Topic: NEWS

17th Annual DTES Heart of the City Festival

Have you ever wanted to look beyond the headlines into the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside?

The 17th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival welcomes you to over 100 events in the city’s most culturally and socially diverse neighbourhood- the place where Vancouver began.

Situated on Coast Salish homelands between Burrard Inlet and the False Creek Flats, Victory Square and Clark Drive, the Downtown Eastside is home to one of Canada’s largest urban Aboriginal reserves, North America’s second largest historical Chinatown, and Canada’s largest and busiest port.

Like communities across the land, residents are coping with a world -wide pandemic, an opioid and housing crisis and legacies of historic displacement and systemic racism. But when gathering places close and people are isolated, they lose their sense of cultural connection and community connection.

This year, more than ever, Downtown Eastside residents and artists seek cultural events, artistic activity, and opportunities to get together. A host of partners and hundreds of artists have come together for this year’s festival, sharing strengths arising from the community’s compelling creativity and resilience, rich diverse traditions, knowledge systems, ancestral languages, cultural roots and stories.

In response to COVID, the festival has been re-imagined, with programming mostly online, some outdoors and a handful of intimate events in theatres or in a park. This year’s festival offers music, stories, poetry, ceremony, cultural exchanges, films, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, art talks, history talks and visual exhibitions.

There are online music events – An evening with blues queen Dalannah Gail Bowen; Spotlight on the East End with Khari Wendell McClelland, Geoff Berner, Hannah Walker, Rup Sidhu, and Shon Wong’s Son of James; DTES Front and Centre Showcase sharing stories and songs by local performers , and East End Blues & All That Jazz bringing music and stories of the historic Black residential community, with gospel and blues artists Tom Pickett and Candus Churchill, and guests Thelma Gibson and Dalannah Gail Bowen.

There are Commemorative events – an online Tribute to the Carnegie Centre’s 40th Anniversary with special guest Libby Davies; a film about the Survivors Totem Pole, carver Skuundaal Bernie Williams and the powerful pole-raising and potlatch witnessing ceremony at Pigeon Park attended by Elders, VIP’s and over 1000 residents; Long-time activist Sid Chow Tan shares videos highlighting direct action in Chinatown (My Art is Activism, Part II).

There are cultural exchanges – Hearts Beat, with the lexwst’l:lem Drum Group, Irish Canadian group Ceol Abú, and musician Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (online from Ireland). In the Beginning: A Cultural Sharing, storyteller Rosemary Georgeson, Firehall Artistic Producer Donna Spencer and moderator Kim Haxton, are joined by Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers and artists to share stories and history of local Indigenous peoples prior to and during colonization (Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Moving Theatre presentation).

There are readings – scenes from we the same, Ruby Slipper Theatre’s new play by Sangeeta Wylie inspired by the true story of a mother’s flight from Vietnam with her six children. A virtual residency with Imagi’Nation Collective, launches Jenifer Reads, a new program hosted by APTN TV personality Jenifer Brousseau (Wild Archeology). She has invited diverse youth to join her in reading and engaging through an Indigenous lens with Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl.

Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside: Adventures in Digital Community Art Making is a virtual residency with Toronto-based Jumblies Theatre & Arts, to artfully explore why and how people sometimes do good things towards others. A team of Toronto artists, Vancouver artists and Downtown Eastside participants are creating an interactive online event. The public is invited to online workshops, talks, a gallery and concert.

These are the kinds of activities that bring strength to Downtown Eastside community members: putting everyone’s voice in the circle, nurturing and restoring social bonds, pulling together, healing through culture and standing in their truth.

Obituary: Ronald Sparrow won a national precedent protecting Aboriginal fishing rights

‘Ron Sparrow fought for what he believed in — what was just and right’

Politicians and leaders from across the country are mourning the death of the Musqueam gillnetter who took the fight for Indigenous fishing rights to Canada’s highest court, winning a landmark ruling for First Nations.

In 1984, Ronald (Bud) Sparrow was charged by federal Fisheries officials for fishing for chinook in the Canoe Pass area of the Fraser River with a drift net nearly twice the length his licence allowed. Sparrow fought the charge, stating that he was exercising an existing Aboriginal right to fish and that the licence restriction was invalid.

He argued his case for the next six years, first losing in provincial court and then in the B.C. County Court, before winning appeals at both the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

The highest court found First Nations take priority in access to B.C.’s salmon, after conservation measures have been taken. The victory established the so-called Sparrow test, which “determines whether a right is existing, and if so, how a government may be justified to infringe upon it,” as the University of B.C.’s Indigenous Foundations resource put it.

The ruling was a pillar court decision for First Nations and an integral component to many other decisions over the past three decades, said Robert Phillips of the First Nations Summit’s political executive.

“He unapologetically exercised and defended his title and rights, setting a precedent for not only First Nations in B.C., but Indigenous peoples around the globe to assert their inherent and unextinguishable rights,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, said the Sparrow case affirmed Indigenous rights across the country and said his legacy was one of courage.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he was saddened to learn of Sparrow’s death. “His courage and leadership led to an important, precedent-setting Supreme Court of Canada decision that advanced Indigenous rights,” Horgan said.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the Assembly of First Nationssaid the ruling’s importance cannot be overstated and that it ultimately grew into “a more substantial and much-litigated duty to consult.”

“We are grateful and guided by Ron Sparrow’s important legacy that forged a legal pathway in the fight for our rights. As a commercial fisherman himself, he was determined to have Aboriginal fishing rights recognized, affirmed and protected for himself, his culture and his people,” he said.

The Assembly of First Nations supported Sparrow as an intervener during the Supreme Court challenge. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the loss of Sparrow would be grieved.

“His fight for First Nations rights made a mark and his legacy will live on forever,” Bellegarde said.

Supporting the federal government as interveners were the attorneys general of B.C., Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland, as well as 15 different fishing industry groups.

The case was the first major test of Aboriginal rights under Canada’s 1982 Constitution. Jody Wilson-Raybould, sn Independent MP and former minister of justice and attorney general, called it “arguably the seminal Aboriginal rights case in Canadian history.”

Santa Ono, president of UBC, which is on Musqueam traditional territory, called Sparrow a true champion of Indigenous rights and said the Sparrow case was “path-breaking in Canadian jurisprudence.”

The Musqueam band described Sparrow as a quiet, determined and proud member.

“As a skilled and accomplished commercial fisher, he travelled up and down the west coast of B.C. to provide for his family and community,” said a Musqueam statement on his death.

“Bud left our people at Musqueam and Indigenous peoples across Canada with a tremendous legal legacy. We will always be grateful for his quiet determination in fighting for our rights,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow.

Just under a decade ago, Sparrow received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. He told The Vancouver Sun then that his appeal never would have happened without backing from the Musqueam. Of his fight, he said “I wanted to make sure natives could harvest the fish, not just for our generation but all the descendants in the future.”

Sparrow died at his home on the Musqueam reserve in South Vancouver late Monday. He was in his mid seventies. A cause of death was not announced. His service will be limited to family members due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the First Nations Leadership Council.

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Indigenous producer creating innovative TV series for kids about Science

Loretta Todd, producer of the APTN children’s series Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the TV & Film industry across Canada ground to a halt however one producer found some innovative solutions to keep cameras rolling remotely. 

Loretta Todd, producer of the APTN children’s series Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show, was shooting season three when the pandemic hit and it became clear production would have to be delayed.  She said she couldn’t afford that and filming resumed. 

Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show is an adventures-in-science series that encourages youth to explore the fascinating world of science – from an Indigenous perspective. Explore and find out more alongside our Science Questors who learn how cool science is as they observe, ask questions, and learn from Indigenous scientists and other role models. This is a fun scientific investigation that brings the beautiful and complex universe alive. With humour and curiosity, viewers dive into sky, water, dirt and cosmos with brilliant Indigenous role models as guides.  

Lorretta is a descendant of Cree and Metis peoples. Her credits include award-winning documentaries, such as Forgotten WarriorsThe People Go On and Hands of History. She created, produced and directed Tansi! Nehiyawetan, a Cree children’s series on APTN, and created My Cree, a Cree language learning app – and which has over 20,000 downloads. Currently she is in production with Season 3 of Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science

This fall, Lorretta is releasing Monkey Beach, her first feature film based on the iconic Canadian novel by Eden Robinson. She created Fierce Girls, a webseries and transmedia project for Indigenous girls about Indigenous girl superheroes. She is also in development with a new animated children’s series called  Nitanis & Skylar. 

In demand as a writer and lecturer on arts and media, Ms. Todd spoke at the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, as well as other prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art.  

Todd also initiated organizational change within cultural practice in Canada by helping to develop media training programs, reviewing policy through various committees and creating the IM4 Lab – a VR/AR Lab in collaboration with Emily Carr University of Art and Design. 

I recently caught up with Lorretta and discussed Coyote Science. 

As a “science geek” what inspired you to produce a TV series on science geared towards children and youth? 

“I’ve always liked learning and finding out about things – like stars and rocks – even as a kid. And I’ve always been inspired by my relatives because of how innovative and inventive they are – being able to make something out of nothing, or fix an engine or build a house. And I was aware how they could read the land and the animals and all our relations. I mean, how did they know about this plant and that plant? And how did they know about how animals lived? How did they know about currents in rivers and lakes? How did they know to make a canoe? Because they observed and listened – like scientists everywhere. All people have science. The word science flows from ancient words in the English language and basically means knowledge. Our people have knowledge and I also believe we are natural scientists, because we learn through observation and through our own form of experimentation – based on experience and knowledge. Later, I met many learned knowledge holders, like Dr. Leroy Little Bear and Amethyst First Rider and Dr. Lorna Williams who have advocated for many years for Indigenous science to be recognized and taught in schools. But also, for our knowledge to influence how science is understood and practiced, so we could build a better world. Coyote Science celebrates the continuum of that knowledge and knowledge holders. And because science is learned from place and through story and experiential learning, I build a template to reflect our systems of learning. And I incorporate imagination because even the most brilliant scientists – like Einstein – imagination is critical to science. 

Plus it was important to me for our children and youth to see themselves in the media and to themselves practicing Indigenous science. I am hoping to inspire more of our young people to become scientists, engineers, architects, builders, mathematicians, astronomers, geologists – really all the areas of STEM and in the many ways they can work in those fields – especially to serve their communities and help make a better world. 

What can you  share with our readers about the highlights on season 2? 

This season we learn from place. Indigenous science teaches us that the universe is always in a state of flux and change and in season one Coyote – the trickster – embodied that idea. In season we learn from places, like the ocean, or underground, or volcanoes. We learn about where water came from on Earth and how much water there is in the oceans and how much pollution. And how we have to honour water – even as scientists. And we learn about types of volcanoes and tectonic plates – even going to Iceland to learn about how they live with 30 active volcanoes. And we get to know about how John Herrington prepared to go to space, including using Virtual Reality – in our episode about VR. And we introduce coding and we talk to an Indigenous electrical engineer, a biologist, a physicist, fishermen, canoe maker – even someone – Corey Gray – who worked as the team that won a Nobel Prize for detecting gravitational waves from space, when two black holes collide. For Corey, that reinforced Indigenous science – that we are all connected. And we learn about Buffalo science and restoring the Buffalo to the plains. And our usual amazing animation and celebrities. And we have a skateboarding episode, featuring Indigenous pro-skateboarder Rosie Archie – with Mob Bounce sharing an amazing song. And lots of hip-hop and fun to do experiments

 With COVID 19, you decided the show must go on, how did you continue filming for season 3? 

Because I have been hiring Indigenous directors and crew since the beginning of my productions, we have developed a great team of Indigenous directors and camera people who have children at home who can become questers or are already questers. Since Coyote Science is designed in segments, I can get segments filmed in people’s “bubbles” so we don’t have to send in crews. In this way, our team can film from their homes or in the land around where they live – yet still be sure they are safe. At Coyote Science, I am very concerned about protecting our Elders, Knowledge Holders, children, youth, parents, families and communities. My entire career I have been careful about protocols, protecting peoples’ spaces and respecting culture and territory. At the same time, we have a duty to assist the Indigenous media industry so it can keep moving forward, working within all the parameters of COVID 19. We can practice social distancing and still make cutting-edge Indigenous media. 

What has the response been so far to the series? 

Right from the beginning we got good response from the community – people watching with their kids on APTN, teachers using the episodes in their classrooms, Indigenuos cool people (like some of the celebrities we feature in the series) watching with their friends because it is such a hip, fun, uplifting series where people can learn something every episode. We’ve won awards, I was invited to speak at Kidscreen – in an international children’s media conference, we were invited to MIPCOMJR – which is an even bigger international children’s media conference. And we were recently bought by CBC GEM, and we’ve been bought by Indigenous TV in Australia and the US. And we are shown in the Telus Science World here in Vancouver. That is just a small list of the accomplishments of the amazing team. 

For you personally, what is the biggest story in science you have been inspired by either an event, or a discovery? 

I think that science has opened up to the idea that we are all connected, that every atom is connected, that we as humans and everything on earth is made up of stardust. I like the way the more science tries to find a perfect answer, they realize that there are even more mysteries and to me that is ok. I think because quantum physics relates closely to Indigenous science and philosophy, that would be the most exciting field or biggest story that has led to so many other observations – and to quote, I like quantum physics because it “describes how the Universe works at a scale smaller than atoms” and that the “birth of quantum physics in the early 1900s made it clear that light is made of tiny, indivisible units, or quanta, of energy, which we call photons.” 

