Category Archives: Attawapiskat

No, BC Actually Mentored Saskatchewan’s Poor-Bashing being Metro News, Emily Jackson’s great piece yesterday [below] about how brutally cruel the Saskatchewan government is should make us mindful of a number of issues.

Not the least of which is that the neoliberal Saskatchewan Party has been photocopying many of the worst of BC’s regressive and anti-social policies.

That makes the BC Liberal government Saskatchewan’s poor-bashing mentor.

Let’s re-spin this piece and explore some key context, then work up some solutions!

  1. In Saskatchewan there’s a lot of racism and classism and discrimination against the poor and those with mental health issues. BC too.
  2. 1 in 7 people in Saskatchewan is aboriginal.
  3. In Saskatchewan, the police have been known to drive aboriginals out of town to dump them on the outskirts of town. In the winter. There are even jovial nicknames for that little jaunt.
  4. Saskatchewan has cut funding to shelters. So has BC. It’s called poorbashing. People, after all, should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Because, after all, we are all born with equal opportunity to succeed in life! [Myth, as you know.]
  5. The BC premier is an opportunistic liar when it comes to the 2 men the Saskatchewan Party put on a bus with a one-way ticket to BC: “Wherever they are in Canada, we should be supporting them… if they decide to come to British Columbia, we’re going to support them in that.” There are hundreds of thousands of stories of people in BC who are being degraded, de-funded, insulted and left to dangle in the wind from almost 15 years of cuts to social programs. Perhaps she thinks these men from the bus can work in LNG because that’s mythical as the BC Liberal Party social conscience.
  6. A Vancouver city councillor is deluded if he really believes his own words, that he “hopes Saskatchewan will look to British Columbia and Vancouver for how to properly treat people who need low barrier shelters.” Vancouver has a dismal record of actually contending with homelessness and inadequate housing. And if he really believes that anyone should look to the BC government for how to deal with the poor, he’s at best disingenuous. But then he shows his weakening credibility: “We’re a humane and just society here in Vancouver, and certainly our province is as well,” Jang said. “You just don’t treat people that way.” BC treats its vulnerable populations hideously. Our province is a train wreck.

Solutions Time!

  1. The same Vancouver councillor is right in calling for a national homelessness strategy, and far far more robust than this insult.
  2. We also need a poverty reduction plan in BC.
  3. We also need living wage legislation in BC.
  4. We need a housing authority in Vancouver, like Whistler has.
  5. We also need a national poverty strategy.
  6. And a national housing strategy.
  7. This isn’t really all that difficult. #1-6 indicate some intentional planning, based on sincerity and integrity and actual concern to ensure that people in a rich country like Canada don’t have to live in squalor.
  8. Which brings us to #8. Welcome, #8! Canadians are ignorant or oblivious or criminally indifferent to the squalor we have created over generations on reserves and for off-reserve first peoples. We are content with their inadequate housing, untreated mental health disorders and addictions, pathetic healthcare and education, insufficient physical and social infrastructure, and a myriad of other socio-economic problems reminiscent of 21st century failed states. And you won’t see any comments on this piece about how they just need to pull themselves up by their…bootstraps. I’ll just delete them upon submission. So there’s that.
  9. Oh, and we also need the post-carbon energy infrastructure transition to ramp up to 11 now because delaying will create climate chaos that will exacerbate all the socio-economic problems above, and many more.

Ultimately, we can simply coordinate our ample brain power, increasing tax base and will to create a just and equitable Canada for everyone.

And if that isn’t compelling enough for you because it’s the right thing to do, imagine if you weren’t born who you were. Imagine you were born lacking the socio-economic entitlements you have and you lived in communities like I mentioned in #8. Bad luck, eh.

If you have the neurons to even just imagine that, then ask yourself, shouldn’t you be advocating for public policy that would provide people with the best shot at a good life on the off chance that you would have been born into a vulnerable community? After all, all humans deserve an equal chance to have a good life, and not be born into deprivation, right?

And if the answer is no, it’s probably because you weren’t and you’re ok enjoying your entitlements while others born into vulnerability can just rot.

There’s a word for that kind of person. Many words, even.

B.C. will help two homeless men sent west by Saskatchewan government: Premier Christy Clark

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said the province should and will help the two homeless men en route to the west coast after the Saskatchewan government bought them one-way bus tickets to B.C., where neither had social services lined up.

Saskatchewan’s ministry of social services spent $500 on B.C.-bound bus tickets for the two First Nations men instead of helping them at home, where their local shelter recently faced funding cuts, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, one man has family in Victoria and one, a 21-year-old who struggles with mental health problems, doesn’t know a soul in Vancouver, his final destination. The men embarked from North Battleford, Sask. Tuesday night, but it’s not clear whether they arrived in B.C.

Regardless, Clark said the province stands ready to help, adding that B.C.’s strong economy is attracting a variety of people.

“I think everybody in British Columbia would say we want to support people with serious mental illness and we want to make sure they get the care that they need,” Clark told reporters. “Wherever they are in Canada, we should be supporting them… if they decide to come to British Columbia, we’re going to support them in that.”

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, who is also a psychiatry professor at UBC who researches mental illness, said this story shows homelessness is a problem across Canada, not just in major centres, and called for a national homelessness strategy. Meanwhile, he hopes Saskatchewan will look to British Columbia and Vancouver for how to properly treat people who need low barrier shelters.

“To treat two human beings that way, slapping them on the bus, one reportedly with mental health issues, to send them off into the night, is absolutely disgusting,” Jang said.

“I hope Saskatchewan learns from this and says we’ve got to invest in our social services and get people the best care to get them on their feet again, not push it off and hope fate will take care of them.”

The Star Phoenix reported that Saskatchewan social workers have the discretion to buy people bus tickets, usually to join family, but it is not typical. The government announced Wednesday it will review the case.

Vancouver’s annual homeless count takes place Wednesday night to Thursday morning. If volunteers meet either man, they will offer help.

“We’re a humane and just society here in Vancouver, and certainly our province is as well,” Jang said. “You just don’t treat people that way.”

Fried Squirrels

It’s a crisp, foggy November Saturday morning in the south side of the city. Seventeen people sit in the large open area at the back end of an organic fair trade coffee shop run by a workers’ co-op inspired by the Mondragon movement in Spain. Meet-ups like this are quite common in this shop.

The male and female co-facilitators move briskly through the agenda with the help of the nodding volunteer maintaining the speakers list. There are sporadic jazz-hand gestures, common from the Occupy Movement, as well as a strict yet comfortable group norm of only one person speaking at a time, and succinctly, because of the elaborately carved talking stick that moves around the room.

Continue reading Fried Squirrels

Are We Good Allies to First Nations?

This is what solidarity looks like; make sure it’s authentic!

Lots of us care about deepening relationships with and social/economic/political justice for first peoples. It’s hard to come in, though, sometimes as a person from an oppressor or settler class. But there is a good checklist to make sure we’re actually contributing effectively.

Continue reading Are We Good Allies to First Nations?

Is Harper’s Canada a “Genocide”-Free Zone?

The CMHR: a genocide-free zone.
The CMHR: a “genocide”-free zone.

Genocide is a pretty serious word. It invokes the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Rwanda and some other high profile human eradication attempts.

But Canada, being Canada these days, is loathe to admit that it had any part in any kind of genocide. No. Not us. We’re so nice.

But the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will not be using the word when it comes to our historical “treatment” of the first peoples. Since the museum is part of the federal government’s propaganda wing, I can understand why it is avoiding the word. While a museum spokesperson said the Harper-appointed board did not make that call, staff did, this would not be the first instance of federal civil servants engaging in self-censorship during the Harper regime.

A number of commenters at the article make some interesting points.

  1. One notes that if our definition of genocide is too broad (like presumably the UN’s), then we will have to acknowledge too many genocides which will make the word meaningless. The last part is a non sequitur. What if there actually have been dozens or hundreds of genocides attempted? That wouldn’t make any one genocide attempt less significant, but more broadly indict our race as genocidal, thereby more likely leading to more awareness of why we are so sick as a species. We don’t have to have merely a few genocides for them to be important. We don’t need to preclude others from being genocides out of fear that those affected by the Holocaust, for instance, would be offended.
  2. Another person suggested that it isn’t genocide if there are no death camps. If this were a reasonable standard, genocidal maniacs would merely need to skip actual death camps in their mass slaughter.

One thing I keep in mind when people argue that Canada’s treatment of the first peoples is not genocidal is to consider how much people could be using separate arguments to avoid having to deal with the extent of destruction our nation visited upon people. If it’s uncomfortable to our self-concept that we tried to eradicate a people/culture/etc., we can sometimes come up with other arguments, like the semantic ones above.

It’s hard to know what’s in people’s hearts, but it’s easy to check to see if they appreciate the gravity of the issues they sometimes dance around.

“What matters in genocide is not that it’s a lot of killing,” said University of Manitoba sociology Prof. Andrew Woolford. “What matters is that it’s an assault against a group, on their ability to persist as a group.”

Underlying the genocide question are persistent allegations — some made by former museum staff — the CMHR’s federally appointed board routinely interferes in content decisions in an effort to tell more “positive,” politically palatable stories.

[Spokeswoman Maureen] Fitzhenry said the decision to avoid the word “genocide” was made by senior staff, not the board.

She said the museum will not shy away from exploring Canada’s colonial legacy, including the epidemic of missing and slain aboriginal women, the disastrous relocation of Manitoba’s Sayisi Dene people, land and treaty rights and residential schools.

– from CMHR rejects ‘genocide’ for native policies

Attawapiskat Audit is Merely a Distraction

Green Party leader Elizabeth May published a well-thought out and clear article on Wednesday, breaking down the reasons why the ongoing media banter about Attiwapiskat fund mismanagement and Chief Theresa Spence are merely distractions from an ongoing legacy of government failure to protect indigenous people and the environment. Twitter and Facebook have become virtual battlegrounds for both government supporters and those who are involved with the Idle No More uprising. Racism, sexism and classism are rampant, and tension arising from finger pointing and blame displacement are escalating. The crux of it all is that the Canadian government, and the majority of Canadians as a whole have been content to sweep First Nations issues under the rug, while sticking their fingers in their ears, and chanting “La, la, la! I can’t hear you! This isn’t my problem!”

Perhaps the most desperate and obnoxious contributions to the discussion in cyberspace is the delirious joy that right-wing carnival barkers like Ezra Levant derive from low-blow cat-calls: mocking Spence’s weight, questioning the intelligence of Idle No More supporters, and denial of third-world living conditions endemic to life on First Nations reserves. Their fear that this may gain traction beyond the frustrated residents of reserves is palpable. What are you afraid of, Canada?  That you might not like what the elephant in the room means to your current lifestyle?

The Attawapiskat audit: Distracting us from a legacy of failure

– Elizabeth May

The tensions surrounding First Nations and the federal government are, perhaps, at an all-time high.

I had hoped the Prime Minister’s decision to meet with First Nations leadership this Friday was a hopeful sign of a new beginning in building nation to nation respectful relationships. Perhaps it could finally be the beginning of implementing the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Unfortunately, there is an ugly tone in the air as Conservative spokespeople, such as Senator Patrick Brazeau, line up in the media to take pot shots at Chief Theresa Spence. Although the Attawapiskat audit covers 2005-2011, Theresa Spence was only elected chief in 2010.

The release of the audit of Attawapiskat band finances is heralded by some as evidence of – what exactly? – that the housing crisis in First Nations communities is the fault of their leadership? The audit is not evidence of fraud, but shows an unacceptable level of expenditures for which proper documentation was not provided. It does not suggest the money was spent improperly. We simply do not know. Finger pointing and attacks will not help build a relationship based on respect for treaty and inherent indigenous rights.

