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

Advertisements

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.

-30-

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/

 

-30-

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