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BCAFN Daily News

01/11/2011

 


 

A. First Nations Stories Dominating the News

1 - Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

FIRST PERSPECTIVE – January 10, 2011 - The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP / the “Declaration”) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Although Canada had been an active participant in drafting this document over a period of two decades, Canada opted to oppose the adoption in 2007, along with three other UN member nations: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Since then both Australia and New Zealand have reversed their position on the Declaration. In Canada, this past March, after more than two years of Indigenous advocacy, in its Speech from the Throne, Canada also expressed its intention to take steps to endorse the Declaration. Finally, on November 12, 2010, Canada announced that it had advised the President of the United Nations General Assembly that it was endorsing the UNDRIP. The UNDRIP was adopted by the Chiefs-in-Assembly in Resolution No. 37/2007. It is an expression of the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. It sets out the principles of partnership and mutual respect that should guide the relationship between states and Indigenous peoples. It provides ways to measure and assess the way states are respecting and implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples. Key Issues and Activities - At the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) meeting in New York in April 2010, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo was honoured to be selected to represent the North American Indigenous Caucus in the Half Day of Dialogue on North America. The National Chief spoke to key areas for action by First Nations and the Government of Canada, including Treaties, citizenship, comprehensive land claims, border rights, water rights and missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. In each area, the National Chief identified the need to address these issues based on the principles of the UN Declaration – principles that serve to establish a minimum baseline upon which to address a wide range of issues affecting First Nations in Canada. In June 2010, the UNPFII released its Report from its April session. The Report recommends, among other things:The Permanent Forum urges the Governments of Canada and the United States to work in good faith with indigenous peoples for the unqualified endorsement and full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and urges that such endorsement and implementation honour the spirit and intent of the Declaration, consistent with indigenous peoples’ human rights. The Permanent Forum encourages United Nations agencies and other bodies to offer training programmes for Canadian and national parliamentarians and United States members of Congress, and staff within national institutions such as human rights commissions and other agencies, with the aim of integrating the spirit and intent of the Declaration into national policies. AFN Resolution 41/2010 concerning “Sacred Treaties-Sacred Trust: Working Together for Treaty Implementation and Advancing our Sovereignty as Nations” directs the AFN to provide First Nations with a draft resolution that can be passed by First Nation governments to reflect their own adoption of the UNDRIP. The draft resolution is included in the meeting materials for the December 2010 Special Chiefs Assembly. Looking-Forward Agenda to Annual General Assembly – July 2011. To develop a First Nation implementation plan with the Government of Canada regarding the reflection of the standards set out in the UNDRIP within the laws and policies of Canada regarding Treaties, comprehensive claims, self-government and the full range of issues affecting First Nation and Canada relations.

 

2 - Inquiry offers lifeline to schools - Hancock will create community team to oversee Northland report's recommendations

EDMONTON JOURNAL, Elise Stolte - January 11, 2011 - A struggling northern aboriginal school division should have nine years yet to prove it can change before the province considers carving it into pieces for neighbouring jurisdictions. The Northland School Division, which serves 2,900 mainly aboriginal students in isolated communities throughout northern Alberta, was thrown a lifeline Monday in the final recommendations made by a three-man provincial inquiry team. "It was a sigh of relief. The division will largely remain intact," said Christy Jellett, describing staff reactions at Mistassiniy High School in Wabasca-Desmarais, a hamlet in north-central Alberta. "People did not want to see the division lost (along with) the culture and the rich history that it represents," said the vice-principal. Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock appointed the inquiry team when he fired all 23 elected divisional trustees in January 2010, citing poor and declining student performance and problems with the Northland governance.The three-member inquiry came back with 48 recommendations and suggested that if little or no progress is made in nine years, "then the need for further interventions, including possible radical boundary change, should be reconsidered." The division has been resistant to change for the past three decades, said inquiry team leader Dave van Tamelen. "But with a restructured governance and leadership, Northland has a great deal of potential to be a powerful force for improving aboriginal student outcomes across northern Alberta, not just in Northland communities." Hancock said he will appoint a community engagement team to analyze and respond to the recommendations. The team will be drawn from local communities and report to Hancock's appointed trustee, Colin Kelly. Members of Treaty 8, Metis settlements, education leaders, school division administrators and provincial staff will also be involved. "That's the only way there will be lasting success for the students," said Hancock. "It's not going to work for an old white guy like me to go into a community and tell them this is what's good for you. We need to sit down with the communities." But others looked for more immediate action. "Basically, what it sounds like in our little world is it's going to committee," Jellett said, summarizing staff reactions. But at the same time, she said, the report was encouraging because teachers are already working on many of the recommendations. "We're going in the direction we've been asked to go in.""There's a sense of cautious optimism," said Mistassiniy school principal Randy Chernipeski. Hancock said his initial bias was against keeping all of the schools in Northland. The schools were initially brought together in the 1960s because their extreme isolation presented similar problems. Many were fly-in communities then, but the road network has expanded since. If one simply looks at a map, Northland schools are so spread out they are often closer on a map to other jurisdictions whose student outcomes are much higher, said Hancock. "But I'm prepared to accept the incredible amount of work that the team put in and to challenge my bias." When Hancock fired the board and appointed the inquiry team, he said only 20 per cent of high school students in the division graduated, and a new $12.5-million school on the Peavine Metis Settlement had been sitting empty for eight months. It has since opened. The team recommended two schools -- Anzac School near Fort McMurray and Red Earth Creek north of Slave Lake -- be reassigned to other school jurisdictions because those communities are more diverse, making an aboriginal-focused education less appropriate. The team also recommended closing the school in Keg River, a tiny school with only 20 aboriginal students and four non-aboriginal students. The elementary school in Pelican Mountain, which had only 18 students last year, should not be closed, but its programs could be changed to make it fit better with other Northland schools near Wabasca-Desmarais.

3 - First Nation members in Yukon protest clan system to appoint chief and council

FIRST PERSPECTIVE – January 10, 2011 - CARCROSS - Members of a First Nation who barricaded an aboriginal government's office in the Yukon this week are demanding a change to a clan system used to appoint their chief. ``We haven't had an election for 15 years in this community,'' said Harold Gatensby, one of about 20 protesters who stood outside the chained entrance of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation office. Albert James, a 67-year-old elder, also has problems with the clan system the First Nation's membership voted to adopt during the land claims negotiation process that began in the late 1990s. ``We have no say in who leads us,'' he said. ``They go into a little room, they come out and say, `This is your chief.' ``The ordinary people out here have nothing to say about that.'' The First Nation's land claim was signed in 2003 and ratified in 2005. According to the clan governance system, Carcross-Tagish's chief is appointed by a hierarchy of clan leaders.

Mark Wedge is currently in his second four-year mandate as the band's chief. The complaints among the Carcross-Tagish members who chained the First Nation's office doors shut go beyond how the chief and council are appointed. Larry Barrett, a 65-year-old semi-retired heavy equipment contractor, said the band refused to make repairs on his home, so the White River First Nation, where his wife was a member, stepped in to do the work. ``The stove and everything is in there but then my wife died last January and they stopped work on the house because my wife belonged to that band and I don't,'' Barrett said. ``My house is actually sitting worse now than it was. Why does a small band like Beaver Creek have to come and help a First Nation (person) in Carcross here when my band is here?'' He said the Indian Affairs Department would have done the work before the land claims agreement was signed. Natasha Smith, a 33-year-old protester and mother of four children, told a similar story. ``We didn't have any heat in my late grandfather's house in Tagish whatsoever for three months of the winter,'' she said. ``I went to Mark (Wedge), begging and pleading for him to help me with this and he basically said, `There's nothing I can do.''' At a subsequent transitional employment program, Smith recalled Wedge saying he would ``never let his people freeze.'' ``When I stood up and asked him about what happened when I asked for help, he said that I fell through the cracks,'' said Smith, who has since been moved to a home owned by the First Nation in Carcross, where she now pays rent. On Wednesday evening, Wedge and the Carcross-Tagish's executive council visited the protesters and attempted to break the impasse. Gatensby demanded that the electoral system be re-introduced. ``I'm tired of living under a dictatorship,'' he said. ``I'm tired of not having a voice.'' Wedge offered those barricading his office a general assembly to address matters such as electoral reform in four weeks, but several protesters around the small fire burning in front of the building wanted the assembly to take place by Thursday. Wedge said that would be impossible. ``We agree with you that we need to have a process to have this dialogue with the community, but the broader community needs to be involved as well, all 840 members,'' he said. More than half of Carcross-Tagish members live outside of the First Nation's traditional territory and Wedge said they must be informed of a general assembly to give them an opportunity to participate. The protesters agreed to end the blockade Thursday after Wedge agreed to draw up a resolution mandating a general assembly and a working group to hash out various issues. The deal between the two sides will include a general assembly to take place no later than Feb. 10. Wedge said his community had not conducted a popular vote for its chief and council for about 15 years but he defended the current clan system, saying it creates more community involvement.  (Whitehorse Star)

B. Other First Nation Stories of Interest

1 - AFN National Chief Comments on Passing of Mohawk Elder Ernest (Ernie) Kaientaronkwen Benedict

OTTAWA, Jan. 10 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo commented today on the passing of Elder Ernest (Ernie) Kaientaronkwen Benedict, a long-serving and highly respected Elder of the Mohawk Nation who resided in Akwesasne. "Today, First Nations people across the country join the citizens of the Mohawk Nation in mourning the loss of a respected Elder and teacher, a great leader and a great man: Ernie Kaientaronkwen Benedict. Ernie was a pioneer in many fields, including education. He was one of the first First Nations people to obtain a university degree and dedicated much of his life to ensuring education was a tool and a vehicle to advance the aspirations of the Mohawk Nation and First Nation peoples everywhere. Ernie was a strong believer in the rights and sovereignty of the First Peoples. He was a strong advocate for First Nations border crossing rights as well as the right of First Nations to control their own affairs and make the decisions that affect their lives and communities. Ernie taught all of us so much in so many areas, yet everything he did was guided by an unwavering belief in the inherent rights of First Nations. First Nations today have identified education as a key priority to strengthen our youth and our nations. This is very much a legacy of the work and life of Ernie Kaientaronkwen Benedict, who was one of the first to articulate the principle of First Nation control of First Nation education. Ernie's work in education, community and social development and enhancing and strengthening traditional culture was rightly recognized with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1995. His insight, wisdom, strength and commitment to his people will be greatly missed. On behalf of the AFN, I want to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Elder Ernie Kaientaronkwen Benedict. Our prayers are with you." National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo - Assembly of First Nations

2 - Enbridge’s proposed pipeline stirs strong emotions along the route

GLOBE AND MAIL PHOTO GALLERY: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/enbridges-proposed-pipeline-stirs-strong-emotions-along-the-route/article1864560/

3 - National program to inspire Aboriginal youth achievement in Writing and Visual Arts

FIRST PERSPECTIVE - Toronto – January 10, 2011 – The Historica-Dominion Institute is calling on Aboriginal youth between the ages of 14-29 to explore an aspect of Aboriginal history through the literary and visual arts. This year, The Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge (http://www.our-story.ca) celebrates seven years of the Writing Challenge and proudly announces its inaugural foray into visual arts. Participants have a chance to earn national recognition and win up to $2000 in cash prizes as well as a trip for two to Toronto for a special awards ceremony attended by Aboriginal leaders, writers and artists. “The Institute hopes to inspire a new generation of Aboriginal voices to share their stories and artistic expressions with Canada through the expanded Challenge this year,” says Jeremy Diamond, Director of Development and Programs, at The Historica-Dominion Institute’s National Office. “We look forward to receiving wonderful and creative submissions, both writing and visuals arts, and celebrating another year of Aboriginal achievement.” Stories and artwork will be assessed by two impressive juries made up of some of Canada’s most celebrated Aboriginal leaders, writers and artists, including Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden, playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor and artists Kent Monkman and Maxine Noel.“Young indigenous voices from across Canada dazzled last year,” Boyden says. “We believe that this important contest will continue to discover more and more talented Aboriginal youth.”The Challenge is supported by a number of honorary patrons, including Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Mary Simon, Métis Nation President Clément Chartier, The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and John Kim Bell, founder of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. “I am honoured to act as Honorary Patron of the project,” National Chief Shawn Atleo says, “and extremely proud of all who use the Challenge as a way to make meaning of events that are significant to all Canadians.”Presented by Enbridge Inc. the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge is a national initiative of The Historica-Dominion Institute. Supporting sponsors include Vale, TD Bank Financial Group, the Imperial Oil Foundation, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Canada Council for the Arts and Canada’s History magazine. Media Sponsors include Aboriginal Link and Prairie Dog Film and Television.“Enbridge is extremely proud to partner with The Historica-Dominion Institute for the seventh Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge – this year expanding to become the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge,” said Dan O’Grady, National Manager, Community Partnerships & Investment, Enbridge Inc.  By expanding the Challenge to include the arts, we hope to reach a new audience of Aboriginal youth, offering them an important opportunity to share their artistic expressions with the rest of Canada and help foster an ongoing understanding of Aboriginal culture.”The Historica-Dominion Institute is the largest independent organization dedicated to history and citizenship in Canada. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada. Visit www.historica-dominion.ca.

 

4 - Aboriginal education key

LETTER TO THE EDITOR By Paul Davidson, The StarPhoenix January 11, 2011 - Re: School disparity due to funding: chief (SP, Jan. 7). FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild highlights a crucial point: Saskatchewan's economy will not achieve its full potential without the promised successful overhaul of aboriginal education. In fact, Canada as a whole will emerge stronger when First Nations students get the high quality education they require and deserve -- an innovative education that celebrates aboriginal identity and knowledge. The solution doesn't stop with sweeping changes in K-12 education. Improvements to the accessibility and relevancy of post-secondary education for aboriginal Canadians must figure prominently in a broader transformation. Thanks to a new partnership between Canada's universities and aboriginal communities, it's already happening. In October, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation co-hosted a summit on aboriginal post-secondary Education. It highlighted that Canada's post-secondary institutions are helping strengthen the educational experience of aboriginal K-12 students in significant ways, including an aboriginal focus in many teacher-education programs and youth outreach initiatives. They're committed to doing more. Universities are strengthening existing outreach programs and nurturing new ways of engaging aboriginal youth. And they're increasingly developing curriculum relevant to aboriginal students' life experiences. These commitments have been made with a sense of urgency. Aboriginal people no longer can have limited access to the high quality of life Canada affords. And we need their full participation and partnership in building the economy if Canada is going to be a productivity leader in the new global marketplace. Education is how we get there. Paul Davidson President, AUCC

5 - Attawapiskat First Nation launches catering business

NORTHERN ONTARIO BUSINESS – January 10, 2011 - Attawapiskat Catering Limited Partnership has secured the contract for catering and operating services at the De Beers Canada Victor Mine site, taking over from ESS Support Services. The newly formed company is fully owned and operated by First Nations. Additionally, the company has partnered with Outland Camps, a Toronto-based company supplying full-service work camps. “This is an exciting, positive development for our community,” said Theresa Spence, chief of Attawapiskat First Nation, in a press release.
The contract will take effect Feb. 2, 2011.

C. Stories Dominating the News

1 - Mayerthorpe inquiry to hear from RCMP sergeant

THE CANADIAN PRESS – January 11, 2011- STONY PLAIN, Alta. — The fatality inquiry into the killing of four Alberta Mounties continues today with testimony expected from the officer in charge of the fateful investigation that led to their deaths. Jim Martin was second in command of the Mayerthorpe detachment and the corporal in charge the day constables Anthony Gordon, Peter Schiemann, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston were gunned down in March 2005. Martin, who is now a sergeant, was responsible for deploying and directing officers as they investigated James Roszko, the gunman who ended up killing himself. One of the lingering questions about the Mayerthorpe shooting revolves around whether officers on scene had adequate resources and training to protect themselves from an ambush by Roszko, a known cop hater. Two weeks have been set aside for the inquiry. It can't assign blame in the killings but is intended to make recommendations to prevent future tragedies.

2 - Trial opens in Quebec town’s tainted water lawsuit

GLOBE AND MAIL, Rheal Seguin – January 10, 2011 - Quebec Superior Court Justice Bernard Godbout began hearing opening arguments in a landmark case that has pitted residents from a small Quebec town against the federal government and a munitions manufacturer. Over the next six months, lawyers will present evidence on whether the use of the chemical solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, was to blame for an unusually high number of cancer cases, deaths and other serious health problems in Shannon, near Quebec City. It has been alleged that TCE, considered a probable carcinogen, was dumped into the soil for decades at a unitions factory on the nearby CFB Valcartier military base and gradually filtered into the water supply of the town’s residents. More than 3,500 former and current residents of Shannon, many of whom are families of military personnel based in Valcartier, are part of the class-action suit. According to the plaintiffs, approximately 500 TCE-related cancer cases have been documented, including 200 deaths. In his opening remarks Monday, the lawyer representing the federal government said there wasn’t a shred of scientific evidence to substantiate the claim that TCE, which was detected in the water supply, caused any of the cancers documented in Shannon. “When you analyze the data on exposure, there are very few people who have exposure (to TCE),” David Lucas said. “And from a scientific point of view … there are very few types of cancer which have been found to have a causal relationship with exposure to TCE. The people who live in these residences, do they have the cancers associated with TCE? And our estimate is no.” Yet Claude Juneau, who practised medicine in the community for 37 years, had observed an unusually high number of cancer-related deaths and diseases. In 2000, when the residents learned that the wells from which they drew their drinking water had been contaminated with TCE, Dr. Juneau was convinced the deaths were part of a major public-health scandal. “The number of people with brain cancer was 20 times higher than what we were supposed to find. It was the same thing for the number of kidney, pancreatic and liver cancers,” said Dr. Juneau, now 78. “I showed my file to oncologists who couldn’t believe the numbers.” Marie-Paule Speiser, a nurse in Shannon, witnessed first hand the increasing number of cancer cases in the community, including that of her husband and several neighbours and friends. Ms. Speiser, who blames TCE for the health problems and those that she has also developed, accepted lead-plaintiff designation in the case. The unprecedented litigation could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages should she win on behalf of the residents. In his opening arguments, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Charles Veilleux, argued that the federal Defence Department and the company who manufactured the ammunition, Industries Valcartier Inc., knew about the health risks involved in dumping TCE in the environment. He contends they were “negligent” by refusing to end the practice and inform the public. “Since the 1950s, the government received expert advice on the environmental impact of dumping the contaminants into the soil,” Mr. Veilleux told the court. “The government failed to put into place the measures to avoid the contamination. … It knew the TCE would contaminate the ground water.” The federal government categorically denied the allegations, saying that TCE didn’t appear in the water supply until the 1990s, rather than in the 1940s and 1950s as claimed by the residents. According to Mr. Lucas, expert testimony will show that Quebec’s National Public Health Institute issued proper warnings when TCE was detected in the 1990s and that the manufacturer and the federal government could not be held responsible for industrial practices used decades earlier that were not known at the time to be harmful to the environment. Jean Saint-Onge, the lawyer representing SNC-Lavallin, who bought the munitions factory in 1980 before selling it in 2007 to a subsidiary of General Dynamics – also named in the class-action suit – argued that the company followed normal procedures and did nothing to knowingly contaminate Shannon’s water supply. While the class-action court proceedings began on Monday, much of the preparations have already been taken to help expedite the trial. At least 23 expert witnesses will be heard between now and mid-April, followed by testimony from numerous cancer victims and their families.

3 - Weight of words in focus after Arizona shooting

CNN, Kristi Keck – January 11, 2011 - There's no evidence the heated political environment played any role in the shooting spree that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition and killed six others, but observers say if nothing else, the tragedy will force politicians to re-evaluate their rhetoric. Militant-themed messages and speeches laced with fear have marked recent dialogue in Washington and on the campaign trail, but in the aftermath of the massacre in Arizona, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling on their colleagues to tone it down. "An event like this really ought to make us rethink the way we speak to each other every day about politics and policy in the country, especially in the Congress," said Thomas Benson, professor of rhetoric at Penn State University. The night before Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona, Giffords issued a new call for more civility in politics. She sent an e-mail to outgoing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, that included a remark about the need to "tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."Giffords e-mail: Need to 'tone our rhetoric and partisanship down' The suspected shooter's motive is unclear, but Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was quick to criticize the "vitriolic rhetoric" heard on the radio and television. "That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences," he said Saturday. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's political aide removed a controversial Web post this weekend that featured cross hairs over the congressional districts of 20 Democratic candidates, including Giffords. A Palin aide denied the Web posting from the 2010 congressional campaign was designed to incite violence. Adviser: Linking Palin to shootings 'appalling' Florida conservative radio host Joyce Kauffman took heat after remarking at a Tea Party rally, "If ballots don't work, bullets will." Biting language has also come from those on the left, with Democrats and President Obama pegging Republicans as"hostage takers." Despite all the nastiness, Richard Vatz, professor of political communication at Towson University in Maryland, said the notion that the rhetoric caused the violence is "fallacious." That connection, he said, is born out of recognition that such violent incidents can't be eradicated. "The motive I think is the frustration that a congresswoman can be shot and that a judge can be killed and that an utterly innocent little girl can be killed and we can't preventatively stop these matters. The frustration is that we cannot stop this," Vatz said. Poll: Charged speech not to blame for Arizona attacks David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN, said that until the gunman's motive is clear, pointing fingers "only contributes to what we must end in America: a toxic political environment.""This is not a moment to point fingers and make accusations. But it is a time to pray for the victims -- and to pledge to each other that we will struggle for a more civil and decent America," he wrote in a commentary on CNN.com. Despite the disconnect between cause and effect, Vatz said he predicts there will be a softening of the tone on Capitol Hill as Congress returns to business as usual. "There will be an effort to avoid incendiary rhetoric. But as to whether that will have any effect in a macro sense on nationwide violence, I think it will not," he said. Before the shooting at the Arizona political meet-and-greet, House lawmakers were preparing to vote on the repeal of the health care legislation this week. The debate leading up to the passage of the Democrats' health care plan was bitterly partisan, and the attempt to repeal the legislation was expected to be equally volatile. The House of Representatives instead decided to postpone all legislation scheduled for this week, replacing the health care vote with a resolution to honor the victims of the tragedy. The question remains whether Congress will be able to take up such an emotional and divisive issue without the negativity that surrounded the debate last year. House action postponed"It isn't just a question of heated rhetoric. Of course, we are going to have heated rhetoric," said Benson, the Penn State professor, "but even with extreme partisanship there can be and needs to be civility." Vatz said an avoidance of the more incendiary language could last "as long as the sensitivity to the possibility of a connection between violence and language is around.""But I think it will have diminishing returns. I think eventually the language will ratchet up again," he said. Benson said that while the impact of words is difficult to measure, language can create an atmosphere, evoke emotion and drive people apart. "Rhetoric can definitely have severe consequences or we wouldn't employ it," he said.