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This article has been re-published due to its ongoing relevancy.

 

J.B. GERALD   CANADIAN POLITICSINDIGENOUS POLITICS   APRIL 6, 2016. Photo by Paul Lantz


“The “at risk” status of First Peoples does not mean they’re at risk of being uncomfortable. It means they could die”

May of 2012, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Prof. Olivier De Schutter , visited his first NATO country, Canada. He found Canada’s poor generally deprived of adequate nutrition (“People are simply too poor to eat decently”). He found the Aboriginal peoples at risk.

In October, 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous rights, James Anaya, visited Canada and found Canada’s Aboriginal peoples “in crisis.” 20% lived in unfit housing. There was an alarming suicide rate. There were high rates of violence against women. And high rates of incarceration. Discriminatory funding disparities. Lack of adequate funding. Lack of Aboriginal inclusion in the educational policies, etc.. In sum, Aboriginal people were at risk, some without enough to eat, some with bad water, some without liveable shelter.

The “at risk” status of First Peoples does not mean they’re at risk of being uncomfortable. It means they could die. It is a way to talk about the failure of the Canadian government’s responsibility for Aboriginal peoples, without imputing intention for the deaths. Americans consider the proving of “intention” necessary for charges of genocide, and the American interpretation of the Convention on Genocide is often adopted by less powerful nations.

The devastation of Northern First Nations communities has increased through years of intentional federal neglect by the Harper government. Hoping to reverse this, in March 2016 Canada’s new Trudeau government assured Aboriginal peoples a 8.4 billion dollar slice of the 2016 Budget.

Of immediate concern is the lack of medical care in northern Aboriginal communities which are currently without resident doctors and are often without resident registered nurses as well as nutritionists, physical and psychological therapists.

Northern Native communities are very vulnerable to drugs. A drug economy and terminal drug use are of no use to a revolutionary society so in many capitalist countries drug use is covertly supported by the State. The alternative community of prison and a prison culture is also supplied by the State.

Canada’s correctional investigator, Howard Sapir, finds that while crime rates decreased every year, Canadians in prison increased by 10% between 2005 and last year, and of these Aboriginal incarceration increased by 50%. So the percentage of federal prisoners with Aboriginal ancestry exceeds 25% nationally. In the prairie provinces this rises to 48%.

Currently, Northeastern Ontario’s First Nations continue to suffer from lack of safe tap water; in February the problem was brought to the U.N.’s Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, by the Neskantaga, Grassy Narrows and Shoal Lake 40 First Nations.

The Neskantaga community of about 300 hasn’t had safe drinking water since 1995. The Federal government promised in early December (2015) to fund a new drinking water plant. The Liberals have promised all First Nations safe drinking water, within 5 years.

The Grassy Narrows First Nation also suffers from high levels of mercury contamination in the water from pulp mill dumping between 1962 to 1970. The amount is informally referred to as 9000 kilograms. The contamination became buried in sediment and continues to be released, spreading, poisoning water and fish, then people. Japanese experts in mercury poisoning visiting Grassy Narrows in 2014 found compensation levels for neurological poisoning inadequate. Only 27% of those applying to the Mercury Disability Board (started in 1986) receive a pension as compensation averaging $400/month. The Liberal Premier of Ontario won’t have it cleaned up without further study.

Canada’s land management practices have taken away the food source of fish. The band is trying to prevent the stripping away of its lumber. Worried by conceivable links between clear cutting of their forest (as mandated in Ontario’s recent forest management plan) and mercury […]

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