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A collection of opinions and perspectives on the issues impacting you. Postings are from a variety of sources including our staff or other media.

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Fort McMurray fire forces evacuation of 8,000 in work camps

May 16, 2016. A growing wildfire and strong shifting winds forced further evacuations in the Fort McMurray region Monday. About 8,000 workers at camps south of Fort McMurray and north of Fort McKay were forced out in two separate mandatory evacuation orders, the first coming late afternoon and the second coming in the late evening. Workers at Syncrude and Suncor facilities and at least 17 other camps were told to evacuate south. The evacuation order did not include Fort MacKay, Athabasca Camp and the Beaver River Camp. The fire was also close to the Timberlea neighbourhood in Fort McMurray. However, a five-kilometre burned-out area between the fire and the neighbourhood and 150-200 firefighters were expected to hold the line.


CMHC has yet to hear if First Nations housing impacted by Fort McMurray fire

May 16, 2016. In a news release issued Monday, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says it is keeping lines of communication open with the three First Nations impacted by the Fort McMurray fire.  The Fort McMurray, the Chipewyan Prairie and the Fort McKay First Nations all receive subsidy funding from CMHC under the On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program. CMHC says it has not received any reports of damaged or destroyed federally-subsidized social housing units or homes on the three First Nation communities in and around the Fort McMurray area. Should homes on reserve become damaged or destroyed, CMHC will work with the First Nation, their insurer, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Alberta Emergency Management Agency. CMHC has insured approximately 8,400 loans totalling $3.7 billion in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area affected by the fires with approximately 10 per cent of loans located in areas of serious fire damage or complete loss, 77 per cent in areas with some damage, and 13 per cent in areas where the condition of the neighbourhood is to be determined. CMHC says it is monitoring the situation closely and will work with its partners to support those affected by the wild fires.



New study says 60 per cent of children on reserve live in poverty


May 16, 2016. A report released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says 60 per cent of children on First Nations reserves live in poverty. "One of the interesting things is that despite the fact that we have seen strong economic growth in the 2000s in Alberta in particular, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we are just not seeing that filter down to the on-reserve level," said senior economist David Macdonald, who co-authored the report. The rates of poverty on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010, with researchers citing long-term issues such as underfunded schools and child welfare services as the reasons. Data collected during the 2011 National Household Survey was used for the report. The study also contains immediate suggestions for a poverty reduction plan for reserves including calls to improve direct income support and bolster employment prospects



Alberta against scrapping crude-oil tanker ban


May 16, 2016. A motion calling for the federal government to scrap its planned crude-oil tanker ban on British Columbia’s north coast passed with the full support of the legislature on Monday. Wildrose Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Todd Loewen, who introduced the motion, said he’s glad Wildrose MLAs helped convince the NDP government about the importance of telling Ottawa tanker bans are bad, not just for Alberta, but all of Canada. “We are thrilled that after repeated pressure, members of the NDP government are voting with Wildrose to present Ottawa with a united voice on the issue of tanker bans,” he said in a news release. Loewen serves as the Wildrose shadow environment minister



Rally in support of Cindy Gladue Toronto


A tragic tale of two Gladues

The cases of Cindy Gladue and Jamie Gladue illustrate the cycle of Indigenous victimization and incarceration, which the Harper government is making worse.

Via TheStar - April 28

Amid public outrage about the death of Cindy Gladue, a young Indigenous woman, and the failure of the criminal justice system to hold the john who apparently caused her death accountable, the Harper government has quietly taken steps to undo the progress achieved in the name of another Gladue woman.

In yet another “war on crime” proposal, Bill C-32  would chip away at “Gladue principles,” named after Jamie Gladue, a 19-year-old Indigenous woman — mother of one child, pregnant with another — who killed her abusive male partner.

In her 1999 case, the Supreme Court held that the Criminal Code requires judges to consider sentencing options other than jail, particularly for Indigenous offenders. Although Jamie Gladue’s sentence for manslaughter was not mitigated by her partner’s battering, or the history of colonization that brought her to that fatal encounter, her case opened the door to considering systemic discrimination in sentencing Indigenous offenders.

These two Gladue cases illustrate the degree to which Indigenous women are both over-victimized and over-criminalized. The government’s attempt to retreat from the small gains made in responding to such over-incarceration reflects an agenda denying Canada’s role in the devastation, past and present, wreaked upon the original peoples.

In 1996, Canada reformed the principles of sentencing to respond to the gross overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prisons. The Liberal minister of justice explained: “Nationally aboriginal persons represent about 2 per cent of Canada’s population, but they represent 10.6 per cent of persons in prison. Obviously there’s a problem here.” The Supreme Court in Jamie Gladue’s case therefore instructed lower courts to consider the unique systemic and background factors that bring Indigenous offenders before the courts and to consider sentences other than imprisonment.

More than a decade later, in a separate case, the Supreme Court sharply reminded judges that Gladue principles are not discretionary. In every case judges must consider the history of “colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and of course higher levels of incarceration.” The Court lamented that rates of over-incarceration have continued to climb despite its efforts in Gladue.

Read more:

No title? No problem. Aboriginals can sue over property rights: appeal court

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press - April 16

Industrial giants, from forestry companies to mining operations, must respect Aboriginal territorial claims in British Columbia just as they would heed the rights of any other Canadian landowner, the province's highest court has ruled.

A decision from the B.C. Court of Appeal paves the way for First Nations to launch lawsuits to protect their territory from private parties, even without proving aboriginal title.

Two northwestern First Nations expressed vindication on Wednesday after a panel of three judges overturned a lower court ruling that denied them opportunity to sue the aluminum producer Rio Tinto Alcan.

The Saik'uz and Stellat'en First Nations, based downstream of the company's Kenney hydroelectric dam and reservoir, were refused a trial on the premise that aboriginals must first establish their title. Their initial suit was mounted in September 2011.

The nations contend the dam, in operation since the 1950s, causes nuisance and breaches their rights to the natural waterway that runs through their land. They're seeking damages for property-rights violations, alleging the electricity generator has harmed the Nechako River system and its fisheries.

The decision means they can now take their claims to trial.


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First Nations need real reform

Via Edmonton Sun - April 14

We are killing our First Nations with kindness – and political correctness.

What most First Nations need is fewer tax dollars, better educational options for their young people and more individual liberty. Instead, Canada’s courts and politicians think more collectivism and more cash are the solutions to Third World conditions on many reserves.

Both the Chretien and Harper governments have attempted to break the cycle of bad governance that is behind much of the dysfunction on half or more of Canada’s just over 630 reserves.

The Liberals attempted to pass a First Nations Governance Act (FNGA) in 2002. It was an effort to make band councils more democratic and more accountable to their members and to Ottawa.

Chretien’s FNGA would have replaced the race-based Indian Act and introduced new rules to ensure free and fair elections on reserves, applied financial management standards comparable to those used by municipal and provincial governments, and sought to make on-reserve administration more professional.

The Liberal law would also have brought bands under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would have meant members (particularly aboriginal women) could have filed complaints against their reserve councils for unequal treatment and clannish favouritism.

However, like new education reforms introduced by the Harper government more than two years ago, the Liberals’ FNGA was opposed by about two-thirds of the country’s chiefs. And given that chiefs hold great influence – greater influence than non-aboriginal politicians – both the Liberals’ and the Tories’ reforms were stymied.

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St. Michaels Residential School


Emily Carr's British Columbia

An unsettling journey through the archives
Via Sarah Milroy The Walrus - April 13

I first encountered the photographs on this screen while researching From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia, an exhibition I organized with Ian Dejardin, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, in London. (It opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario on April 11.) Born in 1871, Carr lived until 1945, and during that time the forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples was proceeding full throttle. In the decade preceding Carr’s birth, smallpox had devastated British Columbia, with government officials having done little to stem the epidemic.

About half the Aboriginal population perished; the death toll reached as high as 90 percent in the north. By the 1870s, the Canadian government had implemented an aggressive program of forced cultural assimilation. Children were taken from their families and communities, and institutionalized in residential schools. Malnutrition, along with physical and emotional abuse, was commonplace. At the same time, an influx of missionaries and anthropologists stripped Native communities of ancestral regalia and feast vessels, rattles and amulets, and, of course, totem poles, which came to reside far away in the museums of North America and Europe, where most remain to this day.

In 1884, the ban on the potlatch ceremony struck an additional blow, crippling an important mechanism for the consolidation of community and identity, and for the transmission of knowledge, property, and clan entitlements. Finally, as the twentieth century dawned, the landscape was increasingly ravaged by industrial logging practices. No longer was the natural world honoured as the seat of identity and spiritual connection, as it had been for millennia. Rather, it was aggressively reframed as a commodity, with Indigenous people struggling to find an equitable footing within the new economy. That struggle continues today.

Some of the pictures I encountered in my research left a deep mark on me, and I share them here with a sense of inquiry, sadness, and, at times, incredulity.

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Michael Den Tandt: Why Canada should abolish the Indian Act and reserve system

Via National Post: Full comment  April 13

Should a national public inquiry be convened to shine a klieg light on the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women? Absolutely. But let there be no flinching from the result, wherever it may lead — even if that is a final indictment of the parlous reserve system itself, and a concerted push to abolish the Indian Act, appalling racist relic that it is, once and for all.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson caused a stir Friday with the release of a letter, addressed to Grand Chief Bernice Martial of the Treaty No. 6 Nations, in which he confirmed the obvious: The majority of convicted murderers of aboriginal women, 70 per cent, are aboriginal men. Similar statistics gathered from among the non-aboriginal population, or any population, will reveal a similar ratio. That’s because violence against women and children is typically perpetrated by spouses and parents. As with child sexual abuse, the bugaboo of the stranger assailant is most often a construct.

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Online funding campaign started via for the family of Haley and Harley Cheenanow

Harley and Haley Cheenanow

House fire claims two children on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation

Makwa Fire

Harley and Haley Cheenanow

Two children, Harley and Haley Cheenanow both under 24 months of age, died in a house fire on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan on Tuesday Feb. 17.

The tragedy is compounded with the revelation that the First Nation was in arrears with the local volunteer fire department and had been threatened with refusal of service.

On the evening of the fire the Loon Lake Fire Department refused to answer the call to fight the fire.

The amount outstanding was less than $3,400.00

The tragedy has resulted in questions being asked about the fire safety records on First Nations and the funding required to provide the same level of safety that most other Canadians receive and expect.


Loon Lake FD Letter

Loon Lake FD Letter2


The matter of First Nations fire safety and access to resources was brought up in Parliament during Question Period. NDP MP Niki Ashton pressed the Aboriginal Affairs Minister on the issue.

Video 1:

Video 2:

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Valcourt has stated that the Makwa First Nation is “responsible” for fighting the fire that killed the two children. The Minister stated that $30 million is allocated to First Nations each year for fire safety.

That amount sounds like a lot, until you divide that by the 650+ First Nations in Canada and that's less than $47,000 annually for each community.

Via CBC: Fire safety on First Nations is a long-time national problem

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Remembering Makayla Sault: A short life of courage and faith

Via National Post - January 20

Makayla Sault

Makayla Sault, who has died aged 11, was a bright-eyed Ojibwe girl who made legal history by asking doctors to let her end painful medical treatment ‘‘because I live in this body and they don’t.”

The daughter of evangelical Christian pastors from the New Credit First Nation in southwestern Ontario, she was a big part of the life of their church, joining in the musical performances and Chosen Kidz, a Sunday school program of dancing and drama.

When she was diagnosed a year ago with leukemia, she went through three months of chemotherapy, but decided with her parents not to continue, and instead to pursue traditional aboriginal healing methods, coupled with treatment at an alternative health centre in Florida, headed by a nutritionist who twice visited the New Credit First Nation in the last year.

Even more than the court case that upheld her aboriginal right to do this, a video she made to explain herself transfixed Canadians, with its image of a brave child forced to confront a mortal decision, and her account of an apparition of Jesus that she said brought her hope and comfort.

As her parents described her, she was “a very mature child, on the brink of adolescence.”

Read more:


Martin Luther King MLK


Dr. King spoke out against the genocide of Native Americans

Via February 13 2014

Despite the yearly celebrations of Martin Luther King Day and African American History Month, it is probably little known what the great freedom fighter had to say about the horrific mistreatment of Native Americans by the U.S. In his 1963 book, "Why We Can't Wait," writing about the origins of racism in this country, King strongly condemned the historic injustices inflicted on Native people. He wrote the following:

"Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it."  

Woefully, Dr. King's words still ring true to this very day in so many respects. But King's poignant words on the tragic history of Native Americans are largely unknown in mainstream society.

Although King played the leading role on the cutting edge of the African American liberation struggle for social justice and equality, he was a fighter for all of the oppressed of this land. His birthday holiday this year brought to mind a story I was told years ago of how he assisted Native people in south Alabama in the late 1950s.

At that time the Poarch Band of Creek Indians were trying to completely desegregate schools in their area. The South has so many seemingly outlandish racial problems: In this case, light-complected Native children were allowed to ride school buses to previously all white schools, while dark-skinned Indian children from the same band were barred from riding the same buses.

Tribal leaders, upon hearing of King's desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Ala., contacted him for assistance. He promptly responded and through his intervention the problem was quickly resolved.          

Also, little known is that in the 1963 March on Washington there was a sizable Native American contingent, including many from South Dakota. Moreover, the civil rights movement inspired the Native American rights movement of the 1960s and many of its leaders. In fact, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) was patterned after the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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People on the Prairies less tolerant, CBC poll says

Poll respondents from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta express lower comfort levels

Via CBC - November 12

A poll commissioned by CBC News reveals Canadians on the Prairies are more likely to feel uncomfortable about having a romantic relationship with an aboriginal person than in any other region.

Only 50 per cent of people from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta said they would be OK with a romantic relationship with an aboriginal person. That compares with the national average of 63 per cent.

The poll results reflect the history of racism in Canada, said Niigaan Sinclair, an assistant professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba.


The findings of the CBC/Environics poll reflect how Canadians over the years have been taught that indigenous people are inferior said Niigaan Sinclair, an assistant professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba. (CBC)

"Starting from the residential school era, Canadians have been taught, as much as indigenous people in those schools, that they were inferior and savage," Sinclair told CBC News.

But it is not just romantic relationships where respondents from the Prairies scored below the national average.

Fewer people from the Prairies who were surveyed said they were comfortable having an aboriginal neighbour — 61 per cent versus 75 per cent nationally.

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Edmonton mayor ‘disappointed’ by City Centre Mall ban of Aboriginal Elder

Via Edmonton Journal - October 30

It appears aboriginal elder Gary Moostoos was treated unfairly this week when he was banned from City Centre Mall by security guards, Mayor Don Iveson said Wednesday.

“I’m not happy to hear about any citizen in our city experiencing discrimination based on who they may associate with or what they may look like,” he said.

“That’s disappointing. I think the mall understands they have room for improvement here as well. I think this is a learning opportunity for everybody.”

Read more: Iveson+says+City+Centre+Mall+aboriginal+elder

6-month ban for Elder Gary Moostoos will be lifted, City Centre Mall says

Via CBC - October 29

An Edmonton company has apologized to an Aboriginal outreach worker who was escorted out of a downtown mall by security officers and banned from the property.

