Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Metis and Aboriginal Leaders in the News!

The scandals of Chief Theresa Spence and Attawapiskat
Number of recognized aboriginal people should double, court rules
Bill Curry and Kirk MakinOttawa and Toronto — The Globe and Mail
PublishedTuesday, Jan. 08 2013
The number of constitutionally recognized aboriginal people in Canada should double, the Federal Court of Canada has ruled in a judgment saying Métis and “non-status” Indians qualify as “Indians” under the 1867 Constitution Act.
If unchallenged, the ruling would force Ottawa to recognize and deal directly with about one million people who were left outside previous definitions of “Indians” who have special rights to negotiate directly with the Crown and qualify for federal benefits.
Métis and non-status aboriginal groups said the decision opens a door to negotiation – or litigation – on similar rights to health, education and other benefits that Ottawa restricts to aboriginal people with official Indian status under the Indian Act.
At the same time, they braced for a possible backlash from status Indians, who may see the decision as a setback to their efforts to win services and benefits.
Tuesday’s ruling comes amid a country-wide surge in protests, including a high-profile hunger strike, against the Conservative government’s overall approach to dealing with aboriginal people.
Jan O’Driscoll, a spokesperson for federal Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan, said Ottawa is reviewing the decision to determine its next move.
However, experts believe the case will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
By dramatically redesigning a key element of the country’s history, Mr. Justice Michael Phelan effectively cleared up a long-standing dispute between Ottawa and the provinces over responsibility. His ruling also summons up a host of challenges for the federal government.
Judge Phelan ruled that Métis (a group largely descended from Indian women and European men), along with Indians who have lost their formal legal status, qualify as Indians under the 1867 act.
Setting aside rules based on bloodlines, Judge Phelan said that criteria relating to geographical or cultural location, or membership in an indigenous community organization, are more civilized ways to define aboriginality than “blood purity.” His ruling cites Nazi Germany and South Africa’s apartheid regime as “two examples of why Canadian law does not emphasize this blood/racial purity concept.”
Judge Phelan said there are possibly one million Métis and non-status Canadians, which is just slightly more than the number of status Indians Ottawa recognizes. The potential doubling of Indians for which Ottawa is constitutionally responsible could ultimately force Ottawa into radical policy changes, billions in new spending, or both.
Betty Ann Lavallée, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which launched the case 13 years ago, said Canadians should consider costs in a larger context.
“What is the cost to Canada for doing nothing?” she asked at a news conference. “By doing nothing, you’re still going to have the status quo, which is a drain both on the economy, on the social system, health care services. To me, I would rather invest in human potential.”
While the court did not expressly order the government to negotiate with Métis and non-status Indians over claims such as health, education and land, Judge Phelan left little doubt that his ruling will exert pressure to do so.
“The recognition of Métis and non-status Indian as Indians ... should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding these groups,” he said.
Judge Phelan anchored his ruling in expert testimony and documents that show provinces were assembled and railroads built partly due to the acquisition of land from so-called “half-breeds.”
Métis leader Tony Belcourt said the Métis will seek health, education and economic development benefits, and compensation for land “taken away or swindled away from us.”
In a blog entry on Tuesday, Mr. Belcourt also predicted a likely rift within the indigenous community.
“It is so true that every time we come near to gaining what are rightfully our entitlements, the First Nations are pitted against us,” he said. “They are led to believe that anything we gain must be at their expense.”
Native leader Bill Erasmus disagreed. He said the ruling will merely add momentum to calls by native leaders to have their rights recognized based on membership in a traditional nation or treaty group, rather than by way of a definition within the Indian Act.
Judge Phelan expressed distaste for federal arguments that politicians alone should define who is an Indian via legislation.
“The proposition would allow the federal government to expand and contract their constitutional jurisdiction over Indians unilaterally,” he said.
For example, Judge Phelan said that a money-conscious government could simply deprive individuals of their aboriginality with the stroke of a pen.
One option for Ottawa would be to expand the definition of Indian under the Indian Act. However, the act is widely criticized as a racist relic. While most aboriginal leaders want it scrapped, there is no consensus on a replacement.
Dwight Newman, a University of Saskatchewan law professor, said Judge Phelan’s decision may have dramatic consequences.
“It will open new litigation on the scope of resulting federal responsibilities as well as on the constitutionality of existing provincial arrangements – especially in Alberta,” he said. “This case may well respond to challenges that existed but it’s going to create a period of many new questions.”
Jason Madden, legal counsel for the Métis National Council, said it was “a great day for Métis.” However, he added that if Ottawa does not begin discussions and negotiations on rights, it will face an “onslaught of litigation.”
Metis and non-status Indians: a profile
Statistics Canada says there are 404,000 Métis, according to the 2006 census.
There is little official data on non-status Indians, but 549,005 of the 1.17 million aboriginals in the 2006 census said they were non-registered Indians.
Median age
Métis 29.4 years
North American Indian 25.3 years
Inuit 22 years
Non-aboriginal 39.4 years
Métis children are twice as likely as non-aboriginal children to live in a single-parent family.
More than two-thirds of Métis live in urban areas.
The census metropolitan areas with the largest number of Métis residents include:  

Winnipeg 40,980
Edmonton 27,740
Vancouver 15,075
Calgary 14,770
Saskatoon 9,610
Ottawa-Gaineau 7,990

About 50 per cent of adult Métis have post-secondary education compared to 61 per cent of the non-aboriginal population.

Source: Statistics Canada. All figures based on 2006 census data
Court rules Métis, non-status Indians fall under Ottawa’s jurisdiction
Heather Scoffield,
Canadian Press
Jan 8, 2013
OTTAWA — The federal government’s responsibilities for aboriginal peoples just got a whole lot bigger.
After more than 13 years of legal wrangling, the Federal Court ruled on Tuesday that Metis and non-status Indians are indeed “Indians” under a section of the Constitution Act, and fall under federal jurisdiction.
The decision helps to clarify the relationship between Ottawa and the more than 600,000 aboriginal people who are not affiliated with specific reserves. That duty is not an open-ended undefined obligation but must be focused on a specific interest
“The recognition of Metis and non-status Indian as Indians under section 91(24) should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding these groups,” writes Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan.
While the decision does not go so far as to declare that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to the group, it says such duties would flow automatically now that their standing has been clarified.
“There is no dispute that the Crown has a fiduciary relationship with aboriginal people both historically and pursuant to section 35 [of the Constitution],” Phelan writes.
However, he adds: “That duty is not an open-ended undefined obligation but must be focused on a specific interest.”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and several Metis and non-status Indians took the federal government to court in 1999 alleging discrimination because they are not considered “Indians” under a section of the Constitution Act.
They argued they are entitled to some or all of the same rights and benefits as on-reserve First Nations members.
We are reviewing the court’s decision to determine the next steps They say that includes access to the same health, education and other benefits Ottawa gives status Indians; being able to hunt, trap, fish and gather on public land; and the ability to negotiate and enter treaties with the federal government.The congress and the Metis and non-status Indians involved in the case alleged in court documents that they’ve been the victims of “deprivations and discrimination” by the federal government.The decision is widely expected to be appealed, and the federal government’s reaction on Thursday suggested it was contemplating taking another go at it.
“We are reviewing the court’s decision to determine the next steps,” said Jan O’Driscoll, spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
[The decision is not about] the interpretation or application of particular rights either under the Constitution or under specific agreements, nor is it about aboriginal rights “Our government continues to work in partnership with all aboriginals across Canada to address shared priorities such as education, economic development and jobs.”
He noted that the Federal Court said its decision is not about “the interpretation or application of particular rights either under the Constitution or under specific agreements, nor is it about aboriginal rights.”
In other words, the court did not get specific about what the federal government should actually do now that Metis and non-status Indians fall into the broader category of “Indians.”
“The court is not prepared to make some general statement concerning fiduciary duty,” Phelan’s ruling states.
“Given the declaration of right in respect of section 91(24), one would expect that the federal government would act in accordance with whatever duty arises in respect of any specific matter touching on the nonclarified fiduciary relationship.”
Phelan plowed through constitutional and aboriginal history going back to before Confederation to come to the conclusion that Metis and non-status Indians should actually be considered Indians under modern law.
The case for Canada’s 400,000 non-status Indians was more clear-cut than the case for the 200,000 Metis, but on balance, historical evidence weighs in favour of the Metis too, he wrote.
Meeting with Harper won’t settle aboriginal people’s problems
Andrew Coyne
Jan 7, 2013
If it does nothing else, the Idle No More movement of the past few weeks will have provided a valuable lesson in why so many aboriginal Canadians remain so chronically destitute — why progress has been so frustratingly elusive, and why it is likely to remain so.
The movement, with its vast and ill-defined agenda, its vague and shifting demands, its many different self-appointed spokespersons, is open to any number of different interpretations. But the absolutist rhetoric, the dismissal of dissenting opinion as so much “racism,” and above all, the rigid insistence on adhering to the same approaches that have so signally failed to date, do not suggest a happy future for aboriginal relations.
Ostensibly the movement’s ire is directed at the Harper government, though for reasons that are not widely understood. The four Saskatchewan women whose protests first ignited the movement may have been focused on Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill — notably its provisions relaxing federal oversight of navigable waterways and lowering the threshold of democratic approval needed for bands to authorize development on reserve land.
But as more and more putative leaders have jumped in front of the parade, from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to the Mi’kmaw activist and Ryerson University Chair in Indigenous Governance Pam Palmater, the checklist has expanded to include the whole of the Harper government’s approach to aboriginal issues. Contrary to early media reports, it is not Harper’s neglect that inspires their wrath, but rather his activism.
In Palmater’s writings, the Harper agenda is nothing less than the deliberate “genocide” of aboriginal peoples, in the most literal sense of the word: not merely their “assimilation” or “termination,” in the ambiguous terminology preferred by other native leaders, but their complete elimination, “socially, culturally, legally and physically.” Though her most oft-cited specific evidence of this is the reduction in funding to aboriginal activist groups, she is in no doubt that the Harper agenda is about “getting rid of Indians once and for all.”
Nor is she alone in this belief. Here’s Daniel Wilson, former senior director with the Assembly of First Nations: “Indigenous death and despair serve the government’s purpose … through underfunding and interference with local governance, the current government is starving people off reserves [to] make it easier for the government’s friends in the oil, gas and mining industries to go about their business unhindered.”
How is this murderous agenda being pursued? Among the dozen or so bills activists cite are the following: Bill S-8: The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act; Bill S-2: The Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act; Bill S-6: The First Nations Elections Act; and Bill C-27: The First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Oh, and: Bill S-212: The First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill. Those monsters.
If you are puzzled how providing safe drinking water or recognizing self-government add up to genocide, well, you need to take responsibility for your own racism. But here’s the thing. If you interpret Harper’s motives and actions in such a fantastic light, then it is not just his government you must denounce: it is anyone who collaborates with it.
And indeed, the longer Idle No More has gone on, the more it has become clear it is not so much a dispute between aboriginal Canadians and the Harper government, but between rival factions in the aboriginal community: between modernizers such as former chief Manny Jules, chairman of the First Nations Tax Commission, or Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, who are prepared to work with the Harper government, and what one might call the fundamentalists, such as Palmater.
The fundamentalists represent the traditional agenda of aboriginal activists, focused heavily on the legal and political arena. In this model, the advancement of aboriginal peoples is at heart a collective matter, based on treaty rights, land claims and reserves under communal property ownership.
The modernizers would not, I think, deny the importance of much of this. But their focus is less on abstract constitutional principles and more on giving individual natives and bands the tools they need to participate in a modern, market-based economy: education, for example, and property rights, a particular concern of Jules (he is co-author of Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights).
For Palmater and her followers, this is at best weakness, at worst betrayal. “The days of waiting for the AFN to do something are over,” she writes. Last year’s Crown-First Nations Gathering was a particular object of scorn: “Clearly, the AFN has crossed the line and no longer works on our behalf.” The Joint Action Plan that emerged from it, with its emphasis on education, accountability and economic development, is “the beginning of the end if we let it happen.”
Having been defeated last summer in her bid to unseat Atleo as AFN chief, Palmater evidently sees Idle No More as a chance for a do-over. Atleo, she writes, is in the “same category” as Senator Patrick Brazeau, “who acts as Harper’s mouthpiece tearing apart First Nations at every chance he gets.” Still worse is Jules, “who now promotes the destruction of reserves and the biggest assimilation policy plan created in recent years.”
So as Harper and aboriginal leaders prepare to meet again, we should be under no illusion this will settle anything. For those, such as Palmater, who regard “individual opportunity” as “code words,” who insist the way forward is to return to “our traditional ways of governing, learning, trading, sustaining and relating,” such co-operation is not the solution. It’s the problem.
Attawapiskat audit raises questions about millions in spending
Gloria Galloway
The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jan. 07 2013
The Northern Ontario first nation which declared a state of emergency over deplorable housing and whose chief is now on a hunger strike over treaty obligations has not properly accounted for millions of dollars of federal spending, according to
The audit of the finances of Attawapiskat that was conducted earlier this year by Deloitte and Touche says the first nation had difficulty maintaining satisfactory records, particularly related to the housing projects. Attawapiskat came to public attention in the fall of 2011 because many of its people were living in substandard conditions as winter was setting in.
In a letter to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence that was dated last August, Serge Desrochers, a Deloitte partner, says the first nation will need to establish management control practices and a sound accounting system. Of 505 transactions that the firm examined to determine whether they were complied with federal funding agreements, 409 lacked proper documentation, wrote Mr. Desrochers.
“An average of 81 per cent of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60 per cent had no documentation of the reason for payment,” he wrote.
As a result, said Mr. Desrochers, “we were unable to conclude whether the claimed expenditures were in accordance with the terms and conditions of the funding agreements with (the Aboriginal Affairs Department) and Health Canada.”
When asked Monday about the audit, Ms. Spence’s spokesman, Danny Metatawabin said neither he nor the chief would make any comment. “We have bigger issues here with respect to our treaty rights,” said Mr. Metatawabin.
Ms. Spence said in a statement on Monday afternoon that the release of the audit,which was completed in September, was nothing more than a distraction aimed at discrediting her and her cause.
“I remain steadfast on my journey and will not allow any distractions at this time to waver the goal set forth," she said. She demanded that legislation opposed by first nations people be rescinded, that the government live up to its constitutional obligations to native people, and that resource revenues be shared with the first nations.
Clayton Kennedy, Ms. Spence's partner and the co-manager of the first nation, said he has not seen the report but its release could have been timed to discredit the chief.
"There are no allegations of misappropriation and the band has never missed any of their mortgage or loan payments,” Mr. Kennedy told the Aboriginal People's Television Network. If the auditors had pursued suppliers for documentation, it could have been found given more time, he said.
“I view the report as recommendations to strengthen internal controls,” said Mr. Kennedy.“That audit was conducted at the request of the deputy minister at the time they put us in third party management, so it is all part of the politic.”
The federal government pulled the third-party manager last April after the first nation pressed the federal court to find it was unreasonable to ask an outsider to oversee Attawapiskat’s finances. The court later ruled in Attawapiskat’s favour.
Approximately $104-million was paid to the first nation between April 2005 and November 2011 – mostly for education, health, social services, water and housing. But many of the roughly 1,500 residents live in abject poverty and Ms. Spence is on a hunger strike, which was in its 27th day Monday.
The Deloitte audit was requested by the Aboriginal Affairs department because of ongoing concerns about housing problems despite the amount of money that has been directed at the reserve. It found that, for most of the years of investigated, the first nation had neglected to create a remedial management plan that was a requirement of federal loan guarantees.
The audit also says the first nation did not comply with a number of the requirements of its agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Specifically, it says, reserve funds that were to be used to replace housing that had become dilapidated were not put into a separate account and were continuously underfunded.
Loans and subsidies were provided to Attawapiskat even though the community was known to be operating outside the terms of its agreement with the Crown housing corporation, says Deloitte.
When Ontario chiefs were asked at a news conference last week about the financial situation in Attawapiskat, Grand Chief Stan Louttit, who represents the northern Ontario region, replied that an audit requested by the federal government had been completed and both sides were in the process of reviewing what it said.
Ms. Spence’s protest was originally intended to force a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the Crown – presumably Governor-General David Johnston – to discuss treaty rights. Now that Mr. Harper has agreed to meet with first nations leaders on Friday, including Chief Spence, she says there must be concrete results from that meeting before she will eat solid foods.
This reportedly was submitted by someone who had worked at "poor" Northern Manitoba Reserve"
I worked in every “poor” northern Manitoba reserve as a probation officer for years and they are ALL THE SAME. Repeat…ALL THE SAME!!!!!
And it’s a local joke!!!! There are more new trucks and cars, skidoos, boats, ATV’s, Flat screen TV’s, Tech toys, and designer clothes in those reserves, BUT they will not spend a dime of their own money on their house or appliances or furniture or a broken door or a broken window because “that is the band’s responsibility” and so they don’t, and they wait for the band to fix it – for as long as it takes – which never happens, and the house and everything else in it (except the TV and tech toys) falls apart in squalor.
I have seen it personally! Year after year!
Band administration takes trips across the country, hell across the world on “aboriginal cultural workshops and healing seminars”, take cruises, stay at fancy hotels, wine and dine and gamble
at casinos every year. The chief of one aboriginal community actually owns a very large house in Winnipeg which he lives in and runs band business via Skype.

For chrissakes! Substance abuse treatment center workers all went on an aboriginal healing cruise” in the Caribbean from funds that were supposed to pay for treatment patients. Another bunch flew to Arizona for an Aboriginal awareness conference (2 weeks) in the desert (happened to be close to Las Vegas). They all came back saying they had one Hell of a good time sporting all the turquoise jewelry they bought (also with band funds) As part of their expense accounts. And it goes on and on….and if a white person questions any of that… are Racist!!!!
Hell, I was racist for recommending sending a man to jail for stabbing and killing his buddy in a drunkin fight over a girlfriend. This man happened to be a band counselor!!!
Did the shit ever hit the fan and I had to get Wpg. Provincial justice dept. Head office assistance to get that one through. And they wouldn’t let me back on the reserve cause I was a woman, white, and racist!. (Well, what about the guy who was killed and his family!!!! Doesn’t he deserve justice????) Well, in the End the offended and band counselor went to federal jail and my name was mud!
Here is another local joke……lots of the summer forest fires are started by the locals and referred to as “make work projects”. All the guys in the community Get recruited by provincial natural resources depts. to fight the fires and get supplied appropriate clothing, boots, hard hats, gloves etc. and get paid huge dollars (much more than on welfare or seasonal EI.
The old folks, women and kids get evacuated to the “city” to be put up for free, they eat out, go shopping, Use recreation facilities to entertain their kids, take cabs all over the city and make a huge mess of the hotel or rec. Complex where they are billeted.
They even have the gall to complain about the food because
their food vouchers aren’t enough to eat out at restaurants where
they want to. The first week or two go along smoothly and all the natives are enjoying themselves, but into the third or forth week, the novelty is wearing off and they now want to go home.
The fire situation hasn’t changed and their community is still enveloped in smoke but the same people who made such a uproar about needing to be evacuated for health reasons, now want to return to the community cause they need to go fishing or something.
They have had their summer vacation, bought everything they wanted to and now want to go home.
The airplanes they took them to the city for evacuation now have to be doubled because of all the returning “luggage” like cases of Chips and pop, TV’s, new clothes and everything else they cared to
Do you know that the Air Canada Stewardesses and flight crews refused to use a downtown Wpg. Hotel any more because of the conduct and state left behind every summer by native evacuees. And they were called racist!!!
The Thompson Rec. Center and Norplex pool incurred literally thousands of dollars in damages by the evacuees that they refused to billet them any more unless the federal Government paid the bill for clean-up and damages. Fire or any other evacuations are seen as vacations.
Hell when I send kids to southern correctional Facilities, the kids see it as a holiday. They get all their medical issues taken care of, teeth, eyes, etc and schooling, and the parents don’t send any clothes with them, they are given to other family members as they expect the justice dept. will outfit the kid going to kiddie jail in a whole new wardrobe to take home with them…And they don’t want any Wal-Mart stuff.
No, they want fancy label clothes! Most of these kids are illiterate because they don’t go to the big fancy schools that have been built for them on the reserve.
The band administrators have the kids attend for the first week of school so the school qualifies for their per diem Student allowances and then don’t care about what the kids do after that.
By Thanksgiving, of the 30 odd kids that started in a classroom, less than a dozen are still attending. So the poor native teacher who complained of being so overworked at the start of the year and needed a teacher aid, now has 10-12 kids and a teacher aid…that is a ratio of 5/6-1. And she is never there in the classroom because she is always traveling out of the community to the city shopping, visiting or whatever because she earns such a good wage, leaving the unqualified teacher aid to teach the remaining students.
No wonder they have a dismal high school graduating record. Hell, the students don’t even get to grade 8. And the kids don’t walk to school, they are all bussed.
They buy huge numbers of busses, drivers, fuel, maint.
people at the start of the school year because all the kids “show up” (at the insistence of chief and council) and then by October less than half are still attending so you have all those big expensive busses driving around the community almost empty. And that doesn’t even begin to look at the waste at the nursing station where people plan their illnesses and ailments to coincide with out of town/city amusement fairs, calendar holidays or out of town family reunions.
They never follow through with taking medications as
directed as expensive as they are, they don’t look after themselves,
diabetes is in epidemic proportions, alcoholism and drug abuse is
rampant, It is not uncommon to see the garbage can outside the nursing station containing freshly filled prescriptions of pills or ointments, bandages but the pain killers are usually resold. A lot of northern community members make their own “home brew” even though it is a dry reserve.
I had a school in one community where a full 60% of the kids from grades K-8 were FAS/FAE! If they flew in as much fresh fruit and vegetables as they did pop and chips and Kentucky chicken, there would be a real difference. In one northern community the nurses reported that they could always tell when the caribou herds were near the community for the men to hunt cause they saw such an improvement in the overall health of the band members from eating fresh wild meat and less junk food.
I am babbling on….I have NO…repeat NO sympathy for those poor northern reserves and YES, the responsibility rests at the Band office and don’t let any one tell you different. None of them have any training in band administration, finance or even a high school education.I’ve been there/done that! Funny that the news didn’t show where the chiefs(3) and 14 counselors live!!! Bet it wasn’t in a shack!
$34 million a year !
Also See:
First Nations Chiefs are Corrupt!
17 September 2012
Does Incarceration Make Sense!
09 February 2012
Canada - First Nations are Victims of the Government!
(Part 1)
27 July 2007
(Part 2)
22 November 2011
Conflict Between the Canadian Government and the First Nations People
12 January 2010