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Scarborough’s West Hill United Church Calls on Canada to respect the treaty relationships

The First Nations Study Group at West Hill United Church in Scarborough recently launched a Petition to the House of Commons to draw attention to the alarming gap between government services provided to Aboriginal people and those provided to non-Aboriginal people with respect to housing, water, education, child and family services, health and social programs

The First Nations Study Group at West Hill United Church in Scarborough recently launched a Petition to the House of Commons to draw attention to the alarming gap between government services provided to Aboriginal people and those provided to non-Aboriginal people with respect to housing, water, education, child and family services, health and social programs and other basic needs.

One of the study circle’s convenors, Ruth Gill, said, “the treaties were signed between First Nations and the Crown. The Onkwehon:we people should not bear this struggle alone. We too as non-Onkwehon:we people have a responsibility to ensure that our obligations and duties under the Treaties are upheld by our Government. Most Canadians would agree it’s time the basic needs of all peoples in Canada were met equitably.”

When asked what effect she thought this petition would have, Ms. Gill, answered, “our petition will show that many Canadians consider these issues to be important enough to affect how they vote. That will put pressure on our representatives in Ottawa.”

She told the Two Row Times that a Conservative Member of Parliament, Mr. Corneliu Chisu, said he will read them aloud in the House of Commons. “That will make them part of the Public Record,” said Ms. Gill.

She was delighted with the response the petition has so far received.

“We launched the petition at West Hill’s July 28 Sunday service when I spoke on my trip with 42 other Canadians to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), a reserve in Ontario’s far north. That was at the community’s invitation. At our website www.westhill.net there’s a Podcast of my report on conditions at KI.

Nearly every member at West Hill has since signed the petition. Michael Desautels, the Human Rights/Aboriginal Rights Officer of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), told us that the PSAC is posting our petition on the union’s website and circulating it to the National Aboriginal Peoples’ Network.

We’ll be meeting with Kairos, a justice initiative that unites eleven churches and religious organizations across Canada, to talk about how to get it out to a wider network. At the recent Common Front gathering of union and social action groups in Toronto, delegates not only signed our petition but took copies for their groups.

The same is happening at the merger convention of the CAW-CEP unions. We’re presenting it to the next meeting of the Caring Alliance, a coalition of churches in Scarborough.” Ms. Gill said.

Steve Watson is a retired member of the CAW staff, a supporter of West Hill United Church and long-time ally of Six Nations and other Onkwehonwe peoples.

The full text of the Petition reads as follows:

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

WE the undersigned citizens and/or residents of Canada Wish to bring to your attention the alarming gap between government services provided to Aboriginal people and those provided to non-Aboriginal people with respect to housing, potable water, primary and secondary education, child and family services, health and social programs, and other basic needs, for example:

• Ontario Elementary schools receive on average $11,000 per student while schools on reserve receive on average $6,000 per student from the Federal government. Steve Styers, Principal Walpole Island Elementary School, Wallaceburg, Ontario. Toronto Star January 14, 2013; and

• There were 168 contaminated water advisories reported in 127 First Nations Communities Leslie Young, Global News: Jan 20, 2012; and

• Real per capita transfers from Ottawa to the Provinces for Health and Social Programs were up 40% since 1996 while Federal payments for reserve infrastructure (such as housing) were down 40% over the same period. Paul Wells, Maclean’s Magazine. Fri. Dec 9, 2011; and

THEREFORE, we call upon the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled

TO lift the 2% cap on annual increases to Aboriginal Affairs core programs (in place since 1996)

TO reverse the 15% or $1.2 billion cut to the 2015-16 Aboriginal Affairs budget (reported by Curry and Thompson, by the Globe & Mail April 5, 2013)

TO increase Federal funding for Aboriginal housing, potable water, primary and secondary education, child and family services, health and social programs, and other basic needs to a level that attains equality in the provision of government services between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada, and

TO uphold our duties and obligations as Treaty people.

Copies of the Petition to the House of Commons can be downloaded from www.westhill.net. Ms Gill has asked that people return the petition with original signatures by October 10th to: West Hill United Church, 62 Orchard Pk. Drive, Toronto, ON M1E 3T7 Attention: First Nations Study Group.

by Steve Watson
TORONTO

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