Aboriginal Issues

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Quick Links To MYC National Communications on Aboriginal Issues: 

December 12th, 2015 – Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women launched

June 10th, 2015 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Visits Parliament

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Overview:

“There are currently 634[3] recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The total population is more than 850,000 people.” Wikipedia

Canada’s history is full of beautiful moments between the Aboriginal Peoples and European settlers where friendship and trade relationships were established with many of the first settlers, however, it also has its painful moments.

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Residential School Atrocities:

One of the painful historical moment’s in Canada’s history is the mistreatment of Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in the Indian Residential Schools (IRS), where they suffered further physical, sexual, and emotional abuses beginning in the 1870s. The system was funded by the government of Canada, administered by churches across the nation, and would prove to be a horrendous system with a lasting, damaging impact on the Aboriginal culture, heritage and language.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper Apologizes & Aboriginal Leaders Respond:

A watershed moment of healing for this injustice came in June 2008, when then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a heartfelt apology to former students of the Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada, calling it a “sad chapter in our history”. This was an historic moment and a great stride in the direction of restoration and healing for Canada.

In response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology, Christian Aboriginal peoples from across the nation gathered at a three-day summit (the Forgiven Summit) to celebrate the freedom of forgiveness, presenting a Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom and declaring, “may Canada never be the same from this moment forward”. Also present were Christian and religious leaders who issued an apology and asked forgiveness for the role of the Church in the residential school system abuses.

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

Since that time, the Government launched the Truth in Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) with the mandate to uncover the truth about the schools as well as to inform all Canadians of this part of our shared history. As a result, 94 specific recommendations for reconciliation were brought forth in the TRC Calls to Action.

In the 42nd Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shared his hopes of applying all 94 of TRC’s recommendations. On December 15, 2015, the TRC concluded its exhaustive 6-year inquiry into the schools and its victims, presenting a 7-volume final report and bringing the First Nations people and the nation as a whole one step closer to healing.

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Missing and Murdered Women Investigation:

To this day, statistics continue to show Aboriginal people being disproportionately represented as victims of crime in Canada. In 2014, the RCMP found nearly 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between 1980 and 2012, a number Mounties said exceeded previous estimates. In December 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau’s government launched a public inquiry into the 1,200 cases.

On August 3rd 2016, the federal government formally announced the terms for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls aimed at bringing a “national tragedy to an end”. The inquiry is to run from September 1, 2016 until December 31, 2018 and cost $53.8 million. This is notedly higher than the $40 million earmarked in the 2016 budget.

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Documentary Regarding the Residential Schools:


Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Apology to Canada’s First Peoples:

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First People’s Summit: Acceptance of the Government’s Apology

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First Nations Living Conditions:

One aboriginal issue that needs addressing is the poor living conditions many First Nations suffer. According to one chief, many aboriginal families are living in “third-world conditions“, with a lack of access to clean water and decent housing and over-crowded homes. Additionally, internal federal government reports have indicated that nearly half of the Native communities in Canada have “little to no fire protection“, along with poorly trained volunteer firefighters, leading to a concerning rate of fire-related deaths. The effects experienced as a result of the horrible housing conditions have lead to feelings of despair and an alarming rate of suicide amongst First Nations people.

In March 2016, media outlets caught wind of a small group of children suffering from severe skin rashes in a northern Ontario First Nations community named Kashechewan. Three children had to be taken from the community for medical treatment and over a dozen others needed medical attention on the reserve. Although the exact cause of the rashes is unknown, area MP Charlie Angus claimed, “this is what Third World poverty looks like when it is inflicted on children“, and it became clear that this situation was a prime example of the dire need for improved living conditions in First Nations communities.

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Suicide Epidemic

Report after report have come out about the epidemic of suicide moving across Aboriginal and First Nation communities in recent months. For example, in the First Nations community of Attawapiskat (Ontario) 100 people committed suicide in a 7-month period and two twelve-year-old girls committed suicide in Wapekeka in January 2017. Investigations have found that Aboriginals are in general “more impacted by unemployment, poverty, drug and alcohol consumption, incarceration and crime, domestic violence and suicide than other demographic groups in Canada.” The Canadian government simply must do more to practically help the First Nations communities all across Canada, both financially and with programs and resources. 

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Budget 2016

The Liberals unveiled their 2016-17 budget in March 2016 and it included what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an “historic” investment towards Indigenous Peoples. The government had budgeted for $8.4 billion to be spent in various First Nations areas including improving child welfare and First Nations education.

Some community leaders and Chiefs were thrilled with the budget while others worried that the money was to be stretched too thin; Over $3 billion is not set to be released until after the next elections in 2019. Some Chiefs defend that much more is needed for communities just to catch up after years or underfunding or to simply provide enough housing for their inhabitants. 

First Nations Financial Accountability:

On March 27 2013, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act came into place requiring chiefs to make public their financial statements – including remuneration and expenses of chief and council – so that they could be accessed by their members and online. The purpose of the Act was to increase First Nations accountability to band members and to Ottawa, and to ensure that funding was used appropriately. It was disapproved by many chief leaders not because they oppose financial transparency but because the Act was passed without their consultation and because they were being forced to post their financial statements on the internet, which could negatively affect their trades and businesses. Despite this, the majority of aboriginal communities submitted their records.

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In August 2015, five First Nations had court action taken against them and had their funding withheld by the federal government for not disclosing their records. Then in December 2015, the newly elected Liberal government admitted the shortcomings of the Act. Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett suspended court action against bands that did not comply with the act, reinstated the frozen funds, and put a stop on the requirement of bands posting detailed financial information online, committing to work in partnership with the First Nations in order to improve accountability and transparency in a way that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties.

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Links To Related Article:

September 29th, 2017 – CBC News – Ottawa spent $110K in legal fees fighting First Nations girl over $6K dental procedure

January 26th, 2017 – CBC News – First Nations group urges Ottawa to ‘end this racial discrimination’ related to child welfare

December 15th, 2016 – CBC News – Justin Trudeau announces 3 steps to help enact Truth and Reconciliation calls to action

October 29th, 2016 – Huffington Post – Island Lake Has A Treatment Plant But Water Is Still “Alarmingly” Unsafe: Study

March 24th, 2016 – SUN News – Kashechewan First Nation children treated for skin conditions

December 21st, 2015 – Globe and Mail –  Little to No Fire Protection in Almost Half of First Nations Reserves: Report 

December 15th, 2015 – CBC News – Truth and Reconciliation final report charts path to ‘true reconciliation’

March 2014 – Native Women’s Association of Canada – Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls

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What You Can Do:

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1 – PRAY – Please pray for our government and all involved in the current inquiry into the murdered and missing Aboriginal women, and pray for truth, healing and justice to come as a result of the investigation.

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2 – E-MAIL – Please take the time and email your MP and ask them to continue to work toward reconciliation. (To find out who your MP is by postal code please click here.)

E-mail the Minister of Justice and Aboriginal Affairs to voice your support and offer encouragement as they take on the difficult task of fronting the inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould: Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Carolyn Bennett: minister@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca

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Links To Other Organizations Working On This Issue:

Amnesty International

Government of Canada: National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children

Native Women’s Association of Canada

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada