Sunday, 30 October 2016

I Support Betterment for Indigenous Youth; I Dont Support Using Them for Political Gain

As stated in the title of this entry, I support the betterment and proper treatment/funding for Indigenous youth. It has been continuous that provincial and federal governments have not held up their side of the settler/Indigenous relations - forcing us on to reserves, taking our youth away, 'trying to kill the 'Indian' in the Child,' and seeking provincial control over Indigenous peoples, especially First Nations. Thus, it is more then overdue for shifts in the relationship and time for the proper and dutiful consultation and working relationship needed with our communities to rectify and fix these problems.

There is another problem with how we fix these problems? How can a new and better/more dutiful form of consultation, relationship building, and nation-to-nation context be developed and implemented if a Canadian government does not properly do what it needs to in order to move towards such consultation etc - this requires consultation on what consultation and thus implementation would entail. Furthermore, to whom is the consultation on how consultation is to be implemented and developed to be discussed with?

Indian Act Chief and Councils? Traditional Governance/Clan Mothers/Clan Leaders where they still exist? The people - in-community and off-of community? The Numbered Treaties, or the Modern Treaties? The areas not treatied or the pre-confederation treaties? Or all of the treaty and non treatied areas which, in many cases, have various differences within them? The Indigenous organizations or the grassroots Indigenous Organizations? Or Both? The list could go on.

As complicated as it all seems, the conversation needs to happen. But what doesn’t need to happen? The NDP utilizing the plight of Indigenous youth to score political points in the western political system that Canada utilizes.'

I have strong issue with this, as it has been a consistent thing the NDP has done for years - with many forgetting the party's recent history and past. Charlie Angus, and others, have been excessively vocal (with him recently belittling Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux on twitter because she had been a past LPC-Candidate and thus her work is tainted because of this - because, it always looks good when a white man belittles an FN Woman who is a survivor, who comes from it all and worked damn hard to persevere through it - sarcasm intended).

But again - Charlie Angus and others loyal and supportive of the NDP have no issue with putting forth a motion that, if defeated, will still make them look like defenders of Indigenous peoples, especially FNs. They do this despite knowing that their motion is impossible to enact. Why? Canada's political structure has a hierarchy, it has checks and balances, it has systems in place, it has a bureaucracy, there are also laws - all of which need to then be reviewed, changed, supported and endorsed in the HOC etc - all in order to make come into effect (despite the fact the Liberal Government is working towards (aka: consulting) how best to make consultation better and more reflective of both sides as equal partners on these lands).

Again - Angus and others are doing this and pushing it because if it is defeated, especially since the Liberal government is working towards making the changes needed on welfare but there are so many processes and protocols to follow when making these changes on both the Canadian and Indigenous sides of this issue, then they can use it to make it look like they are tryng to save us Indigenous peoples and that it is only them who are listening to us ... which is not true at all. They rely on the fact that many, including many on the Indigenous side, do not fully know or understand the political and legal processes that must be followed to make something occur or enacted.

Angus and others also rely on the fact that many do not know or recall or know the NDP's own history and how they have assisted in making things worse for Indigenous peoples, whether supporting colonial legislation in the past when they were called the 'Progressives' or 'Labour;' enacting legislation and law at the provincial level that sought further control and jurisdiction over Indigenous peoples, such as in Saskatchewan when they were called the CCF, or the steamrolling of FN communities and rights as the NDP when governing BC; or the flooding of FN communities as well as the attack on Indigenous youth as the NDP when governing Manitoba.

Thus, I wonder Mr. Angus:

           Are you willing to call out your provincial wings (as in the NDP their provincial parties and federal party are tied together – if you are a member of one, you are a member of the other and in fact the provincial wings have much impact on the federal side and the federal side can impact the provincial parts greatly too), especially the Manitoba NDP, for their colonial history, and even their recent history, in what they have done to Indigenous rights, jurisdictions, autonomy, and sovereignty?
         Are you willing to call out your own party for its impact on the Kelowna Accord failing, when you and your NDP colleagues stood up and caused an election – effectively killing the accord that would have had a great and positive impact on Indigenous youth and their welfare?
         Will you call out your own party for its role in preventing the destruction of the MRP legislation in May 2009, when you guys didn’t want to let the Liberals look good in getting to push the motion first to kill it (killing the bill would have been far more beneficial to FN youth)?
         Will you also call out your own party for promising to not go into deficit if having been elected in October 2015, but somehow still paying for the much needed upgrades and fiscal disparities that exist for FNs, and thus probably failing at doing so, despite not showing and explaining your plan?
         Will you and your fellow NDP MPs and the party structure acknowledge its own colonial past (as has been being done within the Liberal party through the Indigenous Peoples Commission of the LPC)?

I would have far more faith in your actions Mr. Angus – if there was an acknowledgement of your own party’s colonial past – federally and provincially. But because there is an unwillingness to even acknowledge the NDP’s only colonial past and the fact that such a motion will not bring change over night, it is hard for me to not see your actions as one for political points rather then true decolonization.

And because of that, I want to express to you, the NDP, and all of Canadian politics: My rights and well-being are not a pawn in a political chess-game; the rights and well-being of our elders and seniors are not a pawn in a political chess-game; our treaty rights are not a pawn in a political chess-game; the well-being of my nephews, niece, and all Indigenous children are not a pawn in a political chess game; decolonization, reconciliation, consultation, and nation-to-nation relations are not a pawn in a political chess-game. So stop using us as your pawns!

Deconstructing colonialism and settler-colonialism is not a game either and you cannot decolonize 300+ years in 13 months, let alone a motion that is more of a poison pill for political points rather then for true action and support. 

Thus I ask,  and I'd love to hear some feasible answers on how the Canadian government can move more quickly on all of thus while also working their the tons of other responsibilities they have and the encorachment of provinces on Indigenous nations and our rights?

Please see the following past blogs that also have the sources I used:

For Further Information, see what Joshua Fraser wrote as well (including his links highlighting many of the points I also made):

           The provincial Manitoba NDP under the leadership of Wab Kinew has passed a motion condemning federal inaction/spending on First Nations children. I have respect for a lot of good work Wab has done for Indigenous people. But it must be known that the NDP party that he was elected to, who just recently got booted from office, was known for the amount of First Nations children put into CFS (care).
         Manitoba First Nations child advocate says [NDP govt] province is muzzling her
         Manitoba has more than 10,000 kids in care and the vast majority are indigenous
         NDP provincial politicians such as Kinew and federal politicians such as Niki Ashton don’t want to acknowledge their party’s history and record on Indigenous children in care
          We also must keep in mind the federal NDP campaigned on a zero-deficit/balanced budget agenda. Considering that commitment and the books the Liberals inherited, there would be no money to fund many of their election promised, let alone fund new and emergency priorities, particularly for Indigenous peoples and communities.
         The NDP bring up important Indigenous issues, they are not always wrong, but they have to check their smugness and look into their own action/in-action and commitments. I for one, believe when Minister Bennett states that the federal government is committed to fixing this issue, starting with the record budget allocation, Canada Child Benefit and the recent commitments made by the federal government.

Government of Canada Focused on Making a Difference for First Nations Children and Families:

            Liberal Government priority continues to be first and foremost the wellbeing of children. Our government welcomes, accepts and is complying with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings and orders regarding Child and Family Services on reserve and Jordan’s Principle.
         Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux appointed as the Minister’s Special Representative (MSR) responsible for leading a national engagement process and providing advice on the reform of the on-reserve First Nations Child and Family Services program. Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux’s work will reflect renewed Nation-to-Nation relationships with First Nations communities, through engagement with a number of key partners, including First Nations youth and leadership, national and regional organizations, services providers and the provinces and Yukon Territory. This is a concrete step in our commitment to engage with partners to develop options for full-scale reform.
         For Jordan’s Principle, we have introduced a new approach, integrated with provinces and territories, with an expanded scope to make sure no child falls through the cracks, and have provided an additional $382 million over three years in new funding. As a result of this new approach, we have confirmed coverage for almost 900 First Nations children to receive services and supports through Canada’s expanded definition of Jordan’s Principle. A great proportion of these children are receiving support for respite care, and funding has also been provided for supports such as specialized medical equipment and supplies; medical transportation; specialized day programs; and addiction treatment programs. Our government has also committed to enhancing service coordination and to working with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that First Nations children have access to the same publicly funded health and social services available to other children where they live.
         Budget 2016 also made historic investments in First Nations child welfare, with nearly $635 million over five years in new funding. This includes $71 million this year for immediate relief for additional prevention services to address the most pressing concerns.

         When the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners wrote the Calls to Action they wisely began with child welfare. In the same manner, our government is committed to reforming child and family services and ensuring we are putting the needs of Indigenous children first. Through working in genuine partnership we will truly be able to change the status quo.”

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Participating in a Form of Consultation: The Electoral Reform Townhall in Calgary-Centre

Minister Hehr Addressing Those
in Attendance

This evening I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Town Hall on Electoral Reform, hosted by Minister of Veterans' Affairs and MP for Calgary Centre: Kent Hehr, with IPC-Alberta President, Michelle Robinson and her wonderful daughter Samantha.

The town hall was very interesting - with around 200 people in attendance, albeit some of the people who attended seem to be there to cause disruption rather then foster discussion for how Canada should elect its representatives in the future.

Joan Crockatt & one of the CPC plants
reviewing their notes
Joan Crockatt was there (The former CPC MP for the riding - who lost to Hehr on October 19th, 2015). Additionally, right in front of me was a table with a few CPCers attending - mostly there to cause problems, make fun of those who didnt agree with them, and to simply be vicious. Two women at this table were being rather rude, making fun of those who spoke and didnt share their views - they were being so loud I asked them to please quiet down as I couldnt here a participant speaking to the room. One turned around and viciously told me to move closer then. To which I responded: Wow, how pleasant. She then 'Shushed me'... I moved away after that and their table continued their banter and mocking of those not of their ideology (many of them going over to Crockatt at the conclusion of the discussion on electoral reform and what looked like them comparing notes, etc).

Additionally, during a Q&A portion on Electoral Reform, two individuals decided to speak up - both White & Male. The problem? They both decided to speak on behalf of Indigenous peoples - with one even using the sentence 'Our Indigenous peoples,' etc. Although they both were probably trying to do right, they didnt seem to comprehend their lack 'checking their privilege' - especially when their were Indigenous peoples in the room and we are very capable of speaking for ourselves. What does this highlight? That Settler-Colonialism and forgetting of one's 'privilage' exists accross political ideologies, class, liberalism, marxism, etc.

Furthermore, To hear people talk about the idea of Indigenous Electoral Districts without realizing or considering the fact that 'Indigenous' is a blanket term was concerning. Indigenous Electoral Districts cannot work in Canada if it is based on 'Indigenous population.' (1 seat per 100,000 Indigenous peoples = 15 seats overall to represent the Metis Nation, 3 Inuit Nations, and over 50 First Nations - see the problem with this one?)


I made sure to highlight this and also reminded those in the room that nation-to-nation relations includes listening to us - not talking for us. I also tried my best to remind people to stop saying "Our Indigenous peoples/Canada's Natives,' etc... I and other Indigenous peoples are not owned by Canadians... (so please, for those reading this - dont use that terminology - try Indigenous nations/peoples or 'Indigenous nations/peoples that Canada shares territory with').

Despite the above points, I commend Minister Hehr, and those who work/volunteer for him and Calgary-Centre, for doing an amazing job in hosting a very engaging town hall on something as diverse and debatable as Electoral Reform. People highlighted a need for less partisanship, more accountability to constituents, as well as the fact that a good amount of people expressed a want and need for a referendum on electoral reform.

I just hope Canadians, the government, and Ministers such as Maryam Monsef, remember that when discussing Indigenous inclusion it is important to talk with us, not about us and over us amongst yourselves.... because if we are not included and properly consulted and allowed to speak for ourselves, then any solution or form of 'inclusion' will fail... and settler-colonial mentality continues to prevail.

Indigenous Peoples' Commission (Alberta) President Michelle Robinson conversing with a table on Electoral Reform
at the Calgary Centre Town Hall. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Budget 2016: The Same Path or A 'New Footing'?

Yesterday the current government of Canada released its Budget plans for 2016. Their budget, as many of us knew, looked to return Canada and the government’s relationship to people, organizations, arts and culture, education, to name but a few – back towards a progressive path. Additionally, there were plans expressed to begin a process of reconciliation and nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous nations.

There were many great things in the budget, from my point of view as an openly gay male; a progressive minded person; an Indigenous male, as well as someone who is seeking their PhD.

Items such as:
  • $379 million over eight years for Canadian Space Agency to continue on International Space Station through 2024

  • Canada Student Loan repayment can be withheld until earning a $25,000 or higher salary

  • More managers and re-opening of nine closed service centres relating to Veterans

  • $12 million over 5 years to revive Court Challenges Program

  • CBC funding boost of $115m a year on top of the $1 Billion annual subsidy

  • Investing over $1 Billion in the development of clean technology

  • $120 Billion over the next 10 years in infrastructure from coast to coast to coast

(These are just some of the items).

In relation to Indigenous nations and communities, specifically:

Funds in the total of $8.4 Billion from now and through 2019 have  been earmarked.

Items such as:
  • $1.8 Billion over five years for water and waste water infrastructure on Reserve  (This is broken down, by APTN to reflect that for 2016 it is $296 Million, 2017 is $322 Million, and 2018 is $618 Million – but they don’t list the amount for 2019 or 2020 – which would reflect the remaining balance of $564 Million between those two years)

  • Inuit and Northern Housing will reflect $96.7 million ($8 million in Yukon, $12 million in NWT, and 76.7 million in Nunavut)

  • $554.3 million for First Nations housing within our communities – over the next two years

  • $2.6 billion for Primary and Secondary education on reserve over the next 5 years

  • $969.4 million over five years in First Nations education infrastructure in our communities

  • $15 million over the next two years to train for hobs that support our communities in the view of construction, water treatment, local administration etc 

  • $40 million for National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls over the next two years

  • $409 million over five years for waste management and recycling in First Nation communities

  • $270 million over 5 years for health facilities like nursing stations and residences in our communities

  • $255 million over two years for First Nations Infrastructure Fund – for items such as broadband, bridges, etc 
  • $129.4 million in early learning and child care over the next two years in our communities

  • $25 million for Metis Nation economic development strategy

  • $5 million pert year for support for Indigenous languages

All of these are great movements forward. Does it do everything that the government said it would do over the next four years? No – this is one budget following one Speech from the Throne – let us remember there are 3 more of each to come before the next Canadian federal election.

Reaction to the Budget:

The reaction from some on the budget has been great. Many have highlighted that this has put forth more then the Kelowna Accord did. Others have highlighted how much this funding was needed to begin returning to the true value of the monetary component of the treaty relationship and so on. Others have said it has blown the 2% cap on funding (imposed by Chretien) out of the water on infrastructure and education for Indigenous peoples.

I personally have viewed the numbers and the promises as being the best budget for Indigenous peoples since confederation! Others have highlighted this budget has been the best budget for Canadians in over 30 years.

Others, on the other hand, have gone after them for not doing everything they said they would in their four-year mandate in their first budget.  The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) claims that the government has failed Indigenous students for not removing the 2% cap on Education (yet forgets that 2% cap reflects ALL funding for Indigenous youth and students from kindergarten and up into post-secondary – with the numbers actually showing the 2% cap has been ignored in this budget). Others have highlighted most of the funding doesn’t kick in until 2019 and after the 2019 election (which I haven’t personally found in the equations I have looked at – lets remember the 2019 funding will actually be put into place before the 2019 election).

The only criticism that I partially agree with, in this sense, is Cindy Blackstock’s points on ‘failing’ on-reserve children. Mind you. More could have been done and reflected the court ruling that went in favour of Blackstock’s court challenge against the Canadian government and how it has been biased against Indigenous youth. That said, there is some promising items that begin the steps to ending the financial discrepancy for First Nations children within their communities. She is correct – this is not the entire amount that is needed to rectify the problem right now – but I do believe it is a start – and so is the funding for other youth throughout Canada who have been left behind over the 9 years of Harper rule.

But again – this is one budget of 4 to come over the next 4 years and reflects one Speech from the Throne out of four to come over the next 4 years. Let us also not forget that Indigenous peoples were not the only people targeted during the Harper years – Academics, Scientists, researchers, education systems, cities, and so on, also faced the fiscal guillotine of the Harper government.

That said – I agree their circumstances are very different then ours as Indigenous peoples – they are not facing Settler-Colonialism and colonial mentality like we are.

But – many seem not to realize how the Canadian government operates – especially in relation to budgets and Speeches from the Throne.

A ‘101’ on Budget and Speech From The Throne Announcements:

The western/Westminster structure of government that Canada operates within has a certain way of doing this – especially when announcing its plans and its fiscal plans. For instance:

The Government of Canada does a Speech From The Throne (SFTT) - which highlights the direction that the government plans to take. It is in this SFTT that we see the broad plans that a government plans to push forth.

This is traditionally followed by the release of the Budget. It is in the budget we see the monetary value that coincides with a Government's plans (aka: the plans outlined in the SFTT).
The next step after both the SFTT and the Budget is to see how the government actually implements each and every thing it says it will do and the financial components that are now promised alongside of it.

Additionally - this is only one SFTT and one Budget - these are done each year. Thus additional promises and plans can and may be put forth in Budget 2017, Budget 2018, and Budget 2019. alongside the SFTT of each year.

Thus, there is a promise: a verbal commitment, a fiscal component commitment and then the follow up – which reflects putting that verbal and fiscal commitment to action.

The End Result:

The budget of 2016 cannot to everything that a party promises – it is the first budget of 4 over the four year mandate. Critics and media have highlighted this budget has followed its election promises. We have Budget 2017 to further see if the other promises made will also finally be followed.

But we need to remember this very fact – it is one budget out of four over the next four years. There is far more to come and with it potential funding and deficit reduction because of items such as green energy, legalization and taxation of marijuana, and so on.

We cannot assume that this government can fulfill every promise – it took 9 years to degrade Canada and over 400 years to degrade the Indigenous/Settler relationship.

Let us also remember the gutting that has been done to the social safety net, research and data, infrastructure and so on - not to mention the degradation of funding that is supposed to be gauranteed to us as Indigenous peoples within Indigenous nations - during the Harper years and so on.

In relation to us as Indigenous peoples and our nationhoods - some of these things promised to us and agreed to by the Trudeau Jr. government will require more funding and so on. They will also require proper consultation AND nation-to-nation relationships to move forward. Doing otherwise would be the SAME PATH as previous governments, excluding Martin, that simply decided how to go about dealing with all the long-term colonial problems)


As I have said - As a Niish, progressive, Gay, Phd Student who also is thinking of a better future for my nephews, niece, and other young Indigenous peoples & Canadians (Not as someone who leans liberal or supports the LPC; not as someone who is an ‘APCer’) - I am appreciative and thankful for what has been outlined by the new Canadian federal government in the SFTT and Budget 2016.

We cant fix 10 years of CPC government in one day ... AND we definitely cannot decolonize/fix the colonial mentality of the last 400 years in one day either.

Yesterday symbolized a step forward - not a conclusion/an end - but a step forward. And to Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau, Carolyn Bennett and the other members of the Liberal Government: Chi-Miigwetch for having Canada finally take that step forward.