Category Archives: Canada and First Nations

Politics & Treaties

Manitoba premier accused of racist language in fundraising letter on blockades

Indigenous land defenders set up a blockade at a rail station along the CN line at Diamond, Manitoba, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

Nationwide blockades and protests over the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia are hurting the cause of reconciliation with Indigenous people, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Friday.

“What some of the people who have gone overboard in these blockades have done is they’ve weakened the case of reconciliation, not helped it,” Pallister said.

“They’ve shifted some public view against some of the things that I’ve been working for.”

Protesters shut down a major Canadian National rail line west of Winnipeg for about 24 hours this week.

Pallister has called for the blockades to be ended quickly so that railways and roads can be reopened. In a fundraising email he sent to Progressive Conservative supporters on Thursday titled “These illegal blockades,” Pallister also asked for donations to fight what he called “two-tier justice.”

“We will stand up for the freedoms and rights of all people. But we won’t stand back while two-tier justice happens in our province,” the email read.

“And we won’t hesitate to seek an injunction in the future, if (a blockade in Manitoba) happens again.”

Manitoba’s opposition parties accused Pallister of inflaming the situation with his choice of words. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said phrases such as “two-tier justice” in this context are racist.

“It was a racist bullhorn, as far as I’m concerned,” Lamont said.

“He’s leaning into the very serious politics of division and verging on hate-mongering.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister suggested protesters blocking rail lines are damaging the cause of reconciliation. (Cory Funk/CBC)

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he doesn’t feel Pallister is racist, but rather is pitting Indigenous and non-Indigenous people against each other for political gain.

Pallister said his words were not racist and were referring to a distinction between people who obey the law and people who do not. The protesters included many non-Indigenous people, he noted.

“I don’t think we want a society where some people are putting themselves above the law with no consequence. That’s what two-tier justice systems might do and that’s a danger to all of us.”

While Pallister has promised a swift crackdown on any future blockades in Manitoba, the opposition parties have called for dialogue.

“I want to see trains moving again but I also want to see Indigenous rights respected,” Kinew said.

“And it’s my role as a leader to … try and urge people that I know towards what I think is a good resolution, and that will come through negotiation and dialogue.”

The blockades on train tracks across the country have forced Via Rail to stop passenger service in most areas. But Via was still operating Friday on a line owned by Hudson Bay Railway between The Pas and Churchill in northern Manitoba.

Service also continued on a line owned by Canadian Pacific Railway in northern Ontario between Sudbury and White River.

By: Steve Lambert · The Canadian Press · Published in CBC News: Feb 14, 2020

[SOURCE]

Canada and Whitecap Dakota First Nation sign framework agreement for Treaty

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett signs a framework agreement for treaty negotiations with Whitecap Dakota Chief Darcy Bear on Jan. 22, 2018. (650 CKOM)

Signing sets the stage for Whitecap Dakota Treaty

A new framework agreement between a Saskatchewan First Nation and the Canadian government sets the stage for what would be the first new treaty signed in the province since the beginning of the 20th century.

A historic agreement between Canada and Whitecap Dakota First Nation was signed earlier this week to negotiate a treaty with the Crown — for what will be known as the Whitecap Dakota Treaty.

Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear and Carolyn Bennett, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, signed the agreement Monday at the First Nation.

Whitecap is not part of any of the numbered treaties in Saskatchewan because the Dakota people were viewed as Native Americans rather than British or Canadian.

Bear says the six-page document builds on more than 230 years of shared history, including a military alliance and concurrent promise by British representatives to protect Dakota territory.

The historical relationship between the British and the Dakota is well documented. The Dakota were allies of the British before Confederation and fought alongside the British in the War of 1812.

According to the agreement, the negotiation mandate includes recognition of Whitecap Dakota’s rightful place in Canada, and an acknowledgement of contributions made by the Dakota in the founding and development of the country.

The mandate also includes “appropriate measures to realize equitable treatment and benefits as between (Whitecap Dakota First Nation) and Treaty First Nations,” as well as resources to “support a sustainable community.”

Bear said the main objectives for the First Nation in treaty negotiations are to acquire a larger land base for sustainable growth, money for economic development, capital projects and protecting language and culture and to be recognized as a Treaty First Nation.

