Archive for the ‘Winnipeg’ Category

Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists’ questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has completed its work, and the major federal political parties have have adopted predictable positions, what can ordinary folk do to make sure Justice Sinclair’s message isn’t lost between now and the election this fall?

I’m rather taken with a draft Act that was made public yesterday on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature that would set aside one day a year, called  Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day, to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to truth and reconciliation.

According to Maeengan Linklater, the proponent of this resolution, adopting the Act would help achieve the following:

  1. Continue the healing for those survivors, families and communities;
  2. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;
  3. Reaffirm, recognize and acknowledge Aboriginal people and governments as self-governing and nation-to-nation in their relationships with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,
  4. Educate all Canadians about the Indian Residential School experience.

The use of the word “genocide” makes this is a provocative name for a provincial holiday. It is precisely the provocative nature of the word that makes it so valuable. Most Canadians are in a state of denial regarding the injustices perpetrated against indigenous peoples and badly in need of some straight talk.

I recorded Maeengan’s launch of the Act, following him through the halls of the Manitoba Legislature to capture the responses of representatives of four political parties. I’ve also (see below), published the draft Act. I hope the Manitobans reading this post will get behind it and get in contact with their Members of the Manitoba Legislature.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Canadians in other parts of the country tried to beat us to the punch and get similar laws enacted in their provinces?

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act

WHEREAS between the years 1870 and 1996, 150,000 Indian, Metis, and Inuit children in Canada were removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools.

WHEREAS, the ‘Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ (adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, includes “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” and the actions taken to remove children from families and communities and to put them in residential schools meets this definition of a “genocide”.

WHEREAS the goals of the Indian Residential School system were to “remove and isolate children from the influence of their home, families, traditions, and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominate culture”.

WHEREAS the Government of Canada recognized that many of the children experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, lived in conditions of neglect, and were forbidden to learn, or practice, their culture, and to speak their language.

WHEREAS on June 11, 2008, the Government of Canada made a Statement of Apology – to former students of Indian Residential Schools to initiate healing and reconciliation between the Aboriginal community and Canada.

WHEREAS efforts have been launched nationally to lead to reconciliation including the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

WHEREAS on June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recognized the establishment and operation of residential schools was a central element of assimilative policies that can be best described as cultural genocide.

WHEREAS the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples be the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

WHEREAS setting aside one day a year for such a day will provide an opportunity to focus on understanding and reconciliation including to:

a. Continue the healing for those survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities;

b. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;

c. Reaffirm, recognize, and acknowledge, Aboriginal peoples and governments as self-governing, sovereign, and nation-to-nation, in its relationship with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,

d. To educate all Manitobans about the lessons of the Indian Residential School system, and its continuing impacts in today’s society.

WHEREAS the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba is committed through legislation and education, to support the revitalization of Aboriginal communities that enable Aboriginal people to reach their full potential, and to bridge efforts of reconciliation of Aboriginal people and the people of Manitoba.

WHEREAS on June 2, we will remember, for we must never forget.

THEREFOR HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day

  1. In each year, June 2, to be known as Manitoba Day for Understanding and Reconciliation in Relations to the Indian Residential Schools.

architect rendition

Who, aside from the occasional professional grump, has not taken delight from the sound of children’s laughter and marveled at their ingenuity as they play at being pirates and princesses, artists and acrobats, witches and warriors? Child’s play is fun to watch and fun to join in (even with the aches and pains my grandfatherly body suffers from after a visit with the grandkids).

There is a serious side to play, though, one I had never considered until I met with some remarkable women who are in the midst of an ambitious project in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End.

For the past seven years, they have been running a program called North End Stay and Play, the objective of which is to provide children and their families a place to play together and together to learn the benefits that play provides.

NESP has been running on a modest budget and has only been able to operate one afternoon a week, usually out of a donated church basement, but they have a dream that they are working very hard to fulfill – a new, custom-built play house on Selkirk Avenue that will operate five or six days a week. It will be called the Phoenix Sinclair Little Stars Playhouse.

The facility’s name commemorates the life of Phoenix Sinclair, a little girl who was murdered in 2005 under circumstances that demonstrate the need for building strong, healthy families. You can read the report of the Hughes Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her murder here.

I made this little video to introduce the concept and to help them raise the money they need to build it. Please watch the video, share it with your friends and consider making a donation.

To make a donation:

  • Either make your cheque payable to “Woman Healing for Change Inc.” and send to Assiniboine Credit Union, 655 Henderson Hwy, Winnipeg, MB, R2K 2J6, Account no. 100101102192. WHFC,a registered nonprofit charity, will provide a receipt for all donations over $20, or
  • Make your cheque payable to United Way Winnipeg and note on the cheque that your United Way donation is for “Woman Healing For Change, Charitable no. 891621864RR0001 for Phoenix Sinclair Playhouse.”

