What is the “Indigenous Rights Framework” and Why Do All Indigenous People Need To Know It?

This is an issue so big, I’d consider it criminal if we didn’t do our best to make sure all our relations are aware of it. I don’t know how many people truly understand what Trudeau’s “Indigenous Rights Framework” is. I know we’ve all heard the name and a lot of big words about it, but what does it look like in its bottom line?

This issue is what previous Indigenous leadership had been fighting against for decades. There are so many Chiefs signing onto this for their people now and I don’t understand how they can do this if they honestly understand what that paper means for all of their generations to follow.

The “Framework” created by Canada without Indigenous input, offers a lot of money today while throwing out those big words about ‘self-determination’ and ‘self-generating revenue’ for tomorrow. They intend to do this by privatizing reserves. Reserves are community property, as was once all of Canada, including what’s now called “Crown lands”. That new revenue is called ‘taxes’.

That means the people who live on reserves would now have to pay taxes to their bands to keep their houses. If they can’t pay the taxes, the band can then sell the houses to anyone who has the money to buy it. Anyone. This is how Canadian developers will get the last of Indigenous lands.

This is how Canada finally gets rid of its “Indian problem” and breaks the original treaties for good. This is the ‘final solution by paper’. We will no longer have our world-recognized nation to nation rights for good. Every reserve would then be less than a provincial municipality. Something many Canadians advocate for, despite the facts of history and it being against the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

That’s a good enough reason every Chief and Council should question why they’re signing onto this, because they are throwing away every tie we have to these lands. Our own teachings tell us we are inextricably tied to our lands. This is why the ceding terminology Canada claimed was in the treaties makes no sense whatsoever. Our ancestors would never untie who we are from our lands. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld this knowledge.

Some people are saying this is part of the reason Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai Nation citizen, was moved from her role as Attorney General for Canada, because she was fighting this Framework’s details. I don’t know if this is true, but a lot of our Indigenous lawyers & scholars are speaking against this Framework because of what it does.

Canada is trying to get away with not paying the huge debt it owes us. Remember the original treaties – they are about sharing not ceding. They are to be honoured, not stripped. Canadians and the Canadian political landscape have to learn what honour is, and we sure don’t need to be begging for Canada’s scraps.

Here’s an example of how that Framework plan works. The people on this reserve get no more funding transfers from the “Indigenous Trust Funds” to suffice home ownership, (as per the treaties & supplied by a portion of resources extraction from Indigenous lands), so now taxes are expected from the residents of reserves. When taxes couldn’t be paid and the band couldn’t ‘generate funding from people who couldn’t pay taxes’, they were all left in a Canadian lurch.

I’m more than aware of how much of a corner First Nations leadership has been backed into by the chronic underfunding that the Canadian Government employs in their carrot & stick approach to bring the Indigenous to heel, but this is the point Canada has been waiting for to take all our legacies. We must stop this. The end of the Indian Act is not a one-sided deal that Canada gets to decide and sort on its own.

A further side note: the great fight currently underway in Canadian election politics will leave this issue mostly ignored, but when people damn the Indigenous for not stumping for their guy in the Liberals or Conservatives, know that both parties implemented this despicable policy. They only dressed its title & taglines differently.

RL

Canada, Reparations Don’t End at Apologies – Just Ask Germany

Revised August 30, 2017

Canadians must work to heal a major historical point of contention for Canada and the Indigenous, and that point does not focus on “apologies and acknowledgements of territories.”

Canada’s government already knows what needs to be done. It has received why and how details for decades, most recently from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), the 2011 Canadian Auditor General’s Report, the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Report (TRC), and perhaps most unexpectedly, from Germany.

Canada’s apologies—for forcing Indigenous children to attend Residential schools, only one step of genocidal policies in the Indian Act; for sexual & physical abuses and death; for medical and nutritional experimentation; for starvation and medical sterilizations; for the missing and murdered; and other horrors —have become almost glib.

They’re cheap makeup to cover the scars of racist policies past and the continuing eruptions today. They’re feel-good measures that gloss over the lack of amendments leading to genuine restorative healing. In some cases, official apologies have been done literally to death.

“These things take time,” we’re told; an egregious, time-wasting cop-out. The amount of money and assistance announced to the country as given to the reserves is often exaggerated greatly.  Indigenous kids continue to die by Canadian policy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on earnest promises to the Indigenous that included ratification of the United Nation’s policy rights for Indigenous peoples. Not only has he not lived up to that pledge, but he is actually suing to retain the ability to discriminate against Indigenous children, even as they die from lack of resources afforded to all Canadian children. For Canadians, these rights are called services, but for the Indigenous, they’re regularly viewed and stated as “handouts”.

Why this belief is so widely held and accepted as truth is not because Canada ‘provides the Indigenous handouts whenever possible’ – aka charity. That view is the original 1876 talking point of the Canadian government and its partner-in-crime, the media. Despite well-known travesties, the pair have left out other important historical nuggets such as the laws that made it illegal for the Indigenous to operate any kind of business; laws that were in place for well over a century.

Too few know the real Canadian foundation. So, the focus has to turn Canadians back to acknowledging their history and their much defined hand in creating the situation that has lasted for 150 years and counting.

Cda Nazi Flag

Colonialism is based in racism. Supremacy is its heart. Symbolic irony – the Swastika symbol was used by the ancient Native Americans of the Mississippian culture. Indigenous genocide, millions on their homeland. Who remembers?

It’s commonly said the German genocide of Europe’s Jewish population must be “never forgotten.” And yet, Canadians will routinely tell the Indigenous to “stop living in the past.”

But the past isn’t over. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) isn’t over. The Canadian Government’s effort to manage Indigenous lives, lands and take resources isn’t over. Your “past” continues to be Indigenous present.

“What’s the answer?” – is a huge yet simple question. Aside from the answers already provided by commissions, Germany—which took a page from Canada’s Indian Act to create its own terror camps— returned with a blueprint to decency that Canada should take to heart.

Canadians must listen to what the Indigenous have been saying for nearly two centuries, and stop believing another popular myth that the Indigenous don’t know what they want. While there may be myriad ideas, the fundamental demand has remained true: genuine equal standing in their homelands with equal access to all services, already paid for in perpetuity with their resources and land.

The “nice Canada” face the world sees is false. Although Canada is populated with many lovely people, most live in ignorance while continuing to benefit richly from the livelihoods taken from the Indigenous, who are left on their own to overcome the horrors they’ve suffered.

Canadians must clearly and fearlessly look at their history, and teach it, fully and honestly.

Germany didn’t create monuments to their monsters, but rather to the people who suffered under those monsters and those who stood to help the suffering. They teach their history unabashedly from kindergarten to university, and they make immigrants to their country learn those same lessons. Germany made financial reparations to its victims, and does not hide its shame.

In the process, they have grown a greater sense of understanding and humanity across their country and have flourished to become a respected, successful world leader today.

Canada cannot and will not move into a new future of genuine honour and peace until it has truly examined and amended its dark past. Just ask Germany.

RL

With great gratitude to Randall Willis, So What’s Your Story

MMIW/G… Tears of Sorrow, Frustration & Sometimes Hope

The ongoing frustrations regarding the $53 million MMIW/G national inquiry often result in the  impulse to throw up our hands in defeat. We won’t though, not ever, because we will never forget our lost; all literally coursing in our DNA. That’s the source of the strength that lifts our hands even higher for justice and equities. We also from time to time, get a glimpse that the painful work has opened another sliver of recognition that says, maybe this mountain has moved another millimeter. It doesn’t matter, where these slivers come from, this is enough to offer another breath of hope too.

The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women/Girls (#MMIW/G) inquiry has been a dismal effort from the start. From the incredible decision to omit any police involvement, therefore no questioning of culpability already demonstrated by their history of ignoring or dismissing the concerns of family of the missing or murdered, to ignoring the several reports of direct police misconduct toward Indigenous women. Then onto the bad news of the inexplicable lack of coordination for how the inquiry would run to nearly non-existent communication with the families of the MMIW/G.

There are too many Indigenous families touched by this issue; mine included.  We have lost a cousin, 19 yr old Roberta Ferguson, missing for 28 years now without a hint of what happened to her. My mother has also inexplicably lost two good friends, also never found.

The work to get to this point has taken over 20 years. Twenty years of women bravely standing, shouting, and marching to every government service door possible to be heard. They, we, all deserve better than this. So, we raise our voices in media and in front of commissioners and to the inquiry heads, hoping that now is the time, we will matter. That now is the time we will matter enough to have systems genuinely and permanently altered to stop at least most of the behaviors and policies that leave us adrift, and for some of us, lost forever.

People ask, what can we do? Well, there are so many issues that need help, but at the least, for every issue, we can sign those petitions, we can write/email/tweet a simple note to PMs, MPs, legislators, and even the National Inquiry directly to say, we care about this and we want to see the work done. Donate to groups like Families of Sisters in Spirit, to assist in the battle for legal and media representation.

Don’t be shy, have a crack at the racist comments in every news story about the MMIW or Indigenous in general. Speak back, not to them necessarily, but to the publishers and editors who cater to whomever speaks loudest in their comments. Arm other readers with solid knowledge. Or find another way to demonstrate solidarity that helps all our hearts feel a little less isolated and unheard.

Like this group who did just that recently. A dance company called, Generation Dance Studio in Ft. MacMurray, AB. They brought their message to the public in a very moving way. They created a dance tribute to the MMIW/G. It’s very touching to see their effort to show they see us and they care.

I invite you to watch their performance added to their Facebook page linked here. Within these discouraging days, these hearts sought out ours, and it added to all the difference for another day…  Given the same ol’ recent events of the inquiry, we could use every lift we can get.

Hiy hiy,

RL

https://www.facebook.com/generationdance/videos/760718694087565/

For those unaware, a red dress represents a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.

 

So, The Right Honorable Paul Martin Called Me Up On Calling Him Out On CDA’s Racism

Revised June 8, 2018

2016 AvatarFormer Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Paul Martin called me in response to an email I sent him in reply to his comments made in a May 12th CBC story headlined: “Canadians not racist but Aboriginal issue ‘invisible’ to many, says Paul Martin”. While I’d assumed he was calling in some effort of support, I was disheartened at the realization he actually wanted to correct me on what Canadian racism is, or rather, isn’t.

While Mr. Martin did strongly point out in that and subsequent stories, the various awful inequities thrown at the Indigenous that cause significant and terrible consequences, I could not let that one sentence go.

“Racism isn’t the culprit, but that doesn’t change the fact that the challenges faced by Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples have long remained out of sight and mind to many”, says former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

I was stunned. Not only because the very fact that we still have an active piece of legislation called the Indian Act, which is all about the business of managing the Indigenous, but every day we read stories of the examples of racism in action.

Every day I see other examples such as a recently posted widely-watched video put out by a very stridently racist Vancouver woman that compared AFN National Chief, Perry Bellegarde to Hitler, demanding that the AFN members be arrested for treason, and complaining that all “natives are obsessed with white people”.

This is all enough to question just the idea that Canada is not racist, a country built upon the lies of trade and/or conquering as most Canadians believe, but to have had that statement come from a high profile public servant widely seen as a friend to the Indigenous?

It was incredible to me.

So, I wrote Mr. Martin.  I noted the points above, of others and attached the link to the despicable video.  I wrote to say I was disheartened along with outraged because his background as friend to the Indigenous was precisely why it was especially important to not let stand yet another whitewash of history to make Canadians feel better, despite the fact they have all benefited from taking the lion’s share of Indigenous resources.

I admit I had no expectation of a response as I’d yet to get one from any of the fine members of Canada’s upper echelon in all my years of writing to them about Indigenous issues. However, 24 hours later I received an email asking if I would like to speak with Mr. Martin.

Stunned for a second time in 24 hours! Of course I said, yes, and within minutes my phone rang.

I was a little surprised by the opening of the conversation.  I found Mr. Martin to initially be quite defensive, not quite ready to recognize why I could be upset. He said it was hard to accept that people wouldn’t be able to see his message’s point, especially given his personal record of working to undo the wrongs against the Indigenous over all these years of service. This ignores the point that it was he who implemented the annual 2% funding spending cap for INAC in 1996 that imposed harsh consequences on the ability of Indigenous communities to thrive since.

He asked if I watched the actual interview, and I admitted I did not, however there was no video linked to the story. He specifically mentioned crafting the Kelowna Accord with Indigenous leaders that former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, crushed the minute he came into office.

Of course I am aware of Mr. Martin’s efforts; I absolutely acknowledge Mr. Martin’s role in that Accord and I would note I have used that Accord as an example in several conversations on the potential for moving forward (and it’s the third reason I came to despise Harper as PM). But, again, that’s precisely why I took especial exception to his words.

To get to his point, he said the Indigenous problem with Canadians is based in ignorance, a lack of history knowledge moreso than racism.  I said I do understand that as in large part, I believe racism is ignorance, however we have to be careful of how we state things too. I sensed this thought wasn’t particularly appreciated.

It was at this point he had to go and his final comment was that he feels that calling Canadians racist will not help in the work to help the Indigenous.

After we hung up, I thought about all the people my friends, acquaintances, and anti-racism workers encounter on that daily basis.  I thought about all of those who, like that racist video creator, remain fully and willfully ‘ignorant’ of facts, I wondered about the rest of the Canadians who actually are aware of the inequities, the injustices, the utter horrors of their country’s history.

I wonder what Mr. Martin would say about them, and how would he’d reply to questions such as:

What happens once the ignorance is dispelled, are these same Canadians then standing up for us?  Do they protest the inequities?  Do they even just move out of the way of progressing forward?  How many of these same good people are still exercising their right to indifference?

How is inaction or indifference not complicit racism then? Isn’t that what Edmund Burke was speaking to when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”?

I mulled the conversation around with my aunt, Elder Maureen Kennedy.  She said, “Yes, we have our own hard work to do to get over and through everything, but they have their own hard work to do too”. I agree with my aunt, except I’d say I don’t agree that they should be expecting our comfort for them on top of it all.

Mr. Martin also sits as board member for the *Canadians For a A New Partnership (CFNP) – a group of prominent leaders from both sides of the equation to “build a new partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada”. I envision the Indigenous partners having to dance around the elephant in the room while seeking justice.

…And do Canadians really need to ‘feel better about themselves’ before they do the right thing?

RL

*In early January 2018, Paul Martin quietly closed the doors of the CFNP, the only announcement appearing to be an email to their website subscribers. Shortly after that, he created his own private charity foundation, ostensibly in support of Indigenous education. He requested funding from the Canadian government. They responded with a $30 million cheque for him.

June 8, 2016 – 87% of Canadians believe aboriginal people experience discrimination: survey

An Indigenous perspective on the realities of racism:

Wab Kinew On Canadian Racism, Relocating Attawapiskat, And The ‘Criminal’ State Of Aboriginal Education

Martin email exchange

 Paul Martin reply May 16, 2016Email 1 to Paul Martin May 15, 2016 Email 2 to Paul Martin May 16, 2016