SECRET PATH: Gordon Downie tells the story of Chanie Wenjack

By Lee Waters

Gord Downie is releasing a new album and graphic novel about a young First Nations boy who died a half-century ago after running away from a residential school. Downie, who saddened Canadians in May with news that he suffers from an aggressive form of brain cancer, recently played his final concert with Tragically Hip after a highly televised Canadian tour. However, he is still promoting his recent project titled Secret Path by playing two solo concerts, The first at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 18 and the second at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Friday, Oct. 21.

Gordon Downie performing in Guelph Ontario in 2001 (Wikipedia)

Gordon Downie performing in Guelph Ontario in 2001 (Wikipedia)

Secret Path started as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. According to the official Secret Path website, Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.” Mr. Downie recently travelled to Marten Falls First Nation, a remote Ontario reserve 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, to visit with the family of Chanie Wenjack, whose body was found beside a railway track. “I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him,” Mr. Downie said in a statement. “Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were.”

In winter 2014, Gord and Mike brought the recently finished music to comic artist Jeff Lemire for his help illustrating Chanie’s story, bringing him and the many children like him to life. According to the website, ‘Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history – the long-supressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system – with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation.’

Jeff Lemire’s statement on the website describes his first meeting with Gord and Mike about the project. ‘Before we left the coffee shop I knew I was going to do it. I had to. Chanie’s story is one that will not let you go once you hear it. It’s a story that can’t be ignored. And yet, somehow, it has been ignored. By nearly all of us. He continues about the education system, “Growing up white in Southern Ontario, I never learned about Chanie Wenjack or about any of the tens of thousands of other indigenous children like him who were part of Canada’s residential school system. This is such a massive part of our country’s history, yet our schools didn’t teach us about it. Why? Maybe because it’s easier to live with ourselves if we pretend stories like Chanie’s never happened. But they did happen, and still happen. Chanie Wenjack lived and died, and no one knows his story.’

Chanie collapsed from cold and hunger while trying to make it back to Marten Falls from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. He was wearing only thin clothing when he set out on journey through dense bush and he did not know the way home. The Senator Murray Sinclair created an organization that spent several years recording the experiences of survivors of the residential schools. That inquiry found that the institutions funded by the federal government and operated by churches were aimed at cultural genocide.

“All those governments, and all of those churches, for all of those years, misused themselves,” Downie said in his statement. “They hurt many children. They broke up many families. They erased entire communities. It will take seven generations to fix this. Seven. Seven is not arbitrary. This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder.”

Ry Moran, the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, also travelled with Mr. Downie to Marten Falls. He told the Globe and Mail, “It has been reconciliation in action. You’ve got a very prominent Canadian, an amazing guy, deeply humble and caring and loving, who travels to a community like this with this incredible piece of his own contribution. And there has been this amazing coming-togetherness amongst and between the communities.”
All of the proceeds from the multimedia project will support the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, which was created to preserve the memory of what happened at the institutions and the legacy of a system that ripped indigenous children from their families. It will be used to identify some of children who died at the schools and were buried in unmarked graves as well as to commemorate their lives and, in some cases, return them to their home communities.

Mr. Moran said the contribution that Mr. Downie is making will help preserve and care for the stories of the lost, “Gord lending his voice to the work of truth and reconciliation in this country really helps raise awareness across the country on this critically important issue that, until we face it, in Gord’s own words, we are not a country.”
The ten song album will be released by Arts & Crafts accompanied by Lemire’s eighty-eight page graphic novel published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Secret Path will arrive on October 18, 2016, in a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.

Screen shot from the animated trailer (Youtube)

Screen shot from the animated trailer (Youtube)

Downie’s music and Lemire’s illustrations have also inspired The Secret Path, an animated film to be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).

UBC to Build Residential School History Centre

By Frank Larue

The University of British Columbia have made it official, they will build the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. The building will cost $5.5 million and will be located on the UBC campus. The IRSC will recognize the history and experiences of Residential School survivors and memorialize the indigenous children who did not survive the schools. The centre is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Plans for the centre currently under development: architect’s concept rendering.

Plans for the centre currently under development: architect’s concept rendering.

There will be access to the records of the Truth and Reconciliation act and the history of the Residential Schools and their effect on Indigenous people. Many non-native people have yet to understand the depravity and abuse native children went through in the Residential Schools. The centre will house interactive media, making not only records but also testimonies available for visitors to the centre. “While we are thankful for all the First Nations leadership and UBC leadership that have brought the initiative to reality,” Former Residential School student and executive director of the Indian School Survivor Society Cindy Tom-Lindley said, “the survivors and their families are first and foremost thankful for an accessible place of records.”

The Centre will be accessible to visitors and will serve as a hub for academic and community research, education and public programming. Director of the UBC First Nations House of Learning Linc Kesler told the media, “An important function of this centre is to acknowledge the lives and histories of Indigenous people in Canada. Throughout both policy and inaction, the circumstances of indigenous peoples have often been invisible in all but the most superficial ways. It is a responsibility of the university and the educational system as a whole to change that and provide the basis for more informed interactions.”

Many of the Residential Schools were located in B.C. and there are tragic stories that would shed light on a dark period of Canada’s history. The fact that Residential Schools started in the late nineteenth century and weren’t closed until the middle of the twentieth century, even though the government parties were informed of the condition of native students attending these schools, is shocking in itself. No one lifted a finger while teachers took advantage of native students and the mortality rate was as high as 35% in certain schools. “Recognition of our past is of critical importance to UBC and to all Canadians in planning our future.” UBC President Santa Ono said. “The Centre will help us to collectively rethink the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country.”


By Frank Larue

During a century which Ottawa made a habit out of breaking treaties and making up their own rules,
the Feds also decided to take 10,000 acres of land from the Tobique First Nation. There was never any compensation, even though many Tobique leaders pleaded their case over the years.

Finally, under the Trudeau government, the Tobique First Nation have been given $39 million, which the Tobique chief Ross Perley describes as, “basically compensation for the land that they took. For lack of a better word, stole.” The settlement at first impression seems like a lot of money but for such a large portion of land — 4,000 hectares, for over a century — the figure is not over the top. In fact, former chief Stewart Paul told the CBC, “The offer is really low. I think the government is getting away real cheap.”

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley speaks. Photo Credit: CBC News - Julianne Hazlewood

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley speaks. Photo Credit: CBC News – Julianne Hazlewood

Yet the problem may not be the amount of the settlement but how it is to be distributed. The plan the Chief and Tribal council came up with would give each member $13,500, the children’s money would be held in trust fund and the remaining $20 million would go towards investments. The band members have been given a vote, which is expected to be a unanimous yes. But there are mixed reactions from band members. Larry Sockabasin holding his grandson with him told the CBC, “I’m looking towards their children, their grandchildren. See the benefit each year before Christmas. It makes a great difference.”

The positive can’t be denied but the negative is the possibility the cash could be used to promote the cycle of alcohol and drug abuse that exists already in the community. “What scares me the most with that kind of money,” Lifetime band member Anthony Paul Sappier told the CBC, “There’s people that’s never had that kind of money. I’m afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, whether it be drugs or vehicles or what have you.”

There are 2,000 band members and 20% of the $39 million would be put in a trust fund and 80% would go to band members. This of course all depends on the yes vote going through but if it does become a no vote, the negotiations with the government would start all over again. “It’s an unknown, we don’t know if the evaluation (of the land claim) is correct, or even if the government is willing to open the claim back again. It could take decades, we don’t know.”

We can assume the yes vote will make the settlement final and we can hope that the tribal council remains vigilant on how the money is spent. In any case, what should be remembered is that it took over a century for the government to pay the bill. Some of the problems that exist in the native community today might have been avoided if the debt was paid within its proper time frame. There will be band members who may become excessive because of the settlement, but they will also witness the improvement of life conditions around them, which may make them reconsider the price of any form of addiction.

Saskatchewan Doctors Demanding State of Emergency

By Frank Larue

Doctors in Saskatchewan want the provincial government to declare a state of emergency because of the increasing number of HIV and AIDS patients. “We are seeing an increase in the number of cases. For example, there were 114 new cases in 2014, 158 in 2015,” explains Doctor Ryan Meili, a Saskatoon doctor who is familiar with HIV patients. He told the CBC, “In the last 10 years, we’ve seen over 1,500 people infected with HIV in the province.”

Saskatchewan HIV cases are twice as high as the national average. (Photo Credit: DREAMSTIME)

Saskatchewan HIV cases are twice as high as the national average. (Photo Credit: DREAMSTIME)

Saskatchewan HIV cases are twice as high as the national average. “We perceive this as an emergency, two people are dying every month.” Dr. Stephen Sanches, emphasizing the concern of the medical profession, “Over ten people are being diagnosed with a new infection every month an that’s only going up. So we’re really sounding the alarm.”

Aboriginal communities have noticed the increase in HIV, Saskatoon Tribal council Chief Felix Thomas told the CBC, “It’s still an unpopular disease that has a lot of misconceptions about it. And, it’s still a disease that people think only affects a certain segment of the population and that’s something we have to get past.”

AIDS Saskatoon director Jason Mercredi feels everyone should be tested. “Aids and HIV are often considered a fatal illness that resides in gay communities diagnosed positive, and we just need to get the message across that it doesn’t matter if you think you’re at risk or not, just make it part of your standard, normal, physical studies.”

Dr. Kris Stewart who works with HIV in Saskatoon is aware of the problems some of the more remote reservations are facing. “We have demonstrated success in Saskatoon, and in certain communities. Some reserve communities have been extremely progressive in their approach to HIV, and they’ve demonstrated how successful we can be in preventing the progression of illness and preventing transmission. Other areas, we simply don’t have the infrastructure in place. We’re not testing adequately as we don’t have clinical capacity. The health regions themselves, I’m not sure understand what they’re dealing with. We need a different response than we have.”

Support continues to grow at Standing Rock

By Kelly Many Guns

Over 200 North American tribes and First Nations, Indigenous groups from the Amazon, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and international supporters have been descending on the Standing Rock Reservation over the past four months, in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The protesters have so far made a difference in halting construction, but supporters say they still have a ways to go in the fight against the project that threatens the tribes water supply and its sacred lands.

An estimated 200 First Nations and Tribes from North America have gathered in protest at Standing Rock (Photo Source: The Guardian)

An estimated 200 First Nations and Tribes from North America have gathered in protest at Standing Rock (Photo Source: The Guardian)

On September 19th, a federal appeals court officially halted construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe along the Missouri River. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says this ruling will give the court more time to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction against construction over concerns it could destroy sacred sites and burial grounds. The emergency injunction was filed by the tribe after a lower court rejected a request for an injunction the previous Friday. This latest ruling now makes mandatory the Obama administration’s request that Dakota Access voluntarily cease construction along the same 40-mile stretch.

David Archambault, chairman for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says, he wasn’t sure if the news was accurate on what the Obama administration’s latest decision was but glad that some people in the administration and agencies have the courage to step up and answer the call.

“I think they know that public policy is something that needs to be reformed so that we can better insure the protection of indigenous people and indigenous rights.”
Since September 9th, at least 22 protesters have been arrested and at one time attack dogs were sent in by the oil company, Energy Transfer Partners, to fend off the peaceful protesters’; resulting with a number of protesters being treated medically for dog bites.

Private security arrives with attack dogs (Photo Source: The Guardian - Dell Hambleton)

Private security arrives with attack dogs (Photo Source: The Guardian – Dell Hambleton)

The Dakota Access Pipeline begins in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, and would carry crude oil almost 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa down to Illinois. The pipeline’s original path crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, a city that’s ninety percent Caucasian, but when concerns were raised about a potential oil spill, the pipeline was rerouted south to go under the river right next to the Standing Rock Reservation. The Missouri River is the Standing Rock reservation’s primary source of drinking water. The tribe says a spill there could be catastrophic for them. So, when construction started, a plea for help went out.

According to a U.S. publication, the company Energy Transfer Partners says it’s followed all the rules and it points out the pipeline isn’t even on a reservation land. It argues that moving oil via modern pipelines is a far safer way than putting it on trucks or trains, which statistics show are far more likely to crash and spill. It also says the pipeline will generate revenue and jobs for North Dakota.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, says that the pipelines are the most efficient, safest, and cost-effective way to move oil to market.
“The products get there virtually one hundred percent of the time without issue.”
In a recent PBS television report, it was shown that the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. do sometimes leak and rupture, and when they do, they often spill far more oil than a single train car carries.

Since 1995, there have been more than 2,000 significant accidents on oil and gas pipelines, causing about $3 billion in property damage. For example, in July 2010, at least 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. It was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history, and the costliest. Almost 5,000 acres of wetland habitat was inundated with oil, hundreds of animals were killed, thousands more were recovered, cleaned and released; full recovery could take decades.

This past summer as First Nations Drum reported, about 65,000 gallons of oil and other toxins spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, polluting the drinking water used by the James Smith Cree Nation. The Petroleum Council says those kinds of spills near the Standing Rock Reservation are very unlikely. “This pipe is ninety-feet below the riverbed, it’s not going to leak right into the river. It’s got the detection equipment and the shutoff valves on each side of this pipeline.”
Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock member says she doesn’t believe the industry’s assurances. She says half-a-million gallons of oil coursing every day under their drinking water is not safe.

“When that oil spills, who’s going to come save us? We’re Indian people. We’re expendable. Who is going to come? Who is going to come and give us water?”
Many musicians and actors like, Neil Young and Susan Sarandon have voiced their support, and on September 16th, hundreds of supporters marched through downtown Seattle to show their support in protecting clean drinking water for Standing Rock.
At press time, David Archambault, went to the United Nations to ask for support against the Dakota pipeline, and told the U.N. that U.S. courts have failed to protect native peoples’ sovereign rights.

“The United States has its’ laws, and pipeline know how to comply with those laws, but just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.”
Finally, four states: Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, were declaring states of Emergency due to major pipeline leaks

* This article references from PBS Television and MSNBC reports


By Frank Larue

The Prime Minister has a lot on his plate as the autumn leaves start to fall. There is the question of pipelines, of which he has hinted he will approve one, which one no one knows. There is also the Site C Dam project in British Columbia, which has been condemned by First Nation bands such as the West Moberly who live nearby the site. The Trudeau government were made well aware of the environmental risks by the native leaders, but still went ahead and issued permits pivotal to the dam’s construction. The courts will now decide whether Site C will be built of not.

The Supreme Court falls short on the diversity front in several ways. Justice Thomas Cromwell (front row second front right) has retired, leaving his seat open. (Source: Montreal Gazette)

The Supreme Court falls short on the diversity front in several ways. Justice Thomas Cromwell (front row second front right) has retired, leaving his seat open. (Source: Montreal Gazette)

Justin Trudeau has many decisions to make and one more decision will be whether to nominate an indigenous Supreme court judge. Nader Hasan, a lawyer and University of Toronto faculty of law adjunct professor told the Ottawa Citizen, “It’s important for the legitimacy of the judiciary to have a court that reflects the diversity of the nation.” There are strong signals that since Indigenous people are Canada’s largest minority they deserve representation.” It’s past time for an indigenous member of the court to be appointed.” Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School said. “I’m confident that there are potential nominees who are either being identified or have identified themselves that are before that committee, and I’m sure getting serious consideration as this process unfolds.”

Some of the potential women candidates are Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond the first aboriginal woman to serve on the Saskatchewan provincial court bench. Another strong contender is Jean Teillet the past vice-president and treasurer of the Indigenous Bar Association, founding president of the Metis Nation Lawyers Association and she is the great grand niece of Louis Riel. A male counterpart is Senator Murray Sinclair who was a former judge in Manitoba, as well as the chair of the Truth Reconciliation Commission, also high on the list.

The Prime Minister responding to the demand for more diversity on the bench said, “It’s not something we can suddenly do overnight, there is an awful lot of work to do in the lower courts to be able to get the diversity up, to be able to get more women to the bench. What we’re going to do with this new Supreme Court process is chose the absolute best possible Supreme Court Justice to serve Canadians, and keep in mind that we want to make sure that we are representing as many Canadians with that court as we possible can.”

Aboriginal people don’t always view courts as the podium for justice. Too many aboriginal people are in jail at this very moment. The Supreme court deals with land claims and larger issues and the Indigenous people have not always had justice on their side. In the words of the Prime Minister, “If you have this panel of nine white judges staring at you, and you are having all of your fights adjudicated by those persons, how legitimate is that institution in your eyes? The country has evolved people are looking for those perspectives.”

Four Aboriginal Women discuss topics on local TV talk show

Currently taping their fourth season, The Four on Access 7 Regina is a one-hour talk show featuring four native women discussing issues from residential schools, hot topics, online dating, and ‘yes’ even orgasms.

The Four originated from Bevann Fox, who’s been the regular host for all four seasons.
“I had an idea to create a show with all Aboriginal women discussing native topics,” Fox said. “I turn on the television, and I usually see negative Aboriginal stories, so I thought, we have successful Aboriginal business men and women, there are First Nations that are doing tremendous work, and I wanted to discuss these issues, and topics that are not normally discussed with other First Nations women.”

So in 2012, Fox wrote up a proposal of her idea and mailed it to a number of networks both in Canada and the United States, all of which turned her down.
“They said they were not looking for a talk show or interested. I then dreaded having to tell the other women that my idea would probably not happen.”
Around this time a friend asked her, ‘why not try the local Access Communications 7 Channel in Regina?’

“So I sent my proposal to Access Communications, and almost immediately Wade Peterson, the Community Programming Manager, phoned me and said he was interested! – of course I was super excited and we’ve been on air since 2013, now taping our fourth season and I’m excited about the whole process within the TV industry.”
First Nations Drum spoke with Wade Peterson on the ratings of The Four on Access 7 Regina.

Co-hosts of “The Four”: (clockwise from seated) Bevann Fox, Dr. Shauneen Pete, Robyn Morin and Shannon Fayant.

Co-hosts of “The Four”: (clockwise from seated) Bevann Fox, Dr. Shauneen Pete, Robyn Morin and Shannon Fayant.

“The ratings have always been really good from the first season till this current season. We continue to have an amazing following,” said Peterson. “The uniqueness of the women and the interesting topics they wanted to discuss is what made my decision to proceed with making the show.”
Peterson added that the viewership feedback has been tremendous from social media and word of mouth as well as other media outlets.
Fox’s day job is a Child & Family Services worker with Yorkton Tribal Council, and her co-hosts are Wendy White Bear, a research coordinator with the University of Regina, Ashley Norton, prevention manager, and Pam Rock Thunder, an administration clerk.

Fox says she would like to tackle the tough issues like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Residential Schools, just to name a few.
First Nations Drum contacted APTN, one of the networks Fox approached with her idea, and asked them why the network rejected her proposal.

“APTN has annual requirements for programming based on its CRTC Conditions of Licence,” said Jean La Rose, APTN CEO. “Every year, series acquired or licensed by the networks are assessed on our programming needs. APTN welcomes program production proposals from independent Aboriginal Producers across Canada. The Requests for proposals that the network puts out a few times a year detail our requirements and sometimes very interesting proposals that do not reflect our needs are offered.”
The APTN CEO continued her reference to Access 7 airing The Four.

“The network is pleased to see other broadcasters offering a voice to Aboriginal Peoples in various regions of Canada. APTN has limited resources but the network is working to increase those resources to offer broader opportunities to our producers and expand the range and regional content offered by the network.”
Peterson says that he thinks The Four has potential for nation-wide broadcast.

“The sky is the limit for these amazing women, they have great conversions and stories which makes for great television.”
Interested in catching a show? You can tune in to The Four on Access 7 in Regina at 7pm every Tuesday.

TRAGICALLY HIP Advocate For First Nations in Final Show

By Lee Waters

In what may have been the Tragically Hip’s final performance on Saturday in Kingston, Ontario, Gord Downie spoke passionately of struggles in Canadian native communities, specifically Attawapiskat.

Downie, who revealed earlier this year that he has terminal brain cancer, used the podium in an emotional and televised concert to bring awareness to First Nations youth as well as endorse Prime Minister Trudeau, who was in the audience. “You know, Prime Minister Trudeau’s got me; his work with First Nations. He’s got everybody. He’s going to take us where we need to go.” He told the crowd and estimated 11 million watching. “He cares about the people way up north, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore — trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there.” Downie continued, specifically pointing out the recent issues in Attawapiskat, with an air of encouragement, “It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there, but it isn’t cool and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out, you’re going to figure it out.”


The Tragically Hip gave their final performance on August 20th in Kingston, Ontario, using the opportunity to advocate for Northern Indigenous Communities. Photo © Mike Homer

The Tragically Hip gave their final performance on August 20th in Kingston, Ontario, using the opportunity to advocate for Northern Indigenous Communities. Photo © Mike Homer

That statement struck a chord with First Nation Chief Bruce Shisheesh, who said it’s clear based on the Hip’s song “Goodnight Attawapiskat” that “Gord has always had a special place in his heart” for the community, he told CBC.

“It’s a beautiful song,” Shisheesh said. He thanked Downie for the tribute and his words on stage in a video posted online Monday. “Our young people have suffered so much, a lot of them tried to commit suicide,” Shisheesh told CBC, referring to the several states of emergency that have been issued in Attawapiskat related to overcrowding and poor housing, as well as a suicide crisis that overtook the Ontario community in April.

Shisheesh suggested having a formal ceremony in Ottawa, holding a powwow, making Downie an honorary chief or hosting a healing ceremony would all be great gestures of gratitude. He says his dream would be to have Downie visit Attawapiskat and honour him right there in the community, he told CBC, “Downie’s presence would also help boost morale on the First Nation — especially with younger people.”

“We could do this in Attawapiskat because he wrote this song for our community. It is fitting for us, our wishes to organize the honorary ceremony,” Shisheesh said, adding he plans to reach out to other northern First Nation chiefs in Ontario and Manitoba in the coming days to see what they think of the idea.

Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents most of northern Manitoba’s First Nations was also moved by Downie’s message. She suggested naming a lake or a park after the musician but wanted to be respectful and wait to hear his wishes.  In a video posted on Facebook, North Wilson sent a message to Downie, first in Cree and then translated in English:

“I want to thank you for your love and care and concern for us. We love you, too. God bless you.

Downie and the Tragically Hip are known for their activism. Downie has served on the board of environmental group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. He’s also performed concerts near James Bay to raise awareness of the many issues facing those First Nations communities.

Watched by fans in living rooms, bars, and public squares across the nation, the concert was one to remember. The band’s hits have provided a soundtrack to many Canadians’ lives through the last three decades. In a brief interview with the CBC, Trudeau reminisced about how he used to ‘enjoy the band’s music during his high school and university years,’ a heartfelt sentiment shared by many.

Catalyzing Clean Energy

By Ian Scholten & Isaac Prazmowski

On July 10, 2016, sixteen Indigenous people who had never met before, joined each other in Wakefield, Quebec for the inaugural week of the 20/20 Catalysts Program. They came from far and wide. From Tobique First Nation in the east to Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in west. Iqaluit in the north to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in the south. The group included people like Eileen Marlowe, a Communications Advisor for the Government of Northwest Territories, David Jeremiah, an Energy Manager for North Caribou Lake First Nation, and Dylan Whiteduck, an Economic Development Officer for Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg. Though they came from different parts of the country, held different roles, and had different experiences, they shared a vision of using clean energy to benefit their communities.

And they’d come to the 20/20 Catalysts Program to learn how to do this in the most effective way possible.

Developed by Lumos Clean Energy Advisors and the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, the Program promotes clean energy across Canada by giving participants the tools, know-how, and network they need to achieve their clean energy vision. It’s the most thorough Indigenous clean energy capacity building program in Canada.

Learning in the Program is led by over two dozen Indigenous and non-Indigenous mentors and experts with a proven track record of developing successful clean energy projects.

Program Mentors like Troy Jerome (pictured above) shed light on how to make the most of the clean energy projects - not just in terms of jobs and revenue, but to build strong nations.

Program Mentors like Troy Jerome (pictured above) shed light on how to make the most of the clean energy projects – not just in terms of jobs and revenue, but to build strong nations.

These mentors include people like Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, who spurred the development of an over $300-million-dollar wind farm which has 50% ownership by the three local Mi’gmaq communities. Troy emphasized the fact that “the wind farm wasn’t a wind farm project; it was a nation building project” for the First Nations involved. It’s a mantra that truly reflects the potential of clean energy projects for Indigenous communities.

The week in Wakefield was the first of three weeks of intensive learning that the Catalysts (program participants) will go through. Throughout these weeks they’ll cover five key skill areas that are needed maximize the social and economic benefits communities see through clean energy projects: community engagement, economic development, job creation, project financing, and legacy building.

Though they’re only a third of the way through the Program, the vision and impact of this year’s group of Catalysts is already astounding.
David Jeremiah of North Caribou Lake First Nation, is “proud to be part of this historic moment for Indigenous communities” – referring to the tipping point for Indigenous leadership in clean energy development in Canada. North Caribou Lake is a diesel dependent community and is currently on grid-restriction, which means they have no room for growth because their generators are not able to produce the required additional power. Yet David sees an opportunity here. He is turning to clean energy and energy efficient designs in order to construct much needed housing that is entirely self-sufficient – not reliant on diesel at all.

Others, like Grant Sullivan, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Council International, and JP Pinard, who is working with Kluane First Nation, are collaborating in an effort to accelerate the opportunities to develop renewable energy development across the northern territories where many communities still rely on diesel powered generators.
Still others, like Tanna Pirie-Wilson, CEO of Tobique First Nation, see the tremendous potential for clean energy to facilitate reconciliation as Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses and communities come together to develop projects that yield greater returns than could be produced by any one group going it alone.

Catalysts spent a lot of time discussing new ideas and how they can apply them to their own projects.

Catalysts spent a lot of time discussing new ideas and how they can apply them to their own projects.

The network developed through the Program – linking Catalysts to mentors, experts, and supporting organizations like Bullfrog Power, NB Power, the Government of Ontario, and IBM – will connect previously disjointed Indigenous clean energy efforts and pave the way for unprecedented cooperation among Canadians.

And that is ultimately what this is all about: creating a system to expand Indigenous clean energy capacity and develop renewable energy projects.

Currently there are over 100 clean energy projects with Indigenous involvement in Canada. The participants in the Program are part of a group catalyzing another 200 large scale projects in the coming years, generating immense benefits for communities across the country.

If any of this gets you excited, learn more about the Program at: Applications are now open for the 2017 Program.


By Frank Larue

On August 3, the Federal government announced the Chief Commissioner of a five-member task force who will be responsible for the inquiry on missing and murdered women. B.C. First Nations judge Marion Bulller has been nominated. Buller was the first female aboriginal judge in British Columbia and was appointed in 1994. She founded B.C.’s First Nations Court and was commission counsel for the Cariboo-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry that examined the treatment Aboriginal people were receiving from the legal system. The Law Foundation of B.C. chair Warren Milman described Marion Buller as “An extraordinary human being. We were very glad to have her and disappointed that we’re going to lose her, but it’s for a good cause.”

Judge Marion Buller speaks after being announced as the chief commissioner of the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Judge Marion Buller speaks after being announced as the chief commissioner of the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The commissioners who will be joining Buller are Michele Audette former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Qajaq Robinson, Nunavut lawyer specialising in Aboriginal issues and land and treaty claims, Marlyn Poitras from the University of Saskatchewan, and Brian Eyolfson former vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. They have their work cut for them. The inquiry that was stalled by the Harper government for years and now is scheduled to begin in September comes with high expectations. Buller knows the problems that lay ahead but she has stated that, “The spirit of the missing and Indigenous women and girls will be close in our hearts and in our minds as we do our work.” Buller told the media, “The families and the survivors losses, pain, strength and courage will inspire our works.”

A budget of $53.8 million has been set aside to finance the inquiry and it will run from September 1st to Dec 31, 2018. Their mission is to find the root causes behind the violence against Indigenous women and girls and what role the legal system plays, including the police, when it comes to Indigenous women. “We need to identify the causes of these disparities and take action now to end them,” Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told the CBC, “The government of Canada is committed to doing better and we will take action together to reach the goal of eliminating, as much as we can, violence against Indigenous women and girls.”

Gladys Tollley’s mother was killed by a Quebec Provincial police cruiser while she was crossing a highway. She told the CBC, “I hope we get justice. Pray, pray and pray for us. We want justice, it hurts too much. I don’t want to do this any more, it hurts. I’m just hoping and praying that this helps some families if not mine, that’s all.”

Will she get justice? If history has demonstrated anything the answer will be no. The Saskatchewan police who left native men in desolated areas in Saskatoon so they could freeze were never punished thanks to the internal investigation, which, like all police investigations, never holds any of their officers accountable for acts of racism against native people.

Everyone may be thankful for the inquiry but there are many skeptics, “Families made it very clear that they wanted answers,” Native Women’s Association of Canada president Dawn Lavell-Harvard told the media, “that many cases they felt were closed prematurely, that they don’t accept the conclusion. They want those reopened.” The commissioners may suggest cold cases be re-opened but a request will likely be turned down by police who will demand a budget for re-opening cases. This would mean the government would have to come up with the cash, which will take time and therefore the cases may remain cold.

The cost of the inquiry which is now at 53.8 million, seems high. “If we are spending $50+ million, that could have been going towards shelters and programs and services,” Cathy Macleod, conservative party critic for Indigenous Affairs told the CBC, “So it’s got to provide a real tangible path forward.” Charlie Angus NDP critic for Indigenous Affairs is afraid the inquiry might raise false expectations, “I hope the pressure will be on to put the resources in now to keep other young women from being trafficked or victimized or murdered.”

The main concern is will the inquiry change anything or will their findings simply confirm the Truth and Reconciliation findings. The RCMP receiver $7 million dollar budget for several years to solve the Highway of Tears murders and came up with nothing. Twenty-seven women have disappeared yet the task forces were not able to solve anything of value. The native bands who live near the Highway of Tears demands for a shuttle bus service so native women would no longer have hitchhike, were never taken seriously and the millions spent on the RCMP served no purpose. We don’t need to know that racism is part of the problem, the legal system failures need to be examined and why native women in the sex trade work on street corners. This will solve nothing, we need action and the inquiry is supposed to be the stepping-stone to action from the government.

In a recent meeting of police chiefs in Winnipeg, the question of missing women came up and the RCMP admitted that they had racists in uniform. If native women are five times more likely to deal with violence than white women, police should be more sensitive to the problem. “We cannot ignore the fact that many family members and survivors of violence do not feel like they were treated respectfully or fairly by the justice system,” NWAC president Dawn Lavell-Harvard told the CBC.