AFN chief urges native men to help protect women

Perry Bellegarde is a Canadian First Nations and Métis activist and politician, who was elected as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations last year. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Perry Bellegarde is a Canadian First Nations and Métis activist and politician, who was elected as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations last year. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)


The head of the Assembly of First Nations is imploring native men who have “lost their way” to help prevent the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women – a tragic reality he says all Canadians must confront, no matter how uncomfortable.

Aboriginal men must address deep-seated issues stemming from the Indian Residential School system, including addiction and cycles of violence, National Chief Perry Bellegarde told The Globe and Mail on Monday.

“When they come out of that system, they’re not healthy, they’re not well, and they’ve lost their way,” Mr. Bellegarde said, adding that men and their families need better access to wellness centres and treatment programs. “What is the role of men? They’re supposed to be protectors, providers.”

Mr. Bellegarde, who was elected in December, assumed the helm at a time when Ottawa has come under intense pressure to launch a national inquiry into Canada’s more than 1,181 murdered and missing aboriginal women – a probe Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dismissed unnecessary.

“I think there has to be dialogue so it’s in everybody’s face,” said Mr. Bellegarde, who supports an inquiry. “Don’t just skirt around it. The truth may hurt, but let’s deal with it.”

Aboriginal leaders have long called for a national inquiry, but the chorus grew louder after Winnipeg was hit last year by two high-profile cases with stark similarities: Tina Fontaine, 15, was found dead in the Red River in August; Rinelle Harper, 16, was discovered nearly lifeless on a footpath alongside the Assiniboine River in November.

After it was revealed that one of the two co-accused in Ms. Harper’s attack is aboriginal (the other is a minor and cannot be identified), public discussion was reignited about the role of native men in the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women.

Ms. Harper’s uncle said at the time that violence within the same race is not surprising, but added: “It’s among us. It’s the way we are these days.” And federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt later said part of the problem lies with the “lack of respect for women and girls on reserves,” drawing swift criticism in part because half of First Nations people do not live on a reserve.

Mr. Bellegarde said aboriginal men must get back to the seven sacred teachings – honesty, truth, respect, love, courage, humility and wisdom. “Put those things at the forefront because that will guide you in your life on how you deal with yourself, your spouse and your family,” he said.

The National Chief, who addressed The Globe’s editorial board, also said Canadians need to better understand the legacy of residential schools. About 150,000 children were forced to attend the schools throughout the 1900s. The last one closed outside Regina in 1996.

“People say, ‘Why can’t those Indians be like us? When is enough, enough?’ Well, imagine your son, daughter and grandkids being taken away from you, when they’re five or six years of age, and being put into a residential school system where everything about being that Indian kid is no good,” he said. “You throw in the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, the mental abuse, and you’re not going to be healthy coming out of that … That’s where the intergenerational effects come in.”

Given the Conservative government’s refusal to launch a federal inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, premiers and aboriginal organizations such as the AFN are turning their attention to a national roundtable on the issue in Ottawa on Feb. 27. Several federal ministers have been invited to participate in the event, which will focus on prevention, awareness, community safety, policing and the justice system. Victims’ families will gather in the capital on Feb. 26, and some will be part of the AFN’s roundtable delegation.

“That’s part of their healing,” Mr. Bellegarde said, “having input and sharing their stories.”

The Pipeline Fight Pitting Native Americans Against Big Oil

Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty

Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty

By Justin Glawe |

Enbridge, Inc. claims Indians don’t own the land on their reservation, which they want to gobble up to send crude across Minnesota.

CROOKSTON, MINN. — On a map in the crowded conference room of a hotel, Winona LaDuke pointed to a tiny tract of land in the northeast corner of the White Earth Indian Reservation. The area, home to the wild rice that feeds the tribe and helps to pay its bills through deals with retailers like Whole Foods, is miniscule in comparison to the counties that surround it, but it’s worth millions to an oil company and the state.

LaDuke’s beloved land—an area of about four square miles—makes up 10 percent of the reservation. The territory is at the center of a dispute between the White Earth tribe and Enbridge, the Canadian company that wants to construct an oil pipeline across the state of Minnesota. Called the Sandpiper, the pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota to the port of Superior, Wisconsin. LaDuke said Enbridge will make this jaunt by cutting across the northeast corner of her reservation.

“I’m here today to pretend the system works,” LaDuke announced to a panel in Crookston, that included a state judge, representatives from Enbridge and members of the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). “I want to pretend there aren’t hundreds of pipes sitting in the area, ready to be put into the ground for a pipeline that hasn’t been approved.”

While Enbridge has secured easements for 92 percent of the properties along the pipeline’s route, LaDuke and her allies contend the company will stomp on tribal sovereignty by crossing White Earth land. Not so, said Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little.

“The proposed Sandpiper pipeline route does not cross the White Earth Reservation,” Little wrote in an email. “There may be some properties that fall within the tribe’s definition of ceded territories, but we negotiate with the current property landowner to secure easement agreements.”

Originally within the boundaries of the reservation, there are four townships being fought over—just a fraction of the proposed 610-mile Sandpiper route. A 1980 hunting rights case essentially removed those townships from the reservation—at least, for Enbridge, that is.

Frank Bibeau, the tribe’s attorney and a White Earth member like LaDuke, contends otherwise. LaDuke, adamant in her opposition to the Sandpiper not just on Indian rights but environmental grounds, has been a fixture at public hearings across the state in recent months—a furor of jet black hair, dangling jewelry and controlled incredulity that belies her anger over what she said is a blatant violation of tribal sovereignty.

“They have some legal right in the sense that they have a permit from the state for eminent domain,” said, Bibeau. “But we have treaty rights that we believe require our consent to be given before they start putting pipes in the ground.”

It’s a sticky legal situation—one that involves a 1980 federal case over hunting rights, and decades of back-and-forth between the tribe, Enbridge, the PUC and the state. But what’s at stake for White Earth mirrors the controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, and whether it’s up to landowners to decide what happens on their property or judges, as was the case of a recent Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on the Keystone.

“On the one hand, the whole theory of why they’re saying they need to come across [the state] is a hoax, and they’re using that as a springboard to run over our treaty rights and essentially disregard them,” Bibeau said, going on to note the recent drop in oil prices. “If we’re already having gas at less than $2 a gallon, what is the need for having a new pipeline coming through the state in 2017?”

The answers—like the arguments being pushed by pro-Keystone groups and politicians—are profit for Enbridge, tax revenue for the state, and jobs for workers in Minnesota and North Dakota. Along with an estimated $69 million in property taxes paid by Enbridge thanks to the addition of the pipeline, the company contends the project will create 3,000 construction jobs along the Sandpiper’s 610-mile route. If LaDuke and Bibeau lose their fight, it will likely be because of the confusing nature of the laws surrounding the land in question—that corner of White Earth LaDuke is so worked up over. But they’re not the only ones battling Enbridge.

The other 8 percent of territory—held by stubborn landowners and farmers who are holding out for myriad reasons—will soon be in the hands of the PUC. That’s because Enbridge is applying for a “certificate of need,” basically arguing that the PUC give the company eminent domain to the remaining land. That tiny eight percent may not last much longer, and when it goes, so too will LaDuke’s corner of White Earth.

“Enbridge doesn’t have rights to our land,” she told me during a break in the Crookston hearing. “Their plan is quite simply illegal.”

Sandpiper has been in the works for years, but only recently have public hearings like the one in Crookston last Monday begun. They have been filled with sometimes unruly debate over many of the same issues the country has grappled with regarding the Keystone XL—climate change, environmental concerns, dependence on foreign oil, the need for jobs and, most importantly for LaDuke, Bibeau and their allies, tribal sovereignty.

“Really, they’re crossing within the original boundaries of the reservation, and their argument is that this [1980 hunting rights] court case pulled those areas out of the reservation,” Bibeau said of Enbridge’s plan. “The white people essentially say they took it in a different way than they took other stuff from us.”

This has happened before, according to Bibeau, although in a different way. As the federal government stepped away from Indian affairs in the 1950s and 1960s, Bibeau said, more autonomy was given to tribes like the Chippewa, which was eventually split into six different bands in Minnesota. All those factions—White Earth among them—began taking more legal responsibility over their lands. It was confusing and chaotic, Bibeau said. And one of the results of that disorder was a misunderstanding of treaty rights. Meanwhile, Enbridge, through a combination of legal maneuvering and land-buying, set up shop in Indian country, prompting the situation Bibeau and others face today.

“There wasn’t a real strong understanding of what was occurring, and we weren’t really in a strong position as Indians back in the ‘50s and ‘60s to really stand up and do anything about it,” Bibeau said.

Partly as a result of that situation, Enbridge was able to put pipes in the ground on White Earth land. The same goes for the Red Lake Indian Reservation, where some members of that tribe have a similar discrepancy with Enbridge. Protesters there set up a camp in the winter of 2012-13 and, despite ground frozen by the sub-zero temperatures of brutal northern Minnesota winter, gave a nice, big middle finger to Enbridge by building a fence above the pipeline. It was a direct violation of the company’s policy, and a philosophical gesture in support of Indian rights. Thankfully, someone had the forethought to document the act of frigid disobedience.

“In a sense, we were still being held down and our resources were being given away either because we were completely ignorant, or the federal government was OK with it,” Bibeau said of the ’50s and ’60s, when Enbridge and other companies began pumping oil through Minnesota from Canada to the ports of Wisconsin, where the Sandpiper will end. “We had no help from the feds. They were saying, ‘If you don’t like what’s going on, make a law, and go out and sue them.’”

That’s exactly what Bibeau and the tribe intend to do. The period for public comment—which includes the hearings like the one LaDuke spoke at—ended Friday. Now it’s up to the PUC to decide whether Enbridge has a significant enough need to take control of the eight percent of land along the route they don’t already legally possess. Bibeau and his allies in the Indian and environmental communities will argue the company has no such need, not now that oil prices have plummeted. So, last weke, Bibeau and his fellow White Earthers traveled to St. Paul where they testified at a PUC hearing on the Sandpiper. Low oil prices were among their arguments against the project, as will environmental concerns and the confusing legal issues that surround Enbridge’s intent to encroach upon disputed White Earth land.

“While the Enbridge company is 60 years old, my people have lived here for 8,000 years,” LaDuke said at the Crookston hearing. “This is the only place in the world where we live, and this is the only place in the world where we can live.”

Winnipeg-area First Nation remains under 17-year boil water advisory

Winnipeg-area First Nation remains under 17-year boil water advisory

Winnipeg-area First Nation remains under 17-year boil water advisory

Josh Elliott,

As clean water once again flows from taps in the city of Winnipeg, members of a nearby First Nation community say they remain under a boil water advisory that’s been in effect for nearly two decades.

Some members of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation were in Winnipeg earlier this week to protest their plight. Winnipeg recently lifted its three-day warning after water tests turned up negative for E.coli. But Shoal Lake residents say their water troubles have yet to be addressed.

Chief Erwin Redsky, of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, says his people are no closer to turning on their taps now than they were when their water supply was found to be contaminated in 1996.

Residents in the Shoal Lake community have been boiling their water or importing it from other towns on a weekly basis, even as a nearby aqueduct pumps drinkable water out to Winnipeg.

“It’s very difficult,” Redsky told CTV New Channel on Sunday. He added that there has been “no progress to date” with clearing up the issue.

The Shoal Lake 40 First Nation sits on a man-made island established in the early 1900s during the construction of the Winnipeg aqueduct.

Erwin says experts have examined the Shoal Lake water problem, but it’s been deemed too expensive to fix.

“This should not be happening in (2015),” Redsky said. “All Canadians should have clean water to drink.”

Winnipeg’s boil water advisory lasted only a few days after a handful of tests showed possible traces of E.coli in the water supply. Later tests came back negative.


N.B. shale gas protester gets six-month sentence, probation for making threats against media

A police cruiser on fire is seen at the site of a shale gas protest in Rexton, N.B., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (Ossie Michelin / Twitter)

A police cruiser on fire is seen at the site of a shale gas protest in Rexton, N.B., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (Ossie Michelin / Twitter)

 CTV News

A 26-year-old man from the Elsipogtog First Nation, who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a 2013 fracking protest in New Brunswick, has been sentenced.

Tyson Peters pleaded guilty last September to charges of uttering threats, assaulting a police officer and intimidation towards the media, which were laid after separate incidents in the fall of 2013, New Brunswick RCMP say.

On Friday Peters was sentenced in Moncton provincial court to six-month conditional sentence, and 12 months of probation after the sentence has been served.

The sentence includes two months of house arrest for each of the three offences, but to be served concurrently.

The charges against Peters are related to his participation in protests against shale gas operations in the Rexton, N.B. area, stemming from incidents that occurred between Sept. 30 and Oct. 19, 2013.

Hate mail sent to Tina Fontaine’s family a sample of Winnipeg’s racism

Thelma Favel lives on the Sagkeeng First Nation near Powerview-Pine Falls Manitoba, October 16, 2014. (LYLE STAFFORD For The Globe and Mail)

Thelma Favel lives on the Sagkeeng First Nation near Powerview-Pine Falls Manitoba, October 16, 2014. (LYLE STAFFORD For The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail 

Inside a card decorated in a field of flowers and trees, Thelma Favel – the great-aunt of slain aboriginal teenager Tina Fontaine – received a seething message of hate: “You guys are nothing but a bunch of drunken Indians.”

The handwritten, unsigned note, delivered Wednesday to her rural Manitoba home, is an anomaly among the hundreds of letters of support and prayer she has received since Tina’s lifeless body was pulled from Winnipeg’s Red River in August.

But the note is piercing, going on to allege that 15-year-old Tina was not a nice person, got drunk in back alleys and was following in her dead father’s footsteps. Her father was beaten to death in 2011.

“This is not right what they did,” Ms. Favel said of the card after relaying its contents over the phone Thursday. “All the hatred seems to go to the First Nations people,” she added. “I know the truth. I know Tina and they didn’t.”

Although the card is an aberration in Ms. Favel’s pile of condolences and well wishes, its sentiment is not incongruous with comments and behaviour that Ms. Favel and other indigenous people have encountered in Canada.

Last week, Maclean’s magazine branded Manitoba’s capital as the nation’s most racist city. Winnipeg’s mayor and other community leaders responded in an unexpected address.

Flanked by the city’s top cop, the provincial treaty commissioner, First Nations chiefs and community leaders, Mayor Brian Bowman, who is Métis, vowed to combat Winnipeg’s racism problem. On Thursday, his office launched a website – – asking Winnipeggers to share ideas on tackling racism.

“Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate – aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians alike, from coast to coast to coast,” the mayor said last week.

Tina’s death reignited calls for a federal inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing aboriginal women. Ms. Favel believes the Maclean’s article, which included a chronicle of Tina’s life and death, might have spurred the anonymous writer to send the “nasty” card.

“There is a lot of racism. I’ve personally experienced lots of it,” said Ms. Favel, who helped raise Tina. “I wish it would just stop. Like Tina said, ‘We’re all God’s people.’”

Tina’s killing remains under investigation. A member of Sagkeeng First Nation, Tina had run away from government care before she was found dead, her body wrapped in a bag.

Ms. Favel spoke with Winnipeg police’s victim services about the card’s message. She said she was told the note is not a police matter because it doesn’t contain a threat. She was advised to hang onto the card and let victim services know if she receives more negative letters.

According to federal government documents obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information legislation, Manitoba is one of the worst places for First Nations people to live in Canada.

Internal reports from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada show Manitoba natives are more likely to grow up in poverty, drop out of school, live off social assistance in dilapidated housing and suffer family violence. Their life expectancy is also eight years shorter than that of other Manitobans.

The 10 regional updates spanning 2012 to 2014 lay out the poor living conditions on Manitoba reserves, but offer little concrete action on the part of the government.

A spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said he was unavailable to discuss the updates or what the federal government is doing to improve living conditions for Manitoba’s reserve aboriginals. Emily Hillstrom sent an e-mailed statement that didn’t address the poor living conditions.

“Our government believes that aboriginal peoples should have the same quality of life, the same opportunities and the same choices as all other Canadians,” she wrote before outlining legislation the government has passed such as a law that requires reserves to post their financial statements online.

With reports from Kathryn Blaze Carlson and The Canadian Press