Groundwork needed on Kelowna Accord: Prentice
Mon. Feb. 27 2006 - Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says "overwhelming'' groundwork must be laid before $5 billion promised for native people can be well spent.
Until that's achieved, survival of the landmark Kelowna accord reached just before the Liberals were toppled last fall is in doubt.
Conservatives want to help ease crippling rates of aboriginal poverty, Prentice stressed in an interview.
But throwing money at dilapidated housing and dysfunctional education systems isn't enough, he said.
"It's not just about someone writing a cheque.
"We take Kelowna seriously. We'll be moving forward on some sort of a rational, sustainable finance plan built around it. But I've also discovered in the time since I've become the minister that there's an awful lot of implementation -- an overwhelming amount -- that needs to be addressed to make this all work.
"And a lot of that stuff needs to be done ... before the money flows. Otherwise, we'll just be doing business the way we used to do business. And everyone has agreed that doesn't work.''
Prentice wouldn't say whether Kelowna funding will be withheld from the first Tory budget expected this spring.
"All I can say is, stay tuned. I'm working on it.''
Financial details were never worked out or approved for Kelowna, he added.
It's not the first time a Conservative has pointed that out. Indeed, former finance critic Monte Solberg -- now immigration minister -- made headlines during the election campaign in January when he accused the Liberals of crafting the Kelowna deal "on the back of a napkin on the eve of an election. We're not going to honour that.''
Prentice later tried to backpedal, but his latest comments are "astounding,'' says Liberal native affairs critic Anita Neville.
"Kelowna was the result of 18 months of meetings between the government of Canada and all the aboriginal stakeholders.
"It was signed by (Ottawa), the first ministers and aboriginal leaders with a 19-page implementation plan of clear targets and accountability measures.''
Its dilution or loss would be a tragic step in the wrong direction, Neville said.
Kelowna promises include:
While Prentice stressed Tory commitment to such goals, the Conservative election platform was virtually silent on related funding commitments.
Instead, it promises "opportunity and respect for aboriginals'' through an ambitious plan to revamp legislation and settle land claims. Conservatives also hope to scrap the Indian Act -- a dicey prospect that has stymied successive governments who've retreated from widespread native protest.
Some native leaders were outspoken during the election about their fears for Kelowna.
Metis National Council president Clement Chartier said Solberg's comments were proof "that the Conservatives have little to no respect or appreciation for aboriginal peoples.''
But Patrick Brazeau, the new head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, says his group had lingering concerns about the Kelowna deal. The congress officially endorsed the Tories and has long battled with the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for influence in Ottawa.
"There was a lot of hard work going into the process,'' Brazeau said. "But our issue was: Where will the money be taken from to support these commitments and where will it go?''
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the AFN, met Monday for two hours with Prentice.
He emerged optimistic that the minister will support the goals of Kelowna, but he urged Prentice to take action.
"The minister stated in the media recently that `aboriginal Canadians are not going to live with risk' as long as (he) is minister.'''
Prentice can prove his resolve "by working immediately to implement the commitments from the (Kelowna agreement),'' Fontaine said.
From Union of Ontario Indians web site at http://www.anishinabek.ca/uoi/
February 24, 2006
TORONTO - The Anishinabek Nation is supporting a First Nations-specific approach to health-care programs being delivered to its citizens in Ontario.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage joined a delegation of First Nations leaders who presented the First Nations-Ontario Health Accord at Queens Park Thursday.
“A jointly agreed upon Health Accord is consistent with both the government-to-government relationship, the government’s policy of a New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs and ensures the continued protection of our aboriginal and treaty rights,” he said.
The proposed Health Accord concept was endorsed by all First Nations in Ontario on February 10, 2006, and offers the province a “single-window” approach to dealing with First Nations governments in the areas of health and healing. It addresses First Nations concerns that the pan-aboriginal approach to administering First Nations and Métis programs is no longer acceptable.
Beaucage expressed disappointment that, since the McGuinty government instituted its New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs policy in June 2005, First Nations, Métis and even non-governmental service providers have been dealt with in a "homogenous" way.
“The use of the term ‘aboriginal’ has concerned all First Nations people,” he said. “This new government policy and this homogenous term have been used as a “catch-all” to deal with First Nations and Métis issues. To group all aboriginal people in Ontario together, and refuse to deal with First Nations on a government-to-government basis is to show disrespect to our people."
First Nations leaders from across the province met with The Hon. Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Community and Social Services, after learning that The Hon. George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and The Hon. Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Children and Youth Services both backed out of the scheduled meeting at the last minute.
Discussions centred around concerns of the provincial Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy (AHWS), an initiative that funds various community health and family violence programs across Ontario. First Nations leaders contend that Ontario’s policy in dealing with AHWS is not consistent with a true government-to-government relationship.
"Although there have been some successes, the continuation of the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy in its current form is no longer acceptable," Beaucage told the meeting. " From our perspective, significant change is needed." He agreed with Minister Pupatello about the need for increased accountability for health-care programs serving First Nations citizens and for First Nations to have a greater say on the design, delivery and evaluation of them.
First Nations leaders also used the meeting to raise concerns about the controversial Bill 36, the Local Health Systems Integration Act, designed to establish 14 Local Health Integration Networks across the province to oversee health care delivery. They maintain that First Nations specific needs, interests, and rights have been ignored to date in the legislative process.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The UOI is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
Attention Employers - Don't miss this great learning opportunity!
February 27, 2006, Thunder Bay, ON:
Matawa Employment & Training (MET), in collaboration with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Aboriginal Employment Resource Committee (AERC), Service Canada and the North of Superior Training Board (NOSTB) announced today they are joining forces to host a workshop aimed at Federal Contractors and Legislated Employment Equity Program employers.
The one and a half day workshop titled: "Creating Networks in the Aboriginal Community through Relationships in the Workplace" is scheduled for the first and second day in March at the Fort William First Nation Community Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Says Larry Spence, Community Development Officer at MET: "This workshop is a great opportunity for employers to gain some practical tools to help them connect with Aboriginal students and graduates from the Thunder Bay region."
Designed to assist organizations in understanding the barriers and solutions to recruiting, retaining and advancing Aboriginal participation in the workforce, participants will learn how to tap in the underused but valuable Aboriginal Labour pool.
"A large part of MET’s goal is to help First Nation people of all ages to achieve their personal career goals through improved access to employment opportunities and training initiatives and this workshop is one more step in the right direction," says Spence.
For more information about the workshop, please contact: Larry Spence, Community Development Officer, Matawa Employment and Training at 807-344-8070
- 30 -
Media Contact: Lisa Kokanie Tel: 807-767-4443, fax: 807-767-4479, email: email@example.com
The mining exploration company that was searching for minerals without the support of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aski, have pulled up stakes and left the K.I. traditional territory. Click here to check out the pictures of the protest.
The peaceful weekend protest by community members and their supporters from other First Nations proved successful. By Sunday, the mining company had completed taking down their camp and leaving the area.
Chief Donny Morris made the following statement to the supporters of the K.I. traditional territory ...
"The protest at this phase(on site) has ended with success. We thank the support of Chiefs, members from other First Nations and K.I members who supported and reaffirmed our Sovereignty Title to the land we call home. However we will continue to guard the land as custodians of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aski."
Visit http://bigtroutlake.firstnation.ca for links to the media coverage of this struggle to defend the traditional territory of K.I.
Sport and recreational council to offer more help to aboriginal students
By Mike Aiken - Miner and News - February 24, 2006
Grade 9 students have enough trouble making it through the year. Imagine if you were a First Nation student from a small community.
Beaver Brae principal Sean Monteith announced Wednesday he will be working with the St. Thomas Aquinas, the city, Treaty 3 and a number of community groups on a new athletic program which will help encourage aboriginal youth to stay in school.
Known as the Kenora Aboriginal Sport and Recreational Council, it’s modeled on its Winnipeg counterpart, and sponsors are hoping to build role models with leadership potential.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting time,” Monteith said, referring to a number of new initiatives.
They include the province’s Learn to 18 policy, which is meant to help ensure all young people across Ontario graduate, as well as new supports for literacy and skills development.
Locally, there is also the urban aboriginal program operating in partnership with the NeChee Friendship Centre and the Fellowship Centre, where First Nations teens who have dropped out can get a chance to rejoin their peers through independent learning.
As it stands, Monteith remembered speaking with a young woman from Wabaseemoong (Whitedog), who was new to the school.
“She was just thrown in and away she goes,” he said, noting the lack of structured supports for new students.
In an effort to address these issues, the school is hoping to run a course for new Grade 9 and 10 students where they will get help with the organizational skills and coping techniques.
“I would say that we’re probably losing a lot of kids, and that’s unacceptable,” he said.
In an effort to better track their aboriginal students and their progress, both school boards have started asking parents to self-identify. While the numbers and the data are still being collected, some trends are already clear.
In recent years, First Nation students have comprised 30 per cent of Beaver Brae’s population of 950, but less than half were expected to complete their year.
By 2010, the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board is expecting its population to be 50 per cent aboriginal.
Through the added supports in the school’s proposal, Monteith is hoping to see a two per cent increase in graduation rates, as well as a five per cent increase in participation rates in extra-curricular athletics.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak, through Industry Canada's First Nations SchoolNet and the Ontario Regional Management Organization, sent a team of youth to this year's Chiefs of Ontario 3rd Annual First Nations Youth Symposium in Six Nations.
The SchoolNet team is made up of participants in this year's Youth Employment initiative that participated in the Cisco Academy of Learning ITE1 program and successfully completed the course. Angie Fiddler, the project coordinator and Angus Miles, the ITE1 Training Coordinator travelled to the gathering along with Cal Kenny and Kanina Terry to present these youth with their certificates and document this event. As well, Angus will be working with those youth who are now working through the Cisco ITE2 course, helping them complete their lessons. Click here to check out the pictures from this event
The Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council invited youth from across Ontario to attend this gathering that is being held this weekend, February 24-26, 2006. Click here to check out last year's gathering
This event is being jointly hosted in Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation.
This year’s theme is focusing on Education and providing 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 are planned presentations and discussions from youth regarding the challenges and opportunities before them.
All First Nation youth 16-29 years of age were invited to attend this symposium. However, youth under 18 are required to have a chaperone. The Chiefs of Ontario were not covering the cost of travel for participants and therefore the participants were encouraged to seek sponsorship for this event. First Nations were encouraged to support their youth to attend by assisting in costs for travel. Accommodations for out of town participants are being provided.
The symposium is intended to bring together youth, educators, traditional elders, and technical experts for the opportunity to dialogue and share information that will participants and First Nations youth in general. This gathering is intended to provide a framework for the OFNYPC to develop a strategy to lobby on issues pertaining to education.
Two letters from the mining exploration company president to Chief Donny Morris of KI were shared with community members last night (see below). Threats that the government, the police and the mining community interests take precedence over access to First Nation traditional lands is made clear in the following letters to the community.
This past week, five KO First Nation representatives from Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill participated in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) workshop in the SLAAMB boardroom in Sioux Lookout. Click here to see some pictures from the workshop.
The workshop is part of the CORDA funding for the KO Traditional Territories project, initiated by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Public Works department, lead by Robert Hunter.
The KO Traditional Territories Project has three primary objectives:
Voyageurs North owner Tom Terry lead the first day of the workshop, providing information about:
The final two days of the workshop involved a ESRI trainer from Toronto providing ArcView Software training for the GIS technicians from each KO First Nation.
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug is involved in a mining exploration dispute with Platinex Inc. concerning the use of their tradtional territories. Follow the story and view the pictures of the mining camp site on the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug web site at http://bigtroutlake.firstnation.ca
Click here to read Platinex Press Release dated February 14, 2006 describing their mining claims - PLATINEX ADDS ADJACENT CHROMITE-BEARING LEASES TO BIG TROUT LAKE PROPERTY
from the Globe and Mail, February 22, 2006 ... click here to see the story
Stakes are high as miners and natives square off
Remote site's platinum riches touch off fight over land rights
BIG TROUT LAKE, ONT. -- It may not look like much: a white canvas tent, a five-kilowatt diesel generator throbbing on the frozen muskeg and two miners puffing in the winter air. In fact, the setup was so small that the men and their equipment had fit into the belly of a Twin Otter plane that landed on a nearby frozen lake the day before.
But this tiny wilderness camp in a forgotten corner of Northern Ontario is the scene of a dispute that may have an impact across the country.
The outcome may prove pivotal for the welfare of native communities in Northern Ontario and may set a precedent that could alter the way Canada manages its natural resources.
At stake is the notion dating back to the days of the Yukon gold rush and beyond -- the idea that anybody can stake a claim on Crown land, buy a licence and begin digging or drilling for valuable resources.
But while the miners who arrived at the site last week believe they have the right to dig, the Big Trout Lake band is arguing that aboriginals never signed away ownership of the land to the European settlers in early 20th century treaties.
Big Trout Lake, along with six other native communities in Northern Ontario, and several environmental organizations, has called for a moratorium on all mining and logging in the region until a proper land-use survey is done and a deal on resource sharing is agreed upon.
At stake is a huge amount of money. According to Platinex Inc., the Southern Ontario company that has staked and leased the remote drilling site, the Big Trout Lake claim alone could prove to be the largest deposit of platinum in North America.
The nub of the argument put forward by Big Trout Lake is that although the land is outside the reserve it is theirs, at least in part, by inheritance.
"They think they can ride roughshod over us like in the old days," said Chief Donny Morris of Big Trout Lake (the reserve has recently renamed itself the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation).
"But this is our birthright, our God-given right. The community wants to be involved."
The seeds of the current conflict were sown eight years ago when Platinex was incorporated and began seeking rights from provincial authorities to drill near Big Trout Lake.
Platinex president and chief executive officer James Trusler said he tried many times to win the approval of the band for the drilling but was rebuffed. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in several cases that natives must be consulted in such situations.
"Some members of the band were happy with us, others were not. They just tried to get us off so they could get the land," Mr. Trusler said.
The company has spent $600,000 on the claim and expects to spend $1.5-million by the end of winter, he added.
The company has decided to push ahead without the title dispute being settled. But Big Trout members cite examples from Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Atlantic Canada in which courts have ruled that the native communities must be allowed to benefit from the resources of the land.
The band says that under the Treaty of Adhesion in 1929, when Big Trout Lake reached a deal with the Crown, it agreed to share the land with the settlers -- not forgo its rights to it.
The land staked by Platinex is also subject to a treaty land entitlement claim by the Big Trout Lake band.
This land redistribution process, which has been going on for years, stems from recognition by the federal government in the 1980s that it cheated the natives out of some of the land it promised them in treaties.
Based on experience, native groups fear that if mining and logging is allowed to go ahead willy-nilly, the environment will be ruined.
The last company to drill near Big Trout Lake, for example, dumped large boxes of core samples on the fragile muskeg when it packed up and left several years ago.
"About 20 years ago, mining exploration destroyed an important area for hunting and fishing sturgeon. We have no assurances that new exploration will not bring similar problems," Allan Beardy, an elder with the nearby Muskrat Dam First Nation, said in a letter signed by seven native groups, calling for a moratorium on mining exploration and forestry in Northern Ontario.
"First nations are not anti-development. They are anti-development that is destructive and doesn't benefit them," said Francis Thatcher, a Thunder Bay lawyer who represents many native communities.
"Northern Ontario is a generation behind in terms of the government response. The first nations were getting more respect in the 1980s."
Frank Beardy, a former chief of Muskrat Dam, explained the native opposition to such ventures as drilling, mining and logging. "There are millions of dollars out there and we live in islands of poverty. We're not against development. We just want a piece of the action. And we want some environmental protection," he said.
"We've been after revenue-sharing for countless numbers of years. Now we need to evict the intruders until the matter is resolved," Mr. Beardy said.
Environmental groups have also weighed in, criticizing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for his failure to live up to promises he made while in opposition to institute comprehensive land-use planning.
The Wildlands League has called on the Premier to protect Ontario's huge boreal forest, which is home to woodland caribou, wolverine and many other species of wildlife at risk.
Last week, native leaders who had been watching the winter road for signs that Platinex might try to truck in a drilling team against their wishes were caught unawares when the company flew a team in.
By the time Big Trout Lake members reached the remote spot the next day -- a draining journey by truck and snowmobile in temperatures of -30 -- the first two-man Platinex construction team was in place.
David Sainnawap, 46, who works for the band, was one of the scouts. "I've always had a deep feeling that this is ours. They shouldn't just come and take something that doesn't belong to them," he said.
Platinex has refused to call off drilling operations and the band leadership has become increasingly frustrated.
The Ontario Provincial Police flew in an extra man, Inspector Darrell Smiley, to try to smooth over the differences, but he met with little success and left late last week.
Mr. Trusler said this week that his workers had been threatened but that he was planning to proceed regardless.
"We've informed police and government we've received threats but we're proceeding. I hope to start drilling soon," he said.
The tactics of both sides will be dictated by climate and geography as much as any legal considerations.
Band officials say that mounting a protest at the site in current frigid temperatures is not workable, but they may try to block the winter road to prevent a heavy drill from arriving.
Members of Big Trout Lake say that they eschew violence but are determined to resist the drilling.
"Our people have already given up a lot. We've already lost a lot," said John Cutfeet, who is in charge of environmental issues on the Big Trout reserve.
"The whole idea of the treaties was that we live in peaceful co-existence and share resources. That never happened."
Click here to see Platinex's response to this Globe and Mail article dated February 22.
February 20 2006 marked the graduation of 3 dedicated Deer Lake Homecare workers from the Personal Support Worker Certification program.
Martha Meekis, Home and Community Care Coordinator, Annie Anysanabe, Home and Communiy Care PSW and Doris Meekis Home and Community Care Homemaker all completed the 500 hour course.
Their studies included all areas of caring for community members who need assistance. Hygeine, mobility, medications, mental health, documentation, ongoing conditions, abuse, interpersonal skills, care planning, first aid, CPR, death and dying, bedside care individuality of the person, role of the worker, household management and meal preparation were some of the topics studied by these hard working ladies over the past 3 years.
The graduation ceremonies were held at the Deer Lake School. Thanks to so many caring people in the community, the event was a huge success.
After an opening prayer by Elder Virginia Meekis, Assistant Health Director Jill Quill, Elder Obeik Koostachin, Chairperson of Health Zack Meekis and Band Councilor Oscar Meekis all helped to present the certificates and honour the graduates with kind words.
Past and Present Home and Community Care Nurse Supervisors, Nancy Muller and Sylvia McPherson as well as LTC Nurse Phyllis Choweniec travelled to Deer Lake for the event.
The PSW certificate is recognized by Homecare and Hospital facilities and is a prerequisite for many jobs in the health care field.
These 3 caring workers are proud of their accomplishment and plan to use their new skills to improve the Deer Lake Home and Community Care program.