My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Love it or leave it! Peace.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inuit ChildWhen the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games kick off next month, an Aboriginal symbol will be representing the event. The Games' logo is a contemporary inukshuk, a stone sculpture used by Canada's Inuit people as directional landmarks, which organizers say symbolizes friendship and hope. But hope is one thing many Aboriginal youth in Canada appear to lack, as suicide continues to occur at alarming rates, leading to crisis-like situations in some communities.
Suicide rates have declined in Canada through the years but not in Aboriginal communities, though there is great variation among communities. Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth, and rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average. Some spectulate that the problem is actually worse, as stats don't usually include all Aboriginal groups.
Many factors may be contributing to these high rates, including isolation, poverty and lack of adequate housing, health care, social services and other basic amenities. The blog Sweetgrass Coaching, written by Richard Bull, also blames the pain and helplessness that resulted from colonization:
“You can’t understand Aboriginal suicide without looking at colonization. We, as Indigenous people, must realize that we did not have sky-high suicide rates before the European invasion (contact is too clean a word for what actually happened).
When Canadian society says we’re sick that’s like a psychopathic killer complaining to someone he’s tried to strangle repeatedly that she should do something about the marks on her neck and see a psychiatrist about her recurrent nightmares and low self-esteem.”
Specifically, some bloggers point to Canada's residential schools, a federally-funded system run by churches that removed Aboriginal children from their families and communities to help them assimilate into Euro-Canadian cultures. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Aboriginal children were required to attend these Christian schools. It was later revealed that many of these children endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In June 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the Canadian government and its citizens for the residential school system.
Anishinawbe Blog by Bob Goulais says the multi-generational effects of residential schools must not be underestimated.
“Many residential school survivors and their families have no identity beyond their church and what they learned in school. With no identity and without acceptance, they are banished to the margins of society. Although this generation might be more accepting – with access to more social programs and numerous political, legal and rights-based victories – the damage from the past generations has been done. Parents don’t know how to be parents. Families don’t know how to Love…
…For far too many youth, suicide is the ultimate way out. We’re seeing that more in more in remote, northern communities. This is truly the saddest commentary. I can’t imagine how bad life must be for a twelve year-old Cree boy to hang himself at the recreation centre swing-set. To not have the Love he needs… to not have hope. To know that he hasn’t been the first and he won’t be the last.”
To help combat suicide among Aboriginal youth, the Web site Honouring Life Network, funded by Health Canada, was launched in April 2008. It contains resources for youth and youth workers, a blog and personal stories from Aboriginal youth, among other things. In this personal story a young man talks about how his older brother's death led him to contemplate taking his own life.
“On the second anniversary of his death, I just couldn’t feel like missing him anymore. I got up really early in the morning and was walking to the picnic shelter by the lake. This other guy had hung himself there not long before. I felt like I wanted the lake to be the last thing I saw.
My neighbour was out though and started talking to me and I guess he could tell something was wrong. He kept talking to me and talking to me and then he woke up my parents. I never actually told them what I was going to do but they knew somehow. It was a big shock to all of us and it woke us up.
We started to get into the traditional healing; like my dad and I will do a sweat lodge with the other men. I’m not going to talk about that because it’s private. And my mom does the whole thing with burning sage and sweetgrass, which kind of stinks up the house but that’s okay I guess because she’s more like my mom again.”
Last fall, the Honouring Life Network announced a video contest, where Aboriginal youth were encouraged to submit a short video related to suicide prevention and awareness. The entries can be viewed on their YouTube channel; the winning entry is entitled “Choose life”:

Other youth are also working to help fight this growing problem. In 2006, Steve Sanderson, an Aboriginal youth cartoonist, wrote and illustrated a comic book called “Darkness Calls” to highlight suicide among Aboriginal youth. Revolving around a teen named Kyle, the story is also available as a video. In the blog Stageleft, the blogger discusses 12 other Aboriginal youth who are making a difference, and were rewarded for doing so, including his daughter Charlotte:
“I feel very safe in saying that not one of the 12 people on the stage lived the lives they have lived, or did the things that they have done, so they could get an award…Charlotte has been concerned with Aboriginal youth suicide rates, the rate of suicide in the Aboriginal community is many times higher than the national rate, and the rate of suicide within the Inuit community is the highest in Canada. To help bring attention to this she, and 4 other Aboriginal youth, walked from Duncan BC to Ottawa speaking at community centres, youth detention facilities, friendship centres, municipal councils, and to every politician that would listen to them.”
A 2009 UNICEF Canada report on Aboriginal children's health states that suicide intervention and prevention can only be successful by taking into account the interconnected relationships between culture, community and environment. Whatever the approach, the blog Rebel Youth says Aboriginal youth, like all Canadian youth, deserve a future.
“Over 50% of Aboriginal people are under 23. Canadian youth justified by being deep enraged by treatment of Aboriginal peoples by the Canadian ruling class; the attack on Aboriginal youth is an attack on all youth.
Aboriginal youth need a future. A future free from racism, a future with a good paying job, a future with land or proper compensation for land use. A future with rights to universal education right up to and including post-secondary education. A future with good housing. A future without racist police brutality and racial profiling. A future with a dream. A future that is a reality.”

Photo of Inuit Child by wili_hybrid on Flickr, Creative Commons.


  • Suicide is not about dying, but about stopping the overwhelming pain that is associated with colonization.
    In Canada, we are currently into the fifth devastating wave of colonization. First, it was disease; secondly, relocation and the establishment of the reservation system; thirdly, the theft of rights and criminalization of culture; then, the residential school experience; and now, social services.
    Understanding that colonization is still happening and is not just part of our past is key to healing our communities from within.
    Thank you for your article.

  • This is a very interesting article, I relate it to indigenous cultures here in Mexico. The way they had to leave their own faith and beliefs to “enter a society”. It is sad that in the end they are not still a part of it.
    Thank you for your article!

  • The suicide statistic is something we learn in school and have to deal with, but its always to accept facts that are so disturbing.
    A well written and thoughtful description of some of the problems native Canadians face. Thanks Juhie.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

a prime minister who thumbs his nose at Canadians ...

Just how stupid do they think we are? print this article
Lana Payne
LANA PAYNE Lana Payne RSS Feed
The Telegram

The Economist magazine is right. And Senator Fabian Manning just proved it.

The international magazine just printed two scathing articles about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his decision and reason for proroguing Parliament.

The magazine accused Canadians ministers of not being able to walk and chew gum the same time.

It seems the matter of juggling a couple of balls is also a problem for some Canadian senators.

Let's be clear. Manning may have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, but most of us can manage it and a whole lot more for a lot less pay.

Manning dropped some of our money on a few worthy provincial projects last week, and repeated to the media, when asked, his boss's rationale for proroguing Parliament.

The federal minority government needs a break from democracy - oops, I mean from politics and Parliament in order to focus on the economy, get its budget together and examine how the economic action plan is doing. The reality is all of this can happen and Parliament can sit too. It always does.

The rationale is causing a lot of head-shaking across the country. After all, this is the same government that denied in November 2008 we were even in a recession - despite the fact that the rest of the world was grappling with how to deal with the greatest economic disaster since the 1930s.

Now, all of a sudden, the recession is the excuse to give democracy a smack.

In fact, the prime minister has expanded his justification for proroguing Parliament saying it was necessary in order to avoid instability.

How blatantly disingenuous can he get and just how stupid does he think Canadians are? Manning seems to also think we are a witless bunch.

But Harper's cowardly call to the Governor General to prorogue Parliament has given new life to the floundering leader of the Official Opposition. "The idea that democracy creates instability is ridiculous," said Michael Ignatieff. "What does he want? To cancel Parliament altogether so we can have the stability of a prime minister without any limits on his power? The reality is Parliament has to do its job, to hold the prime minister accountable. That doesn't create instability, that's just institutions working the way they should."

But that is the problem. Harper does not want Parliament to work. He has been thumbing his nose at the wishes of Canadians - a minority government to keep him in check - since being elected to his first minority in 2006.

And perhaps in his machiavellian brain, this is just another political stratagem to push the opposition parties into the election he says he doesn't want, but clearly does.

Or perhaps it really is about avoiding those embarrassing questions relating to the torture of prisoners handed over by the Canadian military to Afghan forces.

No Canadian government wants to be tainted with the brush of war crimes and the Harper government is fast running out of excuses about what they knew and didn't know.

The fact is, the government knew plenty. And we have obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that prisoners of war are not being tortured or abused.

St. John's East MP Jack Harris, who is the NDP defence critic, has been critical of the government's attempts to stonewall an investigation into this issue.

Canada prides itself as being a leader in the field of international human rights and this matter could certainly end up tainting that reputation, he says.

Whatever the prime minister's reason or reasons for proroguing Parliament, a lot of Canadians are paying attention and, according to the polls, they are not too happy with the extended break.

They certainly don't buy the argument that the government needs to focus on the economy when closing down Parliament gives the government a virtual free ride, because now the prime minister doesn't have to answer any difficult questions from the opposition about its economic action plan.

In a normal and evolved democracy, we'd be able to rely on the media to assist in holding government to account. But that is tough with this prime minister, an expert at controlling media access and the message. Spin-doctoring has entered a new age.

And what of accountability and transparency? Remember, that was the Conservative mantra during the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

And while the Liberals handed the sponsorship matter over to an independent inquiry, this government has refused to do the same with the Afghan prisoner controversy.

In shutting down Parliament to avoid more questions about Afghan prisoners, The Economist called the prime minister's action a matter of "naked self-interest."

So where does that leave us? I fear it leaves up with an electorate even more cynical than before.

And it leaves us with a prime minister who continues to thumb his nose at Canadians and our democratic institutions like Parliament and the media.

But one thing is for certain, a lot of Canadians now know what proroguing means. Perhaps we can thank the prime minister for that.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at Her column returns Jan. 30.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ashamed to wear the Maple Leaf

 Maude Barlow

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Jan. 04, 2010 5:42PM EST Last updated on Tuesday, Jan. 05, 2010 8:30AM EST

As a new year and a new decade begin, it is time to accept an unpleasant reality: Canada's international reputation as a progressive middle power is gone. Instead, our country is increasingly seen as a human-rights-denying eco-outlaw that has lost its way and its special status as a standard bearer for a better world. This change is largely the doing of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the ideology that has motivated him and his mentors for decades.

Let's start with the fact that while Canadians were resting over the holiday, Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament, thus cancelling the committee hearings into his government's handling of the Afghan detainee affair. This move allowed the Prime Minister to duck allegations that Canadian troops turned over innocent civilians for torture at the hands of Afghan authorities as well as his government's shameful treatment of Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, whose testimony before a House of Commons committee in November blew the issue into an international story and embarrassed Mr. Harper on the eve of his important first trip to China.

There are growing calls in Canada and internationally for an investigation into whether Canada has violated the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by knowingly turning over civilians to torture, calls that the government hopes will get lost in the post-Olympic euphoria when Parliament resumes.

Proroguing Parliament also puts time and distance between the Prime Minister and his shameful performance at the December summit on climate change held in Copenhagen, where Canada was held up as an example of the worst practices. Not only is Canada among the top 10 greenhouse-gas emitters in the world, but it is the only country to ratify and then abandon the Kyoto Protocol, announcing weeks before the talks that it would be a failure.

Mr. Harper's government continues to promote unlimited growth in the Alberta oil sands – Canada's Mordor – the fastest-growing source of pollution emissions in the country, and this fact was repeatedly cited by delegates from the global South as a barrier to their commitment to reducing their own emissions. Author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot called Canada a “corrupt petro-state” and said the country's failure in Copenhagen outweighs all the good it has done in a century.
During the summit, climate-change activists in London took down the flag at the Canadian High Commission and drenched it in oil, an action that received widespread attention there, though not in Canada.

Under Mr. Harper, Canada has also abandoned its traditional support of human-rights initiatives at the United Nations. In 2007, Canada was one of a handful of countries to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out global human-rights standards for indigenous communities and was supported by the vast majority of UN members. Human-rights and aboriginal groups pointed to a well-funded campaign of the Harper government to derail the accord and charged it with giving in to big-business demands for access to the lucrative energy and mineral wealth on native lands.

Similarly, Canada has refused to support the call at the UN for the right to water, even though billions of people are suffering from the inability to get a clean supply simply because it has a price they cannot meet. A powerful international movement is calling for a covenant to ensure equitable access to the dwindling global supplies of fresh water; to the bafflement of the international community, Canada is not among the growing list of countries on side.

And let's not forget that the global expansion of Canadian mining operations has been accompanied in many cases by environmental disaster, displacement of indigenous peoples and numerous human-rights abuses. In many communities in the global South, the name Canada is connected with injustice. Yet Mr. Harper refuses to support calls to set even the most basic standards for these mining emissaries abroad.

I am personally ashamed of my country as I travel internationally. In a world calling out for new models of justice, conflict resolution and environmental stewardship, Canada could be playing such a powerful role as it has done in the past. Stephen Harper with a majority frightens me.

Maude Barlow is national chair of the Council of Canadians
My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.