Onkwehonwe Week in Review: March 4 1015

Indigenous MP comes out against Liberal support of Bill C-51

OTTAWA – Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash is blasting the Liberals and their leader, Justin Trudeau, for supporting Stephen Harper’s anti-terror bill C-51, arguing the bill directly threatens indigenous rights covered by section 35 of the Constitution.

The Liberals have stated that although they support the bill, which passed a second reading in the House of Commons, they would amend it if elected to federal office. The bill will now go to a parliamentary committee for study, reports APTN News.

Bill C-51 proposes to expand the scope and police-like powers of CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, and it would give police more powers to crack down on people they deem terrorists, or whom they believe are spreading “terrorist propaganda” through social media. This may include anti-pipeline protestors and indigenous people who might be deemed to “undermine the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” by advancing indigenous land rights. Despite lacking any regulatory oversight mechanism, Harper also wants to impose a three-day-limit for committee hearings on the bill, which critics have condemned.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also rejected the bill, saying it “directly violates” both their rights as Indigenous individuals and their rights to their respective territories. A group of over 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines have recently released an open letter to Parliament calling on MPs to vote against the bill.

First national roundtable into #MMIW is held

OTTAWA – The first national roundtable into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women was held on Feb. 26 and 27 in Ottawa among indigenous organizations, victims’ families and federal delegates including Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch.

However, though some families were given the opportunity to tell their stories, and an agreement was made to meet again before the end of 2016, some say that overall participation was constrained and that nothing new was proposed or achieved at the end of the day.

According to a News Talk 980 article, Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, an indigenous activist and cousin of a victim (Shelley Napope), said not enough families were allowed to speak due to the antiquated “methodology” used by the government.

Indeed, a CBC report confirmed that out of the 10 participants that each organization, province and territory was allowed to bring, only two could actually participate in the meeting at the same time, though they could rotate. “The other eight are there strictly as observers and cannot take part in discussions or ask questions,” explained the article.

Study finds MMIW recommendations unimplemented

Researchers with the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women have found that only a few of more than 700 recommendations of how to stop violence against indigenous women made in various reports (including government reports) have been implemented.

They argue that as a result of this, many more women have been victimized. They also said that it is evidence that the federal government “breached their fundamental moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all women, without discrimination,” according to a Rabble.ca article.

They studied 58 reports made over a two-decade period by various groups and found that most of the reports suggest the root causes are discrimination beginning with colonization and continuing through racist laws and policies such as the Indian Act.

Leaders of various indigenous organizations also agreed that a national inquiry would examine why there has been so much resistance by governments to the recommendations made over the years, helping thereby to provide accountability to the public and to compel governments to take concrete actions.

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Council banishes people involved in drug trade

MICHIGAN – The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Council has taken a unanimous vote to banish two non-member Native Americans for engaging in drug trafficking within the boundaries of the Isabella Federal Reservation, reports Native News Online.

The drugs were discovered on Feb. 17, during a routine traffic stop. One woman was arrested and charged with possession of heroin and intent to deliver, and another with carrying concealed weapons.

Tribal Police Captain Jim Cates said they had decided to banish the accused before conviction in order to send the message that drug trafficking will not be tolerated on tribal lands.

Tribal Chief Steve Pego echoed that message, emphasizing that the decision was taken by a people tired of having these life-threatening substances plaguing their lands.

Council is allowed to banish people for specific reasons under Ordinance No. 3 of the Tribal Code.

First Nations Regiment would be an honour to Bold Eagle graduates

WAINWRIGHT – An editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press suggests that a First Nations regiment should be created within the Canadian Armed Forces, inspired by the achievements of the Bold Eagle program.

Bold Eagle is a six-week youth-development program based in Wainwright, Alberta. It is an intensive program in collaboration with the Armed Forces, which helps native recruits learn about their history and culture during a week they spend with Cree elders, and then puts them through gruelling military training for the remainder of the time.

The author, James Wilson, commissioner of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba and a former member of the military, writes that a First Nations regiment would be a good way to honour the generations of young indigenous soldiers who’ve graduated from the program with “enduring and traditional signs of strength, leadership, wisdom and courage.”

He added that many businesses are looking to hire military trained indigenous individuals, precisely because of their discipline, confidence, physical fitness and ability to work in a team.

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