Poverty

London Free Press and First Nations Youth

This post is in response to an article titled Siblings Jailed After Fatal Stabbing..

When I first read this article, I was thinking to myself, “Why would a news source announce that these youth were First Nations?” Then I read the readers’ comments, and it made more sense to me now.

A bit of background information (This information is available through the LF press news articles): This occurred last year in August. Both offenders are First Nations. One is a 22 year old mother of three, the other is 18 years old. Both pretty young. One received 2 years (the mother) and the other sentenced to 17 months.

In the Criminal Code of Canada, Section 718.2(e) states the following:


718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The interpretation of this section was conducted during an Appeal to the decision made in R. v. Gladue. That decision can be read HERE.

It must be highlighted that this section of the Criminal Code of Canada does not give special consideration to Aboriginal peoples but in reality acknowledges the fact that many of them occupy prison systems. Harper’s Truth in Sentencing Act was seen as a step back because it failed to acknowledge this state of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This Act removed the 2-4-1 sentencing, where time already served would not be acknowledged in final sentencing. Further exacerbating the rate at which Aboriginals populate prison systems.

Now, I won’t comment on the sentencing and the length that they received but it must be highlighted some of the factors that court’s consider when sentencing.

Some of these include:

  • First Time Offender?
  • Present Situation: education, family, employment
  • Social background: family life, childhood, etc.

In the case of these two individuals, they were both young, one was obviously drinking underage, and one already had three children before reaching the age of 25. This is what life is like in Canada for most Aboriginals. There is alcohol abuse, young parenthood, violent environments (Wasn’t one already carrying a knife…who carries a knife around if they are in a “safe” environment).

I am not promoting bad behaviour or violent behaviour among Aboriginal youth in any way. I am just attempting to address the comments some of the readers had in the article which can be read HERE.

They ask why was the term First Nations used? Why did that have to be mentioned? And one even states that using this term contributes to stereotypes in society. I thought the same thing.

But then I read a comment that said:

Look at the bright side, if you’re a white male, you’ll get at least 15 years for the same crime.

Hmmm, but race is not the case here. What is the case is that Aboriginals are over-represented in the Criminal Court system, including prisons. You say that still is dealing with race. No, it is dealing with the social situation that Aboriginals presently face. The decision in the appeal in R. v. Gladue highlights this.

Within this decision, it states:

  1. This section does not mean that judges should pay more attention to Aboriginal offenders, but attention to their unique characteristics.
  2. That Aboriginals are over-represented in prison systems.
  3. “The unbalanced ratio of imprisonment for aboriginal offenders flows from a number of sources, including poverty, substance abuse, lack of education, and the lack of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. quoted @ para. 65.
  4. “It arises also from bias against Aboriginal people and from an unfortunate institutional approach that is more inclined to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for Aboriginal offenders.” quoted @ para. 65.
  5. Aboriginal people who suffer from systemic and direct discrimination are then both offenders to society and fall victim to society.

With the above, I tried my best to grasp the most important points, although this case is significantly important in every which way as it pertains to Aboriginals who enter the criminal court system. I guess by mentioning that the two offenders were First Nations, the news source may have been acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal people still face great disparities when it comes to society.

Relating to this LFpress article, this situation is nothing new to Aboriginal people in Canadian Society–violence amongst its young or its young going to jail, leaving behind futures and children. The thing that I am most annoyed with in this article is the fact that the comments just focus on “First Nations” and fails to acknowledge that some Aboriginal people face huge disparities in comparison to other groups within Canada. Not one comment, showed concern for the 3 children left behind or showed concern for young person who chose to throw their life away.

In the end, some people might respond to this post and say, “Well, who cares? That is their fault.” No, this isn’t their fault. Some Aboriginal people lag behind in education, employment, and some even live in poverty… despite having social supports. These are the inter-generational effects of colonialism, displacement of culture, loss of identity, and most importantly the effects of the Residential School system.

I hope more people begin to understand that Aboriginal people do not have it the best in Canada, and that we don’t get everything “for free.”

Read my post titled I get everything for free! and also my post titled Tax Exemption.

