A recent CBC ‘listicle’ calling out the top indigenous news stories in Canada for 2016. While the compilation definitely included the top subject matter about indigenous communities, our indigenous editorial team felt it greatly lacked substance and context. So behold — we present to you — the real top stories indigenous people were talking about in 2016.
Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling. The tribunal found Canada guilty of discriminating funding practices towards First Nations children in care. They were ordered by the tribunal to amend the situation. Chronic underfunding and government squabbles over who is going to pay what has been identified as the source problem to a socio-economic ripple effect. This leads First Nations children into poor lifetime health outcomes and at a greater risk for things like suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism.
Stopping the oil industry. The common theme emerging across Indian country to halt environmentally and socially harmful resource extraction on indigenous territory culminated in a historic inter-nation alliance being signed by community leaders throughout Canada and the U.S. Direct action taken against fracking, pipelines and corporate oil investors have hit major national news stations year long — resulting in further alliances with environmental protection agencies and human rights organizations.
Free, Prior and Informed Consent. And the fight for having that respected. Canada announced in early 2016 they now fully support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. An announcement some say was just international pillow talk to make Canada look good. When you take into consideration the position federal lawyers took in a recent court battle citing the duty to consult only applied to “unconquered” peoples, and you can see why Canada’s pledge to uphold the UNDRIP seems like lip service.
Corruption in indigenous ‘leadership’. While this might not appear on national newspapers the real issue of ‘who is doing what on who’s behalf’ in Indian Country is a major point of contention in our communities. In B.C., three hereditary chiefs were stripped of their titles by the people for entering into negotiations with Enbridge. On Six Nations, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute are currently pulled into a class action lawsuit started by Six Nations community members. These are just two examples, but similar issues exist across the country on reserves everywhere.
Misrepresentation. A matter some are affectionately referring to as ‘pretendians’. That is non-indigenous people claiming they are indigenous. An Ontario artist claiming Metis heritage greatly upset the local indigenous community with her artistic interpretation of MMIWG at a Hamilton gallery. Joseph Boyden is the latest example of someone claiming indigenous heritage with little to no evidence of actual indigenous ancestry. The issues arising here are complex and touchy — but important. Who defines who is indigenous? Who has the authority to speak for the indigenous community? And if one is discovered to have been misrepresenting their ancestry — how can they be held accountable when claiming resources set aside for indigenous people?
Sexual Assault/Incest on Reserves. The most difficult issue on the list because it is so taboo to talk about in our communities. Preliminary MMIW inquiry research shows a potential relationship between on reserve sex assault/incest and MMIWG statistics. Much respect to the Canadian Press for their investigative series on the issue broaching the issue with respect.
Truth and Reconciliation. This has been the word of the year with many cities declaring an official year of reconciliation. But Ottawa is heavily criticized for saying all the right things to get indigenous people on their side and then slyly passing the opposite behind our backs. Chiefs invited for ‘Indigenous participation’ in environmental meetings in B.C. stormed out saying it was not about environmental protections and how First Nations can fully participate in that process but about Canada’s plans to transition to a green economy. A decision, by the way, that will require the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people whose lands and resources the country requires to develop its new frontier.