Saturday, 7 March 2015

Updated Guidelines Issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Indian Child Welfare Act

For those who have been following the effects on the Indian Child Welfare Act ( ICWA) following the 2013 decision by the US Supreme Court in the case of Adoptive Couple v Baby Girl, there is a glimmer of good news. A previous blogpost (here) commenting on this decision noted that it upheld the spirit if not the letter of the Existing Indian Family doctrine, a judicially created doctrine that allowed judges to determine that they would not apply ICWA if the judge had made a determination that the child concerned did not have requisite ( as decided by the judge) cultural ties to their indigenous heritage.

On February 25, 2015, new Guidelines on the implementation of ICWA went into effect. The Guidelines were issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is the first time since 1979 that Guidelines on ICWA have been updated. There are many praise-worthy elements in the new Guidelines which will be examined in future blog posts. However, given the commentary in the previous blog post about the effect of the US Supreme Court decision on the Existing Indian Family Doctrine, it is important to note that the EIF doctrine is specifically addressed in these Guidelines. The Guidelines specifically state that “Section A ( of the Guidelines) is intended to make clear that there is no existing Indian family (EIF) exception to application of ICWA… The Department agrees with the States that have concluded that there is no existing Indian family exception to the application of ICWA.” This is certainly good news, however long overdue.

Post written by Sarah Sargent.

Monday, 2 March 2015

And the debate continues...the Keystone XL pipeline

Presidential Veto for Keystone XL Pipeline, and Concerns that the Oil Industry Brings an Increased Risk of Risk and Sexual Assault.

President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline on February 24. This is the first time in 5 years that he used his veto powers, CNN notes.  But this does not mean that the issue has ended, as the six yearlong battle over the pipeline is set to carry on, with political proponents of the pipeline seeking to override the Presidential veto. It would appear at the moment that there are insufficient votes to accomplish that.

This article (here) explains that the strong indigenous opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline construction involves more than environmental and sovereignty issues. “Community safety” is an additional concern that is noted—where the concern is that workers on the pipeline “could cause an uptick in sexual assaults against area women.|” Native American women already experience a disproportionately high rate of sexual assault. The perpetrators of the sexual assault are non-Native men, “in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault” according to Amnesty International (here).

Links between the oil industry and an increased risk of sexual assault and rape have been raised (here and here), but this is a message that somehow seems to have attracted very little discussion. The concerns that are raised are ones that need to be addressed in any future debates about the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

Post written by Dr Sarah Sargent.