I hope this post changes one individual after reading it. Not everyone. I am content with one đŸ™‚

Poverty in London Ontario

Today was a strange day for me. Today, I met a man who asked me for change. I said, “I don’t have any change.” He then left the area I was waiting at for the next city bus to come by, and within ten minutes he was back. When he asked me for change, he stated as we walked past each other that he needed it to buy a coffee. When I saw him come back, he didn’t have a coffee in his hand. He was eating candy though. He got up and stood next to me and laughed. I looked at him and smiled. He said, “I only take these things because they have candy in them.” He pulled out a bag filled with unopened needles and sterilization packages. I knew what that was for.

I am aware of the level of drug use that goes in London ON. What I am also aware of is the level of drug use that goes in the specific area of Dundas all the way from Adelaide down to Richmond (and both a few hundred meters passed both streets running north and south of Dundas). A question could then be raised of “How are you aware of the level of drug use that goes on in Downtown London?” Well, the answer is simple put, “I am aware.”

I am aware of what goes on around me. I am aware the people that walk in front of me, beside me, and even behind me. This man today, I didn’t give him any change. Not because I didn’t want to, it was because I couldn’t. I didn’t have any change on me.

Downtown London ON is not the best city-downtown core. I lived in downtown Toronto, seen downtown Vancouver, spent a few days within minutes of downtown Halifax–all very beautiful downtown cores and each with their own downfalls/pitfalls (homelessness/drug use/prostitution), like that of London ON.

What makes me so confused about London ON is that people are unaware of what actually goes on in the downtown core. I have seen drug deals happen right in front of me: money handed out, a baggie exchanged and the two who met up are gone within split seconds. I seen prostitutes walk up and down one block, waiting for that John Doe (heck, I was even walking one day and asked if I wanted “a ride” and then followed for the four blocks I needed to walk to get to my next bus stop). I have seen prostitutes be let off, John Doe drive away, and different John Doe come and pick up the same prostitute. This is what goes in London ON core.

Or maybe people are aware of the situation, they just choose to ignore it.

Some people avoid this area at all costs. There have even been talks about diverting public transit so not to “congest” the downtown. Trust me, it’s already congested. What these people are doing when they divert their attention away is not helping at all. One might say, “Well, people choose to be homeless.” Or, another might say, “I would rather much have my tax money go to something more productive like a better playground than another drug-rehab-clinic.” By being not aware of what goes on in Downtown London and by diverting your attention or even public transit away from this area, it is not helping at all.

The people that situate themselves in this area on a daily basis are part of a community. The people of this community thrive on each other. They support each other. They help each other. They even sometimes steal from each other, as I over heard another woman say to her friend. This community….is thriving within the London ON community and when we divert our attention away from this community, we are not helping them at all. We are just putting a veil over our eyes and trying to avoid the people that live in this community.

This man I talked to, he shared with me that he was in jail from 19-24 years of age. He had 13 kids, 10 different baby mothers, and admitted to doing IV drugs, admitted to making $100 in Argyle Mall parking lot just panhandling, and even admitted to being able to speak, read, and write German. I told him, he could put that skill to some good use. He said he was fine living the life he was living. I know that not all people in the downtown core are “fine” living a panhandling lifestyle. He said though that he had “paid his dues.” He was homeless for five years. He now has a nice apartment and makes anywhere from $40 to $150 in a day just asking for change. I know this is not a reason to not give someone change or to exclude everyone who does ask for change based on this story. What I do know is that, I agree with what he said after all this. He said, “I am close to forty years old, and when you reach forty, it’s all about survival.” What this man was doing day to day is all about survival. Social assistance isn’t enough to survive and live off of for one grown person. There isn’t enough food at food banks to feed everyone who needs food in the city. There aren’t enough volunteers for a social service agency to supply the community they are in the resources that people need.

This is where people in London ON go wrong. They divert their attention away from the downtown core, where this area I mentioned above is. They divert public transit away. They put a veil over their eyes. They just don’t realize that the people who are in poverty will continue to survive the way they are surviving because they all support and need each other, whether it is for another “fix” or a couch or floor to crash on. People in London ON who are fortunate enough not to live in poverty don’t know that, by not paying attention, they are only helping the poverty exist even more.

I hope one day that the downtown core of London ON will not be outcasted or the people who are situated downtown on a daily basis are no longer shunned. That is my only hope for London ON. One day.

Outcomes

I know it may be too soon to actually comment on this case (because I feel without a doubt the “hypersensitive,” a word used by G&M, will probably try to fight to overturn); now even I know that is something blatant to say about something so freshly decided. HERE is the link relating to G&M article.

Yes, these problems may have been going on for a long time for First Nations but I feel the bigger problem is we as First Nations pick fights without “thinking ahead.” Yes, we need to stand up for what is rightfully ours and rightfully of every Canadian citizen: heat, home, and clean water. But, as First Nations, we need to look at the bigger picture in its entirety and how it will impact the future nations. Only then will we might be able to take steps forward! Not only that, if First Nations continue to exhaust fights against any legal, political, social system, and are not fully aware of the impact their present day decisions might have on future decisions to be made, then First Nations will be severely limiting themselves (and their step forward).

For example, take the phrase “third party management.” This phrase was used when I first found out about changes to post-secondary funding (which was not too long ago, and then swept under a rug somewhere–maybe it will reappear after this article) Everyone and everything said “third party management.” What if THIS outcome on the phrase and its use/interpretation of “third party management” and “co-management” impacts the future decisions on post-secondary funding? All because the court felt they meant “co-management” and that they followed protocol! Then, that case dismissed. More resources exhausted. More relationships burned. More political and economical strife for a few more years.

First Nations need to be made fully aware of the decisions they make and the fights they choose before actually proceeding. The decision to dismiss in lower court and if affirmed in a higher court, will just affect future “third party management” or “co-management” issues: similar situations will be decided alike! THIS IS EXACTLY WHY FIRST NATIONS NEED TO BUILD BETTER POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS! THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER (with each other and with other organizations).

Then again….Maybe the issue isn’t that we don’t know how to work together, it’s that we don’t know how to recognize “real” help when it’s needed or accept “real” help as it is suggested. As First Nations in today’s country, I believe we have all the resources we need to help us get better. We just have been “ill” for so long, we forgot how to ask for help to get “better” and to use the help we have presently have. We don’t need more of whatever we already have: we just need to learn how to use what we have (isn’t it after all that Indigenous people are the ones who never use more than we need and never ask for more than we need?). We need to help the ones who are worse off than others, instead of expecting government help or waiting for government decisions to be made. I believe First Nations can better allocate the use of their resources, if we are taught how to. We need to RE-LEARN how to survive in Canada TODAY!

NOTE: This blog post isn’t for or against Pikangikum case. Prayers sent out to those on Pikangikum and every First Nation in need of a little prayer this holiday season.

3rd World Canada

Here is an article about a movie called THIRD WORLD CANADA!

Please read the article.

I am both excited and not excited about this movie. Excited to see that the conditions in which Aboriginals live in within Canada are being accurately displayed. Not excited about the circumstances surrounding the movie. Some people say, “that’s life!” Well, we NEED to change it.

Life should not be like this for anyone in a country that forced people to live in these conditions many years ago.

I remember I went to a healing circle here in London ON and heard a relative of my Uncle Max (imu RIP) say, “Natives were supposed to be extinct the year 2000” — among many other eye-opening things he said!

How would you feel to be apart of race that wasn’t supposed to be here for the past ten years?

For me, as an Aboriginal myself, I am not sure how to feel. Angry, sad, confused, lost, hurt. Not sure.

3rd World Canada

AN ARTICLE on 3rd world living conditions in Canada for Aboriginal Canadians!

This is appalling! What is even more crazy is the comments!

Education and Knowledge is power!

We need to continue to educate people in Canada and the rest of the world about the issues that Canada, a supposed “developed” and “better than the rest” country… If people from other cultures/countries saw how badly Aboriginals are treated in their HOMELAND, I wonder how many more would continue to come here?

Ignorant question. Probably.

The truth about Canada: many people came here from a different country that they like to call their homeland… Canadian Reservations are not an Canadian Aboriginal’s home!