Posts tagged ‘First Nations’

Day 20: Protecting Mother Earth a Priority

I’ve used my blog to talk about First Nations poverty during the election, but haven’t spoken much about environmental issues.

An important issue in this election is Canada’s place in the world.  Unfortunately, in the last five years or so, Canada has not stepped up to the plate when it comes to issues of foreign policy, advocating for human rights, and most importantly, protecting the environment.

For Anishinaabe people, there is nothing more important than protecting Shkaakamik-kwe, our Mother Earth.  From the time of Creation, Gzhemnidoo gave the responsibility to the Anishinaabeg to be stewards of the earth.  Our Anishinaabe-kwe (women) were given the responsibility to look after and speak to the water.  More and more, Anishinabe people are taking those instructions and sacred duty very seriously.

However, we all need to speak up in ensuring Canada takes their role as global environmentalists seriously.

It wasn’t long ago that Canada played a leadership role in developing the Kyoto Accord.  We were serious in putting a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and introduce a carbon tax.

However, under the Harper government, all that environmental progress has been lost in favour of big business, oil pipelines, oil sands development and corporate tax cuts.  Harper has bowed to American interests, rather than do what needs to be done.  The Conservative government wasn’t a signifcant factor in either the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009 nor the Cancun climate conference in 2010.

The Liberal Party has provided a platform that First Nations people can be proud of.  They continue to assert their position and commitment to a long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  In the meantime, a Liberal government will work with domestic and international partners on practical, but meaningful medium-term goals.

More significantly for us Anishinaabe living in our Great Lakes territory, the Liberals have promised to develop the first ever Canadian Freshwater Strategy.  As in the past, I’m certain that the LPC will be working with First Nations in ensuring our traditional territories and cultural perspectives are an important consideration in this important initiative.

The freshwater strategy also includes a ban on the exporting of freshwater, something many environmentalists and First Nations have been calling for.  I know I will be working to ensure this ban includes eliminating the loophole that allows the exporting of containers 20 litres or less (i.e. bottled water).

Finally, it’s always nice to get an endorsement from leading environmentalists.

“We applaud the Liberal party’s funding allocation for restoration of the Great Lakes, clean up of Lake Winnipeg and strategies to address invasive species,” said the Council of Canadians.

Day 18: The Election and the First Nation’s Economy

Many people think a First Nation’s economy should be based on resource development. Some think building an economy starts with tourism. A few feel it’s all about smoke shops. For me, it’s much simpler than that. Building an economy should start from the ground up.

I’ll concede that a strong economy requires outside investment, corporate and industry opportunities. That’s certainly the case of a strong, FUNCTIONING economy. But First Nations are not quite there… yet. For First Nations communities, an economy has to start with family and community.

This election is about a stark choice between tax cuts and benefits for big business and idealistic support for families. The Conservatives are relying on big business to foster the economy. Most communities don’t have their own grocery store, much less commercial infrastructure or an industrial park.  While the Liberal and NDP vision is to restore strength and support to Canadian families.

In First Nations, most communities need to build their micro-economies starting with family income.  In order to foster small business, and a small products and services industry within a community, each household requires a stable income source. This can only happen with greater opportunity and sustainable jobs.

But there is a broad spectrum of support needed to enable those jobs. In order to get jobs, First Nations citizens needs skills. For higher skilled jobs – our people need a college diploma or a university degree. In order to get to our jobs or our classes, we need child care, income support and to be able to care for our Elders or sick family members.

First Nations governments also need support. We need schools, daycares, health centres, community centres, libraries, adequate housing and clean water to support our citizen’s success. First Nations don’t have a tax base, and require a government to support and understand the complex fiduciary relationship that sustains ongoing funding to First Nation communities.

Sure, we need willing partners, economic development, joint ventures and resource development opportunities. But there will be no one to take advantage of those opportunities without proper support to First Nations communities and families.

The Conservative plan does absolutely nothing to meet First Nation’s needs in these areas. In fact, I’ve never heard so much voter backlash against a governing party from First Nations.

In most cases, we’re far from welcoming Bombardier or Samsung to our reserve borders, although two First Nations are oh so close, respectively. Six Nations may have an economic deal in the works with the Korean, green energy giant, while Fort William is a stone’s throw from the Bombardier transit assembly facility. But even in those progressive communities, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Conservative supporter in their midst.

Day 13: A First Nation Vision of Canada

Karen Mock (Liberal, Thornhill), Jack Heath, Deputy Mayor of Markham and Bob Goulais at the opening of the "Taking Back Thornhill" campaign office.

Those of you who know me well, know I have a great affinity for world religions.  I am a tremendous supporter of Israel and am fascinated with Judaism especially.

During my election campaign work, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of Canada’s finest Jewish citizens – all dedicated to the cause of anti-racism, combating discrimination and antisemitism.  Those same people are also dedicated to ending racism and discrimination against First Nations people as well and will fight tooth-and-nail alongside our people.

This week, I had the pleasure of doing a welcome song for the opening of Karen Mock’s (Liberal, Thornhill) election campaign.  I’ve had the same pleasure for Anthony Rota (Liberal, Nipissing-Timiscaming) and The Right Hon. Paul Martin in 2004.

Karen respectfully and discretely presented me with a tobacco tie, as is our Anishinaabe custom.  I was happy to speak in support of Karen, the Liberal aboriginal platform and provide a song for the group of about 150 people.

The day also featured a number of multi-cultural blessings.  Shortly after the opening song, my new friend Rabbi Meir Gitlin, placed the mezzuzah on the doorpost of the campaign office.  This little scroll is a reminder of God’s presence as well as keeping God in our minds and in our hearts.

The day also welcomed a blessing from the Muslim faith and a blessing song from a supportive, local Hindu leader.

Rabbi Gitlin placing the mezzuzah.

Really, that’s my vision of Canada.  A tolerant, supportive multicultural community with equal opportunity and hope for all people.

Now why on earth would I have a “vision of Canada”?  After all… I’m NOT Canadian.

First and foremost, I am Anishinaabe.  Not necessarily “Canadian” – but a citizen of another nation within Canada.  When our ancestors signed the treaties, they did indeed state we would be a part of Canada and remain loyal to the Crown.  As recent as the Constitutional talks of the 1980s, our Anishinabek leaders affirmed that “we wish to remain within Canada, but within a revised constitutional framework.”

I choose to respect my ancestors and be loyal to the Crown.  As such, I choose to be a part of a multicultural Canada and I choose to fight for my vision of Canada.  That’s why I’m involved in the election campaign and why I volunteer each and every time.

Still many First Nations take the position that they are not a part of Canada.  Some feel we should vote or participate in another nation’s election.

We must remember that many of our ancestors and relatives fought long and hard for our right to become citizens of Canada and for our right to vote.  We shouldn’t besmirch their good work by staying home and not getting involved.

I’ll give you one more reason to vote on May 2.  We all know the consequences of a Harper majority on First Nations rights.

Day 12: First Nations would benefit from Electoral Reform

There are a lot of First Nation voters that are tempted to support the New Democratic Party or Green Party this election.  After all, these parties have very progressive agendas when it comes to First Nations issues.  Some voters are just so angry at Conservatives and the Liberals for the current state of Parliament and our fourth election since 2004.

But it’s easy to be progressive and responsive from fourth party status and no-party status.

As the Conservatives say in their latest TV ad:  “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for Ignatieff.”  (Brilliant, eh?  Who writes this stuff for them?)  That’s certainly true.  Truth is, this time around, a vote for NDP or the Greens is a vote for HARPER.

I’ve been swayed by the charms of Jack Layton too.  Last election, the NDP promised to restore the Kelowna Accord.  But we can’t forget the fact that Kelowna was conceived of and led by a historic partnership between the Liberals, the provinces and First Nations. Sadly, it was the NDP supporting the Harper Conservatives who brought down the Martin government and thusly, obliterated the most significant piece of Aboriginal policy…  EVER!

Promise what they want, the reality is that the NDP have absolutely no hope whatsoever of forming the opposition, much less a government. For Layton, it’s easy to support every single social cause you bring to them.  In my political experience, the NDP have never said “no” to First Nations.

Another fact is, the Greens have absolutely no hope whatsoever of winning a single seat, much less form a caucus in Parliament. I offer my kodos to Elizabeth May for stepping up and demanding to be heard through a debate.  But truth be told, she’s unelectable herself.

Monday night, I was contacted by devasmicota on Twitter who suggested that we ought to support a First Nations party.  “How about a First Nations Party for whom we don’t have to sell our souls to”. I agree wholeheartedly.  To me, that is the best way to ensure our voice is heard in Parliament.  But electing an MP on a First Nations Party ticket is just not going to happen anytime soon.

However, there is hope.

Every once in a while, there is a call to examine and change the way we elect parliament.  The call for proportional representation will get even louder if the government fails to make a minority parliament work after the third time.

Proportional representation is a type of election system that moves away from the first-past-the-post election of MPs, to allocating seats based on representative need.  During the 2007 Ontario election, there was a referendum asking voters that very question. Unfortunately, it failed miserably.

We can certainly argue that Canada needs a seat, or a number of seats allocated in the House of Commons for First Nations.  We can also use proportional representation to ensure every party has an elected MP based on popular vote.  If that were the case, in 2008 the Greens would have elected 20 MPs. That’s great news for the environment, but bad news for Elizabeth May’s day job.

First Nations would truly benefit from electoral reform.  Not only would we get one or two seats in Parliament by means of a set-aside.  A First Nations party could manage to get two or three more based on the popular vote.  Five seats in a proportional representative parliament is a mighty caucus.  In a minority parliament, those five votes might just hold the balance of power.

That being said, I wish all the luck to Will Morin, leader of the First Nations National Party in his candidacy in the Sudbury riding.  Folks like Will and Jerry Fontaine, both Anishinaabe, will be instrumental under a proportional representation system when the time comes.

If Parliament continues as it has in the past five years, the time for proportional representation won’t come soon enough.

Day 9: An Election Platform That First Nations Can Be Proud Of

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I had to pull of the road to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  I had to make sure what I was reading was real.  The Liberal platform outperformed every expectation I had.

Ask yourself:  what are First Nation’s priorities this election?  Addressing poverty would be number one. Followed by housing.  Addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women would be high on that list.  But most of all, investing in First Nations education and addressing education funding shortfalls are essential parts of building the First Nations economy and improving social conditions.

Well guess what?  Every single one of these priorities is in the Liberal platform!!

I attribute this directly to the creation of the Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Peoples Commission (APC).  Not many people know that we have First Nations, Métis and Inuit people represented within the party through a grass-roots commission. They make policy recommendations, address priorities within the party and have every opportunity to set election campaign policy.  Of course they may not have the final say in what goes in the platform document, but this time around, it seems that those recommendations are being heard.  Thanks to Tanya Kappo and the executive of the APC for their leadership and amazing work.

For First Nations people, the Liberal platform delivers.  I would go once step further and say that the Liberal platform is something that First Nations can be proud of.

Now, the only way we can see these things happen is to elect a Liberal government.  For all my friends in the Twitter universe, on Facebook and who are reading my Blog – this should be incredible motivation to get involved.  We have a party who cares for you.  We have an amazing family-oriented plan.  We need you to vote Liberal.  We also need you to find out who your Liberal candidate, put on your jacket, visit their office and volunteer.  Encourage all your friends to pass this message along.

Opportunities like this don’t happen every day.  Let’s make this happen.  Today, I’m so proud to be Liberal.



From the Liberal Platform

Here are a few excerpts that may be of interest to First Nations people.  This is in addition to the previous announcements of a Canada Learning Passport and the Liberal Family Care Plan.


na Accord broke new ground in building relationships among federal, provincial and Aboriginal leadership based on respect and shared commitment to fairness and results. Much has changed since 2005, but much can be gained by retaining the lessons and spirit of the Kelowna process.

Aboriginal people are taking action with hope and ambition for the future. The federal government must stand with them as partners to accelerate progress in several major areas. Education is the most fundamental, and should be the top priority. A Liberal government will commit to working with Aboriginal leaders toward the goal of ensuring Aboriginal people have the same quality of opportunities to learn as other Canadians.

With a population that’s growing at six times the national average, and a median age of only 27, the success of Canada’s Aboriginal people is critical to our country’s economic well being. For them, as for most Canadians, learning is the key to success.

Yet, the dropout rate among Aboriginal students is twice the national average. And those who do reach post-secondary education face long odds against finishing.

One of the drivers of these tragic statistics is the underfunding of aboriginal education in Canada. Most on-reserve schools, funded by the federal government, receive significantly less per pupil than schools in the provincial systems. And while federal funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education has been capped at 2 percent per year, tuition is rising at twice that rate.

