'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

December 7, 2011

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

Chain The Dogma    December 7, 2011

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

PM Harper's prohibition propaganda of fear ignores children living in poverty

by Perry Bulwer

I have previously written on this blog about how Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is an ideologue who insists on implementing public policy based on political dogma rather than scientific evidence. His insistence on not only perpetuating but expanding the disastrous war on drugs  is a glaring example of that.

Evidence from around the world conclusively demonstrates that the prohibition of drugs has been one of the most perverse, deadly, costly and ineffective public policies ever.  All the myths, lies and propaganda propping up prohibition have been exposed  and scientific evidence proves that decriminalization and/or legalization of all drugs achieves the goal of harm reduction prohibition sought but failed to achieve for the past 70 or 80 years. The only country to abandon prohibition policies so far is Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized 10 years ago, but based on the results more countries are certain to follow. In Portugal, where drug addiction is now treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, drug use by youth is steadily declining, drug related deaths are down as are rates of communicable disease.  When decriminalization was first proposed most Portuguese were opposed to it, but now with such obvious benefits no one is clamouring for the bad old days of prohibition.

Watch the opening statement in this debate for an excellent overview of the failed drug war

Janus Forum - Should the US Legalize Drugs? from Brown University on Vimeo.

Recently, Prime Minister Harper publicly reiterated his refusal to allow scientific evidence to inform his drug policies when responding to reporter's questions in Vancouver, ironically, at the reopening of Science World. Four former mayors of Vancouver had just endorsed a call by a new coalition of experts in British Columbia demanding the end of cannabis prohibition, which the current mayor later also endorsed.

A new coalition of B.C. health, academic and law enforcement experts is calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, saying existing laws only drive the billion-dollar industry underground and fuel gang violence.

Stop the Violence B.C., which comprises dozens of police officials, doctors, university professors, legal experts and more, released a report today titled Breaking the Silence, which aims to show that marijuana prohibition, while well intentioned, has been ineffective — and, in fact, has adverse effects.

All of those professional experts, and many others around the world, have examined the available evidence and come to the only reasonable conclusion possible: prohibition is a drastic failure that makes things worse, not better. But none of those expert opinions or their overwhelming evidence can move an ideologue like Harper. When asked if he would ever consider legalizing and regulating cannabis he responded:

“That won’t happen under our government. We’re strongly opposed to the legalization of drugs. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the spread of drugs in the country and the damage it is doing to our kids.”

[Update April 4, 2012:  the link above where that quote came from is now dead. It was on the Vancouver Sun website, but the article has disappeared. I found another report of that event at this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/26/marijuana-laws-legalization-canada-stephen-harper_n_1114388.html   The quote above is slightly different in this report: "No, it will not happen under our government," Harper said. “We're very concerned about the spread of drugs in the country and the damage it's doing and as you know we have legislation before the House [of Commons] to crack down."  This issue of link rot, or dead links, is a big problem for bloggers who rely on linking to sources, which is one reason I have archived entire news articles on my other blog.]

First, Harper makes it very clear that he is not interested in science, even though he made that statement at a ceremony for an educational science center. He is definite about it. Nothing could change his mind. Ending prohibition will not happen under Harper's government no matter what the evidence shows. That is the epitome of political dogma, though I have no doubt that it is partly informed by Harper's religious dogma  as a practising member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance. After all, fundamentalists are not concerned about evidence and facts.

Second, the demagoguery in Harper's statement not only discounts facts and evidence, but it also deceptively gives the impression that he is concerned about the welfare of children. Children are a favourite subject for political fear-mongers because they can imply that anyone who opposes them is endangering children. However, the reality about drugs and children is that the myths, lies and repercussions of prohibition present greater dangers to children and teens than drugs themselves. Canadian children can access cannabis and other illegal drugs easier than legal but deadly drugs such as prescription medication, alcohol and tobacco because those are strictly regulated. Legalizing and regulating drugs now prohibited would both reduce the spread of drugs and protect children, as the Portuguese have found. Furthermore, there simply is no evidence that there is a crisis of drug use spreading across the country and damaging children. Harper just made that up. The real national crisis causing untold damage to hundreds of thousands of Canadian children is not prohibited drug use, but poverty and the hopelessness it creates.

If Prime Minister Harper was truly concerned for the welfare of children he would be proactively doing everything in his power to ensure that no Canadian child lives in poverty. But he is not, even though protecting the most vulnerable citizens should be one of the basic functions of government.  As I wrote in a previous post, on his official website  Harper shows more concern for stray cats than children living in poverty. Oddly, I could not find a search function on that site. I easily found references to protecting cats, but I could find nothing about protecting children through poverty reduction and housing programs. In one of the richest countries in the world hundreds of thousands of children still live in dire poverty without basic necessities of life, and our Christian Prime Minister never says a word about it. Perhaps he misunderstands the scripture that says "suffer the little children".

It has been more than 20 years since the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty by 2000, but a national advocacy group says it's shocked by how little progress has been made.
While the economy has more than doubled in size since that 1989 resolution, the incomes of Canada's poorest families have stagnated, Campaign 2000 says in its 20th annual report card on child and family poverty released Wednesday.

"Every year I am shocked by the lack of progress made in poverty eradication," said Laurel Rothman, national co-ordinator of Campaign 2000. "The gap between rich and poor families has continued to widen, and low-income and average-income families are left struggling to keep up."
The group says 639,000 children still live in poverty in Canada — one in every 10 children. Among aboriginal children, the rate is one in four. [emphasis added]

I do not think anyone aware of Canadian history is surprised that aboriginal children suffer from poverty at higher levels than other children. There has been two hundred years of colonial, institutional, and governmental racism in Canada, epitomized by the Indian Act  under which the Indian reserve system was set up. South Africa frequently looked to that system as an example for their own segregation policies and apartheid system,and when criticized government officials would use the Canadian experience to justify state racism and discrimination.  [Note: CBC has removed the article at that last link from their archive. It reported that South African officials visited Canada to learn from the Indian Reservation system how to implement apartheid. This article in the archive makes a similar argument: http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/international-politics/canada-and-the-fight-against-apartheid/apartheid-in-canada-babb-to-visit-peguis-indian-reserve.html

Now, 20 years after South Africa abandoned its segregation program, apartheid in relation to Canada is back in the news.

TORONTO, Nov. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - As the UN climate summit gets underway in Durban, South Africa, a group of anti-apartheid activists and African non-governmental organizations are calling on Canada to restore its reputation as a leader on global issues, which has been tarnished by Canada's active promotion of the tar sands. A full-page ad in the Globe and Mail compares the Canada that was one of the first western countries to impose sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1986 with the Canada's failure to date to respond to global warming, which will have serious social and environmental impacts. The text of the ad reads:
"Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada's global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It's time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution."

They are right to criticize the Harper government's regressive environmental policy, which ignores facts and evidence, just like its drug and crime policies. But I find it a bit dismaying that those anti-apartheid activists seem to be unaware that a kind of apartheid still exists in Canada,  though to be fair, saving the environment is perhaps more important than saving humans since without a livable environment there will be no humans to save. Yes, Canada did eventually oppose South African apartheid, but did so while continuing its own discrimination policies under the Indian Act, which essentially makes First Nation peoples wards of the federal government. The Indian Act is apartheid legislation in part because it is the means by which the Canadian government segregated the original inhabitants by pushing them onto small reserves after most of their traditional lands were expropriated, while at the same time attempting to assimilate them into settler culture through oppressive laws and institutions that denied many their basic human rights.

At the same time environmentalists were rightfully trying to shame Canada for endangering the planet environmentally, a Red Cross emergency mission to an Indian reservation  may have been an even greater international embarrassment for the Harper government by exposing the deplorable effects of Canadian apartheid today. It has been common knowledge in Canada for many decades, at least to those who cared to look, that conditions such as infrastructure and services on many First Nations reserves are sub-standard compared to the rest of Canadian society. Under the Indian Act, the responsibility for providing those things on reserves falls to the federal government, whereas it is provinces and municipalities who provide them for everyone else. However, while provinces and municipalities have legislation and codes that ensure minimum standards for infrastructure and services, the federal government has no similar legislation to protect those living on reserves, only policies that can be changed at the whim of fickle, dogmatic or demagogic politicians.

Here is how a United Nations Special Rapporteur described the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people in Canada in a 2004 report. The summary of that report lists many of the effects of Canadian apartheid on First Nations people:

Economic, social and human indicators of well-being, quality of life and development are consistently lower among Aboriginal people than other Canadians. Poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, morbidity, suicide, criminal detention, children on welfare, women victims of abuse, child prostitution, are all much higher among Aboriginal people than in any other sector of Canadian society, whereas educational attainment, health standards, housing conditions, family income, access to economic opportunity and to social services are generally lower. Canada has taken up the challenge to close this gap.
Ever since early colonial settlement, Canada’s indigenous peoples were progressively dispossessed of their lands, resources and culture, a process that led them into destitution, deprivation and dependency, which in turn generated an assertive and, occasionally, militant social movement in defence of their rights, restitution of their lands and resources and struggle for equal opportunity and self-determination.
Aboriginal peoples claim their rights to the land and its natural resources, as well as respect for their distinct cultural identities, lifestyles and social organization. Current negotiated land claims agreements between Canada and Aboriginal peoples aim at certainty and predictability and involve the release of Aboriginal rights in exchange for specific compensation packages, a situation that has led in several instances to legal controversy and occasional confrontation. Obtaining guaranteed free access to traditional land-based subsistence activities such as forestry, hunting and fishing remains a principal objective of Aboriginal peoples to fully enjoy their human rights. So does the elimination of discrimination and racism of which they are still frequently the victims. In some cases, taking advantage of development possibilities, Aboriginal people have established thriving business enterprises. Much more needs to be done to provide such opportunities to all Aboriginal communities in the country in order to raise employment and income levels.

The date of that UN report, 2004, is important in this context. A year later, in November 2005, then Prime Minister, Paul Martin (Liberal) met with the premiers and First Nations leaders in Kelowna, B.C. The result became known as the Kelowna Accord,  which would have allotted $5 billion towards ending some of the gross inequities faced by aboriginal peoples as identified by the United Nations. However, just days later, Martin's minority government fell, an election was called, and Stephen Harper's Conservative party took over. Harper walked away from the agreements signed in Kelowna, choosing instead to ignore the problems, until forced to face the facts of dire poverty and homelessness on many reserves by one brave band Chief, Theresa Spence, who declared an emergency in her community of Attawapiskat after years of government neglect. That declared emergency, by the way, was ignored by the federal government until the Red Cross and the media became involved. But the government's immediate, patronising response was to blame the victims,  offer unworkable suggestions for emergency shelter  and send in an accountant, rather than expedite an emergency response to protect the lives, including infants and children, of those living in frozen squalor  in one of the richest countries in the world.

After reneging on the Kelowna Accord and being in power for six years, what has Prime Minister Stephen Harper done to alleviate these long-standing problems and disparities his government has legal obligations to ameliorate, both nationally and internationally? Nothing but maintain the deplorable status quo. Here is what the Auditor General of Canada wrote recently, in a June 2011 report:

Lack of clarity about service levels. Most of the services provided to communities throughout Canada are the responsibility of provincial and municipal governments, but this is not the case on reserves. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government has exclusive authority to legislate on matters pertaining to “Indians, and Lands reserved for Indians.” INAC has been the main federal organization exercising this authority. While the federal government has funded the delivery of many programs and services, it has not clearly defined the type and level of services it supports.
Mainly through INAC, the federal government supports many services on reserves that are normally provided by provincial and municipal governments off reserves. It is not always evident whether the federal government is committed to providing services on reserves of the same range and quality as those provided to other communities across Canada. In some cases, the Department’s documents refer to services that are reasonably comparable to those of the provinces. But comparability is often poorly defined and may not include, for instance, the level and range of services to be provided. [emphasis added]

Prime Minister Harper's failure to make any progress towards dealing with the inequities faced by the First Nations peoples actually makes things worse for them. Lower levels and qualities of service than other citizens receive means that those on reserves slip further and further behind, which the current emergency has made all too clear. But there is another way Harper has made things worse. Speaking in the House of Commons, Harper callously suggested that it was the people of Attawapiskat and their band leaders who were to blame for the crisis of poverty, homelessness and sub-standard housing. If there was an undertone of racism in Harper's comments (they were definitely patronising), his ineffective response to the crisis could be seen as overt racism.  After all, it is difficult to imagine Harper offering unworkable suggestions and sending only government observers and an accountant to a non-reserve community that has declared a life threatening emergency. Moreover, the subtle racism in Harper's speech and actions is reflected by many citizens across Canada, considering the comment sections of online newspapers, which are filled these days with utter ignorance and blatant racist attitudes towards the first peoples. With such attitudes openly expressed by politicians and the public, it is understandable why the Assembly of First Nations just passed a resolution asking the United Nations to have a 'special rapporteur' to once again investigate whether the government is fulfilling its legal obligations towards indigenous people.

The optics are not good for Canada, which is slowly losing its progressive reputation  under the dogmatic, backward looking, conservative government of Stephen Harper. It is an international embarrassment that twenty years after the government of South Africa ended its apartheid program, Canada still has its reserve system that inspired that apartheid. The fact that this current crisis exposing Canadian apartheid is happening in the community of Attawapiskat is extremely ironic considering that there is a De Beers  diamond mine just 90 kilometres away. Reminiscent of South African apartheid wherein the state enabled exploitation of indigenous peoples by corporations, De Beers has so far extracted about half of the estimated $1 billion worth of diamonds the mine is expected to yield. The company has pledged just $30 million, or three percent, of that total yield to the original inhabitants of the land the mine is on.

Perhaps it is time for the world community to pressure Canada into ending its colonial policies  and apartheid system under the Indian Act, just like it did to end South African apartheid.


Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face 

Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order


  1. Attawapiskat must pay Ottawa appointee $1,300 a day to run its finances

    By Heather Scoffield December 8, 2011

    OTTAWA - The federal government is forcing the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation to pay a private-sector consultant about $1,300 a day to run its finances -- even though the government's own assessments say the third-party management system is not cost-effective.

    Aboriginal Affairs officials told The Canadian Press they have an agreement to pay Jacques Marion of BDO Canada LLP a total of $180,000 to look after the reserve's accounts from now until June 30. The money comes from the Attawapiskat First Nation's budget.

    That rate over the course of a year would run up to $300,000 and easily pay for at least one nice, solid house, notes Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit. "And (Aboriginal Affairs) should pay for this over and above First Nations existing budgets," he said.

    Instead, the band will soon find itself cutting off educational assistants and aides for special-needs children in order to scrape together the money to pay the consultant, said New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, whose northern Ontario riding includes Attawapiskat.

    "What they've done is taken $300,000 out of this band's limited budget for political cover to pay for the mistakes of an incompetent minister," Angus said. "They have to shut down programs to pay for this guy." Marion's daily fee is about a month’s salary for educational assistants, he added.

    But Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed aside criticism of the fees and requests from the opposition to cover the costs. Harper told the House of Commons the government is just making sure the band council in Attawapiskat stops mismanaging taxpayers' money. ...

    Stan Beardy -- the grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation that includes Attawapiskat -- says communities in the James Bay region would normally have to pay $200,000 and $300,000 a year for such a government appointee. The high pay removes incentives for third-party managers to resolve outstanding issues and leave, Beardy said.

    "It's hard to get out of deficit that way," Oneida Chief Joel Abram added during a break in annual chiefs' meetings in Ottawa. "Maybe they (the federal government) should be in third-party management." ...

    Band Chief Theresa Spence has argued vigorously against intervention, saying it is an attempt to discredit her leadership during a housing crisis that requires immediate measures — and not the long-term accounting advice that generally comes from third-party management. ...

    A recent departmental review of the intervention regime concluded that the third-party management system is not cost-effective, and hurts a band's ability to govern itself.

    "Considerable time and effort is required from (Aboriginal Affairs) and recipients to implement the intervention policy," says the November 2010 evaluation.

    "The cost of co-managers and third-party managers affects the availability of band support funding for governance and administration in recipients."

    The review points out that third-party managers are not able to use surpluses to pay off debt. The review also said the arrangement is applied inconsistently across the country, making measurement of success or failure difficult. Some third-party arrangements drag on for up to 10 years, with no evident plan to graduate to a more independent financial arrangement. The auditor general has also repeatedly criticized third-party management for not being properly monitored by the government.

    read the full article at:


  2. Attawapiskat residents 'prepared to stay and wait'

    CBC News December 9, 2011

    The chief of the troubled Attawapiskat community says she believes residents don't want to take Ottawa's offer to evacuate the reserve, and called for more funding to help deal with a housing crisis.

    In a letter to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan on Friday, Chief Theresa Spence said she believes reserve residents want to remain in Attawapiskat.

    "Our past experience of the last evacuation from the community met with three people dying during and after the ordeal … I will consult my people regarding evacuation, but I think they are prepared to stay and wait."

    She also called on the federal government to allocate money so the band can push forward with its plan to upgrade existing housing on the reserve, and to convert a healing lodge temporarily to house families now living in tents. Proposals and budgets for both were submitted to the government on Dec. 6, Spence wrote.

    "My council does not lack capacity. What we lack are funds … let us proceed with the budgets and projects to move ahead and deal with the emergency for my people," she wrote.

    The band's letter comes after the federal government announced it would send 15 modular homes to the troubled Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario to help ease the housing crisis. ...

    In Friday's letter, Spence said the community needs 22 units, instead of 15. She also called on Duncan to rescind the decision to put Attawapiskat under third-party management.

    "In order to deal with the crisis, there is no third-party manager on Earth that is capable of knowing the needs, the people, the community and the resources available to plan, implement and resolve this particular issue," Spence wrote. She also added that the band would not pay for the services of a third-party manager from its "already depressed band support funding budget." ...

    The band says it will take the trailers, and will also consider a government plan to house people temporarily in the local healing lodge.
    But Spence told the CBC's Tom Parry that the band can't afford to pay for either of those things out of its existing budget.

    When asked whether the band or the federal government will pay for the 15 houses, the minister said, "The homes and costs associated is not our immediate concern. This is an emergency management response. We will worry about who's paying for this afterwards."

    His spokeswoman later explained to the Canadian Press that Ottawa is paying for the houses upfront. But if the third-party manager eventually finds excess money in the band's allocated housing budget, that money will be diverted towards the 15 modular units.

    Duncan again said the government would conduct a comprehensive, independent audit of the band's finances.

    "It's clear that significant investment in the community has not generated the results that the residents of Attawapiskat deserve and all Canadians expect."

    Spence fired back in her letter Friday, saying that there has been "much misrepresentation" on the money the band has received from the federal government.

    "For the record, our audits have been filed with your department for those years, and on average the per capita funding level ranges from $9,000 to $12,000 over this time frame and is not the $50,000 as reported by the prime minister." ...

    read the full article at:


  3. Build taps and toilets... not prisons!

    BY MEERA KARUNANANTHAN, Rabble.ca December 10, 2011

    .... There is nothing natural about poverty. The housing crisis in Attawapiskat is a not an accident or an isolated incident. Attawapiskat is a natural outcome of Canada's violent colonial past and racist present.

    The ideology aggressively pursued by the Harper government is not neutral when it comes to race and gender. Harper is very deliberately building a world in which powerful white guys get richer and Indigenous children are more likely to go without access to water.

    The Occupy movement is a testament to a generation that rejects the myth of trickle-down economics and the (North) American dream that promises upward mobility for those who work or dream hard enough. It is hard to believe that anyone would buy into the idea that the Irvings of New Brunswick or Paul Desmarais of Quebec going from filthy rich to filthy richer will somehow trickle down to those living without heat and water in Attawapiskat.
    A recent OECD study showed that the gap between rich and poor in Canada is widening. The report found that in 2008, the top 10 per cent of Canadians, 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent and that during this time of economic crisis for the rest of us, the very richest of Canadians, the top 0.1 per cent, had their share of income more than double, to 5.3 per cent from 2 per cent in 1980.

    While funding to all other public services is being mercilessly slashed, billions of dollars will be spent on building prisons over the coming years to accommodate an increase in the rates of incarceration resulting from Harper's tough-on-crime policies. Actual crime rates are at an all time low and have been on the decline for years. Although $2.1 billion were pledged over five years in the last federal budget, parliamentary Budget Chief Kevin Page told the Canadian Press last year that the tougher rules "could raise total prison costs to $9.5 billion a year in 2015-2016 from $4.4 billion this year. It could require the construction of as many as a dozen new prisons."
    Back to the race and gender impacts of Harper's agenda. A Cree elder at Tuesday's event spoke about the high rates of incarceration of Indigenous people.

    According to a 2007 paper by the Native Women's Association of Canada Aboriginal women are the fastest growing population of federally incarcerated prisoners. While they represent only 3 per cent of the population, in 2007 they made up nearly 30 per cent of the population of federally incarcerated women. In 2005, Prison Justice Canada estimated that a federally incarcerated female prisoner cost $150,000-$250,000 per prisoner/per year or the estimated cost of a new house in Attawapiskat. The vast majority are first time offenders imprisoned for petty crimes such as shoplifting. ...

    The resolve of the community of Attawapiskat is an inspiration at this time when all we can do is resist. I cheered when the community kicked out the "third party manager" the Harper government appointed in an outrageous public relations stunt to try and change the narrative from humanitarian crisis to one of mismanaged accounts. The same prime minister who stood up in the House of Commons to defend Minister Peter McKay's penchant for travelling in challenger jets and helicopters had the gall to accuse the community of mishandling public money.

    If we only we could appoint a third party manager to handle the Harper government for mismanaging public funds to serve the interests of the wealthy few and for failing in its obligations to respect its human rights and treaty rights obligations.

    read the full article at:


  4. National chief supports civil disobedience over Attawapiskat

    CBC News December 10, 2011

    While tensions continue to grow between the federal government and the First Nations community of Attawapiskat, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo says civil disobedience is one form of action that could be used to draw attention to the current crisis.

    In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, National Chief Shawn Atleo tells host Evan Solomon that "remote-control decisions, unilaterally imposed decisions," like imposing a third-party manager on the community of Attawapiskat, are not the answer.

    A number of chiefs have told Atleo "we need to use every tool that is available to us."

    Atleo acknowledges that civil disobedience "certainly has been one of the tools" he has used in the past, specifically when trying to bring attention to the plight of his own community on the west coast of British Columbia.

    "Attawapiskat is not the only one" under a third-party manager, said Atleo.

    "Again this is about decisions made by remote control, by individuals who have no deep-vested interest in these communities — they're operating from cities elsewhere or Ottawa, for that matter."

    Part of the challenge in this crisis is getting past the blame game, and according to Atleo there's only one of two ways to do that: "it's hard or harder."

    "Are we going to work separately and have it harder, or are we going to get on with the hard work of working to reconcile our respective jurisdictions," said Atleo.


  5. Attawapiskat chief blasts minister in open letter

    By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2011

    Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence maintains she has not agreed to third-party management, despite a line in a statement issued by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan on Sunday, pointing to the contrary.

    In an open letter issued Sunday evening, Spence blasted Duncan for insisting she accepted a third-party manager.

    "Frame it however you see fit, but not as third-party management," Spence wrote.

    Earlier in the day, Duncan's office issued a statement saying: "I am pleased that Chief Spence has acknowledged the necessity of working with our government, the third-party management team, and Emergency Management Ontario to get help to the residents of Attawapiskat."

    But speaking from Attawapiskat, Spence told CBC News that Duncan's office called her Sunday morning to give her an update, which included the government's purchase of seven additional modular units for the community.

    During that call, Spence said she "made it clear: I'm not going to allow third-party management in my office."

    In an email to CBC News, officials in Duncan's office pointed out that "all of theses actions" — from purchasing emergency supplies and the 22 modular homes, to sending technical support to retrofit the Healing Lodge — are actions "already being carried out by the third party manager using federal funds."

    Spence said in her open letter that she is thankful for the emergency assistance providing "renovations, trailers, and expertise," but she laid out six reasons why she continues to reject the idea of Ottawa imposing a third-party manager on her community:

    "I don't want an interruption to this fiscal year’s cash flow April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012."

    "Interruption of cash flow would seriously hinder the debt management plan we have in place."

    "Interruption of cash flow would prevent us from issuing Social Assistance payments, our members would not be able to purchase goods for Christmas holidays."

    "Your office has not established a date to meet to discuss these very concerns."

    "Email from the third-party manager is requesting financial information and data on employees which suggests that he will manage our finances, payroll, etc. off reserve and not on site."

    "Current capital project funding for Attawapiskat projects is being managed and accounted for by BDO in Thunder Bay. The funding for the trailers, renovations could also be managed under this current arrangement."

    Spence said Duncan has her "full co-operation" and reiterated her desire to meet with Duncan in order to "arrive at a compromise."

    But she added in her letter, "This continued insistence of third-party management is causing yet another crisis in our community."

    After Spence released her statement, NDP MP Charlie Angus told CBC News, "Once again we see John Duncan is misrepresenting the facts and covering his tracks."

    Finding a resolution to what Angus called "a tragic tale" would not be possible "until Mr. Duncan fesses up and shows a willingness to work with the people of Attawapiskat," the New Democrat said in a written statement to CBC News.

    Spence told CBC News earlier Sunday that although she can travel to Ottawa to meet with Duncan, she hoped Duncan would afford her "the courtesy" of meeting with her in Attawapiskat, something he has yet to do. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  6. Attawapiskat, Katrina and imperialism

    Jesse McLaren, rabble.ca December 13, 2011

    ... This is the Native people's Katrina moment [2]," said an Attawapiskat resident in reaction to the current crisis. Both juxtaposed oppression and opulence -- from the black community of New Orlean's 9th Ward who were left to die on rooftops in the shadow of the wealthy French Quarter, to the indigenous community of Attawapiskat who were left to die in tents in the shadow of the richest diamond mine in the Western world. Both were symptomatic of a much broader problem stemming from slavery and colonialism. As NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus described in a series of articles that helped highlight the crisis:

    "Attawapiskat is the tip of the iceberg for the numerous Bantustan-style homelands of the far north. Years of chronic under funding and bureaucratic indifference has created a Haiti north where dying in slow motion on ice-filled shantytown is considered the norm."

    Both government responses seemed incompetent, but were ideologically driven: first ignoring a tragedy that affected poor and racialized communities, then scapegoating them as criminals (for accessing food or allegedly mismanaging funds), then cramming them into a sports complex, and then trying to forcibly relocate them. Both emergencies became opportunities for disaster capitalism. As Robert Lovelace explained, [3]

    "The tragedy at Attawapiskat was not only predictable it was planned. The current government has promoted an ideological solution to the 'Indian problem' ever since the Conservative's incubation as the Reform Party. Their strategy needs a tipping point to convince the Canadian public that it is the only, and more importantly the final, solution. If it not Kashechewan or Attawapiskat, it will be some other community taken to the depth of despair. The plan is to dissolve Reserve communities through offering them up as private property to individual band members and turning Bands into municipalities. One more step away from the legal titles and rights protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and one more step toward complete economic and social chaos in Indian country."

    To push its austerity agenda the Harper government claims to have no money and demands ordinary people pay for the economic crisis. The accusation that the people of Attawapiskat mismanaged funds is part of this broader narrative, with a specific racist focus on First Nations. The specific accusation of mismanaging $90 million was demolished by this article [4]http://apihtawikosisan.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/dealing-with-comments-about-attawapiskat/ , and it's worth putting the $90 million into the broader context of government spending.

    While the Harper government claims that $0.09 billion was generous for all the needs of Attawapiskat, it spends $1.4 billion [5] on subsidizing the tar sands -- which destroys indigenous lands. It plans on spending $10 billion on prison expansion -- and will incarcerate a greater number of indigenous people if its draconian Bill C-10 [6] is passed. And the Harper government plans on wasting billions on oil wars abroad -- from $15 billion on fighters jets (the potential real cost of $30 billion is too big to fit on the graph), to $25 billion on naval warships.

    Harper justifies the massive military spending on the claim that "the major threat is Islamicism," and that we need to continue the occupation of Afghanistan into its second decade. But to paraphrase -- no Afghans left the people of Attawapiskat in tents to die.

    read the full article at


  7. UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada


    Press Release - For Immediate Release

    Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2011) - UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada

    (Ottawa) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee, composed of 23 independent experts from around the world, is the UN's main authority on women's human rights. The Committee's decision was announced Tuesday by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).
    The inquiry procedure is used to investigate what the Committee believes to be very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to launch an inquiry.
    Canada has signed on to the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of "grave or systematic" violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry. Now that the Committee has formally initiated the inquiry, Canada will be expected to cooperate with the Committee's investigation.
    "FAFIA and NWAC requested this Inquiry because violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy that demands immediate and concerted action," said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.
    "Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about 20 years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate."

    "These murders and disappearances have their roots in systemic discrimination and in the denial of basic economic and social rights" said Sharon McIvor of FAFIA.
    "We believe that the CEDAW Committee can play a vital role not only in securing justice for the women and girls who have died or disappeared, but also in preventing future violations, by identifying the action that Canadian governments must take to address the root causes. Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy violence against Aboriginal women and girls."
    "The Committee carried out an inquiry into similar violations in Mexico five years ago and we expect the process will follow the same lines here in Canada," said McIvor.
    "Mexico invited the Committee's representatives to make an on-site visit and during the visit the representatives interviewed victim's families, government officials at all levels, and NGOs. The Committee's report on the inquiry spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations. Mexican women's groups say that the Committee's intervention helped to spur Government action and we hope to see the same result here in Canada."


  8. Metis court case to re-open the rebellion

    BY KRYSTALLINE KRAUS, rabble.ca December 16, 2011

    The Supreme Court of Canada is currently hearing arguments from the federal government and the Manitoba Métis Federation regarding a federal promise between the two groups made 141 years ago.
    The essence of the case revolves around whether the federal government failed to follow through on an 1870 land deal promise -- to set aside 5,565 square kilometres of land in Manitoba for 7,000 Métis children -- for the conclusion of the Red River Métis rebellion.

    The Supreme Court case is the Manitoba Métis Federation's last legal attempt to right what it calls the "betrayal of a generation of Métis children, who lost their land and birthright." The case was originally launched in 1981 and has now reached the Supreme Court.

    The promise of land if delivered more than a century ago would have helped to establish a Métis homeland within Manitoba, an area of Canada that after Confederation was being overwhelmed with white settlers moving into traditional First Nations and Métis territory. ...

    According to paragraph 200 in the Manitoba Métis Federation's Factum, "By the time the grants were finally issued in the names of the children the Metis had been in Macdonald's phrase, 'swamped by the influx of settlers.' The Metis had become marginalized and were now, to a great extent, a landless minority. It may be that half the Metis population had left Manitoba by 1881."

    More than a century later, the federal government is currently arguing in Supreme Court that the case should be thrown out because the statute of limitations has long since passed into history. It also argues that the Métis were in fact consulted during that time regarding the land distribution process and the land ultimately distributed.

    In court documents submitted, the federal government claims it cannot accurately understand the history and context of a century old.

    "Proceeding to consider the claims forces the defendant... to respond to allegations made on the basis of a documentary record alone without witnesses who could explain the facts or fill in the gaps. Assessing this century-old documentary record against modern legal standards compounds the potential for unfairness."

    Lawyers for the Manitoba Métis Federation argue instead that the federal government never lived up to the 1870 deal that settled the Red River Rebellion; therefore failing in its constitutional duty agreed upon by Riel that paved the way for Manitoba to enter the Confederation. This essentially robbed the Métis of the possibility of establishing a homeland within Manitoba and any further potential for the Métis as operate as a geographical and political state.

    The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), "in showing that there was an inexcusable delay in implementing the original promises, argues that there was a breach of fiduciary obligation by Canada, which left the Metis a marginalized minority in the province. The breach by Canada was a breach of a constitutional obligation.

    1. The Manitoba government then passed a series of laws which the MMF alleges were designed to ensure the children's grants passed from Metis ownership to non-Metis ownership. The MMF contends that these laws were unconstitutional.

    2. The MMF will argue that since the federal government had a constitutional obligation to the Metis and their children that it failed to fulfill, the Supreme Court of Canada, notwithstanding the passage of time, can rule on the question, since it involves the rightful place of the Metis within the constitutional system." ....

    read the full article at:


  9. Rae visits Attawapiskat reserve, calls conditions 'third world'


    Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae travelled to the troubled Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario Saturday, to witness the residents' ving conditions first-hand.

    The community is is at the centre of a political battle over unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions in Canada’s First Nations reserves.

    For at least the past two years, many residents in Attawapiskat — in some cases, multiple generations of a single family — have been living in makeshift tents and shacks without heat, electricity or indoor plumbing. The community declared a state of emergency in October, but the winter cold is turning the situation even more dire.

    Rae told reporters what he saw during his tour along with Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett was “third world.”

    “We talk a lot about the third world, we talk about Haiti, we talk about poverty in other parts of the world. This is our third world. It’s right here. It’s right here at home.”

    Rae and Bennett visited the community at the invitation of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

    “He came to see the true picture of what’s happening,” said Spence.

    Rae acknowledged that Attawapiskat’s situation is repeated across many of Canada’s First Nations communities. “I think we make a big mistake if we think that Attawapiskat is all alone, if it’s the only community facing this.”

    Rae said governments need to look beyond the current crisis for solutions. “There is a diamond mine nearby, I think both the province and the federal government have to think a lot harder how we’re going to share the resource revenue and make sure the people who are living here are getting some part of that,” he said.

    “We can’t go on like this for the next decade or 20 years without seeing some real improvements,” he continued.

    Rae denounced the federal government’s appointment of a third-party manager to oversee the band’s finances. “To me, it’s a continuation of the colonial attitude,” he said, adding that such management doesn’t work and is not sustainable.

    The Conservative government placed the remote James Bay reserve of 2,100 residents under third-party management on Nov. 30.

    Federally appointed third-party manager Jacques Marion has been tasked to audit and oversee the community’s finances — a move that is costing the band $1,300 a day. On Thursday, Spence announced she has filed a court injunction to stop Marion from operating in the community. She said they will find out on Tuesday if they can proceed with the injunction.

    Even after all the attention, Spence said there are residents still living in tents while they wait for new or refurbished accommodations which may not come until the new year.

    Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan proposed to evacuate the residents living in tents, but the community has decided to stay.

    Spence said the Harper government is only focusing on the money aspect of the problem has created more delays.

    “If they focused on the crisis in October . . . people wouldn’t have to still be living in tents,” said Spence. ...

    read the full article at:


  10. Redefining Justice

    By Hilary Feldman, UBC TREK Fall/Winter 2011


    Restorative processes can heal broken communities like the ones Tester works with in Nunavut. In fact, the approach shares key characteristics with traditional Aboriginal practices. In modern Nunavut, offenders – particularly youth – are sent away to camps where they must learn Arctic survival skills. The separation is supplemented by dialogue aimed at understanding how their behaviour affects others.

    Tester works in Arviat, a remote community formerly known as Eskimo Point on the western shore of Hudson Bay. Originally a Hudson’s Bay Company post with several religious missions, Arviat grew with the burgeoning white fox trade in the early 1900s. After World War II, the fur trade collapsed and the federal government began paying family allowances, holding Inuit in place just when living off the land became more difficult. In the late 1940s, there was major starvation in the interior of the Keewatin Region. In 1957, the government moved Inuit living at Ennadai Lake to new hunting grounds near Henik Lake, but this proved disastrous and more Inuit starved over the winter of 1957-58. Survivors were evacuated to Arviat, where many contracted tuberculosis. Farley Mowat’s books, People of the Deer and The Desperate People, documented the devastating effects of relocation. The rapid social change profoundly affected physical and mental health, social relationships, and culture. Steeped in new influences through residential schools, and then television and the internet, younger generations have often drifted away from traditional ways and lost their Inuit identity. The bitter result is a community struggling with many social problems, including addiction, family violence, abuse, and youth suicide.

    “The difficulties that many Nunavummiut face today have a lot to do with the history of colonization,” says Tester, who won the Gustavus Myers Award for his contribution to the study of human rights in North America. “Colonization is about the use and abuse of power. If you have been demeaned, put down, degraded, portrayed as stupid, primitive and pagan, it is bound to [negatively affect] self-esteem – individually and collectively.” He points to the problems faced by Inuit youth, who have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. “Without a grounding in their history and culture, Inuit youth are lost and vulnerable to all the conflicting and often destructive messages beamed at them from elsewhere.”

    To help heal the rifts, Tester developed the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project, bringing together Inuit youth and elders to rediscover and document their history and culture. For phase one last year, a group of Arviat youth visited Vancouver. At UBC they worked with Tester’s archival collection of 11,000 documents detailing the social history of the eastern Arctic – the largest of its kind in the world outside of the government and church archives where the records were found. The youth looked at Arviat’s history to trace what happened to their elders and community. Phase two involves using technology, including filmmaking and interactive media, to document the process as the youth re-learn Arctic survival skills from their elders. In December, they are accompanying Tester to Durban, South Africa, to participate in the COP17 conference on climate change, bringing what they have learned from their elders to bear on the issue.


    read the full article at:


  11. Brave leadership spreads hope: Attawapiskat takes on the ultimate bully


    Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi'kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

    ... All of the issues surrounding the current situation in Attawapiskat did not turn up overnight, nor can Canada or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) legitimately claim that they had no idea what was happening in the community. The significant challenges faced by Attawapiskat can be traced back to the diesel spill in 1979 that was never remedied by INAC.

    In 1979, the largest diesel spill in northern Ontario occurred from underground pipes which leaked under their reserve lands. INAC did not remediate this environmental hazard, but instead, INAC built a school for the community on these contaminated lands. The school itself ended up acting like a cap for the nearly 30,000 gallons of diesel just underneath the surface. The toxic diesel fumes made both teachers and students so ill that the school had to be closed.

    In 2000-2001, the band closed the school and also declared a state of emergency in order to get INAC to build a proper school on lands that were not contaminated. INAC refused and left children to attend school in cold, moldy, run-down portables. This is how the world came to know Shannen Koostachin -- the brave little girl who would not give up on her dream of a safe, clean school for her community. Her campaign came to be known asShannen's Dream.

    When NDP MP Charlie Angus was elected in 2004, he too joined the cause and advocated strenuously for Canada to act immediately and address the lack of a school in Attawapiskat. Despite all the efforts, promises made by former ministers Nault, Scott and Prentice all went unfulfilled. This led Shannen and her fellow community members to meet with then minister Chuck Strahl to explain how important a school was for their community. It was this minister, under the newly empowered dictatorial "Harper Government" (also known as Canada) that finally confirmed that NO new school would be built. ...

    The school has not been the only issue plaguing Attawapiskat. In early 2005, the De Beers Mining company decided to dump their sewage sludge into Attawapiskat's sewage pumping station. As a result, the system was overwhelmed and sewage backed up into community homes. A subsequent engineering report noted that Canada knew about the situation and did not take steps to address the immediate crisis or to remediate the environmental hazard. ...

    They declared a state of emergency in early 2009 to refocus attention on the nearly 10 years without a school. At that time, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Chuck Strahl, was shocked by the declaration of the sate of emergency: "... they've issued this (state of emergency) and I'm not sure what it means or why it has been done." The declaration was made not just because of the school, but also because of the water infrastructure needs and the major environmental and health issue associated with the De Beers sewage back-up in their community. ...

    But we all have hope and have been inspired by the efforts of Attawapiskat to refuse to give up -- to refuse to believe that they are not entitled to justice and basic human rights. Strong grassroots youth like Shannen Koostachin and strong Indigenous women leaders like Chief Theresa Spence have shown the world that resistance is now at the heart of our identities as Indigenous peoples and that we -- the grass roots -- have the power to change our future. We do not have to wait for elected leaders to act on our behalf. True leaders step in when there is a void and take real steps to address it. ...

    read the full article at:


  12. Attawapiskat a 'deep concern' for UN rights official

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples on Tuesday expressed “deep concern” about conditions in the Attawapiskat First Nation.

    James Anaya, who reports to the UN's Human Rights Council, said in a statement that he had contacted the Canadian government about “the dire social and economic condition” of the First Nation.

    Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence declared a state of emergency in late October as winter moved in on the community of 1,800 near the shore of James Bay in northern Ontario, where many residents were living in shacks and trailers without running water.

    Anaya said Attawapiskat reflected the conditions of many aboriginal communities in Canada.

    The special rapporteur noted that overall, Canada is a country with human rights indicators among the best in the world, yet “aboriginal communities face vastly higher poverty rights, and poorer health, education [and] employment rates as compared to non-aboriginal people."

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan's office took aim at Anaya's statement, saying it "lacks credibility" and contains "inaccuracies."

    "Our Government is focused on the needs of the residents of Attawapiskat — not publicity stunts," Michelle Yao, a spokesperson for Duncan, said in a statement. "We are also focused on addressing deep-rooted issues that have plagued Canada's First Nations communities for generations."

    Earlier in December at a meeting in Ottawa, the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution asking the UN to delegate a "special rapporteur" to ensure that the treaties Canada has signed pertaining to its aboriginal population were being honoured.

    Anaya said he had received information suggesting that aboriginal communities were systematically underfunded compared with non-aboriginal towns and cities as a result of unequal funding formulas used by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

    He also noted suggestions that the federal government failed to respond adequately to claims for assistance and that it had been resisting efforts by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to inquire into allegations of discrimination on the basis of national or ethnic origin related to funding provided to First Nations, an inquiry requested by First Nations themselves.

    Anaya said that on Monday, he had asked the Canadian government to respond regarding the accuracy of the allegations and for further details about conditions in First Nations communities.

    The special rapporteur said, “I will be monitoring closely the situation of the Attawapiskat First Nation and other aboriginal communities in Canada, keeping an open dialogue with the government and all stakeholders to promote good practices, including new laws, government programs, and constructive agreements between indigenous peoples and states.”



    The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, issued the following statement in light of the serious situation of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a remote community in northern Ontario, Canada, as well as the alleged generally poor living conditions in aboriginal reserves in the country

    20 December 2011

    “I have been in communication with the Government of Canada to express my deep concern about the dire social and economic condition of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which exemplifies the conditions of many aboriginal communities in the country.

    Many of this First Nation’s approximately 1,800 members live in unheated shacks or trailers, with no running water. The problem is particularly serious as winter approaches in the remote northern area where the Attawapiskat community lives, which faces winter temperatures as low as -28 degrees Celsius.

    The federal Government has recently agreed to provide emergency housing in Attawapiskat to address the crisis situation, placing the community under third party management to oversee spending, as a condition to receiving such housing assistance. However, band members, including the band chief, have denounced the third party management regime, asserting that they are better equipped to respond to the needs of their community than a third party manager.

    The social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to third world conditions. Yet, this situation is not representative of non-Aboriginal communities in Canada, a country with overall human rights indicators scoring among the top of all countries of the world. Aboriginal communities face vastly higher poverty rights, and poorer health, education and employment rates as compared to non-Aboriginal people.

    According to the information received, First Nations communities are systematically underfunded as compared to non-Aboriginal towns and cities. This unequal funding is allegedly rooted in various funding formulas and policies used by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to allocate funds to First Nations to support various social and economic programs.

    Reportedly, systematic underfunding of First Nations exacerbates their already diminished capacity to attend to the social and economic interests of their members. Further, it not does it appear that the Government is responding adequately to requests for assistance.

    Moreover, the Government has allegedly been resisting efforts by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to inquire into allegations of discrimination on the basis of national or ethnic origin related to disparities in funding provided to First Nations as compared to non-aboriginal communities, inquiries that have been requested by First Nations themselves.

    In a communication sent to the Canadian authorities on 19 December 2011, I asked the Government to express its views about the accuracy of this information, and requested further details regarding official programs currently in place to address the disparate social and economic conditions of First Nations communities, as compared to non-Aboriginal communities, as well as the disparate social and economic conditions between and among First Nation communities.

    As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples I will be monitoring closely the situation of the Attawapiskat First Nation and other aboriginal communities in Canada, keeping an open dialogue with the Government and all stakeholders to promote good practices, including new laws, government programs, and constructive agreements between indigenous peoples and states, and to implement international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples.”

    Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/

  14. Where does Chief Spence live in Attawapiskat? There are no mansions in Attawapiskat

    by James Murray, Net News Ledger December 20, 2011

    THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Where does Chief Spence live in Attawapiskat? For some the story of Attawapiskat has been one of finger pointing and seeking to point out mistakes. For others it has been responding to the crisis pointed out by the Chief and Council of the Attawapiskat First Nation that a severe housing shortage exists. One of the features of online news across Canada have been the comments sections. On comments sections across the Internet many people have asked why the home of Attawapiskat Chief Spence has not being featured.

    It appears the intent is to show how the Chief is living in luxury, or somehow that the media, New Democrats, and Liberals along with the Band are trying to hide something. Or is it simply a way of further blurring the issue?

    Perhaps it is an effort to attempt to show how the Chief is living in luxury while her band members suffer?

    With a little digging, here is the story. Chief Spence lives in a building which is the former Nishanawbe Aski Police Services office. The building was renovated so to accomodate the Chief along with her 80 year old mother who lived with her. The Chief lives in this building along with her children.

    “Former Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS) Office was Deputy Chief Theresa Spence’s residence in 2009 – still now her residence as Chief of Attawapiskat. At one time, Chief Spence gave up her residence to accommodate a bigger family that needed it. There are no mansions in Attawapiskat,” shares photographer Christopher Kataquapit.

    In Attawapiskat, there have been housing shortages for over twenty years. That fact was presented to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1992.

    see the photos that accompanying this article at:


  15. Labrador residential school lawsuit approved

    CBC News December 22, 2011

    The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has backed the certification of a class-action lawsuit involving thousands of aboriginal people who attended residential schools and allege they were unfairly excluded from a federal compensation settlement.

    Wednesday's decision follows an appeal of a June 2010 decision by the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court that gave the class action the go-ahead.

    "Individuals who attended schools in Newfoundland and Labrador were excluded from the settlement," said a news release Wednesday from Ches Crosbie, a lawyer representing the Innu, Inuit and Métis claimants.

    "[The court's] decision confirms that claims against the government of Canada respecting the operation of schools attended by Inuit, Innu and Métis persons and located in Cartwright, Northwest River, St. Anthony, Nain and Makkovik, can proceed as class actions."

    In 2005, Ottawa announced a $2-billion compensation package for aboriginal people who were forced to attend residential schools across Canada from 1949 to 1979.

    Two years later, the federal government formalized a $1.9-billion compensation package. The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement includes an initial payout for each person who attended a residential school of $10,000, plus $3,000 per year. Approximately 86,000 people are eligible for compensation.

    The federal government is denying any responsibility for the treatment of aboriginal children in Labrador because the schools there were not funded directly by Ottawa.

    However, Crosbie's release said: "The claims, which have not yet been proven in court, allege that the government of Canada participated in a scheme to obliterate aboriginal languages, traditions and beliefs in Labrador, through requirement that schoolchildren reside at institutions isolated from their families and communities.

    "The claims allege negligence and breach of fiduciary duty," it adds.

    Lawyers estimate as many as 6,000 people could be covered by the class action, with about 4,000 of them constituents of the northern Labrador Inuit Nunatsiavut government.

    In the news release, Danny Pottle, an official with the Nunatsiavut government, called on the federal government to drop its policy of excluding Labrador Inuit, Innu and Métis from the national reconciliation process.


  16. Paul Martin: Canada's treatment of aboriginals is a 'moral issue'


    MONTREAL — Watch for the fire in Paul Martin's eyes as he speaks about how this country has treated Canada's aboriginals. Listen to the sadness in his voice. And don't ignore the hopeful determination in his spirit.

    The former prime minister is a man on a mission — to spend the remainder of his life turning back decades of discrimination and finally offer a ray of hope to young aboriginals whose future lies in a better education.

    "I think the aboriginal issue is the single biggest moral issue and social issue we have as a country," an impassioned Martin said in a recent interview with Postmedia News at his Montreal office.

    "It is a moral issue because we have discriminated against aboriginals since the beginning of the first settlement."

    If anyone thinks there still isn't a problem, all they need to do is look at the latest flash point in the headlines — living conditions at the northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat, which Martin said is just "the tip of the iceberg" among reserves throughout the country.

    "I spend a lot of time in Africa," said Martin, who is still involved in helping the inhabitants of that continent.

    "I have never been in an African community as bad as some of the reserves I have been on in this country."

    "How can we talk about Canadian values abroad when were not prepared to put those values into place at home?"

    Martin was once Canada's most powerful political leader — prime minister from 2003 to 2006, after a successful 10-year stint as finance minister. Before that, he made his mark as a leading businessman at Canada Steamship Lines.

    At age 73, he is a millionaire who could be relaxing in retirement at his country home in Quebec, or sitting on corporate boards and adding to his wealth.

    So why, in the wake of his political defeat to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives in 2006, has he spent so much time — and his own money — trying to make life better for Canada's aboriginals?

    As prime minister, Martin made aboriginal issues a personal priority. In 2005, he struck the $5-billion Kelowna accord with provinces and aboriginal leaders. The agreement set out to improve the education, employment, health and living conditions of aboriginals.

    But within two months, Martin lost power and Harper's government didn't carry through with the accord.

    Martin's former senior aide, Scott Reid, said that still rankles the ex-prime minister.

    "Kelowna is a stone in his shoe. It's a burr under his saddle. He's always been seized with this issue. Kelowna was his ability to really do something."

    Martin said it's a tragedy the Conservatives dropped the accord because "we've lost six years" to make a difference.

    "It bothers me because of the huge waste in terms of human life. If they had carried through, there are six-year-olds who, when going into Grade 1, would have got a decent education. And they'll never get those years back."

    After he returned to private life in 2006, Martin set up a foundation, the Martin Aboriginal Initiative. He declined to say how much money he has contributed, only to offer it is a "fair amount."

    The foundation was designed to kickstart pilot projects aimed at keeping aboriginals in school and teaching them the importance of becoming a business entrepreneur.

    The projects use a variety of innovative techniques — ranging from mentoring high school students in accounting and banking, to creating "model schools" on reserves where the goal is to improve literacy and numeracy skills at the elementary level.

    continued in next comment:


  17. continued from previous comment:

    He points to some stark statistics as proof why action is so desperately needed to bridge the gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals:

    - High school drop-out rate: Sixty per cent of aboriginal students on-reserve and 43 per cent of aboriginal students off-reserve have dropped out of high school, compared with 9.5 per cent of non-aboriginal Canadians

    - University degrees: Seven per cent of First Nations, nine per cent of Metis and four per cent of Inuit people have a university degree, compared with 23 per cent of non-aboriginal Canadians

    - Incarceration: In 2007/2008, aboriginal adults accounted for 22 per cent of prison admissions although they represent only three per cent of the Canadian population

    - Suicide: The suicide rate for aboriginals is twice the rate for non-aboriginals; for aboriginal youth, it is six times the rate of non-aboriginal young Canadians

    Martin's personal interest dates back to when he was a teenager. As the son of a high-profile cabinet minister, he grew up in Windsor, Ont., and Ottawa and had never met an aboriginal.

    That changed when he travelled to the North for two summers, working on the shores of Hudson Bay, and then, in the Northwest Territories, on a river-borne tug.

    He made friends among aboriginals his age.

    "We would come into port. We would be (out) at night, a bunch of young guys, 19 or 20, raising hell in the town. These were all my friends."

    But Martin couldn't help but notice the sadness in their lives. Back home in Windsor, his buddies talked about how they were ready to "conquer" the world.

    Not these young men. "There really was a lack of hope."

    In later years, Martin learned that while some were successful, two committed suicide and others went to jail.

    "That really hit me. It just wasn't fair. This had nothing to do with these peoples' intrinsic qualities. It had everything to do with the conditions under which they had lived."

    Martin is convinced the solution is education. Keep the kids in school, design programs tailor-made for their culture, teach them the value of entrepreneurship, and they will achieve success in life.

    A descendant of Irish immigrants, Martin points to himself and other non-aboriginals.

    "Our ancestors were not treated very well," said Martin, adding that later generations were successful thanks to strong schooling.

    "Well, as it was true for the Irish, and the Italians and everybody else who immigrated to this country, why isn't it true for the first peoples?

    "And yet what do we do? We don't provide them with the same quality of education that we provide ourselves. We underfund it by a magnificent amount. It means they don't have qualified teachers. It means they don't have science labs. It means they don't have gyms. They don't have sports for the kids."

    Martin is pleased with the progress made by his foundation's pilot programs — a lesson for all governments to learn and eventually, to adopt.

    "That's the good news. The bad news is that its like climbing Mount Everest. We're still at the base camp. We've made huge progress but there's a mountain to climb and we haven't yet begun the climb."

    In the meantime, Martin said he's not walking away from the cause.

    "I'm going to work on this until the day I die or until I become a golf professional and go on tour," he said. "And I think the odds of that happening are pretty slim."


  18. continued from previous comment:

    She was so desperate for the treatment she was prepared to put her children in foster care. She has become an outspoken advocate for the need for better treatment and support.

    "It's mind-boggling," said Mike Metatawabin, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the political organization that represents 49 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario. "They thought alcohol was bad, but OxyContin is the worst thing that has hit these communities."

    Three years ago, the situation led the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, known as NAN, to declare a state of emergency.

    Last year, the community of Fort Hope also declared a state of emergency after a series of assaults, arsons and three murders. Sharon Johnston, the wife of Gov.-Gen. David Johnston and Ruth Ann Onley, wife of Ontario's Lt-Gov. David Onley were reduced to tears when they visited Fort Hope in an attempt to draw attention to the situation last year.

    The visit briefly shone a light on the community, but First Nations leaders say they aren't getting enough government support to cope with the public health crisis.

    Recently, leaders in the area said they will launch a human rights complaint against both the federal and provincial governments for inadequate responses to the situation which, they say, demands more nurses, physicians, mental health and addictions workers and community-based training for treatment, security and counselling. They also plan to take their case for more help to the United Nations.

    "No is not on when it comes to treatment," says nurse-practitioner Mae Kitts, who oversees drug treatment programs for NAN in some of the communities. "You wouldn't withhold treatment for cancer. That's ridiculous."

    Health Canada cites security, safety and the need for "sustainable, comprehensive community plans that address adequate capacity and training of staff before these community-driven programs are implemented." It also says its Non-Insured Health Benefits Program has introduced limits on daily doses of OxyContin for chronic pain and limits on the number of tablets that can be dispensed at one time.

    Kitts and others say the need is desperate. The Nishnawbe Aski First Nation and chiefs from the communities in the region have waged a battle with both the federal and provincial governments to get help dealing with the crisis, engaging academics and addictions experts to help find solutions. A timeline put together by NAN tells a tale of delayed response from both the federal and provincial governments, requests for meetings to discuss solutions to the crisis and, notably, a series of cancelled visits to northern reserves by federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

    Aglukkaq, says Kitts, needs to come and see the situation for herself. "It's her responsibility and duty."

    While Metatawabin said there recently has been some headway with the federal health department and the promise of co-operation in the future, lack of support from officials is a significant barrier. The First Nations have set up their own community treatment programs, despite what they say is resistance from the federal government.

    "No one has ever come and said, 'We can help you with this program,'" said Kitts. "There is real resistance within the government."

    Health Canada, in email responses to written questions from the Ottawa Citizen, said it is working with the leadership in Nishnawbe Aski Nation to develop a long-term comprehensive strategy to tackle prescription drug abuse. "Health Canada shares the concern that opioid reduction strategies are a priority for many communities, but continues to stress the need to have in place sustainable, comprehensive community plans that address adequate capacity and training of staff before these community-driven programs are implemented."


  19. continued from previous comment:

    Health Canada also said it is committed to providing funding where additional nurses are needed in the Sioux Lookout region.

    Getting people off OxyContin has become a major focus of the Nishnawbe Aski First Nation. It has taken the lead on creating pilot programs that are helping people get off the drugs in their own communities using the drug Suboxone, which is distributed in pill form and used as an alternative to methadone. The NAN-run programs have pioneered the use of Suboxone detox treatment in communities. Using Suboxone, they say, is both cheaper and more successful than the alternative — flying residents, and their families, in some cases, out to communities such as Thunder Bay or Sioux Lookout where there are methadone programs. Not only is the wait long — months in most cases — for methadone treatment, but the cost to treat everyone from remote communities would be "outrageous," according to Kitts.

    Methadone, which is a restricted drug, can only be dispensed at special clinics. Suboxone doesn't have the same restrictions, which means it can be distributed in remote communities.

    NAN has set up drug detox research projects in five communities, paid for with money from band council funds and, in one case, from a nearby mining company. But the federal government has told its nurses not to participate in the program. Just last month, Health Canada issued a directive to its nurses in the Sioux Lookout Zone, which includes Fort Hope and other mostly fly-in reserves in northwestern Ontario, that they can no longer take part in detox programs on the reserve — in part because it "may impact the length of time for other community members in obtaining and appointment for nursing services."

    In other words, nurses are too busy.

    In a letter sent to all First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health nurses in the region, a Health Canada official said the measure is an interim one "until the region can develop policy options to address the role."

    To make matters worse, there is a serious shortage of nurses throughout the North, something the federal government says it is addressing. In northwestern Ontario it is estimated that there are 40 per cent fewer nurses than needed. The ones on the job are extremely busy.

    But First Nations officials say it makes no sense for Health Canada to tell their nurses to step away from the drug abuse crisis by not participating in the detox programs, given that OxyContin addiction is the most urgent public health issue.

    Health Canada says Suboxone has been recommended for people with life-threatening reactions to methadone, which is the criteria it uses under its Non-Insured Health Benefits program. Exceptions, it says, will be considered individually. This effectively rules out community drug treatment on remote reserves where Suboxone is used. But Health Canada says it is supporting a number of community-based projects where prescription drug abuse is a concern and will assess them in the new year "to learn from each other as promising practices emerge."

    continued in next comment:


  20. continued from previous comment:

    In the meantime, NAN continues to run Suboxone treatment programs. It is currently putting addicted students at a First Nations high school in Thunder Bay, most of whom come from remote reserves, through detoxification programs while they attend school. The addiction rate among students at the school is 42 per cent; some of them arrived from their reserves already hooked on OxyContin. So far, 30 students have been through the detox program.

    Kitts says students at the school are the "cream of the crop" from remote First Nations communities and will have promising futures if they can get out of the grip of drug addiction.

    "I am proud to be on Suboxone, I don't know what I would do without it," a Grade 12 student in the program said recently. Since starting the detox program in October, she said, her grades have improved, she is about to graduate from high school and is thinking about the future. "I didn't want to lie to my parents any more. I didn't want to be sick anymore. I feel good now."

    "I like to think it is saving our kids. We are giving them their lives back," said Colleen McCreery, a nurse at Thunder Bay's Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, where the program has run as a pilot project since last February. "Oxy gets such a hold on them that it runs their life."

    NAN also runs detox programs in the community of Kingfisher Lake, whose residents were evacuated to Ottawa after a forest fire last summer, as well as Marten Falls, Webequie, Kasabonika Lake and Fort Hope, all reserves hundreds of kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

    So far, 153 people have been through the detox programs. That leaves thousands who need it. With more support, says Kitts, "we could treat the masses," and have a better co-ordinated approach to the problem.

    In some ways, the response to the addiction epidemic is a good news story. NAN has made it a top priority and is developing strategies that will help communities with similar problems in other parts of the country. The programs being undertaken and researched at reserves in northwestern Ontario could act as models for other First Nations communities. And, while band and First Nations leaders acknowledge they have to take responsibility for the crisis, they just wish they had a little more support.

    "I don't think we have people breaking down the doors scrambling to help northwestern Ontario. If help is going to come, we've got to do it ourselves," said Kitts.


  21. Lessons of Attawapiskat on Vancouver Island

    By Shannon Cowan, Today, TheTyee.ca January 4, 2012

    Before the Canadian press beamed pictures of Attawapiskat into our living rooms, five First Nations on Vancouver Island's west coast were fighting to raise their communities' substandard living conditions by regaining access to commercial fishing. These nations took Canada to court to rebuild an economy broken by colonization.

    The result? Both the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal handed them victories in 2009 and 2011, recognizing their right to sell fish (and Canada's infringement of that right). Yet so far Canada has ignored the courts' directions, while the people in Nuu-chah-nulth communities live in poverty.

    In December, the Assembly of First Nations voted to intervene in the court case (known officially as Ahousaht et al vs. Canada) if the Supreme Court of Canada decides to hear Canada's appeal of the Nuu-chah-nulth victory. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit adopted similar resolutions.

    It's a case with the potential to put at least five of Canada's First Nations back on the road to self-sufficiency and replace a history of government dependency. So why does the Government of Canada refuse to recognize the previous decisions?

    That's a question many First Nations stopped asking long ago, because they already know the answer. For them, overcrowded houses and black mold are just more evidence that Canadian control of their lands and resources will never allow their people to rise above the aboriginal status quo. For the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations involved, Ahousaht et al vs. Canada is the latest in a string of missed opportunities by Canada to demonstrate real reconciliation with First Nations.


    Instead of responding to Nuu-chah-nulth proposals or generating new ideas, Canada has offered slim opportunities with regular commercial licences. These licences come with the same restrictions previously deemed insufficient by both the BC Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

    In one example, Canada's offer would require a monitoring system costing more than $45,000 per boat, per year, even though most of the Nuu-chah-nulth boats are the same size as those active in the sport fishery, where no monitoring is required. Those costs would negate any revenue made by the meagre offer.

    Says Atleo: "It has been two years plus, and we haven't gone fishing yet... All we have is a proposal and an offer from DFO that is insulting when you read the court decision."

    Concurrent to these negotiations, Canada has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Nations believe this directive came from the Prime Minister's office, and not from the local Pacific Region where fisheries managers seem equally tired of the standoff. If they are right, the Conservative government is sorely out of step with local opinion. In a public perception audit conducted in late 2010 by the First Nations Fisheries Council, 87 per cent of those surveyed support fishing by First Nations for food and ceremony. Sixty-nine per cent of those supported First Nations right to a commercial fishery.

    "It's very telling in many ways," says Atleo, summing up the Harper government's response to Attawapiskat, Ahousaht, and other issues. "Canada has never acknowledged First Nations as the original owners and occupiers of this land. They constantly display ignorance of our people and our way of life -- and they choose not to learn ways that could make things better for us to work together... They also have no appreciation for the reality that they survived here because of our help. They have never recognized us and still don't."

    Until that happens, Atleo believes, nothing is going to change -- an unfortunate reality for all Canadians, who are finally ready to see change happen.

    read the full article at:


  22. CSIS and me: What First Nation activities are NOT considered a potential threat to Canada?

    BY PAMELA PALMATER, rabble.ca JANUARY 5, 2012

    Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi'kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

    When the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) reported that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) dedicated countless INAC staff and thousands of dollars to spying on Cindy Blackstock -- I think most of us in Turtle Island gave our heads a shake.

    While it has been known for some time that Canada spies on our Indigenous leaders and community members who defend our lands, I don't think most of us were aware that any First Nation advocate was a target. This is what shocked me the most -- that Canada's "national security" laws are so broad as to make someone like Cindy Blackstock an enemy of the state.

    If someone were to ask me who was the LEAST likely to be spied on by Canada, I would have said Cindy Blackstock because for anyone who knows Cindy or her work, they know she is a peaceful, law-abiding citizen with a big heart. Her only alleged "subversive" or "hostile" act against Canada is that she peacefully advocates on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society: First Nations children.
    Cindy does not do her advocacy by riding in on combat helicopters or tanks -- but instead runs the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society, donates her free time to spreading information and speak publicly about the realities faced by First Nations children, and is now running the Have a Heart campaign to raise money for First Nations children.

    (I know I include a lot of links in my blogs, but please click on the above link and read about the Have a Heart campaign and do what you can to support her efforts.)

    The level to which Cindy was spied on by INAC is also quite surprising. For a department whose mandate it is to improve the lives of First Nations peoples, but claims to have no money for housing, water and basic necessities for First Nations -- they sure spent a great deal of time attending Cindy's events, spying on her personal Facebook page (not her public one), and reporting to both INAC and Justice Canada about her activities. They even violated her most private information by accessing her registration records and that of her family. Incredibly, INAC has been doing this for some time, so the costs must be astronomical.


    Then, The First Nations Strategic Bulletin (FNSB) which came out in Dec. 2011 explained how after the Conservatives came to power, the RCMP created the Aboriginal Joint Intelligence Group (JIG), partnering with the ENERGY and PRIVATE SECTOR to spy on First Nations. First Nations like Six Nations, Tyendinaga and others were all targeted. The JIG was run by RCMP Criminal Intelligence Branch and the RCMP National Security Criminal Investigations (NSCI) which deal with: "threats to national security and criminal extremism or terrorism".

    Most shockingly was that FNSB also reported that the RCMP shared their surveillance reports with private businesses and that private businesses shared information with the RCMP about First Nations.

    The irony of the situation is so outrageous. It was Canada and its Indian agents that were hostile and subversive to our peoples -- not the other way around. It is we who have premature deaths, worse health, less education, less employment and less access to land and resources. It is we who continue to suffer the inter-generational effects of their colonial laws and policies which STILL exist today.


    read the full article at:


  23. Attawapiskat chief demands funding, denies accusation

    CBC News January 6, 2012

    Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has fired off a lengthy letter denying the accusation made Thursday by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan that her council is refusing to release information the government-appointed third-party manager needs to begin paying the community's bills.

    In her letter dated Jan. 5, Spence repeats her demand that $1.5 million in operational funds be released to her council so the community can meet its payroll and other ongoing expenses.

    The government-appointed manager, BDO Dunwoody, is refusing to pass on the federal funding. It interprets its contract with the federal government to provide third-party management as meaning it should now make payments on behalf of Attawapiskat.

    Spence repeated her view that the third-party manager is not welcome in the community. However, the chief did say staff from Duncan's department were welcome and the council and its previously appointed co-manager are willing to co-operate with an audit of the First Nations' finances scheduled for the week of Jan. 16.

    "Why should my First Nation be paying $1,300 a day for some firm to issue payroll cheques for my First Nation with our all ready [sic] limited band support funding, if the supposed purpose was for the third-party manager to attend to the housing crisis?" Spence writes.

    Spence accused the minister of failing to focus on Attawapiskat's housing emergency and instead taking a "divide and conquer" approach to taking over its finances, which "decimates their finance and administration staff in due course with no consultation with council."

    "All this rhetoric about the least disruption and [as] short a term as possible is all politics," Spence writes, damning the third-party manager as an effort to "subdue and take away local autonomy."

    Grand Chief Stan Louttit, regional chief for the area that includes Attawapiskat, echoed Spence's call for the $1.5 million to be released.

    "Our idea all along has been ... let's reinstate the autonomy of the Attawapiskat First Nation," Louttit told host Rosemary Barton on CBC-TV's Power & Politics Friday. "Let's not have some other government impose itself on this government by appointing an Indian agent to run our business."

    A spokesperson for Duncan's office defended the third-party manager Friday, crediting him with the purchase of 22 modular homes that have begun to make their way to the remote community, and for supporting efforts to retro-fit a healing lodge and trailers being used as temporary housing.

    Moira Wolstenholm told CBC News that department officials have advised Spence they are prepared to go into the community as early as Monday to help expedite preparation of sites for the new homes. Wolstenholm repeated the government's claim made Thursday that it is waiting on information from the band council in order to issue payroll cheques for essential services, such as teacher salaries.

    Louttit said the community will not provide the information because to do so would be to recognize the legitimacy of the third-party manager.

    The principal for the reserve's elementary school says so far her teachers are still getting paid, the CBC's Allison Dempster reported.


    read the rest of the article at:


  24. Attawapiskat in court to fight 3rd-party manager

    CBC News January 31, 2012

    Attawapiskat First Nation will be back in court on Tuesday to battle with the federal government over its decision to appoint a third-party manager to take control of the band council's finances.

    As it waits for a full judicial review, Attawapiskat is trying to get a court injunction to remove the outside manager, who was appointed by the federal government last year as the community grappled with a housing crisis.

    Stan Louttit, the grand chief for a region of northern Ontario that includes Attawapiskat, says that when he declared a state of emergency at the end of October, he expected help, not a takeover.

    "Never did we think that one party would come to us and say, 'You cannot deal with this yourself. We are the government here and step aside, we're coming in,'" Louttit says.

    "To me, that's morally and legally wrong."

    The First Nation argues the government is trying to divert attention from itself by alleging misconduct and mismanagement by the council. Attawapiskat says chronic underfunding led to the housing crisis on the remote reserve, and the band contends that third-party management will cause delays in getting new housing into the community.

    The government pledged funds to help retrofit existing buildings and has promised 22 modular homes, which will be trucked in when ice roads are ready, but it's not clear how long it will take to ready them for families once they've arrived.

    In an affidavit, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence describes how the current situation makes her feel the same as when she was sent to a residential school.

    The government says it would be inappropriate to comment while the issue is before the courts — but in court documents, the government argues the band council lacked the means or capacity to deal with the housing crisis.

    The government says the health and safety of the people is at risk and that third-party management is the most appropriate response.

    A decision on Tuesday's hearing is expected within a week, but could come as soon as the end of the day.


  25. Attawapiskat loses court battle over 3rd-party manager

    By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News February 3, 2012

    The Attawapiskat First Nation lost its attempt Friday to stop the federal government's appointment of a third-party manager for the troubled reserve in northern Ontario.

    The application for an injunction was dismissed in federal court but Judge Michael Phelan also ordered Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and the third-party manager to comply with an agreement to pay for 22 new homes in Attawapiskat.

    The homes, ordered in December at a cost of $2.4 million, can't be delivered until the winter road is operational. That could be next week.

    Attawapiskat grabbed national attention late last year after declaring a state of emergency because families were living in tents and sheds. The federal government's appointment of an outside manager on Nov. 30 in response to the situation has been opposed by the community's leadership from the beginning and prompted the court action.

    Jacques Marion, the man appointed as the third-party manager to be responsible for administering Attawapiskat's finances, was asked to leave the community by Chief Theresa Spence.

    In the judge's words, there is "a significant amount of frustration, anger and distrust" among the people involved and an "almost unexplainable gap in perceptions" between the two sides.

    He ruled that Attawapiskat's request did not meet the legal test for an injunction and that the separate judicial review application to quash the appointment will still be heard on April 24.

    Attawapiskat has a plan for installing and servicing 22 modular homes and De Beers Canada Inc., which has a mine on the reserve, has agreed to be the project manager. The federal government has agreed to this plan and said in court that if the invoices for the 22 homes are given to the third-party manager, the funds will be released for them.

    Friday's dismissal of the injunction request is conditional upon the government's compliance with the order for it to pay for the homes, according to the plan.

    Proceeding with this plan, however, would not mean that Attawapiskat is accepting the role of the third-party manager, the judge ruled.

    The ruling says Attawapiskat "shall not be required to accept, acquiesce or acknowledge the legality of the appointment of the [third-party manager] in order to secure payment of the invoices."

    The judge also says determining how the housing conditions in Attawapiskat could deteriorate in a country as rich and generous as Canada is an issue "for another day."


  26. B.C. aboriginals ask China to raise human-rights issues with Harper on PM's visit

    by BOB WEBER, The Canadian Press February 06, 2012

    Aboriginals from British Columbia have asked China's president to quiz Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Canada's human rights record during his visit to the Asian country.

    The Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of five First Nations that represent several thousand people in north-central B.C., has sent open letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao and to the Chinese media.

    “We are writing to you to request that you raise our human rights concerns with Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper,” says the letter to Mr. Hu.

    “From previous reports we know that Prime Minister Harper always challenges your country on the human rights record.”

    Sing Tao, Hong Kong's second-largest newspaper with offices across Canada, confirmed it will be covering the story through its Vancouver bureau. The letter to Mr. Hu has been sent to his office as well as to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

    Mr. Harper left Monday for a four-day trip to China. Travelling with him is a healthy selection of executives from Canada's energy sector.

    China has been increasingly involved with oil and gas development in Canada, investing in the oil sands and making commitments for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

    But the Alliance wants China to think again.

    The letter to Mr. Hu details a long list of issues from the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women to natives being mistreated by police to the outsized number of First Nations peoples in prison. It also says the Harper government is promoting resource development without aboriginal support.

    “Open dialogue around human rights is a very positive way to create change and we hope that you hear our side of the story before this meeting (with Harper) occurs,” says the letter to Mr. Hu.

    The letter to Chinese media focuses on the Alliance's concerns about the Gateway pipeline, which would ship bitumen from the oil sands to the West Coast across land claimed by the bands.

    “An oil spill on the coast would destroy sources of seafood and fish, like crabs, for thousands of people,” it says. “It could destroy the extremely rare spirit bear — a bear with white fur that is as beautiful as the Chinese panda bear.”

    Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, one of the signatories, acknowledges that it's usually Canada bringing human rights concerns to China, not the other way around. Maybe bringing Canada's problems to China's attention will get some action, he said.

    “In terms of tit for tat, this will give (the Chinese) ammunition and put some pressure on Canada. We wanted (Hu) to know that First Nations are not being treated fairly in Canada in terms of their aboriginal rights.”

    He doesn't apologize for bringing dirty Canadian linen to a Chinese laundry.

    “I don't see it as embarrassing. I see it as bringing up the facts of life as we see it as First Nations.”

    Fellow signatory Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation was similarly forthright.

    “I'm sorry we're going to be an embarrassment to this country, but we have to let the facts and truth be known.”

    She said the Alliance has previously contacted the governments of Japan and South Korea. It has met with the U.S. ambassador and members of the European Parliament.


  27. First Nations child welfare on the line in Federal Court


    Is the federal government discriminating against First Nations children on reserve by giving them less money for education, health and child-welfare services than their fellow Canadians?

    At a Federal Court hearing that begins Monday, aboriginal advocates will argue yes. The government, for its part, contends it's not a fair question.

    But, Cindy Blackstock, executive director for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, said, if the government succeeds with that argument, the case risks turning First Nations communities into zones where human rights protections afforded to Canadians simply don't apply.

    In 2010, the chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a human rights complaint against the government from Blackstock's group and the Assembly of First Nations.

    Now, the tribunal's decision is coming before the Federal Court for judicial review.

    The court will be asked to decide whether the tribunal's chair, Shirish Chotalia, erred when she dismissed the case. It will decide whether to: uphold the decision; send the case back to tribunal for a full hearing; or rule itself, based on the facts.

    At the core of the case is whether the government can be held legally responsible for the dire circumstances of native children in the child-welfare system — where there are currently three times more aboriginal children in care than there were at the height of the residential school system.

    "At the centre of this is kids currently in care — they're in the highest risk situations and Canada seems to want to absolve themselves of any public accountability," said Blackstock, who, along with the Assembly of First Nations, brought the case to the Human Rights Commission in 2007.

    The federal government is responsible for funding health, education, police services and child welfare on reserves, all of which fall under provincial jurisdiction off reserves.

    Numerous studies into education funding have consistently found that First Nations children who attend schools on reserve receive $2,000 to $7,000 less per student than children off reserve. The funding for health and child-welfare services show similar disparities.

    However, the federal government is expected to argue it can't be dragged back before the Human Rights Tribunal because the two levels of government, provincial and federal, cannot be compared — essentially saying that equating the situation of First Nations residents with the plight of other Canadians is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Comparing the two, the government says in court documents, is "unreasonable" and "doesn't make sense."

    That "comparator" argument was used in Chotalia's decision to dismiss the case in 2010 before any of the main evidence had been heard.

    The current case is the result of an appeal by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which both argue the government is guilty of discrimination because it consistently underfunds child-welfare services on reserve, leading, they contend, to poverty, poor housing, substance abuse and a vast overrepresentation of aboriginal children in state care.

    Blackstock said if the government is allowed to use the comparator argument, "that would basically immunize the government from any discrimination or human rights claim relating to its funding policies and procedures on reserve.

    "If we're unsuccessful in overturning the tribunal's decision, then the Human Rights Act will fail to apply to First Nations people living on reserve — we'll have a complete human rights vacuum," she warned.

    continued in next comment...


  28. continued from previous comment:

    The aboriginal advocates have been joined in their appeal by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the body responsible for recommending the case be heard by the tribunal, in the first place.

    Acting Chief Commissioner, David Langtry, said the government's argument flies in the face of legislation enacted by Parliament in 2008. That law repealed what Langtry called the discriminatory Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prevented people living under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act from bringing human rights complaints against the federal government.

    If the court upholds Chotalia's decision, the intention of Parliament in repealing Section 67 — to bring First Nations rights in line with other Canadians — essentially will be over-ruled, he said.

    That's why, when the tribunal dismissed the case, the commission took up the cause, saying the tribunal should hear the facts of the case "viva voce" (by word of mouth) to find out if there is, in fact, substantial inequality.

    "To essentially deny access to justice on behalf of the most vulnerable aboriginal children in this country is something that we feel should proceed (to a full hearing)," said Langtry, who previously worked with aboriginal communities as the assistant deputy minister of child and family services in Manitoba, where 72 per cent of children in care are aboriginal.

    "It will have great impact on other cases in the future, if this decision were to stand," he said, adding that if the federal court upholds the tribunal's decision, he would take the fight "all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."

    Blackstock, too, says she's determined that the case be given full hearing.

    "These matters can't be decided on a preliminary basis — it's a matter of the facts. Put the facts before the tribunal and make a decision based on a full record," she said.

    "As the matter is before the courts, we're unable to comment," said a spokeswoman from the attorney general's office.


  29. We are all responsible for the plight of Canada’s first nations

    Globe and Mail February 17, 2012

    Ken Coates is professor of history at the University of Waterloo. Greg Poelzer is associate professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

    There has been movement – real movement – on the aboriginal file. While signs of despair are abundant, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology, on behalf of all Canadians, about Indian residential schools was a major step toward reconciliation. This month, the release of major report on the management and funding of first-nations education, represented a significant response to the most fundamental challenge facing aboriginal communities, namely underperformance in school. As all participants, governments and aboriginal leaders alike, will quickly agree that it is not enough. The problem: There is no consensus about what to do next.

    Canadians are well aware of the issues facing aboriginals. Who is not moved by news of the housing and living conditions in many of this country’s remote aboriginal communities? They would be even more upset and angry if they realized the full extent of story: that there are dozens of Attawapiskats and Kashechewans across the country, that the systemic unemployment is so widespread as to engender despair among even the most optimistic community developer, and that the silent scourge of aboriginal life in Canada – fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects – is erecting a formidable barrier against attempts at meaningful change.

    The country is, however, strongly divided about what to do about the first-nations issues. Opinion falls neatly into two camps. Most first-nations leaders and many non-aboriginal Canadians say that responsibility lies with the government of Canada. Ottawa, after all, created the Indian Act, residential schools, and the reserve system and, therefore, the cultures of dependency and despair that characterize first-nations communities. Having created the mess, the argument goes, they should move quickly and forcefully to repair the damage, providing equality of opportunity if not equality of circumstance, and to remove the blight on the nation’s good character.

    The opposing view is just as strongly presented. The problem, it is said, lies with the first nations themselves. They need to root out corrupt politicians, abandon uneconomical reserves for towns and cities, reject further reliance on government “handouts,” and free themselves and the country from the unsustainable dependence on the Government of Canada. Some go so far as to promote the elimination of “special” Indian status; most stop short of that unrealistic idea and argue that First Nations have to take responsibility for the future of their communities. But culpability in this formulation clearly rests with First Nations leaders and their governments.

    They are both wrong – and pursuing these lines between government and first-nations responsibility will only continue to divide first nations from other Canadians, ossify policy and community development, and ensure that, 20 years from now, we will still be worrying about the same problems and struggling to address the challenges of the same hurting communities. But if the problem is not “owned” primarily by either the government of Canada or the first nations, who then is responsible for dealing with what many observers believe to be insurmountable problems?

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    The answer is simple: We are. Canadians as a whole have to take ownership of the challenges facing first-nations communities. First nations have to do their part, to be sure, and effective and transparent government is essential. The government of Canada (with more co-ordination with the provinces) must be actively involved, as a funder and policy-maker, with appropriate support for education and community health being among the most urgent priorities. But if the country is to ever to transform the first-nations debate and move it in productive and meaningful ways, the country as a whole must take part. Our single greatest national challenge can only be tackled as a nation-wide movement of the highest priority. As a child, more than one of our teachers used to say that if you pointed a finger at someone, you had three fingers pointing back at you. So it is with aboriginal issues in Canada.

    If Canadians really want change – and we known that the overwhelming majority want dramatic improvement in aboriginal circumstances – then the paradigm has to shift. We need business leaders to step forward and commit to working with first nations to create sustainable economies – as some, like former prime minister Paul Martin, are already doing to good effect. We need civil servants and private-sector managers to serve as mentors to first nations administrators struggling with unbelievable pressures and challenges. The country needs trade unions to take the lead on creating new and safer places for aboriginal people in the work force and cultural groups to provide additional opportunities to celebrate Indigenous cultural contributions.

    The churches, gun-shy beyond belief by the fallout from the residential school system, need to rediscover the social gospel ethic that made the mainline churches in this country among the most creative and energetic in the industrial world. The churches need to commit themselves, congregation by congregation, to rebuilding indigenous communities in need. Canadian service clubs and not-for-profit organizations need to work with first nations and other groups to broaden the range of services and facilities available in remote communities. Young people from across the country need to leave their urban comfort zones and commit themselves to working in remote and isolated communities.

    Canada needs colleges and universities to make more of an effort to train first nations people in their communities, rather than relocating the students to their often-intimidating large campuses. These same institutions need to stop putting so much effort into streaming First Nations people into select fields – law, social work, education – and to broaden the reach of business, technological, apprenticeship, administrative and career-ready programs. The country needs to support the continued work of training organizations like the National Centre for First Nations Governance that are raising the standards for aboriginal political and public affairs.

    Canadians need to stop looking for panaceas – the sweeping constitutional change, the one critical government program, the revolution in first nations governance – that will miraculously solve all aboriginal problems, reverse the crises and assuage our collective guilt. There are no magic solutions. What lies ahead is a great deal of hard work, sure to be filled with moments of despair and failure, as well as celebration. The search for meaningful change involves building hope community-by-community, working with leaders and residents that want, profoundly, to alter their trajectory and create new opportunities. More than anything, it requires ten thousand – no, make that at least a million – Canadians to decide that they will step forward and create the Canada that they want, inviting First Nations fully into the fold as neighbours, friends and full partners in Confederation. It is about time all Canadians began to live as treaty peoples.

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    Canadians have a real choice: We can wait for the government of Canada to act, while recognizing that historic legacies, legal requirements and financial constraints tie their hands. We can wait for first nations to address the governance shortcomings and financial challenges in their communities, while acknowledging that no other group in Canada faces such formidable barriers to success. Or, perhaps, we can simply exercise our collective responsibilities and address the crises being faced by fellow Canadians.

    Difficulties as deeply entrenched in history, law, politics and public sentiment as those facing First Nations are not going to be addressed overnight. But, for crying out loud, we have all stood on the sidelines for far too long. Let’s stop claiming it is the government’s duty or the first nations’ fault. Let’s take collective responsibility for the greatest blight on the body politic of what is otherwise the greatest country on earth.

    The first step – the hardest step – is also unbelievably easy. Reach out to first nations, nearby or far away. Do not wait for “government” to solve deep and systemic problems that, properly, lay with all Canadians. Canadians have always had a passion for social justice, whether from a social democratic, liberal, or conservative tradition. However, trying to recreate a 1960s-type social service solution for first nations is simply not on for Canada, if it ever was. Today, we need a new approach, a true 21st century model that draws the citizens of this country into one of the greatest challenges Canada has ever faced and that changes the way Canadians work together to solve their problems.

    Responding to the challenges of first-nations communities, creating a path to opportunity, cultural sustainability, and economic engagement, would be an achievement worthy of a wealthy, caring and intelligent nation. We have waited too long. We can wait no longer. All Canadians must extend hands of friendship and mutual respect to their First Nations Canadian neighbours. We must, as a country, realize that we can change the world for the better. We start now.


  32. Government still trying to assimilate aboriginals by underfunding child welfare, natives argue

    By Teresa Smith, Postmedia News February 14, 2012

    OTTAWA — The federal government continues to use assimilationist policies — such as those perpetrated by decades of residential schools — by consistently underfunding child-welfare agencies that provide services to First Nations children on reserve, a counsel for the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday in Ottawa.

    Speaking before a judicial review at the Federal Court, David Nahwegahbow said the residential school system mentality was so entrenched in the minds of lawmakers that it simply morphed into the modern-day child-welfare system that is currently responsible for three times more children than at the height of the residential school system.

    "It's not as obvious," said Nahwegahbow, "but evidence seems to suggest that kids are being taken away from their homes due to a lack of funding for preventive programs, that could keep them with their families."

    The three-day judicial review, which concludes on Wednesday, is the result of an appeal by aboriginal child-advocacy groups of a 2011 Human Rights Tribunal decision to dismiss a discrimination case against the federal government.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations are alleging that the government is discriminating against aboriginal children by consistently underfunding child-welfare services on reserves, leading, they contend, to poverty, poor housing, substance abuse and a vast over-representation of aboriginal children in state care.

    "This case will not only affect one child, one family or one First Nation. This complaint is about all FN children on reserve — it is therefore an issue of significant importance" and should be heard on the merits, said Sarah Clarke, counsel for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

    The decision will affect all First Nations people on reserve whenever they are receiving a service that is provided off reserve by the province, said Clarke.

    In addition to child welfare services, that includes health care, water services, education and police services.

    The aboriginal advocates are arguing that the chair of the tribunal made an error of law when she dismissed the case because it is too important a case to be dismissed without a hearing.

    The federal government is expected to argue Wednesday that, because it merely sends funds to band managers — who themselves administer the services — the government cannot be held responsible for the services delivered.

    The government also says the question itself is invalid because it funds services on reserves, while provincial governments are responsible for services to the rest of Canadians, and that comparing two governments is both "unreasonable" and nonsensical.

    The "comparator" argument was used in the Human Rights Tribunal's initial decision to dismiss the case in 2011 before any of the main evidence had been heard.

    However, Nahwegahbow asked the court to take into account the government-sanctioned "history of disadvantage" plaguing First Nations. "Given the fact that there is no parallel example in this country which could compare to the experience of aboriginal people," Nahwegahbow argued that the government should be held accountable by "the honour of the Crown."

    That is the principle that "in all dealings with aboriginal people, the Crown must act honourably." It enshrines the government's duty to consult with aboriginal people and accommodate their interests, and it has been used in previous cases of land claims at the Supreme Court level.

    "It would be dishonourable of the Crown to argue that it can't be held accountable" just because there is no obvious comparator, said Nahwegahbow.

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    "The best interests of the child should be the primary consideration," he said.

    At a rally on Parliament Hill in conjunction with the case, students from six public schools across Ontario and Quebec gathered to deliver Valentine's Day cards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding "equal education" for First Nations children.

    As part of the Have a Heart camp again, several carried posters with handwritten messages, such as "My Canada includes Reserves" and "The Gov't of Canada is no ally to protect the rights of First Nations Children."

    A young boy from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Maniwaki, Que., was one of several students from Grades 4 to 8 who spoke to the 400-strong crowd about the need for improved education services in First Nations schools.

    His school, he said, doesn't even have a library.

    "The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights is for all Canadians," said another student, named Elliot. "Despite the commitment of Canada, Canada has failed miserably in this regard."

    The Federal Court "has an obligation to hear the case," Elliot said. He added that Harper has "no right to criticize China about human rights'" when First Nations communities in Canada lack basic housing and education.

    That reality was again brought to the fore when Attawapiskat, a northern Ontario community of 2,100 people on James Bay, declared a state of emergency over deplorable living conditions on Oct. 28.

    For at least the last two years, some of the community's residents had been living in shacks and makeshift tents without electricity, heat or indoor plumbing.

    Meanwhile, a Devonshire Public School student asked: "Why is it I have a good school and they don't? Is it because I am not native and they are?"

    As images of a housing crisis on the northern Ontario reserve hit TV screens across the country last year, Attawapiskat — one community among a hundred remote reserves in the same dire conditions — put itself on the map.

    Since then, a delegation of six aboriginal young people travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to tell the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about their experiences in Canada.

    One of the young people, 22-year-old child and youth care student Madelynn Slade told the committee about her experience in the child-welfare system.

    Against the government's own policies, which promise culturally appropriate care, Slade was placed with a white family, away from her home community.

    She said her goal is to "keep speaking until somebody listens."

    "Children are dying in these homes, children are being abused in these homes and no one is caring," said Slade after returning to Victoria where she attends university.

    "It's hard to think about, but it's happening right now, this second. And, that's not something where I should I have to go to the UN and beg them to listen to me because the Canadian government hasn't listened."

    With files from Sheila Dabu Nonato, Postmedia News


  34. Attawapiskat's 3rd-party manager to be withdrawn

    CBC News April 5, 2012

    A third-party manager sent to Attawapiskat First Nation to handle the troubled northern Ontario community's money will be pulled out, the federal government saidThursday.

    Government officials say that Jacques Marion, the appointed manager, would be withdrawn by April 19 because of progress in conditions on the reserve.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan issued a statement Thursday night, saying that "in recognition of the accomplishments that have been achieved in substantially addressing the urgent health and safety needs of affected Attawapiskat residents through the third-party manager, we have notified the Attawapiskat First Nation of the department's intent to move the First Nation out of third-party funding agreement management and back to co-management."

    A letter to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence from Aboriginal Affairs dated April 5 says that the "imminent completion of work to install the 22 modular homes purchased by the third-party manager and to renovate the three existing homes for the occupancy of the 25 families, as previously agreed, is an achievement of which we can be justifiably proud."

    NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat, rejected the suggestion that improving conditions in the community were behind the government's decision.

    "The third-party manager was put in place to punish the community for embarrassing the government," he said. "The reality is that they've blown this file and I think the government is trying to cover its tracks."

    Meanwhile. Angus said he'd been trying for weeks to determine why money had not been released by Marion to students studying off-reserve, and was finally told Thursday by Aboriginal Affairs that the money would begin to flow and that the manager would be withdrawn, restoring things "back to normal."

    He also questioned the benefit of assigning a third-party manager to Attawapiskat to bring in and install the trailers, when the operation faced many delays.

    It "shouldn't be rocket science getting 22 trailers set up into a community, and yet we were weeks and weeks behind because of fights over payments because [the third-party manager] was out in Winnipeg," Angus told CBC News in an interview Friday.

    "So the trailers are being set up, but again, this community ended up paying this guy $20,000 a month. I think anybody could ask the question, well, where was the value?".

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    The federal government announced Nov. 30, 2011, that it was sending in the third-party manager. Duncan said the community wasn't properly handling its money.

    At the time, Spence said she was shocked they were being put under third-party management, which is the strictest move the government can make if officials think the band can't handle its own finances.

    The reserve had been under co-management for 10 years before it was put under third-party management.

    The community of 2,000 declared a state of emergency last October after a severe housing shortage forced at least two dozen families to live in temporary shelters, some without insulation or plumbing.

    "I guess, as First Nations, when we do ask for assistance and make a lot of noise, we get penalized for it," Spence told CBC News at the time.

    "So, you know, to put us in third party while we're in crisis, that's very shameful and a disgrace from the government."

    The community fought the third-party manager to federal court, but lost the case.

    Angus said, now that the third-party manager is being removed, both provincial and federal officials need to sit down with Attawapiskat leadership and develop a medium and long-term plan to address the community's long-standing housing problems.

    The 22 trailers were earmarked to help those in Attawapiskat who were living in sheds and tents, but there are people living in makeshift trailers without adequate fire protection and shacks with overrun with mould, he said Friday.

    "I would like to think that now that the government has decided to stop being confrontational, they've pulled the third-party manager out, they might sit down with the community and say, 'Look, we all need to work together to fix this'."


  36. Fifty people still need safe housing in Attawapiskat: Chief Spence

    By Crawford Kilian, The Tyee May 14, 2012

    While 22 new mobile homes are now occupied, some 50 members of the Attawapiskat First Nation urgently need safe housing, and 23 others are in temporary housing, Chief Theresa Spence said in a May 11 news release.

    Published on the Attawapiskat website [http://www.attawapiskat.org] on May 14, the release provided the first update in weeks on housing conditions on the reserve. The release, signed by Chief Spence, said:

    The Attawapiskat First Nation would like to provide an update concerning the state of housing for members of the First Nation. We would also like to correct inaccurate information that appeared yesterday in media accounts of discussions with officials from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

    Attawapiskat received 22 mobile homes over the last two months, all of which have now been installed in the community. All of these homes are now occupied by members of the First Nation, who (prior to the arrival of the mobile homes) did not have safe housing.

    A 2011 Capital Planning Study found that Attawapiskat required an initial 70 new homes in order to safely house its members. The 2011 report outlined a plan to increase housing at Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat has requested the Department’s assistance in implementing that plan.

    In the meantime, and despite the installation of the mobile homes, there remain dozens of families and individuals living in unsafe conditions at Attawapiskat. The First Nation has requested Canada’s assistance, through the Department, in securing safe housing for all its members, in short term, and in the long term.

    The short term measure is to address some 50 members of the Attawapiskat’s First Nation who currently live in a set of ATCO construction camp trailers, donated to the community to provide short term relief for members of the Attawapiskat several years ago.

    These trailers are NOT the recently arrived and installed mobile homes, but are industrial trailers designed for forestry and resource workers’ short term use.

    There are no individual or private cooking or bathroom facilities in the construction ATCO trailers, no common sitting areas, and residents are “confined” to small, cell-like rooms. Many of our members living in these trailers are elders and children, and many suffer from poor health as a result of mold in the trailers and overcrowding. The close, confined quarters between families have given rise to an array of social ills, including domestic violence and increased interpersonal violence, in general, substance abuse, and depression.

    Many of the families currently living in the ATCO construction trailers have been living there since at least 2010.

    Last month, safety inspectors deemed the ATCO construction trailers as unfit for continued habitation.

    Some 23 members have relocated, over the last several weeks, from the ATCO construction trailers to the First Nation’s Healing Lodge, 7 kilometers west from Attawapiskat’s village. While conditions at the Healing Lodge are better than those in the ATCO trailers, the Healing Lodge is not suitable as permanent housing for families.

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    There is no further capacity to absorb the remaining ATCO construction trailer residents into other housing available at Attawapiskat First Nation, so there is nowhere else for the 73 people living in the ATCO Trailers and the Healing Lodge to go.

    Maintaining the Healing Lodge and the ATCO construction trailers costs the Attawapiskat First Nation approximately $50,000 per month. This money is therefore not available for other essential services, including the task of building safe and permanent housing for members.

    Attawapiskat has asked for Canada’s help in addressing the short and long term housing needs of those of its members who continue to live in unsafe conditions. Although a plan for addressing the permanent housing needs for all Attawapiskat’s members was presented to Canada in 2011, there remain critical short terms housing needs that must be addressed immediately. The people living in the ATCO construction trailers, in particular, cannot wait for the implementation of a plan to build additional permanent homes on the reserve, which will take time.

    Attawapiskat looks forward to working with Canada to address the critical and immediate needs of the 50 members currently living in the ATCO construction trailers. These families cannot stay in the ATCO construction trailers. This cannot wait.

    Certain inaccurate statements and facts were reported by media on Thursday, May 10, 2012. We trust that this update addresses and corrects those inaccuracies.

    The news release appears to be a response to a report published in the Toronto Sun on May 10:

    "It appears the band management is again failing residents," said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. "The band management has a direct responsibility to provide residents with competent fiscal management and housing. The band management does not have a housing strategy despite several attempts by the government to co-operate on a plan."

    The website of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has not published anything about Attawapiskat since March 6, when itannounced a contract for the construction of a new school on the First Nation.

    Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee


  38. Canadians need to learn about aboriginal issues, native leaders say


    Provincial education ministers will meet with a prominent First Nations representative Friday to discuss better ways of educating Canadians about aboriginal issues, amid what some call a continued widespread ignorance of the challenges facing First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

    A Postmedia News poll released earlier this week suggested most Canadians think aboriginals are both well-treated and well-funded by the federal government, a view not held by many aboriginal leaders who routinely grapple with poverty and social problems among their people.

    "After a while you just have to shake your head and not go into despair," said Beverly Anne Sabourin, the vice-provost for aboriginal initiatives at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. "We have so much more work to do with our Canadian population."

    Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), will meet with the education ministers in Halifax Friday. As head of the TRC, set up by the federal government in 2009 with a five-year mandate, he is charged with documenting the history of Canada's residential school system, which forced 150,000 native children away from their communities and families into government-funded, church-run institutions where many were gravely abused.

    He is also mandated to educate the general public about that legacy.

    Saskatchewan's minister of education, Russ Marchuk, told Postmedia News his government has focused on educating young people as a way to help improve the relationship with aboriginals. "As our children learn, I believe that's transferred to their parents and will make us all more engaged with First Nations people," he told Postmedia News.

    Sinclair was unavailable for comment.

    But his commission released an interim report in February that discussed the need for provinces to alter their public school curriculums so Canadians learn about treaties, the residential schools, the contribution of Aboriginal Peoples to Canada and can study important documents such as the Indian Act.

    While the Northwest Territories and Manitoba are both in the process of developing material for use in classrooms from kindergarten through grade 12, as of January 2012 Saskatchewan remains the only province with a mandate to teach non-aboriginal students about residential schools as well as the importance of treaties.

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    The poll commissioned by Postmedia found about two-thirds of those asked felt aboriginals received too much support from taxpayers, and were well-treated by the federal government. But former auditor-general Sheila Fraser repeatedly concluded that on-reserve services are under-funded by the federal government, with dire consequences. In fact, the federal government is currently defending itself in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal against allegations that it discriminates against First Nations children on-reserve by under-funding services to such an extent that native children have been driven into foster care.

    National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, told Postmedia News that 80 First Nations communities need schools and more than 100 communities don't have access to safe drinking water. The federal government, through the Indian Act, is responsible for ensuring that First Nations people on-reserve have access to education, health care and safe drinking water.

    Atleo said the poll results show there's a "major gap" between the realities First Nations people are facing in their communities and the beliefs of most Canadians.

    It is everyone's responsibility, he said, "to overcome the myths and the stereotypes that have for far too long characterized the relationship between First Nations and Canada."

    In a recent interview with the Aboriginal People's Commission Sinclair said at the government-funded, church-run residential schools, "aboriginal children were being taught that their cultures were inferior, their languages were inferior, their relationships were not worthy of protection, that they didn't have a history that was worth talking about." At the same time, generations of non-aboriginal children were receiving "the very same messaging . . . in the public schools of this country," he said.

    Years of indoctrination have contributed to the inherent belief by many Canadians that they are superior to Aboriginal Peoples, he said.

    Lakehead University's Sabourin, whose 35-year career has focused on fostering cross-cultural relationships, said "we have to come to a place where we have a relationship with each other based on common understanding and trust, not on fear or the baggage that people carry on both sides . . . It's going to be a long process."

    Atleo said changes can't come soon enough. As the government pushes to exploit natural resource in First Nations territory, he sees the possibility that a crisis - such as the standoff that happened in Oka, Quebec in the 1990s — will happen again. "If we're not careful, with the exploding youth population - coupled with Canada's interest in developing natural resources, we're sitting at a very critical moment of reckoning," he said.


  40. Unreasonable to send manager to Attawapiskat, says Federal Court


    OTTAWA - It was "unreasonable in all circumstances" for the federal government to appoint a third-party manager in response to an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the troubled First Nations community of Attawapiskat, the Federal Court ruled Wednesday.

    But there was no political malice at play in the decision — on the part of either Prime Minister Stephen Harper or members of his cabinet — nor any intent to embarrass the northern Ontario reserve or its members, the court concluded.

    Sending in Jacques Marion last November to take over the band's finances was the wrong way to address what was a critical housing shortage and worsening crisis on the northern Ontario reserve, the court said in its written ruling.

    "The decision to appoint (Marion) did not respond in a reasonable way to the root of the problems at Attawapiskat nor to the remedies available," wrote Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan.

    "The (government) invoked a financial management remedy without considering more reasonable, more responsive or less invasive remedies available."

    The decision to appoint someone to take over the band's books was made without any indication that there was a problem with the way the band was being managed, Phelan pointed out. Indeed, it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself who pointed out in the House of Commons that the government had invested more than $90 million in the community, he continued.

    "The reference by the prime minister as to the $90 million could not have related exclusively to the funds made available for housing repair or reconstruction," Phelan wrote.

    "It would be inaccurate to suggest that officials were insensitive or uncaring about the situation at Attawapiskat.... The problem seems to have been a lack of understanding of the AFN’s actual needs and an intention on the part of officials to be seen to be doing something."

    The Conservative government made it clear Wednesday it's unhappy with the ruling, but isn't yet ready to say whether an appeal is in the offing.

    "We are disappointed with the court's decision and will review it to determine the appropriate next steps," said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

    The ruling verifies what many experts have already concluded, said constitutional lawyer and University of Ottawa professor Joseph Magnet: the relationship between the federal bureaucracy and some aboriginal communities is seriously flawed.

    "It's just dysfunctional," Magnet said. "You can see it (in Attawapiskat) and you can see it elsewhere. Those relationships don't work."

    New Democrat ethics critic Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat, said Duncan sat on his hands for a month while the housing crisis was unfolding, and then overreacted when it began making headlines.

    When the crisis quickly became a black eye for the government, "in the midst of what became an international crisis, their response was to run roughshod over the law, attempt to remove a democratically elected band council, and break the law," Angus said.

    "We really have to ask ourselves why is it that this combination of incompetence and ruthlessness was the only response of this government to deal with a community that was desperately poor and asking for help."

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    The court, which acknowledged the politically charged climate and intensive media attention at the time, took pains to point out that it found no evidence Ottawa was playing politics with the community when Marion was appointed.

    "Those allegations were largely withdrawn, and to the extent that they linger, the court finds that there is no evidence that the prime minister or the cabinet engaged in such reprehensible conduct," the decision said.

    "The problem in this case does not lie at the feet of the political masters but in the hands of the bureaucracy."

    The James Bay community of 2,000 declared a state of emergency in October 2011 after a severe housing shortage forced more than two dozen families to live in temporary, mouldy shelters, some without insulation or plumbing.

    The Conservative government appointed a third-party manager amid suggestions from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the band had been mismanaging federal funds in the face of the housing crisis.

    Marion was withdrawn in April, but the Attawapiskat First Nation persisted in its lawsuit against the government, anxious to get the courts to "refute'' Harper's suggestion that the band had been mismanaging federal money and to have Marion's appointment declared unlawful.

    Harper's comments at the time show that the government sees aboriginal people as adversaries, said Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett.

    "(The government) chose to smear the reputation of the band instead of owning up to its responsibility to respond to the housing emergency in Attawapiskat.”

    When Marion was pulled, government officials insisted it was due to the fact the band had done a good job in improving the health and safety conditions that had required the outside control in the first place.

    They said the 25 families affected by the housing crisis were now living in better conditions.

    Magnet urged the government to follow up the ruling by launching a complete review of living conditions in Attawapiskat and shake things up in Aboriginal Affairs.

    "If I were minister, I would be moving in and cleaning up house," he said. "You can't have that kind of a bureaucratic failure and say, 'OK, try to do better next time.'"


  42. Tory crime agenda fuelling crisis of aboriginal women in prison: report

    By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press The Tyee September 27, 2012

    The swelling ranks of aboriginal women in the federal prison system amount to "nothing short of a crisis," says a report commissioned by the Public Safety Department.

    The Conservative government's "tough on crime agenda" will only send the numbers spiralling higher, adds the report, which paints a bleak picture of the native, Inuit and Metis woman's experience with the federal correctional system.

    It declares that "aggressive action must be taken now" to deal with the problem.

    "However, it is highly unlikely that the issues of such a marginalized population will receive the attention and resources necessary to even begin to address the multitude of issues."

    The federal Correctional Service — part of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' portfolio — said Wednesday it is actively pursuing strategies to help aboriginal women.

    The 62-page report, Marginalized, was prepared by The Wesley Group and recently released by Public Safety.

    It notes that while aboriginals account for just four per cent of the Canadian population, one in three females in the federal correctional system is aboriginal.

    Over the last 10 years, the representation of aboriginal women in the prison system has increased by nearly 90 per cent, says the report, making them the fastest-growing offender group.

    "The current state of over-representation of aboriginal women in federal corrections is nothing short of a crisis."

    The report tries to pinpoint the root causes, tracing the history of colonization and the often-damaging effects of the residential school system to the present-day challenges that native women face as a result of "oppressive government policies and laws," exploitation, violence and racism.

    Winding up in prison does nothing to break the cycle, despite the opportunity to help women build better lives through correctional programming, the report found.

    Aboriginal women tend to have lower levels of education and employment, as well as a more extensive criminal history and a higher need for programming to deal with issues such as drug abuse, anger management and finding employment, the author notes.

    Upon entering prison, offenders are assessed with the aim of determining whether they should be given a security designation of minimum, medium or maximum.

    Aboriginal women are generally over-classified, leading to long-term negative consequences, says the report. "A higher classification level means limited or no access to core programs which impacts parole eligibility and success for re-entry into the community."

    The report recommends "an alternative means of assessment" for aboriginal women.

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    The Correctional Service has made some progress in providing appropriate help for aboriginal women behind bars, says the report, pointing to specially tailored programming introduced in 2009 that is delivered with assistance of a native elder.

    However, "much work" needs to be done.

    For instance, healing lodges for women — one in Alberta, the other in Quebec — were still at the planning stages despite the fact legislation had allowed for their creation for many years, says the report.

    The department referred questions about the report to the Correctional Service.

    The prison service cited numerous initiatives, including a review of its mental health strategy from an aboriginal perspective, release of a revised policy on the needs of suicidal and self-harming offenders, improved staff training, universal access to elders, and a new generation of correctional programs for women offenders.

    The report says the federal government's agenda of stiffer sentences and harsher measures for prisoners "will only serve to further increase the numbers (of imprisoned aboriginal women) and worsen the already staggering injustice experienced by aboriginal peoples as a whole."

    The report concludes it is up to federal leaders to spur improvements.

    "Absent political will, fundamental change will not occur within the system," it says.

    "Furthermore, given the political climate of late, there is no indication that effective change for aboriginal women in corrections will occur any time soon."

    Read the report Marginalized - The Aboriginal Women’s experience in Federal Corrections at:



  44. Ottawa spends $3 million to battle First Nations child welfare case

    By Heather Scoffield, Canadian Press October 1, 2012

    OTTAWA -- The federal government has been billed more than $3 million for its unsuccessful attempts to keep a high-stakes battle over First Nations child welfare out of the courts.

    Invoices obtained through Access to Information show the Justice Department, acting on behalf of Aboriginal Affairs, paid out at least $3.1 million for legal services between 2007 and June 2012.

    Government lawyers were trying to quash claims from First Nations child rights advocates that Ottawa is short-changing native communities by funding child welfare services at 22 per cent below provincial levels.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations launched a human rights challenge that dates back to 2007.

    They say the federal government is discriminating by not providing the same level of child welfare support to First Nations children as other children in Canada receive from provincial governments.

    Ottawa has challenged the advocates with legal technicalities at every step along the way, arguing that the case does not belong in the court system.

    After much back and forth, and more than $3 million later, the Federal Court rejected the government's arguments, ordering a full hearing at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

    "They've spent that trying to avoid this hearing on the truth," said Cindy Blackstock, the society's executive director.

    "That really raises the question of what they're trying to hide. All we've wanted from the get-go is a factual hearing on whether they're discriminating or not."

    Indeed, last week, the tribunal decided to set aside several weeks of hearings on the issue in February and March.

    "I'm expecting Canada to really drag it out and use about any tactic they can to drag it out," said Blackstock.

    Blackstock obtained the federal invoices through an Access to Information request and provided the documents to The Canadian Press.

    At stake is far more than federal funding for child welfare.

    If the First Nations advocates win the day, the case will put pressure on Ottawa to increase child welfare funding, as well as to match provincial funding in other areas of First Nations services, such as schooling, special education, policing and health.

    Already, First Nations have started legal action on special education and policing in Ontario, using similar arguments to the child welfare case.

    Victory for the First Nations could cost Ottawa billions.

    "We think that after these cases go through, the federal government's programs for First Nations people will need a drastic overhaul in order to deliver services equal to what other Canadians receive," said Kent Elson, a Toronto lawyer who is involved in the policing and special education challenges.

    But if the government wins, recently won powers for First Nations to launch human rights complaints would be severely restricted, the acting head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has said.

    "We think this is one of the most important human rights issues this decade," Elson added.

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  45. continued from previous comment...

    Aboriginal Affairs officials said Monday they don't intend to speculate on how much the case will cost at the end of the day, but spokeswoman Genevieve Guibert said in an email that the government hopes the tribunal will dismiss the complaint, putting an end to litigation.

    The government has increased the funding from $449.5 million a year in 2006-07 to its current level of $580 million, Guibert said.

    A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said last week that the federal government does not believe the courts are the proper forum for differences over child welfare.

    "We believe that the best way to ensure First Nations children and families get the supports and services they need is by working together -- with First Nations, provinces and territories -- and not through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal," Jan O'Driscoll wrote in an email.

    "Our commitment to supporting First Nations children and families is clear."

    O'Driscoll said funding for family services has "significantly increased" and the quality of such services has improved to focus on preventing the problems that jeopardize the welfare of native children.

    "As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

    But Blackstock said she and the AFN worked for 10 years behind the scenes to negotiate a compromise with the government, before turning to legal action.

    "The bigger question is, do we want to be a country where racial discrimination is a way that we save the government money? This case is fundamentally about the type of Canada we want," she said.

    "It's not a legitimate fiscal restraint measure."

    First Nations children are dramatically over-represented in the child welfare system, mainly because of poverty, overcrowded housing and poor parenting linked to substance abuse and neglect, research shows.

    Recent census data shows there were nearly 30,000 children in foster care in Canada on a given day. Other research suggests about 70,000 children pass through foster homes at some point in a given year.

    Up to 40 per cent of those children are First Nations kids, Blackstock said.

    Last week, the United Nations committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child took Canada to task over its treatment of aboriginal, immigrant and disabled children.

    When asked about the criticism in the House of Commons, Conservative parliamentary secretary Bob Dechert lashed out at the UN committee rather than address the child welfare matter.

    "The sad reality is that Syria is a member of this committee," Dechert said.

    "Syria, a country whose rulers are stealing the innocence of an entire generation of its children, is criticizing Canada. Imagine that. This is no doubt to distract from the atrocities that Syrian children are currently facing every day."


  46. Vigils honour missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada

    BY GREG MACDOUGALL | rabble.ca OCTOBER 4, 2012

    Today, October 4, is the seventh annual day of Sisters in Spirit vigils to honour the lives of the too many missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.

    There are at least 156 vigils scheduled across Canada, with a few more in the United States, Mexico and Bolivia.

    The problem is a national tragedy and crisis, states Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) president Michèle Audette. NWAC's Sisters in Spirit (SIS) research had documented 582 cases before the SIS program funding and name was cut by the federal government in 2010.

    And the number is likely much higher. "Even though we have that number, they only relied on secondary sources to get that information ... Very competent staff, but they were relying only on media reports that existed already, they relied on police files that were public -- I don't believe they did any sort of Access to Information -- and on families that came to them," says Kristen Gilchrist of Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS).

    "There's another layer: police jurisdictions across Canada, the RCMP being one of them, doesn't track the ethnic or racial status of victims, or offenders for that matter, so some folks will never even be identified. And something else that families have mentioned is that their loved one's disappearance or murder isn't even captured in the information -- so things like suspicious deaths, or women who are found several years after they've gone missing but a cause of death isn't known ... Deaths in custody, those certainly aren't being included. A lot of things aren't even counting as violence in the first place."

    FSIS is a grassroots group which was formed to offer support, networking, solidarity and advocacy for the families of the missing and murdered after SIS ended.

    "It's different when an Aboriginal girl is murdered or missing," says Bridget Tolley of FSIS. "You know, nobody cares, it seems like. Media doesn't care, we don't get media coverage when this happens. We do our own searches. I don't know why, it seems like people just don't care about us."

    Since 2001, Tolley has been looking for justice for the killing of her mother Gladys, and was behind the first Sisters in Spirit vigils in 2006. The October 4 date is the anniversary of the release of Amnesty International's 2004 'Stolen Sisters' report, which examined the factors which lead to the "heightened and unacceptable risk of violence against Indigenous women" in Canada. October 4 is also the day before the anniversary of Gladys' death.

    Eleven vigils were held that first year, and the number had grown to around 100 in 2010 by the time the federal government axed the Sisters in Spirit program.

    Audette describes the Sisters in Spirit program as having had "that task to show Canadian society, but also the federal government, that there is a crisis right now, that we're treated differently because we're Aboriginal women." NWAC currently has in place an Evidence To Action program that continues to work on the issue, but no longer does the research to maintain the database of cases.

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    "We have to remember that for the first time, somebody was asking me 'What happened to my sister, or my mom, or to my auntie' and suddenly it became not an isolated event, it became a national event where 'Hey, I'm not the only one who had to go through that pain or that experience.' So we were able to mobilize and bring together under the same roof -- a big tent, let's say -- those families, and to express and share their stories. And from that we collect and collect and collect some information, and as a political organization it was helping us, and it is still helping us, to bring those situations, those realities or needs, to the federal or provincial governments," says Audette, who was elected NWAC president this year and had previously been the president of the Quebec Native Women's Association.

    In terms of what is needed now, Audette says, "We demand and urge the federal government to have a national public inquiry, from an independent body. We don't believe in a task force: for me, if the federal government is naming somebody within his own government structure, I'm afraid that the transparency, the work and the involvement of our organization, won't be there."

    She adds, "Also, a national plan of action for Aboriginal women -- that would include economic development, education, and promoting non-violence in our communities. Public awareness is one of the solutions, to get the support from the Canadian society ... Of course, we need some concrete action at the community level, the cities where urban women live, and of course our own leadership, the chiefs across Canada, the organizations that exist for Aboriginal people, the Métis, the Inuit -- we need those governance structures to put in place measures, activities or programs to promote the non-violence.

    So it's a society crisis, we need to work together, all of us."

    Tolley describes what FSIS is doing: "It's important to move forward as a grassroots non-profit organization helping families with what they need when something happens right away, like posters, like gas money to search, or water -- anything like this, it's important that we do it right away and not wait for anybody else, you know. The sooner we get the word out, we might bring home somebody, or she might be found, whatever the case may be. ... It's important that we support each other. I know it's very hard, after ten years of looking for justice for my own mother and my own case, it's very hard for a family to be doing this all alone, and it feels so good to help a family and to see that at least we're doing something."

    In regards to the Families of Sisters in Spirit National Vigil they are organizing this year on Parliament Hill, Gilchrist describes how FSIS has fundraised to bring in 15 or so families from across the country, "We've invited them to go on the Hill and say what they want to say ... I think really the change will come when we start listening and hearing the stories."

    Audette explains the growing movement these vigils represent:
    "It's amazing. And the dream of NWAC, and I hope it's the dream of the families also, that it become around the Mother Earth, that it become an international movement, to tell the international community that missing and murdered Aboriginal women, Indigenous women, shouldn't exist, please, shouldn't exist at all, we don't deserve that."

    rabbletv is currently featuring an interview with Michèle Audette, president of NWAC, and an interview with Bridget Tolley and Kristen Gilchrist of Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS).

    Greg Macdougall is a media activist, organizer and learning coach in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory. His website is www.EquitableEducation.ca

    to see the links embedded in this article go to:


  48. B.C. Highway of Tears investigated by global rights group

    Province said to have highest rate of unsolved murders of indigenous women in Canada

    CBC News November 23, 2012

    An international human rights watchdog is now investigating the high number of unsolved cases of missing and slain women in B.C.

    Human Rights Watch researchers typically probe abuse, torture and extra-judicial killings in places like Syria and Afghanistan. Now the organization has set its sights on Northern B.C.

    Researcher Meghan Rhoad says the group is very concerned by the sheer volume of atrocities against aboriginal women in B.C. — which has the highest rate of unsolved homicides of indigenous women and girls in the country.

    "The alarming data on violence against indigenous women and girls has been coming out. The Native Women's Association of Canada has documented 582 cases of missing and murdered women across Canada. Then in B.C. in particular they have documented 160 cases."

    Rhoad has spent several months speaking with women across Northern B.C., including several weeks travelling the so-called Highway of Tears.

    "I was struck by just how pervasive the insecurity is in the north and just how many women and girls' lives have been touched by violence, you know in one form or another, and how many families have been affected," she said.

    On Thursday, Wally Oppal delivered his Missing Women's Commission report to the B.C. government. It will be made public in mid-December.

    Rhoad said Human Rights Watch plans to release its report into B.C.'s missing and killed women in 2013.


    Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

    Human Rights Watch on violence against indigenous women and girls

  49. Aboriginal organization blames suicide pact on 'apartheid' service delivery

    By Katie Hyslop, The Tyee November 27, 2012

    The recently discovered suicide pact between mostly Aboriginal students at Britannia Secondary School is just a "symptom" of an "apartheid system" of separate services for urban Aboriginal people in Vancouver, says Scott Clark, coordinator of the Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement Society.

    The pact, involving 30 students from the inner city Vancouver school, was discovered in mid-September but made public earlier this week. Twenty-four of the students, all Aboriginal, were briefly detained by the authorities for their own safety, but have since been released.

    Scott Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE) says there has been no coordinated follow up on the well being of these students and their families by government or service organization since.

    "There is a total vacuum around the existing 30 children," Clark told the media during a press conference hosted by ALIVE in Grandview Park this morning.

    "Everyone has a little information, there is no central location as to how we can follow through on this."

    Part of the problem, says Clark, is the existence of separate, Aboriginal-only agencies that provide unequal services for the city's urban Aboriginal population. Unlike land-based treaties, which call for Aboriginal authority and delegation over their own services, Clark says most urban Aboriginal people in Vancouver want to access the same services as everyone else.

    "Because this particular community has a large Aboriginal population, you will find Aboriginal people who want to go into the separated services. But if you look at the research, you'll see an awful lot--the majority of Aboriginal people--want the opportunities in the broader community," he said, referring to the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study and the City's own Dialogues Project, focusing on relations between recent immigrants and urban First Nations people in Vancouver.

    Bill Lightbown, former president of United Native Nations and current ALIVE board member, read the media a line from a letter to Clark from Stephanie Cadieux, minister of children and family development, regarding the suicide pact: "I'm very relieved to hear that the suicide pact involving Aboriginal youth was successfully averted."

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  50. While this incident may have been avoided, Lightbown made a call to action for he government and service providers before another incident occurs.

    "The reality is that the problems are still there and they have to be dealt with, and the governments have to take a much more serious view and attitude towards dealing with these kinds of issues and working with the people in the community," says Lightbown, referring to all levels of government, "especially the parents and the people who are responsible for these children who find themselves unable to cope with the problems that have been created by society as a whole."

    In an emailed statement to The Tyee, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) outlined several of the actions it has taken since they were alerted to the pact in late September, including working with parents and partner organizations to get families the support they needed and conducting a community intervention session on suicide and self-harm with the families involved.

    "The ministry continues to work collaboratively with the (Vancouver Coastal) Health Authority and the community agencies to monitor the situation and ensure the at-risk youth are getting the services they need," reads the statement, adding MCFD also provides funds to the Urban Native Youth Association and Directions Youth Services Centre, which work with at-risk Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in the Strathcona and Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhoods.

    "Over 20 thousand children and youth (in British Columbia) receive community mental health services annually – approximately double the number that received services in 2003."

    But that's not enough for ALIVE, who want to see a place-based strategy put into action in the inner city immediately.

    "There is no one on the community side to support those young people, and this is what we're calling on: an integrated strategy between the doctors, the healthcare professionals, the service organizations, community centres, to develop that strategy so that these young people and their families aren't left hanging once an event as traumatic as this happens," says Clark.


  51. Reports on suicide pact get it wrong: VSB Chair Bacchus

    By Katie Hyslop The Tyee November 28, 2012

    Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus is challenging some of the information made public about a suicide pact involving Aboriginal youth from Britannia Secondary School in East Vancouver.

    The pact, made public last week, was discovered in late September and reportedly involved 30 mostly Aboriginal students at Britannia. Bacchus says in reality roughly six students were from Britannia, while others came from different Vancouver schools Bacchus can't identify or weren't enrolled in Vancouver schools.

    "This has been a tough issue for us because we are constrained by privacy issues in many cases, so we haven't been able to put out a lot of information vacuum that some people have been filling with not necessarily accurate information," Bacchus told The Tyee this morning.

    Few of the youth involved had actually discussed taking part in the pact, Bacchus says, with the rest involved in a larger conversation about it on Facebook. Britannia was notified of the pact by a concerned relative, and the school then engaged service agencies, and then the Vancouver Police Department, who Bacchus says were required under the provincial Mental Health Act to bring some youth to the BC Children's Hospital for assessment.

    "It's a fairly aggressive way they have to deal with it under their requirements where they have to round up kids," she said, adding all but two were released the same afternoon.

    "There had been work done between several agencies who had come up with a list of all the kids who had even been involved in the conversation, whether they were identified as being at actual risk or not, and that list was somewhere between 25 and 30 (youth) from what I understand."

    In a press conference given yesterday by Aboriginal Live In Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE), executive director Scott Clark told the media "there is no one on the community side to support those young people, and this is what we're calling on: an integrated strategy between the doctors, the healthcare professionals, the service organizations, community centres, to develop that strategy so that these young people and their families aren't left hanging once an event as traumatic as this happens."

    But Bacchus says that isn't the case and it's frustrating for those involved with these kids that people believe no one is helping them.

    "I know Scott Clark, and I know he's passionate about these issues and he's trying to do something, but it has got people upset who were part of working with these kids very sensitively, have relationships, to see that this suggestion that there was a vacuum and that they were getting no support, which isn't the case," she said, adding Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the Vancouver Police Department, the school board, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services are just some of the organizations providing support to the youth and their families.

    Bacchus admits, though, that there could be better communication between service providers, saying there was some confusion over who was responsible for taking some of the youth for mental health assessments. Like Clark, Bacchus and the school board are concerned about preventing future mental health incidents in the short and long term, especially for the youth who aren't in school.

    "We're interested in the report last week from the Representative for Children and Youth about how do we get to some of these deeper issues and provide more intensive support short term for the kids right now who are having challenges, but also how do we deal with the toddlers who are in pre-schools now so we don't see this 10 years down the road from now," she says.


  52. Neighbouring reserve to Attawapiskat declares fuel, housing emergency

    Kashechewan First Nation was running out of fuel, 21 houses were not fit to face winter

    The Canadian Press December 2, 2012

    A year after the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat jarred the country's conscience with its deplorable housing conditions, the reserve next door has only narrowly averted a similar crisis.

    Kashechewan First Nation declared a state of emergency last week because it was running out of fuel and because 21 houses were not fit to face winter.

    The federal government stepped in with help, just in the nick of time.

    But fuel shortages are becoming more common among remote northern Ontario communities right now, said Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a regional advocacy network.

    That's because the ice road used to truck in a year's supply of diesel last winter did not last as long as usual.

    "Everybody is running out now. We're looking at a two-month gap" until this winter's ice road is solid enough to truck in fresh supplies, Fiddler said in an interview.

    In Kashechewan, extra fuel supplies were supposed to come in by barge, but bad weather and demands from other communities meant the Cree community near James Bay didn't receive enough.

    Kashechewan's chief and council were poised late last month to shut down the band office, two schools, the power generation centre, the health clinic and the fire hall because the buildings were not heated and could no longer operate safely.

    "We are without fuel to operate our organizations, heat them, and we are obligated to maintain employee safety and health standards for our employees," the Cree community's chief, Derek Stephen, said in a Nov. 23 declaration of emergency obtained by The Canadian Press.

    Plus, 21 homes had also become uninhabitable, he said in a second declaration.

    The basements of the homes had been flooded last spring and their electric furnaces destroyed. Now, with the onset of winter, families were freezing.

    "Due to lack of proper heating for homes for families that have elderly, disabled and small children, we are left with no choice but to declare a state of emergency," the chief stated.

    Provincial, federal response

    A declaration of emergency by a First Nation triggers action by Emergency Management Ontario, which is in turn reimbursed and supported by Aboriginal Affairs in Ottawa.

    According to the declarations, the Cree community had asked Ottawa for help beforehand, but to no avail.

    "During a conference call with (Aboriginal Affairs) we had requested fuel to be flown into the community for our medical facility, administrative buildings and our schools -- all of which were denied, " the first declaration said.

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  53. Similarly, the second statement on housing said requests for assistance were rejected. As a result, temporary fixes for the furnaces damaged in last spring's flooding broke down, leaving families without heat.

    According to the NDP MP Charlie Angus, it wasn't until the band declared an emergency and he exchanged words with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan that federal help kicked in.

    But a spokesman for Duncan said Aboriginal Affairs had arranged for emergency fuel delivery a week before the declaration, and allowed for extra funding for home building supplies the day after the declaration.

    The department freed up funding to cover the cost of flying in fuel and supplying the community with materials to get the furnaces up and running again, said spokesman, Jan O'Driscoll.

    "Given the urgent nature of the situation, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has released funds to cover the incremental cost of fuel delivery by air to address health and safety needs of the community and has released a $700,000 emergency cheque towards building supplies for renovations to 21 housing units," O'Driscoll said in an email.

    "Departmental officials continue to work closely with the First Nation to ensure that the community has a sufficient supply of fuel."

    Aboriginal Affairs has released $24,397 so far for the fuel supply, O'Driscoll added.

    Crisis averted, said the NDP's Angus, but he is upset that the community had to come so close to the brink to get Ottawa's attention.

    A year after Minister Duncan's reputation took a beating over the Attawapiskat housing crisis and the federal government's treatment of First Nations received global scrutiny, "it's symbolic that no real lessons have been learned," Angus said in an interview.

    Lack of adequate housing remains an urgent problem on reserves across the country. And isolated communities frequently confront problems linked to their dependence on diesel fuel for power -- such as leaks, contamination, fuel shortages, and high prices, Angus said.

    Reserves in his riding alone have declared 13 emergencies in just seven years, most of them related to poor infrastructure.

    "We're always putting Band-aids on septic wounds," he said. "A year after Attawapiskat, we really need to say: what is the lesson from all of this?"


  54. Uncomfortable truths: Dr. Marie Wilson on the history of residential schools in Canada

    BY JONATHAN SAS, rabble.ca DECEMBER 6, 2012

    "The indigenous capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is almost beyond belief."

    Few Canadians can speak with a genuine understanding of that capacity. Dr. Marie Wilson, who sits on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is one of them.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson communicated this powerful message while in Montreal last week to deliver the annual Jeanne Sauvé Address. There she spoke to the incredible leadership being shown by survivors of Canada's Indian Residential Schools as thousands have courageously come forward to tell the country their stories.

    Established in 2008, the TRC is in year three of a five-year mandate scheduled to end in the spring of 2014.

    The commission's task is daunting: to record the experiences of children and anyone else who was impacted by the residential schools; to tell Canadians the truth about those experiences and the lasting impacts they have had; and finally, to guide a process of reconciliation "between and within Aboriginal families, communities, churches, governments, and Canadians."

    It's an ambitious and vitally important mission, one being made that much more difficult by the actions of the current Federal government. This past Monday, the Canadian Press reported that the TRC reluctantly decided to take the Feds to court over their refusal to release millions of documents the TRC believes are integral to fulfilling its mandate.

    Commissioner Wilson, however, never once mentioned the troubling lack of co-operation on the part of government in Montreal.

    Instead, her remarks communicated the "enormity" of the trauma wrought by the residential schools on Aboriginal Canadians and outlined how imperative the deeper engagement of non-Aboriginal Canadians remains if meaningful reconciliation is to be achieved.

    Truth and trauma

    Between the 1870s and 1996, over 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and put in some 130 government-funded, church-run schools across the country.

    The intent of the Residential Schools was to assimilate and to christianize. According to official government records and correspondence, "the fastest and most effective way to do that was to get at the families through the children."

    The Canadian government wished to 'kill the Indian in the child' so that within a generation there would be no more Indians in this country, and no more 'Indian problem.'

    "Try to imagine if these were your children," commissioner Wilson challenged the audience. "They are four, five, maybe six or seven years old, and a Priest, or an Indian Agent, or an RCMP officer comes to take that little one away from you to a place where you could not see them; where they were routinely punished if they tried to speak the language you taught them; where they could not be close to you, or comforted by their brothers or sisters; where food was foreign, punishment was swift and abuses, in many places, rampant."

    Just as difficult to imagine is that entire communities were emptied of children. As one of the survivors told the TRC of this phenomenon: when the children were taken, "even the dogs cried."

    Those same little children are among those Commissioner Wilson now recognizes and honours as this country's unsung leaders. Leaders because in spite of the severity of the trauma they endured, they had the determination to speak up in the 1980s and 1990s, while the last of the schools were still operating, to take legal steps to address the harms they’d experienced.

    Their courageous acts are what led to the largest out of court class action settlement in Canadian history in the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; the settlement that established the TRC as a requirement.

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  55. Now, through the TRC's hearings and national events, a picture of just how severe and long-term the impacts of the residential school system are is emerging.

    High rates of addiction and mental health issues are commonplace in Aboriginal communities, the epidemic of suicide in many regions Commissioner Wilson described as “an urgent and national crisis.”

    She has little doubt these issues are related directly to "the continuing trauma of [having] separated children from parents." These traumas reverberate through generations. The effects of having been raised outside of the home, without loving parents and often under brutal conditions, have left deep and lasting impacts on the parenting capacity of many survivors.
    "I have had many, many survivors come forward and say each in their own words: the thing I have greatest regrets about is the way in which I raised my own children."

    Reconciliation: The real two solitudes

    In light of the enormity of the wrongs suffered by Aboriginal individuals, families and communities as a result of the residential schools, it's a wonder what's driving the desire for reconciliation?

    For many survivors, Commissioner Wilson said, it's their willingness to finally forgive themselves, their desire not "to carry other people’s garbage any longer."

    "They were told when they were little that they were bad, they were dirty, they were savage. As little children they took those messages literally and grew up thinking they were true."

    Listening to others share similar stories at commission hearings can help in the acknowledgement that this wasn’t their fault; that they were children, and the blame for the shame, anger, and other devastation lies with the adults who were then responsible.

    Speaking at the hearings, Commissioner Wilson said, can offer tremendous release for some survivors; especially for those that have been carrying around their story, and often their shame, as a secret for 50 or 60 years.

    "Some of the survivors will sit with their wife or husband right beside them and say: 'I have never told anyone this before, even my spouse!'"

    While the TRC continues to record the stories, meticulously stockpiling these truths and providing space for the sharing of experiences within Aboriginal families and communities, ensuring that non-Aboriginal communities hear the truth and take part in the reconciliation process remains a real challenge.

    "We must be honest about the real two solitudes in this country, that between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens, and commit to doing tangible things to close the divide in awareness, understanding and relationships."

    Non-Aboriginal Canadians, Commissioner Wilson said, need to do something in response to the real harms and needs that survivors are coming forward to describe. They need to know that Canada cares, that Canadians are listening to them.

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  56. At least right now, that means non-Aboriginal Canadians, along with representatives of elected leadership and representatives of the media, need to show up to bear witness at the TRCs hearings, and to attend and cover the national events.

    It seems a small request in light of the immense injustices suffered.

    "We can no longer afford to be strangers to each other in this country that we now share. We could actually come to know each other not just as labels or hyphenated Canadians but rather as neighbors and as friends, as people that we care about."

    The alternative to opening up a genuine space for dialogue is the risk of repeating the betrayal and aggravating relations.

    Uncomfortable history, uncertain future

    For Commissioner Wilson, the residential schools are a sustained ribbon of story line in Canadian history. To date, they remain part of a “sustained ribbon of ignorance." It is a defining part of how Canada has come to where it is today, with hugely disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal peoples on the streets, in the prisons, in the emergency wards, and, troublingly, in the child welfare system.

    The fact remains that for many, if not most, non-Aboriginal Canadians, the legacy of the Residential Schools simply isn't on the radar. In turn, this (perceived) lack of interest means there are few if any media outlets that dedicate reporting staff with any consistency or attentiveness to Aboriginal issues, let alone to the important work of the TRC.

    "At some point we have to ask ourselves: How is it that we as a country devoted so much air time to the TRC say in South Africa but [which have] dedicated so little to our own on a sustained national basis."

    Commissioner Wilson said Canadians need to own the residential school system as Canadian history, not Aboriginal history. In an effort to do just that, the TRC has challenged Ministries of Education in provinces across the country to make the teaching of residential schools mandatory in the curriculum.

    That it remains absent from the curriculum of every province illustrates just how far there is to go in the quest to raise awareness, partnership building aside.

    But there have been some promising breakthroughs. The governments of Nunavut and the North West Territories have already taken up the curriculum challenge. No high school student in the North will graduates ignorant to the legacy of residential schools.

    Importantly, these governments worked directly with survivors, many of them able to capture their experiences in Indigenous language, to include their stories as part of the new curriculum.

    There is a limited window of opportunity, Commissioner Wilson pointed out, for the other provinces to do the same, to consult survivors within their own borders when making curriculum.
    "Most Canadians who do learn about the schools share a sense of outrage at what happened, are upset at not being told about it and have a genuine desire to help set things right."

    Institutionalizing the teaching of this fuller, if more brutal Canadian history, in our classrooms would at least be a start.

    "This is not comfortable subject matter," Commissioner Wilson said.
    "You have to get uncomfortable to get honest about all of this."

    To find out more about the TRC's work, visit their website at: www.trc.ca

    Hearings will begin in Quebec in January and the next national event will take place in Montreal on Wednesday April 24, 2013.

    Jonathan Sas is a 2012/2013 Sauvé Scholar . He is the former editor of The Mark News and holds an MA in political science from the University of British Columbia.


  57. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence begins hunger strike: "I am willing to die for my people"


    OTTAWA -- Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence took part in a ceremony this morning on Victoria Island to mark the beginning of an indefinite hunger strike demanding justice and respect for her people and for all First Nations in Canada.

    Yesterday, at a press conference on Parliament Hill, Chief Spence told reporters: "I am willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it's time for the government to realize what it's doing to us."

    The Attawapiskat Chief was greeted on Parliament Hill by supporters and well wishers, including Charlie Angus, the NDP Member of Parliament for the northern Ontario riding that includes Attawapiskat.

    The hunger strike action coincides with a renewed movement for Indigenous rights across the country, sparked by opposition to provisions in the Conservative government's omnibus Bill C-45 which was passed last week.

    Attawapiskat, last year, became a symbol of the poverty endured by many First Nations communities across Canada when shockingly poor housing conditions were revealed.

    At the time, the federal government blamed the dire housing situation on "financial mismanagement" by the Attawapiskat leadership and placed the band under "third party management".

    The Federal Court later ruled that this response by the Harper government was "unreasonable."

    Despite calls by MP Angus, community leaders and many others, Prime Minister Stephen Harper never visited Attawapiskat in the wake of the 2011 housing crisis.

    Chief Spence plans to conduct her hunger strike in a cabin on Victoria Island, in addition to visiting Parliament Hill daily if possible.

    She says she will consume only water, and is not afraid to die if it comes to that. "If that's the journey for me to go, I'll go."


  58. Canadas First Nations protest heralds a new alliance

    The grassroots IdleNoMore movement of aboriginal people offers a more sustainable future for all Canadians

    by Martin Lukacs The Guardian December 20, 2012

    Canada's placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government's budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.

    It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa's parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is "willing to die for her people" to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.

    The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has dismissed the escalating protest movement, saying "that's social media, so we'll just have to see where that goes." He told international media that relations with First Nations are "very good". If only that were the truth. What remains unspeakable in mainstream politics in Canada was recently uttered, in a moment of rare candour, by former Prime Minister Paul Martin:

    "We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power."

    The evidence – and source of the current anger and unrest – is hard to dispute. While Canada has the world's largest supply of fresh water, more than 100 aboriginal communities have tapwater so foul they are under continual boil alert (pdf). Aboriginal peoples constitute 3% of Canada's population; they make up 20% of its prisons' inmates. In the far north, the rate of tuberculosis is a stunning 137 times that of the rest of the country. And the suicide rate capital of the world? A small reserve in Ontario, where a group of school-age girls once signed a pact to collectively take their lives.

    Such realities have not stopped politicians and pundits from prattling on about the sums supposedly lavished on aboriginal peoples. The myth that aboriginals freeload off the state serves to conceal the real scandal: that most money pays for a sprawling government bureaucracy that keeps aboriginals poor, second-class, and dependent. The widespread notion that First Nations mismanage and squander what funds they do receive is simple prejudice: government reports acknowledge that communities are buried under a mountain of strict accounting; they are no more corrupt than non-native municipalities.

    Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country's two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

    continued in next comment...

  59. Despite such odds, the highest courts of the land have ruled time and again in favour of aboriginal peoples. Over the last three decades, they have recognized that aboriginal nations have hunting, fishing and land rights, in some cases even outright ownership, over vast areas of unceded territory in British Columbia and elsewhere. And that the treaties Chief Spence is starving herself to see upheld – signed by the British Crown in the 1700 and 1800s, and the Canadian government until the early 1900s – mean the land's wealth should be shared, not pillaged.

    Federal and provincial governments have tried to claw back these rights using every means at their disposal: unilateral legislation and one-sided negotiations, spying on and demonizing aboriginal activists, and, when all else fails, shuttling troublesome leaders to jail.

    Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.

    Canadians have often turned a blind eye, having been taught to see the rights of aboriginal peoples as a threat to their interests. Dare to restore sovereignty to the original inhabitants, the story goes, and Canadians will be hustled out of their jobs and off the land. Or more absurdly, onto the first ships back to Europe.

    But here's the good news. Amidst a hugely popular national movement against tar sands tankers and pipelines that would cross aboriginal territories, Canadians are starting a different narrative: allying with First Nations that have strong legal rights, and a fierce attachment to their lands and waters, may, in fact, offer the surest chance of protecting the environment and climate. Get behind aboriginal communities that have vetoes over unwanted development, and everyone wins. First Nations aren't about to push anyone off the land; they simply want to steward it responsibly.

    Think of this as a sign of things to come: an image of Vancouver's mayor, flanked by aboriginal chiefs, speaking out together against a destructive pipeline project. After all, who would Canadians rather control enormous swathes of rural, often pristine land : foreign corporations who see in it only dollar signs over the next financial quarter, or aboriginal communities whose commitment to its sustainability is multigenerational?

    The importance of #IdleNoMore cannot be overstated. Grassroots movements are what have ensured the survival of aboriginal culture, and what remains of an aboriginal land base. If it grows in energy and coordinates in a network of activism like Defenders of the Land, it could be a powerful force to reset aboriginal-state relations.

    It will not only ensure Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally takes the short drive from his office to visit an ailing Theresa Spence. It may also inspire non-native Canada itself, idle for too long, to reckon with the past and envision a very different future.

    to view the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  60. Ottawa fights charge it discriminates against aboriginal kids

    CBC News February 25, 2013

    Just as Bernard Valcourt starts his new job as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development minister, the federal government is before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal today to defend itself against allegations that it discriminates against First Nations children living on reserves.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations are "challenging the federal government on the issue of discrimination on funding for child services for our children in our communities," Shawn Atleo, national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, told CBC Radio's The House on Saturday.

    Atleo said these are the sorts of "pressing issues" Valcourt will have to tackle right away.

    The national chief is making an opening statement as the hearings begin, advocating for the need for equity and fairness for First Nations children.

    The complaint, first filed in 2007, alleges the federal government has a "longstanding pattern" of providing less funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than it does to non-aboriginal children living off reserves.

    The Harper government argues it has increased its funding for child and family services by 25 percent, to over $600 million annually.

    "This case was filed as a last resort after successive governments have failed to implement the solutions that would help First Nations children stay safely in their families," according to Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

    Since then, according to the FNCFCS, the federal government has spent over $3 million in its efforts to have the complaint dismissed.

    "Protecting women and children on reserve is a priority for the federal government, and we'll continue to take concrete steps that result in real progress for both women and children," Jason MacDonald, a spokesperson for Valcourt, said in a written statement.

    And thanks to agreements with six provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba – "almost 70 per cent of First Nations children and families on reserve across Canada now benefit from a more effective approach to child and family services as well as additional funding," MacDonald said.

    The federal government has also introduced Bill S-2, titled the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, which is intended to protect the rights of women on reserve.

    And it is also consulting with First Nations communities on aboriginal education in the hopes of passing new legislation early next year that would include educational standards for aboriginal children.

    In April, the Federal Court rejected the federal government's attempts to prevent First Nations groups from arguing for better funding for child welfare on reserves.

    The federal government had tried to block the case, saying federal and provincial funding levels for services couldn't be compared.

    The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal initially sided with the government’s view and dismissed the case.

    But the Federal Court disagreed and ordered the tribunal to hold a new hearing with a new panel.

    The attorney general has appealed the Federal Court's ruling.

    While that appeal will be heard next month, these hearings, which are expected to last 14 weeks, are starting as scheduled this week.


  61. Justice system failing First Nations, report finds

    Iacobucci urges action to get aboriginal representation on Ontario juries

    CBC News February 26, 2013

    It's time for the Ontario government to "get on with it" when it comes to implementing long-awaited recommendations on First Nations juries in Ontario, retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci says.

    A long-awaited report released Tuesday that examines a lack of First Nations representation on juries in Ontario makes 17 sweeping recommendations — not just about First Nations jury representation but about justice as a whole.

    Iacobucci, who was asked a year and a half ago to investigate why so few jurors were members of First Nations communities, said a lack of jury representation is a symptom of bigger justice issues for aboriginal people.

    "If the justice system continues to fail First Nations, they will continue to be reticent to participate on juries," he told a Tuesday morning news conference to unveil the report in Thunder Bay.

    "The time for lofty words and speeches is over. It's time for urgent, substantive and meaningful change."

    Iacobucci called on the Ontario government to implement report recommendations promptly, as First Nations people are all too familiar with reports that sit on shelves.

    He also called for the creation of an assistant deputy attorney general position that would be responsible for aboriginal justice issues.

    Iacobucci's other recommendations range from better data collection for jury rolls to cultural training for police, court workers and prison guards.

    A copy of the report follows at the end of this story.

    The recommendations can’t come soon enough for Marlene Pierre, a member of the Fort William First Nation.

    Five years ago, Pierre’s 27-year-old grandson, Jacy Pierre, died at the Thunder Bay District Jail.

    An inquest into his death was stayed because there was no aboriginal representation on the jury.

    "My daughter and I, we left. We walked out of the inquest," said Pierre.

    A new inquest into Jacy Pierre’s death is expected to start sometime this year and Pierre wants to make sure First Nations people are on the jury.

    "We feel that a terrible injustice is being done to aboriginal people,” said Pierre. “And if we can have some impact on that, then fine."

    Concern about First Nations representation on juries also arose during inquests into the deaths of First Nations students in Thunder Bay.

    continued in next comment...

  62. The Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario, said the justice system is failing aboriginal communities.

    "I think it's very important that a representative from one of our communities be there ... in order for the families... to see it as a credible process," said Alvin Fiddler.

    The lack of aboriginal representation also means that First Nations people charged with crimes are denied their right to be heard by a jury of their peers, added Fiddler.

    "If you go to trial, you're to be tried by [a] jury of your peers. And I think for many of our community members … if they go to trial and it's a jury trial, chances are they won't see a member of their community as part of that jury."

    Fiddler said he hopes the recommendations Iacobucci puts forward will change that.

    In his report, Iacobucci said that during his meetings with First Nations people from 32 communities, "one point was resoundingly clear: substantive and systemic changes to the criminal justice system are necessary conditions for the participation of First Nations people on juries in Ontario."

    He noted that First Nations leaders "were unequivocal that reintroducing restorative justice programs would have multiple benefits at the community level. Such benefits include the delivery of justice in a culturally relevant manner, greater understanding of justice at the community level ... and an opportunity to educate people about the justice system and their responsibility to become engaged on the juries when called upon to do so.”

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno responded to the report by thanking Iacobucci for "his hard work and dedication.”

    “He invested quality time to ensure there was inclusion of our communities through this process, which will go a long way in restoring confidence in the justice system."

    Following the report's release, Attorney General John Gerretsen issued a statement saying he would be reaching out to his "counterparts across government and to First Nations leadership to discuss the important issues raised in this report and to begin the work that is needed to address them.”

    Gerretsen said he would immediately work to address what he called the top two recommendations:

    "We will form an implementation committee that includes the First Nations community... [to] consider the report's recommendations and how they might be implemented.”

    He added a provincial advisory group will be set up to provide advice to the Attorney General on matters relating to First Nations and the justice system.


    you can find the full report in pdf at:


  63. quote: ".... First Nations leaders "were unequivocal that reintroducing restorative justice programs would have multiple benefits at the community level. Such benefits include the delivery of justice in a culturally relevant manner, greater understanding of justice at the community level ... and an opportunity to educate people about the justice system and their responsibility to become engaged on the juries when called upon to do so.”


    While attending the University of British Columbia Law School I participated in the First Nations Legal Clinic for a 4 month term for semester credits and a 4 month summer employment term. As a course requirement, I wrote a legal essay on Restorative Justice which details the multiple benefits of transformative justice. Those benefits apply not only to Indigenous communities. The principles of restorative justice, which I lay out in my essay, can be applied to any community and could make a more just legal system for all citizens.

    go to:


  64. Aboriginal corrections report finds systemic discrimination

    CBC News March 7, 2013

    Aboriginal people are so vastly over-represented in Canada's federal prison system that current policies are clearly failing them, according to a new report by the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

    The report found "no new significant investments at the community level for federal aboriginal initiatives. No deputy commissioner dedicated solely to and responsible for aboriginal programs, planning, implementation and results. And worst of all, no progress in closing the large gaps in correctional outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal inmates," Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator for Canada, said during a news conference in Ottawa.

    The report was tabled in the House of Commons Thursday morning — only the second special report ever written by the investigator since the office's creation 40 years ago.

