Aboriginals

Jail Conditions

I have been reading some news articles about the jail conditions during the G20 summit in June 2010.

I know that the issue with the G20 police efforts is/was that it is/was too much. More recently, TO Police Chief Bill Blair said that the police were “overwhelmed” and “not properly trained.” To read the TO Star news article, click HERE.

I also know that some of the people complained that they were arrested because they were just “there.” Wrong place. Wrong time. When I first watched it on television, I could see some peaceful protests going on and remember saying to my friends, “I wish I was there.” Not to be there but to support my friends who I knew were there that were peaceful protesters. I don’t wish that anymore.

Among those people that were arrested, they said that the jail conditions were horrible. Jail isn’t supposed to be a 4-star hotel stay. Or even a 1-star hotel stay.

From the various articles that I have read, I can remember reading that girls had to go to the bathroom in front of male officers. Male/females stripped searched. Physically abused. No food. No water. For hours at a time. No lawyer. No phone call.

Sorry, but it’s jail. Jail cells don’t have a separate room for a bathroom with a door. Jail cells don’t have down filled duvets waiting for you to be wrapped in. Oh and if you are just being held for a certain period of time (usually less than 12 hours), food doesn’t have to be provided for. Just a light snack. A glass of water. Isn’t it that a person can survive 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food… Just a rule of thumb.

Judging how the police reacted during the G20. That’s all they reacted on. A rule of thumb.

But this post isn’t about jail conditions during G20. Where some people were held for a little as a few hours. To maybe a few days.

This post is about the fact that incarcerated Aboriginals face more dire jail conditions than what those people would have experienced. At alarming rates.

I found this article, again searching for something completely unrelated to G20, titled Jail Conditions For Canadian Aboriginals a “Disgrace”: Ombudsman. I like how at the end of the article it says,

“If this was the case for non-aboriginal people, I’m almost certain that Canadians would react and demand that something be done,” said Beverly Jacobs.

If the people who are fighting for their “Jail Rights” during the G20, then they should fight against the conditions that not just Aboriginal but also non-Aboriginal incarcerated people face every day in jail. Like, lack of bedding. Or no doors on their bathroom stalls.

Ps. My vent for the day. And, end scene 😉

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Importance of Education?!?!

Tonight, well…for the past few nights I have been thinking about what I should say or how I should say something to a group of people. The group of people are youth. The topic is the importance of education.

What is different about this group of youth is that they are Aboriginal youth. Well, you might think, “Yeah, well they are still youth. Youth are youth and they never really do anything unless they want to.” No, youth want to do things… like dream, have goals, and be happy.

For this group of youth, I don’t think I will have to motivate them because if they are at this gathering they already have the motivation to be THERE! And they have a desire to do different than what most expected from them–most being some Canadians and them being Aboriginals.

Yes, some Canadians hate Aboriginals. Racism still exist. Stereotypes still exist. Prejudice still exist. I grew up with it and I still witness it and am sometimes directly affected by someone’s racist actions and words.

Heck, even someone said I was “ignorant” for one of my posts titled “Stuff White People Like Do”. Ironically enough, it was a white person who was telling me this. Perhaps he missed the point of the overall post and only focused on one point rather than the whole message.

Anywho, I came across this opinion piece titled Why Aboriginal Education is Our Business in the Globe and Mail.

I like how this piece tells its readers that education “inspires young people.” My belief is that if a youth can dream, a youth can be inspired.

But how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when some of them don’t even have a school to attend. Just take a look at Shannen’s Dream.

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when as Urban Native Girl posted on her Facebook page,

‎”Only 8% of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 in Canada have a university degree compared to 23% of non-Aboriginals of the same age group.”

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth, the importance of education when Aboriginal history and culture is almost completely removed from curriculum/education plans. Aboriginal people–the first peoples of Canada.

I believe my greatest challenge next week will be to inspire an entire group of Aboriginal youth the importance of education but only because Aboriginal people including Aboriginal children do not enjoy this supposed basic Canadian right. In the year 2011.

