No. 13September 17, 2019
— Philip Fernandez —
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the Canadian state’s child welfare system unjustly removed between 40,000 and 80,000 Indigenous children from their on-reserve homes during the period from 2006 to 2017. The decision, rendered on September 6, orders the Canadian government to compensate each child up to $40,000 and their parents and grandparents up to $20,000 for the damage and trauma the racist abuse has caused. This is the maximum the Tribunal can order to be paid.
The members of the Tribunal panel, Chair Sophie Marchildon and Edward Lustig, write in their finding that sufficient evidence exists to prove that Canada’s conduct was “wilful and reckless resulting in what we have referred to as the worst-case scenario under our [Human Rights] Act.” They write, “This case of racial discrimination is one of the worst possible cases warranting the maximum awards.”
The panel also notes: “No amount of compensation can ever recover what you have lost, the scars that are left on your souls or the suffering that you have gone through as a result of racism, colonial practices and discrimination.”
The case against the government was filed with the Tribunal in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) and Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Following the ruling, Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the FNCFCS said, “The Tribunal’s finding that Canada wilfully and recklessly discriminated against First Nations children demonstrates how little Canada learned from the residential school and the 60’s scoop apologies and class actions.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs wrote in a media statement: “The Tribunal found massive systemic discrimination and said it was willful and reckless on the part of the Government of Canada. This is something we have known in our own families and communities for a long time.” He added, “In British Columbia, I have witnessed the harm to First Nations children and families caused by removing children when supports in their homes, families and communities should have been considered or improved.”
The government has until December 10 to meet with the FNCFCS and AFN and arrive at a mechanism to compensate the child victims and their families.
Philip Fernandez is the MLPC candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre.
Remembering and Giving Voice to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls on the Highway of Tears
— Peter Ewart —
Dozens of empty red dresses were held high on September 8, at the corner of Highway 16 and 97 in Prince George, BC. The red dresses represent all the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls along the Highway of Tears. Marking the 4th Annual Red Dress event, family members, friends, and Prince George residents from all walks of life came together to remember and give voice to loved ones lost.
Following the powerful “stand in” action, which was met with many passersby honking their support, participants moved to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park where the event continued. Red dresses hanging from the trees and decorating the park pavilion were an inspiring backdrop for a program of speakers, music and dance that highlighted the heartbreak of losing loved ones, but also a determination to work together to change the situation.
After a prayer and welcoming from a Lheidli T’enneh Elder, the president of the Prince George Red Dress Society, Tammy Meise, introduced speakers including Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall, Brenda Wilson, Dawn Hemingway and Victor Elkins. Moving and spirited music and dance performances by Mackenzie Mathews, Kelsey Abraham, Bella Rain, Kym Gouchie, Susan Philip and the Khast’an Drummers concluded the program leaving everyone energized and determined to continue their work together.
Sudbury picket against planned development of Ring of Fire, September 6, 2018.
The Ontario Government announced on August 27 it has officially terminated the Regional Framework Agreement (RFA) between Queen’s Park and the Matawa Tribal Council. Nine First Nations comprise the Council whose traditional territories include the area covered by the Ring of Fire mining developments and the territories through which access roads will pass. The Ontario government said instead of collective negotiations it will pursue separate agreements with individual First Nations that are “mining-ready.”
The Ring of Fire region, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, holds one of the world’s richest deposits of chromite, used to make stainless steel, as well as nickel, copper and platinum. The resources when mined are valued at anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion. The Ontario government sees the natural resources as a potential economic bonanza for oligarchs in control of the mining monopolies and others needing the minerals.
The RFA originally negotiated by the previous Liberal government in 2014 provided a process towards agreements on the construction of roads connecting the Matawa First Nations, the provincial highway network and the Ring of Fire. When the RFA did not provide the results that the Ontario government and the monopoly in control, Noront Resources, wanted, then-premier Kathleen Wynne moved to bilateral talks to pressure individual nations. In 2017, she signed separate agreements with three of the nine Matawa First Nations.
After the PCs prevailed in the 2018 provincial election, the new government fired, but did not replace, the province’s lead negotiator in the RFA process and cancelled funding for the collective negotiations. The government also eliminated the Joint Jurisdictional Working Group, a special panel of select provincial and First Nation appointees charged with deciding the route and governance of a proposed east-west road to the Ring of Fire starting at Pickle Lake. The decision now to terminate the RFA process means the Ontario government will attempt to split the First Nations and gain individual consent that favours the private interests of the monopolies involved in construction and mining.
Greg Rickford, Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs blames the Matawa Tribal Council for the slow pace of development of the Ring of Fire saying: “Despite over a decade of talk and more than $20-million invested, real progress on the Ring of Fire has been met with delay after delay. That’s why Ontario is taking a new, pragmatic approach to unlocking the Ring of Fire’s potential, one that includes working directly with willing First Nation partners.”
Elizabeth Atlookan, Chief of Eabametoong First Nation, one of the Matawa Tribal Council First Nations that has not agreed to the construction of a road to the Ring of Fire said: “I can’t get a meeting with you [Minister Rickford], I’ve requested meetings, I’ve heard zilch from you. Is it because two nations have decided to build roads that you leave us out of the equation?”
Atlookan said that the Matawa communities have been fractured by the Ontario government’s “divide and conquer” tactics that began with the previous Liberal administration. She said, “We went in as a team of nine…. The government was able to fracture and possibly get the road at the least cost…. It caused a rift among the nations.”
Atlookan said the “betrayal” happened in August 2017 when Wynne announced separate all-weather road deals with Marten Falls, Webequie and Nibinamik. “We did not know they were doing that,” she said.
Wayne Moonias, Chief of Neskantaga First Nation, which also has not agreed to the construction of a road through its territory said: “Do you respect the rights of our people, the ties, the positions we have towards our lands, the way decisions have to be made?”
The Ontario Government and the Noront Resources monopoly have a narrow view of consultations and negotiations. They want Indigenous peoples to agree to the broad thrust of development on the monopoly’s terms and aim of making as much money as possible from mining the minerals and leaving little if anything behind for the coming generations. They expect only quibbling over a few details and blame the Indigenous peoples for wanting something quite different and substantive and delaying the project. Immediate employment and a spurt of “economic development” as the minerals are removed are used as an inducement to force the Indigenous peoples to agree.
The Matawa Tribal Council of First Nations has every reason to refuse to negotiate based on what the Ontario government and Noront want. The direct experience of the development of mining in Northern Ontario, from Bruce Mines to Sudbury, to Cobalt, to the Porcupine, to Elliot Lake and to Attiwapiskat shows that the interests of the mining monopolies, whether Canadian or foreign, is to extract the natural resources of Northern Ontario and remove the social value from the region. The social value is not used to build the communities of the North and their economies. Too often, Indigenous communities have been left devastated and the interests of mining workers ignored and communities left abandoned when the mines close with the environment destroyed.
Minerals can only be mined once. If the working and Indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario are to benefit from mining development, it is essential they have the political power and control necessary to determine its direction. A new aim for mining to serve the needs and development of the peoples of the North and to guarantee their future must control the process and any negotiations.
(With files from Dave Starbuck)
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