Tag Archives: indigenous people

Senate suspends Lynn Beyak over refusal to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from website

A picture of Senator Lynn Beyak accompanies other Senators’ official portraits on a display outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 21, 2017.

The Senate voted Thursday to suspend Senator Lynn Beyak from the Red Chamber over her refusal to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from her website.

Senators voted on division – meaning, without unanimous consent – to adopt the recommendations of a Senate ethics committee report calling for Ms. Beyak to be suspended without pay for the remainder of the current parliamentary session. Ms. Beyak has rebuffed repeated demands to remove five letters posted to her Senate website that have been widely described as racist toward Indigenous people.

The ethics committee report, released last month, also recommended that Ms. Beyak apologize to the Senate and attend − at her own expense − “educational programs related to racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada.” In the case that Ms. Beyak refuses to remove the letters, the committee called on the Senate administration to do so.

The vote came after Ms. Beyak asked her fellow senators to reject the ethics committee’s recommendations, calling the penalties “totalitarian.” She stood by the letters, saying her website has become a “positive public forum” since posting them.

Ms. Beyak said the Senate should only scrutinize the speech of a senator if it’s “contrary to law,” warning that the decision to suspend her could set a risky precedent for others.

“If the Senate does not respect this legal bright line, then every activist senator will become fair game for political opponents, including interactions in the office, in the home, in the bedroom and at church.”

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said the Senate did the “right thing” by suspending Ms. Beyak and committing to take the letters down.

“It is truly sad that Senator Beyak still does not understand the gravity of her actions nor her role as a parliamentarian to lead by example. It’s not about political correctness − this is about racism that hurts people,” Ms. Bennett said in a statement Thursday.

The ethics committee’s recommendations came after a year-long probe by Senate Ethics Officer Pierre Legault, which found that Ms. Beyak breached two sections of the conflict-of-interest code by posting the letters on her website. The report said the letters imply that Indigenous people are lazy, opportunistic, inept, incompetent and greedy individuals who milk the government.

“Posting racist letters is incompatible with upholding the highest standards of dignity inherent in the position of senator. Senators are expected to protect Canada’s values and to represent the underrepresented, not to publish material on their Senate websites that denigrate them,” read the report.

Ms. Beyak posted the letters to her website to demonstrate that she had support for a speech about residential schools that she gave to the Red Chamber in March of 2017. In that speech, she said residential schools did “some good” for Indigenous children. However, many suffered widespread physical and sexual abuse and thousands died from disease and malnutrition.

Ms. Beyak was appointed to the Senate by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer kicked her out of the Tory caucus in January, 2018 after she refused to remove the letters from her website.

The Globe and Mail 


In Saskatchewan, Indigenous people are worried that a new trespassing plan may stoke racial tensions

Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 14, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

  • The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to ‘better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public’

A Saskatchewan grandmother who was confronted by a farmer with a gun says changing trespassing laws probably won’t stop crime but could increase racial tension.

Angela Bishop, a Metis lawyer, was driving on a rural road in Alberta in September with her two grandchildren who are visibly Indigenous. They were looking for a place to get out, stretch and go for a short walk during a long drive to Edmonton.

She noticed a vehicle driving up behind her, so she stopped.

A man got out and started to yell at her to get off his road, she said, despite her attempts to explain why she was there. She said she spotted a gun inside his vehicle.

Terrified for her grandchildren, Bishop said she tried to drive away — but the man pursued her.

She eventually pulled over, called law enforcement and requested a police escort. Officers told her that, in fact, it was a public road and she could be there.

As a rural land owner in Saskatchewan, Bishop said she can sympathize with frustration about property crime, but a life is more important.

“My concern would be that they believe they are legally entitled to take the law into their own hands,” she said from Quintana Roo state in Mexico.

The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to “better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public.”

The government said in an emailed statement that Justice Minister Don Morgan is prepared to meet with Indigenous people to discuss their concerns.

The province has already sought public input on whether access to rural property should require prior permission from a landowner, regardless of the activity, and if not doing so should be illegal.

