In a world where a two-way exchange between government and citizen is the goal, it's encouraging when we see it actually happening. Since September, there have been a number of calls for insights from citizens. The end goal is to create the first ever comprehensive culture strategy for the province of Ontario.
What happens to kids who authorities determine can't live safely with their own parents or caregivers? Thousands of Canadian children are in this situation right now. Many go into foster homes, while others go into other types of out-of-home care on behalf of child welfare agencies. But we don't know how many, nor do we know how well they are doing.
The election of Justin Trudeau has been variously described as historic. And it was. Another less talked about historic moment was the election of 10 First Nations MPs. Add to this that a record-breaking 54 Aboriginal candidates put their names forward during the election. Each of these candidates ran in one of the 51 swing ridings identified by Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Perry Bellegarde. Bellegrade was blunt and clear that the Aboriginal vote could make a difference between a majority and minority government.
While some political parties are more responsible for instances of blatant racism than others, no political party has committed to action on combating racism in Canada. Aboriginal and racialized realities of being heavily surveilled, unfairly carded in the streets, and higher rates of violence remain fringe issues.
The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act sets high standards but without the adequate funding, leaves communities without the necessary tools to meet those standards. Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely more than 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some living under advisories for up to 20 years.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called for the dismantling of the current child welfare system and the development of a completely new system. While this idea may seem radical, child welfare as it exists now in Manitoba is failing our children and our families, particularly our Indigenous children and families. What if we separated prevention and care services so that they are not delivered by the same agencies? This would encourage families in need to seek support services without worrying that admitting their challenges will result in their children being taken away from them.
I recently attended a mental health first aid course in order to further educate myself on the various mental illness disorders, the consequences of their severity and their overall prevalence in the population -- My eyes were opened to an entire population of our Canadian people whose rate of suicide was too horrifying to further ignore. As statistics related to aboriginal suicides were listed, I realized that this war being waged against the stigma of mental illness is but one of the many battles that will need to be addressed honestly in order to understand the magnitude of the affliction our mentally ill population is facing. As communities of aboriginals are fighting an invisible disease, society can dismiss the reality of the stigma by citing drugs and alcohol as the weak link in this people's history.
On September 13, 1976, I became one of the "Disappeared" in Argentina's Dirty War and I became a witness and a voice for those who could no longer speak. The search for truth, justice and memory can be a painful one and it is never easy work but I have seen the rewards. This is why I passionately believe in the work of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The reparations of relations between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples need allies. Allies that support and respect differing worldviews. This is about nation building.
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.
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.
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.
The Admissions Committee Law, for example -- which was recently upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court -- legalizes racial segregation. According to this law, 43 per cent of Israeli residential areas are legally entitled to deny entrance to Palestinian Arab citizens of the Israeli state. Most of this land, to which the Palestinians are not welcome, was originally confiscated from Palestinian refugees.
At its core, the book Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit captures Inuit worldview. It is a holistic way of living in an increasingly interconnected world and is based in four big laws. It is critical in preserving wisdom and cultural practices at risk of being lost in the next generation. I'm grateful to have spent the last four days in Arviat, Nunavut (Northern Canada) participating in a fascinating roundtable dialogue with Inuit Elders from across the territory about maintaining their traditional culture in a rapidly changing world.
There are a group of people often overlooked in the fight against climate change and they can be one of our greatest allies as we figure out how to limit the damage from extreme weather, rising seas and threats to food security. They are the millions of indigenous people who live in the world's remaining forests. Often overlooked, ignored, marginalized and attacked, they stand at the heart of a global solution on climate change that all of us, whether we live in big cities or remote villages, can benefit from.
Respecting differences is rightfully Canada's claim to fame in the world, but that is not enough to guide this place to its fullest potential. Canadians cannot -- and should not -- embrace any particular race, language, or religion as their national marker, but they can and should embrace their country. Such an embrace constitutes a commitment to the people who share this land and, indeed, to the land itself. Canadians can put aside the fear that flying the Maple Leaf too high may yield a sudden intolerance in the ship's hull. It won't.
There is no discussion of the fact that part of the reason Mandela was sent to prison was because he was responsible for bombing a power plant. Though we seem to like to imagine that Mandela brought change to South Africa with nothing but wise words and a kind, grandfatherly smile, the truth is very different. Mandela fought for his freedom, tooth and nail.
The kind of stories I learned in Mi'gmagi will never make it into the mainstream media, and most Canadians will never hear them. Instead, Canadians will hear recycled propaganda as the mainstream media blindly goes about repeating the press releases sent to them by the RCMP designed to portray Mi'kmaw protestors as violent and unruly, in order to justify their own colonial violence. So we are faced with a choice. We can continue to show the photos of the three hunting rifles and the burnt out cop cars on every mainstream media outlet ad nauseam and paint the Mi'kmaq with every racist stereotype we know, or we can dig deeper.
We have been collaborating on finding ways to bridge the gap between the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities. One of the greatest ways we have found is hip-hop music and culture. If one takes the time to look, they would see that the Indigenous community and the hip-hop community both share a lot of the same experiences.