And if I can’t inspire the entire group, I shall work towards inspiring at least one.

More to come on this journey!

Ignite London: Naomi Sayers

Naomi Sayers’ Ignite London. June 5, 2011.

Enjoy!

Special Thanks goes out to my friends Shawn Johnston, Lynzii Taibossigai, and Brigette Bossineau (sp?). Shawn for recording it. Lynzii and Brigette for letting me borrow their pictures 🙂

Check out Shawn Johnston’s Ignite London Talk!

Check out Amanda Aikens’ Ignite London Talk!

Video Credit to Shawn Johnston.

Immoral Discrimination

I read this article when it was first published, but did not have a chance to comment on it until now.

Please read the Toronto Star article titled Lack of Proper Schools For Natives is Immoral Discrimination Martin Says.

This article reminds me of an earlier post I had written three months ago after I read about relative depravation theory and was reminded of an incident at an old place of employment.

I wrote a short-short story titled “My Hometown.” You can read the original post HERE. I have also copied and pasted the piece I wrote below for easier reference…

After reading this article, I remember when I said to my mom something similar to what former PM Paul Martin had said, “Immoral discrimination.” I had said to my mom commenting on the situation of school/education relating to access/attainment for Aboriginals in Canada and I told her:

This is not a Canadian issue. This isn’t even an Aboriginal issue. This is a morality issue.

Don’t you just love those moments when someone more important or more distinguished says something similar to you! It makes you feel like you are on the right track, heading in the right direction. Writing this post and remembering what I said to my mom is one of those moments: on the right track, heading in the right direction. I just hope the rest of Canada gets on it too!

Here is the original short-short story titled “My Hometown.”

My hometown

You say, my hometown is just like your hometown… except that it is not.

My hometown is a reserve. It is a First Nation. I was lucky though. My hometown was on the edges of a tiny city. I was able to go to an elementary school and high school, off my reserve yet still close to my home.

My elementary school wasn’t a part of my hometown though. It was your hometown. It was in “town” and it was “off the reserve.” My teachers called my friends “bad,” but she didn’t call your friends anything…but good. My teachers called my friends “stupid,” but she called your friends “smart.”

My high school was the same as yours. It was in the same town, and off the reserve. Except now, my teachers were better than the last. The only difference was your friends called me “stupid” and a “slut,” and your friends made fun of my friends.

My hometown is a reserve. It is not like your hometown. I was lucky though. My hometown had clean running water, not like some of the other reserves my friends were from. My friends were flown in and out of their hometown, so they could earn their education. Your friends were flown down south for family vacation. My friends didn’t try to kill themselves….but I did. My hometown is not like yours. I live on a reserve. You live in a town, a city…My hometown is not like yours.

Six Nations Press Release

$1.2 billion in INAC Funding will be cut down to $750 million.

Above is a Six Nations press release dated March 2, 2011.

I like to highlight the point that Chief Montour makes at the end, and it is this:

I’ve always maintained that money appropriated by Parliament for the use and
benefit of Indians is Indian money because

our communities do contribute to the tax base of
Canada

.

I don’t know who is spreading rumours about Natives not paying taxes or that the money we receive is all “White man’s money.” This statement (Although as biased as the stereotypes of Natives not paying taxes), just supports that. I hope people start believing that Natives do not get everything for free.

Conversation: Aboriginals & Canada

I know I said I wouldn’t be writing any more posts until after my finals, but I just couldn’t stay away. I am writing this post out of frustration and anger over a conversation that I had with a non-Aboriginal man.

Non-Aboriginal man: The Aboriginals need to be integrated into society.
Me: So you mean Aboriginals need to be westernized.
Non Aboriginal man: Call it whatever you want to call it, but whatever it is they are doing… it isn’t working for them and hasn’t been working for them.
Me: You mean Canada hasn’t been working for Aboriginals.

