Canadian Colonialism: The Attawapiskat Humanitarian Crisis – an Example of Continuing Oppression and Genocide by Canadian Government

source: bermudaradical.wordpress.com

Setting the Context: It’s all about the land

In a harsh and regressive display of colonial paternalism, the Canadian government has used the acute housing crisis in Attawapiskat, a Northern Ontario Cree First Nation, to deny the community’s inherent right to handle its own affairs. The Federal government has done this by imposing Third Party Management (TPM), seizing complete control of all the community’s financial decisions for programs and services on the reserve. TPM is the most extreme and intrusive step the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) can impose financially on a First Nation community. It is a shameful act of colonialism — one imposed on at least 10 other First Nations communities in Canada. The Algonquin First Nation of Barriere Lake whom IPSMO have been supporting for over three years is also under Third-Party Management.

Denial: The Oppressive Shape of Canadian Colonialism Today

Instead of providing immediate support for Attawapiskat to overcome their inhuman living conditions, the Harper government insinuated that the problem was due to financial mismanagement by the band council and imposed TPM. By doing so he blamed the victims, denied his responsibility and ignored the urgent needs of the people. He knows that to accept responsibility and act for Attawapiskat would mean accepting responsibility for many other similar situations in Canada.

We need to remember how long it has taken, and continues to take, for the government to accept responsibility for the horror of residential schools. The response of the Minister to the situation of Attawapiskat and other First Nations is similar in its pattern of denial.

Attawapiskat First Nation (Treaty 9, Ontario) is not the only community suffering from housing crises and other dire living conditions including lack of clean running water, sanitation services, electricity and health care. Many other communities such as Pikangikum (Treaty 5, Ontario), Kashechewan (Treaty 9, Ontario), Sandy Bay (Treaty 1, Manitoba), and Kwicksutaineuk-Ah-kwa-mish (BC) are also in the same predicament as Attawapiskat. This has been going on for years and the list of communities could be expanded.

Why do the First Nations communities live in such dire conditions in a country that is rich in natural resources and whose human development index is ranked No. 6 in the world in 2011?

The answers are simple. 

The root causes behind the crises facing Attawapiskat and many other First Nations communities across Canada, and their treatments from both the federal and provincial governments might seem complex, however, they can be traced to a few important points:

  • Racism. The original peoples of this land have been treated as they do not seem to exist when making decisions on the use of their home territory. Their existence as peoples, as part of the lands, have not been respected.
  • Canada’s continuous colonial policies of dispossession and exploitation of native lands, as well as assimilation, displacement and genocide of native communities.
  • Dishonour of the Crown, Canada and Provinces in the signed nation-to-nation treaties and agreements.

Canada’s ”Indian” policy is all about the wresting control of the land and its valuable “resources” from the land. How can you take the Land? The following two articles explain it.

Attawapiskat and colonialism: Seeing the forest and the trees
By Robert Lovelace | December 6, 2011

But there are reasons behind this suffering. There is a history. There is a structure to oppression, denial and indifference that houses this suffering and there is a system that perpetuates it. – Robert Lovelace

Colonialism and State Dependency
By Gerald Taiaiake Alfred | Novembre 2009

The solution to the problem of First Nations psychological and financial dependency on the state caused by colonialism is the return of land to First Nations and the re-establishment of First Nations presences on and connections to their homelands. – Taiaiake Alfred

Overview – What have been going on?

On October 28, Theresa Spence, the chief of Attiwapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency due to a chronic, systemic housing crisis and poor living conditions in the community. About 300 families and 90 people on this Northern Ontario reserve are living in makeshift housing such as unheated tents, sheds, and trailers, many with no running water, heat, plumbing or electricity. Many of the houses in the community are infested with mold. The medical workers there say peoples’ lives are at risk from the coming winter cold and health problems, such as infectious diseases, scabies, lice, respiratory problems and acute depression, associated with the crowded, unsanitary living conditions. Substance abuse and suicide often follow.

source: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

The chief estimated at least 268 new houses are needed, and many other houses are in need of major repair.

Since a state of emergency was declared almost two months ago, instead of receiving immediate supports from both the federal and provincial governments, the community has received:

  • Jurisdictional wrangling between the federal government and Ontario on who should be responsible for the emergency, who should pay for the needs of the people
  • Blaming from the feds on their financial mismanagement, which isn’t true
  • Punishment with third-party management
  • Red tape & bureaucracy in order to have their state of emergency recognized and needed funds allocated

While the spotlights were on the Attawapiskat’s state of emergency and the governments’ illogical, irrational victim blaming and finger pointing on who should be responsible for the emergency, other news also brought to light that the federal government has spent tones of money in spying on a respectful First Nations child welfare advocate – Cindy Blackstock – as well as many other Indigenous peoples and their supporters for defending Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination and land rights.

Canadian Government Keeps Close Tabs on Child Advocate Cindy Blackstock
By ICTMN Staff November 16, 2011

RCMP spied on protesting First Nations
Intelligence unit collaborated with partners in energy and private sector
By TIM GROVES and MARTIN LUKACS

It is very clear that Canada has not changed its colonial attitude and its ultimate objective of genocide of the First peoples of this land, even after its Residential School Apology issued on June 11, 2008. The actions of the Canadian government speak louder than its words.

Attawapiskat Band Office, photo credit: Paul Lantz

Read about Attawapiskat: https://ipsmo.wordpress.com/attawapiskat-first-nation/

On December 1, Attawapiskat First Nation issued a press release in response to the fed’s decision on putting the community under third-party management and its misinformation on the community’s financial situation. In this release:

Chief Spence has said. “On our traditional lands, that we once shared in the past with the visitors to our land, our lands, have proven to be bountiful in natural resources, and have been a benefit to all of Ontario, and Canada, but we were left behind. In our territory, we have a world class diamond mine, the pride of the Canadian, and Ontario governments, as well as De Beers Canada. They have every right to be proud of that mine, but each party has failed to acknowledge the First Nation peoples who continue to use the land as our grandparents did.

While they reap the riches, my people shiver in cold shacks, and are becoming increasing ill, while precious diamonds from my land grace the fingers, and necklaces of Hollywood celebrities, and the mace of the Ontario Legislature.

My people deserve dignity, humane living conditions, for that our community asked for the assistance from my fellow citizens, for our simple request for human dignity, the government’s decision was to impose a colonial Indian Agent.”

Source: http://www.attawapiskat.org/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release-Afn-Third-Party-Intervention-Nov-30-2011.pdf (emphasis added)

For other insightful analysis of the crisis in Attawapiskat:

Colonial foundations to blame in native crisis by David McLaren: http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3400812

Dealing with comments about Attiwapiskat by âpihtawikosisân: http://apihtawikosisan.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/dealing-with-comments-about-attawapiskat/

Compare and contrast: Those Attawapiskat numbers vs. Toronto numbers by Lorraine Land: http://rabble.ca/news/2011/12/compare-and-contrast-those-attawapiskat-numbers-vs-toronto-numbers

Brave Leadership Spreads Hope: Attawapiskat Takes on the Ultimate Bull by Pam Palmeter http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/2011/12/brave-leadership-spreads-hope.html

Shannen’s Dream Day of Action

On behalf of Lady Evelyn Alternative School & Heartspeak, we would like to invite you to join us to deliver letters on Parliament Hill on April 27, 2011 to make Shannen’s Dream come true!!

On Wednesday April 27th at 12 noon, the Lady Evelyn School Community invites everyone to meet on Parliament Hill to deliver letters in support of Shannen’s Dream. We ask you to rally behind the principle of equitable education rights for First Nation children and youth.

For more information on Shannen’s Dream and to join the 4057 Shannen’s supporters, please visit http://www.fncaringsociety.com/shannensdream.

Schedule on the Day of Action – April 27th:

12:00 p.m. Arrive at Parliament Hill

12:00 – 12:30 p.m. Students line up starting at the base of the steps of the Centre Block Parliament buildings and deliver letters in support of Shannen’s Dream

12:30 – 1:00 p.m. Presentation to include youth, Andrew Koostachin (Shannen’s father), & guests, Youth sing Diamonds in the Snow

1:15 p.m. Students return to school(s)

For more information, visit the following websites:http://www.shannensdream.ca and http://www.heartspeak.ca

Let’s Make Shannen’s Dream a Reality!!

Yours in Equal Education,
Lady Evelyn Alternative School and Heartspeak

Watch this inspiring video – Heartspeak about Shannen’s Dream!

Is this our Canada? A Public Lecture by Cindy Blackstock and Exhibition of the Caring Across Boundaries Photography Exhibit

UPDATE: Please see the video of this event:

 

Please join us for

Click the image to download the poster

A Public Lecture by Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Exhibition of the Caring Across Boundaries Photography Exhibit:

Is This Our Canada?
How racial discrimination in children’s services undermines the potential of this generation of First Nations children and what you can do to help

with an opening ceremony by Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin Elder and introduction by Georges Sioui, the coordinator of Aboriginal Study of University of Ottawa in the beginning of the lecture

Lecture will begin at 7 pm on Wednesday, Sept 22, 2010
@ Alumni Theatre, Jock Turcot University Centre, University of Ottawa (map)

Caring Across Boundaries Photography Exhibit Photography by Liam Sharp will be open all day, from 11 am to 9 pm on Wednesday, Sept 22, 2010 @ Agora, Ground Floor of Jock Turcot University Centre, University of Ottawa (map)

** Admission is free, everyone is welcome.  Donation is appreciated.

As of May of 2005, the Wen:de study found that 0.67% of non Aboriginal children were in child welfare care in three sample provinces in Canada as compared to 10.23% of status Indian children.

According to federal government figures the number of status Indian children entering child welfare care rose 71.5% nationally between 1995-2001.

Is this our Canada?

The Canadian Incidence Study on Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) has found that First Nations children come to the attention of child welfare authorities for different reasons than non Aboriginal children. First Nations are not more likely to experience abuse than non-Aboriginal children. First Nations children are more likely to be reported for neglect which is driven by poverty, poor housing and caregiver substance misuse.

Based on an audit conducted by the Auditor General of Canada, the percentages of children in care on reserves ranged from 0 to 28% in 2007.

Is this our Canada?

Provincial child welfare laws apply both on and off reserves. The provinces fund child welfare for children off reserve but expect the federal government to fund it on reserve. If the federal government does not fund the services or funds them inadequately, the provinces typically do not top up the funding levels. This results in a two tiered child welfare system where First Nations children on reserves get less funding for child welfare than other children.

Repeated reports, including by the Auditor General of Canada (2008) and Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2009) confirm that federal government funding for child welfare services on reserves is inadequate and must be changed in order to ensure First Nations children and families on reserves receive a comparable and culturally based child welfare services.

Although the federal government has been aware of the shortfalls in its child welfare funding for over nine years, it has implemented only modest improvements in three provinces.

Overall there are more First Nations children in child welfare care in Canada than at the height of residential schools.  Canada ranked 3rd on the United Nations Human Development index however; the First Nations communities in Canada ranked 72nd.

Is This Our Canada?

Please join us in this lecture to learn about the reality of child welfare services in Indigenous communities across Turtle Island (a.k.a. Canada) and ways you can make difference for the First Nations children. 

For comprehensive background information, research and publications on First Nations Child Welfare, please visit  http://www.fncaringsociety.com/.

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Caring Across Boundaries is an exhibition about the importance of reconciliation between First Nations and the rest of Canada for the wellbeing of children and youth. Reconciliation opens the doors for all Canadians to have a new relationship with First Nations based on mutual respect and friendship.

In this exhibition, three First Nations communities share their daily experiences with a view to inviting every Canadian to make a positive difference for First Nations children and their families.

It is a collaboration between renowned photographer Liam Sharp, Aboriginal child rights advocate Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations communities of Attawapiskat, Ontario; Carrier-Sekani Family Services: a branch society of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council, British Columbia; and, Tobique First Nation, New Brunswick.

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Bios

Liam Sharp is an internationally renowned photographer who specializes in storytelling conceptual photography. For over twenty years, Liam has worked in settings ranging from diamond vaults to impoverished neighbourhoods, museums, sky scrapers and theme parks. He was the recipient of the Silver Award of the Art Directors Club of Canada in 2009 and was nominated for a National Magazine Award. His work has been featured in Graphis, Applied Arts and PDN magazines, Report on Business, The London Times Magazine, among others publications.  Go to liamsharp.com for a glance of his work.

Cindy Blackstock is one of Canada’s leading and most passionate spokespersons for the promotion and strengthening of First Nations cultures, knowledge and rights. A member of the Gitksan First Nation, and the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS), she has worked in the field of child and family services for over 20 years.

ATTAWAPISKAT FIRST NATION is home to the Mushkego or Omushkego James Bay Cree located along the Attawapiskat River near James Bay, Ontario. The community takes great pride in its Cree culture and language and most children are fluent in Cree despite the devastating impacts of colonization. Daily life for families in the community is difficult. The school sits on a site contaminated by over 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel, sanitation systems are grossly inadequate, food costs are high, and there are severe housing shortages. The community leadership has worked hard with federal and provincial governments to deal with the problems but progress is slow.

CARRIER SEKANI NATIONS people historically have resided in a vast territory, of over 76,000 kilometers, primarily located in North Central British Columbia. Today there are approximately 10,000 individuals represented by 22 Indian Bands or First Nations, as recognized by the Department of Indian Affairs that identify as being Carrier or Sekani societies. Families are challenged by the inter-generational impacts of colonization, poverty and unresolved land claims. Carrier Sekani peoples have developed institutions such as Carrier Sekani Family Services to help community members but they need more resources to meet all of the needs. Go to www.csfs.org for more information.

TOBIQUE FIRST NATION
is a Maliseet community located in a rural area along the St. John River in New Brunswick. A hydro electric dam was built on their lands but the community receives very little benefit from the dam. They pay some of the highest electric power bills in the province, have seen their traditional foods and medicines eroded due to the dam and many community members are living in poverty. Federal and Provincial government funding for essential government services such as education and child welfare fall far below what other children in the province receive. This community is working hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children but they need access to the resources other communities take for granted.

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This lecture and exhibition are presented by First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Forum on Aboriginal Research and Study – University of Ottawa and Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa, and sponsored by Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Public Service Alliance of Canada and Ontario Public Interest Research Group – University of Ottawa

The lecture will be presented in English.