Gary Moostoos told CBC News that he was quietly eating in the mall’s food court Monday afternoon when he was approached by two security officers who accused him of acting suspiciously and of having previously been banned from the building.

Moostoos, who said his work at a local shelter often has him visiting the mall to speak with the homeless people who gather there, was eventually escorted from the property and banned for six months.

“It was humiliating and it hurt me,” he said.

Following a social media backlash, Oxford Properties Group, which manages the mall, sent out a release apologizing to Moostoos Wednesday.

“It is clear mistakes were made and we should have acted differently,” Greg Burns, Oxford’s marketing director, wrote.

Read more:


Gary Moostoos oxford Ban


Respected Aboriginal elder ‘humiliated’ by ban from mall

Via Edmonton Journal October 29

A well-known and respected Aboriginal elder said he feels humiliated and hurt after he was banned from Edmonton City Centre mall for six months on Monday.

Gary Moostoos, an Indian Residential Schools cultural support worker at Boyle Street Community Services, said he was quietly reflecting on his day over a bowl of noodles at the food court like he usually does when he was approached by two security guards.

They asked for his name and he asked why. That question prompted about 10 minutes of back-and-forth between Moostoos and a growing number of security guards, and finally led to him being escorted off the property by about eight to 10 guards. He was issued a slip of paper saying he’d been banned until April.

Greg Burns, spokesman for Oxford Properties Group which owns and operates City Centre, said in a statement that management will be conducting an investigation into the incident.

“(It) will include reviewing the engagement by security, the policies we have in place and the training we provide. We will also be reaching out to the individual to request a meeting as part of this review,” the statement said.

When Moostoos was first approached around 4 p.m., he said he was told it was because he was “observed as having suspicious activity.”

“For what? Eating a bowl of soup?” he said.

The security guards told him he looked like someone who’d recently been banned. He asked to talk to their supervisor and presented his identification which revealed he had no prior record, Moostoos said. He was told it’s because he associates with other people who have been banned from the property and who are known to have been involved in criminal activity.

Read more: /Respected+aboriginal+elder+humiliated+from+mall

On Columbus Day - Leif Erikson writes Christopher Columbus a letter...

Dear Christopher,

Hallo. Norse explorer Leif Erikson here. Just writing to say fuck you.

Let me explain. So, you’re an Italian explorer who is credited with being the first European to discover North America in 1492. But you see, Cristobol, that really boils my lutefisk because 500 years before you, I landed in modern day Newfoundland and established the settlement of Vinland. And I’m not some crazy Viking pulling your fjord. There is archaeological evidence that supports this.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in credit being given where credit is due. So I think you should get credit for what you actually did do.

Specifically, this is what you did:

Intend to sail to Japan but never make it there

Wear a silly-ass hat in every portrait ever painted of you

Land on an island in the Caribbean and wrongfully identify it as the East Indies

Call the inhabitants there “Indios” thus establishing an erroneous nomenclature that would last for a thousand years

Have a U.S. holiday in your honour that people still have to go to work on

Act like such a dick that your crew constantly threatened mutiny

Usher in an era of genocide of the existing local population through military conquest and exposure to foreign diseases; four centuries after your arrival the indigenous population of North America was reduced from 12 million to 237 thousand, an astonishing death toll of 95%

Finish your life disposed from your Spanish governorship and then get arrested

And to top it all off, for the duration of your life, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, you maintained that you made it to the East Indies

And this is what I did:

Read more:

Supreme Court rules government can permit logging on First Nation land

Via Vancouver Sun - July 11

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the Ontario government’s right to permit industrial logging on a First Nation’s traditional lands.

Today’s 7-0 ruling comes on the heels of a historic judgment in the Tsilhqot’in case in British Columbia that changed the way governments must deal with First Nations over land where aboriginal title is claimed.

The Grassy Narrows First Nation appealed after Ontario’s highest court ruled in March 2013 that the province has the right to “take up” treaty land for forestry and mining.

Grassy Narrows argued that only Ottawa has the power to take up the land because the treaty promises were made between the Crown and First Nations.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

The decision says that even though the treaty was negotiated by the federal government, it is an agreement between the Ojibway people and the Crown. Under the Constitution, Ontario has exclusive authority to take up provincial lands for forestry, mining, settlement and other matters.

The court also noted that nothing in the text or history of the treaty suggests there needs to be a two-step process requiring the federal government’s approval.

Read more: Supreme Court rules government permit logging First Nation land

Read more: Full text of Supreme Court Ruling

This land is now their land, and it always was 

Colby Cosh on the Supreme Court decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia

Via - July 4

Like everyone else who has studied the Supreme Court’s dramatic decision in the case of  Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, my response largely amounts to “Well, sure.” “Tsilhqot’in” is the new accepted name of the small confederacy of B.C. Indian bands long called the Chilcotin in English. They live in a scarcely accessible part of the province, and one reason it is scarcely accessible is that the Chilcotin prefer it that way. In 1864, they fought a brief  “war” against white road builders, killing a dozen or so. The leaders of the uprising were inveigled into surrendering and appearing before the “Hanging Judge,” Matthew Begbie. True to his nickname, he executed five of the rebels. But that road never got finished.

In most of Canada, occupancy by “settlers” whose ancestors arrived after Columbus has been formally arranged under explicit treaties. There is a lot of arguing going on about the interpretation of these treaties. But, broadly speaking, most of us white folks outside B.C. have permission to be here. Our arrival, our multiplication and the supremacy of our legal system were all explicitly foreseen and consented to by representatives of the land’s Aboriginal occupants. The European signatories of those treaties recognized that First Nations had some sort of property right whose extinction needed to be negotiated.

Oddly, this concept was clearer to imperial authorities in the 18th and early 19th centuries than to those who came later. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, for instance, recognized the right of Indians to dispose of their own lands only when they saw fit. By the time mass colonization was under way in British Columbia, the men in charge on the scene had absorbed different ideas. Concepts of racial struggle were in vogue, and so were straitlaced, monolithic models of human progress.

It seems possible that British administrators had come to despise communal forms of land use that had only recently been extirpated in the old country. The Supreme Court still refers to the Chilcotin as “semi-nomadic” because they lived in villages surrounded by ground held in common for the purpose of fishing, hunting and wandering about. Were the people of the Scottish Highlands or the Forest of Dean semi-nomads?

Read more: politics/this-land-is-now-their-land-and-it-always-was/

Roger William 2014

Chief Roger William after receiving the news of the Supreme Court Ruling on June 26, 2014.

Supreme Court's Tsilhqot'in First Nation ruling a game-changer for all

A case of 'national importance' empowers First Nations, but may complicate big resource projects

Via CBC - June 27

The Supreme Court decision on Thursday granting the land claim of a B.C. First Nation is not only a game-changer for many Aboriginal communities across the country, but also for the government and the resource industries.

The unanimous ruling granted the Tsilhqot’in First Nation title to a 1,700-square-kilometre area of traditional land outside its reserve, marking the end of a decades-long battle.

But it also clarified major issues such as how to prove Aboriginal title and when consent is required from aboriginal groups, which will affect negotiations on major projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Tsilhqot’in First Nation

The traditional territory in question is located to the south and west of Williams Lake and Alexis Creek in B.C.'s Interior. (CBC)

“This is a case of national significance and national importance, bulletproof in its legal reasoning,” says Bill Gallagher, a former treaty rights negotiator and author of Resource Rulers.

While it was heralded among First Nations as a “game-changer” and one of the most important Supreme Court decisions, others warn that it will further complicate approval for resource projects such as Northern Gateway.

First and foremost, the Tsilhqot’in First Nation is celebrating a major victory for itself.

The battle began in 1983 when B.C. granted a logging licence on land southwest of Williams Lake in the province’s Interior that served as the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s traditional hunting land outside the boundaries of the reserve.

The area in question is sparsely populated, with 200 of the 3,000 Tsilhqot’in people living there.

Chief Francis Laceese, of the Tl'esqox First Nation, stands in front of a poster showing opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline during a news conference Thursday in Vancouver after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Lower courts disagreed on whether the semi-nomadic Tsilhqot’in Nation, a group of six aboriginal bands, had title to lands. The Supreme Court said they do and laid out for the first time how to determine whether a First Nation can prove title.

The Supreme Court decision not only granted title to the Tsilhqot’in, but found the province breached its duty to consult with the First Nation before approving the logging licence.

Even without a declared land title, the province must consult with Aboriginal groups about uses of the land in dispute and accommodate their interests, the top court said.

Read more: Supreme Court's tsilhqot in First Nation ruling a game changer



Supreme Court B.C. land-claim ruling has staggering implications for Canadian resource projects

Via National Post - June 27

Objections raised by B.C. aboriginals to proposed logging in their traditional hunting grounds have resulted three decades later in the clearest and farthest-reaching decision on Indian land claims and title, with the Supreme Court of Canada upholding on Thursday a lower court ruling that gives First Nations effective control over vast tracts of territory outside their reserves.

While the ruling deals specifically with litigation over 1,700 square kilometres in B.C.’s central interior, for centuries home to six Tsilhqot’in Nation bands with a common history and culture, it will influence — and likely instigate — more land-based claims across Canada.

Thursday’s decision establishes conditions aboriginal groups must meet to press collective rights on territories outside their settlements or formal treaty boundaries.

Written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the unanimous ruling says that aboriginal title “flows from occupation in the sense of regular and exclusive use of land … Occupation sufficient to ground Aboriginal title is not confined to specific sites of settlement, but extends to tracts of land that were regularly used for hunting, fishing or otherwise exploiting resources and over which the group exercised effective control at the time of assertion of European sovereignty.”

It means that economic development proposed by non-Aboriginals — such as resource extraction and pipeline activity — requires explicit consent from host First Nations on land where the Supreme Court’s expanded concept of land title is established.

Without agreement, proponents must show the need for development on traditional lands is pressing and substantial. They must also financially satisfy aboriginal groups. As they did previously, host governments will become involved.

Read more: Supreme Court land claim ruling has staggering implications for Canadian energy-projects


Roger William


Roger William, Councillor for Xeni Gwet’in nation, was the lead plaintiff in the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia in 2012


Stewart Phillip

Roger William

Supreme Court rules in favour of Tsilhqot’in Nation v.British Columbia

The Supreme Court of Canada in a unanimous decision has granted a declaration of Aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

With this ruling Indigenous nations can now claim occupancy and control over land beyond specific settlement sites and include ancestral land (traditional territory) that they used.

The case has enormous implications for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. British Columbia has hundreds of unresolved land claims, and the pipeline would cross some of those lands.

The court said that where title is asserted but has not yet been established, the government needs to consult with the aboriginal group in question and accommodate it where appropriate. But once aboriginal title is established, and the Indigenous group refuses to consent to an incursion on its lands, government would have to prove an important public purpose and fulfill its duties of trust and care towards the Indigenous people, before a project can go ahead.

The landmark ruling came after what the Tsilhqot’in Nation described as a 150-year fight to assert possession of 4,000 square kilometres of land west of Williams Lake, B.C.

The Tsilhqot’in said in a prepared statement that the ruling is a step forward toward reconciliation between the government and First Nations. “Resolving Aboriginal title reduces conflict, creates the opportunity for respectful relations and ends an era of denial.”

The Court also laid out the process for future land use which will require direct consent from the Indigenous group holding title. Failing that, the project will then need to show that the use of the land is for greater public benefit and does not harm/damage the land for future use.  

The government of Canada and the British Columbia provincial government had both opposed the Tsilhqot’in claim to title.

The legal battle began in 1989 when the Xeni Gwet’in began a blockade against logging on their traditional territories. Litigation followed in 2002, leading to a massive ruling five years later, which was generally understood to have reinforced Aboriginal title and rights, but set out little by way of concrete recommendations.

Read: Full Supreme Court Ruling - June 26, 2014

Read: Tsilhqot'in pledge supreme court challenge -after-landmark title ruling - July 2012

Read: Tsilhqot'in file huge land claim - June 1994

Read: Duty to Consult and Accommodate established - 2004

#freeAJStaff #Journalismisnotacrime #AmnestyInternational


#freeAJStaff #Journalismisnotacrime

Windspeaker stands in solidarity with journalists around the world condeming an Egyptian judge’s decision to sentence three journalists (including a Canadian) each to seven years in prison. The three journalists have been arrested and convicted for doing their jobs and nothing more.

Mohamed Fahmy, the Cairo bureau chief for the Al Jazeera English television network, who holds both Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, was convicted Monday of spreading false news and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood of former president Mohamed Morsi. Also convicted were Australian reporter Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.

Via Globe and Mail read more: Mohamed Fahmys family-in complete shock at Egyptian verdict

Washington NFL cheerleaders

In the midst of all the furor over the NFL's Washington franchise racist team name and demands for the team to change it the cheerleaders celebrate 50 years of... well, cheerleading.


Amanda Blackhorse quote


Washington Redskins trademark cancelled over native concerns

U.S. Patent Office decision doesn't preclude NFL team from using the name, but means others can use it

Via CBC - June 18

The U.S. Patent Office has made a landmark decision to cancel the trademark registration for the use of the name "Washington Redskins" on the grounds it is disparaging to native Americans.

The NFL team has come under fire in recent years for its use of a nickname that many people say is racist and insensitive.

"We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," the patent office said in a ruling Wednesday.

Despite its base in one of the smaller cities in the league, Washington's team is among the most popular in the NFL, and has been deemed the second-most valuable in the league.

There has been a growing movement for the team to change its name, something the franchise and the NFL have resisted.

The patent office's decision does not preclude the NFL team from using the name. Rather, it simply means the organization no longer has the statutory right to register the trademark — which means the name can be used by anyone, including those who wish to mock the team or draw attention to what could be deemed as a racist name.

The ruling also strips the team of the rights to the term "Redskinettes," the nickname for its cheerleaders.

The ruling comes eight years after a group of native Americans filed a suit against the team's use of the name. It's the second time the team has faced a challenge to its name, the last time dating back to 1992, when Suzan Harjo and six other native Americans filed suit.

Read more: trademark cancelled over Native concerns


Who is Amanda Blackhorse in Redskins’ trademark case?

Via Washington Post - June 18

If the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the trademark of the Washington Redskins stands, Amanda Blackhorse will deserve a large part of the credit.

Blackhorse, a Navajo and psychiatric social worker, is the named plaintiff in the case known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc., the lawsuit filed by five Native Americans. In a USA Today profile this spring, Blackhorse said she considered what she might say to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder if she ever meets him.

“I’d ask him, ‘Would you dare call me a redskin, right here, to my face?’ ” she says. “And I suspect that, no, he would not do that.”

The Blackhorse plaintiffs made essentially the same argument as those who filed the Harjo et al v. Pro-Football Inc. trademark suit in 1992. It was tied up in litigation for 17 years after Suzan Shown Harjo and six petitioners won a decision from the trademark board in 1999, then saw it overturned on appeal on the basis that they had waited too long to assert their rights.

Read more: Woman behind trademark case



Twitter community jumps in to suggest new team names for Washington's NFL franchise.

Read more: twitter-suggests-new-names-for-dc-football-team


Jamie Bird on Marlene Bird



Homeless P.A. woman in stable condition after vicious assault

Community shows support in march and mass prayer

Via Star Phoenix - June 12

A homeless Prince Albert woman remains in hospital after suffering a vicious assault June 1.

