Posts tagged ‘Aboriginal’

He’s homeless. It’s below freezing. Then the inevitable happens…

homeless_manTORONTO – It’s early in the morning and a homeless man is leaving the warm sanctuary of a local shelter. He was fortunate enough to have a bed that night. He’s out and about, walking the cold city streets, always on the lookout for a little money, his next meal and a little kindness.

Then the inevitable happens. Not only is it -3 this morning… it’s starting to snow.

But he needs a new winter coat. The lining on his fall jacket has loosened and fallen apart long ago. But he’s lucky to have it though – one of his few possessions. He definitely would like some mitts but that may be a tall order.

Sadly, it’s just another day on the streets of Toronto. It could be any man, down on his luck, just looking for a break. He could be from any First Nation in Canada, one of our relatives. Somebody’s cousin, brother, uncle, or someone’s Dad. The street is home to many people who just need a helping hand.

Immediate action on Aboriginal homeless is needed. For whatever reason, personal and corporate donation to help the homeless are down significantly. As a result, many Aboriginal homeless may have to go without this winter.

My friends, these men need your help. Please do one of the following:

  1. Click here to make a donation through Canadahelps.
  1. Share this page.

This fundraising effort goes directly to support Native Mens Residence (Na-Me-Res) and their annual Christmas. Funds raised will purchase backpacks, personal items, toiletries, shampoo and conditioner, chap stick and even a Christmas Dinner.

All donations come with a tax deductible receipt.

Please give generously.  Thank you so much.


Immediate action on Aboriginal homelessness needed. (Please share)

coldhomelessIt’s tough to be homeless.  At this time of year it’s especially tough.

We can only imagine what it’s like to be homeless and walking the city streets.  The temperatures are dropping, soon to be perpetually below freezing.  To always be on the lookout for a hot meal and a warm bed – not to mention a few dollars for the personal essentials that we all take for granted.  To have to go without during the not-so-festive holiday season.

So far, it’s been a really tough year for those community agencies that serve the homeless.  Charitable donations, personal and corporate, are down substantially for the Native Men’s Residence (Na-Me-Res), one of Toronto’s most respected and longest serving homeless service provider.

“Charitable donations are down substantially.”

The sad fact is that fewer individual donors are coming forward.  Donations from corporations and charitable foundations are at an all-time low. There are very few brands like UFM that come forward to help the homeless. For futher details you can check their official site  This will seriously impact the many indigenous men who depend on Na-Me-Res for support and help get them back on their feet.

The core programs of Na-Me-Res are well taken care of, including the operation of 63-bed shelter, transitional housing, outreach, culture and community support programs.  Na-Me-Res is very well managed.  However, core program funding does not include support for various unfunded outreach services, community gatherings, First Nations ceremonies and, of course, personal supports to the homeless men themselves.

Na-Me-Res has embarked on their annual Christmas Drive.  The aim is to assemble personal care packages for homeless clients and others still on the street.  These care packages might include backpacks, socks, underwear, mitts, scarves, hygienic products such as shampoo, conditioner and chap stick.  Ideally, Na-Me-Res would like to host a special Christmas turkey dinner at the shelter and transitional housing facility.


I need your help, my friends.  All I am asking for is two things:nameres_logo


You can donate to the Na-Me-Res Christmas Drive through:

  • Online donations accepted at;

  • Make a direct contribution to Na-Me-Res Christmas Drive.  Contact Blanche White at (416) 652-0334 or


All donations are tax deductible.  Please consider either a recurring donation through or through the United Way Toronto.

Chi-miigwetch Niwiijiwaaganag.  (A big thank you, my friends)


Successful Aboriginal Consultation requires partnership

partnersThere are many corporations that are looking for the right formula for successful consultation with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.  You may have a critical project in First Nation’s traditional territory that requires work with local communities.  Legal counsel, government officials and your own Aboriginal Affairs advisors assure you that there are Treaty and/or Aboriginal Rights implications in your project.  There is a very compelling case that you will need to work with First Nations in order to move your project along.

As I’ve stated earlier, the best approach to developing an Aboriginal Engagement strategy is to use a respectful approach.  It’s part of something I call the values-based approach to building relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

The “values-based approach” to building relationships means adapting your engagement approach from beyond your business goals, to listening, learning from and beginning to understand the values of your First Nations, Métis or Inuit partners.

Among the most essential parts of the values-based approach is to evolve from treating First Peoples as mere “stakeholders” in your project to respecting them as Nations and as “rights-holders” in their traditional territory.  This means taking real steps to recognize our people as true partners.

