Tag Archives: First Nations

Alberta’s Bill 1 Is ‘Racially Targeted’: First Nations Leaders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, left, sits with Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, centre, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, right, during a meeting in Edmonton with First Nations leaders about increasing Indigenous participation in the economy on June 10, 2019.

The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act bans protests at pipelines, oilsands sites, and railways

First Nations leaders are outraged the Alberta government is rushing to pass Bill 1, which would outlaw protests and other disruptions to “critical infrastructure.”

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, said the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act violates Indigenous and treaty rights, calling it a “racialized bill,” and one that will aggravate tensions between police and Indigenous people.

“We knew this bill was enacted because of Wet’suwet’en protests,” said Noskey, referring to the First Nations-led demonstrations that lasted several weeks this year across Canada. The protests drew thousands of supporters, with some blocking highways and railway infrastructure in opposition to Coastal GasLink’s LNG pipeline slated to run through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.

“The intent of this bill is racially targeted towards First Nation treaty partners in this country. With all of the racial tension happening today, the [United Conservative Party] government should realize this bill is not going to work,” said Noskey. “Under treaty, we have collective, inherent rights. When people come together to protest, it’s because of their collective rights.”

Hundreds of protesters occupy the Macmillan Yard in Vaughan, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2020 in solidarity with traditional Wet’suwet’en leaders opposed to an LNG pipeline through their territory.

The bill bans demonstrations at “critical infrastructure” areas, described as pipelines, oilsands sites, mining sites as well as utilities, streets, highways, railways, and telecom towers and equipment. Violators who protest, trespass, interfere with operations, or cause damage around that kind of infrastructure will face fines as high as $10,000 or six months in jail or both. Further offences will garner fines of up to $25,000 and jail time.

Bill 1 passed its third reading on May 28 and now awaits royal assent from the lieutenant-governor that would make it a law.

This is a desperate move by Premier Jason Kenney to save a “completely failing economy and energy system,” said Eriel Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action.

“Bill 1 seems like it’s out of the same playbook as [U.S. President Donald] Trump. It’s fascist, anti-democratic, anti-civil rights and completely annihilates the rights of Indigenous communities,” she said.

“I think people will protest this bill given where we are in the world with the Black Lives Matter movement, and this bill has impacts across the nation. I hope the federal government intervenes and sees the true colours of this unconstitutional move by Alberta.”

Federal government says it remains committed to UNDRIP

The office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General said in a statement to HuffPost Canada that it wouldn’t be “appropriate to speak to provincial legislation.”

“We remain fully committed to introducing legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) by the end of 2020,” it said.

One of UNDRIP’s authors, Cree lawyer, Indigenous rights expert, and former Alberta MP Wilton Littlechild said the declaration plays a crucial role in protecting and upholding Indigenous rights when it comes to Bill 1.

He says the bill is wide in scope and wonders if the Critical Infrastructure Act also applies on reserve and in traditional Indigenous territories.

“Utility lines, roads, railways, pipelines all go through reserves and nothing mentions this in the bill,” said Littlechild. “There’s no mention of us at all. It’s a complicated matter and we weren’t at the table for free, prior and informed consent on these serious issues.”

Jonah Mozeson, senior press secretary to the Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General, saidthe province ”will work collaboratively to ensure that input from Indigenous and Metis Albertans are heard and are scheduling additional outreach to receive additional feedback and discuss the concerns being raised.”

Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras, left, stands with activist Greta Thunberg, centre, at a climate rally in Montreal in 2019.

But Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, Marlene Poitras, who has participated in countless demonstrationsf or Indigenous rights in Canada and around the world, said the discriminatory elements in government law-making has to stop.

“We have a human right to voice our concerns. In our case, we have a treaty right and that’s not being respected,” explained Poitras, who marched alongside Greta Thunberg in Montreal last fall to bring awareness to climate change.

“Our people are concerned about the environment. Alberta is deregulating everything and doing whatever it can to open it up for oil and gas development without consulting our people — but our people will respond.”

There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

Noskey said he thinks Bill 1 further strains the relationship between police and Indigenous Peoples, mirroring an international narrative that’s dominating headlines. Protests have swelled in the U.S. and around the world against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

“Now, Alberta will be asking the peacekeeping police officers to arrest us. This is anti-racial law. So the racially motivated police in the force will say ‘I can do this’ (arrest and brutalize).”

Last week, his friend and colleague Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told a news conference that he was beaten and his wife “manhandled” during an arrest by RCMP in Fort McMurray. Alberta’s independent police watchdog is investigating the allegations.

Prime Minister Trudeau said he was “deeply alarmed” by the incident and vowed to “do more” to address systemic racism in policing.

As for reconciliation in Alberta, Noskey believes the move by Kenney to implement Bill 1 abolishes reconciliation.

“You’re going to criminalize the First Peoples of this land who agreed to share the lands with foreigners that came in. This impacts our way of life. There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.”

By Brandi Morin, On Assignment For HuffPost Canada

[SOURCE]

COVID-19 outbreaks in 23 First Nations prompting concerns

OTTAWA — Federal officials say the next two weeks will be crucial in trying to determine the scope and severity of the spread of COVID-19 in First Nations communities.

Cases of the virus have begun to present within Indigenous communities across Canada, including the first case in Nunavut — something health officials have been bracing for with concern, given the many vulnerabilities that exist among Indigenous populations.

Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health at Indigenous Services Canada, says it’s too early to determine the severity of these outbreaks and whether the situation will worsen.

He said health officials are closely monitoring the situations and have jumped into action where needed.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller noted a particular concern over an outbreak in the Dene village of La Loche, about 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Conservative MP Gary Vidal, who represents the northern Saskatchewan riding where the village is located, said his concern is personal.

“This is my hometown, this is my area. These are families and kids that I coached in hockey and they’re all friends and connections, so this has become very personal for me suddenly,” Vidal told Miller during a House of Commons committee meeting Friday.

He noted the outbreak includes the deaths of two elders living in a care facility and that there are now also active cases in the neighbouring First Nation communities of English River and Clearwater River Dene.

“It’s too late for reactive measures, now is the time for a major proactive response from (Indigenous Services Canada) in northern Saskatchewan. This has become a very dangerous situation,” Vidal said.

Miller acknowledged he is “very worried” about this outbreak, and that his department has been working with the province and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority to ensure a co-ordinated effort. Health Canada is mobilizing testing capacity, planning to ship personal protective equipment and sending in additional health professionals and medical officers.

As of April 30, there were 131 active cases of COVID-19 in a total of 23 Indigenous communities across Canada, and federal officials are working closely with First Nations leaders, provinces and territories to help slow the spread of the virus.

Some of these outbreaks have been traced to workplaces. This includes an outbreak of COVID-19 at a meat-packing plant in Alberta, which has been identified as the source of new cases in the nearby Stoney Nakoda First Nation, west of Calgary, Wong said.

Health officials are once again stressing the importance of physical distancing and handwashing, and will be watching closely over the next two weeks in the hopes they see the current rise in cases on First Nations begin to curve downward, Wong said.

“What we are hoping to not see is an exponential increase. What we are hoping to see is a flattening of the curve,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller says the $15 million in COVID-19 emergency funding earmarked to help organizations that service Indigenous urban populations is not “not enough.”

Miller told the committee Friday his department received far more applications to this fund than the 94 proposals that have been approved.

He is now working to secure additional funds to help the vulnerable populations that friendship centres and other urban Indigenous organizations work to support every day.

“I will acknowledge that it is not enough and we are working more to serve these people in very vulnerable situations, and that’s work we will continue to do,” Miller said.

Last month, the National Association of Friendship Centres said their facilities across the country have been on the front lines of the crisis and have been inundated with requests for help as their communities struggle to cope.

The centres have been struggling to function without additional funds from the federal government as they work to meet an increased demand in services, the association said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press, published May 1, 2020.

[SOURCE]

‘Our ancestors knew’: Maskwacis Cree enact Treaty 6 Medicine Chest clause over virus outbreak

First Nations enact ‘medicine clause’ to call state of emergency.

EDMONTON — Several Cree First Nations have jointly enacted Treaty 6’s Medicine Clause to call a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band met Sunday to make the “difficult decision.”

The leaders fear present issues of overcrowding, lack of health care capacity and proximity to Alberta’s largest cities and outbreak centres make their nations particularly vulnerable.

“If the virus were to get into the First Nations communities, it could be devastating,” Marlene Poitras, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Tuesday at a conference and gathering of the chiefs on Ermineskin First Nation.

“The Maskwacis declaration is unique in that it specifically references the Famine and Pestilence Clause in treaty. Our ancestors knew that these days were coming.”

The Medicine Chest clause is not present in the treaties signed before Treaty 6, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Its famine and pestilence clause grants Treaty 6 nations protection from those things.

The chiefs did not expand on what commitment they were looking for from the federal government.

“We’re hoping that the government does their part now,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said.

“They’ve got to follow through and respect their part of the treaty.”

According to Alberta Health, one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Wetaskiwin County, with which Treaty 6 territory overlaps.

Ermineskin Cree Nation activated its emergency operations centre on March 17, the same day the province of Alberta declared a public health emergency.

The nation has been limiting house service calls to top-priority calls and gatherings to 10 people or less, with physical distancing.

On Tuesday, the leaders pleaded for their youngest members to respect the precautions.

“Young people, you heard your leaders,” International Chief Wilton Littlechild said.

“Listen. Listen to their message that this is a very serious issue and you need to take care of yourself. Take good care of yourself.”

The office of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was also closed earlier in the month to ensure the safety of workers and minimize community transition, but has remained operational.

AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras joined the chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band on March 24 to announce their enacting of Treaty 6’s Medicine Chest clause. (Source: Facebook / Ermineskin Cree Nation)

By: Alex Antoneshyn / CTV Edmonton, published March 24, 2020.

[SOURCE]

965 Indigenous artifacts found in Kitchener during road construction

Phase 1 of road work on Fischer-Hallman between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and run throughout the construction season. (Region of Waterloo )

An archaeological assessment that involves hand excavation will be conducted on Fischer-Hallman Road

Indigenous artifacts and evidence of a longhouse and First Nations village have been found at a location in south Kitchener where road construction is set to start on Fischer-Hallman Road this spring.

The Region of Waterloo has ordered what’s called a stage 4 archeological assessment after 965 items were found in an area of Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek.

The latest stage, which will be led by an environmental company and a First Nations field liaison will “involve hand excavation to identify, document and salvage all archeological artifacts.”

A stage 4 archeological assessment is estimated to take about six to seven months according to a regional report and cost $1.6M.

During stage 3 of the assessment by an environment company, evidence of a First Nation village and a longhouse was found at the site. A First Nations field liaison representative has been working with the organization hired to do the archeological work.

The work to widen Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and last through the end of construction season in November.

The roadwork is part of a four-phase road project in the area that will be completed by 2025.

By: CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2020

[SOURCE]

Photo credit: Dan Lauckner / CTV Kitchener.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs, ministers reach proposed agreement in pipeline dispute

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, centre, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, left, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader says they remain opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief and senior government ministers say they have reached a proposed arrangement in discussing a pipeline dispute that has prompted solidarity protests across Canada in recent weeks.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser would not give details on the proposed arrangement, saying it first has to be reviewed by the Wet’suwet’en people.

Chief Woos, one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, said the proposal represents an important milestone.

“We’re going to be continuing to look at some more conversations with B.C. and of course with the proponent and to further our conversations with the RCMP,” Woos said.

“It’s not over yet.”

Still opposed to pipeline

Woos said the hereditary leaders remain opposed to the pipeline. The proposed arrangement with the government is regarding questions around rights and title to their traditional territory.

“This is what we’re all about, is the occupation of the land out there,” he said.

The Wet’suwet’en are governed by both a traditional hereditary chief system and elected band councils. A majority of its councils have approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs oppose it running through their traditional territory.

The issue has spurred solidarity protests and rail blockades across the country since RCMP moved in on Feb. 6 to enforce an injunction to stop a road blockade erected by those opposed to the pipeline that prevented the company’s workers from entering the site.

Bennett said the proposed arrangement will honour the protocols of the Wet’suwet’en people and clans.

Rights holders always ‘at the table’

The arrangement builds on a Supreme Court decision regarding rights and title, she said, presumably referring to a 1997 decision acknowledging Aboriginal land title that set a precedent for how it is understood in Canadian courts.

Bennett said the past few days of negotiations had been about learning, and humility.

“The rights holders will always be at the table. And that is the way through for Canada,” Bennett said.

Woos warned developers that the hereditary leaders will continue to protect their waters, wildlife habitats and traditional sites with “everything we have.”

“As Wet’suwet’en, we are the land and the land is ours,” he said. “We’re not going to look at any alternative ways.”

The announcement comes as talks between the hereditary chiefs and the ministers entered a fourth day.

The Canadian Press · Posted: Mar 01, 2020

[SOURCE]