Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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…

10th April
2011
written by admin

Since there is an election coming up within the next 4 weeks we have decided to spend that time talking about what elections mean for us: first nations. Each week we will focus on one particular issue facing first nations and share our opinion on one of the five federal parties (yes, I count the Green party, because all our voices need to be heard!).

When Shannon Alexander, 17, and Maisy Odjick, 16 went missing near Maniwaki Que, on Sept. 6 no one said “boo!” It was a week later when the mainstream media finally picked the story and reported that the two teens were missing: no Amber alert, no massive search with hundreds of volunteers, no media and police. There was no Victoria Stafford-like attention to the case. Stafford was the 8 year old Canadian girl abducted from Woodstock, Ontario on April 8, 2009, and murdered. She was last seen on security footage walking with Terri-Lynne McClintic who was convicted in her murder and sentenced to life.

The things that bothered me most about the differences between the Alexander/Odjick and Stafford cases was how they were treated by the police, media and public. Little blond girl goes missing and they call out the army, two native teens go missing and… nothing! The Stafford case was tragic, but what’s even more tragic is that not all abduction cases are treated like that of Victoria Stafford’s. From what I’ve seen, cases are not always judged on their merits, but on skin color and social class. How else can you explain the thousands of natives that have gone missing or have been murdered since the 1980’s? Which brings me to my next point: what does it take for the government, police forces and justice system to act? I mean, really act?

I was part of a press scrum involving Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, and I asked him about the Sisters in Spirit and a National task force to investigate missing and murdered native women. He said, “You can’t have a country where 500+ people go missing and there’s no judicial attempt to find out the truth. Finding out the truth is an homage to these women so to make sure that this doesn’t happen to their daughters!” When asked if the Sisters in Spirit would be part of that plan? “Absolutely! The Sisters in Spirit has done wonderful work. The Harper government cuts them and makes false promises. We think they do good work and we want to sustain that support for them!”

Since the Harper government came to power, not just native women have suffered because of his policies, but all women. By not directly addressing the issue of missing and murdered women Harper has made it clear that all women in Canada don’t count! You just have to take a look at the cancellation of the national child-care program, the product of years of negotiations between Ottawa and the provinces’ women’s groups. Then there’s the closure of 12 of 16 regional offices of the Status of Women Canada across the country. It has also eliminated funding for the Status of Women Independent Research Fund.

In 2010 the Harper government (he likes it if we refer to the government that way) allocated ten million dollars to the issue of missing and murdered native women, but he did not renew funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative, whose database compiled the cases of nearly 600 native women. I understand that we need to be conservative in these recession era times, but this is conservatism on crack! Especially when instead of taking care of the people, he’s spending billions on fighter jets and giving corporations tax breaks, all the while talking about being fiscally responsible!

Which leads me into my critique of the Conservative party in this election. The Conservatives have been power for 5 years, and what have they done? We know that they have proven not to be a friend to women, but what else? The Native Healing foundation: funding slashed. Native policing: funding slashed. Montreal Native Woman’s shelter: funding slashed – and there is much more! Then there are the scandals that have to led to contempt of Parliament charges. Do we want another conservative government that blatantly disregards the rules, or should we go with a party that has the vision to see what needs to be done in this country?

Irkar Beljaars is the producer
of Native Soidarity News on
Ckut radio and the Longhouse
on podbean.com. You can reach him
@ native@ckut.ca or Mohawk_Voice
on twitter