Indian Affairs Push Algonquin Families of Barriere Lake to the Brink of Starvation; Food and Cash Needed
For the last three months, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has refused to issue social assistance cheques to 15 Algonquin families at Barriere Lake. This has affected between 50-60 people, including 25 children. Aboriginal Affairs is aware of the situation, but has failed to intervene.
The Chief and Council at Barriere Lake are questioning whether the band’s non-compliance with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act is behind this brutal denial of social assistance funds.
The Chief and Council at Barriere Lake have not submitted the consolidated financial statements required by the Transparency Act in protest of the band’s lack of control over band spending. As punishment for non-compliance, the Chief and a member of Council have not been paid for their work since November 27, 2014.
Barriere Lake has been under “Third Party Management” since 2006, which authorizes external accountants hired by Aboriginal Affairs to take over discretion of band finances and spending.
As winter sets in and the Christmas season is upon us, it is extremely difficult for these families and for the band’s governing body to survive without any other source of income. We are calling communities near and far to provide immediate support for Barriere Lake in this time of need.
What is needed?
Needed: Flour, baking powder, vegetable oil, rice, tomato soup, canned whole tomatoes, salt, pepper, cereals, eggs, porridge, macaroni, pasta, pasta sauce, white bread, chicken and beef broth, white beans, canned beans, margarine, potatoes (at least 200 pounds), pancake mix, syrup, dried peas, mac and cheese. Any other canned goods and dry goods that are common consumables and non-perishable.
If you are in Ottawa, please bring contributions to First United Church at 347 Richmond Road between 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM, December 21 – 27. Before delivering any contributions, please call the church at 613-232-1016 or if there is no answer call 613729-2647 to let them know you are coming. Please take the goods to the back of the Church off Madison Ave (one block north of Richmond).
Insist that (1) all social assistance payments – including back payments – are made immediately, and that the Department will work with the Chief and Council to ensure that no further payments are withheld; and (2) that the Federal Government meet Barriere Lake’s following demands, regarding the Transparency Act:
– Chief and Council must be free to appoint a fully qualified auditor of their own choosing;
– Chief and Council must have a decisive say over what is included in the audit;
– A fair and transparent dispute resolution process must be initiated to deal with the transactions that the Third Party Manager and Aboriginal Affairs have undertaken to date without the band’s involvement or approval.
ATTAWAPISKAT, ON – 11 December 2012. Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation began a hunger strike today in protest of continuing governmental abuses against First Nations. Chief Spence stated: “Canada is violating the right of Indigenous peoples to be self-determining and continues to ignore our constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights in their lands, waters, and resources.”
Chief Spence is profoundly concerned with the hostile and adversarial approach of the Federal Government which is characterized by an intimidating and unilateral approach to working First Nations. Instead of being an advocate of First Nations, the Minister’s office is used to mislead the public about the facts of First Nation social realities and often deflects responsibility by casting blame on First Nations themselves.
First Nations are already severely and chronically underfunded on basic essential services like housing, water, food and education. These discriminatory practices have led to the current poverty crisis which impacts many First Nations which often suffer from multiple over-lapping crises in housing, water, sanitation, food insecurity, health and education.
Attawapiskat First Nation previously declared a State of Emergency in housing as some of their members were living in unheated sheds. Instead of offering assistance, Canada illegally placed the community into third-party management despite there being no problems with their audits. Shortly after the court case confirming Canada’s illegal actions, their proposal for housing was denied, leaving many community members without homes this winter.
Canada has since embarked on an aggressive, assimilatory legislative agenda without having first consulted, accommodated and obtained the consent of First Nations as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Further, Canada has attempted to silence First Nation voices by cutting essential funding at both the organizational and community levels. This is not what was envisioned in the treaty relationship.
Chief Spence feels that this backwards approach is not only poisoning Canada’s relationship with First Nations, but will irrevocably destroy the lands and waters that all Canadians need for sustainability and balance. Canada’s actions against First Nations will impact the future generations of all Canadians. She feels that Canada must withdraw the recent suite of legislation being imposed without First Nation consent and reverse its decision to cut funding to First Nation organizations and communities.
Chief Spence is encouraging First Nation leaders to support her on this hunger strike. She will remain on this hunger strike until both Her Majesty the Queen and the Canadian government agree to meet with First Nation leaders and engage in meaningful dialogue on our rights.
Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote, isolated First Nation in North Eastern Ontario, whose traditional territory includes lands around the Attawapiskat and Ekwan river systems in Northern Ontario. They form part of the Cree Nation and are affiliated with the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council.
Attawapiskat First Nation comprises 3,429 band members with approximately 1,800 on-reserve members. Chief Spence also sent an open letter to her membership yesterday (which is attached).
For further information, please contact Chief Theresa Spence (807) 629-6704), or by email to Theresa.email@example.com.
Exclusive CBC interview on 8th day of hunger strike (Dec 18th) – 17min:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”