There is a prevailing myth that Canada's more than 600 First Nations and native communities live off of money -- subsidies --from the Canadian government. This myth, though it is loudly proclaimed and widely believed, is remarkable for its boldness; widely accessible, verifiable facts show that the opposite is true. Indigenous people have been subsidizing Canada for a very long time.... It's true that Canada's federal government controls large portions of the cash flow First Nations depend on. Much of the money used by First Nations to provide services does come from the federal budget. But the accuracy of the myth ends there. On the whole, the money that First Nations receive is a small fraction of the value of the resources, and the government revenue that comes out office their territories. Let's look at a few examples. (Cont'd via title link...)
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
It is a fact that Aboriginal sovereignty of Indigenous Nations existed before British North America and Canada. Where did it go? Sovereignty cannot be taken from nations: It can only be given up by them. In Canada, Indigenous Nations never gave up sovereignty, never ceded, surrendered. Indeed, the treaties that define Canada were negotiated with sovereign Indigenous Nations, and Canada's sovereignty, thus, relies on Aboriginal sovereignty.Reconciling Sovereignties: Aboriginal Nations and Canada by Felix Hoehn
Reconciling pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with de facto Crown sovereignty will not threaten the territory of Canada, nor will it result in a legal vacuum. Rather, it will facilitate the self-determination of Aboriginal peoples within Canada and strengthen Canada’s claim to territorial integrity in the eyes of international law.
In Reconciling Sovereignties, Felix Hoehn presents a persuasive case that the once unquestioned and uncritical acceptance of the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty over Aboriginal peoples and their territories is now being replaced by an emerging paradigm that recognizes the equality of Aboriginal and settler peoples and requires these peoples to negotiate how they will share sovereignty in Canada.
Hoehn concludes that the Supreme Court of Canada has taken us to the threshold of a new paradigm for Aboriginal law that (a) rejects the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius, (b) accepts that Aboriginal sovereignty continues, and (c) holds that only treaties can elevate the Crown from de facto sovereignty to a de jure sovereignty that is shared with Aboriginal peoples. The sovereignty paradigm will provide needed answers to the pressing moral and practical crises that plague the old paradigm, and it holds the greatest promise for reconciliation. The text is current to William v. British Columbia (BCCA), June 27, 2012.
Monday, January 07, 2013
April 13, 2058 Toronto, East Michigan A group of thirty Canadians gathered outside the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington yesterday to issue a long list of grievances. The complaints stem from the now 43 year-old Supreme Court case that dealt with the question of whether the Oregon Treaty of 1846 and the Treaty of 1818 were still valid. The treaties originally established the 49th parallel as the border separating Canada and the United States. In a controversial move, the court had declined to pronounce on whether the treaties were still in effect or whether the land-title of Canadians had been extinguished by the assertion of US sovereignty over Canadian territory, yet the court. admitted that Canadians did indeed possess certain undefined cultural rights. “The goal moving forward,” wrote the Chief Justice in his decision, “is to establish how the rights of Canadians can be reconciled with the reality of US sovereignty over the territory.” Canadian activists disagree. Said one protestor: “They have no right to unilaterally assert sovereignty over Canada ...
Consider this ... I AM CANADIAN! (Because of treaties with Indigenous Nations)
the obligations we have to others. Take our relationship to the United States and to Americans, for example. I acknowledge that Canada has no right to impose any territorial, political or cultural arrangement upon them. Likewise, they have no right to impose theirs upon us. Why? Because of treaties and agreements, some old and some new. Specifically, because of the 1814 Treaty of Ghent, the Convention of 1818, the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, and the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which established the territories and borders of Canada. Within this context, Canada was constituted as a nation through various acts and declarations, e.g., The Royal Proclamation of 1763, the British North America Act of 1867, and the Constitution Act of 1982. These treaties and constitutional events reflect historical compacts between peoples – agreements that established our right to exist autonomously as Canadians rather than as British subjects or Americans. ... I came to see that a ... ridiculous and transparent disregard for official treaties and more informal conventions is reflected in our dealings with Indigenous nations, whom we once acknowledged as organized and autonomous political nations. Understanding the present means coming to terms with the fact that we stand today in violation of these original agreements, in violation of the 1763 Royal Proclamation/1764 Treaty at Niagara; in violation of international agreements such as 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in violation of our own 1982 Constitution Act sec. 35(1). I was struck by the realization that you and I are involved in a criminal neglect of the very treaty obligations undertaken in the course of identifying ourselves as a people; if we ignore them we only exist on this land as illegitimate occupiers
Without first nations’ willing participation, however,it’s extremely unlikely to succeed. That’s not a bad thing. First nations are deeply concerned about environmental risks; their engagement will help ensure the highest standards of safety,security and emergency responsiveness. They also know only too well that properly managed resource developments, including pipelines,offer the best solution to the employment and governance challenges they face. First nations have a judicially and politically recognized voice now in resource development,and they’re using it with increasing effectiveness.
Saturday, January 05, 2013
Cheers erupted at an Oakville Idle No More protest as news came of the prime minister’s meeting with native leaders next week,but organizers stressed the need for continued action. “Promises have been broken —so stay here so we as First Nations,aboriginal people, Indians,status,non-status are here to stand up for our constitutional right to have a say in the use of our lands and teritories,” said Earl Lambert,a Cree motivational speaker and one of the key figures at Friday’s protest. About 100 people temporarily blocked the road near the intersection of Ford Dr. and South Service Rd. E. in Oakville,one of two entrances to the Ford assembly plant grounds where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scheduled to speak."
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Canada: First Nations Child And Family Caring Society Of Canada To Appeal Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decision To Dismiss Discrimination Claim For First Nations Children On A Legal Loophole
|Tuesday, 15 March 2011 23:08|
Canada’s Struggle to Extinguish Aboriginal Title
Canada cannot understand our Sacred connection to the Land, our Aboriginal Title. It is “uncertain,” because it prevents Indigenous Peoples from viewing the Land as a commodity to be bought, sold or traded. From Canada’s perspective, our Aboriginal Title has to be changed, altered, and defined in a treaty so that it fits with Canadian laws and ideas about Land.
Canada’s strive for certainty reflects a desire that Indigenous Peoples assimilate into Canada, that we sever our connection to the Land. Canada asks that we dig up the roots connecting us to the Land and replant them through treaties. This lack of understanding and fear about our connection to the Land is what Canada strives to address through certainty.
For Indigenous Peoples, our Aboriginal Title and connection to the Land is certain, it is in the bones of our grandmothers buried in the earth, and in the blood which beats in our hearts:
Our Sacred connection to the Land is certain.
Our relationship with the Land, our Title, rests over every square inch of our traditional territories: Every rock, mountain top, stream, valley and tidal swell. This is certain.
Indigenous Peoples have the jurisdiction and responsibility to protect, access and use the Land and resources upon the Land for the benefit of our Peoples. This is certain.
Our own traditional laws and teachings grant us this certainty: As long as we maintain our Sacred connection to the Land we will continue to exist as Peoples.
Canada and B.C. have said that the purpose of treaties or modern land claims agreements is to achieve “certainty”. This booklet discusses the certainty provisions that have been suggested. In particular, a confidential document, “Certainty Summary”, which was drafted by the province.
The Certainty Summary gives a fairly clear indication of the certainty language Canada and the province will insist upon having in any treaties or land claims agreements they negotiate.
The purpose of “certainty” on the part of the federal and provincial governments is to “exhaustively and completely set forth” all aboriginal and treaty rights. Rather than simply accepting the existence of Aboriginal Title as ownership and jurisdiction over Land and resources, certainty limits and defines Aboriginal Title and Rights.
Aboriginal Title to lands and resources existed at the time that the Crown asserted sovereignty. This Title was never extinguished. This is why Crown title is uncertain and remains subject to Aboriginal Title.
There is an air of illegality about any transactions which the Crown makes or authorizes with respect to Lands and Resources. These transactions do not acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples own the Lands, and therefore violate the legal principle that “You cannot give that which you do not own.”
The Crown’s willingness to negotiate land claims requires a promise on the part of Indigenous Peoples that they will not fully practice their rights. Canada’s negotiating stance is: “We will recognize your rights, but only if you first tell us how you will exercise them, and only if you promise that your rights will not interfere with our interests.” This is certainty.
Canada’s sovereignty or ownership of Land and resources is not challenged, Canada does not have to “prove” its title. Indigenous Peoples do not get an equal promise that Canada will tell us how they will practice their rights, or that their rights will not interfere with our interests. Quite the opposite.
A modern land claim agreement is a contract between Indigenous People, Canada and the Province. Each party gives something in exchange for something. In order to gain “certainty” Canada and the Province are willing to grant a limited recognition of aboriginal title to a reduced portion of an Indigenous group’s traditional territory, in exchange for the release of all aboriginal title and rights not specifically set out in the Agreement.
Convert, Modify and Transform
The intent of the parties in achieving certainty is evident in the language proposed. Instead of the traditional “extinguishment” language (which used such phrases as “cede, release and surrender”) the language of treaties will be finessed so that it is not so blunt. Aboriginal title and rights will not be extinguished outright; Instead, they will be defined and limited out of existence. Achieving certainty will require that Aboriginal Title and Rights be “converted/modified/transformed/etc.” into treaty rights set forth in the Agreement.
Compare these definitions of the words used, all from Websters dictionary:
Extinguish, definitions include
1. “to bring to an end: to make an end of”;
2. “to reduce to silence or ineffectiveness”;
3. “to cause to be void: NULLIFY”; and
4. “to get rid of usually by payment”
Convert, definitions include
1. “to bring over from one belief, view, or party to another”;
2. “to change from one form or function to another”;
3. “to alter for more effective utilization”; and
4. “to appropriate without right”
Modify, definitions include
1. “to make less extreme: MODERATE”;
2. “to limit or restrict the meaning of…and”;
3. “to make basic or fundamental changes in often to give new orientation to or to serve a new end”
Transform, definitions include
1. “to change in composition and structure”; and
2. “to change in character or condition: CONVERT”
Certainty provisions will change all rights which aboriginal peoples have into contractual rights which have been reduced to writing, limited and defined. The impact of the proposed certainty provisions is to capture and tame aboriginal title and rights, and then place them in a cage constructed of words and legal provisions.
Certainty involves the re-definition and re-creation of aboriginal rights. This is done through clauses which
Ø convert and reduce all existing aboriginal or title rights of Indigenous Peoples’ into those contained within the Agreement;
Ø ensure that the Agreement will be the “full and final settlement” of all aboriginal title or rights;
Ø release all rights not listed in the Agreement to Canada; and
Ø exhaustively set forth all the Section 35 rights of the Indigenous group, including the manner of their exercise, and all the limitations to those rights on which the Parties have agreed.
There will be no aboriginal title or rights which survive their exclusion from the written Agreement. All aboriginal rights and title will be transformed to those of contractual or treaty-rights. Any stray rights which are not listed (for example, because of oversight, or because they were not thought of at the time of the Treaty) will not survive their exclusion from the Agreement. This means that if Canadian courts recognize new rights in the future (for example, a right to water or a commercial interest in wildlife) Indigenous groups who treaty will not be able to benefit from these rights.
Land claims agreements will be the Noah’s Arc of Aboriginal Rights: Any title or rights not on the arc and nailed down with words in the Agreement, at the time of the treaty will not survive. Aboriginal title and rights flow from the land and the historic relationship that Indigenous Peoples have had with our Lands. The legal language proposed for certainty will flood the land with Crown title and forever dam the flow of rights from the Land to the people. Crown title will replace aboriginal title. No title or rights will ever flow from the Land again. Instead, all rights will flow from the written Agreement.
Modern land claims agreements will create a double standard in which the interests of the federal and provincial Crowns and third parties are recognized. These rights will simply continue to exist, they will change and adapt over time, they will continue to live. There is no provision which releases all undefined rights or interests of Canada, B.C. or third parties to the Indigenous group. The rights of the Indigenous Peoples’, on the other hand, will be frozen and will not grow and adapt. If these rights are not written into the Agreement, they will no longer exist, they will be dead.
This is an example of how double standards will be cemented in modern land claims agreements. Crown title is perfected and recognized over all Lands, while Indigenous Title is extinguished from all areas not in the agreement.
These agreements are not fair or equal: there is no sharing. The Crown gets complete recognition of its sovereignty, its underlying title to our lands and the supremacy of its laws over our governments and People. Indigenous groups get limited recognition of title to reduced pieces of land, the right to co-manage resources (along with government and third parties interests) and self-government which is subject to Canadian and provincial laws.
Land claims agreements will explicitly contain recognition of all “third party” interests and that these are not impacted by aboriginal rights.
Interpretation: A different species of Section 35 rights
Although modern land claims will be acknowledged as treaty rights under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 which “recognizes and affirms” existing aboriginal and treaty rights, they will be a different species of Section 35 right. The benefit of having rights recognized under Section 35 is that Canadian Courts have read Section 35 to protect Aboriginal peoples and their rights.
At present, under Section 35, courts interpret treaties so that
Ø ambiguous expressions in treaties are resolved in favour of the Indians;
Ø treaty provisions are given a fair, liberal and large interpretation;
Ø the honour of the Crown is assumed when interpreting treaties (Courts assume that the Crown intended to act honourably toward aboriginal peoples and with the best interests of the aboriginal peoples in mind, while entering treaties); and
Ø any suggestion of “sharp dealing” (unfair bargaining) is not sanctioned.
These principles of interpretation will be removed from modern treaties and therefore the protective features of Section 35 will not operate. Any common law rules with respect to aboriginal or treaty rights will be replaced by the provisions of the Agreement and it is anticipated that the federal government will need to pass legislation in order to override the common law rules.
Provisions in the new treaties which will remove common law protection may include:
Ø There will be no presumption that doubtful or ambiguous expressions or terms are to be interpreted in favour of any particular Party or Parties.
Ø The Indigenous group will agree that the Crown has no consultation obligations respecting the Section 35 rights of the Indigenous group other than those obligations set out in the Treaty.
Ø The Section 35 rights set out in the Treaty will be interpreted solely on the basis of the rights set out in the treaty, without any distinction based on whether the right is a [converted/modified/transformed/etc.] aboriginal right or a new treaty right.
Any common law rules which arise from aboriginal rights cases which impose a duty on the Crown to treat aboriginal rights in a certain way, will not apply if they are not set out in the Agreement. In Delgamuukw the Supreme Court suggested that the consent of the aboriginal peoples with title would be required before certain actions or measures could be taken if these actions would have the impact of interfering with aboriginal title and the traditional uses to which the Indigenous Peoples have put their lands.
The consent of an aboriginal group to actions regarding lands over which they have aboriginal title will not apply to the new treaties unless this is specifically set out in the agreement. And, in any case, the consent, or even involvement, of the aboriginal group will only apply to those specific tracts of lands identified in the Agreement. Under Delgamuukw, consultation, compensation and, possibly consent, are required for all lands which comprise the traditional territory and title lands of the Indigenous Peoples.