A lawyer representing the family of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016, said she is worried the Saskatchewan Party government is engaged in political posturing which could stoke racial fear.

A Saskatchewan farmer was acquitted in the fatal shooting of a 22-year old Indigenous man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

“Indigenous people aren’t feeling safe that the authorities or the police are going to protect them or that they are not going to be shot at,” Eleanore Sunchild said from Battleford, Sask.

“It seems like there’s more of an approval to take vigilante justice in your hands, and if you are an Indigenous victim, nothing is going to happen to the non-native that shot you.”

Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder after testifying that his gun went off accidentally. He said he was trying to scare away young people he thought were stealing from him. The Crown decided not to appeal.

Sunchild said the throne speech sends the message that the farmer was right to shoot the Indigenous man and that trespassing fears are justified.

Sunchild wonders what advice she would give her own children if they have car trouble or need help on a rural road.

“Do I tell them to go ask a farmer? I don’t think so.”

Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the Boushie trial and provincial response have many Indigenous people feeling afraid.

The Canadian Press


Southern Alberta doctor under fire for alleged Racist confrontation with Indigenous people

Witnesses say Dr. Lloyd Clarke told a group of Indigenous people outside the Reddi Mart in downtown Cardston to “get a job.” (Google Maps)

Doctor told Indigenous people who are homeless to “get a job” and asked if they wanted prescriptions for Tylenol 3

A southern Alberta doctor is engulfed in controversy after he allegedly told a group of Indigenous people who are homeless to “get a job” and sarcastically asked them if they wanted prescriptions for the addictive painkiller Tylenol 3.

Alberta Health Services has placed Dr. Lloyd Clarke on administrative leave from his position as the associate medical director for the southern region of the province, while the health authority investigates the incident.

A lawyer representing two of the Indigenous people involved filed a complaint with the regulator and watchdog for physicians, alleging Clarke’s “racism against my community members impairs his ability to treat us as patients in a proper way.”

After reviewing the case, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta rejected the complaint. But Ingrid Hess, the lawyer and a First Nations advocate, is appealing.

Hess says the alleged incident, which witnesses say took place outside a Cardston convenience store in May, has triggered outrage among members of the neighbouring Blood Tribe and inspired efforts to document other claims of racism in the region.

Clarke doesn’t confirm or deny

The lawyer says she didn’t witness it, but took a statement from some of the people involved, and filed the complaint on their behalf. She also notified Alberta Health Services.

Clarke, who practises at the Cardston Health Centre’s emergency department and at a separate clinic in the town, didn’t confirm or deny the incident occurred when reached by a reporter.

“I’m aware that the appropriate bodies are investigating this and I’m co-operating with that,” he said.

When asked in a follow-up interview to comment on allegations he has racist views toward Indigenous people, Clarke said, “It’s not appropriate for me to comment. I’m working with the investigation to go through this in the proper channels. I am co-operating completely with them.”

According to AHS, if any of the First Nations people involved in the alleged incident seek care at Cardston’s emergency room, they don’t have to receive care from Clarke, unless they have life-threatening problems that require immediate attention.

“There is no excuse for the comments that were allegedly made in this instance, and we want to assure those involved in this incident that this sort of alleged language in no way reflects the beliefs or values of AHS,” the health authority said in a statement.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons, which regulates the medical profession and investigates complaints against doctors, told CBC News Clarke’s alleged behaviour is “damaging” and “appears to show poor judgment.”

Ingrid Hess filed this complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. (CBC)

But the college said it doesn’t believe Clarke is prejudiced toward Indigenous people, concluding the incident didn’t amount to professional misconduct.

In a letter responding to Hess’s complaint, the college said it “cannot dictate the behaviour of what a physician does outside a clinical setting, excluding extreme circumstances.”

‘Blatant biases and negative views’

Hess has appealed the decision, calling for an investigation into whether “Dr. Clarke’s blatant biases and negative views of Indigenous people might influence his care of the Indigenous patients he treats, especially if they are drug-addicted, alcoholic or homeless.”

Clarke works in Cardston, where an estimated one in seven residents is Indigenous.

