Onkwhonwe Week In Review: 09 December 2015

Recognizing the Jay Treaty could help heal social dysfunction, George-Kanentiio

AKWESASNE – Akwesasne Mohawk journalist Doug George-Kanentiio has a solution for indigenous communities that are in dire straits, whether it be from lack of food security, or economic dependence on the Canadian state. Kanentiio says that the solution has been under our noses the whole time. The Jay Treaty of 1794 was signed between British colonists and the Americans to ensure Indigenous nations could freely, with their person and their goods, travel across the borders imposed by colonialism. Now that Trudeau’s government is talking about renewing the nation to nation agreements, Kanentiio says now is the time for a formal recognition of the Jay Treaty. “We [have] the right to control our economic destinies,” he says.

The Liberal government has promised 500-million-dollars to boost Indigenous economy through funding community programming and education. However, Kanentiio says that a formal recognition of the ignored Jay Treaty would “unlock [the] enormous economic potential across aboriginal Canada.” In the 80’s the formation of a native free trade zone including nations from across Turtle Island replicated agreements that indigenous nations had with each other pre-contact. Such an agreement would ensure that we would be able to transport good at less cost to communities that need it the most. Kanentiio says he is an eternal optimist and hopes that social dysfunction can be helped through economic sovereignty. “This is our chance.”

Thunder Bay is the new murder capital of Canada: StatsCan

THUNDER BAY – According to Statistics Canada and it’s annual Severe Crime report, Thunder Bay is the new murder capital of Canada on a per capita basis. The report designates Aboriginal homicide at the top of that list as well, showing that Aboriginal men are 7 times more likely to be murdered and Aboriginal women 6 times more likely. The studies show that there is a direct link between poverty and murder.

Brad King, frontline worker at Shelter House in Thunder Bay, says he “has hope for change in Thunder Bay’s new Liberal MP, Patty Hajdu,” who is also the new Minister for Status of Women. King hopes that her understanding of homelessness and the issues behind it, could help to end it. Perhaps even to become a voice for society’s most marginalized.

Deputy Chief of Thunder Bay Police Service, Andrew Hay believes that, “Violence is driven by the issues of alcohol and poverty and homelessness and addictions and that will continue to plague Thunder Bay until we address these core issues.” However, Hay fails to note the impacts of racism and the direct links between poverty and murder. Considering that Aboriginal people make up 8% of Thunder Bay’s population, yet constitute 80% of the homeless population, perhaps it’s time to look beyond ideas of criminality. There are deep seeded issues that must be addressed. Tools like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the upcoming inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are available and could lead to genuine reconciliation and justice.

Trudeau fights to include Indigenous rights in Paris Climate Agreements The 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP21, is underway in Paris, France. For two weeks, 147 world leaders, including Justin Trudeau, are meeting to “achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2C.” The past five years are expected to go down as the “warmest yet” on modern record. 50, 000 participants are attending, with 25, 000 being from government, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society. The Indigenous Environmental Network participates and have been quick to call out the “annexation” of Indigenous rights language from the operative text being drafted at the conference. According to IEN, Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of climate change. Dramatic climate changes include the detrimental effects that warming waters have on migrating salmon, for example.

The Global Indigenous Caucus, a delegation of Indigenous representatives from the Arctic to the Amazon, reacted with a kayak flotilla to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. Hundreds attended the event. Justin Trudeau responded: “I have instructed people to strongly advocate for the inclusion of language that reflects the importance of respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples. We have also highlighted the importance of considering Indigenous traditional knowledge alongside scientific analysis.” Trudeau has been lauded by First Nation leaders for fighting to include Indigenous rights in the climate treaty process, although it is opposed by the United States and the European Union. However, Elizabeth May, a lawyer with more than a decade of climate negotiation experience said not to expect that the inclusion of these rights will help Aboriginal battles with resource extraction practices. “I don’t see any direct benefit for our Canadian pipeline battles.” TRC

Commissioners cautiously optimistic about Trudeau’s promises

On Tuesday, the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) were pleased to hear PM Trudeau’s commitment to implementing the 94 recommendations contained in the report. In a speech to over 300 chiefs and their proxies, Trudeau indicated that his government wants to build a new relationship with First Nations. TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson said that she was pleased with the tone of the speech, “as long as there is progress being made in partnership and collaboration, I’ll be happy.” However, TRC Commissioner Murray Sinclair says: “First of all, they are words. We need to keep that in mind. It is always about action. We have to be firm and resolute because we recognize it is going to take many generations.”

The TRC report will be released December 15 in Ottawa. It contains a full and detailed analysis how the conclusions were reached. It also includes audio versions of the summary. The report has also been translated into Mi’kmaq, Ojibway, Cree, Dine and Inuktitut. Accessibility of the document has been very important during the drafting process. Details are included, like graphs, tables and charts, in order to respond to some reactions to our calls to action. For example, incarceration rates have doubled since 1991, as well the number of Indigenous children being taken into care is now six times higher than in 1990. “If you keep doing what you are doing and expect to change things, you are crazy” said Sinclair. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created as part of the multi-billion dollar settlement between Ottawa and residential school survivors.

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