Tell me a little about where you grew up, and did you know that one day you’d be producing a TV series based on science? 

My family has a few origins/connections. We are from the St. Paul des Metis, the Red River Settlement, White Fish Lake FN in Alberta and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, in North Dakota. We grew up in Edmonton. Our dad was a heavy equipment operator, so we went to places where he could work and then moved to the city. We would spend time in the summer in the bush, but because those were times he also worked, we didn’t get to experience that as much I wish we had. I never even thought I would be alive sometime, let alone making films and producing television. But I learned from many great teachers to always give back, especially to the children and youth and Elders and to always acknowledge young people. And though our dad struggled, when he was being his true self, he was kind and that is a value that I think underlies all that I do. And I like creating images, I like working with tech and I like telling stories – so creating television, film and digital media all fits together. 

Respected Siksika Leader and Elder Roy Little Chief Has Died

Elected Chief of the Siksika Nation 1981-1983
Elected Chief of the Siksika Nation 1981-1983

A former Chief of the Siksika First Nation, Mr. Roy Little Chief, passed away on June 11, 2020 in Calgary. For over 50 years, Roy Little Chief had a positive impact on the rights and causes important to Indigenous communities across Canada. The Blackfoot elder – whose maternal grandfather, Eagle Rib, signed Treaty 7 – was first elected to the Siksika Nation Council in a by-election that led to his election as Chief from 1981-1983.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Roy Little Chief worked with the Indian Association of Alberta and Harold Cardinal, a prominent Indigenous leader in Alberta, to promote the rights and contributions of Indigenous people. He began his activism by opposing a federal government White Paper in the early 1970s that called for the elimination of separate legal status for First Nations in Canada.

In the early 1970s, Roy Little Chief became the Southern Director of the American Indian Movement in Alberta. He was a central figure in the awakening of First Nations political activity, Indigenous spirituality, and cultural expression. He had success in organizing support for the inclusion of aboriginal rights in the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in the early 1980s.

Roy Little Chief, along with Urban Calling Last, founded the Calgary Urban Treaty Alliance. He also became a member of the first City of Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, along with Ralph Klein, when it was formed in 1979.

Roy Little Chief served on many boards and committees over the years, including the National Anti Poverty Organization, and the National Residential School Survivors Society, representing Treaty 7. His efforts contributed to eventual reparations for residential school survivors and the establishment of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Roy Little Chief was vocal in calling out the racial attitudes embodied in law enforcement protocols of the Calgary Police Service and the RCMP that resulted in the unfair imprisonment of Indigenous people. He pushed social welfare agencies to treat their clients, including children, with respect, and to work harder for clients’ benefits. His work during the 1970s was documented in the book, “Wall of Words” by the late Dr. Joan Ryan, Anthropology Professor at the University of Calgary.

Roy Little Chief was the last remaining member of the original A-1 drum group
Roy Little Chief was the last remaining member of the original A-1 drum group

As a member of the Indian-Lutheran Race Relations Committee from 1977-1982, Roy Little Chief developed a unique and ground-breaking program of “listening conferences” to build awareness and support for First Nations’ issues with church congregations. In 1979, Roy Little Chief was a member of an Indigenous delegation invited by World Moral Rearmament to participate in reconciliation efforts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. He also pursued theological training in a three year program at the Alberta Bible College.

In the past two decades, Roy Little Chief held various leadership positions, including Chair of the Siksika Police Commission, Chair of Siksika Housing, and Board member of Siksika Resource Development Ltd., the business arm of the Siksika Nation.

Roy Little Chief was the primary organizer, and the last remaining member of the original Blackfoot A1 Drum Group. The award-winning singing, drumming, and dance troupe was formed in the mid 1960s. They were regularly invited to perform at pow wows and cultural events across Canada and the United States, including at Expo 67 in Montreal during Canada’s Centennial year. In turn, they inspired a wave of many similar groups to form in other First Nations.

Roy Little Chief was a friend to many. He built a multitude of lasting relationships across cultures and communities throughout North America. He once said of his life that he, ”… had honourably reached Eldership, with well-rounded life-experience, enjoying life, free of all addictions, with the help of my spiritual beliefs.” He worked and prayed unceasingly for the full participation of all Indigenous people in the political, social, cultural, and spiritual life of their Nation and of Canada.

Roy Little Chief received the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal 2002 for his work to improve the status of First Nations communities in Canada. The medal was presented to him by the late Senator Thelma Chalifoux.

Roy Little Chief was born on August 26, 1938 in the Blackfoot Hospital at the Siksika Nation. He was educated in residential schools at Crowfoot-Blackfoot, Erminskin-Hobbema, and St. Thomas College in North Battleford. He passed away at the Peter Lougheed Hospital. Mr. Little Chief had suffered from failing health in recent months.

Roy Little Chief is survived by his wife, Linda Little Chief (Cheechoo). They have six children, numerous grandchildren, and a great granddaughter.

A memorial service for Roy Little Chief will be held at The Gordon Yellow Fly Memorial Arbour on the Siksika Reserve at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 18.

For comment and further information, please contact:
Ms. Kathleen McHugh (403) 324-0423; or
Mr. Faron Melting Tallow (403) 324-7786; (403) 734-0083 or
Mr. Thurman Little Light (403) 901-8808

More UBC researchers receive federal funding to study COVID-19

Credit: Martin Sanchez/Unsplash

Five additional scientists awarded $2.3 million for research on novel coronavirus

Five research teams at the University of British Columbia are collectively receiving $2.3 million in federal funding for research to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

The teams, led by UBC researchers Horacio Bach, Artem Cherkasov, Eric Jan, Jeffrey Joy and Dr. James Russell, are working on developing and implementing measures to rapidly detect, neutralize, manage, and reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

They join research teams led by Dr. Richard Lester, Dr. Srinivas Murthy, Natalie Prystajecky and Dr. Mel Krajden, and Yue Qian, who collectively received $2.8 million from the federal government for their research on COVID-19 announced March 6—bringing the total federal funding for UBC researchers working on COVID-19 to $5.1 million.

Countries around the world, including Canada, are working to contain the current outbreak of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 14,500 people worldwide, according to the March 23 update from the World Health Organization.

“We are very grateful for this additional investment through the federal government’s emergency research funding,” says Gail Murphy, vice-president, research and innovation at UBC. “This provides researchers at UBC and across the country with resources to gain critical insights into COVID-19 and help to develop treatments and prevent its spread.”

Testing antibodies to block COVID-19

Horacio Bach, adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases in the UBC faculty of medicine, is principal investigator of a team receiving $395,600. His team will be developing antibodies to neutralize and block the entrance of the virus into cells, and testing the efficacy of these antibodies in mice.

“Currently, there is no effective treatment or vaccine to control the virus, which in severe cases can cause respiratory failure and death,” says Bach, who is also the manager of the antibody engineering facility within the Immunity and Infectious Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. “We are hopeful that our research will lead to a treatment for patients and will help prevent transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Using ‘deep docking’ to rapidly identify anti-viral drug molecules

A team led by Artem Cherkasov—professor in the department of urologic sciences in the UBC faculty of medicine and senior scientist at the Vancouver Prostate Centre—is receiving $999,000.

Using “deep docking”—a virtual screening protocol enabled by artificial intelligence—the research team is applying an algorithm to search chemical space to identify compounds that could potentially inhibit the main enzyme critical to helping the SARS-CoV-2 virus to survive. SARS-CoV-2 is the term for the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

“Deep docking allows our team to rapidly identify small anti-viral drug molecules in an extremely condensed timeframe,” he explains. “In fact, our first application of the algorithm this month enabled the screening of 1.3 billion commercially available compounds against the novel coronavirus virus in one week—a process that would have taken three years using conventional methods.”

Preparing for future emerging coronavirus outbreaks

A team led by Eric Jan, professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology with Chris Overall, professor in the Centre for Blood Research in the UBC faculty of medicine, is receiving $331,212.

The research team is working to identify protein targets of SARS and MERS coronavirus proteases. By engineering “decoy protein sequences,” they are hoping to block the ability of SARS and MERS coronaviruses to function, thereby inhibiting infection.

“Currently, the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to COVID-19 disease are not well understood,” says Jan. “We are hopeful that uncovering the proteins that are targeted by these coronaviruses will provide insights into the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to COVID-19 disease, which will hopefully help us prepare for future emerging coronavirus outbreaks as well.”

Studying the genomic evolution of the novel coronavirus

A team led by Jeffrey Joy, assistant professor in the UBC department of medicine, is receiving $315,000 to study the genomic evolution of SARS-CoV-2.

The research team will study the available SARS-COV-2 genomes and compare them with the genomes of other coronaviruses to determine common features and evaluate patterns of viral spread.

The team, which is collaborating with researchers at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control as well as other Canadian researchers, hope their research will help focus the response, control and elimination of the current, and future, coronavirus outbreaks.

“We are grateful to the federal government for this emergency funding, which is enabling researchers at UBC and across Canada to help find solutions to this urgent crisis,” says Joy, who is also a senior research scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Repurposing blood-pressure and diabetes drugs for COVID-19

Dr. James Russell, professor in the UBC department of medicine, is receiving $255,970. His team is studying the safety and effectiveness of using a class of drugs, called ARBs, commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure and diabetes, to improve outcomes for patients with COVID-19. Examples of ARBs include losartan, irbesartan, candesartan, telmisartan, valsartan, eprosartan, and alzilsartan.

Previous research has shown that these drugs can prevent lung injury in models of influenza pneumonia. Russell and his team hypothesize that ARBs could work for patients with COVID-19 as well because influenza and coronavirus bind to the same cell receptor in the lung.

The researchers will be evaluating these drugs in a study of 497 hospitalized adult patients who are or are not already on ARBs.

“We hope that we can further increase understanding of whether a class of drugs very commonly used for cardiovascular disease and diabetes can actually help Canadians and patients around the world, get better outcomes from COVID-19,” says Russell, who is also principal investigator at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation (HLI) at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Russell also hopes his team’s research will uncover answers as to why COVID-19 seems to critically affect elderly people and why heart disease seems to be a significant risk factor for dying from COVID-19.

Data will be shared openly to inform the global research response

The federal government is providing the funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Research Coordinating Committee through the New Frontiers in Research Fund, the International Development Research Centre, and Genome Canada.

The funding will support the researchers’ work over the next two years. Research findings and data produced as a result of the funding will be shared rapidly and openly (in line with the joint statement on sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus outbreak) to inform the global public health response and to help save lives.

The Delgamuukw decision: Putting the Wet’suwet’en conflict in perspective

(In a photo that may come to define the present conflict, Coastal GasLink employees dismantle a blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory as part of an RCMP raid on the camps. Images like this one spawned solidarity blockades across the country. Photo: Twitter)

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Satsan sat around the fire at a blockade at Sam Green Creek on the Babine River in the 1980s. He’d just returned to his community of Hagwilget Village in 1975 after attending a residential school and spending a couple years hitchhiking across the country.

Satsan dove head first into the struggle for First Nations land and human rights, a 150-year-old struggle going nonstop since the first fur traders and Christian missionaries arrived in lands the Crown would later claim as northern British Columbia.

Around the fire at that blockade, he remembers getting a vote of confidence from the Elders. They supported everything being done in defense of First Nations title, land rights, and jurisdiction.

“When you’re out there traveling, we’re with you,” the Elders said. “We see what’s going on. We see where you’re going and we do that to protect you.”

This struggle became “more urgent” in the ‘70s because of flooding resulting from the Nechako reservoir as well as the Kemano I dam. This was a hydroelectric megaproject established by Alcan and the B.C. government in the ‘50s to power an aluminum smelting facility in Kitimat. It impacted southern Wet’suwet’en territories and also flooded the lands of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, destroy- ing homes, sacred burial grounds, and culturally important archaeological sites.

Satsan and others opposed the proposed Kemano II dam, which they said would have flooded and destroyed more traditional lands. The B.C. forest service was starting to clear-cut as well. At that time, says Satsan, “our people were being charged for illegally fishing in our own fishing sites in our rivers, so we started defending those and winning those cases and started to get busy to exercise our rights on our territories and to protect our lands.” They began considering ways they could fight back and defend their rights. They knew the courts were always there as a last resort.

“We started looking at all the different avenues that were available to deal with it, and initially it was blockades and civil disobedience on the land to protect it and we did that through the mid-to-late ‘70s into the ‘80s.”

In the 1970s, the elected band council asked him to become the Hagwilget band manager.

“They brought me in and said that they needed my help on this whole issue. So even though I was hired as the band manager, I got involved with the chiefs on what was known as the ‘land question’ at the time.”

But Satsan became much more than the band manager.

He became the speaker on behalf of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en nations throughout the then-unprecedented legal action now commonly referred to as the Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision.

“Both the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs agreed there needed to be just one voice. We needed to be really focused and we needed to be tight internally, so it was decided that there would be one speaker and that I was the speaker for both the Gitxsan and the Wet’su- wet’en, on one hand. On the other hand, I was also part of the team that put the case together and brought it forward.”

Satsan went to law school and studied Western law. He became one of the main strategists and helped devise the legal argument that earned a positive decision for Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan from Canada’s highest court in 1997 after a 1991 defeat in B.C.

Satsan is the hereditary wing-chief title for Wet’su- wet’en Kayex (Birchbark) House of the Gilseyhu (Big Frog) Clan. But Satsan – whose English name is Herb George – prefers to be identified as “just one of the chiefs.”

Despite that humility, he’s an encyclopedia of Aboriginal constitutional law who speaks eloquently about any court case you can name. He represented B.C. for two terms at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and now works with the Centre for First Nations Governance, whose predecessor organization he also founded.

He spoke with APTN News after a weekend of long talks in Smithers, B.C. resulted in a “draft arrangement” between the feds, the province, and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on rights and Aboriginal title.

“This arrangement for the Wet’suwet’en will breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision so that future generations do not have to face conflicts like the one they face today,” said
a joint statement from the hereditary chiefs, the federal government, and British Columbia.

Satsan wasn’t present for those talks. He, like many others, hasn’t seen the draft agreement.

The chiefs said they plan to bring it before their people for ratification in the Feast Hall, the central precolonial Wet’suwet’en governance institution. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart Scott Fraser agreed to return to sign the draft if it’s ratified.

Forty-five years after the Alcan dam resistance, more civil disobedience and another blockade – this time over a pipeline – forced the government to the table. The Coastal GasLink pipeline would carry natural gas from a hydraulic fracturing facility from Dawson Creek to a liquification facility in Kitimat.

The Wet’suwet’en pipeline resistance spawned solidarity demonstrations across the country. Now the blockades aren’t only happening on Babine River or logging roads. They halted passenger and freight train travel through one of Canada’s busiest industrial corridors. The country-wide movement forced the Trudeau administration into crisis management mode and ignited vigorous debate on Parliament Hill.

For Satsan – and others involved in the court case – all of this could have been avoided if the Crown took the Supreme Court’s advice and sat down to negotiate in good faith after Delgamuukw.

Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa in context

Satsan answers questions about Delgamuukw-Gis- day’wa – as he insists we call it – by saying “first of all, when you’re talking about the case, you need to put it in really clear perspective.”

Delgamuukw (Earl Muldoe) was a claimant for the Gitxsan, but he sued on behalf of his House and the nation. Gisday’wa (Alfred Joseph) was a prominent Wet’suwet’en claimant.

Out of those involved, few had a better perspective than Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Yagalahl of Spookwx House. She was a court monitor, liaison, and reporter throughout the case. She sat through all 374 court days that were spread out over four years.

She was present at the recent Smithers meetings too. She says she was “satisfied” with the draft arrangement, but remains tight-lipped until the nation can have a Feast to discuss it.

In her seventies now, she listened to her chiefs and Elders tell their sacred oral histories in court 20 years ago. Satsan refers to these histories as a “sacred history box” that many were afraid to open for a court they considered foreign and colonial.

Now Yagalahl tells stories like an Elder herself. She talks with fervid, emphatic enthusiasm that the written word fails to capture.

“Let me tell you, if you come to my house and you sit with me and have tea – I’m telling you – you get an earful. I don’t stop. I make a short story long,” she says, laughing, after telling one of those long stories.

She jokes but her message is strong. She served as elected chief of Hagwilget – which is a mixed Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en community – from
1994 to 2019. She was the only elected chief who rejected the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. She has no qualms about speaking out.
When you tell the truth, you aren’t afraid of anything, she says. But that jumps ahead. Like Satsan, Yagalahl places Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa within the context of an ongoing anticolonial struggle probably best described as an intergenerational land defense.

“Back in ‘59 they destroyed our fisheries here in Hagwilget,” she says. “The rock that they blasted out of a canyon destroyed our fisheries, so it took me all those years to get compensated for it.”

In 1959, the federal Department of Fisheries dynamited large boulders on the Bulkley River next to Hagwilget.

Yagalahl calls Hagwilget a village because it existed well before contact. But, she admits, it’s technically a reserve.

A rock slide exactly a century ago placed those boulders there. They obstructed the river in a way that made salmon easily accessible. When the feds blasted the rocks away it left Hagwilget without fish for 50 years. Yagalahl, known as Dora Wilson in English, was the elected chief in 2009 when Ottawa agreed to compensate them $21.5-million for that.

Floods, destruction of fisheries, and clear-cutting
were recent events for Yagalahl and Satsan. Roughly a century earlier in 1871, B.C. entered Confederation. In the same year, government made it illegal for First Nations to fish commercially. A smallpox epidemic hit First Nations communities in B.C. a year later and their right to vote in B.C. elections was simultaneously withdrawn.

In 1876, four years later, the Indian Act was passed.

The Act prohibited “Indians” from assembling in 1880, made the Feast Hall (potlatch) illegal in 1884, and established the Kuper Island, Kam- loops, and Williams Lake residential schools in 1890. Thirty years later – after rising tensions, increased settlement, and a 1918 Spanish Flu
epidemic – the Act made it illegal for “Indians” to raise money or hire lawyers to pursue land claims.

First Nations resisted these policies throughout. Nevertheless, due to those policies, epidemics, receding land bases, missionary activity by people like Father Morice – after whom much of the infrastructure remains named on the disputed lands – and other factors, the B.C. First Nations population reached its historical lowest point in the 1920s.

In the subsequent decades, government relaxed the most stringent bans. By 1951, “Indians” could once again fish commercially, conduct Feasts, and pursue land claims. First Nations kept organizing and looking for ways to assert land rights many had never ceded through treaty or willful surrender.

Pierre Trudeau’s government released the White Paper in 1969. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was formed in response. A decade later, chiefs and Elders from B.C. sent a delegation to England to lobby for inclusion of Aboriginal rights in the repatriated Canadian Constitution.

They got what they wanted in the form of Section 35(1): “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby
recognized and affirmed.”

The ink was barely dry on that 1982 document when the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs decided they were going to take their fight into the courts.

Prior to Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa, no one knew for certain what Section 35 meant.

Yagalahl was the vice president of the Gitx- san-Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council when the evidence gathering began in the mid ‘80s. Both nations had not yet set up the individual offices they maintain today.

“The chiefs – when they were talking about this case that was going to be happening – they had decided that I was going to work with the chiefs as part of a liaison team, that was called the litigation team, to work with the lawyers, and mainly work with the Wet’suwet’en,” she says.

“Even though I’m Gitxsan, I speak Wet’suwet’en, and I know so many of the Wet’suwet’en. I worked with them mainly in them selecting their witnesses that were going to be on the stand. It was a very, very interesting process where the chiefs really showed me what they mean by respect. You know? They respected one another when they were doing their selection of the witnesses that were going to take the stand.”

The Houses met regularly to discuss strategy and goals.

“Everything that we did was strategic. When we were doing blockades, we were very, very clear about what we wanted to accomplish with it. And we were also clear when we were in a position where we weren’t going to serve our own purpose [through blockades] then we would back out of the way but just kept the pressure on,” says Satsan.

They knew “the last place we’ve got to go is the courts,” and they prepared for it.

“So, as we were doing all this the evidence gathering was happening, the research was happening to prepare for a title action, and ultimately that’s what our people agreed to do. And so we prepared our case and our argument and we went into the court system.”

No one knew for certain what they were getting themselves into when they stepped into a Smithers courtroom on May 11, 1987 – where the chiefs, lawyers, and elders would be handed a stinging defeat four years later.

Tears were shed after that. But there were also moments of humour and joy.

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en laws came into conflict with Canadian laws in a monumental case for which there was no real precedent.

But for Yagalahl, even when they lost, they won.

Once all was said and done, the histories of their peoples were written.

“It was quite an experience that I will always
never, never regret,” she says.

“If I had to do it again, I’d choose to do it.”

Indigenous Soldier Database Lists Over 150,000 Names

Yann Castelnot is a former resident of Vimy, France, who immigrated to Canada 13 years ago. Over the past 20 years, he’s been researching Indigenous people who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the US Army. He’s an amateur historian who’s done his investigation voluntarily, and collected the names of over 154,000 veterans to date.

Castelnot’s efforts earned him a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation in 2017, an award given to those who’ve contributed to the remembrance of
the contributions, sacrifices, and achievements of veterans.

I had the opportunity to interview the historian, Castelnot, who said he’s always been fascinated with North American Indigenous people.

“It started with a passion for the North American Indigenous people during my childhood, I was like a lot of French, very curious about this culture, and I started to read a lot on the subject, to attend exhibitions, to enter associations,” said Castelnot. “In 1998, I saw an article about Sioux in the trenches. At the time, the internet was not as developed as today, and the subject of Native American veterans was not addressed anywhere. There were some vague documents, but nothing more.”

He began by looking for information about Native soldiers that enlisted in both world wars, and then created a list of these soldiers.

“It had to be a temporary project since I thought it would be too difficult to find information and names. I started by creating the list of Native Canadians during the world wars – easier for me because of the proximity of the military cemeteries,” Castelnot said. “I later added the names of those from the USA, than those of Korea, and finally I decided to look for all those who served after the date of December 29, 1890, the date of the massacre of Wounded Knee and the official end of the Indian wars.”

6/07/2018 Québec, Québec, Canada Her Excellency presents the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers to Yann Castelnot. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented honours to 26 recipients during a ceremony on July 6, 2018 at the Citadelle of Québec. Credit: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall, OSGG-BSGG


In 2013, he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and it triggered him to search for other wars. “Would those who served in the Boer War, or the War of 1812 also have the right to be honored?” said Castelnot.

Yann uncovered a lot of interesting information beyond well-known soldiers like Francis Pegahmagabow, Tommy Prince, Thomas Longboat, Joseph Brant, and Henry Louis Norwest. He said we could add to that prominent list the names of Sgt. Jerome Frank Narcisse – a recipient of three military medals, Captain Smith Alexander – Military Cross and recipient of the Order of the Black Star of Poland, and a woman from the Six Nations named Krystal Lee Anne Giesebrecht Brant – Master Corporal, and descendant of Joseph Brant.

When it comes to Native veteran history, it’s also necessary to include the lack of information, the errors often conveyed, and the historical oversights, Castelnot pointed out.

“We forget that more than 11,000 Natives fought alongside their British friends during the War of 1812,” said Castelnot. “We forget that nearly 30,000 of them fought with the French or English during the colonial wars because they had established military, political, and economic alliances with newcomers. North American history is not only about massacres.”

Indigenous men, young and old, volunteered for the same reasons as other Canadians, and they were respected by their brothers-in-arms.

“There are some cases of racism, but it’s marginal,” said Castelnot. “They did not have an easy life when they returned from the front, for a majority of them, yet they massively reengaged during World War II.”

Restoring data is important. For example, before starting his research, Castelnot heard there were 7,000 to 12,000 enlisted during the two world wars, and 500 dead; whereas in reality, more than 14,800 Indigenous served in the Canadian army, resulting in 1,600 deaths. The database includes information and stories about the United States’ first code talkers; on Admiral Clark, who served during the two World Wars, and Korean War; Walkabout Billy, who was one of the greatest heroes of the Vietnam War; the first Native American officers during the War of 1812; and completely Native American units during the American Civil War who fought for the south. In each war there is a special case to tell.

I asked Castelnot if it was true that most Indigenous soldiers never received farmland and money that was promised to them when they returned from World Wars I and II.

“The story is a bit more complicated. It is necessary to go back to the context of the time: Reserves were administered by Indian Affairs, and those who lived there depended on the Indian agents. Money and land were controlled by these agents,” said Castelnot. “It should be noted that there were a few instances where these agents actually worked for the good of people in their reserves, and thereby did encourage young people to go out of the reserves and live ‘free’ with their own money and property.”

It must also be remembered that the First World War had an impact. Native people are no longer perceived as a savage, but as a brother in arms (within the war) who has done his duty. Most of the soldiers send money to their families still on the reserves, where they were no longer enfranchised. As a result, the money belonged to the reserve and not to the family, and that is the same for the lands, so they mostly disguised their aboriginal status in order to obtain off-reserve property.

When you look at the Indian Affairs reports of the time, you realize that more than half the Aboriginal soldiers hired did so without declaring their status, and the Indian officers actually learned by chance that these men (and women) were enrolled. The majority of Indigenous soldiers lived on reserves and did not own property – land and money to come back to without any benefits from their wartime efforts.

But in summary, this remains a minority case.

“In fact, in the Indian affairs archives (RG10 de bibliotheque and archives Canada) there are nearly 2,500 document references for land transfers for Aboriginal veterans on reserves (at least those known to date), this is small compared to the 8,300 who served,” said Castelnot.

In 2003, the federal government offered a public apology and compensation to Native veterans.

Castelnot’s database is one of the largest collection of Indigenous soldiers’ names, and provides a way to learn more about Indigenous men and women’s contributions to Canadian, and American forces.

Luc O’Bomsawin, founding president of the Aboriginal Veterans of Quebec Association, told CBC News that the database has shed much-needed light on history that’s often forgotten or “put aside.”

“His work is essential, and there’s not too many people that did the same kind of work with that dedication,” said O’Bomsawin, an Abenaki veteran from Odanak, Que.

O’Bomsawin said he was surprised by the new information Castelnot uncovered, such as the number of soldiers who received decorations, and even just the sheer number of soldiers from both sides of the border who served in various conflicts.

“We were told different numbers, but nobody really had something to base their assumptions on,” said O’Bomsawin. “With him going through the records, and newspapers, and whatever he’s searched, he managed to change these figures. The figures that he puts on are a lot more serious than what I’ve seen up to now.”

Castelnot’s database is at


Siksika Nation Mother Shocked After Learning Son’s Accused Killer is Set Free on Bail

As a young boy Kristian was a traditional Blackfoot dancer who traveled to many powwows throughout North America

This is the story of a mother’s worst nightmare. Five months after learning that her son had been murdered, Melodie Hunt-Ayoungman must now suffer the indignity of watching one of the two murder suspects get set free on bail.

Twenty-four-year-old Kristian Ayoungman was a promising young hockey player and respected role model in the Indigenous community of the Siksika Nation in southern Alberta. The 24 year old was shot and killed on Highway 817 south of Strathmore at about 3:30am Sunday, March 17. Two brothers, Kody Allan Giffen, 22, and Brandon Giffen, 25, were charged with first-degree murder. Kody Giffen has been released on bail.

First Nations Drum asked Hunt-Ayoungman to share her thoughts and emotions when she heard the news that her son’s killer was being released on bail. 

“My first thoughts were, ‘Seriously? This is actually being considered, that they would actually allow someone who helped take my boy’s life leave jail?’ What about the safety of the victims, our community, and other people,” said Hunt-Ayoungman. “I am still in disbelief how these guys could have taken my boys life. It took me backwards remembering how the police came to me to tell me that Kristian was a homicide victim, that he was shot. This release reminded me how Kody was a part in helping this all happen. I remembered the shock I fell into, how I dropped when I was told the news about my son, how I was screaming and crying in disbelief saying, ‘No not my boy, he is such a good kid, not Kristian!’ Lots of hurt memories of that day came back.”

Reuben Breaker is a member of the Siksika council and has been supporting Hunt-Ayoungman through her nightmare. He told Global News that he’s less optimistic about the case. “This just re-opened the wound, to know what this young man is being charged with,” said Breaker. “If one of our boys had murdered a non-Native boy, we wouldn’t have access to bail let alone granted bail.”

Kristian’s tragic death occurred about eight hours after the popular and former Junior B hockey player participated in a Wheatland Kings alumni game. Darcy Busslinger is a team manager for the Strathmore Wheatland Kings Junior hockey team. He told Global News that Kristian was one of the good ones. “I had a great visit with Kristian up in the dressing room after, and he was telling me all about his job and what he was going to do for the summer,” Busslinger said. “It’s just crazy that we’ve had to go through this in the last five years. We’ve lost four other community kids that played hockey and we are a tight bunch.”

Kristian Ayounman was a great hockey player

Colten Wildman, Siksika Buffaloes player and coach also told Global News that he was in disbelief of the news. “It was one of those things where you don’t want to believe it,” said Colten Wildman, who also played hockey with Ayoungman for eight years. “You deny it and when you find out more details, you’re just immediately crushed. He was just a good kid on and off the ice. You were very lucky to know him on the ice, but you were pretty special to get close with him off the ice.”

Hunt-Ayoungman says she never imagined that she would join the ranks of countless Indigenous mothers who have had to sit in court and witness the trial of those charged with murdering their child. 

“Never does a parent ever expect their child to leave before them, and there I was sitting in this courtroom for my boy. For the first time I was going to see the guys involved in taking my sons life away from us all,” said Hunt-Ayoungman. “They took away such a genuine person. Why, why did they do this, how could they do this? These were the questions going through my mind.”

Hunt-Ayoungman said her son did not deserve to be murdered, that he was at the high point in his life, and just living life as a young person on his way to becoming successful. “He was so kind and respectful to everyone. I shouldn’t be going through this,” said Hunt-Ayoungman. “What did we do to deserve this?” 

The grieving mother said that she did not want her son’s murder to define his life. “Kristian loved hockey. That was the love of his life. As soon as he could walk he already had a hockey stick in his hand with a ball running up and down the hall shooting the ball,” said Hunt-Ayoungman. “As soon as he could take one of his first sentences I distinctly remember him telling me as we were driving, he looks at me and says, ‘Mom, I want to be in the NHL.’ I remember looking at him and seeing such a confident look on his face, and the way he said it. 

I remember telling him, ‘OK my boy, if that’s what you want to do, you can do it.” 

As a child, Kristian had nets set up outside his house to shoot his puck into and loved anything sport related. He would golf, play catch, and hit the baseball around with his Uncle Mory. He learned to also bead. Kristian started playing hockey on the Siksika Nation as a pre-novice before advancing on to play with teams in Strathmore and Okotoks where he played Bantam and Midget AA hockey. He was a part of many championship teams, won many trophies, and was always getting sportsmanship awards. 

Kristian’s Blackfoot name was Kakato’si, which means Star, which is also his middle name. Raised with traditional Blackfoot beliefs, he spent a significant amount of time with his mom’s sister, Dawn, and her younger brother Mory. “Kristian was a traditional dancer and was very successful at it,” Hunt-Ayoungman said. “When he was the age of tiny tots we already put him in juniors, when he was in juniors we put him in teens. He was just that good of a dancer; teens were intimidated by him because he would win most of the time. We travelled throughout powwow country all over North America.”

Hunt-Ayoungman herself was a very accomplished jingle dress dancer and passed on her traditional dancing abilities to Kristian. Kristian performed and danced at the Calgary Stampede for many years, and even danced for Queen Elizabeth.

Hunt-Ayoungman says Kristian was a role model on the Siksika Nation. “He was genuine, kind, loving, caring, very well respected and very respectful to others. Kristian tried hard in everything he did; was a perfectionist – when he learned something he made sure he learned how to do it well. He was a role model in our Siksika Community in the way he carried himself, the way he treated others, and how he did his best in everything. These are the kind of Native Men we want in our First Nations communities. Leaders for others. He very well ‘Led by Example’”

Hunt-Ayoungman says she can’t discuss too much about the legal issues but did say preliminary trial dates have been set for early 2020.

National Inquiry Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report: Justice Has Been Denied to Indigenous Women

Under Natural Law, every human being is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. These include the Right to Life, Culture, Health, Safety, and Justice. Governments have a moral obligation to protect these Rights yet the historical record of governments is one of failure to live up to its responsibility.

This has been the story for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada since Colonialism’s arrival on Turtle Island. Its negative effect on Indigenous women has been especially egregious. Based on a recommendation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the central government in 2016 launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The final report was released on June 3 – June is National Indigenous History Month.

The Inquiry’s goal was to gather and examine evidence, report on the systemic causes of violence against MMIWG, shine an unfiltered light on the crisis, and offer recommendations on how to end it. The process spanned two years and consisted of cross-country public hearings and evidence gathering with testimony by nearly 2,500 family members, survivors of violence, experts, and Knowledge Keepers.


The denial of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women’s Right to live under Natural Law began with the denial of the Right to Culture. Foreigners, under the guise of colonialism, stole Indigenous peoples’ land and resources. Targeting for assimilation though forced participation in inhumane programs like residential schools – “A Theatre of Abuse” – Sixties Scoop, and child welfare systems were government-sanctioned programs all.

In testimony, Robert C. said of genocide, “What else can you call it when you attack and diminish a people based upon their colour of their skin, their language, their traditions, remove them from their lands, target their children, break up the family? And that’s the uncomfortable truth that Canada, I believe, is on the cusp of coming to terms with. And it’s going to take a lot of uncomfortable dialogue to get there.”

Canada has denied Indigenous women their Right to Health through forced relocations, denial of food security, forced sterilization, lack of access to mental health services and addictions treatment, and overall interference with existing Indigenous health systems. A Natural Right to Security has been denied by the lack of opportunity in areas such as education, employment, and the failure to provide a basic standard of living.

Justice has been denied Indigenous women through legislation and law enforcement. Métis scholar and activist Howard Adams testified that First Nations “suffered brutality under the Mounties, who frequently paraded through Native settlements in order to intimidate the people and remind the Natives they had to ‘stay in their place.’” He said Mounties were not “ambassadors of goodwill or uniformed men sent to protect” but the “colonizer’s occupational forces” and “oppressors”

The report found that past abuse of Indigenous women by police continues to permeate modern encounters based on a deep sense of suspicion and distrust. Audrey Siegl testified, “Safety and justice and peace are just words to us. Since its inception, we’ve never been safe in ‘Canada.’ The RCMP was created to quash the Indian rebellions. The police were created to protect and serve the colonial state.”

Calls For Justice

The Inquiry suggested 231 specific Calls for Justice directed at media, social influencers, police, health and wellness providers, attorneys and law societies, educators, child welfare and social workers, extractive and developmental industries, correctional service, and all Canadians.

Non-Indigenous Canadians are urged to decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous relations in their local area and then celebrate its history, cultures, pride, and diversity. Acknowledge the land they live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments are asked to recognize Indigenous self-determination and inherent jurisdiction over child welfare, and let Indigenous communities design and deliver the services.

Police, government, law societies, bar associations, and all who participate in the criminal justice system should be required to undergo mandatory intensive and periodic training in the area of Indigenous cultures and histories.

Police agencies are asked to teach their recruits about the dark history of police oppression and genocide of Indigenous; anti-racism and anti-bias training; and culture and language training. The training must not be pan-Indigenous and instead focus on the land and people being served.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report:

Squamish Nation first Indigenous group to Undertake large scale urban project in Canada

What’s a band to do with an oddly-shaped 11-acre parcel of land that’s dissected by the Burrard Bridge? The Squamish First Nation envision building high-density housing on it and then using the profits to reinvest in its own people.

Not all nearby residents are pleased with the prospect of having a 3000 rental unit housing development hinder their view of Vanier Park, English Bay, or whatever happens to lie on the other side of what they deem an obstruction. Kitsilano resident Larry Benge is co-chair of the West Kitsilano Residents Association. He’s conflicted over the talk of high-rise development and is quoted in the Vancouver Courier saying he “doesn’t know whether to get excited or get depressed, quite frankly. I think my reaction overall is wait and see.”

Knowing the land’s history may provide potential detractors to development with a better perspective. According to the University of British Columbia’s Indigenous Foundations, an information resource on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, the land was an ancestral village of the Squamish Nation until 1913. In that year, the provincial government entered the Reserve and coerced the residents into selling their land. Each male head of household was paid $11,250 to evacuate and relocate to Howe Sound. Ninety-years later, the land was returned to the Squamish after the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that Canadian Pacific, which had been granted the land for the railway, should return it, as-is.

Since the proposed development site sits on First Nations land, the Squamish are not legally required to follow city restrictions on blocking views, and the City of Vancouver has no say in what happens to the property. A service agreement for roads, fire, and police services will need to be negotiated. “This is the first time an Indigenous group is undertaking a large-scale urban development project in Canada. We’re very proud of this opportunity that’s before us,” said Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.

Though the Squamish have been living in the area for thousands of years, they’ve been relegated to spectators while a city was built around them to the economic benefit of corporations, the government, and Anglo-Canadians. “Meanwhile, our own people are still in poverty. We have a lot of working poor. We have a lower average income than the average Canadian,” said Khelsilem. “We have all kinds of other challenges around health, elder care, and housing needs.”

Developing rental housing units would bring much-needed relief to the tight Vancouver rental market with its less than a 1 percent vacancy rate, according to Khelsilem. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart expressed his support for the project in a Globe and Mail article. “This is an opportunity for the city to demonstrate its commitment to reconciliation with the Indigenous communities,” said Stewart.

The Squamish Nation are known for being one of the top business-minded First Nations in B.C. They own the land beneath the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver and collect rent from tenants. The band is in the process of selecting a developer for the Burrard Bridge site, and Squamish Nations members will decide on zoning and business terms by referendum most likely within six months. “Nothing is confirmed at this time. We have been in negotiations with a local [Vancouver-based] developer and are working with them to develop terms of a proposed deal that our members will ultimately decide on,” said Khelsilem.

Khelsilem says they’re exploring options for Squamish members to rent within the development.

“It’s too early to say, but we do envision building a comprehensive, complete community that would include a range of housing types, along with public amenities.”

There is an eagle’s nest at the proposed housing site. First Nations Drum asked Khelsilem about Squamish traditional protocols when moving an eagle’s nest. “We’re aware of a few eagles in the area, though it’s unclear at this time whether their nests are on our lands or the adjacent lands,” said Khelsilem. “An environmental assessment will be done before any work begins on the site.”

The income generated by this significant project will be used to fund much-needed social, health, housing and education programs for Squamish members, according to Khelsilem, who said his people are in a “housing crisis as a Nation.” “We’re going to ensure that a lot of this revenue goes towards affordable and social housing options for our members.”

Khelsilem says now is an incredibly exciting time for the Squamish Nation. “The Squamish Nation prides itself in not waiting for the government to do this for us. We’ll do it on our own. For our people, this is overdue,” said Khelsilem. “They’re wanting us to…create wealth and return it to our community.”

Learn more about the history of our lands at