Thursday, April 28, 2011

Redress? justice and common sense?

He listened to residential school victims and helped them achieve redress.
“They wanted to be heard, because in their view nobody heard them for a long, long time. No one listened.”

So read the headline in the Obituaries of the GLOBE AND MAIL dated April 19, 2011 and written by a Rod Mickleburgh.

Redress: “ to set right; reform, correct.”

Donald Brenner, 65, passed away suddenly on March 12, 2011 at his home on the Sunshine Coast in BC. Donald was a commercial pilot and a respected chief justice of the Supreme Court of BC.  How will most prominent Aboriginal leaders remember him? “We have a lot to thank him for.  Donald Brenner was a remarkable human being, as good as they come. He will have a place in our hearts, forever.”
Edward John, Grand Chief of the First Nations Summit.

Donald Brenner had accomplished a lot in his life but came into prominence when he presided over the Blackwater case where he “was instrumental in bringing one of the nations’ searing social sores to public attention – the decades of abuse that took place at native residential schools – and subsequently helping to achieve redress.”

The Blackwater case included a “civil suit by former residents of the Alberni Indian Residential School, hearing native witnesses, often in tears, bare their suffering in unrelenting detail. At the end, he awarded damages against both the United Church and the federal government. His ruling, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, paved the way for a slew of similar cases across the country and Ottawa’s eventual, multibillion dollar out-of-court settlement.”

Further significant redress was to follow.

Donald Brenner issued a rare, high court call for the government to apologize for the systemic abuse that occurred (across the country).

Enter June 2008,… most of you may remember the nationally televised event when Prime Minister Harper had apologized for all the harms and abuses that Survivors had experienced in the former residential school system.

In an interview after leaving the Supreme Court, Brenner said no case was more difficult or more draining during his 17 years on the bench than Blackwater. “They wanted to be heard, because in their view nobody heard them for a long, long time. No one listened.”

As usual, with any issue, the government needs to be embarrassed first to admit accountability. In this case, it took court action before the government would listen and finally forced into redress in the national apology to Survivors.

R.I.P. Justice Donald Brenner.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nunavut: true North strong and ...?

“The promise and the perils.”

A front-page headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, April 5, 2011 and written by a Joe Friesen.

This article was part II in a three part series on The Trials of Nunavut.

 Most of you know, Nunavut in the Inuktitut language means, “our land.” In the quest for autonomy when Nunavut was established in 1999, the Inuit likely didn’t bank on “promises” evolving into “perils.”  Nunavut is now plagued with low high-school-completion rates and high violent-crimes. Not a good equation. Add to it another extreme, Nunavut’s population is extremely young: one third of the Nunavutmiut are under 15. The younger population will only get younger. Lord have mercy, you can bet the majority of those 15 year olds will each have at least two kids by the time they’re twenty. I know…it’s a cultural thing.

“Houston, we have a problem?”

The article goes on to ask, “Can Nunavut’s youth build the North’s growing industries, or are they too alienated?” It’s ironic that alienation is now considered and is seen to perhaps likely to perpetuate the state of affairs. After all, it was the very isolation of the Inuit that once kept them intact as a culture. One can only see the many documentaries both in film and photographs and see how healthy they once were.

Fast forward to today: Nunavut woes are huge, “the homicide rate among young people are 10 times higher than in the rest of Canada. Rates of violent crime, from domestic abuse to sexual assault and robbery, are also disproportionately high. While crime rates in the south have declined, they’ve jumped in Nunavut.” For a fulfilled existence, all human beings including the Inuit require a sense of significance and a sense of security. Something they had intact prior to colonization. Instead, within every Inuit community, you find the majority of its population in a zombie-like trance neither working or in school; feeling unworthy with no confidence.  No wonder crime is high. So, where are the Inuit leaders?

Enter Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami., the national political organization representing all Inuit within Canada. She asks, “How can we renew confidence and hope in our Inuit youth?"

She says:

“For the next generation of Inuit, hope lies in education.”
So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL, April 6, 2011.

Hope is the feeling of what is wanted can be had.  Since 1999, broken dreams of Nunavut have them still hoping. For many Inuit though, hope was lost and has resulted in the highest rate of suicide in Canada.

Like the Inuit of old, the Inuit need to regain their sense of significance and security. Unlike the old days though, it’s more of a challenge.  Like all Canadians, education is available to all Inuit but hope should lie in changing the “attitude” towards the value of education.

Mary goes on to  say, “ We need confident parents to raise confident children.” True?

With the high number of teen pregnancies in Nunavut, how much confidence does a teenager have in raising a child? Perhaps, Inuit leaders should consider social education as a precedent to academic education. “But that discussion hasn’t taken hold at any senior policy or political level. “ says a Natan Obed, Director of the department of social and cultural development at Nunavut Tunngavik.

I think that kind of discussion needs to occur first, that’s my hope.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Eskimo..."Standing on guard for thee."

“Military to test new Arctic search-and-rescue plan.
Rapid reaction force would focus on airplane crashes, environmental incidents and shipping accidents.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE and MAIL published March 31, 2011 and written by a Bob Weber.

I guess it’s befitting the Eskimo is “standing on guard for thee.”  After all, Canada is our home on Native land.

How ‘bout this for a mouthful…The Rapid Reaction Force North.  A Lt. Colonel Gino Chretien says, “It’s a project to try and get troops up as fast as possible if an incident happens up here in the North.” The Force’s main component is obvious, utilizing local Eskimos who exist in all of Canada’s Arctic communities. It’s no secret too the Arctic throughout history has been used for military purposes. For example, in the mid 1950’s the United States (U.S.) government leased land across the Arctic from Canada and built the then Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line). Even then, utilizing local Eskimos like my late father contributed to the construction of and worked for the U.S. at a number of those radar sites in the western arctic. The DEW Line sites have now been upgraded to what is known as the largely unmanned North Warning System. Today, any Arctic rescues are coordinated out of the Search-and-Rescue Centre in Trenton, Ontario, thousands of kilometers away and any rescues can take days for any kind of initial response.

Enter the Eskimo…now known as Inuit and “Rangers.”  Like Tonto used to say to his buddy, the Lone Ranger, the Eskimo is perhaps the new “Kimosabe” (trusted friend).

Capacity building for the Rangers is an issue though. “It isn’t clear what help the Rangers would be able to provide beyond, “…polar bear security and comfort” says Lt. Colonel Chretien.

The Rapid Reaction Force North, of course, requires further development. For now, the project known as Operation Nunalivut will deploy aircraft from Comox, BC on Vancouver Island and Greenwood, Nova Scotia on the east coast. I guess notifying the local Eskimo – Inuit – Ranger is as “rapid” as you’re going to get.  I guess too, it won’t be just up to God to keep us “glorious and free.”