Tag Archives: Aboriginal Affairs

By: Alexandra Savilo

Located in the Kenora district of Northern Ontario, the aboriginal reserve of Attawapiskat has received a great deal of press attention since 2011. For on October 28th of that year, the First Nations leadership declared a state of emergency in response to health and safety concerns that would result from dropping temperatures as winter was approaching and the reserve suffered from inadequate housing.[1] Additionally, Attawapiskat residents also endured an evacuation during flood conditions in May 2009 as well as the closing of their sole elementary school due to toxic fumes that had seeped into the ground underneath the school from a 1978 diesel spill.[2] Yet the main topic that was and is billeted in the Canadian media is the housing crisis in Attawapiskat. Of the hundreds of articles that have been written on the subject, many writers beg the question: why did this happen? While some potential theses have proposed underfunding, others posit mismanagement of funds. Yet, the common thread that connects most articles is a general lack of knowledge of how First Nations reserves operate in a budgetary way.

attawapiskat 3

What this essay aims to espouse, therefore, is an in-depth analysis of the housing crisis. Beginning with an examination of important government treaties and legislation, this essay will determine how much power rests within the government of Canada at either the federal or provincial level vis-à-vis how much power the Attawapiskat First Nations leadership has over its own territory. Afterwards, the essay will investigate the audit made by Deloitte for Attawapiskat in 2012 and determine its findings to understand how much onus was put onto the First Nations leadership, third party management and/or co-management. Finally, this essay will examine the media’s reaction to the housing crisis and audit to determine how founded the above theses are and how the media propels the crisis in Attawapiskat. After developing thoroughly the above arguments, the essay aims to conclude that Attawapiskat is located in a catch-22. While it is currently inconclusive to fully convict the First Nations band of mismanagement, it is equally as inconclusive to accuse the government of Canada of underfunding due to an inordinate lack of documentation that will likely remain hidden with reason.

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By: Chris Burke

Amnesty International has given Canada a failing grade on human rights.  In news that should surprise no one who considers this country’s long history of oppressing indigenous people, Amnesty International, “rated the country’s performance on meeting rights commitments — and returned a failing grade” (Source).  The report makes specific mention of human rights issues as they pertain to indigenous peoples.


“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis,” it said.

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By: Chris Burke

There’s no sense in dancing around this one, as the reaction to the Idle No More protests have demonstrated, Canadians can be incredibly racist.  The Idle No More protest, along with the hunger-strike of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Spence, has brought out the worst in Canadians.  Perhaps it should be no surprise given that this nation was built on the oppression of an indigenous population.  It’s best if the populace thinks that the grievances of the people currently protesting can be blamed on a character flaw of those people rather than a problem with how the state treats those people.


Take this recent discussion thread over on Reddit which is filled with Canadians essentially complaining about being accused of racism, and then turning around and being racist.  Or this recent article in the National Post which tries to pin the blame for financial mismanagement in Attawapiskat on the band despite evidence to the contrary before going on to accuse First Nations of always wanting more.

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By: Chris Burke

One of these days I’m going to have to write a piece on the role social media plays in protest movements.  Sure many words have already been dedicated to that subject, but as someone who has been using social media to advance his own ideas the subject can’t be ignored.  Today, however, I want to draw the attention of 1837’s readers towards the latest movement that owes, at least part of, its growth to social media. Idle No More.


First, a brief history lesson.  Idle No More started back in October as a reaction to Bill C-45.

Idle No More began with 4 ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters (Source)

The movement is a direct to response to actions of a colonial government seeking to impose laws on the Indigenous people who have rightful claim to this land, and is doing so without the consent of those people.  Idle No More is by no means, of course, the first time we have laid witness to Indigenous resistance.  It is, however, one of the more visible movements in recent memory.  Resistance has been going on since the first settlers came, and the colonial state of Canada was established.  From the Trudeau government; up to the current government under Stephen Harper Liberal, resistance has always been here.  Liberal or Conservative (and perhaps NDP someday soon), Indigenous people have resisted the efforts of a colonial government seeking to control the land, and resources, and oppress a people.

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By: Chris Burke

For someone dealing with a mental illness, the emergency room is the last place a person wants to be.  An emergency room visit usually occurs after a suicide attempt or the threat of a suicide attempt.  My own experience with the emergency room and subsequent hospital stay taught me that I never want to end up there again, no matter what.

My first day and night in the emergency room at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario had me cooped up in a tiny room, stuck in an armchair, watching whatever movie the other patient in the room put on next.  That night, I had to sleep on a hospital bed that was left out in the hall.  In the morning I was awoken by the hospital staff going about their business.  A far cry from my normal, peaceful environment.   I spent the full day sitting in that same armchair.  There was one visit from the psychiatrist and a few nurse visits though none of it was very helpful.   It wasn’t until the end of that day that a bed down in the mental health ward opened up for me.

I won’t go into the rest of my story here.  My point is to illustrate that the purpose of the emergency room is not to treat the illness.   It is to keep a person who is at risk for harm safe, not to immediately address their illness.  Keeping a patient safe may mean leaving them with nothing to do and the boredom that accompanies that.  The experience is not pleasant, which is why I find this story frustrating:

Children from First Nations and low-income families are more likely to use Alberta emergency rooms for mental health care, according to a University of Alberta study.

“We found that more First Nations children (arrived at) emergency departments for disorders secondary to substance abuse and intentional self-harm than other children, and that, compared with other children, First Nations children returned more quickly to the emergency department and had a longer time before visiting a physician in the post-crisis period,” said Amanda Newton, researcher in the departments of pediatrics and psychiatry. (Globe and Mail)

It’s no surprise that these groups find themselves using emergency rooms for mental health care.  In a previous post, I discussed the high rates of suicide among Inuit.  I’m not stating anything new by point out that mental illness is a serious problem for First Nation youth, a group that often finds itself living in low-income families.

People from low-income families face additional challenges when it comes to be treated for mental illness.  Along with the obvious difficulties that result from poverty, there is the fact that treatment for mental illness can be expensive.   The cost of medication is high without insurance.  Getting top-rate therapy can be prohibitively expensive as well.

A trip to the emergency room should only happen as a last resort, but for those with no other options, or no idea where to go.  It is the only option.  This must change.  More funding must be given to mental health care to allow for quality care to all income groups and youth.

There is no doubt that global warming is having an effect on the Arctic’s environment, with the region warming at twice the global rate from temperatures recorded during the mid-twentieth century, due to “the manifestation of a human-induced greenhouse gas signature.”[1] This has caused the thawing of Arctic glaciers over land and sea, and has …

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