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Karen Restoule: The first priority for Indigenous services is to secure clean drinking water

Commentary

Over the coming days, The Hub will publish mandate letters for the incoming cabinet ministers that set out a series of bold policy prescriptions that would cumulatively tilt Canadian politics towards a different and better future.

The best antidote to anger and frustration is aspiration and purpose. The campaign has demonstrated how urgently Canada’s body politic needs such a remedy. There’s no time to waste. It’s time to get to work.

Dear Minister of Indigenous Services

Thank you for continuing to serve the Canadians as Minister of Indigenous Services.

As you know, the country continues to navigate through the most serious public health crisis of our time. The pandemic has had serious impacts on the lives and livelihoods of all and revealed inequities in our society. The circumstances call for a new approach.

The time is now for our government to lay a new and clear the path forward to recovery and prosperity for Canadian families and businesses. The priorities that will pave our road forward to a brighter future: strong body, strong economy, strong mind, strong country. Ensuring vaccinations are secured for every citizen across the country will allow businesses to re-open, resulting in renewed job satisfaction thereby strengthening mental health and boosting our collective economic strength. These priorities will be essential to ensuring that we are fully equipped to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

We are not only required to govern to meet the challenges of every day, but we must also work in a way that prepares us to overcome 20th century realities including climate change, shifting labour market, an aging demographic, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, among others. These will only be overcome if we continue by working in an open and collaborative way with all levels of government and most importantly, with the Canadian people.

During these times, we are reminded of our strength that is rooted deep into who we are as citizens of the North — hearty, resilient, strong. These, along with our adaptability and agility, will be key to overcoming the challenges ahead of us.

I know that I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities in your role as Minister, and that you will do so in a way that upholds the integrity of government ensuring that you are guided by the values of openness, efficiency, and accountability.

As the Minister of Indigenous Services, I ask that you work with your colleagues to deliver on the following:

  • Secure clean drinking water for all Indigenous communities by eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories and supporting partnerships with regional governments to develop sustainable water systems.
  • Address the mental health crisis among Indigenous peoples as a result of intergenerational trauma by supporting the implementation of Indigenous mental health and wellness strategies, led by Indigenous communities and Indigenous mental health and wellness organizations in both rural and urban settings.
  • Tackle the rental housing and home ownership crisis within both Indigenous rural and urban communities by partnering with Indigenous communities and housing organizations to develop and implement a housing strategy.
  • End hunger and support Indigenous food sovereignty by partnering with Indigenous communities to develop a sustainability strategy that ensures access to affordable, nutrient-dense, and culturally-appropriate foods.
  • Work with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to redesign the fiscal relationship so it ensures that Indigenous communities are afforded the same standard services (ie. water, health, housing, education, etc.) enjoyed by non-Indigenous communities and citizens across the country – and – allows for these funds to be managed and distributed by Indigenous governments.

I am counting on you to fulfill these responsibilities and help to build the path to a stronger and more prosperous future for all Canadians.


Dear Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Thank you for continuing to serve the Canadians as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

As you know, the country continues to navigate through the most serious public health crisis of our time. The pandemic has had serious impacts on the lives and livelihoods of all and revealed inequities in our society. The circumstances call for a new approach.

The time is now for our government to lay a new and clear the path forward to recovery and prosperity for Canadian families and businesses. The priorities that will pave our road forward to a brighter future: strong body, strong economy, strong mind, strong country. Ensuring vaccinations are secured for every citizen across the country will allow businesses to re-open, resulting in renewed job satisfaction thereby strengthening mental health and boosting our collective economic strength. These priorities will be essential to ensuring that we are fully equipped to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

We are not only required to govern to meet the challenges of every day, but we must also work in a way that prepares us to overcome 20th century realities including climate change, shifting labour market, an aging demographic, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, among others. These will only be overcome if we continue by working in an open and collaborative way with all levels of government and most importantly, with the Canadian people.

During these times, we are reminded of our strength that is rooted deep into who we are as citizens of the North – hearty, resilient, strong. These, along with our adaptability and agility, will be key to overcoming the challenges ahead of us.

I know that I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities in your role as Minister, and that you will do so in a way that upholds the integrity of government ensuring that you are guided by the values of openness, efficiency, and accountability.

As the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, I ask that you work with your colleagues to deliver on the following:

