Murdered and missing aboriginal women deserve inquiry, rights group says

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been studying issue in B.C. for 2 years

 

The Inter-American Commission, which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, has issued a report on murdered and missing indigenous women. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The Inter-American Commission, which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, has issued a report on murdered and missing indigenous women. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

By: CBC News

 

A report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. is breathing new life into an acrimonious debate between advocates of a public inquiry and the Canadian government, which says it is taking action to address the problem but refuses to call an inquiry.

The report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, said it “strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.”

The report came to several conclusions, including:

  • The high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside.
  • The police have “failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances.”
  • Multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in “confusion” between the RCMP and Vancouver police.

The report acknowledged the steps already taken by Canadian governments at both the federal and provincial levels to address some of the problems and challenges that indigenous women face.

Last fall, the federal government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.

Today, the office for Kellie Leitch, the minister for the status of women, said the government was reviewing the report.

“Our government has received the IACHR’s report and is reviewing the report’s findings, comments and recommendations.”

The report’s recommendations include calls for:

  • Providing a safe public transport option along Highway 16 in Prince George.
  • Mandatory training for police officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel “in the causes and consequences of gender-based violence.”
  • A national plan or public inquiry in consultation with indigenous peoples.

NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder said it was “unconscionable” for the government to ignore growing calls for a public inquiry.

“It is time for the prime minister and [Aboriginal Affairs Minister] Bernard Valcourt to stop ignoring the sociological phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women and take federal action to address the crisis,” Crowder said in a written statement.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett also urged the government to heed the report’s recommendations.

“The prime minister’s shocking indifference to this ongoing tragedy is not only a national disgrace, but an international embarrassment,” Bennett said in a written statement.


CANADA'S MURDERED ABORIGINAL WOMEN

Mobile users, view a chart of homicide rates among Canadians vs. aboriginal women

 


The IACHR has been studying the issue for more than two years.

 

Its investigation was requested by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) in March 2012.

At a press conference in Ottawa to respond to the report, Dawn Harvard of the NWAC called it “truly groundbreaking.”

“This report is the first in-depth examination of the murders and disappearances by an expert human rights body. These women and girls are being stolen from our families, from our communities, and it is time that somebody is taking it seriously,” Harvard said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in reaction to the recent slaying of Tina Fontaine that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women was not part of a “sociological phenomenon,” but rather a crime and should be treated as such.

Holly Johnson, of the Feminist Alliance for International Action, said the commission has spoken “loudly and clearly.”

“Canadian governments have a lot of work to do,” she said. “Contrary to our prime minister’s assertion, that this is not a sociological phenomenon … [It] goes way beyond policing. Social and economic factors must also be addressed.”

The report includes recommendations on how governments at both the federal and provincial/territorial level can address the situation.

The Conservative government has so far refused calls for a national public inquiry on the issue, saying it is more interested in taking action. Last month, when CBC’s Peter Mansbridge asked the prime minister about launching a public inquiry, Harper said: “It isn’t high on our radar, to be honest.”

“The actions Harper is prepared to engage in are very slim, uncoordinated,” said Sheila Day, chair of the FAFIA human rights committee, at a press conference held by FAFIA and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Day said the report makes it clear that the consultation and participation of indigenous women and associations is essential.

At the press conference, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said the fundamental issue is racist attitudes toward indigenous women and girls. “We are going to continue to pursue this issue until there is justice,” said Philip.

Canada’s premiers are expected to hold a national roundtable on murdered and missing aboriginal women on Feb. 27 in Ottawa.

 

DOCUMENT

Artist to Harper: I Will Tweet One Portrait of a Missing/Murdered Woman Each Day

Portrait by Evan Munday.'Elaine Frieda Alook was 35 when she disappeared on May 11 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta,' writes artist Evan Munday. Portrait by Evan Munday.

Portrait by Evan Munday.
‘Elaine Frieda Alook was 35 when she disappeared on May 11 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta,’ writes artist Evan Munday. Portrait by Evan Munday.

 

 

Indian Country Today Media Network

 

 

Toronto-based cartoonist and illustrator Evan Munday is applying his talents to a campaign to raise consciousness about Canada’s missing or murdered Indigenous women (often referred to as MMIW). Actually, the consciousness he’s interested in raising is that of a specific person: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Munday has pledged to tweet one portrait of a missing or murdered woman to Harper every day. Here’s how his announcement unfolded on his @idontlikemundayTwitter feed:

Over 1186 indigenous women have gone missing / been murdered in Canada since 1980. There have been outcries for public inquiry. #MMIW (1/3)

Our PM said an inquiry into the missing women ‘isn’t really high on our radar.’ So I’m trying a small thing to make it higher. #MMIW (2/3)

Starting on Jan 5, I’ll tweet @pmharperan illustration of a missing or murdered indigenous woman daily. To adjust his radar. #MMIW (3/3)

Earlier today, as promised, he sent out his first portrait, with the text:

@pmharperElaine Frieda Alook was 35 when she disappeared on May 11 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta. #MMIW 

Here’s the image:

 

'Elaine Frieda Alook was 35 when she disappeared on May 11 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta,' writes artist Evan Munday. Portrait by Evan Munday.
‘Elaine Frieda Alook was 35 when she disappeared on May 11 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta,’ writes artist Evan Munday. Portrait by Evan Munday.

 

This endeavor, which could conceivably go on for over three years, bears some resemblance to a project Munday tweeted in December and has archived on his blog as “December 6, 1989: in Illustrations,”a tribute to the 14 women killed at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique 25 years ago.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/01/05/artist-harper-i-will-tweet-one-portrait-missingmurdered-woman-each-day-158558

UN Urged To Declare Canada’s Treatment Of Aboriginals ‘Genocide’

Cree students at the Anglican-run Lac La Ronge Mission School in Saskatchewan in 1945. (Archives and Library of Canada)

Cree students at the Anglican-run Lac La Ronge Mission School in Saskatchewan in 1945. (Archives and Library of Canada)

 

By Michael Bolen, The Huffington Post, Canada

A fresh campaign is underway to push the United Nations to label Canada’s treatment of First Nations people “genocide.”

On Monday, former National Chief Phil Fontaine, elder Fred Kelly, businessman Dr. Michael Dan and human rights activist Bernie Farber sent a letter to James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, arguing that several specific crimes against aboriginal people in Canada qualify as genocide under the post-Second World War Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG)

Article 2 of the Convention states that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

 

The letter writers assert that at least three actions on the part of Canadian governments constitute genocide under those rules.

1. Sir John A. MacDonald’s policy of deliberately starving First Nations people to make way for settlers in the Canadian west.

2. The residential school system and especially the decision of Department of Indian Affairs chief Duncan Campbell Scott not to address rampant tuberculosis among students.

3. The forcible removal of aboriginal children from their homes for the purpose of adoption by white families, a practice known as the “Sixties Scoop.” Estimates put the number of children removed between the 1960s and the mid 1980s at around 20,000.

Farber and Dan have previously argued that the recently revealed nutrition experiments performed on children at residential schools also qualify as genocide.

The genocide argument has been criticized by Sun News pundit Ezra Levant, who wrote this summer that “Canada does not and never has had a policy of exterminating Indians. Genocides don’t normally include billions of dollars a year in government grants to the group in question, affirmative action hiring quotas, land reserves and other privileges.”

Levant accuses Dan of hiring Faber to curry favour with First Nations people so his Gemini Power Corp. can get permission to build power plants on reserves.

Farber told HuffPost Canada in an email that Levant’s characterization is inaccurate.

“Ezra, as usual, gets it wrong.”

The letter from Farber and company was sent as special rapporteur Anaya concluded a visit to Canada. He said Canada faces a “crisis” regarding its indigenous people and called for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The Conservative government pledged to renew efforts to address the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in its throne speech Wednesday.

Earlier this year, former prime minister Paul Martin referred to residential schools as “cultural genocide.” In 2012, Justice Murray Sinclair, the chairman of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the removal of children from their homes to residential schools was an act of genocide, but that it didn’t necessarily qualify under the UN Convention.

There have only ever been two successful prosecutions under the Genocide Convention, former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda and ex-mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu for crimes during the 1994 slaughter in that country. The UN’s highest court cleared the government of Serbia of genocide charges in 2007, but found it breached international law in failing to stop the killing and by not handing over officials accused of war crimes.

The push for action from the UN comes amid renewed violence between authorities and aboriginal peoples. On Thursday, police cars were torched during an attempt by the RCMP to enforce an injunction to end a demonstration against shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick. The Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested

The violence has sparked a renewal of the cross-country protests seen during the Idle No More movement last winter.

With files from The Canadian Press

 

The indigenous land rights ruling that could transform Canada

Indigenous rights offer a path to a radically more just and sustainable country – which is why the Canadian government is bent on eliminating them

 

 Fish Lake on Tsilhqot’in territory in British Columbia, where the Indigenous Tsilhqot’in nation has prevented a copper and gold mine from being built. Photograph: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

Fish Lake on Tsilhqot’in territory in British Columbia, where the Indigenous Tsilhqot’in nation has prevented a copper and gold mine from being built. Photograph: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

 

By Martin Lukacs, The Guardian

The unrest is palpable. In First Nations across Canada, word is spreading of a historic court ruling recognizing Indigenous land rights. And the murmurs are turning to action: an eviction notice issued to a railway company in British Columbia; a park occupied in Vancouver; lawsuits launched against the Enbridge tar sands pipeline; a government deal reconsidered by Ontario Algonquins; and sovereignty declared by the Atikamekw in Quebec.

These First Nations have been emboldened by this summer’s Supreme Court of Canada William decision, which recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1,750 sq km of their land in central British Columbia – not outright ownership, but the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.

The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada – those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. Which means that over an enormous land mass – most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots – a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.

First Nations are starting to act accordingly, and none more so than the Tsilhqot’in. They’ve declared a tribal park over a swath of their territory. And they’ve announced their own policy on mining – a vision that leaves room for its possibility, but on much more strict environmental terms. Earlier this month they erected a totem pole to overlook a sacred area where copper and gold miner Taseko has for years been controversially attempting to establish itself; no mine will ever be built there.

And the Canadian government’s response? Far from embracing these newly recognised indigenous land rights, they are trying to accelerate their elimination. The court has definitively told Canada to accept the reality of aboriginal title: the government is doing everything in its power to deny it.

Canadians can be pardoned for believing that when the country’s highest court renders a decision, the government clicks their heels and sets themselves to implementing it. The judiciary directs, the executive branch follows: that’s how we’re taught it works. But it doesn’t always – and especially not when what’s at stake is the land at the heart of Canada’s resource extraction.

The new land rights ruling is now clashing directly with the Canadian government’s method for cementing their grip on land and resources. It’s a negotiating policy whose name – the so-called Comprehensive Land Claims – is intended to make your eyes glaze over. But its bureaucratic clothing disguises the government’s naked ambition: to grab as much of indigenous peoples’ land as possible.

This is what dispossession by negotiation looks like. The government demands that First Nations trade away – or in the original term, to “extinguish” – their rights to 95% of their traditional territory. Their return is some money and small parcels of land, but insidiously, as private property, instead of in the collective way that indigenous peoples have long held and stewarded it. And First Nations need to provide costly, exhaustive proof of their rights to their own land, for which they have amassed a stunning $700 million in debt – a debt the government doesn’t think twice about using to arm-twist.

Despite the pressure, most First Nations have not yet signed their names to these crooked deals – especially when the supreme court is simultaneously directing the government to reconcile with First Nations and share the land. But the supreme court’s confirmation that this approach is unconstitutional and illegal matters little to the government. What enables them to flout their own legal system is that Canadians remain scarcely aware of it.

Acting without public scrutiny, prime minister Stephen Harper is trying to shore up support for this policy – now 40 years old – to finally secure the elimination of indigenous land rights. The process is led by the same man, Douglas Eyford, who has been Harper’s advisor on getting tar sands pipelines and energy projects built in western Canada. That is no coincidence. The government is growing more desperate to remove the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a corporate bonanza for dirty fossil fuels: the unceded aboriginal title of First Nations – backed now by the supreme court of Canada.

A public commenting period opened during the government’s pr blitz has created an opportunity for the indigenous rights movement and concerned Canadians to demand a long-overdue change in the government’s behaviour. Recognising aboriginal title, restoring lands to First Nations management, would be to embrace the diversity and vision we desperately need in this moment of ecological and economic crisis.

Because the government agenda is not just about extinguishing indigenous land rights. It’s about extinguishing another way of seeing the world. About extinguishing economic models that prize interdependence with the living world, that recognise prosperity isn’t secured by the endless depletion of resources. And about extinguishing a love for the land, a love rooted in the unique boundaries and beauty of a place.

“The land is the most important thing,” Tsilhqot’in chief Roger William told me. “Our songs, our place names, our history, our stories – they come from the land that we are a part of. All of it is interrelated with who we are.”

The few days I spent in Tsilhqot’in territory five years ago made that vivid. It is a land of snow-capped mountains – Ts’il-os, who in their stories was a man transformed into giant rock after separating from his wife. Wild horses stalk the valleys. Salmon smoke on drying racks. The Tsilhqot’in carefully protect and nurture these fish – running stronger in their rivers than anywhere else in the province.

That’s why the habit of government officials, of media and even of supreme court judges to call the Tsilhqoti’in “nomadic” bothers William so much: his people have lived on these lands for thousands of years, while it is non-natives who are constantly moving and resettling. And what could be more nomadic and transient than the extractive industry itself – grabbing what resources and profits it can before abandoning one area for another.

As Canadians look more closely, they are discovering that the unceded status of vast territories across this country is not a threat, as they’ve long been told. It is a tremendous gift, protected with love by indigenous nations over generations, to be seized for the possibilities it now offers for governing the land in a radically more just and sustainable way for everyone.

In this battle between the love of the land and a drive for its destruction, those behind the extractive economy have everything to lose and indigenous peoples everything to win. The rest of us, depending on our stand, have a transformed country to gain.

U.S. Tribes Unite to Testify Against New Tar Sands Oil Pipeline in Canada

Richard J. Seward of Sto:lo First Nation and Pilalt Tribes welcomed the Washington Tribes with songs and ceremony. Chilliwack is the traditional lands of the Sto:lo people.

Richard J. Seward of Sto:lo First Nation and Pilalt Tribes welcomed the Washington Tribes with songs and ceremony. Chilliwack is the traditional lands of the Sto:lo people.

 

New pipeline threatens way of life of Coast Salish tribes

 

Brad Angerman, Pyramid Communications

 

CHILLIWACK, British Columbia—Tribal representatives from four U.S. tribes spoke in unified opposition today against oil giant Kinder Morgan’s new proposed tar sands oil pipeline. The announcement took place in Chilliwack, a rural town of 80,000 about 50 miles (86 kilometers) east of Vancouver, B.C. Tribal elders, fishers, leaders and youth presented testimony opposing the project to Canada’s National Energy Board, which will make a recommendation on the future of the pipeline to Canada’s federal government, the ultimate decision-making body for the project.

 

Swinomish Chairman and NCAI President Brian Cladoosby with Cultural Coordinator of the Swinomish Tribe and members of First Nations.

Swinomish Chairman and NCAI President Brian Cladoosby with Cultural Coordinator of the Swinomish Tribe and members of First Nations.

“We can no longer allow the Salish Sea to be used as a dumping ground,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “For more than 150 years we have lived in a pollution-based economy, and today face increased threat of an oil spill in our traditional fishing grounds on the Salish Sea—an event that would very likely lead to irreparable damage to salmon and shellfish habitat, and destroy our way of life along with it.”

 

The Kinder Morgan proposed oil pipeline would roughly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 per day. It would run alongside an existing pipeline that stretches from the Alberta tar sands oil fields to an oil shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., a suburb of Vancouver, greatly increasing the traffic of oil tankers carrying diluted tar sands bitumen through Canadian and U.S. waters.

 

“The proposed pipeline, if approved, will increase the risk of oil spills and cause more disruption of our fishing fleet. The Suquamish Tribe has a duty to stand up to further threats to our Salish Sea fishing grounds, which have sustained our people since time immemorial,” said Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman.

 

Glen Gobin, Tulalip Tribal Member and Tulalip Tribe Board of Directors Treasurer along the shores of the Fraser River after the ceremony.

Glen Gobin, Tulalip Tribal Member and Tulalip Tribe Board of Directors Treasurer along the shores of the Fraser River after the ceremony.

“If the pipeline is approved, there will be a massive increase in tanker loadings,” said Tulalip Board of Director Glen Gobin. “This increased traffic will directly interfere with access to traditional and treaty-protected fishing areas, and put the safety of tribal fishers at risk—not to mention drastically increase the chance of a catastrophic oil spill,” he said. “My father, Bernie Gobin, fought side by side with leaders such as Billy Frank Jr. to ensure that salmon, the very essence of who we are as Coast Salish peoples, live on from generation to generation. We fight for our past and our future.“

 

Canada’s Coast Salish First Nations also oppose the oil pipeline, and testified before the National Energy Board last week. Those tribes included Shxw’owhámel First Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Peters Band. Katzie First Nation and Hwlitsum First Nation also provided testimony.

 

“Like the sea, Coast Salish people acknowledge no boundaries. We are united to protect the Salish Sea,” said Chemainus First Nation member Ray Harris. “It’s a danger to the environment, a violation of aboriginal fishing rights, and a threat to all people who call this unique place home,” he said.

 

Coast Salish peoples are the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, and have traditionally lived along the coasts of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and in British Columbia, Canada. The Salish Sea is a network of waterways between the southwestern tip of British Columbia and the northwestern tip of Washington State, and includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound.

 

From left, Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, Suquamish tribal member Shaylene Jefferson and Suquamish tribal member Cassia Rose pouring waters from their homelands on the Port Madison Indian Reservation alongside the Fraser River.

From left, Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, Suquamish tribal member Shaylene Jefferson and Suquamish tribal member Cassia Rose pouring waters from their homelands on the Port Madison Indian Reservation alongside the Fraser River.

It’s time to Pull Together

    Heiltsuk-led No Enbridge rally in Vancouver, March 26, 2012. photo by Paul Hodgson http://phodgson.com

Heiltsuk-led No Enbridge rally in Vancouver, March 26, 2012. photo by Paul Hodgson http://phodgson.com

 

By Andrea Palframan, West Coast Native News, September 25, 2014

One year after the Reconciliation Walk brought 70,0000 people into the streets of Vancouver to walk with First Nations, another epic march took place. With a contingent of indigenous women from Canada and around the world leading the way, Sunday’s 400,000-strong People’s Climate March in New York City shone a spotlight on a different kind of indigenous leadership.

The sheer numbers and diversity of those marching alongside aboriginal people— together with countless others who took part in marches around the globe—was a powerful symbol of the shift towards climate justice within the environmental movement.

Some of the most popular images from the New York City march came from the indigenous block, where Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo walked, brandishing a “Shut Down the Tar Sands” banner. They want people to get the message that tarsands expansion— and pipelines across B.C. —will bring climate devastation to vulnerable communities the world over.

At home in B.C., stopping the expansion of the tarsands means the Northern Gateway must never be built. Standing together with the First Nations along the pipeline and tanker routes is crucial to realizing that goal. The passion of thousands of British Columbians who have marched and signed pledges to stop the Northern Gateway is being channelled into a new initiative, Pull Together, launched this month.

“I came to New York to talk about the disproportionate vulnerabilities frontline communities face with relation to climate change,” says Melissa Daniels, a lawyer with Woodward & Company LLP and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She should know: her hometown is Fort Chipewyan, in the epicentre of the tarsands. Throughout her people’s traditional territory, fossil fuel projects are expanding at breakneck speed. The cumulative impacts of oil, gas, and coal projects—from extraction to transportation to climate change—are overwhelming.

“It’s crucial for us to tell our truth, that climate change is directly linked to violence towards indigenous people, violence on indigenous lands, and colonization,” says Erica Violet Lee of Idle No More. Lee’s home province, Saskatchewan, could become a new frontier of the tarsands if the Harper government realizes its agenda to double production by 2022. With tarsands expansion comes water and air pollution, loss of boreal forests and wildlife habitat, climate change and — less apparently— the destruction of indigenous ways of life. “It’s impossible to separate those things, those are our realities. In the environmental movement those discussions haven’t always been welcome.”

The Pull Together approach aims to change that paradigm. Indigenous leaders from across the north have invited help from all corners of B.C. to keep Enbridge out of their traditional territories. The campaign offers a chance to stand and be counted in one of the most important fights of our time.

Though they have invited help from the wider community, the message indigenous leaders are bringing is one of empowerment. Says Lee, who spoke at the opening plenary of the Climate Convergence, “There are so many people in our communities who are fighting these battles on the ground every single day. Connecting with other indigenous people from all over the world really strengthens my resolve in working on those issues. ” The solidarity being fostered—with the covergence of indigenous peoples and allies in initiatives like Pull Together— offers a way forward.

Susan Smitten, executive director of RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), believes that First Nations constitutional rights are the strongest tool there is to fight run-away climate change in B.C. “With the dismantling of so much environmental legislation in Canada, the last —and hopefully inviolable— line of defence is First Nations’ Treaty and Constitutional rights,” says Smitten.

RAVEN are also in New York this week, to attend an international conference aimed at increasing indigenous philanthropy. One goal is to drum up support for a new campaign, Pull Together, that aims to raise $250,000 for five First Nations in B.C. who are taking legal action to stop the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

This new campaign invites the majority in BC who oppose Enbridge to unleash their potential and find fun, empowering ways to raise funds. Just weeks into the campaign, Moksha Yoga has pledged to raise $10,000 through their studios across B.C., while communities from Smithers to Salt Spring have pulled together to raise $25,000.

“Support for Pull Together offers a way for those who stand with First Nations in the fight for climate justice to put their commitments to reconciliation into action,” says Smitten. “It’s great to see people let loose their creative spirit in support of this campaign.”

Thanks to the millions of people who marched worldwide, and to the leadership shown by front lines aboriginal activists this weekend, the climate justice movement has gone viral. Grounding that energy are the commitments that spring from this historic convergence.

Says Melissa Daniels, “the only true reconciliation worth working towards is reconciliation with the natural world. Think in terms of responsibility: to care for the earth so we can sustain ourselves for time immemorial.”

The energy of the climate justice movement is contagious: there has never been a more urgent moment to pull together. To defeat the Northern Gateway project—and keep B.C.’s wild places, and people, alive and kicking—sign on to fundraise, donate, or organize an event at www.pull-together.ca

Native tribes from Canada, U.S. sign treaty to restore bison to Great Plains

Native-tribes-from-Canada-U.S.-sign-treaty-to-restore-bison-to-Great-Plains

Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mon. — Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.

Leaders of about a dozen tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.

It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.

The long-term aim of Tuesday’s “Buffalo Treaty” is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international border and restore the bison’s central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many American Indian tribes and First Nations — a Canadian synonym for native tribes.

Such a sweeping vision could take many years to realize, particularly in the face of potential opposition from the livestock industry. But supporters said they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.

“The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you,” said Leroy Little Bear, a member of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony.

“Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs — those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo,” said Little Bear, a professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge.

Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before the West was settled. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions.

There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.

Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison due to concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved — the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations — were among those signing Tuesday’s treaty.

Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes.

“They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way,” Aune said. “We’re recreating history, but this time on (the tribes’) terms.”

The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the U.S. and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune’s group.

Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.

Tories table plan to stop violence against aboriginal women and girls

Conservatives will devote $25 million over five years to deliver plan

 

By Susana Mas, CBC News, Canada

 

Kellie Leitch, minister of Labour and Status of Women, has tabled the government's action plan to address family violence and violent crime against aboriginal women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Kellie Leitch, minister of Labour and Status of Women, has tabled the government’s action plan to address family violence and violent crime against aboriginal women and girls. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

 

The federal government has tabled a plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls, announced Minister for Status of Women Kellie Leitch as MPs returned to Parliament after the summer recess today.

“We have heard from victims’ families directly and they want action. And that’s precisely what we are delivering,” said Leitch during question period today.

The government has budgeted $25 million over five years to deliver the plan — a commitment first announced in the February 2014 budget.

The plan flows from the 16 recommendations MPs sitting on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women made last March.

The $25 million plan, which would run from 2015-20, would include:

  • $8.6 million over five years to support aboriginal communities in developing community safety plans.
  • $2.5 million over five years to help aboriginal people create projects and raise awareness “to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse.”
  • $5 million over five years to work with aboriginal communities and stakeholders, as well as aboriginal men and boys, to denounce and prevent violence against aboriginal women.
  • $7.5 million over five years to help victims and their families through the Victims Fund and the Policy Centre for Victim Issues.
  • $1.4 million over five years “to share information and resources with communities and organizations, and report regularly on progress made and results​.”​

The opposition parties continued to call on the Conservatives to heed calls for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said only a public inquiry would get to the root causes of the problem. “There’s still a lot of work than can be done looking at the systemic causes here, and that’s what we’re calling for,” he told reporters on Monday.

Mulcair has said if the NDP were to form the government after the next federal election, it would call a public inquiry within 100 days.

Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett denounced today’s plan as “political smoke and mirrors.”

In a statement to CBC News, Bennett said “today’s so-called ‘Action Plan’ simply implements the whitewashed recommendations of the Conservative dominated Special Committee … and is nothing more than a laundry list of existing piecemeal government initiatives, many not even specific to Indigenous women and girls.”

Bennett said the Conservatives should call a “non-partisan” inquiry to find out “why this problem has persisted for decades and why successive governments have been unable to fix it.”

Today’s announcement is in addition to other initiatives the government has said it will support, such as the creation of a DNA-based missing persons database.

‘Am I Next?’ Indigenous Women in Canada Ask Social Media

Holly Jarrett/FacebookHolly Jarrett, cousin of murdered Inuit university student Loretta Saunders, has begun a social media campaign to push for a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

Holly Jarrett/Facebook
Holly Jarrett, cousin of murdered Inuit university student Loretta Saunders, has begun a social media campaign to push for a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

 

 

It’s the heartbreaking question of our time, at least in Canada, where indigenous women have begun a social media campaign to draw attention to the prevalence of violence against them.

The movement was started by Holly Jarrett of Hamilton, Ontario, according to CBC News. Jarret is a cousin of Loretta Saunders, a grad student at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who was murdered earlier this year, allegedly by her tenants when she went to collect rent. The 26-year-old, pregnant Saunders had been researching the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada—more than 1,200 unsolved cases over the past few decades, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)—for her thesis when she went missing herself.

Most recently, across the country in Manitoba, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in August, wrapped in a bag. The homicide investigation is ongoing.

RELATED: Vigil for Murdered Teen and Homeless Hero Draws 1,300 Mourners in Winnipeg

The call was raised once again for a national inquiry into the issue. Soon after Fontaine’s remains were found, the premiers of all the provinces met with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and came out advocating for a roundtable. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long held that an inquiry would not yield any answers and thus was not the way to go.

It’s not just First Nations calling for such an inquiry. President Terry Audla is also advocating for an inquiry, as is Métis National Council President Clément Chartier. Both also attended the meeting with premiers. The premiers as well support the roundtable idea—a meeting with federal ministers to discuss the issue, according to CBC News—and aboriginal leaders have agreed to that as a first step.

Meanwhile across Canada, women are posting selfies of them holding signs bearing the slogan “Am I Next?” and posting them to social media under the #AmINext hashtag, as CTV News reported. There is also a petition at Change.org calling for an inquiry, started as well by Jarrett.

“Our family is Inuit, and Loretta has now become one of the over 1186 missing or murdered Aboriginal women she was fighting for,” wrote Jarrett on Change.org. “It is time for our government to address this epidemic of violence against Aboriginal women. Our family is gathering strength and we will not let her death be in vain. We will fight to complete Loretta’s unfinished work.”

RELATED: ‘Not in Vain’: Family Vows to Finish Murdered Inuit Student’s Research on Violence

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/09/am-i-next-indigenous-women-canada-ask-social-media-156814

Reports contradict Stephen Harper’s view on aboriginal women victims

Prime minister said issue of missing, murdered aboriginal women is not “sociological phenomenon”

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently dismissed renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women such as Maisy Odjick (left) and Shannon Alexander (right). "We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon." said Harper. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently dismissed renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women such as Maisy Odjick (left) and Shannon Alexander (right). “We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon.” said Harper. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

 

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

 

Dozens of federal, provincial and community studies compiled by the Conservative government appear to contradict the prime minister’s contention that the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women isn’t a “sociological phenomenon.”

But some in the aboriginal community don’t quibble with the government’s other main response to calls for a public inquiry — that there has been more than enough research.

Officials point to a non-exhaustive list of 40 studies conducted on the issue between 1996 and 2013.

A closer look at the research shows that in nearly every case, the authors or participants highlight the “root” or systemic causes of violence against aboriginal women and their marginalization in society.

The legacy of colonization, including the displacement and dispossession linked with residential schools and other policies, are cited frequently in the reports. The impact of poverty and lack of housing are also cited as root causes of violence against aboriginal women.

“There are root causes of violence in the aboriginal communities that include things like poverty and racism and this is why it’s incredibly important for us to work with organizations, aboriginal organizations, across the country…,” Rona Ambrose, then status of women minister, told a parliamentary hearing in 2011.

Harper has offered a different perspective.

“I think we should not view this as sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime,” he said last month.

 

Harper North 20140821Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

 

“It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.”

The government’s related position has been that there have been enough studies — the focus needs to be on action.

“What we don’t need, is yet another study on top of the some 40 studies and reports that have already been done, that made specific recommendations which are being pursued, to delay ongoing action,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay said last week.

Some aboriginal advocates agree there is enough research

Some inside the aboriginal community agree there have been enough studies, but there are varying opinions on whether an inquiry would just go over the same ground.

One 2005 report prepared by three B.C. community groups, entitled “Researched to Death,” pointed to the “striking similarities” in research and recommendations done up to that point.

“The only outstanding element is action,” the authors wrote.

Dawn Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association, agrees there has already been substantial research on the sociological causes of violence against aboriginal women.

‘I don’t necessarily agree with just having more research for the sake of research.’– Kate Rexe, Sisters in Spirit

But she says a national inquiry wouldn’t be about the sociology, but rather about determining what specific policies and initiatives are needed to address specific community problems — in-depth research that smaller groups don’t have the resources to do.

“The sociological studies have identified that there is a problem, so your inquiry is going to get into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of what is this problem all about,” said Harvard.

“And one would hope that therefore we would have a much more effective response when we come out of it.”

For Michelle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, an inquiry would be an accountability exercise in a non-partisan forum — akin to the Gomery commission on the sponsorship scandal or the current Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry.

 

Premiers and aboriginal leaders 20140827Aboriginal leaders agreed to a roundtable discussion to address the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls last month in Charlottetown, PEI. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

“Do we do another research (report)? No,” said Audette. “But this inquiry will bring us together and say, why didn’t we implement those (prior) recommendations? Why are we not putting in place legislation that will force our police forces to automatically exchange data?”

Kate Rexe, who worked on the Sisters in Spirit research and policy initiative on missing and murdered aboriginal women, takes a different perspective.

She says that while an inquiry would provide public recognition for the victims’ families, it won’t necessarily reach the required level of detail.

“If we’re looking at a 30-year time span over a number of different police services, in various communities that have had varying levels of response of police to the families and the communities, you’re not going to get the answers that you would hopefully need,” said Rexe.

“I don’t necessarily agree with just having more research for the sake of research.”