The latest update from University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton lists Marlene Bird, 47, in stable condition - an improvement from “critical,” but she still faces numerous surgeries, including facial reconstruction.

Doctors have amputated both her legs as a result of injuries she sustained in a downtown Prince Albert attack.

Police are requesting the public’s assistance, including video surveillance of the downtown area from 12 a.m. to 10 a.m. June 1, when she was found critically injured outside the Margo Fournier Centre.

“She suffered in those residential schools, and now she has to go through this,” niece Jamie Bird said Thursday.

“She suffered a lot in there and she did not deserve this … Nobody deserves this.”

Jamie said that while growing up, Marlene never spoke about her residential school experience, but that her alcoholism appeared symptomatic of difficult times.

“I just know she suffered lots,” she said. “She suffered too much in the residential school.”

Despite this, Jamie said that her aunt “never acted hateful.”

“She never acted mean,” she said. “I’ve never seen her mean - never once be mean to anybody - that’s why I don’t understand.”

“She's quiet, loving, sweet. She never, ever, got loud - she was never loud. She was always quiet and light spoken.”

Spending her time between Montreal Lake Cree Nation and Prince Albert, Marlene’s giving nature was always present, Jamie said.

About a year ago, Marlene came into a large sum of money as a result of a residential school settlement.

Aside from a trailer, which she ended up having to sell simply “to survive,” Marlene did not benefit from the bulk of her settlement. Instead, she opted to give the money away to help others in need.

Read more:

Open Letter to Tamara Johnson

Damien Lee - June 11

Tamara Johnson
Former Thunder Bay Superior North Progressive Conservative Party candidate

Dear Tamara,

In the past few weeks, you’ve made a number of comments publicly regarding First Nations, the tax system and the Ontario legal framework as it pertains to Indians.  Even though these comments have been incendiary to the point of you losing your candidacy with the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, you continue to argue your points in social media.  Worse, the points you are so fervently upholding about First Nations are largely misguided.  I assume that you will read this letter and try to turn everything around, but I am writing it anyways so at least you cannot say you are not informed about the basics of neo-colonialism, white supremacy and racism – all of which you are clearly protecting.

But first, I should introduce myself.  I am from the community you wish to attack; I was adopted into Fort William First Nation as a toddler.  I grew up on the reserve.  After witnessing for years the types of racism you are now projecting at my community, I decided to do something about it.  To make a long story short, I am now in the final stages of my PhD in Native Studies, where I focus day-in and day-out on unpacking various types of racism affecting Anishinaabeg.  Let me assure you, even though you may think otherwise, your comments as of late fit squarely within classic white-Canadian anti-Indigenous sentiments that by now are well-patterned and even boring to read each day.

That said, I have read some of your posts on Facebook about the so-called unfair advantages you feel First Nations benefit from in the country currently known as Canada.  You’ve made a number of accusations, including the argument that  First Nations are getting “illegal” tax breaks, that First Nations should follow Ontario law, and, most recently, that gas stations in my community price gasoline based on race (these are, for the most part, sufficiently summed up in your March 1st, 2014 Facebook post).  Such points tell me that you have not reviewed the legal history of the First Nations-settler Canadian relationship in the very territory you live in.  They show that you haven’t read Supreme Court of Canada decisions regarding First Nations tax immunity.  Most of all, they show me that through some very weird logic, you think that Indigenous peoples have an unfair advantage even after surviving generations of attempted political, cultural, linguistic and physical genocide.  So, here are some basic facts that anyone can find using Google...

Read more:

Follow this issue on twitter: #SuperCitizens and #RelaxTamara

Newspaper ad for Tamara Johnson Libertarian candidate in Ontario election

Photo via twitter @nxsherman

Libertarian candidate Tamara Johnson running in the Ontario provincial election has come under fire for this campaign ad which was published in Tuesday's Chronicle-Journal.

The full page Thunder Bay, Ont newspaper ad takes aim at First Nations' treaty rights and some are questioning why the newspaper agreed to run it.

Statements contained in the ad include:

No group of people are owed a "debt" by todays taxpayers.

No group of people own Crown lands. Crown lands are not native lands. We all own those lands.

No group of people are "special" and deserve first class "Super-Citizen" status.

The ad urges taxpayers to "Help me stop the doctrine of entitlement."

Follow this issue on twitter: #SuperCitizens and #RelaxTamara

Also found on twitter via @deejayndn was this edited version of Tamara Johnson's ad...

Edited ad for Tamara Johnson Libertarian candidate

Edited version of the Tamara Johnson newspaper ad.

Follow this issue on twitter: #SuperCitizens and #RelaxTamara

Canada starved Aboriginal people into submission: Goar

Prairie historian discovers that Sir John A. Macdonald ordered policies that systematically starved aboriginal people to clear the West

Via Toronto Star - June 10

You were never taught this version of Canadian history in school. If the guardians of the nation’s collective memory are successful, your children will also shielded from the truth.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, deliberately starved thousands of aboriginal people to clear a path for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and open the prairies to white settlement. His “National Dream” cost them their health, their independence and – in many cases – their lives.

It is all meticulously documented in a new book, published in time for the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth. “The consequences of Macdonald’s actions still resonate today,” says author James Daschuk, a professor of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina.

He never expected Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life – which began as a doctoral dissertation – to become a national bestseller. He never imagined it winning awards and prizes. It took him 20 years to get to the bottom of the chasm between Canada’s First Nations and the rest of the population. His questions kept getting bigger and more political. His publisher struggled to stay afloat. “I thought the project was cursed,” he said in an interview. “I am over that now.”


The University of Regina Press is delighted with the all attention and the accolades it has received. But what Daschuk finds most gratifying is that his “out of style” approach to history has unlocked one of the nation’s darkest secrets.

Unlike conventional historians, he works backwards. He starts with a deeply entrenched problem and traces it to back the source. He uses medical records, socio-economic data, environmental conditions and public attitudes, not dates and events. “I was lucky enough to work as a research assistant to Dr. Kue Young at the University of Manitoba medical school,” he explained. “Early on I realized you could look at poor health outcomes almost as a measure of oppression and marginalization.”

Both nature and disease conspired against the aboriginal peoples of the prairies. First, the European fur traders infected them with contagious diseases – smallpox, measles, influenza – to which they had no immunity. Then climate change, the building of the CPR and the near-extinction of the bison, on which they depended for food, left them hungry and desperate.

They turned to Ottawa, expecting Macdonald to honour the treaties  he had signed with them, guaranteeing food in times of famine and a livelihood in the thriving agrarian economy he envisaged for the western plains.

But he spurned their request. He ordered officials at the Department of Indian Affairs in Prince Albert to withhold food from First Nations until they moved to federally designated reserves far from the path of the CPR. Once they complied, they were trapped.

Read more:

1933 news article refutes cherished tale that Redskins were named to honor Indian coach

Via Washington Post - May 29

Washington football team owner Dan Snyder urged the public a month ago to "focus on reality" rather than pester him for keeping a racial slur as his team’s name.

Here’s some reality for you, Dan. Since your patronizing comment, one-half the U.S. Senate has formally called on you to drop the name. It should have been a majority, but Virginia’s two senators shamefully refused to sign the letter. (Maryland’s two did the right thing.)

Then on Wednesday, 77 Native American tribes, Indian organizations and supporters wrote every National Football League player urging them to put their celebrity to good use by publicly supporting a name change.

The name’s critics also picked up a valuable assist from the National Basketball Association. It set a fine example by banning for life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after his racist views were made public in a leaked tape recording.

If the NBA can force an owner to sell a team, then surely the NFL can pressure Snyder to rename one.

The crescendo of opposition has drowned out Snyder’s effort to defuse the dispute by creating a charitable foundation to distribute items such as winter coats and earthmoving machinery to Indian tribes.

Of course, we all applaud Snyder for helping Native Americans.

But the events of recent weeks show the name controversy just keeps swelling, and there’s more to come.

A new article in a local law publication discloses a couple of fresh details about the name’s history and current legal status that will further discomfit Snyder.

Read more:


Chief Dumas of Pukatawagan responds to apology from Brent Fleck of Laurie River Lodge

Chief Dumas Letter page 1Chief Dumas Letter page 2

Click on the images above to see the letter in full size.


Lodge owner apologizes to First Nations for offensive brochure

Brent Fleck of Laurie River Lodge in Manitoba calls offending section of brochure 'stupid'

Via CBC - May 29

The owner of a Manitoba fishing lodge said he's devastated by a section printed in his visitors guide that says aboriginals cannot handle alcohol, and has issued an apology.

"It was a total mistake and should not have been in there. It's an old trip planning guide that I've used for like 15 years and I had no idea that that was even in there," Brent Fleck of Laurie River Lodge said via phone from the facility near Lynn Lake, calling the offending section "stupid."

"I've issued an apology to the chief down in Pukatawagan and to the natives that work for me and ... it's certainly not our opinion and not something that we want to forward in any way shape or form."

The lodge's Facebook page was filled with angry comments over a section of the 37-page brochure for people planning a trip to the lodge. A paragraph on Page 10 warns guests not to give alcohol to aboriginal guides.

Although Fleck said it was written 15 years ago, that section of the guide was noticed recently by someone and spread rapidly on social media.

Read more:



Laurier River Lodge website screen capture

Screen capture from Laurier River Lodge website.

Pukatawagan chief demands apology from lodge

Via Winnipeg Free Press - May 28

Pukatawagan Chief Arlen Dumas has demanded an apology after a northern fly-in fishing lodge asked visitors to avoid giving Cree guides alcohol "under any circumstances."

The Laurie River Lodge sparked a Facebook firestorm Wednesday when part of its travel guide to fly-in fishermen and hunters was widely shared online, especially among members of the nearby Pukatawagan band.

"We use Cree Indian guides from the town of Pukatawagon (sic) in northern Manitoba. They are wonderful people and fun to fish with however, like all Native North Americans, they have a basic intolerance for alcohol," wrote owner Brent Fleck. "Please do not give my guides alcohol under any circumstances. This is rarely a problem and by telling you in advance I hope to avoid it altogether.

In response, Dumas released a statement today calling the passage offensive and racist and demanding an apology from the lodge’s owners.

"None of the above statements or implications about our people are true." wrote Dumas in a letter to the lodge. "The comments are racist and negative stereotypes which only serve to promote or incite hatred against our people. There is no scientific basis for your claim that Cree people have an intolerance for alcohol, nor is there any basis for alleging that our Cree people would drink while working or that the pose a risk to the public."

The Free Press has called the lodge owner for comment, and is awaiting a reply.

Dumas also noted the lodge uses the band’s traditional territory for hunting and fishing, and the lodge, located just south of Lynn Lake, is located on his grandfather’s trapline.

The paragraph is not easy to find on the lodge’s website. It is part of a 37-page trip planning guide that includes advice about what to pack, how American visitors can get their guns into Canada, what kind of fishing is on offer and many other tips about remote northern fly-in lodges.

Read more:

Chief Crowfoot's regalia to return home to Alberta

British museum has held artifacts of 19th century Blackfoot leader for 110 years

Via - May 26

Regalia that belonged to Chief Crowfoot, a legendary Blackfoot leader, may soon return home after sitting in a British museum for more than a century.

Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot Nation, who lived from about 1830 to 1890, played an important role in the negotiation of Treaty 7 with the Canadian government. (CBC)

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, England, has a Blackfoot collection that includes Crowfoot's deerskin jacket, leggings, a bow and arrow and a ceremonial knife.

"We had no idea the collection was there," said Herman Yellow Old Woman, a cultural curator at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum east of Calgary on Siksika Nation.    

He is working with the museum in Exeter to repatriate the regalia.

"I feel like we're bringing his spirit home."

'Isn't it about time?'

"I was just open and honest about it and said, 'Well, isn't it about time Crowfoot came home?'" said Tony Eccles, curator at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

Herman Yellow Old Woman, a cultural curator at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum east of Calgary, is working on repatriating a set of regalia that belonged to Chief Crowfoot. It is currently at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, England. (CBC)

"Repatriation is also a process of healing. This material allows us to talk about our colonial past," he said.

The museum has been researching its Blackfoot collection recently and invited a Blackfoot delegation to Exeter in November. Herman Yellow Old Woman was part of it.

"We had a pipe ceremony right there at the Exeter museum with the officials and it was such a moving, powerful feeling," he said.

"Even talking about it now, I still feel the goosebumps that I got."

For Yellow Old Woman, there's no question where the regalia belong.

"To bring back these artifacts to our community will give us a sense of pride," he says.

"Our children are starting to lose their identity and I think for these kinds of artifacts to come back will give them a boost and a positive energy to connect back to who they are as Blackfoot people."

Read more:

Read more: Chief Crowfoot in [footprints]

Residential school students honoured with monument in Winnipeg

Via - May 26

A monument to honour those who attended residential schools in Canada was unveiled Winnipeg near the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The engraved stone monument, located at the Peace Garden outside the museum, was first suggested by an elder who was a residential school survivor. Nelson James, from Roseau River, had called on the federal government to erect something in tribute to those who attended residential schools before his death five years ago.

James said such a monument needed to be in a public place where many would see it and gain an understanding of what happened in that dark part of Canada's history.

As a result of their experience at residential schools, many survivors returned home without their language and limited understanding of their heritage and spirituality. Many did not know how to parent and many fell victim to alcohol, drug addiction and crime.

According to the national Anglican Church website, during the century following Confederation, there were an estimated 80 church run, government funded Indian residential schools. The purpose of the schools was to assimilate First Nations children into the European lifestyle.

Children were abused sexually, physically, emotionally, culturally and spiritually. Some did not make it home.

Read more:

First Nations' myths vs. reality

Lorne Gunter - QMI Agency - May 16

There are many factions within Canada’s First Nations, but the two principal blocs, for lack of better labels, are the Realists and the Mythologists. They could also be called the Pro-Development group and the Blame-Everything-on-Whitey-and-Demand-More group.

Shawn Atleo, whose resignation two weeks ago as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) came as a shock, was a Realist. The Idle No More crowd are Mythologists.

The Mythologists have convinced themselves that everything that is wrong with First Nations communities is the fault of someone else – whites, white governments, white corporations, white society, lack of white money – and if only white governments and businesses would give them more money and autonomy everything would magically improve.

Unfortunately, the Realists – who would work with governments to improve education for First Nations students, share in resource development and generally strive for self-improvement – are a minority among Canada’s 630-plus First Nations.

Even more unfortunately, the Realists are in decline within the AFN and the Mythologists are in the ascendancy.

It is the Mythologists who pushed Atleo out. And it will almost certainly be a Mythologist who replaces Atleo when the AFN gets around to selecting a new national chief.

Read more:


"Siouxper Drunk" shirts worn by UND students


‘Siouxper Drunk’ shirts Worn at the University of North Dakota’s Springfest, By @_RuthHopkins

UND President & Shirt Company Issue Statements Regarding ‘Siouxper Drunk’ Controversy

Via SuperTalk 1270 - May 13

In light of the recent controversy surrounding the University of North Dakota and the students who wore t-shirts with the slogan ‘Siouxper Drunk’ during its year-end party, the school’s president and the company responsible for printing the shirts have both issued statements.

