Posts By: First Nations Drum

Trainers From Firefighters Without Borders Headed to Lac Seul First Nations this Month to Educate Residents on Fire Prevention & Ensure All Residents Have a Working Smoke Alarm

Firefighters Without Borders (FWB) has partnered with the Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services to help improve fire safety in the Northern First Nation Community of Lac Seul, located near Sioux Lookout, Ontario, as part of Fire Prevention Month (month of October).

FWB has enlisted Chris Miller and Jeff Jones, fire prevention officers with the City of Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services, to visit Lac Seul from Oct. 27-30 to help train Fire and Emergency Services volunteers on proper delivery methods of Fire Safety and Prevention information for households and schools.  In turn, the Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services will then educate the 872 residents (including students) on fire prevention. They will also ensure each household has a functioning smoke alarm. Any alarms that aren’t functioning will be replaced by a First Alert 10-Year Sealed Battery Smoke Alarm.

“October is a time to raise awareness about fire safety in the home and to help ensure you are prepared in case of an emergency. We are very grateful for the volunteers traveling from Firefighters Without Borders to Lac Seul to discuss fire safety with our firefighters and our community,” said Lac Seul First Nation Fire Chief David Gordon. 

Russ Chalmers, Acting President for Firefighters Without Borders, said “Recent studies have shown that residents of First Nation communities are ten times more likely to die in a house fire than those living in the rest of Canada.  To us, this is a vital project, and we’re grateful that these highly skilled fire prevention volunteers from the City of Mississauga are helping to address the dire fire safety needs that exist in First Nations communities such as Lac Seul.” 

“We’re honoured to have these specialized fire prevention officers from the City of Mississauga donating their time to this important project, and to have a strategic partner like First Alert supplying us with much-needed smoke alarms to ensure the safety of all Lac Seul residents,” said Craig Dockeray, vice president of Firefighters Without Borders and project lead for Lac Seul. 

First Alert donated 200 smoke alarms and supplemented its donation with discount pricing to help ensure each resident is protected.

“We always include fire safety training in our projects,” added Dockeray. “However, this is the first large scale project by Firefighters Without Borders dedicated to public fire safety education and a Smoke Alarm Implementation Program.”

“Community risk reduction initiatives such as this are vital in ensuring all areas of the country are better protected from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “Partners like Firefighters Without Borders are representative of the dedication we see throughout the fire service community, and we applaud their efforts.”  

This fire prevention education project in Lac Seul is the continuation of a project by Firefighters Without Borders to ensure Lac Seul First Nation is better equipped to deal with both fire prevention and emergency response. Earlier this year, a fire truck was generously donated by the City of St. Catharines and donated to Lac Seul First Nation with the help of Firefighters Without Borders.  In addition to the vehicle, firefighting equipment and vehicle instruction on the operation and maintenance were provided to the firefighters in Lac Seul First Nation.     

About BRK Brands, Inc. 
BRK Brands, Inc. (Aurora, IL), is a fully owned subsidiary of Newell Brands. For more than 60 years, BRK Brands, Inc. has been the manufacturer of First Alert®
-branded home-safety products, the most trusted and recognized safety brand in America. BRK® Brands designs and develops innovative safety solutions including Tundra™ Fire Extinguishing Spray, Onelink by First Alert smart home products, a comprehensive line of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders to protect what matters most.  Such products are also marketed under the BRK Electronics® brand, The Professional Standard for the builder and contractor audiences.  BRK Brands, Inc. products are found in more than 30 countries worldwide.  For more information, visit http://www.firstalert.com or  

About Newell Brands
Newell Brands (NASDAQ: NWL) is a leading global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands, including Paper Mate®, Sharpie®, Dymo®, EXPO®, Parker®, Elmer’s®, Coleman®, Marmot®, Oster®, Sunbeam®, FoodSaver®, Mr. Coffee®, Graco®, Baby Jogger®, NUK®, Calphalon®, Rubbermaid®, Contigo®, First Alert®, and Yankee Candle®. For hundreds of millions of consumers, Newell Brands makes life better every day, where they live, learn, work and play. 
Additional information about Newell Brands is available on the company’s website, 

©2019 BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504. All rights reserved. 
BRK Electronics® is a registered trademark of BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504. 
Nasdaq® is a registered trademark of The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc.  

About Firefighters Without Borders
Firefighters Without Borders is a registered Charitable organization, dedicated to providing equipment, training, and support to firefighters around the world, including Canada’s remote and northern communities.  For more information, visit our website at

Harm reduction on the frontlines: The need for policy reform regarding accessibility and affordability of medical cannabis

It has never been more evident that we have more work to do as it relates to education about medical cannabis, as well as its potential as a tool to reduce harm in communities. As research trickles in, funding dollars are beginning to be directed towards novel research in cannabinoid therapy. Our focus must first be to our most vulnerable populations. Those living with addiction remain the most stigmatized population challenged by a chronic illness. Can you believe that, in Canada, one person overdoses on opiates every two hours? Let me repeat that: ONE person EVERY TWO HOURS in Canada dies of an overdose.

I am a physician who has worked in the area of addiction medicine providing opioid replacement therapy (ORT), and the adjuvants or “helper “medicines, for patients to access a clean supply of medication dispensed by a trained pharmacist. Patients are able to stabilize their day-to-day lives and maintain their health. The challenge with these programs and protocols is that patients often have a difficult time tapering off or reducing these medicines and, dependent on geography, they are not easily accessible. Ironically, the “helper” medicines can also be misused, or can be potentially fatal, if mixed with alcohol or other sedating medications. Most patients I see are taking more than four medications.

During patient assessments, which may take upwards of one hour to complete, I have found that many were using cannabis from the illicit/legacy market. In reality, many were using it to reduce their withdrawal effects and anxiety, to help with sleep, or to reduce pain. How was this working for them? Was it really working? And in the back of my mind I remember a patient telling me 10 years ago, “Hey, Doc, there’s weed out there that doesn’t make you high”, and I, with head hanging down, admit at the time, didn’t believe her. What I now know is that given that the overdose profile for cannabis is non-existent, I feel it is a safe option for my patients living with opioid addiction, and the science and evidence-informed data is proving this. After much reading of research, and with a few of my patients stable on opioid replacement therapy (methadone/suboxone), I began providing access to legal medical cannabis for these patients with surprising success. The result? Patients were able to reduce opioids and feel like they had more control of their health and of their lives.

Fast-forward to today, with data collected on almost 6,000 of my patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis, more than 80% are able to reduce opiates and other pain and sleep medications. Patients who have drug coverage and/or are able to cover the cost of cannabis do better and are able to maintain their care plan with medical cannabis. However, for those patients living with addiction who do not have insurance, including many of our Indigenous/Status patients and/or those on low or fixed incomes, financial challenge limits their ability to continue to receive the benefits that legal medical cannabis provides .

Professionally, it has proven to be an eye-opening and humbling experience to assist patients in navigating this legal cannabis system, warts and all. It has changed how I practice. It makes me question every single pill I prescribe and has helped me become a better physician. Additionally, it has turned my patients, for the most part, into willing scientists. I tell each patient as they trial cannabis, “We are doing science!” as they sigh and fill out their umpteenth questionnaire. For those patients accessing medical cannabis, a sharp line between the recreational and medical market is required to address accessibility and affordability. Could you imagine someone with diabetes having to get their drugs illegally? If the supply of insulin was not clean? In an environment where our national physician’s governing body does not actively support medical cannabis, and where those of us working on the frontlines see the benefit and possibilities of this plant, there must be more communication and bridge-building regarding its medicinal properties. Our pharmacy partners, who understand the complexities of medicines, must be involved in the care of our patients.

In a system where physicians are now encouraged to de-prescribe opiates and benzodiazepines (BZD’s), but are left with little else to offer the patient, the disconnect is evident. Current drug policy has yet to catch up with the science that supports safe-use sites, access to clean sources of opiates, and the reduction of deaths in communities in Canada. When building resilience amounts to little more than lip service as the resources supporting substance use and mental health services are limited and finite, it becomes challenging to offer and address the underpinnings of addiction. As a result, our efforts are not enough, and we must challenge the status quo. The advocacy work of all those on the frontlines, actively giving care, must be supported through research, and provincial and federal funding. Let us, on the frontlines, continue to do this work. On a broader scale, we all must focus our efforts and work together to drive the accessibility and affordability of medical cannabis for patients – it is promising as a medicine, for many, many patient populations and, most certainly, for those living with addiction.


Will be a featured Speaker at the national Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference, being held in Kelowna at the Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel. November 26-28, 2019
For more information and registration:

Alberta Indigenous Leaders Talk to Thunberg About Energy Transition; Finding Environmental, Economic Balance

Teenager climate activist Greta Thunberg with Chief Archie Waquan, Melody Lepine and councillor Calvin Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour of Alberta’s oilsands region on Saturday, an Indigenous group says, conducting interviews that the group says will be part of an upcoming BBC documentary.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation says in a news release that Thunberg spent the day on the shores of Gregoire Lake near Fort McMurray with members of the First Nation, and that her interviews focused on environmental concerns over oilsands development and climate change.

Mikisew Chief Archie Waquan presented Thunberg with a blanket, stating in the news release that the First Nation was honoured to “join forces” with Thunberg as she leads the way in “protecting our planet from the climate crisis.”
Thunberg arrived in Fort McMurray on Friday night and met with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who said he told the 16-year-old to get Europeans to lobby oilsands investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.

Earlier Friday, Thunberg addressed thousand of people at a climate rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.

Melody Lepine, who is the Mikisew Cree’s director of government and industry relations, says the First Nation agreed to participate in the BBC documentary some time ago, but only learned in the last few days that Thunberg would also be involved.
“That was pretty exciting,” Lepine said Sunday, speaking from Fort McMurray.
Thunberg has been making international headlines for criticizing world leaders who she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.
Lepine said when she was interviewed by Thunberg, she told the activist about the importance of the boreal forest as well as the impacts her community might see from climate change.

But like Adam, Lepine said her community isn’t calling for an end to oilsands development.

“I sort of said this is home to many people and it’s not fair to just put a stop to development here without any plan in place. These projects have been here for over 30 years, and some of these projects are planning to be here for another 30, or 50 or 60 years,” Lepine said.

“And so there’s a lot of work to do in decommissioning and cleaning and reclamation, so we talked about maybe diversifiying the economy here for making sure any transition off fossil fuels is not going to hurt the economic engine of Canada here.”
In March, the Mikisew Cree applauded the announcement of a new 16-hundred-square kilometre wildland park that was created after three energy companies returned oilsands leases to the province and a fourth company agreed to sell back its leases.

Teenager climate activist Greta Thunberg with Chief Archie Waquan, Melody Lepine and councillor Calvin Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

The First Nation also noted in its news release an Indigenous energy company is part of what it says is Canada’s largest off-grid solar project.

“I shared some of the success stories like that, that it is possible to reach a balance in environmental protection and economic development and industrial development in the region,” Lepine said.

Thunberg posted pictures on Sunday of her meetings with the region’s Indigenous leaders on Twitter, saying she was “honoured” to meet with them while in Treaty 8 territory.

She has said she plans to keep touring the Americas through a UN climate conference in Chile in December.

Reconnecting With the Land Restores Teachers’ Spirits After Hard Emotional Labour

Nancy Knickerbocker

Gathered under sunny skies on the shore of Kawkawa Lake, two dozen teachers listened in rapt attention to the renowned Stó:lō  historian and cultural advisor Naxaxalhts’i, Albert “Sonny” McHalsie, as he shared his deep knowledge of S’ólh  Téméxw, the beautiful lakes, rivers, and mountains within the unceded traditional territory of his people.

This special Pro-D and wellness day was the BCTF’s way of saying “thank you” for the important and difficult work they do as Aboriginal Education workshop facilitators. Along with a few non-Aboriginal colleagues, they were taking a day out of time, reconnecting with the land, learning place names and concepts in the Halq’eméylem language.

As the bus headed upriver, Sonny emphasized that he was sharing both sqwélqwel, true facts and personal histories, as well as sxwōxwiyam, the creation stories of Xexá:ls, the Transformers. 

He spoke of the origin of the great blue heron, of the mountain that looks like a man from upriver and a woman from downriver, of the once-overwhelming abundance of oolichan in the river now decimated due to overfishing downstream, of the beauty of the women’s fasting grounds high in the hills, now logged out. At the lakeshore, he told of the sacred mask from the time of the 1782 small pox epidemic, when up to 90 percent of the population perished. “Whole villages were wiped out. They found the people dead in their canoes, in their homes.” 

“The things we talk about in the classroom can be very traumatizing for people of Aboriginal heritage,” said Jesse Halton. “But that day, connecting with the land, putting my hands into the waters of Kawkawa Lake, was so reinvigorating! I could feel those lake people.”

In Hope, the bus turned into the Telte-Yet Campsite to view the site of a sqemel, a traditional pithouse. “Or, as the anthropologists would say, ‘a circular semi-subterranean winter dwelling’,” Sonny noted dryly, making air quotes as he indicated a deep round indentation in the earth.

He asked four teachers to stand in designated spots to show where the house posts would have been and explained how the pit houses were built to be cool in summer and warm in winter.

That was an emotional moment for Dani Pigeau and her father Harold Lock, who is a cousin of Sonny’s. The two men’s great-great-grandfather, Sexyel, also known as Captain Charlie, inhabited the very house that once stood there.  

“Standing on that place where my ancestors lived was overwhelming. It’s a sacred site that now is a commercial campground. They don’t know that’s where we lived and died. The sacred space is covered up, but you can still feel the spirit energy there,” Dani said. “I’m so grateful we still have our knowledge keepers. That day was big — a really big gift for me.”

For Brian Coleman, the trip evoked nostalgia overlaid with a tremendous sadness. “I have a lot of fond memories of driving that road through the [Fraser] canyon as a child, with my dad and my sisters. Dad would tell stories, but back then I never understood all the loss,” he said. “How full that land is! Yet so much is lost.” 

Just how much was lost, and when, and where, and by whom – these are among the hard lessons Canadians are beginning to learn, and teachers are mandated to teach.  To support members, the BCTF offers 12 different workshops on topics including the legacy of residential schools, infusing Aboriginal content, Indigenous perspectives, decolonizing, and much more.  And they are in high demand; of 296 workshops delivered in the 2018-19 school year, 94 were Aboriginal Education workshops. The facilitators are highly trained and deeply committed to this work, but it demands hard emotional labour.

“It’s like having PTSD and being triggered all the time. I live this history, I own it. So, retelling it is like ripping off a Band-Aid every time,” says Jacquie King. “At the same time, it’s super rewarding because people say thank you so much for sharing. People wouldn’t gain the same insights without our authentic voices.”

The facilitators expressed frustration at the continuing ignorance of some Canadians about this history, despite the lengthy hearings and massive reports by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry. 

“People say OMG! I didn’t know! But how could people still not know?” asked Peggy Janicki. “I’m not very empathetic to that position anymore. I’ve been teaching this history for 16 years now.”  

Still, it remains the fact that generations of Canadians learned absolutely nothing about the residential school system, the 150,000 children taken and the 6,000 who died, the hunger, the tuberculosis, the physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse. The true history is so shocking and brutal, it is often met with skepticism, crossed arms, and even eye-rolls.

“You get the fact checkers in the room, immediately opening their laptops or going on their phones looking up whether what I’m saying is true. It’s like, ‘I don’t believe that because I’ve learned something different my whole life’,” said Claire Akiwenzie. “A lot of people are giving their full attention, but there’s always someone who’s not having any of it. They’re totally walled up.” 

Nodding, Heather Froste added: “Last year I found the reaction to be a lot more of ‘Yeah, yeah, okay, just give me the lesson plans.’ People don’t want to do the work. They just want to check off the box. Residential school history—tick! But that’s not an act of reconciliation.”

Not only do some question the veracity of information, they challenge the very identity of the presenters. Carlo Pavan noted that all workshop presenters experience resistance from time to time, no matter what the topic. “But the difference is that we’re talking about us — our history, our lived experiences, our identity. So, when you experience resistance to your own identity, the emotional cost is much higher. You feel invalidated. I often wonder if the SOGI facilitators feel the same way.” 

Branden Peters agreed: “Some of the resistance is white fragility, because this history does unsettle people. It makes you feel things. Discomfort and guilt are two horns on the same goat.”

A middle-school principal once asked Peggy to “take it easy on the staff” because they had felt heartbroken after doing the Blanket Exercise. “Sorry, there’s no gentle version of this history,” she said. “It’s a pedagogy of discomfort.”

Unsettling as it may be, teachers are called to confront these uncomfortable truths. There have been significant changes to BC’s curriculum around infusing Aboriginal history and culture, and the BC Teachers’ Council’s new professional standard requires educators to “contribute towards truth, reconciliation and healing.” 

Jean Moir has been doing just that in her Grade 3-4-5 classroom, helping to pilot the BCTF resource “Gladys We Never Knew,” about Gladys Chapman, a little girl taken from her home in Spuzzum to Kamloops Residential School, where she died of tuberculosis at age 12.

“Visiting Gladys’s grave was one of the most profound learning experiences my kids ever had. It was an amazing opportunity for them to connect to her story with their hearts, as well as their heads,” she said as the bus passed the Chapman family cemetery near Spuzzum.

“Children are hard-wired for fairness, so when you teach them about the historical and current injustices, they are outraged and eager to take action. Now my students are going home and educating their parents about the true history of Canada.”

Jean urged other non-Aboriginal teachers to dive into this work with open hearts and minds. 

“It really is a personal journey and once you start engaging with this history it takes on its own momentum,” she said.  “You confront your own shame and discomfort and biases, but it’s all so worth it. When you acknowledge something difficult and go through it, you come out a better person.”

Native War Veterans Enlisted Even Though They Were Not Canadian Citizens

During the World Wars, thousands of Aboriginal people voluntarily enlisted in the Canadian military. It’s over 14,000 Aboriginal people served in the Canadian forces ( and American for some of them) during the conflicts, 1,600 of them dead in service.

They served in every major theatre of the war and participated in all of the major battles in which Canadian troops fought. Hundreds were wounded or lost their lives on foreign battlefields. Many Aboriginal people distinguished themselves as talented and capable soldiers and at least 250 were awarded medals for bravery and heroism.
On the eve of the First World War, Canada had no official policy on the recruitment of Aboriginal people. Although they were originally discouraged from enlisting, policy would shift during the war to become more accepting of Aboriginal enlistment and recruitment. In the early months of the conflict, Aboriginal people, eager to volunteer for service, were sometimes turned away, while others were permitted to enlist. High casualty rates and the need for more troops led to new policies regarding Aboriginal recruits. In 1915, military and government officials relaxed restrictions, issued formal guidelines and allowed Aboriginal recruitment.

By 1917, the government took a more active role in recruitment as a response to the need for more personnel. Indian agents held recruiting events on reserves to encourage more First Nations members to enlist. In August 1917, the Military Service Act instituted conscription, mandatory military service for all British subjects of age to serve. The Act made no exemption for Treaty Indians, who had expected to be exempt because they did not have the rights of citizenship that obligated Canadian citizens to serve. Some First Nations argued that promises made during treaty negotiations excused them from conscription in foreign wars. Conscription was an extremely contentious issue and the Department of Indian Affairs received letters from First Nations demanding an exemption for status Indians. Many non-Aboriginal people publicly supported the exemption of status Indians from conscription.

The sustained objection of First Nations people proved successful and on January 17, 1918, an Order-in-Council (PC 111) was passed that officially exempted status Indians from combatant duties. Status Indians could still be called to perform non-combat roles in Canada, but the legislation made it easier for them to claim deferrals for industrial or agricultural work.
At least 1,000 of them were conscripted during the First World War and despite all the precautions taken, there are some cases of conscripted Indigenous soldiers serving in combat.

For the most part, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal soldiers shared similar experiences during the war. The transition to life in the military was initially difficult for some Aboriginal men, as many came from remote areas of the country where they followed their own cultural traditions. They had little contact with Canadians outside their communities, and often spoke neither English or French.

Military restrictions conflicted with some Aboriginal traditions which made aligning with the military’s requests rather difficult. For example, some Aboriginal soldiers were discharged from the army for refusing to cut their hair. They also had a different approach to rank. Traditionally, there had not been sharp distinctions between war chiefs and warriors. The Warriors relationship with war chiefs was one of familiarity and equality. A warrior was allowed to question a war chief’s plans and if he did not agree with them, he was allowed to leave the war party. In contrast, there was a rigid military hierarchy in the Canadian Corps, which sharply distinguished between officers and other ranks.

A soldier’s life was one of waiting to engage with the enemy and enduring feelings of boredom and tension, anticipation and foreboding. Patience was an important quality for snipers to possess as they often had to wait quietly for the enemy to approach. Aboriginal soldiers’ descriptions of trench life were more positive than those of non-Aboriginal soldiers.

The most significant benefit of Aboriginal peoples’ war service was interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, which was not common in general Canadian society prior to the war. By serving alongside Aboriginal soldiers, Canadian soldiers came to better understand Aboriginal people, and to overcome many negative stereotypes. Aboriginal soldiers were seen as some of the most valuable and well-liked members of their units.

For decades, government policy had been to encourage Aboriginal people to settle on reserves and take up farming. The First World War brought a transformation of Canada from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Farming continued to be an important activity during the war and Aboriginal people on the homefront made significant contributions in this area. In 1917, Arthur Meighen, Minister of the Interior as well as head of Indian Affairs, launched the “Greater Production Effort”, a program intended to increase agricultural production.

The program aimed at providing incentives for Canadians to settle on land, take up farming, and produce food to feed the soldiers as well as the Canadian population at home. The project also encouraged both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to farm more extensively. The Greater Production Effort involved the use of so-called “‘idle’ Indian land”: fertile land on reserves that was not being used for farming. Such lands would be leased for up to five years to non-Aboriginal farmers for “proper use” or to establish Greater Production farms (federally managed agricultural experiments set up on western reserve lands). The Greater Production plan was publicly criticized by some non-Aboriginal people in Canada for not being in the interest of First Nations people. Furthermore, the Indian Act stated that reserve lands could not be expropriated for any purpose without the consent of the bands involved. To facilitate the implementation of the program, the government amended the Indian Act in 1918, eliminating the necessity of securing Indian consent. After the war, Greater Production farms continued to operate and were finally terminated in 1922.
Aboriginal men and women made important contributions to the war effort on the homefront during the First World War. Many Aboriginal communities and individuals made generous monetary donations to various war funds. Several communities established their own branches of the Red Cross and patriotic leagues through which they raised money for the war effort.

Miss. Miller Marion -World War II – Six Nations of Grand River

They also donated food, clothes and other goods to relief organizations and purchased Victory Bonds. Such patriotic contributions were viewed as an alternative means of support, made in lieu of military service, as some Aboriginal people were opposed to members of their community serving overseas but were still eager to aid in the war effort. Despite the everyday financial pressures of many Aboriginal families, they still generously donated whatever money they could to the war effort. By the end of the war, Aboriginal people had donated almost $45,000 to war funds. Canadians gradually began to take notice of these contributions and celebrated them enthusiastically. Newspapers and magazines across the country proudly reported on Aboriginal efforts during the war, especially in communities with a high Aboriginal population. Soon, Aboriginal donations became a source of propaganda in order to encourage non-Aboriginal people to donate to the cause. Not all Aboriginal people were supportive of the war or the wartime policies; some petitioned for the soldiers from their communities to be returned home, many were opposed to active recruitment on reserves and there was considerable opposition in Aboriginal communities to the introduction of conscription in 1917.

Facing labour shortages, employers were quick to hire Aboriginal people, so men who were too young or too old to enlist found employment in this expanding labour market. For example, in 1914 200 First Nations workers, male and female, were employed by the Anglo-British Columbia Packing Company, a fish cannery, accounting for 32% of its total workforce. By 1917, the number of First Nations workers rose to 550, 42% of its workforce.

With The Military Voters Act of 1917 did give one-time franchise to all Aboriginal people serving in the military. First Nations soldiers could vote without fear of losing their Indian status.

Many Aboriginal veterans returned with illnesses, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza, which they had contracted overseas. Because mustard gas weakened the lungs, returning Aboriginal soldiers who had been victims of gas attacks were more susceptible to contracting tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses. Many unknowingly carried the deadly influenza virus back with them to their isolated and susceptible communities where it quickly spread. Sadly, many veterans died shortly after returning from the war as an indirect result of their service. Other Aboriginal veterans returned home injured and /or missing limbs which impacted their ability to provide for their families and communities. Some Aboriginal veterans turned to guiding non-Aboriginal tourists and hunters in order to provide an income for their families. Many Aboriginal veterans, continued to serve after the war, enlisting in local militia units or administering military training to young Aboriginal men and boys.
Like non-Aboriginal veterans, some Aboriginal veterans returned with an alcohol addiction that would cause problems for themselves, their families and their communities. Alcohol was often used by veterans to numb the physical and mental pain of the war experience, but it also contributed to health issues and social problems for all Canadian veterans.

Aboriginal veterans’ contributions in the war did not go unnoticed by government officials or the Canadian public. Through their service together, non-Aboriginal Canadian soldiers came to better understand and appreciate Aboriginal people, seeing them not in stereotypical terms, but as the men they suffered with in the trenches of Europe. Although their fellow veterans saw the Aboriginal veterans as equals, prejudice was still rampant at home.

The equal treatment that Aboriginal veterans experienced disappeared once they returned home to Canada. Veterans’ benefits and support from the Canadian government were put in place but the implementation of the programs on reserves was vastly different than elsewhere in Canada. The Soldier Settlement Acts of 1917 and 1919 were key government initiatives that attempted to look after veterans by providing them access to land and low interest rate loans for farming implements/improvements. The program was administered through the Soldiers Settlement Board, but when more land was needed and when Status Indian veterans expressed an interest in taking advantage of the program to farm on their own reserves, the Department of Indian Affairs became involved in the administration of the Act.

Receiving military decorations and commendations provided many with the confidence to speak for themselves and advocate for expanded rights and fair treatment in society for all members of their communities. Consequently, following the war, Aboriginal people began to organize politically with veterans leading the charge. In 1919, Lieutenant F.O. Loft, a Six Nations veteran who had served with the Canadian Forestry Corps during the war, founded the first national pan-Indian political organization in the country, the League of Indians of Canada. It sought to improve conditions on reserves and believed that a unified stance through a political organization could challenge the Indian Act that governed the lives of First Nations people.

12 Reasons to Learn Coding at School

Should we be talking about coding or programming in schools? 

The idea of teaching coding in school has generated unprecedented interest around the globe, with studies indicating that it is critically important, both educationally and socially, for students to learn how to code or program starting in Kindergarten. According to numerous research projects, the reason behind this is not simply to create a pool of skilled programmers to meet the needs of the job market; in fact, learning to code also enables children to use digital technology to develop their creativity. Furthermore, it helps students in our technology-based society to move from the role of ‘consumer’ to that of a ‘creator.’ In addition, students learn to develop algorithmic thinking which enables them to better understand, interpret, and assess the impact of such thinking on their lives. Some will even go on to take part in developing and guiding the use of algorithms in the world of the future. Coding also trains children to become independent citizens in a world where technology is ubiquitous. Finally, learning to code helps students better understand one aspect of the digital world in which we live and, in some ways, become better prepared for it. In short, this is why coding in school is important. Learning some coding basics at school now appears to be necessary to function in an increasingly digital world. 