A Liberal Government will invest an additional $200 million in its first two years to lift the cap on post-secondary education funding. Consistent with the approach of the Learning Passport, we will explore with Aboriginal leaders ways to deliver resources more directly to students and their families. A key objective will be to increase the retention of Aboriginal students in Canada’s post secondary institutions.

Addressing the challenges in K-12 education is even more fundamental. A Liberal government will work with Aboriginal leadership to address inadequate funding over the medium term, starting with $300 million in new investment in its second year. We will support efforts to improve administration.

First Nations University in Saskatchewan, an important institution, will be re-financed under a Liberal government. We will create a Canada Métis Scholarship program, with a $5 million annual investment in Métis students.

A Liberal government will also create an Office of the First Nations Auditor General to monitor progress, identify best practices, and ensure accountability for public funds.


Violence against women persists in all Canadian communities. Aboriginal women are particularly affected. The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates the number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is more than 580. These cases amount to nearly ten per cent of female homicides in Canada, even though only three per cent of the female population is Aboriginal. There has been little action from the federal government to address this tragedy.

A Liberal government will mandate a national task force to examine the systemic causes of this problem, with an emphasis on preventing its continuation in the future. It will build on the work of provinces and Aboriginal women, and report to the Minister of Justice with an analysis and recommendations.


According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), one-quarter of households face affordability problems, meaning that more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing. Thirteen percent of homes are in need of major repairs, or are unsuitable for the number of people living in them. The figures are even worse for seniors and new Canadians and, of course, they don’t even address the homeless. At the same time, the shortage of affordable housing in large cities presents a growing barrier to young families of modest incomes looking for their first home.

While modest public investments are resulting in new affordable housing coming on the market, other affordable units have been disappearing at double the rate, due to gentrification, low interest rates and growing demand. The federal government has been an unreliable presence in affordable housing in recent years. A long-term commitment to partnership with other levels of government is needed.A Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to put in place a renewed Affordable Housing Framework (AHF). The previous Framework was established a decade ago, and several programs are temporarily extended, but under review by the Harper government. The main objectives of the new Framework will be to:

  • Reduce homelessness;
  • Maintain and renew existing affordable housing stock; and
  • Stimulate new construction of affordable housing.

The new Framework will feature a long-term commitment by the federal government, replacing the collection of temporary programs that currently exist. The magnitude of that long-term commitment will necessarily depend on consultations with municipalities and the government’s overall financial situation in the coming years. However, in its first two years, a Liberal government will increase federal investment in affordable housing by $550 million.

Housing challenges and opportunities vary from one region to another. Therefore, the new Affordable Housing Framework will emphasize flexibility and openness to innovative approaches such as tax incentives and loan guarantees. It will offer a platform for more effective collaboration among all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors. The new Framework will promote progress on the particular needs of people with disabilities, as well as Northern and Aboriginal communities. It will also recognize that affordable housing is one major piece of the larger puzzle for reducing poverty.


More than 3.5 million Canadians live in poverty, including more than one in ten children. Canada ranks near the bottom of the list of major developed countries for poverty rates.

Leaders at all levels must come to grips with rising inequality. The persistence of poverty across the country remains an unmet challenge, robbing individuals of fair and equal opportunity, sapping productivity from the economy, and even undermining confidence in our democracy. Canada cannot afford not to fight poverty. It will require the engagement of all Canadians, including businesses, individuals, experts and civil society.

Most provincial governments have demonstrated leadership by launching poverty reduction strategies. Building on those efforts, a Liberal government will work with partners at all levels to develop a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada. It will set goals, indentify practical measures for achieving them and set out who can do what among all the partners. The outlook will be long-term.

Several major commitments of this platform will be the foundation of a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada: the Canadian Learning Strategy, particularly Early Childhood Learning and Care, the Learning Passport for post-secondary education access, and Aboriginal learning; Family Care; a renewed focus on volunteerism through the Canada Service Corps; the National Food Policy’s nutrition measures; and a new Affordable Housing Framework. These practical measures to support Canadian families, worth more than $5 billion over two years, will help reduce poverty and inequality, especially as part of a whole-of-Canada effort to strengthen our communities. They will also contribute to a stronger economy over the long-term.


The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years.


Canadians take pride in their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and see it as both an expression of our values, and a tool for building a more equal society. Access to justice is essential for a meaningful commitment to equality in our democracy, but the high costs of litigation can sometimes silence those whose rights are already most vulnerable. The Court Challenges Program provided financial assistance for pursuing language and equality rights under Canada’s Constitution, but the Harper government cancelled the program. A Liberal government will reinstate the Court Challenges Program in order to maintain effective access to justice, and to prevent financial barriers from blocking the pursuit of equality for all Canadians.

Day 4: Closing the Gap on First Nations Poverty

I’m really pleased to be spearheading a new campaign to raise awareness of First Nations poverty during the federal election.  We are calling for next government to make it a priority to close the socio-economic gap between First Nations and all Canadians.  Please support this important campaign.

Welcome to the ‘Closing The Gap’ Website

Posted on March 29, 2011 by admin

Welcome to the website for Closing the Gap 2011, a campaign to address First Nations poverty during the 2011 federal election.

This website is up and running and we hope to welcome our first supporters through Facebook and Twitter.

Our goal is to create an awareness abour First Nations poverty and to reduce the socio-economic gap between First Nation and all Canadians.

Here are some of the facts:

  • ???One in four First Nations children live in poverty as compared to one in six for non-Aboriginal children. (Campaign 2000)
  • Rates of poverty for Aboriginal women are double that of non-Aboriginal women. (Status of Women)
  • Aboriginal people in Canada were found to be four times more likely to experience hunger as a direct result of poverty. (HRDC)
  • Despite contemporary stereotypes that suggest otherwise, per capita spending on First Nations is half the amount of average Canadians: $8,754 compared to $18,724. (INAC, StatsCan)
  • Nearly one in four First Nations adults live in crowded homes and 23% of Aboriginal people live in houses in need of major repairs. (Assembly of First Nations)

A public launch of the campaign should take place next week.  Stay tuned for more details.  In the meantime.  Please tell your friends to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Day 3: First Nations can be an Election Factor

I don’t have a lot of thoughts on the federal election today.  It was good to see Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff (Liberal, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) supporting his Toronto-area candidates.  He spent some time with Christine Innes (Liberal, Trinity-Spadina) and his own riding before travelling to Mississauga for the GTA campaign launch this evening.

I do want to pick up on something that Cynthia Wesley-Esquimeaux (Liberal, York-Simcoe) tweeted earlier today.  We both are advocating for First Nations and Métis people to play a greater role in the election.  Sure we can’t all be a candidate, or even volunteer or attend a campaign rally.  However, we call all do some research on the issues and make an informed decision at the ballot box.  Not only is it our right to vote, as a democratic society, it is our duty.

But there are a lot of historical reasons why First Nations people don’t vote.  It wasn’t until March 31, 1960 that First Nations were granted the right to vote.  Not only were our people disenfranchised, our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles were faced with outright discrimination and made to feel inferior to non-native people.  We didn’t feel like we were a part of Canada.  Today, many communities continue to abstain from voting.

However, more and more, Aboriginal Canadians are taking part in the process.  And there are plenty of strategic reasons for doing so.

First Peoples represent a significant balance of power in 60 federal ridings across Canada.  In these riding, they account for more than 5 per cent of eligible voters. Ten of those “swing-vote’ ridings are in Ontario.  Some key ridings include Parry Sound-Muskoka, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Simcoe North, Peterborough, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Nickel Belt and Sault Ste. Marie.

First Nations people can be a significant factor in each of these ridings.  Even more so if our people got together to raise their issues and take a vocal role in the election.  Speak up and be heard and hold your candidates to account.

Today, Tony Belcourt, esteemed past-President of the Metis Nation of Ontario, spoke to Michael Ignatieff today.  Tony used the opportunity to raise an important message:

“I whispered in his ear: Michael, We don’t need more jails that are already filled with Aboriginal women. We need to use that money to get them out of there and keep them out!” “Yeah, he said, let’s get them out of there!”. Imagine having that kind of a discussion with Mr. Harper… not.”

Like Tony, we all need to raise the issues and speak to the candidates.  If there are able to support your issues, vote for them.  If not – move on and support those candidates and parties who will listen and take action.

Have a great evening, folks.  I’m late for Dr. House.

Province abandons hunt cabin appeal

Bruce McKay Photo.

First Nations have the right to build cabins without permit

The Chronicle-Journal
**NOTE:  This article is from March 2011.

A provincial appeal in the Meshake hunt cabin case has been abandoned, clearing the way for First Nations members to build hunt cabins on Crown land without permits.
The provincial appeal was to be heard Tuesday in Toronto, but the province backed down, Aroland First Nation said.

Aroland members were at the centre of the case, which saw the Ministry of Natural Resources attempt to stop Elsie and Howard Meshake from building a hunt cabin on Ogoki Lake’s Comb Island in the summer of 2003.

The MNR issued a stop-work order, saying the couple needed a work permit to build at the site, which is not part of Aroland itself, but is part of the band’s traditional territory.
Initially, a justice of the peace ruled that the Meshakes were protected by their constitutional rights under Treaty 9 in building their cabin.

Ontario appealed to the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Meshakes won.

Tuesday would have marked the province’s second appeal had it been heard. With the legal proceeding abandoned by Ontario, the lower court’s ruling stands.

“Traditionally, we would go out all over our territory to hunt, trap and fish, and we would build shelters for this purpose,” said Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon.

“We still do this. It has taken a long struggle, but we are interpreting this move as a sign that Ontario is finally accepting our rights to build and use our cabins out on the land,” Gagnon said.

For Canada, the UN Declaration remains "aspirational"

It’s a two-drink minimum at the Canada’s “Aspirational Bar”.  Today’s Special:  Aspirational + Non-Binding.

Today, Canada announced it is endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  Sounds tasty.  But without a plan to implement it, it likely won’t be served.

Sure it’s a nicey, nicey announcement.  It probably made for a good photo op for Minister John Duncan and officials from the United Nations.  But once again, Canada left First Nations out of the process.  Our Great White Father didn’t offer First Nations a table or even a seat at the bar.  We are once again looking in from the cold with their “No Indians Allowed” sign, illuminated outside.

The Government of Canada’s position all along was that the declaration is not compatible with our current Constitutional framework – meaning we still have the arbitrary and unilateral Indian Act, and Canada’s legislators are not willing to secure First Nations with a seat at the table when it comes to developing public policy.

When it comes to aspiring to something higher, Canada really has a long way to go.

Now that the government has endorsed the declaration, and has set the proverbial Aspirational Bar, it’s time for a proactive plan on achieving those aspirations.  Canada needs an implementation plan on how it will implement the articles in the declaration.  We need to call on Canada to convene a First Nations-Crown Gathering to begin this work in earnest.

However, implementing the right to self-determination, self-government, language, culture nationhood and citizenship are near impossible tasks for a Conservative government that pulled the plug on Kelowna and killed a $160 million investment in languages.

We need to take the Crown-First Nation relationship back to formula.  By amending the Constitution and implementing the Treaties.

Canada needs to work with First Nations to firmly establish self-government as a legitimate third-order of government.  First Nations need to have a seat in developing a new framework to implement the treaties and find new and sustainable means of funding First Nations governments.

But perhaps we have to start somewhere a little further down the Aspiritational Bar menu.

A significant part of the UN Declaration is the rights to land and inclusion in resource development.  First Nations should not only be consulted on activities that affect their rights, but have a seat at the table in decision-making and sharing in the bounty of resource development.  Perhaps Canada can start there and clarify laws surrounding the duty to consult on resource matters.

Come in from the cold, my friend.  Have a seat at the Aspiration Bar.  But given Canada’s aspirational approach, those First Nations who have been placed their order of free, prior and informed consent – will be left high and dry.

Uncovering Shielded Minds

In this video, a group of students from southern Ontario embark on a eye-awakening journey as they visit First Nation communities in northern Ontario.  Led by Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, the students visited communities in Georgian Bay, Manitoulin Island and the north shore of Lake Huron.  They conclude their trip with a visit to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

I enjoyed the scene when the students expressed their frustration over the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the lack of First Nations tour guides and proper context of the artifacts held there.  Earlier in the film, at the start of their trip, Karihwakeron Tim Thompson provides excellent oratory on the Hiawatha wampum and it’s significance.  When they visit the museum, they are faced with that same belt with such minimal labelling, context and displayed behind glass.

In my favorite scene, without prompting, the students become irate over a plaque that describes the residential school experience:  “But for other graduates, the pain of sexual abuse and cultural loss has overshadowed good intentions and practices.”  They complain to the museum also citing the exhibit which outlines a simplistic and narrow view of the residential schools.

Their experience and stories they have learned in just one week led them to action.

Shielded Minds: A Documentary from Joshua Kelly on Vimeo.