Unlike most of Saskatchewan’s First Nations, which were allocated land under six numbered treaties, Whitecap Dakota’s land was provided by a federal order in council issued in 1889. Bear said he hopes to increase that allocation to 128 acres per person from 16 acres.

In the 1870s, Dakota Chief Whitecap was present at both Treaty 4 and 6 discussions, but wasn’t acknowledged as a signatory.

The framework that was signed Monday launches a negotiation process where the Whitecap Dakota will provide a list of issues they want the treaty to address. The finalized mandate will be presented to cabinet by Bennett for approval. Ottawa would then formally offer a treaty to the First Nation.

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation is part of the larger Dakota-Nakata-Lakota Nation whose traditional governance structure was called the Seven Council Fires or Oceti Sakowin, whose lands extended into both Canada and the United States.

Whitecap Dakota First Nation is located 26 kilometres south of Saskatoon.

Chief says RCMP Threatened to Call in Child and Family Services if Parents Failed to Leave Community

The Canadian Press | 

ALEXIS CREEK, B.C. – The chief of the Tl’etinqox First Nation said RCMP officers told them to leave or risk having their children taken away. Instead, they erected a fire boundary and prepared to fight.

“We are generation after generation that continue to live in a fire zone. This is not new to us,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, whose community is about 100 kilometres west of Williams Lake. “We feel this is the safest place for our community members to be.”

Emergency officials and police are urging British Columbia residents to respect evacuation orders ahead of fast-moving wildfires, but some First Nations are standing their ground, successfully protecting their homes and property.

There are about 1,000 residents on the reserve, but Alphonse said only about 300 stayed to fight the fires.

BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said there had been a slight reprieve in the weather forecast with some rain expected, bringing relief to the windy, hot and dry conditions fuelling nearly 200 fires and displacing more than 14,000 people.

Crews took advantage of calmer conditions Wednesday to make progress on fire guards near Williams Lake, where 10,000 people remain on evacuation alert.

With improved conditions, Alphonse said he finally had a moment to reflect on the three days of firefighting without the aid of power or telephone service.

He said Mounties told them to evacuate last weekend and the conversation quickly became heated.

As chief, he said his signature is required to enforce the evacuation order on the reserve, which he chose not to authorize.

Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said Alphonse was correct. First Nations have the authority to issue their own evacuation orders for their territory.

“They would hopefully be taking advice from the same experts as a local government,” he said.

Alphonse said many in the community wanted to stay behind to fight and they have trained firefighters, access to heavy equipment and emergency plans to evacuate if they lost the battle with the fire.

He said an officer threatened to have the Ministry of Children and Family Services “remove all the children.”

Tempers flared and Alphonse said he suggested their own roadblocks would keep the Mounties out and if that didn’t work, perhaps warning shots above their heads would.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau said in a statement Wednesday, “as far as the comments made by Chief Alphonse, we do not believe the comments made are reflective of the recent and continued meetings and conversations we have had with the chief.”

The RCMP’s responsibility is to “advise the public that there has been an order and advise them of the risk associated with staying,” Linteau told reporters on a conference call.

“Of course, if the person has the ability to make their own decision and they are over the age of 19, we will not force them to leave the home,” she said.

But she said if there are children under 19 at risk, police are required to move them to a safe location. No children have been removed by the RCMP to date, she added.

Alphonse disagrees that officers were trying to protect their children.

“The safest place for our kids is here with their families under the supervision of the leadership of this community,” he said.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said Indigenous Peoples have a fundamental right to make decisions about protecting and defending the safety, health and well-being of their community.

“If and when houses and band infrastructure are lost to these fires, it will take years to rebuild and we fear in many instances the homes and infrastructure may never be built,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement that the department is working with Emergency Management BC and First Nations to make sure the communities are supported.

B.C. Forest Minister John Rustad told radio station CHNL that the province was concerned about the situation.

“People are staying behind, they want to fight for their homes. That poses a very serious problem. We know these fires can be very, very volatile and can change at a moments notice,” Rustad said.

Ultimately, Alphonse said staying was the right decision and it saved at least 10 homes.

The chief of the Bonaparte Indian Band north of Ashcroft said they also defied an evacuation order over the weekend and successfully stopped flames from overrunning their reserve.

“My community has some really skilled firefighters, like a lot of First Nations reserves, and they came together and they stopped that wildfire from wiping out that whole community,” Chief Ryan Day said.

He said 60 of the band’s 280 members stayed to fight the fire.

The community doesn’t have a firehall, a new water reservoir hasn’t been connected to their main supply yet and they don’t have a formal emergency response plan in place.

But Day said the experience of the trained forest firefighters in his community and access to heavy equipment contributed to their success.

“We weren’t prepared for it of course because it happened in a blink of an eye, but we snapped into action and everyone did their part,” he said.

[SOURCE]

Indigenous Leader Invites Brian Pallister to Try Living on Reserve

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson is inviting the premier to spend a month in a remove northern community to learn more about what it’s like to live on reserve. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson says experience would expose premier to realities of poor housing, roads, food

· CBC News April 15, 2017

The grand chief for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak is inviting Premier Brian Pallister to live on reserve for a month to learn what life is really like for Manitoba’s remote Indigenous communities.

Sheila North Wilson is standing by earlier comments she made about systemic ignorance and racism at the provincial level and says Manitoba has a lot of learning to do to combat myths about Indigenous peoples.

“That invitation is open for him and anyone else that wants to experience what it’s like to live on reserve,” said North Wilson.

CBC has reached out to the premier’s office for reaction to North Wilson’s request and will update if we hear back.

Her invitation follows a statement she made Tuesday where she referred to Pallister’s government as the “most racist provincial government in Canada.”

On Friday, she clarified her point and accused not just Pallister’s government of being racist but called it a systemic issue across the province — saying Manitoba’s policies and bureaucracies are failing Indigenous peoples.

“We have some of the poorest housing conditions in Canada. We have high rates of children in care and illnesses that we have are on the rise,” she said.

She added if Pallister lived on reserve, he would have to live on the same money families in remote areas have to budget on as well as deal with the bad roads and food insecurity common in Manitoba’s north.

“I wish they would experience that and then see what they think afterwards.”

‘We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot’

Ideally, North Wilson said she would like to see Pallister experience life for a month in a remote, northern community but she said a lot of First Nations would vie for the chance to host the premier.

“For a day, for a week but hopefully a month —- but I doubt that’s going to happen,” she said.

The grand chief is also extending an invitation to anyone else at the provincial level who would like to learn more about living in a northern community.

“There is a lot of work that we need to do to get to a point where we’re actually trying to achieve reconciliation,” she said.

North Wilson told the premier face-to-face recently she did not like the way he characterized Indigenous communities as having high rates of chronic disease and mental illness, she said.

While statistics may bear that out, she says numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot and there’s reasons why we are sick and that we need a greater sense of hope.”

[SOURCE]

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson Says Manitoba’s Government Is The Most Racist In Canada

Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, speaks to media at a press conference in Winnipeg on March 18, 2016.

A Manitoba grand chief says her provincial government is the most racist in Canada

Staff – CP | Posted: April 12/2017

Sheila North Wilson, who represents northern Manitoba First Nations, told a First Nations health conference in Saskatoon that some indigenous leaders in Saskatchewan might dispute that.

North Wilson says Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister refused to sign a climate change deal back in December citing a need for more money to deal with escalating health costs.

She says she was offended that Pallister said Manitoba indigenous people have the most chronic diseases and mental health issues.

North Wilson says Pallister wants more money for health issues, but won’t work with First Nations groups.

She says they’re pushing the Manitoba government to sit down with elders and youth to discuss their health-care needs.

“Well, thank you for calling us crazy and sick. I took offence to that.”

“He claimed in the national media that we have the most chronic diseases and mental health issues,” North Wilson said Tuesday.

“Well, thank you for calling us crazy and sick. I took offence to that.”

In January, Pallister came under fire from indigenous leaders and opposition politicians for saying that tensions around night hunting were leading to a race war.

He said he chose his words poorly but didn’t apologize for saying it. A Supreme Court ruling a decade ago upheld the indigenous right to hunt at night, subject to safety regulations.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]