By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
The second part of my conversation with Romeo Saganash. In this segment we talk about #IdleNoMore, Theresa Spence, Shawn Atleo, the blockades and the chance for progress. The first part of our conversation is here.
Obviously you’ve been preoccupied with other things, but have you had a chance to watch Idle No More? Have you talked to people? What’s your sense of what’s happened these last few weeks?
Well, anyone who thought that this would never happen must have been somewhere else, in a sense, because this was bound to happen. I know a lot of people tend to say that Idle No More is just an aboriginal thing, which is really not the case because a lot of things that we talk about should be of direct concern to all Canadians. Whether it’s the environment, navigable waters, you name it. The dismantling, and it’s not just me as an NDPer that is speaking, but the dismantling of the environment, the dismantling of the economy and natural resources in this country, the dismantling of human rights in this country, the government of the day is presently dismantling the very foundation of what Canada is. And obviously I have a problem with that.
So that is what I’m seeing. I haven’t been completely isolated, I’ve been following this and the people that talk to me, whether in my riding or Montreal or elsewhere here, all point to the same things. The hunting association in Val D’Or has the same preoccupations as the aboriginal peoples that are protesting in the streets. And in many regions, a lot of non-aboriginal people have joined those marches. We need to continue to fight something that is wrong here. And it’s not just about aboriginal rights or treaty rights, it’s about a lot of other things as well. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 2:43 PM - 0 Comments
After an incident aboard an Air Canada plane in October, NDP MP Romeo Saganash acknowledged that he had a dependence on alcohol and announced that he would be taking a leave to seek treatment. The former Cree leader and negotiator returned to work yesterday. I sat down with him in his Parliament Hill office this morning to talk about his fight against alcoholism, his experiences as a child in a residential school, #IdleNoMore, Theresa Spence and his role as an aboriginal in politics. This is part one of our conversation. Part two is here.
First of all, how are you doing?
Very well. I’m glad to be back. I missed a lot of things apparently. (laughs)
Yeah, just a couple things happened while you were away. How has the last month or so gone? I take it you went through a program or some kind of treatment, how did that go?
That went very well. I’m glad I did it. I told my leader that that was probably the best decision I ever took in my entire career. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me to work on myself and care about myself as well. And that’s important. I was just recalling with the previous reporter that I started out back in 1981 when the late Billy Diamond called upon me to work for the Grand Council of Cree, so I’ve been in this for a long time. And I guess throughout this period, at one point you forget about yourself.
Had it ever been suggested to you, had anyone ever said to you before this, that they thought you might have a problem?
It never occurred to you, either?
Well, perhaps at times, yeah, but not really directly, no one has ever… I think the way that I looked at it over the years was that if it started affecting my job than there’s something wrong. But that never happened, so I just went on with things. And then this incident happened and I said to myself, well, okay, perhaps there might be a problem.
In that statement you released when you said you were going to take some time off, you talked about a few things, one of them being your residential school experience. Do you see that as the root of things? Is that where the trouble starts?
Well, I don’t necessarily want to blame what happened on anything else besides me. I’m the one at the end of the day that took decisions about many things, including alcohol. And I accept that responsibility and I admitted that responsibility and I went and sought help and treatment. But certainly one of the things that they try to teach or that you learn in treatment is that there’s a time when you have to look back on where you come from. And definitely one of the things that I thought about a lot is how my 10 years in a residential school affected who I am today, or tainted who I am today and the way I am today. Definitely. Most definitely. Ten years is a long time. Continue…
By Joseph and Amanda Boyden - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Novelists Joseph and Amanda Boyden travel with the band to isolated Fort Albany, Ont., for the Great Moon Gathering
We’re in a 40-person prop plane, high over black spruce and frozen rivers somewhere between Timmins and the coast of James Bay. A frigid night has fallen outside the small windows, and the plane buzzes with the voices of ﬁlmmakers and artists, teachers and writers. And all the members of the Tragically Hip. Every time we’re jostled by turbulence, it’s hard not to whisper-sing the Hip’s hit song, Fifty Mission Cap, about the Maple Leafs’ Bill Barilko’s death in a plane crash in the land literally below us.
Why would the entirety of “Canada’s band” risk such a thing? Why would they opt to ﬂy, in the middle of winter, to isolated Fort Albany, Ont., to play in a high school gym? And why would the award-winning documentarians Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier do the same, toting hundreds of kilos of camera equipment? Why would Shelagh Rogers, CBC’s radio legend, take another plane from Gabriola Island off the B.C. coast—no, make that five planes and a ferry—to head to a 900-person reserve hosting the Great Moon Gathering? Nobody’s making a penny. Why?
Back before Christmas, I got a call from Edmund Metatawabin, former chief of Fort Albany and this year’s Great Moon Gathering coordinator, asking if I would be the keynote speaker. The Great Moon Gathering revolves around youth education and focuses on integrating traditional Cree learning with contemporary realities. Participants come from the reserves of Peawanuck, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, and Moose Factory, many of them teachers from down south, teachers hungry to bridge that gap between cultures.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:02 PM - 1 Comment
Romeo Saganash touts his history as a negotiator for Cree communities in Quebec.
“I can do this job and I think in Canada we need a better prime minister than we have right now,” he said.
“Our policies need to meet of course the economic objectives, but also the social and environmental objectives,” he said. The agreements he negotiated with hydro, forestry and other companies as deputy grand chief at the Grand Council of the Crees and as its director of Quebec relations and international affairs met those objectives, he said. ”I will try to bring nationally what I did locally in northern Quebec.”
Mr. Saganash also has some thoughts on foreign policy.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Saganash was ripped from the bosom of his nomadic Cree family near the remote northern Quebec village of Waswanipi and shipped to a residential school some 500 kilometres away in La Tuque. ”A very traumatic experience for anybody,” he recently told The Canadian Press.
In his own case, the experience was made immeasurably worse within six months of his arrival at the school, when the priest in charge called him and his siblings into his office to inform them that their father had died. In the next breath, Saganash recalls, the priest advised them: “We don’t have the budgets to send you there (for the funeral) so you’ll have to do your grieving here in the residential school. I still recall the scene when he gave us the bad news, we were sitting in front of the director, the priest. I still recall my brothers and sisters were crying and crying and crying and I was just there staring at him. That was, I think, a turning point for me.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 17 Comments
Award-winning novelist Joseph Boyden on the link between residential schools and the devastation of native suicide
A Cree woman I’ve known for many years up in Moosonee, Ont., has been in such anguish for months that I fear for her life. This anguish, this word, can’t begin to describe her tortured suffering. She lives every day walking through what most of us would consider our worst nightmare. A year ago, her 17-year-old son, while at a house party full of friends, walked from the kitchen, where he’d found a short indoor extension cord, through the crowded living room, to the bedroom, and eventually into a closet. There, he wrapped the end of the cord around his neck, and, leaving a foot or two, he tied the other around the clothes rod. This thin young man, pimples on his chin and black hair he wore short and spiky, knelt so that his full weight took up all slack. In this way, he slowly strangled himself to death.
If you have the fortitude, think about that for a minute. He could have stopped at any time; he could have simply stood up to take the pressure off. Possibly he did once or twice or three times when the fear of what awaited overcame him, when the happy noise of his friends in the rooms next door drifted in, muffled. But eventually, with unbelievable will, with a drive he’d never exhibited in his young life before, he managed this gruesome act of self-destruction.