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Posts Tagged "Indigenous"

10Jun

It is ‘its own thing’: Andrew Scheer disagrees with Indigenous inquiry’s genocide finding | CBC News

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the level of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls in Canada should not be labelled a genocide.

In its final report, released last week, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) came to what it called an “inescapable conclusion” — that genocide was committed by the state against Canada’s Indigenous peoples from the colonial era to the present.

It pointed to the Indian residential school system, the ‘Sixties Scoop’ of Indigenous children, instances of forced sterilization of Indigenous women and allegations of police inaction on murder cases to justify its genocide conclusion.

“Every single life lost is a tragedy and has a huge impact on families and loved ones, and there are concrete things the government, all levels of government, can do to help protect vulnerable people in our society, specifically Indigenous women and girls,” Scheer said.

“That being said, the ramifications of the term genocide are very profound. That word and term carries a lot of meaning. I think the tragedy involved with missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is its own thing, its own tragedy, and doesn’t fall into that category of genocide.”

Marion Buller, the inquiry’s chief commissioner, said this “Canadian genocide” is different from the Holocaust or the genocidal campaign against the Tutsi in Rwanda, but the term can still reasonably be applied to the Indigenous experience in Canada based on the UN’s 1948 convention on genocide.

After the report’s release, Conservative Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod said the party did not want to focus on the word alone, but rather on some of the inquiry’s 231 recommendations. “The Conservative Party will commit to a national action plan in terms of moving forward in partnership, of course, with Indigenous peoples,” she said.

Despite calls from some in the crowd for him to say the word ‘genocide’ during the inquiry’s closing ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not use that word to describe the violence. The following day, however, Trudeau appeared to embrace the description: “We accept their findings, including that what happened amounts to genocide.”

In a Monday morning interview with CBC’s French-language service, Radio-Canada, Trudeau said that while he accepts the inquiry’s findings, he cited “cultural genocide” as his preferred term to describe the Indigenous experience.

After the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report on the Indian residential school system in 2015, Trudeau called on the Conservative government of the day to take action to address that instance of “cultural genocide.”

The inquiry went further than the TRC by saying Canada, through its policies, has aimed to “destroy Indigenous peoples.”

“Canada has displayed a continuous policy, with shifting expressed motives but an ultimately steady intention, to destroy Indigenous peoples physically, biologically, and as social units, thereby fulfilling the required specific intent element,” the inquiry said in a supplemental report on the use of the word genocide.

The inquiry found that Indigenous women and girls are more likely to be murdered or to go missing than members of other demographic groups in Canada — and 16 times more likely to be slain or to disappear than white women.

Citing research from Statistics Canada, the inquiry said Indigenous women and girls made up almost 25 per cent of all female homicide victims in this country between 2001 and 2015.

To help Indigenous women, the inquiry recommended sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing, including stiffer penalties for men who carry out spousal or partner abuse and “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing. It also said more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired to ensure Indigenous voices are in positions of power in the criminal justice system.

The report also calls on provincial and territorial governments to improve the restraining order system by making them “available, accessible, promptly issued and effectively serviced and resourced” — to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or “protection orders,” as they’re often known in Canada), the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and “appropriate trauma care” to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Trudeau has vowed to review the calls for justice and implement meaningful reforms.

“You have my word that my government will turn the inquiry’s calls for justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action … we must continue to decolonize our existing structures,” he said.


For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. This is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. You can also access long-term health support services such as mental health counselling and community-based cultural services through Indigenous Services Canada.


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9Jun

Not ‘just a suggestion’: MMIWG report calls to give Indigenous people rights most Canadians enjoy already | CBC News

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In the wake of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Firls’ final report, attention is now turning toward whether its 231 recommendations will be acted upon.

On Monday, the national inquiry held its closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., where it delivered its final report to government. The inquiry detailed what it found to be the root causes of the disproportionate amount of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and made 231 “Calls for Justice” to address them. 

The inquiry’s commissioners have said the calls for justice are not merely recommendations but legal imperatives based in “international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown.”

During a news conference after the inquiry’s closing ceremony, commissioner Qajaq Robinson elaborated on what it means to describe the calls for justice as legal imperatives.

“If we’re talking to access to health — for example the calls for justice that there be holistic, wraparound health services in all communities and isolated communities — that isn’t just a suggestion. It’s because the people in those communities have a right to health, have a right to those services,” she said.

“You legally have to do it. It’s not like we’re asking you to come up with a new framework to understand what you have to do. You signed it already; you’re just not implementing it.”

Commissioner Michèle Audette said the rights the inquiry is talking about seem to be respected in southern Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michèle Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“But when you live in my North… far, far away, there’s no protection, no services, no accessibility. And it’s still called Canada,” she said. 

While the commissioners say the calls are rooted in existing legal commitments, the final report also states that “Governments are not required to implement these recommendations.”

‘These truths are piling up’

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, the national inquiry’s report acknowledges it will take all Canadians to assert their political pressure on institutions and governments to ensure substantive changes come about.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, has been at the forefront of pushing government for equity for First Nations children in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with the society and Assembly of First Nations in a 2016 ruling, finding that Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide them with the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere in Canada.

Three years later, and more than a decade since the initial complaint was filed, the case is still not resolved. There have been seven non-compliance orders issued by the tribunal since its ruling.

Blackstock says, looking at the calls put forward by the national inquiry, the most important impact the final report can have is to change the collective Canadian consciousness. In her view, governments don’t make change, they respond to change.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“All of these reports and all these truths are piling up in a way that makes it more and more difficult for people normalize the discrimination and to turn away from it,” she said.

She said key indicators that change is happening will be a shift in public attitude. She said the public should also be looking for on-the-ground, immediate investments in things like safe shelter space for women fleeing violence.

Blackstock said the calls for justice might not be legally binding, but are certainly morally binding. Still, she said it will likely take litigation to achieve the level of substantive reform for which the inquiry is calling.

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan said Ottawa is already taking action on the report through its national action plan to invest in housing and education on reserves and safety on the Highway of Tears.

The prime minister has also promised that the federal government will come up with a national action plan for implementing the inquiry’s recommendations, which itself is among the 231 calls for justice in the final report. The government says this action plan will be developed in partnership with survivors, family members as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments and organizations. 

When asked if the recommendations of the inquiry are legally binding, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs wrote in an emailed statement that “the final report offered recommendations to inform concrete action,” and referred to the inquiry’s terms of reference which include making recommendations to remove “systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.” 


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3Jun

Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change | CBC News

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After more than three years, dozens of community meetings and testimony from well over 2,000 Canadians, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry will deliver its final report to the federal government at a ceremony in Gatineau, Que. today.

The report, which CBC News obtained before its official release, includes many recommendations to government, the police and the larger Canadian public to help address endemic levels of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people.

CBCNews.ca will carry the closing ceremonies live starting at 9 a.m. ET.

Beyond defining the level of violence against these women as a “Canadian genocide,” recommending official language status for Indigenous languages and a guaranteed income for all Indigenous peoples, the commissioners are also recommending sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing in this country, including stiffer penalties for men who carry out spousal or partner abuse.

“We call upon the federal government to include cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse as murder in the first degree under section 222 of the Criminal Code,” the report reads.

First-degree murder is the most serious of all the homicide offences. If convicted, offenders usually spend longer in prison, with fewer chances for parole.

The inquiry said that, too often, murder investigations are “marked by indifference” and negative stereotypes that result in Indigenous deaths and disappearances being investigated and treated differently from other cases — differences that result in fewer solved cases.

And when there is a reasonable chance of a conviction, the inquiry said, Crown attorneys too often are willing to accept plea bargains or reduced charges in exchange for guilty pleas in cases of murdered Indigenous women.

To that end, the inquiry calls for more “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing, without specifying what exactly the government should change on that front. It called for a strengthening of Gladue principles in Canadian courts, a legal term that stipulates an offender’s Indigenous ancestry should be considered in the sentencing process.

“While the prosecutorial decisions … may well be justified, the frequency with which this occurs understandably raises questions in the Indigenous community, particularly when the sentences on conviction escape the mandatory parole ineligibility of 10 or 25 years on the more serious charges.”

To ensure more equitable outcomes, the inquiry said, more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired to ensure Indigenous voices are in positions of power in the criminal justice system. Failing that, the report said a separate court system for the Indigenous population should be established to lead to more “meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices …”

Far too many murder cases aren’t solved and don’t make it to trial at all, the inquiry said — and that means the federal funds ought to be bolstering the ranks of Indigenous police forces across the country to ensure better investigations.

“We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing,” the report reads.

“The federal government’s First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.”

The report also calls on provincial and territorial governments to improve the restraining order system by making them “available, accessible, promptly issued and effectively serviced and resourced” — to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or “protection orders,” as they’re often known in Canada) the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and “appropriate trauma care” to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would not comment on the report’s recommendations ahead of their official release.

“Out of respect for the independent National Inquiry and the families, we won’t comment on the details of the final report before then. After decades of demanding a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, families are finally getting the answers they have been looking for,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

In an interview with CBC News before the news organization obtained a leaked copy of the report, Bennett said the government accepts that the status quo isn’t keeping Indigenous women and girls safe.

She said, however, that the government already has moved ahead with meaningful reforms, including its overhaul of the child and family services regime and a de-colonizing push for greater self-government for Indigenous peoples, part of a larger fight for equality.

“The inquiry is really only a beginning. We’ve got to do the work, and we’ve got to change attitudes, and we’ve got to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls wherever they are in this country,” Bennett said.

“Indigenous women and girls need to be safe wherever they live in this country — whether it’s in their home communities or a downtown urban centre. That’s the only way we’ll stop this national tragedy.”


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28May

Daphne Bramham: More needed to redress the tragic fact that Indigenous people are disproportionately victims of opioid crisis

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Overdose deaths linked to illicit fentanyl-laced drugs rose 21 per cent last year among First Nations people in B.C. even as there was a glimmer of hope that the crisis may have peaked among the general population.

Since the crisis began four years ago, B.C. Indigenous people have been overrepresented in the deadly count. Last year, they accounted for 13 per cent of the deaths, while making up 3.4 per cent of the provincial population.

Put another way, First Nations people were 4.2 times more likely to suffer a fatal overdose and six times more likely to suffer a non-fatal overdose than other British Columbians.

No one is suffering more than First Nations women and girls, who already have the worst health outcomes in Canada because of violence, exploitation and poverty.

They are unique in this epidemic where 80 per cent of the victims in the general population are men. Women, by contrast, account for 39 per cent of First Nations’ overdose fatalities last year and 46 per cent of the non-fatal ones.

They are bearing the brunt of marginalization, says Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical health officer at the First Nations Health Authority. Another measure of that is expected to come next week in the report of the murdered and missing women’s inquiry.

Among the reasons that he suggests for the widening gap between First Nations’ and the general population’s statistics are the effects of colonization including residential schools, the lack of social supports, childhood experiences and limited access to safe spaces and services.

The litany of dreadful statistics compiled by the provincial coroner’s office was read out Monday against the backdrop of a quilt with the names of some of the hundreds who have died. Among those names was Max, the son of the health authority’s knowledge keeper, Syexwaliya. Max died 12 days before his 41st birthday in March 2018.

“My son was just too lost,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything for him. I had to love and accept him as he was.”

Still, Syexwaliya takes heart from the statistics.

“The statistics make me feel that Indigenous people aren’t invisible and what’s brought out in the statistics and in the reports means that work is being done,” she said.

Addiction is a disease of pain — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Addiction piles tragedy on tragedy.

“It’s a journey of pain, a journey of suffering and a journey of seeking health services that couldn’t be found,” said the chair of the health authority, Grand Chief Doug Kelly.

Too many Canadians, too many British Columbians and too many First Nations people have already died, but Kelly said that for Indigenous people, things are not getting better. They’re getting worse, especially for those living in cities and most especially for women.

Overdose hot spots include the usual ones: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George. But for First Nations people, there’s also Campbell River and Kamloops.

Those stark differences mean distinct and targeted solutions are required. As Canada’s first Indigenous health authority, the First Nations authority (with its unofficial motto of “no decisions about us, without us”) is well positioned to do that.

With a goal of addressing causes of addiction, it has its own four pillars approach: preventing people from dying, reducing the harm of those who are using, creating a range of accessible treatments and supporting people on their healing journey.

The authority also strongly supports the call from B.C.’s chief medical health officer to decriminalize possession of all drugs for personal use as has been done in Portugal. (The suggestion was quickly shot down by the B.C. government, which says that could only be accomplished with federal legislation.)

Among the reasons Kelly cites are yet more terrible statistics.

Of Canada’s female offenders in federal prisons, Public Safety Canada reported last summer that 43 per cent are Indigenous. In youth detention, Indigenous kids account for 46 per cent of all admissions — a jump of 25 per cent in a decade.

Addiction is often contributing factor in the crimes committed, as is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (although the report said there is no evidence that FASD is more prevalent among First Nations than other populations).

Because so many First Nations women are incarcerated, it means their children often end up in government care or with relatives, which only exacerbates the cycle of childhood trauma, loss and addiction.

So far, the First Nations Health Authority has spent $2.4 million on harm-reduction programs. It’s trained more than 2,430 people in 180 communities how to use naloxone to reverse fentanyl overdoses, has 180 “harm-reduction champions” and peer coordinators in all five regions.

But the biggest barrier is the one that led to Max’s death — lack of accessible treatment.

Last week, FNHA and the B.C. government committed $20 million each to  build treatment centres in Vancouver and Surrey and promised to upgrade six existing ones. Kelly says that’s great. But it’s not enough. They’re still waiting for another $20 million from the federal government for construction.

Still, where will the operating money come from? That’s the next multi-million-dollar question. But it must be found.

Now that there is evidence that First Nations communities — and women in particularly — are suffering so disproportionately, ignoring them is unconscionable.

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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23Apr

Daphne Bramham: What is Indigenous Canadian food? The answer might lead to more than good cooking

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Award-winning Chef Shane Chartrand is on a journey to discover indigenous food in Canada. He’s one of the chefs featured in the six-part, web series, Red Chef Revival, available on STORYHIVE’s YouTube channel and on Telus Optik TV on demand. Chartrand’s cookbook, Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, will be released this fall by House of Anansi Press.


See Notes / Direction / PNG

It’s always a bit embarrassing when foreigners ask what Indigenous Canadian food is. After long, torturous pause, most Canadians might stumble out an answer like poutine, tourtière, bannock, Saskatoon pie or Nanaimo bars.

Of course, none of those is really Indigenous. They came with explorers and settlers who brought flour and sugar.

Yet, long before they arrived, Indigenous people had lived for centuries eating local plants and animals.

Initially, smart newcomers relied on their local knowledge to initially survive in this unfamiliar land. Others like Sir John Franklin and others tragically learned the folly of attempting self-reliance.

But because of colonization much of that knowledge has been lost along with other cultural practices and Indigenous languages.

“Even Indigenous people don’t understand what Indigenous food is,” chef Shane Chartrand told me when we talked recently. “We don’t know our own food. Powwow food is bannock, burgers, gravy and fries. That’s not Indigenous in my humble opinion.”

Recovering those foods, recipes and cooking techniques is something that Indigenous chefs like Chartrand are now in a position to explore.


Chef Shane Chartrand’s kale salad. Photo: Cathryn Sprague

House of Anansi Press /

PNG

In the style of Anthony Bourdain, three award-winning chefs fanned out across Canada to Indigenous communities that they didn’t know to help prepare and eat food that included unusual ingredients like cougar, bison tongue and seal.

Answering the question of what is Indigenous food is the premise of a six-part series called Red Chef Revival, available on the Storyhive YouTube channel and to Telus Optik TV On Demand subscribers.

Chartrand visited Nisga’a people near Prince Rupert and was served chow mein buns.

“I thought it was ridiculous. No way is it part of Indigenous culture. But they told me that along Cannery Row, there were Japanese, Indigenous and Chinese and they shared recipes so it becomes Indigenous,” he said.

“I don’t agree. But they think it is.”

He feels the same way about “powwow food” — bannock, burgers and fries with gravy.

But the seal stew prepared by Nisga’a fishing families in Port Edward fits Chartrand’s definition to the letter.

Not only did it taste really good — better, Chartrand said, than the other four ways he’s eaten seal — it’s sustainable and healthy.

One of the tragedies of lost Indigenous food and cooking is that it’s been replaced by sugar-, fat- and carbohydrate-laden diets that have contributed to skyrocketing rates of diabetes and heart disease.

(For the record, the chef is opposed to a commercial seal hunt. He supports sustainable hunting with every part of the animal used.)

The genesis of Chartrand’s personal journey of discovery is a desire to connect with the Cree culture denied him as a child. Taken into foster care at two, he was adopted by a Metis Chartrand’s family at seven.

His father taught him about hunting and fishing. But it’s only as an adult that Chartrand began learning about his own people’s traditions.

By then, he was already a rising star in the kitchen, having apprenticed at high-end restaurant kitchens. He’s competed on the Food Network’s Chopped and, in 2017, was the first Indigenous chef to win the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships and is the chef at the River Cree Resort on Enoch First Nation’s land near Edmonton.

This fall, Chartrand’s cookbook — Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine — will be published by Anansi Press. It’s about his life, his travels and includes more than 70 recipes using traditional foods.

Top Chef finalist and Haudenosaunee chef Rich Francis seems less of a purist. While he acknowledges in the series’ first episode that bannock doesn’t really fit the definition of Indigenous food, Francis made both bannock and risotto on his visit to the Osoyoos band.

For the risotto, Francis used sage and cactus gathered on the Osoyoos lands that he described as “the Hollywood of rezs.” Both were cooked to accompany cougar seared over an open fire. The cougar was shot because it was deemed a threat to residents.

Like Chartrand, Francis isn’t promoting commercial hunting. But last year he

did threaten to sue the Ontario government for the right to cook wild game in his restaurant because government regulations are one of the many barriers to Canadians’ understanding, knowing and even tasting Indigenous foods.

Elk, deer, moose, bison, seal and the like can only be served at specially permitted events and not in restaurants. Only farm-raised meat can be served and that requires finding suppliers who can raise enough to guarantee a steady supply.

The idea of eating what the Canadian land alone can produce aligns perfectly with concerns about climate change and a sustainable food supply.

Rediscovering traditional foods with Indigenous chefs guiding the way seems a perfect way to learn how to do that.

Beyond that, there’s reconciliation. So many attempts at it are so earnest, so political and so difficult for some people to swallow, that sitting down and eating together may provide a new pathway because who doesn’t love a good meal?

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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