Thursday, December 30, 2010

TooToo Train...Who's to Blame?

(Hockey Addictions)
Jordin TooToo’s big step

So read the headline in the Comment section on the December 29, 2010 issue of the GLOBE AND MAIL.

As some of you may know, Jordin TooToo is from Rankin Inlet in Nunavut. Jordin was the first Inuk (Inuit) to be drafted by the National Hockey League (NHL) and now plays for the Nashville Predators. The 27 year old checked himself into a Rehab Centre under the NHL substance abuse program. Good for him.

As some of you may also know, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) was established in 1998 to address the legacy of physical and sexual abuses in the former residential schools. Since then, the AHF has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to Aboriginal communities across Canada to address the legacy. The AHF has defined the legacy as, amongst other things, substance abuse by Survivors of residential school.

Interesting how Jordin TooToo who never attended residential school has suffered the same effect of substance abuse of those who did attend residential school. So what gives?

While, as a board member on the AHF, I argued with the other board members that physical and sexual abuse in the former residential schools were merely the acts that affected the “person.” Those inflicted abuses affected the sense of security experienced by each person. Insecure people will display behavior that is largely negative and detrimental in him/herself.

While Jordin has his sense of significance intact; i.e. he feels noteworthy and feels value within an organization who pays him 1.3 million a year, his actions of substance abuse, for some reason, are a sign of insecurity.

The article goes on to say that Jordin is somewhat of a role model to the Inuit of Nunavut. Now, “Mr. TooToo is playing a game more important than hockey, and if he can succeed, others can too.”

Let's hope he regains his sense of security.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trigger happy?...a native shot.

“Tape depicts elements of carver’s death.
Video shows Seattle police officer approaching Vancouver Island artist John T. Williams; audio captures warning, sound of gunshots.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published December 20, 2010 and written by Ian Bailey and Brennan Clarke.

As an Aboriginal (Inuit), I have been on hunting excursions for the purpose of killing caribou, ptarmigan, geese, muskrats, seals, polar bears, wolves, and foxes. This practice, of course, consistent with culture as a means for subsistence and a way of life.

Police officers in any city, of course, carry firearms for another purpose. An Inuit Elder once said to me, “ I can’t believe people carry guns to shoot other people.”

The GLOBE goes on to say, “It was Aug. 30…Just after 4pm., John Williams was shot four times on the street by Seattle police officer Ian Birk.”

John Williams was a native wood carver from the west coast of British Columbia who had regularly carried a knife as a tool to create his intricate carvings. That August day, while his video and audio camera running, officer Birk had seen John carrying a knife and stopped his car and ran over and confronted the native artist. While the actual shooting of four shots can be heard, the video did not capture the confrontation.

“The Seattle Police department’s firearms review board as well as the city’s police chief, John Diaz, concluded in October that the shooting was not justified. The Seattle Times has reported. However, a decision on the point is on hold pending the outcome of the inquest.”

Perhaps the young officer Birk, trained to use his handgun, had that “trigger-happy” attitude and found a human target. Who knows? Hopefully, the inquest will address the unanswered questions most people in Seattle are talking about.

Friday, December 10, 2010


How many different languages you now hear when you are in a major urban center? The last time I was in downtown Calgary, I heard Spanish, Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, French, Arabic, Congolese, Estonian, Norwegian, Icelandic, Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, Figian, Hawaiian, German, etc. I guess these immigrants were not enforced not to speak their language when entering Canada: unlike us, the Aboriginal people through the government funded residential school system, were not allowed to speak our own language. Where is the justice?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Whistle-Blower...does it pay?

"WikiLeaks persists, founder locked up"

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published December 8, 2010  and written by Elizabeth Renzetti and Doug Saunders.

It is written, "A whistle-blower is taken to be someone doing good, unleashing information that is publicly important, at some danger to themselves."

I remember a couple of years ago, I was involved in an oil and gas project. During that time, I felt it important to disclose information to upper management about questionable expenditures and activities that went on. Apparently, telling the truth is not always beneficial. I was perceived as a trouble-maker and immediately "let go" of that project.

Now, on a world-wide scale, the founder of WikiLeaks is now paying the price too. Julian Assange has been charged with sexual assault, totally unrelated to WikiLeaks. Apparently too, authorities/management don't like the truth and will make whistle-blowers know that it is clear and present danger.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aboriginal Boards? different than whites.

“Lessons learned from 30 years at the board table.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published Monday, November 22, 2010 and written by a Paul Tellier.

Apparently, Mr. Tellier has some 30 years of board experience while sitting on 14 different boards.

He has come up with 10 different reasons on effective and ineffective board governance.
His number one flaw on boards is:

“The chairman is not sufficiently inclusive. Some chairs tend to create two classes of directors and favour an inner circle without the equal involvement of all. This is a waste of talent which could eventually create tensions.”

As some present and former board members including me may agree, this flaw is/was practiced on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF). There was definitely an inner circle…ensuring a life-time tenure of the current CEO/President, Georges Erasmus. The AHF will close activities in 2012, 14 years after its establishment. This time period will ensure Georges will be the one and only CEO/President. Good for him as he will benefit with over a million dollars in compensation plus benefits. This, going with not experiencing one day of residential school and special thanks to his inner circle. Of course, his inner circle had created tensions as Mr. Tellier had predicted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Final Decision near..."

“Final decision near on Mackenzie pipeline.
Ottawa, NWT issue formal reply to review panel recommendations; NEB expected to approve project, with conditions, in about a month.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published November 16, 2010 and written by a Scott Haggett.

I remember, as a young kid around 12 years old, there was a “buzz” around Inuvik, a small town in Canada’s western arctic. I kept hearing something about a pipeline. The year was around 1970. I did not pay too much attention. As an abducted resident of the former Catholic-run residential school, Grollier Hall, my attention was paid instead, to my athletic winning ability in sports, I guess my pent up energy released felt euphoric from the much detested regimented lifestyle.

Main Street, Inuvik, NT

Now, 40 years later, the National Energy Board (NEB) will be making a decision on the proposed pipeline. A pipeline that would transport the rich and abundant natural gas reserves from high in the Mackenzie Delta down to Alberta. Likely, to feed and burn the energy to feed the oil sands in turn to burn even more energy.

Back then little did everyone know the “Final decision near,” would take 40 years to ink. Back then; the Aboriginal people all along the Mackenzie Valley were discontent. Discontent with government, discontent with oil and gas companies, discontent but somewhat resigned to colonialism and, very discontent with the lack of respect of rights and the environment. But, they stood up.

Throughout the years since 1970, a number of land claim agreements were settled along the Mackenzie Valley. First and foremost was the Western Arctic Claim, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement signed in 1984. South of that came the Gwich’in Land Claim Agreement, then came the Sahtu Dene and Métis Land Claim Agreement, then came the TliCho Land Claim Agreement, and soon, we hope, will come the DehCho First Nations Agreement in the southern area of the NWT.

Seems, the people are now ready for the “Final decision near.” Aboriginal companies have been established and now have the capacity to engage with industry and build the pipeline. In fact, Aboriginal people have ownership interests in the pipeline, thanks to communities banding together with partnership agreements with a little help from TransCanada Pipelines and are represented by the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

So, the “Final decision near,” will likely be a “yes” by the NEB and will especially be loud and clear up and down the Mackenzie Valley.

Now, no longer a young kid but an older man, I still pay a lot of attention to my athletic ability in sports, still in shape, and enjoying the environment. I don’t miss and will not attend another Catholic Mass service. Perhaps now though, it’s time to get engaged with the Mackenzie gas pipeline and begin to feel the real “buzz” everyone was talking about back in 1970.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Aboriginal Veterans?

As Remembrance Day approaches, we need to respect the efforts and experience of Canada’s war veterans including those who were/are Aboriginal.

Let us also remember another set of veterans: those who attended residential schools across the country over the last 130 years of Canada’s history. Unlike the war veterans who went overseas to kill people for “political” reasons, the federal government had an “Indian problem” and therefore decided, through legislation, to establish the residential school system to “kill the Indian within.” An internal conflict that was thought best addressed by a double-barrel shotgun to all Aboriginal children. The double-barrel was education and the church. Did it work? Apparently not. In an attempt to solve the problem, the federal government created more problems: witness today the social and economic challenges in aboriginal communities.

Today, there is an estimate of 90,000 residential school veterans known as “Survivors” still alive. Most are still trying to address the impacts of physical and sexual abuse experienced while in abduction. Myself, I can say I have 13 years of residential school experience and, as a veteran, still trying to address the effects.

Therefore, while we remember our war veterans, let us take time to remember the veterans of residential school.

(Pictured is a young uniformed 8 year old Angus Cockney, already a veteran of 3 years of residential school: 10 more years awaited.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Kunuk Outlook?

Or should I say, Elders outlook.

“Kunuk’s done what no one else has: listened to the elders.
The Fast Runner director skips the “experts,” going directly to Inuit elders, and discovers their alarming views on climate change.”

Many of you will likely remember Kunuk’s first feature film, “Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner.” It was another project that no one else, let alone an Inuk, had ever done. That story went against the patronizing notion that Inuit are non-confrontational. Imagine…human beings non-confrontational?

Now, with Kunuk’s latest documentary, he has captured the perspective of Inuit Elders regarding the issue of climate change. An issue, in recent years, that has gained international attention especially where the effects will “hit the hardest…the Arctic.”  A lot of “experts” have given their perspective whether for or against the idea of climate change.

Kunuk says, “Over the years, nobody has ever listened to these people. Every time (the discussion is) about global warming, about the Arctic warming, it’s scientists that go up there and do their work. And policy makers depend on these findings. Nobody ever really understands the people up there.”

Apparently now though…guess what?

After a presentation on the elders’ views at a Copenhagen conference on climate change, “We had a litany of scientists come back to us, responding after seeing this news…”

As an Inuk myself, can’t wait to see this documentary. Will likely end up in true Kunuk style…telling it like it is.

“ The documentary deals strictly with the elders’ observations and their belief that they simply have to adapt.”

This perspective, of course, coming from a people who have adapted to the harshest climate on earth. I guess climate change is just another challenge…Elders’ style.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nelson Mandela, what a fella.

“A conversation with himself, an inspiration for us.
This collection of letters, notes and fragments confirms Nelson Mandela as an icon for the age.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE published in the October 16, 2010 edition and written by an Isabel Nanton.

Anyone who has read his first book including myself entitled, “Long Road to Freedom” will likely be as impressed with this man and his new book entitled, “Conversations with Myself.” Although, I have not read it yet, I will certainly check it out.

His first book outlines and chronicles his incredible journey growing up in the dark period of apartheid to his eventual ascent to Prime Minister of South Africa. Now, as an icon for diplomacy, he has come out with his “inner most thoughts of the private man almost universally considered to be the world’s pre-eminent statesman.”

One example or excerpt includes a view “On human weakness.”

“You have to recognize that people are produced by the mud in the society in which you live and that therefore they are human beings. They have good points, they have got weak points. Your duty is to work with human beings as human beings, not because you think they are angels. And therefore, once you know that this man has this virtue and the has got this weakness, you work with them and you accommodate that weakness and you try and help them to overcome that weakness. I don’t want to be frightened by the fact that a person has made certain mistakes and has got human frailties. I can’t allow myself to be influenced by that.”

I look forward to reading more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Catholic repetition?

Did you know Jesus voiced against repetitive prayer? Yet, the Catholic Church is so repetitive in its rituals. How many times do you have to repeat the Lord's Prayer, your Hail Mary's and Holy Mary's? At meal time, they always have to repeat "Bless us oh Lord with these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our our Lord, Amen." Seems nothing comes from the heart. I know, I spent 13 years in a Catholic residential school. I think I can express my negative opinions on that church.

And, when praying, Jesus said to do it in private. Yet, how many times do you see Catholic athletes kneel and give the sign of the cross in public: just watch a CFL or NFL game.

Repetition does not earn Respect. Catholics....don't feel guilty, guilt has been taken away.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How much is your language worth?

“Rock ‘n’ rolling off the mother tongue.
Native musician seeks to entertain with translations of classic pop tunes into Cree, but his work also has a serious side.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published September 20, 2010 and written by a Tom Hawthorn.

As an Aboriginal person (Inuit) of Canada, I must commend the Aboriginal (First Nations) musician featured in the above noted article. Apparently, an Art Napolean, whose mother tongue is a dialect of a northern woodlands cree has recorded his newest album entitled, “Creeland Covers” and is sung almost entirely in Cree. His songs, apparently, cover well-known songs first recorded by the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams, and amongst others, Neil Young.

Apparently, not all Aboriginal people have lost their native language as a result of their experience of the former residential school system. A good thing.

However, the recent “Common Experience Payment” afforded to all those Survivors who experienced residential school including myself was heavily weighted based on loss of language and culture. While in residential school, I could not speak my native language as it was lost but, I can remember a lot of the First Nations students had conversed in their own native language on a daily basis. A good thing.

Given the “Common Experience Payment” afforded to all Survivors of residential school, was it fair that someone who could still speak his/her native language received the same amount as I did….one who had a true loss of language.

Lucky for the First Nations musician, Art Napolean, he can still speak his native language and has captitalized on that fact in recording his new album. Unlike him, my native language is lost. Not a good thing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Pope...Holy?

"His Holiness and her Majesty walk in step on the role of religion in national identity, but beneath the dignity is a battle of rhetoric."

So read the headline in the GLOBE, dated September 17th, 2010 and written by a Claudio Onorati.

The dictionary defines "holiness" as "the quality or state of being holy; sanctity."

So, what is it?...Religion or Relationship?

The Bible says, in the end, God will ask each and everyone of us, "Do you know me?" I guess even the Pope will have to answer "yes" or "no."

Leave it to the Lord where his "Holiness" will end up.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Truth and Reconciliation...Hawaii bound?

“Hawaiian junket gets Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in hot water.
As commission seeks more federal cash for residential-schools panel, bill for members' Honolulu trip is pegged at as much as $6,000.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published on September 2nd, 2010 and written by a Bill Curry.

During my stint as an appointed Inuit Board member with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) from 1999 to 2004, I had always advocated the need for a “by Survivors for Survivors” attitude. Surviving residential school required that kind of respect. Still, there are non-Survivors riding and benefiting from the financial wave on the backs of those of us who truly deserve more than what has been offered. For example, George Erasmus, President of the AHF and a non-Survivor will be compensated over one million dollars for his tenure up to 2012. And, Mike DeGagne, Executive Director of the AHF and another non-Survivor will likely appreciate his benefits along with his $130k…ish salary with bonuses. The average compensation for a Survivor is a measly $16000! Oh, my God!

Still, as a former Board member of the AHF, I was careful on the “optics” of taking care of business that included staying within the confines of Canada. Therefore, I am baffled by the “junket” two TRC Commissioners have chosen to embark on to Hawaii. The trip is very inviting but “personal development” for the Commissioners is certainly not within the mandate of the TRC.

“It’s on the backs of survivors,” Michael Cachagee fumed. The executive director of the National Residential Schools Survivors Society noted that his organization has largely been silenced after Ottawa cut off all funding last year, citing concern over expenses.”
“They come down here and nitpick the hell out of me and the organization, yet you’ve got these clowns going off to Hawaii,” he said.”
“Officials with the commission have suggested that their budget may not be enough to accomplish the massive task of crossing the country to gather stories from former students, many of whom live in remote communities. Meetings are scheduled to take place when the commissioners return to determine whether they will ask Ottawa for more money.”
More money? Let’s hope the TRC will cross the country, not cross the world...for Survivors sake.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Arctic Communities, Arctic Reserves?

“Military cash could fix crumbling Arctic infrastructure, Ottawa told.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities issues northern strategy in wake of PM’s tour of region.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated August 31, 2010 and written by a Steve Rennie.

Ever watch the nightly news, whether on Global TV or CBC TV?  Ever wonder too, when it comes to forecasting the “national” weather, the weather person mentions nothing of weather reports in Canada’s Arctic. When will the Arctic ever get daily attention like southern Canadian regions? For Prime Minister Harper, at least, he has been making annual visits: this time he can add Inuvialuit (Inuit) dancing to his performing arts resume too.

The above noted article though points to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommending the injection of cash to fix the Arctic’s crumbling infrastructure. For those of us who are from the Arctic or those of you who have been lucky enough to visit will likely agree the Arctic’s infrastructure mirrors the conditions of the First Nations reserves in southern Canada. In fact, many will agree the Arctic communities are just that: Arctic reserves with gravel roads, no running water (sub-standard quality at best), and decrepit weathered buildings combined with incredible remoteness. While it is important to assert sovereignty with a stronger military presence, money should also be spent in “building healthier communities, protecting the environment and diversifying the regional economy” as outlined in the federal government’s 2007 northern strategy.

While some may agree, there is no money in “world peace” but it is wars and rumors of wars that fuel the world’s economy, let’s therefore use some of that money Canada has promised and inject or stimulate the Arctic economy so that the Inuit can feel some sense of significance: fixing its current infrastructure could be a start. With more attention paid to the Arctic: perhaps Global TV and CBC TV may finally broadcast the weather in Canada’s Arctic in their “national” forecast. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An apology for the Inuit five decades in the making

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 19, 2010 written by a Bill Curry.

Late in 2009, I had written the following excerpt from a previous blog.

“Seems as the 2010 Olympic flame criss-crosses Aboriginal communities, issues such as environmental, social conditions, and past experiences are exposed. The latest headline read, “The flame arrives, but Inuit still await an apology,” outlined in the Nov. 10, 2009 issue of the GLOBE AND MAIL.”

Guess what happened today? While in Inukjuak, Quebec, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister, John Duncan said,

“The government of Canada deeply regrets the mistakes and broken promises of this dark chapter of our history and apologizes for the High Arctic relocation having taken place.

The purpose of the relocation of the Inuit to high arctic desolate locations has always been in question, even today.

“While the relocations are often described as an attempt by the government to assert Canada’s sovereignty in the uninhabited Arctic islands, the official government line has insisted that the moves were undertaken with humane intentions.
Mr. Duncan said after the formal apology that Ottawa has “no way to determine” what the true reasons for the relocation were at the time.” In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples “found government documents from the 1930s that show concern about mineral claims in the High Arctic contributed to the relocation discussion. “In addition to placing the Eskimos in new regions where game is more abundant and work more regular, there is the angle of occupation of the country,” states a federal press release found by the commission. “To forestall any such future claims, the Dominion is occupying the Arctic island to within nearly 700 miles of the North Pole.”
Unless embarrassed to do so, the government will never admit the truth.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Talk to the people."

“Talk to the people.”

So read the headline in the Comment section in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 11, 2010.

As one who has experience on the consultation issue with oil and gas and electrical companies as well as with the National Energy Board (NEB), there is a saying, “If you don’t hear the people, you should fear the people.”

Regulatory organizations like the NEB and even the Government of Alberta have consultation guidelines when it comes to land and resource development that require companies to submit a report on consultations with the general public and Aboriginal people. Apparently, consultations with the public can affect resource and/or land development projects. The NEB, for once in its history, said no a number of years ago to the proposed Sumas electrical project in southern British Columbia: of course, much to the dismay of the proponent.

In this case in the Arctic, a court ruling called for a halt on a proposed seismic testing project in the Lancaster Sound in Nunavut.  Apparently, the Canadian government says the proposed project “will add to the understanding of the geology of the North.” “Geology” likely meaning oil and gas reserves. Kudos to the court ruling though that took into account the consultation and words from the Inuit, “the research project it argued would harm the marine life - narwhal, beluga whales, seals, polar bears and walruses on which traditional life and culture depend in five Arctic communities.” Furthermore, the potential loss of all this marine life as Madam Judge Sue Cooper says, “that the irreparable loss would outweigh the costs to the country of delaying the project. “The loss extends not just to the loss of a food source, but to a loss of culture.” She wrote. “No amount of money can compensate for such a loss.”

“Talking to the people” too should have been a guiding principle when the federal government established the former residential school system. Now, they’re having to compensate all Aboriginal people affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuses experienced. Yes, no amount of money can compensate for my loss of language and culture.

Let’s hope talking to the people will continue to be a guiding principle as this practise can and should affect proposed development projects.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Call of the Wild

Canada’s North tries to make the world feel the call of the wild.
Attracting visitors from China, India and Brazil seen as a future growth area for the territory ‘s tourism industry.

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 3, 2010 and written by a Josh Wingrove.

“Explore Canada’s Arctic!”

That was and perhaps still is the Northwest Territories (NWT) Government’s slogan in marketing its area in Canada’s Western Arctic: full of wildlife, wild spaces, Aboriginal people, and a place where one can still experience a sense of adventure.

As most may know, Canada’s Arctic is a huge part of Canada’s image with iconic images of polar bears, caribou herds, icebergs, Inukshuks, northern lights, igloos, cabins, camping, dog teams, arctic char, rivers, and the midnight sun. Still, very few people including Canadians have experienced Canada’s North.

As an Inuvialuit (Inuit) who grew up in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, all the above images were an everyday experience and a way of life. And, as one who now lives in the Southern Canada, I do miss the “call of the wild.”

“There’s’ a lot of potential up here,” said Lisa Tesar, who runs a campground and organizes a summer festival in Yellowknife.”

Potential is one thing but reality is another.  Reality in experiencing the North has many challenges. Transportation costs are enormous: a return flight only from Calgary to Inuvik is in the neighborhood of $1800. The only ones benefiting in experiencing the Arctic are those employees who are on company expense thanks to Shell, ConocoPhillips, Imperial Oil, MGM Energy Corp and a few others. These companies and staff see oil and gas as the attraction while seeing dog-teams, northern lights, and caribou are residual effects. Those “outsiders” are the lucky ones: in the right place at the right time.

Right now, the NWT Legislature will consider “Tourism 2015, “ a marketing scheme that will hopefully boost the tourism industry targeting China, India, and Brazil.

“Getting the world to experience the North is, frankly, more lucrative, and probably in the long run a more sustainable model because that’s where the growth lines are,” says David Goldstein, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.”

Growing up as a kid in the North, traveling by dog-team, seeing the northern lights, seeing polar bears, eating Arctic char, seeing thousands of caribou, building igloos, paddling the rivers, and experiencing the midnight sun was a way of life.  I guess I was living the "call of the wild." I did not have to pay a cent.

Still, as David Goldman says, “Tourism is a great opportunity, just because of where we are. It’s untouched, and people want to come here.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Award for long lost Sculpture

Award for lost sculpture!
Help me find my sculpture. It's a long shot but with world wide social media tools, I think it is possible. This sculpture was part of the One World Art - the Right to Hope exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995 held in Johannesburg, S.A. The sculpture was on loan and should have been returned to me. The exhibit was supposed to tour the world. Its curator was a lady from England named Catherine Thicke. A book was published with the same name.

Please pass this on to all your contacts and use their contacts to help me find my lost sculpture. The sculpture is made of marble and was/is entitled, "Collaboration." It stands about 14" - 16" high.

Any concrete leads that will lead to finding and locating my sculpture will receive a carving of a polar bear worth $1000.CDN. Let's find it!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Noble sentiments, Difficult realities

Treaty-making in B.C.: noble sentiments, difficult realities.

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, July 24, 2010 and written by a Jeffrey Simpson.

The process of worldwide colonialism throughout the ages has always not been without its challenges including here in Canada. As some may know, the federal government once regarded the control of the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis of Canada as an “Indian problem.” And, as some may also know, the noble sentiment to the solution of the problem was to set up the former legislated residential school system. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally apologized to all Aboriginal people regarding that system with its legacy of physical and sexual abuses. Now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is embarking on their journey of capturing stories of the system from all involved and hopefully resulting in reconciliation. A noble sentiment. We’ll see.

Like yesteryear, the relationship of Aboriginal people and Canada included the sentiment of signed treaties across Canada. While there has been a number of treaties signed across Canada; apparently, that relationship is still an on-going process in the province of British Columbia. The province is without signed treaties save for a couple that were recently signed with the Tsawwassen First Nation in Vancouver and the Maa-nulth First Nation on Vancouver Island.

In 1991, the federal and provincial governments and aboriginal leaders created the B.C. Treaty Commission to resolve relations with Aboriginal people and other British Columbians. Again, a noble sentiment but contrasted with difficult realities today.

The above noted article goes on to read, “By any reasonable measure, the treaty-making process has been a disappointment – or, to be less polite, a failure.”

The idea was noble: “Treaties, it was hoped, would bring better economic possibilities and “certainty” in response to unanswered questions about ownership, title and territory. Treaties would create, in the words of a 1991 report, “a new relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding – through political negotiations.”

Instead, “We’ve spun our wheels and haven’t gone anywhere,” admits Sophie Pierre, Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission. Nothing much to show after half a billion dollars spent. Going forward? Perhaps the parties should consider another process: land claim agreements? A noble sentiment that has resulted in certainty, mutual trust and understanding with some aboriginal groups such as the Nisga’a of BC, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic, and the establishment of Nunavut. It’s not that easy though, BC boasts 198 First Nations, most with populations quite small with widespread overlapping territories and, of course, the suspicion about government is always a hurdle to overcome.

With the current rate, “…a century or more would pass before those aboriginals interested in treaties would sign one.”  The article goes on to read, “Success might breed more success – if more treaties are signed, it might encourage other aboriginals and the two governments to recommit themselves to the process of negotiations.” Now, that’s a noble sentiment. Fast forward to 2110 please?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Indigenous Indignity...Primal Fear.

“A return to Zoar: 83 years after bodies were stolen, Inuit go home.”

So read the headline of an article published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, July 21, 2010, written by a Les Perreaux.

Seems, in the past, a number of museums around the world regarded Indigenous people as some sort of human sub species. The latest example was noted in the above article as a young curator, William Duncan Strong was “told the museum (Field Museum in Chicago) wanted physical anthropological specimens…”

It was 1927. Mr. Strong had arrived on the coast of Labrador and had dug up marked graves. While rebuked by the Inuit and others to replace the bones and graves to their original state and through some deception, he returned to the Field Museum with the bones of 22 Inuit. The Inuit assumed he did the right thing and all was forgotten. Until now.

Based on some gossip, a researcher from the Smithsonian Institution sent a note to the Labrador’s Torngasok Cultural Centre who had heard, “the Field Museum may have the remains of some of your people.” Now, a small team from Labrador had launched a two-year quest that will end soon with the return of the bones. While U.S law requires all museums to return native remains in the United States, the Field Museum has led the way to voluntarily return remains to Canada, albeit, this time with a little pressure from the Labrador Torngasok Cultural Centre.

The Field Museum has agreed to pay for repatriating the remains and they will be buried in Zoar where they were unearthed 83 years ago. Something the young Curator, William Duncan Strong, should have and assumed he had done.

“The story is quite unbelievable. In a way, it could turn into a happy story, even though what was done was immoral, disrespectful and disgraceful,” said Johannes Lampe, Minister of Culture in the Nunatsiavut Inuit Government of northern Labrador. Unfortunately, Mr Strong is unable to apologize. He died in 1962. Wonder where he’s buried.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We don't lack the ability, we lack the opportunity.

Tapping a fresh northern resource.
Winnipeg construction firm tackles labour shortage with first nations apprenticeship program.

So read the GLOBE AND MAIL article published July 14, 2010 and written by a Patrick White.

Hail to Jamie Saulnier, owner of Connotec, a Manitoba based construction company. Nice to see a company, let alone the government tapping into the vast human resource found in Aboriginal communities: in this case, the remote community of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, about 800 kms north of Winnipeg.

While the government and other companies are urged to import foreign workers from China, Mexico, and other countries, Mr. Saulnier, has realized the need for skilled workers can be found right underneath your nose. Talk about being serious about this venture, he is even learning the Cree language. “Jamie is a breath of fresh air,” said Marcel Moody, a band councilor with the remote First Nation.

While other companies have spent money on importing workers, Mr. Saulnier has not spent one cent on that idea. He says, “I grew up in a small Northern Ontario town where I was surrounded by first nations communities where there were many good men and women who are just wishing for a job. That experience led to him thinking and later took action….”we decided to seek them out.”

Mr. Saulnier went on to set up the First Nations Apprenticeship Program. While other companies and even the government have failed in this type of idea, his program is seeing some excellent results. And it’s not just tokenism. Other companies feel a 2 or 3 percent is a good target for aboriginal participation, Mr. Saulnier is pushing for 50 per cent first nation involvement. Recruits are noticing the difference already. “We hear companies talk big like this all the time, “ said Jack Spence of Nelson House, who recently finished the program. “But it’s just talk. Connotec actually hires and sees you through to a journeyman’s ticket. That’s good.”

Mr. Saulnier has said, …”that’s the future of my company.”

Reminds me too, Nelson Mandela once said, “My people do not lack the ability, they lack the opportunity.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Federal out of sorts...Female out in courts?

“Senate approves bill to help divorced, abused female natives”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated July 7, 2010 and written by a Bill Curry.

Yes, like most Canadians know and if not, at least perceive the many challenges that face First Nations on reserve, some of which include economic issues, drug, alcohol, substance abuse, low graduation levels, etc. The above noted issue has reached the federal government level and is known as Bill S-4 which outlines, “The government bill sets up federal rules granting reserve residents access to the courts to sort out residency and ownership issues when a spouse wants protection from an abusive partner, or a couple breaks up.”

The Bill is still under review by the Senate.

Unbelievable to some in the Senate, a couple of female native Senators are urging their colleagues to not support the Bill. Government Leader in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton was “amazed” and “mystified” by the efforts of those two female native Senators. One, a Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, said she had experienced the abuses first-hand but is unsupportive of this bill on the grounds that inadequate consultation with native people was conducted and therefore “would leave women worse off.”

Looking at it objectively, I am all in support of any measures that would alleviate the social challenges that native people have on reserve including “legislation to help prevent women who live on reserves from losing their homes because of a divorce or abuse…”

However, I somewhat side with native female Senator, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas. Consultation is key in resolving issues between parties. Yes, the proposed legislation may give an avenue to protect native women on reserve by accessing the courts but how are the women to access the courts when they likely do not have the financial capacity to do so? Even if they have the capacity to access the courts, the women could be risking social status within their own respective community.

Perhaps, in trying to solve a problem, the federal government may create more challenges for people on reserve. Still, Senator Marjory LeBreton has said, I think we’ve talked long enough about it. It’s time to take action.” I concur. However, as a metaphor, you can give a person the keys to your car but he/she still needs to know how to drive. If the government is going to assist and protect native women with empowerment, they also need to address the need for capacity…something that most native women don’t have.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TRC...the Inuit are calling!

We’ll hear from Inuit residential school students, commissioner says
“We know that we have a significant obligation to the Inuit.”

So read the headline in the NUNATSIAQ ONLINE news published June 28, 2010 and written by a Chris Windeyer.

Great to read that the commissioner, Murray Sinclair, will pay attention to the Inuit story as it begins its mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as he and the other two commissioners visited Iqaluit, NU on June 24, 2010.  I’d like to see a full commitment of the three commissioners to the North but, already, the Inuit seem to be secondary as the commission went to Iqaluit only upon an invitation by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

(Photo by Chris Windeyer)

While the Inuit experienced the former residential system like the First Nations and Métis, they seem to take a bit of a back seat when it comes to a high level presence in organizations such as the TRC whereas the First Nations community is always well represented. Two of the three commissioners are First Nations and the other is a white person. More examples can be found in the former Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. While those two aforementioned organizations addressed issues regarding all Aboriginal people, they were both headed up, again, by a First Nations member.

The TRC is planning seven National Events across the country with only one of those events to be held in the North. The commission went on to say, “We know perfectly well that one event in the North is not going to do it.” Even with that understanding, again, the North seems to take a back seat while the South will be well served with six National Events.

ITK president Mary Simon and other ITK delegates said TRC events need to start happening in the North as soon as possible, because too many elders have already died waiting for a chance to tell their stories to the commission.

Yes, the TRC has a significant obligation to the Inuit.  Given its mandate, I have full confidence, in the end, the TRC will be as mighty in words as in deeds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


“An uneasy reconciliation for church, survivors.
Mixed reaction to religious groups role in truth-finding highlights complicated relationship between former students and Christianity.

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published June 15, 2010 written by a Patrick White.

FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN, a movie thriller inspired by true events. Winner of the World Cinema Directing and Screenwriting awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, stars Liam Neeson,
James Nesbitt, and Anamaria Marinca in a compelling human drama about two men haunted by a tragic act of violence.

In 1975, 17-year-old Alistair Little assassinated 19-year-old Jim Griffin. Jim's murder was witnessed horrifically by his 11-year-old brother, Joe, and the impact of the death destroyed Joe and his family. Little was arrested, convicted and sent to prison. In this fictional exploration of the lives of real men, Alistair and Joe are given the opportunity to reconcile 30 years after the terrible event. Can a killer and his traumatized victim make peace?

I saw the movie; reconciliation was attempted but never reached.

Now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is about to embark on a similar story. The stage is set to take place between former students (Survivors) of Canada’s former residential school system and the various churches. Like the movie outlined above, the process will be “uneasy.” Peter Yellowquill, former chief of the Long Plains First Nation has said, “It’s going to be tough to share these difficult stories while looking your perpetrators in the eye.” Like the question above, can the killer, in this case, the church and government and his traumatized victim make peace?

For all of us who attended our respective residential school, the church remains instilled in our memory, unfortunately a memory that cannot be erased. In my case, it was the Catholic Church. Since leaving Grollier Hall in Inuvik, NT in 1975 and after 13 years in attendance, I have not and will not step into another Catholic church and still today, I despise who they are and what they perceive to represent.

Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations had said, “You can never achieve reconciliation unless you bring all parties together.” I disagree. Like the young brother, Joe, outlined in the movie above, and who had horrifically witnessed the killing of his brother was too traumatized to consider any reconciliation when confronted with the killer of his older brother.

William Asikinack, Survivor, has said, “Because of what happened (the trauma), I don’t attend church. I know a lot who feel the same.” I concur. Furthermore, like him, I too have not decided whether I will attend any of the TRC events.

The church and government have taken away 13 years of my life. 13 years of life that should have been spent with my Mother and Father and other siblings who certainly would have given me the love and attention deserving to me as a developing child. Instead they chose to abduct, abuse, and now I abhor the church.

I don’t think the church and government deserve my FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN in front of the TRC.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Priests Lovers?...So, what's new?

“Priests’ lovers endorse letter to Pope calling for end to celibacy rule.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL article published Friday, May 28th, 2010 by a John Hooper.

Great to read that others, in this case, “dozens of Italian women who have had relationships with Roman Catholic priests or lay monks have endorsed an open letter to the Pope that calls for abolition of the celibacy rule.”

As one who has experienced 13 years of a Catholic-run Canadian residential school system, I second that motion.  After all, that church is full of hypocrites.  Still, the church chooses to hide behind and support a rule that is impossible to humanly uphold.  The current Pope Benedict dismissed that notion when he spoke up for “the principle of holy celibacy.”

Given the hundreds of abuse cases by Priests and others against innocent children around the world, the church would do well to abolish the rule and as “ Cardinal Christoph Shondborn, the archbishop of Vienna, said the abolition of the celibacy rule might curb sex abuse by priests…”

It baffles me where the rule of celibacy originated but one would think that any institution including the church could learn from its mistakes. Kudos to the authors of that letter to the Pope to stand up and say the idea of celibacy “ …is not holy but a man-made rule.” I second that also.

The article goes on to imply a number of priests were involved in meaningful but secret relationships and when discovered, they were simply moved and relocated.

Priests and others within the Catholic Church will never be celibate. History has shown that. It’s too bad. With that rule of celibacy, there will be more innocent victims including children who will continue to pay the price.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tell me the Truth

“Hearings find many cases of child-on-child abuse at residential schools”

So read the headline on the May 25, 2010 edition of the GLOBE AND MAIL written by a Bill Curry.

I think it would be a correct assumption to note that the majority of Canadians know very little of the federal government’s legislation of the former residential school system. A system that was established in the 1860’s to address what the late Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald’s government regarded as an “Indian problem.”

To solve that problem, the then government took a double-barreled approach aimed at all Aboriginal people that lasted over 120 years. The double barrel was the church and education aimed at the children. It was thought that the abduction of all school-aged children from families was the way to “kill the Indian” and therefore solve the problem.

Did the approach solve the problem? History has shown that the double-barreled approach was a pathetic failure…the legacy is evident today in most Aboriginal communities. Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally apologized for the mistreatment on behalf of all Canadians in June, 2008. Apology accepted. Now what?

As one who experienced that system for thirteen years…yes, there was child-to-child abuse. I saw it first-hand. Older children did physically and sexually abuse the weaker young. As one of 15 thousand Survivors who are going through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) to address the effects, I concur that, “What is rarely discussed is that many Aboriginal children were also assaulted by their classmates.” I was there. It was just a matter of time for the IAP to flesh out that ugly but true fact.

The article goes on to read, “…every case of abuse by Aboriginal students could be traced back to abuse by non-aboriginal school teachers.”  An assumption that is untrue…I was there.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is finally about to embark on its journey to record the stories of all involved in that former residential school system. You can bet that, in the end, the child-to-child abuse occurences will exceed the estimate of 20% of all applicants and it will not be attributed to what the “experts” regard as the cause….I know, I was there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"...even the unmentionables."

“A caribou herd in decline - a way of life in jeopardy. Natives’ fight for right to hunt mysteriously disappearing species threatens to undermine an entire government.”

So read the headline in the May 5, 2010 edition of the GLOBE AND MAIL, written by a Patrick White.

As an Inuvialuit (Inuit) of Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s western arctic, I grew up on a diet heavy with “country foods” including the caribou. Back then, conservation was not an issue as my Father harvested as many as he could. One of my many cousins once said, “we have the best food in the world.” Like Bertha Mackenzie of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation said in that article and referring to a freezer full of dead caribou, “Oh sure we use the heads. We use everything. Even the unmentionables.” Meaning, of course, when the caribou are harvested, nothing is wasted. Now, according to the government, the caribou are “declining at a unknown rate and for unknown reasons.”

So, what is worth mentioning?

There are always two sides to a coin; perhaps on this issue they are conservation versus consumption. Perhaps it can be regulations versus treaty rights? In any case, both sides will come to a head on May 18, 2010. Based on the perceived low numbers of caribou, the Northwest Territories government had imposed a ban throughout the range of the Bathurst caribou around Great Slave Lake where the Yellowknives Dene First Nation occupy. Challenging that ban, apparently, Jonas Sangris, a former chief and hunter of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation will “appear at a Supreme Court hearing on May 18 where his lawyer will argue that he has a treaty right to hunt and fish and suggest the ban may be a government ploy to assert powers it is slowly losing to First Nations governments.” I, and others, will be following the ruling with great interest from the Supreme Court.

So, what else is worth mentioning?

It is well known that First Nations have Aboriginal and/or Treaty rights to hunt and fish and the Crown (government) has the duty to consult especially when and if those rights may be impacted by resource development or for some other reason. My gist on this is Jonas Sangris and all natives will win. Standby on May 18.

After all, if I was back home in Tuktoyaktuk and the caribou were nearby, I would be awfully tempted to fill my freezer with caribou and enjoy the meat…even the unmentionables.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tiger Buddism....Tiger Bootyism?

While most seem to welcome the return of Tiger Woods to the PGA, there is still some who feel skepticism on his self imposed "rehabilitation." I'm sure most have seen the banner on TV that was flown above the grounds while he was still playing his first round of golf yesterday. Check it out.
Of course, this was in reference to his return to the ethics of Buddism.
It is regarded that all addicts lie and deceive people. Everyone including most media in the highly controlled event of the Masters have given him the benefit of the doubt; fair enough.

The real test will be when he will inevitably fall into temptation when he begins to travel and book into those first-class hotels and resorts. Most say that it is not good for a man to be alone. Will he practise his Buddism or resort back to Bootyism.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Silent Pope, defiant Vatican spark Easter outrage

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, Monday, April 5, 2010 written by Doug Saunders.

As a Survivor of Canada’s former Indian Residential School (IRS) system namely 13 years in Grollier Hall, a Catholic-run residence for students of the Western Arctic in Inuvik, NT, the Catholic Church never has and will not be near to my heart; in fact, it is virtually non-existent. While there were some positive experiences such as meeting other Aboriginal kids, competing in various sports, and learning my ABCs, it was the “church” experience that I was appalled with and continues today with a legacy of memories all too negative.

The word in the headline, “defiant” can describe part of my thoughts on the Catholic Church and all it represents. While that word and ‘silent” relate to how the current Pope Benedict and his sub-ordinates have handled all the reports of sex abuses recently even to the point of regarding it as “petty gossip”, it’s incredible how the Catholic church remains to exist. Especially when, according to my experience, it offers absolutely no spiritual enlightenment. Instead, the church has a fundamental flaw, instilling guilt within members. And, I guess, that what keeps members going back.

I'm fortunate enough to finally understand after many years in leaving the Church,...I'm not the guilty one.

My defiance with the Catholic Church comes through experience. As said above, 13 years of a regimented lifestyle run by hypocritical Nuns and Priests; non-loving beings full of hatred towards us exemplified by physical and sexual abuses. Furthermore, not once did they enlightened me to the need for an understanding of rituals, prayers, rosaries, kneeling, standing, sitting, genuflections, etc. Their attitude, instead, was, “you do this or you do that or ELSE!”

The physical and sexual abuses of the Catholic Church will always continue. Its doctrine and structure demands it.

For us in Canada, we Aboriginal people are thankful for the apology of Prime Minister Harper in June, 2008 in regards to the government’s former IRS. Since 1999, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has allocated over 400 million dollars to Aboriginal communities across Canada to address the healing needs of the legacy of the abuses and now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about to embark on a public process regarding the IRS.

The Canadian public will know through the stories of all involved that all the abuses are not simply “petty gossip.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Booze or not to Booze, To Drink or not to Drink?

Those are the questions but what is the answer? The headline in Wednesday’s, March 24, 2010 edition of the GLOBE AND MAIL did read, “ Meeting on booze ban marked by arrests as hundreds turn out. Residents of Natuashish to vote Friday on whether to overturn alcohol restriction in divided Innu community” written by Oliver Moore.

As noted in the article, the members of the community are to vote on the current resolution to ban alcohol from the community that was voted on and imposed on in 2002 subsequent to a number of social problems. Now, the current Chief, Simeon Tshakapesh, wants to revise the ban.

Perhaps a more appropriate question could read, “To be or not to be?” Like the questions above, these phrases imply an element of choice; after all, humans have a volitional mind. The social problems of the Natuashish are not atypical of Aboriginal communities across Canada where, I believe, the abuse of alcohol does and always will play a part in social problems: ban or no ban. In my experience living in a number of Aboriginal communities, the challenge with alcohol consumption always comes down to a choice of just one or two drinks only or getting drunk. Unfortunately, the latter is usually practiced and leads to “social problems” as alluded to in the article. Again, not atypical. According to community members, the ban has had measured success in less crime and increased attendance at school. Still, bootlegging exists. Again, not atypical. As much as Aboriginal communities are considered remote such as Natuashish, people will find a way to indulge in alcohol.

Revising the ban as proposed by the new Chief has divided the community as witnessed in their public meeting. The community members will always have a choice “to be or not to be” including Agathe Rich who tragically lost her children in a fire after drinking with her husband. Unfortunately then, she had chosen to be drunk and suffered the consequences. She has sinced become sober and has chosen not to be.

Let’s see how the community votes on Friday, March 26th.  You can bet that some members will attend the meeting after consuming a few drinks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Brian McKeever and Cross Country Canada

The headline for Allan Maki’s story dated, March 06, 2010 of the GLOBE AND MAIL read, “McKeever’s exclusion triggers hostility against Cross Country Canada (CCC).”

Anyone can question the hostility and, I think, it is warranted. Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics and especially the 50km men’s race, the public, including me, was led to believe Brian was to compete and make history in being the first athlete to compete at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. After all, Brian did win the 50km Olympic Trial race held in Canmore, AB in December, 2009. The other Canadian athletes who did win the Olympic Trial races were Dasha Gaiazova, Gordon Jewett, Madeleine Williams, Drew Goldsack, and Stefan Kuhn. These athletes expected to race and did so and realized their respective dream. Kudos to Devon Kershaw who had given up his spot to allow Gordon Jewett to race the freestyle 15km race earlier in the week.

The marketing of Brian’s achievement and impending participation included his profile and the TV commercial sponsored by VISA narrated by the well-known actor Morgan Freeman. That was a moving story that led us to believe Brian was about to make history. Included in the VISA ads was the story of Sara Renner, another story about an accomplished athlete about to retire and give it one last chance to stand upon the podium. While Sara’s commercial still can be viewed on YouTube, Brian’s ad has mysteriously disappeared. In fact, CCC still has the link on their website ( pointing to Brian’s ad but it will get you nowhere.

In terms of what transpired towards CCC’s decision to omit Brian, Jim McCarthy, President of CCC, had said, “We’re definitely looking at what’s happened inside. I’ve been reviewing it with Davin [McIntosh, CCC’s new executive director]. At times, I’ve questioned myself.” Dave Wood, CCC Team Leader conveyed on TV that the exclusion of Brian for the 50km was a “no brainer.” That “no brainer” to regard Brian as a spare fifth man should have been conveyed to the public and also to VISA at the very beginning when Brian qualified for the Olympics.

Regarding a review, skeptics will question why is CCC conducting a review within themselves; much like the RCMP conducting a review within themselves with no repercussions. Nevertheless, hopefully the review will have some one or persons accountable to the decision to omit Brian. Seems someone or persons in the High Performance level of CCC made up some rule very convenient to try and make him or themselves look good.  Instead, as said in the article, “The hate mail has spared no one.”  I guess, for a lot of people across the country, the dismal image of CCC continues.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Indigenous?...therefore Invisible?

Where have all the Aboriginals gone? VANOC, the 2010 Olympic committee, has boasted the presence of Aboriginal content; mainly the games taking part within the territories of the four First Nations. True, the misinterpreted Inukshuk logo is there, dancers and performers were there at the opening ceremonies, the design of the medals are of a West Coast flavor, yet, Aboriginal people remain in the background or almost invisible. Name me one Aboriginal sports caster, Aboriginal host, Aboriginal commentator….and name me one Aboriginal athlete! There were four people who lit the Olympic flame; not one of them was Aboriginal. Canada boasts about being "Inclusive." I guess if you're Indigenous, you're Invisible.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Olympic Torch...Aboriginal Scorched

Just read the article, “It’s always about money: VANOC and the aboriginal torch relay” published in the Jan.14, 2010 edition of the GLOBE AND MAIL.

It’s commendable that VANOC has gone into the far reaches of Canada and included a number of remote Aboriginal communities to share the flame and that they (Aboriginals) would be full partners from the beginning and VANOC would “make sure that Aboriginals got Games-related jobs and positions on Olympic-related committees and boards.” Apparently, this is “just a fraction of the efforts VANOC was making to ensure that Canada’s aboriginal communities didn’t feel left out.”

Feeling left out!!

Yes, VANOC has adopted the inukshuk as its Olympic symbol which is very much misinterpreted but that’s another story. The real question that should be asked is where are the Aboriginal athletes who are going to the Olympics? The GLOBE AND MAIL showcases Olympic athletes on a daily/weekly basis but Canada’s Aboriginal People are no where to be seen. Talk about feeling left out. Apparently, ensuring a number of Aboriginal athletes competing at the 2010 Games was not “interwoven into virtually every discussion” from the beginning. Apparently too, Aboriginal participation and especially funding to athletes is to be left to the legacy of the 2010 Games. What about now or, better yet, what about six/seven years ago when it was announced that the Vancouver/Whistler bid was awarded the Games. According to what has transpired since, VANOC and any other sport organizations has “left out” the need for Aboriginal participation. Kudos to those immigrants who, within a year or two of becoming “Canadians” qualifed and now represent Canada at the 2010 Olympics.

In my experience in sport, Aboriginal people do not lack ability but lack the opportunity. I guess VANOC and all other sport organizations choose to ensure Aboriginal people remain marginalized. “Maybe that’s the story native leaders should be talking about at the Olympics.”