Archive - 2005

December 30th

$1 billion tied up as Ontario gov't fights First Nations in courts over Casino Rama revenues

Casino Rama began as a dream by Anishinabek leaders looking for a way to create wealth and share it among the 134 First Nations in Ontario. So begins a discussion paper entitled "Maintain, Protect, Enhance - A Discussion Paper on Casino Rama" available on the Union of Ontario web site at Now it seems that the only people getting rich off of Casino Rama are the lawyers.

The unilateral imposition of a surtax on Casino revenue by the Mike Harris government in 1996 marked the beginning of a transformation of that dream into a legal nightmare.

The paper describes the so-called 20% Win-Tax that the Ontario gov't imposed on Casino Rama and that has been tied up costly court battles ever since. On November  21, NDP MPP Gilles Bisson raised this issue in the Ontario Legislature with the following discussion (from his web site at

Question to Premier: Casino Rama win-tax

Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): My question is to the Acting Premier. You'll know that in 1996 the Harris government, without consultation, imposed a 20% win tax on gross revenues from Casino Rama. This is money that should have rightfully gone to First Nations to assist those communities to do what is necessary to function. We figure that, including the interest, the win tax has stripped away almost $1 billion and climbing from First Nations as we speak. Your government made a commitment to create a new relationship with First Nations in this province, yet you've maintained the win tax and you're tying up First Nations in a process that will end up pushing them into court. I'm asking you today in this House, will you do the right thing and return the money that rightfully belongs to First Nations that has been stripped away by the win tax to First Nations, which need the money?

Mr. Bisson: I'm not sure what's contentious. What's contentious is that money has been taken away from First Nations and they could have used that money to do things in their communities that are necessary. Communities like Marten Falls, Pikangikum and others that need services in their communities are not able to do so because they don't have the money. So I don't know what's contentious.

You can do the right thing. You can say today in this House that you're prepared to say to First Nations across this province that you'll return almost $1 billion plus court costs to First Nations so they can do what's right. I ask you the question: Will you drop this and will you give the money that's rightfully owed to the First Nations directly?

Native Leadership Scholarship for women who are grassroots leaders, organizers, activists

Native Leadership Scholarship program inviting pre-applications (from Cultural Survival Weekly Indigenous News December 28, 2005)

December 30th

Health Authority prepares to present District Health Plan to Chiefs in Feb 2006

A full page ad in the December 29 issue of Wawatay News provides an update on the status of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority District Health Plan.

Jim Morris, Executive Director of SLFNHA writes:

"The Anishinabe Sioux Lookout District Health plan is an important step in the development of a health system that is First Nations focused and driven; it is a system that takes into account the uniqueness of health service delivery which is unlike that of the rest of Ontario. The project planning  to date has reflected the uniqueness and also the sameness of First Nations health needs. It is about developing a health system that will allow the communities to form ownership and pride in a health system that will enhance the current health system and ensure that the future First Nations generations will have the opportunity to benefit and to participate in a health system that will address both illness and preventive health. This Anishinabe Dirstrict Health Plan project is rooted in healing our communities rather than just being treatment focused. We look forward to hearing more comments, feedback and most important of all direction in the New Year from First Nations people, health service workers and First Nation leadership."

To read more about the Anishinabe District Health Plan online, everyone is invited to view updates and information about the plan on the SLFNHA web site at To provide feedback and ask questions contact SLFNHA directly by calling Anna McKay or Joe Beardy at 888-842-8681 or by e-mail at or

Upcoming meeting dates about the District Health Plan are:

  1. Sioux Lookout area First Nations Health Directors and Primary Healthcare Working Group will meet on January 24-26 in Sioux Lookout.
  2. Sioux Lookout District Chiefs Meeting on February 22-23 in Thunder Bay

NAN Residential School project to host 'Train-the-trainer' workshop in January

The NAN Residential School project is planning a "Train the Trainer" Session the week of January 23-27, 2006. The training session is open to 15 participants, seats are limited, so book early.

The training will take place at the Nor'westor Resort Hotel in Thunder Bay. Participants are responsible for their own travel and meals but 15 rooms have been blocked at the Nor'westor Resort (block #101782 at a rate of $74.95 per night). Call 800-528-1234 for hotel reservations.

The training is for frontline workers in NAN communities and deals with the effects of residential schools. Participants should have presentation skills.

NAN will cover the cost of the meeting room and provide lunch for each of the 3 days of the training session. Participants will be provided with a resource manual for their use in their communities.

For more information and to register, contact:

Sam Achneepineskum, Residential School Project Coordinator
Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Tel: 807-623-8228
Fax: 807-623-7730

Aboriginal voters can make a difference in upcoming federal election

In the last federal parliament, four aboriginal people were elected to represent different ridings across Canada ... the Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State for Northern Development; Inuit MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell representing Nunavut; and Metis MP's Paul Devillers and Lawrence O'Brien.

In a CBC news story, a local Blood First Nation youth in Alberta is running as an independent in the riding where he grew up. Myron Wolf Child is seeking a seat in the House of Commons for the southern Alberta riding of McLeod - see

The First Peoples National Party of Canada ( is a new political entity working to create a voice for Aboriginal people across Canada (see story from Turtle Island discussions below for its platform).


Native leaders push the message that aboriginal vote can make the difference

December 28, 2005
By TIM COOK - Canadian Press

Tina Keeper concedes that the decision to join the rough-tumble world of federal politics was a huge one for her.

It's a long way from the set of the 1990s TV show North of 60, where her role as a First Nations police officer won her a Gemini award in 1997. But Keeper, who spent the last few years as a community activist specializing in suicide prevention and working on aboriginal issues with the Liberal party, says she felt an overwhelming urge to have a direct say in the future of her people.
"Any nation has to be self-determining. That is the basis of well-being," says Keeper, who decided to run for the Liberals in the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill.
"My personal feeling about it all is that if I can use my profile to . . build bridges between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal sectors of our society, then I think that is well worth it."
Keeper hopes she can be a role model for young people, teaching them that involvement in mainstream politics - even something as simple as showing up to vote - is good for aboriginal people.
It's a message that aboriginal leaders and Elections Canada have been working to drive home to First Nations, Metis and Inuit as they battle sagging turnout numbers.
This year, the focus is on the fact that with a growing aboriginal population and an election shaping up as a tight two-horse race, courting the native vote could make a big difference.
"Every vote counts, and there is a real opportunity for us to influence the outcome in a positive way," says Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
"But we will only be able to make a difference if we vote, and so our push here is to try and convince our people to participate."
Information on voting rates among aboriginals in the federal election is sparse.
An Elections Canada study of the 2000 vote showed turnout was 16 per cent lower at polling stations on reserves than it was for the rest of the population.
The reasons vary, according to the study, from a "perceived lack of effectiveness" and "feelings of exclusion," to the disproportionate rates of poverty in aboriginal communities.
"It's a tough sell," said Peter Dinsdale, executive director of the National Association of Friendship Centres.
"Typically aboriginal people haven't been all that engaged in Canadian elections."
In an effort to make the sale, native groups are trying to show that the aboriginal vote will count this year.
Statistics Canada points to 26 ridings where aboriginal people account for at least 10 per cent of voters.
On its website, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has published a list of more than two dozen ridings where the number of aboriginal voters in 2004 was greater than the margin of victory.
Dinsdale's association is planning a campaign with briefing material about election issues to be sent to more than 100 friendship centres nationwide.
"I think, by and large, people have to see a benefit in turning out to vote," says Clement Chartier, president of the Metis National Council.
"I think people see, more and more, the need to do that, and as leaders we need to ensure that they get that message."
Fontaine says politicians are starting to respond.
He cites the desire of all parties to delay an election until after last month's first ministers' meeting on aboriginal issues as an example.
"No one wanted to pull the plug before," Fontaine says. "That tells me they are listening and they see us as an important issue."

The Liberals say they have 15 aboriginal candidates running in this election, while the NDP boasts five. The Conservatives say they don't profile their candidates in that way and declined to give a number.
Keeper knows that one of the biggest hurdles she will face is getting aboriginals into polling booths, so that's what she's telling people on the doorsteps.
"One of the things I've been trying to do is just key-message that: 'Get out and vote. We have to participate,' " she says.
"People need to know that it will impact and that's an important message."

Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 8:02 pm    Post subject: NEW ABORIGINAL PARTY  
Wednesday, December 21, 2005.
The following speech will be delivered by Brendan William Cross on behalf of The First Peoples National Party of Canada at 5:15 PM Wednesday, December 21st, 2005 at Roca Jack's Coffee House at 1939 Scarth Street in Regina.
Cross, 29, is the former leader of the First Nations Party of Saskatchewan.
A First Peoples National Party of Canada nomination meeting will follow the speech.
Party Leader Barbara will be available to the media in Sault St. Marie.
Brendan William Cross (306) 569-4642
Barbara Wardlaw (705) 945-8134

The First Peoples National Party of Canada
By Brendan William Cross
Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - 5:15 PM
Tansi, and hello everyone. I bring you greetings from The First Peoples National Party of Canada and its Party Leader Barbara Wardlaw, who is in Sault St. Marie. Barbara will be available to the media this evening there.
I am here today to introduce to you First Peoples Party policy and process. An important part of this process will be tonight’s nomination, which will follow this speech. I encourage you to stick around, there are lots of social events for everyone this evening.
The First Peoples National Party of Canada is dedicated to seeking respectful relations with all living beings which can lead to peaceful cooperation with all. Our Mandate is to unite all Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis- thus strengthening our respective organizations. Together we can both promote local, regional, and national programs and their services, and communicate the needs of all people to the national government. Our values are not only Aboriginal values, they are Canada’s values.
Our party executive is comprised of Leader, President, Vice-President, Chief Agent, Treasure, and Secretary. These positions carry their own specific responsibilities. These positions will be filled by nominating and electing leaders at our National Convention, which will be held after the federal election. It will be similar to the nomination process we will follow tonight.
If you feel in your heart that you are called to be nominated in this party, I would suggest you immediately make that known to our party leader by emailing or phoning her. Now is the time to begin the race.
Any political party is only as good as the vision of the future it seeks to create. Our political party has an ambitious agenda that will engage the entire Canadian electorate and represent everyone with connections to Aboriginal culture. These policies were developed by members of the party over the past year, a process chaired by Party President Jerry Fontaine, who created the First Peoples Party in Manitoba during the nineties. I am proud to present these policies to you today.
Our policy is broken down into four categories: Social, Political, Economic, and Spiritual.
Socially, we believe the elected representatives of this country are obligated to deliver a basic level of service to all peoples. All people shall be removed and protected from hardship, suffering, and poverty that are caused by social injustices and the lack of economic opportunities.
Politically, we believe the elected representatives of this country must represent the interests of their constituents. They must recognize and respect the need to bring into harmony and balance the community needs of all peoples.
Economically, we believe elected representatives of this country have the responsibility to ensure that there is equality of opportunity for all people to achieve the means for economic prosperity and security. This must be achieved through education, training, and other means.
Finally, Spiritually, we believe the elected representatives of this country must develop, apply laws, and regulations that will encourage and promote respect of the Seven Traditional Teachings for the well-being of all people. The Seven Traditional Teachings include Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Wisdom, and Truth.
Our party was created with the dream of achieving self-determination for First Peoples, the dispossessed, and the poor within their own land. We can speak with a strong, independent and united voice, living according to the teachings handed down by our ancestors.
Our Social Policy includes the development of restorative justice and healing approaches to crime. I, for one, have a criminal record. This is nobody’s fault but my own. However, I am not the only one affected by crime and its consequences.
The First Peoples Party is committed to removing barriers that prevent men, women, and youth from re-entering the work force. Greater rehabilitative measures create healthy citizens who can help others learn self-control over the personal issues that create crime.
We are committed to the elimination of child poverty. Child poverty is a blight on the Canadian conscience. It should never exist. But poverty does exist. The First Peoples Party recognizes that education is the remedy that cures social ills of poverty and underdevelopment. Education breaks resignation to the culture of poverty, which has a culture all its own. Over a long period of time, people come to terms with the culture of poverty. Nobody should be forced to think poverty is as good as it gets.
A Universal Basic Income will ensure nobody is overcome by extreme poverty.
The First Peoples National Party of Canada will work towards the implementation of an income support program that is sufficient for all basic needs.
A basic need that is becoming more and more important to working families is Universal Day Care.
The First Peoples Party believes that accessible day care is fundamental to eliminating child poverty. Parents unable to afford day care have no alternative than remaining on income security programs. Whether day care is billed directly to the federal government or paid by parents with federal allowances, our party believes all Canadians should have access to quality Universal Day Care.
Now, politically, the starting point of our policy is Self-determination. Self-determination does NOT imply secession from Canada. We do, however, agree with the Charter of the United Nations that proclaims:
“All peoples have the right (to) self-determination… (to) freely determine their political status, freely pursue economic, social, and cultural development.”
The First Peoples Party believes all peoples have the right to be self-determining.
A reflection of the self-determining process is our Peace Treaties and the rights and responsibilities that grew from these agreements. The Canadian government wants nothing more than to rid itself of these responsibilities and obligations. Such a direction would guarantee that peace itself between Canada and First Nations would be lost. Peace Treaties must be honoured by both sides.
Our Treaties have always been viewed as covenants, promises, and contracts that committed the Crown to a relationship that would last “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow.” Only Nations independent and sovereign can enter into Treaties. First Nations became sovereign Nations the moment the numbered Treaties were signed.
Again, our Chiefs and ancestors pledged within the Treaties not only themselves, but their descendants, to maintain perpetual peace. All of the Treaties are Peace Treaties.
The First Peoples Party believes the following traditions are fundamental to Treaty Governance: The centrality of land; The role of Elders; The role of clans, women, men, and youth councils; The restoration of traditional societies; and the Rule of Law. 
The First Peoples National Party of Canada will seek to improve inter-governmental relationships with municipalities, the provinces, and the federal government. We also seek to build global linkages. To have international credibility, we suggest creating our own Auditor-General. This would ensure a truly representative financial management.
The First Peoples Party supports the concept of Proportional Representation which will ensure political representation for those without a voice. Proportional Representation will provide balance to smaller groups that are not represented under the big tent of other parties. More women and minorities will benefit from Proportional Representation. This can be assured by our party by placing women and minorities near or at the top of the list of representatives.
Fear-mongers point to the emergence of a Catholic Party, a Protestant Party, a Jewish, Muslim, or Black Party. The First Peoples Party rejects the fears of these detractors. Every segment of society deserves the opportunity to be elected.
We strongly suggest that one third,  33% of the national vote ensure 1 seat in Parliament. In a minority Parliament, a single member may have considerable sway if they decide who forms government.
Regarding Economic policy, I want to first say that Indigenous people have always maintained that they do not consider themselves to be poor. To ensure this belief become real, The First Peoples National Party of Canada believes First Nations governments must have the power to tax, what to tax, and at what level within First Nations territory. Further, First Nations governments must have the power to tax non-citizens, corporations, and other entities that conduct business within our territories.
The property situated on reserves should continue to be exempt from non-Indian government taxation, and Reserve Taxation should not be seen as an alternative to continued federal funding. The integrity of the Canadian tax system will be maintained. The decisions regarding the exercise of taxation powers should be the prerogative of Indian governments.
The First Peoples National Party of Canada recommends First Nations’ debt be written off.
The First Peoples Party proposes the creation and development of a multilateral institution such as an Indigenous Peoples’ Development Bank, which can provide long-term structural loans that would enable economic development and growth.
Government must create new levers of economic change, levers that ensure more education, more training and jobs. Gaining control of these economic levers will enable our Nations to design our own programs, make our own investment decisions, and be accountable and transparent to our own people.
An example of our specific economic policy is the following:
