Archive for April, 2011

19th April
2011
written by admin

We’re into the final week of the Federal election season and no matter how many scandals Harper has had thrown at him nothing seems to be sticking. Like the last two posts we are focusing on what First Nations in Canada really need from our absent government. Late last year the Harper government finally lived up to one of their promises, which was to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights on of Indigenous Peoples. Now that it’s done I feel that it was an empty gesture: Harper’s policies over the last 5 years have shown no respect for Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Instead of respect we have gotten disrespect, and the cuts to so many important programs and groups have begged the question… what was the point?

In 2006, 2 weeks into his mandate, Harper killed the Kelowna Accord – a process that took over ten years to build gone because “it wasn’t fiscally responsible.” Since then the cuts have been numerous and hurtful: the Montreal Native Woman’s Shelter, Native Healing Foundation, First Nations policing, Action travail des femmes, First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying), Sisters in Spirit, and the list goes on.

Harper can say that he now endorses the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples because he’s already done enough damage to set us back for awhile. And people ask why there’s such apathy among voters! Just recently Chris Alexander, the Ontario Conservative candidate for Ajax-Pickering, said during a March 17 forum on poverty that Canada had wiped out Third World-levels of poverty. The comment caused a small flurry of controversy during the opening days of the election after they were posted on YouTube, but Alexander stood by his statement. You can chalk this up to another one of the many Conservative denials about what is really going on in this country.

In September 2009 Harper made this statement: “We also have no history of colonialism…” This outrageous comment is a shocking testament to his own profound ignorance and to the pervasive racism-fuelled historical amnesia and denial in Canadian society. Yet he claims to endorse the Declaration. Then there’s Conservative Peirre Poliveres’ comments during a radio interview which came on the same day as the Residential School Apology. “Now along with this apology comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years. Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask, ‘Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?” If I ever meet Mr. Poliveres I will tell him that we are sorry that the abuse we suffered at the hands of the church is costing the Governemnt so much money.

Everyone that I have spoken to about the Declarartion has given pretty much the same answer: Canada is not doing enough – which leads us into our crtique of the NDP and the Green party. We’ll start with Jack  Layton  and how fortune has finally turned in his direction, especially in Quebec.  Layton’s popularity has surged in Quebec which has  Bloc boss Gille Duceppe scrambling, and the Conservatives and Grits mired at the bottom. It seems to me that people have begun to see the NDP as a viable alternative to the same old parties. Layton was the only one who spoke up about the issues faced by first nations communities in the debates. The Greens have made similar promises but I don’t expect them to make much of a splash this time around – like the NDP, the Greens have to be patient.

On a final note, get out there and Vote! Young and old, rich or poor, get out there and vote, it may not feel like much but in this election every vote counts!

11th April
2011
written by admin

The child welfare system in this country is problematic at best, but when children who already have strikes against them gets less services because of the color of their skin, then what is left to be done? That is the case for the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFC), who launched a discrimination suit against the federal government for short-changing first nations children. First Nations children on reserve receive less child welfare funding than other children in Canada despite the fact that First Nations children have higher child welfare needs, repeated reports by the FNCFC have said.

In 2007 the FNCFC along with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) filed a human rights complaint alleging that the Government of Canada is discriminating against First Nations children on the basis of race and national ethnic origin. Shirish Chotalia, Chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, dismissed the case on a preliminary motion brought by the Federal Government even though the Federal Government had tried, and failed, to get the case dismissed on similar grounds in Federal Court on two previous occasions. Executive Director Cindy Blackstock spoke with me over the phone about the case and what it means for the complaint now.

“Canada has been trying to get out of it facing a hearing on the facts, and the chair gave them that opportunity, she never considered the facts and ruled on a technicality,” said Chotalia. Which begs the question: where do they go from here? “The Canadian Human Rights Commission is on board and vows to keep fighting this,” Chotalia added. And that’s all they can do. In the end this will probably end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, where the Feds will fight tooth and nail not to accept responsibility for short-changing our youth. When I first read about this I felt sick to my stomach because it reminded me of the residential schools, this time not because of physical but financial abuse. Once again, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has proven that they don’t know how to do their jobs.

It seems to me that Canada’s history of harming first nations children is still alive and well. The decision has brought condemnation from first nations groups across the country. Chief Angus Toulouse from the Ontario Chiefs had this to say about the decision, “We’re talking about our children that are most vulnerable, that they [should be] taken care of properly, yet the ruling tells me that the government and the court system is willing to discriminate against our children.” That is at the heart of the matter: legal discrimination against children… didn’t the government just apologize for harming first nations children (see: apology for residential schools)?

I’ve watching politicians for several years now and the thing that bugs me the most is the consistent refusal to accept responsibility for what they have done. This matter would be easily resolved if INAC would work to correct the problem instead of making excuses and playing the blame game. This country would move more smoothly if our leaders would just sit down and work out the problems. With that, here is a critique of the official opposition!

In this election the Liberals have promised a great many things. Things like proper health care, commitments to a national task force for missing and murdered native women, re-funding of the SIS, and bringing the chiefs and provincial leaders back to the table to reconstitute the Kelowna accord. “The Kelowna accord was a process, the first time Federal, Provincial and Aboriginal leaders sat together around a table on the basis of equality. We will make commitments on health, on education, and housing and those remain the issues that have to be fixed in aboriginal Canada,” said Ignatieff when I asked him about it on March (listen to the full interview on The Longhouse). He went on to talk about the need to bring people back to the table to address the issues facing first nations in Canada. I haven’t decided yet who I will vote for but when it comes to the Federal parties, the Grits seem to be the only party that can unseat the Conservatives. A recent Nanos poll showed that the Conservatives’ comfortable lead has dwindled since the announcement of the election. It could become a real race if Ignatieff does well during the two debates. Canadians will just have to wait and see…

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