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AFN delegate calls for the dismantling of Indigenous Affairs Department PDF Print E-mail
Written by Manfred Joehnck   
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 11:51

Indigenous Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett. Photo courtesy of afn.ca

Indigenous Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett, took a bit of heat today at a National Chiefs Conference underway in Quebec.

She was told that not only should the Indian Act be scrapped, but her entire department should vanish under a new era that would see each of Canada’s 634 First Nations deal directly with government departments and agencies.

Bennett took the criticism in stride and agreed with the delegates who called for the implementation of a true, “nation-to-nation” relationship.

What that means is that each of Canada’s 634 First Nations negotiate independently and directly with federal departments on issues ranging from education, to child welfare and resource management.

One of the delegates explained why the current system does not work.

“It’s totally ass backwards, it’s gotta change, that paradigm has got to change,” he said. “If you want to renew this relationship, it’s nation-to-nation with Canada and the First Nations.”

Bennett agreed, saying her department wants to help First Nations become independent and self-sustaining, with less oversight and control from her department, but she says it will take time.

“I couldn’t agree more,” she said. “This is a transitional time.”

The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, is a major crusader for nation-to-nation. He says the AFN is a lobby group, but does not represent the interests of each First Nation.

“We are just worker bees, we’re just trying to facilitate and advocate things like policy and legislative changes,” he said. “So I want to make that clear, we want to continue moving toward that nation-to-nation relationship with the crown.”

Less than half of Canada’s Indigenous people live on reserves. They are represented by the AFN. Non-status and off-reserve Aboriginal people are represented by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, while Metis people are represented by their own organization.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 11:58
 
First Nations gain momentum to heal from suicide after attending Medicine Gathering PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 18:33

People from First Nations all over Saskatchewan spoke on the microphone at the medicine gathering. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

Hundreds of First Nations people from across Saskatchewan feel they've gained momentum and inspiration to heal their communities from suicide.

The educators, young adults, and health workers were in attendance at this week's Medicine Gathering, which was created by Prince Albert Grand Council and FSIN in response to youth suicides in northern Saskatchewan.

Suicide rates have long been an issue for reserves across the province.

Ronald Waditaka works with the Brighter Futures program on Wahpeton Dakota Nation, and said there have been four or five incidents of self harm in the past few months.

"This forum here that we're having right now is the exact thing that we need," he said.

Co-emcee Clifford Ballantyne from Sturgeon Lake is researching to help youth access mental health services through the Access Open Minds program, and says dealing with suicidal behavior takes a lot of heart.

"In these last four days, I had a friend that basically was giving me his last call," he said.

"He hung up so I went to his place. It was so hard to see him in that state because I've been in that state that he's in. And it makes the work that I do so much more important to address what's going on in these communities, and it drives me."

Ballantyne said he sat with his friend for five hours until he was in a better state of mind.

This week's medicine gathering was guided by psychologist Darien Thiera, who has consulted with First Nations communities for decades.

Thira's message, that colonialism has stripped First Nations of healthy lives and healthy communities, resonated strongly with Waditaka.

"As a residential [school] survivor, instead of it helping me out, it turned me away. I spent a lot of time in jails," Waditaka said.

When Thira was on stage, he told people they already have the tools to heal their communities. Thira said it's important to get young people involved and invested.

Luke Daniels and Malachi McAdam. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski

For example, he asked the audience to group together and come up with programs that has helped people in their community. The suggestions included a program to learn how to hunt and how to follow hunter's protocol, and a program for youths to rebuild a community centre that had been vandalized by youths.

Stephanie Constant from James Smith Cree Nation says Thira's suggestions about weaving culture into young people's lives had a big impact on her.

"I'm real inspired by it. We definitely want to get ahold of him to come to our youth conference in the new year to see if he'll come teach some of the kids there, the youth," she said.

Constant is a band councillor and came to the gathering with a number of youths between the ages of 15 and 18 from the community.

Malachi McAdam from Sturgeon Lake said he, too, was inspired.

"Darien gave us hope, like gave everybody in the room hope, that we have the hope in our communities to help ourselves. That really struck a chord with me, I almost started crying. It was really powerful," he said.

With the gathering now over, First Nations people across the province are planning cultural events to get their communities healthy and engaged. Waditaka acknowledged it could take years to turn around negative trends with young people, but said the most important thing is to communicate with youths in a real way.

Emcee Darrell McCallum said he wants to see the group reconvene in May to discuss the initiatives they've started.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 18:41
 
Prime Minister addresses pipeline decisions during AFN address PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joel Willick   
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 14:36

Photo courtesy afn.ca

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked First Nations people to trust his government's decision to approve two pipelines despite push back from some Indigenous groups.

Last week, Ottawa approved two pipelines in Western Canada, while rejecting a third.

Trudeau addressed the issue this afternoon at the Assembly of First Nations Special Assembly in Gatineau, Quebec.

He spoke about his government's continued effort to build nation-to-nation relationships with Canada's Indigenous people.

“I know there are people in this room who deeply disagree with our decision (on pipelines), just as there are those who agree with those decisions,” says Prime Minister Trudeau. “The test of our relationship is not whether we will always agree, the test of our relationship is if we can move forward together. That means moving forward in respect, which means listening, hearing and understanding.”

The Prime Minister also spoke about the promises made to First Nations. He spoke about his governments efforts in implementing the Calls to Action from the TRC, providing safe access to clean drinking water for First Nations, improved First Nations education and the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“I am encouraged that finally we are working together,” he says. “We all have much more work to do.”

During his address, Trudeau also committed to the development and implementation of an Indigenous Languages Act to preserve traditional languages, which drew applause from those in attendance.

“Co-developed with Indigenous peoples, with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection and revitalization of First Nation, Metis and Inuit languages in this country,” Trudeau told the gathering.

He also says Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will work with cabinet to “decolonize” laws that harm Aboriginal rights.

After his address, the Prime Minister received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 14:42
 
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