Nicole Gros Ventre Boy, one of two people Hess is helping with the complaint, told CBC News she was sitting outside a Cardston convenience store in May when she claims Clarke emerged from the exit.

“He stood there and he told us, ‘You guys should get a job’ … then he’s like, ‘My family are scared to come and shop here. You guys just bother people for money,'” she recalled.

‘I just felt like he was racist’

“Afterwards, he said, ‘Should I write you a prescription of Tylenol 3s?’ and he put his hand out and acted like he was writing.”

Gros Ventre Boy, who received health care from Clarke in the past, said the comments hurt her.

“I just felt like he was racist, like he didn’t like natives,” she said. “There was no reason for him to come up to us and talk. We were not doing anything.”

Gros Ventre Boy’s account lines up with the description of events outlined in Hess’s complaint. It’s also consistent with how Scott Many Grey Horses remembers the confrontation.

Many Grey Horses said he was not involved with the group, but was walking by when he heard Clarke say, “All you people need to get jobs.” In an interview with CBC News, Many Grey Horses said he didn’t hear the comment about Tylenol 3, but he intervened in defence of the group.

Downtown Cardston. (Google Street View)

Clarke called police

He said he was worried at the time the confrontation could come to blows, though Gros Ventre Boy said she didn’t believe there was any risk of violence.

“I said, ‘You need to get out of here; you’re just here to cause trouble,'” Many Grey Horses recalled.

The college said in its letter to Hess that Clarke had called police.

Hess said she has known most of the Indigenous people involved for most of her career and described them as having “overlapping social disadvantages,” including homelessness, poverty and chronic health conditions.

She said the allegations concerned her, especially because of the social and power imbalance between a doctor and people who are homeless.

“The people that we’re talking about were living in tents on the edge of town,” she said. “Those aren’t the kind of people who can just go out and get a job at the Reddi Mart in downtown Cardston.”

‘Concerns like this are damaging’

Steve Buick, spokesman for the college, said the regulator didn’t investigate whether the alleged incident actually happened. He said it reviewed the incident to determine whether the claims, if true, violated the college’s code of conduct and standards of practice.

“We have no doubt that there is an issue here of behaviour, and we will be telling the doctor that concerns like this are damaging and that he needs to avoid them in the future,” Buick said.

“We cannot have a physician practising in a community where the community has good reason to believe that he or she is racist or has other discriminatory views,” he said. “But let’s be clear: on the basis of this complaint alone, our judgment in the first phase of review is we don’t think it necessarily comes up to that standard.

“We don’t think that this complaint, on its face, would justify sanctioning a physician or removing him from practice.”

Buick said Hess can escalate her complaint to a second stage in the college’s process — an appeal to its complaint review committee — if she feels the first decision was unreasonable. She has done that.

“It will be up to the physician in this case to assure patients when he sees them face-to-face, if they’re concerned about it at all, that he does not have views that should disqualify him from treating them,” he said.

Dr. Lloyd Clarke, who is accused of making discriminatory comments toward Indigenous people in May, works at the Cardston clinic. (CBC)

Hess calls case ‘extreme’

Buick said the college’s priority when assessing complaints is the behaviour of physicians when they are treating patients. Still, he said there have been “extreme” cases in which the college took action against doctors for their behaviour outside the clinical setting.

He cited the case of Dr. Fred Janke, whom the college said would not be allowed to continue practising while he faces child exploitation charges.

Hess said she believes a doctor “exhibiting biased and discriminatory conduct toward a vulnerable and identifiable group of people is pretty extreme.”

Clarke’s alleged comments were the catalyst that inspired several members of the Blood Tribe to set up camp near the Cardston border in June to document claims of racism. The group said its goal is to raise awareness about prejudice against First Nations people, and to build healthier relationships between the two communities.

Last week, the group dismantled its camp along Highway 5, the dividing line between the town and reserve, after documenting a number of other alleged cases, which members plan to pass along to authorities, including the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Members of the Blood Tribe held a peace camp along the reserve’s border with Cardston to document cases of alleged racism. The group dismantled its camp last week. (CBC)

‘No excuse’ for alleged comments, AHS says

AHS said it’s also continuing to investigate the alleged incident involving Clarke, “and will take any necessary action once that investigation is complete.”

“We know that trust is a significant barrier to First Nations people accessing the health-care system, and acknowledge that institutional racism and stereotyping have kept people from getting the care they need,” AHS said in its statement.

“We also know that the relationship between AHS and First Nations people must continue to improve, and we are committed to building, nurturing and growing those relationships.”

CBC News


Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 


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.”

–Follow @kkirkup on Twitter


Canada Ignores Its Own Refugees

Lorelei Williams holds a eagle feather as she wears a T-shirt bearing the pictures of her cousin Tanya Holyk and aunt Belinda William during a news conference on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Vancouver, on Aug. 3, 2016. (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Lorelei Williams holds a eagle feather as she wears a T-shirt bearing the pictures of her cousin Tanya Holyk and aunt Belinda William during a news conference on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Vancouver, on Aug. 3, 2016. (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Indigenous people have suffered for generations in Canada without the same supports offered to refugees.

By Liam Massaub | thestar.com – Jan. 4, 2017

We have homegrown refugees in Canada who aren’t prioritized enough to justify a Justin Trudeau greeting at an airport or a tear shed from the prime minister that made for such a great, heartstrings-tugging photo shoot.

Yes, we have a particular group of people forced from their homelands, who fled rape, terror and abuses so great they would be considered war crimes. Simply because they were different.

Yet we ignore these refugees. We let them suffer in mouldy, crumbling shacks. We keep them poor and dependent through racist legislation designed to do just that. We ignore mass child suicides and deny them access to adequate health care. We have let their communities deteriorate in many places to war zones of shootings and contaminated water and soil, overdoses and sexual abuses.

And unlike other refugees, they don’t get a basic income, a guaranteed safe roof over their head, support from groups to help them adjust, free food or business people paying their family’s way and giving them jobs over skilled Canadians.

There is no help to start businesses. We don’t let them own houses or benefit economically from selling their resources, yet billion-dollar corporations can pillage these resources for off reserve benefit and profits.

And for the most part, they do not have media constantly pushing a positive image of them and government and law enforcement scrambling to punish and demonize all who offend their religious beliefs or are racist towards them.

No, after enduring a lifetime of pain, indigenous people are in many ways foreigners in their own land.

There are those who would say that comparisons of indigenous people and refugees is wrong, or in fact that attempts at comparisons just pits one group against another.

Well, look at the situation of indigenous people and the circumstances of the refugees coming to Canada from other countries. Trauma, seeking a better life for their families — all shared by both groups. But First Nation people just don’t get the compassionate headlines like others.

Consider the systemic minimization of concern and lack of law enforcement action related to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, until years of outrage, truth telling and advocacy pressured a response.

Maybe we can ignore indigenous people because we already have a history with them; they aren’t newly arrived here and appreciative of every gesture. Maybe it is too hard to bring them up with one hand while you take their resources and undervalue them with the other. Maybe it’s too hard to tell corporations they can’t pollute their land.

Or maybe we can’t face them after the residential school system or years of broken promises and flat out lies to them.

And the lies continue to this day. Like telling them we will solve their water crisis and give them hope their children can bathe without rashes or falling ill from drinking contaminated water. We all may wish politicians will one day really do these things and we remain satisfied with ourselves and government if at least the promises are made.

And with lots of promises made we don’t have to think about the contributions of First Nation people to Canada, including playing instrumental roles in winning past wars. Those times are long gone.

It’s much easier to let the deterioration of First Nation people and communities play out through packing our prisons and child welfare systems. And it is easier to control all aspects of energy and development and just keep them where they are; then we can call them poor, irresponsible and lacking in motivation to help themselves.

The lives of many indigenous people are hard ones. That’s the comparison to refugees. And the comparison can stop there, as the response to indigenous people and refugees from other countries should not be the same, or one vs. the other. The approach to refugees is largely a time-limited sponsorship, often through church involvement. The approach to indigenous people should be to shape and strengthen relationships between governments and indigenous communities on a nation-to-nation basis.

It is time for the Government of Canada to put in place the concrete actions, policies and funding that will honour its promises and commitments to First Nation people. There is much to be done, including repealing racist legislation, removing barriers to economic development on and off reserve and reforming subsidy programs to be effective, adequate and with direct benefit to families.

This work needs to include the active representation and participation of First Nation people in planning, decision-making and governance. These approaches are the difference between a sponsorship model for refugees and the ongoing, strategic foundation required for the sovereignty of First Nations and the elimination of the Third World conditions in one of the richest countries in the world.

Enough is enough.

Liam Massaubi is a repeat entrepreneur, investor and aboriginal business consultant. He is a proud Mohawk and a busy dad. Twitter: @OldManLM


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Justin Trudeau’s Lofty Rhetoric On First Nations A Cheap Simulation Of Justice

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses after receiving a ceremonial headdress while visiting the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Friday, March 4, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP) Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses after receiving a ceremonial headdress while visiting the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Friday, March 4, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP) Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

An era of so-called reconciliation has disguised the continuation of Harper-era land and resource grabs

By  | The Guardian, September 19, 2016

By now, we all know the greatest priority of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is its relationship with Indigenous peoples. How could we miss the weekly reminders?

Trudeau graciously wrapping himself in ceremonial blankets. Hauling jugs of drinking water door-to-door on a northern reserve lacking portable water. Paddling the Ottawa river in his dad’s buckskin jacket and moccasins with Indigenous youth, after a sunrise ritual at dawn.

Welcome to the era of reconciliation, ushered in by a Prime Minister so different in appearance from his predecessors. Free of prejudices. Moved to tears by the country’s dark history. Committed to the need for deep, fundamental change.

Except this carefully scripted story, managed even more tightly than ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s, has long been unravelling.

It began with the fraying of Trudeau’s official platform. A legal order issued to the Liberals to end racial discrimination against Indigenous children? Repeatedly ignored. Compensation for 16,000 individuals snatched from their homes and adopted by non-Indigenous families in the Sixties Scoop? Opposed in court. And that historic budget for First Nations? Turned out most of the funds would flow only in 2020—after the next election. Not exactly the “new relationship” that Trudeau announced to rapturous international applause.

And then there’s what hasn’t made the headlines. In British Columbia, Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and elsewhere through Canada, there are scores of First Nations who have never signed away their Aboriginal title through treaties. For years they’ve wracked up debt while in negotiations with the government over lands sought after by mineral, forestry, hydro and oil companies. But as a pre-condition for any compensation, they’re forced to extinguish their rights to 9 out of every 10 parcels of their territory—rivers, forests, mountains, farmland, and everything underneath.

Fair to have expected a change under Trudeau? Instead the Liberals have given negotiators marching orders from a Harper-commissioned report that advises how to force through energy infrastructure. That’s because Indigenous rights stand in the way of pipelines, mega-dams like Site C, giant fracked gas terminals—and $650bn in resource projects over the next ten years that the Liberals are trumpeting as much as the Conservatives did.

Never mind that recent Supreme Court decisions, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples before them, call for shared sovereignty or management over these lands. Or that many more Canadians are realizing that Indigenous stewardship of large swathes of territory—instead of its mismanagement by multi-national corporations—would be to the benefit of everyone.

Trudeau may indeed want to do right by Indigenous peoples, but the government is locked into a logic of its own: quietly maintaining exclusive control over Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources. Is this what Trudeau meant when he said his government would “think seven generations out”?

Turning the language of liberation into a contraption of conquest is nothing new: it’s part of Liberal heritage. In the early 1990s, as calls for Indigenous self-determination gained steam on the heels of widespread protest and the Oka crisis, the Liberals appeared to embrace the movement’s demand. They named their policy “the Inherent Right to Self-Government.”

Except this policy—still on the books—only grants First Nations rights such as policing, education, and the licensing of marriages; the government keeps all powers of trade, diplomacy and serious economic development and decision-making to themselves. No wonder Indigenous critics have said it turns First Nations into “ethnic municipalities”: it is nothing like a genuine third-order of government.

The Liberals latest utterances appear just as soothingly promising: “reconciliation,” “nation-to-nation,” even “decolonization.” The most slippery of all has been their use of “consent.” Though the Liberals have proclaimed their support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—at whose heart lies the right of “free, prior and informed consent”—they’ve been loathe to recognize it in practice on the ground.

It’s obvious why: the right of consent sends shudders through corporate boardrooms whose goodwill the Liberals covet. As an alternative, the government has wheeled out a hazy concept of “collaborative consent.” All that’s clear is it studiously avoids recognizing the actual right to say no to destructive resource projects. Indigenous feminists have underlined how this half-measure is hollow: whether it’s territories or bodies, if you don’t have the power to say no, then “consent” is meaningless.

The extractivist worldview—bent on treating everything as a commodity—that lay behind Stephen Harper’s resource agenda just as powerfully shapes Trudeau’s. In fact, the Liberals’ attempt to wrap themselves in the UN Declaration without embracing its central right may constitute a new, more subtle form of extraction: the extraction from Indigenous territory of consent itself.

Liberal moves to extract and manufacture consent and support for outdated policies are evident elsewhere: restoring funding to the Assembly of First Nations, a government-dependent organization that has since plumped frequently for them; appointing an Indigenous Justice Minister, even though Indigenous critics argue she has sided with the government agenda throughout her political career; and agreeing to call an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, but with a mandate far short of what impacted families wanted. As the weight of reality presses against Trudeau’s rhetoric, the ability to generate consent is crumbling.

Reconciliation is a powerful hope, an uplifting prospect, a deeply desired new relationship that Trudeau has compellingly invoked. But if reconciliation does not include the restitution of land, the recognition of real self-government, the reigning in of abusive police, the remediation of rivers and forests, it will remain a vacant notion, a cynical ploy to preserve a status quo in need not of tinkering but transformation. It will be Canada’s latest in beads and trinkets, a cheap simulation of justice.

The good news is that Indigenous peoples have never been more poised to push Trudeau from mere words to deeds. Idle No More left a profound imprint: a more readily mobilized Indigenous population and a far larger non-Indigenous reservoir of support. An influential presence on social media, a growing force in art and culture, Indigenous peoples are leveraging Supreme Court precedents and trying to rebuild their economies and nations.

They have endured too much to be satisfied with Trudeau attending a pow wow, flashing a Haida tattoo on his arm, or calling for yet another consultation and study. If Canadians are willing to do their part, Indigenous peoples can test Trudeau’s lofty rhetoric the most effective way possible: in the crucible of a rising movement.



Indigenous Groups Unhappy With The Growing Number Of Ayahuasca Retreats

Vidal Jaquehua: Such tradtions need to be respected and understood. (Photo: WikiCommons)

Vidal Jaquehua: Such tradtions need to be respected and understood. (Photo: WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by: Peru this WeekMay 20, 2016

Ayahuasca is a brew that comes from a vine and once was only used in spiritual ceremonies however, with ayahuasca ceremonies being commercialized the traditions are somewhat changing.

Ayahuasca tourism has become increasingly popular over the past years, especially to outsiders such as Americans and Europeans. The reason why there has been a surge in people looking for this kind of thing is because some tourists do not just go to take ayahuasca to experience a spiritual awakening but just for the sake of getting intoxicated. However, this ceremony was originally used by the indigenous people of the jungle as an act of spiritual healing.

This has caused many people to start opening ayahuasca retreats used to attract tourists throughout Peru and the world,capitalizing and commercializing this ancient practice. As a result, some indigenous people have become angry due to the lack of respect and consideration for the ritual.

In one interview with Vidal Jaquehua, a Quechua native who also runs a tour company called Adios Adventure Travel, he made it clear he would not involve himself in ayahuasca retreats as he sees it as a disrespect to his people’s customs and traditions and such rituals need to be respected and understood.

