Tag Archives: First Nations leaders

First Nations Leaders Mourn Passing of Tragically Hip Frontman Gord Downie

Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem tour, July 2016.

Gord Downie remembered for raising awareness of Indigenous issues

Canadian singer Gord Downie, 53, has passed away from terminal brain cancer.

Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, was diagnosed with cancer in December 2015.

“Last night Gord quietly passed away with his beloved children and family close by,” said a statement posted on thehip.com.

Downie united a diverse array of music lovers with his commanding stage presence and Canadiana-laced lyrics.

Downie was also an advocate for First Nations people.

On Wednesday, Indigenous leaders praised Downie’s contribution to reconciliation as they mourned the musician’s death.

According to CBC News Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler released a statement in the wake of the announcement of Downie’s death.

“Words cannot express our sorrow and our thoughts and prayers are with Gord’s brothers Mike and Patrick, and all of their family and friends,” Fiddler was quoted as saying in a written release. “My dear friend took the country by storm last year with his heartfelt call to action, and exposed dark truths about this country like no one before him.”

In December 2016, Downie was honoured at an Assembly of First Nations gathering for his work highlighting the impact of residential schools.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde presented Downie with an eagle feather and he was given a Lakota spirit name, Wicapi Omani, which can be roughly translated as “Man who walks among the stars.”

Gord Downie is presented with a blanket during an honouring ceremony at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. Dec 6, 2016.

Downie’s concept album, Secret Path, tells the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966, while trying to escape from a residential school near Kenora, Ont.

The album, accompanied by a graphic novel and film, shone a spotlight on a topic that Downie believed had been ignored for too long.

First Nations leaders and artists alike expressed gratitude to Downie for the recognition of the legacy of residential schools and his call for all Canadians to learn the stories of the thousands of children who died there.

“I am honoured and humbled to support the Secret Path project,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said.

“When you have someone with that fortitude and passion to speak out on our behalf it’s this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness because he can touch different audiences that we can’t,” Tanya Tagaq told VICE

Isadore Day, the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Ontario, echoed this sentiment.

“I felt very grateful that someone of his stature would take to the cause and really lift up our people through his music and his stellar reputation.”

“I honour the life and work of Gord Downie, a dedicated and accomplished artist who used his profile to advance reconciliation and build support for First Nations peoples,” Bellegarde said Wednesday in a statement.

In June, for his work raising awareness of Indigenous issues, Downie received the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest honour for a civilian), he was appointed to the Order.

Downie’s death is an “incredible loss to Canada”, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said as she thanked him for the role he played in reconciliation.

Governor General David Johnston pins the order of Canada on Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also released a statement about Downie’s passing.

“Gord did not rest from working for the issues he cared about, and his commitment and passion will continue to motivate Canadians for years to come.”

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Gord’s family, friends, bandmates and crew members, and his many, many fans. He will be sorely missed.”

Gord Downie’s Secret Path in Concert will make its broadcast premiere on Sunday, October 22 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC TV and streaming at cbc.ca/arts/secretpath, commemorating the 51st anniversary of Chanie Wenjack’s death.

By: Black Powder, RPM Staff

Racism Toward Indigenous People Escalating in Thunder Bay: Grand Chief

Nishnawbe Aski Nation chiefs begin emergency meeting to discuss student safety in Thunder Bay

The Canadian Press | July 6, 2017

First Nations leaders met for a second day Thursday to discuss serious concerns about safety of young people in Thunder Bay — a northwestern Ontario city that leads the country in hate crimes reported to police.

The decision to meet with federal and provincial officials was made last month, but recent tragedies have magnified its importance, said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

Those include a recent double homicide involving two Indigenous people in Thunder Bay and the death Tuesday of an Indigenous woman who was injured in January when she was hit by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving car.

“This is not the kind of conference that we want to have, but we have to,” Fiddler said in an interview. “I think the issues are too urgent.”

Barbara Kentner, 34, told police she and her sister were walking in a residential neighbourhood when someone threw the heavy chunk of metal from a vehicle. Her sister Melissa said she heard someone in the vehicle say: “I got one.”

Fiddler also cited last year’s Ontario inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students, during which witnesses reported having had objects or racial epithets hurled in their direction.

“That’s something I think all of us need to acknowledge … this is a real problem,” he said. “I think that’s the only way we can begin to come together and address these issues.”

Last month, amid concerns about local policing expressed by First Nations leaders, Ontario’s chief coroner asked an outside police force to help investigate the deaths of two Indigenous teens.

Dr. Dirk Huyer asked York Regional Police to get involved in the investigation of the deaths of 14-year-old Josiah Begg and 17-year-old Tammy Keeash.

In June, Statistics Canada reported that most of the police-reported hate incidents in Thunder Bay targeted Indigenous people, accounting for 29 per cent of all anti-Aboriginal hate crimes across Canada in 2015.

“Young people have told me repeatedly of walking home and having things flung at them out of cars,” Thunder Bay MP and Liberal cabinet minister Patty Hajdu said following the release of the Statistics Canada report.

“Indigenous women and Indigenous men who have experienced going to a store … and when they put their hand out to receive change, the storekeeper will purposely not touch their hand.”

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First Nations Chief Says Standing Rock Protest Tactics Could Be Headed To Canada

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says Indigenous activists from Canada have gone to Standing Rock, N.D., to learn tactics from protesters there against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. (CBC)

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says Indigenous activists from Canada have gone to Standing Rock, N.D., to learn tactics from protesters there against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. (CBC)

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde says First Nations leaders don’t want ‘another Oka’ crisis

CBC News Posted: Dec 05, 2016 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ move to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has given new hope to Indigenous leaders in Canada opposed to oilsands extraction, with some vowing to adopt tactics used by protesters south of the border to block construction of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

“Our people are in Standing Rock. They’re quite prepared to take to the streets in the north,” Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said in an interview with CBC News. “We definitely see parallels. We’ve got the same issues, they’re the same companies and they’re the same corporate interests that we’re having to deal with.”

The events at Standing Rock, N.D., where protesters opposed to the pipeline at times faced police rubber bullets and water cannons in frigid weather, seized attention on the opening day of the Assembly of First Nations’ special assembly Monday. Hundreds of chiefs from across Canada are gathering in Ottawa to discuss progress on the Indigenous front a year after the Liberal government took office.

‘We’re making it clear to the colonizing government that you’re not going to get away with this.’– Quebec Chief Serge Simon

Quebec Chief Serge Simon said the protests in North Dakota send a clear message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues who last week approved the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and renewal of Enbridge’s Line 3.

“We’re making it clear to the colonizing government that you’re not going to get away with this,” he said. “We have certain rights and we will assert them.”

Perry Bellegrade 20161006

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the U.S. decision on the Dakota Access pipeline was cause for ‘jubilation.’ (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the decision to halt construction of the North Dakota pipeline at Standing Rock was a “victory” for those who stood strongly against the 1,886-kilometre pipeline that would run from the Bakken oilfields to refineries in Illinois.

“I know from the AFN, we sent down people, we sent down resources, we phoned and we wrote letters as well. I think right now there is a feeling of jubilation because, really, it’s all about the water,” Bellegarde said in an interview. He added that the U.S. government made a “really good decision” to push the pipeline proponent, Energy Transfer Partners, to pursue an alternative route that does not run through an aquifer.

The $3.8-billion US project, which is already mostly built, would have crossed through sacred Indigenous ground and run under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir.

British Columbia AFN Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, who supported the Trans Mountain pipeline when he was the chief of the Tk’emlups Indian Band near Kamloops, said he expects Standing Rock-like protests to move across the border, but he’s hoping cooler heads will prevail.

Indigenous people march to a sacred burial site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) near the Sioux Tribe's Standing Rock Reservation. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Indigenous people march to a sacred burial site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) near the Sioux Tribe’s Standing Rock Reservation. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

“Pipelines are a very emotional topic for many of our people because of the disasters that have occurred,” he said, referring to the spill of diluted oilsands bitumen from an Enbridge-owned pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010.

Gottfriedson was not as full-throated in his support of the pipeline Monday, preferring to stake out the middle ground now that he is tasked with leading all First Nations’ chiefs in British Columbia.

“There’s a 50-50 split in B.C. It’s not for me to advocate one way or another,” he said, despite his past efforts to sign a mutual benefits agreement with Kinder Morgan. “My job is to find balance and make sure we don’t end up with another North Dakota pipeline incident.”

Bellegarde has said chiefs are afraid to speak out and support pipeline development because they have been stigmatized by some hard-line protesters.

Chiefs don’t want another Oka

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr was asked last week about the proliferation of protests. He said that if activists were not peaceful, “then the government of Canada — through its defence forces, through its police forces — will ensure that people are kept safe.”

“We have a history of peaceful dialogue and dissent in Canada. I’m certainly hopeful that that tradition will continue. If people determine, for their own reasons, that that is not the path they want to follow, then we live under the rule of law.”

Some chiefs said Monday that Carr’s remarks sent “alarm bells ringing” throughout First Nations communities.


Manitoba First Nations Leaders Split On Syrian Refugees Coming Into Canada

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe and Grand Chief of Southern Chief's Organization Terry Nelson

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe and Grand Chief of Southern Chief’s Organization Terry Nelson

By Erin Brohman, CBC News

Syrian refugee plan ‘outrageous’ says leader but ‘sins of few’ shouldn’t stop plan says another

Two First Nations leaders in Manitoba have opposing views on how the federal government should proceed with plans to allow Syrian refugees into the country.

“Are we letting in ISIS people dressed up as refugees? Those are concerns that we have,” said Chief David Pashe of Dakota Tipi First Nation.

Pashe says the federal government needs to exercise caution in light of recent events in Europe and hold back on plans to bring in thousands of refugees in just over six weeks.

“They’re trying to allow 25,000 people by end of December. How are you going to clear all these people security-wise?”

On Monday, the new MP for the Portage-Lisgar riding in southern Manitoba expressed on Twitter she was “embarrassed” and “sickened” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to withdraw warplanes from the fight against ISIS and with his pledge to bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada from Syria by the end of 2015.