Although the rights recognized under the Agreement will be called Section 35 treaty rights, they will not be afforded the same protection as Section 35 rights held by other Indigenous Peoples. These are all eliminated through the wording of the Agreement and instead the legal rules surrounding contract interpretation will apply.
The Agreements will set forth a broad number of “reliance” provisions in which the Indigenous group will agree to “indemnify” Canada and the province should any damage come to Canada or the province as a result of stray rights having survived the Agreement. This means that the Indigenous group agree to cover the financial costs to government in the event that they are sued as a result of the Agreement.
Federal and provincial legislation will be passed in order to pass this guarantee along to third parties. Federal legislation may also indemnify the province.
Who can treaty away aboriginal title?
Aboriginal title is a collective interest, which is held in trust by all members of an Indigenous Nation. As a collective interest held by each and every member of an Indigenous Nation, aboriginal title cannot be bargained or treatied away by anything less than the full consent of all the Indigenous Peoples who collectively hold this title. A majority vote (no matter how high the percentage) cannot give one group the ability to extinguish the title and rights of all of the Indigenous Peoples who hold title.
Canada and the province recognize the illegality of negotiating an agreement which purports to extinguish aboriginal title without the full consent of all of the Indigenous Peoples’ concerned. The collective nature of aboriginal title means that no Band or group of Bands/communities can treaty for Lands which belong to an entire Nation, or that no group of people within one Nation or Band/community has the right to treaty for the extinguishment of the aboriginal title and rights of those members of their Nation/community who do not give their full consent.
The legal uncertainty of the current process is heightened by the fact that Indigenous citizens are not fully or meaningfully involved or informed in the negotiations of modern land claims agreements. The collective nature of aboriginal title (which means that title is shared by all members of a Nation) creates an area of uncertainty about all treaties entered into without the full consent, knowledge and participation of each and every citizen of the Indigenous Nation. The same legal principle applies: “You cannot give that which you do not own.” No vote or ratification process is valid to authorize any group to enter into a treaty without the full consent of their people.
The province has proposed to deal with this area of uncertainty by exacting a legal promise from the Indigenous group that they have the right to enter into the Agreement on behalf of all of their people.
If individual Indigenous people do not agree with the terms of the Agreement and bring law suits in the future (claiming, for example, that parts of their traditional territories were not included in the settlement land, or that the Indigenous government had no right to extinguish their title over their traditional territory) the Indigenous group will agree that they will cover any costs to Canada and B.C. The result of this clause is that Indigenous peoples will be suing other Indigenous peoples and any dollar settlement will come from the Indigenous peoples themselves,not the government.
Compensation for Past Wrongs
Modern land claims agreements will represent the “full and final settlement” between the parties, including of past wrongs. The Indigenous group will agree not to pursue any legal claims against Canada or B.C. with respect to any past wrongs. The proposed wording is that
The Indigenous group will release Canada and British Columbia from any claims that it may have had prior to the Treaty regarding any interference or infringement of the Indigenous group’s Section 35 rights, and any claims under Canada’s “specific claims” policy.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in Delgamuukw, stated that aboriginal title has an economic component and that government will be liable to provide compensation in the event of an abrogation or breach of aboriginal title. This clause would preclude the Indigenous group from bringing any legal actions relating to compensation for the value of the lands and resources taken from their territories. Canada and the province will not have to pay compensation for their past extraction of resources (which is in the billions of dollars for most areas), or the spoilage of habitat, lands and resources which they have been responsible for. All past claims for compensation, and any future claims for compensation, are all reduced into the terms of the Agreement.
Modern land claims agreements will contain language in which all parties agree not to challenge the “validity or enforceability” of the Agreement. This means that if the Indigenous group in the future do not think that the Agreement was a fair deal, they have agreed not to go to Court to challenge it.
Certainty language will also require that the parties agree that if one or more parties breaches the agreement and do not keep the promises they made under the Agreement, the other Parties must keep their promises.
A breach of the Treaty by any Party will not relieve any other Party from its obligations under the Treaty.
Indigenous Peoples who have entered into treaties with Canada share the common complaint that Canada has steadfastly refused to honour the terms of the treaty or the promises it has made. Canada maintains that Indigenous Peoples have ceded their aboriginal title through treaties (and therefore that Crown title is absolute over those lands) while not honouring the promises which it made. This clause suggests that the Indigenous group may be forced to honour their agreements (ceding aboriginal title and rights to all areas not included under the Agreement) if Canada and B.C. do not honour the obligations they made. For example, if B.C. decides that it cannot afford to make the payments required under the treaty, or if it minimizes the co-management agreement provisions of the agreement, the Indigenous group will not get their lands and rights back.
The net impact of the “certainty” provisions sought by Canada and B.C. will be to create a double standard with regard to title and interests in the land. Canada, the province, and third parties have their rights and interests recognized and protected. These rights are not defined or in any way limited by the Agreement. The Indigenous group, on the other hand, have all of their rights reduced to the written word of the Agreement.
These certainty provisions are far more restrictive than any of the “extinguishment language” which has been used in other modern land claims agreements to date.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
March 11, 2011
The circle of supporters sits at the lowest point of a valley, on what was known to the ancient First Peoples of the area as Watersnake Mound, in the south end of the park. A red banner tied to a central tree valiantly signifies that this space is now under the protection of the Indigenous People gathered there. The mound is one of 57 purported sites of historical significance within the boundaries of the park.
This mound is, according to Iroquoian oral teachings, a burial site of some 3,000 years, built by people of the Meadowood Culture and is currently an issue of great concern for the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. For the last 16 years, children and adult BMX bicycle riders have illegally cut into Watersnake Mound, building an unnatural landscape of cycling ramps on the site, possibly having desecrated the tombs of First Peoples buried within.
High Park is the largest park in Toronto. Its 398 acres include recreational areas and wild parkland with varied facilities, gardens, playgrounds and a zoo. One third of the park remains in a natural state, classified as rare oak savannah ecology.
Rastia'ta'non:ha, whose name means "Protector of the Ancestors," has been assigned by Clan Mothers from many fires, on both sides of "The Imaginary Line" (the Canada-U.S. Border), the task of documenting finds there and protecting the mounds and attempting to get Toronto officials to designate this mound and others historically significant sites so that they may be restored and protected.
In order to accomplish these, in his view, sacred and essential tasks, Rastia'ta'non:ha and others have established the Täiäiäkó'n Historical Preservation Society, with the sole mandate of restorating and preserving Thunderbird Mound at Magwood Park, Toronto, and those burial mounds and sites of significance in High Park.
In the society of the Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), a consensual decision-making process involves all of the 50 clans contained in the Six Nations of The Confederacy. The People have an ordered, non-hierarchical way of making certain all voices are heard.
When development of west Toronto was occurring, in 1921, "on a high sandy ridge immediately north of Grenadier pond, at an approximate depth of 90cm, workers discovered a single grave, uncovering eight or 10 red-ochre covered, in-flesh burials. All were in the usual sitting position ..." (Dr. R. B. Orr, Director, Provincial Museum, Canada). It is not known where the remains of the people found in those graves now are. There have since -- in 2009 and 2010 -- been other discoveries of bone fragments there but park officials and city authorities, according to Rastia'ta'non:ha, have been slow to take action to name them as such, despite the tagging of Bear Mound as a bona fide archaeological site.
"Watersnake mound is located near water and this body of water is on the very old map we have," says Rastia'ta'non:ha. "We've found Mica here from West Virginia, Obsidian from Yellowstone Park and further; a shell from the Gulf of Mexico, Red Ochre from "Hells Gate" on the Mattawa River near North Bay, Red Lake, near the Manitoba-Ontario imaginary line, chert (silica chalcedony) that comes from various locations: Fort Erie, Collingwood and further away. We know that many Indigenous People came to trade, live, hunt and fish here and have been doing so for thousands of years. We have found red ochre and aboriginal artifacts that would indicate that this is a gravesite. We have an arrowhead found here, which alone should signify that this is an archaeologically important site! This mound is an indicator of the relationship our people have with the land and signifies how important this place was and is."
History of the Meadowood people
The people of The Meadowood culture lived in three types of communities: semi-permanent base camps, temporary procurement camps, and mortuary sites. Mortuary sites were separate from living areas and were traditionally placed within natural knolls and ridges in the landscape, or near water. Their funerary rituals were elaborate. They sprinkled or painted their dead with red ochre and placed blades, copper, bone and shell beads as well as pottery, pipes, fire-making kits and baskets within the mortuary mounds. The in-flesh burials may have been designated for those of high status such as the Shaman, Chief or Clan Mother and each mound in High Park was aligned cosmically, by having their cardinal features coordinated with solar progressions, as with a giant sundial. They are also aligned geographically with Thunderbird Mound and other sites marking the travel routes of the people who migrated between Ontario and Ohio, where Serpent Mound is located and points beyond.
In 2003, the Province of Ontario's Ministry of Culture designated Bear Mound, just North of Grenadier Restaurant, as "Archaeological site AjGu-45."
"This action may have, in fact, made it difficult for the city to designate the sites as archaeologically significant or protected." says Ms. May Maracle of The Aboriginal Affairs Committee. The purpose of the committee is to make recommendations to City Council regarding the affairs of Aboriginal peoples in Toronto.
"The Preservation Society has had the opportunity to present their case to the Committee but so far that has not happened," said Maracle.
Rastia'ta'non:ha contests Maracle's statement and says the meetings between Täiäiäkó'n and the Committee were continually deferred to unspecified dates and when the meeting was to be held with the archaeologist in charge of the Toronto New Archaeological Master Plan, his organization was not invited to participate. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee had requested the city's archaeologist meet with THPS in 2009, but to this date, there has been no meeting.
Since August 28th of last year, Rastia'ta'non:ha and the city have been involved in a struggle to deal effectively with the Snake Mound issue. Several people have been observed cutting into the mound, he asserts, to find human remains and artifacts, which have surfaced after rainstorms. Barriers have been erected by the Parks and Rec department at the request of the society, and agreements have been struck with park officials as to their maintenance and enforcement by the police, but according to Rastia'ta'non:ha, the park and the city have failed to keep their promises. Monitoring of the area is inconsistent -- cyclists have continually knocked the barricades down late at night and have destroyed or damaged signs posted against illegal cycling there. They have also been seen digging for artifacts and have been verbally abusive, throwing rocks at supporters and making threats to the general park-going public. This culminated in the society lodging a formal complaint to the Mayor's Office, Park Officials, The Police Department and local Members of Parliament on Dec. 9, 2010.
There are videotapes online, of city officials and police in discussion with supporters at the Aug. 28 ceremony date of last year. In the tapes officials promise support however at other times, people claiming to be park workers have been witnessed giving shovels to children and telling them to "dig anywhere."
There are several bylaws which apply to this situation: the bylaw against digging in the park, Bylaw 608-29 sec a-d against biking off designated trials in the park; there is a criminal law against desecrating graves in Ontario and the Environmental Protection Act. Section 74 of the Cemeteries Act, covers the cemeteries of Indigenous peoples in Ontario.
Ms. Wynna Brown, the acting operations support coordinator for The Department of Parks and Recreation attests there have been no archaeological findings there but did not respond to an email request for the archaeologist's name and details of the types of assessments carried out. She did state, however, that stage one and two assessments had been completed but did not provide further details on the methods used or whether or not the assessment process was concluded. Brown also stated plainly that the city only works with bon fide groups that the Aboriginal Affairs Committee approves of.
The coroner's office follows certain procedures about dealing with human remains, as they must establish the circumstances around their location and whether or not they are linked to a possible homicide. When skeletal remains are found, if they are identified as such by a visual appraisal, they are forwarded to a forensic anthropologist who may further test them to establish their age. Despite the fact that police have been called to the site several times to keep people from cycling there and that the fragments were visually appraised by a coroner, their offices in Toronto stated to me they were unfamiliar with the case mentioned. Rastia'ta'non:ha has submitted the fragments found at Bear Mound to one of the DNA labs in Ontario, which specialize in forensic tests and dating of ancient human bone. He is currently awaiting results.
Rastia'ta'non:ha said the coroner did come to the site on May 10, 2009 to appraise the fragments and three days later determined that they were stone by visual appraisal but no further testing occurred. Other fragments were found lying on the ground after a rain in Aug. 2009, along with red ochre and other burial indicators. The police from 11 Division were called but refused to deal with the issue following the protocols under Ontario Cemeteries Act.
In August they told Rastia'ta'non:ha and witnesses at the site to "deal with the issue themselves" then left the scene.
Park officials have said that the assessment report has not yet come in. Rastia'ta'non:ha feels the damage to the place is apparent and should not require further delays in restoring the mounds. Activists have been warned against demolishing the bike ramps in fact, they would be arrested if they attempt to level the dirt jumps with any implements.
"We should not have to have anyone's permission to do this, these are the gravesites of our grandmothers' and grandfathers' ancestors!" said Rastia'ta'non:ha. In his view, archaeological assessments are destructive to ancient gravesites. He feels that the teachings and lore of his people should be enough to set the place as a sacred site and doing so could be very good for the city's reputation and subsequently generate revenue for the park. According to Rastia'ta'non:ha, when John Howard bequeathed High Park to the city, it was on the condition that the Six Nations continue their custodial role over the park and in particular, the sites themselves. They have strongly stated that it is their duty and spiritual obligation to maintain the mounds and their connection to the ancestors, for future generations of all people.
Notwithstanding difficulties in legislating this area as an Indigenous peoples burial site, there are other issues at stake. The area has already been deemed environmentally sensitive, as Trilliums and several species of Oak grow there which are shielded under Ontario's environmental protection laws. "On that count alone both High Park officials and the city have not stepped up to the plate in terms of protection of this area. There are protected tree root systems being destroyed, trilliums are being trampled on, not to mention all the animal species that live here. Their habitat is being eradicated."
Six Nations Confederacy Chief, Arnold General; Beaver Clan of the Onondaga Nation, does not understand why the park officials and city politicians are not letting people know about what is happening at Watersnake Mound. "This is our heritage," said the chief, "Treaties were signed with the government in good faith. Our rights are being eradicated, our lands taken away. I know what my ancestors told me, that anything related to the burial of our people should be left alone and protected. Why is it, that if we stand up for our rights, we are thought of as bad people when this land was ours to begin with?"
Rastia'ta'non:ha says that he believes that the restoration of the mounds in High Park will create a domino effect regarding the recognition of these sites all over the world. Said Chief General, "It would be nice if we were all of one mind around this issue. The way the city is dealing with this is degrading to our people."
Activists are trying to get the word out to those who may be supportive. An environmentalist involved with Täiäiäkó'n says he thinks this will be a step-by-step process accomplished in increments. "Essentially, you have to have a long view of what you want to do and be very clear about what your goals are. We're willing to work with the city peacefully and let them speak and do, as opposed to protesting and barricading. We feel that will make them more willing to help. Rastia'ta'non:ha has been amazing to work with and we are privileged and honoured to be working with him. It's a long process. Bottom line, this is a health and safety issue, this place is unsafe, there is broken glass everywhere, drug paraphernalia have been found here; the soil is eroding, it's dangerous for the children!"
Two Feathers Down, a Seneca man from Kentucky, says he feels if the people cycling on the ramps knew there were graves there, they would not be so eager to ride over them. He feels it doesn't matter whose graves they are, the fact that they're there, means they should be dealt with in a respectful way.
"The people of Toronto from all cultures are being damaged by the way this is being handled. This is a part of the city's history and there could be great benefit by recognizing that this ancient burial mound system is within its jurisdiction." He also feels that the police should address the person or persons, who are encouraging the children to be belligerent and abusive to the people trying to do the work of having the mounds recognized and preserved.
"We have suggested to the police and the city that BMX ramps be built elsewhere says Rastiatanon:ha," we are concerned for the riders who are taking risks both from a safety perspective and also from a spiritual perspective. The gravesites of the ancestors were protected when they were built, we do not want to see anyone get hurt here. Each grave," he elucidates, "was sealed with a blessing and a curse."
Two Feathers Down asserted that Indigenous People will come from as many as thirty US States and from as far north as the Arctic Circle if Rastia'ta'non:ha puts the word out that he needs help. "People from every direction are watching and waiting for the word."
Rastia'ta'non:ha is eloquent when stating that his cultural beliefs and practices encompass all aspects of life; the past present and future, "So when we do things, and we say things, we do them with what will happen seven generations down the road in mind. For me this is all encompassing. It carries over into all life. It's not just the ancestors, it is now and the future, because without these mounds, the footprint of the Haudenosaunee will be erased."
Catherine Tammaro is a digital artist, painter, musician and freelance writer living in Toronto. Her works have been exhibited in both traditional and alternative gallery spaces and her written and visual works have been published in various journals and publications in Toronto and internationally. Some of Catherine's art, music and witting can be found by clicking here, here, here and here.
My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Love it or Leave it!
My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Love it or Leave it!
Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into most horrible chapter of
painful residential schools saga
By: Alexandra Paul
No one knows how many children died in residential schools.
No one knows how many graves were dug for them.
And there is no peace without knowing.
Research at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is underway to get
a grip on
the approximate number of missing children and unmarked graves at residential
schools in Canada, including on the Prairies.
Justice Murray Sinclair, chairman of the three-member commission, said the
tragedy of the missing children is a chapter that casts a deep shadow on the
saga of residential schools.
That children died and went missing isn't in dispute.
It's part of the record and the memory, such as the story Joe Harper recounted
of how his friend Joseph died in obscurity at the Cross Lake
Fifty years on, it still rankles him.
"There was never a funeral for him," Harper said outside one of the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission tents set up to hear survivor accounts last June at
The Forks. "I don't even know how his parents ever found out."
One question likely to remain a mystery is how many Josephs were at the schools.
"We are, quite frankly, not going to be able to say how many children died in
the schools or say where they are all buried, and what happened to them after
they died," Sinclair said recently at the commission's downtown Winnipeg
Nevertheless, he said it's essential to tackle the issue as part of the
residential schools legacy.
To get the work done, the commission has hired Alex Maass, a former Indian
Affairs civil servant who is an anthropology expert on gravesites. This month,
Greg Younging, a professor of indigenous studies at the University of British
Columbia, was appointed assistant director of research. One of his jobs is to
oversee the Missing Children Project.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Canada's provincial governments were in
place, along with requirements for deaths to be reported as they occurred.
While residential school deaths may have been reported, there are few death
certificates attached to student files in old archives. Finding out what
happened to each child would involve matching church and government records to
Vital Statistics files.
"In order to properly document the children who died in the schools and where
they are located, you'd have to go through millions and millions of pages of
archival material," Sinclair said.
The commission isn't equipped to complete the herculean task.
Even then, there are too many gaps in the records to clear up every death and
every missing child.
The best the commission can do is try to identify the magnitude of the problem,
Sinclair said. "And once we have, there will be better information for a
decision to be made about what to do about it."
The commission hopes to have enough information to suggest further research and ways to commemorate the graves.
Survivors' accounts are part of the historical record and will be used in the research. Documents to corroborate those accounts are, not surprisingly, hard to find.
"We've heard stories from survivors that babies were born in the schools to mothers who'd been impregnated by teachers and by priests. They say their babies were taken away. They think their babies were killed," Sinclair said. "We don't know the extent to which that occurred, if at all."
Records show there was a practice followed when children died.
"The local principal of the school would make contact with the family and basically say, 'What do you want us to do with your child? He's dead. He drowned when he was running away or he died of disease.' Sometimes there was no effort made to contact the family. They just buried the child."
Depending on the era, there might be a few deaths per year or dozens.
John Milloy, author of National Crime, the most extensive book on Canadian residential schools, has said that reports dating back as far as 1907 show 24 to 42 per cent of children in some schools died of tuberculosis. He said nearly every school he knew of had a cemetery on the grounds.
Records cited in the commission's 2010 study on missing children contained very few references to those cemeteries.
With gaps and discrepancies like that, investigators have their work cut out for them.
"We need to be sensitive to the fact there is a great deal of misinformation and non-information out there," Sinclair said.
Google "residential schools" to get a glimpse of how the fate of missing children decades ago is a super-sensitive and sensational issue today.
Scores of sites pop up, referring to the Canadian Holocaust, in which 50,000 children died or disappeared. The figure is widely reported, but also considered likely a dramatic overstatement.
Many of the sites feature former United Church minister Kevin Arnett from British Columbia, the self-appointed crusader for families who lost children in residential schools. His contribution fuels a debate that's disturbing enough without potentially exaggerated claims.
Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice ordered a working group in 2008 to define the scope of the problem in the wake of Arnett's polarizing allegations and their impact on survivors.
The working group found that children had gone missing and graves were not uncommon. The issue was handed on to the commission.
"There are people out there able to take advantage of the mistrust between survivors and the government and maximize their fear and their anger," Sinclair said. "That means there can be no peace until there are some answers."
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Reading this article and especially the comments made me think about where I really stand on the issues of (alleged) excessive force (assault) by police, police, removing or obscuring their badge numbers, arresting peaceful protestors (allegedly) unnecessarily, etc.
Commenters seem to take polar opposite views, either totally supporting or totally opposing police. I do not share either of those extreme views, but perhaps my view will be considered even more extreme:
I think police officers and their unions should encourage their misbehaving colleagues to come clean and turn themselves in, and support them in doing so.
(Is that sarcastic laughter I hear? Hear me out.)
Sometimes we hear that police get frustrated because people with knowledge of crimes will not speak up. Well, this is the same thing: Police won't speak up about crimes of their fellow officers. Every time an officer keeps quiet, an injustice is done by those we depend on for justice, and another piece of the public trust is lost. How would police do their jobs if the public didn't help and support them by reporting crimes and criminals? Police jobs would become increasingly difficult and dangerous and crime rates would increase.
But why would the public help if police repeatedly arrest innocent people, use excessive force on arrestees - ie beat them up - and then lie about it, and cover up for each other, all lying to the public and the justice system? How is that any different, any more excusable than anybody who assaults any person and then he and his whole community lie about it? In my opinion, it is no different, except that the crimes of the officers are much more egregious because they are paid by the public to 'serve and protect' the public. That's called biting the hand that feeds you, never wise, and in fact these are crimes against democracy committed by protectors of democracy.
In the olden days, before cell phones with video cameras were everywhere, and videos and blog reports were not posted and available worldwide within seconds, back in the innocent (or fearful?) times when the police could easily cover up misbehaviour, the public could also turn a blind eye. Back then, 'nice Canadians' did not protest in the streets, just "union thugs" and "communists" did that. Well, that all changed starting in the 1960's when ordinary, even revered people took to the streets to improve democracy by fighting segregation and racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., protesting wars of aggression, cuts to social services, unfair labour practices, and a variety of human rights and other issues. I walked beside church ministers, social workers, nurses, reporters, teachers, steelworkers, office workers, farmers, university students and professors. The police have learned some lessons about policing democratic protests, but the traditional 'old boys' police culture has not changed fast enough to keep up, and now technology and savvy citizens are exposing the ugly underbelly of policing, where officers are criminals and cover up for criminal officers.
The exposure will ultimately be a good thing, cleansing the forces of officers who commit and cover up crimes, and depend on those methods to 'get their man'. Before that cleansing can occur, however, Police Commissions, the Brass and every officer will have to commit themselves to changing the secrecy culture that hides criminals among their ranks.
No matter what your job is, few people want to squeal on coworkers. However, some people might, for the protection of others, privately confront a colleague with the information, expect them to change, and support them through a change in behaviour. That's what I expect police and their unions to do, to police themselves, to uphold high standards for policing, and to be accountable to the public for both their actions and their truthfulness.
As police tell criminals and witnesses, it is in their best interests to be cooperative, tell the whole story, and the police and courts may be more lenient. The same applies to police: If those guilty of bad behaviour and those who know about it come clean, learn lessons and reform, the public will be more forgiving and policing will be more effective, with better public trust in officers.
When police attempt to incite riots to shut down peaceful protests, as the Surete Quebec did at the 2002 Summit of the Americas, when police bludgeon grandmotherly unionists/public employees as the OPP did at Queens Park in 1997, when police randomly attack people without cause as Toronto Police did to OCAP protesters at Queens Park in 2000, or when they detain (in the rain), violently attack or arrest over 1000 peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders, as during the G20 in Toronto 2010 ... then we have a violent police state. When people are afraid to associate, assemble, or speak freely in public for fear of police/state violence against them, then democracy and democratic freedom no longer exist in Canada.
We need a full judicial national inquiry into police actions at the G20 to fully expose those actions, including AND ESPECIALLY a thorough investigation of the entire chain of command: Toronto Police Services (the chosen fall guys?), OPP, RCMP, CSIS, and the PMO.
Would 90 (or more?) police officers independently and spontaneously hide their identities without sanction of superior officers?
I doubt it.
Would superior officers give such instructions without sanction from other authorities?
I doubt that too.
In fact, this whole thing stinks of rot at the top, not hard to imagine with a 'government' already known to be a one man show by a man who thus undermines our democracy and openly despises human rights . The violations of Charter rights at the Toronto 2010 G20 protests need to be investigated individually, and also as an orchestrated event.
If police officers on the street want to regain the trust of the public that they need to do their jobs, and protect democracy as is their job, they and their unions will support each other in telling the WHOLE truth.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
In other words, business as usual in Canada's government - Make pretty laws, and do everything possible to evade them.
Audience members asked pointed and persistent questions about the wisdom of Blatchford writing a book about 'Caledonia' while ignoring and dismissing the legal context of Six Nations' land and Aboriginal rights.
Aboriginal rights are constitutional rights, the supreme 'rule of law' in Canada and as such,the first responsibility ofthe police. That doesn't excuse any offsite personal or property damage, and charges were laid, albeit not in the middle of angry mobs. Many Six Nations people went to court, some went to jail, and some felt the disapproval of their Six Nations peers and Elders for their inappropriate actions too.
Those who criticize police but were not there at the time, like Christie Blatchford and anti-native activist Gary McHale (whose biased 'research' Blatchford relied on heavily for her book), simply do not grasp the reality that faced the OPP: There are 24 000 Six Nations men, women and children, every one of them a 'warrior' in the struggle for their rights. The police could be outnumbered and overwhelmed in a matter of minutes, and the women usually took the lead as they are responsible for the land. Police were aware that Canadians would not approve of shooting Aboriginal people: Brute strength and guns were not the answer, and despite mistakes and missteps on all sides, NOBODY DIED THIS TIME!
If there is a lesson in this for Blatchford, McHale and for all Canadians, it is that Aboriginal rights cannot be ignored or dismissed: They are the "rule of law" in Canada and internationally. Angry mobs of Canadians screaming at police won't change that. Nor will Blatchford's unrealistic, poorly 'researched' and thoroughly biased book.
What needs to change is our governments' 'political will' to resolve Aboriginal rights issues across the country, and that 'political will' must come from us: Our MPs and MPPs and municipal councils must all feel the pressure from Canadians to implement real solutions locally, provincially and nationally.
Thank you Michael Valpy.
Perhaps when all the G20 investigations are over, there will be an apology to the people of Toronto and the protesters for treating them like criminals, and to all Canadians for disrespecting democratic process. The entire chain of command is implicated, but the 'boots on the street' are each individually responsible for upholding the charter rights of each and every citizen, protester or not.
About half of the children forced to attend the schools died there. There are no official records of their deaths, their families were usually not informed and the graves, some of them mass graves, were unmarked, and still are.
Many died from tuberculosis in the early 1900's. During that era, treatment of tuberculosis reduced its impact substantially among Canadians. However, NO TREATMENT WAS PROVIDED to Indigenous children in the crowded schools despite the efforts of the Medical officer at the time, Dr. Peter Bryce. Death rates among the children skyrocketed from 1900 to the 1950's.
Though the UN Convention on Genocide passed in 1948, Canada refused to sign it until 2000, after all of the government residential schools closed. Are we blind enough to believe this is coincidence?
This is Canada's genocide, finally becoming mainstream news, too late for the more than 50 000 children who died from Canada's intentional 'negligence'. Our governments were and are complicit in genocide and in the ongoing cover up.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
The federal government is aware that it has a duty to consult with Aboriginal communities and to accommodate their rights on all of their traditional lands (not just "land claims settlements"). The feds ignored their fiduciary duty and ties responsibility to uphold the 'honour of the Crown' by failing to engage in appropriate consultations ahead of construction related to the North Warning System (formerly the DEW line). The Aboriginal governments have now invoked their rights, causing Harper to delay the project.
DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL!
As proscribed by the Supreme Court, the duty to consult Aboriginal peoples applies to all traditional lands, ie, all of Canada, a fact that the powers that be in Canada are trying to hide.
http://www.theprovince.com/mobile/news/national-news/Exclusive Aboriginal consultations delay tender Arctic radar chain/4105238/story.html
Friday, January 14, 2011
-- First Nations and all Indigenous Peoples of Canada are speaking up, persisting in implementing the treaties, now proscribed by the Supreme Court of Canada as the duty to meaningfully consult and to adequately accommodate Aboriginal and treaty rights.
We live on Aboriginal land by treaties "to a plough's depth", and by the treaties, Indigenous Peoples retain their traditional rights to sustain themselves from the land too ... all traditional territory, regardless of 'land claims' ... all of the land.
The National/Financial Post (Aug10/10) addressed the effect this is having on the oil sands and the entire resource sector, a new way of doing business, with Aboriginal communities now as business partners with a say in development and a share in revenues.
Municipalities have some knowledge of the duty to consult and some may be doing so. A Hamilton judge said it didn't say it applied in every circumstance. A Brantford judge said there's nothing that says it doesn't apply.
Saugeen Objibwa Nation and Owen Sound: "duty to consult First Nations ... a new way of doing business"
Friday, January 07, 2011
As I was saying (now in more than 1000 characters;)
I am a Canadian taxpayer, supporting the federal government's 'Aboriginal industry' administering the 'Indian' Act, devouring millions for high paid people to drag out 'land claims', etc.
Contrary to some opinions, we/Canada/the Crown have not "stolen" any Aboriginal land.
We/Canada/the Crown - via 'Indian' Affairs - hold the land in trust, with fiduciary duty to administer the land and deposit to First Nation accounts the proceeds of land transactions and activities, according to treaties, and to withdraw for Aboriginal community support (administration, governance, roads, water, education, health, etc.).
So ... billion dollar 'Indian' Affairs industry ... Show us the public accounts, the money trail, for the lands of the Haldimand Tract.
If lands were surrendered to, entrusted to, the Crown for sales and leases, show us the income and debit accounts for the trust funds.
I want to see the bottom line.
Show us the federal money trail for the Haldimand Tract lands. If INAC accepted payment for Six Nations land, INAC should have accounts showing the deposits and withdrawals for Six Nations accounts. If Six Nations sold or leased land and takes annual payouts from its account, the books should be available.
If land was sold, and paid for, what's the delay in producing that information? After all, it matters not so much what the intentions were, as what was done.
Show us the money trail!
And don't send 3 high paid (we pay!), politically correct (long winded)'communicators'. For my dime,
just one accountant and the books will do.
Judge Arrell (Brantford) said Six Nations intended to surrender the land. And then ... ?
I knew someone who intended to sell some land once, signed the agreement, but never got the money. He still owns the land. Clear cut. It's sold or it's not.
So just show us the money trail for the Haldimand Tract land Six Nations sold.
I'm being repetitive, I know, and I respect that there may be issues about whether or not some or all of Six Nations may have 'intended' to sell land or not ... but I'm just a Canadian taxpayer, and I just want the answer from my government: Did we sell the land on their behalf, and did the money appropriately accrue to their account?
Thursday, January 06, 2011
We are all somewhat familiar with the contentious discussions that occur about Aboriginal rights and titles issues: Did they/didn't they freely and properly 'surrender' the land to Canada? The proper legal manner of surrender is described in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, still law in Canada under our Constitution (1867, 1982).
Those discussions can and do go on forever, often ad nauseam, as people on both sides of the Caledonia conflict can attest. However, such discussions - heated debates usually - are simply clever distractions from the real issue of ... MONEY! ... WHERE IS IT ??? If, for example, the Haudenosaunee Six Nations people 'surrendered' most of the Haldimand Tract, where is the federal accounting for the money thus owed to Six Nations account?
I am a Canadian taxpayer. We fund Canada's 'Aboriginal industry', millions (billions?) per year spent in those 'ad nauseam' discussions designed to evade the money issue.
Monday, January 03, 2011
The Royal Bank of Canada has agreed not to finance the Enbridge pipeline without consent of Indigenous Peoples whose traditional territories it would cross, who have made their objections clear.
The article refers to the principle of "free prior informed consent" in the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Also referenced by the language used is the legal duty of "the Crown" in Canada to consult meaningfully with Indigenous Peoples and adequately accommodate their (Constitutional) Aboriginal and treaty rights.
Governments drag out "specific land claims" (for title) endlessly, but the Supreme Court has ruled that agreement on development on traditional/treaty lands is immediate. It underlies protests by Indigenous communities across Canada, including the Haudenosaunee Six Nations in Southern Ontario (Nanfan Treaty).
Kudos to RAN !
Looking back ...
Thursday, December 30, 2010
and reports about 100 000 students.
Now that's odd, because the federal government reports only 100 000
students in total, or sometimes 150 000.
It's known that death rates in residential schools were 25 to 50%: an
estimated 50 000 students died in the schools.
But if 25% of the schools had 100 000 students, the total number of
students in all schools must have been closer to 400 000, and the
number of students who died, then, would have been 150 000 to 200
Perhaps the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will clarify, but they
are still using the government's number, 100 000 to 150 000 students
in total. These numbers represent all students from 1872 to 1996 when
the last school closed.
80 000 survivors are still alive. This undisputed fact alone tells
the truth about the government's numbers: It is impossible that
half of all 1872-1990 students are still alive. Indian Affairs must clarify.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Hunt begins for long-missing students
Neglected graves probed in renewed effort to solve mystery of aboriginal children's fates
From Monday's Globe and Mail
October 27, 2008 at 3:44 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The federal government is mapping burial sites at former residential schools as researchers try to identify how many of the estimated thousands of native children who went missing from the schools are buried in unmarked or anonymous graves.
Cemeteries scattered across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have been identified by researchers. Some of the graves have single white wooden crosses bearing no name. Others do not include even a cross.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked for the material before its head, Mr. Justice Harry LaForme, resigned unexpectedly last week after accusing the two other commissioners of being too focused on the commission's mandate to uncover truth about residential schools, at the expense of reconciliation.
Cemetery research is part of an attempt by the federal government to understand precisely what happened to the residential school students who disappeared.
Source: Assembly of First Nations
It is a massive and sensitive issue. Native leaders and successive federal governments have said they simply do not know who or how many students of the residential schools even died, never mind where they might be buried.
While many community leaders, including elders and a former United Church minister, have spoken of unmarked graves on the sites of residential schools before, this is the first time federal researchers have attempted to compile documentary evidence as to the extent of these discoveries.
The material obtained by The Globe and Mail was completed by two researchers at Indian Residential Schools Resolutions Canada.
Their findings, submitted in an April, 2008, report, reveal several schools had cemeteries on school grounds.
The reason for the placement of cemeteries on the school grounds is not given in the research documents. But in the case of two schools in particular, the researchers found detailed documents describing graves without markings.
Indian Affairs documents reveal bodies were accidentally unearthed in 1992 on the grounds of the former Muskowekwan Indian Residential School in Lestock, Sask., which was run by Catholic missionaries. The graves were uncovered during a construction project to build a new sewer line on the property.
"On July 21, 1992, workers with N.I.S. Construction Ltd. uncovered three unmarked graves," the Indian Affairs document states. "On July 22, an additional 15 graves were encountered. They were located in a row paralleling the new gravity sewer main north of residence 0210-01. The contractor indicated there was evidence of another row of graves north of the first row encountered ... All remains unearthed were placed in plastic bags and stored in a locked building."
The document says the local band council was then notified and construction was halted. The band manager for Muskowekwan First Nation declined comment for this story, as did the manager of the youth centre now operating in the former residential school.
At another school, the St. John's Indian Residential School in Alberta (also known as Wabasca Residential School), the researchers found a document from 1961 describing how the principal came across an unmarked cemetery. A second letter indicates the unidentified principal ultimately cleaned up the site and erected 110 white crosses.
"The place was a terrible mess, so much underbrush," according to one of the letters. "Even though it is not finished, one can see a great improvement in it all, at least it is not woods now."
Anglican priest Richard Waye has been serving the Cree community of Wabasca for the past nine years. He said the community's large graveyard dates back to 1895 and is well maintained by the community, including support from the Big Stone Cree Nation. Rev. Waye said old crosses are replaced with new ones.
"I've never heard anything like that," he said when told of the 1961 entry by the principal. "If it ever happened that the cemetery had come into disrepair, I don't think that it would have been because of any lack of respect. ... Everything here is well maintained and it's respectful."
Rev. Waye said "99.9" per cent of the people attending his masses are Crees with ties to the residential school.
"My impression is that people still attend the church because of the positive experience they had as children in St. John's school," he said.
Detailed records related to the Edmonton Indian Residential School include a principal's letter from 1955, stating: "Some years ago the Indian Affairs branch asked for room on the property ... for a small graveyard in which to bury deceased Indians and Eskimos from Camsell Hospital whose homes are too far in the North to return the bodies for burial. The boys at the School keep the ground in reasonable condition for no remuneration but they get paid for digging graves."
Another reference to a document from 1945 suggests the Alberta Blood band council was aware of a cemetery at the Blood Indian Residential School (also known as St. Mary's), and wanted the graves dug deeper to prevent "effluvia" near the girls' playground
The researchers found a comment on the issue from the federal Indian Agent, stating: "While it is appreciated that in Winter particularly, it is difficult to get the Indians to do the work suitably, may we ask that this request be placed before the Indians when digging Graves."
The day after a Globe and Mail investigation reported in April, 2007, on the fact that thousands of native children likely died at Indian Residential Schools due to diseases like tuberculosis and possible neglect, the Conservative government promised to investigate.
"It is unimaginable to any parent that your child would go away to school and not return," then-Indian Affairs minister Jim Prentice said
at the time, announcing that the mandate of the Truth
Source: Assembly of First Nations
and Reconciliation Commission would be expanded to include an investigation of unmarked graves and missing children.
But a separate paper dated September, 2008, suggests that approach was not the government's first instinct. Bob Watts, the commission's former executive director, who no longer works at the commission, wrote that Mr. Prentice was planning to tell the House of Commons, if asked about it during Question Period, that it had no information about the issue of "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials."
"I wrote back the author of the [Question Period] card, and asked whether or not this was true," Mr. Watts wrote. He then describes how a meeting was then hastily called and a decision was made to form a working group to study the matter and provide advice to the commissioners.
Mr. Watts then writes that Mr. Prentice's office was a "model of non-interference" as the working group began its research.
When The Globe requested all documents related to this working group, the government provided a highlyredacted version of a briefing note on the issue.
The Globe has also obtained a draft version of the non-redacted document.
It is a research paper into missing children and asks that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission undertake to discover how many residential students died and who they were, what they died from and where they are buried.
Native elders have for decades provided anecdotal evidence that schoolchildren died and their fellow students were forced to bury them.
The issue of unmarked graves was not specifically explored by the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. That report recommended an independent public inquiry be called to examine the effects of residential schools.
The boarding schools were part of an overall federal policy started in the first years of Canada's founding to assimilate aboriginals into the increasingly dominant population of European immigrants.
Partnering with churches that were already established throughout Canada as part of their missionary work, Ottawa built the residential schools and paid churches on a per capita basis to take in native children and teach them a mix of agricultural skills and traditional schooling.
Buried, not forgotten
1. St. John's
Indian Residential School
Also known as Wabasca
opened 1895; new school built in 1949; closed 1966
The IRSC report quotes a 1961 letter from an unidentified school principal who describes a cemetery with unmarked graves that is "a terrible mess." A letter written three weeks later states that the cemetery has been cleaned up and 110 white crosses erected. The school is no longer standing, but the current Anglican minister in Wabasca says the cemetery is well cared for and he had not heard of any historical problems regarding maintenance.
St. Albert, Alta.
opened 1919; closed 1960s
The IRSRC report states that boys at the school were paid to dig graves at the area cemetery. A committee of historians wrote a letter to the Northwest Territories government in 1989 requesting funding for a memorial to recognize the 98 Inuit and Indian people lying in a small cemetery on the grounds of what was the residential school. Advocates for a monument wrote letters to government and church leaders stating that the cemetery grounds had not been cared for since the school closed.
3. Immaculate Conception Boarding School
Standoff (Cardston), Alta.
Also known as Blood Indian Residential School; St. Mary's Mission Boarding School
opened 1911; closed 1975
The IRSC report makes reference to a 1945 letter describing how it is "difficult to get the Indians to do the work suitably" when digging graves in winter at the school. The letter indicates that the Blood Band council was aware of this activity.
Indian Residential School
opened 1896; closed 1981
An Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada (IRSRC) report reviewing Indian Affairs documents describes an incident in 1992, when a construction company uncovered at least 19 graves connected to an unmarked graveyard at the site of the former school. Muskowekwan Indian Residential School is still standing and is on land managed by the Muskowekwan First Nation band council. It is now home to a youth services centre. Compiled by Rick Cash and Bill Curry, using information from the IRSC report as well as the Anglican Church of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations.
Page 2 of 2
Recommend this article? 9 votes
Join the conversation
This conversation is semi moderated
Follow this writer
Top National Stories
- Police seek man seen fleeing Vancouver blast
- Hunt begins for long-missing students
- Bystander, 23, among weekend killings
- As search ends, father hardens resolve
- Go to the National section
National Page Columnists
- John Barber: How a lefty mayor wound up championing fat-cat developers
- Christie Blatchford: System failed to get client psychiatric test, lawyer tells court
- Murray Campbell: It's time to revisit this environmental law
- John Ibbitson: It ain't over till it's over, but odds are it's over
Top Stories by Section
- Report on Business: Toronto stocks slip again as oil, gold fall
- National: Police seek man seen fleeing Vancouver blast
- World: A bitter war has Kurds divided among themselves
- Sports: Phillies head for promised land
- Arts: Troubadour drives back from the brink
- Technology: U.S. campaign heats up in Second Life
- Life: The big reveal: Daryl Ross
Ontario bill would ban cellphone use by drivers 26/10/08 9:52 PM 100
Police seek man seen fleeing Vancouver blast 26/10/08 10:00 PM
Major B.C. highway closed over rockslide threat 26/10/08 8:08 PM 16
New president hopes to unite Carleton, bury school's last-resort reputation 26/10/08 10:16 PM 4
Class action suit filed over E.coli outbreak 24/10/08 7:38 PM 28
'Rogue' Palin eyeing 2012 White House campaign, insiders say 26/10/08 11:03 PM 152
What happened to my dream job? 4:27 AM 20
World markets slump again 10:05 AM 18
Stocks slip again as oil, gold fall 9:39 AM 2
'Rogue' Palin eyeing 2012 White House campaign, insiders say 26/10/08 11:03 PM 152
What happened to my dream job? 4:27 AM 20
Loonie poised for quick recovery: economist 24/10/08 2:06 PM 126
Between hope and fear 25/10/08 12:00 AM 107
Share this article
What are tags?
A tag is a keyword or descriptive term supplied by our editorial staff used to associate related articles with one another. Tags make it easier for you to find other stories that share the same theme or topic with the article you’re currently reading.
Have all subsequent stories by this writer e-mailed to you.
What are e-mail Alerts?
E-mail alerts deliver the news to your inbox as it happens.
Icons: Porsche 911
- In Pictures: Porsche 911
- Customer Care
- Contact Us
- Press Room
- Vacation Stops
- Change Address
- Recognition Card
globeandmail.com and The Globe and Mail are divisions of CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc., 444 Front St. W., Toronto, ON Canada M5V 2S9 Phillip Crawley, Publisher