UND President Robert Kelly issued the following statement on the school’s Facebook page:

I was appalled to learn this weekend that a group of individuals had the poor judgment and lack of awareness and understanding to create and then wear T-shirts that perpetuated a derogatory and harmful stereotype of American Indians. The message on the shirts demonstrated an unacceptable lack of sensitivity and a complete lack of respect for American Indians and all members of the community.

These T-shirts were not worn at a UND function — in fact, the event they are associated with is NOT a university event. They don’t appear to have been worn on UND property, and we are not aware that the group represents any UND organization. UND has a responsibility to promote respect and civility within the campus community, and we have the responsibility and right to speak out against hateful behavior. As a University, we teach respect for others. It is imperative that, through our actions, we demonstrate respect for all.

Additionally, Andrew Weinstein of CustomInk, the company who printed the shirts, reached out to us and provided the following:

We are very sorry about this offensive design. CustomInk’s business is focused on bringing people together in positive ways. We handle hundreds of thousands of custom t-shirt designs each year and have people review them to catch problematic content, including anything that’s racially or ethnically objectionable, but we missed this one. We apologize for any pain or offense caused by this shirt, and we will continue to improve our review processes to make them better.

Read more:

UN tells feds to consult before approving B.C. coast pipelines

Report by James Anaya, the UN's secial rapporteur, says there's a 'crisis' in Canada

Via Vancouver Sun - May 12

The Harper government must ensure there is “free, prior and informed consent" from First Nations before giving the go-ahead to major resource projects – including two proposed pipeline megaprojects to the B.C. coast, the United Nations said Monday.

A report by James Anaya, the UN’s outgoing Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said there is a “crisis” in Canada and that the level of mistrust has perhaps worsened since the last visit by a UN representative just over a decade ago.

Anaya put the two oil sands pipeline megaprojects – Enbridge’s to Kitimat and Kinder Morgan Canada’s to Burnaby – at the top of a long list of economic initiatives that have drawn bitter complaints from aboriginal leaders Anaya met during a fact-finding mission last year.

Anaya, an American indigenous rights scholar and nominee for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, said the government doesn’t have a coherent plan to meet its Supreme Court of Canada-mandated obligations to consult and accommodate First Nations before major projects proceed.

“There appears to be a lack of a consistent framework or policy for the implementation of this duty to consult, which is contributing to an atmosphere of contentiousness and mistrust that is conducive neither to beneficial economic development nor social peace,” Anaya wrote.

One of his recommendations calls on the federal government to set a clear policy on consultation and accommodation.

Read more:

Why Canada Still Needs the Assembly of First Nations

Wab Kinew Via Huffington Post Canada - May 7

It's an interesting time in the world of First Nations politics. The past week has seen the resignation of National Chief Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo, the shelving of Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, and the Assembly of First Nations scramble to make arrangements to respond.

Now, some are criticizing First Nations leaders for not accepting the proposed bill and its increased funding. Others are questioning whether the AFN has past its "best before" date.

Dissolving the AFN is not the right course of action. There is clearly a need for a national organization for First Nations people. The Assembly, and its forerunner the National Indian Brotherhood, has been instrumental in seeking justice for Residential School Survivors and fighting for Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. That is not a legacy to be discarded.

It is clear however, that it is time for the AFN to evolve. Here are some ideas for how that might happen.

Propose an alternative to Bill C-33

Bill C-33 was an attempt to fix a major structural inequality stacked against First Nations kids: schools on reserve get about $4,000 less per student per year than do provincial schools. The fact that there is even a controversy about how to set that right reveals an uncomfortable truth about our country: in the year 2014 First Nations people still have to negotiate for equality.

Be that as it may, there are many First Nations teachers and parents who are unhappy the bill is on hold. There is also a risk that the mainstream public ends up blaming the AFN for this. The AFN should step up and answer that critique with a counter offer to the federal government.

Return to consensus building

It is clear there is a division among First Nations leaders in the country. Some favour a more incremental, conciliatory approach and others prefer a harder line, confrontational approach.

Move to one Indian, one vote -- sort of

The current model of choosing the National Chief of the AFN is a bit like as if all the mayors of Canada got together every three years to choose our Prime Minister. The analogy is not perfect because the National Chief does not have the executive power of a head of state, but the point is that grassroots First Nations people do not directly choose the person who the rest of the country views as their leader.

Read more:

Atleo’s departure shows us everything that’s wrong with First Nations identity politics

Jonathan Kay - National Post - May 6

The resignation of Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief Shawn Atleo is a symptom of not one, but two serious and systemic problems afflicting First Nations communities: (1) a lack of quality schools for native children living on reserve, and (2) native leaders’ own self-destructive insistence that any solution to this and other social problems must conform to the false conceit of unfettered First Nations sovereignty.

I’ve met every Assembly of First Nations National Chief going back to the late 1980s, when Georges Erasmus was the leader. Taken as a group, they cover a broad range of personality and disposition. I’ve gotten to know Georges the best, having written for him across a decade and more, but Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is probably the AFN chief who put me most at comfort, right from our first conversation, in a North Bay restaurant.

Atleo had already by that time been facing challenges to his leadership. We spoke about Idle No More and the differing and irreconcilable views across Indian Country. Shawn Atleo comes from a community where traditional, hereditary leadership continues to be observed, and he’s well attuned to the irony – or is it a paradox? – that it’s the traditionalists who most object to the Assembly of First Nations (which they consider an illegitimate arm of the federal government) and who lead the campaign to dissolve it.

Four hundred thousand First Nations youth are set to enter the Canadian work force over the next 15 years — a massive cohort that could help propel native communities toward a brighter economic future. Unfortunately, if current conditions persist, many of these youth will be hobbled by the poor educational standards that persist on many reserves. First Nations schools, even the ones that receive proper funding, tend to perform poorly. Absentee rates are high. Graduation rates are low. Qualified teachers often must be flown in from outside the reservation, and few put down roots in the community. And because many First Nations schools do not conform to provincial educational curricula, they cannot grant standard high-school diplomas.

Part of the problem stems from the economic culture of native reserves, many of which are essentially tiny welfare states that subsist on welfare and income transfers from the federal government. When children grow up in an environment in which most of the income does not flow from paid employment, they will have little incentive to develop work skills.

Read more:

Shawn Atleo resigns as National Chief of the AFN

On May 2, 2014 Shawn Atleo announces his resignation as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Many chiefs from across the country have opposed his support for the federal Conservative government’s efforts to revamp education for Firsdt Nations with the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA).

"This work is too important. I am not prepared to be obstacle to it or lightening rod distracting from kids & their potential," stated Atleo.

More on this story as it happens...

Atleo receives pushback on education agreement


Atleo receives pushback on education agreement 

AFN's Shawn Atleo urges greater funding for First Nations education

Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau to face fraud-related charges in Senate scandal

Via Globe and Mail - February 4

The RCMP is expected to announce fraud-related charges against former senator Mac Harb and suspended senator Patrick Brazeau as part of its ongoing investigation into the Senate scandal.

An announcement is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, Commanding Officer of the RCMP’s National Division, will provide an “update” on the Senate investigation, the RCMP said in a statement.

Regarding Mr. Brazeau, a sworn affidavit filed in court Aug. 1 by the RCMP reveals that the Mounties investigated the senator for alleged breach of trust over living and travel expense claims he submitted for more than two years between early-2011 and 2013.

Mr. Brazeau does not own or live in the rural Quebec home that he had designated as his primary residence so he could charge taxpayers for living expenses in Ottawa from April, 2011, onward, an RCMP investigator alleged.

In fact, the Mounties alleged, Mr. Brazeau sometimes stayed at a hotel rather than at the Maniwaki, Que., house - inhabited by his father - that the senator claimed was his main residence. Maniwaki is about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa.

Read more:

Brazeau says he's not “a thief” or a “drunken Indian” in Senate speech

Via APTN - November 5

During an emotional speech that could be his last in the Red Chamber, embattled Sen. Patrick Brazeau said he was “not a thief, a scammer, a drunken Indian, a drug addict, a failed experiment or a human tragedy.”

Once described as potential federal Conservative leadership candidate, Brazeau now faces suspension without pay from the Senate for the remainder of the Parliamentary session. The Prime Minister Stephen Harper-backed motion to have Brazeau and Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin suspended is scheduled for a vote Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Brazeau, however, believes he is the victim of “sensationalist, misleading, tabloid-style” reporting and racism within the Conservative party.

“You’re not going to throw this Indian under the bus or else you better have big spokes,” said Brazeau, in a speech delivered late Monday night.

Brazeau’s case is different than Duffy and Wallin in that he was expelled from the Conservative caucus after he was charged by Gatineau police for assault and sexual assault against a woman. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Brazeau also became embroiled in controversy over his housing allowance and expense claims. The Algonquin Senator listed his father’s house in Maniwaki, Que., as his primary residence despite spending most of his time in a rented house in Gatineau.

Brazeau says he didn’t break any rules because the rules are vague, as pointed out by an independent audit.

“It is incomprehensible to me that the Senate of Canada does not care that their policies have been found by an independent audit to be so inadequate as to be completely useless, yet I stand here on trial now,” said Brazeau. ”

Brazeau said he has been found to have only $144 in questionable expenses.

He told the Senate that his suspension without pay would also hurt his children, including one with special needs.

“I am about to be suspended without pay, which will severely affect my children, including my special needs child and my family,” said Brazeau.

Brazeau also apologized to those same children.

Read more:

Op-Ed: Heavy-handed response to the Elsipogtog blockade in New Brunswick

Commentary - Ottawa Citizen - October 19

On Thursday morning, RCMP officers were deployed with rifles, non-lethal bullets, pepper spray, and dogs to enforce a court injunction and attempt to disperse a blockade of protesters on New Brunswick Route 134, about an hour north of Moncton. At least 40 people were arrested for continuing a protest against natural gas exploration in the area, which comprises traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq people.

Perhaps it can be seen as an extension of the Canadian “pioneer” spirit mentioned by Governor General David Johnston in the most recent speech from the throne. That spirit, according to the current government, pushed settlers to build “an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”

Of course, Canada wasn’t depopulated when settlers arrived here from Europe. Our country’s wealth and prosperity has been built through the persistent and usually violent removal of First Nations from their traditional lands in order to make room for resource development — and, as we saw Thursday, that’s as true today as it was centuries ago.

As we watched the blockade, we also witnessed the violent response that often follows violent provocation. Although thankfully there were no serious injuries reported, five flaming police cars have a way of catching the attention of the general public. After RCMP officers converged on the blockade, Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren James Sock — who was allegedly “roughed up” in the process, according to at least one eyewitness — was among those arrested, and as matters escalated, police also began using non-lethal bullets, pepper spray, and physical confrontation in an attempt to break the blockade.

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Genocide - is it a question worth answering?

Commentray - Doug Saunders - The Globe and Mail - October 19

Imagine if the Turkish Prime Minister issued this statement: “The Canadian Aboriginal people experienced terrible suffering and loss of life. Our parliament has adopted a motion that acknowledges the native Canadian genocide and condemns this act as a crime against humanity. My party and I supported this resolution, and continue to recognize it today. We must never forget the lessons of history.”

Ottawa would reject it, and many Canadians would be outraged to see their country put in the same column as Nazi Germany. Many would point out the hypocrisy of such a statement coming from the Turks.

Some Canadians would cheer it. This past year has, for First Nations, been something like what 1963 was for African-Americans, and as part of that awakening, the word “genocide” has risen in popularity. In this view, the mistreatment and suffering that native and Inuit people suffered must be seen as a deliberate attempt to exterminate an entire people, and should be recognized as such internationally.

This week, when the United Nations Envoy on Aboriginal Affairs paid a study visit to Canada, prominent native and Jewish figures sent him a letter asking that Canada’s treatment of aboriginals be recognized as a genocide, encouraging him to make a statement like the one at the top of this column.

Of course, those words were not uttered by the Turkish Prime Minister. Rather, they come from a statement made last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with “native Canadian” substituted for “Armenian.”

The persecution and mass expulsion of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 involved truly grotesque crimes against humanity, a string of atrocities that deserve condemnation. Many people, especially Armenians, consider it a genocide, although this definition is controversial.

Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have officially applied the “G” word to the Armenian experience at least four times. This has not gone over well in Turkey, even among those who are pressing for an atonement and full apology to Armenians. Because of campaigns like Canada’s, the word “genocide” has become a fixation among both Armenians and Turks – one that many feel has stood in the way of actual reconciliation.

Canada may soon face the same tension. Was our history genocidal?

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Protest was an 'armed encampment' says N.B. Premier David Alward

Via Globe and Mail - October 18

RCMP officers in New Brunswick seized weapons and explosives from what Premier David Alward‎ described as an “armed encampment” of First Nations protesters near the site of a violent confrontation on Thursday.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Alward defended the RCMP’s actions, saying the encampment at the side of a highway leading into the village of Rexton was not a “safe and secure place.” The police moved in to ensure the safety of the public, he said.

Mr. Alward also called on native leaders across the province to take down blockades that were set up on other highways in support of Thursday’s confrontation. But he said his government is fully committed to going ahead with its shale gas exploration – the flashpoint for the incident.

The RCMP said about 40 people were arrested after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles were torched when the police began enforcing a court-ordered injunction to end a native blockade that has prevented SWN Resources Canada, a natural gas and oil exploration company, from conducting seismic testing. Protesters were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violation of the injunction.

By the end of the day, though, leaders of the nearby Elsipogtog First Nation were trying to work with provincial officials to find a resolution.


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Elsipogtog First Nation sees violence as RCMP moves to end protest

Via Huffington Post - Canadian Press - October 17

Elsipogtog protest Ossie Michelin @Osmich APTN

Elsipogtog protest photo by Ossie Michelin reporter APTN @Osmich on twitter

The RCMP say dozens of people were arrested after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles torched Thursday when they began enforcing an injunction to end an ongoing demonstration against shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick.

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said at least five RCMP vehicles were destroyed after they were set ablaze and at least one shot was fired by someone other than a police officer at the site of the protest in Rexton.

"The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved in hopes for a peaceful resolution. Those efforts have not been successful," Rogers-Marsh said.

"Tensions were rising and serious criminal acts were and are being committed."

The Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the court-ordered injunction.

The RCMP began enforcing the injunction at around 7:30 a.m. to end a the blockade of a compound where energy company SWN Resources stores exploration equipment. Route 134 at Rexton and Route 11 between Richibucto and Sainte-Anne-de-Kent were closed to traffic and schools in the area were closed early for the day.

The RCMP blocked Route 134 on Sept. 29 after a protest began spilling onto the road. Protesters subsequently cut down trees that were placed across another part of the road, blocking the entrance to the compound.

The protesters, who include members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, want SWN Resources to stop seismic testing and leave the province.

Robert Levi, a councillor with the Elsipogtog First Nation, said he went to the protest site in Rexton early Thursday after hearing the RCMP had moved in to begin enforcing the injunction against the protesters.

Levi said police pepper-sprayed dozens of people after 9:30 a.m. when he arrived with the chief and council.

"They sprayed the crowd that was there,'' he said in an interview. "The chief was manhandled a little bit and all hell broke loose.''

