the FCT to challenge the conclusions of the paper. However, it has been well over a week since I emailed COTF President and CEO Scott Hennig and National Director Franco Terrazzano asking for their responses to the article. Neither of them answered.

“Through the archive of texts we collected,” Willmott and Skillings wrote, “the CTF campaigned for assimilation, called for moving reservations, suggested that treaty rights amounted to ‘law based on race” and minimized the impact of residential schools.

For example, a 2001 COTF article published on the organization’s website complained that federal lawsuits stemming from residential school abuses could “cost taxpayers up to $10 billion.”

“Another article from 2006 denied the genocidal intent of the residential school system and defended residential schools, saying in part that “residential schools were a convenient means of educating Indian children for many years. Moreover, education bureaucrats wanted to emulate the best schools of the time in Canada and Britain.

The researchers wrote, “Our content analysis shows variation in approach, themes and tone, but a clear and demonstrated hostility to the Indigenous nation that should undermine [the CTF’s] legitimacy in the civil sphere as a “neutral” group of “concerned taxpayers”.

Yet the organization, they continued, remains “a pervasive force in the Canadian political and media space”, frequently and uncritically “quoted in media ranging from national post at Radio-Canada News as characteristic and representative of the “Canadian taxpayer”.

“Why,” reads the headline on a companion piece by Willmott published Dec. 21 in The conversation and later reprinted by The Tyee, “Do the media still quote them? »

That’s a very good question.