Tag Archives: INAC office

Vancouver Occupation Of INAC Office Ends

Indigenous women and children who occupied INAC offices in downtown Vancouver for one week leave the building after securing a meeting with federal ministers to discuss their demands. (Facebook)

Indigenous women and children who occupied INAC offices in downtown Vancouver for one week leave the building after securing a meeting with federal ministers to discuss their demands. (Facebook)

#OccupyINAC protesters leave building after securing meeting with federal ministers

CBC News Posted: Apr 25, 2016

The occupation of an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in Vancouver by a group of Indigenous mothers ended Saturday, after the ministers of INAC and Canadian Heritage agreed to meet with the group in May, Council of Mothers spokesperson Jerilyn Webster says.

“This is big for us, as far as government placing Indigenous issues as a priority on its agenda,” Webster said.

“But these are just the first steps to the real work that needs to happen.”

Vancouver’s occupation started on Monday, April 18, following occupations of other INAC offices across Canada.

#OccupyINAC protesters were demanding action on the suicide crisis in Attawpiskat, Ont.

Toronto protesters left that city’s INAC buidling on Thursday, saying they were directed to leave by youth from Attawapiskat.

That’s when Vancouver’s group shifted the focus to reinstating a youth cultural program and increasing Indigenous language funding, both federal responsibilities.

A spokesperson from INAC confirmed via email that Minister Carolyn Bennett will meet with the group “in the coming weeks” to discuss language funding, and also to discuss a youth culture program disbanded by the Harper government in 2012.

“We’ve heard from the youth about the importance of rebuilding their identity as proud Indigenous people, and we agree that cultural and wellness programming plays a valuable role,” states the email.

Protesters who occupied the INAC office in Vancouver for six days say they've secured a meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. (CBC)

Protesters who occupied the INAC office in Vancouver for six days say they’ve secured a meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. (CBC)

Webster said she’s cautiously optimistic about the gesture.

“This new government didn’t just shut its ears; it listened, it wants direction and we’re here to provide that, but we don’t want lip service.”

Re-establishing culture and language programs fits into a bigger healing picture, Webster said. The fallout from historical injustices in Indigenous communities has created circumstances in which people, like those in Attawapaskat, are now killing themselves.

“As mothers, we see the sense of urgency and we did what we had to do to make addressing it a priority,” said Webster.

Vancouver’s occupation drew civic and Indigenous leaders, but it also found new supporters such as the local chapter of No One Is Illegal, a social justice group that advocates for immigrant rights and issues.

“We were able to bring all these people together for a common goal,” Webster said.

Occupy Vancouver was the only #OccupyINAC group that involved only women and children.

“We wanted our kids to stand with the kids of Attawapiskat,” Webster said.

Vancouver was the second to last INAC office to be occupied. Protesters are still inside the INAC office in Winnipeg.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/vancouver-occupation-of-inac-office-ends-1.3551611

Vancouver #OccupyINAC Group Vows To Stay Until Demands Met

A group of women and children have occupied the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Vancouver since April 18. (OccupyINAC/Twitter)

A group of women and children have occupied the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Vancouver since April 18. (OccupyINAC/Twitter)

CBC News Posted: Apr 22, 2016

‘There’s an urgency that our young people need to be heard,’ says protester inside Vancouver’s INAC office

A group of women and children have been occupying the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in Vancouver since Monday, April 18.

Jerilyn Webster, who is Nuxalk and Onodaga and a mother of one son, is part of the small group of Indigenous mothers and their children who are vowing to stay until their demands are met.

But with the situation in Attawapiskat drawing to a close, and with the occupation of INAC offices in Toronto ending, the focus in Vancouver has shifted to addressing regional demands.

Attawapaskat may be thousands of kilometres away, but its conditions are universal, said Webster.

“The same things that are happening in their community are happening in our communities now, it’s just that they don’t have media coverage and people don’t see it,” she said.

As a youth worker, Webster once tried to assist a young troubled Indigenous girl. The girl eventually succumbed to her despair and took her own life, something that devastated Webster, who sees a bigger, more tragic picture unfolding.

“There’s an urgency that our young people need to be heard. Their voices haven’t been heard and they’re crying out for help.”

‘Sense of urgency’

The group has demanded a meeting with federal ministers to address three issues.

One, the group wants to see Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth re-established. The $22 million national program, which enhanced the economic, social and cultural lives of off-reserve youth, was cut by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2012.

Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing demographic in the country, particularly in urban areas. Keeping youth connected with their culture is critical, Webster said.

 

Secondly, the group wants to see Indigenous language funding increased from $5 million to $1 billion per year.

Webster and her group analyzed the most recent federal budget and found that the French language received $2.4 billion in funding while Indigenous languages received $5 million.

“There’s 63 different Indigenous languages and when you break that down, that’s $6,000 to $8,000 per community. There needs to be an increase.”

And lastly, Webster and her group want meetings with Carolyn Bennet, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and with Mélanie Joly, the Canadian Minister of Heritage to talk about their demands.

In response to a media request, a heritage ministry official noted in an email that Joly’s mandate requires her to work with INAC to fund Indigenous language preservation and enhancement.

The government invested $5 million in Indigenous languages this year, and it proposes to extend funding for the to 2016-2017, the email stated.

Bennet did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

#OccupyINAC

Webster was inspired to lead Vancouver’s Occupy INAC movement after watching occupy movements mushroom in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Regina, Gatineau and Toronto.

She put the call out for support and found that no men responded; only women and children occupy the Vancouver office. She said she was disappointed with the lack of response from men, but she looked to women past and present for inspiration.

OccupyINAC Vancouver

BC MLA Melanie Mark (far right) visited Occupy Vancouver protestors in the INAC office in downtown Vancouver on April 21. (Facebook)

“Lillian Howard was at an INAC occupation protest in 1981 and she’s an Indigenous woman. Melanie Mark is an MLA now and she’s Indigenous,” Webster said.

“An occupation led by women, this isn’t the first time.”

On Thursday demonstrators left the Toronto’s INAC office, nine days after they took it over and sparked a protest that has spread across the country.

Currently INAC offices in Winnipeg and Vancouver are the only ones that remain occupied.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/vancouver-occupyinac-group-vows-to-stay-until-demands-met-1.3548940