Chiefs rally around Attawapiskat as call issued for oil pipeline blockade in three provinces

Manitoba chiefs called for “action” against existing oil pipelines on a day of heated words at a special chiefs assembly in Ottawa that heard from embattled Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and saw an impromptu march to the doors of Parliament Hill that ended with police intervention.

(Main page photo: Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence speaks to an RCMP officer sent to remove chiefs and supporters from steps of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, home to the House of Commons APTN/Photo)

APTN National News
Some Manitoba chiefs called for “action” against existing oil pipelines on a day of heated words at a special chiefs assembly in Ottawa that heard from embattled Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and saw an impromptu march to the doors of Parliament Hill that ended with police intervention.

Terry Nelson, who is no longer officially chief of Roseau River, told the assembled chiefs that the only way to escape from Attawapiskat-like situations was to seize a portion of the resource wealth flowing from their lands.

Nelson, who was given the microphone by Waywayseecappo First Nation Chief Murray Clearsky, said there were plans to launch actions against existing oil pipelines in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, along with several U.S. states.

He said the only way First Nations can deal with the nagging funding problems plaguing their communities was to seize a share of the resources flowing from their territories.

“The chiefs in Manitoba have been listening and they hear very clearly we have to take action,” said Nelson. “In June, we are going to have continuous, ongoing demonstration action on the pipelines, from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, to sit on those pipelines until this government comes to their goddamn senses.”

Nelson said separately that the action could result in blocking access routes to pipeline stations.

Manitoba chiefs planned to submit a resolution for debate calling on the Assembly of First Nations to back the oil pipeline action and also create a planning committee to deal with media relations, legal advice, safety and security.

The resolution may not be debated until Thursday.

The ongoing crisis in Attawapiskat seems to have galvanized some of the delegates, triggering a call from one chief to block the airstrip used to deliver supplies to the De Beers diamond mine, which is about 90 kilometres west of the community.

Spence, who is battling Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan over his decision to impose a third-party manager to handle the band’s finances, told the assembly it was time to take a stronger stand against the federal government.

Chiefs passed a resolution calling on Duncan to reverse his decision to impose a third-party manager on Attawapiskat and instead work with the existing chief and council to find a solution to the housing crisis that has seen families living in shacks with no running water and using the bathroom in pails.

The resolution also called on the AFN to ask the UN to appoint a special agent to monitor Canada’s response to the housing and infrastructure woes on First Nations and “hold Canada” to its responsibility under treaties and international covenants.

The resolution also calls on the AFN to back Attawapiskat’s chief and council.

“It is time to be really aggressive toward the government. We have been talking about our concerns. They are not listening, they just keep plugging their ears,” said Spence.

The Attawapiskat chief also urged chiefs to get a plan in place for their upcoming Jan. 24 meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“We should have a plan in place, even an agreement with a time frame and if they don’t want to meet this time-frame, we need to do an action. Our grandfathers did action, they demonstrated courage and we need to do this for our youth, we need to build up their future,” she said.

The talk in response to Spence’s speech featured strong words from chiefs.

Six Nations Chief Bill Montour suggested blocking the airstrip De Beers uses to fly in its supplies and Mohawk Elder Billy Two Rivers said First Nations should take corporations “hostage” until they get their share of resource wealth.

Batchewana Chief Dean Sayers called on chiefs to act immediately and the led an impromptu march to Parliament Hill from the Ottawa Congress Centre, which is only a couple of blocks away. Sayers and about 50 marchers blocked one side of the downtown street that crosses in front of Parliament Hill. They waved down buses, a dump truck and cars, to clear the road for their march.

Sayers, whose community is in Ontario, walked up the stairs to the door of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, which houses the House of Commons, and told a security guard at the door he wanted to see the prime minister.

“Tell him I am here,” Sayers told the Hill security guard.

Sayers then said he wanted the world to see how Canada treats Indigenous people.

“We shouldn’t have to settle for the crumbs that fall off the table, we own the table…Things are not as rosy as they think with Indigenous nations in the northern hemisphere of Turtle Island,” said Sayers. “We can’t continue on the current course…The genocidal policies will see the elimination of this beautiful red people.”

Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit also addressed the crowd which chanted “shame on Canada” in the background.

“We are saying no to these governments who want to come to us and put us aside just like we are animals, just like we are nothing,” said Louttit. “Chief Spence is struggling, her people are slowly dying while this is going on.”

The RCMP showed up shortly before Spence was about to speak.

“This is our land,” Sayers told one RCMP officer.

“I understand, but this is Canadian land right now,” said the officer.

The scene unfolded in front of Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus.

“This is only the beginning, only the beginning, this is a warning to the government that we are going to be more aggressive, that we are going to do it together,” said Spence.

After a meeting between the RCMP, Hill security, Angus and Louttit, the chiefs and their supporters decided to leave the stairs.

“With that principle of respect that our elders have taught us, I guess we should honour that,” said Louttit. “Let’s respect their House and continue our talk a little bit down there.”

Everyone then walked down the steps and away from Parliament Hill.


7 thoughts on “Chiefs rally around Attawapiskat as call issued for oil pipeline blockade in three provinces

  1. The Corporate Governments of The United States and Canada do not want to hear us tell them that we will pull up from the Treaties which are the SUPREME LAW of THE LAND. If they are not honoring the Treaties, then it is time for Canada and USA to listen up. By the way, both of them have abrogated their own peoples of their civil rights to be able to peacefully protest. They have hauled many off to jail for the occupy movements. Their own peoples do NOT have to stand in silence while they let the corporations dig up Mother Earth and Frack the World, there are many who are standing up for Indigenous RIghts along with us, in the end, when all this is over We Indigenous Nations will still be standing because we did not give up on protecting Mother Earth and all her health and beauty. Chief Spence warned that we would become more aggressive, only because there is nothing else that we can do, but protect our Mother. Genocide is real across Turtle Island, and if the corporations will do us in, you best believe White and other Ethnic Canadians will be behind the barrel just like we are, unless they do something about it. The time is now, we can not wait any longer for these piss poor leaders to change a thing, we must take action on our own.u00a0

  2. Why is the misappropriation of taxpayer’s money acceptable when it’s Defence Minister Peter Mackay spending it for his own personal use ok? When it’s Tony Clement spending from the budget set for the G8/20 meetings on his own riding? Why is it the $1 billion dollar E-Health fiasco so quickly absorbed into obscurity, while a little community such as Attawapiskat is under the microscope of government? All the while Canadian citizens are blindly led into believing the worst of a race of people destined to take the brunt of accusations of corruption. It is your government, your elected officials that have the legality and luxury of digging into your pockets and not the native aboriginals; they too, must share in that responsibility of being accountable to you.nnIt is obvious that Chief Spence of Attawapiskat has been found guilty of corruption in the public eye, though no actual evidence was offered. This sort of attitude from government and the vast majority of the Canadian people represent the history that native aboriginals have had to live with. Reaction to the issues facing Canada are dealt with in similar manner; a heavy snow fall in Toronto illicits the arrival of the Canadian Army to assist in shoveling and snow removal, while a housing crisis coupled with non drinkable water and a lack of an adequate sewage system on an aborignal reserve are met with a bureaucrat armed with two dozen donuts.. the embarrasment of deflecting responsibilty by the Federal Government is only surpassed by the embarrasment of this country losing its soul.nnThe usual “we’re committed to working with native aboriginals in developing a sustainable future and in creating a workable partnership that will enable Canadas native people to enrich their lives” is an automatic response, a knee-jerk reaction from Government when the media focuses any attention to the predicaments facing aboriginal communities. The culmination of promises and solutions from government officials when in the media spotlight, almost inevitably ends with the dollar amount “given or spent” on native programs that reach into the billions of dollars. It is the fundamental basis of garnering support from mainstream society against a nation of people that are seen all too often as trouble-makers.

  3. Firing back at the racist rants and ignorant responses with facts nn n t By u00c2pihtawikosisu00e2n ntn nn | December 1, 2011n nn nnn nnnn n n Printnn nn n n n n Write to editorn n n n n n Support rabblen n n n n n Correctionsn n n n n nn n n nnnnn n n nn nn n I still intend to get a series of postsn out clarifying issues like First Nations housing, health care, neducation and so on, but I have a confession. I haven’t been staying naway from the comments sections of articles about Attawapiskat.nnI know. It’s not healthy. There are so many racist rants and noutright ignorant responses that it can bog you down. Where do you evenn begin, when the people making these comments do not seem to understand neven the bare minimum about the subject?nnWell, I try to answer questions with facts. Here are some of those facts, if you’re interested.nnHarper said Attawapiskat got $90 million, where did it all go!?nnYes, Prime Minister Harper is apparently scratching his headn about where $90 million in federal funding to Attawapiskat has gone. nMany commentators then go on to make claims about lack of naccountability, and no one knowing what happens to the money once it is n’handed over’ by the federal government.nnLet’s start simple.nnFirst, please note that $90 million is a deceptive number. It refersn to federal funding received since Harper’s government came into power nin 2006. In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Attawapiskat received $17.6 million in federal funds.n The document linked to shows the breakdown of federal funds in case youn wanted to know how much is allocated to things like medical ntransportation, education, maternal health care and so on.n n n n nnn nnnThus, $90 million refers to the total of an average of about $18 million per year in federal funding since 2006.nnAs an aside, you will often see the figure of $34 or $35 million in nfunding given to Attawapiskat a year. This actually refers to total nrevenues. As noted, federal funding was $17.6 million, and provincial nfunding was $4.4 million. The community brings in about $12 million of nits own revenue, as shown here. So no, the ‘government’ is not giving Attawapiskat $34 million a year.nnOkay fine, but where did it go?nnAttawapiskat publishes its financial statements going back to 2005. If you want to know where the money was spent, you can look in the audited financial reports. This document for example provides a breakdown of all program funding.nnJust getting to this stage alone proves false the claim that there is no accountability and no one knows where the money goes.nnBut $90 million could have built the community 360 brand new houses!!nnAssuming, as Grand Chief Stan Louttit of the Mushkegowyk Council has stated,n that a new house costs $250,000 to build in Attawapiskat (with half of nthat being transportation costs), then yes, 360 new units could have nbeen provided by $90 million.nnHowever, this money was not just earmarked for the construction of new homes.nnAn important fact that many commentators forget (or are unaware of) is that section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867 gives the Federal Crown exclusive powers over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.”nnYou see, for non-natives, the provinces are in charge of funding nthings like education, health-care, social services and so on. For nexample, the Province of Ontario allocated $10,730 in education funding nper non-native pupil in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.n For most First Nations, particularly those on reserve, the federal ngovernment through INAC is responsible for providing funds for native neducation.nnHow is this relevant?nnIt helps explain why the entire $90 million was not allocated to the nconstruction of new houses. That $90 million includes funding for nthings like:nnu2022teducation per pupilnnu2022teducation infrastructure (maintenance, repair, teacher salaries, etc)nnu2022thealth care per patientnnu2022thealth care, infrastructure (clinics, staff, access to services outside the community in the absence of facilities on reserve)nnu2022tsocial services (facilities, staff, etc)nnu2022tinfrastructure (maintenance and construction)nnu2022ta myriad of other servicesnnThese costs are often not taken into account when attempting to ncompare a First Nation reserve to a non-native municipality. In fact, nmany people forget that their own health-care and education are heavily nsubsidized by tax dollars as well.nnWhat’s the point here?nnHow much money was actually allocated to housing in 2010-2011? Page 2 of Schedule An shows us that out of the $17.6 million in federal funds, only $2 nmillion was provided for housing. Yes, even $2 million would be enough nto eight brand new homes, if those funds were not also used to maintainn and repair existing homes. The specific breakdown of how that money nwas spent is found in Schedule I.nnNow, I admit I am confused about something. The Harper article states:nnAccording to figures providing by Aboriginal Affairs, the nAttawapiskat Cree band has received just over $3 million in funds nspecifically for housing and a further $2.8 million in infrastructure nmoney since 2006.nnThat is actually less than I estimated it would be, going by the n2010-2011 figures. I estimated $10 million for housing, but INAC (now nAboriginal Affairs) is saying it was $5.8 million.nnAnyway, that isn’t too important. The point is, if INAC is correct, nonly $5.8 million has gone towards housing for Attawapiskat. At most nthat could have built the community 23 new houses, if Attawapiskat had nmerely let the older houses go without any repairs or maintenance for nfive years. Letting existing homes go like that is not a great nstrategy, however.nnThe point here is, $90 million sounds like a huge amount, but the real figures allocated to housing are much, much smaller.nnFine, they got $5.8 million for housing, surely that is enough?nnAgain, assuming 23 new homes were built, and all older homes were nleft without maintenance and repairs, and the people in charge of nhousing worked for free and there were no other costs associated with nadministering the housing program, Attawapiskat would still be nexperiencing a housing crisis.nnIt is estimated thatn $84 million is needed for housing alone to meet Attawapiskat’s housing nneeds (you’ll find those figures in a small table on the right, titled n”Attawapiskat by the numbers”).nnThe Feds are just handing that money over and the Band does whatever it wants with it!nnMany people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that Firstn Nations have self-governance and run themselves freely. This is far nfrom the truth, but given that most Canadians are familiar with the nmunicipal model, the confusion is actually understandable. It isn’t as nthough Canada does a very good job of teaching people about the Indian nAct.nnSection 61(1)(a-k) of the Indian Act detailsn that: “With the consent of the council of a band, the Minister may nauthorize and direct the expenditure of capital moneys of the band” for nvarious purposes.nnWhat this means is that Ministerial approval is actually a nrequirement before any capital expenditures can occur on reserve. In npractice, a Band will generally pass a Band Council Resolution (BCR) nauthorising a certain expenditure (say on housing), and that BCR must ben forwarded to INAC for approval.nnThat’s right. Most First Nations have to get permission before they ncan spend money. That is the opposite of ‘doing whatever they want’ nwith the money. Bands are micromanaged to an extent unseen in nearly nany other context that does not involve a minor or someone who lacks ncapacity due to mental disability.nnAny claims that INAC has no control over what Bands spend their money on is false.nnI would hope by now you’d ask the following question:nnIf INAC has to approve spending, why is Harper so confused?nnThere is a tendency to believe that our government officials do nthings in a way that makes sense. This, despite the fact that most of nus don’t actually believe this to be true. We want to believe. I know In do.nnSo upon learning that the federal government is the one in charge of nproviding services to First Nations that are provided to non-natives by nthe province, we might assume that the provision of these services are nadministered in a comparable manner.nnNot so! And it actually makes sense why not, when you think about itn for a moment. Have you ever seen a federal hospital, for example? No,n because hospitals are built, maintained, and staffed by the provinces. n Thus, when a First Nations person needs to access healthcare, they ncannot access federal infrastructure. They must access provincial ninfrastructure and have the feds rather than the province pick up the ntab.nnIf only it were as easy as federal funding via provincial structures.nnThe Auditor General of Canada speaks upnnThe Auditor General of Canada released a report in June of this year examining Programs for First Nations on Reserve.n A similar report was published in 2006. This report identifies ndeficiencies in program planning and delivery by Indian and Northern nAffairs Canada (INAC), Health Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing nCorporation (CMHC), and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.nnThe reports also provide a number of recommendations to improve thesen deficiencies. The 2011 report evaluated the progress made since the n2006 report, and in most areas, gave these federal agencies a failing ngrade.nnDon’t worry, there is a point to this, stay with me.nnThe 2011 report has this to say:nnIn our view, many of the problems facing First Nations go deeper thann the existing programs’ lack of efficiency and effectiveness. We believen that structural impediments severely limit the delivery of public