Archive | Aboriginal and Inuit Non-Mining Issues

First Nations-owned company receives ‘up to $60M’ to connect Pikangikum to Ontario power grid (CBC News Thunder Bay – August 17, 2017)

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs says the federal government has pledged “up to $60 million,” for a long-awaited power project in Ontario’s far north.

Carolyn Bennett announced in Thunder Bay on Thursday that Wataynikaneyap Power — a transmission company owned by 22 First Nations in partnership with Fortis, a Canadian utility — will receive the money to connect Pikangikum to the province’s electricity grid.

The announcement, which sets the stage for work to be done to ensure a reliable flow of electricity to the community, is “thrilling,” Chief Dean Owen said. “The community will just be jubilant about it now, and now we can move forward,” he said. Construction on a 117 kilometre-long power line from Red Lake to Pikangikum is scheduled to begin in October, 2017, according to officials with Watay Power, with an estimated completion date of November, 2018. Continue Reading →

Far northern Ontario provincial ridings to be doubled (CBC News Sudbury – August 8, 2017)

Legislature to vote this fall to split current two electoral ridings into four in time for 2018 election

The Ontario legislature will vote this fall on adding two more ridings to the province. Over the spring months, an electoral boundaries commission traveled across northern Ontario seeking feedback from residents.

The panel was tasked with finding a way to better represent the Far North region at Queen’s Park. That region is currently divided into two ridings: Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins James Bay. In its final report published Tuesday, the commission recommends doubling the number of ridings to four.

The other ridings to be created would be Kiiwetinoong in the northwest, and Mushkegowuk in the northeast. Kiiwetinoong would be a mostly Indigenous riding, while Mushkegowuk would be mostly Francophone. Continue Reading →

Ontario Liberals’ plan for two new ridings could violate the Charter and cost PCs the election – by Josh Dehaas (National Post – August 8, 2017)

Josh Dehaas is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Ontario’s Liberal government will soon consider a proposal to add two new seats in northern Ontario. If you live in the south of the province, that should worry you. Your vote would count for less and your Charter rights might be violated. If you’re a Progressive Conservative, it could cost your party the election.

The Liberals set up the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission in May and asked them to fly around the north consulting on whether to add one or two seats to the electoral map in northern Ontario. The stated goal is to create what Attorney General Yasir Naqvi called “predominantly Indigenous” ridings.

The commission came back with their interim report last month and it states—surprise, surprise—that northerners would prefer adding two new ridings, instead of just one. While the public won’t see the final report until Naqvi makes it public, the plan put forward in the interim report is to chop two huge, far north districts into four, creating four new seats.  Two of the seats (Mushkegowuk and Kiiwetinong) would be majority-Indigenous, and one (Timmins) would be about 40 per cent Francophone. Continue Reading →

Globe editorial: The unspoken problem in Pikangikum (Globe and Mail – July 26, 2017)

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said last week of the First Nations community of Pikangikum, “that it’s a community in crisis.” With all due respect to Dr. Hoskins, it would require willful blindness to arrive at any other conclusion.

Pikangikum, a remote Ojibwa community of about 2,800 in northwestern Ontario, has been in a state of crisis for decades. In 2000, a British sociologist calculated that it had the world’s highest suicide rate, at 213 suicides per 100,000 people.

In 2012, Maclean’s magazine famously dubbed it “the suicide capital of the world,” after the rate reached 250 per 100,000 people. Many more have died by suicide since then, the latest being four youths this month, including two 12-year-olds. Continue Reading →

Globe editorial: After 150 years, Canada’s Indigenous citizens are finally being heard (Globe and Mail – June 30, 2017)

It’s not surprising, then, that as the country marks the 150th anniversary
of Confederation, there is a widespread sense that any celebration of one
of the most successful societies in the world must be tempered by the conscious
acknowledgment that the rise of the nation created in 1867 has gone hand
in hand with state-enforced maltreatment of the people who were here first.

Fifty years ago, at Expo 67 in Montreal, the “Indians of Canada” pavilion was meant to be one more tribute to Canada’s accomplishments as a young, modern nation.

Overseen by federal bureaucrats, the exhibit featured a giant, stylized teepee at its centre. Native art murals dominated the exterior walls; a totem pole stood at the entrance. It felt familiar and safe to white Canadians. In Ottawa’s mind, it would highlight the success of the government’s long-standing policy of assimilation of “the Indian.”

Like those policies, it didn’t work out as expected. By some cosmic miscalculation, the feds allowed Indigenous Canadians to have a say in the content of “their” pavilion. And they wanted to tell a very different story. As a result, four million visitors saw the usual arrows and ceremonial headdresses, and photos of smiling Indigenous people working as loggers and miners. Continue Reading →

Facile ‘Canada 150’ celebration deserves to be disrupted – by Chris Selley (National Post – June 30, 2017)

It is a common refrain: for heaven’s sake, move on. A few moments’ thought ought
to reveal how simplistic it is. You can’t steal a generation of children from their
parents and expect the effects to wear off in half a century. But what the hell:
in keeping with Canada 150’s allergy to history, let’s focus on the present.

Trudeau’s Liberals talked an awfully big game about getting to work on it. Its
bite has already proven weaker than its bark. Trudeau promised to eliminate
boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves within five years. That won’t
even come close to happening.

The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting a human
rights tribunal order to fund First Nations child services equitably; in
opposition, the Liberals would have screamed bloody murder about that.

On Wednesday evening, indigenous protesters marched on to Parliament Hill and, after some back and forth with the local constabulary, erected a large white tepee. The group’s leaders told reporters they intended to “reoccupy” “unceded Algonquin territory,” and remind Canadians that “reconciliation” with the people who were here before them lies far down a bumpy road.

If nothing else, it was a welcome moment of coherence: big white tepee, Parliament Hill, three days before Canada Day — no one is going to wonder what that’s about. By contrast, I’m not sure what “Canada 150,” the officially branded and hash-tagged celebration of this country’s existence, is supposed to be. Continue Reading →

Diamonds are not forever: Indigenous communities grapple with end of the mining boom – by Michael West and Suzanne Smith (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – June 27, 2017)

As Australia’s resources boom wanes, several Indigenous communities that were once promised prosperity have been left grappling with a legacy of endemic poverty and questions about how mining money has been spent.

For the traditional land owners around the township of Kununurra in the remote north of Western Australia, diamonds have not been their best friends. The nearby Argyle diamond mine is three years from closure, and a royalties fund designed to ensure the community’s future is severely depleted.

Nestled among the scenic ranges of the Kimberley, Kununurra is blessed by an abundance of fresh water, the arable plains of the Ord River to the north-west and the Rio Tinto diamond mine to the south. The Indigenous Land Use Agreement that traditional owners negotiated with Argyle between 2003 and 2005 was held up as an example of best practice across the country. Continue Reading →

Indigenous law banishes a giant B.C. mine – by Elizabeth McSheffrey (National Observer – April 21, 2017)

The moment you step onto Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc land in southern British Columbia, according to Chief Ron Ignace, you are a beggar. As an outsider, you have no rights and you’ve strayed away from your home and family. You are considered a poor person, he tells National Observer, and you are beholden to the First Nations on whose territory you stand.

His message takes aim at anyone who wants to do business or travel on his nation’s land, be they tourists, government, companies, fishers, or boaters.

“The days of colonial authoritarianism are over,” he says. “It’s time for Canada to recognize that we are nations, as nations we have rights to our land, and if we are approached honourably, we can sit down and come to a fair and just conclusion.” Continue Reading →

[First Nations water] Unsafe to drink – by Matthew McClearn (Globe and Mail – February 21, 2017)

A Globe review shows water treatment plants are failing on reserves across Canada. For every system the government fixes, plenty remain in a shambolic state

Several days each week last fall, water trucks left Sudbury and drove 130 kilometres west to the Serpent River First Nation, a reserve on Lake Huron’s north shore. There, they emptied about 18,000 litres into a reservoir to supplement the community’s water treatment plant. John Owl, the plant operator, said it ran 24 hours a day and still could not provide enough water to meet the needs of the reserve’s 350 inhabitants. Not that they could drink it – it is subject to a drinking water advisory.

A snowstorm in December shut the Trans-Canada Highway, blocking the water shipments. A pipe ruptured in the crawlspace of an abandoned home, draining about four truckloads of water. And as temperatures dropped, the plant’s output fell. “As the water gets colder, it gets denser and it’s harder to push through the filters,” Mr. Owl explained.

Serpent River’s woes resemble those of the 90 other Canadian reserves under drinking-water advisories. But there is a cruel twist: This water treatment plant is barely a year old. Continue Reading →

Former First Nations chief stakes legal claim on mining minister’s property – by Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail – January 24, 2017)

VICTORIA — A former First Nations chief who has battled the B.C. government over its mining policies says she has legally staked a claim on the private property of Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

It took less than an hour for Bev Sellars, a lawyer and former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation at Soda Creek, to file an application with the province to become a free miner and then to use the ministry’s online registry to stake her claim for the right to explore a chunk of land that includes Mr. Bennett’s Cranbrook home.

“I really didn’t believe it was that easy, I was thinking, ‘holy smokes, this is crazy,’” Ms. Sellars said in an interview. Mr. Bennett declined an interview request on Tuesday, while he was attending a mining conference in Vancouver. Continue Reading →

Nunavut regulator requests updated FEIS on rejected Nunavut gold project [Sabina Gold] (Nunatsiaq News – January 24, 2017)

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has launched its re-assessment process for Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River gold project with a Jan. 23 request to the mining company for updates to its Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS.

“The NIRB believes that provision of an updated FEIS document or addendum by the proponent would be the most effective means of providing additional information and highlighting existing information regarding the effects assessment for the Back River Project…” the NIRB’s Jan. 23 letter said.

The NIRB confirmed its plans Jan. 24 to schedule a public hearing to consider the updated FEIS document. The letter comes on the heels of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s Jan. 12 letter, which sent the NIRB’s final public hearing report on the project back to the review board. Continue Reading →

From housing to health, Trudeau’s rhetoric on First Nations out of step with reality, critics say – by David Akin (National Post – November 23, 2016)

OTTAWA — Under fire from his political opponents for not doing enough for the welfare of aboriginal children, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was indignant in reply.

“The fact of the matter is that no government has done more to repair the relationship with indigenous Canadians than this one, with $8.4 billion over the next five years in building infrastructure, supporting young people, and supporting indigenous communities,” Trudeau told the House of Commons Tuesday.

And yet, a growing number of indigenous leaders are coming to the conclusion that such lofty rhetoric is sounding increasingly hollow, that it does not match the record of the Trudeau government’s first year in office. Continue Reading →

Isolation a barrier to exposing sexual abuse, incest on reserve: Bellegarde – by Kristy Kirkup (Canadian Press — Nov 13 2016)

OTTAWA — At night, he would arrive in Corey’s room by crawling through the window next to the bunk bed where she slept. She knew from the smell when he was there. By day, she endured different hands, sometimes under the most mundane circumstances — once, she recalls, while in the kitchen eating lunch. He pulled down her underwear and started fondling her. He left money on the table.

They were family members, these two predators — their unwanted touch impossible to escape for a young girl living on a remote First Nation in British Columbia.

That isolation, a fact of life for many Aboriginal Peoples, is a pernicious barrier to the essential goal of exposing the scourge of indigenous sexual abuse and incest, says Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Bellegarde is pleading with chiefs to confront the problem head-on. Continue Reading →

Residents report rashes, stomach pains amid water crisis on northern Ontario reserve [North Caribou Lake FN] – by Tanya Talaga (Toronto Star – November 14, 2016)

For the past seven days, nearly 230 households in a remote northwestern Ontario community have gone without clean drinking water and proper sewage. There are four ruptures in the main line that delivers water from a treatment facility to houses in North Caribou (Weagamow) Lake First Nation, said Chief Dinah Kanate. North Caribou is a 45-minute flight north from Sioux Lookout.

North Caribou’s water treatment staff have been working around the clock to try to fix the situation. They need to keep water moving through the line for fear of contamination, said Kanate, but she fears the water is unfit for use. Residents are using the water to wash clothes and bathe in. Samples were taken and flown out to health authorities on Sunday.

“If the pressure is lost, the water will become contaminated,” said Kanate. “What we have now is young children and adults have rashes. Eczema is flaring. People are complaining of stomach pains. Some kids were jumping in the showers and they are coming out with sores.” Continue Reading →

Replace hidebound INAC with a 21st century ministry – by Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – November 4, 2016)

We witnessed the unseemly sight this week of Parliament voting unanimously to force Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to obey an order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It was a low point in the administration of the First Nations file, but it also was very revealing of a federal department that considers it a law unto itself.

On the same day media reported that INAC had lapsed more than $900 million that had been allocated to be spent on First Nations.

The motion, moved by New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, called on the Liberal government to comply with all the orders made by the human rights tribunal, which had ruled that Ottawa was practising racial discrimination by underfunding child welfare programs. The motion also ordered INAC to “immediately invest” $155 million in child welfare and develop a financial plan for future years. Continue Reading →