Facts about expired Status Cards. You’re right. #WeDoNotExpire.

I’m casually supportive of those who are signing the online petition calling to remove the expiry dates on the Certificate of Indian Status.  I know first hand what a pain in the behind it is to renewed.  Last Fall, Deborah and I took officials from Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office through the rigorous process, only to be turned away at the door because of one thing or another.

But before you sign that petition (or alternatively, send a letter to the Department asking to be removed from the Indian Register and that you don’t need a Status Card to prove you’re Anishinaabe), here are a few facts:

  • You’re absolutely right, online activist, #WeDoNotExpire.  It’s only your Status Card that expires.  Whether you have a card of not, you’ll continue to be on the Indian Register in Ottawa, if that’s your thing.  You’ll also continue to be on your Band’s membership rolls.
  • The Indian Registry and the Certificate of Indian Status are colonial instruments of the Indian Act.  It says right on the card:  “This is to certify that the holder is an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act, chapter 27, Statutes of Canada (1985).”  Like, really??  Demean and racist much?  I’d much rather see a revival of the Anishinabek Nation Passport and a Nbisiing Anishinaabe Citizenship Card.  Hoo ah!
  • Right on the back of the card, in teeny-tiny print, it says “Property of INAC”.  It’s not even your card.
  • Prior to the requirement for expiry dates and up-to-date photos, there was a whole lot of Status Card fraud. Unscrupulous individuals used fake cards to illegally assume Indian status and obtain our rights.  This kind of fraud cost millions of dollars and was a considerable threat to our rights. Now with the additional protections that Ottawa has adopted (and unfortunately, the inconvenience to us law-abiding citizens), the unscrupulous simply cannot obtain or renew an authentic Status Card.  This is one of the main reasons that the Secured Status Card requires renewal and requires taking a new photo.
  • We can use the Secured Certificate of Indian Status to cross the border.  Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, secured Status Cards can be used for this purpose. Unfortunately, this meant Canada and First Nations giving in to the US requirements that a card be renewed just like a passport.  If we fly to the United Status, we can’t even use a Status Card.  We must carry a Canadian passport.  The passport has to be renewed at least every 10 years for an adult.
  • That being said, we shouldn’t need anything to cross the colonial border.  It is Indigenous territory on both sides.
  • The Secured Certificate of Indian Status contains biometric data.  The little, transparent photo can be used to identify you using facial recognition technology.  Sleep well.
  • As part of the Western Hemisphere Security Initiative, Canada shares Indian Register data with the United States.  To me, the privacy implications are far more concerning than an expiry date.  I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theory nut, but the US government means the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and Internal Revenue Service.
  • The biggest barrier with the new secured Status Card is that it can only be applied for, and renewed, at an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada office.  Although your Band Office can help you with the application, it must be processed and sent out by Ottawa.  Long gone are the days were you can get your Status Card from the Band membership clerk.  This is particularly a barrier for remote and rural First Nations.  A mistake on an application form, can result in months of processing delays.

Three Fires Summer Ceremonies August 16-20, 2017

NFN Sacred Fire on First Nations Suicides on July 9, 2017 (sunrise-sunset)

“Let us put our minds together to see what life we will make for our children.”

– Sitting Bull

The Sacred Fire has become a source and symbol of strength and divine connection to the Creator. The sacred fires that help us govern our community gatherings, ceremonies and prayerful expressions as Indigenous Peoples, continues to be a way for our struggles to be refocused into clear understanding and clear direction about where we take challenges and painful issues facing our community.

Nipissing First Nation will be hosting a community sacred fire in support and prayers in the wake of rising social tragedy and turmoil of First Nations suicides. Just this week, four young people in remote Northern Ontario First Nations have taken their lives.

