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 M├ętis 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.)