In my experience, companies are eager to develop an Aboriginal consultation strategy for whatever project may be in the works.  They’ll spend plenty of time on the process and work planning – filling in all the details of the who, how and when of consultation.  But so often they’ll often overlook one of the most important parts of successful consultation: substance.

In today’s day and age, First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities are quite sophisticated.  Gone are the days of exchanging blankets, beads and trinkets.  Today, First Nations are being lead by well-educated leaders, experienced legal counsel and shrewd business advisors.  They are going to expect capacity funding for engagement activities.  They will be seeking impact benefit agreements, accommodation agreements, revenue sharing arrangements and even equity in your natural resource project.  They’ll also want to see a tangible and measurable basket of social benefits, including jobs, skills training programs and contracts for their Aboriginal businesses.

Companies that are not prepared to consider these types of economic benefits, or think that a smoke-and-mirrors consultation process is sufficient to satisfy First Peoples, usually have to go back to the drawing board.

You may want to consider formalizing a role for your partner in project decision-making.  I’d recommend negotiating a protocol that includes provisions for information sharing, communications and liaison, defining their role within project management and within environmental assessment oversight, etc.

I’m not saying to offer up full control, or provide a veto to your entire project.  But as with any investor, joint venture partner or shareholder, you shouldn’t expect to go very far without the support or consent of your partners.

The rational for bringing First Peoples into natural resource projects such as developing of the new vaporizer pen as partners is both complex and quite simplistic.

The reason is simple.  You are seeking to most efficient and effective means of moving your project forward.  You need to avoid any delays in project development and approvals that can lead to any significant cost overruns.

It’s the business case that can be quite complex.  There isn’t one set of formulae and variables in determining the cost of relationships building, engagement, negotiation, partnership and benefits vs. the cost of delays and other intangibles.

I encourage companies to invest in studying that business case.  I assure you, this is part of the new way of doing business with Aboriginal people.  There is a cost of doing business with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.  The question of Aboriginal consultation is no longer just a mere formality or work flow process on your project Gantt chart.  It is now a critical business decision.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen billion dollar legacy projects being mothballed because First Nations haven’t been brought to the table.  Legal actions are leading to million dollar delays in project development.  Threats of direct action from unhappy and unwilling grassroots people can take your project out of favour with your investors, shareholders, the media and the public.  These are all today’s realities.

The sooner you are prepared for these realities and consider adapting to this new way of doing business with Aboriginal People, the better your interactions will be with Canada’s First Peoples.


Bob Goulais is Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs for Ishkonigan Inc.  Ishkonigan is a firm that specializes in consultation and mediation services to Indigenous communities, all levels of government, and business.  Reach Bob Goulais at (416) 770-8567 or e-mail: 

Respect & the Values-Based approach to building Aboriginal Relationships


Bob Goulais is Vice-President, Communications & Public Affairs for Ishkonigan Inc.

Social media and the blogosphere are full of delightfully, simplistic advice on how best to reach out and develop business relationships with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people.  But like many articles on the web, not everything is real or as simple as it seems.  Without experience and proven advice, many well-meaning companies fall flat and unprepared to work with Canada’s First Peoples.

I’d like to share my vision of a New Way of Doing Business with First Peoples.  This will include understanding the values-based approach to building relationships.

A Values-Based Approach:  The “values-based approach” to building relationships means adapting your engagement approach from beyond your business goals, to listening, learning from and beginning to understand the values of your First Nations, Métis or Inuit partners.

The foremost value that needs to be understood is respect.

In the wise words of my teacher and uncle Bawdwaywidun, the first thing you need to bring to the table is Respect.  Then, the next thing you need to bring Respect.  Finally, the last thing you need to bring is Respect.

In other words, respect cannot be underestimated.

For example: you’ll need to learn very quickly why First Nations, especially those who have signed Treaties, are Rightsholders – not mere “stakeholders”.  In fact, if you even use the term “stakeholder” in the course of your discussions, you can expect your meeting to shut down fairly abruptly.  Subtleties in terminology can mean the difference between respect and disrespect.

To be respectful, you’ll need to consider First Peoples as Nations.  You may need to study what that truly means.  History, governance, languages, cultures, spiritual beliefs, land and territory, legal rights… all the components of what makes up a nation are all there.  Why they may not be necessarily “nation-states” at this point in history, First Nation, Métis and Inuit people are indeed Nations within Canada.

First Nations respect for Mother Earth is also an important value for natural resources companies to appreciate.  One of our most fundamental teachings, coming right from our Anishinaabe Creation Story, is that human-kind was given two very unique gifts that were not provided to any other living being: intellect and free-will.  We were told that with these gifts, the Creator provided us with the sacred instructions to look after Mother Earth and be “stewards of the land and the waters”.  We were asked “to speak for those things that cannot speak for themselves”. I’m providing quotations because those are very specific and profound words right from our teachings.

First Peoples cannot expect corporations to fully understand these teachings and why we have such a close, spiritual connection to the environment.  However, in order to successfully do business with First Peoples, companies will need to appreciate and make decisions based on this perspective and worldview.  You may need to integrate traditional knowledge into your project considerations.  You may also need to mitigate or accommodate any negative project impacts to the satisfaction of the Elders, the Women and community leadership.

Another few words of advice…

  • Don’t lump all First Nations into one melting pot of pan-Aboriginal disrespect.  Each Treaty is unique.  Each First Nation, Métis and Inuit community is unique.  They are very different from neighbouring communities, with unique circumstances and ways of doing business;
  • Each engagement strategy should be customized to every community.  Consultation activities should be developed with the community, for the community;
  • Make use of custom consultation processes and communications protocols;
  • Be knowledgeable and respectful of cultural practices and beliefs;
  • Most of all, respect that First Peoples have a tremendous and complex spectrum of legal rights that are constitutionally protected.

There are many other values and value-systems that First Nations hold sacred.  From the houses of the Pacific west coast, to the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee to the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe – there is much to know and understand.  Don’t be afraid to listen and learn.

I’ve seen first-hand, Senior Executives wanting to demonstrate their profound experience, or an Aboriginal Relations consultant wanting to justify their fees – by speaking or responding to every thing that is being shared with them.  They make the mistake of defending their project or person-hood in the face of criticism.

But sometimes being respectful, is to simply listen and learn.


Bob Goulais is Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs for Ishkonigan Inc.  Ishkonigan is a firm that specializes in consultation and mediation services to Indigenous communities, all levels of government, and business.  Reach Bob Goulais at (416) 770-8567 or e-mail: 

Your Voice Gave Us Hope

Deborah Richardson

When is the last time you really took the time to speak with a homeless person?  They may even be Anishinaabe, and still, many of us look the other way.  I know I am guilty of it, more often than I care to admit.

But not my fiancée.  (That has a nice ring to it!…  LOL  Get it…  ring!)  Anyways…

My partner, Deborah Richardson has always found friendship with people on the street.  Many street people know her by name from her days at the Native Canadian Centre.

We often walk down the street and she runs into her homeless friends.  She chats, laughs and exchanges stories.  She’ll even give them a few bucks, not to move them along, but so they can take care of themselves.  She always makes a little suggestion of how they can best use the donation.

There’s no tax write off or anything.  No cameras or media spotlight.  Just a woman who really cares for these people.  I usually hang back, ashamed of myself.

Deborah is the epitome of goodness. Caring for people just because they are people.

In 2008, Deborah was selected to take part in the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Program.  It’s quite an honour.  During that time, this small group of elite business, labour, government, and NGOs representatives have the opportunity to tour the country, meet some of Canada’s most influential people and take part in some unique Canadian experiences.

During their stop in Calgary, Deborah and this group paid a visit to the Mustard Seed, a shelter and Christian service organization dedicated to serving the homeless and the poor.  Most of the participants stayed to volunteer, but as Deborah recalls, most of her group spent the time mingling with shelter staff and, in her words, “looking kinda awkward”.  Meanwhile, Deborah spoke at length to the homeless clientele, offering helpful advice and companionship.

Among a shelter full of men, Deb sat down to speak with two First Nations ladies huddling in a far corner.

“I was just so moved by them,” she remembers fondly.  “We spent about two hours together, talking about hope.  We spoke at length about taking charge of their own destiny.”

They talked about the challenges of finding housing and overcoming homelessness.

“I suggested they try to start smaller – like a room, instead of an apartment,” said Deborah. “But it’s a vicious cycle.  They couldn’t get a job because they didn’t have bus fare.  They couldn’t get a room because they couldn’t get a job.”

The discussion turned emotional when they disclosed that they had both been victims of sexual violence in the city’s shelters.  But she remembers them not because they were victims, but that they were strong and resilient Cree women.

“But despite their situation, they were courageous and had good heads on their shoulders, recalls Deborah.  “I remember this one woman was very strong.  A true champion of First Nations women’s issues.  A real advocate for raising awareness of struggle and challenge aboriginal women face.”

