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



First Contact: A fine, gripping journey into old and new prejudices

John Doyle
John Doyle Television critic
Published 24 hours agoUpdated September 10, 2018

Today, two very great and important productions to recommend. So keep reading to the end.

First, some versions of reality TV programming can have a positive impact. They can educate and open your eyes. They can change cultural and political assumptions. Even smugness can be undermined.

Such is the case with the first-rate and formidably eye-opening First Contact (APTN, Tuesday, 7 p.m., continuing Wednesday and Thursday, same time.) It’s a simple exercise in taking a small group of Canadians – all with strong, hard-baked opinions about Indigenous people – on a 28-day exploration of Indigenous Canada. The series promises, “It is a journey that will turn their lives upside down, challenging their perceptions and confronting their prejudices about a world they never imagined they would see.” That’s true, and it’s a necessary exercise since their views are, regrettably, not marginal but probably closer to the mainstream than many of us would admit. It’s just that the attitudes are rarely uttered in public.

APTN's First Contact explores what happens when you bring six outspoken Canadians into Indigenous homes and communities. You want attitude? Here’s how some of the participants feel about Indigenous Canadians. “They get all this money and handouts.” “They want us to feel sorry for them.” “I didn’t create the residential schools and force anyone into one.” “It’s just a whole bunch of partying and flop houses” These are not the views of elderly cranks. Several of the group are in their twenties and two are in their early thirties. The six travellers begin their education in Winnipeg. Local activist Michael Redhead Champagne offers some advice in what’s ahead. The six then visit and stay overnight with local Indigenous families who, it happens, live in pleasant, prosperous suburbs and not in the squalor and chaos some of the visitors expected. (This is a baby-steps process, obviously.) In Winnipeg they also work with the Bear Clan patrol, which works to keep Winnipeg’s North End streets safe, and with Drag the Red, which takes on the sobering task of helping to solve cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women by searching the Red River, and the riverbank. It’s in the remote Inuit community of Kimmirut where things begin to truly shift. Imagining a community wracked by drugs and alcohol they find a hard-working tightly knit little town that relies on the land and the water to provide for them. One of the most vocally skeptical participants – a man with a conviction that Native Canadians are scamming him and the federal government – goes shipping at the local store: “Eleven bucks fur a bottle of Ketchup! It’s disgusting the prices these people are paying.” Not that it is a journey of sweetness and light, away from dark and deeply held prejudice. By the third episode (airing Wednesday), the weary travellers are in Calgary, and the idea is to have them acquainted with life on the streets, and then they are in an Edmonton prison to learn about life on the inside for Native prisoners. For some participants it’s a matter of hardening attitudes rather than melting hearts. A visit to Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island challenges what some have long assumed about the leadership in such communities. The episode is called “The Road to Healing” but that might be optimistic. You have to judge for yourself. Made by three production companies for APTN and narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos, First Contact is both educational and gripping, an often nervy journey to places and prejudices that need to be seen and heard. Unsubtle at times, but salient. sheer scale of the embrace of the strangers becomes clear. Mossanen has said in interviews that although he thought he knew the story, "I was actually more surprised as to how deep their act of kindness went and how it manifested itself.”

3 provinces to share $68M boost for First Nations health care, including $42M for Manitoba

Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott announced $68 million over three years for Indigenous communities in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan in Winnipeg on Thursday. The money follows up on plans first announced in the 2017 budget to boost First Nations-led health services in sometimes remote communities.

Minister of Indigenous services announced funding for Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Thursday

The Canadian Press · Posted: Sep 06, 2018 5:21 PM CT | Last Updated: 2 hours ago
Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott and MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee announced in Winnipeg on Thursday that Manitoba will receive $42 million to improve health-care delivery in First Nations communities. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The federal government has taken another step in transferring control over Indigenous health programs to First Nations.

Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott announced $68 million over three years for Indigenous communities in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan in Winnipeg on Thursday.


The money follows up on plans first announced in the 2017 budget to boost First Nations-led health services in sometimes remote communities.

"The idea is to increase the control and the design of health systems in the hands of First Nations governments," Philpott said.


PSE works to Indigenize programs, campus life

The Canadian Press highlights recent efforts and preparations made by post-secondary institutions across the country as they continue to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report, released in 2015. The article specifically highlights the efforts of institutions such as Ryerson University, the University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta, Saint Mary's University, the University of British Columbia, and McGill University. "Universities and colleges are inherently colonial. They're inherently anti-Indigenous," says Shanese Steele, national chairperson for the CFS National Circle of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Students, of the challenges involved with trying to Indigenize institutions.

Indigenous legal traditions to be the focus of required first-year law course at UWindsor

First-year law students at the University of Windsor will be required to complete a course in Indigenous legal traditions when they arrive at school this September, reports CBC. UWindsor Dean of Law Christopher Waters notes that the course and its mandate were inspired by the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which specifically called on law schools to do a better job of disseminating knowledge about the Indigenous legal traditions. "For many years we told our students there were two legal traditions in Canada in English common law and Quebec's civil law," said Waters. "We neglected to teach that there is a whole other basket of legal traditions in Canada in Indigenous law."

Thunder Bay youth inclusion program receives $5.6M

The Government of Canada has committed $5.6M in funding for a new youth inclusion program in Thunder Bay that will aim to help First Nations students attending high school in the city to feel more welcome. The initiative will be based at multiple sites where youth can connect with recreational opportunities, art programming, and culture-based programming. The city will organize an annual gathering for Grade 8 students in remote communities, and the program will also see cultural land-based programming offered in partnership with Fort William First Nation on First Nation lands. "This is a wonderful opportunity and it is a major step toward helping the students feel comfortable and helping the students integrate into the city much more easily than previous years," said Matawa Learning Centre Principal Brad Battiston.





Bee Nation

Sunday, September 2, 2018 at 9 PM on CBC-TV

First Nations Schools Are Chronically Underfunded

By Christopher Dart

According to a report by former TD Bank economist Don Drummond, the funding gap between First Nations schools vs other schools across Canada averages around 30 percent. Meanwhile, Indigenous leaders are committed to finding a way to bridge that gap, to retain autonomy over their schools, and fight for equal resources for their students.

One such leader, featured in the documentary Bee Nation, is Evan Taypotat, the principal at Chief Kahkewistahaw Community School, of student William Kaysaywaysemat III, who competed at the National Bee in Toronto. Taypotat talks about how frustrating it is for him that First Nations schools get less money-per-student than other schools.

Since Bee Nation was shot, some things have changed, others haven’t. First Nations schools are still underfunded, and Evan Taypotat is still furious about it, but the difference is he has a bigger platform now. Taypotat is the newly-elected chief of the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, and if anything, he’s more ready to fight for the students he calls “his kids” than ever before.

There is a funding gap on reserve schools

“ All reserve schools are federally funded,” says Taypotat. “That’s where the disconnect is. All other schools in the province are provincially funded. So then the First Nations schools are looked after by someone in Ottawa, who could actually care less about what’s going on on the reserve. The average funding for a reserve kid is about $6,800. The funding for a kid in Broadview, which is about 10 minutes away, is $11,000.”

First Nations education funding presents a conundrum for Indigenous leaders like Taypotat. To keep First Nations control of First Nations schools, the schools have to get funded federally. Federal funding is hampered, in part, by the fact that Indigenous program spending increases were capped at two per cent in the 1990s, below the rate of inflation, leaving band councils unable to keep up with a young, growing population.   

“We want to keep First Nations control of First Nations education,” he says. “If we give our right up to that and go to the provincial system, we’re no longer in charge of our own education. We get some superintendent that is caucasian, in some school division district that is predominantly caucasian, and they will be in charge of teaching First Nations kids.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: "It can be a challenge to grow up on the reserve."

“So the reserves have a choice to make. Do we give up our rights for our education for proper funding, or do we continue education our way — which is still predominantly by the curriculum that the provinces set out — and do that with less funding. That’s the way we’ve gone because we don’t want to give up our rights around education.”

The result, he says, is an education system that “cuts corners,” and leaves First Nations students at a disadvantage.