nservices to First Nations communities and hinder improvements in living nconditions on reserves. We have identified four such impediments:nnu2022tlack of clarity about service levels,nnu2022tlack of a legislative base,nnu2022tlack of an appropriate funding mechanism, andnnu2022tlack of organizations to support local service delivery.nnI know this is going to look like mumbo jumbo at first, so let me nbreak it down a little for you. This will help explain why millions of ndollars of funding is not enough to actually improve the living nconditions of First Nations people, particularly those on reserve.nnLack of clarity about service levelsnnAs explained earlier the federal government is in charge of ndelivering services that are otherwise provided by the provinces to nnon-natives. The Auditor General states:nn”It is not always evident whether the federal government is committedn to providing services on reserves of the same range and quality as nthose provided to other communities across Canada.”nnShockingly, the federal government does not always have clear programn objectives, nor does it necessarily specify specific roles and nresponsibilities for program delivery, and has not established measures nfor evaluating performance in order to determine if outcome are actuallyn met.nnWhat!?nnThat’s right. The federal government is not keeping track of what itn does, how it does it, or whether what it is doing works. The nauditor-general recommends the federal government fix this, pronto. Hown can a community rely on these services if the federal government itselfn isn’t even clear on what it is providing and whether the programs are nworking?nnLack of a legislative basenn”Provincial legislation provides a basis of clarity for services ndelivered by provinces. A legislative base for programs specifies nrespective roles and responsibilities, eligibility, and other program nelements. It constitutes an unambiguous commitment by government to ndeliver those services. The result is that accountability and funding nare better defined.”nnThe provinces all have some sort of Education Act that clearly lays nout the roles and responsibilities of education authorities, as well as nmechanisms of evaluation. There is generally no comparable federal nlegislation for the provision of First Nations education, health-care, nhousing and so on.nnAs noted by the AG, legislation provides clarity and accountability. n Without it, decision can be made on an ill-defined ‘policy’ basis or onn a completely ad hoc basis.nnLack of an appropriate funding mechanismnnThe AG focuses on a few areas here.nnLack of service standards for one. Were you aware that provincial nbuilding codes do not apply on reserve? Some provincial laws of nu2018general application’ (like Highway Traffic Acts) can apply on reserve,n but building codes do not. There is a federal National Building Code, nbut enforcement and inspection has been a major problem. This has been nlisted as one of the factors in why homes built on reserve do not have an similar u2018life’ to those built off reserve.nnPoor timing for provision of funds is another key issue. “Most ncontribution agreements must be renewed yearly. In previous audits, we nfound that the funds may not be available until several months into the nperiod to be funded.” This is particularly problematic for housingn as “money often doesn’t arrive until late summer, past the peak nconstruction period, so projects get delayed and their costs rise.”nnLack of accountability.nn”It is often unclear who is accountable to First Nations members for nachieving improved outcomes or specific levels of services. First nNations often cite a lack of federal funding as the main reason for ninadequate services. For its part, INAC maintains that the federal ngovernment funds services to First Nations but is not responsible for nthe delivery or provision of these services.”nnThe AG also refers to a heavy reporting burden put on First Nations, nand notes that the endless paperwork often is completely ignored anyway nby federal agencies.nnLack of organizations to support local service deliverynnThis refers once again to the fact that there are no federal school nor healthboards, no federal infrastructure and expertise. Some programsn are delivered through provincial structures, while others are provided ndirectly by the federal government, with less than stellar results.nnAs the auditor-general states, “Change is needed if meaningful nprogress is to be realized.” There is extreme lack of clarity about nwhat the federal government is doing, why, how, and whether it is at alln effective. No wonder Harper is confused!nnTired yet?nnDon’t worry, the commentators aren’t finished, and neither am I.nnThe Chief of Attawapiskat made $71,000 last year while her people live in tents!!!nnApparently we are supposed to be outraged at the excess involved here. This of course follows on the heels of a report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federationn about ‘jaw-dropping’ reserve salaries. It’s become fashionable to rantn about Chiefs making more than premiers (though no one could make that nclaim here).nnAttawapiskat publishesn its salaries, travel expenses and honorariums (again, nothing being nhidden here). Chief Theresa Spense was paid $69,575 in salary and nhonorariums in 2010-2011, and had $1,798 in travel expenses for a total nof about $71K.nnIf you are like most people, you don’t spend a lot of time looking atn what public employees actually make. What number wouldn’t shock you inn the absence of such context? $50,000? $32,000? I suspect any amount nwould be offered as some sort of proof of… something not right.nnWell okay. Why don’t we take a look at some other salaries? But nfirst, note that Ontario Premier McGuinty made $209,000 in 2010, and napparently over 100 public service executives made more than he did.nnIt is difficult to do a really accurate comparison of salaries, because Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure Actn of 1996 only requires that salaries over $100,000 be reported.(in naddition, if the salaries are reported elsewhere, they are not nnecessarily included in this report) However, the annual reports a fantastic resource. Here is the listn of various public sector employees making over $100K a year. I offer nthis merely in order to ask… were you aware these people were making nthis amount of money?nnI sure wasn’t. These are salaries paid by tax dollars, too. I have nno idea if the Director of Quality Services for the Municipal Property nAssessment Corporation should be paid $147,437.58 a year (sorry to nsingle you out, sir, I chose randomly). If this Corporation were in then news and having financial difficulties, I have no doubt this salary nwould be brought up as somehow relevant… but is it?nnI don’t know if it is. That’s the point. I don’t think the people nbringing it up know either. I haven’t been able to find a source nlisting the salaries of mayors of municipalities in Ontario to compare nto Chief Spense’s salary. Then again, I doubt anyone would seriously nclaim that if she worked for free, the housing crisis in Attawakpiskat nwould be over.nnThe more you know…nnI’m sure I’m forgetting some of the common accusations and arguments nbeing made about Attawapiskat on various forums and comments sections ofn online news articles. I might update if necessary to address them, butn I think you now have at least a base to begin with, whether you nhonestly just want to understand the situation a little better, or want nto fight those comment battles.nnIf you would like an on-the-ground perspective, please check out Smoke Signals from Cree Yellowlegs. (Note: A song starts playing automatically)nnAbove all, my relations, don’t let it get you down.nnYou will see people call for the abolition of the Indian Act, for then abolition of reserves and the ‘assimilation’ of First Nations into n’Canadian society’. You will see horrible things said about aboriginal nculture. What you will rarely see are people responding to facts. nDon’t be discouraged when facts are brushed off in favour of naccusations. We do have the power to educate those around us, and even nif we can’t reach the most vocal of bigots, we can reach the ‘average’ nCanadian who is merely unaware rather than necessarily outright hateful.nnu00c2pihtawikosisu00e2n is Mu00e9tis from Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. She ncurrently lives in Montreal, Quebec, and is working on a BCL. Her npassions are education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller nderby.ponses-facts

  4. u201cIt is time to be really aggressive toward the government. We have been ntalking about our concerns. They are not listening, they just keep nplugging their ears,u201d said Spence.nnTurn the page Mr Spence ! ! !u00a0u00a0 Get with it and pull up your boot straps ! ! !u00a0 You can make it on your own ! ! !u00a0 Quit asking for more WELFARE ………u00a0 it has been draggin’ you down for 200 years :)n

  5. hahahahahahahahaha……i laughed so hard when this oppressor remarked back to a FN’s chief that this is kkkanada land… that how immature these oppressors are….yes time for action and thank you chief terry nelson…..we are doing this for mother earth….jf

    1. the world is watching….if it were Pakistan or Afghanistan the blankets and heaters would have been airlifted yesterday…it is only another native community and this government andu00a0John Duncan,u00a0minister for Aboriginal Affairs are completely out of touch with Attawapiskat’s reality.u00a0 It is a shame that a country with such wealth responds so slowly to the cries of it’s own people.u00a0u00a0This is not the Canada I know…shame on this Minister and this Government!u00a0 Shame!u00a0 nLouis De JaegernMetis BC Nation

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