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



Indigenous scholars leaving Halifax university illustrate that ‘change is slow’ at the school, advocate says

By Taryn GrantFor StarMetro Halifax
Mon., June 25, 2018

HALIFAX—Saint Mary’s University has lost two Indigenous scholars in the past week — and one esteemed Mi’kmaw advocate says she’s not surprised because of the university’s reputation for “slow” progress on Indigenous issues.

Last week, Sandra Muse Isaacs announced she would quit her job as Indigenous literature professor after seeing little action on recommendations made by a task force struck in the wake of a student’s murder.

Catherine Martin, Mi’kmaw woman and former Nancy’s Chair in Women's Studies at the Mount Saint Vincent University campus in 2017. Martin said she’s disappointed to see the departure of two Indigenous scholars from Saint Mary’s University, where she says “change is slow.”  

Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk student researching missing and murdered Indigenous women, was killed in 2014.

Her death appeared to serve as a catalyst for change at the small university. The task force recommended hiring Indigenous faculty and expanding Indigenous curriculum to “enhance the indigenization of the academy.”

“It was part of the reason I came here,” said Muse Isaacs, a Cherokee woman originally from the U.S. “I read it and felt like, ‘This institution gets it now.’”

However, Muse Isaacs said Saint Mary’s has only implemented two of the task force’s recommendations.

“Once I began showing resistance and telling them this needs to be done,” she said, “I was labelled a troublemaker.”

After Muse Isaacs departure was announced, APTN reported that another Indigenous instructor — Diane Obed, who lectured part-time in the anthropology department — would part ways with the university over the same concerns.

Catherine Martin, a Mi’kmaw filmmaker who has studied, taught, and advised at universities around the province for decades, said the departure of Muse Isaacs and Obed is a significant loss to Saint Mary’s, an institution that needs their perspectives.

“Saint Mary’s has long been a place where change is slow, where Indigenous students have not received the type of services that they need to navigate through the institution,” Martin said in an email.


Muse Isaacs had said she felt like the “token” Indigenous professor at Saint Mary’s.


Province announces $15-million bump for Indigenous climate leadership plans

By Hamdi IssawiStarMetro Edmonton
Mon., June 25, 2018

EDMONTON—The Government of Alberta has announced an extra $15 million in funding for Indigenous climate leadership actions across the province.

Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan made the announcement on Monday morning at the Enoch Cree First Nation administration building, west of Edmonton.

Richard Feehan, Alberta’s minister of Indigenous Relations (centre), announced an additional $15 million in funding for Indigenous climate leadership programs on Monday.  (Government of Alberta)

Last year, the province made $35 million available for seven new programs to help Indigenous communities invest in local renewable projects and job training for the low-carbon economy.

This year, the Alberta government will make nearly $50 million available for these programs, which, Feehan said, includes about $7 million from the federal government’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.

According to Feehan, his ministry received requests for 125 projects last year, and solar panels are being installed in more than 30 First Nation and Métis communities in Alberta as a result of that original funding.

“Last year, my department received applications that far exceeded the amount of money that we had available,” Feehan said. “The grant is an opportunity for communities like Enoch to move ahead.”

Chief William Morin of Enoch Cree First Nation, who participated in the announcement, applauded the additional funding

“It really helps us, in Enoch specifically, to put our best foot forward and take on this responsibility of climate action,” Morin said.

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Morin added that additional support for Indigenous climate leadership programs can help the First Nation contribute to global climate initiatives, such as joining the Edmonton Declaration proposed by Don Iveson and the City of Edmonton earlier this year.

“Initiatives like this and programs like this help us to be real players because we can sell that energy back, and we can be a part of what the mayor announced a short while ago.”

“I know that the Indigenous communities wherever I go also are keen on balancing two important pieces ... taking care of the environment and making sure that we have jobs for people,” Feehan added. “Green jobs are the best way to do both of those things at the same time.”



One in two Indigenous children in danger of going to school hungry

By Melanie GreenStarMetro Vancouver
Thu., June 21, 2018

VANCOUVER—One in two Indigenous children — roughly double the average of other Canadian kids — may be at risk of going to school with an empty stomach, according to the Breakfast Club of Canada, a national charity.

Those numbers are based on national poverty data.

Roughly one million Canadian children live in poverty, and therefore, are at risk of not being able to access food. But that number doubles when it comes to the Indigenous population.  (Ghyslain Lavoie / Breakfast Club of Canada)

Marking National Indigenous Peoples Day across the country, Breakfast Club of Canada has launched a campaign in an effort to raise awareness and serve the more than 150 First Nations schools on their wait list.

Stephen Leung, principal of Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh Elementary School in East Vancouver, said there are students who come to school hungry every day.

“Hungry children are not able to concentrate on learning and are not able to develop into healthy teens and adulthood,” he said. “Children’s nutritional needs are quite different from those of adults.”

That’s why the school provides “healthy and nutritious” breakfast, recess snacks and lunch. It has also partnered with Freshroots, an educational urban farm, to provide a salad bar option in conjunction with the community garden program run out of the school.

Donors provide additional food for families to help students outside of school, for instance, on weekends. Research shows that breakfast programs positively affect children’s mental health, including reductions in behavioural problems, anxiety and depression.

But the situation isn’t just about going hungry.

A 2008–2010 self-reported study by the First Nations Health Authority found 56 per cent of on-reserve adults were food insecure. Notably, Statistics Canada does not compile food security data from Indigenous peoples on reserves.

And these numbers aren’t saying parents won’t put food on the table, said Valerie Tarasuk, professor of nutritional science at the University of Toronto. In fact, the numbers are directly related to high levels of poverty, she insisted.

“If you get to the point where you’re struggling to manage food needs, you have already let so many things go in the process of dealing with expenses,” she said.

“Invariably if you look more closely, they’re behind in rent, facing eviction, and can’t fill prescription medications. They’re in a stressed situation.”

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By the time people are food insecure, replacing a missing meal doesn’t solve the problem, she noted, pointing to “heroic efforts” at the community level trying to “patch the holes.”

Last week, a motion was introduced in the Senate — with plans to debate in the next session — to introduce publicly-funded school meals through breakfast and lunch programs for elementary schools.

But, Tarasuk argued, the problem is tightly linked to household incomes and needs immediate government attention. Food-insecure individuals are less able to manage chronic health conditions, and they consume two and a half times the health-care dollars, she said.

“People are living in deprived conditions,” she said. “There is a disproportionate impact on Indigenous families. Simply having a child in your home is enough to increase the risk of food insecurity.”

Statistics Canada began measuring food insecurity in 2004 and Tarasuk has worked closely with it gathering data on households with new research broken down by province expected on Monday.


Ontario First Nations set to vote on $1.1-billion treaty deal

By Alex BallingallOttawa Bureau
Thu., June 21, 2018

OTTAWA — Seven First Nations spread out from Georgian Bay to Lake Scugog will decide this weekend whether to accept a $1.1-billion settlement from the federal and Ontario governments over a long-standing treaty dispute, the Star has learned.

Members of the Alderville, Beausoleil, Chippewas of Georgina Island, Chippewas of Rama, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations will vote on the proposed settlement Saturday.

If approved, the deal would end decades of court litigation and negotiations over the controversial Williams Treaties from 1923. The First Nations have alleged for years that the Crown unjustly crafted and implemented these agreements without fair compensation for their land, and that the nations never surrendered fishing, hunting and other rights in the 20th-century treaties.

Chiefs from each of the First Nations either declined to discuss the proposed deal, citing confidentiality ahead of Saturday’s vote, or did not respond to interview requests from the Star this week. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office also did not respond to requests for comment on the proposed deal.

But documents obtained by the Star — labelled “privileged and confidential” — show details of the proposed agreement signed May 3, more than a year after Ontario, Canada and the First Nations announced renewed talks toward a settlement for Williams Treaties court cases that have languished since the early 1990s.

In a memo to the Curve Lake First Nation, Chief Phyllis Williams lays out the broad details of the potential deal: a total of $1.1 billion for the seven First Nations, and recognition of rights to hunt and fish on land from treaties signed before Confederation. Each nation would receive between $90.9 million and $98.7 million from the Canadian government, and between $60.6 million and $66.2 million from Ontario, according to the documents.

Williams’s memo also says the deal would grant 312 square kilometres of new land to the First Nations, and that both levels of government apologize “for having denied rights and appropriate compensation to our First Nations for nearly a century.”

The Williams Treaties — named for the government-appointed commissioner that oversaw the agreements — have been described by the federal government as “unique” in Ontario. This is partly because they dealt with lasting claims over huge swathes of land where treaties with Indigenous nations had never been signed, but also because they touched on existing deals from the early years of colonial settlement that were found to be inconclusive.


Business leaders urged to step up for Indigenous entrepreneurs

By J.P. GladuOpinion
Mark Little
Thu., June 21, 2018

Thursday is National Indigenous Peoples Day and this year it’s appropriate to recognize the remarkable accomplishments of Indigenous entrepreneurs. Their contributions to our economy and the well-being of their people are of tremendous importance to Canada’s future.

Indigenous participation in the economy is one of the great social and economic endeavors of our time. Action to raise incomes and living standards for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is central to mending our social fabric and achieving economic reconciliation.

J.P. Gladu is president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. “Indigenous participation in the economy is one of the great social and economic endeavors of our time,” Gladu and Mark Little write. “Action to raise incomes and living standards for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is central to mending our social fabric and achieving economic reconciliation.”  (David Chang Photography / Supplied photo)

Essential to this task are corporate and government procurement policies that spur the growth of Aboriginal businesses and create good, lasting jobs. Such policies provide a viable path to Indigenous self-sufficiency.

The growing size and capacity of the sector make this the right time for meaningful progress towards economic reconciliation.

There are now an estimated 43,000 Aboriginal-owned businesses in Canada. In 2016, Aboriginal businesses contributed an estimated $12 billion to Canada’s GDP and the total combined income of Indigenous households, businesses and governments reached $32 billion. Although this is a significant improvement from the past, Aboriginal incomes lag average incomes in Canada by 25 per cent, resulting in a significant gap in their standard of living relative to the average Canadian.

Indigenous entrepreneurs have established businesses in every province and territory across a range of industries — including natural resources, construction, manufacturing, retail and service sectors.

The potential to grow the sector has never been stronger. Consider this: small contributions to supporting Aboriginal businesses were made across the country we could make great strides towards economic reconciliation. Let’s look at the oil sands industry, for example. The Aboriginal business spend for the oil sands industry in 2015 and 2016 combined reached $3.3 billion, up significantly from the past.

Signs the sector is poised for impressive growth are everywhere. More and more companies are including Indigenous-owned suppliers in their procurement networks. This is happening because Aboriginal entrepreneurs provide valuable services and products and bring a unique perspective to the table. As well, Canadian businesses generally have come to understand everyone wins when supply chains are inclusive.

In partnership with Suncor and a fast-growing network of leading corporations, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) has just launched a multi-year strategy to drive new procurement contracts for Aboriginal-owned companies.

This unprecedented initiative is called “supply change.” Its aim is to connect corporations and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with qualified Aboriginal-owned businesses. CCAB is creating a digital Aboriginal Procurement Marketplace where Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies can more easily exchange information about procurement opportunities.