  • Take immediate action to reconcile past injustices perpetrated by the government of Canada against Indigenous children and families by working with Indigenous survivors, families of the children who never returned home, and communities to develop a strategy to implement the TRC Calls-to-Action #71 through #76, and provide the funding required to support this plan.
  • Support a non-partisan approach to addressing inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples and ensure government accountability for reconciling the Crown-Indigenous relationship by implementing TRC Calls-to-Action #53 through #56, which includes the establishment of the National Council for Reconciliation with the mandate to monitor, evaluate, and report annually to Parliament and the citizens of Canada on the government’s progress on reconciliation.
  • Honour Indigenous autonomy and self-government by working with Indigenous communities to develop a mechanism by which signatories to Treaties that are deemed “historic” (before 1975, roughly) can engage in negotiations with government with the goal to uphold the modern applicability of the Treaty. Explore the possibility of building on the mandate of the Specific Claims Tribunal and/or creating a new body that adopts a more culturally appropriate dispute resolution system, like New Zealand’s Waitangi Tribunal, to support these efforts.
  • Work with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indigenous Services to redesign the fiscal relationship with those Indigenous communities who are not signatory to modern Treaties in a way that ensures Indigenous communities are afforded the same standard services (ie. water, health, housing, education, etc.) enjoyed by non-Indigenous communities and citizens across the country – and – allows for these funds to be managed and distributed by Indigenous governments.
  • Support Indigenous prosperity and independence by creating the Canadian Indigenous Opportunities Corporation to guarantee loans to Indigenous communities and groups to make investments and participate in resource and energy sector projects.

I am counting on you to fulfill these responsibilities and help to build the path to a stronger and more prosperous future for all Canadians.

Decoding Riesling labels is worth the trouble for a wine that ‘keeps its promise’

Commentary

In 2020, Germany was the fourth largest wine producer by volume in Europe, after Italy, France and Spain, and it was the ninth largest in the world after Chile. At 8.4 million hectolitres produced that year, Germany’s output is comparable to fifth ranked Argentina (10.8 million), sixth ranked Australia (10.6 million), and seventh ranked South Africa (10.4 million).

So why don’t we see more German wines on Canadian store shelves or restaurant wine lists?

A big reason can be found in another statistic: in 2020 German was the third largest importer of wine by dollar value in the world, after the United States and the U.K. (Canada is, for what it’s worth, the fourth.) If Federal Republic is the EU’s biggest importer of wine, it stands to reason that the Germans are consuming most of their wine themselves. It’s not like the Germans are desperate for hard currency and also stands to reason its well-to-do wine drinkers keep most of the good stuff for themselves.

In any event, a recent trip to my local provincial liquor control board retail outlet, showed something of the sad state of everyday German wines in this country. About a dozen wines were in the section of products that are stocked regularly, including a few well known brands whose heydays passed decades ago. All were quite sweet, low alcohol whites, though competitively priced. In the section of the store that features small allotments of wines that come and go every two weeks were a handful of Rieslings, again all on the sweet side.

Riesling it turns out makes up 95 percent of German exports to Canada. How much of that is sold in bottles of Blue Nun and Black Tower versus how much is sold as more expensive and drier food friendly wines, I don’t know. But if there’s growth to be had for German Riesling particularly and German wines generally in Canada, I expect it will be linked to the latter.

One man who is keen to see Canadians discover more German wines more often is Consul General Thomas E. Schulze, who was posted in Toronto just in time for the COVID crisis. Schulze, who was previously the German Ambassador to Croatia, is a wine enthusiast, and recently offered the backyard of his residence for German Wine Institute COVID-cool outdoor event honouring two Canadians who also work hard to get more of their compatriots to discover German Wines: Calgary retailer Al Drinkle of Metrovino and Waterloo, Ontario importer and agent Harry Drung, founder of HHD Imports.

Drinkle and Drung were being celebrated by the Consul General and a few dozen members of the wine trade and media for their induction as Canada’s first Riesling Fellows. The German Wine Institute selects new fellows from a different country every year in honour of those in the trade or media who have promoted the grape. Past honourees include popular English wine writers Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, and Canadian expat and New York City restaurateur Paul Grieco.

Drung has always imported German Riesling since he began his career by bringing in two cases of 1975 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett in the late 70s. In his remarks to the small crowd at the Consul General’s residence, Drung explained that, “All I can say is German Riesling is a passion of mine and I can’t get it out of my system,” adding a quote from U.K. wine writer, and Riesling Fellow, Stuart Pigott that “Riesling is a democratic wine”, that can be enjoyed at all levels and “keeps its promise.”

Drinkle also extinguished any doubt that he was a friend and ally of the Riesling grape, stating that he held “an unshakeable conviction that Riesling is the greatest wine” and that he was off the next day to Germany to see how this year’s vintage had fared. If this attendee and correspondent didn’t receive Riesling religion between Drinkle and Drung’s remarks, the wines sampled that evening sealed the deal, not least the Wiengut Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 1998 from the Mosel Valley.

The reason for the Riesling Fellowship is the final reason, I think, why we don’t see more German wines: the labels are tricky to discern for the uninitiated, especially if one doesn’t speak German. There are a lot of umlauts and long compound words. The Fellows, the German Wine Institute and sommeliers and wine trade across the country are there to help, though. German wines, especially Riesling, but also Pinot Noir aka Spätbugunder, enjoy popularity among the higher echelons of the hospitality industry and wine trade. Look for them on fine dining wine lists, where a sommelier can help with a selection.

If you’re in Ontario the LCBO ‘Destination’ program has store and an online channel for German wines, where dry, modern style labels can be bought online.

If you’re in Alberta, then Al Drinkle and his colleagues at Metrovino are there to recruit converts.

And wherever you are, The German Wine Institute, aka Wines of Germany, operates in Canada in both official languages and has an excellent resource website.