Friday, February 20, 2015

Genocide? Murder? Criminal Negligence? Or Passive Indifference? Canada is Killing Our People

Racism doesn't just hurt our feelings - racism kills. The two senseless deaths of First Nations children in a house fire in Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan from an unpaid bill of less than $4,000 has sparked outrage across Canada. In no other place in Canada would an ambulance, fire fighter or police officer ask a provincial resident if they had paid their taxes before answering an emergency call for help. Canada has a deep-seated racism problem which is killing our people. But to truly understand Indigenous outrage and sadness, one must understand both the context and true depth of this problem in Canada.

In the mid-1700’s, colonial governments in what is now Nova Scotia considered the Mi’kmaw Nation to be “rebels” because we refused to give up our land. As a result, Governor Cornwallis issued a scalping proclamation that decimated the Mi’kmaw Nation by as much as 80%. In 1971, Donald Marshall Jr., was sentenced to life in prison for murder and spent 11 years in jail before his wrongful prosecution was exposed. A subsequent Royal Commission found the reason for his imprisonment was racism against Mi’kmaw people by all levels of the justice system.

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Mi’kmaw right to fish and trade it commercially was protected in our constitutionally-protected treaties. The result? Canada sent in law enforcement to beat, pepper spray and run over our fishing boats – in addition to legal charges. In 2013, Elsipogtog First Nation and other members of the Mi’kmaw Nation who supported their anti-fracking stance in Mi’kmaw territory were labeled “terrorists”, “militants” and “bad Indians”. The scalping law was not used but our people were beaten and imprisoned.

From small pox blankets and scalping bounties to imprisonment and neglect – Canada is killing our people and Canadians will be next if nothing is done to change the value (or lack thereof) that we collectively put on human life – all human life. This dictatorial, police state is not what newcomers to Canada had in mind when they came to Canada. A territory shared with Indigenous Nations based on formal agreements (treaties) and information agreement (alliances) were founded on three principles: (1) mutual respect, (2) mutual prosperity and (3) mutual protection. Indigenous peoples, their families, communities and Nations protected and cared for newcomers. Our people fought in Canada’s world wars to protect our shared territory and people. Now it’s time for Canadians to stand up for Indigenous peoples.

In 1971, Helen Betty Osborne was kidnapped and murdered in The Pas, Manitoba. Her grieving friends and family were treated like criminals while the accused men were given the royal treatment by law enforcement and left to walk free for years. This wasn’t the first time our Indigenous women and little girls have been victims of a racist Canada, but no action was taken. Today, Canadians are well aware of the thousands of Indigenous women and little girls have gone murdered and/or missing in Canada. Yet, there is no sense of alarm in Parliament, nor has the Canadian state taken any steps to work with First Nations to embark on an inquiry or implement an emergency action plan.  

By 1996, the last residential school had closed which was supposed to mark an end to the theft of Indigenous children from our Indigenous families, communities and Nations. Literally thousands of Indigenous children were victims of murders, rapes, tortures and medical experiments – and upwards of 40% never made it out of some of those schools alive. The legacy of thousands of our children who died as a matter of state law and policy should at least have included a promise to stop stealing our children. Today, we have more than 30,000 Indigenous children in care and growing. The problems have not stopped – they are getting worse.

The use of small pox blankets on our people to try to kill us off faster has been described by medical doctors as the first example of “biological warfare” during non-war times. Indigenous women and little girls were forcibly sterilized without their knowledge and consent for decades in an effort to stop us from reproducing. The Canadian state does not need to use such blatant policies to reduce our populations anymore – willful neglect has the same lethal effect. Federal, provincial and municipal governments are standing by while our people die. This is not an “Indian problem” – this is a Canadian problem that impacts every single Canadian and our collective future.

In 2005,  Jordan River Anderson, a little boy from Norway House Cree Nation with many medical issues, died in hospital at 5 years old never having seen his home because the federal and provincial governments couldn’t stop arguing over who would pay. In 2008, Brian Sinclair, a double amputee, whose family had roots in Berens River and Fort Alexander First Nations, died after waiting 34 hours in a hospital waiting room waiting for treatment for a bladder infection – while nearly 200 people passed him by – including staff who wrongly assumed he was “sleeping it off”.

The former Auditor General for Canada raised the alarms about discriminatory funding and the failure by Indian Affairs to take action on programs that would significantly impact the lives of First Nations. The Office of the Correctional Investigator has called the increasing over-representation of Indigenous peoples a crisis that needs to be addressed. The United Nations Special Rapporteur has made numerous recommendations on how Canada can address this multi-faceted crisis in First Nations. But Canada fails to take action.

Despite Canada’s failure to act, First Nations continue to try to raise the alarm bells on this lethal situation. A failure to address the chronic underfunding has led to First Nations being 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than Canadians. Indian affairs own report done in 2011 indicated that a minimum of $28 million dollars was needed to prevent deadly fires in Manitoba alone – yet all 633 First Nations in Canada only get $26 million.

Canada sits back and watches our people die needless deaths while we struggle to heal our families and communities, to rebuild after the theft of our lands and resources and to resist ongoing attempts to assimilate and eliminate us. The herculean effort at the grassroots level to protect our people is made more difficult by state propaganda that would blame us for our own misery, or deflect media attention by vilifying our leaders. Now Bill C-51 will make those of us who speak out against such inhumanity all “terrorists”. Then who will defend this territory?

The Chief Coroner for Ontario released an especially rare and powerful report in 2011 on the child suicide epidemic in Pikangikum First Nation which had declared a state of emergency – a desperate call for help that went unanswered by Canada. Within a two year period between 2006 and 2008, 16 children between the ages of 10-19 committed suicide. 16 children died – not from accidental car crashes or unpreventable diseases but because the “basic necessities of life are absent” in Pikangikum who struggles to heal and survive amidst the “backdrop of colonialism, racism and social exclusion” and government neglect.

16 little First Nation children committed suicide because the Canadian state creates and maintains the conditions of life that will either kill them or make them so hopeless they will kill themselves. That’s the UN definition of genocide.

In the words of the coroner, this “was not a story of capitulation to death, but rather, a story of stamina, endurance, tolerance, and resiliency stretched beyond human limits until finally, they simply could take no more.”

In what vision of Canada are the ongoing deaths of our people ok? We need Canadians to stand beside First Nations and support us as we defend the health of our lands and waters as well as the rights and freedoms of Canadians. This should not be our burden to bear alone anymore. Help us turn this ship around before we lose any more precious children.

#StopBillC51 #RacismKills #Genocide #FirstNationsLivesMatter #foodfor7gens #mmiw

P. Palmater, Genocide, Indian Policy and legislated Elimination of Indians In Canada (2014) vol.3, no.3, Aboriginal Policy Studies 27-54.

P. Palmater, Stretched Beyond Human Limits: Death by Poverty in First Nations (2011) No.65/66, Can. Rev. of Social Policy 112-127.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bill C-51 The Anti-First Nation, Environmentalist, Scientist and Bird-Watcher Act

Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government has introduced Bill C-51 The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 which it claims is needed to protect Canadians from terrorism. Experts and commentators have called the bill, which will create a secret police force for Harper: terrifying, illegal, unconstitutional, dictatorial and totalitarianism. In case you don’t know what totalitarianism means, it’s a term usually reserved for fascist (extremist or dictatorial) leaders that lead a centralist government that does not tolerate differences of opinion and tries to exercise dictatorial control over many aspects of public and private life – including thought. Voila: Bill C-51.
The media reports that the Liberals and NDP have all but acquiesced to the bill and will only offer mild resistance in the form of suggested amendments. They may even call for some oversight, but will not challenge the massive violations of Canadian rights, liberties and freedoms which are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and constitutionally protected. And this is how it happens. Dictators throughout history have only been able to do what they did to their citizenry because they were permitted to do so. No single man has the power to destroy a country governed by the people for the people – unless the powerful people around the dictator allow it to happen.

In a world where Canada used to pit environmentalists, scientists, doctors, teachers, and even bird-watchers against First Nations who peacefully defended their lands, Idle No More helped bring us together. As treaty and territorial allies, First Nations and Canadians face a formidable foe and threat to our collective futures. Idle No More raised awareness about the break down in democracy in general and human and Aboriginal rights specifically. Hundreds of thousands of people across Canada rose up against Bill C-45 – the large, unconstitutional omnibus bill pushed through Parliament without debate which threatened our lakes and rivers. This time, the threat is personal – any one of us could go to jail for thinking or voicing our opinions.
I originally hesitated to include this chart in my blog, but I think we all need a reminder of the freedoms upon which Canadian democracy rests – for without them, Canada descends into the lethal, dark hole of a deadly, dictatorial police-state.

Freedom of conscience and religion
Freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression
Freedom of peaceful assembly
Freedom of association
Right to enter, remain in and leave Canada
Right to life, liberty and security of the person
Right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure
Right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned
Everyone charged with an offence: right to be tried in a reasonable time
Everyone charged with an offence: innocent until proven guilty
Everyone is equal before and under the law
Charter can never be interpreted to deny Aboriginal & treaty rights

All of these rights, freedoms and liberties will be suspended with Bill C-51. This bill creates what has been described as Harper’s "Secret Police force" with terrifying expanded powers. The purpose of the bill is to eliminate any “threat to security of Canada” which includes any activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada. It also includes some of the following:

-          interference with the administration of justice;
-          interference with diplomatic relations;
-          the economic or financial stability of Canada;
-          terrorism; and
-          interference with critical infrastructure.
The specific powers granted under the bill greatly expand the powers of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) from an organization that collects and analyzes information related to security – to one which can take law enforcement action. They are further empowered to take measures against anything they deem to constitute a threat to Canada – inside or outside of the country. Additional anti-terrorism powers under the bill include:

-          Materials deemed to be terrorist propaganda can be seized or removed from a website;
-          Standards of investigation and arrest will be lowered from proof to suspicion;
-          Police may arrest someone if they merely “think” that a terrorist act “may” be carried out; and
-          Deny air transportation to anyone who they “suspect” may be engaging in terrorist activity.

According to security law experts like Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, this new offence of “advocating or promoting terrorism” is not at all clear and Canadians should be extremely concerned about its conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of their concerns is that it gives the police “substantial and unusually invasive powers” to be exercised under their own discretion. A significant change from offences against the promotion of hatred, is the fact that anti-terrorism applies to statements made in private and implies extensive wire-tapping. They fear this bill will result in “speech chill” – the fear to exercise our right to free speech.

For First Nations, this completes the circle of criminalizing every aspect of who we are as Mi’kmaw, Maliseet, Mohawk and Cree Nations. When they made it against the law to be a Mi’kmaw person, our population was reduced by 80% for the scalping bounties placed on our heads. When speaking our languages and practicing our culture was considered anti-Canadian, they enacted laws to outlaw our ceremonies and killed upwards of 50% of our children they forced into residential schools. When we refused to die off, they forcibly sterilized our Indigenous women and girls without their knowledge and consent to reduce our populations. Standing by and watching our Indigenous women and girls go murdered and missing was a gross violation of our right to life by the RCMP, provincial police and Canadian governments.
When we survived, Canada made our traditional way of life a criminal act – hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering became criminal or regulatory offences which landed us in jail, resulted in beatings by the RCMP and/or our gear, vehicles and boats were seized. The defense and protection of what little lands we have left resulted in Canada bringing out the RCMP and army to stop our people. When we drummed and danced in Idle No More, we became the targets of illegal monitoring, publicly vilified and categorized as radicals, militants and terrorists. Now, our very voices, our private discussions and even the defense of our sovereignty is now an act of “terrorism”.
We warned Canadians, that what happens to First Nations under Harper’s dictatorial regime is just a sign of things to come for Canadians. To Canadians who value their freedoms, the beauty and bounty of our shared lands and waters, and the peaceful right to live the good life as you see fit – everything is about to change. Canadians will, for the first time, be treated like First Nations people - without the protection of their basic rights, freedoms and liberties. Even someone who re-Tweets or reposts a comment made by someone else on Facebook could potentially be captured under this sweeping legislation. Our ideas themselves will now be criminalized. Our private lives and opinions will be invaded, monitored and criminalized. For Canadians, this is a frightening new turn of events that may well override our basic human rights, liberties and freedoms – an end to Canada as a democracy as you’ve known it.

Our decades long experiences with murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, Starlight tours and the deaths of our Indigenous men while in police custody, the wrongful shootings of our unarmed peaceful protestors, the over-imprisonment of our Indigenous men and women, and the palpable fear many of us have of law enforcement will be part of the Canadian reality unless we stop this Bill now. We are allies in this territory. First Nations fought alongside Canadians in many wars to protect these lands. We lived up to our treaty obligations to protect you and be your allies. Now it’s time for Canadians to stand up and restore this treaty and allied relationship - and protect our collective rights.

Canada has violated First Nations’ constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights and basic human rights for decades. If we do not stand together now, this is what Canadians have to look forward to for their children. Please act to stop Bill C-51 now – before it becomes an act of terrorism to even speak about.
#stopBillC51 #rise #standup #idlenomore #INM #mmiw #foodfor7gens
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