I know, I know that Canada has done many great things for Aboriginals. Like in terms of health care, education, employment opportunities. What makes me wonder is why Aboriginals are then still lagging behind in all aspects? They have the highest suicide rates, highest teen pregnancy rates, highest unemployment rates. In fact, some of the reasons why these numbers appear higher than most Canadians think, is because of the contribution that Aboriginals make to these statistics. For instance, in lecture in my sociology class, the professor mentioned this scary stat/number:

2010: Infant mortality rate amongst Canadians 5.3 live births per 1000 versus 19 live births per 1000 amongst Aboriginals

She also added that the reason the number for entire Canada is 5.3 is partly because of the Infant mortality rate amongst Aboriginals in Canada.

Sorry people, but this is real and not made up. To say that all we need to do is “integrate” or become “westernized” or in other words “white” is the wrong thing to say. That has already been done (ie-residential schools, creation of reserves, etc), and it clearly did not work.

Whether Canada wants to admit it or not, or address the problem directly or not, Aboriginal people will not just disappear or go away, and even if they do.. those problems are still part of Canada. It’s part of Canada’s reality and it is also apart of Canada’s history.

Aboriginal people are not the problem, and they never have been the problem. I say this out of frustration and anger, but Canada… YOU are the problem.

Liberal Party

Last night was the London Ontario Liberal Party Rally. I had the opportunity to attend with a friend who is really a great person when it comes to engaging in other Aboriginal youth.

You can check him out on his twitter here: Chad Cowie!

Last night, Chad and I were randomly picked to sit on the stage right behind the party. It was quite exciting to say the least, and definitely most random. The highlight of the night was the moment I got to ask a question. I was hesitant at first because I wanted to see the range of questions to be asked, and if there was a theme to the questions (I didn’t want to be the one to stray off topic). After a few questions had been asked, I noticed that there really wasn’t theme to the questions asked. It was pretty much anything goes. That’s what I liked about this rally. Any thing did go. There were questions asked ranging from veterans, Canadian Armed Forces, rural families, farming families, health care, pharmacy, education, youth, the gap between the rich and the poor. My question: water potability issues on First Nations in Canada.

I am very thankful to say that I never had experienced no-drinking-water crisis on my First Nation (well, none that I can remember). However, I do have a lot of friends who either live in this state or have grown up in this state. No drinking water. It’s quite a puzzle to figure out especially if you have grown up in Canada or come from another country to live in Canada. I mean, isn’t Canada known for its fresh water and water resources? How can a specific group within Canada experience such issues and experience this at such alarming rates? You can check out water potability issues on First Nations at Project Blue.

Clearly this is an issue and I wanted to see how Liberal Party Leader Ignatieff is going to handle it if elected.

I asked him the following question:

You mentioned internet access for all Canadians earlier, seeing that more than hundred First Nations in Canada still have water potability issues, why not drinking water for everyone?**

**I cannot take full credit for the question as this question was sent to me through my twitter account.

Well, I can’t remember his reply verbatim but I can give you somewhat of a summary of what he said:

  1. He acknowledged that First Nations have these issues.
  2. He acknowledged that some First Nations homes don’t have drinking water, and others do not even have toilets.
  3. He replied to the question by saying that he spoke with a Chief in Winnipeg and he told the Chief this…
  4. Prepare a budget, tell me what you need, and I will find competitive bids; I will help fix the problem.

One might say, “Well, that’s not a very good answer.” Let me make a point here: it was a great answer. He acknowledged that he is willing to listen to what First Nations and their leaders need to help fix the issue. However, the above final point, was not a very good answer, but it was better than saying “There’s nothing I can do” or “I am not sure” or “I don’t know”. This is a complex issue and he gave the best answer that he could. He gave hope. I say this because, these issues run much deeper than that. So what, water issues have to be fixed. Then what? What about long-term health issues created by these water issues. Those have to be tended to as well.