    The trail of many social policies which have marginalized one group of our population "defines systemic discrimination," Sapers said.

    "It's not that anybody designed the CSC programs to be discriminatory but in fact, there are differential outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal inmates," Sapers said.

    The correctional investigator pointed to what he called "alarming" statistics.

    "There are just over 3,400 aboriginal men and women making up 23 per cent of the country's federal prison inmate population," Sapers said.

    "In other words, while aboriginal people in Canada comprise just four per cent of the population, in federal prisons nearly one in four is Métis, Inuit, or First Nations."

    Sapers found almost 40 per cent increase in the aboriginal incarcerated population between 2001-02 and 2010-11.

    Additionally, aboriginal inmates are sentenced to longer terms, and spend more time in segregation and maximum security. They are less likely to be granted parole and are more likely to have parole revoked for minor problems.

    "If I were releasing a report card on aboriginal corrections today, it would be filled with failing grades," Sapers said.

    The correctional investigator called on CSC to implement the following actions:

    To appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections.
    The development of a long-term strategy to increase opportunities for the care and custody of aboriginal offenders by aboriginal communities, and the re-allocation of adequate funds for these purposes.

    --The creation of more community-based healing lodges and permanent funding for them, equal to CSC facilities.

    --Ongoing training of CSC staff to ensure adequate understanding of aboriginal people, culture and traditions.

    --New and enhanced measures to ensure aboriginal leadership and elders are equal partners in the delivery of community release and re-integration program and services.

    --The immediate hiring of more aboriginal community development officers.

    --Improving and streamlining the process around accepting and monitoring released offenders into aboriginal communities.

    "The overrepresentation of aboriginal people in federal corrections and the lack of progress to improve the disparity in correctional outcomes continues to cloud Canada's domestic human rights record," Sapers said.

    continued in next comments...

  65. The acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, David Langtry, commended Sapers for a "bold" report, calling the findings "grave," "troubling," and requiring "urgent attention."

    "We are still seeing a disproportionate number of aboriginal women in solitary confinement, which creates barriers to access to rehabilitation programs. As a result, aboriginal women in corrections do not get paroled early, if at all. Not only are they over-represented, they are serving more time. These facts were confirmed by the correctional investigator today," Langtry said in a written statement.

    Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the prison system needs to work with aboriginal communities to successfully reintegrate offenders into society, ending the revolving door many young aboriginals experience between prison and freedom.

    "It’s a troubling pattern that has to be broken," he said. "When you open the door to a school, you close the door to a jail cell."

    He said the government needs to invest in programs to prevent aboriginal Canadians from reoffending "or we see this pattern continue unabated, and that is obviously completely unacceptable.”

    NDP Public Safety critic Randall Garrison called the report's findings "a shocking indictment" of the federal government's policies.

    The opposition New Democrats are calling on the federal government to invest additional funds in the next federal budget.

    Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia also blamed "the Harper Conservatives’ failed crime agenda" for the "the staggeringly disproportionate" number of aboriginal people in federal prisons.

    Liberals called on the federal government to implement the recommendations in the report and commit to addressing this "unfairness" in the upcoming federal budget.

    A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews did not address the recommendations included in Sapers report but said "the only identifiable group that our tough on crime agenda targets are criminals."

    "Aboriginal Canadians are more likely to be victims of crime. We are taking action to ensure that all Canadian communities are protected," said the spokesperson for Toews in a written statement.

    On Monday, Toews committed to funding policing agreements with First Nations communities under the First Nations Policing Program for the next five years.

    National Inuit Leader Terry Audla, and President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, called the report a "wake-up call"

    "This report makes it clear that the status quo isn’t working and the federal government must engage directly with the Inuit to put in place support for those Inuit who are incarcerated."

    Audla called on the federal government to take immediate action.

    Jonathan Rudin, the program director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, said the government and prison services lack the commitment and resources to address these problems.

    He said there are sections in law governing prisons that allows for special provisions for Aboriginal offenders, such as allowing offenders to serve their sentences in their community. However, these provisions are not frequently used.

    "What's being done is not working," he said.

    The Office of the Correctional Investigator is an impartial body that conducts investigations into how correctional services treats offenders in its care.

    Sapers has served as the correctional investigator since 2004. He is in his third consecutive term.


  66. Federal response to aboriginal corrections report dismissive

    CSC rejects recommendation to appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections

    By Susana Mas, CBC News March 9, 2013

    The Correctional Service of Canada was "very dismissive" in its response to a report sounding the alarm to the dramatic increase of Aboriginal Peoples in federal prison, tabled in Parliament this week, Canada's prison watchdog says.

    In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator for Canada, told host Evan Solomon he was "hopeful" he would receive a "fulsome response" that would deal directly with the recommendations he made in the report.

    Instead, "what I found is that it's very dismissive. It in no way addresses the urgency of the situation," Sapers said.

    The report found there was nearly a 40 per cent increase in the incarcerated aboriginal population between 2001-02 and 2010-11.

    While Aboriginal Peoples comprise just four per cent of Canada's population, they make up 23 per cent of the nation's federal prison inmate population, the report found. In other words, the report shows, nearly one in four prison inmates is Métis, Inuit or First Nations.

    "If you read through CSC's response you're left with the impression that there's not really much of a problem and whatever issues there may be, they are dealing with [them]," Sapers said.

    The report, tabled in the House of Commons Thursday morning, is only the second special report written by the investigator since the office's creation 40 years ago.

    Sapers said he submitted the report to CSC last October but did not receive a response until late Thursday evening. Despite "the long delay," Sapers said, he did not find CSC's response to be "a thoughtful or complete response."

    10 recommendations

    The report calls on corrections officials to implement a list of 10 specific recommendations to address the vast over–representation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada's federal prison.

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  67. In its reponse, the CSC maintains it is "dedicated to continuing to address the needs of aboriginal offenders in the federal correctional system and to ensuring that they can work toward rehabilitation in an inclusive and culturally sensitive environment."

    But according to Sapers, "each and every one of the recommendations is either disagreed with or the response is simply to reinforce what the CSC is already doing."

    One of the report's main recommendation calls on the CSC to appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections.

    In its response, the CSC said "the creation of an additional Deputy Commissioner position would add unnecessary bureaucracy and cost to the current governance structure."

    "The CSC has invested resources in more direct frontline operational programs and interventions designed to maximize the capacity of the field, regions, and sectors to collectively address the various challenges of Aboriginal corrections."

    According to Sapers, the CSC's response does not meet the urgency of the matter.

    "One of the reasons why we brought it to the attention of Parliament in a special report is because there is an urgent need for change," Sapers said. "The status quo is failing us."

    'Disappointing' answers

    The prison watchdog said he will raise the matter directly with Don Head, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, but that given their response, he will also bring this to the attention of the minister in charge in the coming days.

    On Thursday, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews did not address the recommendations included in Sapers's report, but said "the only identifiable group that our tough on crime agenda targets are criminals."

    "Aboriginal Canadians are more likely to be victims of crime. We are taking action to ensure that all Canadian communities are protected," the spokesperson said in a written statement.

    While Toews did not answer any questions about the report during question period on Thursday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed those remarks.

    "It is important to note that prisoners are people who have been found guilty of criminal offences by independent court," Harper said.

    "The reality is that, unfortunately, Aboriginal People are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than other Canadians. That is why, among other measures, we are taking our responsibility to protect Canadian society seriously," Harper told the Commons.

    Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair said the prime minister's response was "one of the most disappointing" things he's ever heard from Harper.

    "It's not alright, in a free and democratic society, to have that sort of disproportionate number of people from one community in prison," Mulcair told reporters after question period.

    Getting to the source of the problem will require "a little bit of understanding and some sympathy," something the NDP leader said was "sorely lacking" in Harper's answers in the Commons.

    On Monday, Toews committed to funding policing agreements with First Nations communities under the First Nations Policing Program for the next five years.

    The Office of the Correctional Investigator is an impartial body that conducts investigations into how correctional services treats offenders in its care. Sapers, in his third consecutive term, has served in the post since 2004.

    Read CSC's Response to the Office of the Correctional Investigator's Report here: http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/ci-sm2013/ci-sm2013-eng.shtml

    Read the report by the Office of the CorrectionalInvestigator here: http://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/rpt/oth-aut/oth-aut20121022-eng.aspx


  68. UN food envoy: Canadian government failing Indigenous peoples and the poor


    Following the mission he conducted May 6-16, 2012, theUN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, presented hiscountry report on Canada to the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

    The report contains the findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food in a clear, digestible 21-page document, which the civil society organization Food Secure Canada hopes will catalyze Canadian society and affect policy at all levels of government.

    "We think it's extremely important that we engage in a national conversation in the right to food, but much more than a national conversation, we want national action and we want a national food policy," said Food Secure Canada Executive Director Diana Bronson.

    In collaboration with partners across the country, Food Secure Canada stirred up impressive national attention yesterday by hosting a webcast in 50 communities across every province and territory in Canada.

    The events connected civil society directly to Geneva, where Oliver De Schutter presented highlights and answered questions about his report to the UN Human Rights Council, a 47-member body composed of government representatives from the international community.

    The importance of United Nations monitoring

    Canada has a standing invitation to independent experts to monitor the country's human rights situation, and the Right to Food mission conducted in May 2012 was an acceptance of the 2009 invitation to De Schutter by Canada's Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

    The Canadian Right to Food Report will help to inform the upcoming April 26, 2013, scrutiny of Canada's Human Rights record as it appears before the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.

    Similarly, De Schutter's report may inform Canada's 2013 review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body of independent experts monitoring States' compliance with theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

    Canada behind in economic and social rights protection
    Olivier De Schutter's report contains five subsections both commending Canadian civil society and government for many progressive and positive actions toward realizing the Right to Food, while also criticizing shortcomings and putting forward many recommendations for improvement through both a legal and policy framework.

    The subsections are: food availability and agricultural policies; food accessibility -- protecting access to food for the poorest; food adequacy and quality of diets; food aid, development cooperation and foreign policy; and Indigenous peoples. (We'll have more detailed analysis of the report's subsections tomorrow on rabble.ca.)

    While De Schutter suggested that Canada is behind in economic and social rights protection, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian Human Rights Act could be used to protect the Right to Food.

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  69. Indigenous peoples and Nutrition North: Transparent, inclusive process lacking

    During his visit, Olivier De Schutter consulted with aboriginal groups and communities in Québec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. His presentation during the March 4 webcast highlighted the important support to Indigenous peoples made by Canada on the international stage through its Statement of Support on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in November 2010.

    Importantly, the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food includes an entire section devoted to Indigenous peoples in Canada (who comprise over three per cent of the population) and their disproportionate vulnerability pertaining to food insecurity, diet-related illness and lack of access to land and traditional foods, which are indescribably significant in their cultural significance and relationship to health:

    Ongoing land claims across the country have implications for the right to food and access to country foods among aboriginal Canadians. Yet, under international law, indigenous peoples have the right to possess and control their traditional lands and resources.

    De Schutter suggested the Nutrition North Canada program is insufficiently monitored to ensure that retailers pass on appropriate subsidies to recipient communities. However, more fundamentally, he is "concerned that Nutrition North Canada was designed and is being implemented without an inclusive and transparent process that provides Northern communities with an opportunity to exercise their right to active and meaningful participation."

    Embarrassing response of Canadian government

    Bruce Porter, of Canada's Social Rights Advocacy Centre, presented an endorsement of De Schutter's report at the UN Human Rights Council Monday, on behalf of many Canadian human rights organizations.

    Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, joined the live webcast organized by Food Secure Canada to share his deep disappointment with the response of the Canadian government to De Schutter's presentation, which was delivered by the Canadian Ambassador at the UN in Geneva, Elissa Golberg.

    "We were hoping we might see something more constructive from the government this time around," said Neve.

    This may come as no surprise to anyone who followed the Right to Food mission last May. The response of Canadian politicians to De Schutter's visit and the May 2012 Report was an embarrassment, trivializing human rights as "core services" (Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, May 7, 2012), insisting on deflecting attention from the problem by pointing to other countries' food insecurity (Mr. Deepak Obhrai, May 18, 2012; Mr. Ryan Leef and Hon. Leona Aglukkaq, May 16, 2012) and conflating the right to food with food bank services (Ms. Chris Charlton, May 15, 2012), which De Schutter and countless Canadian activists recognize as a symptom of systemic problems rather than a human rights protection measure.

    The constant refrain by Canadian officials, echoed in Monday's Canadian government response is: "Canada is very proud of the many programs and services it offers to Canadians. They serve the needs of all Canadians."

    "While we didn't see the kind of stunning and disgraceful personal attacks that happened last time or the blatant repudiation of the nature of Canada's universal human rights obligations," said Neve, the Canadian government's response "did not at all recognize and acknowledge that food insecurity is a real and pressing human rights concern across Canada, that action is needed, that there are recommendations in this report that provide the way forward."

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  70. On Food Secure Canada's Facebook page, where the conversation between citizens continues, long-time food activist Cathleen Kneen writes, "I suppose defensiveness and half-truths are better than bully-style personal attacks. And frankly more than I expected from this government, which clearly could not care less about the real health and welfare of its citizens."

    Needed: More participation and a national Right to Food Strategy

    Through both his report presented to the UN Human Rights Council and his summary presentation to Canadian civil society, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food strongly recommended several actions to move the Right to Food forward in Canada, which can be read in full in the report.

    Most significantly, he consistently called for a national Right to Food Strategy, which should be a priority on the domestic agenda, substance for national debate and critical to developing synergies between municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

    Significantly, Dr. De Schutter continually reminded listeners that nothing can be done for those most affected by food insecurity without giving them ways to participate in designing the policies that affect them.

    "Government needs to listen to what people have to say," remarked De Schutter, and currently "there is insufficient participation."

    It was exactly this process of consultation and participation that informed the development of Food Secure Canada's Resetting the Table: A People's Food Policy for Canada, which echoes many of the recommendations that Dr. De Schutter has put forward in his report.

    Food Secure Canada, as the national voice for the food security movement in Canada, calls on all levels of government to engage in action to move a National Food Strategy and policy forward under its commitments to Zero Hunger, Healthy and Safe Food, and a Sustainable Food System.

    This report marks the beginning of a series of opportunities for both conversation and action to further the human right to food in Canada, and civil society may use the international influence of the UN Special Rapporteur's mission, report and recommendations to put increased pressure upon government officials.

    "No international pressure shall be a substitute for what you can do domestically," De Schutter pronounced in his closing webcast remarks to Canadians -- which was viewed from Baffin Island to Victoria to St. John's yesterday afternoon.

    "Food is a human right and it belongs to each and every one of us," Food Secure Canada's Bronson affirmed. "Please get in touch with your MPs."

    Now, it's over to us.

    You can read the full UN Report in English at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/AHRC2250Add.1_English.PDF

    or French, and watch a debate between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP about a National Food Policy on CBC. Ready to take political action? Write or visit your MLA or MPP. Write or visit your MP and send a message through facebook or twitter to your MP to make the conversation public. You can read Olivier De Schutter's reports on missions to Madagascar, Cameroon, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and on Women’s Rights and the Right to Food, all presented March 4, 2013 to the UN Human Rights Council alongside the report on his mission to Canada.

    to read the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  71. Ottawa still blocking UN Indigenous peoples rapporteur from landing in Canada on official visit

    By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News March 13, 2013

    OTTAWA–The Harper government continues to prevent the UN special rapporteur on Indigenous peoples from visiting Canada.

    James Anaya, the special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, says the federal government continues to ignore his year-old request to visit Canada to investigate the “human rights situation of Indigenous peoples,” according to a Feb. 20 letter he sent to the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).

    “I have communicated with the government of Canada to request its consent for me to conduct an official visit to the country to examine and report on the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples there,” writes Anaya, in the letter. “I initially made the request in February of 2012 and am still awaiting a response from the government.”

    Anaya has written the federal government at least three times requesting permission to visit the country.

    Anaya says in the letter that Canada has issued “a standing invitation” to special rapporteurs that hold mandates from the UN Human Rights Council, but he can’t enter the country on an official visit without the formal consent of Ottawa that would include an agreement on dates and terms of the visit.

    Anaya says he will find a way to meet with First Nations leaders through unofficial channels if the government continues to ignore his request.

    “If I do not receive a positive response from the government in the coming months, I can explore ways of meeting with First Nations leaders from Canada outside the context of an official visit,” writes Anaya.

    Anaya’s letter came in response to an invitation from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC.

    Anaya’s term ends in May 2014.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.


  72. Civil liberties watchdog says report on aboriginal prisoners depicts a "racist" system

    by TRAVIS LUPICK, Georgia Straight MARCH 12, 2013

    THE BRITISH COLUMBIA Civil Liberties Association has issued an impassioned response to a government report that paints a picture of a Canadian judicial system that is “racist” towards aboriginals.

    “This is an appalling example of the discrimination against Indigenous people in this country and it is tearing communities and families apart,” reads a statement attributed to BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson.

    According to the report, which was prepared by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and tabled in the House of Commons on March 7, aboriginal people account for 23 percent of the country’s federal prison population. The document states that there has been a 43 percent increase in the number of aboriginal inmate since 2005-06.

    Aboriginals constitute 3.8 percent of Canada’s entire population, according to 2006 census data. (Statistics Canada conducts a national census once every five years. Data released from the 2011 census has so-far not included statistics specific to aboriginals.)

    “These numbers make clear that the system over-polices and over-incarcerates Indigenous people,” the BCCA’s statement continues. “This is racist and it is unacceptable.”

    The plight of aboriginal women is especially concerning, the BCCLA notes.

    “Fifty six percent of girls in BC youth custody are First Nations,” it states. “As the tragic history of missing and murdered women makes clear, the justice system has failed to protect Indigenous women and instead has focused on punishing them.”

    The release concludes: “Canada’s unjust over-imprisonment of Indigenous people—at federal and provincial prisons alike—must be put to an end.”

    The correctional investigator’s report, “Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act,” states that high incarceration rates for aboriginal people are linked to social, economic, and historical factors.



  73. Suicides prompt First Nation to declare state of emergency

    Lack of resources, mining development 'exhaust' Neskantaga First Nation

    CBC News April 18, 2013

    A small First Nation in northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency after two suicides in less than a week, bringing the toll to seven deaths and 20 suicide attempts in Neskantaga in the past year.

    Leaders in the community, which lies in Ontario’s remote James Bay lowlands about 480 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, say pressures from nearby mining development are contributing to the problems.

    About 400 people live in Neskantaga, and a recent health report said about half of them struggle with addictions — three quarters of them younger people.

    That leaves about a handful of employable adults to help grief-stricken family members and do all the other jobs in the community.

    A First Nations leader in the region said meeting the demands of the burgeoning mining industry is only adding to Neskantaga's misery.

    “It’s just a lot of pressure, I think, from the outside,” Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said, “as well as trying to deal with what's happening right in their community.”

    On Wednesday, the community issued a cry for help from all levels of government and Ottawa has promised additional nursing and counselling staff.

    "Our hearts go out to those who have lost friends and loved ones to suicide,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq in a written statement.

    “Health Canada will work closely with the community and send both additional nursing and counselling staff to assist during this difficult time."

    One spokesman for a mining company in the region said there's no doubt his industry is creating an extra burden in small communities.

    But “high unemployment [and] lack of opportunity can be addressed by having resource development,” said Glenn Nolan, who is in charge of Aboriginal Affairs for one of the mining companies in the area.

    That development can provide a path away from despair, he said.

    But Fiddler said Neskantaga is at a breaking point now — and the rosy future promised by the mining companies seems a long way off.

    "We have reached a breaking point and our community is under crisis," said Neskantaga First Nation Councillor Roy Moonias in a press release issued Wednesday.

    The community received word Wednesday that a 19-year-old youth had taken his own life, while the community was putting to rest an individual who passed away under similar circumstances last week.

    "Our community is exhausted emotionally and physically as we try to pick up the pieces from these tragic events," Moonias said. " We are getting frustrated and concerned for your young people and entire community that Health Canada has not stepped-up to ensure we have adequate resourcing available to deal with and prevent such crippling incidents from taking place."


  74. How Quebec Cree avoided the fate of Attawapiskat

    On the eastern shore of James Bay, a very different story

    By Terry Milewski, CBC News May 14, 2013

    Freezing, mouldy homes. Sewage contamination. Sick kids. Unemployment. A blockade on the road to the mine. A hunger strike by the chief.

    That, it seems, is the news from the Cree of James Bay — at least, as it's defined by the desperate community of Attawapiskat, in northern Ontario.

    Before that, there was the news from nearby Kashechewan. Flooding. Despair. Suicide.

    And both James Bay towns endured fresh emergencies this spring as the annual meltwaters exposed, again, their rickety infrastructure.

    But bad news makes headlines and good news usually does not. So we've heard all about the mess on the Ontario shore of James Bay — and next to nothing about the success on the eastern shore, in Quebec.

    Little noticed by the world outside, the Cree of northern Quebec are writing a startlingly different story than their cousins on the western shore of James Bay. Self-government. Revenue-sharing. Decent schools and new development. Mining companies being welcomed instead of blockaded. And no hunger strikes.

    It's taken 40 years, but a long struggle is paying off. The neat streets of Wemindji or Oujé-Bougamou feel like they're on a different planet than Attawapiskat. If the stop signs weren't in Cree, you'd think the rows of warm, solid homes were in a suburb down south. Shiny new courthouses, band offices, recreation centres and police stations are being completed. There's no crisis to summon reporters from Toronto or Montreal.

    So why is it so different on the Quebec side of James Bay?

    'The Indian Act doesn't apply'

    Matthew Coon Come, once a firebrand who stood in the way of Quebec Hydro's plans to dam the province’s great rivers, is now the greying Grand Chief of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee — the Cree name for the 400,000 square kilometres of northern Quebec that make up the James Bay territory. Coon Come is clear on the reasons why his people are doing so well.

    They stood in the way for a purpose, he says — not to stop development, but to share in it and to win the right to govern themselves.

    "We are assuming the responsibilities of the federal government and the provincial government, that's what we are doing."

    Bit by bit, Coon Come says, the Cree bargained away their land claims and their right to be treated as wards of the state under the Indian Act. In return, through a series of agreements beginning in 1975, the Cree won a healthy share of the huge resource revenues from the dams and the mines.

    Today, power lines traverse the landscape of Eeyou Istchee and $70 million a year in revenues flow to the 18,000 Cree. They're using the money to finance their second goal: autonomy.

    "For the Crees, the Indian Act doesn't apply," Coon Come proudly tells a visitor in his spacious office in Nemaska, Que.

    "The decision-making does not fall on the Department of [Aboriginal Affairs], the minister," he says. "The only thing that the minister has the right to receive is our financial audit statements — and once a year.

    "That's never been done before ... We've changed the governance regime so we can be able to be involved in the way development takes place."

    He's critical of both First Nations and southern politicians who cling to the past.

    "I think the First Nations are also guilty of always saying, 'our treaties are sacred.' That's great. But the Cree survived because we adapted."

    He also says that self-government has to be earned.

    "It takes time to build your institutions. Because, in order to build your institutions, whether it be school boards or health boards, you need to be able to demonstrate that you're accountable, that you're responsible, that you're transparent."

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  75. Equally, he says, governments in Ottawa are reluctant to "think outside the box."

    "Unfortunately in this country, the federal government does not want to tackle the real issue of the First Nations.... You need to allow the First Nations to participate, to be participants in the development of the territory, [whether] it be forestry, mining, or any other industry that may come."

    The tale of the solar-powered trapper

    For an outsider, what is striking about the far-flung Cree communities of northern Quebec is the complaints you do not hear. In drum-banging demonstrations on Parliament Hill and around the country, the Idle No More movement has damned the government for trampling on native rights and polluting the land. But these themes are rarely heard in northern Quebec, even though mines and power lines have frequently disrupted Cree communities.

    Instead, there is general applause for the way the Cree leadership is balancing jobs and the environment. Even the traditional custodians of the land — the trappers — are slow to complain about the newcomers who have brought roads, mines and power lines.

    "We get along with them," says Johnny T. Georgekish at his remote hunting camp, two hours inland from Wemindji.

    "They have their families to support. They come and go. And normally, they don't leave a mess when they leave — just sometimes."

    Georgekish is still known as "Johnny T." from his days as a popular singer. Now 74, he keeps an eye on his trap line and recalls his own hungry childhood, living off the land and catching birds with slingshots. He's glad his grandson won't have to endure that — because he's got a steady job in a new mine.

    "They say that mine is going to be open for at least 20 some-odd years. So, if he continues, he's going to be OK."

    Georgekish is no fan of the old ways. His hunting camp, as remote as it is, is powered by a bank of solar panels. He says there have been limited environmental changes as a result of the hydroelectric dams: for example, the sturgeon no longer reach the nearby lake. Even so, he thinks the Cree are on the right road.

    "If we continue the way we are, I think we're going to get somewhere in the future."

    Younger members of the sprawling Georgekish clan say the Cree have already got somewhere — and don't plan to turn back.

    "We're not Indians — we're the Cree of Eeyou Ischee!" says an insistent Bradley Georgekish. He's a band councillor in Wemindji, on the windswept shore of James Bay.

    "We're business owners, we're entrepreneurs, we're artists, we're musicians, we're fathers, we're mothers," he says.

    "I mean, we have ourselves established."

    The community bears him out. He and the other councillors meet in a soaring new band office, built by a Cree-owned construction company. New vehicles cruise well-paved streets. A wood-panelled courthouse is about to open and, at a gravel airstrip near town, a Cree-owned airline, Air Creebec, offers daily flights to the south.

    Georgekish sends a message to a CBC crew about to depart: don't fear aboriginal demands, because dealing with us can be good for both sides.

    "I would like for people to read a little bit, and get to know First Nations history, just a little bit. And I think a lot of this tension would be peeled back," he says. "I mean, I've been in school in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec — and I've learned all about the prime ministers. It would be nice, and it's a very simple request, if they could learn just a little bit about native history. And they would understand why there's frustration on some levels, even anger. But I think if they could do a little reading, and a little bit of studying, that tension would go down and we could actually be partners."

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  76. Partners in development

    Still, does it look that way when you're on the other side of the partnership? What if you're a mining executive, and the Cree insist on being part of your environmental plan?

    That's exactly the situation facing Patrick Godin, chief operating officer of Stornoway Diamond Corporation, which is planning a diamond mine northeast of Chibougamau, a bustling town where Cree and non-Cree mingle. Godin says the Cree brought expertise and credibility that made his project viable.

    "The Crees have a lot of things to provide to us. First, the knowledge of the territory. Actually, they are building the road for us and they are doing really well. They know the environment more than us. It's amazing — they don't need GPS, they know all the rivers, all the creeks and they know how to address the challenge we have to face to fulfil our obligations in terms of the environmental rules."

    Beyond that, says Godin, the Cree need jobs.

    "Fifty per cent of the Cree are less than 25 years old and they want to have jobs — and they want to have high-quality jobs. And they want to learn and they want to develop their skills."

    In Jean Rainville's case, consulting the Cree meant spending many long days with the local trappers. Rainville is president of BlackRock Metals, which is planning a new iron and titanium mine, backed by Chinese investors.

    "A project like ours will hire, during construction, 450 people — and, once construction is completed, 260 employees on a full-time basis. So there's plenty of jobs for all of the communities in the area, both natives and non-natives."

    Making sure the trappers were content was a big part of getting the green light. Rainville says the Cree have learned a lot since the 1975 James Bay agreement set them on the pro-development path.

    "The Cree now, after all of these years of experience since they signed the James Bay Treaty, are probably a bit more advanced than other natives in this country, but it's a lesson that other natives should follow. And it's also a lesson for us non-natives that the first thing to do is go sit down with these people, develop a relationship and go from there."

    Today, that relationship is working far better than it did back in the days when Quebec Hydro and the mining companies simply pushed the Cree off their land. In Oujé-Bougoumou, a whole community was uprooted, no less than seven times, by miners. People camped in teepees and tar-paper shacks by the side of the road.

    "We were like Attawapiskat — you know, living in Third World conditions," says Abel Bosum, a veteran negotiator for the Cree who worked for 20 years to turn Oujé-Bougoumou into a showpiece community with a gleaming, $65-million cultural centre.

    "But we decided to act. We decided to do something and change living conditions around us ... I think it's a lot better than being passive. You know, here we're being proactive and, you know, trying to take a piece of the action.

    "We can't just sit around and wait for the governments to do things for us, or for ore companies," says Bosum. “We have to learn to decide what we want and work with the forces around us."

    Today, the 18,000 Cree of northern Quebec definitely have a piece of the action. Their numbers are growing fast and 400 of them are in institutions of higher learning down south.


  77. Neskantaga First Nation finds hope after suicide crisis

    North-South Partnership helps Neskantaga youth express themselves through art

    By Jody Porter, CBC News May 17, 2013

    Artwork created by young people in Neskantaga First Nation will soon be on display in Toronto as part of an effort to help the community recover from a suicide crisis.

    The fly-in community, located about 480 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency April 17 after two young men killed themselves in less than a week.

    "In our community it was very devastating. It still is," said First Nation counsellor Kelvin Moonias. "The tremendous loss we had."

    Moonias said he had felt overwhelmed by the grief in the tiny First Nation, home to about 300 people, and was grateful to see a team of helpers arrive from Toronto.

    "After seeing first-hand what these people can do and that they truly care, it really touched my heart," he said.

    Artwork prompts smiles

    The North-South Partnership for Children sent 17 people into the community, partly in response to the crisis. The agency brings together philanthropists in southern Ontario with northern First Nations.

    When the southerners arrived, young people in Neskantaga asked them to help organize an art and music festival.

    "Art and music is one of the ways that the young people in Neskantaga First Nation cope with what's going on in a positive way," said Lauren Akbar, the youth engagement co-ordinator with the North-South Partnership.

    The evening festival was a hit, according to Moonias, who looked around the community centre and saw smiles for the first time in months.

    "I'd say that was magical because I haven't seen that in our community for a while, where our young people felt there is hope. They're starting to feel hope again."

    Teen plans future as photographer
    Now those hopeful feelings are spreading, as the artwork travels with the North-South Partnership to Toronto, where plans for a gallery show and sale are being finalized.

    Moonias's 15-year-old daughter Alyssa Moonias will have her photographs in the show.

    "It feels good, like they're helping me get my name out there, helping me to succeed and reach my goal to be a professional photographer," the younger Moonias said.

    Her proud father said it's a big deal to hear his daughter talking about the future.

    "She's been different in a good way, after I bought her the camera," he said. "It's like something saved her."

    And he said the connection Alyssa has made with Akbar and others with North-South is part of that change.

    "Now I feel like our youth are getting up [and saying] it's worth living, it is. There are people that care."

    Long-term relationship

    It's a relationship that has benefits for everyone involved. Ryerson University student Branka Gladanak was among the North-South Partnership group that worked with the youth in Neskantaga.

    Gladanak said hearing young people talk about their feelings deepened her understanding of the complexity of First Nations concerns, and left her longing to know more.

    "It's something that really needs a lot of thought and understanding, and this experience has helped a lot, but I still feel like I need to learn so much more," she said of her 10 days in Neskantaga. "I feel like my understanding is on the surface and I'd really like to dig deeper and find out more."

    This isn't the first time the North-South Partnership has been involved in Neskantaga, and organizers say it won't be at last.

    They say the long-term relationship is important to the healing process, and everyone's understanding of how to move on after the crisis.


  78. Harper government withheld documents in indigenous human-rights case

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY The Globe and Mail May 17, 2013

    OTTAWA — The Harper government withheld tens of thousands of documents that it was obligated to disclose as part of a human-rights case in which it is accused of discriminating against indigenous children. Now, it is using its failure to hand over the files to try to get the proceedings put on hold.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2007 saying it is wrong for the federal government to pay 22 per cent less for child welfare on reserves than the provinces pay for non-aboriginal welfare services.

    Despite many attempts by the government to have the case dismissed, the hearings before the tribunal finally began in February of this year.

    But, next Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers will ask for an adjournment of many months while they gather more than 50,000 documents that were required to have already been handed over to the Caring Society’s lawyers under the human-rights commission rules.

    Cindy Blackstock, the Caring Society’s executive director, said in a telephone interview this week that the government indicated months ago that it was in the final stages of disclosing all pertinent documents, including those relating to the “enhanced” funding formula it uses to determine how much money First Nations receive for child welfare.

    As the hearings progressed, however, Ms. Blackstock grew suspicious. The government was cross-examining witnesses about the funding formula, she said, “and I just thought, ‘man, there’s got to be more on this thing.’ So I filed an Access to Information request.”

    The response to that request arrived on April 9 in the form of 4,000 pages of documents, about a quarter of which had been redacted. “In there are evaluations and critical notes and acknowledgments by the government that the enhanced funding formula is indeed significantly flawed and inequitable in all of the regions they have implemented it in,” Ms. Blackstock.

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  79. The lawyer for the Caring Society asked the government why the documents had not been disclosed previously and Melissa Chan, a lawyer for the federal Justice Department, responded in a letter dated May 7 saying the government was just then in the process of handing them over. In addition, wrote Ms. Chan, “we have been advised that there are over 50,000 additional documents that have been identified as potentially relevant.”

    Those will be turned over to the Caring Society and its lawyers between September and December of this year, she wrote – which is after the hearings in the human-rights case are scheduled to have ended.

    The government informed the human rights tribunal this week that it will ask for the case to be adjourned so it can gather the documents.

    The department of Aboriginal Affairs said in an e-mail that it has hired two research firms to assist in producing the relevant material. “Our request for an adjournment will help to ensure Canada has the necessary time to provide all documents in our possession that relate to the proceedings …”

    But the Caring Society says this is just another delay tactic and it will try to block the request for adjournment. It will also try to get the government to disclose the material in a timely fashion.

    Ms. Blackstock said it is not fair that many of the Caring Society’s witnesses have already testified without being aware of the documents’ existence. “I was on the stand for five days,” she said. “I think I did a pretty good job. But, had I known these documents were available, it would have helped me with my testimony.”

    Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has said there is not enough welfare money to pay for the services that would allow First Nations children to remain with their families when there are social problems. Data released recently from the 2011 National Household Survey suggested that nearly half of Canada’s 30,000 foster children aged 14 and under were aboriginal.

    “The possibility that government intentionally withheld relevant documents from an ongoing Canadian Human Rights Commission hearing is a very disturbing, but not a surprising, development,” said Carolyn Bennett, the aboriginal affairs critic for the Liberals. “We’ve seen the Conservatives use this same tactic time and again as a way to shield themselves from politically damaging information.”


  80. Human Rights Commission report points out gaps in aboriginal well-being

    by Andrea Hill, Post Media News June 17, 2013

    OTTAWA – A month after data from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey painted a picture of a young aboriginal population struggling with social challenges, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is confirming what we know: that this group fares worse than the general population on several measures of health and wellness.

    “This is not news that should come as a surprise to anybody,” said David Gollob of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which on Monday published a report that points out stark differences between Canada’s aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations when it comes to indicators of well-being. The document will serve as a benchmark for the commission to monitor how the well-being of Canada’s aboriginal people changes – or fails to change – in the future.

    The report compiles and crunches data from a handful of national surveys, including the 2006 census, to look at how aboriginal populations fared in areas such as education, employment, health and housing from 2005 to 2010. Though conclusions are similar to those reached by earlier Statistics Canada reports, Gollob said the new commission study is significant because it brings together data beyond what is collected by the census, such as proportion of people who say they didn’t receive necessary health care because it wasn’t available in their area. That appears in a different study, the Aboriginal Peoples Survey.

    The commission report finds that Canada’s aboriginal people see lower rates of university enrolment, higher levels of unemployment, less access to health care and a bigger need for basic housing than the general population. Also among the findings are that aboriginal people are more likely than non-aboriginals to be abused, fall victim to violent crimes and be imprisoned.

    Despite the grim conclusions, Gollob said the commission is “quite optimistic” the next report into aboriginal well-being, which will potentially be completed within the next five years, will show that conditions in this group are improving. Specifically, he said efforts to increase economic activity in aboriginal communities should make the population more prosperous. This followup study will likely use information from the 2011 National Household Survey, including data on aboriginal education which is scheduled to be released later this month.

    The report is the second in a series being done by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to look at how inequalities affect the country’s vulnerable populations. The commission, which upholds the Canadian Human Rights Act and investigates complaints about discrimination in the workplace, last year published a report looking at the well-being of people with disabilities and will eventually release studies examining the conditions faced by women and visible minorities.


    Related articles

    Funding cuts to major aboriginal political groups undermine ‘potential for progress,’ Chief Shawn Atleo says

    New national data on aboriginals may highlight education shortfall

  81. Half of First Nations children live in poverty

    Rate rises above 60% in Saskatchewan, Manitoba

    By Amber Hildebrandt, CBC News June 19, 2013

    Half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, a troubling figure that jumps to nearly two-thirds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, says a newly released report.

    "The poverty rate is staggering. A 50 per cent poverty rate is unlike any other poverty rate for any other disadvantaged group in the country, by a long shot the worst," said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and co-author of the report.

    The study released late Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada found that the poverty rate of status First Nations children living on reserves was triple that of non-indigenous children.

    In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 62 and 64 per cent of status First Nations children were living below the poverty line, compared with 15 and 16 per cent among non-indigenous children in the provinces.

    Poverty rates among status First Nations children are consistently higher across the country.

    Co-author Daniel Wilson cautions that for many of them, "the depth of the poverty … is actually greater than the numbers themselves tell you."

    "Imagine any typical First Nations child living on a reserve," said Wilson, a former diplomat and policy consultant on indigenous issues. "They're waking up in an overcrowded home that may have asbestos, probably has mould, is likely in need of major repair, that does not have drinking water and they have no school to go to."

    The study is based on the 2006 census, the most recent data to provide a detailed portrait of poverty among all Canadians, at least until more of the 2011 census is released. The annual survey of labour and income dynamics typically used to assess poverty rates excludes those living on reserves.

    The report notes that on-reserve First Nations children who are under federal jurisdiction fare far worse compared with indigenous children — Métis, Inuit and non-status First Nations — under provincial jurisdiction. For the latter group, the rate of poverty was 27 per cent, twice that of their non-indigenous counterparts.

    That figure aligns closely with the poverty rate experienced by first-generation immigrant and refugee children, which sits at 33 per cent, as well as by visible minorities, which is at 22 per cent.

    "Some of these differences in child poverty appear to be a matter of jurisdiction," the report notes.

    continued in next comment...

  82. Provinces provide social services to Métis, Inuit and non-reserve First Nations, while Ottawa is responsible for funding social services on reserves.

    But as the report notes, transfer payments from the federal government to reserves have been capped at a two per cent increase since 1996, making no allowances for the growth of population or needs.

    "So if you have larger levels of poverty than you did in 1996, there's no way for you to change the income supplement structure," said Macdonald. "It's a major constraint in terms of actually trying to deal with some of these issues."

    Persistent disadvantages faced by Canada's aboriginal peoples in regard to education, employment, health and housing are well-documented, but the report suggests that the staggering poverty faced by indigenous children is preventable.

    Lifting all the indigenous children up to the poverty line would cost $1 billion, while $580 million of that would suffice for 120,000 status First Nations alone, the study says.

    "This is a situation that is developing. It has yet to be fully developed, so you've got kids that are going through very high levels of poverty, but if we take action now, these are things that could be rectified," said Macdonald.

    Save the Children Canada's spokeswoman Cicely McWilliam said the organization became interested in studying poverty among indigenous children in Canada because it is currently building programs to work with the communities.

    "Save the Children generally speaking works with the most marginalized wherever we work, the kids who need the most help," said McWilliam.

    Currently underway are three programs:

    --Helping parents establish better bonds with infants, something that has been weakened by residential schools.

    --Helping reclaim traditional languages that are increasingly being forgotten.

    --A peer-based model to combat high rates of suicide.

    For now, most of the work is being done with the Kenora Chiefs Advisory, which represents seven communities in northern Ontario.

    "We're in the building phase for all of these and we hope to have national programming both for development and for emergencies in the future," said McWilliam.

    About 426,000 indigenous children live in Canada, with most residing in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario. The indigenous population is one of the fastest growing in Canada.


    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada Report


  83. High child poverty rates on reserve best fixed under First Nations' jurisdiction: leader

    By KATIE HYSLOP, The Tyee June 19, 2013

    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a report today that finds a tiered system of child poverty in Canada, with on-reserve First Nations poverty sitting at the bottom tier with a 50 per cent rate. But at least one First Nations leader says the CCPA's financial solutions don't go far enough to fix the problem.

    Released jointly by CCPA and Save the Children, report authors David MacDonald, CCPA economist, and Daniel Wilson, a former Canadian diplomat, found three tiers of child poverty in Canada by examining Statistics Canada's 2006 census and annual Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics data.

    The first tier, made up of Caucasian-looking Canadian citizens, had a child poverty rate of 12 per cent. The second tier, made up of Inuit, off-reserve First nations, Metis, and immigrant children, had a poverty rate ranging from 22 to 33 per cent. First Nations children living on reserve were delegated to the third and highest tier, at 50 per cent child poverty.

    Although the report indicated a high rate of poverty for immigrant and racialized children, it focused primarily on indigenous kids: "The link between the denial of basic human rights for Indigenous children and their poverty is equally clear. Failure to act will result in a more difficult, less productive, and shorter life for Indigenous children," it read.

    The highest rates of on-reserve child poverty were found in Saskatchewan (64 per cent), followed by Manitoba (62 per cent), British Columbia (just under 50 per cent), and then Alberta (about 45 per cent). Ontario and Quebec, which have significantly lower First Nations populations, had on-reserve poverty rates of between 30 and 40 per cent. The report doesn't include child poverty statistics on the Atlantic provinces or northern territories.

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  84. The solutions the CCPA proposed include increasing federal funding to First Nations beyond the two per cent annual increase they've received since 1996. Increasing the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada child development budget by 11 per cent or $580 million annually -- the cost the CCPA estimates for bring on reserve kids and families out of poverty -- is also recommended/

    But Cheryl Casimer, a member of B.C.'s First Nations Summit Task Group, says money isn't enough. In order to change the lives of First Nations families and children, jurisdiction for child and family services needs to be completely turned over to First Nations communities.

    "The work needs to be on the ground. It cannot be at a higher level, because they're not the ones that are seeing what's happening on a day-to-day basis," said Casimer, who spent 12 years running the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society, a provincially delegated child welfare organization.

    "You can make all the policies you want, you can make all the formulas you want, but unless you're on the ground, dealing with the day-to-day issues, you're not going to be effective."

    Casmier says provincial, federal, and First Nations governments need to work towards this goal because with proper resourcing and full jurisdiction, poverty on reserves will decrease.

    That won't help non-status children decrease their child poverty rate, however. Casmier says she doesn't know for sure why non-aboriginal families are able to stay out of poverty, but she suspects it has to do with provincial governments' aboriginal funding "envelopes."

    "Regardless of where you are, there is always an envelope that has been earmarked for First Nation issues, whether it's on reserve or off reserve," she told The Tyee, "and it is always still that much more lower than what it is when you're non-native."

    She hopes First Nations Child and Family Caring Society's case currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can help change that.

    "I think Cindy Blackstock (FNCFCS executive director) is doing wonders in that area of raising awareness to the disparity between funding for First Nations children and families compared to the funding available to non-aboriginal families," she said.



    The following report about the unethical experiments on Indigenous people, mostly children in Indian Residential Schools, is extremely troubling. One of those schools mentioned in the report was in Port Alberni, British Columbia. I grew up in the late 1950s and 60s across the river from that notorious residential school where many children were sexually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually abused. Last year I attended the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation hearings on the former site of that school, which was demolished some years ago.

    This report on forced malnutrition for experimental purposes brings back a shameful memory for me. In those days, I don't think any adult in the settler community, except for perpetrators, had any idea of the atrocities occurring in that school. As a young child, I certainly had no idea of the long history of maltreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In grade four I had an Aboriginal classmate who never brought lunch to school like everyone else. Some of us would give him things from our own lunch we didn't want. One day, being the smart-ass I am, I 'joked' that Barney was the class garbage can because he ate anything we gave. He got really mad and almost hit me, but I had no idea why. I did not understand what a horrible cruel thing that was to say to him, that he probably lived in poverty and was suffering directly and inter-generationally from the effects of assimilation abuse in residential schools.

    Later in life, I learned about the horrors of Canada's treatment of the Indigenous Peoples and heard many direct testimonies of residential school abuse. Knowing that history has made the memory of my cruel 'joke' at Barney's expense a haunting memory I'll never forget, that still brings tears to my eyes.


    Hungry aboriginal people used in bureaucrats experiments

    Food historian published details of nutritional experiments that began in the 1940s

    The Canadian Press July 16, 2013

    The Canadian government says it's appalled to hear hungry aboriginal children and adults may have been used as unwitting subjects in nutritional experiments by federal bureaucrats.

    Recently published research by food historian Ian Mosby has revealed details about one of the least-known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginal people immediately after the Second World War.

    "It was experiments being conducted on malnourished aboriginal people," Mosby, a post-doctoral fellow in history at the University of Guelph, told CBC's As It Happens program on Tuesday.

    "It started with research trips in northern Manitoba where they found, you know, widespread hunger, if not starvation, among certain members of the community. And one of their immediate responses was to design a controlled experiment on the effectiveness of vitamin supplementation on this population."

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  86. Mosby also found that plans were developed for research on aboriginal children in residential schools in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Alberta.

    "If this is story is true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable," a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt stated in an email late Tuesday.

    "When Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper made a historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008 on behalf of all Canadians, he recognized that this period had caused great harm and had no place in Canada."

    The spokesperson added that the federal government "remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools."

    Visited northern Manitoba reserves
    Mosby — whose work at the University of Guelph focuses on the history of food in Canada — was researching the development of health policy when he ran across something strange.

    "I started to find vague references to studies conducted on 'Indians' that piqued my interest and seemed potentially problematic, to say the least," he told The Canadian Press. "I went on a search to find out what was going on."

    Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

    It began with a 1942 visit by government researchers to a number of remote reserve communities in northern Manitoba, including places such as The Pas and Norway House.

    They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, "shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia."

    The researchers suggested those problems — "so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race" — were in fact the results of malnutrition.

    Instead of recommending an increase in support, the researchers decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

    "This is a period of scientific uncertainty around nutrition," said Mosby. "Vitamins and minerals had really only been discovered during the interwar period.

    "In the 1940s, there were a lot of questions about what are human requirements for vitamins. Malnourished aboriginal people became viewed as possible means of testing these theories."

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  87. Some selected to receive vitamins

    The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements which were withheld from the rest.

    At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000.

    "The research team was well aware that these vitamin supplements only addressed a small part of the problem," Mosby writes. "The experiment seems to have been driven, at least in part, by the nutrition experts' desire to test their theories on a ready-made 'laboratory' populated with already malnourished human experimental subjects."

    The research spread. In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

    One school deliberately held milk rations for two years to less than half the recommended amount to get a 'baseline' reading for when the allowance was increased. At another, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn't.

    One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted. A special enriched flour that couldn't legally be sold elsewhere in Canada under food adulteration laws was used on children at another school.

    And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

    Many dental services were withdrawn from participating schools during that time. Gum health was an important measuring tool for scientists and they didn't want treatments on children's teeth distorting results.

    Ethically dubious, says researcher
    The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby.

    "I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies, that's a different question."

    He noted that rules for research on humans were just being formulated and adopted by the scientific community.

    Little has been written about the nutritional experiments. A May 2000 article in the Anglican Journal about some of them was the only reference Mosby could find.

    "I assumed that somebody would have written about an experiment conducted on aboriginal people during this period, and kept being surprised when I found more details and the scale of it. I was really, really surprised.

    "It's an emotionally difficult topic to study."

    Not much was learned from those hungry little bodies. A few papers were published — "they were not very helpful," Mosby said — and he couldn't find evidence that the Norway House research program was completed.

    "They knew from the beginning that the real problem and the cause of malnutrition was underfunding. That was established before the studies even started and when the studies were completed that was still the problem."

    With files from CBC News


  88. Food historian discovers Federal Government experimented on aboriginal children during and after WWII

    CBC Radio report July 16, 2013

    Food historian Ian Mosby has found evidence of experiments conducted by the federal government on aboriginal children and adults, during and immediately after the Second World War.
    What he discovered, when he probed a little deeper, was a program of breathtaking scale and cruelty. Listen to our interview with University of Guelph post-doctoral fellow, Ian Mosby, in which he describes what happened to these people.
    After the programme went to air, we received this written statement from Andrea Richer, Press Secretary for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Bernard Valcourt:
    "If this is story is (sic) true, this is abhorrent and completely unacceptable. When Prime Minister Harper made a historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008 on behalf of all Canadians, he recognized that this period had caused great harm and had no place in Canada. Our Government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools."

    Listen to the radio report at:


  89. When Canada used hunger to clear the West

    by JAMES DASCHUK, The Globe and Mail July 19, 2013

    Twenty years ago, Saskatoon scholar Laurie Barron cautioned that stories of sexual and physical abuse at Indian residential schools should be taken with a grain of salt; he thought they were just too horrific to be believed in their entirety. But national leader Phil Fontaine’s public admission of his abuse, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and the haunting testimony presented recently to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have brought the horrors of the residential school system to the forefront of our consciousness. We are often shocked, but we really shouldn’t be surprised.

    Nor should we be surprised by the revelations in Dr. Ian Mosby’s article about the medical experimentation on malnourished aboriginal people in northern Canada and in residential schools. Rather than feed the hungry among its wards (even adult “Registered Indians” were not full citizens until 1960), government-employed physicians used pangs of hunger to further their research into malnutrition, in a plot reminiscent of the Tuskegee experiment on African-Americans with syphilis, whose conditions were monitored rather than treated.

    Researching my own book forced me to reconsider many of my long-held beliefs about Canadian history. A professor of mine at Trent University once explained that Canadian expansion into the West was much less violent than that of the United States’, because in that country, “the person with the fastest horse got the most land.” By contrast, in the Dominion’s march west, the land was prepared for settlement by government officials before the flood of immigrants.

    What we didn’t know at the time was that a key aspect of preparing the land was the subjugation and forced removal of indigenous communities from their traditional territories, essentially clearing the plains of aboriginal people to make way for railway construction and settlement. Despite guarantees of food aid in times of famine in Treaty No. 6, Canadian officials used food, or rather denied food, as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape.

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  90. For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.

    Sir John A. Macdonald, acting as both prime minister and minister of Indian affairs during the darkest days of the famine, even boasted that the indigenous population was kept on the “verge of actual starvation,” in an attempt to deflect criticism that he was squandering public funds.

    Within a generation, aboriginal bison hunters went from being the “tallest in the world,” due to the quality of their nutrition, to a population so sick, they were believed to be racially more susceptible to disease. With this belief that aboriginal people were inherently unwell, their marginalization from mainstream Canada was, in a sense, complete.

    For more than a century, Canadians have been accustomed to reports of terrible housing conditions on reserves, unsafe drinking water, dismal educational outcomes and, at least in Western Canada, prison populations disproportionally stacked with aboriginal inmates. Aboriginal leaders and young people such as those who embraced the Idle No More movement have been calling for Canadians to fundamentally acknowledge the injustices and atrocities of the past and fix the problems that keep indigenous Canadians from living the same quality of life as their non-aboriginal neighbours.

    As the skeletons in our collective closet are exposed to the light, through the work of Dr. Mosby and others, perhaps we will come to understand the uncomfortable truths that modern Canada is founded upon – ethnic cleansing and genocide – and push our leaders and ourselves to make a nation we can be proud to call home.

    Dr. James Daschuk is the author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, an assistant professor in the faculty of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina and a researcher with the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit.


  91. A homegrown genocide

    BY LEANNE SIMPSON, Briar Patch magazine JULY 23, 2013

    Anishinaabe culture, like many other Indigenous cultures, holds children in the highest regard. We recognize that children see and experience the world differently than adults and we honour these experiences. We cherish children because they are gifts from the spirit world, and many of us believe that children carry important teachings for adults, if adults are paying attention.

    Because of these beliefs, Anishinaabeg traditionally parented children in a way that honoured them as full human beings. Children had a large degree of self-determination and learned to navigate the consequences and responsibilities of that freedom. They saw adults in their extended family modelling leadership – listening, being humble, and bringing people together. They were raised gently – grounded in their language, culture, the land, and the stories that tie them to those things. They were encouraged to find their passion, to learn how to be a responsible and giving member of their community, and to live gently on their first mother, the earth.

    It was a style of parenting and education that generated a different kind of governance, a different kind of leadership, and a different kind of nation.

    Colonial policy recognized this. It also recognized that the destruction of Indigenous women and children was the fastest way to remove Indigenous Peoples from the land. It is the fastest way to destroy nations. So policies were designed to target children. Settler colonial policies are still designed to target children.

    This past week, these policies have been front and centre in the Canadian mainstream media. First, the re-emergence of the story of Edmund Metatawabin and the electrocution of Native children at the St. Anne residential school in Fort Albany in a homemade electric chair. Now, evidence from the research of postdoctoral fellow at the University of Guelph Ian Mosby, clearly demonstrating that the Canadian government conducted nutrition experiments on malnourished Native children and adults in communities and in residential schools. People who were malnourished and living in poverty because their land had been stolen and their way of life nearly destroyed.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me. Starvation has long been used as a tactic by the government to dispossess us from the land, to get us to sign unfair treaties, and to co-opt us into large-scale development. This is one reason why Theresa Spence’s fast late last year resonated with so many Indigenous people. Some of the most horrific stories I’ve ever heard, stories I could never have imagined, come from the residential school era. This is what happens when Indigenous Peoples are dehumanized – in residential schools, day schools, sanitariums, in the child welfare system, and more broadly in Canadian society. This is the face of a homegrown attempted genocide. And Indigenous children are still starving – many living in poverty without the basic necessities of life, because land and resources continue to be stolen from their territories. Just as many are starving for meaning, their culture, their language, and their land. Our ability to feed ourselves is still under attack because we don’t have access to our lands – environmental destruction and encroachment still threatens our local Indigenous food systems and forces many of us into substandard colonized diets.

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  92. The legacy of residential schools and the dehumanization of Indigenous peoples reaches directly into the families of the present. The children of those who survived the nutritional experiments, torture, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, and the assimilative and genocidal policies of Canada still live with the consequences and the trauma. Every day. There are more Native children in the child welfare system than were in the residential school system at its height because of the cycles of violence and trauma they inflicted on our families.

    As a parent, these stories elicit in me a swelling of anger and a mama bear desire to protect my children, and all children. I think many Canadians feel the same way when they read these stories in the newspaper. When I look at my two young children, I don’t know how any parent could survive this. I don’t know how any child could survive this.

    But many families did, and contrary to popular stereotypes in the mainstream media, I see Indigenous Peoples working hard to fix this. I see people in my community work long hours fighting for our families, educating, parenting, and building community programs for those who can’t. Rebuilding Indigenous nations requires us to rebuild how we parent, how we educate, and how we model our governance in our families – not nuclear families, but big, beautiful, diverse, multi-racial networks of loving people.

    Being open and honest about what was done to these children and their families is a first step in truth telling about our shared past. Providing all of the necessary documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the most basic level of human decency.

    To Canada, I say this: Honour the Apology. Release the documents. Be on the right side of history on this one. It’s the very, very least you can do.

    To that end, people of all faiths are invited to honour our children and their families by participating in local events associated with the National Day of Prayer #HonourTheApology. These events are taking place across Canada at noon on July 25.

    Leanne Simpson is of Mississauga Nishnaabeg ancestry and is the author of Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. She is the editor of Lightening the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence and Protection of Indigenous Nations and This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades, all published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing in Winnipeg.


  93. Aboriginal nutritional experiments had Ottawa's approval

    Experiments carried out on malnourished children in '40s and '50s, documents show

    CBC News July 30, 2013

    Nutritional experiments were carried out on malnourished aboriginal people in the 1940s and '50s with the federal government's knowledge, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

    Minutes from a House of Commons committee show it approved a request from researchers to continue their experiments on aboriginal people in Norway House in northern Manitoba in 1944.

    The experiments started when an Indian Affairs doctor, along with two others from New York and the University of Toronto, visited the reserve and linked malnutrition to a tuberculosis epidemic and cases of blindness. Instead of improving the food available to all 300 Cree in Norway House, the doctors decided to give nutritional supplements to just 125.

    Two years later, researchers noted an improvement in the health of the group given the vitamins.

    Recent research by Canadian food historian Ian Mosby revealed that at least 1,300 aboriginal people — most of them children — were used as test subjects in the 1940s and '50s by researchers probing the effectiveness of vitamin supplements.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt confirmed to CBC News Tuesday that nutritional experiments happened in residential schools, calling them “abhorrent examples of the dark pages of the residential schools legacy.”

    His office refused to respond to questions about these newly revealed details of purposeful deprivation that took place on reserves.

    According to Mosby, the experiments began in Norway House and subsequently expanded to residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Shubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

    Subjects were kept on starvation-level diets, and given or denied vitamins, minerals and certain foods. Some dental services were also withheld because researchers thought healthier teeth and gums might skew results.

    Candace Davies, who oversees the community kitchen program at the Ontario Native Women's Association in Thunder Bay, said food is a big part of what binds First Nations people together, and that makes the revelation of the experiments more disturbing.

    "It's just devastating what's been done," she said. "There needs to be healing, there needs to be more programs that are funded to help aboriginals gain themselves again."

    Jody Kechego, a policy adviser with the Anishinabek Nations in Ontario, said details of the experiments are one more piece of evidence of Canada's treatment of First Nations, but the aboriginal community is not counting on the government to make amends any time soon.

    "When it comes to First Nations, it appears that Canada is not prepared to act in a just manner," he said.

    see documents at:


  94. UN aboriginal envoy says Canada is facing a crisis

    James Anaya urges Ottawa to call an inquiry into aboriginal women, not to 'rush' education reform

    By Susana Mas, CBC News October 15, 2013

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, painted a grim picture of the conditions facing First Nations, saying Canada is facing a "crisis" when it comes to its treatment of indigenous people.

    The remark came during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday following the completion of his nine-day mission to Canada.

    "From all I have learned, I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country," he said.

    Anaya said the Canadian government still has a long way to go in narrowing "the well-being gap" between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

    On the eve of Parliament's return, the UN fact-finder urged the federal government not to "rush" forward with the tabling of a controversial aboriginal education reform bill it intends to introduce this fall.

    Anaya also called on the federal government to launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women, something the federal government has so far refused to do.

    He also urged the federal government to extend the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission so that it can complete its work.

    The TRC's mandate expires next summer but it is unlikely the government will be able to provide all the requested documents in time.

    In a written statement to CBC News, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said Anaya's observations are at "the centre of Canada’s preoccupations and explains why the government has taken, and continues to take, effective incremental steps to improve the situation in partnership with Aboriginal Canadians."

    "As acknowledged by the rapporteur, positive steps have been taken and challenges remain," Valcourt said.

    Funding for aboriginal students

    First Nations education reform is expected to be featured in Wednesday's throne speech, and it will also be the centrepiece of the Harper government's aboriginal policy.

    The UN aboriginal envoy said while everyone agrees that First Nations education is a priority, he heard a "profound and consistent mistrust" towards the First Nations Education Act being developed by the federal government.

    Anaya said he heard "a particular deep concern that the process for developing the act has not appropriately included nor responded to aboriginal views."

    "In light of this, I urge the government not to rush forward with this legislation but to reinitiate discussions with aboriginal leaders to develop a process and ultimately a bill that addresses aboriginal concerns and incorporates aboriginal view points," Anaya said.

    The UN fact-finder said the federal government could increase the level of funding for aboriginal students "relatively quickly."

    But in an interview with CBC News last Tuesday, Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt said education reform would have to come before more funding.

    "Reform will take place, funding will follow. But funding will not replace reform because the current system is failing these kids," Valcourt said.

    The 2011 national household survey showed that 48.4 per cent of aboriginals aged 25 to 64 had a post-secondary education, compared to 64.7 per cent of non-aboriginals.

    Of those aboriginals with post-secondary education only 9.8 per cent had a university degree, compared to 26.5 per cent of non-aboriginals.

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  95. Shawn Atleo, the national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, welcomed Anaya's remarks and called on Ottawa to give "serious consideration" to his preliminary observations, pending his official report and recommendations.

    "It is our hope that the special rapporteur’s report will help compel action. First Nations are willing and ready for the hard work," Atleo said in a written statement.

    Atleo had vowed two weeks ago, during a rally in Ottawa for missing and murdered aboriginal women, to tell the UN fact-finder that Canada is facing a "grave" human rights crisis. He and Anaya met on Monday.

    "If the government is wise, which it hasn't demonstrated so far, it will pay very close attention to what the special rapporteur said," said Jean Crowder, the NDP critic for aboriginal affairs, in an interview with CBC News.

    Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal critic for aboriginal affairs, told CBC News in a statement that the Conservatives’ "adversarial approach to Aboriginal Peoples on a host of issues has created conflict and distrust, rather than reconciliation and better lives."

    Inquiry into aboriginal women

    Anaya called the unresolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women a "disturbing phenomenon" and an "epidemic." He called on the federal government to launch a national public inquiry into the matter.

    While he acknowledged the federal government has taken measures to address the issue of violence against aboriginal women, Anaya said aboriginal people expressed, "a widespread lack of confidence in the effectiveness of those measures."

    "I concur that that a comprehensive and nationwide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a co-ordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard," he said.

    Anaya said such a move by the federal government would show "a responsiveness" to the concerns raised by families and communities affected.

    In that interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Valcourt said that inquiries are for those who want to hide behind the pretext of taking action.

    "An inquiry would not bring anything more than we already know. So instead of further study and spinning our wheels, let's take action," he said.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada has been calling on the federal government to launch a national public inquiry into aboriginal women for just over a year now.

    Conservative MP Ryan Leef, last week, pledged his support for a national inquiry — but only if the provinces are willing to play a role.

    While the premiers agreed to support a call by the NWAC, the provinces and territories did not say what role, if any, they would play.

    Last week, the Mounties launched a five-day social media campaign calling on the public to help them solve 10 cases involving missing aboriginal women.

    The RCMP said the social media campaign was not timed around Anaya's visit.

    The UN fact-finder spent the last nine days meeting with government officials, First Nations leaders, and indigenous people in Ontario, Quebec, B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

    Anaya is expected to make his findings public in a report that will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014.

    His visit follows a 2004 report by the previous rapporteur.

    to read the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  96. Attawapiskat fire leaves almost 70 homeless

    People forced out of housing complex heading to Kapuskasing

    CBC News November 23, 2013

    Flights left from Attawapiskat on Saturday to transport approximately 70 people forced from their homes by a fire in the First Nation community in northern Ontario — a fire that appears to have been caused by a candle used during a power outage.

    Officials declared an emergency in the remote James Bay Coast community on Friday after a fire broke out earlier this week in a set of trailers being used as temporary housing due to a sewage system break.

    No one was injured in the fire, which community leaders believe was caused by a candle in one of the rooms.

    “I have been told by Chief Theresa Spence and various councillors and people I know on the ground, it seems to be the candle. But I'm sure there is still going to be an investigation," Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus told CBC News.

    Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, released a statement saying that the fire department responded quickly and all residents managed to escape the fire without injury.

    "The community of Kapuskasing has been quick to offer to facilitate an evacuation of displaced residents to
    its community," said Valcourt.

    "My officials are in continuous contact with the community and we are taking immediate steps to work with the chief, the band council, and other partners to ensure residents displaced by a fire at Attawapiskat First Nation have a safe, warm place to stay."

    Two flights on Saturday will fly the evacuees to their temporary shelter.

    No timeline for return

    Mike Grant with the Red Cross told CBC News the residents are expected to arrive some time in the afternoon, but he has no specific numbers as to the children involved in the evacuation.

    “We’ll provide them with basic needs, comfort kits, and any other needs required,” said Grant, adding that a cafeteria will be set up at a community centre in Kapuskasing to feed the evacuees.

    Grant said he had no idea when the residents would be able to return home and would be staying in hotel rooms in the meantime.

    “We’ve had evacuations before where they’ve stayed up to three to four months in hotel rooms," noted Grant.

    The Ontario government is arranging the air transportation.

    The Provincial Emergency Operations Centre of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management is working with Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development Canada and municipal leaders.

    Trailers likened to 'holding cells'

    The trailers that were once used by De Beers Canada to house workers at the company's diamond mine west of the community. De Beers donated them to Attawapiskat in 2009.

    The fire is the latest in a string of hardships the community has recently faced. The week started when a storm with strong winds knocked out power to the community of 2,000.

    In addition, pipes had burst in the local high school earlier this month.

    The set of connected trailers in the complex has long, narrow hallways and look like "holding cells, where young families are living," said Angus, who described them as a "substandard infrastructure."

    "There are four toilets and a couple of showers and one kitchen facility for 80 to 90 people," he said.

    In 2011, Attawapiskat became a flashpoint for relations between the federal government and First Nations after a housing crisis triggered a state of emergency.


  97. A New Story from Attawapiskat

    Program trains young journalists in remote First Nation communities to report their community's news.

    By Lisa Charleyboy, TheTyee.ca April 2, 2014

    Lisa Charleyboy has over eight years' experience as a published writer. Hailing from Abbotsford, British Columbia, she has Tsilhqot'in (Dene), Mexican, Cherokee and Dutch roots.

    Richard Spence, a 24-year-old member of the Attawapiskat First Nation, saw the camera crews come and go in 2011 and 2012, and how they portrayed his community.

    "All they showed were people in sheds, mouldy houses," said Spence. Those reports almost made me shameful to be from here."

    Months later, when Spence was invited to learn the basics of journalism in order tell more complex stories reflecting what he knew of Attawapiskat, he jumped at the chance.

    First Nations peoples make up four per cent of Canada's population. Yet they represent only one per cent of Canadian media professionals.

    Launched in spring 2013 by media development organization Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), the Northern Ontario Initiative aims to challenge that deficit. It is doing so by sending two journalism trainers to six remote communities.

    The goal is to train Indigenous participants to produce and freelance their radio and print stories to media outlets. Fort Severn, Weagamow, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Moose Cree, Constance Lake, Lac Seul and Attawapiskat are all participating.

    Richard Spence's first outing resulted in a report on how his nation's education authority board members took action to detect and remedy a buried oil leak posing danger to kids at the elementary school.

    From Ghana to Nishnawbe Aski

    The Northern Ontario Initiative is rooted in Africa. Designed and managed by Robin Pierro, a young documentary filmmaker and former freelance journalist, the project idea first came up when she was in Ghana working as a trainer with JHR.

    Since 2002, JHR has worked to strengthen independent media in sub-Saharan Africa by helping local journalists report ethically and effectively on human rights and good governance. While in Ghana, Pierro, now an international programs manager at JHR, witnessed the power of journalism to spark positive change first hand. She thought, "Why not take this model and tweak it to a Canadian context and start working on improving human rights issues in our own country?"

    Upon returning to Canada in September 2011, Pierro got busy developing her idea at JHR's Toronto headquarters. First step? Make respectful inquiries about how JHR could be of service. In practical terms, that meant Pierro spent a year speaking with First Nations people in their own communities, as well as other stakeholders, to gain their perspectives.

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  98. JHR found not only valuable counsel but a powerful partner in the Wawatay Native Communications Society, which for nearly four decades has serviced the remote First Nations communities of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) located in northwestern Ontario. Begun as an emergency information network that distributed CB radios and dropped leaflets from airplanes, Wawatay Native Communications Society now operates the Wawatay News newspaper, three quarterly magazines, daily radio programs, television production services and a multimedia website.

    If JHR could train new First Nations journalists, those graduates would have a ready outlet through Wawatay.

    Buy-in from all parties

    It took a first proposal, and then a refined version, to earn funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Key to that second-push success was Joyce Hunter, Cree from Weenusk First Nation, now the Aboriginal liaison strategy coordinator for the City of Thunder Bay. Hunter joined Wawatay as its special projects officer after the first JHR proposal rolled in. Hunter saw potential in the idea, but also recognized there needed to be increased dialogue and buy-in from the communities.

    "Joyce was a huge help in strengthening the second proposal," said Pierro. "She offered a unique perspective as an Aboriginal person from a remote community who worked in journalism, and Wawatay assigning her to work with me on the proposal showed their buy-in and commitment to making this happen."

    The Ontario Trillium Foundation approved the second pitch in February of 2013. Accenture Canada soon came on board.

    "We are providing $50,000 worth of free technology consulting and with that money we are building a robust online portal to bring together the journalism trainees, the trainers and the broader community," said Theresa Ebden, director of media and analyst relations Canada at Accenture. "We will have things like tutorials, a discussion board and connect these journalists in training with real editors who will really buy their stories."

    Wawatay News has budgeted for purchasing stories from the newly-trained community journalists and has already published some of their work. Many other media organizations have shown great interest in running the content, provided it meets their editorial standards.

    Two months into the initiative, Danny Kresnyak, a roaming journalism mentor currently stationed in Constance Lake, said he had gained as much knowledge as he was sharing. "People don't want to be talked to, they want to be worked with," said Kresnyak. "The main issues right now are visibility and inclusion in the process."

    "Community partners need to be included in the design of goals for the project to function. Both sides must work to create a mandate they can effectively buy into. I cannot just be here, take the story and leave. I need to leave a legacy for the work to be sustainable and the project to be a success."

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  99. Learning by listening

    Kresynak said simple acts of listening and learning have been key to fostering a better relationship with the First Nations community.

    "Attawapiskat [where Kresnyak spent three months as a trainer] has become a lightning rod for major media stories about social problems on reserves. Many people here feel their community has been painted in an unfortunate light," he said. "As a result, many in the street don't trust journalists and there is often an opacity when dealing with outside government, band office, and local bureaucracy. Much of my effort is dedicated to shifting this paradigm."

    Kenny Thomas is head councillor at Fort Severn First Nations Band, where the project's second trainer, Kimberly Stinson, worked from June to September. Fort Severn is the northernmost community in Ontario.

    "The reason why training and journalism is important is to provide news to others and to show others that despite our hardships we are still here and enjoying life," said Thomas. "And the stories that are written are to be written in a way that people will understand and enjoy."

    Pierro hopes the Northern Initiative can expand into other provinces. Ultimately, the aim is to build partnerships with universities to create fellowships and implement curriculum on how to better cover Aboriginal issues.

    On June 13, Aboriginal Day, Wawatay and JHR won the 2013 Innovation Award from the Canadian Ethnic Media Association.

    As training proceeds, one person is particularly eager to see the results.

    "The thought that this time next year we might have six freelance writers in six different communities who are regularly contributing to the newspaper and to the magazines is really exciting and positive for Wawatay," said Shawn Bell, former editor of Wawatay. "It's going to make Wawatay so much stronger to have those stories."

    Richard Spence hopes to be one of Wawatay's writers. He'd like to balance journalism with attending college to become a music teacher in Attawapiskat. Before Danny Kresnyak seized his imagination by suggesting he could tell his own community's stories, Spence was without plans for his life. Not anymore.

    "This project helped me see that I could improve myself and improve my community by being able to write stories about it, and help give all of Canada an idea of what it's like on the rez."


  100. Paige's story: Tragic death of aboriginal teen prompts response from B.C. government

    B.C. government releases action plan five months after scathing report condemns ministry's handling of teen

    By On The Coast, CBC Radio News October 19, 2015

    After five months, the B.C. government released its response to the Representative for Children and Youth's damning report into the death of a girl in ministry care named Paige.

    Paige, 19, died of a drug overdose after a troubled life on Vancouver's the Downtown Eastside. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's report blamed the B.C. government's "brutal and cruel approach" for her death.

    The government's commitments, released on Monday — as British Columbians were focussed on the election — include a "rapid response team" that will "allow service providers to reach out and directly address the needs and safety of the highest-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside."

    The province has also undertaken a review of all young people living on the Downtown Eastside involved with the Ministry for Children and Family Development, and an awareness campaign for service providers that will remind them of their duty to report to MCFD whenever a child or youth may be at risk of harm.

    "The Paige report talks about systemic issues in the Downtown Eastside, which is why a fulsome response requires engagement from partners across the health, education, justice, aboriginal and child and family-serving service sectors," said Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development, in a statement.

    "There is a collective responsibility that needs to be reinvigorated, and the first and most important step is to bring together decision-makers who can collaborate to create solutions that might not yet exist within our system. That's part of what we are doing with our rapid response team."

    Cadieux said meaningful change at the ministry is an "ongoing" process, and that she was "buoyed" that progress is being made toward that change.

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  101. According to a press release, the government is also committing to interview ministry staff about high-risk youth, clarify policies for frontline social workers and conduct several reviews of policy in B.C. and beyond.

    It has also undertaken to allow case reviews in the death of any youth who was formerly in care up to the age of 20, even though young people officially leave the care system at age 19.

    The government will also allow case reviews for any child or youth fatality that occurs while the young person is in the care of the director of children and families.

    Representative for children and youth responds

    The representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who wrote the original Paige report, gave her thoughts on the government's proposed actions during an interview with On The Coast.

    "I'm very pleased that they've put out a written plan … this has been the subject of a lot of discussion behind the scenes and a lot of advocacy and pushing from my office to get issues addressed that weren't, maybe, at the highest priority," she said.

    "Their report today, on the actions they have taken and will take actually go some distance towards satisfying me that this issue is being taken far more seriously than it was before the report into the tragic life of Paige was issued."

    Turpel-Lafond says reporting on children in dangerous situations has already improved and she's glad to see that the B.C. government is more open to the idea of secure in-patient care for children whose health is in crisis and are in need of intervention.

    When it comes to addressing what Turpel-Lafond called a culture of "persistent professional indifference" towards aboriginal people and youth at the Ministry, she says today's response is a good first step, but "the proof is in the pudding," and depends on future outcomes for those youth.

    To hear the full interview with representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, click on the audio labelled: B.C. government responds to scathing report on death of aboriginal teen


    Paige's Story: Abuse, Indifference and a Young Life Discarded


  102. Attawapiskat suicide crisis - MPs hold emergency debate over suicide attempts

    Commons Speaker acknowledges 'gravity' of crisis in northern Ontario community

    By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Apr 12, 2016


    NDP MP Charlie Angus opened the emergency debate on the Attawapiskat suicide crisis by calling for a groundswell of political will that will put an end to Band-Aid solutions for the problems facing Canada's First Nations.

    "This isn't just particularly about Attawapiskat, it's about who we are as Canadians and our whole nation," Angus told the Commons. "The greatest tragedy is the image of these helpless communities, and these lost children," he said.

    "Tonight might be the beginning of a change in our country, and that is what I am asking us to come together to do," Angus added.

    Minister of Health Dr. Jane Philpott began by thanking Angus for asking for the House of Commons to hold the debate and for taking such a central role to bring "help and hope to these communities."

    "When I think that there are communities in our country where … young people in groups are deciding that there is no hope for their future, we must do better, we have to find a way to go forward," said Philpott.

    "Tonight has to be a turning point for us as a country in order for us to decide together that we will do better," she said.

    A community in crisis

    The request for an emergency debate comes as Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh fears more young people will try to harm themselves while the community tries to grapple with the crisis after declaring a state of emergency Saturday, following reports of 11 suicide attempts in one day. There are also reports of over 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September.

    Officials from Health Canada said on Tuesday afternoon that 18 health workers, mental-health workers and police were being dispatched to support the Attawapiskat community.

    That includes a medical emergency assistance team and the five additional mental health workers deployed a day earlier. Four mental health workers already in the community were to be sent out for rest and a debriefing, the departmental spokesperson said.

    "We'll have to look at what the intermediate or longer term needs are," said the Health Canada official in a phone briefing with journalists on Tuesday.

    The emergency debate was approved by House Speaker Geoff Regan Tuesday morning on a request from Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat.

    "The crisis in Attawapiskat has gathered world attention and people are looking to this Parliament to explain the lack of hope, that's not just in Attawapiskat but in so many indigenous communities. And they're looking to us, in this new Parliament, to offer change," Angus said in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning.

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  103. The session wrapped up just before midnight.

    Angus said the emergency debate would allow MPs to address "the lack of mental health services, police services, community supports" facing so many First Nations communities across the country.

    "In closing," Angus said, "the prime minister called the situation in Attawapiskat 'heartbreaking' but it is up to us as parliamentarians to turn this into a moment of hope-making."

    "That's why I'm asking my colleagues to work with me tonight, to work together, to discuss this issue tonight and start to lay a path forward to give the hope to the children of our northern and all other indigenous communities," Angus said in the Commons earlier Tuesday.

    Regan acknowledged "the gravity of this situation" before granting Angus's request.

    'Unacceptable' conditions: Philpott

    The health minister said the conditions facing indigenous communities are "absolutely unacceptable."

    "We are currently investing over $300 million per year into mental wellness programs in these communities," Philpott said during question period on Tuesday.

    Perry Bellegarde, the national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, will be traveling to Attawapiskat on Wednesday where he is expected to meet with Chief Shisheesh.

    Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins is also expected to visit the northern community saying in a post on Twitter he looked forward to meeting Bellegarde and the Attawapiskat chief.

    Other Ontario First Nations communities declared public health emergencies earlier this year.

    At least four aboriginal leaders have been scheduled to appear before the Commons indigenous affairs committee on Thursday to discuss the health crises facing their communities.



    Read the House of Commons transcript of the full debate

    Desperation in Attawapiskat: First Nation leaders fear for their young

    Attawapiskat youth need inspiration to overcome barriers, resident says

    TIMELINE: States of emergency Attawapiskat has declared in recent years

  104. Why a 17-year-old says she wanted 'the pain to go away'

    Additional mental health workers being sent to remote northern Ontario community

    By Mark Gollom, CBC News Posted: Apr 12, 2016

    She stands outside a recreation centre in Attawapiskat, just 17 years old, head down, speaking quietly, sadly, but almost matter-of-factly about her own attempts to kill herself.

    "I felt alone," she says. "I just wanted the pain to go away."

    That pain, she says, comes from more than one place. She cites "family problems" and says "something happened to me when I was a kid, but I don't want to talk about it."

    "I was carrying a lot of stuff in me."

    Many say bullying, overcrowding, boredom and loneliness are all fuelling these feelings of despair on the Attawapiskat First Nation, a community of fewer than 2,000 people.

    Bullying was a problem for her, not initiated by kids at school but by adults, who she says would talk about her and her friends behind her back.

    "Adults are bullies too.… They like to name-call people."

    The teen, whom CBC News has agreed not to identify, says bullying and suicide are discussed at school — but she wishes other issues that plague young people would be discussed as well, like anxiety and eating disorders, something she says she has suffered from.

    Isolation and overcrowding

    On top of all of this is the isolation that she and many of her friends feel living in the remote James Bay area reserve.

    She says she currently lives with her grandmother in a crowded home of 12 people — waiting, she says, for the power to be restored in her mother's house so her family can return. Her mother lives with her boyfriend and has been unable to pay for power. And her father, she says, won't pay child support.

    She says she's friends with others who have also tried to end their lives, including those who were brought into the health centre on Monday night, detained by police over fears that they were planning a group suicide.

    That followed a report of 11 suicide attempts in one day over the weekend and reports of over 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September.

    The town is currently in a state of emergency. Additional mental health workers have been sent in, and politicians are expected to start trickling in Wednesday. Meanwhile, the House of Commons was holding anemergency debate on the issue Tuesday night.

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  105. A lot of people feel nobody cares for them

    The girl was one of dozens of people who came to the Reg Louttit Sportsplex community hall, where an all-day forum was held for residents to talk about the crisis and the other serious issues facing their town.

    The forum was also an opportunity to just let people speak about their own issues, their troubled childhoods. One woman talked about her issues with her mother who "never told me she loves me."

    "Spend time with your kids," she sobs. "Spend time with your kids."

    Carissa Koostachin, 14, was emotional as she talked about bullying, something she says was partially responsible for causing her cousin Sheridan Hookimaw to kill herself last year.

    "A lot of people feel nobody cares for them," she says. "I don't want to lose another one from suicide."

    But she says she doesn't like to talk about why her cousin committed suicide, fearing that it could prompt others to follow her path.

    "If you keep talking about suicide it's going to make the other youth want to do it again."

    "It's not just this reserve. There's others reserves out there too. It's just Attawapiskat that is really out of control right now."

    That's why the 17-year-old girl is trying to help other kids who might be thinking the same thoughts she struggled with. She recently took part in a long healing walk to help raise awareness about suicide and addiction.

    "When I saw the community cheering it gave me hope," she says.

    With cars following slowly behind, around 150 people of all ages took part in a candlelight suicide awareness walk Tuesday night around the community.

    "This was to show that we care about them and that they don't have to do this to themselves," said Keisha Paulmartia, 19

    "They shouldn't have to feel this way at such a young age."

    She said the older generation was affected by residential schools and now have a hard time showing support for their children and grandchildren and telling them they love them.

    "It was hard for them because they never had that growing up," said Paulmartia. "And they didn't know how to show it. And I think that made the younger generation feel like they weren't cared about and they weren't loved."

    A bonfire meant to celebrate the positives of life for youth is scheduled for Wednesday night.


  106. Joseph Boyden says Attawapiskat is a microcosm of intergenerational trauma

    CBC Radio April 15, 2016

    Joseph Boyden sees a straight and devastating line from Canada's residential school system to this week's tragic news out of Attawapiskat.

    "This is the microcosm of the fallout of residential schools," he tells host Brent Bambury. "You can't attempt cultural genocide in this country — and I'm not using that term lightly, it's a term used by the highest court in the land — you can't attempt cultural genocide for 140 years and not expect a massive fall out."

    Boyden has been visiting Attawapiskat, and other remote Cree communities on the west coast of James Bay, for more than twenty years. He says the people of Attawapiskat and its neighbouring communities have inspired much of his work as a writer.

    Boyden also says that to truly understand the problems Attawapiskat and other First Nations are facing, we have to look back at the trauma that has been passed down through generations.

    Suicide crises in First Nations communities, particularly for young people, have been recurring in Canada for over two decades. This year, in addition to Attawapiskat, theCross Lake, Keeseekoose, Cote, Key and Pimicikamak First Nations have all declared similar states of emergency.

    Boyden says the land, and connecting to it, can help heal desperation and help stop these recurring crises.

    "It is one of the medicines for sure. And I say that not as some kind of mystic thing. I'm involved in a camp called Camp Onakawana in James Bay near Moosonee because I loved what I saw. The youth going out there and learning to build a fire, to learn how to catch a fish. And that kind of thing gives a power to a young person. An understanding of, 'Wait a second, it's not all doom and gloom, where I come from.'"

    On Tuesday this week, former prime minister Jean Chrétien spoke about the substandard living conditions facing many remote First Nations communities and said that, "You know, people have to move sometimes. It's horrible to stay, if they want to stay, but it's not always possible."

    "We've tried assimilation that way," responds Boyden. "Assimilation doesn't work. This idea of forcing people off of the place where they've lived for thousands of years is not the way to move forward."

    Instead, Boyden says we should re-examine the economy in the north, allow local First Nations a fairer share of the natural resources on their land and replace the Indian Act.

    "It's a game changer. To say this is my land. This is what we're going to do. This is the whole idea of self determination."

    When it comes to stopping the cycle of two decades of suicide epidemics, Boyden says one thing is needed for a solution.

    "A level playing field in this country. First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have never had that level playing field."


  107. 5 more Attawapiskat youth attempt suicide in spiralling situation

    'I don't want to ever lose someone from suicide again' says 14-year-old

    CBC News April 16, 2016

    Five children tried to take their own lives Friday evening at the Attawapiskat First Nation, its chief said, deepening a crisis in the small community over repeated suicide attempts.

    Chief Bruce Shisheesh confirmed the fresh suicide attempts in a brief telephone conversation with Reuters on Saturday. It was not immediately clear how old the children are.

    The community, on James Bay in remote northern Ontario, declared a state of emergency a week ago after 11 of its members attempted suicide in one weekend and 28 tried to do so in March.

    About a dozen teenagers in the community attempted suicide on Monday, after the declaration.

    "We need changes before it gets too late. I don't want to ever lose someone from suicide again," Clarissa, age 14, told a CBC reporter last week. Her cousin was just 13 when she took her own life last October.

    "A lot of young people nowadays feel like nobody cares for them and like, most of them feel unloved," she said.

    Clarissa said she believed elders in the community have difficulty demonstrating their love because of their own treatment as children in residential schools.

    Legacy of residential schools

    "The parents are not to blame for that. It's residential school, because our elders, people that attended residential school -- they didn't get the love that they needed," she said.

    "Instead of getting hugged, they got beaten up, they got sexually abused," she added.

    Regional, provincial and federal governments sent support and crisis workers to the community in response to the state of emergency. The Ontario government has pledged $2 million over the next two years for health support and a youth centre for the community.

    Shisheesh tweeted Friday: "Busy night at the hospital.... Pray for Attawapiskat."

    Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is scheduled to arrive in the community on Monday, accompanied by local MP Charlie Angus.

    Speaking from Cobalt, Ont., on Sunday, Angus said the plan is to meet with the council and chief but also to hear the voices of young people in the community. He lauded the efforts of a local youth council that is reaching out to peers with words of comfort about the suicide attempts.

    He called the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat "a spiralling situation that is taking us into unknown territory."

    "It shows us that we're still dealing with a very unstable and volatile situation with the young people and certainly, it's causing, I think, a great deal of emotional trauma for the front line workers, for the leadership and among the youth themselves in the community," Angus told CBC News.

    He called for the federal and provincial government to devote attention to the community in the longer-term, saying too often in the past resources and health professionals were pulled out of the community after the immediate crisis was over.

    "This is the moment when the Canadian government needs to really get its act together and move out of the comfort zone of short-term promises and statements," Angus said.

    Attawapiskat has declared five states of emergency since 2006. It previously sounded the alarm over flooding and raw sewage issues, poor drinking water and a housing crisis.


  108. Neskantaga First Nation in 3rd year of state of emergency over suicides

    Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett explores conditions in remote community

    By Jody Porter, CBC News April 16, 2016

    The chief of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario says he is not lifting a state of emergency over suicides that was issued after four suicides in 2013 until the root causes of the crisis are addressed.

    Chief Wayne Moonias made the remarks on Friday during a visit to his community by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

    Bennett is on her way to Attawapiskat, the Cree community that declared a state of emergency last week after 11 suicide attempts in one day. Neskantaga is also located on the Attawapiskat River and also has a history of suicide, Moonias said.

    "We have not lifted that state of emergency to this day, because of the fact the [living] conditions still remain the same," Moonias said, adding that a 14-year-old girl from Neskantaga died by suicide in January.

    Those conditions include overcrowded and crumbling homes, where up to five families live in a single bungalow. As well, Neskantaga is home to Canada's longest standing boil water advisory. People in the community have been without safe tap water for 22 years.

    Charla Moonias, 18, left home during the suicide crisis three years ago to seek mental health counselling unavailable in the community of 300.

    "That's when I realized I can't live in my own home any more because I am scared of my own life," said Charla Moonias. (Although they share a last name, she's not directly related to the chief.)

    "That's when I realized I can't live in my own home any more because I am scared of my own life," said Charla Moonias. (Although they share a last name, she's not directly related to the chief.)

    For now, her department has committed to funding the design of a new water treatment plant and Bennett said she believes it could be completed in time to transport building materials on the winter road next year.

    The minister also visited Pikangikum First Nation on Friday where nine people died in a house fire in March. She was scheduled to travel to Bearskin Lake First Nation on Saturday, where a 10-year-old died by suicide in December. On Monday, Bennett plans to visit Attawapiskat.

    In each place, she said she aims to deliver a hopeful message.

    "Communities have to have the ability to determine their future," she said. "Our job is to put in place all the things the communities have decided they need so that they can see a future."