Seven years ago today, the Prime Minister stood in the House of Commons and delivered a poignant apology to the survivors of residential schools. The apology means nothing if all Canadians do not understand the history behind it. The Prime Minister has refused to deal with appalling gaps in health, education and economic outcomes, nor the deplorable living conditions in many aboriginal communities.
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.
Idle No More is not gone. Far from it. This most unusual of movements -- lacking formal structure, operating without money, and without a clear strategy -- had transformed the country and aboriginal public affairs in myriad ways. It was a game-changer in Canadian public life. Its founders urged indigenous people to find and exercise their voice. And they did. Idle No More was not a failure and has not disappeared.
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.
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.