Swan River: Questions of voting rights continue to plague First Nations
Despite the 1999 Supreme Court ruling that granted equal voting rights to both on and off-reserve band members, the issue of who can vote and run for office on a reserve continues to create strife amongst First Nation communities.
In the Alberta Treaty Eight territory region Swan River, this issue has recently come to a head with a dispute between the local Chief, Council and Shauna Jean, an off-reserve member who wants to run for the position of Chief.
Remembrance Day has just passed, but the gratitude we bestow our veterans’ continues year round. Tales of their untold bravery are passed down in song and legend, and their sacrifices immortalized in the freedoms we cherish today.
As we reach the end of Métis Week in Alberta, we are conscious of the historical struggles faced by our Métis veterans. The pathway to recognition hasn’t been easy.
Nevertheless, here we are. And today, we stand by those–living and since passed–who fought to defend this land we proudly call home.
The raising of Métis flags in cities, towns and hamlets across the province, starting in Beaumont, pays homage to their patriotism and the lessons of their generation. The need to come together, regardless of creed, nationality, or where you come from holds in pursuant of reconciliation.
Raised on Nov. 14, the move honours the Métis for their part in shaping the region’s heritage. While the flag is set to come down Monday, a representative to Beaumont took to social media, stating, “[the flag] is currently on a temporary flag pole. We will be looking for a permanent home for the flag within City Hall.”
And in honour of that permanence, recognizing the contributions of figures like Bertha Clark-Jones, Theo Fleury, and Louis Riel remind us never to take life for granted. And in the case of the latter, the fleeting sense of unity in the face of western alienation.
Canada’s indigenous communities deserve more recognition
From the Cree code-talkers to the Métis veterans’ activists, strides were made after decades of hardship. Recognition for their sacrifices became a reality.
The unique role indigenous Canadians filled during the war effort proved indispensable. The Alberta Cree code-talkers, for example, improved Allied communications, where orders could be spoken and translated by a network of Cree code-talkers without fear of enemy intrusion.
While Ottawa recently issued an apology for its past treatment of Métis veterans, their $30-million pledge to recognize their contributions was highly regarded as a step in the right direction.
In the spirit of reconciliation, here is a notable example of those contributions.
Activists and Cree-Métis veteran Bertha Clark-Jones advocated for recognizing the pivotal role the Métis had during the Second World War. She dedicated part of her post-service career to guarantee fair treatment to indigenous and Métis veterans.
Bertha also helped open Nistawoyou, an indigenous friendship centre, which allows men and women living in Canada’s north to find work. She had also worked on the centre’s housing committees and also volunteered at NewStart, which provided educational upgrading programs to the northern communities.
The most profound impact she had was in her co-founding of the Voice of Alberta Native Women’s Society, which was one of the first equal rights organizations for both status and non-status native women. Under Bertha’s presidency, the Native Women’s Society also focused on helping indigenous foster children find foster parents within their communities. An issue overlooked before Bertha’s efforts.
Premier Kenney took to social media on Aboriginal Veterans Day to recognize her achievements as a proud Métis Albertan.
Coming together to defend one’s land, in spite of our differences, provides society with the moral fibre to embrace progress and leave no man, woman or child behind.
And that effectuates the spirit of Riel, who has since been rehabilitated and called a “statesman” by Ottawa’s mayor.
Theo Fleury honours Riel‘s memory
Stanley Cup winner and renowned Métis author Theo Fleury spoke to his on-and-off-the-ice struggles at a recent Edmonton event. Fleury, who is also an Olympic gold medalist, touched on having the balance and the ability to be vulnerable.
In an emotional speech, the Métis icon states, “I wanted to end my life. Not because I wanted to die, but because I was completely exhausted from living in emotional pain for the majority of my life.”
“I tried everything to get rid of this pain and suffering. And, I remember having the gun in my mouth. I remember the gun rattling against my teeth, and I remember what it tasted like, as it sat there for quite a long time.”
“At the moment of truth, I had this random thought inside my head: You never quit anything in your life. Why are you quitting now?”
Upon this realization, Fleury threw the gun into the desert, put his New Mexico property up for sale and returned home to Calgary two weeks later.
He attributes spending time with family and fellow Flames’ Alumni to help him get back on his feet.
“I chose to live, but I had no clue how to live life on life’s terms. All I knew was how to cope–happy, mad, sad–and I certainly knew how to make it go away.
Today, he resides in Calgary, as an outspoken advocate of Alberta, calling out the federal Liberals lack of fairness towards the province.
Lest We Forget: the Métis stand tall amidst growing concerns of identity theft
With concerns emerging on indigenous identity theft, attributed mostly to the “Eastern Métis movement,” Canada’s “Aboriginal Identity Population” rose sharply between 2011 and 2016. With the population increasing by 19.5 percent over that span, Indigenous claims to sovereignty and self-determination are under threat by the phenomena of “response mobility.”
In Nova Scotia, experts have indicated that the shift away from one’s “white identity” is commonplace amongst locals. Through “aspirational ascent”, fake claims of indigeneity created over 50 indigenous organizations, provoking genuine concerns from many outside the Métis community.
Being Métis is not something we aspire to be. It is who we are. We embrace our heritage and aspire for greatness. We uplift those around us and seek togetherness over division. But taking another’s identity and assuming it as one’s own appropriates the historical struggles many fought and succumbed too.
Whether intentional or not, author and associate professor of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University Darryl Leroux made a note of the “raceshifting” trend amongst Nova Scotia’s population.
Groups like the Eastern Woodlands Métis Nation are part of the problem. They’re fraudulent states Leroux says.
Per a CBC article, members of this “new Métis [Nation]” have used status cards to receive tax exemptions on cars and gas, sparking outrage and a subsequent probe into the matter.
Having amassed a membership base north of 30,000, Statistics Canada has indicated the number of self-identifying Métis in Nova Scotia rose 125 per cent in the decade preceding 2016.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaw activist and Cape Breton University political science professor, states, “They’re trying to be viewed as Métis under the Constitution, and to have rights and benefits [as Métis people].” Rejecting their identity is not ‘exclusive’ or ‘mean-spirited,’ it is merely the just thing to do, especially for those no longer with us to speak against the whitewashing of Métis culture.
The Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation in Labrador has declared a suicide crisis following 10 suicide attempts within a week.
Chief Eugene Hart, in a statement on social media, said the attempts followed the death of a young woman over the weekend, according to CTV.
He said that his community of 1,300 people has also been struggling with more than a dozen other deaths in recent months, all of them from natural causes.
“We feel the pain that is being felt in our community and hope to find a way forward to heal together,” Hart’s statement read.
He said there are not enough adequate resources to address the grief.
On Tuesday, he said that he reached out to the premier’s office, the RCMP and other organizations. He confirmed that short-term support programming would be set up at three locations in the Nation.
“These short-term solutions will allow us to work to establish longer-term services that can provide necessary supports in our community.”
"Dubious, bizarre lawyering" nets First Nation federal court rebuke, $2000 fine in anti-TMX challenge
Coastal First Nation resistance to TMX suffered an embarrassing setback after the
“Squamish Nation filed submissions adopting those of Tsleil-Waututh Nation…(but) is not as badly out of compliance,” writes Justice David Stratas in his September 25, 2019 ruling, which notes their filings accuse him of bias and therefore ineligible for a panel that ultimately hears the appeal.
“I have not prejudged this review. I am not biased. I confirm that I have been open-minded and persuadable on all issues throughout,” Stratas responds.
“This should be apparent, in part…that, in the end, I have ordered a remedy similar to that proposed by Tsleil-Waututh Nation.”
Just three weeks earlier on September 4, Stratas gave the Tsleil-Waututh leave to appeal cabinet’s second approval of the 1160km bitumen pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver on the following grounds: “was the consultation adequate in law to address the shortcomings in the earlier consultation process.”
That ruling also disqualified eco-activist groups and the City of Vancouver from proceeding in the consolidated TMX opposition, placing paramount importance to legal questions advanced by First Nations; whether the federal government fulfilled its consultation duties to a constitutional standard.
According to Stratas’ latest decision, the First Nations’ application strayed well beyond addressing this core matter at least seven times – including that Stratas be removed from the appeal panel altogether.
Bill Gallagher, veteran regulatory lawyer and longtime insider where resources and energy interests intersect with Indigenous rights, calls the Tseil-Waututh’s legal strategy “bizarre”.
“Who would expect a couple of First Nations to turn on the judge and the court that just gave them advance to the Federal Court of Appeal with a full panel,” Gallagher told The Post Millennial.
“The number one complaint of First Nations in this country, coast to coast, is access to justice. And here, they won access to justice, courtesy of this judge, then turn around and show a major case of legal ingratitude.”
“It’s highly dubious and quite bizarre lawyering in my view,” he added.
The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations scored their first victory against the Trans Mountain project back on August 30, 2018, when the Federal Court of Appeal quashed original National Energy Board permits.
In its unanimous decision the appeal court concluded that the federal government could not make an informed decision because the “Board’s process and findings were so flawed that the Governor in Council (cabinet) could not reasonably rely on the Board’s report.”
Within 24 hours of this decision, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted to sell Trans Mountain to the Government of Canada and Ottawa re-started consultations with affected First Nations.
Last June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced cabinet’s second approval of the project’s twinning, which precipitated the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations’ second crack at Federal Court.
Trudeau also said his government would be willing to sell the entire project to Indigenous interests, of which there are three separate consortiums vying for an ownership stake.
The Squamish Nation did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment and Ben West, spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh told TPM the First Nation would not speak to the matter while it is before the courts.