I was offered the opportunity to participate in an Ontario Power Authority initiative - Giibimidowing Gidakiiminaan – Keeping, Respecting & Caring For Our Land Treaty #3 Conference – August 21 – 23, 2012 in Kenora, Ontario at which I jumped readily. It was my opportunity to motivate, encourage & talk about possibilities – in renewables, but even beyond.
My dealings with First Nations, in the past, have taught me that I am but a stranger, an outsider to them. How would I know anything about who they are or how they live? Perception & reality are significantly different in my books. However, I always make it a point to speak from the heart and this opportunity was no exception.
So off I flew to Thunder Bay where I met some of the other speakers and together we set off by car to Kenora, Ontario.
Trees, grass, water. Clean air. True blue skies. Not like the haze many have grown to become accustomed to in the Greater Toronto Area.
However, this area is not without its environmental – economical – technological – societal problems, quite the contrary. Another type of unhealthy haze has been inflicted, and it is one that separates us huge concentration of southerners from the realities & truths of those living in the true north (which people in Kenora laugh and say they consider themselves in the south of the the north!).
Kenora, Ontario, some 5 hours drive from Thunder Bay – 3 hours drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba, lies in Treaty #3 First Nations area. Unfamiliar with Treaty #3 and its’ important historical significance in Canada?
“Treaty 3 was an agreement entered into on October 3, 1873, by the Ojibway Nation and Queen Victoria. The treaty ceded a vast tract of Ojibway territory, including large parts of what is now northwestern Ontario and a small part of eastern Manitoba, to the Government of Canada. Treaty 3 also provided for rights for the Métis and other Ojibway, through a series of adhesions signed over the next year.
It was the third in a series of eleven numbered treaties between the Crown and North American First Nations. Despite being the third of these treaties it is in fact more historically significant in that its text and terms served as the model for the remainder of the numbered treaties. Treaties 1 and 2 covered an area about the same size and in fact had to be amended to reflect some of the developments arising out of the negotiation of Treaty 3. At the time that it was negotiated it was anticipated that the terms of Treaty 3 would serve as a model for future treaties and would require the amendment of Treaties 1 and 2 [Letter from Minister of the Interior Campbell to Lieutenant-Governor Morris, 5 August 1873, Public Archives of Canada ("PAC"), RG10, vol. 1904].
Treaty 3 has particular historical significance because of the litigation that ensued between the Crown in Right of Ontario and the Crown in Right of Canada over the significance of the treaty and the respective roles of Canada and the provinces in relation to aboriginal peoples. The first of these cases is the St. Catharines Milling v. The Queen [(1888), 14 App. Cas. 65 (P.C.)] which dealt with the question of the ownership of lands subject to a treaty (a question that was decided in favour of the Province). The second, A.G. (Canada) v. A.G. (Ontario), [(1910) A.C. (P.C.)], dealt with the question of whether or not Ontario had to indemnify Canada for the expenses incurred in negotiating the treaty and the ongoing costs of fulfilling the treaty obligations. Canada lost this case as well with the Supreme Court of Canada and the Privy Council holding that Canada was responsible for Indian affairs and the welfare of Indians and that the treaty had been negotiated to achieve broad national purposes (such as the building of the transcontinental railway) rather than to benefit Ontario. The significance of these decisions is still a matter of discussion in the Canadian courts.
Treaty 3 is also significant as there exists a written record of the native peoples understanding of the treaty. This is known as the Paypom document. It is a series of notes that were written for Chief Powassin during the treaty negotiations, and documents the promises that were made to the First Nations people. The promises in the Paypom document differ in a number of ways from the printed version available from the Canadian government.” – wikipedia
As a result, First Nations has no trust in outsiders and their talk about this and about that. Not just with this treaty, but with a number of ‘agreements’ and/or ‘contracts’ and/or ‘initiatives’, many First Nations takes the stance that others don’t live up to their end of the ‘bargains’. This is not to say there are no First Nations people who develop trust or ally themselves with others, however, they do with much caution. In either case, I don’t blame them.
Making a long story short, I spoke my presentation from the heart and managed to connect with many, like Willy – a 74 year old elder, who has been attending all kinds of meetings and gatherings about the community, “… since 1981.” he said.
“I’m not afraid of progress. But. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing it.” he almost whispered at me, as his aged wise eyes looked at me, the breeze blowing about his straw coloured, long hair.
First Nations Treaty #3 has a number of issues that are affecting their communities, and in no small manner.
3 hydro electric dams stand at the centre of much controversy. First Nations describe how the frogs have disappeared. No longer do the sturgeon grow. In September of 2011, Grand Council Treaty #3 filed an application for judicial review. Respondents are the Province of Ontario as represented by the Ontario Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). The main issue at the centre of this review is the Respondents failure to perform their “duty to consult” in good faith with First Nations.
“… the Ontario Energy Minister’s direction to the OPA to develop the Hydroelectric Contract Initiative (HCI) without Aboriginal consultation. In question is the OPA’s development and implementation of the HCI, the decision by OPA to enter into an HCI contract for existing hydroelectric generating facilities (Calm Lake, Sturgeon Falls, Fort Frances, Kenora, and Norman) in Treaty 3 territory with ACH Limited Partnership (ACH). As of May 2011, these dams are owned by Calgary based BluEarth Renewables Inc.” – GCT3 (Please read here for full text)
Sounds as though, once again, people are not living up to their ends of ‘bargains’ … and so the cycle continues.
How about the proposed ‘solution’ of dumping toxic nuclear waste into the communities up there? (Click here for full text of story.) Nuclear Waste Management was on the agenda for the discussions as well. Their displays, which likely cost thousands and thousands of dollars, took a whole day to put up, I watched it. They were complicated, showed large pictures of business people and were overwhelming, even for me.
In no way is this an effective way of communicating to First Nations … and again, the cycle continues.
In December of 2011, Treaty #3 launched an education lawsuit against the federal government – the reason? ” … a breach of their treaty right to education.”
Inexperienced teachers & disintegrating schools. Yes, it’s real and not fixed, even if Mike Holmes has drawn attention to the appalling living conditions, as he did in his December 2011 CBC article entitled, “Stop building junk on reserves.”
And if that doesn’t get you, let’s just go deeper down the rabbit hole and talk about how shocking Pikangikum truly is.
If you have never heard of this place, you need to.
In 2000, this First Nation was given the horrible and terribly sad title of, “Highest Suicide Rate in the WORLD” (I used wikipedia as a reference, but that info is not complete & certainly paints a picture leaning toward female inhalant abuse. It’s way more than that, affecting all.) And, it hasn’t stopped.
In fact, this area is especially worse than ever.
I met a local from the area who shall remain nameless, due to the sensitivity of this information.
In March of 2012, MacLean’s published a story called, “Living and dying in Pikangikum.” While it does speak to the horrors of life up in the area, it surely isn’t giving up the whole picture.
Picture a home, barely a structure, empty. No beds, no appliances, nothing. A First Nations woman, standing in the middle of it, with utter desperation in her eyes.
Where to get another $500.00 together for just one more tab of Oxycontin.
Yes, comfortable ladies and gentlemen, reading this online, having encountered this sad article somehow through the internet because you are able to.
One tab of Oxy goes for $500.00, usually split into 4 – so 1/4 tab per person at $125.00.
How about a mickey? A mickey of alcohol is $250.00.
Who controls all this? I won’t write it out loud, but they surely are not angels.
We should all be ashamed of ourselves, allowing such injustices to continue to First Nations. In fact, one of the Elders, a ‘Grandma’ said,
“First it was smallpox. Now this. Why not just give them smallpox and be done with it.”
It is not right to have our eyes shut for us to this, or for us to shut our eyes to it ourselves.
So, if you didn’t know about all this, dig deep.
Go even deeper and talk to First Nations. What? You can’t or don’t know how to? That’s bull. Keeping us separate is an excellent way to keep the cycle of abuse going. I have and no, I don’t always believe everything … whether it’s from the government or from First Nations. But I have observed this now myself having been there and there is no denying that while technology can most definitely be used to improve the quality of all of our lives, it has also become apparent that it can also create great problems that cannot be swept under the rug: it’s as simple as having the power to transport in drugs and alcohol to remote locations and turn viable people into zombies walking around ghost towns, as some really evil people are capitalizing on the genocide of a people.
But don’t believe me. As I said, go find out for yourself. And if you do not find this sad, shocking, angering, then perhaps all is lost and we live in a soul-less, money loving people filled country.
I hope that some of you reading this can connect even more dots in between with the mind-bending and twisted way some of our communities are merely being given perceptions, words & stories that makes the “jobs & prosperity” buzz over resources & technologies sound so great.
If we have such wonderful communication technologies, how come we seem to have difficulty in communicating, educating, negotiating & consulting with First Nations? If guns kill people, spoons are making Harper fat.
It is also my hope that heartfull, responsible people will step-up and champion the introduction of new ways that are right, to the benefit of our communities and the children of our future.
But what do I know?