Canada's colonial reality means Aboriginal people here face challenges where non-Aboriginal people enjoy opportunities. But I believe that through the hard work of many activists, leaders, and thinkers, Canada is slowly decolonizing. In the spirit of optimism that rings in a new year, I'd like to focus on some of the events that signal this gradual shift, even while recognizing that, in the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this work will not be completed in our lifetimes.
If Ring of Fire development is to be successful, the question should not be whether the development is happening fast enough. It should be whether the process is taking place based on a foundation of recognition and respect for Webequie First Nation and the other Indigenous nations who call this land home. No longer can our Treaty be ignored and violated. New agreements cannot be reached while existing ones are treated as if they don't exist.
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.
I want to tell you a story about discrimination. It is a story that has been told for years by people living on reserves like the one where I live. Now a document prepared by federal bureaucrats has been released that describes the yawning gaps between social services provided to Aboriginal people living on reserves and everyone else. We are experiencing a slow motion march towards second-class citizenship. We're talking about billions of dollars that are not being spent on education for children, healthcare for the sick, and clean drinking water for all -- just because people are unlucky enough to be Aboriginal. Aboriginal people on reserves are asking for comparable services as other Canadians. This is not too much to demand.
Commercial sealing advocates find it exceptionally difficult to win hearts and minds with the truth. Because the truth is an industrial scale, non-aboriginal slaughter in which defenseless seal pups less than three months of age are horribly beaten and shot to death for their fur. It is a wasteful kill, in which the carcasses are normally dumped at sea.
Inuit live among polar bears. So it baffles me when well-meaning people who have never seen a polar bear outside a zoo or cruise ship or glass-walled buggy seek to impose rules to govern how Inuit interact with bears, to determine how we should engage in a cycle of life that has allowed both Inuit and polar bears to survive for thousands of years.
After the shooting incident on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 22, many Canadians across the county wasted no time in expressing their "shock" and bewilderment at the alleged terrorist attack against Canada. What is more puzzling to me is not the attack itself, but people's naivete about Canada's supposed "innocence" and "civility."
In the dead of winter, minus 40 degree winds whistled through gaps around doors and windows of the decrepit portables that made up the entirety of their school. Until this month, that was life in elementary school in Attawapiskat. After a 14-year wait, children in the remote northern Ontario First Nations community have a real school again.
Inequality in access to dental care is but one manifestation of the increasing inequalities in Canadian society and it needs to be addressed. With societal changes such as the increasing proportion of the population who are elderly and the decreasing proportion of the population with dental insurance, difficulty accessing dental care is only going to increase unless we start acting now.
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.
The death of comedian Robin Williams last month sparked a worldwide discussion about suicide, its underlying causes and how it might be prevented. And, with World Suicide Prevention Day taking place Sept. 10, the subject is certain to generate more debate as people seek to understand this important health issue. Having spent 10 years researching the subject while working as a professor of psychiatry, I believe there are things we can do as a community to tackle this problem. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what researchers have learned over the years about strategies for preventing suicide.
Prime Minister Harper's dismissal of the growing over-representation of Indigenous women and girls as victims of violence, homicide and persons who go missing as isolated crimes to be investigated by police illustrates just how out of touch he is. Moreover, the callous tone of his remarks yesterday, and failure to show any empathy for the families and loved ones of those who have been lost, shows a lack of compassion and leadership.
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia case on Aboriginal rights and title exploded in the news last month. Whatever your opinion of the case, it's clear that this is not just about territory: it's also about Canada's evolving constitution -- a common law document whose roots stretch back to the Magna Carta.
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.
Without Tahltan consent, and against the clear wishes that our people have expressed, Fortune Minerals continues to press ahead with its plans to build the Arctos Anthracite open-pit coal mine on Mount Klappan in Tahltan territory. We will continue to work hard for our people and hope both the province and Fortune see that their current approach is not working, and the current path they are on is the wrong one.
The situation on Grace Islet illustrates a bigger problem with aboriginal and non-aboriginal relationships in British Columbia and Canada. A fundamental inequity exists -- kick over a grave marker in Ross Bay Cemetery and there is public outrage; propose a house above First Nations burial cairns and, as long as you follow "due process," it's given the green-light.
Any piece of legislation from any level of government that affects aboriginal people as major stakeholders would have to be approved by a majority vote of the aboriginal parliament. Band councils would have the power of cities and be directly accountable to a minister of local government in the aboriginal parliament.