Onkwehonwe Week In Review: June 15 2016

Quebec legislation puts the future of Mohawk internet casinos in jeopardy


Bill 74 is a little publicized bill that is moving it’s way through Quebec’s legislative process. The bill will force internet service providers to block Quebecer’s access to online gaming sites that aren’t approved by the government. According to Quebec’s Finance Minister, Carlos Leitao, the bill is needed to protect the health and safety of Quebecers because “illegal sites” don’t apply the same “responsible gaming rules” as sites run by the government.

However, according to Julius Grey, a lawyer specializing in Constitutional and Human Rights, Bill 74 is, “an illustration of the high handedness and the oppressiveness of modern Western practices.”  Not only that, but it is a violation of the “freedom of expression”. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) is concerned about the new legislation because of the impact on the Kahnawake Gaming Commission who operates more than 19 gaming websites. Millions of dollars of lost revenue, that are vital to socio-economic development in the Mohawk community, are at risk.

Bill 74 seeks to make Lotto Quebec an online monopoly and this violates the UNDRIP, especially considering that Canada recently signed on to endorse the international agreement. UNDRIP enforces the ability of indigenous nationhood to pursue economic development on their own terms. Mohawk Council of Kahnawake says that “now is the time” for Canada to put these promises into action. MCK considers Bill 74 an infringement of sovereignty and territorial rights that extend into cyberspace.

The language in Bill 74 that allows the Ministry of Finance to order internet service providers to block online gaming sites that are not authorized by Lotto Quebec. Under the proposed legislation, such sites will be blacklisted and heavy fines will be handed down against Quebec’s internet service providers in case of noncompliance. The government of Canada currently opposes the bill.


Fate of renowned Manitou Stone still in the hands of Royal Alberta Museum


An ancient meteorite believed to be more than four billion years old landed in Hardisty, Alberta hundreds of years ago. It has been named the Manitou Stone and is considered to be a sacred object to the indigenous peoples of the area. The Manitou Stone is one of hundreds of sacred ceremonial objects, including sweetgrass, necklaces, ceremonial bags and pipes, currently housed in the Royal Alberta Museum.

According to the museum’s executive director, Chris Robinson, the Royal Alberta Museum was asked to “look after” these items. In the 1800s, the Manitou Stone was taken by missionaries and showcased across the country. In 1972, the Manitou Stone was put on display at the Royal Alberta Museum in the Gallery of Aboriginal Culture. Some say that you can see the face of Creator in the stone.

“To give you an example of how sacred it was, former chief Big Bear used to go where this Manitou Stone was and he would go and do ceremony and would fast,” said Ron Lameman, the bilateral co-ordinator for the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations. Prophecy foretold famine, disease and death if ever the Stone were to disappear.

Consultation over possible repatriation of the Manitou Stone has created an impasse. The museum insists that “all indigenous peoples must agree on a solution” and until then, the museum will continue to house the sacred stone in a new standalone gallery, specifically for the Manitou Stone. Despite having worked with indigenous leaders for more than a decade, they are currently seeking more direction on how to best move forward with placement of the Stone.  Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ricardo Miranda said that Bill 22, also known as the Repatriation Bill is another part of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Alberta. The first reading of the bill was on May 26, but they expect it to be passed in the fall sitting of Alberta’s legislature. “These objects don’t belong to us, we are the stewards of these objects, but we’re not the owners,” Miranda said.


Shooting in Maniwaki leaves one youth dead and the community in mourning


Maniwaki is a reserve located an hour and a half north of Ottawa. On Sunday morning, 18-year-old Bret Jerome from Rapid Lake, Quebec was killed during the early morning hours of June 12, during a house party. The community is mourning the loss of a young life gone too soon.

“It’s chaos that we’re going through, you know, the struggle, you know. If we continue giving up, there’ll be more of this, so the message is clear, you know, to wake up to find out who we are, where we stand, then look together on the outside, not towards each other,” said Jerome family friend, Wayne Papatie.

Amik Mitchell, 22, has been charged with first degree murder. Mitchell is from Kitigan Zibi.  According to Sûreté du Québec, two other men, Jay Axel Stevens, 22, and Tristan Stevens Gagnon, 19, were also arrested in Gatineau. Police have not said whether a weapon was recovered from the scene and it is not known how the suspects knew the victim.

Jerome’s sister, Christa Jerome, said her brother “was always a good kid but I guess he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. We all loved him very much.  He was gone too soon, too young.”


Cree community regroups 40 years after Hydro-Quebec flooded their territory


Waswanipi means “light on the water”. It is here in Quebec, an eight-hour drive north of Ottawa that an entire community of Cree people have regrouped after being forcibly removed from their homelands. In the 1970s, families living on a nearby island, now known as the Old Post were told their homes would be flooded and to leave immediately because Hydro-Quebec was damming the rivers in their territory.

People scattered to places like Matagami, Miquelon, and Quevillon, while others moved to nearby Cree communities where they stayed with their relatives. Despite the displacement and separation, the desire to keep the community together remains alive and stronger than ever.

“There have been challenges,” said current chief Marcel Happyjack. “But we have continued to progress. In the future, we still have to take care of our people because we have to teach these youth today that it is possible to balance what we have in the modern world with what we as Cree people have been given to survive from the land.”

A lot has changed after 40 years away from their territorial homeland but many elders are amazed at how much it stays the same. During this time of reclamation, the community will be conducting Walking Out Ceremonies, a rite of passage in which toddlers take their first steps outside, dressed in their traditional outfits carrying miniature tools, like axes and bows and arrows, to symbolize the importance of ancestral roles in their communities.

“Our lives evolved from the land and we need to continue to teach our children and future generations to never give up on our identities as Cree peoples,” said Elder Glen Cooper. “I hope that we can heal in the future so we can live healthy lives and have healthy spirits.”



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