Ignatieff also addressed there is a health crisis in Canada, especially when it comes to diabetes and especially when it comes to Aboriginals and diabetes. The fact that he addressed so many issues last night, even acknowledging the issues that Aboriginal people’s face, is great hope for Canada. Yet, the hope just does not stop there. As Aboriginal people living in Canada we have to become more involved. That just doesn’t mean involved in education, careers, communities… that also means becoming more involved in politics. I know that doesn’t sound as fun as it should, but it is.

Since I have been involved more (Thanks to my friend Chad), I have been more hopeful about change happening in Canada. But the change doesn’t just happen with one person. Change happens when we work together as a group. Currently, I have not seen/heard the other parties talk about or address Aboriginal issues in Canada. The Liberal Party has. Yes bills may have been introduced under the Conservative government, but how many “holes” have been in those bills, or how many pieces of legislation have forgotten about Aboriginal issues (Remember Truth in Sentencing Act?).

I am not trying to promote one party over the other, I am just trying to lay out the facts. What I am trying to say is Aboriginal people as a group have to come together and be more involved in all aspects of Canadian Culture if we want change to happen. If we want change, vote for the party and its platform that is most appealing to you. But you can’t just stop there. If you don’t see the party following through with its platform, or with its promises, you as a voter should follow up. So what if you are just one person, find another person.. and another person. Start the ball rolling on change. Change just doesn’t happen over night, but it is easier than you think.

To sum up what I said in this post in one word… VOTE!

My experiences at The University of Western Ontario

Note: Please keep in mind the nature of this blog…Experiences of an Aboriginal Female in Canadian Society. I write from my point of view, and I still realize that there are other groups that still face troubles. I do not make an effort to say that I have it worse off or that I deserve better treatment. I just write about my experiences.

First, my experiences at The University of Western Ontario have been great. I have been involved and wanting to be even more involved. I have met great people, both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal. I have met some great people who are/were on Social Science Students Council. I met some great friends in class. I also met some great people through volunteering at various events and with various committees around the school. These experiences and these people, along with the understanding and supportive professors, are what make my UWO experience enjoyable.

Second, below is an article that was sent to me by another student at UWO. This article made me sick to my stomach. This article reminded me of this one incident class. In this incident in class, we were talking about Human Rights and if we should be concerned about Human Rights or lack thereof in other countries, those outside of North America. This made my stomach turn because of what some of my peers were saying. I then raised my hand and I asked the class:

Why do we care about Human Rights issues/violations in other countries when we have Human Rights violations here in Canada? Like that of lack of clean water, or education not available to everyone.

I paid special attention to make sure this discussion in class did not go into the direction I was afraid it might go into: First Nations issues. I made sure that I never mentioned First Nations, Aboriginal, or Indians or any reference to this group. I did this because the issues that surround First Nations are complex. Nevertheless, the discussion went from Human Rights in Canada, to clean water, to First Nations. Someone responded to my question or concern with this statement:

….We should not be giving the Chiefs hand outs….

My stomach literally turned over in class. I wanted to respond but I knew if I were to respond, the “right” thing would not come out. I didn’t respond to that comment. What I did I wish I had said was this: That Chiefs of each First Nation don’t get the “money” directly. The money actually goes through layers of organizations before it ever reaches the citizens of Canada that actually need it: the members of First Nations (excluding Chief and councils).

I did not say that. I wish I did. Rather, I just say there in my seat, quiet, anxious, wanting to bolt. After class was let out, I cried. I didn’t know how to handle this. I was angry. If it weren’t for Indigenous Services and the people there that day, I don’t know what would have happened? A panic attack? I don’t know I can’t predict what would have or could have happened and I don’t think I want to now.

When I read this article that was forwarded to me, the same feelings went through me. These feelings existed because literally the same thing was being read, when it was said in class, but this was written AND published in the school newspaper. Here is the article:

UWO Gazette Article Dated November 2005UWO article. To see the direct link to this article click Here.

I know everyone has a right to their own opinion. I do not deny anyone’s opinion in any situation. However, it amazes me that some people who attend such a well-known university, can actually be thought of as “higher learners” when things like this are said. I know these statements are filled with ignorance, in other words lack of education. So what is the solution? I am not sure. I do know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests putting the REAL Canadian history in school curriculums.

I emphasize this: Not all Aboriginals choose to live and stay on reserve–if they do want to leave some of them don’t even have the resources to leave. Like I said before, the issues that surround First Nations people, are very complex.

But to read this article dated 2005, and to be in class in 2011, there seems to be no change in thought from two very different students. The only thing that alarms me is that, one opinion was actually published! That is what concerns me most.

It makes you wonder why and where people get the idea that Aboriginals get everything for free or that we have it better off, or that we can just get up and leave our reserves (reserves that were created in an effort to “get rid of the Native problem”).

Finally, here are some present statistics about the current state of Aboriginals in Canada:

  • 2010: Infant mortality rate amongst Canadians 5.3 live births per 1000 versus 19 live births per 1000 amongst Aboriginals
  • Number 1 cause of death of Aboriginals between ages 1 and 44: Suicide
  • Suicide rate amongst Aboriginal youth is 5 to 6 times higher
  • 98% of residential school survivors have a mental illness
  • Rates of suicide in Aboriginal communities where no protective factors (Control over land/Band controlled schools/Cultural facilities/Control over health care, fire, police) are present: 137.5 per 100,000 (where the national average is 14 per 100,000)

These statistics are not from the 1960s or the 1970s. These numbers are from 2009 onwards.

It makes you wonder why this group experiences these situations at a much higher rate when compared to the rest of a country, a country that is supposed to be credited with its level of equality, human rights, justice…. Well, it may not make you wonder but it makes me wonder. To read a different viewpoint on this issue of Aboriginals, check out my post titled, It’s Not All About You.

In the end, I hope that one day people can stop making ignorant statements against Aboriginals, and other marginalized groups as well. I plan to work towards this equality and educating non-Aboriginals about situations that Aboriginals still face today in present-day Canada.

One day.

You can read other posts I have written about Aboriginal youth, Suicide amongst Aboriginals, and another post concerning The Gazette by clicking on the tags below.

Indians vs Natives vs Aboriginals vs First Nations

Question on how to refer to "Aboriginals"A message I received on twitter.

I replied that it depends on what you are writing about and what you are referring to (To me it doesn’t matter, what does matter is the context ie-racially motivated use of the word “Indian” will be hurtful but if someone just misuses it…don’t cause an uproar over it). I know this explanation sounds kind of confusing but let me elaborate a bit more.

If you are writing about an organization that refers to Aboriginals as First Nations people, use the term First Nations peoples. If you are writing about Aboriginals and are referring to a bunch of organizations and each of your sources use different terms, pick the one that is most used out of the sources (say one source uses Aboriginal, one uses Indian, and four use First Nations… use First Nations).

However, sometimes the context in which these are used sometimes matters too. If someone is referring to Indians in a racially motivated context (ie-racism, stereotyping), then the use of the term Indian should be avoided when you are talking about this context/term/group of people. In a historical, social, and political context as well, avoid the use of the term Indian.

So, you should avoid using Indian at all (in my opinion). My preference is: doesn’t matter, just as long as you are not being hurtful or spiteful towards me. I refer to myself as Native, Three-Fires, Aboriginal…. but it doesn’t matter. Like I said in my profile attached to this blog,

Note to readers: I use the terms, Aboriginal, Native, First Nations, Indian, interchangeably. I am not bothered by either one. If you are bothered by any one of these words and you belong to this “ethnic group”, you are forewarned. This is just writings about my experiences as a young First Nations Female, and not meant to marginalize this group any further. Additionally, this is not a blog reflective of my personality or character, just my experiences as a young Aboriginal Female in Canadian Society.

Update: if you are going to write about a specific group of Aboriginals, like Ojibwe or Cree, refer to those groups as they wish to be referred to as (not sure or can’t ask around, use the terms they use in your sources).