Posts By: Courtesy of First Peoples Law

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!

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

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 starting June 21 to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

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.

Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The federal government announced Monday that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their traditional names on passports and other government ID. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Long-awaited policy change follows Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation

When survivor Peter Nakogee first went to St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., he spoke no English and had a different name.

“I got the nun really mad that I was writing in Cree. And then I only knew my name was Ministik,” he told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2010.

“From the first time I heard my name, my name was Ministik. So I was whipped again because I didn’t know my name was Peter Nakogee.”

Decades after that trauma, the roadblocks preventing him from having his original name reflected in federal identification are at last being removed.

The federal government announced Monday that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their traditional names on passports and other government ID.

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 that demanded governments allow survivors and their families to restore names changed by the residential school system.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the announcement goes a step further, as it applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Metis background, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people who aim to reclaim their identity on official documents.

All fees will be waived for the name-changing process, which applies to passports, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards, said Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino.

“The traditional names given to Indigenous children carry deep cultural meaning. Yet for many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, colonialism has robbed them of these sacred names,” Mendicino said at a news conference Monday.

“At times, efforts to use traditional names have been met with everything from polite rejection to racism.”

The move to clear those barriers follows last month’s news that ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

New policy effective immediately

The new policy, effective immediately, was one of multiple announcements that landed the same day that Ottawa heads back to the courtroom to fight a pair of rulings involving First Nations children.

In a judicial review being heard in Federal Court on Monday, the federal government is arguing against Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decisions regarding compensation for First Nations children in foster care and the expansion of Jordan’s Principle to children who live off reserves.

Miller said Monday the ruling ordering Ottawa to pay $40,000 each to some 50,000 First Nations children separated from their families by a chronically underfunded child-welfare regime, and to each of their parents or grandparents, “doesn’t respect basic principles of proportionality.”

Every First Nations child who has suffered discrimination “at the hands of a broken child-welfare system” will be “fairly, justly and equitably compensated,” he said.

Most of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action remain unfulfilled, though cabinet ministers pointed to a pair of bills that would incorporate Indigenous rights into the oath of citizenship and align Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill C-8 on the citizenship oath has passed the Senate and awaits royal assent, while the UNDRIP provisions of C-15 continue to work their way through the upper chamber.

1st commissioner of Indigenous languages announced

Mendicino also said his department continues to work on updating Canada’s citizenship guide to emphasize “the role and stories of Indigenous peoples, including those parts that relate to residential schools.” The revised document will be released “very shortly,” he said.

He did not say whether Indigenous individuals would have to provide proof of Indigenous identity, but Miller said officials “want to cut out the red tape.”

In a further effort to demonstrate action, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced later on Monday the first commissioner of Indigenous languages, along with directors of the new office.

Chief Ronald E. Ignace of the Secwepemc Nation has been appointed to the lead role, with Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes named as directors.

Miller acknowledged that for some, the newly opened door to name-changing may not be sufficient.

“The approach to the Canadian passport with many communities is different. Some reject it, as they reject Canadian identity, so this doesn’t solve that issue,” he said.

“But what it does offer is people that choose the Canadian passport can now see their Indigenous name reflected in it, which is not only a symbolic issue but a matter of profound identity.”

Lakehead University professor receives NSERC funding to create coding program for Indigenous youth

June 9, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

A Lakehead University Computer Science professor is receiving a $36,000 PromoScience grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to develop and deliver a six-week coding program collaboratively with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

Dr. Vijay Mago, Chair and Associate Professor in Computer Science, is creating the program to serve Indigenous youth in grades 7 to 10 across Northwestern Ontario.

“In addition to the coding skills gained through the delivery of programming, our intention is to encourage youth to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and to enroll in high school courses that are prerequisites in the post-secondary fields,” Dr. Mago said.

The results of Dr. Mago’s work will introduce Indigenous youth to modern computer science skills and approaches through a consistent six-week program delivered by a skilled Computer Science graduate student as a new component of existing Niijii Mentorship programming that serves over 4,000 Indigenous students per year.

Lisa Harris, Coordinator of the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Program at Lakehead University, will facilitate both virtual and in-person delivery of the programming.

“The PromoScience grant in support of our Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Coding Program is an investment in Indigenous youth in Northwestern Ontario,” Harris said.

“Our goal is to increase opportunities for youth to enter into STEM-based education and eventually into STEM-based careers. The ultimate goal is for those same youth to have the option of working in a computer science/STEM career from their home communities, to build capacity and sustainability across the North,” she added.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives will work with the Department of Computer Science to offer computer programming to the youth of Whitesand and Gull Bay First Nations, said Denise Baxter, Vice-Provost, Indigenous Initiatives.

“The NSERC Promo-Science funding grant allows Niijii and the Department of Computer Science to enhance Ontario’s current coding curriculum while providing fundamental skills development to prepare Indigenous youth for today’s fast-paced and technology-centred world,” Baxter said.

This program will inspire youth to pursue STEM-based education and careers in the fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

It will also increase the potential for Indigenous youth in Northern and remote communities to access high-demand, high-paying STEM careers that can be done remotely or in person, and support the delivery of technology and resource distribution so technologies are accessible to these communities.

“We are very fortunate to be working in partnership with the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Program and Dr. Vijay Mago at Lakehead University,” said Corey Dagenais, Principal of Armstrong Public School.
“The goal of this program is to use coding to support students in developing a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.

“Co-teaching opportunities with Lakehead University students and classroom teachers will enhance mathematical thinking and benefit our students as they begin to solve problems and create computational representations of mathematical situations using code,” Dagenais said.

AJ Keene, Superintendent of Education at Lakehead Public Schools, said the school board appreciates its partnership with Lakehead University.

“Coding is new to the elementary mathematics curriculum and it is a subject area that has been received extremely well by students, educators, and parents alike,” Keene said.

“We anticipate that our Indigenous students will benefit greatly from participating in this project, as it combines research and practical classroom experience. The results of the research will hopefully inspire the further implementation of coding in classrooms to apply the learnings collected from this study,” Keene said.

Media: For more information or interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media, Communications and Marketing Associate, at (807) 343-8177 or

Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education’s 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 99th among 1,115 universities from around the world in THE‘s 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit

Unearthing A Canadian Genocide

KATAQUAPIT FAMILY IN THE MID 1940s in Attawapiskat headed by James Kataquapit (in the centre with fedora hat) and his wife Janie (Wesley) Kataquapit (at the door) with their children (from L-R) George, Marius, Celine, David, Gabriel and Alex. This is the age that both Marius and Gabriel were taken to St Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany. The other children attended the same school at different times during their childhood.

            The story of what happened to the lives of 215 children who lie in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia is one that is very familiar to many Indigenous families across Canada. Here are two stories I know well from the James Bay coast.

            A ten year old girl and her sisters are forced to join some adults and other children to board a float plane in the northern wilderness of the west coast of James Bay. It’s a strange new experience for this little girl who has only ever known life on the remote Nawashi River with her family. She is frightened by the other children who sniffle and cry around her and she is afraid of not knowing what is going to happen next as this huge bird takes them into the clouds. She and her sisters are taken to Fort George in Quebec to attend a residential school where they will spend many months away from their families to learn the ways of the white man, his language and his religion. They would return home in the summer only to be taken again in the fall.

            A seven year old boy and his younger brother are led away from their parents in Attawapiskat under the restrained cries of their mother and the quiet obedience of their father. As they are walked further from their parents, they begin to realize that they are leaving and they cry at the thought of being taken away. For the next few years these boys would repeat this separation from their parents every autumn to attend the infamous St Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany.

SUSAN PAULMARTIN at one of the Residential Schools operated in Fort George, Quebec in 1956 when she was 13 years of age.

            These are the stories of my parents, my late mother Susan (Paulmartin-Rose) Kataquapit and my late father Marius Kataquapit. Their days at these schools were filled with lessons on how to read and write in English and French and most of all, the study of the Christian Catholic religion. Every memory of their past lives was discouraged, disparaged and disregarded. They were taught that they were worthless and that they needed to become like the teachers, the nuns and the priests they endured every day.

            There is far more to their tragic stories at these schools but I will never know nor do I really want to know. Mom’s experiences paled in comparison to what happened to my father at St Anne’s. Dad never spoke of his experiences until the last few years of his life because it was a source of shame for him. He had spent his entire life repressing and ignoring these terrible memories and when it was required of him to make a statement of his experiences the terrors returned.

            I grew up in Attawapiskat around many family members who had attended St Anne’s Residential school and the residential schools in Fort George, Quebec. As a child of survivors of the residential school system, it was confusing to say the least. No one told us direct stories, but as children we all heard of their experiences here and there over the years that painted a terrible picture.

            It wasn’t until I was an adult that I took the time to learn and study on my own what this history was about. No school I ever attended taught any of this history. In fact history documents that in the late 1800s, the government of Canada was slowly expanding across the land and as it did so, it encountered Indigenous people everywhere. Strategically the power of the time thought these so called savages had to be dealt with. The government saw Indigenous nations as obstacles that had to be removed because they wanted access to all the riches of the lands in Canada.

            My people who were nomadic were pushed onto small tracks of land but that was not enough to satisfy the government. They developed plans to assimilate Indigenous people into European Canadian society. Residential schools were created as a way to remove children from their parents and teach them separately away from home with the goal of ‘removing the Indian’ inside of them. They were in fact kidnapped.

            One of the creators of this system was Duncan Campbell Scott, federal Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs who is famously quoted as saying “I want to get rid of the Indian problem … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department”

            The fact that these federal leaders wanted to forcibly assimilate a people by kidnapping their children is terrible enough, now it has come to light that the government of Canada knew fully that these residential schools were essentially death traps for the children that attended.

            Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, Canada’s first chief officer of medical health from 1904 to 1921 reported during his tenure with government that residential schools were essentially breeding grounds for disease especially tuberculosis for the children that lived in these places. The government ignored these repeated reports and the recommendations to deal with the reality of forcing children to live in confined spaces, in large groups and with little medical support or care.

            The government of Canada understood what was happening. They had planned for children to be placed in these horrendous situations and turned a blind eye when they started to die. Dr. Bryce’s reports described how on average a quarter of the child population of these residential schools died as a result of disease. That translates into thousands of children across the country.

A telegram or letter written in October 1945 for the admission of a new group of children to St Anne’s Residential school in Fort Albany. This document was rediscovered by a family friend Roseanne Sutherland. On the list is my father Marius Kataquapit, just a week before his seventh birthday. Also on the list is his younger brother Gabriel Kataquapit and my mother Susan (Paulmartin-Rose) Kataquapit’s brother Elie Rose.

            The majority of preventable deaths may have been from disease but there are still the deaths that resulted from the physical and sexual abuse that was prevalent in these institutions. Schools were run by individuals that didn’t want to do this work, held racist attitudes against the children in their care and they were not held accountable by anyone. There was little reporting on how a child died or even where they were buried. Parents were not notified of deaths in a timely fashion and sometimes not at all.

            When one discovers the history as to what was the ultimate goal of government, it’s clear to see that Canada wanted to remove Indigenous people either through death or assimilation. It was in fact an act of genocide and a purposeful attempt to destroy and remove an ethnic group of people.

            The attitude and indifference of the government of Canada over the past 100 and more years has left Indigenous communities traumatized. If their goal was to eliminate Indians, the result was only a long line of broken people who went on to raise children who inherited the trauma and pain of their parents.

            As a child of two parents who were residential school survivors, it is deeply distressing for me to keep repeating these stories of tragedy, abuse, murder and the needless deaths of so many children. I am still lost in the generational trauma and it pains me to see governments still holding back on dealing honestly with this issue, settling our treaties and dedicating efforts to make life better for so many still suffering and coping with this genocide in our country. It is time to unearth the truth and honour all of those lives lost and the suffering experienced by little girls like my mother Susan, and little boys like my father Marius.

Ojibway Artist Patrick Hunter Teams up with Canada Canoe Paddles for a One-of-a-Kind Art Series


June is Canada’s National Indigenous History Month and Ojibway artist Patrick Hunter is marking this year’s event with the launch of a first time ever collection of artisan canoe paddles.

Patrick Hunter is a two Spirit Ojibway artist best known for his paintings in the Woodland Art style who is also making a name for himself in the corporate world through collaborations with RBC and BMO Banks, Ernst & Young, West Elm, Staples, eBay, CTV and the Chicago Blackhawks to name a few.

“There’s an Indigenous story of people, culture and rich history that I’m trying to share with Canadians through my art” says Hunter as inspiration for his work.

Hunter was approached by Canada Canoe Paddles, a Toronto based company that partners with iconic Canadian brands like the CBC, The Tragically Hip and the Hudson’s Bay Company to create artisanal canoe paddles for display in cottages, cabins, homes and offices. “It is commonly acknowledged that Canadians are born with a paddle in their hands” remarks company founder Mario Zeskoski and even our late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau identified its special role when he noted “paddling a canoe is a source of enrichment and inner renewal.”

“Working with Patrick on an Indigenous paddle series seemed like the perfect way to showcase his work and provide Canadians with a unique artistic expression of the native lands we all call home” says Zeskoski. The canoe paddle became Hunter’s canvas upon which his art would would come to life.

The art collaboration will consist of four canoe paddle designs featuring Canadian themes done in Hunter’s Woodland Art style. “When I paint, I look into my subject matter to not only see its inner composition but also its spiritual side” says Hunter who was inspired by viewing original works of painter Norval Morrisseau in his hometown of Red Lake.

The paddles will be sold as a limited edition series individually numbered from 1 to 300. “Once they’re sold, they’re gone” says Zeskoski, “making them a special addition to anyone’s cottage or home whether you’re a paddler, outdoor enthusiast or someone who just appreciates the beauty of Canada’s wilderness as seen through a different lens”.

A portion of the proceeds will go to Hunter’s workshop initiative where he provides new generations the confidence they need to pick up a paintbrush. “Seeing how people react to what I create brings me the greatest joy and drives me to continue growing as an artist and a voice for Indigenous culture” says Hunter. “I look forward to making new acquaintances through my art as I continue on my creative journey”.

The Patrick Hunter Canoe Paddle collection is available now for pre-release sale at And Website:

Education, acknowledgement, resilience: How Downie & Wenjack Fund is encouraging Canadians to act during National Indigenous History Month [Sponsored by TD]

Title: Education, acknowledgement, resilience: How Downie & Wenjack Fund is encouraging Canadians to act during National Indigenous History Month

By Theresa Tayler


June marks National Indigenous History Month, which means a time of celebrations from coast to coast to coast, and to commemorate the history, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

Just ask Sarah Midanik. Growing up around St. Albert, AB, as a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and part of one of the founding Métis families in the province, she is no stranger to community gatherings, including jigging, music, and other cultural celebrations. 

This year, there is a sombre shadow in the midst of what is usually a positive and inspiring time. When the news broke at the end of May about the remains of 215 children at one of the largest residential schools in Canada near Kamloops B.C., Midanik, along with the rest of Canada, paused to sit with the truth of what many Indigenous People long understood.

“This has been a horrible time. The last thing we feel like doing is celebrating,” says Midanik, who is the President & CEO of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF). “But resilience and strength are at our roots and finding healing through culture and connection is at our core.”

Sarah Midanik,  President & CEO of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF). Image courtesy of DWF.

DWF was founded in 2016, with the goal of moving reconciliation forward by building awareness, education and connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. In honour of National Indigenous History Month, for the past several years they have presented a series of events to celebrate the diversity of Indigenous Peoples across the country.

“We have such incredible partnerships with artists, Knowledge Keepers, Elders and youth that help to make our Indigenous History Month events come to life,” shares Midanik. “This year, it is important that we bond together and connect through culture, community, and shared experience.”

The Fund is part of the legacy of late Canadian songwriter, Tragically Hip frontman, artist, and poet Gord Downie, to improve the lives of First Peoples. His family, in collaboration with the family of Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy born in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve in 1954, helped developed the not-for-profit.

Image courtesy of DWF.

At the age of nine, Chanie was sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. At age 12, he tried to escape the school to reunite with his family. Nine others ran away on the same day, and all but Chanie were caught; his body was later found beside the railway tracks a week after he fled. Chanie died of starvation and exposure to the elements. 

“[Gord] was so maddened and upset when he heard Chanie’s story. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been taught about the atrocities of the residential school system growing up,” Midanik says.

In the wake of the discovery at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, DWF launched the 215 Pledge to honour all children, families and communities affected by residential schools. The Pledge is a call to action to unite in truth and to commit to change. 

“We are all grieving for the families of the 215 children who never returned home. This news reminds us that our work building cultural understanding and creating a path toward reconciliation only becomes more relevant and crucial,” says Midanik.

When the news broke, Midanik describes how she spent the weekend in conversation with Chanie’s family and how they spoke about what this moment meant to the survivors and those who have been impacted by the harrowing legacy of residential schools. One of Chanie’s sisters, Pearl, kept saying, ‘Now they know, now the rest of world knows we weren’t lying…’.

“This is really what DWF is all about – education and action. To create positive change that will improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” says Midanik. Adding that one of her favourite quotes is from The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who said: “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.”

Image courtesy of DWF.

Through the TD Ready Commitment, TD’s corporate citizenship platform, DWF has received support to help preserve and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ arts and culture, such as through TD’s sponsorship of the Indigenous History Month series.

“TD has supported us throughout this journey, which is especially impactful as a not-for-profit during a pandemic, ensuring that we are still able to move forward in sharing the hope, unity and celebration of different Indigenous communities and voices throughout the country,” Midanik says.

“Our activities this month will provide an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate the history, cultures and achievements of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. It is also a time to reflect on the resilience of Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge the struggle, both against acts of racism they face today and the past actions that sought to erase their identity.” 

TD has a long-standing commitment to Indigenous Peoples and communities. Together with organizations like DWF, they are committed to supporting programs and initiatives that help all Canadians learn about Indigenous Peoples and the work required to help advance Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.

This month, and all year-round, take time to reflect on the ongoing impact of the residential school system and the resulting trauma.  Consider donating, developing your understanding by reading a summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, or explore some of the virtual events happening this month at

CBC Podcast: Telling Our Twisted Histories

Host Kaniehti:io Horn


On May 31, 2021 CBC announced the launch of Telling Our Twisted Histories, an 11-episode podcast series that reclaims Indigenous history by exploring 11 words whose meanings have been twisted by centuries of colonization. 

Throughout these 11 episodes the host, Kaniehti:io Horn, will guide listeners through conversations with more than 70 people from 15 Indigenous communities whose lands now make up Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador. Telling Our Twisted Histories is available now, wherever you listen to podcasts, with new weekly episodes until August 2.

“Savage. Reserve. Indian Time. Words connect us, but also have the power to wound, erase and replace us,” says Kaniehti:io Horn. “As Indigenous people, we are used to our stories getting a little twisted. This podcast is all about exploring some of these words, with humour and truth, so that we all better understand how they impact us to this day.” Kaniehti:io Horn is a Canadian actor from Kahnawake, the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) reserve outside of Montreal. Telling Our Twisted Histories was directed by award-winning journalist Ossie Michelin, an Inuk from North West River, Labrador. The podcast is a CBC co-production in association with Terre Innue, based on an original concept by Karine Lanoie-Brien and produced by Francine Allaire and Élodie Pollet. An award-winning French-version of this podcast, Laissez-nous raconter : L’histoire crochie, was released by Radio-Canada in June 2020.