So let’s just step back for a moment and admit what everyone knows. Millions of dollars in federal funding for indigenous peoples goes to non-indigenous consultants and lawyers and the bureaucracy supposedly at the service of First Nations communities. Many First Nations communities could benefit from better book keeping and financial controls, but so too could the federal government as the Auditor General has frequently reported. There is a reason that former Auditor General Sheila Fraser dedicated so much of her final report to the unacceptable multiple failures of the federal government in delivering on goals in meeting minimum obligations to First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. In 2005 and again in 2011, the Auditor General set out a litany of abuse. In a report prepared by Sheila Fraser and released by her successor, she noted, “I am profoundly disappointed to note … that despite federal action in response to our recommendations over the years, a disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted.” She did not point fingers at the individual communities, but rather at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for relying on vague policy rather than the kind of clear legislation found at the provincial level to meet non-indigenous needs for health, housing, water and education.

So, just as the Idle No More movement was not an off-shoot of Chief Spence’s hunger strike, neither is the audit of Attawapiskat’s finances a relevant response to the litany of undeniable and shameful neglect of the treaty obligations of the nation of Canada to the people on whose land we live and whose resources make us wealthy.

Numerous Supreme Court decisions make it clear that the federal government, as well as private sector corporations with an eye of First Nations’ lands and resources, have a duty to consult. Yet, numerous legislative changes made by the Harper Conservatives over the last year had no advance consultation, despite significant impact on First Nations. Both Omnibus bills, C-38 and C-45, had significant impacts on First Nations, without consultation. The Canada-China Investment Treaty, signed by the Prime Minister in early September and not yet ratified, could also have huge impacts on First Nations, yet there was no consultation. From neglect, we seem to have moved seamlessly to an assault on First Nations, as though we could erase Constitutionally-enshrined rights should they stand in the way of mines, dams and pipelines. The issue of non-consultation should be addressed immediately.

The abandonment of the 2005 Kelowna Accord was the beginning of numerous blows, including cutting the following programmes aimed at redressing the scandalous disparity in health outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians: health awareness programmes curbing tobacco addiction, Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative, the Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program, the Maternal and Child Health Program, and the Blood Borne Diseases and Sexually Transmitted Infections/HIV/AIDS Program. As well, institutions to assist in understanding the disparities, such as the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) and First Nations Statistical Institute (FNSI), have been axed. As well, the high cost of food and fuel in the North is a serious problem and remains unaddressed.

Despite all the evidence, we owe it to the embryonic potential of Idle No More to hope that all leaders present will rise to a new level of decency and respect – towards each other and towards the peoples and lands they represent. As the first indigenous leader of Bolivia has done, could we not begin to discuss the constitutional protection of nature itself? Could we not start designing a path to replace the Indian Act, establish a set of meaningful goals to ensure that all children on this piece of Turtle Island, indigenous and non-indigenous, have equal access to proper education, safe drinking water, decent health care and safe housing? Could we not live up to our promises of treaties past and lay the groundwork to a future premised on the respectful sharing of this land? I believe we can. In fact, we must.


Stop the Condo Development on the Musqueam Burial Site

March 15, 2012 Update!

Discussions have led to a 3-week moratorium on digging while more dialogue continues. Thank you for all of you who spread the word to your people, in social media, and in the email link below to politicians. Your integrity has been a shining example of what motivated people can accomplish. All that activity has helped create the will to seek a resolution and avoid a completely avoidable catastrophe in an era where expansive, true dialogue is critically lacking. Keep watching the Facebook event page for more updates: STOP the destruction of the village and midden site of c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole).

What kind of racist government issues a permit for a condo developer to bulldoze a Musqueum burial site? BC’s government.

I visited c̓əsnaʔəm, the 1338 SW Marine Drive site this morning and had a chance to talk with some of the demonstrators. I learned a number of important points in this issue, below. But first, here are some links to previous coverage of this issue.

  1. STOP the destruction of the village and midden site of c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole)
  2. Musqueam Block Destruction of Ancient Burial Site
  3. Project on burial site sparks protest
  4. Protesters block Vancouver building project
  5. Musqueam First Nation members protest over Marpole development

Here’s what I learned this morning during my visit to the site:

  • Musqueam Midden has been recognized as a Canadian Heritage Site since 1933.
  • There is rich local historical heritage at c̓əsnaʔəm: Great Fraser Midden, 1908
  • The City of Vancouver has been protecting the site since 1908 and has so far not issued a building permit to the developer, but they will have to: “We’re required to issue it if they meet the criteria and one of those criteria is not the archaeological issues because that’s not within our jurisdiction,” said Vancouver City Manager Penny Ballem. So the province is responsible for allowing development on the site.

So what can you do?

  • Support the peaceful protest/demonstration/occupation by going down and joining them.
  • You can also use the universal sign of solidarity by ordering pizza to be delivered there. Blankets, rain gear and coffee shop gift cards would help too, as the demonstration is a 24 hour a day event.
  • You can email the various people asking for their political support for the Musqueam and for the provincial government to not desecrate a burial ground because honestly, would you want someone to build a condo on top of your Nana’s grave? You can use this link to email the following people [use this link if you’re on a Mac], with a CC to the Musqueam band:
    • the Vancouver Mayor and council,
    • the premier,
    • the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation,
    • the leader of the opposition,
    • the aboriginal affairs critic,
    • both independent MLAs,
    • the Vancouver-Langara MLA,
    • as well a host of federal politicians: the prime minister,
    • the leader of the opposition,
    • leader of the federal Liberals,
    • the aboriginal affairs minister,
    • the NDP and Liberal aboriginal affairs critics,
    • and the MP for Vancouver South.

You can tell them all the reasons you want to protect the burial site, including things like these:

  • The Musqueam burial site is important to you, important to Canada since 1933 and to Vancouver since 1908.
  • Canada’s relationship with the First Nations needs to be built on respect, not exploitation.
  • The BC government is responsible for protecting national heritage sites.
  • We should be able to expect respect and leadership from elected officials and meaningful contributions to improving relations between Canada, BC, Vancouver and the First Nations.
  • Link to the Facebook page:


Politics, Re-Spun on The Rational on Co-op Radio, March 12 Lineup

Politics, Re-Spun is on The Rational on Coop Radio on Monday, March 12, 2012 from 6pm to 7pm with an intriguing lineup! Listen live online or at 102.7fm in the Vancouver area.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Dylan Penner will talk with Stephen Elliott-Buckley about the Canadian Boat for Gaza: why, what happened, what’s happening now and what’s in store for the future?

2. Greg Felton will talk with Alnoor Gova about the NDP and Israel.

3. The first of 3 parts of a conversation between Stephen Elliott-Buckley and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Cliff Atleo. Topics orbit around the greater relationship between “Canada” and First Nations, in this era of post-Attawapiskat media concentration. Plus forestry, fishing and living holistically with each other and our world.

Occupy #Attawapiskat, Phase Two

Clearly, the people living in Attawapiskat are existing in a crisis that represents Canada’s dysfunctional relationship with the first peoples.

How can we truly “fix” Attawapiskat? By fixing the underlying broken relationship.

Occupying #Attawapiskat in Twitter two weeks ago was a great start to engaging in serious improvements.

Phase two begins now with a call for a national dialogue to address the past and create a healthy future. This means looking at cultural genocide, racism, the Indian Act as obsolete in the 21st century, residential schools, language and potlatch prohibitions, treaty neglect and so much more.

Read more about this month’s Twitter action down below, but first join the call by emailing these MPs.

Your email will go to the following email addresses:,,,,,,,,

Fixing Attawapiskat

Your First Name:
Your Last Name:
Your Postal Code:
Your Email Address:
Please Email Me A Response:
Call for a National Dialogue:
Please Type This
Image Code:

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On December 7, traffic for the Twitter hashtag #Attawapiskat grew 2 to 3.5 times higher than most days in the previous week. And while the hashtag didn’t trend because it was not new that week, it nevertheless became a focal point, especially as Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan attempted to spin/deflect/skew the issues in question period. And thanks to George Stroumboulopoulos for drawing some attention to the Twitter occupation. David Ball also wrote an integrating piece at the Vancouver Observer covering the Twitter action.

The occupation also drew a small but annoying group of racists, with predictable bigoted and stereotypical comments. It also featured government apologists whose main message box ideas was to focus on solutions and steer away from blaming anyone for anything. The king of apologists was Conservative Senator Don Meredith, who, in but one tweet, managed to offend people in three different ways!

Senator Don Meredith @SenatorDonM Senator Don Meredith
The events in #Attawapiskat are troubling. We need to focus on the solution & not on the problem. Children & families are at stake. #cdnpoli
  1. There are no “events” happening there. There are current manifestations of generations of systemic bureaucratic neglect and abuse.
  2. Nothing is troubling. That word captures but 1% of the extent of the crisis there and throughout the country.
  3. While focusing on a solution is great, the advice to not focus on the problem is extraordinarily dismissive and also symbolic of Canada’s broken relationship with first peoples.
So now we have an opportunity to channel our demands to our leaders with a call to act. Scroll back up if you didn’t send in your letter to the Aboriginal Affairs Minister, the prime minister, leaders of all four federal parties, the Aboriginal Affairs critics and the Attawapiskat MP.Truly fixing Attawapiskat means fixing our national shame: looking back to address our past and looking forward to build a new future together.

Let’s Occupy #Attawapiskat in Twitter on December 7

I wrote a piece the other day on Attawapiskat, and how it enrages me.

Not just the case in those communities, but how it’s representative of Canada’s largely racist relationship with first nations and, frankly, all “disposable” people.

This, by the way, is an amazing piece with essential information about the bureaucracy/politics of Attawapiskat from âpihtawikosisân: Truly essential reading.

Some of us have been working up an idea to draw and focus attention on the need to not only address Attawapiskat, but the overall systemic problem.

Let’s occupy the #Attawapiskat hashtag in Twitter for most of the day on Wednesday, December 7. Hashtag occupation is an activist technique in Twitter to push a message around a new or existing hashtag. If the hashtag ends up trending in a city/province/country, all the better.

And if you aren’t around/available on the 7th, you can use Hootsuite or some similar Twitter interface to write some scheduled tweets to go out on the 7th.

And I’m thinking that around mid afternoon in each of our time zones, we can start focusing tweets directly at John Duncan’s email/phone number. Clever fellow doesn’t have a Twitter id.

And remember, you tweeps are often the sources of information an insight in your social networks outside the echo chamber of Twitter. Make sure you encourage your people in Facebook, Diaspora and other social circles to take part by sharing their hopes and wishes for a national dialogue on our dysfunctional relationship with first peoples.

If you aren’t in Twitter, but know someone who is, but cares about healing this core failure of Canada as a whole, please ask them to take part. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. On December 7, from 8am EST to 5pm PST, each participant makes 3-6 tweets about this topic.
  2. Hashtags to use: #Attawapiskat for sure, plus any of these that fit your individual tweets: #NativeSpring #AFN, #indigenous, #aboriginal, #cdnpoli, #onpoli, #racism, etc. Use your province’s hashtag for your tweets, like #bcpoli #onpoli #skpoli, etc. because hashtag cross-polination is a powerful thing and our nation’s systemic problem exists in your province too!
  3. People to include in tweets:
    1. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan [, 613-992-2503, 250-338-9381]
    2. Stephen Harper [, @pmharper in Twitter, 613-992-4211, 403-253-7990]
  4. Liberally retweet fellow activists’ tweets on December 7 by monitoring the #Attawapiskat hashtag.
  5. Remember, the current event is Attawapiskat, but the systemic problem is nation-wide. And if you’re inspired to be thinking on systems-wide level, enjoy this piece.
  6. Content suggestions for your tweets:
    • Comment on healing our relationship with first peoples.
    • Why do Canadians allow such poverty among first peoples?
    • Why are so many first peoples living in abject poverty?
    • What needs to be healed in our relationship with first peoples?
    • Is Attawapiskat symbolic of larger issues in Canada?
    • Your vision on healthy relationships with first peoples.
    • What poverty means to you.
    • Why you want our governments to begin a sincere national dialogue on healing our racist, imperialist, dysfunctional relationship with first peoples: acknowledging the problems of the past and present, and expanding solutions and best practices around the country into the future. To move forward we need to heal the past and build a respectful future.
    • See the piece and comments here for more inspiration for your tweets, as well as the âpihtawikosisân piece above.

So if you could spare a couple minutes, 3-6 times during the above time range on December 7, to stimulate a healthier nation, thanks! And again, if you know of any Twitter folks who care about this issue, please consider asking them to take part.

And if you have any new ideas for hashtags, event logistics or content suggestions, please toss them into the comments below and I’ll incorporate them into this post.

Oh, Canada? Our Home and Racist Land

Canadians’ racist neglect of our first people’s seems unshakable.

We had Davis Inlet, and we didn’t wake up to any systemic problems. That was just a one off?

And now Attawapiskat? Perhaps it was just a tragedy of homelessness that happened in the last few weeks, so we couldn’t expect the government to be on top of it all. It turns out no. There have been systemic funding problems going back years.

But we learn a few things here:

– 2,000 people live there and the federal government has committed $500,000 to renovate five vacant homes. Five.

– The chief said the federal government has committed $2 million more but Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan [, 613-992-2503, 250-338-9381] denies that decision has been made. Maybe that would be another 20 homes renovated?

– This community has “a litany of problems,” so “officials would travel to the area this week to ensure that recent aid is being used effectively,” which for most of us trained in the code of Canada means that they can’t take care of themselves because they’re drunks, addicts, politically corrupt or incompetent, or just not educated enough to manage. This in itself, beyond being one of Canada’s biggest racist black eyes, is sufficient evidence that there are systemic problems throughout our country with respect to how we even think about “the other.”

– But everything’s ok now because the federal government will, “send our people in to make some, help make some, decisions with the chief and council” [emphasis mine]. While there are undoubtedly a series of problems, “Canada” prefers to deal with problems like this by equating first peoples’ communities as sad, unfortunate dorm rooms that our suburban children inhabit–rooms that are riddled with a litany of problems that stem from them living alone for the first time. Like children.

– And of course there is a chance to make the prime minister look good by saying his economic action plan had completed another 44 homes. Remember there are 2,000 people living there. Doing a little bit is good enough, eh? 44 homes. Plus 5. Plus maybe 20 more.

While I had Attawapiskat on my mind for days last week, I was stuck on how to figure out what I wanted to say about the situation beyond just phoning the prime minister [, 613-992-4211, 403-253-7990] and screaming.

But as I think about the holidays, I think about helping these people. I can send some money to the Canadian Red Cross. And tell my friends.

But the best thing I can do is to help change the dialogue in this country that allows us all to sleep soundly at night as hundreds of thousands of families in our country live in varying degrees of abject poverty, all preventable in a rich nation like Canada.

Exhaust? Really?

This post started out as one of flabbergast at how police tried to disperse protesters with motorcycle exhaust at Science World in Vancouver on Friday when the prime minister showed up for his photo op with the premier. Gassing protesters seemed unbelievable until I saw the picture [film at 11].

But in a country where we can justify or explain that tactic away, Attawapiskat came into clarity for me.

Certain people are disposable. Protesters, first peoples, anyone who makes us uncomfortable. If there are mass Occupy Christmas actions that “threaten” the brinkmanship inherent in capitalism’s suicidal retail model, those funky guerilla theatre protesters dressed as elves or whatever will become non-persons to mainstream Canadians who are continually molded by corporate media.

Perhaps we only have binary switches: people are like us because we are told we can relate to them, but if they are “other”, we can ignore them, like the hundreds of thousands of Canadian children still living in poverty today, 20 years after the House of Commons unanimously pledged to end child poverty 11 years ago.

So if you are still agnostic on the Occupy movement, it seems pretty easy to get behind fixing the systemic problems in our first nations communities. They need help. They need resources. They need the rest of Canada to start thinking about dignity and screaming at our politicians, embarrassing them if need be to realize that it’s not just about handouts and auditors, but about community, inclusion, healing, justice, respect, cordial international relations, and an authentic willingness to fix a problem that is centuries old. And let’s face it, largely/completely our [non-first peoples’] fault.

This is a solution we can all be a part of…because we all are actually a part of the solution. The politicians work for us. We constantly forget that because they constantly behave as if they don’t. We’re in charge of them. Make them get moving on starting a national healing. As long as we let them sleep at night while others live in Home Depot lawn sheds, we’re not getting the job done.