They were fortunate enough to find work, but needed bus fare simple to get there.  As they departed, Deborah was happy to oblige and give the ladies a few bucks.

A few days ago, three years later, Deborah receives this e-mail:

Hey Deborah:

We met a few years ago.  Well, life has took a awesome change for us.  We now have our own place and have been here for over a year.  We work and live life.  But we don’t forget what we went through.  It makes us stronger, more grateful and hopeful.

Anyways, we owe you $7.24 or something…  I do remember I said I would pay you back.  Can we somehow get it back to you?  This is so important for us.  You gave us some money and we used it I do believe for bus fare to go to work.  See, your contribution so small as it may have seemed was huge for us.  We eventually got out of homelessness by getting bus tickets to go to work.

Thanks Deborah.  We haven’t forgot about you.  We talk about you and how your voice gave us hope.

Day 15: An Aboriginal Who’s Who in the Federal Election

By Tim Fontaine
Media Indigena

It’s federal election time in Canada and across the country campaigns are in full swing. Whether you choose to vote or not, here’s a quick look at Aboriginal involvement in the 41st federal election, and information about some interesting ridings to watch.

Keep in mind that, as per Elections Canada rules, the deadline for nominations is April 11 with the full list of confirmed candidates to be unveiled April 13. Election day is May 2.


Conservative Party of Canada:

  • Leona Aglukkaq (Inuit) – Nunavut
  • Rod Bruinooge (Metis) – Winnipeg South
  • Rob Clarke (Cree) – Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
  • Shelly Glover (Metis) – Saint Boniface
  • Peter Penashue (Innu) – Labrador

Green Party of Canada:

  • George Barrett (Metis) – Labrador
  • Johnny Kasudluak (Inuit) – Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou
  • Eliza Knockwood (Mi’kmaq) – Charlottetown
  • George Morin (Cree) – Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
  • Lorraine Rekmans (Algonquin) – Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing
  • Jacqueline Romanow (Metis) – Winnipeg Centre
  • Alberteen Spence (Innu) – Churchill

Liberal Party of Canada:

  • Sydney Garrioch (Cree) – Churchill
  • Joe Handley (Metis) – Western Arctic
  • Gabe LaFond (Metis) – Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
  • Paul Okalik (Inuit) – Nunavut
  • Todd Russell (Metis) – Labrador
  • Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux (Ojibway) – York Simcoe
  • Karen Young (Dene) – Fort McMurray-Athabasca

New Democratic Party:

  • Tania Cameron (Ojibway) – Kenora
  • Lewis Cardinal (Cree) – Edmonton Centre
  • Jeff Horvath (Ojibway) – Wild Rose
  • Lawrence Joseph (Cree) – Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River
  • Edith Loring-Kuhanga (Gitxsan) – Saanich-Gulf Islands
  • Romeo Saganash (Cree) – Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou
  • Jennifer Villebrun (Metis) – Peace River


Some highlights from the Liberal platform (by far the most comprehensive). If elected, the Party says they will:

  • Lift the much maligned 2% cap on FN post-secondary education funding (which they imposed in 1996)
  • Invest (by their second year) an additional $300 million in First Nation K-12 education
  • Re-fund the embattled First Nations University of Canada (FNUC)
  • $5 million/year for a Canada Metis Scholarship
  • Create a national task force examining missing and murdered Aboriginal women

Read the full platform.

Aboriginal people are mentioned twice in the Green platform. If elected, the Party says they will:

  • Increase funding to $800 million/year for First Nations education, safe drinking water and improved housing
  • Ensure Canada moves forward in implementing the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Read the full platform.

The Conservative platform was unveiled on April 8. While there was no dollar figure attached, for Aboriginal people they say they will:

  • Provide new investments in First Nations Land Management, allowing First Nations to promote the development of their reserve lands and resources
  • Expand adult basic education programming in the territories (the North), which they say will help increase education and employment levels
  • Support environmental safety upgrades to fuel tanks that power essential community infrastructure in remote and rural First Nations communities (this was seen in the Federal Budget released in March)
  • Promote ‘the deployment of clean energy technologies in Aboriginal and Northern communities’
  • In the upcoming (2012) commemorations of the War of 1812, the CPC says they’ll honour the contributions of First Nations to the victory
  • End the controversial long-gun registry and establish a ‘Hunting Advisory Panel to the Minister of the Environment’
  • Re-introduce a bill requiring First Nation Chiefs to publish their salaries

Read the full platform.

