Article from The Georgia Straight
by Amanda Siebert
on January 27th, 2017 at 1:46 PM
With Canada's 150th anniversary and its outrageous $500,000,000 price tag garnering attention nationwide, massive Canada Day parties are being planned from Vancouver to Halifax.
But many have raised questions of how the federal government can justify such spending when atrocities like the ones listed below are taking place on First Nations reserves throughout the country:
- A number of reserves are being affected by an overwhelming rate of child suicide. These reserves include Deschambault Lake, Attawapiskat, and Wapekeka. Despite numerous requests for funding and additional on-reserve health care services, most have been denied.
- As of October 31, 2016, there were 133 boil water advisories in 90 First Nations communities across Canada. (Think about that one next time you grab a drink from the tap.)
- The Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario is currently so contaminated with mercury that levels detected in soil there are 80 times what is expected in the rest of the province.
(A provincial environment minister called for a clean-up as early as 1984, but was ignored by governments at all levels.)
- A federal inquiry into more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women is frustrating families because of the government's lack of consultation. The Native Women's Association of Canada has given it a failing grade for its slow progression.
- Children living on First Nations reserves are chronically underfunded when compared to children living off-reserve.
This was made all the more clear a year ago when the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the government discriminates against First Nations children on reserves. Prime Minister Trudeau made promises of funding, but has yet to fulfill them.
Critic and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada Cindy Blackstock says the federal government must step up with $155 million for child welfare, "to give these kids a fighting chance to grow up in the families."
- Indigenous people make up nearly one quarter of the federal inmate population. Nearly half of the children in Canada's foster care system are indigenous. (Keep in mind that only four percent of Canada's population is indigenous.)
- Concerns regarding energy projects like the Site C Dam, the TransMountain Pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline, the Alberta oil sands, and other resource-based projects brought forward by First Nations are largely ignored by governments at provincial and federal levels.
(Not to mention the ongoing dismissal of most requests made by First Nations communities of the government to uphold established treaty rights.)
- Overall, indigenous people in Canada make less income, face higher unemployment rates, higher rates of suicide, higher rates of death among children, higher rates of incarceration, inadequate housing, and poorer health than the average Canadian settler.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but also my way of telling you (yes, I'm telling you) to educate yourself about why Canada's First Nations, both on reserve and off, face hardship at a level few non-indigenous Canadians could even imagine.
In 2009 at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared to the world that Canada, "has no history of colonization." Eight years later, CBC has proved him wrong with a documentary called Colonization Road.
Airing for the first time yesterday, the documentary is hosted by Ryan McMahon, an Anishnaabe comedian hailing from the Koocheching First Nation in northwestern Ontario.
In it, McMahon takes viewers through a history lesson they undoubtedly never received in school: how the building of colonization roads post-contact destroyed First Nations communities.
Featuring notable indigenous scholars, researchers, and academics, including Pam Palmater, Al Hunter, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and Lee Maracle among others, Colonization Road speaks to issues that will probably make fragile settlers feel uncomfortable. As it should.
"I think the problem is the relationship.... Reconciliation is us [First Nations] forgiving them [the government]. Well, I would forgive anybody for standing on my feet, if they fucking got off," Maracle says near the end of the documentary.
"It doesn't end. They agreed that they separated us from our teachings; they agreed that they separated us from our language, and thus the language was pretty much destroyed in ourselves; they agreed they separated us from our culture, and so we're culturally fractured, and destitute, but nobody's going to help us bring it back together.
"They're still educating us in their schools, in their culture, in their language. It's still going on. They are still on our feet."
Watch the documentary on CBC here.