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First Nations education deal the best sign Conservatives are finally focused on governing
Via John Ivison National Post - February 7
In a radical shift of gears, the Conservatives appear to have
concluded that their electoral fortunes might actually improve if they
bring in some popular, thoughtful legislation.
The past week has seen the fair elections bill, the citizenship act
reforms and a more flexible approach to the relations with the provinces
over the Canada Jobs Grant – all signs that the government is focused
on governing, rather than campaigning.
The legislation that most typifies this approach is the revamped
First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, unveiled by
Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo
on the Blood Tribe reserve in Alberta on Friday.
“Today is about the beginning of a new era of fairness, opportunity
and hope for First Nations children, youth and students,” said Mr.
This deal has been a long time in the gestation — $1.9-billion in
additional funding aimed at creating a viable education system on
reserves with standards for students and teachers that equate to those
that operate elsewhere in Canada.
While the deal has been a long time coming, the Conservatives’ recent
precarious showing in the polls appears to have focused minds on
getting a deal.
Prime minister announces billions to retool First Nations education
Via Canadian Press - February 7
The federal government has unveiled a retooled education plan for
First Nations which it says recognizes aboriginal control over
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the plan at a high school on the Blood reserve in southern Alberta on Friday.
"This is historic and it is a great day for Canada, for First Nations communities and for the next generation," Harper said. "But it is also long overdue."
The plan calls for minimum education standards consistent with provincial standards off-reserve. It also says students will have to meet attendance requirements and teachers will have to be properly certified.
Ottawa is to provide funding for core education, which includes language and cultural instruction, of $1.25 billion over three years starting in 2016. There's a provision for a 4.5 per cent annual increase.
Another $500 million over seven years
is to go toward infrastructure and $160 million over four years is set aside for implementation.
The Assembly of First Nations called the deal the beginning of a new era for First Nations children.
"Today is about ... fairness, opportunity and hope for First Nations children, youth and students," said the assembly's national Chief Shawn Atleo.
"Today is a victory for First Nations leaders and citizens who have for decades, indeed since the first generation of residential school survivors, called for First Nations control of First Nations education."
Graduation rates among First Nations children are among the very lowest in Canada. Many communities see only half of high school students finish their basic education.
Part of the expectation in the deal is that Aboriginal schools award widely recognized diplomas and certificates to students who do finish their school on-reserve. The government says this requirement does not currently exist and has resulted in First Nations youth — not being able to prove their educational achievements — being turned away from jobs or post-secondary institutions.
It's a package that has been years in the making and came close to collapse several times.
Direct Link to Government of Canada information: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/02/07/first-nations-control-first-nations-education-act
First Nations education to get $500M infrastructure boost
New 'historic' reforms to First Nations Education Act unveiled today
Via CBC.ca - February 7
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced changes to First Nations Education Act in Alberta today that included $500 million for new infrastructure on reserves.
"In Canada we have never had the First Nation education system that we need," he told the gathered crowd at the Kainai High School on the Blood Tribe reserve north of Cardston.
He also announced $1.25 billion per year in funding for Aboriginal schools across Canada, which would increase by 4.5 per cent each year after 2016.
Total funding announced for reforms to the First Nations Education Act amounts to $1.9 billion over several years.
The legislation will also allow First Nations control of their education system.
The bill requires teachers on reserves to acquire provincial certification and include measures to improve attendance records and low graduation rates on reserves.
Harper was joined by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and regional chiefs from across the country.
The announcement comes after many First Nations reacted with anger and disappointment to the federal government’s education legislation proposed last October.
Alberta chiefs and the Blood Tribe chief and council also rejected last year's proposal, but Chief Charles Weaselhead said it is important to continue engaging Canada on improving education and graduation rates among First Nation students.
The band agreed to host the announcement after a request from Atleo.
“We agreed to host this national announcement, but in no way endorse the proposed legislation in its present form," said Weaselhead in a release.
"However, we are open to continued dialogue and building relationships.”
The AFN passed a resolution in December that officially rejected the proposed act, demanding long-term funding guarantees, First Nations control over education and a recognition of their languages and culture in curriculum.
Direct Link to Government of Canada information: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/02/07/first-nations-control-first-nations-education-act
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Elsipogtog First Nation sees violence as RCMP moves to end protest
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.''
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.
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.
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.
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."
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?
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.
Half of First Nations children live in poverty
Rate rises above 60% in Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Via CBC.ca - 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.
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.
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.
How Quebec Cree avoided the fate of Attawapiskat
On the eastern shore of James Bay, a very different story
By Terry Milewski - CBC
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.
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.
Read more: www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/
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.
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.
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.
Budget 2013 could reinvigorate Idle No More movement
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.
Aboriginal corrections report finds 'systemic discrimination'
CBC.ca - 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Brazeau affair highlights Harper's Senate hypocrisy
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).
Read more: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/02/brazeau-affair-highlights-harpers-senate-hypocrisy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CODED TO FAIL
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.
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.
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.
Joe Clark warns Canada, First Nations headed in ‘dangerous direction’
Via Edmonton Journal - December 30
Former prime minister Joe Clark says he’s concerned Canada and its First Nations are “headed in a dangerous direction.”
Clark issued a statement after meeting Saturday with Chief Theresa Spence, who has been fasting for more than two weeks in an effort to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with her and other First Nations leaders over treaty issues.
Clark, who was a Tory prime minister from 1979 to 1980, says friends of his in the First Nations community had suggested he meet with Spence, chief of a remote reserve in Northern Ontario.
He says National Chief Shawn Atleo managed to get him an invitation to visit Spence and also accompanied Clark on a visit to Victoria Island near Parliament Hill, where Spence has taken up residence during her protest.
Clark says he found Spence to have a “humble and achievable” vision and adds that those no longer in active political life may still have a role to play in helping discussions resume.
Spence stopped eating solid food on Dec. 11.
Clark says he appreciated having an opportunity to listen to Spence’s concerns.
First Nations, first rights
Some of the reaction to the Kapyong Barracks decision is downright bizarre
Bartley Kives Winnipeg Free Press December 16
About 274 years ago, the first white guy set foot in Winnipeg. Some of his buddies have been acting like they’ve owned the place ever since.
On Sept. 24, 1738, a Quebec explorer named Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, better known as La Vérendrye, got off a boat at The Forks and established Fort Rouge along the Assiniboine River. Although the fort was just a short-lived trading post, this marked the beginning of a European presence in what’s now Winnipeg.
Before La Vérendrye showed up, this soggy corner of the continent had been home to one group of indigenous people or another for about 6,000 years. By the time the first European explorers and fur traders were inching their way into southern Manitoba, the Assiniboine, Cree, Dakota and Ojibwa were all established in the area.
But the first Europeans to actually see this place — and pretty much everywhere else in North America — made the mistake of assuming there were never that many people living here. That’s because smallpox and other European diseases were racing across the continent, wiping out people whose immune systems were unable to fight off foreign microbes.
For example, Hudson’s Bay Company records reveal Assiniboine bands lost about 50 per cent of their people every time a wave of disease hit in the 1700s and 1800s, adding up to a cumulative population loss of well above 90 per cent after European contact. By their mere presence on the continent, white guys unwittingly depopulated the place.
But since the surviving First Nations tended to be small and struggling, the first settlers also made the mistake in the 1800s of assuming the locals had never really mastered the art of living comfortably off the land.
In turn, this erroneous assumption led to the belief First Nations would benefit from a European cultural makeover: a sedentary farming existence, rather than a semi-nomadic life of hunting and fishing. And that ill-advised strategy persisted well into the 20th century in the form of the residential schools system, which sought to wipe out any remaining vestiges of indigenous culture.
The cumulative effect of all this, as most Winnipeggers are acutely aware, was nothing short of cultural genocide. Yet somehow, Manitoba’s First Nations endured and are now on the cusp of finally becoming equal partners in a less overtly racist society.
But racism endures, in both the institutional and common form. The irrational reaction in some circles to the Kapyong Barracks decision only illustrates how much further this city and this province have to progress.
Tribunal will rule whether Ottawa retaliated against Native rights’ advocate Cindy Blackstock
TheStar - October 22
Cindy Blackstock has spent more than five years trying to hold Ottawa accountable for a funding gap on the welfare of Aboriginal children on reserves.
Instead of dealing with that funding gap, Ottawa has spent nearly as long searching for dirt on Blackstock. In total, it has spent more than $3 million trying to derail her bid to have the government’s funding policy ruled as discrimination against Native children.
Fresh evidence of government spying on Blackstock and a court victory for the aboriginal children’s advocate show Ottawa is losing this fight, despite its chilling surveillance of a woman they seek to discredit.
It was less than a year ago that Blackstock went public, after learning through her own access-to-information request that the government had been spying on her. It has been monitoring her Facebook account, sending officials to hear her speak and compiling a voluminous file on her.
In a decision released last week, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed to add allegations of government retaliation against Blackstock as part of a historic hearing on the larger matter set to begin next February.
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network will televise proceedings — representing another loss by Ottawa, which tried to block the cameras.
It was 2007 when Blackstock’s organization, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, filed the complaint against Ottawa, alleging discrimination was behind a policy that has Ottawa providing 22 per cent less than the provinces for aboriginal child welfare services.
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.
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
Aboriginal Congress a ‘Mickey Mouse club,’ ex-chief Brazeau says
Laura Stone - ipolitics - October 18
He spent almost three years as leader of the off-reserve Aboriginal organization before being appointed the youngest senator ever to sit in the Red Chamber.
But on the eve of its annual general assembly to vote in a national chief, Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, 37, doesn’t mince words when asked about the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
“It remains a small social club. At times, I hate to say, it is a Mickey Mouse club,” he said.
“Until we get some real leaders who want to effect some real change and move the organization forward, it’s going to remain a fairly silent organization.”
The relationship between Brazeau and CAP fractured some three years ago this month — when the newly-appointed senator launched a $1.25 million defamation lawsuit against the organization and its 11 provincial board members.
It happened after the previous vote for national chief in 2009, a few months after his Senate appointment, when Brazeau’s name came up regarding the “current financial state affairs” at the Congress. Sexual harassment allegations also surfaced at that time, a matter dismissed as being out of jurisdiction by the Canadian Human Rights Commission but ongoing in federal court.
Energy advocate Richard Neufeld doubts Enbridge will build pipeline to coast
October 9 - Edmonton Journal
One of Canada's most outspoken champions of the oil and gas industry has doubts whether Enbridge will ever build a pipeline to the B.C. coast - even if the $6-billion project gets federal approval.
Former B.C. energy minister Richard Neufeld, now a Conservative senator, said he strongly supports the construction of pipelines to the B.C. coast so Canada can ship Alberta's diluted bitumen crude to booming Asian markets.
But he said Enbridge has so badly mismanaged the $6-billion project that he questions whether the Calgary company has the public credibility to proceed with the megaproject even if the National Energy Board approves the application next year.
"I don't know whether Enbridge has actually screwed up bad enough that even if it was OK'd, whether let's say the NEB says, 'Hey, this plan looks good, we can go ahead,' that Enbridge would be able to actually build that pipeline," he told The Vancouver Sun.
"I just think Enbridge has left such a sour taste in most peoples' mouths."
Enbridge is not required to disclose the list of First Nations groups that have signed on
October 1 - Windspeaker
Enbridge is not required to disclose the list of First Nations groups that have signed on for a share of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project says the Joint Review Panel which met in Edmonton last month. The lawyer for Coastal First Nations said the list was a “matter of significant importance,” and demanded it be shared. Enbridge has claimed a 60 per cent buy-in among Aboriginal groups within 80 km on either side of the 1,177-km pipeline route. But Enbridge claims the nations required legal confidentiality clauses be written into the agreement. The panel said the list isn’t relevant—yet. “The panel does not see a need for the list for our purpose at this point,” chair Sheila Leggett said. Final hearings were scheduled for Prince George, B.C., from Oct. 9 to Nov. 9 and Prince Rupert, B.C., from Nov. 22 to Dec. 18.
Are you ready for a fight? [editorial]
September 28 Windspeaker Staff
Aboriginal people are under siege, and don’t know what is about to hit them. We at Windspeaker want Aboriginal people to be well warned before it’s too late to do anything about it, so let’s lay it out here. The Harper Conservatives are on the attack to take Aboriginal interests out at the knees and it begins with government’s intention to slash funding to tribal councils and other organizations that work on the behalf of grassroots people.
It may seem a remote thing that these organizations do—some grassroots people may not see their value at all—but this is an attack, nonetheless, on the financial viability of Aboriginal representative organizations and tribal groups and an attack on your voice in the boardroom and across the negotiation table. So do not underestimate the importance of this.
The extreme nature of the cuts has to tell you that they have been made without care or consideration about the impacts these reductions, in some cases nearing 80 per cent, will have on you as you nation build, develop economies, become healthy, employed, protect your children, keep connected, revitalize your languages and culture. They have been made to control your participation, keep you impoverished, limit opposition to development that offends you and endangers your land. They have been made to lay waste to your defences.
Even if you don’t agree with how these organization are structured, whether you feel you get any direct benefit or not, these organizations are necessary to keep this government from rolling over you and the collective rights of your communities. These organizations, more often than not, provide services and programs and are essential to support individual nations toward their goal of self-determination, and in the end that support supports you.
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