It has been said of Stephen Harper that he never saw a war he didn’t like. So it should be no surprise that he has been unabashedly at war with the environment since gaining power in 2006.

Whether it has involved shutting down world class environmental research, muzzling scientists, gutting environmental protection laws or attempting to demonize environmental activists as terrorists, Harper’s strategic objective has been to facilitate the corporate rape of our natural resources. He has pursued this objective with no regard for the health of our land, air and water, our people or the generations to come.

Despite Harper’s best efforts, Canadians are fighting back and opposition, in the form of demonstrations, occupations,  road blocks and court battles, grows daily. Following are three recent presentations I have recorded of people who are making significant contributions to this fightback.

Dennis LeNeveu: Stop the Energy East Pipeline

dennis leneveuDennis LeNeveu is a retired scientist who worked for many years in the field of nuclear fuel waste management and radiation and industrial safety. In this presentation he discusses the many reasons Canadians show oppose the proposed TransCanada Pipeline Energy East Project, a proposal that he says risks the health and safety of the environment and the many people who live along its route. His presentation is available here.

Chris Turner: Stephen Harper’s War on Science

chris turnerChris Turner is the author of The War On Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. He spoke about Stephen Harper’s campaign to suppress Canadian science at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg on November 6, 2014. His presentation was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project. His presentation is available here.

Diane Orihel: Big Dreams, Big Science: Saving Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area

diane orihelOn November 6, 2014, Dr. Diane Orihel spoke on the struggle to save Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area from destruction by the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper and the important role that this scientific institution has played in protecting the world’s environment. Her talk, also at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project and can be viewed here.

Some Useful Links

There are dozens of organizations that are fighting Harper’s agenda. I you haven’t already done so, join one. Here are some of my favorites. Please feel free to add your faves in the comments section.

From the video "Dancing Tragedies and Dreams". Photo: Paul S. Graham

From the video “Dancing Tragedies and Dreams.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Art, culture, dance and politics blended seamlessly in Winnipeg on September 21, 2014, with the performance of Dancing Tragedies and Dreams, a production of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba,  at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Dancing Tragedies and Dreams featured dances from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt as well as an exciting performance of Poi dance from New Zealand, propelled by the music of El Funon Popular Dance Troupe of Palestine. Talk about fusion!

Eleven months in the making, Dancing Tragedies and Dreams was the brain child of Rana Abdulla and involved dozens of volunteers working evenings and weekends to bring it to fruition. In preparing this event, Rana’s dream was to bridge the divide between Western and Arabic worlds and to amplify the cry of Palestinians for peace, human rights and social justice.

Sixty-six years ago, the people of Palestine were forcibly driven from their homeland. Confined to parcels of land that are a fraction of their traditional territory and vilified by the the people who drove them out, their history shows some similarity to that of the indigenous people of this country. Unlike the government of Israel, the government of Canada does not bomb indigenous people (in this country, anyway), but for decades in Canada, indigenous people needed permission from the local Indian Agent to leave their reserves, a parallel that would be immediately familiar to any resident of Gaza or the West Bank. And hence, at Dancing Tragedies and Dreams, Said Hamad, Palestine’s representative in Canada, referred to their “solidarity with the aboriginal people in Canada.”

Like the aboriginal people of Canada, Palestinians have been “ethnically cleansed” and negatively stereotyped by their oppressors. Like Canada’s aboriginal peoples, Palestinians continue to assert their rights and make visible their humanity and their rich culture.

Dancing Tragedies and Dreams makes a stunning contribution to this effort. It’s too bad that the performance was limited to one evening. Fortunately, my friend Ken Harasym and I recorded the evening. So, get comfortable for the next 90 minutes. Enjoy, and share widely, please.

Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro's Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Yesterday, after a week-long occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station, representatives of the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake brought their protest to Winnipeg. Community members and local supporters rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s downtown headquarters to pray, sing and tell their story to Winnipeg media.

They began with a prayer and followed with a moment of silence and an honour song for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the young reservist murdered in the recent attack on Parliament Hill. Then representatives explained what led the community to evict Hydro staff from the Jenpeg housing complex and to occupy the generating station.

In a statement circulated on her behalf, Chief Cathy Merrick invites Winnipeggers to empathize.

“Imagine if the once pristine waters in the lake by your cottage became murky and the shoreline continually washed away. Imagine your favourite childhood camping sites eroded right off the map, your industries undercut, your favourite golf course denuded, your ancestors’ graves dug up, and your place of worship defiled. Imagine if you had to constantly fight for compensation and mitigation, while paying monthly bills to the victimizer.”

According to Merrick, the Pimicikamak are asking for “a public apology, a revenue sharing arrangement, environmental cleanup, a say in how water levels are managed, and aggressive Power Smart programs to reduce our bills.”

