Tag Archives: Aboriginal people

Prison Watchdog Says More Than A Quarter Of federal Inmates Are Aboriginal People

Canada's prison watchdog says that for the first time, aboriginal people make up more than a quarter of inmates in federal jails. (CBC)

Canada’s prison watchdog says that for the first time, aboriginal people make up more than a quarter of inmates in federal jails. (CBC)

CBC News

Howard Sapers, Canada’s correctional investigator, says efforts to curb high numbers not working

For the first time, more than a quarter of inmates in Canadian prisons are aboriginal people.

“The most current figure we have is quite shocking,” said Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers, the country’s prison ombudsman.

“In federal corrections, 25.4 per cent of the incarcerated population are now of aboriginal ancestry.”


Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, says he’s shocked by the growing number of aboriginal inmates. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Of 14,624 inmates across the country, 3,723 are aboriginal people. In the Prairie provinces, 48 per cent of federal inmates are aboriginal people.

For aboriginal women, the numbers are even higher. According to the most recent statistics, more than 36 per cent of women in prison are of aboriginal descent.

Sapers said that three decades ago, 10 per cent of federal inmates were aboriginal people, but the number continues to grow each year.

“It’s actually quite a dramatic increase,” Sapers said. “It was identified year after year after year as a major concern, as a human rights concern.”

Sapers said efforts to try to curb the high numbers don’t seem to be working, including a Supreme Court decision that encourages courts to take aboriginal history into account when sentencing individuals.

He points to poverty, the history of colonialism and lingering effects of the residential school system as reasons why so many aboriginal people suffer from alcoholism and other problems that land them in the justice system.

‘It doesn’t surprise me’

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me,” says Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a group that advocates for the rights of women and girls in the justice system.

“In the next few years we could be looking at 40 to 50 per cent of the federal jail population being aboriginal women.”

Pate says years of cuts to social services, health care, and education has multiplied problems faced by indigenous people in Canada.

“The greater the inequality, the greater the likelihood that they’ll end up missing, dead, in the streets or in jail.”

Still, she’s optimistic that Canada’s new federal ministers of Public Safety, Justice and Indigenous Affairs will take a serious look at calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would see more funding for diversion and “realistic alternatives to imprisonment.”


All Canadians Should Be Offended Apartheid-Like System Still Exists

A young man performs a traditional dance celebrating the spring equinox at the Thunderbird House in Winnipeg in 2005.

A young man performs a traditional dance celebrating the spring equinox at the Thunderbird House in Winnipeg in 2005. WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

By: Brian Giesbrecht | Winnipeg Free Press

Time to scrap racist Indian Act

Maclean’s magazine declared Winnipeg to be Canada’s most racist city. However, Maclean’s should have gone much further and declared Canada to be a racist country in relation to aboriginal people.

Racism is the belief one group or race of people is inferior in ability. That is exactly what Canada’s legislation dealing with aboriginal people is based on.

The 1876 Indian Act treated indigenous people like children. By today’s standards, it is a totally regressive and racist piece of legislation. With its reserve system (which was supposed to be a temporary measure), it created what can be called an aboriginal apartheid system.

The Indian Act uses the race of a person to define his or her privileges. For example, a status Indian has more privileges than a non-status Indian. People are born into their racial classifications as people in India were born into their caste. Aboriginal people carry cards that categorize them according to how “Indian” they are. This is a racial-purity scheme and should be deeply offensive to all Canadians — aboriginal and non-aboriginal. No other Canadian would accept the idea of carrying a card that declares what race he or she belongs to.

When South Africa was designing its system to separate the races in 1948, officials came to Canada to study our reserves. Although they called their apartheid tribal areas homelands, their model was Canada’s reserves.

So why is the aboriginal apartheid system still here? Surely indigenous leaders, who are not shy about denouncing racism, should have insisted long ago the apartheid system be abolished. Instead — and this is as disturbing as it is bizarre — aboriginal leaders themselves insist the Indian Act must stay.

The only prime minister bold enough to try to initiate the process of phasing out the Indian Act faced accusations of “racist” and “cultural genocide” from the chiefs before he could even get to a discussion stage. In 1969, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his Indian affairs minister, a young Jean Chrétien, introduced a discussion paper that proposed phasing out the entire reserve system. The incredibly valuable land now being held in trust for First Nations people (a combined area larger than France) would have been transferred to them as individuals.

This would have created a huge source of wealth for First Nations. The new landowners would have been able to create whatever kind of collective or individual ownership model they wanted. Since they would own the land as individuals, it would be their decision, not that of the chiefs. Generous funds were to be made available for transition programs.

Trudeau and Chrétien were attempting to move aboriginal people from the margins of the Canadian economy to the mainstream. Aboriginal culture and tradition were not threatened. But the chiefs mobilized and killed the idea. Using thuggish tactics, such as threats of blockades and violence, they put an end to the proposal before it could see the light of day. Trudeau and Chrétien backed down.

From that day to the present, federal government policy has been to transfer increasing sums of money to the chiefs, with few questions asked. The policy of the chiefs has been to make money demands and market an endless list of historical wrongs, some real and some perceived. Except for insisting on some basic accounting transparency from the chiefs, Ottawa has been compliant.

Why did the chiefs insist the Indian Act must stay?

There were many reasons. Some did not want to lose their privileged positions. Others acted out of better motives — they desperately wanted to keep alive a way of life that had in fact come to an end long ago. But they all made the same fundamental mistake: they equated a successful integration into the Canadian economy with a loss of cultural identity. They continue to make the same mistake to this day.

Would it be a difficult job to phase out the apartheid system? Absolutely. Even if the process had started in 1969, it would have taken years and a great deal of money to accomplish. Now, the job is even more formidable, but it can be done.

The reserve system is not something Moses brought with him down the mountain. It was a cynical system made by 19th-century men, and it can be unmade by modern men and women. As Manitoba’s senior aboriginal elder, Elijah Harper, said shortly before he died: “The Indian Act treats us like children — we should get rid of it.”

But until the First Nations leadership wakes up to the reality reserves must go, what is their plan? Incredibly, it is more apartheid. Multiculturalism is the official policy that applies to all Canadians — except reserve residents. In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples proposed continuing the current system. After spending a truly stunning $58 million, this is what the commission came up with: the 633 or so reserves should consolidate into about 50 to 80 First Nations and then deal nation to nation with Canada. Canada’s role was to pay the bills.

Each First Nation would make its own laws, operate its own economy and remain separate from the Canadian mosaic. Mind-boggling amounts of money from Canada would be needed to subsidize these 50 to 80 nations at first, but by some unexplained process this “self-government” would result in these nations creating their own economies, and they would become self-supporting. The commission gave its plan 20 years for all of this to work out.

As we know, the commission’s report was largely ignored. With very few exceptions, most reserves today are far more dependent on the federal government than before. Billions of dollars are spent annually, with results that are completely discouraging.

A growing number of successful aboriginal people have already found an answer. It is the tried-and-true formula that works for every successful person: get good at something and go where the jobs are. There are now many successful aboriginal lawyers, judges, artists, playwrights, journalists and workers of every description, and the number is growing.

Yes, Winnipeg has its share of racists, as does Canada as a whole. But most Winnipeggers, like most Canadians, are not racists. Canadians want to see aboriginal people succeed. We are dismayed when we read the negative statistics about aboriginal people in jails, in the child-welfare system and the like, and we are deeply unhappy with a system that keeps so many aboriginal people locked in a cycle of dependence and despair.

But we have no doubt about the abilities of aboriginal people. And when we do see aboriginal people succeed — to paraphrase the words of the late chief Dan George — “our hearts soar.”

Brian Giesbrecht was a provincial court judge from 1976 until 2007. He is now retired.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2015 A9

Source: https://shar.es/1uTdk8

US Movement Replacing Columbus Day With Events Honoring Native Americans Gains Steam


09 OCT 2015

About four miles from the world’s largest Christopher Columbus parade in midtown Manhattan on Monday, hundreds of Native Americans and their supporters will hold a sunrise prayer circle to honor ancestors who were slain or driven from their land.

The ceremony will begin the final day of a weekend “powwow” on Randall’s Island in New York’s East River, an event that features traditional dancing, story-telling and art.

The Redhawk Native American Arts Council’s powwow is both a celebration of Native American culture and an unmistakable counterpoint to the parade, which many detractors say honors a man who symbolizes centuries of oppression of aboriginal people by Europeans.

Organizers hope to call attention to issues of social and economic injustice that have dogged Native Americans since Christopher Columbus led his path-finding expedition to the “New World” in 1492.

The powwow has been held for the past 20 years but never on Columbus Day. It is part of a drive by Native Americans and their supporters throughout the country, who are trying to rebrand Columbus Day as a holiday that honors indigenous people, rather than their European conquerors. Their efforts have been successful in several U.S. cities this year.

“The fact that America would honor this man is preposterous,” said Cliff Matias, lead organizer of the powwow and a lifelong Brooklyn resident who claims blood ties with Latin America’s Taino and Kichwa nations. “It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

But for many Italian Americans, who take pride in the explorer’s Italian roots, the holiday is a celebration of their heritage and role in building America. Many of them are among the strongest supporters of keeping the traditional holiday alive.

Berkeley, California, was the first city to drop Columbus Day, replacing it in 1992 with Indigenous Peoples Day. The trend has gradually picked up steam across the country.

Last year, Minneapolis and Seattle became the first major U.S. cities to designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

This month, Portland, Oregon, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Bexar County, Texas, decided to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with the new holiday. Oklahoma City is set for a vote on a similar proposal later this month.

Columbus Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937. The federal government and about half of U.S. states give public employees paid leave, according to the Council of State Governments. Schools and government offices are generally closed, but many private businesses remain open.

Support for Indigenous Peoples Day has steadily risen in recent years, paralleling the growing perception that the wave of European settlement in the Western Hemisphere was genocidal to native populations.

Gino Barichello, who attended Berkeley city council meetings in the 1990s that resulted in the establishment of Indigenous Peoples Day, said he viewed the trend with pride.

“To have a recognition and celebration of all the indigenous cultures of the U.S., and Berkeley being one of the catalysts leading that charge, is very exciting,” said Barichello, who says he is half Italian and half Muscogee, a Native American tribe based in Oklahoma.

New York City, with the country’s largest Italian American population at 1.9 million, attracts nearly 35,000 marchers and nearly 1 million spectators to its annual Columbus Day parade.

The Columbus Citizens Foundation, a non-profit that organizes the parade, says on its website the event “celebrates the spirit of exploration and courage that inspired Christopher Columbus’s 1492 expedition and the important contributions Italian-Americans have made to the United States.”

John Viola, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Italian American Foundation, said renaming Columbus Day dishonors the country’s 25 million Italian Americans and their ancestors. He said Italian Americans feel slighted by cities that are dropping Columbus Day.

“By default, we’re like the collateral damage of this trend,” he said.

The foundation’s leadership council is scheduled later this month to take up the issue.

One of the proposals expected to be floated at the meeting is to change the name to Italian American Day, taking the spotlight off Columbus and other European explorers. Under this proposal, Indigenous People Day would be celebrated on a different day.

“I think many people believe there could be a middle road,” Viola said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)


Families Seek Attention During Sask. Walk For Missing And Murdered Persons

Participants in the Sask. Walk for Missing and Murdered Persons walk on the steps of the kegislative building.

Participants in the Sask. Walk for Missing and Murdered Persons walk on the steps of the kegislative building.

By Alec Salloum / CJME

From the Creeland Mini mart on Albert Street, to the Legislative building and on to the Manitoba border, the Sask. Walk for Missing and Murdered Persons on Saturday drew crowds and turned heads.

These walks happen across Canada, province to province, to draw attention and push the issues faced by Canada’s aboriginal people.

In Regina, Daniel James Still lead the walk, dancing all the way to the legislative building with nearly 100 supporters in tow.

“I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing it for my people, my friends, my family. The one’s that we loved and we miss,” said Still, his two children at his side.

Many shared this sentiment, holding pictures of those they lost, posters and blankets with names, faces, and the date a loved one was last seen.

“No one seems to care, that’s how we feel about,” said Dianne Bigeagle who was walking for her daughter Danita, who has been missing since Feb. 11 2007.

Dianne Bigeagle holding a blanket with her missing daughter Danita's photo.

Dianne Bigeagle holding a blanket with her missing daughter Danita’s photo.

Though many had lost someone close, the crowd and the walkers felt that the visibility is helping.

“Oh they’re hearing us! You know, they’re starting to hear us and we’re not going to give up. We’re going to shout from the highest rooftop that this is happening,” said Bigeagle.

Evening Star-Andreas, one of the organizers of the walk, said “I’m not stopping till I get justice.”

Participants in the Sask. Walk for Missing and Murdered Persons walk on the steps of the kegislative building.

Participants in the Sask. Walk for Missing and Murdered Persons walk on the steps of the kegislative building.

The walkers will carry on to the Manitoba border were they will meet other walkers. Still will be there, advocating for greater awareness.

“No more being quiet, no more being silent.”


MP Joyce Murray Apologizes For ‘Sobriety’ Aimed At Aboriginal Grads

Liberal MP Joyce Murray Scrums with media in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Matthew Usherwood

Liberal MP Joyce Murray Scrums with media in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Liberal MP Joyce Murray is apologizing for a newspaper advertisement in which she appears to be feeding racial stereotypes about aboriginal people.

But the newspaper, in turn, is apologizing to Murray for running the ad without noticing it contained offensive content that had been written, without the Vancouver MP’s knowledge, by one of its sales people.

The First Nations Drum, which bills itself as the country’s largest aboriginal newspaper, ran the ad about three weeks ago.

It features a photograph of a smiling Murray alongside a congratulatory message to all 2015 aboriginal high school graduates.

The message concludes with the slogan: “Sobriety, education
and hard work lead to success.” Murray says she was not aware of the ad and did not approve its content; nevertheless she is assuming full responsibility for it and offering her “most sincere apologies.”

“I would like to apologize unreservedly for the deeply offensive language in this advertisement,” Murray said in a statement posted Wednesday on her Facebook page.

But Rick Littlechild, the newspaper’s general manager, said Murray has nothing to apologize for.

“We are responsible for it so we’ll take the blame,” Littlechild said in an interview.

“She shouldn’t take any responsibility. I mean, we came up with the slogan, that wasn’t her. She had nothing to do with it.”

The paper sells ads based on themes – marking aboriginal day for instance, or congratulating aboriginal award winners or graduates. The text is written by its own sales team. Murray routinely buys three or four ads a year, Littlechild said, and there’s never been a problem before.

Littlechild is upset that the paper’s proof readers didn’t notice the slogan on the Murray ad, which can be construed as feeding stereotypes. The paper intends to print an apology next week.

But Littlechild said he’s even more upset that the controversy over the ad has rebounded on Murray, who he said has always been very supportive of aboriginal issues.

“This is the last person who would ever, ever deserve this,” he said.

“If it was anyone else but her, I might not feel this way. But her of all people, it just kills me.”