Archive for the ‘Aboriginal Peoples’ Category

Winnipeg, April 26, 2016: NDP MP Romeo Saganash, in conversation with students at the University of Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, April 26, 2016: NDP MP Romeo Saganash, in conversation with students at the University of Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On April 21, 2016, NDP MP Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou) introduced legislation (Bill C-262) that will ensure that Canadian law is consistent the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, the declaration was initially opposed by the Harper government but eventually endorsed by Canada in 2010. Bill C-262 is essentially the same as a bill Saganash introduced during the Harper government. While the Conservatives were unwilling to support it, the (then) Opposition Liberals did promise to vote for it. Saganash says the Trudeau government has so far been noncommittal with regard to this bill.

Saganash played a key role in the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a process that took 23 years. He was in Winnipeg recently and spoke with students at the University of Winnipeg about the benefits this legislation will provide indigenous peoples in Canada, if it is passed by Parliament. Passage is by no means assured and Saganash is calling on Canadians to lobby their Members of Parliament to support the bill.

Advertisements
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.”
Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Energy East Pipelines, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Oil Pipelines (Canada), has applied to build the Energy East Pipeline, a project that will use aging natural gas pipelines along most of its route to move explosive, toxic diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refining facilities on Canada’s east coast.

The plan is fraught with risks to human health and the natural environment, but the National Energy Board, the federal regulatory body charged with assessing the suitability of this project, seems determined to turn a blind eye to the most serious ones.

The elephant in the room that the NEB is most anxious to ignore is the climate change that will be unleashed by the continued development of the Alberta oils sands, a northern Alberta mega project that will strip-mine an area the size of Nova Scotia and in so doing, will unleash enough carbon to push the world to the edge of uncontrolled climate change. Without pipelines, oil sands development will shrivel, and with it, the potential for further environmental damage.

In Winnipeg, a citizens’ coalition has challenged the National Energy Board to “consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects.”

Here’s video I recorded at its December 8, 2014 news conference in Winnipeg. Below is the text of the coalition’s open letter to the NEB.

An Open Letter to the National Energy Board on TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Dear Mr. Watson,

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge the National Energy Board to amend its review of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. We believe that the review process must consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the cumulative impacts of producing, refining, and burning the oil that would flow through it, if the project were approved.

If the NEB continues to refuse to assess upstream and downstream impacts you are leaving essential questions unanswered:

  • What are the global climate impacts of burning the oil this pipeline carries?
  • Understanding that this project would enable tar sands expansion, what consequences would Energy East have on the world’s ability to keep global average temperatures below a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise?
  • What would be the economic and health effects of increased tar sands production on communities, including First Nations communities, near the tar sands and along the pipeline?
  • What are the projected economic costs of the national and global climate impacts associated with any project which increases tar sand production? Who would be most likely to bear these costs?

What kinds of climate adaptation plans would be required based on the climate impacts of this proposed project? Who would develop them? Who would pay for them, and how?

Without a full and transparent accounting of the global climate impacts and associated economic and health costs of this project, we cannot in good conscience consider the National Energy Board to be acting in the best interest of Canadian families. Without including these critical questions, how can we believe the NEB to be undertaking a legitimate review of the proposal?

It is in your power to add these areas of concern to the “list of issues” for consideration. If it is currently outside the scope of the regulatory powers of the NEB to address these questions, we urge you to exercise exemplary moral leadership and refuse to review this pipeline and petition Parliament to grant you the legal authority to do so.

For a resilient and stable future,

No Energy East Manitoba – Energy Justice Coalition

Idle No More Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg Students Association

350.org

The Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter

Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement

Kairos Canada (Cambrian-Agassiz Region)


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, Aug. 24, 2014: Some of the people camping out in Memorial Park to call for a national inquiry into the deaths or disappearances of over 1200 aboriginal women. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Some of the people camping out in Memorial Park to call for a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of over 1200 Aboriginal women. Photo: Paul S. Graham

The hatred directed at aboriginal people in Canada is appalling, as is their poverty and exclusion from the opportunities that exist for non-indigenous Canadians. Nowhere is this more evident than in the federal government’s continuing refusal to hold a national inquiry into the causes of the deaths and disappearances of over 1200 aboriginal women. Now, aboriginal women are beginning to speak up for the aboriginal men who have disappeared over the years.

My latest video explores some of this.

To connect with the Protest Camp on Facebook, click here.


I don’t normally reprint news releases. This time I will make an exception. At the end of the news release are two videos I recorded earlier this year that speak to this issue. In the first, Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, of the Environmental Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba, talks about the research that is the subject of this news release. In the second, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May explains why Canada needs an energy policy that is good for Canada’s economy and its environment.


Health Study Reveals Alarming Links Between Oil Sands Contaminants and Incidence of Illness

July 7, 2014, Edmonton, AB – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, released a report Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, and is the first report of its kind to draw an associations between oil sands produced environmental contaminants and declines in community health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

This report has been peer reviewed by Health Canada and other health and environmental agencies. Integrating scientific research methods and local knowledge, the report is the result of three years of community-based participatory research that incorporates both the traditional knowledge of community members and scientific monitoring techniques.

MCFN Chief Steve Courtoreille says, “This report confirms what we have always suspected. about the association between environmental contaminants from oil sands production upstream and cancer and other serious illness in our community. The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Programme has released data about the increases in these contaminants, but fails to address and monitor impacts to First Nations traditional foods. We are greatly alarmed and demand further research and studies are done to expand on the findings of this report.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats, and beavers harvested by community members. Bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.
Contaminants in wildlife, as well as limited access due to declining water levels, have nearly eliminated the consumption of some traditional foods; fish caught in Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River are no longer trusted, while muskrat populations have declined precipitously.

ACFN Chief Allan Adam notes that “It’s frustrating to be constantly filling the gaps in research and studies that should have already been done. This demonstrates the lack of respect by industry and government to effecting address the First Nations concerns about impacts our Treaty rights and the increases in rare illnesses in our community. We need further independent studies done by internationally credible institutions like the World Health Organization.”

Community health and wellbeing have been in sharp decline. The study reveals a link between the Oil Sands and illness in Fort Chipewyan unlike the 2014 cancer report by Alberta Health Service which simply aggregated limited data.. Indeed, cancer occurrence in Fort Chipewyan is positively associated with the consumption of traditional wild foods, including locally caught fish.

“Communities are facing a double-bind”, says Stephane McLachlan, head researcher for the study. “On one hand, industry, notably the Oil Sands, causes a substantial decline in the health of the environment and ultimately of community members. On the other hand, the existing healthcare services are unable to address these declines in human health. These Indigenous communities are caught in the middle, and the impacts are clear and worrisome.”

Researchers and the community leaders urge further investigation of contaminant concentrations, in addition to the mitigation of existing occurrences. The report also emphasizes continued community-based monitoring and calls for improved risk communication from government and industry. A full copy of the report will be available online at www.onerivernews.ca