WHAT:  NFN Sacred Fire on First Nation Suicides

 

WHEN:  Sunday, July 9, 2017 beginning at 5:15 a.m. to sundown.  Sacred Fire will stay lit from sunrise to sunset

WHERE:  Nipissing First Nation Cultural Centre, 36 Semo Road, Garden Village, ON near the Tipi

WHO:  All community members, Elders, Youth, Traditional People, Chief and Council, supporters and friends

 


TENTATIVE ACTIVITIES (to be confirmed)

MORNING AGENDA

 

5:15 a.m.        Firelighting

5:36 a.m.        Sunrise

5:40 a.m.        Morning Ceremony

Conducted by Perry McLeod-Shabogesic

Water Conducted TBA

Pipe, Tobacco and Water Offering

Ceremonial and Drum Songs

 

AFTERNOON AGENDA

 

12 noon          Mid-Day Ceremony

Pipe, Tobacco and Water Offering

Ceremonial and Drum Songs

Spirit Plate Offering

Mid-Day Potluck Feast

In the spirit of community, we are call on all volunteers, community members and descendants of the Homemakers Club and great cooks, please bring your favourite dish.

3:00 p.m.       Community Sharing Circle

Led by Nipissing First Nation Youth. Everyone is welcome to bring their thoughts, prayers and ideas to share in a safe environment.

Theme/Facilitated Questions:

  • How can our First Nation and our citizens help our northern brothers and sisters struggling with youth suicide?
  • How can we support one another that will help strengthen our own community in dealing with youth suicide? 

EVENING AGENDA

 

6:00 p.m.        Drum and Round Dance Circle (to be confirmed…)

Looking for singers, drums, round dance singers and dancers to take part in a evening Drum and Round Dance Circle to sing and dance in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the north facing this suicide crisis and to honour of those we have lost to suicide.  Dancers bring your regalia.

Singers and Drums, if you are able to attend please contact Corey Goulais on Facebook or call (705) 358-7064.

——————————————-

Calling all Fire Keepers and Volunteers

In order to keep the fire going for a full day, we are seeking young men to help keep fire and volunteers of all ages to assist with the day’s events. If you wish to volunteer, contact Corey Goulais on Facebook or call (705) 358-7064.

 

Why I used to fly the Canada Flag on my a$$

Truth be told, I’ve been protesting Canada Day for a long, long time. In fact, a few of you might remember that I used to wear a Canada Flag on my derriere every July 1. Strangely, I used to look forward to the odd looks and controversy. Yes, the noble maple leaf, the unmistakeable symbol of Canada, pinned firmly to my a$$.

Anyone who asked about or noticed my anti-patriotic statement would be peppered with factoids of Canada’s historical mistreatment of First Nations and the racism that I’ve faced. I was known to quote John Trudell who said that flying a flag upside down is a sign of distress. Long before the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, the apology, or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I offered a fiery explanation of the residential school experience, the abuses suffered by our children and the burden of inter-generational trauma.

All the while, sitting on, and blowing wind through, the ole’ red and white.

That was a long time ago. I don’t do that anymore.

Sure it was a juvenile and classless. But as a teenager, I was typically juvenile and classless anyhow. But I later came to the realization that it was a barrier to understanding and sharing such an important message. More importantly, it was an affront to the most basic Anishinaabe teaching of respect.

Many Indigenous people are frustrated and feel they are getting the short end of the stick. Many First Nation families are living in poverty and face unacceptable conditions everyday. (For god’s sake, it’s 2017 and Pikangikum First Nation still doesn’t have running water!)

We’re frustrated by the slow pace of change. Prime Minister Trudeau and his government has said a lot of the right things including a commitment to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and establishing an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. But the results just aren’t visible to us. The pace of bureaucracy is stifling and isn’t matching our expectations. Just what the heck is going on???

So, for historic and personal reasons, many First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, including myself, are refusing to celebrate Canada 150. For my non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, you truly have to understand the narrative, the perspective as well as the facts. Canada has not been kind to Indigenous people. The past 150 years has been deplorable, and frankly, should be embarrassing to each and every Canadian.

That being said, as Indigenous advocates, we still have to realize that there are many, many Canadians who do not know about Indigenous issues or their true history as a country. Many open-minded Canadians might get their backs up, or noses out-of-joint when we challenge their perception of their country and patriotism.

Just this week, I spoke to a volunteer at a local Indigenous event. She was a young, well-educated, middle-class woman working for one of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada. She had no idea what residential schools were and how they have affected our people. She had no idea what the Indian Act was and how it controlled almost every aspect of our lives. She honestly had no clue.

The reality is that there are thousands more, at public events and kitchen tables across Canada that have yet to meet a First Nations person, much less understand our frustrations, complex issues or grasp the need for reconciliation.

How do we influence understanding? How do we bring Canadians along with us, so that they might take personal action on reconciliation? How do we encourage them to share their new found knowledge with their families sitting down at the dinner table? How do we begin to influence their workplace and the corporate environment?

We certainly can’t do that with anger. I realized that I couldn’t win people over when I desecrated the proud symbol of their freedom. It can only be done with patience, kindness and respect.

Forget the trolls and the racists. You’re not going to win them over anyway. Focus on those who may want to listen for they are going to be our future advocates.

I am going to respect those that want to celebrate Canada Day and their nation’s sesquicentennial. I may not Canadian but I know a lot of them. I’m not going to call anyone down who may want to enjoy themselves under the fireworks, an airshow or want to see a giant rubber duck float by.

In turn, I hope that Canadians will respect why we don’t want to celebrate this day and learn more about the true history of Canada, and why change and reconciliation is necessary.

I’ve taken the flag off my a$$ and hope to fly it one day with pride, as true and equal treaty partners.

Things are looking up for this Matthews and Gretzky fan

I’ve been enjoying a lot of hockey lately.  I’m excited to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, assuming the Leafs can clinch a berth.

One of the most exciting things to see is the turn-around of my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, mainly due to the historic and unbelievable season performances of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.  Nazeem Kadri is having a pretty amazing year as well.

Last night, I bought my first NHL jersey in 29 years.  I picked up a Auston Matthews #34 jersey at the Leafs/Lightning game.  It’s a pretty exciting thing to see this young man, in his first year, score so many goals, night after night.  I’m looking forward to cheering him on throughout his career.

I did have a wool, knit Leafs jersey when I was six years-old.

It got me to reminiscing about my favorite hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky.  During my childhood, I watched as many Oilers and Kings games as I could on satellite TV and read the NHL Scoring Leaders section of The Nugget everyday.  A few weekends after he was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, I bought the Gretzky # 99, white home jersey, marked with the captain’s ‘C’.  To this day, my favorite NHL teams are Toronto, Edmonton and LA.

I was Youtube-ing some of Gretzky’s highlights and I came upon the night he broke Gordie Howe’s record.  I remember that night very well, October 15, 1990, because many of us Gretzky fans had been following and awaiting the feat where our hero would surpass Gordie Howe to become the highest scoring NHL player of all time.

Classic Gretzky…  late in the 3rd period, the Kings goalie is pulled…  he comes out from behind the net, parks to the open side of the Oilers net and pounces on a backhand into a wide open net.  It was historic.  The league actually stopped the game in the 3rd period, with a 2-2 tie, to honour Gretzky.  Gretzky addressed the cheering crowd in Edmonton.  He was classy.  The Oilers were classy.  And the fans were classy.  You can see the genuine smiles and congratulations offered by Oilers captain Mark Messier and teammates on both sides.  By the way, a few minutes after the ceremony, Gretzky scored the game winner.  Amazing.

Of course, Gretzky had many a career moments like that.  Dozens of NHL records and milestones.  Plenty of memories for a hockey fan.  I was fortunate enough to see Wayne Gretzky play in Toronto in 1998.  It was the only time I seen him in-person.

The Leafs may never lift the Stanley Cup anytime soon and Austin Matthews isn’t likely score 92 goals in a season.  But things are certainly looking up for Leafs fans in Hogtown.

Griffin signs with the Varsity Blues

Griffin Assance-Goulais signs a letter of intent with Greg Gary, head coach and manager of football operations for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team.
TORONTO – Today, North Bay football prospect, Griffin Assance-Goulais donned an exclusive Blues Football cap and signed a Letter of Intent to play for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
Following a number of conversations with the recruiting coordinator, coaching staff and eventually Varisty Blues head coach Greg Gary, Griffin made the decision to couple his academic career by playing varsity football in the fall.
“This has been an amazing experience and a dream come true. This is everything I wanted football to lead up to,” said Assance-Goulais, a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall.  Griffin is eager to credit hard work, his local coaches, his parents and his brother for his journey to U of T.
The U of T coaching staff, who have been in discussions with him for a number of weeks, are expecting to develop Assance-Goulais into a tight end or fullback.  He will be attending the training camp at Varsity Stadium in August.  The Varsity Blues are organizing their first exhibition game in Montreal.
In addition to keeping up his academic standing, Griffin will be following the strict U of T training regimen over the next four months.
“I am anticipating more hard work.  Not only am I ready to contribute to the team, I have to make it in one of the most prestigious universities in Canada. I feel like I’m up to the challenge,” said Assance-Goulais.
Also on Saturday, Griffin participated in a Varsity Blues Football Academy, a workout with the strength and conditioning coach and an exclusive tour of the varsity locker room.
An Anishinaabe of Beausoleil First Nation and Nipissing First Nation, Griffin will be playing with the Nipissing Wild during the upcoming summer football season.
– 30 –

Our families are our most important priority

I wanted to send out a little note to let my friends and family know that I’ll be leaving the Assembly of First Nations in order to spend more time with my family at home.  Our families are our most important priority.  For me, this difficult decision was guided by my values as a Midewiwin Anishinaabe man, a husband and father.

Chi-miigwetch to National Chief Perry Bellegarde, CEO Judy White and the talented and dedicated staff at the AFN. I only wish I could have spent more time with you.

On a personal note, Deborah and I, like many other families, struggle having a child of mental illness. Some days are harder than others.  Support, Love and understanding are an absolute necessity to cope with this lifelong journey. But so are much needed supports and investments in First Nations youth, both on-reserve and in the cities.

We sincerely appreciate all your kind thoughts, prayers and support.

 

All I want for Christmas… from your hard-working, loyal civil servant

bob_parliamenthillPublic servants are among the most hard working people in the world. We’re up early – usually in the office before the sun peaks over the horizon. Sometimes we forgo our lunch just to catch up on things. Breaks… what’s that? Very often we work late into the evening without overtime pay or any other reward.

Our bosses – our Chiefs, Ministers or even leaders a little further up the telephone directory hierarchy, are equally hard working and dedicated.

Many of us are not in it for the reward, the power or the limelight. We do this work for the people at home, our children, our grandchildren, our families, our communities and our Nation. I Love what I do because I know it will lead to positive changes for First Nations and improve the lives of Anishinaabeg everywhere.

…And then we read social media.

We hear from people who describe themselves as warriors – as righteous defenders of our Nations – whose only weapon is negativity and not-so-coherent verbosity. Arm-chair critics, without any facts, spewing their vitriol at the world claiming it’s for the greater good. There are those that post the profane one-liners. There are others that see themselves as activists, who make use of blogs, skewed media sources, shoddy research and speculation to make their case to the world. Keep in mind that 90 per cent of the content on the internet is either someone’s opinion, it’s inaccurate, out-of-context or just plain fiction. (To make the point even further, I freely admit I made up that statistic. I bolded it, just to emphasize my point. Now you’re going back to re-read the sentence. Now you’re working it out in your head. This is not a Jedi mind trick.)

I digress.

We need government. We need leadership. We need a public service, both First Nations and mainstream, to do the work of the people. We need people to provide sound public policy research, analysis and options and a second and third look at legislation, regulations and policies. We’re not simply spinning our wheels and collecting a paycheque.

Instead of clicking and clacking, join a committee, attend a seminar, read real research. Provide some informed public comment that just might contribute to constructive dialogue on important public policy matters. Ask questions, provide your feedback, ask for an update, provide a suggestion. Our work is not secret. In fact, we’re always seeking new ways to communicate our work to our constituency.

All I want for Christmas is goodwill toward men and women, including your public service.

National Chief Bellegarde appoints new Chief-of-Staff

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Bob Goulais and National Chief Perry Bellegarde

(Ottawa, ON) ― Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Chief of Staff who will be responsible for implementation of his political agenda affecting First Nation across Canada. Bob Goulais, an Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation in Ontario, brings a great deal of experience with indigenous organizations, government and the private sector to the AFN. Goulais will assume his new duties on November 7, 2016.

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Bob Goulais as my Chief of Staff. I have great confidence in his abilities and appreciate the diverse skillset he brings to my office,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “He will play a key role in providing strategic advice, political advice and advancing our agenda.”

“There is an unprecedented opportunity for First Nations in Canada to influence the public policy landscape and implement positive change for our peoples,” said Bob Goulais. “I look forward to the challenge of this important position and supporting the National Chief in representing First Nations rights, interests and perspectives.”

“This is an exciting time for the Assembly of First Nations, where we are solidifying corporate and political leadership with the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer and my Chief of Staff,” said National Chief Bellegarde. Mr. Goulais joins Ms. Judy White, a Mi’kmaq from Flat Bay, who assumed the office of CEO on October 31.

Mr. Goulais is an experienced senior executive, public servant and professional communicator who has provided more than 20 years of service to industry, non-for-profit, First Nations and government. Throughout his career, Goulais has excelled in situations requiring significant change management, organizational development and community engagement. Goulais recently served as President of Nbisiing Consulting Inc., the founding Director of Aboriginal Relations for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Senior Communications Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Manager of Cultural Policy and Strategic Policy and Planning for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and Chief of Staff for the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde has also expressed his gratitude to former Acting Chief of Staff Wendy Moss for filling the role for the past five months.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

The Walking Dead is far to violent for populous consumption

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The Walking Dead is getting far too violent and disturbing. No question. The Season 7 premiere was cringeworthy, barbaric, grotesque and gutwrenchingly forlorn.

To kill a mindless, fictional zombie character in such a horrible way is horrible enough. But to portray not one, but two terrifying, bludgeoning executions of two beloved characters while their friends are forced to watch in horror is certifiably extreme.  “What, are you still there?,” said Negan. “I just popped your skull so hard your eyeball just popped out!”

The latest antagonist, Negan, is the most sadistic character I can recall in my many years of film, TV and literary experiences. Who gives the name “Lucille” to their barbed-wire covered baseball bat? Between the “eeny-meeny-miny-mo”, “try to reach the axe” and “go out and find my axe”, this is all a messed-up game for this homicidal character.

To top this all off, while fans are still reeling from the miserable events taking place, we are just about to see, potentially, the worse dismemberment scene in television history. Thankfully, our hero doesn’t have to go through with cutting his own son’s left arm off.  (I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence!)  But as an audience, we can’t turn away no matter how sick it makes us feel. It really was sickening.

I now understand the critics (and my Momma-in-law) who say that TV has gone too far.  Indeed, this is far too violent and disturbing for populous consumption. I truly hope that parents are keeping tabs on what their young children are watching and that they aren’t watching TWD.

Which raises the question: who in their right mind can be entertained by such a gruesome and macabre story and imagery?

I can’t wait until next week!