“The First Peoples National Party of Canada will support local economic development that is ecologically and socially sustainable. This can be done by improving access to both grant funding and capital for community enterprise and small business centres. We must encourage and support ethical investment institutions and encourage “Buy Local” campaigns. With local business and industry, we must encourage the creation of durable, high value products made by well-trained, well-treated, and well-paid workers.”
The First Peoples Party will support the creation of an enabling environment that allows for community banks, credit unions, co-operatives, and regional business support.
The First Peoples Party promotes Revenue Sharing. First Nations have been told they are a drain on the Canadian taxpayer, who unwittingly has to pay for and support the existence of First Nations. However, we contend First Nations and their citizens have been paying taxes all along. Canadians must remember where the wealth of this country came from- from land and resources acquired from our peoples and lands.
The First Peoples National Party of Canada proposes that one third of the revenues being realized from resource development be shared with First Nations.
Regarding Environment Protection, we must state- First Nations, Metis and Inuit people must protect the delicate balance of nature and humanity and the sensitive ecologies of biodiversity. Our survival depends on it.
Our party has put health and social security in the Spiritual category of our policy. Spiritual because the health of the body enables the health of the spirit. This I can attest to. I suffer from bi-polar, amongst other psychological conditions. Through incredibly painful mistakes and as a result of unacceptable misbehaviour, I have learned that it is imperative we eat every three hours, go to bed at the same time each night, and get eight hours of sleep. My mind is healthy when my body is healthy. My spirit benefits from the health care I am entitled to. 
The First Peoples National Party of Canada supports and promotes the ideal of Universal Health Care and the Treaty concept of “the medicine chest.” The First Peoples Party sees no difficulty with government subsidizing human beings.
The First Peoples Party recognizes and supports the concept of preventative health care and medicine. Our party also support home care as an alternative to institutional care.
The First Peoples Party support health education in areas such as family health, mental health, and socio-economic status.
The First Peoples National Party of Canada believes in universality, portability, and accessibility of health care for all peoples. Human beings are the number one concern for the FPNP.
The First Peoples Party recognizes that poverty destroys the ability of families to maintain a healthy life-style. This can be seen in many of our poorest communities. Very often our poorest people are the poorest of the poor. This must change.
The First Peoples Party supports community involvement in the development and transformation of the health care system. The opportunity to shape policy is intrinsic to this approach. It will reflect the differences in education and income, as well as regional differences. Wellness is a right of all Canadians. The First Peoples Party proposes a health plan that is holistic in mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual in design.
Our party would work towards a Social Care Program that addresses violence, poverty, hatred, and gender inequality.
The First Peoples Party suggests that any effort to address Social Security’s long-term finances should deal with the jump in life expectancy and pressures heightened by the sheer size of the baby boom generation.
Lastly, The First Peoples Party recommends the retirement age be raised from 65 to 67.
I hope this exploration through the policies of The First Peoples National Party of Canada was informative. I know that there are many people right now who are looking for an alternative to the mainstream parties, and I would strongly suggest to those of you who are:
The First Peoples National Party of Canada is not only an Aboriginal party. It is a cultural party capable of including all people. Our culture already does. Whether you support this party with your vote or not, know that you are welcome to participate in Aboriginal culture. That is the culture we seek to represent as Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.
I finished my book by telling how His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, commented on The First Nations Party I led in 2000 and 2001. On the walk in front of the Legislature, within an hour of his arrival, Prince Charles asked, "Will I be seeing you later inside?" (referring to the Legislature). When I replied that we hadn't elected anyone yet, The Prince looked me in the eye and replied, "There's always tomorrow, isn't there?"
The eleventh chapter of my book was going to be titled, "When Tommorrow Comes." However, I never finished that final chapter, because, indeed, tomorrow is here. Now.
Thank you, Merci, Miigwetch!
Brendan William Cross
206 - 1765 Hamilton Street
Regina, SK S4P 2B4
Phone: (306) 569-4642

December 28th

Toronto Star reports on success stories and unsung heros in NAN First Nation schools


Wed. Dec. 28, 2005.

Tales of hope from northern schools - Teachers getting parents involved - Success stories despite daunting odds


It's not your typical school field trip, even up in Ontario's Far North.

The annual Grade 9 moose hunt in the remote reserve of Fort Hope — complete with "firearms protocol" and tips on how to produce the quickest kill — is part of a broad move to boost Ojibwa children's sense of identity and help them feel ready to learn.

In a year filled with reports of despair from across Canada's First Nations, teachers and principals from Ontario's most isolated reserves flew "south" to Thunder Bay recently to share some moving tales of hope.

This quiet little conference on "best practices" north of 50 may offer an early peek at the sorts of programs Ottawa could choose to support with the $1.8 billion it promised native schools last month at the historic First Ministers' Aboriginal Summit in Kelowna, B.C.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this year about the daunting social odds faced by children in schools on federally funded northern reserves in the series Ontario's Forgotten Children.

Yet despite the odds, a growing number of northern schools brought good news to the conference organized by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 northwestern Ontario reserves.

Here are some of the more dramatic success stories:

  • Fort Hope (also known as Eabametoong): The four-day moose hunt for 15 top students is the highlight of an unusual study unit that uses this traditional native skill to teach physics (by calculating the force packed by various bullets); biology (by observing how to "dress"' and quarter a carcass); literacy (keeping a daily journal); outdoor education (reading maps to keep within assigned hunting grounds) and history (practising the way people cooked and built shelters before contact with Europeans).
    To principal Steve Bentley, boosting children's pride in their heritage is as important as the literacy drive the school has introduced. It now has weekly drumming groups and weekend reading circles. Students spend two weeks each year on the land in an outdoor education program that includes cultural lessons in trapping and teepee from teachers, parent volunteers and community elders. Every other Friday afternoon students learn traditional beadwork, dancing and drumming.
    Gradually, Bentley says he is beginning to see better behaviour, improved reading and less teacher turnover.
    "It's important to build children's self-esteem and cultural respect, because when kids feel better about themselves, they're going to learn."
  • Lansdowne House (also known as Neskantaga): Fed up with children having to move away to attend high school in other towns — and failing — this community started its own Grade 9 program last year. The program lasts a year and a half to give students extra time to complete credits they may find challenging, said principal Julia Johnston.
    `I was asked to raise educational standards — and we're doing that.' - Julia Johnston, principal, Lansdowne House (Neskantaga)
    "Before, when students went away, it was a disaster, but we're about to graduate our first 15 Grade 9 students in January, ready to ship out to Grade 10," said Johnston, who has launched a string of new programs across all grades. The school avoids the term "special education" where possible because families find it too negative, but has bolstered support for struggling students so much that some remedial students saw their skills jump by two grade levels last year.
    "We hired a special education teacher with 20 years experience. We now engage parents by putting them in charge of their child's special education plan whenever possible," said Johnston. Parents are asked to sign notes to confirm their children have done their homework. The school runs a free homework help night each Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7.15 p.m. which draws up to 80 per cent of the student body.
    The school is one of three across northern Ontario, along with Weagamow and Summer Beaver (Nibinamik) that now has been assigned a literacy specialist from Frontier College offering help to both children and parents.
    "I was asked to raise educational standards," said Johnston, "and we're doing that."
  • Sandy Lake: The school has begun to assess children for special needs in kindergarten, rather than wait until Grade 1.
    The parents of children with attention-deficit disorder are asked to help out for an hour each day in their child's class.
    "They're coming around slowly. Some parents have started coming in to the Grade 3 and 4 classroom," said Yesno. "They know it will help their child succeed."
    If a student is suspended for vandalism or fighting, the school may lift the suspension if the parent is able to come to school and monitor the child in class.
    The school also started a weekly Ojibwa culture class for parents in singing, drumming and the syllabic symbols of written Ojibwa, in part to make them more comfortable in a school setting, and in part to enrich their sense of heritage.
    "We had (aboriginal) actress Tina Keeper come and talk to the community as a role model. These are all small things, but we believe they can add up in the future and make a difference."

Meanwhile, while the Fort Hope students learned much from their moose hunt, they did not actually shoot a moose, confides principal Steve Bentley.

"I wouldn't say anything to the kids, but I imagine a group of 13-year-olds having fun would have a hard time surprising any animal at all."


Honouring unsung heroes of the north - Living conditions among the challenges

April tour of reserves reveals rare educators

Dec. 27, 2005


Running late because he had been busy moose hunting, David Kakegamic was a different breed of education director than I'm used to interviewing.

But then, the fly-in community of Sandy Lake, Ont., is a different kind of community than the kind I generally cover.

It's wrapped in woodlands, hours by bush plane from the nearest library, coffee shop or hospital — and the children here face a different level of challenge than I've ever seen.


In the isolated northern reserves where photographer René Johnston and I went to report on schools last April, we saw living conditions that were shocking to find in Ontario. But we also met a most inspiring and motley crew of educators working to help these children learn.

High in the northern bush, out of sight and mind from the rest of Canada, an eclectic army of visionaries — some native, some non-native and a whole rowdy bunch from Newfoundland — are devoting years of their lives to helping Ontario's forgotten children. I didn't get to write about them in our series, but they are the unsung heroes of the north:

Grizzled Hungarian refugee Joseph Farsang, a veteran teacher with white stubble and soft heart, walked the gravel roads of the poverty-stricken North Spirit Lake First Nation, night after night, to visit his more needy students and encourage their parents to send them to school.

Genteel teacher Laura Marchand, a retired principal from Vancouver Island, would slip food to hungry students and scold parents and staff she suspected of using crack.

Teacher Lynda Brown of Sandy Lake set up a weekend reading program for children in the school library and discreetly laundered the clothes of students whose families have no washing machine.

Ponytailed teacher Chris Williams returned to his hometown of Weagamow Lake with a native teaching diploma and now uses a gentle manner and firm rules to deal with a Grade 5 class that includes a student with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, another with a speech disability and several with behavioural problems.

Soft-spoken artist Saul Williams' passion for children outweighs his Grade 8 education to make him not only the beloved education director in his hometown of Weagamow Lake, but a powerful advocate for children in the 24 reserves across the Sioux Lookout District.

He can remember being flown off to residential school as a boy, and dropping out.

He is fighting to ensure that his own son has a better future.

It was an honour to meet them.

Residential school settlement agreement pressures churches for approval


Church advises dioceses of short deadline in schools agreement


December 27, 2005 - Canada’s 30 Anglican dioceses are under pressure to approve a revised Indian residential schools settlement agreement with the federal government by Jan. 30, 2006, although national church officials are trying to obtain an extension of the deadline.

“We are aware of the difficulties involved in trying to meet the deadline set by the government and we will do all we can to support you as you deal with due process in your own jurisdictions. We sincerely hope that all dioceses will be able to approve the … agreement based on the benefit that will flow to all dioceses and to the General Synod,” read an information letter dated Dec. 21, 2005, from Acting General Secretary Ellie Johnson and other negotiators.

The letter was sent to all diocesan bishops and chancellors (church legal advisers), members of the church’s national governing body, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, a national committee.

The document reiterated the terms of a plan announced in late November that would compensate all students who were part of a national boarding school system aimed at educating native children. Also announced was an agreement that would release Roman Catholic entities that ran schools from legal liability, but would commit them to funding $54 million in healing programs for aboriginals.

The Anglican church in 2003 negotiated a cap on its legal liability of $25 million, but since the Roman Catholic agreement is more favorable, is reopening its negotiations with the government.

It is likely that the Anglican cap will be reduced to about $5.771 million, an amount based on a proportional formula from the Roman Catholic agreement. The Anglican church would also be required to contribute about $4.975 million in cash toward healing programs and another $4.975 million in “in-kind” healing programs and services, for a total of about $15.721 million.

As of the third quarter of 2005, $16.8 million had been collected toward the $25 million goal, with $6.6 million paid out in lawsuit settlements.

General Synod, the church’s national office in Toronto, has scheduled five conference calls in early January to allow bishops, other diocesan officials, CoGS members and indigenous Anglicans to ask questions about the agreement. 

The letter added that “we are negotiating an extension of (the Jan. 30) deadline and will advise you immediately if such an extension is achieved.”

Major decisions are generally made by the diocesan bishop in consultation with officials and the diocese’s executive council.

The information letter said it is anticipated that a final agreement, which needs approval from seven Canadian courts, would become effective in late 2006 or early 2007. Until then, the current settlement agreement remains in force.

The boarding school system was run by the federal government and administered by various churches. While some former students said they received a valuable education, others told stories of physical and sexual abuse in some schools and said they were alienated from their language and culture. Hundreds of former students have sued the government and churches for damages.

December 27th

Ontario First Nations Youth gathering to be held at Six Nations in February

3rd Annual First Nations Youth Symposium

visit for more information

TO:     First Nations Youth, First Nation Leadership
FR:     Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council 

The Ontario First Nations Young People and the Chiefs of Ontario are pleased to announce that the Third Annual First Nations Youth Symposium will be held on February 24-26, 2006.  This event will be jointly hosted in Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation. 

This year’s theme will focus on Education and will provide First Nations youth with the opportunity to learn of First Nation approaches to education, balancing traditional values in pursuit of education, the importance of languages, and other relevant topics.  In addition there will be presentations and discussions from youth regarding the challenges and opportunities before them. 

All First Nation youth 16-29 years of age are invited to attend this symposium.  However, youth under 18 are required to have a chaperone.  Unfortunately, because funds are limited, the Chiefs of Ontario will not be covering the cost of travel for participants.  Youth are encouraged to seek sponsorship for this event.  First Nations are also encouraged to support their youth to attend by assisting in costs for travel.  Accommodations for out of town participants will be provided. 

The symposium will bring together youth, educators, traditional elders, and technical experts for the opportunity to exchange dialogue and information that will benefit participants and First Nations youth in general.  This gathering will also provide a framework for the OFNYPC to develop a strategy to lobby on issues pertaining to education.  As a result, it will be an excellent opportunity for youth to come out and have their voices heard. 

Please fill out the attached registration form and return to the Chiefs of Ontario.  Forms are also available on our website (  Deadline for applications is February 1, 2006. 

For more information please contact Brent Wesley, Youth Coordinator at 1-877-517-6527 or by email at 

Miigwetch, Nya:weh

Youth Symposium Poster  Download Word Doc Download PDF File
Youth Symposium Registration Form  Download Word Doc Download PDF File

December 22nd

Chiefs of Ontario office hosting Early Childhood Development Conferences



2006 First Nations Early Childhood Development Conference

Why Attend?

Participants of the conference will deepen their understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base, develop skills that improve professional preparation and practice, and sharpen their ability to use effective, active learning approaches for families. The conference will include workshops and plenary sessions that give participants time to reflect, network and dialogue with one another about practical applications of these ideas. Innovative strategies will be presented to address the cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of young children. Participants will have opportunity to expand their professional networks with other early childhood educators and exhibitors representing early childhood organizations and associations. The conference will benefit those seeking to gain ideas about what has been effective in the development of early childhood programs in various First Nations communities. Ultimately, participants will return to their organizations with an action plan, resources, other practical tools, and supportive professional relationships.

What to Expect?

The conference theme is “Providing Our Children with the Tools for Life.” Early childhood educators recognize the critical importance of children’s early years and share a common goal to prepare children to start school ready to learn, and to grow to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Although a wide range of topics will be presented, workshop presentations will relate to cooperation in the community and elements of success in programming. Areas of particular interest in the conference include the following:

  • Status of Early Childhood Development Programs in Ontario First Nations
  • Showcasing Cooperation (Models of Successful Program Integration)
  • Case Management and Child Welfare and Reporting (Confidentiality and Liability)
  • Staff Development (Communication, Presentation, and Team Building
  • Program Planning and Proposal Writing (Fundraising)
  • Traditional Aboriginal Child-rearing Practices (Role of the Child in the Family; Behaviour Modification; Role of Grandparents)
  • Elements of Successful Early Childhood Development Programming (Parental and Family Support; Special Needs; Elders; Teen Parenting; Pregnancy Prevention)
  • Early Years Screening and Identification (Speech and Language Pathology; Hearing and Sight; Autism; Grief and Loss; Exceptional Children; Mental Health; Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder; Physically Disabled Children)
  • Integration of Special Needs in Programming (Program Modification and Management)
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • Language and Cultural Programming
  • Child Physical Health (Diabetes, Obesity, Recreation, Communicable Diseases)
  • Parenting
  • Models of Community Planning (Outreach, External Resource Development)
  • Healing Through Laughter
  • Behavioural Management (Difficult Children)
  • First Nations Culture within ECD Curriculum
  • School Readiness (Math, Discipline)
  • Parental and Community Involvement
  • Nutrition (Requirements, Deficiencies, and Menu Planning)
  • Building Community Partnerships

Who Should Attend?

The conference is designed for early childhood educators and community workers who mentor early childhood professionals and parents of young children, including:

  • Teacher educators
  • Program directors and administrators
  • Principals
  • Researchers
  • Policymakers
  • Curriculum and instructional coordinators
  • Teacher mentors and coaches
  • Resource and referral specialists
  • Educational consultants and trainers
  • Early childhood specialists in Ontario First Nations

How to Register?

Check the website regularly for updates as registration information will be posted shortly. For more information please call Cara at 519-750-1016 or email

December 21st

Video clips from KO Chiefs' meeting include Grand Chief presentations

Cal Kenny, K-Net Multi-media producer (, attended the KO Chiefs' meeting in Winnipeg, taking pictures and filming some of the information sharing. He is posting this information online at

Grand Chief Phil Fontaine addressed the Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak on the first day of their meeting in Winnipeg today. Geordi Kakepetum, KO Executive Director, presented the Grand Chief with a Briefing package that contained a strategy to address the various AFN resolutions passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly at the AFN July 2004 and the AFN December, 2005 gatherings. 

The Briefing Note describes five of the current issues challenging First Nations and Keewaytinook Okimakanak at this time. Click here to see this Briefing Note (64K - PDF document).

 Phil's presentation to the chiefs about the residential school settlement
Watch here
Time: 5:01
Watch Here
Watch Here

Watch Here