Idle No More protesters delay Canada Day ceremony

A dozen protesters with Idle No More Kingston faced off with police in front of City Hall to express their dismay with Canada’s record of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples. (Meghan Balogh/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network)

Protesters under the banner of Idle No More Kingston blocked the Canada Day People Parade on Sunday in front of City Hall.

Approximately one dozen protesters stood in the street as the parade approached, holding signs that read “151 years of genocide,” “settler colonialism is a crime,” “Justice for Colten,” and “Tina, Jon, Colten, Jordon, Lillian. Canada kills.”

One protester wore a British flag as a cape with the words “European colonialism” written across it.

Some members of the several-hundred-strong Canada Day Civic Ceremony crowd booed the protesters as they resisted police and refused to clear the roadway.

Kingston Police asked protesters to move several times before physically pushing them down the street, using officers on foot, on bicycle and on horseback.

Protester Krista Flute, who is very active in the Idle No More Kingston movement, was arrested at the scene.

Evelyna Ekoko-Kay is one of the protesters who took part in the demonstration in front of City Hall. She and a handful of others stayed after being removed from the ceremony site and handed out pamphlets to anyone interested on the corner afterward.

Ekoko-Kay said she is not Indigenous herself but is mixed race, with one parent an immigrant and the other a colonist. She said she stands in solidarity with Indigenous people in Canada.

“I think it’s important that non-Indigenous people align ourselves with Indigenous struggle,” she said.

“Canada is a nation founded on the genocide of Indigenous people, and it’s an ongoing genocide. In this case, genocide is in the form of residential schools, in the form of the ’60s scoop when children were taken from their homes and put in foster care and separated from their culture. It’s ongoing now, and in fact today, Indigenous youth are taken at a higher rate than they were at the height of the residential school system, to the point where over 50 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous, even though that’s only about eight per cent of the population.”

According to Ekoko-Kay, 47 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls in juvenile detention are Indigenous.

“Indigenous people are being killed every day, whether we’re talking about missing and murdered Indigenous women, people killed by police or white vigilantes. Their killers are consistently acquitted.”

Ekoko-Kay said she feels people need to hear the message of Indigenous people who have been marginalized, especially on Canada Day.

“When people celebrate Canada Day, whether or not they are doing it maliciously or whether or not they believe that Indigenous people deserve this, they are still helping to uphold that state and helping to celebrate it, and erase the realities of settler colonialism, which is an ongoing problem,” Ekoko-Kay said. “We wanted to create a counternarrative at this protest, this rally, because otherwise the only voices being heard are those that agree with the state and are wiling to fall in line. If that’s the case, then no one will ever know about any of these things, and that’s not acceptable. People’s lives are being taken every day. There’s no time to wait.

“If we don’t take a stand, even if we’re just a small group of people, then nothing will ever change.”

mbalogh@postmedia.com

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Nova Scotia RCMP to Offer Eagle Feather Option for Swearing Legal Oaths

In what is being described as a first for the RCMP, the Mounties in Nova Scotia are now offering victims, witnesses and police officers the option to swear legal oaths on an eagle feather, instead of using a Bible or offering an affirmation.

The RCMP say the eagle feather will be used in the same way as a Bible or affirmation, and may also be offered as a source of comfort at local detachments.

A special smudging ceremony was held Monday at Nova Scotia RCMP Headquarters, where the province’s lieutenant governor, Arthur LeBlanc, was joined by provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey and Chief Leroy Denny, on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations.

As part of the ceremony, Indigenous elder Jane Abram of Millbrook First Nations cleansed eagle feathers through a smudging ceremony, and Keptin Donald Julien, executive director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, offered a blessing.

LeBlanc said the use of eagle feathers marks a significant step toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

As the ceremony concluded, eagle feathers were distributed to detachment commanders throughout the province.

“The eagle feather is a powerful symbol and reflects the spirituality and tradition of the Mi’kmaq people,” Furey said in a statement. “I believe the use of the eagle feather is an important step forward in helping our justice system be more responsive and sensitive to Indigenous cultures.”

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Brazil: Increase in Land killings as Political Crisis Threatens Amazon

The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk 

There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Indigenous rights agency cut

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:

“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:

“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”

Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.

In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.

Impunity

According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.

She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”

In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.

“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.

“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.

“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.” 


Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.

Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.

This article was originally published on Greenpeace Energydesk.

Read more: Amazon deforestation rises as government moves to weaken Indigenous protections.

Article originally published in Ecologist on Jun 7, 2017

[SOURCE]

“We Don’t Believe In Words Anymore”: Indigenous Peoples Stand Against Brazil’s Temer Government

Munduruku warriors at the roadblock. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Red Power Media | May 09, 2017

by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, Mongabay

Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.

Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.

Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.

In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.

The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.

A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres

Violence in Maranhão

On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).

The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.

This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.

About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.

Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.

They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.

A cell phone photo taken just before the attack on the Gamela camp, showing a police car and group of ranchers. Photo courtesy of Cimi

It was a risky strategy, particularly in view of the strong anti-indigenous sentiment in Brasilia, and the local ranchers responded rapidly. According to one report, they sent out a WhatsApp message, calling on ranchers and their gunmen to gather near the indigenous camp.

Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.

“He fanned the flames,” said one Indian later.

The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.

The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.

According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.

The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”

The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.

Munduruku roadblock

Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.

With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.

A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.

The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, told Mongabay two reasons why the blockade was imposed: “We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”

He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”

Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.

The will to resist

The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela: “They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku. “We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.” Attempts by Mongabay to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.

The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said: “We’re in favor of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”

More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said: “This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”

Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said: “They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”

David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”

The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened: “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”

Another trucker said, in exasperated jest: “It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”

With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.

Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9 percent.

Growing dissent

Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.

Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.

During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.

The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments: “The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”

(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read this article in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil)

[SOURCE]

Northern Gateway Will Not Appeal Federal Court Decision On Pipeline

The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned approval of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project because Ottawa failed to consult adequately with First Nations. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project because Ottawa failed to consult adequately with First Nations. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

Court ruled Ottawa had not adequately consulted Indigenous peoples along project’s route

By Chris Hall, John Paul Tasker, CBC News, Sep 20, 2016

Northern Gateway will not appeal a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision that overturned Ottawa’s approval of the controversial pipeline project.

The court ruled in June that the federal government had not adequately consulted with Indigenous peoples who will be affected by the project, which is backed by the energy company Enbridge, and which would stretch from outside Edmonton to a marine terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

“We believe that meaningful consultation and collaboration, and not litigation, is the best path forward for everyone involved,” the pipeline’s president, John Carruthers, said in a statement.

“We believe the government has a responsibility to meet their constitutional legal obligations to meaningfully consult with First Nations and Metis.”

The former Harper government gave the go-ahead to the Northern Gateway project after a National Energy Board joint review panel gave its approval subject to 209 conditions.

But the government was supposed to meet a constitutional requirement to consult with Indigenous peoples following the NEB’s approval, something the Federal Court said was not properly done.

“We find that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity … to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue,” the ruling said. “It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal Peoples. But this did not happen.”

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has until Thursday to decide whether the government will appeal the decision or pursue an alternative scenario which could include launching full consultations with Indigenous peoples that would comply with the court’s ruling.

Then, the federal cabinet could make a decision to either reject or approve Northern Gateway based on those consultations or the project could be punted back to the National Energy Board for reconsideration.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/enbridge-northern-gateway-federal-court-1.3770543

Indigenous People Impacted By Sixties Scoop Finally Getting Day In Court

"I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture," says Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff.

“I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture,” says Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff.

Ottawa has fought unprecedented class action every step of the way

The Canadian Press, Aug 22, 2016

Thousands of Indigenous people who argue the federal government robbed them of their cultural identities finally get their day in court this week but will have to wait months for Canada to make its case in the unprecedented class action Ottawa has fought every step of the way.

The plaintiffs and supporters from all over Ontario are expected to rally at the courthouse on Tuesday as their lawyers press for summary judgment in the legal battle started in February 2009.

The lawsuit turns on a federal-provincial arrangement — called the Sixties Scoop — in which Ontario child welfare services placed as many as 16,000 Indigenous children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984.

Their unproven claim alleges the children suffered a devastating loss of cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect. The children, the suit states, suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm from the lost connection to their Aboriginal heritage. They want $1.3 billion in various damages — $85,000 for each affected person.

“This is the first case in the western world (about) whether a state government has an obligation to take steps to protect and preserve the cultural identity of its Indigenous people,” said Jeffery Wilson, lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment to be heard Tuesday essentially calls on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case based on the evidence the court already has without the need for a full trial.

Canada has previously tried to have the case thrown out as futile. Among other things, Ottawa argues it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day. However, Divisional Court ruled in December 2014 that the plaintiffs deserved a chance to argue the merits of their position at trial.

“It is difficult to see a specific interest that could be of more importance to Aboriginal peoples than each person’s essential connection to their Aboriginal heritage,” the three-justice panel concluded.

In early March, the courts ruled the action should proceed over two weeks, starting Aug. 23. However, much to the chagrin of the plaintiffs, the government late last month asked for a delay, saying it needed more time to come up with experts to counter the claims. The court refused.

‘I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture.’– Marcia Brown Martel

But with buses ordered and courthouse rallies planned for Tuesday, the prospect of more government appeals and delays prompted the plaintiffs to agree to the one-day hearing. In exchange, the government since filed thousands of pages of materials, but has until November to file expert evidence. The hearing is slated to resume for two days on Dec. 1.

Wilson said he hoped the hiatus would allow for a negotiated settlement — a tack the Liberal government now appears to favour. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said last week she would like to see the case discussed at the table rather than in court.

The Ontario case differs from scoop lawsuits in several other provinces in that it does not take legal issue with the placement of Indian children in non-Aboriginal homes because it was done under court orders in the best interests of the child.

In addition, Ontario was the only province to sign a formal agreement with Ottawa to take over the protection and adoption of First Nations children. The case turns on a single provision the plaintiffs say essentially required the federal government to consult Indian bands and maintain oversight of the children’s welfare.

“I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture,” Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff in the Ontario case, told The Canadian Press. “This should never have happened. It was wrong.”

Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family as a child. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

Last week, five Aboriginal leaders wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge his government to settle, and admit the “immense wrong” done the scoop children.

“This moment is an opportunity for Canada to put an ugly legacy behind us,” the letter states.

[SOURCE]

RCMP Working To Rebuild Relationship With Indigenous Peoples

OTTAWA—The RCMP has been quietly meeting with national aboriginal organizations to start building a better relationship with indigenous peoples following a long history of mutual distrust.

“I think we have seen that, historically, the relationship with policing in Canada for aboriginal peoples has been tenuous at best,” said Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

“It’s important to sit down and say, ‘Enough pointing fingers. What are we going to do to make this better? What are we going to do to improve this relationship?’ Because quite frankly, indigenous people aren’t going away and neither is the RCMP. We need to find a way to make this relationship work in a positive way,” she said.

A watershed moment came late last year when RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson responded to a question from the floor of an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) gathering in Gatineau, Que., about racism under his watch.

“I hear what you say. I understand there are racists in my police force. I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Paulson said Dec. 9.

The Star has learned that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who told the top Mountie that day his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect,” has since followed up with a one-on-one meeting with Paulson to discuss the way forward.

“The discussion focused on the need for concrete action to end racism within the police force,” the AFN said of the Jan. 15 meeting in an emailed statement, as Bellegarde was unavailable for an interview Thursday.

The AFN said the meeting touched on specific recommendations, such as: cultural competency training for officers; better operations, including improved investigations and communication, when it comes to cases involving First Nations people and their families; and protocols for community engagement.

Another recommendation was for “accurate and reliable” data collection systems and databases, an area highlighted by a recent Star investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women, which raised questions about the solve rates of homicides and relationships between perpetrators and victims.

The efforts did not begin and end with that one-on-one meeting.

The Star has also learned the Mounties formed a working group devoted to empowering indigenous women and preventing violence that includes representatives from six aboriginal organizations, which will meet for the second time Feb. 17 at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the meeting is part of long-lasting and ongoing “solid relationship” with the national aboriginal organizations, which the Mounties meet with quarterly.

“These meetings focus on ways the RCMP can partner with the (national aboriginal organizations) in the areas of crime prevention and reducing the victimization of indigenous peoples,” Pfleiderer wrote in a statement.

“It’s about working together and coming up with some change through a positive working relationship,” said Chief Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents non-status Indians and others living off-reserve.

Lavell Harvard said Paulson took a “courageous first step” by acknowledging racism was part of the problem and sees the meetings — both the working group and other informal conversations — as a way to start tackling the monumental challenge of missing and murdered indigenous women now, rather than after the promised national inquiry makes its recommendations.

She also said she has already seen some changes, in that when families of missing or murdered indigenous women call her organization seeking help in dealing with the RCMP, she can pass along the concerns to an actual name and number.

“In the past we wouldn’t have even known who to call. The fact that we have started having some conversations and having that partnership gives us somebody that we can call, somebody that we can pass that along to and say, ‘How can we help here?’ Rather than us just saying there is nothing we can do, because all that does is make the situation worse,” she said.

Lavell Harvard said she would like to see the RCMP replicate a toolkit NWAC hands out to families of missing and murdered indigenous women — featuring tips on how to navigate the process, including how to file a missing persons report, ask questions, take notes, spread the word and advocate — so detectives can provide it to them directly.

“We need our families to be able to feel that they can go to the police for support when they need to,” she said.

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, also agreed the relationship needs work, but shared his personal feeling of disillusionment following an earlier meeting with the RCMP on missing and murdered indigenous women.

In 1961, Chartier was 15 years old and at residential school in The Pas, Man., when his mother, Rosa Chartier, was beaten to death in his hometown of Buffalo Narrows, Sask.

He said two people were later acquitted and he has always felt a sense of injustice about a crime he believes would have been handled differently if his mother had been a white woman.

Chartier said he “warmed up to the RCMP” at the meeting and followed up, saying he would be interested in pursuing what happened to his mother, but after being referred to a couple of different people all he was told was to get the transcripts from the trial and read them for himself.

“It kind of personally soured me a bit in terms of this whole process,” said Chartier, whose schedule will not allow him to attend the Feb. 17 meeting and he did not feel inclined to change it.

“I didn’t have a burning desire to make myself available to sit there and listen to them,” said Chartier, who plans to attend the families gathering ahead of the second national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg at the end of the month.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/02/12/rcmp-working-to-rebuild-relationship-with-indigenous-peoples.html


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Indigenous Peoples Given Interactive Map To Help Secure Land Rights

A Ka'apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

A Ka’apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, By: Magda Mis

Indigenous peoples whose land rights have often been exploited due to lack of maps and data have a new tool to help secure their rights: a global interactive map of the land they claim called LandMark.

Indigenous peoples and communities claim to hold about two thirds of the world’s land but are legally recognised as holding only 10 percent, according to think thank World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the organisations behind the project.

“By visualizing the locations of indigenous peoples and local communities-involving perhaps 2 billion people-LandMark pushes their existence into the calculations of those making decisions about climate change, economic development, poverty alleviation, and natural resources conservation,” Peter Veit, director of the WRI’s Land and Resources Rights initiative, said in a statement.

“LandMark provides indigenous peoples and communities the opportunity to be proactive in their efforts to protect their lands, not just reactive to imminent threats.”

Without legal rights to land, indigenous communities may find their land is taken over for the exploitative development of natural resources, palm oil plantations and logging, according to the WRI.

Mapping their territory gives them an opportunity to show that their land is not vacant, idle or available for outsiders, it said.

The WRI said last week that ensuring rainforest communities have secure land rights could reduce deforestation and land-use conflicts and prevent tens of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Developed by a partnership of indigenous groups and land rights and research bodies, the beta version of the map launched on Tuesday shows the boundaries of thousands of pieces of land claimed by indigenous people and communities around the world.

It offers additional information about the lands such as land category and area.

Still in the development stage, the map is not a “crowd-sourcing” platform but aims to provide only high-quality data available from recognised organisations and experts who can submit their entries directly through www.LandMarkMap.org.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://www.trust.org)

http://www.trust.org/item/20151110185408-ccmon/?source=jtOtherNews1

Unconquered Kayapó Warriors Fighting For Their Amazon Land

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By Deutsche Welle

The Kayapó people of the Amazon are excellent guardians of the forest but big business interests and a change to Brazil’s constitution could threaten the ecosystem they have managed to preserve until now.

In Brazil’s northern interior, the once pristine forest has been stripped in many places leaving behind swathes of barren fields and destroyed ecosystems. A notable exception is an area spanning 11 million hectares of primary tropical forest and savanna. The land is legally-owned by the Kayapó indigenous peoples.

About 10,000 tribal members live in 46 villages scattered across the vast territory roughly the size of Bulgaria. Satellite images of the area confirm what scientists have known all along: The Kayapó are the most effective defenders against illegal logging, ranching and gold mining. However, powerful political and economic forces are working against them, say conservationists.

The Kayapó and other environmental activists are currently fighting a proposed constitutional amendment known as PEC 215, which is intended to transfer the Brazilian executive government’s right to designate which land is indigenous to the country’s parliament – the National Congress.

It sounds harmless enough, except that the congress is home to a powerful “ruralist” bloc that has close ties to the agricultural, forestry, energy and mining industries. As a result, many see the proposed amendment as a threat to what is left of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. And while the Kayapó land is the largest of its kind, it is only one of about 690 recognized territories concentrated in the region that could face the chop.

Photo: Kayapó fishing (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

The Kayapó know how to hunt sustainably

Hunters, gatherers, guardians of the ecosystem

In exchange for their guardianship of the land, the Kayapó count on the forest for food. They fish some of the 3,000 species in the Amazon River, and hunt mammals, birds, and tortoises while women gather nuts and fruit.

Barbara Zimmerman, director of the Kayapó Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) says their stewardship has little negative impact on endangered species.

“They’re not putting a dent even in the most sensitive game species like white-lipped peccary, tapir, fish and so on,” says Zimmerman who added that such species are being wiped out at an alarming rate in other parts of the Amazon where they are hunted.

Researchers are concerned that giving large resource industries access to the land would threaten several endangered species in the area, including the white-whiskered spider monkey, giant otter, and hyacinth macaw. Other vulnerable large-game species like the giant armadillo, bush dog, and jaguar are found within hunting range of Kayapó communities as well.

“Scientists working in the Amazon would tell you that indigenous lands are absolute key to any hope for conservation of Amazonian biodiversity,” Zimmerman told DW.

The forest also mitigates the effects of climate change and plays an important role in maintaining rainfall patterns on a larger geographic scale. It’s an important buffer for cities in the region, including São Paulo, which suffered power cuts and drastic water rationing in 2014 during its worst drought in 80 years. Scientists attributed the drought to Amazon deforestation .

Powerful economic interests

The hunger for rainforest lands that drives large-scale illegal logging and ranching in the Amazon is linked to Brazil’s booming agricultural sector. According to global auditor PwC, agribusiness employs roughly a third of the working population and accounts for 22 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country is one of the top three beef exporters in the world. In 2013, 40 percent of global exports for products such as coffee, sugar, soybeans, and orange juice came from Brazil .

Photo: Kayapó on a destroyed patch of forest (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

Slash and burn techniques clear the way for farming but little remains of the forest

Agribusiness has grown so powerful it has an army of lobbyists in government setting agendas like PEC 215. At the helm is Kátia Abreu, the minister of agriculture appointed in December 2014 by President Dilma Rousseff. In an interview with ‘The Guardian’ earlier that year, Abreu described her goal of increasing agricultural output and weakening forest controls.

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more,” said Abreu, referring to the Amazon tribes. “But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Abreu also noted the agricultural industry’s role in lifting many average Brazilians out poverty. But Sarah Shenker, campaign officer with Survival International , disagrees with the minister’s take. Shenker says only a small group of people benefit from Brazil’s agricultural industry.

“These projects will make big companies richer, some of the money will go to the government as well, but they’re not projects which are going to make poor people richer,” says the environmental campaigner.

Only the tip of a developmental agenda

A group of indigenous peoples, parliamentarians, and civil society organizations believe PEC 215 is only the tip of a massive developmental agenda that will “permit the approval of large-scale enterprises within these protected areas.” According to a manifesto they signed and delivered to congress in June, these projects include hydroelectric dams, mines, extensive agribusiness and the construction of highways, waterways, ports and railways for industrial transport.

“It is for the whole world that I am fighting to succeed in preserving the forest,” said Kayapó chief Raoni Metuktire in an online appeal against the controversial Belo Monte Dam project on the Xingu river in northeastern Brazil that is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The local tribes say the dam will damage their livelihoods and the environment. The government argues it will provide clean renewable energy for the region as well as economic development.

Chief Raoni and fellow Kayapó Chief Mekaron-Ti have worked for more than 40 years to save the Amazon and have fought off mega dams proposed along the Xingu River since the 1980s – armed with the tribe’s strong leadership and combative spirit. In the distant past, the Kayapó have gone so far as to evict and kill intruders when threatened.

Corruption hindering environmental protection

In a country where thousands of citizens marched in August in the wake of a massive investigation linking top bureaucrats and company executives to bribery, money laundering and kickbacks, there’s evidence to suggest environmental protection is at the mercy of corruption.

Photo: A group of Kayapó (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

A David and Goliath Story? Kayapó face-off with big business and politics to save their land

For instance, Paulo Roberto Costa , former director of semi-public company Petrobras and one of the first high-level executives to be arrested and convicted, exposed politicians involved in corruption in sectors such as transportation and dam construction.

Another convicted executive, Dalton Avancini, ex-president of one of Brazil’s largest engineering firms Camargo Corrêa, revealed that the company paid millions to two political parties in exchange for 15 percent of the contract to build the Belo Monte mega dam.

Given the money at stake, the indigenous peoples living in the forest are facing an uphill struggle, say conservationists.

“A giant black storm is building on the horizon,” says Zimmerman of the ICFC. “Ranchers want in. Colonists want in. Given that [the Kayapó] have the last valuable stocks of timber in the entire region, the pressures are intense.”

http://www.dw.com/en/global-ideas-brazil-native-agriculture-pec215/a-18729288

Pope’s Apology Doesn’t Sway Native Americans On Junipero Serra’s Canonization

Pope Francis venerates the cross which was buried with Bl. Junipero Serra, whom he will canonize later this month, at the General Audience held Sept. 2, 2015. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis venerates the cross which was buried with Bl. Junipero Serra, whom he will canonize later this month, at the General Audience held Sept. 2, 2015. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

The Associated Press, September 5, 2015

Pope Francis’ apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s crimes against indigenous peoples has not softened opposition among some California Native Americans to his decision to canonize 18th-century Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra.

Serra is extolled by the Vatican as a great evangelizer, but denounced by some tribal officials as a destroyer of Native culture.

Francis made a sweeping apology for the church’s sins and “crimes” against indigenous peoples during a visit to Bolivia in July, “humbly” begging forgiveness in the presence of Bolivia’s first-ever indigenous president and representatives of native groups from across South America, who wildly cheered the pope and said they accepted the apology.

But Ron Andrade, a member of the La Jolla Indian Reservation in California, said the pope’s apology is not a real reckoning with the church’s history of abusing Native Americans and appears intended to seek forgiveness and move on.

Norma Flores, a spokeswoman for the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians, Kizh Nation, said the pope’s apology is meaningless if he doesn’t halt the canonization of Serra on Sept. 23 at Washington’s National Shrine.

“Pope Francis has gone to South America and apologized,” she said.

“Yet he is going to canonize the individual responsible for the genocide of Native people.”

The plan to elevate Serra to sainthood has sparked protests in California, where the priest’s name is found on schools, street signs and public squares and is closely associated with the state’s history.

Serra introduced Christianity and established settlements as he marched north with Spanish conquistadores through the land that would become California. In 1769, he established his first mission in San Diego. He would go on to found numerous additional missions, including San Francisco. The missions taught religion and farming.

But many Native Americans say the missions cut their ancestors off from their traditional languages and cultures, enslaved those who converted to Christianity and brought disease that led to the mass extermination of Indian populations.

Serra’s treatment of Native Americans was controversial during his own life, said Steven Hackel, a University of California, Riverside history professor who has written a biography of Serra.

“The system he created, he should have known where it was headed,” Hackel said, referring to the disease and death that would plague native populations on missions in the ensuing decades.

The Vatican has gone on the offensive to present Serra more positively as someone who protected Native Americans from colonial officials. Some historians say Serra saw the missions as refuges for Indians from unscrupulous soldiers and settlers. They say his support for flogging Native Americans reflected a paternalistic attitude that was common at the time.

“Father Junipero Serra was a very, very good person in a very, very bad situation, which I identify as colonialism,” said Andrew Galvan, an Ohlone Indian who curates Mission Dolores in San Francisco and supports Serra’s canonization.

Galvan said he is hopeful Serra’s canonization will open up dialogue between missions and native peoples.

“We can’t change what happened in the past. The church has admitted there were mistakes in the past,” he said. “But we have a golden opportunity as a church today to reach out to native peoples and reconcile. That would be the miracle of Serra.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the U.S., said Serra’s canonization had an altogether different significance:

“The first Hispanic pope is coming to America to give us the first Hispanic saint,” the Mexican-born Gomez told a recent church-organized conference in Philadelphia.
He called it an “historic moment in the life of the Hispanic people,” where the pope would be calling on Hispanics across the country to reflect on their history, identity and “our legacy as immigrants.”

Critics say they want action, not words. The pope should help Native Americans regain land they lost, Andrade said.

Flores wants the pope to start by visiting California and acknowledging a detailed list of what she says were the church’s crimes. “We will never forgive or forget, but we need that in order for our wounds to heal,” she said.

A visit to the state is not on the pope’s itinerary.

The president of the California Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops, announced Friday that the bishops would revise the cultural displays at California missions and review the third- and fourth-grade curriculum in Catholic schools to better reflect the relationship between the missions and Native Americans. Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento and the conference’s president, said “the Indian experience has been ignored or denied.”

Source: Associated Press