Posts By: Xavier Kataquapit

UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY

Take Back Your Life

            When was the last time you went offline and spent time away from the internet and social media? How often do you find yourself checking to see what is happening online during your day?

            When I am at home in town with a high speed internet connection that has endless data to stream, I am constantly online. I read news articles, watch Youtube videos, read internet forums, then jump over to social media feeds. That is only the start of my internet addiction. I watch video streaming services on my TV and on my phone I use various apps throughout the day. I stream my music to listen anywhere I go. Sometimes I’ll find myself doing multiple things on the internet. I’ll watch a streaming program on my big screen, while scrolling through news stories on my laptop and following social media on my phone.

            As exciting as I find all this activity and information, often I feel a sense of anxiousness and nervousness about it all. When I am online, I feel like I am connecting to people and that feels exciting. Unfortunately, much of the time, I fall into a rabbit hole that is filled with fear, anger and anxiety. There are many studies that point to the fact that much of social media is a contrived world of fake users and automated content that is meant to reaffirm our worst fears and deepen our sense of anger in the world. These two emotions hit us hard and they are what drive us to look longer, respond often and keep a watchful eye for more content. It is in the best interest of all social media to keep us angry and afraid of the world. The more negative we feel about everything, the more active we are online to share those emotions with others and increase the popularity of these platforms. Advertising is attracted to where the action is, so social media loves to generate content that gets people involved as that is how they make their money.

            To take a break from this endless digital experience, I spent the past week at my remote cottage where I am located just outside the edge of any cell phone signal. I have some options to gain a signal but it is difficult and unreliable. I only use the internet when I absolutely have to, for the most basic tasks, using as little data as possible. I’ve stopped streaming video, I’ve stopped listening to music and I’ve stopped tapping into social media to see what everyone is doing.

            For the first day or two, I felt a sense of withdrawal from the world. I constantly felt uneasy at the idea of not being able to go online for anything. Instead, I was forced to just read the books I had with me, talk to my partner in the dim light of the living room, listen to the birds and animals or just stare at the lake, the trees and the endless sky.

            After a week I started remembering what the world felt like before the internet. I could just sit alone quietly, at peace and think for myself. I had time to finish the dozens of little projects around the house. I felt my day expand and grow longer as I now had moments to just rest and sit in the sun, take a walk in the forest or cut brush on my land. I was no longer hounded by the endless digital voices that simultaneously make me feel happy, afraid, humored and angry all at the same time. I also had time to work on a book.

            It was great to get back to a life that I once had a couple of decades ago when my days were filled with action, exercise, outside work and actually talking with others in real time.  I have never been the type to be bored but I have to admit that this addiction to the internet and social media has cost me my health, mindfulness and a general satisfaction with life on a daily basis.

            Perhaps we should take time away from the internet once in a while. Try it for yourself for a day or two. Do you remember the last time you had a day to yourself, with just your thoughts and the contact of the people around you? As humans, we survived thousands of years without a constant connection to everything. I think we are all capable of disconnecting from the world of the internet and social media once in a while to reconnect with ourselves. Otherwise many of us are going to end up overweight, out of shape, anxious and depressed.  It’s time to take back your life.

www.underthenorthernsky.com

A national skills agenda for Indigenous youth will lead to a more prosperous and inclusive Canada

John Stackhouse

There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the economic prospects of Indigenous youth. Canada’s fastest growing cohort of youth are being drawn into the broader economy, demonstrated through increased Indigenous ownership of resources and infrastructure, increased presence in key supply chains and new partnerships between private companies and communities. Many Indigenous youth are also confident in their foundational skills essential to succeed in the workplace, such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. 

However, at a time when advance technologies are transforming every sector, many Indigenous youth say they lack the confidence in their digital literacy skills. Addressing the gap starts with the basics. The reality is, high-speed Internet still hasn’t come to large parts of rural and northern Canada, limiting online activity for many Indigenous Peoples.

These digital desserts limit many Indigenous Peoples from developing key skills required to succeed in the workplace. Take trade skills, which has contributed to improved incomes for many Indigenous Peoples. But on-reserve learners aren’t accessing apprenticeships at the same rate as off-reserve youth, and they often miss out on the in-class portions where emerging skills are introduced.

Narrowing this and other digital skills gaps would enable Indigenous youth to unlock a host of opportunities in the future of work and, in turn, significantly increase their earning potential according to a RBC report. Access to a meaningful career also helps foster a stronger connection to community, and builds greater confidence and optimism for the future. A national skills agenda for Indigenous youth is crucial to building a more prosperous and inclusive Canada.

What would this agenda look like? Through an 18-month consultation with Indigenous youth and leaders, educators, and employers, RBC identified a series of recommendations that might help to prepare Indigenous youth for the digital future. Fulfilling the federal commitment to provide high-speed to every Canadian by 2030, prioritizing underserviced Indigenous communities was a key priority.

Allocating additional funding for digital devices and technology courses in primary and secondary schools, both on- and off-reserve, would also be critical. As would efforts in providing Indigenous youth with more work-integrated learning experiences. These programs offer students access to real workplace experiences, with the opportunity to develop the technological and human skills necessary to succeed as well as the professional networks, which are vital in navigating the working world.

At a time when many Canadians are reflecting on our recent history, and ongoing relationship with Indigenous Peoples, our collective efforts take on a heightened meaning and importance. A national skills agenda will ensure our fastest growing youth population are provided with the skills and opportunities to participate fully in the economy, and in turn, help Canada grow sustainably well into the future.

PRESS RELEASE: Fire Safety Knowledge Can Save Lives

Did you know that the incidents of fire are 10 times higher within Indigenous  communities versus other Canadian communities? 

This statistic comes from the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council Project and highlights the ongoing threat to homes and families. Their website is designed to offer support to Indigenous communities. It has reported that Indigenous peoples across Canada are between 5 and 17 times more likely to die in a fire compared to the rest of the population. Indigenous Peoples are five times more likely to die in a fire. That number increases to over 10 times for First Nations people living on reserves. Inuit are over 17 times more likely to die in a fire than non Indigenous people. Rates among Métis were higher than non-Indigenous estimates (2.1), but these rates were not significantly different. The full report can be found at www.indigenousfiresafety.ca/research/mortality-and morbidity-report-2021.

At FireWise we believe that knowledge saves lives. Knowing how to prevent a fire can make the difference between lives saved or lost. At times it can be as simple as knowing that an unattended pot on a stove can readily turn into a kitchen fire. Flammable objects near a baseboard or electric heater or a fireplace can cause pyrolysis which is the decomposition of a combustible object brought on by high temperatures. Further course information www.firewiseconsulting.com.

As a Benefit Corporation for Good, FireWise places equal importance on people as it does the planet and profit. For this reason, FireWise offers affordable rates for communities at risk. We recognize some of the challenges of fire safety in Indigenous communities. Through our online training programs, we are able to offer a Building Fire Safety Training Program that is structured in the hopes of reducing fire related incidents. This course has been designed to give community leaders the confidence to know what to look for when assessing building fire safety risk and the skills to teach the community about valuable fire safety and prevention. BCFG program details at www.benefitcorporationsforgood.com.

Another excellent resource is Getting to Know Fire produced by British Columbia’s Public Fire and Life Safety Education Curriculum. This publication is a comprehensive fire and life safety education curriculum containing detailed lesson plans, which target audiences ranging from preschool aged children through to seniors. Thecurriculum provides accurate and consistent messages and all support materials necessary to deliver interesting and informative presentations. It is unique in its comprehensiveness and focusses on the needs of front-line fire service personnel delivering fire and life safety education. It is available through the Crown Publications at www.crownpub.bc.ca/Product/Details/7610002922_S#/?statesave=true.

Five Reasons to Learn About Fire Safety and Prevention 1. Fire prevention is inexpensive and saves lives and property. 2. Routine fire prevention assessments ensure a high level of building and occupant safety. 3. Building managers learn how fire protection systems are designed to detect and quickly extinguish a fire. 4. Direct involvement of the building manager in fire prevention yields other life safety and maintenance benefits. 5. Regular safety code inspections provide occupants with fire safety education and demonstrates a commitment to safety, building trust in the community.

About FireWise Consulting FireWise Consulting was co-founded by Glen Sanders and Bob Turley who had a desire to share their expertise with the fire community. Their knowledge in the fire service has informed the online fire inspection and investigation training and practicums that today teach communities, building owners, and firefighters on how to assess and address fire. In 2018, retired Fire Chief, Ernie Polsom joined as a director and primarily consults with emergency services, local governments and communities.

FireWise is recognized for its complimentary skill sets informed by over 120-years of combined knowledge. Their wealth of real-world experience is evident in its curriculum, workshops and consulting.

FireWise is a value-driven and Benefit Corporation for Good (BCFG) company committed to delivering quality information over profits to ensure that those in the fire service and their governing authorities receive the knowledge and support needed to help them provide a high level of fire protection in their communities or business. It has been certified by a third party to affirm that it qualifies. In addition to profit, the BCFG includes a positive impact on society, workers, and the environment as its legally defined goals.

We believe in and adhere to business practices that are socially, economically and environmentally sound which result in solutions that are responsible to people and the planet.

We believe in people and approach all issues in a transparent, non-partisan manner that fosters an open and respectful dialogue. We do our best to treat all stakeholders fairly, while recognizing the socio-demographics found within communities i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, education levels, income, etc.

We build individual, community, and regional capacity that supports informed decision-making processes.

We create safer communities by sourcing environmentally safe materials and processes (The use of technology to reduce travel and harmful environmental practices like burning buildings to conduct fire investigation courses.)

We believe and practice the sharing of knowledge the delivers fire prevention and awareness which saves lives, protects people and property, and protects the environment.

We support community organizations that help people like Muscular Dystrophy, Honour House, Honour Ranch and more. We believe in self-care by striving for a proper work-life balance.

We believe in mental wellness and facilitate a confidential and non-judgmental peer forum with fire service leaders that help them to share their journey.

For more information regarding this coaching Glen Sanders, glen@firewiseconsulting.com 1.250.812.9830

For more information training Bob Turley, bob@firewiseconsulting.com 1.877.322.7911

For more information on consulting services Ernie Polsom, ernie@firewiseconsulting.com 1.306.580.7104

We Know How To Manage This Pandemic

This has been a worrisome month. After a year and a half of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, like everyone else I was hoping that things would be getting more back to normal after our world more or less was shut down. In many countries in the world the numbers of deaths and cases have been dropping and just when things were looking good for us here in northern Ontario, the Porcupine Health Unit area had increased cases and in particular my home of Attawapiskat, the remote communities of Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moosonee and Moose Factory on the James Bay coast all had outbreaks.

We have been fortunate in northern Ontario that our infection numbers have been low until just recently. Most of this has been due to the fact that we are more remote and rural so that protects us to a degree. However, with people moving about, air travel and work places deemed essential still operating this virus took hold. There were not many deaths or severe cases of sickness along the James Bay coast and in other Indigenous communities across Canada because these First Nations had been prioritized for vaccinations. Many people don’t realize that the vaccines won’t stop you from getting the virus but it will in most cases lower the cases of severe disease and deaths. That is why it is necessary to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Can you imagine the disaster this virus would have created in sickness and death in remote James Bay communities without vaccines?

As vaccines continue to roll out in Canada we are seeing a decrease in cases and deaths in general. However, things are starting to open up now and there is a fear that we might not be out of the woods with this virus for some time. There are new variants like the Delta Variant that is challenging the vaccines and the experts say there will be more more variants developing. This means we will probably need booster vaccine shots at some point to deal with new variants.

It looks like vaccines will most likely not be able to solve this pandemic globally but they will help us manage it in countries and regions. First world countries that have the most vaccinations will probably manage well in opening up to some form of normal over the next year or so but many parts of the world will not be able to do that. That means we won’t really be safe from this virus because people will move about internationally and this Covid-19 will continue to spread as newly developed variants.

The bottom line is that we are living in a new world. We have learned so much about viruses and disease in general over the past year and a half and that has kept many of us safe. Many people have had to keep working in close quarters in plants, mines, production and distribution centres and essential services. Our governments and public health units have developed many ways to deal with this virus. We now know our best protection has been with the wearing of masks indoors in public places, staying two meters apart from others and washing hands often.

As things open up and new variants arrive we still need to remember that, yes we can have more freedom, we can get together safely and we can even begin to travel again. However, we also have to remember all the things we learned to cope with this virus and the new way we see and understand disease and how it spreads.

Vaccines have been proven to work and although they might not solve this pandemic on a global basis, they will allow us to manage life in many parts of the world. I am very thankful to the Indigenous leadership at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Chiefs of Ontario (COO), Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), our tribal councils and Indigenous political bodies across Canada for doing such a great job to lobby the governments so that our communities were prioritized for vaccines. Right now I can point to the success of that advocacy in the outbreaks that were safely managed on the James Bay coast. Thanks also to the federal government, provincial governments, public health units and all those doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal support workers, teachers, as well as all essential workers for risking their well being to keep us all safe and for propping up our economy. Things are looking better every day and we will manage this nasty Covid-19 virus. We all have to remember what we learned over the past year and a half to stay safe.

www.underthenorthernsky.com

Time for a Change – First Nation Women Taking Leading Roles in Indigenous Affairs and Canadian National Politics

Indigenous Woman making History this month:
Mary Simon for her appointment to Governor General of Canada | Photo courtesy Aljazeera

Chief RoseAnne Archibald, elected Chief of the Assembly of First Nations | Photo courtesy CTV


Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky Deer elected Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake | Photo courtesy APTN


Though Women’s History Month is not until October, three First Nation women made history on three different political fronts in July.

On July 3, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer became the first female and the first LGBTQ2S+ Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. On July 6, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Mary Simon as Canada’s Governor General. Two days later, on July 8, RoseAnne Archibald was elected as Grand Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer

For the 12 years prior to her election to a four-year term as Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, 41, served as a council chief on the Kahnawake Band Council.

Describing the experience as “overwhelming,” Sky-Deer says her priorities are developing an economic strategy that honours treaties to share land and resources and to focus on healing.

“That is what is owed to us,” said Sky-Deer, about her plans for an economic strategy that includes building affordable housing and attracting well-paying jobs to the MCK community of about 8,000 people located outside Montreal.

Sky-Deer said that the trauma, sadness, and grieving over the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools are to be addressed by empowering people through community-oriented actions to enhance language and strengthen cultural identity.

“We could start to do activities in our culture, spiritually, ceremonially, to lift the spirits of our people in our minds so that we can be ready for the work in the challenges ahead,” she said.

Many of today’s social challenges are a direct result of the tragedy of the residential-school system, and Sky-Deer, who believes the greatest way to honour the memory of Indigenous children who died there is to build a better today for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Married with five step-children and two grandchildren, Sky-Deer said her identity as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ and being elected as Grand Chief is a “sign of the times.”

“We need to own who we are. I want to be a positive influence and role model, an inspiration to youth who feel that they are different. I want them to know that they are worthy, can achieve dreams, goals. And that LGBTQ2S+ is not a barrier. The Creator put us here with gifts.”

Sky-Deer continued, “It’s about looking at the person and character, the strengths, the abilities, and what they can do for the community. Does it really matter who they are attracted to or in a relationship with at the end of the day? Live and let live, and let people be who they are.”

Grand Chief, Sky-Deer does not intend to rule from the top but instead receive community input through think tanks staffed by common members of her band. “I think hearing from the people directly, empowering them to be a part of the solution, can help,” she said. “My people want to see more engagement, empowerment, ability to be part of the decision-making. All of these things are elements of our traditional way of governance.”

Sky-Deer won the post of Grand Chief with 573 votes. In second place was another female, Gina Deer, with 368 votes, MCK had been without a Grand Chief since Joseph Tokwiro Norton passed away last summer.

A Florida, USA, resident for eight years in the early 2000s, Sky-Dear played quarterback as a professional football player for the Daytona Beach Barracudas of the Women’s Professional Football League.

While in the States, she earned a Bachelor degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“There’s a new age upon us. I feel there’s a turning point in the history of humanity,” she said. “Women in leadership are actually becoming a norm across North America, what we call Turtle Island. It’s just part of the evolution.”

Mary Simon

In another first, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Inuk leader Mary Simon as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. Simon, who is from Nunavik, in northern Quebec, is Canada’s 30th Governor General,

Her new role is not the first first for Simon, who previously served as the first Inuk to be a Canadian ambassador when she represented Canada as its ambassador of circumpolar affairs and ambassador to Denmark.

The governor general position is also known as the Viceregal representative of the Monarch – the Queen of Great Britain’s representative in Canada.

Under law, the governor general is the second-highest ranking federal position in Canada, outranking the prime minister. Second-in-command after the Queen, Simon is the Queen’s representative in Canada.

“I believe we can build the hopeful future in a way that is respectful of what has happened in the past. If we embrace our common humanity and shared responsibility for one another, Canada’s greatest days are yet to come,” Simon said.

The power to dissolve Parliament and draw up the writs for a general election, on the advice of the prime minister, is now in Simon’s hands. She is also now the top commander of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Today after 154 years, our country takes a historic step,” said Mr. Trudeau while announcing the appointment at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. “I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”

Simon, a product of a federal government day school, wants to facilitate a better relationship between Canadians and Indigenous people and promised to play a significant role in getting Canadians to acknowledge their nation’s sins in its historical mistreatment and abuse of First Nations people.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward,” said Simon at the press conference announcing her appointment. “We need to stop to fully recognize and memorialize and come to terms with the atrocities of our collective past that we are learning more about each day,”

Born in Nunavik in northern Quebec to an Inuk mother and a non-Indigenous father, Simon reminded the nation that she has deep Indigenous roots when she told how she spent a lot of time as a child living a traditional Inuk lifestyle that included camping, living on the land, hunting, fishing, and gathering food.

“[I will] be a bridge between the different lived realities that together make up the tapestry of Canada,” said Simon.

After her job as a CBC broadcaster in the 1970s, Simon went on to hold many leadership positions in Indigenous organizations.

In 1975, Simon played a role in brokering a landmark land claim settlement between the Cree and Inuit community with the Quebec government, and also served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an organization championing Inuit rights.

In 1982, she participated in the negotiations that led to the change in the Canadian Constitution that formally enshrined Aboriginal and treaty rights in the supreme law of Canada.

As Ambassador to Circumpolar Affairs In 1994, Simon defended Canadian interests in its Arctic territory, which at the time was called home by over 200,000 inhabitants, half of that population being Indigenous.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation,” said Simon.

RoseAnne Archibald

RoseAnne Archibald has a remarkable history of breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling. A trailblazer, RoseAnne was the first Indigenous woman to serve as Chief for the Taykwa Tagamou Nation, Deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Grand Chief for Mushkegowuk Council, and Ontario Regional Chief.

Now she has become the first woman to be elected as National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). She defeated Muskowekwan First Nation Chief Reginald Bellerose with 50.5 percent of the vote in the fifth round of voting.

“The AFN has made her-story today,” said RoseAnne after her historic win.

Her main priorities in her new role will be fighting systemic racism, supporting the national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women, and addressing unmarked burial sites at former residential schools by working with the federal government to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“With the recent discovery and recovery of our little ones across this country, we are all awake — and what people need to understand and what people need to come to terms with is how settler Canadians have benefited from these colonial practices and how we, as Indigenous people, have been the target of genocide,” she said. “We are going to stare this straight in the face and kick colonial policies to the curb. Change is happening.”

Prioritizing the effects of climate change on Indigenous communities and working with governments and regional chiefs on a post-pandemic recovery plan for First Nations are two additional issues RoseAnne plans to focus on.

During her campaign, she promised to promote a national agenda to make economic self-sufficiency for First Nations a reality and instituting a new AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council.

“While there are things and differences that divide us, there is much that we share,” she said. “We all want our children to grow up proud and surrounded by love, culture, ceremony, and language, and safe and vibrant communities. We want a Mother Earth for them that is not threatened by wildfires and climate change…. We want to be good ancestors and leave a strong legacy for the seven generations ahead.”

RoseAnne is from the Taykwa Tagamou Nation in Northeastern Ontario, and has been participating in First Nations politics for 31 years. Elected to represent her home nation at 23 years old, she was also the youngest deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation in Ontario.

“This is a critical time for Canada and we need our women to represent us in a traditional matriarchal manner to address the many injustices,” Archibald wrote in a Facebook post.

AFN represents 900,000 members across 634 First Nations. Its mission is to coordinate action between First Nations for their collective benefit.

Upholding Obligations and Compensating Wrongs: Case Comment on Southwind V. Canada

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in Southwind v. Canada regarding the principles for calculating compensation for First Nations whose reserve lands have been taken without lawful authority.

The decision is a significant victory for First Nations across Canada seeking compensation for the illegal taking of their reserve lands. It builds on a growing body of recent cases which call on the federal and provincial governments to honour and uphold the Crown’s obligations to Indigenous peoples.

What it is about

In 1929, over 11,000 acres of Lac Seul First Nation’s reserve lands in Treaty #3 were flooded following the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Timber was lost, graves were damaged, gardens and fields were destroyed, and portions of the community were severed from one another. The lands remain flooded today.

Canada did not seek Lac Seul’s consent to surrender the lands prior to the flooding, nor did it take steps to expropriate the lands under the Indian Act.

Lac Seul filed a civil action against Canada in Federal Court. In 2017, the Federal Court found Canada breached its fiduciary duties to Lac Seul and that it had breached the Indian Act by failing to obtain a surrender from Lac Seul or take the necessary steps to expropriate the lands. The Court awarded Lac Seul equitable compensation in the amount of $30 million based on the fair market value of the lands at the time they were flooded.

Lac Seul appealed the Federal Court’s assessment of compensation. In 2019, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the lower court.

Lac Seul appealed to the Supreme Court asking it to clarify which principles apply when determining compensation for breaches of the Crown’s obligations to First Nations in respect of reserve lands. Courtesy of First Peoples Law LLP

What the Court said

The Supreme Court held that Canada breached its fiduciary obligations to Lac Seul First Nation when it allowed the flooding of Lac Seul’s reserves and that Lac Seul was entitled to compensation for the lost opportunity to negotiate a surrender of its reserve reflecting the highest value of the land.

The Court held that in the context of taking reserve lands for public works, Canada’s fiduciary obligations require it to attempt to negotiate a surrender before expropriating the lands, and ensure the First Nation receives compensation reflecting the nature of the interest, the impact of the taking and the value of the land in respect of the project in question.

Why it is important

Southwind clarifies the principles for the calculation of equitable compensation for breaches of the Crown’s fiduciary obligations in respect of the taking of reserve lands. The decision will have significant implications for both First Nations and the Crown in the resolution of claims involving the unlawful taking of reserve lands.

The decision confirms the Crown’s fiduciary obligations are heightened when it exercises control over reserve lands set aside in fulfillment of a treaty promise. 

The decision also confirms traditional expropriation law principles are insufficient to assess compensation for the taking of reserve lands because Indigenous peoples’ interests in those lands — and the Crown’s obligations to protect and preserve those interests — are fundamentally different from the interests of a private landowner.

In the case of public works such as hydroelectric projects, it is not open to the Crown to simply expropriate the land. Instead, the Crown must attempt to negotiate a surrender of the lands on terms agreeable to the First Nation. Regardless of whether the lands are surrendered or expropriated, the Crown’s fiduciary obligations require it to ensure the highest compensation possible for the First Nation, including compensation for the land’s anticipated future use in connection with the project.

Looking ahead

For decades, First Nations across the country have sought redress for Crown decisions which resulted in the loss of their reserves. The resolution of these claims is a critical component of reconciliation.

The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Southwind resulted in confusion and uncertainty regarding the proper approach to the calculation of equitable compensation for the unlawful taking of reserve lands. The decision of the Supreme Court provides much-needed guidance on the Crown’s fiduciary obligations and the corresponding approach to determining compensation.

The Southwind decision also forms part of a series of recent decisions which set out clear directions for how federal and provincial governments should fulfil their obligations to Indigenous peoples — and the tangible consequences that will result if governments ignore their responsibilities.

At a time when public calls for reconciliation are growing across the country, and in light of numerous legal challenges based on the Crown’s failure to fulfil its obligations to First Nations, governments would be wise to heed the Court’s direction and take concrete action to both address past wrongs and honour and protect Indigenous peoples’ lands and rights now and into the future.

*First Peoples Law LLP was honoured to represent the Grand Council Treaty #3 in the Southwind appeal. The views expressed here are our own.

Courtesy of First Peoples Law

What’s Old Is New Again: PLT Canada Green Leader Engages Community by Upcycling Fabric into Blankets



PLT Canada green leader engages community
by upcycling fabric into blankets

Skylar Veuillot noticed that the natural spaces around her community were slowly being covered with garbage. Discarded fabric near the dump caught her eye.

The member of the Northlands Denesuline First Nation knew that the people in her community were creative and had seen a lot of creative projects being done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, Veuillot decided to organize an online blanket crafting event that would upcycle old fabric and engage her community as part of Project Learning Tree Canada’s (PLT Canada) Green Leaders Program.

“My goal was to bring warmth and to bring people together during this pandemic, especially those who are having a hard time because of it,” she said. “And people might gain a positive hobby out of it if they take a liking to sewing.”

PLT Canada’s Green Leaders Program involved mentorship, skill development, and community action. The green leaders, Indigenous youth aged 15-25, planned and implemented a green community-based project which could be an event, campaign, or another initiative of their choice. Participants received up to $1,500 from PLT Canada to deliver their project along with training and development workshops to help support their success. The green leaders were also matched with mentors from the forest and conservation sector to help them complete their project and plan their green career pathway.

“I have a great mentor,” said Veuillot. “She has been giving me helpful advice about my career path.”

PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program is currently recruiting mentees and mentors for the next national mentorship cohort (September 2021). Mentorship can help remove barriers to employment by growing young people’s networks. Learn more at pltcanada.org!

In addition to PLT Canada’s support, Veuillot partnered with the Awasis Agency of Northern Manitoba to help host her project. They were able to help her successfully complete her event, as she was living outside of her community to pursue her Bachelor of Arts.

“It was exciting to see what people would create. All of the blankets were creative and unique to them,” she said.

Through PLT Canada’s Green Leaders program, Veuillot said she improved transferrable professional- and life-skills like budgeting and communication.

“It also reminded me of how I can get things done with the right dedication and the right goal put in place,” she said.

In the past, Veuillot attended the Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP), a national network of land-based education, training, and work opportunities for Indigenous youth.

OYEP is a PLT Canada Green Jobs employer—PLT Canada offers a 50% wage match to employers who hire youth aged 15–30 in the forest, conservation, or parks sectors. First Nations, First Nations businesses, and community-serving non-profits are also eligible for funding! Learn more at pltcanada.org.

She spent most of her time with OYEP planting trees, doing bush work, and identifying traditional medicines. While Veuillot is unsure about what exactly her dream job is, she is considering a career in the trades after her positive experience working in a Green Job.

First Nations take control and contribute to a step-by-step wildfire evacuation plan suited to their cultural and community needs

Determining when to evacuate when under threat from a wildfire is an extremely difficult decision for many First Nations communities, particularly for those in remote and difficult-to-reach locations. An evacuation plan that meets the needs of the community, based on their values, resources, and governance structures, is essential for a safe and successful evacuation. 

The First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership was formed shortly after the devasting wildfires of 2011 when 4,216 fires swept across Canada and consumed 2.6 million hectares of forest. First Nations were severely affected with thousands of residents from thirty-five communities throughout Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta forced to evacuate their lands, some with great difficulty. From inception, the Partnership, formed by Tara McGee and Amy Cardinal Christianson, responded to two key questions: How have First Nations peoples and communities been affected by wildfire evacuations? How can the negative effects of these evacuations be reduced?

First Nations Wildfire Evacuations: A Guide for Communities and External Agencies is the result of that partnership. The authors performed over 200 interviews with evacuees and involved government and external agencies to create this essential guide for communities at risk from wildfires, the external agencies that work with those communities, and evacuee hosts.

“This work highlights the fact that Indigenous people, in learning from the environments they have lived in and cared for since time immemorial, have embraced the First Nations idea that adaptation equals resilience equals sustainability.” 

–David A. Diablo, Assembly of First Nations, Special Advisor-Emergency Services

This evacuation guide covers each stage of putting together an evacuation plan: the decision to evacuate, mobilizing the chosen plan, organizing transportation and suitable accommodations, culturally sensitive care for evacuees, and celebration of the return home. Specific topics include:

  • assessing the risk to the health and safety of community members
  • knowing when to do a partial vs a full evacuation
  • figuring out who to contact for help
  • troubleshooting transportation
  • communicating with members before and after the evacuation
  • arranging appropriate accommodation for evacuees
  • caring for Elders and other more vulnerable community members
  • organizing food and activities while away

With climate change raising the danger of wildfires around the world, the experiences of the communities featured in First Nations Wildfire Evacuations will serve as an indispensable resource for any town at risk from fire.

Community is at the heart of a new documentary series by Kevin Settee that explores Indigenous life and culture on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

 

The Lake Winnipeg Project is a four-part National Film Board of Canada production that focuses on four different communities: Matheson Island, Poplar River, Camp Morningstar and Fisher River.

Each of these communities has a unique story to tell about the land, the water and how they are navigating the external forces impacting traditional ways of life.

Community has always been important to Settee (Anishinaabe/Cree), who both wrote and directed the series. A community facilitator with deep ties throughout the Lake Winnipeg area, he wanted to ensure that the stories of each community were not only told, but told in a way that was guided by the communities themselves. He selected the communities thoughtfully, with much consideration given to their level of comfort and interest.

“It’s a community-based filmmaking project,” he says. “The whole idea was to try a new approach that isn’t really done all the time when it comes to filmmaking. Normally, what happens is somebody will have an idea and they’ll take it somewhere.” Instead, Settee went to each community to discover what they wanted to share, and made sure to get their blessing before filming them.

In Matheson Island, the first film in the series, Settee documents the story of three brothers who’ve been fishermen for almost half a century. He looks at issues like the bond between family, the impact of commercial fishing, and health.

In Poplar River, the focus is on land, water, protection and stewardship.

“They have been protecting their land for decades and it shows,” Settee says. “If you ever get the chance to go there, it’s untouched. There are so many birds. All you hear is birds.”

The third film in the series, Camp Morningstar, raises awareness about the impact of resource extraction, process and protocol.The camp was initially created in opposition to a silica sand mine that was being developed without proper consultation.

In the final film, Fisher River, the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are explored, in areas such as employment, motherhood and education. Kailey Arthurson (Anishinaabe/Nehiyaw) is one of the subjects of this part of the project.

Arthurson had been following the development of The Lake Winnipeg Project through social media. She connected with Settee online when he reached out to learn more about what was going on in the community of Fisher River.

The 25-year-old mother earned her Bachelor of Arts degree last summer during the pandemic and is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program at University College of the North. The program is offered on-reserve and runs evenings and weekends, making it highly accessible for busy parents and people from remote communities. The film looks at the impact of the pandemic on the community, as well as Arthurson’s life as a student, educator and mother in the era of COVID.

“It felt really good to just be a part of the project and how it was put together,” she says about the documentary. “It really was beautiful. I hope that people will understand our connection to the land and the water, and how important it is for us.”

Ultimately, The Lake Winnipeg Project shows how all four communities are united in stewardship and land and water protection, and how important it is for these underrepresented voices to be heard and listened to.

The Lake Winnipeg Project is produced by Alicia Smith and executive produced by David Christensen at the NFB’s Northwest Studio in Winnipeg. The latest addition to the NFB’s Indigenous Cinema collection, the series can be streamed free on NFB.ca starting June 21 to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

https://www.nfb.ca/series/lake-winnipeg-project/

Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba.