Tag Archives: First Nations

‘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.

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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

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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

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Saskatchewan chief saddened by lack of help to stop suicides

Chief Ron Mitsuing of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation voices his concerns about a suicide crisis in his community at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Photo by The Canadian Press/Mark Taylor

The chief of a northern Saskatchewan First Nation says he is disappointed at the lack of long-term help from the provincial and federal governments to deal with what he says is a suicide crisis.

Ronald Mitsuing of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, along with another band leader, met in Regina on Wednesday with ministers and the deputy premier.

The leaders are concerned about what they are calling “cluster suicides” in their community of Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

They say there have been three suicides, including one by a 10-year-old girl, in three weeks and eight suicide attempts, mostly by young people.

Mitsuing said he asked Premier Scott Moe and officials for help now, as well as for a long-term suicide prevention strategy to help all First Nations.

“Things are happening now. They can’t wait anymore,” he said.

“Kids are losing their lives and, if they keep waiting, it’s going to happen again.”

Mitsuing said Saskatchewan Health Authority officials sent to help his community will eventually leave and temporary assistance isn’t enough to prevent future deaths.

He wants community members to be trained on how to spot signs of suicidal thoughts and on how to properly respond.

“Right now our teachers are also burning out over there. They’re stressed. Our whole community, front-line workers, are stressed.”

Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding said the first step was to provide immediate help, which has been done, and then to plan for any medium- and long-term solutions.

“It’s a little early in the juncture to determine what those services are, but that’s something that’s going to be community-led, and we’ll certainly have those conversations with officials,” he said.

The Ministry of Health is reviewing its services and looking at what is offered elsewhere in Canada.

The Opposition NDP has put forward a private member’s bill that would create a suicide prevention strategy. Its leader says the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to act on reducing poverty and developing economic opportunities in the north.

“Nothing that we’ve seen from them so far indicates that they actually take this seriously which … causes me to wonder whether this is something they care about,” said Ryan Meili.

Band CEO Barry Mitsuing Chalifoux said an ongoing strategy would better help prevent suicide crises and give local governments ideas on what resources could be of help in their communities.

He said federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller called last week to offer his condolences. Chalifoux said he understands work is being done by federal officials to see what support may be coming and he believes they will respond.

“I’m just hoping they do that soon,” Chalifoux said.

The First Nation wants parenting programs and funding to hire additional supports in order to monitor its youth, he said.

In the fall of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called several suicides by children in northern Saskatour girls between the ages of 10 and 14 had taken their own lives over a short period of time.

“We continue to be committed to working with Indigenous communities across the country to deal with this ever-occurring tragedy,” he said at the time.

Earlier that year, a string of suicide attempts in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario garnered international media attention when the Cree community declared a state of emergency.

By The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.

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First Nations given maximum compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

OTTAWA — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has awarded more than $2 billion in compensation to First Nations children and their families who were separated by a chronically underfunded welfare system.

In a ruling this morning the tribunal says the federal government “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services.

The result was a mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents for years in a system Indigenous leaders say had more First Nations kids living in foster care than at the height of the residential-schools era.

The tribunal is awarding the maximum damages it can — $40,000 — for each child taken away for lack of proper services or who was later returned to his or family, for each parent or grandparent who had a child taken, for each child who experienced abuse in foster care, and for each child who was taken into foster care because proper medical supports were not made available to their families.

The Assembly of First Nations says as many as 54,000 children could be eligible for the compensation.

The decision comes more than three-and-a-half years after the tribunal ruled there was clear discrimination by the federal government, which did not provide anywhere near the funding non-Indigenous children received for child welfare services.

The Canadian Press

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