IPSMO member Sylvia Smith receives Governor General’s Award for educational project on residential schools

IPSMO member Sylvia Smith receives Governor General’s Award for educational project on residential schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2011

OTTAWA – Sylvia Smith, for her work as coordinator of Project of Heart, will be presented with a Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching on Monday.

Sylvia Smith presenting Project of Heart at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Project of Heart is a hands-on, collaborative, inter-generational, inter-institutional artistic endeavour that commemorates the lives of the thousands of Indigenous children who died as a result of the Indian Residential School experience.

Participants have used the learning module to connect with a specific residential school history and the Indigenous people whose traditional territory the school was located on, and have shared the experience with an Aboriginal elder and/or residential school survivor. Follow-up research and social justice action is part of the process for each participant.

Smith founded Project of Heart in 2007 in collaboration with her students at Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternate High School Program in Ottawa, and over 50 schools, faith communities, and workplaces across Canada have since taken part.

Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO) member Pei-Ju Wang states, “We are very pleased to see this award recognizing the work that Sylvia and others with Project of Heart have done to help non-Aboriginal Canadians acknowledge, and take ownership and action for, the devastating policy of residential schools that continues to have lasting effects on Indigenous peoples here. Her contributions to our group’s work have similarly been about moving people towards achieving justice, understanding and healing in the relationship between the Canadian state and the First Peoples of this land.”

Warren McBride, a fellow teacher at Elizabeth Wyn Wood, observes, “One of the main attributes of Project of Heart is that it provides an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge of the past to issues that are continuing today. Sylvia has been able to create an educational experience that has direct relevance to the news headlines of December 2011.”

Smith herself says, “Project of Heart is something that belongs to all who embrace it.  Indeed, it is the collective aspect of the Project that gives it its strength. I am honoured to be the name attached to it.”

Contact:
IPSMO: ipsmo@riseup.net

For more information:

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Media Release: Remote Algonquin First Nations travels en masse to Ottawa to protest Harper government’s attacks on their community and environmental agreement

Remote Algonquin First Nations travels en masse to Ottawa to protest Harper government’s attacks on their community and environmental agreement

Photo opportunity: A delegation will deliver a present — a giant copy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a community resolution against assimilation– to Ministers Duncan and Harper at their offices

OTTAWA, DEC 13/CNW/– More than a hundred members of the Barriere Lake Algonquin First Nation traveled to Ottawa today to demand the Harper government honour a landmark environmental agreement and stop waging a campaign of forcible assimilation against the community. They will be joined by a broad network of hundreds of supporters, including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Council of Canadians, KAIROS, the New Democratic Party and Green Party, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and many others.

“How can anyone trust a government that won’t honour its word?” says Tony Wawatie, a Barriere Lake community spokesperson. In 1991, Canada and Quebec signed the United Nations-praised Trilateral Agreement with Barriere Lake to create a sustainable development plan for 10,000 square kilometers of the community’s traditional territory, but both the federal and provincial governments have refused to implement it.

“This agreement would allow us to protect our land and be economically independent. But Canada and Quebec don’t want to share the land’s wealth. So the Harper government is violating our constitutional rights by trying to forcibly abolish our traditional government, which maintains our sacred connection to the land and our ability to protect the environment,” says Wawatie.

In August, the Harper government imposed an Indian Act election process on Barriere Lake, in which less than a dozen community members cast ballots, while the rest of the community boycotted. Almost 200 people signed a resolution rejecting the entire process, wishing to preserve the traditional governance system they have used for countless generations. Four councillors and a Chief were acclaimed, but even the Chief resigned in protest.

“This is an undemocratic, unwanted, and foreign governance regime installed in order to derail our environmental agreement” says Wawatie. “Minister Duncan and the Harper government must reverse their draconian action and respect our right to maintain our traditional government.”

In an op-ed published today in the Globe & Mail, author and Giller-prize winner Joseph Boyden called on the Harper government to end its “abusive, bullying, and undemocratic” treatment of Barriere Lake.