While Pashe says Bergen should show more support for First Nations and has not visited his community or other First Nations in the constituency, he says he agrees with her point of view.

“I feel that bringing that amount of people in is outrageous at this time. … That’s too quick,” he said.

“Justin Trudeau needs to do a little more security clearance checks for these people.”

At the same time, another First Nations leader in the province spoke passionately today about welcoming refugees into Manitoba.

“We live in the greatest country in the world. The most peaceful country in the world. We are blessed,” said Terry Nelson, Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, while speaking at an event on restorative justice Wednesday.

“How we react to people that immigrate to this country is how we are judged. Recently events in Europe, Paris, some Muslim people, a very small minority, committed terrorist crimes,” he said.

“It should not impact how we view Syrian people,” Nelson said.

David Pashe says it’s frustrating to see the government prioritize refugees over First Nations people, who he says need work and housing too.

Pashe says when he became chief of Dakota Tipi First Nation in 2012, he saw a lot of young people not finishing Grade 12. He says he asked the provincial government for funding for upgrading so that they could get training in the trades. He says ministers were supportive of the idea but offered no money to do it.

“But they have all kinds of money to bring in refugees from all other countries. The governments are sending the wrong message to native people by doing that,” he said.

And he says an influx of refugees will detract further from resources that could go towards struggling First Nations.

Nelson, on the other hand, says the province’s plans to bring refugees in from other countries should not be impacted by events in Europe.

“There’s been an invitation for 2,500 Syrian people to be here in Winnipeg,” he said.

“They should not be judged. They should not be judged by a small minority of people that are terrorists.”

Pashe urges caution.

“Proceed at the rate you were going. Don’t throw in a whole pile. We have to learn from other countries like France and Germany who are taking in an abundance of refugees and they don’t have housing for them, they don’t have jobs for them,” he said.

“Put 10 refugees in my reserve, I’m going to say no. Because I don’t have the infrastructure for them. I don’t have jobs for them. I don’t have housing for them,” he added.

Nelson said the reason people come to Canada is because here they can be free. He said those who have fled their homes in war-torn countries love Canada because it’s peaceful.

“Let’s not judge other people who are immigrating here by the sins of a few,” he said.

“We need to show the best that we are. This is a great country,” Nelson said.


First Nations Leaders Say It’s Back To Barricades If They Don’t Get A Deal With Christy Clark

From left to right, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Edward John and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listen during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck ORG XMIT: VCRD108

From left to right, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Edward John and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listen during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Dirk Meissner / The Canadian Press

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is expected to try and bridge the chasm that separates her government and the leaders of the province’s First Nations at a meeting in Vancouver today.

About 500 First Nations leaders are meeting with Clark and members of her cabinet again today with the aim of signing a joint government-First Nations working agreement.

But the chasm that separates her government and First Nations was clearly defined yesterday when talks got underway at a Vancouver hotel for the second annual all-chiefs meetings.

While B.C.’s Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said there has been remarkable achievements on economic and social fronts with First Nations, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said they’re giving the government a one-year deadline to negotiate a reconciliation deal.

“The underlying message is if we don’t make any progress within the space of the next year, I would suggest all of this will fall through and it will be back to the courts and pretty much back to the barricades,” said Phillip.

Landmark ruling

Last year’s landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that granted the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title to 1,700 square kilometres of land in B.C.’s Nemiah Valley remains the driving force behind the reconciliation initiative prompted by Clark and First Nations leaders.

The decision is the first in Canadian history where aboriginals have been granted title to land they claimed as their own. Tsilhqot’in Chief Roger William said the ruling gives First Nations a legal tool to use as leverage in negotiations with governments and resource developers.

Legal scholars and political experts have suggested the ruling gives aboriginals massive powers on land-use issues, especially resource development. B.C. First Nations are seeking government support for aboriginal rights and title to lands, which also includes revenue sharing.

Phillip said all involved must have the courage to move forward, build consensus and silence those who predict Armageddon if First Nations are given an equal voice in building and sharing B.C.’s economic future.

Clark has said ignoring the Supreme Court ruling puts B.C.’s future in peril, prompting her to meet with the chiefs and councillors from B.C.’s more than 200 First Nations.

Phillip said chiefs left last year’s meeting disappointed because the province did not adopt a four-point statement that established government support for their rights and title to lands.

“The last time we couldn’t even agree on a public statement,” said Phillip, adding when it comes to reconciliation B.C. is at “strike two.”

“We need a legislative framework and a policy framework we can rely on that allows us to reconcile aboriginal title rights interests and other Crown and industry interests. We don’t have that.”

Phillip said the economy of B.C. hangs in the balance and all parties are aware of the gravity of the situation.

Rustad said the provincial government’s relations with First Nations over the last decade on numerous economic and social fronts have been ground-breaking.

The handful of First Nations who have negotiated land-claims treaties have produced spectacular results, but the process takes too long, he said.

“We need to be able to find a way to do this in a much more expedited manner.”

While much of the conference is closed to the media, Clark is expected to make a public address before the chiefs on Thursday.

Source: http://fw.to/gQ0XAfX