Here is my video report:

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

This Wednesday, I’m voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette. I believe he offers the best combination of progressive ideas and personal characteristics of all the candidates. Having voted in every Winnipeg civic, provincial and federal election since the 1970s I’ll go even further – Robert is the most promising candidate for mayor (or any other office) we have seen in a generation.

Robert proposes sensible ideas for fixing Winnipeg’s infrastructure and knows how we’ll pay for them. His plan to renew Winnipeg Transit is both practical and visionary. His proposals for standing up for indigenous women and girls will save lives. He’s serious about cleaning up City Hall and he walks the talk: unlike his competitors, he lists his contributors on his web site, in real time. As a grandfather, I’m pleased with his many creative ideas for a child friendly city and for a city our grandchildren will thank us for when they are old enough to vote.

There’s much more I could say about Robert’s platform. Visit his web site (links below) and judge for yourself. While I have your attention, I’d prefer to talk about Robert the man.

Born on Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Robert grew up poor. His father suffered from alcoholism. He’s been hungry and homeless and knows what it is like to live on next to nothing. Statistically speaking, he should be dead, in jail or poor.

Instead, Robert has defied the statistics that come with being born aboriginal and poor in Canada. At 37, he directs Aboriginal Focus Programs at the University of Manitoba. He, his wife Catherine, and their five children live in a comfortable home. During 18 years in the Canadian Forces he earned a Bachelor of Education degree, two Masters degrees (music and education) and a PhD in educational anthropology.

Robert credits his success to his mother’s sacrifices and the support he received from a high school teacher. However, without his own considerable intelligence, hard work and self discipline he would not have come this far.

Robert is youthful and energetic, but thoughtful and mature. He’s self confident, yet modest. He’s self-aware but not self-absorbed; without exception, he treats everyone with genuine interest, respect and warmth. He communicates fluently in English, French and Cree. He likes to laugh, dances a pretty good Red River jig, sings on key and plays a mean piano.

Robert says he wants to be “a mayor for everyone.” Not content with cleaning up City Hall, he aspires to unite a city that is divided along racial, ethnic and class lines. This is a tall order, but if anyone can, it’s Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

A poll came out this morning that puts Robert in third place with the support of 14% of decided voters. This is a remarkable achievement for a candidate who was completely unknown when he declared his candidacy in late May.

The two front-runners, Brian Bowman and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, are in a statistical dead heat with 38 and 36 percent of the decided vote respectively. With 29% of those polled in the undecided category, this race is too close to call.

I expect Robert’s supporters will feel considerable pressure to abandon him. “Vote strategically. Don’t waste your vote,” we will be advised. We’ll be warned that “it’s the only way to stop ___________ (pick your favourite ‘villain’).”

I don’t accept these arguments. For starters, a careful analysis of the front-runners’ programs reveals no significant differences. Neither candidate promises the break with the past we need for Winnipeggers to meet the many challenges we face. Neither candidate has demonstrated the skills or attitudes needed to unite a divided city. One is as good or as bad as the other.

My philosophy is simple: You get what you vote for. The only sensible thing to do is to vote for what you really want. For me that means voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

If Robert wins, great! If he doesn’t, his ideas will have to be taken seriously, especially if he attracts a significant share of the ballots cast on Wednesday. These votes will provide the foundation, not only for future campaigns, but for the movement for real change that must be built and sustained far into the future.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette on the Internet
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on Facebook
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on YouTube
Information for Voters
Winnipeg Mayoral Debates Video Playlist

Winnipeg, Sept. 23, 2014: CBC News reporter (and panel moderator) Sean Kavanagh snaps a selfie with mayoral candidates at North Centennial Community Centre, proving some journalists will bend over backwards to get the story. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Sept. 23, 2014: CBC News reporter (and panel moderator) Sean Kavanagh snaps a selfie with mayoral candidates at North Centennial Community Centre, proving some journalists will bend over backwards to get the story. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On October 22, 2014, we Winnipeggers will elect a new mayor. With seven in the running, and the avalanche of announcements continuing to grow, it is difficult knowing who said what.

Mainstream media outlets tend to be selective in what they cover and often oversimplify what candidates have to say. It’s difficult to get a complete picture.

To help you deepen and broaden your knowledge of the candidates, what they say and how they present themselves, I’ve been recording mayoral debates. So far, I’ve recorded four debates where candidates present their views and one very interesting forum where citizens talk and the candidates listen.

I’ve stitched them into a YouTube playlist where you can see the candidates in action, unedited and unfiltered. This is unbiased coverage you will find nowhere else. The only spin you get is that which the candidates choose to offer.

I know – information overload. But the stakes are high and it’s worth investing the time. We’ve had ten years of lousy government at City Hall and with this election, we have a chance to do better

Make an informed choice. Click on the link below to watch these debates:

October 13th Update:

Since posting this article I’ve recorded and posted another seven debates, for a total of 11 mayoral forums.