Update on things happening in Rotary and indigenous communities, including current events – Rotary luncheons with guest speakers, open community and cultural gatherings, etc.



Youth suicide in Ontario First Nation underscores 'fourth world' conditions, MPP says

A northern Ontario MPP says the suicide of a 13-year-old girl almost three weeks ago in Bearskin Lake First Nation underscores the widespread "inequity" in remote communities.

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa rose in legislature in September, spoke of 13-year-old's suicide

Matt Prokopchuk · CBC News · Posted: Oct 09, 2018 7:30 AM ET | Last Updated: 11 hours ago
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa says he will continue to raise the issue of on-reserve conditions at Queen's Park. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

A northern Ontario MPP says the suicide of a 13-year-old girl almost three weeks ago in Bearskin Lake First Nation underscores the widespread "inequity" in remote communities.

"The MPPs and the people down here, they're very unaware of what's happening in the backyard of Ontario," Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa said, adding that includes knowledge of, and issues surrounding, "the inequity, the inequality that exists."

Mamakwa rose at Queen's Park on Sept. 20, and spoke about the death of Karlena Kamenawatamin, 13, by suicide, pressing the Ontario government to do more to stop the "pandemic" of Indigenous youth suicides. After that day's session, Mamakwa said that he spoke with Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Greg Rickford, the Indigenous Affairs Minister.

The New Democrat MPP said the discussions surrounded how to best help the community in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Moving forward, Mamakwa said conditions on-reserve and how to best address them need to stay among the legislature's priorities.

Those include access, not only to mental health, but healthcare in general, education, safe housing, clean drinking water and economic development, he said.

"Some of the stuff that's happened, I kind of put it in a fourth-world condition, whereby it's third-world conditions sometimes in a rich province like Ontario," he said.

"And I want to be able to bring attention to these issues and ... we talk about access to health, First Nations communities are a minus in that regard."

Mamakwa added that many communities struggle with the other social basics, like access to education and secure living conditions.

"Sometimes the systems that are there forget our people," he said. "I realize these are colonial systems; I realize the structures that are in place, the policies, the programs, do not reflect the needs of our people and they don't ... work with us."



New training program aims to tackle housing crisis in northern First Nations

A partnership of the University of Manitoba, the Anokiiwin Training Institute and Garden Hill and Wasagamack First Nations will employ 20 students from each community to build four homes for residents.

Program will train 40 students to build homes from ground up

CBC News · Posted: Oct 09, 2018 12:16 PM CT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago
A team of architects and architecture students recently visited two remote First Nations to help people design homes in their communities. It's part of a housing initiative called Boreal Homebuilders that will train 40 students to build homes from the ground up. (Submitted by Kaoru Ryan Suzuki)

An innovative new training program aims to address the housing crisis in remote First Nations by using materials and residents who are already in the communities.

A group of 20 students from Garden Hill First Nation and another 20 from Wasagamack First Nation will learn how to build homes in their communities as part of Boreal Homebuilders, a partnership of the University of Manitoba, the two communities and the Anokiiwin Training Institute.


Over the course of 15 months, the students will receive vocational training on how to build houses from start — cutting the preparing the timber themselves — to finish, with each community ultimately getting two new houses. 

U of M Prof. Shirley Thompson visited the communities with architects and architecture students last week to start developing the houses and designing them in culturally appropriate ways. 

Thompson is impressed by the designs students came up with. (Submitted by Kaoru Ryan Suzuki)

Three national FNMI groups partner with federal government to improve early learning and child care

The Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Metis National Council, and the Government of Canada have partnered to strengthen early learning and child care programs and services for Indigenous children and families in 2018-19. The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework establishes a vision for happy and safe Indigenous children and families, strong cultural identity, and an Indigenous-led system with accessible, flexible, and inclusive early learning child care. "Access to high-quality, appropriate and culturally-rooted early learning and child care is a fundamental component in achieving social equity and improving socio-economic outcomes for Inuit in Canada," said ITK President Natan Obed. "Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has been proud to provide Inuit-specific guidance to the Framework and looks forward to continued collaboration on ensuring the vision it sets out is realized for Inuit children and families across Canada." The federal government has announced a commitment of $1.7B over 10 years to this initiative, an amount that is part of the $7.5B over 11 years that it committed in Budget 2016.


New survey highlights areas of greatest need for supporting Indigenous postsecondary students

A new survey by Indspire has found that Indigenous students continue to face barriers when it comes to accessing postsecondary education. Indspire President Roberta Jameson stated that the survey revealed the areas where institutions and government need to improve, particularly in the areas of financial supports, adequate supports for Indigenous student services staff, increased Indigenous content in programs, and more role models and menotrs. "We are making gains, that is clear," said Jameson. "But Indigenous students need us to join hands with others show them we can together meet their needs and ensure reconciliation is a vital part of their post-secondary spaces." The surveyed students also shared the positive experiences that they had had with having access to Indigenous student services and spaces on campus.


Ryerson partners with NAN to address housing crisis, announces Yellowhead first research fellows

Ryerson University's Together Design Lab and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation have launched a partnership to address the desperat,"e housing crisis plaguing the Nation's 49 communities. The partners will consult with NAN residents to hear about their needs and develop a comprehensive housing strategy using their ideas on how these needs can be addressed. "There is no one solution to the housing crisis," said TDL director Shelagh McCartney, who led a recent pilot study into the ongoing housing crisis in Indigenous communities. "If you truly want to fix this housing crisis, you need to be developing metrics and policies that address it on the ground." Ryerson's Yellowhead Institute also recently announced its 15 inaugural research fellows, who will be working with the Insitute to support First Nation assertions of self-determination, engaging in public education, research and analysis on Indigenous Policy.







Turtle sculpture to be at centre of Indigenous healing garden near Toronto City Hall

Work is continuing on a project in downtown Toronto to recognize residential school survivors with a public space and sculpture at Nathan Phillips Square.

City, province and Toronto Council Fire collaborating on project

Rhiannon Johnson · CBC News · Posted: Jun 14, 2018 5:02 PM ET | Last Updated: June 15
Conceptual design of the IRSS Legacy Project's Teaching, Learning, Sharing & Healing space with Restoration of Identity sculpture in the centre. (Submitted by Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre)

Work is continuing on a project in downtown Toronto to recognize residential school survivors.

The Indian Residential School Survivor Legacy project, a collaboration between Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, will consist of an Indigenous healing garden at Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto City Hall centred around a sculpture. 

The province is contributing $1.5 million and the city, $500,000. The overall cost is expected to be around $5.2 million, with the remainder being fundraised.

Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations of the Grand River and Deputy Grand Chief Gord Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians will facilitate an event Thursday at the Ontario Place Cinesphere offering an update on the progress of the project and the sculpture.

"I really encourage people to to pay attention to it because it's going to be a commemoration of the residential school survivors now that we're in this era of reconciliation," said Hill.

The garden and sculpture are in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 82, which calls for governments to commission public structures in the provincial and territorial capitals to honour residential school survivors and those children lost to the residential school system.

Designed by Anishinaabe artist Solomon King, the sculpture will be a giant turtle climbing over a boulder, representing the struggles experienced by residential school survivors and their continued resilience. The tiles on the back of the turtle will represent the different nations and clans within the province. The sculpture is also a reflection of the Turtle Island creation story.  

The Restoration of Identity sculpture and garden is in response to the TRC's call to action 82. (Courtesy of Toronto Council Fire)

"The turtle takes us back to our lands," said Peters.

"It's really important to know where to ground our identities."

Titled Restoring Our Identity, the sculpture will be the centrepiece of the space that will be located at the southwest corner of Nathan Phillips Square.

For nearly 20 years, Toronto Council Fire has been offering support and services to survivors of the residential school system. 

"Council Fire's IRSS legacy project is a powerful and thoughtful response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action for each capital city to establish a highly-visible, accessible structure to commemorate the victims and survivors of the residential school system," said Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.  

Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations of the Grand River says the public space and sculpture will help people learn about the residential schools legacy. (Jorge Barrera/CBC )

Having the Indigenous healing space and statue in a public space outside of City Hall will offer an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to learn about the history represented through the project. 

"I'm so happy that the city is taking such an interest in reconciliation," said Hill. 

"Once it's done, I think it's going to be an excellent display for people to learn more about who we are as a people."

The project is set to be complete in the fall with the Restoration of Identity sculpture unveiling set for October 9-11, 2018




Work continuing to bring 'justice' to Kashechewan following rally, MP says

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says the federal government has agreed to an independent investigation of portables and mould in houses on Kashechewan First Nation.

"The community has seen many broken promises," MP Charlie Angus says in Facebook post

CBC News · Posted: Sep 26, 2018 5:53 PM ET | Last Updated: 28 minutes ago
Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says work is continuing to "bring justice" for Kashechewan First Nation, a week after a rally on Parliament Hill calling for a new school in the community. (CBC)

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says the federal government has agreed to an independent investigation of portables and mould in houses on Kashechewan First Nation.

Angus gave the update on his Facebook page, a week after a group of kids traveled from the James Bay coast community to Parliament Hill to lobby for a new school.


The First Nation deemed the decade-old, mouldy portables at the elementary school unsafe at the beginning of September, delaying the start of school for the students.

In addition to an investigation, Angus said there is a plan to build a temporary school to support the youth, along with a promise to build a new school in the future. 

Several dozen school kids from Kashechewan on the James Bay Coast travelled to Ottawa to help lobby the federal government for a new school. (Charlie Angus)

Temporary school not a permanent solution

Chief Leo Friday told CBC News in Ottawa that a two-year, $340,000 site study for a new location for Kashechewan was nearly completed.

Angus said there is now a signed commitment on relocation, along with a promise to build the new school on that site.

"The community has seen many broken promises and Chief Friday and his team are insisting we write everything down and get it signed with the government," Angus wrote in the post.

"We are determined that the government will respect the agreement. This means they can't pretend that the temporary school can serve as a permanent solution."


Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott met with the students in Ottawa on September 17, and released a statement afterward saying she was "moved by the actions" of the students.

"We agreed to move forward with modular school options, which will better serve the students' needs in the short to medium term and could be incorporated into other plans in the future," the statement read.  

"I was also clear that I will do everything in my power to support their long-term priorities, including their desire to relocate the community."