Indigenous senators praise Wilson-Raybould’s ‘integrity,’ say her resignation leaves ‘questions’

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A group of Indigenous senators — most of them appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, — issued a statement today praising the « integrity » of Jody Wilson-Raybould and saying her sudden departure from cabinet leaves « many questions and concerns. »

« The resignation … this week has led to a national conversation leaving many questions and concerns from Canadians, the Indigenous community and politicians alike. As the first Indigenous Attorney General of Canada and then as minister of Veterans Affairs, it is without a doubt that this important decision was not taken lightly on her part, » the senators write.

The senators who signed the letter said that while Wilson-Raybould’s departure does not threaten the « promise and process of reconciliation, » it is a reminder « of the distance we have yet to go and the challenges we have yet to overcome. »

The senators said Wilson-Raybould’s tenure as justice minister and the government’s top lawyer will leave « a lasting mark in history » that will inspire future generations of Indigenous people.

While Wilson-Raybould was justice minister, the government legalized cannabis, toughened impaired driving legislation and enacted new laws governing medical assistance in dying.

« While in that position, she displayed personal strength of character, integrity and dedication to modernize the justice system and work towards reconciliation, » the senators say in the letter.

Independent Manitoba Sen. Murray Sinclair during a 2018 meeting with First Nation youth from northern Ontario. Sinclair and seven other Indigenous senators praised former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s integrity in a letter to the media Thursday. (CBC)

The letter is jointly signed by Sen. Margaret Dawn Anderson, Sen. Yvonne Boyer, Sen. Dan Christmas, Sen. Lillian E Dyck, Sen. Brian Francis, Sen. Sandra Lovelace-Nicholas, Sen. Mary Jane McCallum and Sen. Murray Sinclair.

While six of the eight senators were appointed by Trudeau, they sit as Independents in the upper house and owe no loyalty to the prime minister or the Liberal party.

Prime Minister Trudeau removed Wilson-Raybould from the justice portfolio in January, moving her to the Veterans Affairs portfolio.

She announced she was quitting the Liberal cabinet Tuesday morning, just days after a Globe and Mail report claimed she was pressured by the PMO to help the Quebec-based multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges in relation to contracts in Libya.

She has so far refused to speak publicly about what transpired on the SNC-Lavalin file, saying only that solicitor-client privilege stemming from her time as justice minister forbids her from commenting.

Wilson-Raybould has taken the highly unusual step of retaining Thomas Cromwell, a recently retired Supreme Court justice, as her legal counsel as the scandal enters a new phase.

Speaking in Sudbury, Ont. Wednesday, Trudeau insisted again that the government had done nothing wrong.

« Jody Wilson-Raybould and I had a conversation in September in which I emphasized to her that the decisions she makes as attorney general, particularly in this matter, are her decisions and I was not directing or pressuring her, » he said.

« If she felt that she had received pressure it was her obligation, her responsibility, to come talk to me and she did not do that in the fall. She continued to choose to serve in this government as Veterans Affairs minister when I made a cabinet shuffle. »

Prior to running for federal office, Wilson-Raybould was elected to council for the We Wai Kai Nation, located near Campbell River, B.C. Later, she served as the Assembly of First Nations’ B.C. regional chief.

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McMaster University names Indigenous artist Santee Smith as next chancellor

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HAMILTON – McMaster University has become the second Canadian institution in as many weeks to announce that its next chancellor will be an Indigenous person.

The Hamilton school says Santee Smith, an artist, dancer and choreographer from the nearby Six Nations of the Grand River, will take over as the honorary head of the university in November.


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She takes over from Suzanne Labarge, who has held the position at McMaster for the past six years.

The announcement comes two weeks after the University of Lethbridge announced that it was appointing its first Indigenous chancellor in the school’s 52-year history.


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Charles Weaselhead, a residential school survivor and former chief of the Blood Tribe, will officially assume that title in the spring.

Smith – a two-time McMaster graduate with degrees in physical education and psychology, as well as an master’s degree in dance from Toronto’s York University – says she’s honoured to be named the school’s next chancellor.

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Is the SNC-Lavalin scandal’s biggest victim Trudeau’s relationship with Indigenous people?

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The appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai First Nation woman, to serve as the first Indigenous minister of justice was a powerful symbol for Indigenous people and a signal to all of Canada.

Her resignation from cabinet is equally powerful.

Trudeau was elected promising that the relationship this country has with Indigenous people was, to him, of the utmost importance. When Wilson-Raybould was appointed attorney general, it signalled that maybe he meant it, that maybe this time would be different. Maybe Wilson-Raybould would finally be the one to uphold basic human rights and fairness for Indigenous people.

A First Nations woman was the top lawyer in a country that still has the paternalistic Indian Act on its books, that consistently fails to properly “consult” Indigenous communities on decisions that profoundly affect them, that claims it desperately wants to reconcile yet fights not to deliver equitable health, education and social services to Indigenous kids.

Perhaps, it seemed for a moment, she could change history.

But it wasn’t long before that old familiar feeling of doubt crept in.

There was double speak on what nation-to-nation actually meant. There was little progress on bringing clean drinking water to First Nations. There was big talk but no action on revising the Indian Act. More inadequate consultations. And on and on.

It must have been increasingly uncomfortable for Wilson-Raybould in cabinet, watching as the government ignored its promises on making First Nations, Métis and Inuit proper partners in everything from drafting legislation to fulfilling funding commitments.

And then, abruptly, she was no longer the country’s top lawyer, fired from her historic role and shuffled off to Veterans Affairs.

Why?

There were planted whispers in the corridors of power that she had been demoted because she was a “thorn in the side” of the Trudeau government, because she was “difficult to get along with,” because she was someone people had “trouble trusting.”

Read more:

Trudeau ‘frankly surprised and disappointed’ by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s sudden resignation

Opinion | Susan Delacourt: ime to break the silence that has defined the relationship between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould

Opinion | Thomas Walkom: Wilson-Raybould resignation from cabinet overdue

How much of that perception was created because she was too honest and too blunt about the government’s empty rhetoric on reconciliation?

Incensed, First Nations leaders stood staunchly by Wilson-Raybould.

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs accused the Trudeau government of racist and sexist overtones in a whisper campaign against her after she left Justice.

“I’m familiar with her work ethic, her deep dedication and commitment,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the union, who has known Wilson-Raybould for years.

“She is an amazing individual but to see her publicly humiliated and the subject of a deliberate smear campaign is infuriating,” he said.

“We are completely disgusted with the Trudeau government and its handling of this issue … I know Jody. She is full of integrity.”

Eventually, of course, a new story about her demotion emerged — that she had been pressured to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and was punished for her refusal.

She said on Tuesday that she resigned from cabinet with a “heavy heart.” When she first sought elected federal office — after practising law on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and serving as the British Columbia regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations — she truly felt she could make a difference. She wanted to pursue “a positive and progressive vision of change on behalf of all Canadians,” she wrote in her resignation letter, “and a different way of doing politics.” Maybe she could change things using the master’s tools in the master’s house.

But that is harder than it looks. Even the purest of intentions and hope are rarely a match for 150 years of colonial history.

Then, on Tuesday night, the prime minister seemed to throw Wilson-Raybould under the bus. He said if she had any problem with what was happening, it was her “responsibility” to come directly to him, and she did not. Trudeau said he was “disappointed” with her decision to leave cabinet. He also mentioned that Canadians are “puzzled” by her resignation and so was he.

Not all of us are. She clearly had her reasons.

Perhaps she had enough of the colonial power system.

In any case, the result is the same: she is no longer in a position potentially to overhaul that system from within, and so yet another symbol has soured.

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald tweeted, “Ninanaskamon 4 your groundbreaking work as the 1st Indigenous woman to serve as the top lawyer in Canada. I know this will only be a temporary setback for you. Your kind of strength and leadership is unstoppable in the long run. Remember who you REALLY are @Puglass.”

Wilson-Raybould signed her letter with her traditional name, Puglass. It means “a woman born to noble people.”

We should wait and listen to hear what this noble woman has to say.

Tanya Talaga is a Toronto-based columnist covering Indigenous issues. Follow her on Twitter: @tanyatalaga

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Indigenous groups, nurses’ association say Ontario left them out of the loop on health reforms

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Groups that could be affected by a major overhaul of the province’s health system say they are troubled they have been left out of the loop.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials have proposed “outsourcing” the ORNGE air ambulance service. Approximately 60 per cent of ORNGE’s transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.

About 60 per cent of ORNGE’s air ambulance transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.
About 60 per cent of ORNGE’s air ambulance transports are from northern Ontario, including from First Nation communities.  (TARA WALTON / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) said it too is concerned it has not been consulted about health reforms that appear to be well underway.

The provincial New Democrats caught the provincial government off guard by releasing to the media leaked government documents on proposed and planned health restructuring — one batch earlier this week and the other the week before.

The documents state that Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet approved “the full health-care transformation plan” at a Jan. 16 cabinet meeting. The documents included draft legislation to create a health “super agency” out of more than 20 smaller agencies, including local health integration networks (LHINs) and Cancer Care Ontario.

Although ORNGE was on the list, Health Minister Christine Elliott has said it will not be privatized.

She has tried to play down the leaks, telling the media that while “transformation” is coming, nothing has been “finalized” and that the government will continue to consult with the public.

Fiddler said he is not quite sure what is happening but was puzzled to learn through the media that ORNGE has even been on the table: “It’s concerning that these discussions may be happening without involving those who would be most impacted.”

As part of Ontario’s health system, ORNGE has access to some of the province’s premier critical care and trauma specialists who provide consultations to remote, mainly Indigenous communities, former deputy health minister Dr. Bob Bell explained.

“If ORNGE’s responsibilities were outsourced to the lowest bidder, it is unlikely that citizens would have access to the same quality of medical consultation that ORNGE provides,” he warned.

The leaked documents warn that shuttering LHINs could result in a “service disruption” and labour disruption with ONA.

A written statement provided by ONA on Friday said the organization, which represents 65,000 nurses and health-care professionals, is in the dark about what to expect:

“ONA does not have any information about whether these policies may or may not be government policy. ONA is in contact with the premier’s office and the ministry of health, which we are hopeful will lead to further engagement around the government’s planning for Ontario’s health-care system.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials had proposed "outsourcing" the ORNGE air ambulance service. Ontario's health minister says it won't be privatized.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said he was surprised to learn through the media that government officials had proposed « outsourcing » the ORNGE air ambulance service. Ontario’s health minister says it won’t be privatized.  (Tanya Talaga/Toronto Star FILE PHOTO)

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told caucus members on Friday, the last day of a three-day retreat in Durham Region, that the party plans to hold the government to account on the reforms when the Legislature resumes sitting in just over a week.

“A looming overhaul of health-care delivery … will open the door to for-profit corporations getting access to public health-care dollars,” she warned.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by the media on Thursday about the NDP’s concerns that Ontario is opening the door to two-tier health care.

He responded that the federal government will always stand up for its responsibilities to defend the Canada Health Act and ensure universal access to a strong health-care system, The Canadian Press reported.

Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, took to Twitter to call on the prime minister to put his money where his mouth is:

“Personally I feel this is posturing. Ontario hospitals are overcapacity but the (Government) of Canada is on the retreat when it comes to health-care transfers. Without adequate financial federal support it will be that much more difficult to end hallway health care.”

Meantime, the Star has learned a recruitment firm is already searching for a CEO to head the new super agency. It is seeking an individual with a business background as opposed to health-care expertise, said a source close to government who spoke on condition of anonymity. The source was not authorized to speak to the media.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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‘Little Ice Age’ caused by death of 55-million Indigenous people after colonization: study – National

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The elimination of nearly 55 million, or 90 per cent, of Indigenous North Americans during European colonization led to global climate change and the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th century, a recent study finds.

Researchers at University College London found that the Great Dying — the massive loss of life that followed Christopher Columbus’ 1492 conquest of the Americas through genocide and the spread of disease — left roughly 56-million hectares of land abandoned.

The study will be published in the March edition of Quaternary Science Reviews but is already available online.

“This population practised a substantial amount of agriculture,” researcher Alexander Koch told Global News.


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The mass vacancy resulted in a sudden “terrestrial carbon uptake” when the land was reclaimed by nature.

Colonization of the Americas at the end of the 15th century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate, according to a new study by University College London.

According to the study, a spike in plant life was responsible for up to 67 per cent of a significant drop in carbon dioxide levels between 1520 and 1610. Carbon had been transferred from the atmosphere to the land surface through photosynthesis.

Previously cored Antarctic ice samples were investigated. Researchers observed that 7.4 petagrams — or 7-billion metric tonnes — of carbon had suddenly disappeared at that point in time.


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Carbon absorption was greater in wet, tropical environments but still occurred in the drier, coniferous and deciduous forests of the U.S. and Canada.

“These changes show that the Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas is necessary for a parsimonious explanation of the anomalous decrease in atmospheric CO2 at that time and the resulting decline in global surface air temperatures,” the study said.

An undated painting shows Christopher Columbus arriving at one of the Caribbean islands on his voyage of discovery from the Naval Museum in Madrid, seen on May 19, 2006.

AFP/Getty Images

The Little Ice Age was a time period that saw winters in North America and Europe average approximately two degrees colder than the current era. Its coldest period is largely agreed by scientists to be between 1600 and 1800.

A difference of two degrees may not seem like much but, in fact, does make quite a difference to daily life.


READ MORE:
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“A 1-2 degree Celsius temperature drop would have a significant effect on winter weather around North America,” said Anthony Farnell, chief meteorologist at Global News. “Snow would arrive earlier in the fall and stick around longer in the spring. Borderline storms that now fall as rain or freezing rain would be more likely snow if it was just a couple degrees colder.”

Farnell went on to explain how an increase in snow compounded the situation in the 1600s.

“When there is more snow on the ground, the albedo of the earth’s surface increases which means more of the sun’s warming rays are reflected back into space. This then leads to even colder temperatures and more snow which is how a series of cold winters can snowball into a ‘little ice age.’”

The nearly 200-year cold stretch began to decline soon after the first Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom in 1760.

WATCH: How researchers determined 55 million killed after colonization






Global News questioned Koch over his team’s data — particularly the population figures. He explained they used a vast amount of data, previous studies and sources to draw their conclusion.

“[The numbers are] based on archaeological evidence, historical documentation and something like house counts,” Koch explained. “For later periods, we didn’t need to do that. We looked into taxation records and census data that was established by the colonizers.”

Those records became more and more robust over time, according to Koch.


READ MORE:
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Dr. Pamela Palmater is an outspoken Mi’kmaw citizen and faculty member at Ryerson University. She told Global News the population figures aren’t just important — they could change how Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission moves forward.

This report substantiates what the chair of the TRC said that it wasn’t just cultural genocide that Canada committed, it was also physical and biological,” explained Palmater. “This kind of scientific hard data shows just how extensive the genocide was and that means something different for Truth and Reconciliation.

The well-known activist added that she hopes the new scientific data will quiet some of the skeptics.

WATCH BELOW: Activist: ‘Someone’s got to account for this’ after study claims colonization sparked climate change






“One of the biggest struggles in our resistance, in our advocacy and even trying to get someone to talk about reconciliation is denial,” Palmater said. “It’s always a denial from the colonial, or settler, governments about what they did, limiting the harms and denying what the true extent and impact is.”

That impact, according to the study, may have been greater than previously thought.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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MPs call for criminal probe of coerced sterilization cases of Indigenous women

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Two federal MPs are calling for a criminal probe into cases of Indigenous women who say they’re victims of coerced sterilization.

NDP MP Don Davies and Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette called for the criminal probe Thursday after the House of Commons health committee decided to begin a study on the issue.

We are talking about alleged torture and widespread systemic assaults on women — very vulnerable women.– NDP MP Don Davies 

Davies said the federal government needed to either direct the federal prosecutor’s office, known as the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, or the RCMP to probe cases of forced sterilization that have surfaced since the filing of two separate lawsuits.

« We are talking about alleged torture and widespread systemic assaults on women — very vulnerable women, » said Davies, following a hearing on the issue before the House’s health committee.

The committee decided Thursday to launch a study into coerced sterilization which would involve multiple witnesses and lead to a report that would be submitted to Parliament with recommendations.

Davies said he was pleased the committee has finally decided to study the issue, but believes the federal government shouldn’t wait for the committee’s report to trigger a criminal probe into the issue.

« It’s our obligation under international law, and we owe it to the women who have suffered in this country, » Davies said.

Davies said the names of potential victims and perpetrators are already known as a result of existing civil action.

« We know who specifically performed these procedures and how this happened, » he said. « There should be an investigation. »

UN called for criminal probe

The UN Committee Against Torture released a report in December calling on Ottawa to investigate « all allegations of forced or coerced sterilisation » and hold those responsible « accountable. »

The UN report also called on Ottawa to criminalize coerced sterilization, but the federal government has said it wouldn’t amend the Criminal Code to outlaw it, saying existing criminal provisions are enough.

Two separate lawsuits have been filed in Saskatchewan and Alberta seeking class action certification on behalf of women who have claimed to be victims of coerced sterilization.

Maurice Law, an Indigenous-focused law firm with offices in the Prairies and Ontario, filed the first court action in 2017 on behalf of two women. The filing named the Saskatchewan government, the Saskatoon Health Region, medical professionals and the federal government.

Winnipeg Centre Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette supported calls for a criminal probe into coerced sterilization cases. (CBC)

The firm has since received inquiries from more than 100 mostly Indigenous women who say they have suffered from coerced sterilization.

The women are mostly from Saskatchewan. The firm has said it also heard from potential victims in other provinces like Manitoba and Ontario. At least one of the cases stems from 2017 while others range from the 1990s to the early 2000s. 

The historical record shows that coerced and forced sterilization of Indigenous women regularly occurred in Canada throughout the first half of the 1900s.

In Alberta and British Columbia, it was legal to force women deemed to have mental illnesses to undergo forced sterilization up to the 1970s, said Tom Wong, executive director and chief medical officer of public health, during testimony before the committee on Thursday.

Health Canada official says it may not be widespread issue

MP Ouellette said the RCMP needed to look into the contemporary cases.

« That sounds pretty criminal to me. The police force needs to find out what actually occurred, » Ouellette said. « For me, it’s important … that we use the appropriate instruments of the state to make sure that this doesn’t occurred again but we give justice to those who suffered and are still alive today. »

Alisa Lombard of Maurice Law is representing at least 60 women in the lawsuit. Each woman is claiming about $7 million in damages. (Submitted by Alisa Lombard)

Abby Hoffman, assistant deputy minister for Health Canada, said a federal, provincial and territorial task force is being created to study the issue. Hoffman said the first meeting is scheduled for some time in March.

Hoffman told the committee that, at first blush, the data does not seem to show that coerced sterilization is a widespread issue in contemporary Canada, but it may need deeper analysis.

« I can’t say any examination would have suggested from the data that there are anomalies, » Hoffman said. « I am not certain at this point that one would see a pattern in Saskatchewan. »

The Saskatoon Health Region apologized in 2017 for the past coerced sterilization of Indigenous women following an independent report. The report, based on anecdotal evidence, said that Indigenous women felt coerced by doctors, nurses and social workers to undergo sterilization.

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Indigenous languages bill coming ‘very soon,’ heritage minister says

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OTTAWA—More than two years after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised legislation to revitalize Indigenous languages that Canada tried for generations to extinguish, the minister responsible for the bill says he can’t promise it will become law before this year’s federal election.

Even so, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said the long-anticipated legislation will be tabled “very, very soon” and that the Liberal government will work to pass it through Parliament as quickly as possible.

Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez says legislation to revitalize Indigenous languages —which Canada tried for generations to extinguish — will be tabled “very, very soon” and that the Liberal government will work to pass it through Parliament as quickly as possible.
Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez says legislation to revitalize Indigenous languages —which Canada tried for generations to extinguish — will be tabled “very, very soon” and that the Liberal government will work to pass it through Parliament as quickly as possible.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

“I cannot say yes (it will pass), but I can tell you one thing—this is an absolute priority for the prime minister, for myself, for the government and for all the Indigenous people across the country,” Rodriguez told the Star Wednesday.

The heritage minister will travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, where he will highlight the Trudeau government’s commitment to reconciliation between the Canadian state and Indigenous nations, and underscore the importance of supporting Indigenous languages before they disappear. Rodriguez will be accompanied by leaders from three national Indigenous groups: the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The organizations helped craft the coming languages bill, a necessary approach that has taken longer than it would have had the government written the legislation on its own, Rodriguez said. And while his predecessor in the heritage portfolio previewed facets of the bill last June—saying Ottawa planned to recognize Indigenous languages as a constitutional right and create a new office of commissioners to protect and promote them—Rodriguez was tight-lipped about what the coming legislation would contain.

Following the government’s $90-million commitment to support the dozens of Indigenous languages from 2017 to 2019, Rodriguez said the coming bill is meant to form a legal framework that will empower Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities to decide for themselves how best to preserve their traditional tongues.

“It is also going to be a very flexible bill to take into consideration different realities for different groups, and also, they will be able to determine what are their priorities, the way they want to do things their own way,” Rodriguez said.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the bill needs to include long-term, stable sources of money so that Indigenous communities can rebuild language fluency among young people. In that way, it could help reverse the consequences of Canada’s residential schools, where tens of thousands of Indigenous children were removed from their families over several decades and forced to speak French and English instead of their native languages.

“We don’t want the residential school system to win, and the Crown has an obligation to put as much resources to revitalize and promote Indigenous languages as they used to eradicate our languages,” Bellegarde said.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has said he will only support the bill if it goes beyond “symbolic” measures. In a statement to the Star, Obed said the legislation must include “substantive provisions that the revitalization, maintenance, and promotion of Inuktut,” the language of majority in Nunavut.

“We continue to engage with the Government of Canada in an effort to ensure that the bill meets this expectation,” he said.

While declining to reveal details of the bill, Rodriguez called it a “first step” towards revitalizing Indigenous languages, and pledged that the “necessary resources will be in place” to do so.

In the meantime, Bellegarde said Canadian politicians need to band together to make sure this bill gets passed before Parliament breaks in June and heads into the general election—especially as some languages are now only spoken by handfuls of people.

“It’s a very, very tight time frame, and we don’t want to miss this opportunity,” he said.

“This is very important to get this legislation in place and make sure we get this done for our children, and those yet to come.”

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga

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RCMP teams up with Indigenous group to bring ice rink to remote northern Alberta community

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The Dene Tha’ First Nation is located in a remote part of northern Alberta but thanks to a partnership with the RCMP and others, Indigenous children from that community can now enjoy an ice rink, an amenity children in other parts of Canada enjoy throughout the cold winter months.

The RCMP said young people in the Chateh, Alta., area tied up their skates to use their brand new public rink on Monday, thanks to a partnership between the Mounties and the Dene Tha’ First Nation Recreation and Cultural Society.

“A first of its kind in the community, the rink will facilitate sports year round thanks to contributions from the Rink of Dreams Society, Sports Central, RCMP Foundation, Tolko Industries and funding from Jordan’s Principle,” police said in a news release.

Before this rink opened to the public, the RCMP said the nearest recreation centre that could be accessed by the 300 young people in the Chateh area was located in Rainbow Lake, about 45 minutes away.

READ MORE: ‘It’s the Canadian thing to do’: One-of-a-kind skating rink opens near Onanole

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of rinks.


“Detachment Commander Sgt. Gord Hughes and Dene Tha’ Council members recognized a need for a space in their community where local youth could enjoy safe physical activity, relieve stress, engage with other members of the community and build an open and positive relationship with the RCMP,” police said.

Hughes and the Dene Tha’ First Nation Recreation and Cultural Society were provided with more than $150,000 in funding through Jordan’s Principle grants.

“Jordan’s Principle is a commitment to First Nations children to ensure they get the products, services and support they need, when they need them,” the RCMP said.

READ MORE: Alberta government signs Jordan’s Principle agreement with feds, First Nations group

While the rink’s construction was completed in November, a “hockey-tape cutting ceremony” took place on Monday morning, which was followed by a hockey game.

“Ensuring the wellbeing of a community and of its youth is fundamental to a healthy community,” Hughes said. “By building the Heek’iicho Mieh (Bison Pond), we want to facilitate wellness across the spectrum — physical, mental, emotional and social.

“We want this space to be a rink, an arena and a sanctuary for Chateh youth.”

READ MORE: Fred Sasakamoose and Ted Nolan concerned about future of aboriginal hockey

Chateh is located about 850 kilometres north of Edmonton.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Indigenous convoys slow Ontario highway traffic in solidarity with B.C. pipeline protest

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Two convoys of vehicles slowed traffic on stretches of Canada’s busiest highway Friday morning in Ontario in a show of solidarity with an anti-pipeline protest in British Columbia. 

One rolled westbound from the eastern part of the province, while the other began in southwestern Ontario and headed east. Both left before dawn and disrupted traffic during the morning rush hour.

One fleet left from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, about 86 kilometres southeast of Ottawa, and travelled about 50 km/h as it moved toward Belleville, Ont. People from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just south of Montreal, joined those from Akwesasne.

Provincial police cruisers formed a buffer around the eight trucks and SUVs and surrounding traffic. 

Brandon Bigtree, who was driving one of the vehicles, said the demonstration was to show support for protesters at the Unist’ot’en camp — the site of a fortified checkpoint preventing people set to work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project from accessing the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Wet’suwet’en and police have agreed to allow the company access to do pre-construction work as specified in an interim injunction order for the time being, following arrests on Monday.

« We’re standing strong with our brothers and sisters out west. What’s going on out there isn’t right, » Bigtree said.

He said Indigenous communities across the country feel the federal government and provinces are failing them.

« We just need to let [the federal government] know that we’re all united. »

Those in the convoy from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne are also trying to raise awareness about local governance issues. Some in the community are frustrated with how the elected band council has handled negotiations over a 130-year-old land grievance along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. They are advocating for the nation’s hereditary leadership to play a larger role in the process.

The convoy hopes to make it to ​the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory today. 

A second fleet of vehicles headed east from the Oneida Nation of the Thames in southwestern Ontario. (Submitted by Brandon Doxtator)

Meanwhile, the second convoy left the London area before dawn to slow Highway 401 traffic in the southwestern region of Ontario.

People from the Oneida Nation of the Thames and Chippewa of the Thames First Nation were riding in the dozen vehicles that made up the motorcade. The action caused considerable slowdowns for commuters. 

« We’re doing this rolling blockade as a peaceful reminder to Canadians that First Nation people have rights to the land, » said Brandon Doxtator, who was in one of the vehicles.

The convoy from Oneida was heading to the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River, south of Brantford, Ont., where a rally was planned for later on Friday.

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