Onkwehonwe Week in Review: April 1 2015

Compensation sought for residential day-scholars

KAMLOOPS – The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc (or Kamloops Indian Band) and the Sechelt Indian Band are in the middle of a class-action lawsuit demanding compensation for B.C. residential school day-scholars. These were students who attended the schools in the morning but lived somewhere else.

The lawsuit was launched in 2012, and over the next month lawyers representing both First Nations will appear in court to ask for certification of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argues that day-scholars suffered just as much as regular residential school students, including loss of language and culture as well as physical and mental abuse. Yet, they were not included as beneficiaries in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement implemented in 2007. It granted residential school survivors $10,000 for their first year at a school, and $3,000 for each subsequent year.

Tk’emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson told the Daybreak Kamloops that now the bands are fighting to include day-scholars because it is a “human rights issue.” He added they’re also seeking compensation for their descendants and money for a healing fund, reports the CBC.


Heiltsuk Nation occupies DFO offices

BELLA BELLA – At 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, members of the Heiltsuk Nation announced they were occupying the offices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans office near Bella Bella, B.C., to protest the government’s decision to open a herring-roe seine fishery on B.C.’s Central Coast.

Earlier in the year, the First Nation declared a ban on herring fisheries for a year to conserve dwindling populations of herring, but the DFO chose to ignore their call. The First Nation has responded by issuing the DFO with an eviction notice.

The Vancouver Sun reported that the First Nation had issued a press release, where Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett stated: “We will be here until DFO announces that Area 7 is closed to a gillnet fishery.”

The DFO has denied that herring populations are depleting, arguing there was enough stock to support a modest commercial harvest.

Kelly Brown, who directs the Heiltsuk’s resource management department, said that only about half of the 32,000 tons of herring predicted by the DFO have been detected.

Members of the band took up camp at the DFO’s lawn and refused to leave. Mounties and DFO officers remained at the scene of the protest, reported the Vancouver Sun.


Premier Christy Clark cancels new B.C. Treaty Commission head appointment

BRITISH COLUMBIA – Citing an incredibly low achievement record, B.C. Premier Christy Clark suggested the entire B.C. Treaty Commission might be shut down. She said this as she announced the cancellation of George Abbott’s appointment as the new head of the commission.

Abbott was offered the job last fall by Clark’s government, and was supported by both the federal government and the B.C. First Nations Summit, the other two official treaty-commission partners, reported The Province.

But Clark said that over the last 23 years the commission has been active, it hasn’t done much except cost the government millions of dollars in payouts to First Nations – about $627 million to about 50 First Nations in “negotiation support funding,” states The Province. Moreover, she cited the fact that in all that time, only four treaties have been finalized, signed and ratified.

The commission was created to mediate modern-day treaty negotiations between B.C. First Nations and the federal government, since most of the province is unceded native land.


PMO wants to undermine Gladue principles

OTTAWA – APTN News has learned that the Prime Minister’s Office tried rewording portions of the Criminal Code in order to “diminish” the effects of Gladue Reports for indigenous offenders. This happened during the height of Idle No More, in 2013, while the PMO worked on the Victims Bill of Rights Act, Bill C-32.

The PMO first directed then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to work on the wording in 2012. It was introduced to Parliament in April 2014 by current Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

The bill would reword section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code by adding a clause to consider “the harm done to victims or to the community.” Originally, this section of the Criminal Code was meant to ask courts to consider all alternatives to imprisonment “with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal people.”

Critics of the bill have testified before a parliamentary committee on the bill, saying the new wording will undermine Gladue principles in sentencing.


University of Winnipeg introduces mandatory indigenous studies course

WINNIPEG – The University of Winnipeg senate has approved a motion put forward by the student union that called for a mandatory indigenous studies course.

This means that all students at the university will have to take at least one course that looks at many of the various facets of indigenous culture and tradition in order to graduate.

The idea is to create a more understanding society within the school and across Canada by fostering conversations about colonialism and racism.

The motion was announced in February by both the U of W Student Union and the U of W Aboriginal Students’ Council.

The program is being introduced a few months after Maclean’s rated Winnipeg the most racist place in Canada.

Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University will introduce a similar mandatory indigenous studies course tailored to student’s main subject of expertise in 2016.

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