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 http://www.gillesbisson.ca/newsitem.php?id=75)
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?
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 http://www.nodin.on.ca/dhp.htm. 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming meeting dates about the District Health Plan are:
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
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 http://www.cbc.ca/edmonton/story/ed_wolfchild20051222.html
The First Peoples National Party of Canada (http://www.fpnpoc.ca) 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).
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."
Wed. Dec. 28, 2005.
Tales of hope from northern schools - Teachers getting parents involved - Success stories despite daunting odds
LOUISE BROWN - EDUCATION REPORTER
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:
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
LOUISE BROWN - EDUCATION REPORTER
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.
Church advises dioceses of short deadline in schools agreement
SOLANGE DE SANTIS- STAFF WRITERDecember 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.
visit http://chiefs-of-ontario.org/youth for more information
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 (www.chiefs-of-ontario.org/youth). 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 email@example.com.
|Youth Symposium Poster||Download Word Doc||Download PDF File|
|Youth Symposium Registration Form||Download Word Doc||Download PDF File|
PROVIDING OUR CHILDREN WITH THE TOOLS FOR LIFE
2006 First Nations Early Childhood Development Conference
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:
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:
How to Register?