Welcome back to the first podcast episode after a two-month hiatus! This week, three guests talk about two significant occupations of public space that have happened in Canada in the interim: the Black Lives Matter occupation of police headquarters plaza in Toronto and the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices across the country. In this […]Continue reading
Crisis situations are shaking two Canadian communities to their very core – the terrifying wildfires that destroyed Fort McMurray, and the epidemic of attempted youth suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve.The question arises: Why are bil…Continue reading
Crisis situations are shaking two Canadian communities to their very core – the terrifying wildfires that destroyed Fort McMurray, and the epidemic of attempted youth suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve.
The question arises: Why are billions of dollars being pumped in to deal with one crisis while the other is all but being ignored.
By the time Fort McMurray is rebuilt, it’s likely that governments will have spent $2-billion or more. Donations from Canadians will reach into the millions. And a representative of one of the big insurance companies estimated they will be required to pay as much as $9-billion to restore homes and businesses.
|Justin Trudeau receives a gift of sweetgrass and a canoe
from National Chief Perry Bellegarde after addressing
the Assembly of First Nations.
I have no quarrel with anything that is being done to help the people and community of Fort McMurray. The destruction and emotional distress suffered by residents is taking a heavy toll. Like thousands of other folks, I have made a financial contribution.
What I do object to is that, in comparison, the federal and Ontario governments are doing practically nothing and spending a pittance to alleviate the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, a poverty-stricken, isolated community of 2,000 located 720 km north of Sudbury.
The youth crisis reached epidemic proportions just days before the fire outbreak in Fort McMurray. Eleven Attawapiskat young people attempted suicide during the same night. Local hospital staff, unable to deal with the situation, became frantic.
Following an urgent appeal for help, the federal and Ontario government sent a handful of medical specialists to comfort the young people.
The support didn’t help much.
Last week, on the second day of the fires in Fort McMurray, Attawapiskat experienced nine suicide or overdoses attempts.
Chief Bruce Shisheesh of Attawapiskat urgently contacted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and asked for a second meeting. He told Trudeau it was now “a matter of life and death” in his community.
“While the efforts of your ministers is appreciated to date, it falls short [of] finding Attawapiskat has been under a state of emergency since early April, with chief and council saying it has been overwhelmed by ongoing suicide attempts.”
The Prime Minister’s Office replied that Prime Minister Trudeau could meet with native leaders in Ottawa when it was convenient to both parties.
Earlier, Trudeau charmed native leaders and reserve folks with vague promises and double-talk:
“I don’t want to pretend that any of us have the answers to the challenges facing indigenous peoples in Canada, but what I will tell you that as a country, we can build those answers.”
Clearly, compared to the human touch extended to the victims of Fort McMurray, governments are being callous in their responses to the Attawapiskat crisis.
- In April, federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett made a trip to Attawapiskat and promised funding for a new youth centre and some programming for young people. In addition, a youth delegation from the region will be invited to visit Ottawa.
- The Ontario government has pledged $2 million over the next two years for health support and a youth centre for the community.
Where is the empathy
in those kinds of promises?
A lack of money is not the problem. The federal government is sitting on about $4-billion to be used to improve lives, particularly education facilities, on reserves. http://communica.ca/summary-the-2016-federal-budget-and-aboriginal-programs/
What is hard to understand is why the federal government isn’t dipping into its stashed away billions to assist First Nations communities such as Attawapiskat.
If respect for human life is a factor, surely the greatest threat is at Attawapiskat. In Fort McMurray, luckily, only two people lost their lives, due to a vehicle accident. In Attawapiskat a 13-year-old girl committed suicide last October. Since last fall, others have died and there have been more than 100 suicide attempts in the community.
Children – kids who should be growing up bright and enthusiastic – are trying to kill themselves.
The federal government could use one of those giant aircraft being used at Fort McMurray to airlift gifts to the depressed children into Attawapiskat. It would be great if they were given all kinds of things they’d love to have – from computers, to new bicycles, to dolls, etc.
Instead of loaning psychiatrists and medical support to the sad little hospital on the reserve, staff levels should be doubled or tripled until well after the suicide crisis is over.
Much of the housing on the reserve is uninhabitable and contributes to suicidal feelings and other problems. The same military planes that were used to help Fort McMurray should be deployed to air-lift new pre-fabricated houses and community buildings to Attawapiskat.
I contend that the decades of poverty, the murder of more than1,000 women, the many youth suicides, and the general degradation of a race of people deserve equal attention to the aid and love being bestowed on Fort McMurray.
So, why is one crisis receiving massive support, while another, perhaps more serious in some ways, is getting little attention?
Governments and the public reacted so positively and so quickly to the Fort McMurray situation because the fire was so immediate and horrific. Now millions will be spent to allow the energy companies to get back to scraping up oil sands.
While I don’t have a lot of faith in Liberal governments, I am surprised that, given the strong stand Trudeau has taken concerning aboriginal issues, he hasn’t taken more action more quickly.
On the other hand, the problems on reserves such as Attawapiskat have been with us for generations. While there have been improvements in the attitudes of many Canadians toward indigenous people, many others still don’t think they should be helped.
If there were overwhelming pressure on the government to help Attawapiskat, it would be happening. Of course if a non-aboriginal community were threatened by dozens of children trying to commit suicide, government and public response would be overwhelming.
Crisis situations are shaking two Canadian communities to their very core – the terrifying wildfires that destroyed Fort McMurray, and the epidemic of attempted youth suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve. The question arises: Why are billions of dollars being pumped in to deal with one crisis while theContinue reading
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Scott Vrooman rightly makes the point that increased wealth at the top tends to splash outside a country’s borders rather than trickling down. And CBC News reports on how that process has been facilitated by KPM…Continue reading
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- The Ontario Association of Food Banks discusses the long-term damage done by childhood poverty and deprivation:When facing a very tight budget, food is often the budget line that gets cut in order to a…Continue reading
I watched the emergency debate in the Commons on the crisis in Attawapiskat, and I heard some fine speeches.Especially the one from Charlie Angus. No one can understand "how a country as rich as Canada can leave so many young children and young p…Continue reading
Attawapiskat, the small First Nation's community on the edge of James Bay, is a place well known to many Canadians.And sadly for all the wrong reasons.Five years ago it had to declare a state of emergency to deal with a severe housing crisis.Now …Continue reading
Despite being Metro News, Emily Jackson’s great piece yesterday [below] about how brutally cruel the Saskatchewan government is should make us mindful of a number of issues. Not the least of which is that the neoliberal Saskatchewan Party has been photocopying many of the worst of BC’s regressive and anti-social policies. That makes the BC … Continue reading No, BC Actually Mentored Saskatchewan’s Poor-Bashing →
This weekend, I am thankful for folks in Seattle who know how to transform the imperialist Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples’ Day. May we all learn this for next year! “We are all citizens in a democracy, we are all here to work with each other, and by making thisContinue reading
We need to think about two things for this Friday’s Occupy Movement reboot in the Worldwide #WaveOfAction: When thinking about pursuing social, political and economic equality, what is the list of things we need to change, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally? Who do we need to build coalitions with toContinue reading
It’s a trick question. And let’s not forget how many of us are told we are inherently lazy because we are native. Hard to shake that. via Twitter / apihtawikosisan: And let’s not forget how many …. And if you want to read one person’s analysis of destructive, racist stereotypes,Continue reading
It’s a crisp, foggy November Saturday morning in the south side of the city. Seventeen people sit in the large open area at the back end of an organic fair trade coffee shop run by a workers’ co-op inspired by the Mondragon movement in Spain. Meet-ups like this are quiteContinue reading
This is what solidarity looks like; make sure it’s authentic! Lots of us care about deepening relationships with and social/economic/political justice for first peoples. It’s hard to come in, though, sometimes as a person from an oppressor or settler class. But there is a good checklist to make sure we’reContinue reading
The CMHR: a “genocide”-free zone. Genocide is a pretty serious word. It invokes the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Rwanda and some other high profile human eradication attempts. But Canada, being Canada these days, is loathe to admit that it had any part in any kind of genocide. No. Not us. We’reContinue reading
I don’t know why we still have to do this kind of thing, but here goes. The federal government “apologized” to survivors of residential schools 5 years ago. It is clearly quite empty, considering how much neglect, abuse, victimization and racism has spewed forth from Stephen Harper’s government since then.Continue reading
The full-text of the paper that everyone is talking about can be found here. The researchers do not come off as being quite as reprehensible as they seem in media reports. For example, there appears to have been some effort to use their research to refute common stereotypes: It isContinue reading
A banner drop during last night’s Canada Day celebration in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square. (Photo: IdleNoMore.ca) Canadians are so nice. We have such a happy, positive self-concept. This makes it quite hard to address the quiet genocide of first peoples that our nation has conducted for centuries. What is genocide?Continue reading
by Obert Madondo | The Canadian Progressive, Feb. 15, 2013: Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan resigned from Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s cabinet Friday after admitting that he lobbied a tax court judge on behalf of an unnamed constituent. Duncan, the Conservative MP for Vancouver Island North, issued a statement in which he said he wroteContinue reading
If you’re looking for some more information on the IdleNoMore campaign, MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) gives a good summary in this video. He is discussing the NDP Opposition Day motion on dealing with First Nation economic development and treaty rights. The response from the CPC MP, Cheryl Gallant, whoContinue reading