Indigenous groups are slamming President Joe Biden for his selection of David Cohen as the United States Ambassador to Canada. Cohen served as the CEO of Comcast and as the Chairman of the University of Pennsylvania‘s Board of Trustees — which has paid Biden more than $1 million for a no-show job at the school.
“With all due respect to Mr. Cohen, he has absolutely zero experience in Indian affairs at a time when Canada is embroiled in ongoing indigenous political liberation struggles from coast to coast,” explains one delegate-member of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest association of tribal governments in the United States. “The national moment in Canada concerning the discovery of mass graves at hundreds of residential re-education schools across the country is appalling, and Canada’s treatment of indigenous people has become a global human rights issue.”
Biden said he believed in prioritizing issues of racial justice. But rather than appointing someone who is well versed in the political history of this continent, he appointed the former CEO of a massive telecom company.
“The most pressing social justice issue in Canada has to do with the deplorable third-world living conditions in reservation communities. It’s an apartheid state and indigenous communities are demanding political liberation,” he explains.
Many tribal leaders had been encouraging the White House to select an indigenous academic with a deep understanding of cross-border issues and who is studied in indigenous political liberation movements around the world. They even sent a key White House staffer a shortlist of five individuals, which included tenured faculty at several Ivy League institutions and former tribal leaders. The advice apparently fell on deaf ears.
Progressive groups in Washington, DC are also upset, including social justice, civil rights, and environmental groups.
“This was an opportunity to force Justin Trudeau to live up to the commitments that he has made but has failed to deliver. Every issue we have with Canada is an indigenous issue. The reason Canada can’t build pipelines is because of the predicament of indigenous sovereignty,” one K Street lobbyist explains. “Biden should have nominated an ambassador who will know what’s actually being talked about when talking with Canada.”
“Most reserve communities in Canada don’t have access to clean drinking water, while Canada spends billions on foreign aid. History demands that the United States engage in a serious conversation with Canada — because allies hold each other to account on human rights issues — and it will take an Ambassador who is deeply learned in the subject matter to do that,” the lobbyist insists.