Another trend that is happening is the ritual has now become increasingly unpopular with the indigenous people themselves, which has caused a creation of pseudo-shamans hoping to profit off the tourists. This can endanger people, as those pseudo-shamans do not fully understand the lethality of the vine due to lack of studies and experience.

One American indigenous rights group called Cultural Survival voiced their concern regarding the practice stating, “Ayahuasca is a spiritual cultural practice that is rooted in specific cultures and should not be commercialized and exploited, but protected [as] a private community sacred practice.”

Some argue that the revival of such a ritual is good for the region and is bringing awareness to forgotten traditions not only that some poor regions of the amazon have built an economy based on ayahuasca tourism.

However, this notion has been critized as many people don’t fully believe that indigenous groups benefit from the practice and most profits go elsewhere, so people become rich while indigenous groups still struggle with poverty.

One other concern is the idea of ayahuasca and the distortion of a tradition, some shamans for the sake of demand have conformed to a stereotype, misleading tourists and destroying the true value of their own customs and traditions.

Ayahuasca retreats are appearing in all parts of Peru and are practiced by groups of people that do not have any historical or traditional belief in the vine but are following the tradition as a way of making money.

So this upward treat in such retreats may benefit certain people and the region as a whole it does not take into account the social and cultural destruction it can leave behind.


‘It’s All A Big Hoax’: Jail Offers No Chance Of Redemption, Says Former Inmate

The hallway inside the North Slave Correctional Centre in Yellowknife. One man who's spent a lot of time there says he's had little opportunity for rehabilitation. (Pat Kane)

The hallway inside the North Slave Correctional Centre in Yellowknife. One man who’s spent a lot of time there says he’s had little opportunity for rehabilitation. (Pat Kane)

‘That’s the way I look at it because they’re supposed to help people and they’re not’

CBC, April 26, 2016

“The justice system — I don’t believe in it. It’s all a big hoax,” says a former inmate of the N.W.T.’s correctional system. “That’s the way I look at it because they’re supposed to help people and they’re not.”

Now in his late 40s, the Indigenous man first went to jail for four months on a charge of drinking and driving. Upon release, he began racking up more charges — including assault and sexual assault — that ultimately sent him to jail at least 15 more times over the last three decades.

CBC has agreed not to identify him.

Newly released from one of the N.W.T.’s correctional centres, he says the corrections system doesn’t do enough to “correct” the inmates it’s supposed to help fit back into society.

“When I went to prison, I lost my apartment, so I lost everything,” he said. “I was out of work… Now when I got out I had nowhere to go, nowhere to live, no money, nothing.  And this is just recently.”

And, he says, he’s not alone.

In 2014, Indigenous people made up 88 per cent of the jail population in the Northwest Territories, according to Statistics Canada. Indigenous people make up just over half of the territory’s population.

An inmate at the North Slave Correctional Centre (not the one quoted in this article) examines a painting. (Pat Kane)

An inmate at the North Slave Correctional Centre (not the one quoted in this article) examines a painting. (Pat Kane)

“They’re just sending them [inmates] back to their home community without help to set up for counselling sessions or anything like that.

“You’re back to where you began. Where the drinking starts and stuff like that. They’re not pointing you in the direction for any support or any help. They’re just kicking you out and you’re done.”

Remand for over a year

Part of the problem is remand — when inmates are held in jail while waiting for their trials.

The former inmate has served four stints in remand, the longest lasting 368 days.

“The justice system… it doesn’t work with you when you are on remand,” the former inmate said. “Because when you are on remand status, you don’t have no rights to programs or anything.”

Sentenced inmates get priority for programs, such as rehabilitation and skills training.

In 2014, there were 440 people held in remand in the N.W.T., compared to 374 sentenced inmates in the territory.

Parker Kennedy, the territory’s director of corrections, says those on remand do have access to programs but sometimes their time in custody is unpredictable.

A cell inside the North Slave Correctional Centre. (Pat Kane)

A cell inside the North Slave Correctional Centre. (Pat Kane)

“Because we just don’t know how long they’re gonna be with us. So it must be frustrating for some who are there longer than others, but we look at our averages and we try to do the best we can with each offender.”

Short sentences failing inmates

Inmates serving shorter sentences also miss out on programming.

According to Kennedy, the average inmate spends 77 days in jail. The average stay for people in remand is 53 days.

An auditor general’s report on the N.W.T. corrections system last spring looked at 240 inmates who served sentences of less than 120 days.

In all those cases, none of the inmates had been assessed to determine reasons for their criminal behaviour, literacy levels, or intellectual functioning — information that could have been useful to develop plans for programming and rehabilitation.

The report also found that only 36 per cent of those inmates took a rehabilitation program like alcoholics anonymous and life skills. None of them accessed offence-specific programming.

Programs are normally held in groups led by a facilitator, the former inmate said, adding that the group format is helpful if you know the people taking it, because you can trust them.

He said often guys serving shorter sentences have a tougher time. They are more likely to be angry, confused, and frustrated.

“It’s because, when you first get thrown in jail, a lot of the things are taken away from you. ….It’s not only hard for the young guys going into the prison system that are doing three, four months, it affects everybody.

“It just escalates into anger issues and fights and problems.”

More short-term programming needed

Caroline Wawzonek, a criminal defence lawyer who’s been practising law in the territory for the last decade, has a similar view.

“If you are hoping … sending someone away and locking them up and putting them in an institution is going to make them a better person, well then, 20 days is probably just enough to get them institutionalized but not necessarily enough to do anything good with it,” she said.

Wawzonek said there is still a problem for people that do not have access to short-term programming.  And there is still a shortage of offender-specific programming.

“Without those two things we are not going to accomplish any type of rehabilitation inside the correctional institution.  And we’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.”

Chores, crafts and gym time

The former inmate said he tried to keep himself busy by doing daily chores, craft work, and getting in some gym time.

But he would like to see work skills programming offered along with rehabilitation programs so that inmates can use those skills to get a job when they are released back into their communities. He said work skills programming should also be available to sentenced inmates.

Helping inmates achieve their Grade 12 education, complete a first aid certificate or basic driver education would better prepare them for employment, said Lydia Bardak of the John Howard Society.

She also said “using probation, having community supervision, so that there’s a gradual re-entry into the community with supports and supervision and guidance,” may be effective to reduce repeat offending rates.

“It’s just really critical we’re addressing those needs because if somebody just comes out of a sentence unsupervised not accustomed to making decisions they don’t always make good decisions.”

Bardak said addressing the underlying issues will result in less Indigenous people in the correctional system. That means investing in things like early intervention, crime prevention, healing programs and housing.

“I always say we have enough money. We’re just not always investing it in the right places.”

A basketball court at the North Slave Correctional Centre. (Pat Kane)

A basketball court at the North Slave Correctional Centre. (Pat Kane)

‘Does it always happen? No it doesn’t’

The government is aware of some of the shortcomings in the territory’s jails.

“We want to see everybody succeed when they leave our correctional facility,” Kennedy said. “That’s our goal…. Does it always happen? No it doesn’t.”

Canada’s auditor general released a report last March that found short-term inmates in the N.W.T. aren’t receiving treatment targeted at the offence they committed. Kennedy said his department is responding to that report in part by making sure that all inmates who are on remand or serving short sentences have a case manager, who works specifically with them.

The department is also moving towards modular programming — programming that begins in jail but can continue once the inmate is released.

“It has become a situation where we finally realized after a number of reviews that programming that is offered within a correctional facility, while you’re in custody, needs to also be carried on into the community once you are released,” Kennedy said.

“I truly believe it needs to be a community effort.”

‘There are ways of looking at justice differently’

Wawzonek agrees.

She wants to engage Indigenous governments and communities to see how they would like the justice system run in their communities.

“There’s Cree courts in Saskatchewan. There’s Indigenous courts in British Columbia. There’s circle sentencings in the Yukon. So there are ways of looking at justice differently,” she said.

“And I think that’s when we are going to see some real change; is when the communities themselves can become engaged and take ownership of the justice system as their justice system.”