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.”

li-howardsapers-cp-04100483

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.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/prison-watchdog-says-more-than-a-quarter-of-federal-inmates-are-aboriginal-people-1.3403647?cmp=rss

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

gosar-native-americans-government-wards-2y3ppymn4t51b3u4h0gu16

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)

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/10/movement-replacing-columbus-day-with-events-honoring-native-americans-gains-steam-around-us/

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.”

http://cjme.com/article/216872/families-seek-attention-during-sask-walk-missing-and-murdered-persons-walk

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 IMAGES/Matthew Usherwood

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.”

http://globalnews.ca/news/2113054/mp-joyce-murray-apologizes-for-sobriety-aimed-at-aboriginal-grads/

Chiefs Urge Aboriginal People To Vote Against Harper Government

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde gives the keynote speech at the AFN's annual conference in Montreal on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde gives the keynote speech at the AFN’s annual conference in Montreal on Tuesday, July 7, 2015.
(Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Globe and Mail

Chiefs across Canada are being urged to get their people into federal voting booths next fall with the aim of defeating the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The call on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), adds another dynamic to an already tight three-way race and offers incentive to opposition leaders to target at least part of their campaigns at aboriginal people – a demographic that has largely been considered inconsequential to the outcome of elections.

“This is a matter of national importance, and there should be no greater effort put forward by us in the coming weeks and into the coming months,” Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the crowd of several hundred.

Every indigenous leader has a responsibility to return to their community and ensure their youth are registered to cast a ballot on Oct. 19, Mr. Nepinak said. He urged the chiefs to persuade their communities to vote for the candidate – Liberal or New Democrat – with the best chance of defeating a Conservative.

“We all have the ability to cast a ballot to effect change in Ottawa,” he said. “We can mitigate the damages by voting for a different government in this upcoming election.”

First Nations leaders say they have the numbers to affect the outcome in 51 ridings. Traditionally, turnout among aboriginal people lags well behind that of the general population. Elections Canada says 45 per cent of people on reserves voted in 2011, but the chiefs say the actual turnout was much lower.

Many First Nations people also believe casting a ballot in a national election undermines their sovereignty and tarnishes the ideal of a nation-to-nation relationship between their community and the government of Canada. That has undoubtedly contributed to low participation rates.

But First Nations leaders say several factors could propel their communities to the polls this year.

The first is a mistrust of the Conservative government that has been simmering for years and has intensified since the last election. Chiefs complain about matters such as a lack of money for on-reserve education, a frustrating process for settling land claims, the government’s refusal to call an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and Mr. Harper’s reluctance to meet face-to-face.

Groups have been created, including one called Rally The First Nation Vote, with the intent of ousting the Conservatives.

“We can work towards getting the Harper government out, and having a new government that is willing to work with First Nations people on indigenous issues,” Quinn Meawasige, a member of the AFN youth council, told the gathering.

The second factor is what some chiefs describe as a growing empowerment of young indigenous people who are angered by the disparities between their standard of living and that of the rest of Canada, and whose numbers are increasing faster than the rate of the general population.

And the third is the rapid expansion of social media.

“Look what happened with Idle No More,” Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the AFN, told The Globe and Mail. “Because of social media, people are starting to talk. Look at the excitement of the youth. They are the ones that are really going to drive this.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says the Conservative government has introduced measures to improve the lives of aboriginal people, many of them aimed at positioning the First Nations to take full advantage of Canada’s economic prosperity. The Liberals and the New Democrats, he said, “favour irresponsible spending instead of concrete, achievable and necessary action.”

But native speakers at the three-day AFN meeting decried Conservative policies, from changes to the Canada Elections Act they say will make it more difficult for aboriginal people to vote, to reductions in environmental assessments, to anti-terrorism legislation that they say could affect their ability to engage in legitimate protest.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who addressed the assembly, promised a new era of respect for indigenous people. Both committed to increased consultation, improved language rights, a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, more money for education and to attend future meetings of the AFN.

Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary, said Mr. Mulcair.

“We will never impose solutions from the top down,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Unlike other chiefs, Mr. Bellegarde does not openly lobby for the defeat of the Conservatives saying the AFN must remain staunchly non-partisan. But he does urge greater First Nations electoral participation.

“The important thing is we want to make a difference,” he said. “And, if anybody wants to get elected into government now, we are saying our vote is going to count this time around. Pay attention to us.”

Chiefs across Canada are being urged to get their people into federal voting booths next fall with the aim of defeating the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The call, which came on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), adds another dynamic to an already tight three-way race and offers an incentive to opposition leaders to target at least some of their campaign messages to aboriginal people – a demographic that has largely been considered inconsequential to the outcome of elections.

“This is a matter of national importance, and there should be no greater effort put forward by us in the coming weeks and into the coming months,” Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the crowd of several hundred.

Every chief has a responsibility to return to their community and ensure that their youth are registered to cast a ballot on Oct. 19, Mr. Nepinak said. He urged the chiefs to persuade their communities to vote strategically for the candidate – Liberal or New Democrat – who has the best chance of defeating a Conservative.

“We all have the ability to cast a ballot to effect change in Ottawa,” he said. “We can mitigate the damages by voting for a different government in this upcoming election.”

First Nations leaders say they have the numbers to affect the outcome in 51 ridings. Traditionally, the voter turnout among aboriginal people lags well behind that of the general population. Elections Canada says 45 per cent of people on reserves voted in the 2011 election, but even the chiefs say that is likely inflated and the actual turnout was much lower.

Many First Nations members believe casting a ballot in a national election undermines their own sovereignty and the ideal of a nation-to-nation relationship with the government of Canada. That has undoubtedly contributed to low participation rates.

But, this year, First Nations leaders say several factors could propel their communities to the polls.

The first is a simmering mistrust between the Conservative government and many indigenous people. The chiefs complain about matters as diverse as a lack of money for on-reserve education, a frustrating process for settling land claims, the government’s refusal to call an inquiry into the large numbers of murdered and missing aboriginal women, and Mr. Harper’s reluctance to meet face-to-face.

Groups have been created, including one called Rally The First Nation Vote, with the intent of ousting the Conservatives.

“We can work towards getting the Harper government out, and having a new government that is willing to work with First Nations people on indigenous issues,” Quinn Meawasige, a member of the AFN youth council told the gathering.

The second factor that could motivate the First Nations vote is what some chiefs describe as a growing empowerment among young First Nations people.

And the third is the rapid expansion of social media.

“Look what happened with Idle No More,” Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the AFN, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “Because of social media, people are starting to talk. Look at the excitement of the youth. They are the ones that are really going to drive this.”

Speaker after speaker took to the podium on opening day of the three-day meeting to decry Conservative policies, from changes to the Canada Elections Act they say will make it more difficult for aboriginal people to vote, to reductions in environmental assessments, to anti-terrorism legislation they say could affect their ability to engage in legitimate protest.

Those themes were echoed by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who were each given a half hour to make their pitch to the assembly. Both opposition leaders promised that the election of their party in the fall would usher in a new era of respect for Canada’s indigenous people.

Both committed to increased consultation with native people, improved language rights, a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, more money for education, and their own presence at future meetings of the AFN.

Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary, Mr. Mulcair said.

“We will never impose solutions from the top down,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Unlike other chiefs, Mr. Bellegarde does not openly advocate for the defeat of the Conservatives, saying the AFN must remain non-partisan. But he is urging greater electoral participation.

“The important thing is we want to make a difference,” he said. “And, if anybody wants to get elected into government now, we are saying our vote is going to count this time around. Pay attention to us.”

Source: http://fw.to/8mibwtP

Aboriginal People, Not Environmentalists, Are Our Best Bet For Protecting The Planet

Academic, author and activist David Suzuki. Photograph by: Mark Blinch , THE CANADIAN PRESS

Academic, author and activist David Suzuki. Photograph by: Mark Blinch , THE CANADIAN PRESS

By David Suzuki

Using DNA to track the movement of people in the past, scientists suggest our species evolved some 150,000 years ago on the plains of Africa. That was our habitat, but unlike most other animals, we were creative and used our brains to find ways to exploit our surroundings. We were far less impressive in numbers, size, speed, strength or sensory abilities than many others sharing our territory, but it was our brains that compensated.

Over time, our numbers increased and we moved in search of more and new resources (and probably to check out the Neanderthals with whom we crossbred before they went extinct). When we moved into new territories, we were an alien creature, just like the introduced ones that trouble us today.

George Monbiot of The Guardian makes the point that we can trace the movement of our species by a wave of extinction of the big, slow-moving, dim-witted creatures that we could outwit with even the simplest of implements like clubs, pits, and spears.

Our brains were our great evolutionary advantage, conferring massive memory, curiosity, inventiveness and observational powers. I can’t emphasize that enough. Our brains gave us a huge advantage and it did something I think is unique — it created a concept of a future, which meant we realized we could affect that future by our actions in the present. By applying our acquired knowledge and insights, we could deliberately choose a path to avoid danger or trouble, and to exploit opportunities. I believe foresight was a huge evolutionary advantage for our species. And that’s what is so tragic today when we have all the amplified foresight of scientists and supercomputers, which have been warning us for decades that we are heading down a dangerous path, but now we allow politics and economics to override this predictive power.

No doubt after we evolved, we quickly eliminated or reduced the numbers of animals and plants for which we found uses. We had no instinctive behavioural traits to restrict or guide our actions — we learned by the consequences of what we did. And all the mistakes that we made and successes that we celebrated were important lessons in the body of accumulating knowledge of a people in a territory. That was very powerful and critical to understanding our evolutionary success — it was painstakingly acquired experience that became a part of the culture. We are an invasive species all around the world, and I find it amazing that our brains enabled us to move into vastly different ecosystems ranging from steaming jungles to deserts, mountains to arctic tundra, and to flourish on the basis of the painful accumulation of knowledge through trial and error, mistakes, etc.

So it was the people who stayed in place as others moved on, who had to learn to live within their means, or they died. That is what I believe is the basis of indigenous knowledge that has built up over millennia and that will never be duplicated by science because it is acquired from a profoundly different basis (I wrote about the differences in a book, Wisdom of the Elders). The wave of exploration hundreds of years ago brought a very different world view to new lands — North and South America, Africa, Australia — based on a search for opportunity, resources, wealth. There was no respect for flora and fauna except as potential for riches, and certainly no respect for the indigenous people and their cultures. Of course, by outlawing language and culture of indigenous peoples, dominant colonizers attempt to stamp out the cultures which are such impediments to exploitation of the land. Tom King’s book, The Inconvenient Indian, argues very persuasively that policies are to “get those Indians off the land”.

I think of my grandparents as part of the wave of exploration of the past centuries. They arrived in Canada from Japan between 1902 and 1904. When they came on a harrowing steamship trip, there were no telephones to Japan, no TV, radio, cellphones or computers. They never learned English. They came on a one-way trip to Canada for the promise of opportunity. Their children, my parents, grew up like all the other Japanese-Canadian kids at that time, with no grandparents and no elders. In other words, they had no roots in Japan or Canada. To them, land was opportunity. Work hard, fish, log, farm, mine, use the land to make money. And I believe that is the dominant ethic today and totally at odds with indigenous perspectives.

Remember when battles were fought over drilling in Hecate Strait, supertankers down the coast from Alaska, the dam at Site C, drilling for oil in ANWR, the dam to be built at Altamire in Brazil? I was involved in small and big ways in these battles, which we thought we won 30 to 35 years ago. But as you know, they are back on the agenda today. So our victories were illusions because we didn’t change the perspective through which we saw the issues.

That’s what I say environmentalists have failed to do, to use the battles to get people to change their perspectives, and that’s why I have chosen to work with First Nations because in most cases, they are fighting through the value lenses of their culture.

The challenge is to gain a perspective on our place in nature. That’s why I have made one last push to get a ball rolling on the initiative to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in our constitution. It’s a big goal, but in discussing the very idea, we have to ask, what do we mean by a healthy environment. We immediately come to the realization that the most important factor that every human being needs to live and flourish is a breath of air, a drink of water, food and the energy from photosynthesis. Without those elements, we die.

So our healthy future depends on protecting those fundamental needs, which amazingly enough, are cleansed, replenished and created by the web of life itself. So long as we continue to let the economy and political priorities shape the discussion, we will fail in our efforts to find a sustainable future. I have been trying to tell business folk and politicians that, in the battle over the Northern Gateway, what First Nations are trying to tell us is that their opposition is because there are things more important than money.

David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are our best bet for protecting the planet, Special to The Sun June 8, 2015.

Source:

http://www.faceoff.com/news/metro/David+Suzuki+Aboriginal+people+environmentalists+best+protecting/11112668/story.html

 

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.

 

Cree Woman Walks Coast To Coast To Spark Talk On Lateral Violence

Isabel Okanese (front), who is Oji-Cree, is no stranger to lateral violence. She grew up hearing she didn't look or sound native and that her Cree teachings were wrong. (Kelly Nakatsuka/CBC)

Isabel Okanese (front), who is Oji-Cree, is no stranger to lateral violence. She grew up hearing she didn’t look or sound native and that her Cree teachings were wrong. (Kelly Nakatsuka/CBC)

By Wawmeesh G. Hamilton | CBC News

A Victoria woman is literally taking steps to raise awareness about lateral violence among First Nations, non-status and Métis peoples.

This week Isabel Okanese began a cross-country walk at Mile Zero in Victoria, B.C., and will end it more than 6,000 kilometres away in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The walk started on May 5 and is expected to end in October.

The walk is called Miyo-wicehtowin which is Cree for “living in harmony together”. The intent is to spark discussion about lateral violence within First Nations communities.

“Lateral violence is a very big problem. It covers a lot of areas and stems from colonization,” said Okanese, who is Oji-Cree, from central Alberta.

Lateral violence can be defined as verbal abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse and even physical abuse, she added.

Walktoendviolence3

Isabel Okanese, front left, is joined by some of her supporters who are supporting her cross-country walk. (Kelly Nakatsuka/CBC)

“Lateral violence is what we do to each other.”

Okanese, 43, is no stranger to lateral violence.

Her family was among many aboriginal people who were disenfranchised, or stripped of Indian status, and hence categorized as non-status First Nations people.

Stripping the status designation had a socially chilling effect on the family. Okanese grew up hearing that she didn’t look, sound or act native.

“I’ve been ostracised, lots of gossiping and backstabbing,” she said. “I’ve been treated as if I’m not even Oji-Cree.”

Okanese practices what she preaches about lateral violence.

“I have to catch myself when I find myself thinking or saying something unkind about other aboriginal people,” she said. “This isn’t easy, to try to be kind to someone who has been unkind.”

Okanese is travelling along Highway 1 across eight provinces. She has a small support group and will be sleeping in a motor home.

She plans to stop at First Nations communities along the way to address lateral violence.

​Okanese hopes to encourage aboriginal people to treat each other with respect whether they are Métis, non-status Indian or First Nations.

“We need to come back together as one family,” she said.

“If we end the internalized racism and stop fighting amongst ourselves then we can look after the issues that are really important.”

The journey started with a sunrise ceremony at Mile Zero in Victoria. Okanese also plans to smudge every morning before walking.

She’s carrying a vial of water from Mile Zero which she intends to pour into the ocean at Nova Scotia as a symbol of unity.

Okanese encourages aboriginal people to walk with her along the way.

With files from Kelly Nakatsuka

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/cree-woman-walks-coast-to-coast-to-spark-talk-on-lateral-violence-1.3066593

Facebook Page Targeting Winnipeg Aboriginals Pulled Down

Before disappearing on Wednesday, the Facebook page had close to 5,000 members and was filled with negative comments about aboriginal people. (iStock)

Before disappearing on Wednesday, the Facebook page had close to 5,000 members and was filled with negative comments about aboriginal people. (iStock)

CBC News

A Facebook page that attacked aboriginal people in Winnipeg and re-ignited the racism debate in the city, has been pulled down.

The page, called “Aboriginals Need to get a job and stop using our tax dollars,” claimed support for Kelvin High School teacher Brad Badiuk who was suspended in January after making racist comments on his own Facebook page.

Facebook page

A screen grab of the controversial Facebook page. (Facebook)

The page was created in December — the same month Badiuk’s posting was made. Before disappearing on Wednesday, the page had close to 5,000 members and was filled with negative comments about aboriginal people.

Robert Sinclair, an aboriginal man, who came across the page on Tuesday, called it a hate crime and hopes the people behind it are held accountable.

Aboriginal Facebook page

A note on the Facebook page claims support for Brad Badiuk. (Facebook)

“Knowing the fact that people [were] looking at and supporting it, it doesn’t say a great deal of positive outlook for the way that Winnipeg is directing themselves,” he said.Just before it was pulled down, the page started getting a lot of posts critical of it, with at least one person calling the administrators “racist a—holes.”

A new Facebook page called Protest against “Aboriginals Need to get a job and stop using our tax dollars” started in response and was applauding the removal of the racist page.

‘Inspiring, important moment’

One aboriginal leader says he’s not angry by the page, but rather inspired by the opportunities it presents.

Niigaan Sinclair, who teaches indigenous literature, culture, history and politics at the University of Manitoba, said it used to be that no one talked about racism, that it was swept under the rug.

Now, people talk about racism and relationships every day, and that is the only way to make things better.

“I actually think this is a really inspiring important moment,” he told CBC News on Wednesday, adding he wants people to talk about what it means to be a meaningful citizen in this city.