Elections 41

Water Crisis in Manitoba

A friend on my facebook presents the link with the following statement:

Geez, why are the Natives always bitching and crying all the time??? Here’s a perfect example of why…oh yeah, in case you forgot it’s 2011…

He shared this link: Ottawa Gives Reserves 1,000 Slop Pails For Water Crisis.

The article’s title says it all. You don’t really have to read much of the article to realize what is going to be said. What is even more sad, you don’t even have to guess much on what the user provided comments are going to say.

Here is just a glimpse (The following comments were taken from one of the seven pages filled with comments):

  1. I thought they wanted to be one with the land … In this case, leaves make great toilet paper. If the Natives want better services, they have two choices – move to a city or fund their own infrastructure. It’s difficult to have your cake and eat it too…
  2. I thought the natives were self governing? Can’t they fend for themselves yet? It’s time for all native “mini nations” to step up and solve their own problems and take pride in doing so. Native Nations constantly looking at the Feds for money to bail them out of their difficulties, isn’t the answer. Self governing and solving their own problems internally is the answer.
  3. Obviously the people who work at the Native Affairs offices should be fired. This sort of incompetence would never be tolerated in the private sector. On the other hand, Natives have been treated too well for too long. They pay no taxes, they get free education and health care and handouts at every turn of the government money spigot. The time has come to make them stand on their own. If not now, they never will be able to. Yes, hundreds of years ago some of their ancestors may have made some bad real estate deals which today we interpret as being scammed or ripped off by the “white man”. Enough is enough. It’s time they are made to stand on their own two feet. Everyone else must.

It is comments like these that make me upset. What makes me more upset is the crises that many First Nations face: no running water. I wrote a previous post on the Pikangikum water crisis, you can read about that post HERE.

I wonder what the leaders running for current elections have to say about this?

Oh and like my friend said, in case you forgot: This is 2011.

Canada & State of Emergency

Warning: This post might anger some.

Here are other posts that I previously written about State of Emergencies occurring in Canada at various times and in various regions:

Thanks to a friend on facebook, I came across this link: Pikangikum Declares a State of Emergency. This is due to drinking water. Water is being flown in. Can you believe that! In Canada, water is being flown to people, and pending weather conditions.

To me this is outrageous. It is even more outrageous that this type of thing has gone on for years. It is even more outrageous that it is rarely addressed in major news sources like Globe and Mail. I did a basic search from the main site google search with the key words “State of Emergency” (Simple enough, right?) and up came more than a 100 searches. Here is a screen shot of the first page only.

State of Emergency

I just have to say I am not impressed. I will tell you why I am not impressed. This past winter a state of emergency was called in Southwestern ON. They needed to rescue Canadians from a winter snow storm. Yup, rescue Canadians from a winter snow storm. A snow storm these people decided to drive in, or that they accidentally were caught in. One man died in this snow storm because he decided to abandon his car and walk in the snow storm. I don’t mean no disrespect to anyone, but really…Who drives in a snow storm? And even worse, who walks in the middle of nowhere in the snowstorm? THIS is Canada people, expect snow storms and expect to stay home because of the snow. What we shouldn’t expect is for hundreds of individuals living in Canada to go without drinking water during cold months, and for days or even weeks on end.

THAT is outrageous.

Yes, I warned you that this post might anger you…and if it has angered you because I just wrote that, then you are experiencing the anger I feel and countless other First Nations people feel across Canada because they live in “State of Emergency” almost everyday, for weeks, sometimes weeks on end (I have never experienced living in a State of Emergency, but I have met other First Nations people who have and have had friends who did live in these states… it’s not something that Canada should be proud of)

This makes me wonder where Canada’s priorities are especially after attending a Liberal party rally in London ON, where I asked Michael Ignatieff, 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?**

**You can read the full post with that question and my experiences at the rally by clicking on the full quote.

This is an important time for First Nations people to not only speak up and vote, but to also fight for change because of the current political happenings and the elections. I hope that First Nations people can fight for change beyond just voting, and make their voices heard in whichever way possible.

This is why I started this blog, and I hope others can make their voices heard in a similarly positive way.

I encourage everyone and anyone who feels that they have a cause to be listened to and heard of to speak up.

Like I said in another post, titled Election 41 or #elxn41, if you think you are just one in one million–that is a good thing, because that is a lot of chances for someone to be thinking the same thing you are. Just speak up, or ask someone to speak up for you! Trust me, you are not alone and someone will listen…

Just look at what this one girl did: Shannen’s dream. This is an amazing story, yet so sad that the girl’s life ended early… It is great to see that her fight for her community lives on–it is sad that her community had experienced this (both the school and the loss of a strong, young Aboriginal female).

But always remember people, this post and its information shared here are happening TODAY and in Canada… this isn’t 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago.

This is today, and it needs to change!

Election 41 or #elxn41

I am writing this post after I seen something that someone re-tweeted on twitter. Yup, I am on twitter!.

The re-tweet went a little something like this:

Can anyone name something good/positive the government has ever done for Ab people in return for their home and Native land? Maybe I’m being unfair, but all I can think of is smallpox, residential schools, 60s scoop, housing crisis, disenfranchisement, genocide..

I must first say that some people are going to think I am a bit of a hypocrite when I write this post.

When other First Nations people say things like this, it makes me upset. I am not upset at the government, but rather upset at the people that say things like this. Yes, I know that not every Canadian knows about the “True Canadian History.” I say “True Canadian History” because not everyone knows about the Indian Act and its history, or why it was created, and the other institutions that were created to try to get rid of the “Indian in the Child.”

Yes, some of the problems (well majority of the problems) today can be traced back to these historical happenings. Am I a hypocrite for writing about intergenerational problems in previous posts? Unfortunately, that is just it, these are HISTORICAL Happenings.

It is great that we can acknowledge and know our own history, but what isn’t great is how some young First Nations people bring that up in almost every argument. If I can offer one piece of criticism: Stop. That argument has been over played and over used. Instead of bringing arguments like that of above up in your defense… Argue about what needs to be done TODAY! For instance, one can argue that “True Canadian History” needs to be apart of educational lessons so that others gain a better understanding of the problems that happen today (This sounds counter-intuitive to letting go of the past, yes it does. Someone once told me that it is not my duty to educate the rest of the world about what has happened, but it is my right to fight for change and fight for the future–that’s what I mean by suggesting this argument). One can also argue that First Nations need access to a basic human right: Clean, accessible, drinking water… and maybe even indoor plumbing. One can also argue that we need to hold our own leaders accountable for the decisions that they make for their own community.

These are just some items that can be fought for today. I am sure that there are much more to be fought for and they vary from each First Nation community.

Like I said earlier, I might be considered a hypocrite writing this. This will be my first time voting, and I am 24 years old. Since I was able to vote, I missed out on two elections (that I can remember). I missed out on one because I didn’t know that I had to register, and provide proof of address (I was not living at home, and I went to a the closest polling station near me… was told to back to my First Nation to vote because that’s where my identification address was). I missed out on another one because my address was NFA (yup, no fixed address–not the best way to live). I am pretty sure I may have missed another election because I didn’t care.

Now that I am back in school, and more aware of current situations (other than my own situation), I am excited about voting for the first time more than ever. I owe this especially to my friend Chad Cowie. I want to see change and I want to help others fight for that change (others being First Nations). I keep hearing about in this election, “Nobody is talking about First Nation issues…” or “Leaders need to address First Nations issues…”. Let me tell you, some leaders have been talking about or addressing First Nations issues–some more than others and some only addressing these issues at more convenient times (**Ahem** Example: the English debate… won’t mention any names..).

If you are 18 and voting and First Nations, voting is not the only option you have. If you want to see change you have to fight for change because there are certainly a lot more people out there that believe their own issues (which are not First Nations issues) are more important than First Nations people and their issues. In fact, a lot of people in this country probably believe that they know what is right and that their issues deserve more attention than First Nations issues. That’s reality and that’s the truth when it comes to fight for any right or issues, not just First Nations.

You have to fight for change. Write letters, form a group, create a website… Do anything to bring attention to your cause. You will probably think to yourself, “Well I am just one person out of like a million others…” I bet you are only one person in a million, but that’s a lot of chances for more than one person to have the probability to be thinking the same thing as you. I bet there are one in one hundred chances that someone is thinking the same thing as you are. I bet they are closer than you imagine. You can’t just say, “Great, I am going to vote, but then what.” What do you mean then what? Make sure you follow up, read the news, and like I said before: write letters, form groups…etc etc!

But please…don’t argue what the above individual did. Argue for what needs to be done TODAY and for the FUTURE!

If you really feel like you need to make noise like that above argument, there are ways that fighting for what needs to be done today and ways that you can squeeze in the above argument, but I will say something rather honest: Some Canadians are somewhat tired of hearing that argument, like that of above. Make your argument relevant to today. How does the past affect YOU? How did the past affect YOU? And most importantly, what are YOU going to do to help bring about change TODAY and into the FUTURE!

Ps, Don’t forget to vote 😉

Open letter… My response

I am writing this post after reading An Open Letter to ALL federal candidates.

This is something I said before:

Don’t talk about us, talk TO us…

One might argue, “Well how do we talk to the youth in Canada?” Well, Canada you’ve created schools. Go to the schools.

One might then say, “Well, youth don’t care…” Yes we care. In fact, we probably care more than you think. We just think YOU don’t care.

One might then ask, as such a question was raised in this open letter, “How do we get youth engaged and interested in politics?”

This last question is a lot more difficult to answer, but I am going to say that youth just need to be encouraged. They need the space and they need the time. Getting youth engaged doesn’t just happen over night. We need to be given the freedom to do what we want, both creatively and intellectually (school doesn’t allow that much of the time). We need to be given the time to do this. School eats up most of our time, so perhaps the answer lies within the schools (Since the majority of young people in Canada can be find in schools for much of their life).

There is a common theme that lies in this answer and it is School.

Perhaps this is a systemic issue (Schools don’t allow youth to be creatively and intellectually challenged; provide for only certain or limited subjects and its content to be taught; eat up majority of a young person’s time and space)

I am not saying school should be abandoned or abolished, but perhaps something needs to change within the schools.

The problem isn’t that youth don’t care. Perhaps the problem is that school doesn’t allow the freedom for youth to show that we care.

So then how do we get youth to be interested and engaged politically? Well, Canada you created them: The Schools.

In the end, I wonder if any of the political candidates have made visits to any of the schools in Canada?

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!