Why I got into politics…

Today a press release was distributed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). You can read that full press release HERE.

It is very frustrating to be reading all these press releases after getting involved with politics for the first time in 2010. In 2010, I had the opportunity to meet Chad Cowie, who was the former Youth Rep for the APC and is now the co-chair for the same commission. You can check out more about the APC HERE. He was very enthusiastic about the Liberal Party of Canada and this enthusiasm made me want to get involved with the party. I have since met a wonderful group of individuals who are working very hard to bring about political change at regional, provincial, and federal levels.

When Harper announced his cuts, I clenched my fists and tried to black out this image of him in the Toronto Star:

In 2011, I voted for the first time (yes, that’s right: I voted for the first time). I was kind of bummed with the results, but very proud to say that I voted! I was even more bummed when I learned that my riding might have been affected by the robocalls. That was quite confusing. Then again, I never answer my apartment landline.

Since Harper has been in majority, a lot changes have happened. Much of these changes directly affect First Nations/Metis/Inuit people in Canada. Just to name a few changes here:

These are just a few changes, but there is so much more!

So why did I get involved in politics? What is the whole point of voting especially after the robocall scandal or after these announcements? I get asked similar questions a lot. Some Indigenous people even say that they don’t believe anything the government says or promises, and they have good reasons not too (umm helloooo residential schools, treaties, etc.)! Some even say to that I shouldn’t waste my time. I do sometimes feel like giving up, but I don’t.

I don’t give up because I believe that change can AND will happen. Some of the work that the APC is doing for Aboriginal people in politics and with the Liberal Party of Canada is GREAT! There is so much going on behind the scenes at all times. It is very fulfilling to say that there are good people both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal involved in politics at a federal level that want good things for Canada’s Indigenous populations. When we give up, either as an individual, group, or nation, then we will have given up on future generations. We can all choose the ways in which we want to get involved.

I don’t give up because I want a better future for the next generation. If I give up, then I will have given up on the future! This is why I joined the political world and got involved with the APC. I am not saying that you should join the Liberal Party of Canada, (although I am not saying that you should NOT join the LPC *lol*). From my personal experience, I believe that any sort of involvement at any level of government or an understanding of how the Canadian government works and operates is helpful in understanding the bigger picture. Being involved has helped me to become more aware about how things happen.

However, if you feel that being involved in politics is not going help, that is completely fine too! We all have our own interests. I cannot say that THIS is the only way to get involved and to make change happen but it is one way, and it is a very fulfilling experience. If you want to form a group to raise awareness about a certain issue that is near and dear to your heart, then do it! Just don’t give up. People may question your interests or question your ability/desire to make change happen. Remember that change takes time!

Check out the APC online:

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!

Treaty Rights

A friend on my FB today shared a link relating to a personal diary of a government official, where he recorded personal accounts of treaty negotiations. Click here to read the article.

This article is the essence of what I have been trying to say to people around me relating to First Nations and the Canadian Government and their use of the term “fiduciary.” The part in the article that sticks out to me is, “ The government thinks it has the final say. These treaty diaries suggest otherwise.”

Sometimes when I read an article about the lack of government consultation with First Nations and their resources, sometimes I see the word “fiduciary.” This word is used in a sense that the government has a fiduciary relationship with the First Nations. First Nations leaders sometimes say: “But the government and the First Nations have a fiduciary relationship!”

A fiduciary relationship is one where it involves trust, one with a beneficiary and one with a trustee when looked up in a regular dictionary. However, last year, I did some further research into the term fiduciary and what outlines the power one has over another.

What I found: as a fiduciary, one can make decisions that they see best fit for the non-fiduciary. This meaning (in simplest way possible): if the government thinks it knows what is best for the First Nations, they can and will make that decision without their consent because they have the “power” based on that they think they know what is best and it is in the best interest for the fiduciary (because as a fiduciary they have a legal responsibility over the non-fiduciary). Simply put, and the way I see it, is that the government, as a fiduciary, will make decisions without First Nations’ consent. They will make these decisions because it is the government’s knowledge that they know what is best because they have an “interest” in First Nations. This interest is only for the benefit of the government and the rest of Canada (which sometimes fails to include the interest of First Nations).

This what I think that makes using this term quite difficult for First Nations.

Here are some questions I think of when I see this term and read about Canadian Government/First Nations dealings. Based on the basic dictionary definition: Who, in the relationship between government and First Nations, is the beneficiary and who is the trustee? Do we really trust one another? Also, if one is allowed to make a final decision without input from another because they feel that they are the ones that know what is best: how does one determine who knows what is best for one or the other? The case that this term was defined in will most likely continued to be referenced if and when Canadian Government/First Nations dealings land in court. Meaning, First Nations need to stop using this word in their defence. Hopefully, the discovery of this personal diary will be able to help assist First Nations in situations where Governments fail to consult or receive consent.

Nevertheless, terms like these that are used in the dealings with the Canadian Government and First Nations need to be changed, if First Nations really want to move forward. When First Nation leaders keep using this term and making reference to this term in their own defence, and having legal cases defining what a fiduciary really is, severely limits the First Nations rights and the items they agreed to during creation and signing of treaties.