From Keewaytinook Okimakanak's boardroom in Balmertown, Roger Valley announced several Federal government funded initiatives. The announcement was web cast and is available at http://streaming.knet.ca/RogerValleyannounce.wmv
The Government of Canada, through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, has provided a total of almost $11 million for four major projects being managed by northwestern Ontario First Nations:
For more details read the complete news release at the INAC web site ... Northwestern Ontario First Nations Moving Forward on Capital and Economic Development Projects
The "Where Are The Children" exhibition was created by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the National Archives and the Legacy of Hope Foundation. It is one of the many ways the Healing Foundation has achieved its goal of educating Canadians about the federal government's residential schools and their effects on Aboriginal people and communities. The exhibit is now touring Canada and is scheduled to be in Thunder Bay Victoriaville mall starting April 1.
A new web site located at http://www.wherearethechildren.ca/en/home.html provides a wealth of information about this part of Canada's history.
On March 30, Howard Hampton asked the Ontario Minister of Education two questions in the Ontario Legislature about what the Ontario government is doing to help the children in Fort Severn obtain the education they are entitled to as citizens of this province.
Click here to read the hansard ... Here is the text of the two questions asked by Howard Hampton, Leader of the New Democratic Party and MP for the Kenora-Rainy River Riding.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Education. Fort Severn is the most northerly community in Ontario. The school in that First Nations community is closed for public health reasons. Toxic mould is found virtually everywhere in the school building. As a result, children and their families have been forced to move hundreds of kilometres to communities like Sioux Lookout or Thunder Bay just so their children can attend school and get an education. But many in the community can't afford to move to Thunder Bay or Sioux Lookout, so their children are now doing without.
Hon. Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): I know the member opposite, and no member of this House, would want to politic with the future of those particular children, who are facing more than the average challenge of students in this province.
The member opposite is fully aware that there's a federal government responsibility and a dispute in that community. What I should say is that the education ministers of Canada recently had a meeting in Toronto and have decided to make aboriginal education, notwithstanding any level of government's ostensible and constitutional responsibility, part of their business; in fact, one of their three top priorities. There is work going on right now with my office and the offices of other education ministers to try to find a way that we can collaborate.
I want to assure the member opposite that we agree there is no excuse for any school-aged student in this province not to be getting a quality education. We will work, and we invite the member opposite to work with us, to find a resolution wherever that is taking place. But we have initiated that through the federal government, through our colleague ministers. We are looking into our responsibilities. It's certainly in our sights, and we will help find a solution for the situation he's describing.
Mr. Hampton: The minister should know that, yes, the federal government has primary responsibility here, but the federal government is dithering on the issue of building a new school. Meanwhile, these students have to follow the Ontario curriculum. They have to pass Ontario literacy tests and other standardized tests, just as children all across Ontario have to pass those tests. They are citizens of Ontario, just as someone who lives in Toronto or Ottawa or Thunder Bay is a citizen of Ontario.
I'm asking you to do two things: Will you get in touch with the federal ministers responsible and say to them, "It's not acceptable in Ontario that children go without an education just because they're aboriginal children"? And, in the interim, will you help those families who've had to move to Thunder Bay or Sioux Lookout in order that their children can receive an education? Will you do those two simple things, Minister?
Hon. Mr. Kennedy: Again, I think, at root, one of the most serious challenges we have in this country is the future of aboriginal children. The education system that should be giving them a boost forward -- and I think everyone is in agreement -- is not doing that to a sufficient degree.
I would say to the member opposite that when it comes to these particular kids, more is required than what you have offered. What you have offered, frankly, isn't about their specific needs. There's a problem to be solved. I ask the member opposite to lend his good offices to untangling the mess in that particular community, and I offer to do the same. They deserve a school in their home community, they deserve not to be dislocated and they deserve not to get ensnarled in machinations, whether it's the federal bureaucracy or provincial politicians. So I say to you, member opposite, that these kids need to have a direct involvement from the federal government. That is their responsibility. However, there is a need for third parties, wherever they can come from, to actually roll up their sleeves and help solve this problem.
David Meekis Memorial School is using Information and Communication Technologies and the Deer Lake First Nation broadband cable service for their telephone, data and video connections. Dan Pellerin, K-Net's Network Manager, is working with Jeremy Sawanas, the school's IT Technician and the school administration to develop and maintain these systems. He travelled to Deer Lake this week to provide training and technical support for Jeremy and the school.
Adam Fiser, the University of Toronto PhD candidate, accompanied Dan on this visit. Adam is under contract with the First Nations SchoolNet Regional Management Organization to produce a report about the SchoolNet youth employment initiative being delivered by Keewaytinook Okimakanak.
