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.
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.
Although the unanimous vote in the House of Commons to create the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women (the "Committee") was an excellent beginning, the report it tabled last Friday was a complete betrayal of the memory of those we have lost, the grieving family and friends left behind and those Indigenous women and girls who continue to be victimized by violence. The Prime Minister is on the wrong side of history.
Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to outline our deep and ongoing concerns with how your government has managed the relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Two hundred and fifty years ago, the Royal Proclamation laid out how the richness of the land would be fairly shared. That hasn't happened. In other words, you need to completely rethink your approach to dealing with Aboriginal Peoples, not only because of the need for social justice and respect for their Constitutionally protected rights, but because the failure to do so will have enormous negative impacts on the Canadian economy.
As my wife and I were driving home in Duncan, B.C. three years ago, we noticed a young girl hitchhiking. She was young, First Nations, and not dressed for the weather. As we stopped to pick her up, we noticed a white truck stop on the other side of the road, and two guys got out and walked towards her. We cut them off, and told her to hop in. This was just weeks after a gruesome murder. Fast-forward to last night. On our way home we noticed another young girl hitchhiking. Until people all over Canada demand better from our leaders, nothing will change, and Aboriginal girls will continue to go missing in record numbers, numbers that already concern the U.N.
We now know the Conservatives' refusal to fund First Nations students attending school on reserves at the same level as their provincial counterparts is coming straight from the top. This is not just a shocking example of Stephen Harper's anti-democratic command and control style of government, but clearly demonstrates that the Prime Minister callously refuses to provide First Nations students with the equality of opportunity they deserve.
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.
With the start of the new Parliamentary session next week, a key part of the government's agenda is expected to be sweeping legislation dealing with First Nations' education. The Conservative government has unilaterally developed a blueprint for the legislation and is now trying to characterize a number of strictly controlled information sessions over the summer as consultation. Put simply, First Nations are about to be presented with another top-down, one-size-fits-all government solution, absent proper consultation and without the necessary resources to fix the problems. First Nations have told the government that this approach is unacceptable and will simply produce a bill that won't work.