The first thing to understand is that, for many years, there was no debate about the meaning of the verb “to program,” which means telling a machine, software program or Web page what to do – a feat that is accomplished invisibly by the mobile phones, computers and social media we use every day. Back then, only programmers knew how to program. However, with the growing popularity of digital technology in society as a whole and in schools, many individuals—some novices and some self-taught – began coding and calling themselves coders.

1. The first distinction to make between coding and programming is that, generally speaking, coders have no formal training in computer science. Coders are usually novices who learned coding on their own, or in elementary or high school. Job postings do not advertise for coders, they advertise for programmers

2. The second distinction that can be drawn between these terms is that coding is more closely associated with games and school (elementary or high school). Coding is fun; one often learns to do it at school or independently; one can code without being a real programmer; and one usually learns to code using applications designed for beginners, like Scratch Jr, Scratch, Swift Playground or Code Studio. 

Coding is thus the term more often used in schools. It appears less formal and more fun than programming, which could be seen as a more advanced, formal stage of this activity. 

Learning how to code: what are the key benefits for students? 

Research shows that teaching computer coding starting in Kindergarten generates many benefits for students. Here are 12 key benefits of learning to code at school: 


Generally speaking, it’s simple for any teacher or educator to reap the benefits of coding thanks to the availability of easy-to-use tools and applications. Here are a few examples of websites and applications for learning or teaching coding at school: 

11 Extraordinary Apps That Will Help You Teach Your Students How To Code is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.

Kidscodejeunesse is  Canadian, bilingual, not-for-profit organization determined to give every Canadian child access to digital skills education, with a focus on girls and underserved communities.

Indigenous Achievement in Global Export

Indigenous-owned exporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Canada
SME Infographic

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business – Research. Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are showing that they are highly adept at breaking into foreign markets, according to a new report jointly released by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and the Office of the Chief Economist of Global Affairs Canada (OCE-GAC).

The report, Indigenous-owned Exporting SMEs in Canada, finds that, based on CCAB survey data, nearly a quarter (24%) of Indigenous SMEs operating in Canada export. The rate of participation of all Canadian SMEs in foreign markets is 12%. This should be viewed as a great point of pride for the estimated 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses operating within every single one of Canada’s provinces and territories. The data also shows that non-exporting Indigenous SMEs were twice as likely to report competition as an obstacle to growth than exporting Indigenous SMEs. Similarly, 42% of non-exporting Indigenous SMEs reported overall economic conditions as being a greater obstacle to growth compared to 34% of their exporting counterparts. This suggests that Indigenous-owned small and medium-sized enterprises that export appear to be able to overcome competition and tough economic conditions locally, allowing for growth.

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Trade Commissioner Service are both committed to the success of Indigenous enterprises at home and abroad. Networking programs, numerous resources, and business insights when it comes to navigating international markets are just a couple ways these organizations can help indigenous businesses reach their full potential. 

“Indigenous-owned businesses have exceptional growth potential in export markets,” says JP Gladu, CCAB’s president and CEO. “Recognition of this potential by OCE-GAC sends a powerful message to the federal government about the need for new policies and programs to address the challenges slowing international expansion by Indigenous SMEs.” 

The most popular destination market of Indigenous exporters is the United States, with approximately 21.5% of Indigenous SMEs selling goods or services to our southern neighbour. Interestingly, one in seven exporting Indigenous-owned businesses do not export to the United States, rather these SMEs are in other international markets. Indigenous SMEs have demonstrated that they are engaged in global exports and do not just export to the U.S. due to its proximity. The ability for these businesses to expand into the global market is an indicator of their success. In fact, Indigenous-owned SMEs exporting and operating out of Australia, South America, and Canada alike have the potential opportunity to foster and develop global indigenous relationships and prosperity for their communities. 

For almost 125 years, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has been helping companies navigate international markets. Canadian trade commissioners, located in more than 160 cities worldwide, can provide Canadian companies with key business insights and access to an unbeatable network of international contacts. 

The Chief Trade Commissioner, Ailish Campbell, says the Trade Commissioner Service “is ready to do all that it can to assist export-ready Indigenous businesses that are looking to sell their products and services around the world.”

Internationalization is a strategy for business growth and there is a myriad of information available for businesses who believe global trade is the next step for the success of their company. For more information visit the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business at or visit the Trade Commissioner Service at

Access to the full report can be found at

Call for Submissions

The CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis  Young Adult – Literature Deadline: August 30, 2019 

The CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature is a Canadian literary award and readership initiative that recognizes excellence in Indigenous-authored literature for young adults (ages 12-18). Starting in 2019, we will also be offering the first ever Canadian Indigenous-language Young Adult Literature award. 

CODE is accepting books written, illustrated and translated by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult for youth in English as well as any Indigenous language from Canada. The submissions can include graphic novels, short story and poetry collections by a single author, hi/lo novels, creative non-fiction, and young adult novels. We are not accepting children’s picture books or non-fiction.  

English-language manuscripts and books published between February 15, 2018 and April 30, 2019 are eligible. 

Indigenous-language manuscripts and books published between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019 are eligible.  

An English-language and an Indigenous-language YA book will be selected as winners. The winning titles will each be awarded a prize of $6,000.00 CAD.  An English-language Honour book will receive $3,000.00 CAD. Publishers of English-language winning titles (including the Honour book) will be granted a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies. The publisher of the Indigenous-language book will be granted a guaranteed purchase appropriate to the size of the language community, but not greater than 2,500 copies. The titles will be distributed to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth in schools, libraries, friendship centres, literacy and learning programs, and community centers across Canada.

For submission guidelines, eligibility criteria and submission forms, please visit or

For more information, contact, Lynn O’Rourke, Program Manager, Literary Awards & Publishing at 613-2323569 x 244 or by email at

Indian Resource Council has large presence and receives strong support at the 51st Annual Global Petroleum Show

The Indian Resource Council (IRC) hosted the Indigenous Energy Pavilion (IEP) at this year’s 51st Annual Global Petroleum Show (GPS) in Calgary, Alberta.  The Global Petroleum Show is North America’s Leading Energy Event with over 51,000 attendees from 115 Countries.  The IEP was the gathering place of over 200+ First Nations represented organizationally and 40+ First Nation companies during the 3 day event.

The IRC held a 3 day conference within the Indigenous Energy Pavilion that featured talks around Traditional Knowledge and History, Engagement with First Nations, Hiring of Indigenous talent, Information sessions on Bill C48 and Bill C69, Upcoming changes to the regulations in the Indian Oil and Gas Act, presentations from IEP participating companies, and more.

Indigenous companies participating in this year’s pavilion included BitCrude, Circle for Aboriginal Relations Society, D Jean Enterprises Inc., Top Notch Oilfield Contracting, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Indian Resource Council, Ermineskin Resource Development Inc., Heart Lake Group of Companies, Total Containment Inc., Spirit Staffing Inc., Comec Energy Services/Genmec ACL, Cold Lake First Nations, and First Nations Major Projects Coalition.  

The IRC held meetings with numerous trade commissioners during the event who are keen on doing business with First Nations across the country, contact our office for more information.

The IRC was host to the Young GPS program, which provided youth with information on Indigenous communities participation in responsible energy development. IRC demonstrated to multiple groups how its members are making the energy industry more sustainable by applying real world solutions for real world challenges.

The IRC was nominated in the category of Indigenous excellence at the Global Petroleum Show Awards Gala alongside companies such as Innotech Alberta, Tamarack Valley Energy, and Project Reconciliation.  This year’s winner of the Indigenous excellence award was Steel River Group from Calgary, Alberta.

IRC President/CEO Stephen Buffalo presented on a panel at the GPS Strategic conference on First Nations-led Projects: A Path Forward, alongside fellow panelists IRC Board Member Delbert Wapass, Clayton Norris – VP Indigenous Services MNP, and Honourable Greg Rickford Minister of Energy – Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Government of Ontario.  The panel was well received with many follow up discussion on First Nations projects.

For more coverage and highlights, follow #GPS2019 on twitter.  If you would like to be part of the energy for GPS2020, contact the Indian Resource Council / National Energy Business Centre of Excellence Office today at

Honouring Dr. Emily Faries In Light of Her Retirement

Dr. Emily Faries

Dr. Faries is an Associate Professor within the University of Sudbury Indigenous Studies Department, and has been at the institution since 1995. She is retiring at the end of June 2019. Her contributions have been numerous over this time period, and her dedication to Indigenous education deserves to be honoured. 

At the University of Sudbury, Dr. Faries was a key player in the James Bay project, which helped bring postsecondary education on site, to some of the James Bay Coast communities. She helped build the community support for the project leading up to the first course offered. She taught many of those on-site courses, despite all the travel involved. Her great dedication could be seen by actions such as providing extra help for students on Sundays and helping them with their bursary applications. She knew how to hold students to a high standard and, as a gifted teacher, helped every student reach new heights.

Dr. Faries is a quiet, undemonstrative person in most of her interactions – but very passionate when it comes to education of Indigenous people. Many students, both in Sudbury and James Bay, have expressed great appreciation for Dr. Faries. She has had a great impact not only within the University of Sudbury community, but on a larger scale, as demonstrated by her Indspire National Aboriginal Achievement Award, to name one of her accomplishments. 

We wholeheartedly thank Dr. Emily Faries for all she has done for University of Sudbury students, and wish her all the very best in the next steps of her journey.