By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, January 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May recalls going 17 days without food
On Dec 11, Theresa Spence began her hunger strike with only water, medicinal tea and fish broth as sustenance. Many opposition MPs spent time with the Attawapiskat chief to offer support. Some have had ﬁrst-hand experience with hunger strikes and fasts.
In 2001, Green leader Elizabeth May, then executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, went on a 17-day hunger strike. She was demanding the Liberal government relocate families living near the Sydney Tar Ponds toxic waste site in Cape Breton. Once health minister Allan Rock agreed to meet her demands, she ate a strawberry. Her choice of what to eat first came from a friend who said it was a First Nations tradition. Continue…
By Heather Wright - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
The Aamjiwnaang First Nation uses a rail line blockade to protest near Sarnia, Ont.
When the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ont., wanted to support hunger-striking Chief Theresa Spence they found a big and easy target in their backyard: the Canadian National Railway. Chief Chris Plain and about a dozen Idle No More supporters blocked the railway’s spur line leading in and out of one of Canada’s largest industrial complexes, Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. “It was an effort to target something that would get the federal government’s attention,” says Plain.
If Ottawa didn’t fully get the message, local industry did. CN and its customers took action, getting a court injunction on Dec. 21 to have the blockade removed. A week later, with protesters still there, CN was back in court saying jobs were at stake. The line is “a major piece of infrastructure serving major industry,” says CN spokesman Jim Feeny. “If you interrupt any part of that, you have an effect on our operation but also on the customers.” Imperial Oil scaled back gas production by 15 per cent due to the stoppage. The Canadian Propane Association warned that customers east of the city could soon face shortages. One of the biggest industries in the region, Nova Chemicals, also slowed production. With company lawyers calling the lack of rail service “disastrous,” it shut two chemical units and slowed production in its remaining unit. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 9:59 PM - 0 Comments
Reports vary as to who might or might not be participating in tomorrow’s planned meeting between the Harper government and First Nations leaders, if that meeting is to take place in some form or another.
APTN reports that Shawn Atleo is to take the matter to the Prime Minister’s Office tonight to request a larger venue and the presence of the Governor General.
Mr. Atleo addressed the Assembly of First Nations meeting in downtown Ottawa tonight. My recording of his remarks—beginning about 10 second after he started speaking—is below.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:01 PM - 0 Comments
Manitoba’s chiefs have issued a release to say they will not be taking part to say in tomorrow’s meeting.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and Southern Chiefs Organization, along with Chiefs from across Canada have just received word from the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Office that Prime Minister Harper will not allow Governor General David Johnston to be in the meeting with the First Nations leadership of Canada.
The First Nations leadership has invited the Prime Minister of Canada and the Governor General to meet with the entire delegation of First Nations leadership from across the country at the Delta Hotel on January 11, 2013. This invitation still stands but unfortunately the Prime Minister has declined this invitation.
The First Nations leadership has maintained their position for the last week that both the Prime Minister and the Governor General were to be in the same room at the same time to discuss how to reset the First Nation – Crown relationship. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has been very dictatorial and unrelenting in his position to control and set the agenda for this meeting. This clearly demonstrates that the Government of Canada does not have any iota of concern or respect for the rights of the Indigenous people of this country.
Chiefs, many of them emotional, are currently addressing a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations at a hotel ballroom in downtown Ottawa, debating whether chiefs should attend tomorrow’s meeting with the Prime Minister.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A senior government source tells the Star that the Prime Minister understands the importance of Friday’s meeting with aboriginal leaders, but the Globe wonders if the meeting will happen at all—some chiefs apparently agreeing with Theresa Spence that the Governor General must be present. Or, as one chief explained to APTN, “If there is any honour in this Crown the governor general better get his ass there.” (I believe the proper phrasing is “his right honourable ass.”)
There is a lot of history between First Nations and the crown—some of First Nations leaders have requested a meeting with the Queen later this year—but it’s not clear to me what the Governor General could be expected to do here. If this were a larger summit or gathering, you might imagine the Governor General participating in an opening or closing ceremony. But this is said to a be a working meeting—Shawn Atleo has specifically noted the difference—and the Prime Minister and his cabinet are responsible for government policy.
In that regard, APTN lists a few potential demands that are being considered.
According to a draft position from Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization obtained by APTN National News, it appears First Nations leaders are planning to put repealing the Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, the government’s omnibus budget bills on the table.
The draft outline, which APTN National News was told broadly, reflected the direction of discussions, also called for Canada to set a timeline and process to scrap the Indian Act and replace it with a “Treaty Recognition and Implementation Act.”
Fully repealing 900 pages of legislation—the combined extent of C-38 and C-45—seems a rather large request at this point, but the Indian Act is already up for debate and there seems unanimous agreement that it must (somehow) be replaced.
By Chris Purdy - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
A federal court decision that classifies Metis as Indians, placing them under federal jurisdiction,…
A federal court decision that classifies Metis as Indians, placing them under federal jurisdiction, may soon have more people lining up for membership cards.
Randy Ranville, a genealogist with the Metis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre in Winnipeg, helps Metis applicants dig through government scrips, Hudson’s Bay Company employee records and the 1901 census for evidence their ancestors were designated “half-breeds.”
“We’re going to be swamped,” he said, following the court decision Tuesday. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 6:21 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Two Alberta First Nations are set to launch a legal challenge against…
OTTAWA – Two Alberta First Nations are set to launch a legal challenge against the federal government today in Ottawa.
The Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Frog Lake First Nation will claim they weren’t adequately consulted over omnibus budget legislation which makes significant changes to environmental protection and assessment.
Chief Steve Courtoreille of the Mikisew Cree First Nation says it is the federal government’s job, under its treaty obligations, to protect aboriginal land and the two budget bills will allow Ottawa to shirk that responsibility.
He says offloading environmental oversight to provincial governments will not allow concerns from First Nations communities to be adequately addressed.
By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:32 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – With a politically charged First Nations protest movement already on its hands,…
OTTAWA – With a politically charged First Nations protest movement already on its hands, another aboriginal hot potato may be about to land in the lap of the Conservative government.
A Federal Court ruling Tuesday on the rights of Metis and non-status Indians could change the way Ottawa deals with the more than 600,000 aboriginal people who live off-reserve, says one of the groups behind the lawsuit.
“It would end the finger-pointing between the federal and provincial governments about who would sit down with Metis and non-status Indian people and negotiate,” said Ron Swain, national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 8:53 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – The British Columbia and federal governments have been ordered to pay a…
VANCOUVER – The British Columbia and federal governments have been ordered to pay a portion of the legal costs incurred by a First Nation that won a partial land claim victory last year — the latest development in a two-decade old battle that has since moved onto the Supreme Court of Canada.
The B.C. Court of Appeal issued a ruling last June that granted the Tsilhqot’in First Nation broad rights to hunt, trap and trade in what it considers its traditional land, but the decision also rejected the Tsilhqot’in’s claim to aboriginal title.
The case is now the subject of an appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada, which has yet to decide whether to hear the case, but in the meantime the B.C. Court of Appeal awarded the First Nation legal costs for the appeal.
The case dates back to the early 1990s, when the Tsilhqot’in first began using the courts and a blockade to stop logging operations in the area, setting off a complex legal odyssey that has bounced between courts and spawned appeals and cross-appeals.
The B.C. Supreme Court earlier ordered the two provincial and federal governments to pay the Tsilhqot’in’s legal bills, in advance, for the trial in that court. The Appeal Court’s latest decision, issued Thursday, adds to that bill, though the running total wasn’t immediately clear.
A lawyer for the First Nation, James Nelson, said in an interview that a formula outlined in provincial legislation will determine the exact amounts to be paid for the appeal, but that hasn’t been worked out yet.
The Tsilhqot’in, whose traditional territory is near Williams Lake, B.C., is a collection of six bands, including the Xeni Gwet’in band, which is at the heart of the case.
A forestry company attempted to secure access to two areas where the Xeni Gwet’in claimed aboriginal title.
The Tsilhqot’in staged a blockade in May of 1992 to prevent forestry work. The blockade ended with a promise from then-premier Mike Harcourt to prevent further logging without the Xeni Gwet’in’s consent.
The B.C. government turned much of the area into a provincial park in 1994, but the rest of the land remains in dispute.
A trial began in November 2002 and continued for nearly five years, hearing evidence that the Tsilhqot’in have been in the area for more than 250 years.
But the trial also heard the Tsilhqot’in were “semi-nomadic” and had few permanent encampments.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Tsilhqot’in did not have aboriginal title over the entire area, but the court also said the Tsilhqot’in had rights to hunt and to trade skins and pelts to support a “moderate livelihood.”
The Tsilhqot’in and both governments each filed appeals of various aspects of that ruling, but the Appeal Court dismissed all three appeals in its decision last year.
The Tsilhqot’in is among First Nations in B.C. that have declined to participate in the province’s ongoing treaty process. Unlike other provinces, most of B.C. does not have treaties with its First Nations.
It’s not clear when the Supreme Court of Canada will issue a decision on whether it will hear the case, or, if it does, when that might happen.
The Tsilhqot’in have a long history opposing development in their traditional land.
The First Nation is among the strongest critics of a proposal by Taseko Mines Ltd. to develop its New Prosperity mine site near Williams Lake.
The $1.1-billion mine was approved by the B.C. government, rejected in a federal government environmental review in 2010 and is now back before the environmental review process.
In 2011, the Tsilhqot’in First Nation won an injunction to stop work on the project, but that injunction was later vacated by a court order.
In 1864, a road-building crew was killed while attempting to construct a road through Tsilhqot’in territory. It sparked the so-called Tsilhqot’in War, a conflict that ended with the execution of several Tsilhqot’in chiefs, who were publicly hanged in what is now Quesnel, B.C.
By Brigette DePape - Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
Brigitte DePape on an unexpected offering at the end of 2012
The gift I will cherish most this holiday wasn’t a new pair of new slippers, another bar of soap, or an iPod. It was an unexpected offering, and one that many people have been asking for years.
In the face of a Harper majority government, which was elected with a mere 39 per cent of the vote in 2011, we’ve been asking for an end to unjust policies, and a transformation of a broken system.
In the face of climate change that threatens the survival of humanity, coming to the public consciousness in the 1960s with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and then by the UN Commission in the 1970s, we’ve been searching for a solution to a path towards a clean future.
Since the beginning of consumer culture, we have been searching for some kind of meaning amid all the stuff. Continue…
By David Newland - Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM - 0 Comments
How Canadians are failing a tolerance test
Canadians are a tolerant people, right? It’s certainly something we pride ourselves on. The Idle No More movement provides an ideal opportunity to test this notion, as Canadians turn to mass media outlets online to express their thoughts about the matter.
Let’s take, for example, the comments on articles about Idle No More from a variety of media outlets: Globeandmail.com, CBC.ca, NationalPost.com and CTV.ca, just as easy examples. By this I mean the comments that have not been removed for being blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, vulgar, or hateful. The ordinary stuff, in other words. The ideas and opinions that are helping to form and reflect actual public opinion on this important issue.
Now, it would, at first blush, be easy to read some of the comments on those articles as intolerant. But let’s face it: people often misread online communication. So it’s only fair to give these folks the benefit of the doubt, and try to understand where they are coming from. It’s the Canadian way, eh? Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Members of a prominent First Nation in British Columbia are at odds…
VANCOUVER – Members of a prominent First Nation in British Columbia are at odds with the federal government, environmentalists and even other aboriginals over a project that saw tonnes of iron dust deposited into the waters off the West Coast.
The initiative — known as ocean fertilization and pitched as a salmon-enhancement project that could earn carbon credits for the community of Old Massett — cost the village more than $2 million and took place this summer in international waters west of the Haida Gwaii islands on B.C.’s northwest coast.
While the band’s chief councillor says members debated the issue, voted on the project, performed their legal due diligence and even met with federal officials, Environment Canada says it never received an application for ocean fertilization under the Disposal at Sea program and has launched an investigation.
Meantime, the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provided resources to the project, is now saying it was misled, and environmentalists are calling the initiative disconcerting, arguing it may have breached international conventions.
The band will hold a news conference at the Vancouver Aquarium Friday morning to provide more details on the project which saw 100 short tons of iron sulfate and 20 short tons of iron oxide dropped into the ocean.
The community of Old Massett maintains that it thought the initiative was a well-founded one.
“In my understanding and my position, before the boat left, all the methodologies, the science, the governance and the legalities were set,” said Ken Rea, chief councillor for Old Massett. “The table was set before that boat left or else it wouldn’t have left.”
The project was officially run through a company called the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, which is owned by the village.
Rea said the band got involved with the project initially because it was interested in receiving carbon credits tied to forest-restoration work.
The main reason, however, was tied to salmon, a traditional and necessary food source and economic engine for the band.
“The community of Old Massett in the last 20 years, our main industry has absolutely been devastated,” he said. “We went from a community who historically never had a problem with employment to a 70 per cent level now because our whole fishing industry has been completely damaged or devastated, for a lack of a better word.”
Rea said the band looked at the ocean fertilization project for several years, deliberating the matter at the council table, holding public meetings and even a vote, which passed by a “solid majority.”
Although the band talked to a credit union about a loan, officials turned to other funding sources and even some of its own reserves, he added.
Rea said officials also met earlier this year with federal officials, including representatives of Environment Canada, to talk about the project.
Joe Spears, legal counsel for the salmon restoration corporation, said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even provided ocean buoys for the initiative that could be used to collect data.
“This is not some kind of rogue operation,” said Spears, adding that the substance was deposited in international waters because that’s where it made sense to conduct the research as fish don’t follow national boundaries.
Almost immediately a large plankton bloom created by the project began to draw marine life, said Spears, which was important because according to a band statement plankton blooms provide nutrients to salmon and other marine life.
Spears said the project ran from July to Sept. 11, at which point a fishing boat, the Ocean Pearl, returned to port with data from the initiative which is now being analysed.
But a spokesman for federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said the project was only “elevated to the minister’s attention” three days ago, and Kent has been looking for answers over Environment Canada’s involvement.
Kent’s press secretary Adam Sweet confirmed Environment Canada officials met with representatives from Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. on May 7 and informed them about disposal at sea legislation.
“They were informed that any iron ore deposit in waters, whether inside or outside the Canadian (200 nautical mile) limit constitutes a violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (EPA 1999) except for the purpose of legitimate research,” he wrote.
Sweet said Environment Canada never received an ocean-fertilization application under the Disposal at Sea program, and the enforcement branch was informed about a possible incident Aug. 29.
An investigation was launched Aug. 30, he added, noting he couldn’t comment further because the matter is under investigation.
The U.S. agency involved in the initiative says it wasn’t aware of the project’s plans to deposit iron dust in the ocean.
“We are disappointed that we were misled,” Ciaran Clayton, a NOAA spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Clayton said the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation offered in July to deploy 20 NOAA global ocean drifters off the West Coast of Canada for a salmon-research project.
“Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation did not disclose that it was going to discharge material into the ocean, nor did our drifters contribute to the discharge of any material,” added Clayton.
The Council of the Haida Nation also issued a statement Thursday, saying its Hereditary Chiefs Council and nation are no way involved in the project.
“The consequences of tampering with nature at this scale are not predictable and pose unacceptable risks to the marine environment,” said Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation, who goes by one name.
Eduardo Sousa, a Greenpeace Peace Canada, said the organization is disturbed, saying the project could have contravened international conventions.
“This project should have not gone forward,” he added, adding the federal government should take the blame for the project because it reneged on its responsibilities.
By John Geddes - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 7:36 AM - 0 Comments
Even with the Jets out of the playoffs, it’s been fine to be in Winnipeg the past couple of days. Good coffee and muffins down at the Mondragon; the striking architecture of the innovative Manitoba Hydro Place building out my hotel window.
But my official reason for being here was yesterday evening’s CPAC “In Conversation with Maclean’s” panel discussion, at the always impressive Winnipeg Art Gallery, on the theme “First Nations in Canada: Is there a way forward.”
Along with our Paul Wells and CPAC moderator Peter Van Dusen, the panel was loaded with insight: National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations, Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, and Charlene Lafreniere, a city councillor from Thompson, Man.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 6:06 PM - 0 Comments
Earlier today, Paul Wells alerted you to Wednesday evening’s CPAC “In Conversation With Maclean’s” panel discussion, to be held at the beautiful Winnipeg Art Gallery, on the fraught subject, “First Nations in Canada: Is There a Way Forward?” I say “fraught” because how any federal government handles the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development file ends up being controversial and sensitive.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper started off on a combative note, after winning power in 2006, by effectively scrapping the so-called Kelowna Accord, a complex deal worked out by then-prime minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government and the leaders of five national Aboriginal organizations that would have seen $5 billion spent over a decade on social and economic initiatives. But in 2008, Harper seemed to set a more conciliatory tone by issuing an historic apology to former students in Indian residential schools for that disgraceful period in Canadian history.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Chronicle-Herald looks at the proposed rules for foreign charities.
The Conservative government is threatening to decertify foreign charities that do not act “in the national interest of Canada.” Under rules announced Thursday in the 2012 budget, foreign groups can apply for registered charity status if they meet one of two criteria. The first is providing disaster relief or urgent humanitarian aid. The second is if they work in the national interest of Canada. The national revenue minister, working with the finance minister, will have the power to decide who meets the criteria.
Embassy reviews the cuts to foreign aid, immigration and defence.
Within the suite of departments and agencies that contribute to foreign aid, CIDA would take the largest hit: $152.7 million by 2012-13. That amounts to about 4.5 per cent of CIDA’s total budget for that year. That number would ramp up to $319.2 million by 2014-15. To put that into context, that ongoing $319.2 million decline is just under the $320 million CIDA currently spends on basic education programs and for water and sanitation, according to figures from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM - 0 Comments
Amid all else, the House voted unanimously last night—268 to 0—to approve the following NDP motion.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should adopt Shannen’s Dream by: (a) declaring that all First Nation children have an equal right to high-quality, culturally-relevant education; (b) committing to provide the necessary financial and policy supports for First Nations education systems; (c) providing funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools; (d) developing transparent methodologies for school construction, operation, maintenance and replacement; (e) working collaboratively with First Nation leaders to establish equitable norms and formulas for determining class sizes and for the funding of educational resources, staff salaries, special education services and indigenous language instruction; and (f) implementing policies to make the First Nation education system, at a minimum, of equal quality to provincial school systems.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s nominally independent energy regulator, the National Energy Board (which is currently evaluating Enbridge’s plan to build the Northern Gateway pipeline) is an ally of the federal government, according to an embarrassing official policy paper that was made public on Thursday. First Nations, on the other hand, are an adversary.
Greenpeace just published pages of documents obtained by the Climate Action Network through a freedom of information request. They show the NEB listed among entities Ottawa considers to be allies in its struggle to promote oil sands abroad. In an adjacent column on the same piece of paper, First Nations appear under “adversaries.” The documents were drafted by Canada’s international trade ministry, and they lay out an advocacy strategy to combat criticism of Canada’s oil sands in the European Union. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
Program saw aboriginal children taken from reserves and given to non-aboriginal parents
The federal government has won its appeal of a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of aboriginal children in Ontario who were taken from their birth-parents and given to foster parents in Canada and the U.S. The “Sixties Scoop” is the term for the program of adoptions that ran from the 1960s to the 1980s in which aboriginal children were taken from reserves—sometimes without consent—and given over to non-aboriginal parents. But the plaintiffs, now grown up, allege it was a deliberate attempt to assimilate aboriginals and remove them from their cultural origins. There are also complaints of abuse and alienation, the Toronto Star reported Wednesday night.
The federal government appealled an earlier decision of an Ontario Superior Court Justice who had given conditional approval of the case. The condition was that the statement of claim be amended. Lawyers for the federal government successfully argued that the case was invalid since the claim had been “preapproved” without being fully considered by the Superior Court Justice.
But the legal wrangling obfuscates tales of abuse and racism from those who were “scooped” from their birth families. Marcia Brown, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, was taken from her family when she was 4. Speaking with the Toronto Star, she recalls how her adoptive mother would vigourously scrub her with soap to get the “dirty brown colour” out of her skin. “Canada’s strategy is the get us out of the say,” she said. “It’s an injustice. What I truly feel is that this isn’t a fair system for First Nations people.”
Brown and the lawsuit’s other lead plaintiff, Robert Commanda, have been ordered to pay $25,000 each for costs of the proceeding. Their lawyers have vowed to continue their legal battle, but admit that the ruling is a major setback.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa has now concluded with closing remarks from the government and national chief Shawn Atleo.
The joint “outcome statement” that has been released is below.
John Geddes notes one crucial clause.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 9:58 AM - 0 Comments
The prepared text of the Prime Minister’s remarks at today’s summit.
Au-gee-na-pee. Bienvenue, Mesdames et messieurs. Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you … on the traditional territory of the Algonquin … to this historic Crown-First Nations Gathering. And it is especially appropriate to do so in this building. Un édifice dont le nom honore la mémoire du Premier ministre John George Diefenbaker, l’instigateur des relations de l’ère moderne entre la Couronne et les Premières Nations. A building whose name honours the memory of a prime minister who cared deeply about the things we are gathered here to talk about: respect, rights and opportunity for First Nations Canadians.
John George Diefenbaker was, in many ways, the initiator of the modern era of Crown – First Nations relations. It was he who named the first First Nations member to the Parliament of Canada, Senator James Gladstone in 1958. And, of course, it was he who, two years later, extended to aboriginal Canadians living on reserves the right to vote in national elections. In addressing that long-standing and fundamental injustice, he was a man ahead of his time and in many ways, an apt inspiration for today’s proceedings.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, January 6, 2012 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Eviction of troublesome First Nations community members worries other bands
Desperate times have prevailed so long among the Samson Cree that desperate measures were arguably overdue. But a proposal by Hobbema, Alta.’s largest First Nation to “evict” gang members has neighbouring Aboriginal bands worried, as critics wonder whether banished troublemakers will simply move a few hundred metres down the road, and start causing havoc all over again.
Members of the Samson Cree were to vote Wednesday in a referendum on the bylaw, which would allow any 25 residents of their community to apply to have another evicted. If the person in question was not a band member, a “residency tribunal” would make the decision. While commanders at Hobbema’s RCMP detachment supported the measures, three other nations in and around the central Alberta town—the Ermineskin Cree, the Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation—said it was a formula for passing ne’er-do-wells from one troubled native community to the next.
Few would disagree, though, that some new and drastic action is needed around Hobbema, a town located amid four native reserves about 95 km south of Edmonton. Afflicted by alcoholism, financial corruption and more recently by drug gangs, the area is a perennial staging ground for crime and sorrow. The 7,000-strong Samson Cree First Nation has been the scene of nine unsolved homicides in the last five years, while losing 49 homes to arson. This week, a resident of the reserve was sentenced to five years in prison for a drive-by shooting in April 2010 that nearly claimed the life of a 22-year-old woman. A 30-year-old woman was charged with murder after a New Year’s Eve stabbing that claimed the life of a 34-year-old man.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
Money, goes conventional wisdom, comes with strings attached. Especially other people’s money. Especially when it comes as lump-sum transfer. And, as the ongoing Attawapiskat saga shows, the strings tie both ends of the money chain, with receivers accusing Ottawa of stinginess and neglect, and lenders always keen to point to suspicious accounting practices–or at least maladministration.
Yet, there’s a smart way around all this: borrowing from the markets. Though few seem to have noticed, First Nations are working on it. They plan to issue their first bonds in the fall of next year, in a collective offering worth at least $100 million. The money raised will serve for things like housing and to build badly needed infrastructure, which will create jobs and the conditions for banks and private business to set up shop on Native reserves, says Steve Berna, chief operating officer of the First Nations Financial Authority, the voluntary not-for-profit organization tasked with issuing the bonds.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 12 Comments
Tax-free have long been a big business in Ontario and Quebec
Chief Frank Brown of the Canupawakpa Dakota Nation doesn’t smoke, but he swears by the Mohawk-manufactured cigarettes on sale at the Dakota Chundee Smoke Shack near Pipestone, Man. “We did our research and the provincial [name brand] cigarettes have a lot of chemicals in them,” he says. “We think our smokes don’t have the cancer that the province’s cigarettes do.”
Whatever the supposed health claims put forth by Brown, the Manitoba government isn’t listening. In mid-November, ofﬁcials seized 90,000 contraband cigarettes, which were not authorized for sale in the province. The next day, Dakota Chundee, which doesn’t sit on reserve land, was open again, crowded with non-Aboriginal buyers.
The raid, and subsequent reopening of the smoke shack, is the latest in a growing frontier war between First Nations and western provincial governments. Unlike in Ontario and Quebec, where the booming Indian tobacco business has also been linked to gangs, not to mention billions in lost taxes, Indian cigarette sales haven’t been an issue in the West. That’s changing as western bands turn to smokes to not only ﬁll their coffers, but to assert land claims, too.
By Chris Sorensen and Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 9:21 AM - 20 Comments
Environmentalists are opening a new front in their war on Alberta oil—attacking pipeline projects vital to the industry’s future
Over the next few weeks, as many as 2,000 climate change protesters are expected to descend on Washington in an effort to draw more Americans into the debate over Alberta’s oil sands—one of the most carbon-intensive sources of fossil fuel on the planet. But this time, anti-oil sands groups aren’t focusing on the vast open pit mines near Fort McMurray, which one activist memorably compared to J. R. R. Tolkien’s ﬁre-spewing and charcoal-covered realm of Mordor, but on a major pipeline project that the industry needs to move forward with its expansion plans.
Supported by such high-proﬁle environmentalists and left-leaning luminaries as David Suzuki and Naomi Klein, the protesters, who will risk arrest during their White House sit-in, hope to stop President Barack Obama’s administration from approving the proposed 2,673-km Keystone XL pipeline that is being built by TransCanada Corp. and would move crude oil from northern Alberta to reﬁneries in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, north of the border, anti-pipeline rallies are scheduled to take place over the next few months in Vancouver and Ottawa. In addition to the Keystone XL project, the Canadian rallies will also focus on a proposed 1,170-km pipeline, built by Enbridge Inc., that would connect northern Alberta to an oil-shipping terminal in Kitimat, B.C., running through an area that opponents claim is pristine wilderness and the habitat of a sacred species of bear.
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 8 Comments
On moving beyond residential schools, overcoming cynicism and trusting the Tories
AFTER TWO YEARS as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo is cautiously optimistic about the relationship he is forging with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. On Tuesday, at the assembly’s annual meeting in Moncton, N.B., he proposed replacing the federal Aboriginal Affairs Department with a system that allows bands more autonomy and lessens the heavy federal intervention required under the Indian Act. “The patterns of the past have to be essentially smashed,” he told Maclean’s. Atleo, a hereditary chief in the tiny B.C. island community of Ahousaht, reads vindication in the recent report by now-retired auditor general Sheila Fraser. It warns, as Atleo and successive national chiefs have said, that the quality of life on reserves is worsening and the existing system of financing and accountability must be overhauled.
Q: The last time we spoke, you called your home community of Ahousaht a microcosm of First Nations across the country. So, how is Ahousaht faring?
A: Oh, it has its struggles, to be frank. They’re working on them, and we’ve got a new generation of leadership coming on.