Tag Archives: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

‘Do Something Now!’: Indigenous Activists Plead for Action in Youth Suicide Crisis

A group that has been camped out at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada offices for two weeks marched down Yonge St. Friday to demand government action on northern Ontario’s suicide crisis.

Staff | Toronto Star

Beneath Friday’s pouring rain and dark skies, a group of Indigenous women continue the fight against northern Ontario’s suicide crisis outside the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on St. Clair Ave.

They’ve been at it for more than two weeks. Geoffey Daybutch, who was asked to join the women outside INAC three days earlier to serve as a male voice from the First Nations community, stands guard as a man brushes past him with groceries and tells him to get off the sidewalk.

For Daybutch, this crisis hits close to home.

“The stories that are coming out from the suicide crisis is that some of the older children from the families are making their choice to commit suicide so that the younger kids will have enough food to eat,” he says, struggling to get the words out.

Daybutch is in Toronto because he too made that choice.

“This is a personal thing that I haven’t told anybody here: that’s why I left my home,” he says, tears in his eyes and barely able to talk.

“When we had my youngest brother, I knew we were struggling so I told my family I’ll come down to the city, I’ll leave so that there’s enough food for everyone. I never came up with the choice to off myself. I made the choice to come down south and make a difference and here I am.”

On Friday night, a few dozen activists marched their cause up Yonge St. to the office of Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, in a vigil for the nearly 300 under-20 Indigenous youth who’ve taken their lives in Northern Ontario since 1986.

Once the march began, and two lanes of traffic were blocked, lineups of cars waited patiently while others blared their horns in anger as drum rolls sounded out and flags and signs were carried north on Yonge St.

This is the second time in a year the activists have come to INAC to demand the federal government follow through on an election promise made to address a state of emergency declared last April by the northern Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat.

The state of emergency came after 100 people, including children, tried to kill themselves in the community of only 2,000.

On July 24, Indigenous leaders met with the federal government in Ottawa. Another meeting was arranged for September.

Out of the July meeting came four already-promised mental health workers for the northern community of Wapekeka and 20 more for Pikangikum, which is now the suicide capital of the world after five youth suicides last month, according to the vigil’s organizers.

“They have reneged and they’re going to have a meeting in September when they’re finished their holidays and vacation time,” says organizer Sigrid Kneve, two days after someone woke her up in the middle of the night to inform her that another Indigenous youth had taken her life.

This year alone, there have been more than 20 suicides in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which is located in northern Ontario and represents 49 First Nations communities.

“Since that meeting when they decided to have the meeting in September, another young person has killed themselves,” adds Kneve. “We want them to do something now! We don’t understand how it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

Outside their sidewalk tent, Toronto police frequently visit, stopping to check in and make sure they’re OK.

Bennett, too, often meets with them. But they say they are still awaiting action.

“How many young people are going to commit suicide from now until September?” asks Kneve.

For now, Daybutch waits on a sidewalk he has claimed as his own until his friends and family get the support he feels they deserve.

This story originally published Here.

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Colonialism No More Group In Regina Asked To Move Their Tents

The Colonialism No More group in Regina is being asked to move their tents.

Colonialism No More group in Regina asked to move their tents

CTV News, June 28, 2016 

The “Colonialism No More” group camped out in front of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Office in Regina is being asked to move their tents.

Sue Deranger, a member of the rally says the owner of the building and the property manager both approached the group and informed them they would like to landscape the space they are currently camping on.

“Personally, I don’t think we need to leave. We’re not protesting the land owner. Our issue is with INAC, the tenant. This camp has received a lot of support from all walks of life. You can walk down the sidewalk, you can get in the door. We’re not blocking anything and in fact everything but the tipi is off their property line.”

“They were asked to get rid of six or seven tents that don’t look clean. (The tents) don’t look appealing and they are a fire hazard but they’re welcome to leave their tipi.” said Dwayne Anderson, the developer of the building.

“We have tenants moving into the 4th and 3rd floor of the building in the winter and we would like to do some landscaping this summer. We don’t want this to be a political issue. It would be a lot easier to landscape if they can move. We would like this group and the government to resolve their issues quickly.” Anderson adds.

Deranger says they will not move until INAC meets their needs. It has now been 72 days since the group set up in front of INAC. Better housing and clean drinking water on reserves across Canada are just some of the issues the group want addressed.

Colonialism No More sent a response letter to the group that owns the building. You can read it below:

INAC Letter


INAC Protesters In Winnipeg Record Video Of ‘Unexpected’ Police Visit


RAW: 2 police officers joined a sharing circle with protesters occupying Winnipeg’s Indigenous and North Affairs office 3:29

Facebook video of the meeting has been viewed more than 5,000 times

By Jillian Coubrough, CBC News Posted: Apr 25, 2016

When two police officers showed up at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) office in Winnipeg, where protestors have been peacefully occupying for 12 days, the group figured the worst.

“I heard someone say ‘the police are here’ and the warriors went to the elevator to block them,” protest supporter, Vivian Ketchum told CBC News. The occupiers are standing in solidarity with the Attawapiskat community and other First Nations amid a suicide crisis.


Protest supporter Vivian Ketchum captured the visit by Winnipeg police on camera. (CBC)

“I thought for sure we we’re going to be taken out of there,” said Ketchum of the police’s arrival.

Instead, a moment that Ketchum said could have gone bad, a protestor invited the officers inside to smudge and participate in the sharing circle. She began recording on her camera.

“I just wanted to extend an offering of peace and respect,” one police officer told the group, “You guys have got a legitimate concern for your brothers and sisters…we just wanted to see if there is anything we can do and, you know, extend a hand.”

The group erupted into cheers, before the second officer begins to speak.

He explained the pair were on foot patrol and didn’t know what was happening in the INAC office and thanked the group for inviting him to partake in the ceremony.

“A lot of times, what you’ll find is officers that they, people take at face value, they’ll see somebody dressed a certain way, looking a certain way — and I speak from experience, too they judge,” he said.

“I want to extend to you, as well, as far as when you see us dressed the way we are, also not to judge us upon the basis of our uniforms. We come here, this is who we are. When we take our uniforms off, this is who we are. We help people the same without the uniform on and with the uniform off.”

Protesters in disbelief

Ketchum posted the video to Facebook and it has been viewed more than 5,000 times.

“It was just at that moment things could have went bad, I was shocked that they did agree to come in the sharing circle with us. And then the mood kind of eased up a little bit,” she said, adding it gave her some hope.

INAC protestor

Crystal Green said the visit by police “was good public relations” but she does not trust the officers’ motivation. (CBC)

“[For] better relations, better understanding — why we’re occupying this building, why we’re there.” Occupier Lionel Daniels said he was also in disbelief.

“For them to acknowledge that they’re veteran cops, that they walk the streets day and night and them even acknowledging that there is racism within the Winnipeg police department was huge,” he said, adding he appreciated the officer’s respect of their peaceful protest.

“That’s why we’re all here is for that is love. The last thing we want these children that are already in their dark places in their mind is to see confrontation.”

Occupier not convinced by police visit

Daniels said it was a step in the right direction to building better relations between indigenous people and police but occupiers, we’re also skeptical.

Crystal Green said the visit “was good public relations” but she does not trust the officers’ motivation.

“With 30 of us people being in that sharing circle…of course they’re going to show their good side, with smiles and come to us appearing non-threatening,” she said.

“The reason why were cautious is because many of us have had a lot of bad experiences with the police.”

Green said ultimately they disrupted a sacred sharing circle and she believes the purpose of the visit was to gain intel on the occupation to pass on to the police force. She added subsequent visits from officers have not been so friendly. Winnipeg Police told CBC News they are proud of the officers’ conduct.


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.


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.


Statement By Carolyn Bennett And Charlie Angus: Government Support For Attawapiskat First Nation


By Red Power Media, Staff

Young people in Attawapiskat have asked for youth & healing centres where the community can come together. Work on these begins immediately.

Statement by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay, Following their Visit to Attawapiskat First Nation

Ottawa, Ontario (April 19, 2016) — “Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the Attawapiskat First Nation to meet with community leaders, members and youth to listen to them first-hand about their challenges.

No community in Canada should ever be faced with the circumstances that led so many of their young people to lose hope. Unfortunately, we know that these stories are not isolated to Attawapiskat but are common among all too many Indigenous communities across this country.

Since Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency, federal officials from Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada have been working together with provincial and First Nations partners to provide immediate support to the community.

To truly improve the wellness, change the socio-economic reality and bring hope to Indigenous communities, we must work in genuine partnership on the long-term investments in infrastructure, water and education that are needed, based on community-driven solutions.

During our visit, we heard from the youth about the importance of rebuilding their identity as proud Indigenous people. They have asked for a ‘youth centre’ where they can come together, and work with families, elders for cultural and wellness programming. Starting immediately we will begin to work with the community and provincial partners to plan and design such a space as well as put in place the ‘on the land’ programming that they have requested.

We also heard from the youth the importance of adequate housing and healing. Starting immediately, we will work with the community to plan for additional housing so that it will be possible to return the healing centre back to its original use as a place for all community members to seek wellness.

What was clear from our trip to Attawapiskat yesterday, is the importance of Indigenous youth voices being heard. This is why we are pleased to announce that, working in partnership, the Government of Canada will coordinate a special Indigenous youth delegation to visit Ottawa. This visit will provide an opportunity for youth from the communities of Mushkegowuk Tribal Council and Nishnawbe Aski Nation to engage in a dialogue with elected officials about the challenges they face in their communities.

We are also pleased that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to being a part of this dialogue. Senator Murray Sinclair has offered to assist us in co-hosting this delegation in Ottawa.

In addition, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will form a Voices of Indigenous Youth Council to facilitate the Minister hearing directly from Indigenous youth from across the country about their priorities and concerns. This council will include Métis, Inuit and First Nations youth representatives.

We know that as we move forward, communities like Attawapiskat need more than short-term fixes. The Chief and Council were clear that government departments and all jurisdictions need to work together on the medium and long term solutions in genuine partnership with First Nations. We have to work together to put the interests of our young people first and ensure their voices are heard.”

For more information, please contact:

Sabrina Williams
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett

David Schecter
Legislative Assistant
Office of MP Charlie Angus

Media Relations
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada