Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On the UN hot seat

The following article was in the Winnipeg Free Press this past weekend. The article causes you to pause and think. As Métis Mama, I have expressed in the past that I believe the Government of Canada (both the Liberals and the Conservatives) should have supported the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. They have been involved in the proposing and amending of the text and at some point their position is embarrassing but even more disconcerting was the statement in the article: "Earlier this week, Canada was the only country to vote against -- there were 33 for and 13 abstentions -- a resolution condemning Israel for its invasion of Gaza."

I guess if they won't take a stand after what seems to be a global outcry or at the least abstain from the vote .... what chance do Aboriginal people have of ever negotiating their rights. That is why so much money continues to be spent in court rooms - defining the boundaries of Aboriginal rights. Another colossal waste of tax dollars that make lawyers rich in the courtrooms and never at a bargaining table where the resources could be spent on issues that benefit everyone.

OTTAWA — Do you like to think Canada is a haven for human rights? When you hear of atroci­ties in other countries, do you pat yourself on the back and think at least it doesn’t happen here? If you do, chances are you haven't been to a First Nation in Canada lately.

The abject poverty of Canada's aboriginal people -- the overcrowded houses riddled with mould, the high levels of violence and addiction, poor levels of education, massive unemployment and literacy rates that should make a western nation blush -- all are part of a picture of Canada's commitment to human rights that could earn the country a big fat "F" from the United Nations Human Rights Council next month.

"Canada is such a champion on the world stage of human rights, but when it comes to its own indigenous people, it's a different story," said Craig Benjamin, a spokesman for Amnesty Canada, one of 50 non-governmental agencies that have written to the UN slamming Canada's human rights record at home.

The UN Human Rights Council is launching a process to review the human rights record of all 192 member nations of the UN. Canada is one of 48 countries that will go under the spotlight this year. Our time in front of the committee begins early next month.

Canada is no stranger to being at odds with the UNHRC. Earlier this week, Canada was the only country to vote against -- there were 33 for and 13 abstentions -- a resolution condemning Israel for its invasion of Gaza. Like its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission, the council focuses much of its criticism on Israel.

In an editorial two years ago, the Free Press called the council "a lie, a Potemkin village designed to let the UN pretend that it actually cares about human rights."

Still, it carries the UN brand and its criticisms will be a welcome tool for aboriginal groups applying pressure on the federal government.

While Canada itself has submitted a report to the UN that outlines a long list of ways the country is committed to human rights, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are accusing the government of providing a glossed-over look at its programs that borders on flat-out falsehood.

"At best, they are using language to try and make Canada look good without just being honest about where we are," said Kathy Vandergrift, chairwoman of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children.

For example, the report says aboriginal housing is a priority and points to a program supporting the construction of 2,300 new homes and renovations to 3,300 existing homes on reserves.

But that, says the Assembly of First Nations, is not even a drop in the bucket. The AFN submission to the UN says 44,000 houses on First Nations need major repairs and if housing in First Nations was at the same standard as the rest of Canada, another 87,000 new houses would have to be built.

In Garden Hill, for example, one of the largest reserves in Manitoba, one in every two homes is in need of major repairs, according to Statistics Canada.

That same reserve has no running water or sewers, forcing residents to cart water from wells around the reserve and use outhouses when it is 40 below. Fewer than one in four people are employed, and fewer than one in five finish high school.

Those are the kind of statistics, says National Chief Phil Fontaine, that beg the attention of Canadians.
"Canadians are fair-minded," said Fontaine. "If they knew better than they do about why we're so impoverished, they'd bring considerable pressure on the Canadian government to do the right thing."

He's hopeful the UN process goes a long way to attracting that attention.

Amnesty's Benjamin said he thinks the process might force Ottawa to act, because a public shaming by a body Canada helped create -- and lobbied to be a member of -- would be hard for the government to ignore.
"When you seek to be a member of this council, you are making a commitment to human rights," said Benjamin. "It would be quite contradictory to seek membership and then ignore the recommendations."

Among the bigger problems raised with the UN was Canada's refusal to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007.

Canada then and now says that declaration was overly vague and was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, Canada says it will ensure the rights of indigenous people its own way, including through legislation passed last year that eliminated the exemption of First Nations from being subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Manitoba MP Rod Bruinooge, a Métis and former parliamentary secretary for Indian Affairs, said last summer the extension of the act meant the federal government could no longer legally ignore the Canadian Human Rights Act when making decisions about First Nations.

"The double standard of human rights protection for some but not for First Nations people is gone and it is gone forever," Bruinooge said in a speech at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in July.

But Fontaine says that legislation in and of itself violated the spirit of human rights because it wasn't created with an appropriate level of consultation with First Nations. Fontaine said the government can't pretend to have extended human rights to First Nations when it still refuses to endorse the UN declaration.

"The unfortunate message we received from this is that this government is going to pick and choose what human rights it will defend," said Fontaine. "It is a stain on Canada's international reputation."

Benjamin said Canada's refusal to sign that agreement is an oddity, and even worse is Canada's claim that because it didn't agree with the declaration, it doesn't apply in Canada.

"That breaks apart the whole notion that human rights are universal," said Benjamin. He said Canada, of all countries, can readily afford to ensure the rights of aboriginal people are protected.

"If Canada doesn't do it, what does that say to the rest of the world?" he asked.

He added the fact a country as rich and developed as Canada has an entire segment of the population with such undeniably poor living situations is a huge blight.

"Canada is such a champion on the world stage of human rights. But when it comes to indigenous people, it is a different story," said Benjamin.

The differences in standard of living for Canada's First Nations people is stark. From housing to education, health to family finances, the experience of most aboriginal Canadians is bleak.

One in every four First Nations children lives in poverty, and seven in 10 will never finish high school. Unemployment on some reserves exceeds 90 per cent, adding stress to overcrowded living conditions, shoddy housing and, in many communities, no running water or functioning sewer system. First Nations people have shorter life expectancies, and are far more likely to be victims of violence, particularly First Nations women.

Amnesty Canada says young First Nations women are five times as likely to die a violent death as other women their age. Benjamin says what's frustrating is that even though there has been a recognition of that from all levels of government, next to nothing is being done.

"To pass it off to say we've given funding for public education is pretty disappointing," said Benjamin.

The AFN says the government has been told repeatedly it is chronically underfunding aboriginal children in areas such as education, child welfare and housing. And many times the government itself has acknowledged that to be true, including in the report to the UN.

But Fontaine says the fact the government has failed to actually do anything about it is taken by the AFN as an indication the underfunding is deliberate.

Benjamin says government inaction in the face of knowing the reality, is likely a result of racism -- both endemic to government itself and to the Canadian people who aren't demanding more from the government.

Three years ago, an agreement between Ottawa, the provinces and aboriginal leaders was supposed to have been a major step towards closing the gap in the standard of living of aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada. Known as the Kelowna Accord, the $5-billion agreement was to have dealt with a number of areas, including investing in housing, education, economic development and health care.

Benjamin says Kelowna alone would not have meant a complete improvement towards ensuring the rights of Canada's aboriginal people.

"Funding alone has never been the solution," said Benjamin. "But I do think the accord signalled an attempt to significantly close that gap."

This upcoming federal budget is likely to produce an investment in First Nations education and infrastructure. Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl promised as much in interviews this week.

The AFN is asking for Ottawa to implement Kelowna and add an additional $3 billion over two years for massive housing repairs and new schools.

Fontaine said anyone who thinks they are unaffected by the poverty of First Nations people should give their head a shake. "This is not just a burden on our people," he said. "It's a burden on the entire country."

Statistics (-- Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty Canada, United Church of Canada, Statistics Canada

  • 19 per cent of Canadians between 20 and 24 haven't completed high school. For aboriginal people in the same age bracket, the rate is 44 per cent.
  • The infant mortality rate for aboriginal babies is 20 per cent higher than the rest of Canada
  • Aboriginal people are three times as likely to have Type 2 diabetes
  • The unemployment rate for all Canadians is about 6.6 per cent. On most reserves it is 29 per cent. Among aboriginal people overall it is 19.1 per cent.
  • Aboriginal Canadians have a median employment income of $16,000. The median employment income for other Canadians is roughly $25,000.
  • One out of every four First Nations children lives in poverty compared to one in six other Canadian children.
  • First Nations families are three times more likely to experience poor living conditions.
  • Mould contaminates almost half of all First Nations households.
  • More than 100 First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water.
  • One aboriginal child in eight is disabled, double the rate of all children in Canada.
  • Overcrowding among First Nations families is double the rate of that for all Canadian families.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Accountability, Transparent, Integrity, Honesty

Accountability, transparency, integrity, honesty …. Words that used to have meaning. Several readers defended Mr. Brazeau’s appointment to the Senate of Canada because they bought into the Harper propaganda. Harper knew about the lack of integrity, accountability and honesty of this individual when he appointed him to the Senate of Canada. The Health Canada story may have got released to the media today – but it was not the first knowledge for the Prime Minister and the Indian and Northern Affairs Minister.

The Métis National Council will be next on the list of public disclosure. Their funding has been suspended for more then 18 months due to their Health dollar fiasco. The preliminary audits showed many of the same issues as CAP’s. Money has been funneled through MMF for a long while because of the audits not being complete. We will have to wait and see what the reports final figures look like but probably not so different a picture. Maybe Clem Chartier will get named to the Senate too - after all ,,, hmmm - makes one think.

Globe and Mail
From Monday's Globe and Mail
January 19, 2009 at 4:11 AM EST

OTTAWA — Health Canada is demanding the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples return up to $260,000 in ineligible expenses after an audit found directors of the native advocacy group divvied up thousands of dollars in federal cash with insufficient evidence of where the money went.

The federal department has suspended all funding to the organization, led until recently by new Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, until the group comes up with a plan to pay back the money and respond to the government's concerns.

Health Canada launched an audit in late 2007 to find out what happened to $472,900 it transferred to the congress for projects aimed at improving aboriginal health in areas such as early childhood development and diabetes.

Auditors discovered a long list of problems, including improper per diem claims, the hiring of consultants without contracts or competition and the handing out of large sums of cash to directors with little explanation.

"The audit findings identified concerns with CAP's internal financial controls including approximately $260,000 of ineligible expenses in consulting fees, travel and meeting costs and per diems for CAP employees during 2005-06," according to a statement from Health Canada released to The Globe and Mail.

The audit found most of the department's money was spent on board meetings, yet the minutes of those meetings were either non-existent or made "little reference about the health programs."

The department said it will not finalize and publish the audit until it is repaid by the congress. Health Canada's comments were in response to questions from The Globe, which obtained a draft audit report dated March 28, 2008.

The congress disputes Health Canada's $260,000 figure, saying the draft audit requested only $54,678 be paid back, while a further $205,795 was deemed "qualified," meaning there was insufficient information to make a decision on the expenses.

"The Health Canada draft audit report was correct in finding that cash was, at times, used to pay meeting participants," the congress said in a statement to The Globe through its accounting firm, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. "The per-diem amounts paid to Directors were generally in cash. This practice was discontinued from April 2006 onward, prior to the draft audit report."

The congress stressed the report is not yet final and there will be adjustments in the amount of money Health Canada wants returned as the congress clarifies its explanations of certain expenses.

Mr. Brazeau, 34, was vice-chief of the organization in 2005 and rose to president and national chief in February of 2006. During his nearly three years in charge of the advocacy group for off-reserve aboriginals, he attracted attention with his blunt calls for native leaders to be more transparent and accountable with taxpayers' money.

The draft Health Canada audit disputes $16,050 in payments to the congress president and vice-president, but the organization said the salaries of those two office-holders are usually adjusted based on the number of programs in which they participate.

Auditors took issue with a practice whereby thousands of dollars in cash would be handed out at board meetings.

"The audit found that large amounts of money (varying between $11,000 and $18,000 - exceptionally $65,000 for the Annual General Assembly) were sometimes disbursed to the Finance Officer to enable the distribution of cash allocation to the CAP Directors when they attended meetings. It was also noted that the accounting records only showed 'Miscellaneous' instead of showing the payees' names on some of the cheques issued."

Auditors recommended the congress use cheques in future, rather than distributing substantial amounts of money in cash. The congress said the cash payments covered legitimate per diem claims.

At a board meeting in May of 2006, each board member was given $7,250 toward the health projects, even though the period in which to conduct the work had expired.

"There was no provision in these arrangements to require the affiliates to justify the use of the transferred funds and to allow for a verification of how the funds were used," the audit states.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Aboriginal Economic Stimulus - Looks like Social Programs

We do not have the proposals to view, obviously and we have to rely on how the media presents the information ... but either I am missing something or my interpretation of Economic Stimulus is different....

Where is the money to establish the development of Aboriginal corporations that can build infrastructure and capacity to hire the skilled work force and do the types of economic stimulation that will have us making money instead of begging for hand outs? Why are we not trying to be the corporations, contractors, housing developers, road builders? If we developed large Aboriginal corporations and were available to be the contractors on the infrastructure infusion of tax dollars - we would earn the profits we need to have our own social programs.

Yes we need housing, education, skills development ... The government has invested millions of dollars in these issues in the past and we still need sewers, clean water, housing, health care and many of those basic needs in our communities. Imagine though if we were the Aboriginal Corporation with billions of dollars a year in profit, hiring the skilled and/or educated Aboriginal workforce - we may find our grand children or great grandchildren won't have to be dependent on social programming in future generations - just a thought.

Native leaders talk cash over dinner with PM, premiers

OTTAWA - Talk about a hefty dinner tab.
The Canadian Press

Canada's five aboriginal leaders met with the prime minister and premiers Thursday night over Alberta sirloin and a $22-a-bottle wine selection. Also on the menu: calls for federal-budget cash for native housing, job training and a range of building projects totalling more than $4.4 billion over the next two years.

The Harper government is set to deliver a big-spending budget Jan. 27 with enough economic accelerants to drive the deficit up to $40 billion.

Aboriginal leaders want a substantial share to lift sometimes dismal living and education standards across Canada. They emerged from the two-hour dinner citing hopeful signs that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had a change of heart when it comes to native issues.
"He talked about the apology and what (it) meant to many Canadians, including himself," said Phil Fontaine, head of the national Assembly of First Nations.

He was referring to a moving apology Harper delivered last June 11 for generations of racist policy in once-mandatory native residential schools.

Fontaine described a warm, generous tone in Harper that suggests the events of last spring added up to "a special moment in time for the country. And it can be seen as a staging point for a number of important transformative changes that have to take place ... to ensure that we can reclaim our rightful place in Canada - this, our homeland.

"I'm leaving here this evening quite hopeful that there will be fairness in the budget" that could lead to real change for aboriginal people, he said.

It won't come cheap.

Fontaine is calling for $3 billion for long neglected housing, education and skills training on reserves. Mary Simon, head of the political group representing Canada's Inuit, wants $1 billion. The Metis National Council has asked for $400 million.

The Native Women's Association of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples representing off-reserve residents, want millions of dollars more.

All five national native groups have stressed the need for focused skills training and various construction projects that create jobs fast.

Fontaine is also calling for another $1 billion in repayable loans for aboriginal business ventures in partnership with the private sector.

He described his plan as "practical and achievable."

It would be a mistake, he said, to relegate aboriginal concerns to the status of "afterthought" as political leaders wrestle with the current economic crisis.

"In the good times, when this country was realizing billions of dollars in surplus, we didn't fare as well as the rest of the country," Fontaine said.

In fact, successive federal budgets delivered by the Harper government have included relatively little new money for native needs. Signals from the highest circles of power suggest that might change as an administration once allergic to deficits now openly talks of overspending by up to $40 billion.

"This is where the numbers seem to be right now," said a senior government official, on condition of anonymity.

"The deficit may be up to $40 billion due to the stimulus package."

Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl has said native housing, new schools and skills training are targets for an aboriginal job-creation package to be included in the budget.

He wouldn't put a dollar figure on the package after Thursday's meeting, but has said he's sure "there's going to be money specifically set aside for aboriginal projects."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall leads the province with one of the biggest aboriginal populations in the country.

"Well, there are a lot of asks right now," he said of soaring requests for federal help across virtually all economic sectors.

That said, "aboriginal people in this country have a very strong case to make about infrastructure needs on reserve.

"We in Saskatchewan have been saying we need additional investment in terms of job skills, skills training for First Nations people. They're underrepresented in our economy."
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer agreed.

"I would argue that's not just a social investment, that's an economic investment. When we look at the growing demographics of aboriginal people, when we look down the road as we come through the challenges of the economy, we're going to need more skilled and trained people.

"'We've got to get the high-school graduation rate up. We've got to do that together."

The issue of federal-provincial duties when it comes to growing aboriginal demands raised some thorny questions, however.

Signals from the Harper government that Ottawa expects provinces to pitch in for such projects had some premiers talking jurisdiction.

"I think there are clear constitutional responsibilities and we ought to be respectful of those," said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"But ... I believe there's going to be a strong consensus that all Canadians ought to benefit from this stimulus package.

"When it comes to pressing need, compounded by this global economic crisis, I'm not sure there are any groups of Canadians that find themselves in greater need than our aboriginal communities."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Latest Press Release from the Metis Nation of Alberta

Press Release
Attention News Editors

Court of Appeal of Alberta Renders Unanimous Judgment Upholding MNA Judiciary Council’s Decision on Boucher Suspension

Metis Self-Government Institutions Respected and Vindicated

Edmonton, AB (January 15, 2009) – In a unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal of Alberta has upheld the decision of the Métis Nation of Alberta’s Judiciary Council to reprimand and suspend Rick Boucher, former Vice President for MNA Region One.

A three member panel of the Court of Appeal of Alberta released its decision in Rick Boucher v. MNA last week. The decision dismissed Mr. Boucher’s challenge against the MNA Judiciary Council’s decision to suspend him until 2010 for actions that were found to be “gravely detrimental” to the Métis Nation.

A backgrounder on the MNA Judiciary Council’s decision and the related court proceedings is attached.

On behalf of the Alberta Court of Appeal, Justice J. Côté held that “there was no breach or wrong reviewable on any standard of review” by the MNA Judiciary Council or by Justice M.A. Binder of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench who had previously upheld the decision of the MNA Judiciary Council against Mr. Boucher.

The Alberta Court of Appeal also held that natural justice was observed by the MNA Judiciary Council during its hearing and deliberations. Further, the MNA Judiciary Council’s finding with respect to Mr. Boucher’s disloyalty as a MNA Provincial Council member was not founded on “irrelevant consideration or lacked all evidence.”

“The Alberta Court of Appeal has only further validated what our own Métis selfgovernment institution – the MNA Judiciary Council – rightly confirmed back in December 2007. Namely, Métis leaders are elected to serve the interests of the Métis people, not their only self interests or personal political agendas,” said MNA President Audrey Poitras.

“This decision is also important because it adds to the growing body of law that recognizes the authority of Métis governments to conduct our own affairs. While it is unfortunate that so much time and energy had to be expended on this issue, the exercise has validated the integrity, independence and jurisdiction of one of the MNA’s self-government institutions – the MNA Judiciary Council,” added Poitras.

President Poitras concluded, “The release of this decision is timely as the newly elected MNA Provincial Council is meeting this week to begin developing a strategic plan for our new mandate. With this decision and resolution of this issue, the new MNA Provincial Council can confidently move forward in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of all Alberta Métis.”

For additional information contact:
Charity Sokolan
MNA Communications
Ph: (780) 455-2200

Backgrounder on Rick Boucher Suspension

In May 2007, a complaint against Rick Boucher, as the MNA Vice-President for Region One, was filed with the MNA Judiciary Council. It was based on the MNA Provincial Council passing a unanimous motion (that was seconded by Boucher), which directed the MNA to pursue a bilateral agreement with Health Canada for the delivery of the Aboriginal Health Human Resource Initiative (AHHRI), rather than entering into a sub-agreement with the Métis National Council (MNC).

In March 2007, unbeknownst to the MNA President, the MNA Provincial Council and the MNA Region One Regional Council, Mr. Boucher entered into an agreement with the MNC for the delivery of the AHHRI through Metco Ventures Inc. (Metco), a private company Mr. Boucher 100% owned as of the date of signing the agreement. The MNC-Metco agreement provided that Metco would now deliver health programs to Métis in Alberta, rather than the MNA.

Following an investigation and hearing on the complaint, the MNA Judiciary Council found that Mr. Boucher “made a decision to use a company he controlled to take an agreement away from the MNA”, that Mr. Boucher “owed a duty to the MNA” and that “he had no right to act on his own contrary to the motion” passed by the MNA Provincial Council in February 2007.

The MNA Judiciary Council concluded that, The MNA could not operate if every Councillor felt entitled to take information obtained through the MNA and then act on their own through companies preventing the MNA from proceeding with negotiating agreements when the Provincial Council had authorized the negotiation of such agreements. … People in the position of Mr. Boucher as a member of the Provincial Council harm the integrity and credibility of the entire Métis Nation of Alberta by ignoring the process for Governing affairs of the Provincial Council.

Based on these findings, the MNA Judiciary Council reprimanded and immediately suspended Mr. Boucher from the MNA Provincial Council and from holding specific positions in the MNA until December 18th, 2010.
Mr. Boucher rejected the jurisdiction and ruling of the MNA Judiciary Council and filed a judicial review in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to set aside the Judiciary Council’s decision. Justice M.A. Binder of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench rejected Mr. Boucher’s application and upheld the decision of the MNA Judiciary Council in a decision dated May 1st, 2008.

Mr. Boucher then appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal. On January 7, 2009, the Court of Appeal released its decision in Boucher v. MNA, which once again upheld the decision of the MNA Judiciary Council.

A copy of the decision is available at or through the Alberta Justice at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

PUBLIC NOTICE: Métis Nation of Alberta – Open House

PUBLIC NOTICE: Métis Nation of Alberta – Open House
January 21, 2009, 4:00pm to 9:00pm

AT Lakeview Inn, Fort Saskatchewan, AB


Métis Traditional Land Use Study& Métis Consultation on Alberta’s Industrial Heartland
Fort Saskatchewan, AB –
Lakeview Inn
10115 - 88th Avenue (between HWY 15 & HWY 21)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 – 4:00pm to 9:00pm


The Métis Regional Councils of Region 2 and Region 4 of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) are hosting Open Houses for its members in an effort to study its peoples’ cultural and traditional land use knowledge, and to assist in the development of a broader Métis Consultation Policy.

The Traditional Land Use Study will involve interviews and site visits with Métis harvesters who hunt, trap, fish, and use the land’s natural resources for sustenance and cultural purposes. The study will also document historical data of Métis people such as old settlements, gravesites, and economic routes to understand how our heritage has evolved in the area.

The Open House will be an opportunity for Métis people to share their traditional knowledge of the Industrial Heartland area north of Fort Saskatchewan. We hope it will help identify more Métis harvesters and Elders who can be interviewed.

The session will also provide MNA members an opportunity to have input on the principles and framework of the proposed Métis Consultation Policy. This policy will be implemented by MNA as a guide for Government and Industry proponents from major projects who will need to consult with the Métis Nation of Alberta, its Regional Councils and local membership.

While the MNA intends to conduct similar studies across the province, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland located between Regions 2 & 4 will be the focus of this regional study area, to bring insight and raise community awareness of the environmental impacts of future development on Métis/Aboriginal rights.

Alberta’s ‘Industrial Heartland’ includes the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County and Lamont County. Pending developments and projects currently underway in this area is known as ‘Upgrader Alley’.

It is the MNA’s position that the proponents or companies applying to build these projects have a constitutional and legal duty to consult the Métis community on such developments. As part of each proponent’s environmental impact assessment, the traditional land use studies will demonstrate how Métis harvesting rights will be impacted.

The MNA’s intention is not to impede economic development, but to ensure that projects consider how the impacts on air, land and water will affect citizens and our traditional way of life. As well, such research and consultations will enable the MNA to negotiate accommodations for Métis people to benefit from development in our communities.

The MNA welcomes its members to come and share their knowledge and learn more about these initiatives.

Please join us.

MNC - Metis National Council Economic Development Forum and First Ministers Meeting

Métis Mama has recently been advised that at a preliminary meeting to the First Ministers Meeting - President Clem Chartier submitted an Economic Stimulus Proposal to the Prime Minister for 295 Million Dollars. Here is the attached press releases relating to the next steps:

Winnipeg, MB (January 13,2008) – Métis leaders, officials, business people and entrepreneurs from across the Métis homeland are gathered in Winnipeg today for the Métis Nation Economic Development Forum. Métis National Council President Clément Chartier was joined by Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand to open the forum.

“The Métis Nation has made significant strides in building our communities economic strength over the last 2 decades,” said Métis National Council President Clément Chartier. “It’s vital we continue this work to ensure our gains don’t unravel during the current global economic downturn.”

Over 2 days of meetings and workshops, participants will discuss both long and short term opportunities for economic development in Métis communities in relation to the new Federal framework for Aboriginal economic development.

Among the issues that will be discussed are the renewal of Métis Human Resources Development Agreements (MHRDA), creating education and training opportunities for Métis students and strengthening financial institutions such as the Métis Capital Corporations.

The forum will also include a discussion on the Métis Nation Economic Stimulus Proposal. The proposal was requested by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for consideration in the 2009 Federal Budget, and will be discussed at the upcoming First Ministers Meeting with the leaders of the National Aboriginal Organizations.

“This stimulus package will include Métis-specific initiatives and approaches to ensure that Métis Nation citizens continue to contribute meaningfully and take a proactive role in Canada’s economic future,” said David Chartrand, MNC Vice-president and Minister of Social Development. “The steps we take towards improving the lives of Métis today will benefit all Canadians in the future.”

The comprehensive stimulus plan outlines various projects and initiatives geared towards stimulating economic growth in Métis communities, improving Métis housing, providing job training for Métis workers and fostering Métis participation in Canada’s natural resources sector.“

Métis were among the last to share in the boom of the past decade, but are now some of the first to feel the effects of the downturn,” said President Chartier. “The Métis Nation Economic Stimulus Proposal offers the federal government many constructive investment opportunities to mitigate hardship in Métis communities and create a more secure economy for all Canadians.


Manitoba News Release............................................................
January 14, 2009

Premier Gary Doer will join Prime Minister Stephen Harper and provincial and territorial premiers in Ottawa Thursday and Friday for a first ministers' meeting on the economy, which will include a session with Canada's Aboriginal leaders.

"Manitoba is in a solid position to weather the current economic storm, but we cannot be complacent. We are prepared to do our part as a province to ensure our province and country not only remains economically strong but continues to grow for the benefit of all our citizens," Doer said.

Doer met with Manitoba First Nations and Métis leaders in advance of Thursday's meeting with national Aboriginal leaders. Issues Manitoba will raise include improving education and training opportunities and investing in housing, water and other critical infrastructure.

"As we develop a national plan, it is important that we work with Aboriginal leaders to ensure Aboriginal and northern communities don't fall further behind," the premier said. "While we are facing challenges as a country, we are also presented with an opportunity to make strategic investments that will improve our quality of life and build our economy for the future."

The premier also met with business and labour leaders prior to the first ministers' meeting. Other proposals he will raise include:

* accelerating infrastructure projects and approval processes including implementing current federal-provincial agreements and making new strategic investments;

* targeting fees and taxes in areas, such as air travel fees, where Canada is not competitive with the United States in order to enhance transportation, trade and tourism;

* supporting business to ensure Canadian companies are well-positioned to compete globally including such measures as ensuring access to credit;

* increasing and diversifying trade by implementing the premiers' July 2008 agreement on internal trade and expanding into new international markets such as the European Union, China, India and Brazil; and

* investing in skills development, worker retraining and upgrading, Aboriginal education and addressing the needs of the new economy.

The premier reiterated that Canada's economic situation is more stable than those of other countries. Manitoba also continues to perform well, posting stronger economic growth in 2008 than most provinces. Manitoba also posted the country's second best job-growth rate in 2008 and one of the lowest unemployment rates.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bureaucrats mismanaged $10M at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Hmmm... A previous posting about the amount of money that government expends that is under a different set of rules and accountability policy seems to be evident here.....

CBC News

A forensic audit has found that senior bureaucrats at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in Winnipeg mismanaged at least $10 million of taxpayer money.

But the audit found no evidence of fraud or criminal wrongdoing by the three unnamed managers, who were suspended with pay during the investigation. They have since returned to work at the federal department, but two of them have been demoted.

"No illegal activities were uncovered as a result of this audit, and we of course would be reporting to the proper authorities, including the RCMP, if that does come to light in the future," said Anne Scotton, the department's chief audit and evaluation executive. "I would characterize it overall as mismanagement in some cases and inappropriate use of authority."

The audit, which went ahead after a preliminary assessment concluded in 2007 there was enough evidence to warrant a full-scale forensic examination, scrutinized three specific cases.

In one, it found Ottawa was short-changed nearly $8 million as part of a transmission deal with Manitoba Hydro intended to bring remote, northern First Nations onto the provincial power grid. Senior managers also failed to maintain proper books and wrote off a "recoverable" $2.7 million in that deal.

In another, the department paid $1.2 million more than it should have in an aboriginal land-claim settlement.

In the third, a senior manager approved a $450,000 deal for an aboriginal building project in Winnipeg even though that amount far exceeded the manager's signing authority.

The audit also uncovered a poisonous work environment run by a "small inner circle of favourites." Federal bureaucrats in the Manitoba office were "pushed to do what they were told, regardless of whether that meshed with public service values or their specific responsibilities," the audit said.

Staff who were critical underwent workplace assessments "to cast doubt on the mental health of individuals and ease them out," the audit found. The department also suffered from high turnover and absenteeism, the report said.

Scotton said all the department's regional offices across the country are undergoing similar audits, but she said there is no evidence to suggest there are systemic problems within the bureaucracy.

Aboriginal leader criticizes department

One Manitoba aboriginal leader said the department is not being held to the same standards of accountability and transparency it demands of First Nations.

"It is Indian money, it is our money, and we'd like to know how it's being spent at the departmental level," said Morris Swan Shannacappo, grand chief of the Portage la Prairie-based Southern Chiefs' Organization Inc.

Swan Shannacappo, who was upset the department didn't brief aboriginal leaders when they released the report on Monday, said he hopes it will follow the missing money and find out whether any government employees benefited, either directly or indirectly.

"We have a forensic accounting audit going on now, and when we find out whether, if, and how much we need to recover, then we'll be pursuing that," Scotton said.

With files from the Canadian Press

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Patrick Brazeau Resigns

The other evening I was watching APTN News to observe the events of the Goodon Case when Senator Brazeau happened to be interviewed. The issue of his interview that I found interesting was his disclosure that he had gone to the Senate Ethics Commissioner to have him review his disclosure issues and whether there may be a perceived or direct conflict of interest with Mr. Brazeau keeping his Senate’s position and the Presidency of the Congress of Aboriginal People.

In the interview he then disclosed that he would not be participating with the rest of the National Aboriginal leaders at the First Ministers Meeting next week and that CAP would send another representative because for him to participate would be a conflict of interest. I am not sure what more would have been required to make him understand his dilemma but it was clear to me that this was just the first of many examples of why both postings would not work.

I wish Senator Brazeau all the best in his new posting and what ever other issues are still plaguing him in relation to his National organization hopefully they can be dealt with outside of the media process. There are authorities that deal with various types of allegations and can review matters in a fair and unbiased process to ensure that there is a impartial hearing for both parties.

This morning the following two articles appeared in the media:

Senator resigns from native congress
Jan 10, 2009 04:30 AM


OTTAWA–A new Conservative senator facing allegations of sexual harassment stepped down from his job as national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples yesterday.

Patrick Brazeau, 34, had said he wanted to stay on as head of the organization representing off-reserve natives, but a spokesperson for the Prime Minister yesterday viewed his resignation as positive.

"This is a full-time job and having his full energies and focus being on his role in the Senate is a good thing," said Kory Teneycke, director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"We look forward to him continuing to move forward advancing aboriginal issues, as he did at the Congress, within our caucus and as a part of our government."

Critics noted Brazeau would draw two six-figure salaries from the public purse if he served as head of the Congress and as a senator.

Brazeau faces a complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that he sexually harassed an unidentified former Congress staffer in 2007 and 2008, The Globe and Mail has reported. The Congress executive board has said it hired an outside mediation firm to investigate her complaint and cleared Brazeau of wrongdoing.

A second woman who worked for the Congress also filed a grievance against Brazeau alleging he allowed employees to drink in his office, it was reported this week. A Congress spokesperson did not reply to requests for comment yesterday.

David Dennis, president of the B.C. wing of the Congress, said he is looking forward to how the new leadership will address the concerns of "some of the western provinces that were feeling alienated from the national scene for a long time."

Dennis was one of the presidents who spoke out against a head office decision to suspend the Manitoba wing just a few days before its president, Walter Menard, had planned to raise the allegations at an annual meeting in Ottawa last November.

Teneycke said Brazeau would remain a senator, adding "a rigorous background check" had revealed the complaint against him.



Brazeau picks Senate over aboriginal advocacy

Resignation from national chief's role ends appointee's plan to collect two six-figure salaries

January 10, 2009

OTTAWA -- Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau resigned as national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples yesterday, abandoning his controversial plan to hold two six-figure, taxpayer-funded jobs.