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Ring Of Fire Negotiations: Bob Rae Must Turn Legacy Of Failure Into Hope For Future

Via Huffington Post - October 7

MATAWA FIRST NATIONS MANAGEMENT INC. ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING — Delegates at this corporate meeting pull up in pick-up trucks, not limos. Leaders sit at the table with elders and youth rather than aides or shareholders. No one dresses in suits or ties; they wear running shoes and ball caps.

The annual gathering of the Matawa First Nations Tribal Council doesn’t follow the conventions of the usual corporate annual general meeting, nor the formalities of government sessions.

During a sacred opening ceremony, elders load long pipes with tobacco and puff out billows of smoke as three men and a boy pound a powwow drum. Songs from time immemorial reverberate through the open doors of a rundown community centre where kids play ball hockey in the gym.

At the top of the agenda: How to assert a unified stance on mining development that encroaches on traditional territories in this part of northern Ontario, home to a bed of lucrative mineral deposits that has been dubbed the Ring of Fire.

Near the back of the auditorium sits former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, whom Matawa has hired to head negotiations with the province over the mining projects. The snowy-haired 65-year-old is the only leader checking his BlackBerry and stands out in his crisp dress shirt when he takes a seat next to an elder wearing a “Native Pride” hat.

Rae is a long way from Parliament Hill. No one appears concerned when the meeting doesn’t start on time; there is no time limit on discussions and everyone has a chance to speak as much as they like.

This is the political arena Cornelius Wabasse knows well. As chief of the Webequie First Nation he embodies his community’s wants and needs as ambassador to the tribal council. During the three-day-long meetings, he’s more likely to be leaning in to listen rather than holding court — weighing in only when he can be confident his opinion reflects that of the 840 members he represents.

Until just a few generations ago, decisions were made by collaboration and consensus among small, nomadic groups that claimed this stretch of the Canadian Shield as their traditional land. In 1876, a federal government with a focus on assimilation introduced the Indian Act, which moved groups to reserves and imposed a Western system of elected chiefs.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a deep distrust of the government among many in the nine Matawa First Nations communities, and skepticism over having any one speak on their behalf.

Premier Wall can use history lesson

Via StarPhoenix - October 7

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation.

Except for a symposium taking place at the soon-to-berenamed Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, this landmark anniversary has received very little attention from a federal government that spent millions celebrating the War of 1812.

While that war provided Canada with a sense of identity, no other single event did more for the creation of both Canada and the United States and delineated their respective histories than did King George III's proclamation on how Britain would deal with the indigenous people of its new empire.

As former Supreme Court justice Emmett Hall observed in a ruling, the proclamation's force as a statute stands with that of the Magna Carta as being foundational to British law throughout the empire.

To be sure, as Ken Coates of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan wrote recently, Canada's commitment to the treaties it signed has often faltered in implementation, but governments and courts lately have moved grudgingly toward ensuring the nation's formal obligations are met.

As was the case in the 19th century, the treaty recognition is being driven more by economic necessity than a sense of obligation. First Nations people had to resort to the courts to have their rights recognized in the Constitution, and to secure everything from treaty entitlements to compensation for broken promises to acknowledgment of the harm caused by such policies as residential schools.

While the courts accept the legality of the Royal Proclamation, Canada's dominant society has difficulty accepting the cultural, social and economic imperatives that come with acceptance and co-operation. Where this has happened, however, both sides benefit enormously.

One need only compare the lives of the James Bay Cree on the Ontario and Quebec sides of the bay. Quebec began negotiating self-governance and revenue sharing in the 1970s and last year signed the Eeyou Istchee James Bay regional government deal that opened its vast northern territory for development.

The self-governing Quebec Cree included in the agreement live relatively middle-class lives. Across the water, the communities of Attawapiskat and Kashechewan are in constant crisis and have become an international black mark on Canada. Achieving what Quebec did on its side of the bay requires not just strong leadership from aboriginal and provincial governments, but a broad-based understanding of the importance to all concerned of sharing revenues, honouring traditions, respecting the spirit of treaties and recognizing rights.

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Bob Rae: Ring Of Fire Mining Project No Magic Bullet For Aboriginal Communities

Huffington Post - October 5

Rae told a conference on Saturday that several approaches are needed — including jobs training, education and governance — to help the resource-rich but underdeveloped areas raise themselves up.

"If you want to see conditions of real underdevelopment, and see what the impact is on people and families, on children and on adults, you do not have to go very far," he told the crowd.

The former MP recounted his experiences from a trip to northern Ontario trip that he returned from on Friday, which included a visit to the community of Marten Falls First Nation. Rae said roughly 300 people live with intermittent electricity, $8 cartons of milk and no Internet access.

Marten Falls lies within the 5,000-square kilometre boundary of the Ring of Fire, a mining project that the Ontario and federal governments hope will attract billions of dollars in private investment to extract valuable minerals such as stainless-steel ingredient chromite.

But Rae said money from the massive proposed mineral project can't be counted on to fix the community's woes.

"The way this situation is now described in the north is to say, 'we have the magic bullet, it's called the Ring of Fire,'" Rae said.

"It's seen as the solution — (that) we now have the answer to underdevelopment. But everyone has to understand that this is not the magic solution to poverty, because you've got to get people ready for jobs and for work," he added.

"You've got to create the conditions under which people are able to participate in the workforce," Rae said, adding the effort could include targeted loans to help aboriginals launch businesses in traditional trades and crafts.

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First Nations want bigger role in resource development: Atleo

Via SunNewsNetwork - September 30

The head of the Assembly of First Nations signaled a renewed willingness to work with the feds on major resource development projects, but also said the government needs to do better at upholding treaty and land obligations.

"Now, there's a recognition that [First Nations] will shape the conversation about both extraction of natural resources but also distribution," Atleo said Friday.

Speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Shawn Atleo talked about First Nations' desire to be a greater part of resource development projects - a departure from positions on those projects taken in the past.

"We are at a moment of either collaboration or collision," he said, adding that First Nations' vision for the Canadian extractive and resource industries was a "balance between development and environment."

First Nations groups have been among the most severe critics of major energy and development projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would take Alberta crude to the BC coast and shipped to lucrative Asian markets.

Atleo believes First Nations are well positioned to earn greater roles in these projects - their approval, he has said, is what stands between the government and hundreds of billions of dollars of potential revenue.

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Our dirty secret is in the attic no longer

Via StarPhoenix August 21

By Paul Hanley

Let's say you find a diary in the attic that reveals your father was a killer. His fortune, which you inherited, was stolen from his victims, whose children are still alive.

For a lifelong Saskatchewanian whose ancestors immigrated to this province in its early days, reading James Daschuk's Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life is like finding that diary. We knew in a general way that the indigenous people of this province were mistreated; now Daschuk's painstaking research fills in the province's ugly backstory with awful detail, down to the level of communities and families we may know.

Essentially, the book is an account of the diseases that swept the Canadian plains from the point of European contact at the end of the 17th century to the imposition of the reserve system at the end of the 19th.

The early fur trade connected the indigenous plains people to the modern world system and for some time the First Nations maintained a lucrative position on the periphery of the world economy. But the fur trade also brought waves of "virgin soil epidemics" that decimated whole communities. The environmental impact resulting from the trade - all to supply Europeans with fur hats - was similarly destructive, progressively wiping out the fur-bearers in whole regions in a matter of decades. The heavy demand for meat from both the trappers and traders also wiped out the big game, leaving people hungry and more susceptible to disease.

By the early 1800s, the fur trade had soured to the point that, as one participant put it, it "almost totally abolished every humane sentiment in both Christian and Indian breast." Still, the switch from furs to agriculture in the 19th century effectively cut the indigenous people from the world economy just as European settlers arrived to farm the West. Meanwhile, the collapse of the bison population due to overhunting, largely to supply leather for industries in the East, destroyed the traditional economy of the plains people and ushered in the near elimination of native prairie ecosystems.

Here the story becomes extremely disturbing. The Hudson's Bay Company, though hardly benevolent, at least made sporadic efforts to control diseases through quarantine and vaccination, enacted conservation policies and controlled the trade in alcohol.

Canada, which took control of the North West in 1870, was overtly hostile to the First Nations and enacted what can only be called a policy of genocide. The government made a mockery of treaties that promised food and other supports to help in the transition from bison hunting to agriculture. John A. Macdonald's Conservative government starved the people and thousands died. Thousands more suffered from TB brought on by malnutrition. Corrupt and malicious government agents held back food meant for the First Nations until it spoiled, sickening and killing hundreds more. Top officials were in the pay of unethical American companies that profited from government food contracts. The prime minister described the government's position on the cost of relief: "We cannot allow them to die for want of food ... We are doing all we can, by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense."

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Taking on the Trolls: Why the Online Race-Hatred Against First Nations?

Via Huffington Post - July 17

Charlie Angus - MP Timmins- James Bay

The much-predicted First Nations "summer of discontent" has yet to materialize. Perhaps we could take advantage of this breathing space and do some fence mending on the frayed relationship between First Nation people and the rest of Canada. What better place to start then with the online comments section of every major media outlet in the country?

Whenever an article is posted on Idle No More, treaty rights or First Nation poverty, the comments section is quickly overwhelmed with abusive attacks. In cyber space the racists are loud, proud and determined to define the terms of discussion on First Nation issues.

Now I know that online commentary isn't generally known for its erudite reflection. After all, troll culture seems to revel in trashing everyone. Thus, some might say, First Nation readers shouldn't be so sensitive. But if you read through the comments it is impossible not to recognize a relentless pattern of malevolent attacks that would be considered inexcusable if they were used against other social, ethnic or religious minorities.

Let's compare response to recent natural disasters. Online commentators responded to the natural disasters in places like Oklahoma, Bracebridge or Alberta with an outpouring of comments that were very heartfelt and moving.

And yet, when two communities in my region -- Attawapiskat and Kashechewan -- were hit by flash flooding earlier this spring, the pages were overwhelmed with vicious glee.

The online consensus was that the families who were flooded out by failed sewage lifts were actually responsible for the flood -- either out of either deviousness or mental decrepitude.

"And so the annual spring shopping evacuation begins," wrote one troll. "The only reason the problem never gets addressed is b/c it would take away the annual reason for evacuating south at government expense!"

"I guess the gasoline, drugs and alcohol made them stupid," wrote another. "Talk about inept!!"

"I hope their cigarettes doesn't get wet," wrote one commentator. "Or their gasoline," chirped in a second. "Or their oxycontin," piled on a third.

The idea that government agencies might send aid to help these Canadian citizens sent the online commentators into a rage. "Their culture of dependency knows no bounds," wrote one commentator in the HuffPost. Another suggested creating a separate currency for Aboriginal people so that white people could decide whether or not to honour the costs.

I used to think that trolls wrote this crap because they could post their junk anonymously. But now I seeing people who are not only willing to sign their name but supply an accompanying headshot. Far from feeling marginalized, the purveyors of these false stereotypes -- the "lazy" Indian, the "corrupt" Chief, the "ripped off" taxpayer" -- seems to be hijacking the public conversation away from issues like chronic infrastructure underfunding, third class education and the inability to share in economic development.

Having received such little push back the trolls continue to promote even more dehumanizing caricatures. In a recent comment on Attawapiskat one person wrote, "Europeans have created the modern world, while you people created lice, fleas and more welfare recipients." Such screeds were once found on marginal Neo-Nazi sites. They now find themselves at home on the public spaces provided by reputable media organizations.

So why the lack of action?

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Where child poverty thrives

Megan Yerema Via Huffington Post June 21

While the federal government adjourns for summer break, they would be hardpressed to ignore headlines this week about their failure to ensure Indigenous peoples in Canada are thriving. A report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children illuminates a stark reality for status First Nations populations: 50% of children are living in poverty. This came after a second report by the Canadian Human Rights Commission outlined how far behind Aboriginal populations are in regards to income and employment. All in all, the picture is bleak.

The first report, "Poverty or Prosperity: Indigenous Children in Canada" mentioned that no other OECD country comes close to the 50% child poverty rate experienced by status First Nations -- the next in line is Turkey with 25%. And in Manitoba and Saskatchewan the child poverty rate actually gets worse with First Nation's child poverty rates of above 60%.

Beyond these initial startling statistics the report revealed other vulnerable groups disproportionately struggling with poverty: 22% of children, 33% of immigrant children, and 37% of Inuit, Metis and non-status First Nations. This is compared to a 12% child poverty rate for all remaining children in Canada, and an overall child poverty of 17%. Clearly Canada has nothing to brag about in this regard.

The poverty uses data from the 2006 census and the internationally accepted measurement tool the Low Income Measure (after-tax), which places the poverty line at half the median income. The report concludes that the poverty rates are the result of poor federal investment in programs and supports for status First Nations. The federal government is responsible for all health care, income supports and education on reserves.

What Poverty or Prosperity also noted was that the problem of poverty for status First Nations peoples is not just one of income, but also a lack of services. While increased income supports are needed (income supports for status First Nations have been capped at 2% since 1996 without allowance for population growth or rising prices), the report states that supporting Aboriginal entrepreneurs, ensuring better education on and off reserve, connecting First Nations peoples with jobs in the resource sector, and allowing for self-government are also needed to address the issue.

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Half of First Nations children live in poverty

Rate rises above 60% in Saskatchewan, Manitoba

Via - June 19

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.

Provinces provide social services to Métis, Inuit and non-reserve First Nations, while Ottawa is responsible for funding social services on reserves.

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Someday, everyone is going to get to feel how it feels to be an Indian in this country

Richard Wagamese - Globe and Mail June 10

Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo expressed surprise at the severity of the cuts. His group saw funding axed by 30 per cent. For me, it was no surprise at all. When the Tories announced last September that cuts were coming, and bandied about a 10 per cent number, I expected a much harsher outcome, especially to the national Aboriginal organizations.

Along with the AFN, chops were made to the funding of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. To me they billboarded this move back when the government changed the name of Indian Affairs to Aboriginal Affairs; meaning everyone brown would be under the same umbrella. Last week’s announcement only confirmed my suspicion.

Now, there are those who will say that this is all good. They will say that native people need to be swept under the same collective rug as everyone else in this country. They will say that Canada spends too much on them already. They will say a lot. But the truth is, that if a government can cut the knees out of organizations geared to the upward advancement of people then it’s going to be someone else’s turn next.

The Harper government doesn’t care that thousands of underprivileged Canadian kids exist on 22 per cent less child care funding than their neighbours. They don’t care that hundreds of thousands of Canadians can’t drink safe water. They don’t care that whole Canadian communities exist in the dreary world of chronic unemployment and welfare.

These aren’t just Aboriginal people. These are Canadians. These are your neighbours. Clearly, the government has little concern for their continued wellbeing and that should worry everyone. Sometime, somewhere another group of Canadians is going to feel the brunt of Mr. Harper’s dedication to balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit at all costs; human, planetary and otherwise. Someday, everyone is going to get to feel how it feels to be an Indian in this country.

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RCMP under review over Native women after scathing report

Globe and Mail - May 16

The civilian watchdog that oversees the RCMP is launching a public-interest investigation into the force’s treatment of Aboriginal women and girls this week in response to a scathing report from a New York-based human-rights group.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will examine policing issues in northern British Columbia, including officers’ use of force, police handling of missing-persons reports, and the treatment of young people. The investigation comes after a Human Rights Watch report detailed allegations of abuse and mistreatment by police and suggested the RCMP has failed to properly investigate a series of disappearances and suspected murders of Aboriginal women.

Complaints documented by the rights group ranged from handcuffs being applied too tightly to an unwarranted attack by a police dog against a 12-year-old girl and allegations of sexual abuse and rape. The report did not include the full names of many of the alleged victims because it said they were too fearful of repercussions from police to allow themselves to be identified.

“What we’re trying to do is take a broader approach than Human Rights Watch,” Richard Evans, the commission’s senior director, said on Wednesday.

The commission does not have the power to investigate criminal allegations, but it can look at whether some of the concerns raised in the report point to systemic problems in the RCMP’s treatment of Aboriginal women and girls in northern B.C., he said.

RCMP officers’ conduct will be tested against the force’s policies, guidelines, training and legislation, according to terms of reference posted on the commission’s website on Wednesday. It will also look at whether officers were thorough and impartial in their work and try to determine whether the existing rules are adequate.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the government has no information about the Human Rights Watch allegations and had asked the commission to look into the matter.

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How Quebec Cree avoided the fate of Attawapiskat

On the eastern shore of James Bay, a very different story

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.


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Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey reveals an Aboriginal population struggling to cope: Editorial

The Star - May 10

The 2011 National Household Survey, by Statistics Canada, shows an Aboriginal population struggling to cope with early death, a large number of children, and too many kids in foster care. It underlines Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s folly in killing the Kelowna Accord.

Canada’s Aboriginal population is rising but it’s far from gaining ground. Newly released results from the 2011 National Household Survey depict a people growing in number but struggling with social challenges and dying sooner than other Canadians.

The survey confirms that Canada is more diverse than ever, with one in five residents foreign-born, the highest proportion among G8 nations. More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported, with 13 of them numbering in excess of 1 million people. That includes 1.4 million people who report a First Nations identity, and a harder life than most.

If the rise of the Idle No More protest movement has sensitized Canadians to First Nations grievances in a dramatic way, and channeled their discontent, the survey data revealed on Wednesday goes a long way in explaining why.

Canada’s Aboriginal population has grown by more than 20 per cent since the 2006 census, a remarkable jump given that non-Aboriginals registered an increase of only 5.2 per cent. And the native population is more youthful than the rest of Canada due to high fertility rates and shorter life expectancy. Children 14 years of age and younger comprise almost 30 per cent of the Aboriginal population, compared to 16.5 per cent for other Canadians.

This demographic pressure alone should keep federal officials awake at night. Unemployment on Native reserves is now at crisis proportions. People sick of being idle are already taking to the streets while a new — and especially numerous — generation is advancing toward adulthood and alienation.

The limited prospects they face are underlined by how few Native people live to enjoy their senior years. Those aged 65 and over represent just 6 per cent of the Aboriginal population. The Canadian average is twice that.

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Urban Aboriginals who follow traditional ways less likely to become drug addicts, study finds

Edmonton Journal April 30

Aboriginals who embrace their culture while living in cities are less likely to suffer from drug addiction, says a study conducted by a University of Lethbridge professor.

Cheryl Currie’s research published this week in the journal Social Science & Medicine, indicates urban natives who participate in traditional activities such as ceremonial dance, smudging and sweat-lodges have higher self-esteem and fewer problems with prescription medication and illicit drugs.

The findings are based on interviews in 2010 with 381 Natives living in Edmonton, the city with the second-largest Aboriginal population in Canada after Winnipeg.

“Aboriginal spiritual practices may provide a direct measure of protection against drug problems, given that they are often based on cultural teachings that promote abstinence from psychoactive substances or moderate use,” the study says.

Beyond those teachings, traditional cultural involvement also opens up opportunities for urban Aboriginals to interact and socialize with others who hold themselves and their ethnic ancestry in high esteem.

Traditional “activities may create a sufficiently intense collective life within the cityscape to provide a measure of protection from other forms of adversity,” the study says.

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Native American mascots: Pride or prejudice?

By Moni Basu  CNN - April 4

Suzan Shown Harjo remembers when she walked into a store with her grandfather in El Reno, Oklahoma. She wanted to get something cool to drink on a summer day. It was the early 1950s and the storekeepers told the 6-year-old she had to leave.

“No black redskins in here,” they said.

At that moment, Harjo felt small, unsafe, afraid. Because she was a dark-skinned Native American Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee she was being identified by just her coloring. She wasn’t even a whole human being. Not even her grandpa, whom she saw as all-powerful, could do anything to protect her.

Later in her life, that incident made her angry. Angry enough for Harjo to launch a lifelong mission to protect her people.

Part of her work took aim at sporting teams that use Native Americans as mascots. With the start of the baseball season this week, some of those teams have been front and center. The Cleveland Indians, for instance, feature a smiling Indian dubbed Chief Wahoo, criticized by Native Americans as a racist caricature.

The most offensive example of a mascot, says Harjo, is the one used by Washington’s football team. She has been fighting for years to get the Redskins to change their name.

The R-word she can’t even bring herself to say it is the same as the N-word, says Harjo, president of Morning Star Institute, a national Native American rights organization.

She finds it unbelievable that more than half a century after she was told to get out of that El Reno store, after decades of civil rights struggles and progress on race relations, Americans have no problem with rooting for a team called the Redskins.

Fans say the name is an honorific. But the Merriam-Webster dictionary says this: “The word redskin is very offensive and should be avoided.” And to many Native Americans, nothing could be more derogatory than the use of that word.

“The Washington team it’s the king of the mountain,” Harjo says. “When this one goes, others will.” 

The controversy over Native American names in sports is longstanding and surfaces in headlines now and then, as it did in December when the Atlanta Braves baseball team was reportedly considering bringing back a dated “screaming Indian” logo for batting practice caps.

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campaigns against labour unions and environmentalists.ow do we explain the strange spectacle last week of a well-heeled Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative bellowing at an Idle No More activist in the halls of a Winnipeg hotel while news cameras rolled?

Perhaps like me, you shook your head and moved on when you heard the March 28 broadcast coverage of an Idle No More protest apparently disrupting a news conference held by the federal Aboriginal Affairs minister and the follow-up clip of the CTF's Prairie director yelling at a First Nations leader.

The report I heard that afternoon on CBC radio explained only the barest outline of what was going on: Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and some of his supporters were holding a news conference in Winnipeg to announce something about the government's "First Nations Transparency Act."

The recording made it sound as if the event had been disrupted by a noisy demonstration. Later, CTF Prairie Regional Director Colin Craig similarly noisily disrupted a media scrum by Idle No More activist
Pam Palmater, a lawyer who is a specialist in indigenous governance.
There was lots of sound and fury, which the media loves. After that: very little. No backstory.

You may have thought, as I did, that Craig's intervention bordered on the bizarre, and wasn't typical of the pronouncements of the usually slick CTF. But you likely didn't think much more about it when the media rapidly moved on to other stories.

This is probably true even if, like me again, you think the First Nations Transparency Act isn't about transparency at all, but about harassing opponents of the least transparent government in Canadian history, like the Harperites' "transparency" campaigns against labour unions and environmentalists.

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Budget 2013 could reinvigorate Idle No More movement

By Michael Woods - Edmonton Journal March 24

Last week’s federal budget has left a sour taste in the mouths of some First Nations leaders, who say it represents the status quo in the Conservatives’ approach to indigenous issues, and its job training program for young Aboriginal People is paternalistic.

“The initial response is that it’s not satisfactory. We’re disappointed,” said Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “It wasn’t a respectful budget.”

Augustine has been a voice of moderation during the grassroots indigenous Idle No More movement, which grew in response to last year’s Conservative omnibus budget bills. He attended a controversial Jan. 11 meeting of First Nations leaders with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa at the height of the protests, a meeting some chiefs loudly opposed.

Augustine left that meeting feeling optimistic. But he said on Sunday that progress is “nowhere near what we talked about, and what we agreed on.”

“Personally, I’m disappointed,” he said. “We took a fair amount of risk going there. I’m not sure today we can say that it was worth it.”

Budget 2013 is sprinkled with references to aboriginals and reiterates Harper’s commitment to a high-level dialogue on treaties and comprehensive claims. It also maintains funding in areas such as aboriginal justice, family violence prevention and health services on reserves.

But critics say it does not do enough to address the root causes of poor education, housing and drinking water conditions on reserves, and lament that its centerpiece for First Nations – the $241 million First Nations Job Fund – ties income assistance funding to mandatory job training for young aboriginals on reserves.

“Funding will be accessible only to those reserve communities that choose to implement mandatory participation in training for young Income Assistance recipients,” the budget says of the program.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has suggested that that move blindsided him. He told CBC’s The House that skills training funding has long been a priority for First Nations leaders, but this was a unilateral move on the government’s part.

“It’s not just what’s delivered, but how it’s delivered. The experience that First Nations have is not only unilateral imposition, but … one where First Nations are told how the policies should be rolled out,” he said. “That’s a pattern of paternalism that absolutely has to be broken.”

The government says the change will improve income assistance to help First Nations youth gain the skills they need to get jobs, and it’s based on existing successful pilot programs.

“The improved program will help ensure that young recipients who can work have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment,” said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.

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Aboriginal corrections report finds 'systemic discrimination' - March 7

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.


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 re-offending "or we see this pattern continue unabated, and that is obviously completely unacceptable.”

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Tom Flanagan: A timeline of gaffes

Mairin Prentiss, Global News - February 28

The man once called Stephen Harper's "intellectual, philosophical soul mate," Tom Flanagan, has been fired from his spot on CBC’s Power and Politics and condemned by his former political allies for saying that watching child pornography is OK and causes no harm.

While it may have been the coup de grâce on his long career in politics, this wasn't the first time Flanagan stumbled.

Top Flanagan moments:

April 2000: First Nations, Second Thoughts

In his controversial book, "First Nations, Second Thoughts," Flanagan suggested that First Nations communities are uncivilized and wasteful.

"European civilization was several thousand years more advanced than the aboriginal cultures of North America," argued Flanagan, calling colonization "inevitable" and "justifiable."

Critics said Flanagan chose to cite newspaper articles rather than scholarly resources, and neglected to visit any First Nations communities for his research.

Feb. 2008: The Chuck Cadman affair

Flanagan was accused of offering a bribe, in the form of a million-dollar life insurance policy from the Conservative Party of Canada, to independent MP Chuck Cadman in exchange for his vote to topple the minority Liberal government in 2005.

At the time, Cadman --who was dying of skin cancer -- rebuffed the offer and voted in favour of the Liberal budget, said his wife Dona Cadman. The RCMP found no evidence to support criminal charges.

Dec. 6, 2010: Julian Assange 'should be assassinated'

On CBC’s Power & Politics, Flanagan told host Evan Solomon that he thought Wikileaks' Julian Assange "should be assassinated, actually."

"I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something," said Flanagan, adding, "I'm feeling pretty manly today."

Feb. 28, 2013: Looking at Child Porn is OK

Speaking to his class at the University of Lethbridge on Feb. 27, Flanagan said that people should have the freedom to look at images of child pornography.

"I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures," said Flanagan.

"It's a long story but I got put on the mailing list of the National Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and I started getting their mailings for a couple of years and that's about as close as I got to child pornography."

Flanagan said the issue is one of personal liberty and questioned whether someone should be put in jail for doing something “in which they do not harm another person.”

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Justice system failing First Nations, report finds

Iacobucci urges action to get Aboriginal representation on Ontario juries

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.

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.

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Bernard Valcourt part of new Conservative strategy for dealing with Aboriginals

John Ivison - National Post - February 22

What’s the reward for selling the Conservatives’ unpopular employment insurance reforms in Atlantic Canada? The answer, it seems, is to be handed the job of flogging the government’s equally unloved (N)ative policies as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Bernard Valcourt, who spent nearly six years in Brian Mulroney’s Cabinet, has been promoted to handle the most intractable file in government, following last week’s announcement that John Duncan had tendered his resignation for lobbying the tax court on behalf of a constituent.

Mr. Valcourt has been the Associate Minister for Defence since last July but that job has been hollowed out since the Auditor-General’s critical report on the F-35s, after which responsibility for most procurement issues moved to the Public Works department. In a deft piece of caucus management, Stephen Harper has moved Vancouver-area MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay into that all but redundant position – thus maintaining British Columbia’s Cabinet representation at four (James Moore, Ed Fast and Alice Wong being the others).

He will be a busy man in the coming months. There are already stirrings of another Caledonia-type crisis at the Attawapiskat reserve in Northern Ontario, where (N)ative protestors are blocking the ice road to the Victor diamond mine, in defiance of a court order.

He also inherits a situation where relations with First Nations are at an impasse over a new education bill and economic development issues.


There are early signs that the government may be attempting a new strategy for dealing with Canada’s (A)boriginal leaders, who appear unable to agree among themselves about their priorities.

Earlier this week, Tony Clement, the president of the Treasury Board and the minister responsible for the FedNor, was announced as the government’s point man on the Ring of Fire mining development in Northern Ontario.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper sat down with a number of (N)ative chiefs in Saskatchewan on Thursday. It suggests that the government will now concentrate on improving relations on a regional basis, rather than by trying to strike sweeping pan-Canadian deals with the Assembly of First Nations.


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Patrick Brazeau: Harper's strategic Aboriginal appointment

A partisan friendship that worked for both sides

By Ira Basen

Opposition politicians are now claiming that Stephen Harper should have known that Patrick Brazeau was bad news when he appointed him to the Senate in December 2008.

They point out that, within a few weeks of his appointment, there were a string of public allegations of workplace sexual harassment and missing child support payments, some of which the government was apparently aware of in advance.

Aboriginal leaders from other organizations had already written the government, questioning the membership and spending of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the organization that Brazeau had headed, the Toronto Star reported.

And other news organizations were detailing some of the other allegations against the young native leader as early as January 2009, including a complaint that had been previously lodged with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Today, the prime minister describes the current sexual assault charges against Senator Brazeau as "extremely appalling" and "disappointing", but he insisted last week that it is only "over a recent period" that "something has been going very wrong.

"When Mr. Brazeau was appointed to the Senate," the prime minister said, "he was the national chief of one of the country's largest and most respected aboriginal organizations."

That's true. Brazeau was the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, an umbrella group that represents the interests of nine provincial and territorial affiliates on the national stage.

The Congress has no individual members, and offers no services or programs of its own other than research and advocacy. But its affiliate groups claim to represent the interests of over 800,000 off-reserve Indian, Inuit, and Metis people across Canada.

Still, why appoint Patrick Brazeau to the Senate? Why not a representative from one of Canada's four other national aboriginal groups?

The answer to that question may be as old as the Senate itself. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples had come to the political aid of Harper's Conservative party in the critical 2006 election that first brought it to power, as well as in the early years of the Harper government.

And governments like to look after their friends.

The Kelowna Accord and the 2006 campaign

Aboriginal affairs rarely receive much attention in federal election campaigns, but the campaign of 2006 was a notable exception.

The reason was the so-called Kelowna Accord, an agreement that was the culmination of 18 months of consultation between the federal Liberal government of the day as well as all the provinces and territories, and the five national aboriginal groups, including CAP.

Struck on Nov. 25 2005, the accord called for a five-year $5.1 billion commitment by Ottawa to, among other things, improve housing, education, health services and economic development for the country's aboriginal peoples.

But just 72 hours after the agreement was announced in Kelowna B.C., the Paul Martin government was defeated and an election was called for Jan. 23, 2006.

Martin put the accord at the centre of his campaign, arguing that only a new Liberal government could maintain the momentum that had been achieved in Kelowna.

But the Conservative leader was considerably less enthusiastic. Harper declared that a Conservative government would "support the principles and objectives" of Kelowna. But he would not commit to spending the full amount that was set out to implement the agreement.

Aboriginal tension

Meanwhile, within the aboriginal community, the long-standing tension between the country's two largest native groups, the Assembly of First Nations and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, was beginning to boil over.

The AFN is the organization that reflects the chiefs and governments of the more than 630 First Nations communities in Canada.

But well over 50 per cent of status and non-status Indians don't live on reserves, and according to CAP, their interests are not adequately represented by the AFN.

In addition, the vast bulk of the $9 billion that the federal government spends annually on aboriginal programs and services goes to the reserves, another bone of contention between the two groups.

When the election campaign began in November 2005, CAP went looking for a party that could reflect its interests. It would not likely be the Liberals, who were seen as being too close to the AFN, and its then national chief Phil Fontaine.

But the Conservatives were a different matter.

Harper himself had not said much about where he stood on the reserve versus the non-reserve question. But his senior policy adviser and former campaign chairman, Tom Flanagan, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, had said a great deal in 2000 in a controversial book called First Nations? Second Thoughts.

According to Flanagan, the reserve system was "anomalous and dysfunctional," and while he recognized that there was no realistic way of getting rid of it, he argued that the government could eventually make the reserves go away by cutting off their supply of federal cash.

"Governments should help the reserves to run as honestly and efficiently as possible," he wrote, "but should not flood them with even more money, which would encourage unsustainable growth in the number of residents."

Instead, he said, the federal government should focus its attention and money on improving the lives of the 800,000 Aboriginals who had chosen to live off the reserve.

Harper's puppet


The Brazeau affair highlights Harper's Senate hypocrisy

Murray Dobbin  - February 11

The Brazeau affair -- sad, repugnant and bizarre all at the same time -- shines a light on two aspects of Canadian politics that desperately need some exposure.

One is what it reveals about the state of "official" aboriginal politics and its relationship to the Canadian state.

The other, the almost exclusive focus of the media, is the grotesque hypocrisy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the Senate. The question most asked in post-Brazeau flame-out is how was it possible that Harper, the strategic genius and control freak (with a $10 million staff at his command) could have chosen this guy as a senator?

Did he set out to humiliate Aboriginal people by picking one of the worst possible candidates from amongst their spokespeople? 

Maybe Brazeau was actually the best loyal Conservative Aboriginal Harper and his war room could find. You do have to wonder what kind of Aboriginal leader would be loyal to a man and government so utterly contemptuous of First Nations people and their rights.

Or was it just simple racism -- setting lower standards for Aboriginal representatives than for others?

Or was Harper's motivation to select Brazeau simply the PM's well established disdain for government and all of its institutions?  Perhaps he just didn't care enough to put any energy into vetting his choices. After all, two other appointees are just as sleazy as Brazeau in their unseemly greed regarding fraudulent expense claims. For the nouveau-elite pair, Pam Wallin and Mike Duffy, $130,000 a year for sycophantic support for Harper just wasn't enough. And what does it say about journalism that these two former media titans have such questionable ethics?  That it never occurred to two former journalists that they might get caught is also bizarre. But I digress.

It is just not possible that Harper didn't know of all the skeletons in Brazeau's closet. Even though Harper doesn't read Canadian newspapers his loyal soldiers do and there was a lot to read. Here's what Harper knew when he appointed Brazeau: 

- The Porsche-driving former model was behind in his child support payments (even while make a six-figure salary with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples).

- He was facing a charge of sexual harassment.

- His organization was being investigated by Health Canada for financial irregularities tied to Brazeau's three year tenure as CAP's executive director.

- And he was a political pariah amongst other Aboriginal groups who complained bitterly to the government about CAP's (budget: $5 million) legitimacy and membership. Brazeau helpfully reinforced that criticism later by describing his former organization as a "mickey-mouse club."

His behaviour since being appointed suggests that the one thing a politician needs more than anything else is completely missing from Senator Brazeau: good judgment. But whether we look at the before or the after of his appointment one thing seems clear -- Harper's alleged commitment to Senate reform remains illusory.  After years of attacking the institution as a haven for cronies he has turned his distaste for cronyism into a principle of governance (not unlike his commitment to rid Ottawa of its opaqueness).

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How does Native funding work?

It's a combination of federal contributions and 'own-source revenue'

Via CBC - February 6

The recent Idle No More protests, as well as Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s 45-day hunger strike, have raised awareness of native issues.

One of the most complicated and misunderstood issues is the subject of native funding, which stems largely from the relationship between governments and aboriginal peoples. The history of that relationship has determined how various aspects of what we are calling aboriginal finance work — or don't work.

In an attempt to clarify the most important and most misunderstood issues, and to try to challenge some myths, CBC News spoke to experts in the field of aboriginal finance.

One is Daniel Wilson, a former senior director of strategic policy and planning for the Assembly of First Nations and before that, a Canadian diplomat. He describes himself as having Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Irish heritage.

Another is Harold Calla, chairman of the First Nations Financial Management Board, which he helped establish in 2006 to provide First Nations with the tools of modern fiscal management. A certified general accountant and a certified aboriginal financial manager, Calla is a member of the Squamish First Nation in North Vancouver.

What revenue sources do First Nations have?

The biggest revenue source is transfers from the federal government, but First Nations are increasingly generating what's called "own-source revenue."

The communities also get revenue from land claims settlements and successful lawsuits, selling treaty land and a small amount from other levels of government.

For the 50,000 Inuit in the Canadian north, federal funding is mostly determined by the four comprehensive land claims agreements, that, combined, cover 40 per cent of the country's land mass. Programs and services generally have been provided through territorial or provincial governments.

The January 2013 ruling by the Federal Court that Métis and non-status Indians fall under federal jurisdiction may have funding implications. Before that ruling, Métis National Council President Clément Chartier had said, "the federal government continues to say we are a provincial responsibility."

Why does the federal government fund First Nations?

In 1867, the British North America Act made "Indians and lands reserved for the Indians" an exclusive federal jurisdiction, making the federal government responsible for providing programs and services that most communities in Canada receive from provincial and municipal levels of government. These include education, health and social services, roads, housing, water and waste management.

First Nations also lost land and resources through treaties and land claims settlements, which created government obligations to provide aid and services in return.

Providing a comparable range and level of service to First Nations and Inuit is a stated government goal, but according to Canada's auditor general, "Services available on reserves are often not comparable to those provided off reserves by provinces and municipalities," and conditions have remained poor.

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Canadians want change on Aboriginal policy, poll suggests

56% see urgent need to change federal policy on Aboriginal Canadians


An exclusive Nanos Research poll conducted for CBC News indicates more than half of Canadians feel there's an urgent need to change federal government policy toward Aboriginal Canadians.

More than half of those who responded to the poll describe the need for change in federal policy toward First Nations, Inuit and Métis people as urgent or somewhat urgent: 22.4 per cent see this as an urgent matter, and 34 per cent say it's somewhat urgent, for a total of 56.4 per cent.

Another 28.6 per cent described it less important, with 14.2 per cent saying it's somewhat not urgent and 14.4 per cent saying it's not urgent. Fifteen per cent said they were unsure.

The Nanos poll provided a series of options and asked respondents to say whether they felt each option would advance or not advance the cause of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada.

The majority of respondents — 62.3 per cent — said blockades of railways or roads would not advance the cause, with 14.8 per cent saying they would. Another 22.9 per cent said they weren't sure.

Almost half of respondents said a meeting of aboriginal leaders with the prime minister would advance their cause, coming in at 47.4 per cent. Another 22.9 per cent said a meeting wouldn't help, while 29.7 per cent said they were unsure.

Fewer people said they thought a meeting with the Governor General would advance the cause.

Response to a meeting with the Governor General was split: 39 per cent of respondents said they thought it would help, 31.1 per cent said it would not advance the cause of Aboriginal Canadians and 29.9 per cent said they weren't sure.

A meeting with Gov. Gen. David Johnston was one of the demands Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence made during her protest. First Nations people have a traditional relationship with the Crown going back to when the first treaties were signed.

A summit on the future of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada was more popular. Almost half — 48.8 per cent — of those who answered the poll said a summit would advance the cause of aboriginal people, with 19.9 per cent saying it would not, and 31.3 per cent saying they were unsure.

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What Shawn Atleo wants from Stephen Harper: real change, real commitment

Gloria Galloway - The Globe and Mail January 27

Shawn Atleo relies on no small degree of understatement when he describes the most recent chapter of the relationship between first nations and the rest of Canada as “challenging.”

But Mr. Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says people faced with challenges can find opportunities for change. And that’s what he says he was doing on Jan. 11 when, over the objections of some native leaders, he and an AFN delegation took part in a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

With a chief on a hunger strike and native protesters taking to the streets, Mr. Atleo came away with a commitment that the Prime Minister would take a more direct hand in first-nations affairs – a promise that could help lift complex negotiations on treaty rights and land claims out of the lower levels of federal bureaucracy where they tend to languish. He also came away with increasing tension inside the AFN and some chiefs mulling the possibility of removing him from office. He found himself sick and exhausted – and took the better part of two weeks off to recuperate.

Now Mr. Atleo is back. And, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, he said he wants to see movement on the first-nations file – and he wants it fast.

What is job number one, now that you are back at work?

Job one is the work. It’s about concrete action. And that’s where we have to go.

I just spent some time with the B.C. leadership and the focus in British Columbia is on comprehensive [land] claims. It’s been decades trying to get that process changed and get the attention of the Prime Minister. That and the treaties.

We need to see the high-level process which was committed to, that engages the PC [Privy Council] and PMO [Prime Minister’s Office]. And we are talking about a three- to four-month time frame on a high level. And that is with the intention of opening the door for implementation on the ground for those treaty nations who would choose to begin that dialogue, as well as reforming that comprehensive claims [process]. If I can reflect on what I hope, what I expect: real change and real commitment in a very short period of time.

You are soon meeting one-on-one with Mr. Harper. Is that going to be your message to him?

Absolutely, it’s what Jan. 11 was about. And we are going to continue to press extremely hard to see real movement in these areas.

If you take treaties and comprehensive claims, we then can identify and address issues with the economy, the relationship with development. And we can address even the challenges, in my view, that people in the Idle No More movement are saying: We’re going to stand up for the rivers, for the fish, for the environment. Well, absolutely. That’s what treaties and comprehensive claims, that’s what negotiations, are all about.

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A Short Note To Correct Canadian Misconceptions About Indians Living Off "Taxpayer Monies"

Richard C. Powless, Mohawk Nation - Ogwaho (Wolf) Clan Six Nations of the Grand River

To understand that Indian monies are not living off taxpayers funds it is necessary to explain the Treaties between the Crown and First Nations. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact for a very long time the Canadian government directly lived off Indian monies - these were called Indian Trust Funds. The first Treaties to be negotiated were before Confederation and were peace and friendship (military alliance) and economic Treaties. Many of the early Treaties were recorded by First Nations on Wampum Belts. The Two Row Wampum (Guswenta) Treaty is probably the best known with its two parallel lines. There was no mention of land sales or sessions in these early treaties. In fact, the entire Treaty making process was an Indian process that occurred between our First Nations even before contact. This early Treaty making process was strictly followed by the settlers when they began to negotiate access to our territories.

It is important to note that the "Treaty" is about the relationship and not just a paper document, as it has wrongly come to be known today. The Treaty includes how the parties behaved toward each other leading up to and during the negotiations, and how they were to treat each other long after negotiations concluded. If they lived up to their word. Treaty making always involved ceremony. The Treaty ceremony often lasted weeks or sometimes a month. There was feasting and an exchange of gifts. The Crown often promised and provided "Annual Presents" to First Nations participants on the anniversary of the Treaty’s conclusion. These annual gifts were later transferred into cash payments.This is the first example of a debt undertaken by the Crown toward First Nations.The Iroquois often referred to the settlers as "Brothers" referring to a family relationship. And in the same way that the sibling relationship changes as brothers age from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood, the Treaty relationship must also change and be updated from time to time as the parties evolve, and the relationship changes. The Silver Covenant Chain Treaty best reflects this. It shows people joined by a giant chain - signifying the relationship. In the same way that the silver chain must be polished or it will tarnish and weaken, so it is with the Treaty relationship. It must be polished or updated. The purpose of the Covenant Chain Treaty was to be “of one Mind, linked together in the Chain of Friendship.” But in order to maintain peace, the First Nations and the Europeans also understood that the chain was also based on mutual economic benefits and mutual support in times of crisis. The root Indian language (Onondaga) word of the Covenant Chain means -
“They Link Arms” -- “Dehudadnetsháus”

To update the treaties or polish the Covenant Chain today means that for the numbered Treaties, the $5.00 promised during the 1800's must be updated to contemporary equivalent value. Medicine chests and school commitments must be updated to include full health and education services. For the Iroquois, the pre-Confederation Treaties contain promises made by the Crown’s representatives to look after his Brothers and to provide for them when they were in need. This too can be updated to modern terms.

When many of the Treaties were negotiated pre and post Confederation promises of cash payment were made. First Nations did not have banks so the monies owed to First Nations were placed in Trust Accounts in banks in England and Scotland. After Confederation these funds were transferred from Britain to Canada and placed in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which was the bank account the Canadian government used to run the day-to-day operations of Canada. There are many Specific Claims today against Canada for the misuse of First Nations Trust Funds. To this day there has never  been a full accounting of Indian Trust Funds held by the Crown and transferred to Canada.

So we can see that the Crown owes a debt to First Nations of the value of the promised "Annual Presents" from before Confederation and the Crown owes First Nations the funds promised to them in the Treaties, including a full accounting of how First Nations Trust Funds were used without the consent of First Nations. It is clear that Canada used First Nations funds to run Canada in its early days and even up to the 1960s the "Indian Agents" were still largely in control of funds in relation to Band financial affairs.

The second part of this story is what was actually promised in the post-Confederation or the so-called numbered Treaties. Canada calls these "land session" treaties and claims that for some cash, twine, ammunition, a medicine chest and promises of schools, and a Chiefs coat they bought this country. It is on this basis they claim they obtained title to our lands. These are the Treaties that rest in the National Archives in Ottawa. This is known to First Nations as the BIG LIE in Canada.

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Native talks with the Crown challenge Canada’s very existence

Tom Flanagan - Globe and Mail January 25

Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651

Many Canadians seem baffled by the insistence of Chief Theresa Spence and other first nations leaders on meeting with Governor-General David Johnston – and not just for a ceremonial encounter, but for an extended policy discussion. What’s going on here? Didn’t they study responsible government in Political Science 101 and learn that the governor-general always acts on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet?

Actually, native leaders’ focus on the governor-general as the representative of the Crown is based not on a lack of information about the Constitution but on a different understanding of it. They know perfectly well that the prime minister and government of the day are installed by the political process of the nation of Canada, but they don’t see themselves as part of that process and that nation. They see themselves as separate nations, dealing with Canada on a “nation to nation” basis. They see the Crown as a governmental structure above Canada – and therefore the authority with whom they should deal.

Sovereign nations do not legislate for each other; they voluntarily agree to sign treaties after negotiations. The radical conclusion from this premise is that Parliament has no right to legislate for aboriginal people without first getting their consent. Hence the hue and cry about consultation and the demand to repeal those parts of the government’s Budget Implementation acts that allegedly impinge on aboriginal and treaty rights. Today’s claim is that Parliament had no right to amend the Indian Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act before consulting with (read: getting the approval of) first nations. But the same claim could be made regarding any legislation, for all laws made by Parliament affect native people. Enforcement of the Criminal Code arguably affects aboriginal rights by putting large numbers of aboriginal people in jail, and so on.

This indigenist ideology is not new. It started to appear in the 1970s, as a reaction to Jean Chrétien’s 1969 White Paper, which proposed repealing treaties and abolishing the special legal status of Indians. In its usual well-meaning but sometimes witless way, the Canadian political class thought it could deal with the reaffirmation of indigenism through word magic. Adopt the vocabulary of the radicals. Start calling Indian bands “first nations.” Pretend to recognize their “inherent right of self-government” or even “sovereignty.”

But talking the talk has not been enough. Aboriginal leaders, at least the more radical ones, also want Canada to walk the walk. Yet Canada still legislates for native people, still decides unilaterally how much money to transfer to first nations, still demands reports on the spending of that money. That’s not how nations ought to treat each other.

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Greg Rickford in Stephen Harper's Ministry of Truth

Warren Bell - Vancouver Observer Jan 8th, 2013

In George Orwell's "1984", the main character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he “alters historical records to fit the needs of the ruling Party”. The Party is headed by an invisible personage known only as Big Brother.

In Orwell’s novel, the Party promotes an invented language called Newspeak, designed to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is declared illegal.

In Canada today, we are seeing a revival variant of Newspeak, as well as a government headed by a shadowy figure.

Of course there are differences. Our "shadowy figure" has a name, and is visible as a physical person. He is the opaque and inscrutable Stephen Harper, who publicly reveals little about his inner workings and motivations, preferring to shape his appearance and his pronouncements around a carefully groomed "persona".

That carefully constructed persona manifests as a calm, emotionally neutral individual, who uses carefully modulated speech and makes constant reference to caring for "ordinary Canadians". No sudden or brusque movements, no intemperate language, no emotional intensity, no revelatory asides.

But it is in use of language that Stephen Harper, and the conservative government in general, have become the proponents of 21st century "Newspeak". In a burst of linguistic creativity, designed to cloak his hard-line, rigid and sometimes obviously ideological goals, the Prime Minister and his representatives have taken language manipulation to unusual lengths.

The first step in this transformation has been to perfect the art of avoiding giving answers. Phrases like "I won't get into the reasons for…" or "I cannot comment on that…" occur routinely in presentations by conservative leaders. When such pronouncements are challenged, the response is always to simply repeat them over and over – never to explain why an answer is being withheld.

The next step has been to simply avoid using certain words. Searching high and low through pronouncements by Stephen Harper and his associates, the word "environment", or it's even more pernicious cousin, "ecosystem", can almost never be found. In its place, words like "the economy", "jobs" or "prosperity" are used as mantras for all future developments on planet Earth. The planet itself? Well, it's not actually there – at least not in so many words.

Then there's the true Newspeak approach. This is where the real creativity comes into play. This means, for example, stating that when in a position of aggressive political conflict, the government is nevertheless a "willing partner". This means addressing intense controversies associated with the two recent Omnibus bills (C-38 and C-45) by stating that "we are proud of our achievements". The Harper administration is making politically-flavoured mincemeat out of the rules of normal discourse.

But there’s one problem. Unlike George Orwell's Oceania, the mythical nation headed by Big Brother and controlling the entire world, the Harper Conservatives control only a small area of the Earth's surface. Dissent and criticism can occur in parallel with pronouncements made by the government. Winston Smith, in Orwell’s work, is tortured into blank submission; no such thing is likely in Canada.

But that doesn't stop Harper and the pundits within the Conservative Party's inner circle from brutalizing the rules of language, and trying vainly to make black (or brown, or more specifically red) turn into white.

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Harper squanders chance to set new course with First Nations

By Chantal Hébert  TheStar January 11

Based on the events of the past week, Canada’s constitutional earth is as scorched today as when the country’s political establishment — including the First Nations leadership — got burnt in a national referendum two decades ago.

If anything, our collective will to undertake some heavy lifting to co-habit politically may have continued to decrease since the 1992 rejection of the Charlottetown constitutional accord.

In today’s political climate, it would be impossible to even contemplate gathering the successors of the architects of the Charlottetown accord around the same table, let alone expect them to rally around a unanimous proposal on a comprehensive way forward on the constitutional front.

To wit, the difficulties in finding enough goodwill to hold Friday’s half-day meeting involving a single order of government and only one of the many constituencies — albeit the most complex one — that fought for attention and accommodation at the time of the last failed constitutional round.

Yes, the approach of Stephen Harper’s government has contributed to the most serious breakdown in the relationship between the First Nations and the Crown since the 1990 Oka crisis.

And yes, the current Prime Minister, through wilful neglect, has potentially squandered one of the best chances for productive dialogue with the First Nations by marginalizing Shawn Atleo, one of the most pragmatic interlocutors a federal government has had a chance to deal with in more than a generation.

Jim Prentice and Chuck Strahl, Harper’s first two Indian Affairs ministers, grasped the crucial importance of maintaining bridges with the First Nations leadership. Sadly, once it had a governing majority and with a less politically astute minister on the front line, the Conservative government reverted to what many of its critics feel are its basic steamrolling instincts.

But at the end of the day, the current outpouring of First Nations frustration is also the culmination of a systemic and collective failure to take the bull of history by the horns.

That failure is not just exemplified by the Idle No More movement and the possible radicalization of a new First Nations guard in the face of perceived federal hostility.

The presence in Quebec of yet another sovereigntist government is another token of unaddressed unresolved issues with another of Canada’s founding peoples.

But these tensions are not just a result of the policy mindset of the party that happens to be in power on Parliament Hill.

Canadians are quick to cast judgment on the Americans and the entrenched societal reflexes that prevent them from arriving at consensual outcomes on health care or on the place of guns in their society.

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Idle No More underlines need to change attitude

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win," Mahatma Gandhi noted.

The spin cycle has been in overdrive with news about Chief Theresa Spence. This unassuming woman from a small northern Ontario community has the Harper government and the rightwing media in a lather, and it is getting ridiculous.

On Monday, an audit report done on Spence's Attawapiskat reserve by the government-appointed firm Deloitte and Touche was mysteriously leaked to selected media. A series of negative stories followed. The leak came at a crucial time - a fact that became increasingly obvious as the week wore on.

It's also obvious after closer scrutiny of the audit report that media either dropped the ball or let racism cloud their critical thinking. Some media outlets, especially Sun News and the National Post, went over the top with partisanship and racism, denigrating Chief Spence and her cause. They clearly were trying to turn public opinion against the Idle No More movement, and Spence in particular.

The audit covered the period from March 2005 to Nov. 31, 2011. Spence was elected chief on Aug. 27, 2010, and was thus chief for only a little more than a year of the six years covered by the report. During that time there is an obvious upturn in the band's financial accountability.

Instead of being the cause of the woes of Attawapiskat, it appears that Spence was responsible for turning things around. This was missed by reporting that was too anxious to assign blame.

The audit for 2011-12 has yet to be posted, but I'm sure it will show a marked improvement. The Deloitte report shows that accounting has greatly improved since Spence took office.

The audit report covers five years prior to her term, and somehow the sins of her predecessors are visited on her.

Then the media got after the fact that her partner, Clayton Kennedy, also works for the band and draws $140,000 per year. What they didn't report is that he is the co-manager appointed jointly by the Aboriginal Affairs department and the band council.

His salary is in the midrange for what a co-manager receives. The band council previously had retained an accounting firm that wanted to charge $400,000 a year. It was dropped in favour of Kennedy, so there is an obvious saving.

The media were also quick to point out that - horror of horrors - Chief Spence and Kennedy are not married. They made it sound as if it were the 1950s all over again. As far as I'm concerned, the media dropped the ball on this one. They were too quick to pile on.

It will be abundantly clear a decade or so from now that these journalists were on the wrong side of history. Divide-and-conquer tactics, along with demonizing the leaders, are as old as the hills. In the United States, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali were all deprecated by the media of their day, but today are seen as national heroes.

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Idle No More: First Nations Governance Coded To Fail

Sandy Garossino  Huffington Post  January 10

Monday's release of a devastating audit of Attawapiskat's finances delivered what looked like a knockout blow to the Idle No More movement. Then Tuesday brought word of a community in full lock-down mode as a Global TV crew was escorted out of the reserve.

Canadians were treated to our own domestic example of media as blood sport, a game in which Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence came off as disastrously outwitted and outmatched.

But while Spence is down, she's not yet out. Her critics might do well to read the final report of Canada's former auditor-general, Sheila Fraser, reviewed below, before condemning her.

And it may be a huge mistake to think that the resolve of Idle No More, a grassroots movement for transformative change in First Nations governance, can be extinguished by an act as simple as the public humiliation of the leader of a tiny destitute North Ontario village.

Idle No More won't vanish just because a prime minister could and did make mincemeat out of Spence in front of the whole country; it just might get stronger.


In her final report to Parliament in June 2011, Fraser took the extraordinary step of calling special attention to First Nations governance, a report that should be required reading for every commenter on this subject.

While Canada's journalists stand agog at the revelation that a remote village of 1,500 souls would have trouble accounting for over $100 million in spending, anyone reading the Fraser report could predict it with their eyes closed.

The Deloitte & Touche audit of Attawapiskat is a textbook outcome of the fatal weakness in Canada's current model of First Nations governance, which is coded to fail. There could be hundreds of Attawapiskats.

Here's why.

Canadians across the country are accustomed to provincial governments delivering health care, education, social services, policing, housing, and a host of other services managed by a sophisticated network of highly trained and educated specialists. Fraser notes:

(P)rovinces have developed school boards, health services boards, and social service organizations. These organizations... supply vital expertise... and develop a means of efficient and effective delivery of services.

Armies of managers and accountants control complex systems designed for accuracy and accountability. And all governments have trouble maintaining detailed records of the myriad transactions involved. Yet the level of service Canadians take as a birthright is outside the experience of First Nations communities. Canadian First Nations nationally comprise a population roughly the size of New Brunswick, and Fraser outlines the model that serves them:

The federal government established each First Nation band as an autonomous entity and provides separate program funding to each. Many of these First Nations are small, consisting of communities that often have fewer than 500 residents. There are more than 600 First Nations across Canada. Many of them are hampered by the lack of expertise to meet the administrative requirements for delivering key programs within their reserves. They often do not have the benefit of school boards, health boards, or other regional bodies to support the First Nations as they provide services to community members.

(Bolded sentence is my emphasis.)

In other words, each one of our 600 First Nations communities, many of them mere hamlets, separately delivers the full spectrum of services normally provided by a single provincial government. And they do this for one of the most troubled and vulnerable populations in the world, largely without benefit of highly trained employees necessary to competently oversee the process, in a high-cost environment, on a smaller per capita budget.

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First Nations funds mishandled by Ottawa, audits show


Two government audits show Ottawa is earmarking about a billion dollars a year to build and repair First Nations infrastructure, but its myriad of officials are not keeping proper tabs on how the money is spent.

Even as Prime Minister Stephen Harper accuses the Attawapiskat First Nations of mismanaging federal funds, the internal audits posted recently suggest the criticism could apply to the federal bureaucracy as well.

The audits say there are "significant gaps" in how the on-reserve infrastructure funding is controlled, and that the financial reporting system is riddled with inconsistencies.

The audit of on-reserve community infrastructure says targets, standards and compliance systems are often ignored or inconsistently applied, leaving the government with an unclear picture of how well its money is working.

When it comes to water and waste water, for example, the report notes the department has ranked many water systems to be low risk.

At the same time, there were no inspections for more than a year on these water systems -- at least not until a national assessment of First Nations water systems prompted some regions to undertake testing.

"As a result, there is a risk of inaccuracy of data reported in the departmental performance report related to the risk levels of water and waste water systems," the audit says. The national assessment, published in July, found that 39 per cent of First Nations water systems were at high risk of being unsafe, affecting 25 per cent of people living on reserves.

It said Ottawa would need $1.2 billion in repairs, better infrastructure and training to fix the problem, as well as an additional $4.7 billion over 10 years to keep pace with growing demand.

But the continued monitoring by Aboriginal Affairs officials didn't thoroughly define such a widespread problem because they didn't properly apply the monitoring systems they had set up, the audit says.

The audit of money for First Nations water, sewage, schools, electrical power, roads, bridges and fire protection was completed in February 2011 but only posted recently on the department's website.

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Former American Indian Movement activist and actor Russell Means dead at 72.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe member lead the '73 uprising at Wounded Knee.

USA Today - October 20

Russell Means, a former American Indian Movement activist who helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, reveled in stirring up attention and appeared in several Hollywood films, has died. He was 72.

Means died early Monday at his ranch in in Porcupine, S.D., Oglala Sioux Tribe spokeswoman Donna Solomon said.

Means, a Wanblee native who grew up in the San Francisco area, announced in August 2011 that he had developed inoperable throat cancer. He told The Associated Press he was forgoing mainstream medical treatments in favor of traditional American Indian remedies and alternative treatments away from his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Means was an early leader of AIM and led its armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege that included several gunbattles with federal officers. He was often embroiled in controversy, partly because of AIM's alleged involvement in the 1975 slaying of Annie Mae Aquash. But Means was also known for his role in the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" and had run unsuccessfully for the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988.

AIM was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes. Means told the AP in 2011 that before AIM, there had been no advocate on a national or international scale for American Indians, and that Native Americans were ashamed of their heritage.

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Russell Means even ran for president of the United States twice! In 1988 he ran on the Libertian Party ticket. He ran in 1984 on a ticket with Larry Flint, publisher of Hustler Magazine.

"The nation has become one big Indian reservation," said Means at a May 12 press conference. "We do not want more dependence on the federal government. We don't want to be dependent. We want an opportunity to take care of ourselves."

In an act of atonement, Vatican makes Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native Canadian saint

Globe and Mail - October 21

All canonizations are political to some degree, but the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first indigenous Canadian saint, was more political than most. The First Nations considered it a key step in the Vatican’s long and haphazard campaign to repair relations with a people it had mistreated for centuries.

Kateri, who was born in what is now upstate New York and who died in 1680 near Montreal after a short, miserable life, was canonized Sunday in St. Peter’s Square by Pope Benedict XVI, along with six other saints.

An estimated 80,000 pilgrims gathered in the square, thousands of them from American and Canadian Indigenous communities who claim Kateri as their own, making her a truly international saint. To the delight and amusement of the Italians in the crowd, many of them wore colourful traditional costumes, such as feathered headdresses and leather-fringed tunics.

To some, she represents unconditional commitment to Jesus; to others a bridge between Catholic and Native spirituality and culture.

Read Windspeaker's profile of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha