Imagine what would happen if the Crown suppressed thousands of pages of police evidence from an important trial? It wouldn't take a legal expert to tell you there would be an immediate mistrial -- especially if the Crown also prepared a false evidence sheet that mislead the judges. And yet, this was done to the survivors of St. Anne's Residential School.
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.
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.
My racism at the age of 10, although not acceptable, was somewhat understandable. But my daughter's? Why aren't today's youth more knowledgeable than I was? The expectation would be that after a thorough history lesson, our children should be horrified by the treatment of the aboriginal community, not rationalizing it.
As we enter the new year, it is time for Chief Spence and Prime Minister Harper to pause and reflect about their on-going standoff. Both sides need to feel that they have won and both sides need to find a way to declare victory. Only then can the two sides proceed to the next step which should be fresh dialogue and agreed to solutions for key First Nations issues.
Chief Theresa Spence hasn't eaten in over 11 days. The weather has taken a big turn for the worse and her tent home on Victoria Island is far from ideal. This was a serious business and she told me she wasn't backing down. I knew then I was watching the beginning of a revolution. Chief Spence has put her life on the line. This is not a game. This is not a stunt. Every day that Mr. Harper tries to wait out the crisis, the stakes rise higher. Mr. Harper has a very short window to show leadership. He needs to come the table and begin to address the issues that have driven so many First Nation communities into poverty and despair.
This week will mark the first anniversary since Attawawpiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency over the abysmal housing situation on the James Bay coast. Footage of the living conditions in this isolated community shocked Canadians and resulted in a media firestorm. The crisis became a cultural Pandora's box that unleashed numerous issues and misconceptions regarding our relationship with Canada's First Peoples. Now on the eve of this dark anniversary, Canada's "Katrina" moment has made it to the big screen. And who better equipped to tell the real story of the 2011-housing crisis than iconic filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin?