04.13.2016 09:11 AM

A message from daughter to each one of you

We are not a country.

That is the only conclusion that can be reasonably reached, when what is happening in Attawapiskat is happening again. Suicides, and suicide attempts, in numbers that leave you without words.  Or should.

When the Attawapiskat stories started to break over the weekend – with their bleak, black, grinding sameness – I came to the conclusion that there are now only two things that will truly change all this. One, the police start investigating it, and some people – the ones responsible, as well as the ones who have been irresponsible – get thrown in jail. Or legislatures get shut down, literally, until a cabinet minister or two is forced to resign.

I have written about this subject before, more than once. And, yes, I am biased, because I am so proud to be a father to a citizen of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. But I am so fucking fed up with these serial horrors, and nothing ever changing.

My daughter, meanwhile (and typically) is much more gentle than me. I encourage you to read what she says, and the Boyden too.

And then I encourage you to push, once and all, for real and meaningful change.  Because, until we do, we will never be a real country.

We will only be complicit.

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  1. Houland Wolfe says:

    Yes, let’s get going. We help Africa get pure water, why not here? How about free high-speed WIFI? Renewable energy. Green houses, hydroponic. Energy efficient housing. There are many opportunities to improve the quality of life.

  2. davie says:

    A couple of things (although, this si from an experience circa 1970):
    I lived and worked on a Northern Manitoba reservation of about 600 people. I was an outsider. The community was fairly busy, fishing on Lake Winnipeg during spring and summer, trapping back inland during the fall and winter. I set up and ran adult ed aimed at preparing people for programmes at Keewatin College in The Pas.
    The flights each day, from Winnipeg, and later from Norway House, brought federal and provincial government people in for a day or so to provide services and directions. I sometimes thought that the community, especially the children, saw outsiders coming in and making decisions for the community, and coming back to make sure the decisions were carried out.

    I also saw how money worked. The HBC store was post office, bank , and store, with no local employees. Any money coming in was deposited first with HBC, and people had an account with the HBC.

    For several weeks a project to build and renovate houses, and renovate the HBC, was going on. All the workers came from down south, union tradesmen, making piles of money. They all said they disliked being there, bu they worked 80 or more hours a week ( I suppose their quality of work was maintained), and made a ton of money.
    I knew lots of people there who were skilled jacks of all, and those local people could easily have done those jobs. It was their homes, so they would ahve had that in mind. As well, that experience would have stayed in the community. But, no,…Indian Affairs and their political masters had a deal where contractors and unions form outside got the jobs…and the money.
    So, I saw examples of money kind of funneled through the reservation, from government to contractors and tradesmen from down south.

    Several years ago I was wondering about the doubts regarding the Indian Act. I asked a couple fo friends who are involved with Treaty 8 if, in many ways, the Indian Act, over the century, was a way of getting around the treaties. Both agreed easily.

    We are all treaty people. The governments of Canada signed those treaties on our behalf. So, it is incumbent on us to keep to those treaties.

    Point #1 of the Leap Manifesto addresses the UNO Declaration on Indigenous Rights. That would be a useful move…and then implement that declaration along with the original treaties.

    • Francis says:

      Point 10 of the “Manifesto” also demands the dumping of all trade agreements; which, you may know, would negatively effects sectors (like lumber) that Indigenous communities are an integral part of.

      So on one hand, the Manifesto giveth; on the other hand, the manifesto taketh.

      • davie says:

        Just prior to the 88 election I was in my local library a couple of times to read the NAFTA> To me it had less to do with trade, and more to do with giving investors a way around local laws and regulations. Since then, other treaties sold to us a ‘free trade’ have all looked to me to do the same, with the addition of tax evasion being made legal.
        I would interpret Point #10 to be directed at that aspect of these ‘free trade’ treaties.

        If (probably, when) our Liberal government finishes signing the Trans Pacific, the investor/boardroom control of us will kick in big time.

  3. ABB says:

    So what is the solution, a mass relocation program? I admit to having only a cursory knowledge of these matters. However, governments for the past 50 years have struggled with this. There have been several dozen ministers of both political stripes in charge of the portfolio. Supposedly all of those ministers were earnest with their duties and the bureaucrats under them, providing continuity of the portfolio, have held all the data, background studies, etc. etc. ad nauseam. So what is the plan now?

  4. PJH says:

    Wise words from your daughter. I know we should do all we can to help refugees from war torn lands…… Canada is big enough, and wealthy enough……..but on the other hand, shouldn’t we be taking care of our own here at home first?…….It is unconscionable that First Nations peoples in Canada should be living in third world conditions…..I thought as a country, we were better than that. Hopefully M. Trudeau and his gov’t will act quickly to change this sorry state of affairs.

  5. Matt says:

    There are other nortyern, isolated reservs that aren’t having these issues, or at least nowhere near the extent Attiwapiskat is. So WHY do these issues continue to plague this particular area to the degree they are?

    You can’t force doctors to go to the reserves, but has a federal or provincial government ever offered incentives to medical school grads to go practice medicine on a reserve? I don’t know, say 15% or 20% knocked off your student loans for every year you’re there?

  6. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    One day, Emma may become National Chief. She has what it takes to lead. Apparently, the Trudeau government funding is more than Martin advocated for in the Kelowna Accords. Great!

    Two things bug me: I say pick a couple of spots (water and housing) and focus almost all of the money on that until that or those problems are practically resolved. Don’t choose a basket approach and reduce or divide the funding accordingly. That will never work. It’s a failed and flawed approach.

    Finally, in connection with the provinces and territories, also address these same problems in non-native small town Canada.

  7. Campbell says:

    What are your thoughts, Mr. K, on JC’s scrum today?


  8. Luke says:

    The “sameness.” What a choice word. A terrible and perfect word for this. With all that sad sameness and me already having adopted my general position on such matters (namely, please do SOMETHING novel or bold to amend the atrocious living conditions and resultant/related problems in health, safety, and crime), I did not even read beyond the headlines and subheadings on this one. I thought, state of emergency + suicide = saddest combination of terms I’ve heard in some time. Awful. How does it get to that point? Suicides of this magnitude indicate a pervasive sense of desperation. And that is terrible.

    Sad thing: Last time Attawapiskat was in the news that I noticed (issues surrounding unliveable housing conditions) I spoke with a police officer close to me about it. From his point of view, having seen lots of reservations first-hand, Attawapiskat wasn’t even especially bad as reservations go. He seemed to think it was sort of a middle-of-the-road. How wrong that is, the a kind of average reservation would scarcely pass as livable in most parts of the country.

  9. Eric Weiss says:

    Sad thing is, I have no doubt the majority of Canadians want to help, but if we’re being honest, it’s simply not a priority for most of us. These stories come and go, yet it’s easy to forget about these marginalized, isolated communities once the news cycle changes. We should all be ashamed, but the problems seem too big to deal with so we don’t, and it’s too easy to turn a blind eye. Myself included.

  10. Kevin says:

    Your former boss mentioned the elephant in the room which is the actual solution; people have to move. What other outcomes can we expect with a community sitting in isolation, with nothing to do or plan for, dependant on the government? There is no economy there. There is no point in getting educated if you stay there. Money is no solution. That’s why the problem persist.

  11. Ridiculosity says:

    Enough is enough. Seriously.

    My great granny was First Nations and our government has been trying to “fix” the issue – one way or the other – since she was a little kid.

    It’s time Canada did something – and I am NOT talking about setting up another inquiry or commission.

  12. Francis says:

    As unorthodox as what Jean Chretien said yesterday was, I can’t help but finding myself agree with him.

    If there are no opportunities in these northern communities, we should do everything we can to encourage indigenous youth to migrate southwards to larger urban centres. This would require extensive funding for education and travel, but I think its money very well spent.

    (Obviously, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be investing resources into building way better infrastructure in these communities, because mass migration of these communities just isn’t feasible and uprooting these individuals from their homes just reeks of colonialism).

    Were we to begin creating a culture in which indigenous youth become leaders for their communities, it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on future generations. This doesn’t happen though, if we don’t start changing the attitudes towards urban living for these youth. The better we get at establishing young aboriginals into lives that are rewarding and meaningful, I think we could change how these communities view themselves with the context of Canadian society. The more visible successful and prominent indigenous youth are –not just at a distant but on the ground and in the communities, the better shot we have at changing the circumstances going forward.

    Better is possible, we just need to start building a more than adequate platform for that betterment to take place.

    • Dave says:

      The cynical side of me figures that maintaining reserves as unrelentingly shitty places to live has been the government approach to encouraging folks to leave.

      It’s working, to an extent – Northern Ontario towns are seeing a steady influx of families from reserves looking for better lives for themselves and their kids.

  13. MonteCristo says:

    Well said Emma, well said 🙂

    Perhaps one day you can lead in this noble endeavor.

  14. Aongasha says:

    I have all the sympathy in the word for the people, but none for the hypocrites doing all the yelling in the H of C nowq. Remember this same bunch and more like them from not that long ago? . They did nothing despite running off to that Island for their photo-ops.


    Soon as the cameras went away, these guys and many more politicans who were milking the hunger strike quickly disappeared once the media did.
    And when the word of high salaries, consulting fees and missing funds hit the headlines , they never said a word till now, when the cameras are back on the situation. Disgusting all of them!

  15. Aongasha says:

    Sorry try this.

    Point’s the same – all these hacks make nice for the photo ops and then do nothing.

  16. Brion Pollon says:

    What ever became of the First Nations Accountability Act?

  17. e.a.f. says:

    The First Nations of North America were doing well and had sophisticated societies until the Europeans showed up. It might be best if we all exited, along with all the other groups.

    The problem is one of long standing. One I never understood. How we as immigrants, got to vote after becoming citizens after 5 years and people who lived here for thousands of years didn’t get to vote.

    “Indian Affairs” was an institution which was for the interest of the southern people, those in government. It was never intended to do anything positive for the First nations.

    Given the attitude towards First Nation’s people, which I first became aware of in Grade 4, over the years I concluded government after government didn’t care whether First nations people lived or died. That government attitude spilled over into the rest of the citizens and its been going on for as long as I can remember. it sickens me. How we treat a group of people based on their ethnic back ground.

    The reason First Nations live in the conditions they do is because politicians thought it was fine they lived that way and we the voters of this country agreed. There is no reason for any body to be forced to live like this. Housing was built in the south by southerns to southern standards, never by and for northerns. Back in the day there were small mining towns in Canada and they had services. But an equally sized First Nations community, not so much.

    there is no reason why community centres could not have been built and maintained in the North.

    Suggesting First Nations relocate is so ignorant and nasty I don’t know how to deal with it. who are we to tell people where they ought to live. they have lived there for thousands of years. they have the right to remain where they are. It is we the others who may need to move.

    People who suggest First Nations relocate might want to give it another thought. The existence of Canadian First Nations in the north asserts our sovereignty. No First NATIONS living in the North, there goes the sovereighnty.

    other countries have had people living in remote and Artic communities and it worked, but in my opinion, the plan truth of it is, governments and the majority of Canadians never wanted the First Nations to succeed.

    There has never been much political capital to be gained by “doing right” by the First Nations. They were few in number. “Doing right” by other groups got you elected. Its just been politics. In this past election we saw that voting First Nations make a difference.

    This country needs to change. We need schools which teach First Nations’ languages and just not in reserves, but in all schools.
    Housing needs to be replaced after consultation with First Nations to meet THEIR needs.
    All communities need K to grade 12 in the community.
    Adequate medical facilities and staff.

    The problem is not the First Nations, its we the rest of the country’s population which is the problem.

    • davie says:

      In our British Empire (and, likely, in all empires)a part of expansion – that is, displacing people and taking their lands- has been for settlers to develop a vicious disdain and hatred for the indigenous peoples. It is possible the Truth and Reconciliation Report gives us opportunity to get past our ‘settler’ attitudes. These attitudes are in our laws, regulations and ways of doing business, and hang on. Someone commented above that we turn over what our treaty obligations say we owe, then get out of the way. Calls for accountability seem to me to be from people who do not really know just how much micro control Indian Affairs and Northern has always had over reservation life. There is a big bureaucracy and scads of contractors and such who are making money out of the reservation system – and most of them are not aboriginal.

      My reading of our history (Canada, and all the Americas) tells me that peopel ahve moved, of their own volition, over the decades and centuries. I do not know Central and Eastern Canada, but on the plains communities moved during the past several centuries. But, as I said, of their own volition.

      I take your point on our sovereignty claims in the north. I understand that in the past decade or so our failure to settle land claims in our north has been used against us in international discussions about our sovereignty in the northern seas.

      I like your final sentence; a treaty has 2 signatories. Our government signed those treaties on behalf of us all. We are all treaty people.

      (Great court decision for our Canadian Metis and Non status people.)

    • billg says:

      Basically what your saying eaf, is, keep doing what hasn’t been working for the past 50 years.
      You cant force Canadian students to learn a First Nations language, besides, which one, there are several.
      Housing, education and medical facility’s are not the issue either, they’ve been built, destroyed and rebuilt for 50 years now, and, who would you force to go work there?
      If this new Liberal government comes back with another study I will be very disappointed.
      Jean Chretien gave the best answer, but, he could only give that answer out of government, and, that’s sad.
      There are hundreds of First Nations reserves that are very successful, where is there input?
      I disagree eaf, the problem is the First Nations, we, as in Canada have been trying for 50 years now to solve this.
      The answer comes within, or, as one of Canada’s greatest Prime Ministers said, they should move.

  18. Ron says:

    I’m wondering what happened to the millions (maybe more) that have been poured into the system all these years.

    It sure hasn’t been infrastructure or education by the look of it. The peoples of the First Nations have suffered because
    no-one has the sand to follow the money. Better get started.

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