“It would be a terrible tragedy for [Barriere Lake’s] customs to be struck down by the mere stroke of a Minister’s pen after they have served this First Nation well for so many decades and centuries,” National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations wrote Minister Duncan in a letter recently, urging him to reverse his department’s actions. “The Chiefs in Assembly have instructed me to stand with and in support of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and I will do so. My preference is to do so in a way that promotes reconciliation with the department rather than confrontation.”

“Indigenous people who gather, hunt, and fish their food have an unmatched knowledge of the land and an interest in caring for it. They are the front-line of defense in protecting the environment for all of us,” says Arthur Manuel, director of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, and member of the Defenders of the Land network. “This is also their right because it is their land. This right is affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Canadian Constitution. It’s time for the Canadian government to deal honourably and respect that right.”

“Maintaining a traditional governance system that is rooted in their cultural heritage is an integral part of fulfilling mandates that meet the vision of a sustainable community,” said Elizabeth May, national leader of the Green Party of Canada.

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PRESS CONFERENCE

WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, at 11:00 AM

WHERE: Charles Lynch Room (130-S, Centre Block), Parliament Hill, Ottawa

WHO: Charlie Angus- NDP MP,  Arthur Manuel, spokesperson for the Indigenous Network of Economies and Trade, Tony Wawatie – Barriere Lake Community spokesperson

RALLY

WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, from NOON to 2PM

WHERE: March begins on Parliament Hill, with speeches then starting at 1-1:15pm in front of Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s office at the Confederation building (Bank & Wellington).

For further information:

Tony Wawatie, Barriere Lake community spokesperson: 819-860-4121

To arrange interviews : 514-550-8706

For more information: www.barrierelakesolidarity.org

French version of this release (.doc): http://bit.ly/i3ul9T

For Joseph Boyden’s op-ed in the Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/why-we-try-to-protect-our-land-lessons-from-barriere-lake/article1833684/

 

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Harper government’s assault on environmental agreements and democracy in Barriere Lake First Nation to be exposed and protested Monday

MEDIA ADVISORY:
Harper government’s assault on environmental agreements and democracy in Barriere Lake First Nation to be exposed and protested Monday

OTTAWA, DEC 9/CNW/– Hundreds of members of the small Algonquin First Nation of Barriere Lake and of a broad network of unions, churches, human rights groups and the New Democratic and Green Party will march in Ottawa on Monday, challenging the Harper government to honour a landmark environmental agreement and to stop waging a campaign of forcible assimilation against the community.

Earlier in the morning, press conference speakers will present startling details about how Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan and the Harper government have been flagrantly violating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, belying their endorsement of it in November.

They will speak about how Minister Duncan and the Harper government have imposed a government on Barriere Lake selected by only a handful of band members against overwhelming community opposition — an undemocratic, unwanted, and foreign governance regime installed in order to derail a landmark environmental pact signed with Barriere Lake. The agreement is intended to establish a sustainable development plan for logging over 10,000 square kilometres.

National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations has proposed to undertake a joint fact-finding mission with Indian and Northern Affairs to resolve the governance situation, but Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan has not responded.

PRESS CONFERENCE
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, at 11:00 A M
WHERE: Charles Lynch Room (130-S, Centre Block), Parliament Hill, Ottawa
WHO:  Charlie Angus- NDP MP,  Arthur Manuel, spokesperson for the Indigenous Network of Economies and Trade, Tony Wawatie – Barriere Lake Community spokesperson

RALLY
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, at NOON
WHERE:Parliament Hill, with speeches at 1pm in front of Minister Duncan’s office at the Confederation building (Bank & Wellington) , including representatives from major Unions, KAIROS , Council of Canadians, Green Party, Indigenous Environmental Network, and others

For further information:
Tony Wawatie, Barriere Lake community spokesperson: 819-860-4121
For media backgrounders : 514-550-8706
For more information: http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org