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‘Our ancestors knew’: Maskwacis Cree enact Treaty 6 Medicine Chest clause over virus outbreak

First Nations enact ‘medicine clause’ to call state of emergency.

EDMONTON — Several Cree First Nations have jointly enacted Treaty 6’s Medicine Clause to call a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band met Sunday to make the “difficult decision.”

The leaders fear present issues of overcrowding, lack of health care capacity and proximity to Alberta’s largest cities and outbreak centres make their nations particularly vulnerable.

“If the virus were to get into the First Nations communities, it could be devastating,” Marlene Poitras, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Tuesday at a conference and gathering of the chiefs on Ermineskin First Nation.

“The Maskwacis declaration is unique in that it specifically references the Famine and Pestilence Clause in treaty. Our ancestors knew that these days were coming.”

The Medicine Chest clause is not present in the treaties signed before Treaty 6, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Its famine and pestilence clause grants Treaty 6 nations protection from those things.

The chiefs did not expand on what commitment they were looking for from the federal government.

“We’re hoping that the government does their part now,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said.

“They’ve got to follow through and respect their part of the treaty.”

According to Alberta Health, one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Wetaskiwin County, with which Treaty 6 territory overlaps.

Ermineskin Cree Nation activated its emergency operations centre on March 17, the same day the province of Alberta declared a public health emergency.

The nation has been limiting house service calls to top-priority calls and gatherings to 10 people or less, with physical distancing.

On Tuesday, the leaders pleaded for their youngest members to respect the precautions.

“Young people, you heard your leaders,” International Chief Wilton Littlechild said.

“Listen. Listen to their message that this is a very serious issue and you need to take care of yourself. Take good care of yourself.”

The office of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was also closed earlier in the month to ensure the safety of workers and minimize community transition, but has remained operational.

AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras joined the chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band on March 24 to announce their enacting of Treaty 6’s Medicine Chest clause. (Source: Facebook / Ermineskin Cree Nation)

By: Alex Antoneshyn / CTV Edmonton, published March 24, 2020.

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Manitoba protesters blockade CN Rail line, demand RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en territory

About half a dozen protesters occupy a rail station along the CN line approximately seven kilometres west of Winnipeg. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

CN rail lines in B.C. and Ontario have also been blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters in the last week

A Manitoba railway just outside Winnipeg is being blocked by a group of protesters to show support for the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia, whose hereditary leaders are fighting construction of a pipeline through their traditional territory.

About a dozen protesters lit a fire Wednesday morning and are occupying an area near a crossing of a CN rail line about seven kilometres west of the Perimeter Highway, on Wilkes Avenue.

The protesters said they won’t end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en people in B.C., where police arrested more than 20 people over the weekend who were blocking Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the traditional territory.

RCMP began enforcing a court order against those blocking construction on the pipeline last Thursday, sparking protests across the country.

“We’re here showing solidarity for other Indigenous people, for other Indigenous nations — First Nations whose territories were invaded by RCMP [and] Coastal GasLinks,” said Harrison Powder, one of the Manitoba blockade participants.

“They violated Indigenous laws, Indigenous lands, and Indigenous rights, and that kind of stuff has to be protested against. We have to stand up against that,” he said.

“We want the RCMP out of there.”

Harrison Powder said the group will continue to block the rail line until RCMP leave the Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters filled Winnipeg’s downtown streets to show support for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are trying to stop construction of the pipeline.

Blockades in other provinces have cancelled more than 150 Via Rail passenger trains and forced a similar number of freight trains to sit idle.

CN Rail’s president and CEO, J.J. Ruest, told CBC News on Tuesday that the protests threaten industry across the country, including the transport of everything from food to construction materials to natural resources.

On Wednesday, CN Rail said train movements in the area of the Manitoba protest are currently stopped.

“We are monitoring the situation and evaluating our legal options very closely,” a spokesperson said in an email.

While the blockade is focused on the CN line, protesters are set up a spot where it intersects with a CP Rail line.

CP Rail said it is monitoring the situation, but wouldn’t say if any of its trains would be affected.

‘A long time coming’

The Manitoba protesters, who gathered Wednesday as bitter winds made it feel as cold as –44, hope to send a message to the federal government, as well as RCMP and industry leaders.

“When you invade Indigenous territory, and you try to force pipelines on our people, there’s consequences to that, and this here today is one of those consequences,” said Powder.

“This has been a long time coming, these blockades. Our people have been saying for years ‘we can shut down this country, we can stop the economy, we can cause major economic damage’ — and it’s happening now.”

Both RCMP and CN Rail police were monitoring the blockade site on Wednesday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Both Manitoba RCMP and CN Rail police were at the blockade Wednesday. An RCMP spokesperson said officers were there to monitor the protest and keep the peace.

“The Manitoba RCMP has sent Division Liaison Team (DLT) officers to the protest site,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The role of the DLT officers is to establish a dialogue and maintain open and ongoing communication.”

Province will seek injunction

The Manitoba government said Wednesday it plans to seek a court injunction to end the blockade.

Premier Brian Pallister says the province’s Justice Department will seek to obtain an injunction and have it enforced within a few days.

He says he respects the rights of protesters, but laws need to be applied.

“The point is to make sure that we’re standing up for the freedoms and rights of all people, and not standing back while two-tier justice happens in our province,” Pallister told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

“As much as we will always respect the right of protesters to have a voice, they don’t have a veto and … they don’t have the right to put their rights ahead of everyone else and to disregard the laws of our province and country.”

By: Holly Caruk · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Canadian Press

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