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



Residential school material safe for 15 years

Residential school material safe for 15 years-Image1

Residential school material safe for 15 years-Image1

The Canadian Press, 2014
Residential school survivors march to the opening ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada British Columbia National Event in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 18, 2013. Sensitive testimony from survivors of Canada's notorious residential school system should be kept for 15 years then destroyed, an Ontario court has ruled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO - Sensitive testimony from survivors of Canada's notorious residential school system should be kept for 15 years then destroyed, an Ontario court has ruled.

In a decision released Thursday, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said the time should be used to see whether those involved might agree to have their records transferred to a new national archive.

"During the 15-year retention period, there shall be a court-approved program to advise the survivors of their choice to transfer some of the documents instead of having (them) destroyed," Perell wrote.

The justice said that destroying the documents is necessary to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the information, and to safeguard the assessment process itself.

If survivors want their records kept, the material will have to be redacted to protect perpetrators or other third parties.

The documents in question relate to compensation claims made by as many as 30,000 survivors of the Indian residential schools under an agreement that settled a class-action suit against the federal government.

Many of the records contain heart-rending and emotional accounts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

The head of the compensation assessment process, backed by a privacy expert, argued the material was intended to be confidential and should be destroyed once the claims are processed.

Others, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC, called for the documents to be preserved to ensure as complete a historical record as possible.

In an interview, Julian Falconer, lawyer for the commission, expressed cautious optimism but said much will depend on the process to educate claimants about their choices.

"The TRC has maintained from the outset that it was of crucial importance that claimants have a choice, that they have an opportunity to exercise informed consent about the fate of their records," Falconer said.

"The (commission) remains committed to protecting history."

Perell said the court would work out details of the notice to claimants at another hearing.

The head of the adjudication process, Dan Shapiro, said in a statement he was pleased with the decision.

"The court has issued a clear statement confirming the privacy of claimants and others identified in compensation claim records," Shapiro said.

"This will be a huge relief to the thousands of claimants who have appeared at our hearings fully expecting that their accounts of the abuse they suffered at Indian residential schools would not be made public without their consent."

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend residential schools over much of the last century as part of government efforts to "take the Indian out of the child.'' Many suffered horrific abuse at the church-run schools.

Materials collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which also heard from thousands of survivors, are to be housed at the new National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.

Ry Moran, head of the archive, fretted that the voices of thousands of survivors would forever be silenced if their testimony was destroyed.

But Perell found that if personal information from the assessment process was released — even by mistake — it would be a "grievous betrayal of trust" that would "foster enmity and new harms."

Destroying them, he said, is what the parties agreed to and would more likely foster reconciliation.

By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press, 2014
Stuart Wuttke, general counsel for the Assembly of First Nations, details proposals dealing for the election of a national chief as native leaders from across Canada attend the AFN's 35th annual general meeting in Halifax on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
OTTAWA - Controversial changes to aboriginal education will be up for debate today in Halifax at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations.   Chiefs from across Canada must decide what to do now that they've rejected the Conservative government's bill to reform First Nations education.   The legislation deeply divided the aboriginal community and precipitated the abrupt departure of Shawn Atleo as national chief of the AFN.  Some saw it as a first step — with a substantial dollar amount attached — that could improve the lives of First Nations children.  Others viewed it as the government exerting too much control over aboriginal education.                            

Jaime Battiste, the AFN's interim regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, says many chiefs aren't dead-set against the bill and are open to compromise.       "I heard a lot of chiefs saying that they don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, that there's room for discussion," he said in an interview.  "I think the chiefs are looking for a commitment on equitable funding from the government, and they're willing to work with the government to ensure that they're happy that their money will be spent in an accountable manner.  "However, I think that the chiefs aren't willing to create a bureaucracy in Ottawa for our education. I think that each region, each nation, has their own people that they would rather have working on that than a bigger bureaucracy out of Ottawa."                            

The Conservatives say their bill will remain on hold and no new money will be spent until the AFN gets behind the legislation.                            

Regional chiefs briefly showed their support for the education bill by attending an event in February with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Atleo, but that support quickly evaporated.  Whether $1.9 billion tied to the original bill is gone, too, is another question.                            

A spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt would only repeat a talking point from earlier this year when asked if the money is still on the table.   "Our government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) did not honour its agreement with the government,'' said an emailed statement attributed to Valcourt spokeswoman Andrea Richer.  "As we have said all along, this legislation will not proceed without the support of AFN, and we have been clear that we will not invest new money in an education system that does not serve the best interests of First Nations children; funding will only follow real education reforms."                            

Chiefs from across Canada voted in May to reject the Conservative education reforms, and they demanded a new agreement with First Nations that provides transfer payments to aboriginal communities.                            

They also want the government to provide $1.9 billion tied to the original bill immediately, with a 4.5 per cent escalator until a new deal on education is reached.                            

Valcourt says too much time and effort has gone into the bill to start over again.  The minister says the bill meets the five conditions outlined by the AFN and chiefs during a meeting in December.   The legislation remains on hold as the government considers its options.                            

— With files from Aly Thompson in Halifax                            


1- Assembly of First Nations supports motion to elect new chief in

CP, July 15 - HALIFAX - A new chief for the Assembly of First Nations will
be elected in December as many aboriginal leaders agreed Tuesday there is
a growing need to ensure native issues don't fall off the national agenda
ahead of a federal election next year. Many of the hundreds of chiefs at
the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations supported a motion to
choose their leader at a special chiefs assembly in Winnipeg, saying
issues including education and aboriginal title need to be raised with the
federal parties as they prepare for the October 2015 vote. "We really need
a national chief to deal with the current government of Canada, to deal
with Stephen Harper and to get ready for the federal election that will be
coming," Roger Fobister, chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario,
told the meeting in Halifax. "We need someone to talk to the opposition,
Justin Trudeau, to see if he's really a government in waiting."


First Nations Stories Dominating the News:
1-Chiefs call for reform of Assembly of First Nations Gloria
Galloway<http://www.theglobeandmail.com/authors/gloria-galloway>, HALIFAX
- The Globe and Mail, July 15 - Native chiefs say the Assembly of First
Nations is both ineffective and unrepresentative at this critical moment
in the relationship between their people and the rest of Canada, and the
organization must be reformed if it is to survive. A key item on the
agenda of a three-day meeting of the AFN that starts here Tuesday is the
timing and location of the election of a new national chief. The position
has been empty since Shawn Atleo resigned in May after finding himself
offside with the majority in his support for federal legislation to reform
on-reserve education. But many of the chiefs who took part in an advance
meeting here Monday say the AFN has to be overhauled before any leadership
convention can take place. After a historic Supreme Court ruling last
month that expanded aboriginal land title rights with broad implications
for resource development, and as contentious issues like education and the
disproportionate number of murdered and missing women make headlines, most
First Nations leaders agree they are weaker without a central spokesman.
But they say they want a national chief who can represent the diversity of
regional views - which would be a tall order for any contender. And they
want more grassroots control of the AFN national executive than is
possible under the organization's current structure.


Barrie Examiner - July 15, 2014

RVH Meeting Aborignal Needs

To ensure the diverse needs of First Nations patients are being met, the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Program at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre is using the services of an aboriginal patient navigator.

This role, along with the already established role of regional Aboriginal cancer lead currently held by Connie Foster, supports RVH’s commitment to providing the best patient experience possible by addressing the traditional culture and beliefs of First Nations people.

“The Aboriginal people have experienced 500 years of oppression which has created a culture of fear. To come to a government institution - like a hospital - is to face that fear which often prevents them from seeking the help they need,” said Bergstrome, who is a member of the Métis nation. 

Now, when a First Nations patient walks through the doors of RVH, they are greeted by Bergstrome, the Aboriginal patient navigator, and walked through the system of care.

The position is just one element in Cancer Care Ontario’s (CCO) Aboriginal Cancer Strategy which strives to improve health outcomes and the quality of life for Aboriginal people with cancer.

Bergstrome provides and co-ordinates culturally and spiritually relevant support for Aboriginal patients and their families throughout their cancer journey.

“It’s not just the process of navigating the cancer system that is important; it’s doing so with respect for the original people of these lands and their worldview,” said Lindsey Crawford, vice-president, Patient Programs and regional vice-president, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO). “Leah uses narrative medicine, including history and stories, to support patients in their healing process, as well as the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. Having her here is in keeping with our My Care philosophy which put our patients and their families first and promises to provide them with the most positive patient experience.”

Bergstrome is the main contact for the people of Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island; Moose Deer Point First Nation in MacTier; Wahta, Mohawks of Bala; Chippewas of Rama; as well as the urban Aboriginal population. She regularly visits these communities to build, or in some case re-build, relationships and trust in the health-care system. She offers patients support to access healthcare services at home, coordinates traditional and non-traditional resources and healing, provides counseling before, during and after appointments, is an advocate for the patient, and is there to ensure patients’ wishes are respected for end-of-life care.

 But most importantly, she is a friendly face when an Aboriginal person walks in the health centre.

“Just knowing there is someone here for them can reduce anxiety.  I’m a friend who can take their hand and walk with them along their path,” she said.    

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .