Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Myth of the Crooked Indians: C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act

Can you think of any Prime Minister, President or World Leader that would withhold food, water, or health care as a bullying tactic to force its citizens into compliance with a new government law, policy or scheme? Can you ever imagine this happening in Canada? I don't think most of us could.

Yet, this is exactly what is happening with Harper's implementation of the illegal C-27. Minister Valcourt has threatened to cut off funds for food, water and health care if First Nations do not get in line and abide by this new legislation - despite the fact that it was imposed without legal consultation and is now being legally challenged. How many First Nations children will have to die for Harper to sit down and work this out with First Nations?

Bill C-27 (formerly C-575) First Nation Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) is the classic deflection tactic by Harper’s Conservatives to distract Canadians from the extreme poverty in many First Nations and Canada’s role in maintaining those conditions. The solution to chronic underfunding of essential human services like water, food, and housing lay not in more legislation, but in addressing the problem: the underfunding. Presenting accountability legislation as the solution implies that First Nations are the cause of their own poverty – a racist stereotype Harper’s Cons use quite frequently to divide community members from their leaders and Canadians from First Nations.

This racist stereotype is recycled again and again when Harper is pressed to account for the fourth world conditions in some First Nations. The response always seem to be: “Well, we gave them x million dollars, where did all the money go”? What Harper never tells Canadians is that in giving First Nations x million dollars, that he has given them half of what is needed to provide the specific program or service. Without all the facts, this propaganda serves to distance Canadians from First Nations.

In the last couple of years, Harper has been hit hard in the media about Canada’s persistent failure to address the basic needs of First Nations. The following high-profile poverty-related crises in First Nations meant that Harper needed some instant damage control and distraction – which he got with C-27:

- Cindy Blackstock’s discrimination case for inequitable child and family service funding to First    Nations kids in care;
 - Numerous housing, water and suicide crises and states of emergency in individual First Nations;

- Auditor General’s numerous findings related to inequitable funding in housing, water and education;

- RCMP’s report about over-representation of murdered and missing Indigenous women; and

- United Nation’s finding that Canada’s human rights violations leads to “abysmal” poverty in First Nations despite Canada’s enormous wealth;

The Cons also use third parties, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, to advance their racist propaganda and deflect from the real issues. How many times have we heard the phrase “millionaire chiefs” or “exhorbitant salaries”? Yet there has never been a millionaire Chief in the history of Indian Act Chiefs. Canada has failed to show where any Chief ever received a million dollar salary from federal funding.

But let’s pretend all 633 Chiefs in Canada got million dollar salaries (which they do not). That would mean $633 million dollars a year in salary to Chiefs. The annual budget for First Nation programs and services is approximately $10 billion.  It would be pretty hard to argue that 6% of the budget going to give all Chiefs a million dollar salary would be the actual cause of First Nation poverty.

We simply can’t have this conversation around accountability without the facts. The facts are this: the average Canadian salary is $46,000/year. The average elected First Nation leaders’ salary is $36,000/year. Yet, there are numerous municipal librarians making $100,000 a year to manage books, while First Nation leaders must manage human lives.

But why are we even talking about salaries when we should be talking about funding First Nation food, water and housing? That’s because of C-27 FNFTA and all the media hype around an alleged lack of transparency in First Nations. There are critical problems with this legislation which make it both unconstitutional and illegal: (1) it was done without legal consultation, accommodation and consent of First Nations and (2) it’s a direct interference with inherent First Nation jurisdiction;  and (3) it violates their internationally-protected First Nation right to be self-determining.

FNFTA states that its purpose is to “enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations” – which presumes, of course, that this is lacking. The Act itself provides that:

- financial statements must be audited yearly;

- it must include a schedule of salaries and expenses of Chiefs and Councillors;

- Canada can publish the information on the Internet; and

- Copies of the audits must be provided by First Nations to their band members.

These may seem like harmless provisions, except when you realize that First Nations already have to submit audited financial statements every year, or their funding can be cut off. First Nations band members have always had the right to obtain copies of their First Nation audits – either directly from the First Nation or from Indian Affairs.

What’s not obvious in this Act or its associated rhetoric, is that First Nations are the most accountable governments on the entire planet! The Auditor General has made very disturbing findings about the level to which First Nations must report on their federal funding – a “burdensome” 60,000 reports a year! That’s over 95+ reports per First Nation every year or one report every 3 days. The Auditor General even found that many of these reports are not even read by federal bureaucrats. So what’s the problem?

Enacting FNFTA seems more like an exercise in smearing First Nation leaders, than addressing any real glaring omission in accountability. And, with the Harper government, there is always a hidden gem. While he is turning community members against their leaders and distracting Canadians from the real issue of underfunding, here is what Harper is REALLY doing in this Act:

- reporting of any salary, income or expenses of Chiefs and Councillors made in the PERSONAL capacity;

- First Nations must make their audits accessible to the PUBLIC on the Internet for at least 10 years;

- refusal by a First Nation to comply with any of these provisions means Canada can CUT FUNDING.

So let’s look at each of these provisions more closely.

Personal Income:

Imagine if any political leaders in Canada had to report their personal wealth in addition to the salary of their public office. Prime Minister Harper is the 6th highest paid political leader in the world with a salary of approximately $300k/year. Harper not only makes 7 times what the average Canadian makes, but makes far more than other world leaders with much larger populations and economies.

But let’s forget about his salary for a minute. What is Prime Ministers and federal politicians had to publicly disclose their PERSONAL wealth? Then we are no longer talking about over-paid Prime Ministers, we are talking about million dollar Prime Ministers. Stephen Harper’s personal wealth has been estimated at $5M. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin is in the hundreds of millions. Why the double standard?  Why did so many federal MPs refuse to disclose their own expenses? I agree there is an issue of accountability in Canada, but it’s with the federal government, and not First Nations.

Public Access:

The other issue is about accountability and to whom? This act makes First Nations accountable to the Minister first, the Canadian public second, and lastly to their band members. This Act does nothing to improve accountability of leaders generally to their membership. In fact, band members will not get any information that they were not entitled to previously. What is new is that the Canadian public has a NEW right to access that information. One has to wonder why that is the case. Canadians don’t participate in First Nation governments, they don’t vote for the leaders, and they certainly don’t pay for their programs and services – despite that persistent myth.

There is no reason for Canadians to have access to this information – especially any information related to First Nation PERSONAL financial information. Some lawyers have even argued that this Act creates not only a double and higher standard on First Nations than on Canadian politicians; but also violates their legal privacy rights. There is simply no need for this piece of the legislation.

Cutting Funding:

Here is the real issue. Harper’s bully government has been meticulous in designing heavy-handed, paternalistic legislation with extreme-force compliance mechanisms built in and FNFTA is no exception. If First Nation do not or cannot comply, they can have all of their funding cut. We are not talking about funding for Ottawa-type expenditures like summer tulips, Canada Day fireworks, or international trips – we are talking essential human services like food, water, heat and housing. As temperatures reach -40 degrees in the north right now, this could be disastrous.

Many Idle No More grassroots citizens, Indigenous lawyers, academics, activists and leaders have come out against this legislation – not because any of us are against the general principle of open, accountable and transparent governments, but because Canada has no right to interfere in the governance of our Nations for any reason. We have never surrendered our sovereignty or right to govern ourselves. In 1997, Canada even recognized as a matter of policy, that our right to be self-governing is constitutionally protected.

I know there have been some bad individual leaders during our time.  I know that some individual communities struggle with internal leadership issues. But that’s not all our communities.

I also know that we have all suffered many generations of colonization, inter-generational trauma from residential schools, and the impossible choices forced upon our leaders in managing extreme poverty.

We have so many problems because of the systemic racism, assimilatory government policies, chronic underfunding, failure to implement our treaty and Aboriginal rights; lack of access and control over our lands and resources; and federally-imposed laws which tell us how to govern.

One bad leader does not justify calling in the colonizer to further control our communities. Our Nations thrived here since time immemorial and our Nations will continue for many more millennia. We can survive and heal from colonization, just as we can get past any one bad leader. We simply can’t let Harper’s racist propaganda divide us. He wants community members to invite him in to control their communities – but once he’s in, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get him back out.

Say no to FNFTA and stand with those First Nations who are resisting its illegal imposition on our communities.

#rise   #idlenomore   #warriorup   #sovereignty   #No2FNFTA

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lynn Gehl v. Canada: Unstated Paternity and Indian Status

Lynn Gehl
(Google images)

Lynn Gehl v. Canada: Unstated Paternity and Indian Status
Dr. Lynn Gehl is a First Nations woman who is grounded in the traditional Indigenous knowledge of her Algonquin Anishinaabe culture and tradition. Gehl’s family originates from the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan (formerly Golden Lake Band) in Ontario. Yet, despite her connection to her culture, her Algonquin upbringing, and her ancestral ties to her First Nation, Gehl is denied legal recognition as an “Indian” by the federal government.
But just like Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, Yvonne Bédard, Sandra Lovelace and Sharon McIvor before her, Gehl is not taking no for an answer. After more than twenty years of applications, protests and appeals, Gehl is headed to court.

Mary, Jeannette, Yvonne, Sandra, Sharon
( and Google Images)

Mary Two-Axe was a well-known advocate who challenged Canada's discriminatory Indian Act which took Indian status away from Indian women if they married a non-Indian. Jeanette-Corbiere Lavell and Yvonne Bédard took Canada all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge these marrying-out provisions and lost. This gave Sandra Lovelace the opportunity to go straight to the United Nations and argue her case and win. The United Nations decided that Canada cannot enact legislation that denies Indian women and their children the right to enjoy their culture together with their communities.

However, the Bill C-31 amendments, while reinstating some Indian women, still discriminated against many others. Sharon McIvor dedicated 25 years to the court system to challenge this residual discrimination. She also won, but the court left it up to Canada to amend the Act. This resulted in Bill C-3, which remedied some of the discrimination for Indian women, but added more discriminatory provisions to the Act, which forced McIvor to take her case to the United Nations as well. While we wait for the decision in that case, Lynn Gehl has put in over 20 years trying to seek justice for Indian women and their children in terms of unstated paternity.

Today (Monday, October 20th) Gehl and her legal counsel, Christa Big Canoe from Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto, will appear before the Ontario Superior Court to argue that the Indian Act rules around who is an “Indian” are discriminatory on the basis of race, marital status and/or gender. The Indian Act, and the means by which the federal government applies the act to Indian children whose fathers are unknown, results in them receiving a lesser form of Indian status, or no status at all. 

Gehl’s case focuses on what is known as unknown or unstated paternity – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's (AANDC) policy to automatically presume that an unknown or unstated father is a non-Indian - even if the father is, in fact, an Indian. Unstated or unknown paternity manifests in a variety of ways. For example, AANDC will unilaterally determine that the father is non-Indian if:
-          an Indian mother does not know the name of the father;

-          the father refuses to acknowledge paternity of the child;

-          the father refuses to sign the birth certificate and/or  Indian registration form;
-      the mother does not have the money to complete and file all vital statistics forms; there may be difficulty meeting time-lines for remote First Nations women who must fly into hospitals to have children;

-          the underage mothers may have privacy concerns related to paternity in smaller communities; and/or

-          an Indian mother refuses to name the father (due to incest, rape, domestic violence).

AANDC is not legally required to process applications with the presumption that an unstated father is a non-Indian. This is a clear policy choice made by AANDC to reduce the number of Indians over time. Prior to 1985, there was a legal presumption of Indian paternity for unwed mothers – there was no mad dash to try to scam the system and register non-entitled children. Thus, there is no reason why AANDC cannot presume Indian paternity in the absence of documentation. At the end of the day, the child is born to, will live with and be raised by his/her Indian mother, family and community. 

However, such a policy does not correspond to Canada's ultimate objective regarding Indians. AANDC’s policy objective has always been “the final solution of the Indian problem” i.e., to ensure “there is not a single Indian in Canada”. In fact, Canada is the last remaining country to determine who is an Indigenous person based on racial characteristics (descent through male blood). It is a racist formulation based on outdated views about biological characteristics of "races" and debunk sciences like eugenics and phrenology which sought to eliminate "undesirable" human populations.

AANDC is the federal government department which created the rules to determine who can be registered as an Indian (status). Indian status confers not only program benefits like education and health care, but also determines who can be a band member; live on the reserve; vote or run for office in a First Nation; and often who is and is not a treaty beneficiary. Just like Canadian citizenship determines whether or not a Canadian can access education and health services from their province, Indian status determines eligibility on the federal side. So, its not that Indians get anything "more" from status in terms of programs, its just the source of the benefits.

AANDC has done an incredible job of misinforming Canadians about the impacts of registering Indians. They often make comments about "floodgates" (i.e. everyone will become an Indian) and "costs" (this will be burden on taxpayers). The truth is, in terms of registrations, it would not have a significant impact.. While the Bill C-31 population projections (Indian women being reinstated to Indian status) ranged from 20-40% increase, the projected increases for unstated paternity are relatively small - approximately 2%. This does not substantiate the fear-mongering around population increases.

Similarly, if the only concern here is money - there is no increased burden on taxpayers. For every person that is registered as an Indian they will get less money for education, health care, housing, food, water, and less child and family services. Status Indians are the most impoverished people in Canada. Plus, its the wealth from Indigenous lands and resources that pay for our programs and services and also subsidizes the programs and services of Canadians - not the other way around. Therefore, there is no financial argument to made against affording equality to Indian women and their children.

This federal policy purposefully, systematically and disproportionately impacts Indigenous women who are most often the primary caregivers of their children and statistically more likely to live in poverty. This is especially true of young, teenage Indigenous mothers – 80% of whom were found to live in households making less than $15,000 a year. These mothers, often lone parents, depend on the federal programs and services associated with Indian status to care for their children. 

Gehl is relying on section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees equal benefit of the law without discrimination based. While section 6 of Act may on its face, appear to apply equally to Indian men and women, in reality, AANDC interprets and implements it in a gender-biased manner, which has a substantial and disproportionate impact on Indian women and their children whose paternity is unknown. The fact that AANDC interprets the Act so as to prejudice the descendants of unwed Indian women discriminates against them on the basis of marital status as well.
Section 6 is a modern manifestation of historical discriminatory views of Indian women based on race, gender and marital status that should have been repealed decades ago.

Gehl, who has five continuous generations of Indian lineage on her paternal side, will argue that she should be registered as an Indian. She will also seek a declaration from the court that Section 6 of the Indian Act:
(1)   Discriminates against applicants born out of wedlock;

(2)   Discriminates against applicants who do not know their paternity; and

(3)   Be applied so as not to disadvantage the descendants of individuals whose paternity is unknown.

Other recommendations for change from Indigenous women have included:
-           Amend the Act to permit registration based on one parent’s registration;

-           AANDC should discontinue its discriminatory interpretation and implementation of the registration provisions;

-           AANDC should specifically eliminate the unstated paternity policy;

-           Remove administrative and financial barriers to timely and accurate birth registrations;

-           Provide legal and social protections to young mothers to protect their rights to privacy, personal safety and registration of their children.
Gehl, like Sandra Lovelace and Sharon McIvor have spent decades in the courts fighting for their right to belong. It’s time Canada afforded equality to all people – including Indigenous women.

Selection of sources on Unstated Paternity:
Lynn Gehl personal website
P. Palmater, Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity (Saskatoon: Purich Publishing, 2011).
M. Mann, Indian Registration: Unrecognized and Unstated Paternity (2013)
M. Mann, Disproportionate and Unjustifiable: Teen First Nations Mothers and Unstated Paternity Policy (2013)
L. Gehl, Indian Rights for Indian Babies: Canada's "Unstated Paternity Policy" (2013)
National Aboriginal Women's Association, Aboriginal Women and Unstated Paternity (2007)
S. Clatworthy, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Factors Contributing to Unstated Paternity (2003)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Laurie River Lodge Adventures: Watch Out for Animals and Indians?

It is hard to believe that in 2014, there are still businesses who provide services to the public that have no problem profiting from the lands, resources and traditional knowledges of Indigenous peoples, but who, at the same time, spread racism and hatred against us. Laurie River Lodge, an outdoor adventure business located in northern Manitoba and owned by Brent and Erin Fleck, is one such company.

Laurie River Lodge has a website which includes a link to a promotional brochure which explains what clients can expect when they purchase an adventure with their lodge. Their website is:

And their brochure can be found under the Heading "Outpost Plan" at the following link:

On the same page that the Lodge warns its customers about animals, it provides a warning about its Cree Indian guides. The offending comments can be found on page 10, under the section entitled “Section 1-9 What You Can Expect From Us”:
We take great care when hiring our staff; however the subject of Native Guides must be touched upon. We use Cree Indian guides from the town of Pukatawagon in northern Manitoba. They are wonderful people and fun to fish with however, like all Native North Americans, they have a basic intolerance for alcohol. Please do not give my guides alcohol under any circumstances. This is rarely a problem and by telling you in advance I hope to avoid it altogether.

The Lodge is speaking about the band members of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) whose primary reserve is located in Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba. They apparently use MCCN band members as guides for their business. It is also noteworthy that this business uses the lands and resources contained within MCCN's traditional, treaty and reserve lands as well as their trap-lines. Band members were so upset by these racist remarks that they contacted Chief Arlen Dumas and asked that he look into this and he responded immediately by sending out a letter to the Lodge owners.

Chief Dumas explained that he was "appauled" to see that this business profits from his Nation's lands, resources and people to ensure a profit for the owners, but at the same time promotes racist stereotypes against the very people they use to make a profit: Cree guides.

Chief Dumas explains:

Not only did you single out the band members from our reserve in Pukatawagan, but your brochure presented an ominous or threatening tone by stating and/or implying that:

(1)  Our Cree people have a genetic and/or biological intolerance for alcohol due to their race;

(2)  You warned the public against giving our members any alcohol due to this intolerance, one can only presume you meant that some sort of harm would come to the public; and

(3)  That while rare, this “problem” does occur and the public needs to avoid it.

None of the above statements or implications about our people are true. The comments are racist and negative stereotypes which only serve to promote or incite hatred against our people. There is no scientific basis for your claim that Cree people have an intolerance for alcohol, nor is there any basis for alleging that our Cree people would drink while working or that the pose a risk to the public.

As a result of such discriminatory remarks, Chief Dumas demanded that the remarks be removed from the website; a public apology be offered to all Cree and First Nation people; personal letters of apology be sent to all their Cree employees; and that they make amends to MCCN.
He concluded the letter by stating that if the Lodge owners refuse to address the issue, he would "have no choice but to take further steps to protect my band members from your racist, discriminatory incitement of hatred."

Chief Dumas is right to be upset about these public comments. It is not just a matter of taking offense to insulting words, this Lodge potentially faces a discrimination complaint, a civil suit and very bad publicity for their business.

The Manitoba Human Rights Code (provincial law) provides that Manitobans recognize that "to protect this right it is necessary to restrict unreasonable discrimination against individuals, including discrimination based on stereotypes or generalizations about groups with whom they are or are thought to be associated, and to ensure that reasonable accommodation is made for those with special needs" and such discrimination is prohibited.

The Criminal Code (federal law) under section 319 makes the public incitement of hatred against a particular group, like the Cree people a criminal offense.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (constitutional law) also provides that:  (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability".

Even international law protects people from racism and discrimination.

If morals could not guide these business owners, certainly they have an obligation to follow the law. It is no wonder why discrimination against Indigenous peoples has not subsided, given openly racist attitudes like this.

One would have thought the days of warning people against animals and Indians were over.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dramatic Contradictions: 2014 Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada James Anaya released his advanced, unedited report on “The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada”. The Rapporteur based his report on research, various sources, a visit to Canada in October 7-15, 2013, meetings with federal and provincial government officials, and meetings, visits with and submissions from Indigenous peoples.

There is a disturbing underlying theme in the report – one which speaks of “dramatic contradictions”:

(1)   The continued “abysmal” social conditions in First Nations in the context of increasing wealth and prosperity in Canada; and

(2)   The numerous laws and protections for First Nation rights versus the many human rights violations committed against First Nations.

Anaya noted that while some First Nations have risen up against these injustices with the Idle No More movement, others are starting to give up attempts to resolve their claims. Anaya concluded that the relationship between Canada and First Nations has become much worse since the last visit to Canada in 2003. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is during Prime Minister Harper’s term.

Abysmal Social Conditions in First Nations

Anaya’s most serious concerns relate to the “striking” statistics related to the poverty in many First Nations. Of the bottom 100 communities in Canada – 96 are First Nations. “The most jarring manifestation of these human rights problems in the distressing socio-economic conditions of indigenous peoples in a highly developed country.” 

He found that there has been no improvement in the gap between First Nations and Canadians in terms of housing, health care, education, welfare and social services. Given the significant needs of First Nations, Anaya had expected that the cost of social services would have been higher and was shocked to find that it was lower. He cited Canada’s own Auditor General who pointed out that the failure to address poverty on reserve is due to the lack of appropriate funding from the federal government.

This led Anaya to conclude: “One of the most dramatic contradictions indigenous peoples in Canada face is that so many live in abysmal conditions on traditional territories that are full of valuable and plentiful natural resources.”

Canada’s Immense Wealth and Prosperity

It’s not like there isn’t enough money to go around. Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world because of the lands and resources which belong to Indigenous peoples. The mining industry alone brought in $44 billion in 2013.

That figure doesn’t include the hundreds of billions in other natural resources that come straight from Indigenous lands. Anaya noted that while governments and private interests are the ones that profit from resources on Indigenous lands, it’s the Indigenous peoples who suffer all the negative consequences in health, economy and culture that comes with the resulting environmental degradation.

This situation is not just an unfortunate, but inevitable consequence of western “progress” – it’s a calculated policy choice to impoverish First Nations for the benefit of others. Anaya notes that Canada’s consistent failure to consult with First Nations, take unilateral actions against their rights and portray them in negative light to the public is an “affront” to Canada-First Nation relations. Anaya explains that the federal public discourse on First Nation rights is presented as a burden to tax-payers instead of educating Canadians about the “vast economic benefit” they receive from First Nations. Harper’s continued negative comments against First Nations risks “social peace”.

First Nations could be completely self-sufficient economically if they controlled only a fraction of their lands and resources. Yet, in pursuit of maximized profit, Canada continues to ignore the legal rights and interests of First Nations. Canada (both federal and provincial governments) maintain their legal and physical blockades against First Nations to prevent them from accessing and benefitting from their own lands and resources. Anaya notes that despite the fact that treaties are constitutionally protected and allows Canadians to enjoy immense wealth, 30% of Justice Canada litigation is fighting treaties. Canada uses all of it power – its laws, policies and programs to maintain First Nations in poverty, while partnering with private interests to maximize government and corporate profits.

Legal Protections vs. Violations

Part of the dramatic contradiction which is so striking to outside observers. As noted by Anaya: “It is difficult to reconcile Canada’s well-developed legal framework and general prosperity with the human rights problems faced by indigenous peoples in Canada that have reached crisis proportions in many respects.”

Canada presents a façade of human rights but commits numerous violations against Indigenous peoples – with apparent impunity. Although Anaya did not do a complete accounting of which laws and violations, he noted several human rights violations that have received “insufficient” attention by governments including the well-being gap, housing crisis, murdered and missing women, over-representation in Justice system, gender discrimination in Indian status, and lack of education to name a few.

*Legal Protection
Human Rights Violation
Constitution Act – s.35 – Inherent Right to be Self-Governing
Indian Act’s Ministerial control over every aspect of First Nations’ lives
Legislative suite which protects Ministerial control – Water, elections, education, matrimonial real property, transparency acts
Must extinguish rights to negotiate self-government agreements/claims
Constitution Act – s.35 – protect Aboriginal and treaty rights
Duty to consult and accommodate
Free, informed and prior consent
Federal and provincial governments (with court’s approval) allow agriculture, forestry, mining, hydroelectric power, general economic development, protection of environment or endangered species, building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations to trump constitutionally protected rights
Charter of Rights and Freedoms  – s.15 Equality rights & non-discrimination
Canadian Human Rights Act – non-discrimination
Various provincial human rights acts – non-discrimination
Indian Act’s discriminatory treatment of Indian women and descendants
Failure to address disproportionate number of murdered and missing Indigenous women
Over-representation of Indigenous peoples in jail & Indigenous children in state custody
Discriminatory/less funding for child welfare
Discriminatory/less funding for education
Unsafe or no drinking water
Criminal Code – s.319 hate speech
Media, teachers, writers, MPs, Ministers, RCMP, provincial police forces, PM make racist and discriminatory remarks and portrayals of First Nations
Criminal  Code – s.271 sexual assault
s.267 assault with weapon or causing bodily harm
s.279 unlawful confinement
s.215 failure to provide necessaries of life
RCMP and provincial police taking Indigenous men on “Starlight” tours
RCMP,  provincial police and/or judges sexually assaulting and raping Indigenous women and girls
Deaths while in child welfare – state care
*This table represents my own observations of laws vs. rights violations in Canada.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

Anaya concluded that Canada could address these human rights violations if it wanted to do so. Let's hope Canadian officials take a good hard look at Anaya's observations and recommendations and take the necessary action to end these human rights violations against Indigenous peoples.

A highlight of some of Anaya's key recommendations:

- Sufficient funding for education, health, and child welfare;

- Focus on Indigenous-run social and judicial services;

- Urgent, increased funding to address the housing crisis;

- Enhance education, funding and consult on any proposed legislation;

- Comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls;

- Consent for all laws impacting Indigenous peoples;

- Address gender discrimination in the Indian Act;

 - No resource development without free, informed and prior consent of Indigenous peoples; and

 - Maximize Indigenous control and benefit from any extractive operations on Indigenous lands.
“Indigenous peoples concerns merit higher priority at all levels and within all branches of Governments, and across all departments.”

Déja Vu: RCMP Report on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

After much prodding by the media, and the Harper government’s (Minister of Public Safety) review and approval, the RCMP finally released their report on murdered and missing Indigenous women. Although slated for a March release, in typical Conservative style, the much-delayed report was released on a Friday before the Victoria Day long weekend. The report not only confirmed the over-representation of Indigenous women as murdered and missing in Canada, but the figure of 1181 was nearly double the 600+ figure originally reported by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

Indigenous women suffer a victimization rate three times higher than the Canadian population and are grossly over-represented in the number of women that go murdered and missing. While homicides have declined for Canadian women, the same cannot be said for Indigenous women. Indigenous women make up 4% of the population in Canada but 11% of the missing women and 16% of the murdered women. While these numbers are high, the levels in the western provinces and northern territories are frightening. The number of murdered Indigenous women in Manitoba is 49% and in Saskatchewan its 55%.

On the positive side, the RCMP finally turned their investigative minds to this serious issue. Because the reality is, if the RCMP can’t be motivated to look into this crisis, there is little chance in getting their assistance in addressing it. We also now have additional statistics that the show that the problem is worse than originally thought which one would hope would spur the RCMP and others into emergency action. Further, it was important that the RCMP recognized that more than a police response will be needed to address this crisis and that all of the socio-economic issues must also be addressed.

That’s the extent to which I can be positive about this report. For the most part, this report just recycled information we already knew. We already knew the over-representation of Indigenous women and girls in murdered, missing and victimization rates, as well as the socio-economic conditions which make Indigenous women and girls vulnerable. Secondly, this report suffers from a glaring omission – an analysis of the RCMP’s role in this crisis. While there are many good men and women in the RCMP who believe in justice, those who do not, need to be exposed. Finally, if this report is any indication of an RCMP “action plan” – very little is going to change. If we can’t get real about the root causes of this crisis, we’ll still be talking about this in ten years.

In 1989, the Report of the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr., Prosecution concluded that Marshall had been wrongfully convicted of murder and spent years in jail simply because he was Mi’kmaw. “The criminal justice system failed Donald Marshall Jr., at virtually every turn from his arrest and wrongful conviction for murder in 1971 up to, and even beyond, his acquittal.” The report went further to investigate how prominent “White” people were treated with Mi’kmaw people when accused of crimes. It concluded that the RCMP would not pursue investigations of prominent “White” people despite the evidence which showed an “undue and improper sensitivity to the status of the person being investigated” and made “the ideal of justice for all meaningless”.

The 1991 Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba looking into the murder of Helen Betty Osborne also concluded that despite the fact that it is well-known that Aboriginal women and girls suffer extreme rates of violence, the Justice system does not protect them. In the case of Osborne, the RCMP treated the Indigenous witnesses brutally in comparison to how they treated the “white” accused.

Just in case the RCMP forgot that there was an issue in need of attention, the United Nations Rapporteur rang the alarm in 2004 when he concluded that the over 500 murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada had been neglected for far too long by Canada. Again in 2010, NWAC brought the issue to the public eye by releasing their research which showed there were at least 600+ murdered and missing and stated that the numbers of Indigenous women and girls that are murdered while in police custody, prisons or child welfare authorities also needed to be investigated.

Twenty years after Helen Betty Osborne’s death, a serial killer named Robert Pickton was able to kidnap and murder Indigenous and non-Indigenous women with little fear of getting caught. Why? According to Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, Pickton was able to prey at will due to “critical police failures” to take reports of missing women, follow up and investigate thoroughly or in a timely way. Issues of racism, systemic bias and victim-blaming were all noted in the report.

The most disturbing of all reports is the 2013 report entitled Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Colombia prepared by Human Rights Watch. This report concluded that Indigenous women and girls are not only “under-protected” by the RCMP but are in fact the objects of RCMP abuse. They highlighted the many allegations of RCMP officers sexually exploiting and abusing young Indigenous girls.. There are reports of confinement, rape, and sexual assault on Indigenous girls and some have led to law suits. They also reported on a class action law suit against the RCMP by its own female officers for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

While the government and RCMP have, at times, tried to blame the victims for their own circumstances, it seems very clear that a large part of the problem is government and RCMP’s racist and sexist attitudes towards Indigenous women and girls. In addition to Canada’s discriminatory laws and policies against Indigenous peoples generally, and women specifically, the Human Rights Watch group even reports on an example of the judiciary being involved in the abuse against these girls. David Ramsay, a provincial court judge, was accused of sexually assaulting and violently abusing girls between 12 and 17 and eventually plead guilty. How are Indigenous women and girls supposed to get justice if the Justice system participates in the abuse and rape of these women?

One of the biggest impediments to moving forward is the continued failure of the federal government to have the RCMP investigated to determine the full extent to which racism against Indigenous people and sexism against women in general hamper their work. Harper’s own discriminatory attitude towards Indigenous peoples is a significant barrier to moving forward. Even the most recent United Nations report from the Rapporteur commented on how poor the relationship is between Canada and Indigenous peoples and has become worse since the last visit to Canada in 2003. The United Nations is not alone in its observation of deteriorating government relations – the Bertelsmann Foundation is the latest to note that Canada’s record on governance has declined under Harper, especially when it comes to Indigenous peoples. The UN further stated that Canada’s negative public comments about Indigenous peoples risks social peace.

We need a comprehensive emergency plan to prevent any more murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Multiple groups need to be brought together including (but not limited to) the RCMP, federal and provincial governments and police forces, Indigenous peoples, and experts to develop a plan of action. This plan should include many of the recommendations already noted in the commissions and enquiries outlined above (and won’t be repeated here). Addressing the chronic underfunding of basic human services like housing, water, food, and education is critical to addressing federally-maintained poverty which puts women and girls (and men) in vulnerable positions.

It is important to ensure that at the same time as the emergency action plan is being carried out, that a proper comprehensive investigation of the RCMP for any role it may have had in physically abusing, confining, raping, sexually assaulting and/or causing Indigenous women or girls to go murdered or missing is critical. This investigation should include an analysis of how many times they failed to file reports, do investigations or follow up as per their standards and procedures. The RCMP and other police forces must be accountable for their actions with a view to ending this crisis. Otherwise, little has changed from the days when the RCMP would drag our children back to residential schools and ignore their complaints of abuse in the schools.

Instead of letting another 10 years go by talking about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, Canada needs to take immediate emergency action on this crisis.
Instead of Canada spending so much money surveillance of Indigenous advocates who are trying to protect Indigenous families, it could use that money towards adequate housing, shelters and supports for Indigenous women and girls.
Instead of spending multi-millions to keep Indigenous peoples in prisons, Canada could use that funding to pay for k-12 and post-secondary education.

Instead of spending millions on litigation to deny treaty rights, land claims and access to natural resources, Canada could spend those funds to support Indigenous peoples access their lands and resources to support self-sufficient Nations.

Instead of trying to assimilate Indians , Canada needs to accept that we are here to stay and work together for our mutual benefit as envisioned by the treaties.
Instead of allowing those who view Indigenous women and girls as worthless to dictate their fate, we need to recognize these women and girls are the future of our Nations and protect our life-givers.