Mr. Brazeau said as late as Thursday that he was consulting the Senate ethics officer to see how he might juggle his new job as a senator and his previous job as an advocate for aboriginals who live outside of reserves.

But facing growing criticism from some of his own board members at the aboriginal organization, Mr. Brazeau, 34, announced he would focus solely on the Senate.

"My goal is and has always been to serve Canada's aboriginal peoples and my country to the best of my skills and abilities, in a manner that is accountable, responsible and transparent," said Mr. Brazeau in a statement. "I am committed to bringing this same discipline to my role as a senator in the Parliament of Canada."

Some native leaders had expressed concerns that it would be a conflict of interest for someone to lobby the government on behalf of aboriginals while sitting as a senator in the government caucus. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation had also spoken out against Mr. Brazeau's plans, which they described as an example of double-dipping from the public purse.

A senator's annual salary is $130,400 plus expenses. Mr. Brazeau's salary at the congress was $100,170 plus expenses.

Mr. Brazeau's statement made no reference to other controversies he is facing. A former employee has filed a sexual harassment complaint against him and the Congress with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A second employee alleged that he allowed an atmosphere of sexual exploitation and heavy drinking at congress headquarters. Some of his own board members expressed concerns over his suspension of Manitoba delegates who opposed him days before his November election to a four-year term as national chief.

Lillian George, a former congress board member who ran against Mr. Brazeau in November, said she hopes Mr. Brazeau will resign from the Senate as well.

"This is just the beginning and I think Mr. Brazeau knows," said Ms. George, who has met with and supports the two women making allegations against the congress and Mr. Brazeau.

Ms. George criticized Mr. Brazeau's original plan to hold on to both large salaries, given the poverty of the people the congress says it represents.

"Him stepping down from the congress is wonderful, but again, I still believe he has questions that need to be answered and I hope that if they do an internal review for his Senate position, like the ethics committee, they will come to see that they've picked the wrong person for that seat," she said.

Mr. Brazeau has said he was cleared of the sexual harassment allegation by an independent investigation. Some board members have expressed concern that they have not been allowed to see a full version of that report. Congress lawyer Michael Chambers said yesterday the report clearly found there was no harassment.

"The investigators had no difficulty, being experienced in these matters, in framing their task and making clear findings that there was no sexual harassment," he said in a statement yesterday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Will Goodon and the MMF won - A historic precedent setting case for Metis in Canada

Manitoba Métis win hunting rights case
Last Updated: Thursday, January 8, 2009 11:04 AM CT

CBC News:

Métis argue they should not require a hunting licence in Manitoba. (CBC)

A man has won a five-year legal battle against the Manitoba government with a landmark court ruling on Métis hunting rights.

A judge in Brandon, Man., ruled Thursday on the case of Will Goodon, who was charged with hunting without a licence after he shot a ringneck duck near Turtle Mountain in October 2004.

Goodon argued his Manitoba Métis Federation harvester card was all he needed — but Manitoba Conservation officials disagreed and Goodon was charged under the Wildlife Act.

Métis, unlike status Indians and Inuit, do not have an automatic right to hunt, the Manitoba government argued.

But the Manitoba Métis Federation argued the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right of Métis to hunt in an Ontario case where two brothers, Steve and Roddy Powley, were charged with illegally killing a bull moose near Sault Ste. Marie. In that case, the Supreme Court sided with the Métis.

The Powley case clarified the definition of a Métis person under Section 35 of the Constitution. There, the Supreme Court said to be Métis for constitutional purposes a person must "self-identify" as Métis, be accepted as a member of a modern Métis community and have some ancestral connection to the founding historic Métis community.

Goodon said he was always optimistic about the decision of the Manitoba provincial court. "It has been a long time," said Goodon. "I get a lot of phone calls from Métis people all over Manitoba, all over Canada asking me for updates. I've been telling them every year … we'll get to go next hunting season."

Some experts say if Métis have the unfettered right to hunt along with status Indian and Inuit, they may ultimately obtain the right to be consulted and compensated for any development on lands they claim are traditional.

Métis Nation of Alberta Press Release

Métis Nation of Alberta Congratulates Manitoba Métis on Harvesting Rights Victory in R. v. Goodon

Alberta Métis Urge Alberta Government To Recognize Métis Rights In Order To Avoid Wasting Taxpayers Money On Protracted Court Battles

Edmonton, AB (January 8, 2009) – Today, the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) congratulated the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), on yet another victory for Métis harvesting rights in western Canada with the release of the Provincial Court of Manitoba’s decision in R. v. Goodon (the “Goodon case”).

The Goodon case began in October 2004 when Will Goodon harvested a duck near Turtle Mountain in southwestern Manitoba. Mr. Goodon did not obtain a provincial license, but was harvesting under the authority of a MMF Harvesters Card. He was charged by Wildlife Officers for unlawful possession of wildlife contrary to s. 19 of Manitoba’s Wildlife Act. The MMF defended Mr. Goodon based on the Métis right to harvest, which is protected in Canada’s Constitution.

After a trial that spanned over a year which included testimony from Métis community witnesses, experts and historians, Justice Combs of the Provincial Court of Manitoba dismissed the charge against Mr. Goodon in a written decision that was released in Brandon today.

Justice Combs ruled that Mr. Goodon has a constitutionally protected Métis right to hunt and that Manitoba’s Wildlife Act is of no force and effect in its application to Mr. Goodon and other Métis harvesters because the province’s regulatory regime unjustifiably infringes the Métis right to hunt and fails to recognize or accommodate the Métis right.

In dismissing the charge against Mr. Goodon, Justice Combs held that “[t]he Métis community of Western Canada has its own distinctive identity” and that within Manitoba there is a regional rights-bearing Métis community that “includes all of the area within the present boundaries of southern Manitoba from the present day City of Winnipeg and extending south to the United States and northwest to the Province of Saskatchewan including the area of present day Russell, Manitoba.”

The Court also acknowledged that this rights-bearing Métis community in historic and contemporary times extends well outside of Manitoba.

“On behalf of the MNA Provincial Council and all Alberta Métis, I want to congratulate Will Goodon, the MMF and Métis lawyers – Jean Teillet and Jason Madden – for the efforts and commitment to the Métis Nation’s ongoing ‘hunt for justice’ within our Homeland,” said MNA President Audrey Poitras.

“I truly hope this decision will usher in a new collaborative approach on Métis harvesting rights in Manitoba and that this approach will be adopted by other provinces in western Canada. Métis harvesting rights are here to stay and governments must begin to recognize these rights in their laws. We should not be in the courts. We should be talking and working together in order to ensure Canada’s Constitution is respected,” added Poitras.

“Alberta was once a leader on working collaboratively with Métis on harvesting rights issues. After the release of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Powley, the MNA and Alberta negotiated an Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement which worked well for over 2 ½ years. Unfortunately, politics trumped partnership and Métis are being charged and having to defend themselves in the courts,” said MNA Minister for Métis Rights, Cecil Bellrose, “With the Goodon case, we now have court decisions in each of the other Prairie Provinces recognizing and affirming the harvesting rights of Métis living in the south, yet the Alberta Minister of Sustainable Development continues to completely deny the existence of Métis rights in southern Alberta. This victory further illustrates the unreasonable and flawed unilateral Métis harvesting policy the Alberta Government currently has in place,” concluded Bellrose.

President Poitras concluded, “In these times of economic uncertainty, I think Alberta taxpayers would rather have their tax dollars spent on social services and better housing than wasted on taking innocent Métis people to court for practicing their culture and traditions. The MNA remains ready and willing to work with the Alberta Government once again to ensure Métis harvesting rights are respected in this province.”

For additional information contact:
Charity Sokolan
MNA Communications
Ph: (780) 455-2200

To See Court Decision or the Highlights of the case follow this link:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More on Senator Patrick - in the Globe and Mail - Don't convict him yet - these are allegations

Sexual Exploitation, Drinking At The Office Supported By Brazeau, Former Employee Claims

Globe and Mail
January 7, 2009

OTTAWA — New Senator Patrick Brazeau - who is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a human rights tribunal - condoned a work atmosphere at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in which sexual exploitation and drinking on the job was common, according to a grievance filed by a second former employee.

Jade Harper, now 25, worked on contract as an events co-ordinator in late 2007 and early 2008 and said she was so troubled by the atmosphere in the office that she filed a three-page grievance directly with Mr. Brazeau, the organization's national chief.

"There was a lot of drinking at the office," Ms. Harper said. "Once I put my grievance in, I would get the dirty looks in the office. No one would talk to me. Patrick wouldn't ... They just totally shut the door on me completely."

In Ms. Harper's grievance, which she submitted last March, she claims she was exploited by an older, senior employee with whom she had a personal relationship, and that Mr. Brazeau allowed employees to drink in his office.

"I feel that the people I trusted most to advocate and stick up for what's right and wrong have let me down," Ms. Harper wrote in the March 5 letter. "I believe that alcohol and sexual exploitation are both issues that we are trying to fight as an organization, meanwhile both issues continue to be supported at the CAP office."

Ms. Harper said she decided to speak publicly about her experience after a story in yesterday's Globe and Mail. In that report, Mr. Brazeau and other board members rejected claims in a sexual harassment filing from an unidentified former employee. That complaint, which covers the same period as Ms. Harper's allegations, is currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Mr. Brazeau and a majority of the congress board said this week that they hired an outside mediation firm to investigate the original complaint, and the report found Mr. Brazeau did not breach the organization's harassment policies.

When contacted yesterday about Ms. Harper's allegations, a spokesman for the congress said Ms. Harper's grievance was also taken seriously and was "resolved to the satisfaction of the board."

Spokesman Al Fleming said Ms. Harper's allegations are false. "This is viewed as a part of a purposeful and unsuccessful attempt to try to discredit the national chief," he wrote in an e-mail, which was copied to congress lawyer Michael Chambers. Mr. Fleming said that both women were offered mediation services.

"However, by the time the matter was concluded, both involved parties had left the congress as their contracts had ended, coinciding with the end of the fiscal year for which funding for their services had been provided," he wrote.

Mr. Brazeau is seeking to remain national chief of the congress, a group that advocates for off-reserve natives, even though he was appointed last month to sit as a Conservative Senator.
The complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal claims Mr. Brazeau sexually harassed a female employee in late 2007 and early 2008.

That woman's name is not being released by the tribunal, but Ms. Harper said she supports her allegations.

If Mr. Brazeau is successful in his bid to stay on as national chief while sitting in the Senate, he will be drawing two six-figure salaries, both at taxpayers' expense.

The congress's financial statements show Mr. Brazeau's salary was $100,170 in the last fiscal year, plus $5,422 for expenses. His new job pays $130,400, with the possibility of further compensation for duties such as chairing a committee or caucus.

The congress's annual revenue of $5.5-million comes largely from seven federal departments.A spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said holding both jobs appears to be an obvious conflict and would also amount to double dipping in the public purse.

"At the end of the day, if the money's coming from taxpayers, it's double dipping of a kind," he said. "To actually be a member of the government that he's advocating to would strike me as inherently conflictual."