Posts tagged ‘Indian Act’

Gichi-Naaknigewin – Defining Our Citizenship

[youtube]http://youtu.be/IjhJgEC90fo[/youtube]

Why I’m an angry Native

By Jessica Lee
from Racialicious.com

Right now I’m owning the title/stereotype/image/whatever you conjure up in your mind about “angry Natives” because along with the usual colonial-type affronts to our people and communities, there are some notable racist extremities happening across Canada as of late. Initially I felt like there was just way too much going on to even write a single post about – but I thought to at least round up a few of the points of why I’m so flippin’, screaming, ANGRY that may shed light on what some of you may not be aware of yet. And we also need y’all to do something about this stuff in your communities too:

 

  • The continuous denial of racism towards Aboriginal people in the education system. A new study from the Canadian Teacher’s Federation interviewed 59 Aboriginal teachers teaching in public schools throughout the country. The teachers reported a disregard for their qualifications and capabilities, a standard lowered expectation from Aboriginal students; and general disparage of the long-lasting effects of colonization.
  • The “Free Native Extraction Service” placed on the http://www.usedwinnipeg.com/website (of course taken down now) advertising that it could “get rid of those pesky buggers with extraction services to relocate them to their habitat.” To top it off they actually illegally used a photo in their advertisement from the Native Lens Film “March Point” which I wrote about here some months back – which is, incidentally, a film about environmental justice and what Native youth are doing positively in our communities.
  • Tuberculosis is 185 times higher in the Inuit population than in the rest of Canada. I repeat 185 times the national average – according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.  The recently released data from their Tuberculosis in Canada 2008 publication shows these appalling numbers contributing factors include “inadequate housing, as a result of both overcrowding and construction ill suited to the Arctic climate, and immune systems severely compromised by a general lack of healthy, affordable food’.”
  • Harmonized Sales Tax or HST coming to the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Not that the government ignoring treaties is news by any stretch of the mind – however this is a big one to throw out the door of rights. The imposition of HST means that instead of seeing 8 per cent provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST or PST) and 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), consumers will pay a combined 13 per cent HST. Yet for the first time since the introduction of the provincial sales tax, HST means status First Nations will be subject to the 8 per cent portion of the tax. This is a total and blatant violation of our treaty rights, not to mention the Canadian Constitution. This is a good article to find out more and you can go here to do something about it.
  • Massive cuts to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, along with other insulting highlights from the Throne Speech, which is essentially an outline of the Canadian federal government’s budget. (Sign the online petition to reinstate funding here.) The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has provided support to residential school survivors and their families for a decade, in addition to funding major projects in communities across the country. My colleagues and friends at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Inuvialuit Regional Corp in the Northwest Territories will have to axe some of their most necessary programs like health promotion and community wellness worker certification. In total it means 134 community projects across Canada will no longer provide culturally-based healing services to Aboriginal people. Oh sure Harper said he was “sorry” for residential schools in 2008, but just last year he said that Canada has no history of colonialism, so I guess this is right in line with the$199 million promised to address the legacy of residential schools not being committed to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. But don’t worry, in this same speech they said that Canada thinks the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a “pressing criminal justice priority.” Uh-huh.
  • All of the racist garbage  and lateral violence people are spewing on the internet and in person about the proposed changes to Indian Status which would restore treaty rights to about 45 000 people. This decision is based mostly off of the Sharon McIvor court case, which addressed the specific gender discrimination of the Indian Act where even after the laws were changed in 1985 to restore status to Native women who lost it if they married a non-Native man, it didn’t extend past the children of those unions.  However the new changes would now extend to grandchildren. I definitely don’t think the government should be able to regulate who is and is not considered “status”, but I don’t anymore appreciate the internalized racism that we are doing to each other by adding extra jumps and hoops to go through within the community for who is really recognized as having rights on reserve and who is not.
  • These are just some of the latest oppressive occurrences against Indigenous people in Canada. On the regular I suppose I’ll also mention since it was International Women’s Day week last week, I didn’t find it any easier to get chastised by white women at the many events I spoke at when I brought up the mostly white academic industrial complex that mainstream feminism still lies in, and really doesn’t appear to care about the origins in Indigenous societies or the realities of Indigenous women for that matter – up until now (well, sort of) since we’re all of a sudden making the media with the thousands of us being murdered and going missing.

But it’s been going on for the last 500+ years, anyways.

Canada’s Dirty Little Secret

Tiger Woods isn’t the only one with a dirty, little secret.

Canada still has fundamental human rights challenges. This is related to the conditions and history of Canada’s First Nations people. Sadly, these challenges are not generally known outside of Canada. Even some Canadians have blinders on. Many try to refute the truth and the statistics while never stepping foot in a remote First Nation community.

Today is International Human Rights Day. 61 years ago, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlining the 20 fundamental human rights that every human being is entitled to. According to Guinness World Records, it is also the most translated document in the world.

I wish it could only be translated into Canadian.

Last week, Stephen Harper was carrying his message of human rights to China – while fully ignoring the realities of his own backyard. Canada is not squeaky clean when it comes to human rights.

Here are just a few of the main human rights issues faced by Canada’s First Nations:

Third World Conditions – Canada currently ranks 4th in the world on the United Nations human development index. However, when Indian and Northern Affairs Canada entered First Nations-data only in the index, Canada ranks 63rd. Officially, this places Canada’s First Nations firmly in the realm of third world conditions.

Quality of Life Indicators – Infant mortality, life expectancy, homelessness, inadequate housing, incidents of tuberculosis, health disease, HIV-AIDS, diabetes – First Nations in Canada are near the top of the statistics. Suicide is the leading cause of death among First Nations between the ages of 10 and 24.

Aboriginal Women – Article 3 of the Universal Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Yet, in recent years, there have been over 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Most are the most vulnerable people in Canada, forced into homelessness, prostitution and unsafe situations. Many women and children are forced away from their homes, due to inequalities under the Indian Act and lack of matrimonial property laws. Once again, article 17 of the Declaration states: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

Residential Schools – Article 5 states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” For decades, First Nations children were forcibly removed from the homes, families and communities and forced to attend government sanctioned, church-run residential schools. Inside they were subject to systemic assimilation, physical abuse and sexual abuse. Entire generations of people endured inhuman and degrading treatment on behalf of the government and in the name of the Lord. First Nations survivors and victims were only given an apology in June 2008. Individuals and affected families were provided long-awaited compensation. Many more are still unresolved. Many thousands of Elders, the survivors, have died in anguish without any acknowledgement. Yet, the government has yet to deal with multi-generational trauma and the affected of residential school on language and culture. A truth and reconciliation commission will be travelling throughout Canada documenting the stories from Canada’s saddest chapter in it’s history.

Child Poverty – According to Campaign 2000, one in four Aboriginal children grow up in poverty. That is utterly signficant. Canada has attempted to address child poverty, and in 1989 passed a motion in the House of Commons to rid poverty by the year 2000. Not even close. Statistics are not improving.

Child Welfare – The Assembly of First Nations is currently before the Canadian Human Rights Commission after filing a complaint against the federal government over child welfare. There are over 27,000 First Nations children in care which is considered by many to be a state of crisis. Former National Chief Phil Fontaine described the conditions as a “national disgrace”. To this day, funding of First Nations child protection agencies is woefully inadequate to address the current need, much less lead to proactive, preventative measures. The situation is similar to what was referred to as the “Sixties Scoop”, another Canadian historical taboo. In the 1960s, thousands of First Nations children were removed from their homes on reserves and placed into non-native care. Many of those children never reconnected with their First Nations culture and roots. Others were adopted out to non-native families without proper consent.

Education Inequity – Article 20 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to education.” But apparently this right is provided in varying degrees, at the discretion of the Crown. First Nations students going to school on-reserve are funded at least $2,000-$5000 less than non-native students attending public schools. On-reserve school facilities are inadequate and in many cases unsafe. As a result, the drop out rate for First Nations students is three times the Canadian average. About 70% of First Nations students on-reserve will never complete high school. This is all according to Government of Canada statistics.

Clean Drinking Water – Article 25 states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,” However, there are still hundreds of boil water advisories in First Nation communities. That is boil water advisories for the entire communities, affecting every single home, affecting every single man, women and child. There is a fundamental lack of funding, standards and training for First Nations, much less the infrastructure needed to treat water and wastewater. Schools do not have clean potable water.

Indigenous Rights – Canada and the United States continues to refuse to be signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights. This document entrenches the aspirations, values and rights of First Nations people including the right to have full enjoyment of the Rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not to mention the right to self-determination and self-government.

Perhaps, this message needs to be sent out during the Olympic Torch Run, leading up to and throughout the course of the 2010 Winter Olympics and perhaps during the Pan-Am Games. The message should be loud and clear during the upcoming G-8 meeting in Huntsville and the G-20 in Toronto.

I suggest that First Nations, as represented by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) should join the fledgling “G-77”, the group of seventy-seven on the world’s poorest countries as a means of contributing to world affairs and gaining international attention to Canada’s dirty little secret.