Now we’re just waiting (patiently) for the NDP platform…


  • Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River is the only riding with all Aboriginal candidates; George Morin (GPC), Lawrence Joseph (NDP), Gabe LaFond (LPC) and the incumbent Rob Clarke (CPC).
  • Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou has two Aboriginal candidates; Romeo Saganash (NDP) and Johnny Kasudluak (GPC)
  • Labrador has three Aboriginal candidates; Peter Penashue (CPC), George Barrett (GPC) and the incumbent Todd Russell (LPC).
  • In the Churchill riding, two Aboriginal candidates – Sydney Garrioch (LPC), Alberteen Spence (GPC) – are attempting to unseat NDP’s Niki Ashton (non-Aboriginal).
  • Nunavut has two Inuit candidates; incumbent Leona Aglukkaq (CPC) and former premier (the first) Paul Okalik (LPC).
  • Vancouver Island North – Home riding of the latest Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs John Duncan.

So there you have it. If you know of other candidates, or think there are ridings/races/platforms we should know about please use the comments section below. We’ll be updating this post as the election goes on.


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.

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.

Spiritual healing

By Dave Dale
The Nugget –
Sept. 6, 2010

Strong, positive spirits overcame the dreariness of chilly, wind-driven showers as Nipissing First Nation’s 22nd annual cultural gathering celebrated Mno Bemaadziwin — A Good Life on the weekend.

I was surprised how many dancers came up even though it was freezing,” Alysha Allaire, 20, said Sunday morning before heading out to the Jocko Point traditional grounds for the second grand entry.

Everybody came out for the love of dancing … that was really cool to see,” Allaire said, adding Saturday was special because she was dancing in her jingle dress for the first time after spending more than a month making it with her mom and aunts.

It felt really good,” she said, explaining how she dances in the jingle dress to help people heal.

People will offer her tobacco, a sacred medicine among Anishinabe, to dance for them or somebody they know who is sick or troubled.

And sometimes I just dance for the people I think need a bit of help or guidance,” said Allaire, a third-year Nipissing University concurrent education student.

She has been dancing for about 15 years and said she wants to be a teacher of students in grades 4 to 10.

Elder Peter Beaucage said there were strong winds blowing off Lake Nipissing during the sunrise ceremony Saturday and the rains came hard for a while, drenching the grounds and the people preparing for the event.

But the feeling was positive about the powwow bringing healing for the community,” Beaucage said.

The sacred pipe was lit and turned, he said, as prayers were sent to the grandfathers and the creator for the gratitude for the life we have as aboriginal people today.”

Beaucage was working in the community as a native alcohol and drug awareness counsellor when the first powwow was held at Beaucage Park in 1988.

It has come a long way and it really brings pride to our community,” he said, noting many leaders of other communities show their support by participating in the opening ceremonies.

Dignitaries joining Chief Marianna Couchie included West Nipissing Mayor Joanne Savage, North Bay Mayor Vic Fedeli, Nipissing MPP Monique Smith, Nipissing-Temiskaming MP Anthony Rota and Nipissing University president Lesley Lovett-Doust.

Beaucage said the powwow gathering grew out of the Elders Day celebrations after the youth cultural group brought dancing and drumming to the event.

Bob Goulais, who was 14 at the time, remembers being involved with the youth group when the powwow started.

He now works for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Toronto as manager of policy after working for the Union of Ontario Indians and the Anishinabek Nation for more than a decade.

Goulais was master of ceremonies for the powwow and sat beside Beaucage and arena director Dan Commanda.

He said many people come to the gathering because it helps them become strong and healthy, with the event’s popularity gauged by having 10 drums come from across the province.

Local drums Lightning, White Tail Cree and Ni p i s s i n g ‘s Little Iron Youth Drum shared arbour shade with the likes of Big Train of Six Nations, Eagle Village, Red Spirit of Toronto, Northern Medicine from James Bay and Bear Nation of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan.

A lot of people come here for the healing, it’s a pretty consistent reason why people come out,” Goulais said.

Mickey George, 12, has his own agenda when it comes to dancing in the traditional regalia of his people.

Because it’s fun to do,” George said after finishing a corn dog. He needed the energy for the next two songs that were sung specifically to showcase traditional dancers like himself.

It’s a good way to get in touch with my culture and it’s a great way to stay fit,” he said, with the intense beat of the

sneak up” song testing stamina and ability.

George, who has been dancing for about five years, said he tries to attend powwows whenever it fits into a busy schedule. He’s one of the AAA Peewee Trappers this season, with the team heading to Mississauga for its first tournament next weekend.

Other events during the powwow included an open mic talent night, hand drumming and flute in the evening, a feast and giveaway for the participants as it wrapped up Sunday afternoon.

A Scientific view of National Aboriginal Day

There is one thing that is on my mind on this National Aboriginal Day.  Particle physics.

Maybe I’ll back up a little.

One of my favourite movies of all time is My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  In addition to his exploits with Windex, I fondly recall how Kostas “Gus” Portokalos can take a word, any word, and show you that the root of that word is Greek.

Well, today is your lucky day.  Just as most things can be explained through indigenous traditional knowledge, I will explain how particle physics relates to me as Anishinaabe and how scientific theory can be explained through indigenous traditional knowledge.

Now…  I’m not going to go into depth.  I’m sure a future Midewiwin University will graduate their first graduate in physics.  Only then will these details be elaborated on.

But my thesis statement for this National Aboriginal Day is simple:  the Anishinaabe are incredibly sophisticated people, with a beautiful culture, a wealth of knowledge and have contributed to world society in so many ways.

Anishinaabe people understood many concepts of science.  Certainly, our understanding of cosmology and astronomy was well documented.  How else would modern science know that today is the summer solstice?

Let’s start with medical science.  Anishinaabe people had a full understanding of medicine and the human body.  Our oldest teachings of mno-bimaadiziwin (the good life) tell us how we must all live with a mindful balance of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.  Sound familiar?  This is something that we hear about now more than ever before.

When any one of more of these break down – there are sophisticated healing methods to restore that balance.  Physical health, for example, requires a rigorous assessment and understanding of the patient’s condition and background before any combination of medicines can be administered.  Not only holistic or homeopathic medicines – but bona fide natural and skilfully prepared pharmaceuticals administered by professional medicine people.

We understand our place in the world and that we are only a small, insignificant part of the greater universe.  Through our unique gift of intellect, we took on the role as stewards of Mother Earth.  Possible our greatest contributions of indigenous traditional knowledge is through ecology and environmental science.

Our Creation Story tells us that the universe was indeed created with a big bang.  This isn’t described to us as a violent event, rather the first thought of our Creator.  This thought moves out in every direction, continually expanding outward on an infinite scale.

When it comes to physics – Anishinaabe people certainly understood the concepts.  However, this is based on our traditional teachings, worldview and understanding which is quite different from many others.

We indeed had a number of basic understandings of particle physics.  We understood there are many sub-elements to even to the basic physical elements:  fire, water, air, earth and stone.  These sub-elements can not be seen or described.

Our teachings tell us that some of these sub-elements originate in space – the place between the Sky World and the Spirit World.  Earth, for example, is made up of up to nine different gifts provided to us from the older brothers of our Mother Earth.  At night, a learned Midewiwin teacher can point out the origins of the Earth from those celestial bodies through their path across the sky orbiting our grandfather Giizis – the Sun.

From a more elemental perspective, our intellectuals understood the concept of infinite smallness and infinite bigness.  The bonds of mass and energy, whether they are infinitely small or infinitely big, are constantly in motion.  This scientific principle, which includes the basic principles of particle physics, is explained through Spiritual Force.

The most fundamental teaching to Anishinaabe is that everything that is living, or is animate, has a Spirit.  Even those things that may not be seen as animate (a rock or sand, for example) has a Spirit.  All Spiritual entities are connected in an unseen realm, the Spirit World.  This exists unseen by those of us who inhabit the physical realm, a concept better explained by Stephen Hawking’s theory of space and time.

At the sub-particle level of any given element is Spiritual Force.  A living force, an energy pattern, an electrically-charged movement of matter.

I’m not talking “The Force” here and I’m by no means a Jedi.  But perhaps George Lucas had something right.

Unfortunately, science cannot easily explain the Spiritual Force.  In fact, modern western science cannot explain “Spirit” whatsoever.  And questions remain:  What charges various sub-atomic particles?  What causes a fertilized reproductive cell to begin dividing?  For the Anishinaabe, the answer to these has always been known:  Spirit.

First Nations continue to be an untapped source of knowledge.  Anishinaabe people have a wealth of indigenous traditional knowledge that can explain much of the unknown – including some of the unexplained mysteries of science and of life itself.

On National Aboriginal Day, we shouldn’t only celebrate the culture of First Nations people that we can see…  we should also appreciate the knowledge of First Nations people that continue to remain unseen.