A national election is months away, but campaigning has already begun. While party leaders talk issues of economy and security, no one is asking the big question: what kind of society do we want? Canada is no longer one of the top five countries for integrating immigrants, a European think-tank announced in May. For decades, we've heard that Canada is a "just society" -- based on equality and freedom for all upheld in laws. We've built our just society, but is Canada becoming a less compassionate one?
You simply cannot live in Canada and ignore the past. It's a pretty strong statement but reading the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Aboriginal residential schools, that's the conclusion I've come to. The truth may be out but the reconciliation is going to take a while. So just as all Canadians share accountability for what is past, we also share a responsibility for making things better.
As Cree youngsters in the north, we are taught the tradition of how to walk on the land and in the bush -- with each foot fall carefully and quietly placed so as not to disturb the food sources that have always meant the difference between thriving and starvation. When young people began returning from residential schools, it is fascinating that what struck those who lived off the land the most is that these "students" had to be taught how to walk all over again. Not with the harsh heel strike they had learned in the towns and cities but with the gentle foot fall of their early childhoods.
Last week, we hosted the first of two joint Summits in Vancouver between our organizations, The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and The Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC). Both Summits focus on board governance, kick starting a critical national dialogue about the merits of strengthening these communication lines between Corporate Canada and aboriginal business leaders.
The children of these women are almost forgotten. Our half-hearted national conversation on the ongoing racialized violence against stolen indigenous women barely acknowledges their existence. If there is even an estimate of the number of children affected, please let me know. And yet, the surviving children's loss is unimaginable. They lost mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins. You don't need to be a psychiatrist to understand that the grotesque violence aboriginal women suffer affects the mental integrity of the children they leave behind.
It is unclear why the Chiefs of these 44 communities are choosing to withhold this information from their electorate and Canadian taxpayers. It is particularly peculiar that two of these communities, Weenusk First Nation and Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, previously published their audited financial statements and have now reversed course. That brings up the question: why are these 44 Chiefs afraid of an informed electorate?
According to new research presented at the first Indigenous Health Conference last week, colonialism causes diabetes. Colonialism is alive and well throughout Canadian society, and the health care system is no exception. In fact, the health care system broadly speaking is a principal way that Canada continues to colonize Indigenous people.
How do we make police, governments, institutions, and one another care more about Aboriginal women, even if they do things that some among us may find unseemly, like drinking, or using drugs, or selling sex? This is precisely the question that those demanding an inquiry into missing and murdered women hope to see answered. An inquiry would help us identify the culprits and, hopefully, stem this epidemic. Not just the epidemic of murder, but the epidemic of seeing Indigenous women as worthless.
The "Action Plan" tabled in the House of Commons this week does nothing new to actually "Stop the Violence" against indigenous women and girls. Unfortunately the Prime Minister sees the overwhelmingly disproportionate number of indigenous women and girls facing violence, who go missing or who are murdered, as nothing more than crimes that should be investigated by the police after they happen.
In the wake of the Vancouver motion, municipalities across the country now have a clear path laid out before them: building relationships and engaging respectfully leads towards reconciliation. But, Reimer cautions, there's a lot of groundwork to be done first. "I wouldn't have my opening salvo be a motion recognizing unceded territory. I think you'd want to have some process that led up to it.
I understand that PETA brings in about $30 million annually, the Humane Society of the U.S. collects more than $100 million and their executives make six-figure salaries. They and other groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare are clamouring for this easy target. Who could blame them? After all, it is good money in a competitive charitable market.
Nations have a narrative that explains their culture, their common shared experiences, beliefs, rituals, symbols and stories. Now the Palestinian people want a defined border for their nation. But, in my opinion, they don't seem to have a story, a narrative specific to them. They have been seconding the stories of others in an attempt to make one of their own.
If I were to make a PSA about the difference between mainstream schools and northern Aboriginal schools, I would start with a shot of a classroom in the Ontario's south. I'm in a classroom in the Orangeville, Ontario area. I show them pictures, a bit of video, and talk about our students in Canada's Aboriginal Communities. I tell them to imagine the classroom they're in is actually in the north. They're drinking bottled water or their parents are boiling it for five minutes for safety. Their food is three to five times as expensive as in the south. They realize that, in the short time they've been on this planet, they have had so much.
Canada's taxpayers have been increasingly generous to Aboriginal Canadians over the decades, but that reality is not often the narrative one hears from selected First Nations leaders. Instead, the oft-stated opinion is that taxpayers should ante up ever more. A quick look at the numbers shows us why that view will always be tragically misinformed.
Last year the Conservative government spent more fighting Indigenous people in the courts than it spent going after tax frauds. From First Nations' child welfare to resource development, the government's response has been "see you in court." Who knew in 2011, when a government document listed Indigenous peoples as "adversaries" in terms of resource development, that this attitude would permeate every aspect of the Conservatives' approach when dealing with Aboriginal people? Prime Minister Harper's decision to abandon consultation and negotiation to drag Aboriginal issues through the courts is failing, costly, time consuming and undermines the honour of the Crown.
Mrs. Maryon Pearson, famously witty wife of Canada's 14th Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, once said: "Behind every successful man, stands a surprised woman." Mrs. Pearson disliked politics and the demands public service placed on her husband and family. I wish she could have met my wife.