“I am a survivor of a residential school. I don’t want that kind of life experience for my children. I want my grandchildren to have a face and a mouth that they will be proud of, not an empty face. I want them to have an identity. This is what we are fighting for.” – Michel Thusky (from CounterPunch: Sustainable Colonialism® in the Boreal Forest)
Just a few hours up the Gatineau River from Ottawa is the Algonquin Community of Barriere Lake. Access to the forests lakes and rivers of their territory is a vital to this Algonquin community’s identity and for generations they have fought to protect it from destructive resource projects, while also finding ways to co-exist with Quebec and Canadian society. Though there have been many challenges, the language and traditions in Barriere Lake remain strong.
In 1991 the community signed a landmark and historic agreement with Canada and Quebec that should have created a process for co-management of their territory and modest revenue sharing with the community. As with many other agreements made with Indigenous peoples in Canada, Barriere Lake’s tri-lateral agreement has not been respected.
This summer, Resolute Forest Products, a logging company based in Montreal, has been clear cutting in an environmentally and culturally important area of the Barriere Lake’s territory without consultation and consent of the community. After 3 weeks of protest against the clear-cutting the community is going to court to assert their rights and jurisdiction to protect their land. They are asking for your moral and financial support! It is a difficult situation for the community since they have few financial resources.
“You know, this land is important to us, especially the people who harvest off this territory. Because right now they’re destroying a huge moose habitat, bear dens, sacred sites. They don’t care about the stuff that is out there, our medicine. And when the land is destroyed, we’re destroyed. – Norman Matchewan (from Dominon Paper Issue #84: September/October 2012)
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.
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.”
Tanya Tagaq was invited to participate in the first plenary, entitled ‘Breaking Cycles’, of the international Women’s Worlds 2011 conference, Her inspiring and heartfelt words touched on the topics of how traditional Inuit ways of keeping healthy communities were repressed under colonialism, about strong role models, residential schools, imposed community relocations, healing and breaking the cycles of sexual abuse, and even publicly announcing her 12-weeks-in pregnancy – plus she brought the plenary to a close with some beautiful singing.
She was on the panel with Andrea Smith, Devaki Jain, and moderator Joanne St. Lewis. She was there in place of Monica Chuji Gualinga from Ecuador, who had difficulties with her travel visa and was unable to attend.
This was one of four plenaries, and around 300 sessions overall, during the five-day international women’s congress which is Women’s Worlds, celebrating it’s 30-year history in 2011. It was held this year in Ottawa, Canada, and over 2,000 women from around the world attended. More: www.womensworlds.ca
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.
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.
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.