Jun 28, 2021 - Podcasts

Canada’s racial reckoning

Last week, the Cowessess First Nation said it found 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school for Indigenous children in Saskatchewan, Canada. This comes just weeks after the remains of 215 other children were found at a similar school site in British Columbia.

  • Plus, new questions about building integrity in Florida and beyond.
  • And, restaurants and hotels welcome the work-from-home crowd.

Guests: CBC Radio's Wawmeesh Hamilton, The Miami Herald's Doug Hanks, and Axios' Erica Pandey.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected].

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, June 28.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: new questions about building integrity in Florida and beyond. Plus, restaurants and hotels welcome the work-from-home crowd.

But first, Canada’s racial reckoning is today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Last week, the Cowessess First Nation said it found 751 unmarked graves of children at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. This comes just weeks after the remains of 215 other children were found at a similar school site in British Columbia.

Wawmeesh Hamilton is a journalist for CBC Radio and a member of the Hupacasath First Nation and joins us now from Vancouver.

Hello Wawmeesh - thank you for being with us - I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances.

WAWMEESH HAMILTON: Hello and thanks to you and your listeners for having me on.

NIALA: I wonder if you can start by helping us understand, for people who've maybe just seen these headlines - What do we need to know about what these residential schools were and what their purpose was?

WAWMEESH: Residential schools were federally mandated, federally legislated institutions where indigenous children were forced to attend. They were forbidden to speak their language. They were forbidden to practice their culture and their traditions under threat of punishment. The schools opened in the mid to early 1800s. They began to close about 1969 to 1973, but the schools in Saskatchewan were the last to close in 1997.

NIALA: What's been the reaction from Indigenous peoples in Canada to this most recent, horrific discovery?

WAWMEESH: Indian residential schools are known to all indigenous people and all First Nations in Canada. There's nary a life that hasn't been touched, darkened really, by their influence. I don't think there's any of us, any indigenous people in Canada, that can’t count a family member who didn't go to residential school. There's a collective grieving going on right now, amongst indigenous people.

NIALA: I had one of our listeners text us, Bridget from Ontario and she said that she feels like this is a systemic racism reckoning that Canada's experiencing in the wake of these discoveries. And she likened it to the murder of George Floyd here in the US. I know you've covered Indigenous people's issues for years for the CBC. I wanted to ask if you think there's a perception among Canadians that racism is more of a problem Americans have, and have the stories changed that?

WAWMEESH: If you're speaking to Indigenous people, this isn't a recent occurrence. For instance, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that operated in Canada until 2015, gathering testimony from First Nations communities, Indigenous people who went to residential schools, there was a final report and calls to action that were released in 2015. One of the chapters of that final report dealt specifically with the potential for unmarked graves.

So people knew this was coming. Indigenous people knew this was coming. But remember this is the beginning. We witnessed and documented the discovery of unmarked graves of children on these two sites. There are 128 more residential school sites to go.

NIALA: Joining us from Vancouver. Wawmeesh Hamilton is a journalist for CBC Radio and a member of the Hupacasath First Nation. Wawmeesh, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

WAWMEESH: Thank you and your listeners for your interest and for having me on.

NIALA: In 15 seconds: the latest from Miami, after last week’s deadly building collapse.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

At least nine people are confirmed dead and more than 150 still unaccounted for after the deadly collapse of a condominium building in Florida on Thursday.

Now, government officials in south Florida are trying to reassure residents that other older buildings are safe. Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade County for the Miami Herald. We both worked together for that paper and he's joining us now.

Doug, thank you for taking a few minutes for us.

DOUG HANKS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Doug, what are the rules that exist around building safety in and around Miami right now?

DOUG: Well, Miami-Dade County has a fairly strict rule, which is once a building approaches 40 years, it has to be recertified. And that involves the building owner, typically a condo association, hiring an engineer to inspect the structure. And it's a major, major challenge for residential buildings across the county. They typically have deferred maintenance and it can be in the hundreds of thousands. It can be in the millions for a tower and it all comes out of the condo owners pockets to fix it.

NIALA: And it's also important to note that Miami-Dade county has some of the strongest building codes in the country here. Are there proper incentives for condo boards and associations to do this?

DOUG: Theoretically, the incentives should be: your local government will condemn your building if you don't do it. Now, we don't hear that happening very often. At least one city commissioner said to me that often you'll have older residents in these older buildings and you've got people on fixed incomes and so the idea of having a dramatic increase in your monthly conduct fees can be a disaster for people. And so there is a big push not to spend big dollars on these repairs that need to be done rapidly.

NIALA: The Miami Herald's Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade county. Thanks, Doug.

DOUG: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Many American workers still aren't working from the office, but they might be shifting to other work-friendly spots like coffee shops, hotels, or co-working spaces, craving some change from that work-from-home life. Axios’ Erica Pandey is always keeping us up to date on work trends, and she's got this one for us. Hey Erica.


NIALA: You're calling this “the rise of third workspaces”?

ERICA: Yeah. So it's not your house, but it's not your office, it's a third place where you go and get your work done. And I think this is happening because people are realizing that when you're working remotely not in a deadly pandemic, it doesn't have to be in your bedroom anymore. You can try out some cool new spots. And that's just what people are doing.

NIALA: So made famous by Starbucks, originally the “third place,” how are businesses adapting for this new reality?

ERICA: Recently I worked from a restaurant in the East Village in New York called Kindred, and they actually don't even open for dinner until five, but they have started offering a “work from Kindred” option from 10 to four, where for $25 you get a table, you get access to free high-speed internet to outlets and coffee all day. And it was really great. I felt super productive and there were a ton of people there. So it struck me that this could be a really great way for restaurants, many of which have been battered during the pandemic, to make some extra money.

You're seeing also a lot of examples of this in places that weren't traditionally considered remote workspaces, right? When was the last time you saw a hotel call itself a coworking space? Now all sorts of hotels are adding desks and monitors and telling people that you could make this into your third workplace. And then WeWork, it used to be all about long-term leases for startups, but they have an on-demand option where an individual can go book a space in a WeWork for just a few hours. Everything is becoming very customizable, very flexible and all sorts of establishments over cities are preparing for this kind of rise of third workspaces.

NIALA: What do employers think about these third places?

ERICA: The majority of employers around the world are going to be doing some kind of hybrid work option. And they're going to have to realize that, on the days where they're telling people they can work from home, it's not necessarily going to be home. I think we're going to start to see some employers start to subsidize these third places. The bigger ones like Google and Facebook might even build cafe-like work setups on their campuses and tell people that they can treat that as the third place. Either way you look at it, employers are going to have to adapt and maybe put some money behind this.

NIALA: Erica Pandey writes for the what's next newsletter. Thanks Erica.

ERICA: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: Finally today: parts of the Western US are in the middle of a heat wave that’s shattering previous records… if you live out West and are experiencing this, we want to hear how the heat is affecting you and your community. Please record a brief voice memo, and text it to me at 202-918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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