Posts tagged ‘John Beaucage’

John Beaucage to advise on needs of aboriginal youth

By Tanya Talaga
Queen’s Park Bureau, Toronto Star

For the first time, Ontario has appointed a special advisor to the government on the plight of aboriginal youth.

John Beaucage, former grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, will be the aboriginal advisor on child welfare, reporting to Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten.

“This is a very important step and reflective to the significance we place on finding solutions to the very challenging issues that do exist, both in the north but also in our urban centres,” Broten told the Star.

Staggering youth suicide rates in remote northern communities and funding problems among First Nations children’s aid societies will be a focus for Beaucage. His one-year appointment coincides with an ongoing review of the Child and Family Services Act. The review hones in on the situation of aboriginal kids.

It would be a mistake to believe all the problems among First Nations children could be solved in a year, said Beaucage. Children in the north often grow up in Third World conditions, coping with poverty, substance abuse, inferior education and despair. Those problems often follow aboriginals off the reserve and into the cities.

“The problems have been there for a long time,” he said in an interview from Ottawa. “But what I am hoping is there will be a more inclusive process with First Nations leadership and leadership with urban aboriginal people.”

Nearly 21 per cent of Ontario’s 9,000 Crown wards are aboriginal kids or children with First Nations heritage. There are six aboriginal children’s aid societies and many struggle to manage historic funding inequities while taking care of vulnerable kids.

On Wednesday, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies called improved services for aboriginal children one of three priority areas the province needs to tackle now.

A Star investigation last year focused on the troubles of Payukotayno James and Hudson Bay Family Services which nearly shut its doors because it could no longer afford to pay its bills. The agency was also confronting a teen suicide crisis – 13 youth in the remote communities dotting the James Bay coastline committed suicide in 2009, all by hanging.

Suicides among First Nations youth is a societal problem with no easy answers. “It is always something there that is lurking”, said Beaucage.

“I have experienced it, I’ve seen it and I would be remiss if I wasn’t able to make some kind of comment on it, speak to elders and to look at the traditional aspects of prevention of these horrible tragedies,” he said.

Broten did step in to help with Payukotayno’s $2.3 million debt. Costs are higher in remote agencies that often service fly-in only communities and have to charter planes in a moments notice to rescue a child in danger.

After the Star series appeared, Broten also provided funding for four suicide prevention workers.

But agencies serving First Nations communities are historically underfunded. An independent review prepared for the government in 2006 showed Payukotayno and Tikinagan Children and Family Services required a baseline funding increase of $24.6 million to give northern kids the same level of care Crown wards in the south receive.
A three-person committee is also studying the funding woes of all of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies, 49 of which have recently faced shortfalls.

Terry Waboose, deputy grand chief, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, called Beaucage’s appointment a positive step. “It is vitally important for us, child welfare is a big issue,” he said. “I see this as a positive step.”

Ontario natives eye stake in Hydro One expansion

Company formed by 22 first nations seeks ownership role in transmission line project

Bill Curry
Globe and Mail
From the Tuesday, February 16 edition

A collective of aboriginal communities across Ontario is angling to build and manage new electrical transmission lines as part of a major expansion of the power grid.

A group of 22 first nations recently formed the Lake Huron Anishinabek Transmission Co. and named veteran Ontario native leader John Beaucage as chief executive officer. The company is aiming to take an ownership stake in part of Hydro One’s three-year, $2.3-billion plan for 20 new transmission projects. The project is expected to create about 20,000 jobs.

The ownership initiative is one example of a growing push by native leaders across the country to work more closely with Canada’s business community. For decades, native politics has been dominated by disputes with governments over unfulfilled promises going back to the original treaties crafted by European settlers.

Many of those issues remain, but the focus is shifting. “We’re very determined,” said Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, chair of the company’s board. “We are going to seek to obtain the full benefit of all the major transmission lines in the treaty territory.”

The McGuinty government announced the plan last September, releasing a map showing proposed transmission arteries that would run east from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury with a link to Manitoulin Island; south from Sudbury to the GTA; and a link in the northwest between Nipigon and Wawa.

Smaller lines will also be built as part of the expansion, which aims to bring remote renewable power to the province’s urban centres.

At the time, the announcement promised opportunities for aboriginal participation, but no specifics. Mr. Day said native communities have plenty of people who can do the work, but they’re also talking with non-aboriginal firms to help manage the projects.

A spokesperson for Hydro One confirmed “preliminary” talks are under way with the company and said Hydro One is interested in working with aboriginals on the transmission projects.

Development projects in Ontario, from mining in the north to housing in the south, have been abandoned in recent years due to native protests, but in this case, communities are hoping to secure an ownership role at the outset.

There’s also a new tone coming from the top. After a quiet start, Shawn Atleo, the Assembly of First Nations’ rookie National Chief, is addressing more national events this year – often on economic issues.

Last month, he was the first AFN leader to address the Toronto Board of Trade, where he told a packed room: “We’re open for business.” He’s since delivered this message to similar audiences in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Mr. Atleo’s predecessor, Phil Fontaine, started to make some of these connections during the end of his term and is now running an advisory firm that includes working with the Royal Bank of Canada.

In an interview, Mr. Atleo said the Lake Huron proposal is just the type of approach he’s encouraging: using treaties as the foundation for securing aboriginal co-ownership of development projects.

“It’s that notion that we’re in this together,” he said, citing similar examples happening across the country. “Lurching along from conflict to conflict is a pattern we all agree we need to break.”

Clint Davis, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, a 25-year-old organization that includes Canadian branches of large multinationals like PepsiCo. Inc. and Xerox Corp., said several factors are behind the rise in deal making, including: court rulings requiring consultation with aboriginals; an increased focus by companies on corporate social responsibility; the increased settlement of land claims and the fact that aboriginals and immigrants are the only sources of Canadian population growth.

The Ontario government’s transmission and energy plans will ultimately involve several arrangements with aboriginals, Mr. Davis predicted.

“I think this is just the start,” he said.