Archive for April, 2011

Too Many Kids To Handle? Duh!

An article in the Chronicle-Journal’t-meet-kids’-needs-groups, reports that more First Nations children are being placed in government care today than were taken away from their families and communities at the height of the residential school era. In most cases, the stated reason is neglect with the parents being unable to meet their children’s basic needs.

Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse blames this all on government inaction and underfunding, when in fact it is the chiefs and band councils around the country who must step up to the plate and deal with this issue directly in their communities. They are the ones closest to the situation and they are ultimately responsible for the failures that are affecting their childrens’ futures, not the government and not the past. What are they doing to prevent pregnancies in mothers either unprepared or unwilling to care for another child when aboriginal birth rates are the highest in the country? If a larger share of the financial resources already being provided by the taxpayers of Canada were directed to family planning programs in the communities, this new diaspora would not be happening. If First Nations peoples need more resources to solve this problem they should demand that their well compensated chiefs and councillors take a pay cut to help the kids or vote them out.

Common Experience Payment

September 19, 2011 is the deadline date for applications to made for the Common Experience Payment whereby former students who lived at one of the prescribed residential schools will be awarded $10,000.00 for the first school year. Under the Independent Assessment Process (deadline September 19, 2012), a student who suffered sexual or serious physical abuse will be entitled to receive between $5000.00 and $275,000.00. Blue Saltwater, Jeremy Cardinal and Rufus Buffalo would all qualify for the larger amount.

Who in Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is taking these ridiculous decisions that I’m sure most Canadian taxpayers are unaware of? INAC is currently holding sessions in homeless shelters to reach former residential school survivors to tell them about this windfall. How wise is it to be dolling out this kind of coin to people who are down and out on the street and are incapable of managing their lives, let alone such monstrous sums of money? Is it to buy off some kind of collective white man’s guilt so we can wash our hands of the matter? Come on people, there’s got to be a better way.

The money should be used to provide social housing and services rather than being handed out in cash where it is going to disappear into the vortex of drug dealers and pimps that populate the mean streets of our Canadian cities, towns and reserves.

Why can’t government and First Native organizations quit their bickering and posturing and get on with the real task of helping the survivors in a tangible way so they can begin to build a future and put this chapter behind them and their children.

When you read about crazy stuff like this, it makes you wonder weather the people at Indian Affairs and the First Nations leaders themselves are really serious about solving these problems, since doing so would put them out of job.

Canadian Election Platforms: Aboriginal Peoples

The major political parties have posted their election platforms including where they stand on issues relevant to Aboriginal peoples.

When it comes to education, the Conservatives want to lead an engagement process to develop options for concrete change in First Nations education to bring greater success and opportunities for First Nations students. They also want to expand “basic adult education” in the Territories to help increase education and employment levels. The Liberals will lift the cap on post-secondary education and explore with Aboriginal leaders ways to deliver resources directly to families and students.

Sounds like a lot of the “same old, same old” drivel to me with government promising to fix everything just like in the days of the residential schools. When things screw-up or don’t change as they surely won’t, the government and the people of Canada will be blamed again. Surely after all these years of studies and funding, Aboriginal leaders must know why the drop-out rate is so much higher among aboriginal students than the Canadian mainstream. A cultural shift in attitude towards self-help and education must be driven by the leadership and from within the aboriginal community itself just as the high achievement rates of Asian students in Canada are driven by community cultural values which stress the importance of education. More long winded speeches and reports from government committees telling us what they’re going to do this time, just isn’t going to cut it. Aboriginal leaders need to train their young men and women to take care of their own communities first, by focusing the education in the areas where the communities most need help. Go to any reserve and it won’t take long before you see the obvious need for good plumbers, electricians, carpenters, nurses, teachers and the like. Put a fast track on those basic areas and pay these people accordingly to increase the demand to attain these useful jobs. Then start thinking about lifting caps on ivory tower post-secondary acedemia.

When I hear the Green Party talk about “providing safe drinking water”, their terminology speaks exactly to this patronizing trap which still engulfs both government and aboriginal policy makers. We don’t need to provide aboriginal communities with safe drinking water. Aboriginal leaders need to see to it that their youth are trained to build and maintain the infrastructure to keep their drinking water safe. When it breaks down, it’s their problem and they should be able to fix it themselves. Aboriginal leaders need to stand up and lead their people out of this dependent wilderness so that they can start to pull their own wagon for a change.

The Catholic League Argues that Priests’ Unfairly Demonized

A full page essay sponsored by the ‘Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights’ appeared in the April 11, 2011 issue of the NY Times, where Mr. Bill Donohue asserted that the Church and its priests are being unfairly attacked by media, lawyers, and others who exploit the issue of sexual abuse for ideological and financial profit. Mr. Donohue sites several instances where this has occurred, specifically mentioning attorney Jeffery Anderson,, and a Grand Jury investigation in Philadelphia that “turned into a single-minded pursuit of priests”.

He goes on to say that groups such as teachers, public employees, media outlets and other religious and professional organizations are not held to the same “zero tolerance” standards when it comes to investigating allegations.

Why is This? I’ll tell you why. The Catholic Church since its inception over 2000 years ago has held itself up as the “one true church” founded by Jesus Christ and passed on down to St. Peter. The priests of Rome have always been revered by Catholics as descendents of this sacred lineage and therefore no matter how much children or adolescents may have expressed their dislike or fear of individual priests, they were taught right from the beginning that they must respect all priests regardless of how they felt, because these were blessed individuals chosen by God who could do no wrong. Nobody else in the world compared to priests in this way. Respected secular professions such as teachers, dentists, doctors, lawyers were also held in high esteem but in a more individual way. If one went bad, he or she was disbarred, had their licence lifted, or was sent to jail, but generally the profession as a whole was left untarnished.

Priests are believed by Catholics to have a direct connection to God in that they alone can transform the wine and water into the body and blood of Christ and that they alone can intercede with the almighty and forgive our sins. That is why we cannot accept their trangressions with the same ‘wink of an eye’ that we can with other ‘normal’ human beings. This is the cross they have chosen to bare.

If the Church wishes to retain what little respect still remains, it must become more fully aware of what its priests mean to the faithful and to some extent, the public at large. All allegations, no matter if they happened years before, must each be given a respectful transparent hearing in front of a fully independent board made up of clergy, the faithful, and the general public. If guilty, the perpetrator must be made accountable and where not, compensation and sincere apologies are in order.

Mr. Donohue also reports studies showing that 80% of the abuse was homosexual and not pedophilic, since three quarters of the victims were post-pubescent just like Blue Saltwater. Is that supposed to mean that the acts weren’t as serious?

Why doesn’t the Church look in the mirror and ask itself why it attracts homosexuals? Is it because it doesn’t allow gay marriage and so, where is a good Catholic gay man to go? Is it because it still clings to the idea of celibacy and thereby excludes many excellent heterosexual men who do not find this to be a reasonable normal lifestyle. Is it because it excludes women in the priesthood who would have called out the abusers long before this?

Book Publication by the AHF

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation announced that it is launching  a new publication entitled “Cultivating Canada: Reconcilation Through the Lens of Cultural Diversity”. This is a series of essays by non-indigenous, non-white Canadians which hopes to engage a wider circle in the dialogue of truth and reconcilation with first peoples. This is the third in a series of research publications by the AHF. The first book looked at truth and reconciliation in general and the second dealt with the meaning of the official apology offered in 2008 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This current project features extensive color artwork and creative projects.

A book launch in Kamloops on April 5, offered a free copy of this 400 page book to anyone who attends the event. The editor, Ashok Mathur, is from Thompson River University and is Canada’s research chair in cultural and artistic inquiry. He said the AHF is giving it away since “their mandate is to get Canadians to talk about the issues, not make money off it”.

That sounds great, but the fact is that since its inception in 1998, the AHF has been granted $475 million by the Canadian taxpayer with a substantial portion of that money I suspect, going to support the salaries of editors like Mr. Mathur and AHF Executive Director, Michael DeGagne. In that context, six hundred free books doesn’t really sound like that big a deal and with the taxpayer footing the bill, God forbid that the AHF and its editors should worry about something so trivial as trying to recover some of their costs.

Last year the Conservative government announced that this funding would not be renewed and that mental health and emotional support issues would now be provided through a $199 million Health Canada fund.

Commendable and worthwhile as this publication may be, like the previous two, it is mainly an academic exercise that will never be seen, heard about, or noticed by most Canadians and it will do little to engage a much wider circle of dialogue.

I believe that an accessible story such as ‘Blue Saltwater’, published without any government assistance, that weaves a tale about a heroic individual fighting his way through the residential school system, if given at least some verbal support by organizations like the TRC and the AHF, would go alot further in raising awareness amongst Canadians about this issue. This would come at far less cost to the Canadian taxpayer and would allow for funding grants to go directly to helping the people who were most affected.

National Aboriginal Achievment Awards

On Saturday April 9, Global TV will carry the 2011 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards from Edmonton, Alberta. The awards are being presented to 14 outstanding aboriginal Canadians and the gala is being hosted by Adam Beach and Evan Adams.

Beach’s latest movie with Harrison Ford is entitled ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ and is scheduled for release in the next few months. Other movie credits include Clint Eastwood’s ‘Flag of our Fathers’, ‘Windtalkers’ with Nicholas Cage and the 1998 production ‘Smoke Signals’ where he and Evan Adams played two Indian guys who leave the reserve in search of themselves. This movie won an award that year at the Sundance Film Festival. On TV he has played roles in ‘Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee’ and recently in ‘Hawaii 5-0’.

In a recent interview with the Vancouver Sun, Beach said that ‘the awards are very important because our people need role models, they need heroes, and they don’t realize there are heroes right in their own backyard”.

Blue Saltwater lives right in your own backyard Mr. Beach and I am going to see that you have a chance to meet him. I’ll be interested to see whether he is the type of heroic role model you’re talking about.

Old Habits Hard to Break

An editorial in the NY Times, April 2, 2011, entitled, “What Happened to ‘Zero Tolerance’?”, spoke of the gaping holes in the “zero tolerance” mandate for priests suspected of abusing children, since any allegations about rogue priests are first vetted by chancery officials working for the archdiocese before the cases go before independent review boards. This is the same as police departments, health, legal, and other professions vetting complaints behind closed doors before they are turned over to outside boards working on the public’s behalf. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to conflict of interest.

A committee of American Roman Catholic bishops has now announced that a popular book about God by Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, entitled “Quest for the Living God”, should not be used in Catholic schools because it does not uphold church doctrine. . Sister Johnson in response, said that the bishops never even invited her to discuss the book and that she was unaware that they were assessing it until they had already decided to issue a condemnatory statement.

When it comes to religious control, old habits are hard to break but at least the Catholics aren’t currently killing people who don’t agree with their point of view. Something good about that.