New school, and new hope, in Pikangikum

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(c) OPP Aboriginal unit via @OPP_Aboriginal.

This is old news by now but it’s great to see that a new school opened in Pikangikum First Nation, in northern Ontario, in October. The last building burned down a decade ago, so classes were being held in portables. Continue reading

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Dozens of suicide attempts by indigenous youth: what the f!*? is going on in ‘sunny ways’ Canada?

Walking near Attawapiskat high school

People walk near the high school in Attawapiskat. (c) CBC.ca

The Canada brand has been trending everywhere since the election of a Liberal government led by photogenic Justin Trudeau on Oct 19, 2015. This resurgence has featured Trudeau’s ‘bromance’ with US President Barack Obama and the prime minister’s declaration to the Paris climate summit in November that, “Canada is back” to assume its historical role as a nation that punches above its weight in engaging in global issues.

Continue reading

This is Canada too

WaterAdvisoriesFNCanada_CBC151015Regularly these days a global report is released revealing that one or more Canadian cities has made the world’s list of Top 10 places to live. I admit that I can’t help feeling just a twinge of pride when I hear the latest news.

Then I give my head a shake, because, for instance: Continue reading

Pikangikum: What does it take to heal a community?

Coroners_report_title_pageEarlier this year I wrote to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario asking about any follow-up to a 2011 report on a shocking series of youth suicides in the northern First Nation community of Pikangikum.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Office had followed up, and some weeks later received from them a copy of that document. My surprise turned to shock: according to the fact-based table that I received, only 1 of the report’s 100 recommendations had been implemented as made.

That’s when my journalist’s instincts kicked in and I began looking for a way to write a post around a headline that would go something like:

Only 1 of 100 recommendations in Coroner’s suicide report followed. Continue reading

Should Canadians treat First Nations like charities?

ski-doo_blog_140213A teenage girl working as a page in Ontario’s legislature hears then lieutenant-governor, James Bartleman, talk about how, growing up as an aboriginal person in a small community in northern Ontario, books were his ‘ticket out of poverty’.

Bartleman went on to describe how the shortage of books contributed to lower education outcomes in many Ontario First Nations, and how the situation endures today. Determined to do something, the girl and her sister begin collecting books to send to remote northern First Nations. To date, their organisation, Books with no Bounds, has delivered more than 15,000 books to such Ontario communities, and earlier this month the sisters, Emma and Julia Mogus of Oakville, received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal from Mr. Bartleman.

Good for them. I sincerely mean that. They are doing something, they are acting on their beliefs.

But … Continue reading

(The new) Two Solitudes*

Peter Mansbridge asked an important question Monday night during a panel discussion about the Idle No More movement. ‘Why is it that such extreme views are voiced when indigenous issues are discussed?’ asked the host of CBC-TV’s The National.

The question is important because I see the gulf between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians growing instead of shrinking, and I don’t think that a wider divide is going to benefit any of us.

I see the gulf between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians growing instead of shrinking, and I don’t think that a wider divide is going to benefit any of us.

 Having grown up in a small town on Vancouver Island where many people had strong views on this issue, I think I can answer Mansbridge’s question, for the non-aboriginal side: fairness. Many non-native Canadians believe it is unfair that aboriginal people in this country receive benefits like free education and tax-exempt status.

 I don’t think it’s unfair that aboriginal people are treated differently. Continue reading

Columnist’s indigenous ‘reality’ as illusory as ‘Dream Palaces’ he constructs

I’ve been impressed by some of Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s recent works, particularly on the dictatorial tendencies of the federal government and on the need for Canadians to take health care costs seriously. But his column Saturday on the Idle No More movement, First Nations chief Teresa Spence and aboriginal Canadians in general was an ill-researched diatribe compared to those other writings.

His main argument was that many aboriginal Canadians live in a “dream palace”: believing they can return to a glorious, mythical past, where all their communities live in perfect balance with nature. Because they persist in this illusion instead of getting down to the real business of developing their natural resources, they end up reliant on handouts – like in the isolated northern Cree community of Attawapiskat. Continue reading