Tag Archives: Aboriginal Communities

Canada Gov’t: Worried About Aboriginal Communities In Wake Of Shooting

A family in La Loche, Saskatchewan, pay their respects on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, to the victims of a Friday school shooting.

A family in La Loche, Saskatchewan, pay their respects on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, to the victims of a Friday school shooting.

Reuters | Jan 24, 2016

In the wake of a school shooting in a remote aboriginal town, the federal government admits that improving conditions in impoverished First Nations communities is “a huge challenge.”

OTTAWA — Canada’s government, grappling with a fatal attack in a remote aboriginal town, is very concerned about the “tragic and alarming” conditions in other indigenous communities, a top official said on Sunday.

A 17-year-old boy was due to appear in court on Monday, charged with four counts of murder after Friday’s deadly incident in La Loche, an impoverished town in the western province of Saskatchewan.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took power last year promising to tackle high levels of poverty, crime, bad housing and poor health among aboriginals, who make up 4 percent of the country’s population of 36 million.

House leader Dominic LeBlanc, a key Trudeau ally from the Atlantic province of New Brunswick, told reporters Ottawa would work with aboriginal leaders “to deal with some of the tragic and alarming social indicators in many of these communities.”

He added: “I have some of these communities … in New Brunswick. I worry about them a great deal, and our whole government does.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale arrived in La Loche on Sunday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Mr. Trudeau last month promised a new “nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples” – a term that aboriginals use to refer to themselves – and said he would increase funding for indigenous communities.

Trudeau’s chief spokeswoman said he had no plans to address the media on Sunday.

Mr. LeBlanc said improving the lot of the First Nations was “a huge challenge.”

Robert Nault, who served as aboriginal affairs minister under the Liberals from 1999 to 2003, said real change would take a long time.

“So we’re going to have to be patient and start … working on the lack of infrastructure, the lack of housing, to change our relationship as it relates to education and healthcare,” he said in an interview. “It is a slow process.”



Native Leaders Give Quebec Premier, 24 Hours To Meet, Discuss Police Abuse Claims


Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard, centre, speaks at a press conference in Val d’Or, Que., Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – The leaders of Quebec’s aboriginal communities demanded on Tuesday to meet immediately with the Quebec premier to discuss allegations of abuse against native women by provincial police officers.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador told reporters he gave Premier Philippe Couillard 24 hours to meet the province’s native chiefs.

Picard told a news conference that Val d’Or, the town where the abuse allegedly occurred, “is in crisis” and that First Nations communities no longer have confidence in the country’s police forces.

“The first person responsible for this crisis in Val d’Or is the premier of Quebec,” Picard told reporters Tuesday in Val d’Or after a meeting with native leaders from across the province. “We ask that premier Couillard makes himself available within 24 hours for a meeting with the leaders of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador and he doesn’t have the choice.”

The chief was reacting to a recent news report by Radio-Canada which broadcast interviews with various women who accused provincial police officers of assault and abuse of power over a period going back several years in the town located 525 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The investigation has been transferred to the Montreal police force and the Quebec government said it added an “independent observer” who will oversee the force’s work on the file.

Couillard’s spokesman, Harold Fortin, was noncommittal in his response Tuesday evening to Picard’s demands.

“The premier has always maintained a respectful tone in his exchanges with the leaders of First Nations communities,” Fortin responded by email. “In a nation-to-nation relationship, it’s important to maintain this approach.”

Fortin added that on top of transferring the investigation to the Montreal police and the addition of the independent observer, “two ministers travelled to Val d’Or Sunday and (Tuesday) and they announced measures to support the immediate needs of the situation.”

Police said last week there have been 14 allegations involving nine police officers, one whom has died. Two of the allegations are sexual in nature and others involve alleged assault.

The eight accused in the case have been suspended but many of the 56 members of the provincial police in the region say they feel scapegoated after the allegations came to light and say their spouses and children are also being affected.

There were reports local officers have been calling in sick in protest after news broke that their colleagues were suspended.

Picard said several other demands were unanimously agreed to by all the representatives in attendance.

He called for more support for the women who have come forward and for any others who might choose to do so.

Picard said chiefs also want the investigation into the eight officers to be transferred to an independent body and out of the hands of the Montreal police force.

“The trust has broken between our communities and police forces,” he said. “Whether it be the provincial police, the Montreal police force or even the RCMP.”

In Montreal on Tuesday, Couillard defended Public Security minister Lise Theriault’s handling of the file and deflected criticism from police officers that she didn’t do enough to back them up.

The opposition Parti Quebecois called on Theriault to resign due to the fact that when her office first heard of the accusations several months ago, she conferred the investigation to the same police force whose officers stood accused in the case.

Theriault said in the Quebec legislature Tuesday that the Radio-Canada report brought new information to light and after learning about the new accusations she transferred the investigation to the Montreal force.

The Quebec government passed a law in May 2013 creating an independent body to investigate serious complaints against police officers but authorities say it’ll only be up and running in April.

Antonine Yaccarini, spokeswoman for the PQ, said the party “supports Mr. Picard’s requests.”

Picard also called on Tuesday for Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to open a public, national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women within 30 days of being sworn into office.

Trudeau confirmed during the recently ended federal election campaign that he would launch the national inquiry, something outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper had refused to do.

Content Provided By Canadian Press.


Activism, ID Clinics And Anger Fuelled Spike In Voter Turnout In Aboriginal Communities

Robert-Falcon Oulette was one of 10 aboriginal MPs elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday

Robert-Falcon Oulette was one of 10 aboriginal MPs elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday

The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – Aboriginal activists who spent months mobilizing First Nations communities say Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to disenfranchise aboriginal voters backfired and fuelled turnout so high that some reserves ran out of ballots.

Some aboriginal communities saw voter turnout spike by up to 270 per cent in the Oct. 19 election despite the Fair Elections Act which made it harder for someone to vote without approved identification.

In the riding of Kenora, which includes 40 First Nations in northern Ontario, voting on the reserves was up 73 per cent – almost 3,000 voters. At least four of those First Nations ran out of ballots and either used photocopies or waited for more to be brought in.

“It was so heartening to see,” said Tania Cameron, a driving force in getting those people out to the polls – many for the first time – both in Ontario and across Canada. “I was thinking we’re going to see a turnout that Harper never expected.”

 I was thinking we’re going to see a turnout that Harper never expected

The band councillor in Dalles First Nation started up First Nations Rock the Vote on Facebook and organized countless “ID clinics” where people could see if they were registered or had the required identification to cast a ballot. Others started up similar chapters across the country, urging First Nations people to vote.

Harper saw the increased political activism amongst First Nations during the Idle No More movement and thought “we’ve got to make sure these people don’t vote,” Cameron said. She wanted to prove him wrong.

“Harper’s intent was to suppress the indigenous vote and that motivated me,” said Cameron, a former NDP candidate. “It just caught on. I think the excitement of getting rid of the Harper government, showing Harper that his oppression tactics weren’t going to work – I think that was a huge motivator for many people who decided to step up.”


NDP Tania Cameron was a driving force in getting people out to the polls.

A record 10 aboriginal MPs were elected when the Liberals swept to power Monday, ending the Conservative rule of almost a decade. In Kenora, where aboriginal voter turnout was high, Conservative Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford went down in defeat.

Although Elections Canada has not calculated national aboriginal voter turnout yet, chiefs say the election “awoke a sleeping giant” amongst a usually quiet electorate. When some polling stations ran out of ballots, Cameron said no one walked away in disgust. They just waited until another batch was brought in.

Leah Gazan, a First Nations activist and education instructor at the University of Winnipeg, said the turnout was a direct reaction to the divisive tactics of the Harper government. Bringing in Bill C-51 – which many felt criminalized First Nations activists – and cutting funding for aboriginal organizations while weakening environmental protection only strengthened the resolve of First Nations voters, she said.

“He was quite violent with indigenous people through aggressive cuts and aggressive legislation that aimed to silence indigenous people,” Gazan said. “As much as he attempted to divide, he really brought people on Turtle Island together.”

It’s not clear how sustainable the political engagement is, she said. The Liberals have made a lot of promises to First Nations people, not least of which is to call an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

But this election has shown aboriginal voters are a force to be reckoned with, Gazan said.

“Part of the reason why they don’t pay attention is because of voter turnout – it doesn’t impact their privilege,” she said. “With a higher indigenous turnout, they’ll know they can’t take it for granted.”

Source: http://natpo.st/1LVpHdO

Focus On ‘Family Violence’ In Cases Of Missing, Murdered Aboriginal Women Misguided

A woman holds a sign as hundreds of people march through the Downtown Eastside during the 25th annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 14, 2015. The march is held to honour missing and murdered women and girls from the community with stops along the way to commemorate where women were last seen or found. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A woman holds a sign as hundreds of people march through the Downtown Eastside during the 25th annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 14, 2015. The march is held to honour missing and murdered women and girls from the community with stops along the way to commemorate where women were last seen or found. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

By Andrew Kurjata / CBC News

Closer look at RCMP report that put the onus on families, aboriginal communities reveals more complex picture

Last month, RCMP delivered an update on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, a report that led many to put the onus for reform on aboriginal families and communities.

“Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence,” said RCMP deputy-commissioner Janice Armstrong, speaking to the media after the report.

The RCMP report noted that victims “knew their killers” in 100 per cent of the solved homicide cases of aboriginal women in 2013 and 2014.

And at the news conference, police shared their efforts to raise awareness about family violence within aboriginal communities, including a public service campaign featuring country singer Shania Twain.

But while there is undoubtedly a link between family violence and missing and murdered women of all backgrounds, a closer look at the statistics and terminology suggest that policy makers and the news media might want to be more careful how they frame this important debate.

For example, the RCMP report says 32 aboriginal women were victims of homicide in 2013 and 2014, and victims knew their killer in 100 per cent of the solved cases.

That “100 per cent,” however, leaves out at least six unsolved cases the Mounties cited in that period for which it is impossible to know at this point the relationship of the victim to her killer.

It also leaves out victims in cities and regions policed by forces other than the RCMP, such as the Toronto and Vancouver police departments. Had those areas been included, it would lead to a larger base that would likely skew the 100 per cent assessment.

More to the point, the police classification that these murdered women “knew their killer” does not mean that these women knew their killer well or intimately.

In fact, when you look into the categories more closely, the odds of family being involved actually decrease if the victim is aboriginal.

RCMP definition of ‘knew their killer’

Between 1980 and 2012, 30 per cent of aboriginal female homicides involved what RCMP characterize as “acquaintances,” which is defined as “close friends, neighbours, authority figures, business relationships, criminal relationships and casual acquaintances. (i.e. a person known to the victim that does not fit in the other acquaintance categories).”

In other words, a broad group of people that includes neighbours you might see taking out the trash, a grocery store clerk you might see on a weekly basis and, as was pointed out during the news conference, sex workers who “know” their johns.

Loretta Saunders also knew Blake Legette, a man who was subletting an apartment from her. Short on the money for rent, Legette opted to suffocate Saunders with a plastic bag and hit her head on the floor until she stopped moving.

Family violence greater factor in non-aboriginal homicides

After acquaintances, aboriginal women are most likely to be killed by spouses (past and present), family members, or what the RCMP calls “other intimates,” so it does make sense for police to want to reduce violence in these categories.

However, it should not be implied that family violence is somehow unique to aboriginal communities as the numbers show it is more prevalent in non-aboriginal ones.

Offender-to-victim relationship, RCMP report

Figure 8 – Offender-to-victim relationship, female homicides, 1980-2012: From Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview (RCMP)

As the chart shows, between 1980 and 2012, 62 per cent of aboriginal women murders involved a spouse, family member, or “other intimates.”

But that number increases to 74 per cent in the case of non-aboriginal female homicides.

Why this matters

Last year, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told the Ottawa Citizen that aboriginal communities have to take a greater responsibility for missing and murder indigenous women in Canada.

“Obviously, there’s a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves,” he said. “So, you know, if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated.”

These comments were made against the backdrop of calls for a national inquiry into the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, something the federal government says it isn’t interested in.

They can probably also be seen in the context of the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report into residential schools.

It paints a portrait of intergenerational violence and trauma affecting aboriginal people across this country in myriad ways, and calls for a greater depth of understanding of the challenges involved.

The bigger picture

Aboriginal women are four times more likely to be killed than non-aboriginal women in this country.

Despite accounting for only four per cent of the population, they make up nearly 25 per cent of the female homicide victims in Canada.

Family violence is indeed part of that, but so, too, are killings by acquaintances and complete strangers.

All occur at rates far higher than what is faced by non-aboriginal women.

But when we frame the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada as a problem for individual communities and families alone, we may be in danger of missing the wider picture.



Land Chief Threatens To ‘Kill’ Tourism Industry

The remote Aboriginal community of Pandanus Park, in the Kimberley. Photo: ABC

The remote Aboriginal community of Pandanus Park, in the Kimberley.

The New Daily

Kimberley Land Council has made the announcement in protest against closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

The head of the Kimberley Land Council has threatened to “kill” Broome’s estimated $141 million annual tourism industry in protest against the closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

Anthony Watson said he would be happy to move his own community to Cable Beach and “camp for weeks and months” to ensure the Western Australian Government involved Aboriginal people in its discussions about the future of remote communities.

He said he was unconvinced by the State Government’s promise that it would consult extensively with Aboriginal people and keep them fully informed.

“We’ve always been out of sight, out of mind and pushed away,” he told ABC’s Four Corners program.

Anthony Watson, chairman of the Kimberley Land Council.

“Consultation is due to start in May, but we are yet to see any details.”

In a statement this week, Mr Watson said the State Government’s reforms were a “blatant PR and marketing exercise that will tell us nothing”.

“What we need is change of attitude across the board, where Aboriginal people are trusted to control their lives,” he said.

The CEO of the West Kimberley’s Winun Ngari Corporation, Susan Murphy, said she did not believe any of the communities deserved to close, but conceded some were facing massive challenges with drugs and alcohol.

Ms Murphy said problems in remote Aboriginal communities could not be solved by governments alone.

“We have to start standing up, we’ve got to be responsible for our own actions and our own decisions and if we want the same as we get in a town, we need to start fighting for it,” she said.

“But we’ve also got to start showing governments – that’s local, state and Commonwealth – that we can do it.”

Town struggling to cope with homeless itinerants

Even without community closures, the Broome Shire Council said the town was struggling to cope with the impact of a growing number of people from remote communities who come to Broome and have nowhere to stay.

Broome Shire president Graeme Campbell said about 150 people were sleeping rough in the town’s parks, on roadsides and in shop fronts each night.

Mr Campbell estimated mass closures of remote communities could add another 200 homeless people a night.

Broome’s Chamber of Commerce said the homeless visitors had become a security risk and it had advised shopkeepers to install CCTV cameras and be careful locking up at night.

Chamber of Commerce president Rhondda Chappell said alcohol restrictions in a number of Kimberley towns made Broome, which has few liquor restrictions, a magnet for people from remote communities.

“We have itinerant people on the streets. A lot of those are affected by alcohol and so therefore are often violent and angry,” Ms Chappell said.

Police unable to protect children in remote communities

Problems of excessive drinking and drug use underlie much of the debate around the closure of remote communities.

Mr Watson pointed out that communities have not only become vital as safe havens, where families can raise children away from the drugs and alcohol which pervade many towns, but have also become refuges.

A neglected playground in the remote West Australian town of Djugeriri.

A neglected playground in the remote West Australian town of Djugeriri.

“I know that families, when they do break down, they go back to the community and lift themself up again and try to go and face the world again,” he said.But others argue drugs, alcohol and poor management have made some communities dysfunctional.

West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan told Four Corners he knows of communities in the Kimberley where “children are being sexually abused every day”.

Commissioner O’Callaghan declined to name any specific communities but said there was “no significant way of protecting children in communities where there is no police presence” as there would be in a metropolitan area or larger country town.

He said police in the Kimberley told him they could not sleep at night, worrying about what was happening in some communities.

“The same applies to me,” he said.

“Knowing what I know, it’s very difficult to sleep at night, knowing that we cannot protect these children in any effective way.”

West Australian lawyer John Hammond was involved in an inquest into a spate of deaths at a now closed remote Indigenous community and said he believed there were other communities that should also be forced to close.

The Kimberley community of Oombulgurri was closed several years ago after a coronial inquiry found it to be in a state of crisis, with high suicide rates, sexual abuse, child neglect and domestic violence.

“There are other Oombulgurris and I have visited them. They have the most depressing living conditions imaginable. They are a disgrace to Australia and to all of those who have a prosperous way of life,” Mr Hammond said.