Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fight for $15

Saturday, Dec. 19, I went to a wonderful, grassroots meeting to raise the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 per hour.

The highlights were seeing the videos of people in the States, fast food workers and Walmart, uniting asking for $15 per hour.

Another highlight for me was seeing two Walmart employees speak about how hard it is to have those discussions about uniting for a higher wage. Along with the other people in the room, it was clear many people are just afraid of those discussions because they don't want to lose their jobs.

One of the strongest rhetoric mentioned is that people will lose their jobs and it will hurt small business, with zero evidence to back that claim up. Let's look to BC:

"...experts generally agree that raising the minimum wage has little to no discernible impact on the employment rate, and there are "meta-studies" (studies of studies) on minimum wage that come to this conclusion
Furthermore, in an April 2015 research report on whether British Columbia should increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour, David Green, a University of British Columbia economics professor and expert in minimum wage issues, stated that "the benefits of raising BC’s minimum wage to $15 through a series of pre-announced staged increases far outweigh the likely costs. Claims that such an increase will lead to massive job losses in low-wage sectors of the economy are not credible."
-Source The Parkland Institute: May 28, 2015 The case for a $15 minimum wage in Alberta posted by Ian Hussey

From that same source is also the myth that it's going to be great for teenagers here in Alberta. Here's some more truth for that argument:

"Firstly, Professor Green states that "the minimum wage has been set so far below the poverty line that past increases have not been large enough to lift full-time workers out of poverty." So it isn't that an increase to the minimum wage can't be part of a policy package meant to address poverty, it is that the increase needs to be large enough to be meaningful to workers' lives.
Secondly, most minimum wage workers in Alberta are in fact not teenagers or inexperienced, but rather adult workers trying to get by, and many are working to support their families. The Government of Alberta reports that 65% of our province's minimum wage earners for the 2013/14 fiscal year were over 20 years of age. In addition, Statistics Canada data for 2014 shows that 77% of Alberta workers earning less than $15 per hour were over the age of 20.
Furthermore, 61% of Alberta's low-wage earners are women, so raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will contribute to sorely needed efforts to address Alberta's gender gap and income inequality chasm, both of which are the highest among Canada's provinces. "
-Source The Parkland Institute: May 28, 2015 The case for a $15 minimum wage in Alberta posted by Ian Hussey

For more reading I highly recommend: July 17, 2015 Minimum wage hike won’t ruin Alberta by Ian Hussey, Iglika Ivanova (Ian Hussey is a research manager at the Parkland Institute. Iglika Ivanova is a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — B.C. Office.) The above is the argument for the average Albertan relating to the poverty issues we are seeing with the current minimum wage. Canadian Federation of Independent Business is offering to do roundtable discussions to help bridge the new NDP government and business that have contacted the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (I'm sure the NDP government will do that and I hope the business owner's see this the idea will help everyone.)
I would recommend many forms of action.
First, the building of the group is needed. Their actions of caroling and videos are completely necessary.

Secondly, a point I made but seemed to be completely disregarded was the need for a policy to be presented at the political parties on this issue as a form of action. I feel this is actually how this imposed Westminster "democracy" works so therefore, if we work on policies in this format, political parties will be forced to follow their grassroot membership. They didn't understand it and wrote it as "talk to a MLA." I don't disagree with that action but as I explained to the group, if there is a policy and it passes, the party is obligated to follow the membership. So while I encouraged all people, no matter their political party, to talk to their MLA's, to go to those parties with a policy. Here is one example. (I encourage others to copy and paste it to bring it to their parties.)

Fight for $15 Policy:

Whereas twenty percent of Alberta’s workers, 379,500 people, earned less than $15 an hour in 2014.

Whereas 78 percent of Albertans that earn less that $15 an hour, are not teenagers, and 38 percent are 35 years of age or older.

Whereas 60 percent work full time and 54 percent have been in the same job for longer than a year.

Whereas $15 minimum wage would significantly boost the income of low-wage workers as a group, reduce working poverty.

Be it resolved, (enter political party of your choice) will support raising the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 per hour.

If you agree, please take that policy to your local electoral districts and MLA's (modify it as you need) to get this moved forward as I'm not confident the group will forward it to you, even if you join it.

Some of the low lights of the meeting was how the space felt unsafe for me to speak freely, then feeling marginalized. When I got a chance to speak, it was at the start when we were asked to say our names and why we chose to come. I spoke of how disappointed I was in the NDP government's waffling of the $15 minimum wage election promise as I live in the area of the hard working poor where people are working two and sometimes three jobs and still can not make ends meet. I was disappointed that the NDP weren't being more bold in their budget as they are very unlikely to get reelected since the right wing parties were divided for the moment. I expressed how I hoped that this group would be that accountability to the NDP and have action. I also acknowledged Tsuu T'ina and Dene as part of the Treaty 7 signatories as the Stoney and Blackfoot were previously mentioned. (I should mention it was brought up AFTER myself and another Indigenous woman walked into the room.) Bringing it up AFTER Indigenous enter a room, is very disingenuous. (I know here in Alberta, we are just getting use to the idea of acknowledging this at all so the irony is, I was happy it was mentioned at all.)

The truth is, Indigenous peoples' still are oppressed under the Indian Act. Internationally, the rest of the world sees our hypocrisy on human rights while still oppressing a race of people. Canadians still don't really understand the gravity of that. During the meeting, there was a NDPer that identified as proud to be retired, being a NDPer her whole life, donating her money to the NDP and campaigning. She spoke so condescendingly and even singled out "arm chair activists" and Communists. She also marginalized my voice too as I thought that meeting was a safe place to voice the disappointment of NDP's election promises. The irony is, I do volunteer with the Federal Liberal Party because as an Indigenous woman, my issues tend to be so called Federal jurisdiction in this colonial Westminster "democracy" imposed on these lands. I don't have a lot of money to give so I give my time and energy.  The NDP's Aboriginal Peoples' Commission didn't seem active so I did join the Liberal Party's Aboriginal Peoples' Commission because they were active at the time. I was even able to get two policies put forward that passed nationally - Two-Spirit and Denouncing Spying on Indigenous. Of course the real issue to me was that in the end, it wasn't a safe space to be critical of the current government even though they aren't showing strength on that issue.

It was clear to me from that meeting that Indigenous issues are different when talking about even this issue of fighting for a higher minimum wage.

There were temporary foreign workers present. Anyone that followed the issues pre-election knows there are serious issues of human rights issues that need addressing. I believe in my soul that each temporary foreign worker has been given a raw deal and should be eligible for permanent status so that the program doesn't seem so modern-day-slave-ish. That said, I personally know an Indigenous man who was born in the US and is now living in one of the communities I'm part of in the greater Forest Lawn area. Because Canada does not honour the Jay Treaty, this Indigenous to North America man can not work at all here in Calgary, even though he has a full desire to. (He spends so much time volunteering and doing wonderful things in our communities since he can't.) So the people at the group fighting for a higher minimum wage increase, who don't really know the Indigenous signatories of the Treaty 7 land we are on, and Indigenous are already having a very different conversation. Of course the temporary foreign workers and new immigrant community also are unaware of these issues because there is zero education on Indigenous issues when they come to these lands.

Next is the name issue. Many barriers are present for Indigenous that non-Indigenous do not face. By simply having an Indigenous name, many employers do NOT hire due to prejudices. So while it is great to be fighting for a higher minimum wage, most non-Indigenous are unaware Indigenous stats on unemployment aren't even counted in the overall picture. Ultimately, those that benefit from living on a land where the Indian Act is in place, and are purposely unaware of the realities Indigenous people face, can not understand how we are not even in a place to fighting for minimum wage increases when our positions are the first ones cut in "economic downsizing" times.

While those were negative experiences for me, I hope others will still consider joining up in solidarity. They are also hoping to record some personal stories from those struggling in the workforce, especially if working in a wage less than $15 per hour. If you're interested in joining, please do here:

Working class Caroling
Saturday from 5pm-7pm Sunridge Mall

Next meeting Jan. 23rd

Monday, December 7, 2015

Smudging Canada - Open Letter to Carolyn Bennett, Jody Raybould-Wilson and Mélanie Joly

Hello Honourable Members of Parliament!

I highly suspect that you all are very busy and respect that. Thank you for your time and service. I was hoping I would be able to plant a seed in your minds and inspire others across Canada to see how they can be part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions' calls-to-action.

From the

  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.

I have come across many people Indigenous and non-Indigenous that have known or had access to smudges. Some areas of Canada, in major cities, have done a great job at having that access. That said, I live in Calgary, and have found families directly impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, not have access to smudge. I have met Indigenous volunteers (in campaign) that do not have access to smudge kits. Then I have met regular Canadians whom have not heard, let alone seen a smudge. I have heard of jails not allowing or having access to smudge. Not everyone even in the city of Calgary can travel to places to smudge.

Can we start incorporating ways in our systems and Canadian fabric to teach smudge to all in our boundaries with respect to the Nations of the land? Can we make sure people have access to smudge? Can we teach all kids now and moving forward the tradition so they are aware of it, even if not practicing?

Let me, and others who want to, help on how to move an idea like that forward so we can support you in your mandates. Thank you, merci and Mahsi cho. (Mahsi cho is thank you in Dene.)

  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Being a woman in Alberta on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Last year in honour of the ecole polytechnique de Montreal I was honoured to speak at the U of C Facility of Law. (You wouldn't know by the Herald but Jennifer Koshan did acknowledge it. It matters to acknowledge Indigenous women. When Indigenous women are marginalized and ignored, that is a form colonial violence.)

Women murdered

commemorative plaque in polished stone, deeply engraved with in circle with 14 small silver disks distributed around the circle. Inside, and under the university's logo and the legend "In Memoriam" are the names of the 14 victims and the date of the massacre
Memorial plate on the side of École Polytechnique.
  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967) mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student (Thank you Wiki)

    To be very clear, the École Polytechnique massacre was a hate crime. The concept of hate crimes are very powerful to me right now, living in Alberta and what I'm seeing today, scares me.

    Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine in a year from the time of that speech at the U of C, that we'd have a new NDP premier, The Honourable, Rachel Notley. I may not be a NDPer but after 44 years of Conservative rule, it was clearly a failure of imagination on my part. Being born and raised here, I thought the corruption of the PC's would never end. (Read Dr. Kevin Taft's books for more on that.) So we have Rachel Notley and as I write this, the Edmonton Journal PUBLISHED this:
(Thanks @Calgarykiaguy for the modified pic)

The Edmonton Journal actually looked at this, ok'd it and published this, never mind the cartoonist thinking it was ok to dream of anyway. I will mention that if one is to google Harper back stab, you do not find a similar picture. Why? Why is it ok to show violence against women? Why is ok to show violence against a female politician? I would never advocate violence against any politician, male or female, be ok. Honestly, if someone were to make a pic like this about Harper, the RCMP and CSIS would be all over that person. Why should this be an exception? "But it's a fucking cartoon!" as one of my Facebook friends said. Well, cartoons are powerful and talk about issues of the day in ways words apparently can not explain as quickly as with a visual. That is their purpose. This picture shows how normal it is in Alberta to depict violence against women. In fact, another Facebook friend pointed out: Between-the-lines implication in the comic is that farmers are fighting Bill 6 to retain the right to harm others "accidentally". I had old friends share this pic and when I posted about it, I was met with hostility and unfriended by an old school friend, turned farmer, unwilling to admit violence against women was NOT ok even against a female politician. This is the state of discourse in Alberta and it's 2015.

Then there is the underlining racism combined with sexism..

I would have never imagined Bradley Barton being found not guilty of first, second or third degree murder in the killing of Cindy Gladue. That sparked outrage nationally by Indigenous peoples' and we had over twenty rallies in April calling for Justice for Cindy Gladue. The RCMP released biased data on missing and murdered women that didn't explain how they came to the collected data, or how they determined their definition of "Aboriginal" leaving many of us confused on the numbers yet glad they would acknowledge it to some degree. We had a Prime Minister that refused to acknowledge that an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was really on his radar as his government systemically cut funding to Indigenous groups, including the Sisters in Spirit. These are very strong and damaging race and gendered based messages from our so-called leaders on social status in Alberta as an Indigenous woman and it's 2015. The racism is so bad, the CBC had to shut down their comments section on Indigenous issues and showcased a video inspired by Jimmy Kimmel's mean tweets to explain why.

As if the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) wasn't enough, we just had the longest election that focused solely on race and sex by targeting the niqab. Even Calgary's mayor said the niqab issue doesn't make any sense and should be focusing on the MMIW inquiry. While Harper didn't win the election, the rhetoric that he sparked with his policies, continued. Muslim women across Canada began to be attacked in Calgary, (pregnant in Montreal) (Toronto) and even a woman just wearing a scarf due to weather conditions was attacked. Hate in Calgary was painted on the LRT.

In 2009, there was mention about how abuse was the highest in Alberta. In 2012, three-quarters of Albertans know a woman who has been abused.. in 2013, a call out to the provincial leadership to be part of the effort to reduce violence. Our premier in 2014 was an ex-Harper Indian Affairs minister federally where colonial and sexist policies to a race of people are the norm and he publicly stated there was no need for a MMIW inquiry. The start of 2015, an article on extreme rates and increase in violence in Alberta. Finally, as the NDP government gained power, MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, had the strength to speak on her own experience with domestic violence in the Alberta Legislature because it's 2015.

I went to the outreach consultation in Calgary that the NDP's newly created Status of Women ministry put on. (There are only three locations, Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray available, excluding small towns and reserves.) I told them point blank Alberta should be declared a state of emergency for women's safety in Alberta. I was met with wide eyes by the employees. For a group that declared they want to build feminism in Alberta, I worry about the future when so much violence against women in Alberta is unaddressed, where root issues are not discussed, in a province that prides itself on no government interference and has arms willing to prove it. Women in Alberta fleeing violence have the odds stacked against them on wage gap let alone other barriers like the fact there isn't training on honour based violence nor colonial violence risk assessment in the current intimate-partner model that is preferred. In a province where one of the major news outlets published a picture of violence against our premier. In a province where women and children are denied entry into shelters because of them being over capacity. In a province where we have child care capacity and affordability issues. In a province that has affordable housing issues. In a province that I live in and worry about the future for my daughter. And if you're a women in Alberta that feels safe, please consider yourself part of a very elite minority as the stats show something very different.

Because it's 2015.

Edited to add:

Just a reminder that creating a safety plan is something you may never use but in case it's needed, it's available. In memory of the Montreal massacre, the rise in domestic violence, the rise in MMIW, have these resources on hand. Awo Taan Healing Lodge​'s website has a way to clear your computer of tracing if it feels that unsafe. (Safe exit)

Please make safety plans.

Edited to add that one of the women from Alberta that is in Paris attending Climate Change talks, posted this today, on the anniversary:

Edited to add again, a Dene sister's experience in Fort McMurray TODAY:

June 18, 2016 edited to add:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Manmeet Singh Bhullar

Manmeet Singh Bhullar
March 1, 1980 - November 23, 2015
State Memorial November 29, 2015 at the Jubilee
"Dear God make me more loving and compassionate, give more of myself in service, help me see the greatness imbedded in all and enjoy the moments!" - Manmeet Singh Bullar

Manmeet Bhullar, MLA for Calgary-Montrose, gives his Maiden Speech in the Alberta Legislature on April 16, 2008
Part 1:
Part 2:

Manmeet showed up at my door one day. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't pull a punch. Poor Manmeet had to deal with the wrath of hearing all about the sins of his predecessor, Hung Pham, as I tried to get Hung Pham's help with the issues I had at the Peter Lougheed Hospital with the birth of my daughter. Manmeet took it so well. In fact, he immediately sympathized and talked about his auntie, a midwife. I told him all of that could have been avoided had midwifery been covered as we could never afford the $3500 to have a midwife at the time. THAT is what he took from our conversation and knew that was an easy solution. We stayed in contact over the next while. He wanted to make sure I wasn't associated with doulas or midwifes in the sense that I would financially benefit in anyway. One day, May 4th, I got a call from his office telling me he talked to the health minister and it was going to get funded. I was literally one of the first people to know. I went to the International Day of the Midwife rally at McDougall the next day and told everyone the great news. No one believed me and laughed because, like me, they were incredibly cynical of politician promises, and in their case, have literally been advocating for funding for decades. True to his word, Manmeet had Hansard sent to our home. He actually mentioned me in the Legislature! I put that into my girl's baby book. A man of integrity, within weeks of being elected, he got it done. This was the start of our relationship.

April 2015 - Manmeet campaigning in Abbeydale
Photo credit: Manmeet Bhullar
During the second election, I was in the Alberta Liberal Party as a member. Due to the politics of the time from the leader of the moment, Dr. Raj Sherman, asked Iqtidar Awan to run. I had to help because I was a proud Liberal and I had asked Manmeet repeatedly if he would cross the floor and wear red, LOL! So back to the election, the night and day I'm scrutineering in Abbeydale. I'm worried sick that the Wildrose was going to win. (Ron Leech, Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate and evangelical pastor, wrote a 2004 article for the Calgary Herald that condemned gays. Don't get me started on the lack of libertarian values in the party claiming to be libertarian.) The results came in and Manmeet clearly won these polls. That was a huge relief to me because Abbeydale was suppose to be the Wildrose stronghold at the time. So the PC scrutineers told us right in the parking lot that Manmeet won. I was so happy that I celebrated right there. The Wildrose scrutineers were heartbroken and one even asked me why I was happy. I told her I was scared a homophobe like Leech could be a representative for me and how wrong that was. Besides, I had hope we could get Manmeet to cross the floor, LOL! (I know, I'm wrong and he was so loyal to the PC's. He told me that the colours didn't matter but as a PC he could things done. We agreed to disagree on that, LOL!)
Over the course of knowing him, I talked to him about violence in the community and solutions. I confided in him the honour based violence policy I was working on before I submitted it at the Federal Liberal policy convention in Alberta as most of it would be a provincial initiative anyway. My hope was he could use it anyway and figure out the provincial Progressive-Conservative way to do it, even if they took the credit. The truth is, he wasn't that type of politician to take credit. If I didn't tell the story of the midwifery funding, no one would know about it because he accomplished so much and that was done literally within his first month of being elected with almost no fan fare. He once said the health minister at the time couldn't understand why funding midwifery was so important to Manmeet. He said I inspired him to advocate. The truth is, he just had it in him to advocate for the underdog. That is why I respected him so much. Our area, our communities, need strong advocates. While we were talking about the honour based violence policy, he told me that he was having people in his community getting mad at him because he was trying to stop child abuse and sexual child abuse. He even told me about a man who was threatening him. He didn't back down or off at all. I was so moved by him. Most politicians don't deal with the tough topics like that and certainly not to the community who funded him. But he did it anyway. He understood the need for strong, male leaders like him to speak up. I told him I would love to support him in anyway, not that he needed my help. Those wide shoulders took on so much.

When he took on the portfolio that dealt with child welfare, I was worried for him. I knew dealing with amazing advocates like Velvet Martin meant solutions that Manmeet could work with. However, I also knew there were very, very desperate parents and now adult foster kids that have been traumatized by the system. Only at the memorial service, hearing from his family and friends, was it clear that portfolio was as bad as I knew is it and he took every child's pain personally. His friend said even when encouraged to quit the portfolio, he angrily would shoot back NO! He knew he was strong enough and if the kids were going through the system, it's the least he could do to advocate for them. Sure enough, he did make positive changes in the system before moving on.

There was a stabbing at the night club where Manmeet's office was. I seen the police, and because I didn't actually know yet the details, I just went over to see if it was at Manmeet's office. There he was. That was a relief. I asked him if his staff were ok and no one from his staff was hurt. He told me it was stabbing next door and that he will likely move his office. He did. Across the parking lot, LOL! I was just happy he and his staff were ok. A little too close to home for both of us and of course, a worry about it being related to his work.

Manmeet arranged through my friend Saima a chance to meet Jim Prentice in the leadership race. Jim was the favorite to win, and I wanted to meet the ex-Indian Affairs minister for Harper. Poor Manmeet's team was scared when I said I would come, shooting Saima messages about me being this or that. Like a true friend, she defended me. I offered to send a bunch of questions to them I would ask Jim to help ease their worries, LOL! We went, and had a great time as many other activists and friends I admire were also in attendance. You can't ever talk to Manmeet at events like that because SO many people want to talk to him, LOL! He was more the celebrity than Jim was. I did talk to Jim too but he just assured me he was friends with Indigenous, politely disregarded me and moved on in true patriarchal, colonial form, LOL! It didn't matter as he moved on to Premier and thankfully took down not one, but two ultra conservative parties after 44 years of ruling. (What a relief and I'm grateful.) Manmeet and I likely would have agreed to disagree on that topic. I told him in the last election I could never vote for the ex-Indian Affairs minister under Stephen Harper and wished Manmeet wasn't on Jim's team because Manmeet knew I just adored him. He told our friend Saima that I should run. I told her that Manmeet only wanted me to run to split the progressive vote, LOL! I was happy Manmeet won but over the moon when Prentice stepped down after the historic NDP win. And for what's it's worth, Jim Prentice did an outstanding job as the Master of Ceremonies at Manmeet's service.

I was always busy and Manmeet was always busy. I would shoot him emails on Motion 503, gay rights, missing and murdered Indigenous women, Cindy Gladue and talk to him about Colton Crowshoe. He wanted to know more and hoped to meet Colton's dad. I told him about the family violence day conference happening in the community and told him he needed to be there. Last minute he could and because I was asked to go to Siksika to talk about missing and murdered Indigenous women, he could take my spot on Thursday. Instead of attending, he died a hero on the QE2. My friend Saima and I said Manmeet was a tank. He was. Of course it took a semi to kill him. Of course he had to be out trying to help someone after speaking at a local event in Calgary on the subject of violence.. Like his sister who clearly was unhappy with the lack of consultation on the decision to leave this world, I am too. Manmeet and I will have to agree to disagree on that decision as well.

He stood for women's reproductive health choices. He stood against child sexual abuse, standing for their human rights. He was a leader to men to stop violence. He stood against violence. The last thing he was working on was Afghanistan seeking refuge from religious persecution. He stood for human rights. He is one of my heroes. He inspired me to be involved in politics. I honour him, his friends, his colleagues and his family. Their years of work in his life and words lifted me today. I still can't believe he is gone.

Rest in peace Manmeet. I hope we, the community you inspired, can continue your work. Thank you for teaching me so much, most importantly, faith in service. #NiceToManmeetYou

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill C-51 Panel discussion to the Muslim Community.

Today I was honoured to speak at the Condemning & Confronting Terrorism: Panel Discussion on Bill C-51 organized by Fayaz Tilly, Ilm Intensive, and Saima Jamal. Thank you to the other panel guests, Stephen Garvey, Faraz Bawa, and Brian Seaman for your thoughts and professional opinions. I spoke about the long history of racially targeting and spying on Indigenous Peoples of this land in the boundaries of Canada. To all those amazing people that attended the 8th Fire Gathering and the march downtown against Bill C-51, here is the speech I said:

My speech, March 14, 2015 at a Bill C-51 Panel discussion to the Muslim Community.

-Welcome to Treaty 7 Territory, the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy-

This land has been colonized for over 140 years. In 1877, Treaty 7 was signed with:
  Kainai Nation (Blood)
  Pikani First Nation (Peigan)
  Siksika Nation (Blackfoot)
  Tsuu T'ina Nation (Sarcee)
  Stoney First Nation – Bearspaw, Chiniki, Wesley
  Assiniboine Nation – Nakota, Dakota, Lakota

I speak on behalf of my own perspective as a Yellowknife Dene born in Calgary/Treaty 7, in the Blackfoot Confederacy. I want to acknowledge the event organizers for allowing an Indigenous woman to speak.

There are many misconceptions about the First Peoples’ of this land as I have been personally told by local members of the Muslim community. I pay taxes and have NOT received a free university education. These myths were told to you on purpose to demonize a made up enemy which is something I think your community is being unfairly targeted with now. Communication, education and historical context are the key to finding solutions for you in Canada. I hope to teach some history you may not be aware of because of purposeful agenda to NOT teach the truth of the land you are on. I hope to show you a long history of spying on, tracking, an unfair racial targeting of the First Peoples’ of this land and how the Muslim community can navigate through these waters.

The Indian Act exists today. It is a racist piece of legislation designed to manage and track “Indians” with a legal status as wards of the state. The Indian Pass System was in the Cdn west from 1882-1935 by Indian agents. Indian agents were imposed leadership from the Cdn government where our ancestors had to fill out permission slips and have one on their person at all time so the local NWMP/RCMP could verify we had permission to leave the imposed reservation system the Indian Act created. That system was later studied and implemented in South Africa for their apartheid system. Today, I have my Indian Act imposed Status card on me. This is a tracking system.

The Indian Act started out within the Department of National Defence, because we were (and still are) the enemy. We later we were the largest population willing to fight for the King in the Great War. On the Armed Forces webpage they quote: “Aboriginal soldiers were seen to be adaptable and patient, with keen observation powers, stamina, and courage.”
“The sacrifice of killed and wounded achieved very little politically, economically or socially.’ Historian James Dempsey has described the disappointment felt by many Prairie Indigenous veterans when they returned home. Their exposure to the broader world had changed them profoundly, but they returned to the same patronizing society that they had left. Although eligible for the vote overseas, we lost our democratic rights in Canada. Requirements for veterans’ settlement packages disadvantaged many Indigenous veterans. Although they had fought overseas, their legal status had not changed; they continued to be wards of the Crown.” We did not the right to vote until the 1960’s and in 1965 in Alberta. (That right was fought for by other white veterans with our veterans. People who fight for our rights, we call allies.)

Most of our public fights have been through the courts through the course of past 140 years since our Ancestors signed what our people believe to be peace treaties. However, the Oka Crisis in the summer of 1990 showed the long history of the RCMP and the First Nations, in this case the Mohawks, resulting in violence and death. In the summer of 1995 at Gustafsen Lake in BC, a standoff between the RCMP and First Nations, ended up being the most costly of its kind in Canadian history having involved 400 police officers and support from the Canadian Military (under Operation Wallaby). To this day, there are calls for an independent, impartial inquiry into the RCMP siege at Gustafsen Lake and the alleged ensuing cover-up. Splitting the Sky was one of the leaders at that conflict. He died in 2013 of a bump on the head that the investigators say is a result of him falling and hitting his head. Out of respect to his family’s wishes, his cause of death of has not been disputed.

More recently in 2006, “Information obtained by Access to Information requests reveals that almost immediately upon taking power in 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was given the lead role to spy on First Nations. The goal was to identify the First Nation leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests, and to closely monitor their actions.” June 7, 2011 First Nations Under Surveillance Harper Government Prepares for First Nations “Unrest" by Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak

PM Harper also cut funding for the Court Challenges Program on September 25, 2006; he did this by executive decision with no debate in the House of Commons. The Court Challenges Program operated on a meagre 2.3 million dollar budget, but it was a critical program that provided legal and financial assistance to those seeking equality who could not otherwise challenge unconstitutional laws. PM Harper justified this unilateral action by stating he "intends to behave in a constitutional manner" and his government "does not intend to adopt unconstitutional legislation."

On July 27, 2009, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Leadership issued a statement on their website on how appalled and shocked they were by the Cdn Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute’s report alleging First Nations as a threat to the industry and labeled First Nations as eco-terrorists.

December 5, 2011 - The federal government created a wide-ranging surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would garner national attention or target “critical infrastructure” like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents obtained through access to information requests. “Since the dismantling of the Aboriginal JIG [Joint Intelligence Group], the work done by the JIG is no longer performed at RCMP HQ Criminal Intelligence [CI]. However, we cannot confirm that RCMP divisions are not performing Aboriginal JIG activities under another name of program.” The so-called Aboriginal JIG that gathered the surveillance was run by the RCMP Criminal Intelligence branch and the RCMP’s National Security Criminal Investigations (NSCI), which has teams of officers in strategic locations across the country that deal with “threats to national security and criminal extremism or terrorism.”

Idle No More, and activists against the Northern Gateway pipeline were spied on by CSIS and the RCMP after an access to information request came out showing CSIS and the RCMP were taking direction from the National Energy Board.
This is an another example of intergovernmental cooperation against First Nations.
“In what may be a pitch to the private sector, the RCMP slideshow presentation states that the aboriginal intelligence unit can “alleviate some of your workload as we can help identify trends and issues that may impact more than one community.” It can also “provide information on activist groups who are promoting aboriginal issues within your area.””

Under the Indian Act, there are human rights violations in every sector because we are at an infrastructural funding deficit with the Federal government transfer payments. To compound the issue, we also get targeted for pointing it out. Cindy Blackstock is being monitored because of her human rights claim for Indigenous children against the Cdn government of unequal funding for foster care system. No other municipality or province would tolerate that treatment but our peoples and Chiefs live under this every day. As Pam Palmater said in her blog that was later published on “If someone were to ask me who was the LEAST likely to be spied on by Canada, I would have said Cindy Blackstock because for anyone who knows Cindy or her work, they know she is a peaceful, law-abiding citizen with a big heart. Her only alleged "subversive" or "hostile" act against Canada is that she peacefully advocates on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society: First Nations children.
Cindy does not do her advocacy by riding in on combat helicopters or tanks -- but instead runs the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society, donates her free time to spreading information and speak publicly about the realities faced by First Nations children, and is now running the Have a Heart campaign to raise money for First Nations children.”

Dr. Pam Palmater has also been spied on which she details on her same blog, CSIS and me, Jan 5, 2012. Dr. Palmater a Mi'kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

April 30, 2013 -Canada can't account for $3.1B in anti-terror funding, auditor general’s spring report finds
that means they will find the resources to target you with no accountability or transparency. Remember, this is before Bill C-51 so their claims of having oversight has been proven to be unfounded time and time again.

On Feb. 7/14, First Nations Education Act (FNEA) was launched at Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, here in Treaty 7. Although it was billed on the PMO’s press release as “open to the public, all of us “uninvited” had Blue dots placed on our hearts. It was placed over my heart and worse, my daughter’s. We were watched with Blue Dots, tracked by the police which started the #Bluedot movement and was recognized by Idle No More. That happened here and I bet you didn’t read about it the newspapers or seen that on the TV news. Awful things happened that day but the point is we were monitored by the police as uninvited, in our lands, on our territory. I blogged about it and as far I know is literally the only piece that documented it.

All of these examples are violations of our own Charter of rights and Freedoms. Now you know why you’ve been told so many lies about First Nations, Metis and Inuit. With my examples of spying and surveillance, the Japanese interim camps and since Sept. 11, the security certificates, you need to get political in a different way by going into every party and start submitting your own policies.

Feb. 21/14, A resolution to denounce spying on Indigenous peoples/organizations passed at the Liberal Party of Canada Convention protecting Indigenous Charter of Rights in Sec. 35.
WHEREAS the Conservative Party of Canada created a vast surveillance network
to monitor First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (Indigenous) peoples;
WHEREAS the Federal Government of Canada currently spends millions (how much) of taxpayers dollars annually on these surveillance networks straining the taxpayer;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party of Canada support the immediate end to discriminatory surveillance practices against Indigenous peoples.
I wrote that policy, I advocated for it and it passed. You can do this too.

“Looking at the flipside to these surveillance projects reveals another important dynamic at-play: the strength of ecological movements is being acknowledged.”
If the Muslim community is being unfairly targeted, that means you also have power for them to worry about. Start letter writing campaigns to your newspapers. Join local community boards and other ethno-cultural boards because the more exposure your community gets in a positive way, the more other people will advocate for you. You can’t just stay in your communities talking to your own. Join the military, police and run for office so we can get policy makers at the table that are culturally sensitive. If you learned anything from me today, it’s that Canada has a long history of racially targeting and being actively engaged in is one of the solutions to manage it and hopefully, working to change it.

No one from the Indigenous community wants you to leave. As First Nations, our Ancestors signed those Treaties believing we could respectfully live in peace with the newcomers. I still believe that and want to honour my Ancestors wishes. We can be your allies and embrace this land together. Respect our spirituality and we’ll respect yours as we learn and grow from each other. All of this falls in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our historical Treaties. I’m Treaty, you’re Treaty, we are ALL Treaty. Honour the Treaties.

I am truly honoured to be here and humbled to be able to speak with these fine individuals who share our worries and concerns in their own way. Mahsi Cho.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Racism and it's Effects on lndigenous Health

Racism and it's Effects on Indigenous Health

"Where you are born should not dictate your potential as a human being." ~ Romeo Dallaire

On December 10, 2014, the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI) Human Rights and Health Domains presented in recognition of International Human Rights Day, "Racism and it's Effects on Aboriginal Health" at Mount Royal University, Leacock Theatre, Treaty 7 territory with the opening prayer by Doreen Spence. There were wonderful speakers.

I want to focus on Dr. Cheryl Currie's research. From the biography provided by CUAI, she is a AIHS Translational Health Chair and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. Her research explores the upstream determinants of Indigenous health, strength and resilience in Canada. She works in partnership with urban and rural Indigenous communities to examine health determinants and to develop and evaluate interventions that address community-identified health needs. Dr. Currie is committed to conducting practical, translational research that governments and community stakeholders can use to guide action.

Dr. Currie started out by talking on there being no biological criteria to support race. Race is a social construct and there are many stereotypes in Canada that we need to address and debunk. Right now an Indigenous person with the same level of education will make 30% less simply because they are Indigenous. So when researching this topic, she found that what US African Americans experienced in a lifetime were comparable to what Indigenous peoples' in Canada experience within a year.

From Dr. Currie's presentation.
 Dr. Currie talked about how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should start to include racism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMV.) She cited many medical examples of psychological stress and how it can create dysfunction for life from adrenal cortical and cortisol level dysfunction, to hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA or HTPA axis) adrenal gland dysfunction. She cited studies of racial discrimination being associated with red blood cells and oxidative stress as well as breast cancer being linked to racism. The SWAN heart study - Chronic exposure to everyday discrimination and coronary artery calcification in African-American women. There is also the example of the Sami peoples of Scandinavian countries. She spoke of the need to do more studies that are Canadian specific.

From Dr. Currie's presentation.

From Dr. Currie's presentation.

From Dr. Currie's presentation.

On Dec. 2, 2004, the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights, gave the Human rights and Indigenous issues, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and
fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, by Rodolfo Stavenhagen in which was focused on racism in Canada and Australia. There were many recommendations. Immediately, Australia launched a kindergarten to grade school education reform to stop racism. Recommendations were ignored by Canada, leaving us 10 years behind. Thankfully, Dr. Currie is working with an Indigenous chair on racism in Australia that confirms the barriers she faces in her research today, was the experience in Australia 10 years ago giving her direction on how to approach.

Epigenetics shows the intergenerational trauma's known to show in a person's genes. Articles from Grandma's experiences leave a mark on your genes to Ghost in your Genes by Nova - documentary show the science already proving experiences of 9/11 babies, or on the great grandkids of Holocaust survivors. The U of L is world renown in neuroscience and epigenetics yet there is still a need to have more studies specific to Indigenous peoples' in the boundaries of Canada and how the intergenerational experiences of colonialism has on genetic health.

From Dr. Currie's presentation

From Dr. Currie's presentation

From Dr. Currie's presentation

From Dr. Currie's presentation

From Dr. Currie's presentation. She spoke in detail about blaming the victim in the health field, debunked some myths about Indigenous peoples` having a genetic disposition to alcohol. She also talked about scientific proof of Type 2 Diabetes being linked with chronic stress issues and intergenerational trauma, debunking a genetic disposition.
Solutions were also presented. She spoke of learning the history of colonization, the four phases of colonization, and to be educated on the impacts of internalized oppression with the video of The Kenneth en Mamie Clarks' doll experiment. She spoke of the need to celebrate diversity, the need to return to culture, and the pride that increases with these actions. The peer reviewed Resilience and Indigenous Spirituality: A Literature Review shows the positive results in reducing suicide and alcohol abuse with an increase in culture. Taking action against injustice, protecting young people from oppression, teaching people to create a safe space are ways to help. Demanding our provinces follow the BC example of using Indigenous Cultural competency training program in health services. Lastly, she spoke of being an Ally and how Anne Bishop`s book Becoming an Ally has a free chapter to give to people.

Dr. Currie`s research should be used in evidence-based policy nationally. In health, poverty is considered the number one determinant in health. Dr. Currie is correct to say it is actually racism. We can see that with the imposed Indian Act is a racist act that created systemic poverty, creating the health issues we see today. Having a kindergarten to grade school education program that focuses on history of Indigenous knowledge, and racism prevention are needed. Having health professionals and other professions have complete Indigenous Cultural competency training nationally is needed. Changing the systemic oppression of the Indian Act is also needed.

She ended her talks with a wonderful thought. Human dignity, plus compassion equals peace. She can be reached at

For more on Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing.