New Government, Old Ways: Racism is STILL Killing Our People - Updated
First of all, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs can't be trusted to tell the truth and secondly, thousands of First Nation children end up in foster care because instead of providing adequate funding for First Nations kids, our money goes to subsidize the mining industry. This makes me absolutely furious as there is no excuse for this. Dr. Cindy Blackstock already filed and won a human rights claim against Canada at the Canadian Human Rights Commission to prove Canada's discriminatory under-funding for First Nation kids in care.
Then the tribunal actually had to direct Canada to comply with the order several times. Yet, instead of complying, Minister Bennett continues to claim they have, in fact, provided that funding. If I look angry when I speak about the injustice of this issue, it is because I am.
Some people say: "Pam you are too angry" or "The AFN isn't complaining, why should you?" Others say: "Pam, you have to admit that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made better promises on First Nation issues than former Prime Minister Harper" and still others say "But Minister Bennett is so nice?" They are all right. I am angry; National Chief Bellegarde looks exceptionally happy these days; Trudeau did make better promises than Harper; and having met Bennett on several occasion, I can say she seems to be a super nice person.
Yet, I sometimes work in The Pas, Manitoba where Helen Betty Osbourne was kidnapped and raped, yet nothing has been done to stop the numbers of disappeared and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I am often woken up in the middle of the night with phone calls or texts about someone's child having committed suicide or community members who have died in a fire or frozen to death outside.
The most recent hand-written letter I received was from an Indigenous man residing in prison who was hurting deeply because his mother had been raped by an RCMP officer and nothing was ever done about it. The over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples in prison has been a crisis for decades, but continues to get worse.
I receive calls from people who are trying their hardest to get to university, but there is no funding for them, so they give up. PM Trudeau promised $200M in extra funding for post-secondary education, yet that hasn't happened yet. And an email I received this week was from a Rape Crisis shelter who asked me to keep advocating on behalf of Indigenous women and girls despite how hostile the environment. The national inquiry is almost a year into its two year term and it still hasn't started yet, but our Indigenous women and girls continue to go missing and be murdered.
So, I admit that I am angry and I look angry and I sound angry. The pre-mature deaths and suffering of my First Nations brothers and sisters is nothing short of a national crisis. The lack of housing, proper schools, adequate health care, education, and child and family supports; along with the lack of basics like food and clean water, have been called labelled as a "crisis" "grave" "discriminatory" and "inequitable" not just by First Nations and advocates, but also by former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court of Canada justices, the Auditor General for Canada, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations.
So why has little been done to address the crisis? Despite all the promises from Trudeau, where is the action? Instead of action, we see daily doses of misinformation at best and lies at worst. Whatever you choose to call it, it's not the truth and herein lies the problem with Canada's new obsession with reconciliation. We can't ever get to reconciliation, no matter how it's defined, until we find a way to get to the truth and share it and take responsibility for it.
Canada is killing our people with its deeply ingrained racism towards to First Nations. If a, affluent neighborhood in Montreal had contaminated water which was making everyone sick, federal and provincial resources would instantly be brought to bear to remedy the situation. If a cozy suburb of Toronto developed the world's highest suicide rate, massive amounts of financial and human resources would be dedicated to remedying the crisis. If 50% of the Members of Parliament's children were stolen from them and put into foster care due to lack of funding for child and family services, watch how fast they'd reallocate funds from Canada's 150th to get their kids back.
So, why then does the government not act to do this when it involves First Nations? Why does the response always follow the same racist pattern:
(1) DENY the problem:
This is when the government either says that there is no crisis or that it is not as bad as the media or First Nations are saying it is. Then comes the inevitable Access to Information request which shows that the government was either lying or misinforming and they have to admit there may be a problem.
(2) DEFER the problem:
This is when the government says they will study the issue, even if it has been studied exhaustively and well-documented in the research. This is when they will buy the media silence of National Aboriginal Organizations like the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) by offering them some sort of project-based funding to meet about the issue, set up tables, or do policy papers on the subject.
(3) DEFLECT the problem:
At this stage, the problem can't be denied any longer, so the government will blame previous governments, blame First Nations themselves or make excuses as to why the problem can't be dealt with right now, like budgetary limitations or that changes can't be made overnight. The most common response at this stage is: "We can't just throw money at the problem" because (a) First Nations leaders are corrupt (Harper) or (b) First Nations have no capacity to address the issue (Trudeau).
The end result is that all of the problems get worse and our people die. The government response is usually a Tweet or speaking point for the media which says: "Our hearts go out to the community" or "We are sorry for your loss" and then everyone goes back to their offices to plan Canada's 150th birthday.
Every day that this government fails to take urgent action says that there is no relationship less important to Trudeau than the one with Indigenous peoples. The underlying message is that there is no life worth less in Canada, than the life of an Indigenous person. Until we accept that this is current government policy and force change, then it doesn't matter which party is elected - new or old, racism will continue to kill our people.
Indigenous peoples are 4% of Canadian population;
10x more likely to die in a fire;
5-10x more likely to commit suicide;
Some jails are 80-100% Indigenous;
50% of all kids in care are Indigenous;
More likely to go murdered or missing;
120+ First Nations without clean water.
And, as if on cue, one day after I wrote this blog, Minister Bennett wrote an op-ed saying more than money is needed to address discrimination against Indigenous children. Their standard pattern of denial, deferral and deflection is both appalling and predictable. The very method of discrimination (under-funding) is now denied as the solution to the discrimination by the very department that has been found guilty of discrimination for under-funding. If Minister Bennett doesn't think funding is part of the problem, she needs to go back and read the court order.
Just in case anyone thought the Minister's special representative on Child Welfare might be the solution, keep in mind, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is a failed liberal candidate who also has the same bias as Minister Bennett. She was quoted as saying the liberals "are not going to take money and throw it up in the air like confetti" promoting more racist stereotypes against First Nations.