Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council
LOGO DESIGN COMPETITION
The Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council is announcing a public competition for a logo design. The logo that is selected will serve as visual representation for OFNYPC in print, web and broadcasting communications.
The design must reflect First Nations culture and the submission must include a detailed description or explanation of the logo designed. This design should be kept simple, with a maximum of four colors; this is to allow for easier reproduction for future promotional materials. The OFNYPC would like this logo to symbolize respect, unity, as well as diversity amongst the First Nations in Ontario.
This invitation is extended to First Nations Youth from across Ontario. Submissions will only be accepted from individuals ages 15-29.
An award of $250.00 will be given to the designer of the winning logo.
Entries must be received by January 31st, 2007.
All submissions must include your name, age, address, postal code, telephone number and/or email. Hard copies must be submitted on a separate piece of 8½” by 11” white paper and can be mailed to:
Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council
c/o Chief of Ontario Political Office
Suite 101, 90 Anemki Dr.
Thunder Bay, ON P7J 1A5
Electronic submissions can be sent by email and should be attached as JPEG, GIF or PDF. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line “logo competition”
For more info on the OFNYPC, check out our website at www.chiefs-of-ontario.org/youth.
Please note that the winning design will become the property of the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council and the Chiefs of Ontario.
In support of AFN's call for clarification on the federal government's recent announcement (see press release below), the premier of BC is now calling on Ottawa to recognize Canada's Aboriginal population as a nation, similar to the recognition providers to Quebecers (see Globe and Mail story below).
AFN press release ...
First Nations seek clarity on Harper's motion on 'nationhood'
OTTAWA, Nov. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - In reference to the motion made by Prime Minister Harper yesterday, the Assembly of First Nations calls upon the Prime Minister to clarify his position in a way that does justice to the status and role of First Nations in Quebec and within Canada as a whole.
National Chief Phil Fontaine commented that "mindful as we are of our own history and identity, we want to be respectful of other communities and traditions in Canada. The AFN has been, and remains, open to recognition of the nature of Quebec society that acknowledges features such as the French speaking majority in that province. It is important, however, that such recognition be carried out in a way that does not dismiss or diminish in any way, the nationhood of First Nations in Quebec and throughout Canada."
AFN Regional Chief of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard added that "the First Nations of Quebec reserve the right to assert and affirm our status as Nations regardless of what other governments may imply." Furthermore, Picard stated that "the recognition by one government of another is only meaningful through a process of negotiation to confirm mutual understandings of the relationship."
The Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations peoples, as referenced in the Constitution Act (1982), already provide for the unique status of First Nations in law. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which delivered its final report 10 years ago this week, provided a comprehensive affirmation of our rights and title, as well as a clear path forward for First Nations and all Canadians. Yet, Canada has failed to act and failed to respond in a manner consistent with Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title.
Indeed, First Nations across Canada are expressing frustration at the lack of action and attention to First Nations issues. At the same time, as putting forward this motion, the Government of Canada is actively opposing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada's opposition to this non-binding Declaration that would set only minimum standards for dignity, survival and well-being of the world's Indigenous Peoples is unprincipled and inconsistent.
"The announcement of a larger than anticipated surplus and more tax-cuts by Minister Flaherty today is yet another blow to First Nations" noted the National Chief. "In the full awareness of the growing socio-economic crises in First Nation communities across Canada, First Nations receive neither recognition nor investment."
"Despite this, we believe that Canadians do care, and, if given the chance, Canadians would support our plans to overcome the disproportionate problems in health, education and housing in our communities," said the National Chief. "The challenge is for the Government of Canada to finally act, to finally recognize First Nations, and work with us in the best interest of First Nations peoples and all Canadians. It would be a very sad comment that unless you constitute a block of potential swing ridings, your voice, regardless of your legal entitlements and rights, is meaningless in this country."
"There is space for all in Canada," concluded the National Chief. "The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and all subsequent governments must seek a balance of the rights of the Quebecois, First Nations, and the rest of Canadians to ensure the prosperity of this country we all share."
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
/For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications, (613) 241-6789, ext. 229, Cell (613) 293-6106, email@example.com/
Campbell: Declare natives a nation - B.C. Premier wants 'third solitude' given same status as Québécois within Canada
MARK HUME - November 27, 2006 - Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER — British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is calling on Ottawa to extend the same acknowledgment of Quebeckers as a nation within Canada to the country's aboriginal peoples, opening another front in the fractious debate.
In an article he wrote that was released to some media organizations, Mr. Campbell praised Prime Minister Stephen Harper for moving to recognize the uniqueness of Quebeckers within Canada. But he said there is a "third solitude" out there that now needs to be given the same honour.
"Indeed, I would urge the Prime Minister to work with aboriginal leaders to develop a similar motion that offers a positive affirmation of Canada's three founding nations -- French, English and aboriginal alike," he wrote, under the heading Setting A More United Canada in Motion.
Mr. Campbell, who in recent years has championed a new government-to-government relationship with first nations in B.C., said he could understand why aboriginal people might feel "confusion, frustration and disappointment," at not being included in the Quebec motion.
That omission should be put right by Parliament, he said.
"Canada's first nations, Métis and Inuit people should not be further marginalized by dint of this effort to unite Canada, which leaves them noticeably out of the picture," Mr. Campbell said.
"It is high time we formally acknowledged Canada's 'third solitude' -- the aboriginal peoples of Canada. We should do that formally, proudly and emphatically in a similar resolution that embraces our heritage as a nation of many nations."
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, yesterday expressed his support for Mr. Campbell's comments. He said the recognition of aboriginal people as a nation is a necessary "symbolic" move, just as it is for Quebeckers.
"We occupy a special place in Canada," Mr. Fontaine said from Vancouver. "So it would do a disservice to the country if we were to ignore, as this motion has done, the important historical fact of the first nations in Canada.
"We are not of a lesser status [than] the Québécois or . . . any people in this country," he said, adding that the current motion should be amended, or a separate motion drafted to recognize aboriginal people.
Mr. Campbell has emerged on the national stage as a major proponent of a better working relationship with first nations. In B.C., his government has recognized the right of aboriginal societies to self-governance, while at the same time seeing them as intrinsic components of the province. The Premier was also a driving force and key champion of the Kelowna accord between Ottawa and aboriginal groups aimed at improving housing and health services. The $5-billion plan -- negotiated with Paul Martin's government in 2005 -- was killed by the Conservatives in May.
Mr. Campbell sees a parallel with Mr. Harper's motion, which would recognize that the "Québécois form a nation within a united Canada," without conferring on the province any additional civic or legal authority.
"In short, this motion is about the Québécois as a people and a culture, not about recognizing the province of Quebec as a 'nation,' " Mr. Campbell said. "Mr. Harper has also stressed that his motion does not have any legal or constitutional significance. With that assurance, I have no difficulty supporting it."
Mr. Campbell said Canadians shouldn't get "bogged down in an unproductive semantic debate" but rather should strive to find a new definition of what the country should be in the 21st century.
"The Prime Minister's attempt to negate the separatists' raison d'être with a positive statement to Quebec's francophone people is not perfect. But it has set in motion a national debate that should lead us all to openly embrace our French, English, aboriginal and multicultural heritage with new resolve and understanding," he said.
Mr. Fontaine said that he was pleased to see Quebeckers recognized as a nation, but that the motion brought up old concerns.
"We've never opposed -- even in Meech Lake -- Quebec as a distinct society. What we opposed then, is the suggestion that we could be dealt with later," he said. "We don't want the same thing to happen here -- that we are seen as an afterthought. It's not a helpful approach to nation building," he said.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly of the Sto:lo Tribal Council said native leaders across Canada were left wondering last week why Quebec was so special, when first nations weren't.
"When I saw that motion I thought, what about us? I'm sure the 200 chiefs in B.C. all felt the same way."
He said first nations already see themselves as "nations within a nation," but getting official recognition of that, in a statement by the federal government, would have huge symbolic value.
He said recognizing multiple nations within Canada will not shatter the country into Balkanized states.
"We come from different places, we have a different history . . . but having differences doesn't make us weaker as a nation. Internal conflict is what will make us weaker. If we focus on what we have in common, we will be a much stronger and a much healthier nation," he said.
Three more stories from the Atkinson series ...
Turning the tide of despair - suicide | In September, Travis James Kelly, 24, hanged himself. Now, role models like Tania Cameron are trying to find solutions to this curse of the reserve
Nov. 26, 2006 - MARIE WADDEN - ATKINSON FELLOW
Travis James Kelly was a leader of drum songs. His voice rose and fell in time with his drumstick, resonating with an energy that came from deep within.
His tenor voice sang ancient Anishnawbe songs that vibrated with the heartbeat pounding of his drumstick. His audience, seated in a circle around him, raised their hands in thanks and bowed their heads in reverence at the end of each stirring performance.
In September 2006, 24-year-old Travis James (T.J.) Kelly, the transcendent singer of the Whitefish Bay First Nation in northwestern Ontario, hanged himself. His sons Tyrick and Avery and their mother, Misty Blackhawk, cannot make sense of his death. They do know it is the most common cause of death for young Aboriginal men in Canada.
The loss of their ceremonial drummer and singer is a big blow to the staff at the Kenora Chiefs' Advisory (KCA) on addictions and mental health, whose job is to prevent suicide. The other members of the KCA drum group, who performed with Kelly at powwows in Canada and the United States, were overcome with grief and could not play at his funeral.
Suicide has become such a serious problem that the 14 reserves around Kenora and the 49 reserves north of and surrounding Thunder Bay have declared a state of emergency. At the same time Kelly killed himself, a 16-year-old on a neighbouring reserve killed his girlfriend and then himself.
No one knows for sure how many Aboriginals are dying from suicide each year because there is no central agency keeping track.
The coroners in many provinces do not tabulate suicide by ethnic origin. More than a decade ago, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples estimated the rate to be five or six times higher than the Canadian average. It recommended the creation of a co-ordinated national strategy on Aboriginal suicide that would keep track of the number of deaths, conduct research into the causes and fast track solutions. The recommendation has not been followed. The Royal Commission felt the issue was so urgent it released an interim report on suicide before the main report was released in 1996.
Six years ago, the Canadian Institute of Child Health estimated that First Nations men between the ages of 15 to 24 kill themselves at the rate of 126 per 100,000, compared to 24 per 100,000 in the general population. The rate among Inuit is believed to be even higher, but again, no one is keeping an accurate count. Measure it this way: It's rare to find an Aboriginal person in this country who has not lost a close friend or relative to suicide.
In the absence of a coordinated strategy, Aboriginal people across the country are trying to find solutions on their own.
In 2001, Tania Cameron, a 26-year-old from the Dalles reserve near Kenora who was program manager of KCA's Aboriginal Healing and Wellness, set out to do something about the glaring shortage of mental health and addiction services for the communities around Kenora. She successfully negotiated a deal with Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to create the KCA mental health and addiction advisory. It enabled her to hire Dr. Ozzie Seunath, who now leads a team of six mental health and addictions workers for the 14 reserves around Kenora, which have a combined population of about 14,000.
Seunath, an immigrant from the Caribbean, will never forget his first day on the job three years ago. There'd been a suicide on one reserve, followed by another, then another
"I thought, I don't know how to stop this," he says. "We were rushing in there, making sure the friends and family members are looked after because when one suicide happened it was often followed by others and this used to scare the heck out of us."
Seunath has learned enough to now confidently identify one of the reasons young Aboriginal men take their lives.
"What is there for young people to do in terms of defining economic and individual independence?" he asks. "What is there for young people to look forward to in terms of training and so on? Without that direction and hope for the future, it's easy to sink into `that's all there is.'"
In Whitefish Bay, population 700, Kelly is the 10th young suicide in less than two years. People say he had a difficult relationship with the mother of his children.
"The young adults put so much emotional energy into their relationships," Seunath says, "that if they break up, life seems pretty worthless. It's like the worst blow that will ever hit them. But if life had more opportunity, more hope for them and support, then they would see a break-up as a barrier to overcome rather than something to succumb to."
Seunath compares it to his experience as the descendant of slaves growing sugar cane in the Caribbean. He says while his people suffered poverty, there were enough of them to maintain the cultural and spiritual beliefs that sustain emotional resiliency. That's not the case for many of his clients.
"The native people had more denial and suppression of their cultural practices and identity," he says. "Because of residential schools, they haven't learned parenting and their traditional ways, so it is very difficult for them to pass on that kind of learning."
Whitefish Bay, where Kelly lived, is a place of great natural beauty, about six kilometres off the highway connecting Kenora to Sioux Narrows.
Pelicans with bright orange beaks lounge on the lake near the reserve. There are no shabby houses. There are tidy lawns, flower pots hanging from door frames, and dads pushing their children in strollers.
This spring, an elder and some children designed and mounted a large, handmade billboard near the entrance to the reserve. In bold letters it said: "Bootleggers, We Know Who You Are. Stop Selling Alcohol."
In defiance of the sign, a group of men huddle behind the band council building, drinking beer. A drunk approaches a visitor, beer in hand, his face scratched. The women's shelter, surrounded by a high fence protected by security cameras, speaks of the violence alcohol is fuelling.
"People don't get up and say I'm going to become a drunk," Seunath says. The problem is a lack of hope and direction. It leads to `Give it up. Let's just do what feels good at the moment.'"
Part of the solution, he says, is more opportunity for employment and better role models. Tania Cameron is just such a role model. Now 31, an elected councillor on her reserve and the busy mother of two, Cameron organized Kenora's first Suicide Prevention Day in September 2005. It was held on the Kenora waterfront, but didn't attract many non-Aboriginals. A lot of people came in from the reserves. "There was this large circle of tee lights, reflecting off the water." Cameron says. "It just breaks your heart to think of them as so many peoples' lives. Their lights were blown out, you know. I try to place my mind where these kids were. It was a place of no hope."
The efforts to combat suicide have come on several fronts, including the entertainment world. Aboriginal actors Tom Jackson and Tina Keeper, who starred in the Canadian series North of 60, changed career paths radically after one of the young people on the show took his life 10 years ago.
Mervin Good Eagle, 19, played the part of Joey Smallboat on the show that introduced Canadians to life on a fictional First Nations reserve.
Keeper quit acting, became a Liberal Member of Parliament and today continues to lobby for the kind of co-ordinated national strategy on Aboriginal issues recommended by a 1994 Royal Commission.
Jackson, who's also a singer, spends several months a year travelling across northern Canada on his Dreamcatcher Tour, performing and facilitating workshops on suicide prevention.
Jackson's workshops are designed to get people thinking about what creates stress in their communities and what they can do to relieve it.
"When you get those answers, you hand the solutions back to the community because through this exercise they determine what needs to be done. Fifty people in a room who are committed to making change now know collectively what balloon to pull down to get the resources they need. It empowers them," he says.
Strength of Spirit - CIRCLE HEALING | Behaviour had so degenerated in Hollow Water, a Manitoba reserve, that women had to talk in secret about the problem of sexual abuse. Then, as more people joined the discussion, a miracle happened
Nov. 26, 2006 - MARIE WADDEN - ATKINSON FELLOW
The children of Hollow Water today bounce confidently on the trampolines that can be found in almost every front garden, testing gravity, delighting in their falls because there is a soft cushion of springs ready to catch them. It wasn't always like this.
Hollow Water gets its English and Anishnawbe name, Wanipigow, from a whirlpool on the lake near the Manitoba reserve. The whirlpool is chaotic, its energy created by the spinning water. Circles of turbulence, an apt metaphor for the community.
Circles are sacred shapes for the Anishnawbe people. In Hollow Water, circles of people are used to heal the scars of sexual abuse, which once threatened to engulf the community of 950. Their solution to this most heinous crime has been both successful and scorned: Embrace the abuser. In their world of justice, jails are a last resort.
The sophisticated, therapeutic process called Community Holistic Circle Healing was developed by the people here about 20 years ago. What they can't understand is why Canadian policy makers have been slow to support it, especially since they've proven it lowers addiction levels in a community that was also rife with alcoholism and suicide.
Sexual abuse had become a way of life in Hollow Water, as it had in many First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities when they became dependent on outsiders 50 years ago.
"If you had seen this community back in the `70s when there was so much chaos, visible chaos, you would have written us off," says Burma Bushie, director of the CHCH program.
People stumbled around drunk in public. Women were bruised and beaten. Children cowered.
"Alcohol abuse was at its highest point then," Bushie says. "You could find a party in the community any time of the day or any day of the week. There was violence between men. Gangs. There was also violence against women, both physically, sexually, mentally and psychologically. But the physical violence and sexual assaults were the most visible. Women did not start drinking until the '60s. That's when our community started to go downhill. Prior to that, the women were holding everything together."
Psychologists, sociologists and Aboriginal people say historic, collective and intergenerational trauma make their societies dysfunctional. In a 1997 government report called The Four Circles of Hollow Water, author Christine Sevill-Ferri said the sexual abuse was a result of "the deliberate intent of the dominant society to sever a people from themselves."
It was noted that federally run residential schools, which no longer exist, did the greatest damage, severing family ties and making children vulnerable to abuse within these institutions.
Bushie was sexually abused by her grandfather between the ages of 6 and 9. She was raped by someone else when she was 12.
"It got to the point where I would eat and eat and eat and never know that I was full. Or I would go for days without eating and not know I was hungry. I was totally disconnected from my body," she says of the damage it caused.
When a child is assaulted, Bushie says, he or she loses their spirit.
"I have been looking at my community for a long time," she says. "The weakest piece in the community is the spiritual. We started to use all these drugs and alcohol, pills and what-not to numb the pain. That separated us from our spirit even more. Your spirit's home is your body, so if you are putting all this bad stuff in your body, does your spirit want to live there?"
Between 20 and 25 per cent of convicted sex offenders in Canada are Aboriginal, according to 2002 figures from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which also notes there may actually be as many as 150,000 who have committed sex offences.
Sexual abuse is not just an Aboriginal problem, but it is aggravated by the fact that alcoholics and other addicts are more likely to be sexual abusers, according to Dr. William Marshall of Queen's University and Y.M. Fernandez of Ontario's Bath Institute in a 1999 report.
"Once sexual abuse commences, feelings of guilt or fear will facilitate further alcohol or drug use and this may escalate into addiction. Prolonged addictions wear away social restraints so that sexual offending may occur as part of a more general breakdown in appropriate behaviour," write Marshall and Fernandez.
Nina Buckskin delivered the same message more bluntly in August at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide conference in Edmonton. During a presentation by the federal government on its strategy to prevent Aboriginal youth suicide, the 60-year-old Blackfoot woman from the Kainai First Nation (Blood Reserve) in Alberta stood up at the back of the room
"I think all the suicides in Aboriginal communities are caused by sexual abuse," said the retired teacher.
"I worked for 34 years and many of the children would tell me stories about what was happening to them and you know sometimes it's just unbelievable, the things that they tell me. Imagine, we're expecting our children to come and learn. When they have issues like that, how can they learn? Sexual abuse is rampant. It's being done by grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin."
Appropriate behaviour had so degenerated in Hollow Water by the early 1980s that Bushie and a handful of women had to meet in secret to talk about it. The women estimated that three of every four persons on the reserve had been sexually abused and that one of every three persons was an abuser. Few would have gone to the police about this, mainly because the abuse was at the hands of loved ones.
The women knew it had to be stopped. But how? What happened next is in the realm of miracles. In 1986, Bushie and a group of about 24 men and women turned the power of evil into a power of such goodness that Judge Murray Sinclair of the Manitoba Provincial Court has allowed them to deal with their sex offenders on their own terms, rather than hand them over to the courts.
CHCH doesn't want to send sex offenders to jail for one simple reason: Jail doesn't change their behaviour.
"The easy thing to do is just to deny everything and go sit in jail for a couple of months, because in many cases in Manitoba we're finding that the sentences for sexual abuse are two years less a day," Bushie says. "I believe that you have to serve a third of that sentence. So on good behaviour you can be out in a few months. That's the easy way out."
The CHCH process sets in motion a community-wide response to a disclosure of sexual abuse. First, a trained team meets with the victim and ensures he or she is safe. If it's an incest situation, the child is taken out of the home, but if it is not, the CHCH team believes it's important to keep the child in as secure a setting as possible where medical help and counselling are provided.
Another team immediately confronts the abuser, no matter the day or night. They do their best to get the abuser to admit to the crime. If he or she does not, the police are called in. If the abuser admits guilt, criminal charges are still laid, but those charges are stayed until the CHCH process is completed. It takes five years.
`Imagine, we're expecting our children
to come and learn.
When they have issues like that, how can they learn? Sexual abuse is ...
being done by grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin'
Nina Buckskin, teacher
"We bring that person into a circle," says Bushie. "We ask them to tell us what they've done. In a lot of cases, when we start working they can't tell all the details. With each circle they add on and add on as they begin to feel the support. They begin to understand that they are not being judged, that we're here to help them, that we want the crimes to stop and we want them to become productive, balanced people.
"They have to have weekly sessions with their abuse worker. They have to have weekly sessions with the therapist and counsellor. They have to have weekly sessions with the human sexuality program. We, as a team, sit with them on a monthly basis."
The second circle starts in four months and the offender is asked to sit with the CHCH workers and the offender's family. The offender must go through the difficult task of telling his or her partner and their children what they've done. Even harder is the third circle, where they face their extended family and do the same thing.
Then there's a fourth circle.
"This is where they tell the whole community," Bushie says. "We feel if a person can go through those four circles, then we're convinced that he or she is committed to healing and will do everything to continue. If that person is not able to complete the circles, then we will honour the courts."
A judge is invited to attend the fourth circle to pass sentence, usually on the recommendation of the community. Then there's a feast to celebrate reconciliation between the offender, victim and the wider circle of family and friends.
"I don't believe for one minute that people are using us," Bushie says. "They find out very quickly how difficult it is to face their own people."
Transparency ensures abusers are held to account for their actions for as long as they remain in the community. Therapy heals the victim and the offenders (few sexual offenders who've been through the CHCH program reoffend).
It's an exhausting process for the small CHCH team. Seven workers paid 352 home visits in one year. The circles involve so many people, sometimes it can take 10 to 12 hours to complete them. One disclosure may bring out a history of sexual abuse that involves many members of an extended family. In one year alone, 282 circles were held. The pay for CHCH workers is about $30,000 a year, but they keep at it because the benefits for the community are so tangible.
One supporter is John Higgerty, an Alberta crown prosecutor who is involved in a restorative justice program that started in 1999. He says the pressure to provide these kinds of services likely will come from justice departments across the country.
"It costs $90,000 a year to lock up a male and $130,000 to lock up a female. That money, put into communities across this country, can go an awful long way toward alternatives than jail and having them come out worse offenders than when they went in."
Not all are convinced of its merits. Ike Fehr owns a small hotel in the Métis community of Manigotogan. His hotel is the nearest place to Hollow Water to buy alcohol.
"They don't send their sex offenders to jail," he says. "They give them a feast instead, for god's sake. How perverted is that?"
The circles have had an effect on Fehr's business: He estimates that since he opened the hotel 20 years ago, business has dropped by more than 60 per cent. (Bushie estimates 80 per cent of the community's adults now abstain from alcohol.) Fehr plans to sell the hotel.
Bushie says the CHCH process has transformed not just Hollow Water but the three neighbouring Métis communities as well, with a combined population of 2,000.
"At first we were saying alcoholism was the problem, suicide was the problem, child neglect was the problem, kids dropping out of school was the problem. The more we learned about ourselves, the more we learned about our community. Then we started touching on sexual abuse," Bushie says.
"There were 60 people at one workshop; church workers, single moms and the general membership.
"We couldn't ignore the problem because we were faced with actual numbers. The stats were very shocking. It was a crisis. People disclosed because of all the work we had been doing and because people had sobered up.
"A lot of us have gone down that road of abusing alcohol to numb the pain," Bushie says. "Thoughts of suicide were never far away from our minds, so we had travelled that road, and we knew what the symptoms were. Those were awesome times that sent us deeper."
Bushie, 57, has the confident bearing of a woman who has accomplished much. She has been frequently asked to speak to groups, to inspire others. Her community now takes in foster children from neighbouring reserves in northeastern Manitoba, and is in danger of being overwhelmed by their needs.
CHCH receives $200,000 in funding, split between the justice departments of Canada and Manitoba. This money pays salaries, but that's about all. The team operates out of a split-level house where quarters are very cramped. There's a large room set up with sewing machines and a table for scrapbooking projects and quilting, some of the therapeutic activities.
Circles used to be held in the basement, but frequent flooding has made the space unusable.
"People from all over the country phone," says councillor Donna Smith, "and they ask if they can come here and work on issues, but we have to turn them away because we don't have a place for them."
Bushie dreams of having a healing lodge, where families from other communities can be housed while they go through the process. CHCH has developed a training program to teach members of other Aboriginal communities how to do this work, but funding is too tight to export it. Bushie would like more Canadian support.
"We've come a long way and our struggle should be celebrated and not ridiculed," Bushie says. "That kind of acceptance and acknowledgement would go a long way to make the struggle less painful. This is our fight and we will do it."
Bushie says there's more balance in the lives of Hollow Water's people today. They've come out of the darkness.
"There is definitely a reason why my community was chosen to deal with this problem. We really believe that we are instruments of the Creator, of our grandfathers and grandmothers. It's time to heal from all this."
Inuit women raise battle cry
Violence fuelled by addiction threatens a treasured culture
Nov. 24, 2006 - MARIE WADDEN - ATKINSON FELLOW
'Violence has become so destructive to women, children, family relationships and community health that it threatens the very future of the Inuit.'
Lavinia Barbour was passing a neighbour's house when she heard children screaming. She heard men's voices too.
Inside the house in Nain, an Inuit community in Labrador, she saw a man trying to grab a little girl while her father fought him off.
"He wanted to touch the little girl sexually," says Barbour, the receptionist at the local RCMP detachment. "She was seven but is very tiny, she looks like she's four."
Barbour knew the man — he had been arrested before.
Barbour says this is not an exceptional example of the violence and chaos she regularly sees in the town of 1,500.
In May, Barbour was passing a friend's house when she heard her screaming. "He's hurt, he's hurt!."
Barbour went inside and found her friend's husband dead on the floor. He had shot himself while his children watched.
Barbour has overheard some of the officers at the RCMP detachment compare what is happening in Nain with what's going on in nearby Hopedale, another Inuit community.
"They say 'domestics' are different in Nain. Women in Hopedale get black eyes. In Nain, people are out to kill each other," Barbour says.
The message was just as blunt in a 2006 report called A National Strategy to Prevent Violence in Inuit Communities.
"Some community leaders believe that violence has become so destructive to women, children, family relationships and community health that it threatens the very future of the Inuit," says the report, prepared by Pauktuutit, the national organization that represents all Inuit women.
Canada's Inuit are a national treasure. Their art and artifacts grace our galleries and museums. The inukshuk (a stone structure shaped like a person with outstretched arms) is a Canadian icon. Inuit are a tiny minority in this country. Population estimates range from 46,000 to 55,000, the size of a small Canadian town. An estimated 5,000 Inuit live in Ontario towns and cities.
Most Inuit live in 53 communities spread out over 4,000 kilometres, from Nain in the east to the Northwest Territories. The majority live in Nunavut, the largest of four Inuit territories in Canada.
The future of their culture, shaped by the world's coldest weather, is already compromised by climate change. Violence is now a much larger threat and Barbour says denial about its main cause — alcohol abuse — is the biggest obstacle to a recovery.
Nunavut's crime rate in 2004 was eight times the Canadian rate, according to Pauktuutit. The number of women and children who left their homes in Nunavut because of violence increased by 54 per cent between 2001 and 2004. Over the same period nationally, the increase was 4.6 per cent.
Inuit women say the isolation of their communities makes it easy for other Canadians to ignore the reality of sexual and physical abuse in the north. Leesie Naqitarvik, who helped prepare the Pauktuutit strategy, says addiction to drugs or alcohol is one of the root causes.
"The loss of culture, dependence, breakdown of families, denial and mistrust are other causes," she says.
In Nain, Barbour says people drink at the hotel year round, but the chaos gets worse when the ice breaks up and ships restock the beer store. That's when the cells start to fill at the RCMP detachment.
Barbour can describe the drinking culture in her community because she has been part of it. It starts with a few beers at home, then at the hotel bar where they connect with friends. Someone offers to host a house party where the drinking continues into the early hours of the next day. There's sexual promiscuity, fighting, people passing out.
Experts say alcohol and drugs alone don't cause abuse, but make it more likely to occur, especially when people drink a lot of alcohol at a time.
A study by the National Aboriginal Health Organization's Ajunnginiq Centre says many Inuit avoid alcohol completely and abstinence rates are higher than the Canadian average. However, the 40 per cent of Inuit who do drink alcohol consume five or more drinks at a time, the definition of a binge drinker.
A Statistics Canada report, Family Violence in Canada, states that the spouse of a binge drinker is more likely to be abused than that of a moderate drinker.
Aboriginal women are three times more likely to be abused than any other women in Canada because of the amount of binge drinking in their communities. The abuse they suffer is more violent.
"Overall, Aboriginal victims were more likely (to be) either beaten, choked, threatened with or had a gun or knife used against them, or sexually assaulted," states a report prepared by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in 2005.
Barbour's husband is a weekend binge drinker who doesn't hurt her, but she and her daughters frequently take refuge in one of the bedrooms to watch TV because they are bothered by the noise created when he is joined by friends.
Experts agree the higher level of alcoholism and violence in Aboriginal communities is caused by trauma that was suffered in the past but is passed on from one generation to another. Trauma is called "collective" when it affects an entire population.
Inuit suffered collective trauma 60 years ago when Canadian public policy tried to change them from nomadic hunters and fishers to English-speaking village dwellers. Many Inuit in Nain are the descendants of people who were forcibly relocated by the government from islands where they'd been self-sufficient to a life of welfare dependence.
Jennifer Dickson, the executive director of Pauktuutit, says the shortage of addiction treatment services for Inuit, and those with mental health problems, is appalling and there are very few safe places for women and children to go to avoid being abused.
Barbour says there is a shelter in Nain, but women can't stay there forever and end up returning to an abusive spouse because they have nowhere else to go.
Inuit live in the most overcrowded houses in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. In some case, several families share a house and sleep in shifts within houses that average less than 1000 square feet. Home ownership is out of the question for most because it's so expensive to build houses in the north. Permafrost makes it impossible to put in conventional water and sewer services and building materials have to be shipped up from the south during a short construction season.
People rent social housing instead, but that's not keeping pace with the demand, especially as the number of new Inuit families is growing at a very fast rate. The average age of Inuit is 20 (compared to 37 for Canada as a whole) and 60 per cent are under the age of 30. Inuit are having twice as many babies as most other Canadians.
At a gathering of Inuit addiction and mental health workers in Ottawa this past spring, Meeka Arnakaq, a Nunavut elder, used a metaphor to explain why she feels so many Inuit men are angry and frustrated: "If the sled is toppled over, it cannot go. The man is underneath. This is how Inuit men are today. They are stuck. Their responsibilities have been taken away. Who is going to stand them up? We've found different ways of healing women, but not the men. The qamutik (sled) has to stand up. The dogs have to start running."
Women are on the frontline of this crisis because they provide most of the social services in their communities. At the Ottawa conference, the addiction and mental health workers complained about burnout, but demonstrated a remarkable commitment to being agents of change in their communities. Organizers tried to bolster their morale with inspirational talks and games, including a word association game. Their answers to "What Inuit feel today" demonstrate that the pall in their communities is never far from their minds.
Among the negative feelings recorded: anger, frustration, rejection, humiliation, racism, domination, vengeance, jealousy, isolation, scared, insignificant, worthless, oppressed and suicidal.
Jack Anawak, Canada's Ambassador to Circumpolar Affairs, grew up in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, at the time Inuit children were sent to residential school and the men's role was changing.
"It was not a very good period in the late `60s and up to the late `70s," he says. "Young men suddenly lost their role as people who hunted. If you weren't successful in hunting, you starved. All of a sudden, that role was taken away by the introduction of store-bought foods. It was devastating for them."
Two of Anawak's brother died from suicide.
Barbour says there've been so many suicides in Nain, residents have become almost numb to it. Her husband lost a niece (aged 20) and nephew (aged 18) recently and she's concerned he's drinking to cope with the loss.
"You have to keep very busy," she says, "or drink to deal with all the terrible things that are happening."
The high suicide rate — eight to 10 times higher than the Canadian average — is one of the reasons Inuit men have a much shorter lifespan than other Canadian men (62 years compared to 75).
Pauktuutit's Leesie Naqitarvik is asking local governments to pass zero tolerance resolutions, set up abuse prevention committees and sponsor prevention programs.
"Land claims organizations can name abuse as a top priority social and economic issue. Governments can work with Inuit in setting abuse prevention and spending priorities," the strategy recommends.
Pauktuutit is lobbying all levels of government for funding to improve addiction and mental health services and want the Canadian public to support them.
Barbour says her husband wants to stop drinking, but must overcome his embarrassment that other people will know he is seeking treatment. She also says he doesn't have a lot of confidence in the treatment services that do exist because so many people return and take up drinking again.
People are actually punished for not drinking, she says. When Barbour's husband stopped for nine months a few years ago, the family lost all its friends and no one came to visit.
This summer, at an international conference in Edmonton, Mariam Aglukaq from Nunavut's Gjoa Haven symbolically lit the qulliq, a seal-oil lamp symbolic of Inuit survival, in front of thousands of Aboriginals from around the world who also want to make change in their communities.
Closed-circuit cameras broadcast her actions on two giant screens. She poured seal oil into a soapstone bowl, then took a small pouch made of caribou skin from an ingenious purse fashioned from an arctic loon.
There wasn't a sound in the Shaw Conference Centre hall as the audience waited for the kindling inside Aglukaq's pouch to ignite with sparks from the two stones she rubbed together.
A puff of smoke soon emerged from the bag and when Aglukaq blew air on it, a brilliant blaze of light jumped up from the qulliq.
Pauktuutit hopes its campaign will ignite a flame that will stop the cycle of trauma and violence in time to preserve the beauty of one of Canada's most ancient cultures.