TORONTO, March 30 /CNW Telbec/ - Federal Minister of State for Public Health, Carolyn Bennett and Manitoba Minister of Healthy Living, Theresa Oswald, are co-leading, along with the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, George Smitherman, today, a roundtable to develop public health goals for Canada.
This roundtable is part of a Canada-wide consultation process that is designed to advance commitments made by First Ministers to work together to improve the health status of Canadians by developing public health goals.
"Keeping as many Canadians healthy for as long as possible means looking beyond health departments to broader determinants of health, such as poverty, violence, the environment, shelter, education and equity," said Minister Bennett. "Involving Canadians in this process will ensure the goals we set will be relevant, responsive and will increase our understanding of the complexity of health."
A summary of this roundtable will be posted on the Public Health Goals website http://www.healthycanadians.ca. Additional information for Canadians on the Canada-wide consultation process will be available on the web site, giving Canadians the opportunity to become directly involved in the process.
Peter Campbell, KO Public Works Manager and Kevin Houghton, KO Telehealth Manager are attending this week's Nishnawbe Aski Nation Chiefs' Assembly being held in Timmins. As well, chiefs from KO First Nations attending this assembly include Chief Archie Meekis from Deer Lake, Chief Roy Gray from Fort Severn and Chief Raymond Mason from Keewaywin. Peter is acting as a proxy for chief Jimmy Rae from North Spirit Lake.
Some Assembly highlights include the second of three fundraising discussion dinners commemorating the centennial of the James Bay Treaty (Treaty No. 9) and the official Grand Opening of the NAN Eastern Office.
Click here for a draft agenda of the three day Assembly.
By BILL CURRY
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 Updated at 1:57 AM EST
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Ottawa ... Breaking with the traditional communal approach to first nations' lands, the federal government will endorse private ownership of land and housing on reserves as part of a package of new aboriginal policies to be unveiled this spring
Federal and aboriginal officials are also expected to announce an overhaul of native education, including support for a national system of school boards and greater links between native schools and provincial education ministries.
The new land policy likely will include rules barring non-natives from buying on-reserve properties.
Introducing private housing markets for reserves would mark a significant policy change for the federal government.
Ottawa intends to set up a new entity, expected to be called a first nations housing authority, that would handle mortgages and assist band councils in creating real estate markets on reserves.
Advocates argue that property ownership would allow aboriginals to accumulate personal equity that could then be used to help finance business ventures or higher education. It is also expected it would encourage individuals to voluntarily make repairs to their on-reserve houses, rather than rely on band councils or Ottawa for such work.
The Auditor-General has warned the lack of quality housing on reserves has reached "crisis" levels.
Some of Canada's 633 reserves allow private ownership of property, but most continue to operate on a communal system in which the federal government owns the land and the band council manages the housing supply with money from Ottawa.
Former Indian affairs minister Andy Mitchell rejected private ownership last year as contrary to aboriginal tradition, but his successor, Andy Scott, has embraced the notion.
The Assembly of First Nations has recently come to support the move as long as some form of first nations' housing authority run by aboriginals will make the rules and mortgage decisions.
The AFN also wants the federal government to continue funding social housing for aboriginals, both on reserves and off.
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the AFN, said chiefs had traditionally opposed private ownership because they saw it as undermining Ottawa's treaty obligations to provide shelter for aboriginals.
"People have been conditioned to consider [communal ownership] as the only option," he said.
"Private ownership is not something that was ever central to the government's housing strategy as it relates to first nations. That can be achieved, in our view, without alienating first nations' [concepts of] land."
Mr. Fontaine said he is urging the government to set up a native-run agency that would replace existing federal housing programs and oversee a move toward private ownership and improved social housing.
Private ownership would diminish divisions on reserves over housing, he added. "We need to de-politicize this as much as we can. Chief and council are expected to determine who gets a house, and that's not something chiefs and councils ever wanted."
The private ownership idea is currently included in discussions and draft documents by senior officials working on a series of announcements for a special cabinet retreat on aboriginal issues, sources say.
At the retreat, set for May 31, federal officials and aboriginal groups are also expected to outline their plans for native education. Further details involving links with the provinces would be announced in the fall at a special first ministers' meeting on aboriginal issues between Prime Minister Paul Martin and the premiers.
Currently, the more than 500 on-reserve schools operate in a legal vacuum with no national standards or curriculum. While some reserves have bodies similar to school boards and links with provincial education ministries, most do not.
But, privately, government officials are confirming that no new money will be announced at the retreat to go along with the new policies.
Instead, aboriginals will be asked to wait until the fall first ministers meeting or even the next budget for funding commitments.
Still, Mr. Fontaine said he has taken recent comments by federal officials to mean money would be announced at the cabinet retreat.
"We're pressing very hard to have some spending announcements, because that was the understanding . . . that we were to expect positive decisions would be taken at the cabinet retreat and then further positive decisions at the first ministers' meeting," he said.
Until recently, mainly conservative groups, such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, had advocated private ownership on reserves.
Tanis Fiss, director of the CTF's centre for aboriginal policy change, praised the news that the government is open to promoting market forces on reserves.
"We'd really like to see them go down that path, because, obviously, it gives native Canadians more control within their community," she said, pointing to Ontario's Six Nations reserve west of Toronto as having successfully created its own real estate market.
"It provides far more options and flexibility within the communities as well as more stability, because under the current system, it's often the chief and council who decides who lives where and who gets the home renovations."
Government insiders say issues to be discussed at the cabinet retreat have been complicated by the AFN's insistence that the retreat also include a final resolution to the question of residential schools compensation. Mr. Fontaine has put blanket compensation for all former students of residential schools at the top of his priority list, a plan that would cost nearly $6-billion.
In preparation for the second United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS II) that is happening in Tunis in November, 2005, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO is hosting a gathering in Winnipeg on May 13 - 15, 2005. The title of the conference is "Paving the Road to Tunis - WSIS II: The Views of Canada's Civil Society on the Geneva Plan of Action and the Prospects for Phase II". Click here for the draft agenda.
Two on-line resources with a wealth of information about WSIS and Civil Society are:
From the UNESCO letter of invitation describing Keewaytinook Okimakanak's presentation, we will "focus on innovative services offered by community partners working with the Kuhkenah Network and how the network supports Aboriginal communities to develop. It is our opportunity for the K-Net team and our organization to assess the accomplishments made at the regional and national levels and identify areas of improvement."
The full text of the K-Net presentation is now being plan so it can be delivered to UNESCO prior or at the time of the conference. This document will be included in the final report of the conference. The report will be distributed at the 33rd UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France, in October 2005 and at the Summit in Tunis in November 2005.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak will be setting up a display at this gathering to showcase some of the work being done in partnership with the First Nations across the region and the country. We would like to invite all our First Nation partners (communities, organizations, schools, health centres, etc) to join with us to present their information and stories at this gathering by contributing to the presentation and/or providing information packages that you would like to see distributed at this gathering. Please send digital copies of your material to email@example.com
Thank you for your interest and support in developing the Kuhkenah Network story that will be shared with the world!
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Diabetics are losing legs unnecessarily
By CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD
Saturday, March 26, 2005 Updated at 1:36 AM EST
Canadian diabetics are losing feet and legs at an alarming rate every year despite a growing body of scientific evidence which shows that a treatment already available can potentially prevent amputation in about 70 per cent of cases.
In Ontario alone, conservative estimates are that 2,100 diabetics suffer below-.or above-the-knee amputations every year due to foot ulcers, with some doctors quietly putting the number at twice that and a recent British study finding that amputation rates themselves are often unreliable and underestimated.
Statistically, every year about 2.5 per cent of the more than two million Canadians with diabetes develop foot ulcers - the disease often causes poor circulation and nerve damage in the extremities, with the result that such minor problems as calluses and cuts can quickly become infected before the patient realizes it - with about a quarter of those eventually going on to amputation.
Most are older people, if not elderly, their bodies worn down after decades of the disease's insidious effects.
Yet though the treatment - called hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT - is, on paper, available in most major Canadian cities, its controversial history of overblown claims, combined with ignorance about its legitimate efficacy in more than a dozen conditions and a pharmaceutical-driven medical establishment, has resulted in the therapy being relegated to the sidelines. "It's got no champion," Dr. Wayne Evans, chair of the Ontario Medical Association's hyperbaric medicine division, said sadly of HBOT.
"It gets lost in the shuffle. It's not glamorous. The profession sees it as boring stuff involving yechy wounds mostly in old, smelly people."
Calgary hyperbaric physician Ross Harrison says the lack of information and widespread reluctance of doctors to refer their diabetic patients for HBOT is tantamount to a conspiracy of silence.
"That's definitely true," he told The Globe and Mail in a telephone interview from his office at HBOT Clinics Inc., a private facility that treated 12 diabetics last year.
"Diabetics are losing legs unnecessarily," Dr. Harrison said. "There's no question. We run into a great deal of resistance, from several different quarters," and mentioned one local health authority that flatly refuses to approve the treatment.
HBOT is long-established as a remedy for divers suffering from decompression illness and firefighters with carbon monoxide poisoning.
But since 1976, when the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society first formed a committee to review research and clinical data, other therapeutic uses for HBOT have been added, with the recommended "indications" now refined to 13, including delayed radiation injuries (which may show up years after cancer treatment) and so-called problem wounds, the broad category into which diabetic foot ulcers fall.
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Whether for treatment of "the bends" or a foot ulcer, patients enter a treatment chamber where they breathe 100-per-cent oxygen at a pressure typically 21/2 to three times that of sea level. With diabetic wounds, what this hyperoxygenation does is kick start a number of healing processes, chief among them the growth of new blood vessels.
Since 2001, there have been four randomized, controlled clinical trials of HBOT on diabetic ulcers - the gold standard in evidence-based medicine - though the patient numbers were small, ranging from 30 to 70.
All the studies found either markedly fewer amputations with patients who received HBOT compared to those who didn't, or enormously improved healing.
Yet the Canadian Diabetes Association, which defines one of its functions as "effective advocacy" for diabetics, makes not a single mention of the therapy on its website. Indeed only last month did the CDA announce it will soon begin an independent technical review of the HBOT literature, with recommendations expected this summer.
The agency was responding to a letter from Bill Roman, president of the Canadian Council on Clinical Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, urging the group to "take a leadership role and provide this information to patients, physicians and the [Ontario] minister of health" and flatly describing the loss of limbs in Ontario as "a carnage."
Diabetes in Ontario, published in 2003 by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and considered a top-level "practice atlas," devotes an entire chapter to peripheral vascular disease (the underlying problem that causes nerve damage and leads to amputation) without any reference to HBOT.
Federally, Health Canada devotes two pages on its website to HBOT and lists 11 recognized uses of the therapy - but none for problem wounds like foot ulcers.
Indeed, Health Canada's "A-Z" on-line information guide has four listings about dengue fever, hardly the equal of the health crisis posed by diabetes, which experts universally estimate to be increasing by about 10 per cent a year due to the aging baby boomer generation and what is euphemistically called "over-nutrition."
Yet there is only one reference, currently unavailable, on the Ottawa website for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
As Michael Garey, a hyperbaric doctor at Lakeview Hospital near Salt Lake City, Utah, says: "For some people, amputation is the best way to go. It's a good surgery. But a lot of people, we can save. And all of them deserve the right to have a say in it, and to know that there are options."
It was more than two years ago that the U.S. CentersÖ for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers the federal Medicare plan and helps states administer Medicaid, issued a "national coverage decision" expanding approved use of HBOT to specifically include coverage for "diabetic wounds of the lower extremities." Starting in April of 2003, U.S. diabetics with serious ulcers that failed to heal within a month using standard treatment were eligible for HBOT as an "adjunctive therapy," a decision described by the OMA's Dr. Evans as "a very logical but gutsy move."
Dr. Evans, a hyperbaric doctor of 14 years at Toronto General Hospital's small unit and a University of Toronto assistant professor, noted that "the U.S. decision isn't the only piece of information. There's tonnes of scientific material that supports it [HBOT]. Admittedly, a large body of the older work is lower-quality evidence," he said, "but the recent work is pretty substantial evidence. It just doesn't get the headlines that a study of 5,000 patients gets. A huge study may be required to show a slight difference, but a smaller one can still show a statistically significant difference."
As Dr. Ted Sosiak, secretary of the OMA's committee on hyperbaric medicine, told The Globe, because "there's no patent [to be had] on oxygen and no financial incentive, there's no one coming in to do research with $20-million."
Yet Dr. Sosiak says, "the evidence is there" - not only that HBOT works "about 75 per cent of the time," but also that it's cost-effective. "Amputation in Canada, using the CDA's own figures, costs about $74,000," he said, while an average course of HBOT treatment - 30 or 40 are usually needed to fully heal a diabetic ulcer - costs between $8,000 and $12,000.
The situation in this country is complicated by provincial health insurance plans, which cover HBOT. But some, like Ontario's, pay only for physician consultation, using archaic codes that were developed in 1968 when hyperbaric oxygen was used primarily with divers. In other plans, such as Alberta, clinics are also compensated with a "facility fee," which is billed to the local health region.
Because the Ontario style of funding pays no facility or technical fee, it means there's little incentive for hospital-based HBOT clinics, such as the one at Toronto General Hospital - the only hospital clinic serving the country's largest city - to treat elective patients such as diabetics, or to expand. The TGH's so-called "standalone" budget is but $285,000, hospital spokeswoman Gillian Howard said, emphasizing that the clinic is meant to function as "an emergency service."
Ms. Howard said that in a given year, the clinic treats between 100 and 125 cases; there are about four elective patients a day, only two of whom, The Globe has learned from other sources, are diabetics. These sources say this has translated to a waiting list of about a year at TGH, and about eight months at the province's other hospital clinics, located in Ottawa and Hamilton.
With TGH treating only about 15 diabetics a year, and the other hospitals together averaging about 35 annually, it means, Dr. Sosiak said, that not more than 50 of the thousands of Ontarians with deteriorating leg ulcers are able to take advantage of
According to the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, there are 23 HBOT clinics - a mix of hospital, private and military facilities - across Canada. And diabetics who resist amputation and learn about the therapy will dig into their own pockets if necessary and travel to get the treatment.
Mary Svitek, a 64-year-old from Windsor, guesses she spent about $10,000 for travel and accommodation while getting HBOT from a private Toronto clinic more than two years ago.
"Within two months," she told The Globe, the ulcer on her right foot healed, and even grew new skin. "That's still fine." But in early 2003, she developed three new sores on the bottom of the foot, and had to return for more treatment. "Two of them healed," Mrs. Svitek said, "but one is still open."
Yet she continues to walk, and remain active. "To me, it would be very, very difficult to lose my leg. I'm a very active person."
Mrs. Svitek learned about HBOT on the Internet, where, as the OMA's Dr. Evans said, "You have to be a very good Googler, and have an obsessive-compulsive" persistence to unearth information. "None of the doctors in Windsor seemed to be aware of it," Mrs. Svitek said. When she asked her family physician for a referral, she said his attitude was, 'Well, you can go ahead but I don't know if it's going to work.' He was very impressed when he saw how it healed."
"It's made a believer out of me," Toronto private investigator Jack Hunter said. "I'd never heard of it, but it worked wonders."
At 66, Mr. Hunter's journey through surgery is typical of the slippery slope that for many diabetics begins with a minor amputation and, several agonizing procedures later, ends in death.
First, the big toe on his right foot became discolored, then went black with gangrene; he had it amputated; then the adjacent toes went the same way, and on March 11, last year, the leg was amputated below the knee, and he walked out of hospital five weeks later on a brand-new prosthesis.
But three months later, informed enough now to be panic-stricken, Mr. Hunter noticed "a little black spot" between the toes on his left foot, and ultimately lost two toes and a piece of the sole. He credits HBOT, which he received at Toronto General Hospital from Dr. Evans, with saving his leg. "At the end of eight weeks, it's really doing well. It's almost healed. It's just amazing," he said.
Most of the physicians interviewed by The Globe say the demand for HBOT is primarily patient-driven. "Why isn't there more usage?" the OMA's Dr. Sosiak asked rhetorically. "Physician ignorance, no training [in HBOT] in our universities; patient ignorance; a culture of antagonism."
As Dr. Garey of Utah's Lakeview Hospital said sadly, "Part of it is politics; part of it is that doctors are not exposed to it in residency and what they're not exposed to, they're leery of. I run into that when I lecture at the university ..... I always reply, 'How many of the 39,000 articles have you read?'."
He said that in his six years of hyperbaric medicine, he has treated "dozens of people who were told they need amputation, and we were able to save their limbs." Given that most diabetics facing amputation are older, Dr. Garey said, saving their legs "is a tremendous quality-of-life issue. Rehabilitation is not a fast thing, not any faster than wound care. Prostheses are much better now, true, but most of the elderly can never successfully use them. Almost 50 per cent [of those who undergo amputation] die within months."
Dr. Garey said hyperbaric doctors often make the black joke that only when they develop a "scratch 'n' sniff panel for our pictures" will HBOT get the recognition it deserves.
In June, he will present a paper at the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society conference in Las Vegas. The title of his paper? "Limb salvage." Who would have thought that in 2005, such a discussion would be necessary.
House of Commons Aboriginal Affairs Committee calls on federal government to scrap the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process for claims by survivors of abuse at Indian Residential Schools. Click here to read the entire article on-line at Turtle Island Native Network. Some of the reasons stated in their recommendation include:
The AFN's press release dated March 24 in response to the Aboriginal Affairs Committee recommendation is also available on-line. Click here to read the AFN press release
Excerpts from recent testimony (February 2005) by survivors who provided input into the study by the House of Commons Aboriginal Affairs Committee of the federal government's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process to deal with claims of abuse are also available on-line (click here to read stories from residential school survivors as presented to this committee).