Onkwehon:we week in review Dec, 10

Leona Aglukkaq and Nutrition North come under fire

OTTAWA – Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has come under fire from critics after she was caught on camera reading the newspaper during Question Period on Monday, Dec. 1.

While the Nunavut MP read, opposition critics demanded answers about the food crisis in the north, which is causing people in areas of Nunavut like Rankin Inlet to rummage for food at the local dump, as APTN News reported.

All of this comes at a time when the federal Nutrition North food subsidy program is being criticized by the Auditor General, who noted in his fall report that the program wasn’t working. Opposition MPs have also been questioning Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt over the program’s lack of efficiency.

The program is supposed to subsidize the cost of food, which is very costly to transport to the North, but residents of Nunavut have taken to social media to post pictures of the exorbitantly high prices stores continue to charge.

Feeding my Family is a Facebook group founded by Leesee Papatsie to document the high prices via posted pictures, which are usually two to three times higher than elsewhere in the country.

In a CBC interview, Aglukkaq also denied she ever tried to extract an apology from Rankin Inlet deputy mayor Sam Tutanuak. Tutanuak told APTN news her office demanded the apology after he had made comments criticizing the Nutrition North program and revealed that people had to resort sifting through trash in the dump to eat.


Study finds number of Aboriginal women in prisons is spiking

OTTAWA – A new study by the federal Justice Department found that between 2002 and 2012, the number of Aboriginal women in Canada’s prisons rose by 97 percent, the Huffington Post reported.

While it has been known that the Aboriginal population in Canada is over-represented in the criminal justice system, studies have not traditionally focused solely on women. This report, which was obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, found that, by contrast, the percentage of Aboriginal men in prisons has increased by only 34 percent.

The report also pointed out that Aboriginal women in prisons shared common threads in comparison to their non-native counterparts, including being slightly younger, having less education, struggling to find work and many having issues of substance abuse, according to the Huffington Post.

Unfortunately, the report also found that Aboriginal women were more likely than non-Aboriginal women to have been imprisoned for violent crimes.

The Huffington Post reported that Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, suggested the legal and justice system themselves must be amended to care for society’s marginalized people, such as Aboriginal women, in order to prevent them “from being criminalized in the first place.”


Victoria’s new mayor pledges solidarity with Indigenous people


VICTORIA – The new mayor of Victoria, BC – a city named after the Queen – declined to pledge allegiance to the Queen in her inaugural speech Dec. 4, opting instead to honour the Songhees and Esquimalt nations, the original inhabitants of the land.

Mayor Lisa Helps, along with four other members of council, decided to skip the pledge of allegiance not necessarily as a sign of protest toward the Queen, but as a sign of solidarity with indigenous peoples.

In a Global News video, Helps is quoted saying the tradition “just seemed out-dated.” She also suggested that to get new and better results for the problems plaguing Aboriginals throughout Canada, officials must embrace new methods, rather than doing “the same thing because we’ve done…for the last 150 years.”

Marianne Alto, Ben Isitt and Geremy Loveday were the three other members of council who, with Helps, declined to pledge allegiance to the Queen.

While some people, including members of the Monarchist League of Canada, have criticized Helps, social media platforms have been inundated with support from across the country.

Helps defeated Dean Fortin, a two-term mayor, on November 15, by just 89 votes.



First Nations transparency act debacle

OTTAWA – Six First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan are being sued by the federal government for refusing to comply with a new law that requires them to post their audited financial statements online, but which the First Nations say is intrusive and unfair.

However, Chief Wallace Fox from the Onion Lake Cree Nation, is also suing the federal government in response to their “ultimatums” and “threatening letters,” the CBC reported. Fox is referring to the government’s threats of withholding funding for non-essential programs, services and activities until they comply.

Ryerson University associate professor Pam Palmater, who is also a lawyer specializing in Aboriginal law, called the government’s threats “criminal” during a Power and Politics panel on December 2, and argued that the piece of legislation is redundant and “based on a complete lie.”

In a Huffington Post piece, she is quoted saying that, “Every First Nation has to file an audited financial statement with Indian Affairs every year to account for federal funds and it’s 100 percent accessible by band members either through the band or Indian Affairs.”

She also said that the legislation violates the constitution because the consent of the First Nations is required.



Study finds higher rates of cancer are linked to oil sands toxins

Earlier this year, a human health study released by two northern Alberta First Nations found that their wild food contains higher-than-normal levels of toxic metals and carcinogens from the oil sands, which could be linked to their elevated rates of cancer.

This has led many people in the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations to stop eating their food, which includes all kinds of wild game and fish.

The Vancouver Observer has reported that, “Fish are no longer eaten from the Athabasca River, due to government health warnings.”

The study, which was partly funded by Health Canada and reviewed by federal scientists, also found that 23 out of the 94 participants in the study had cancer, among other illnesses.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Universities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, because the University of Alberta was not credible enough, according to Chief Steve Courtereille of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

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