Thursday, May 25, 2006

McMaster University: Notes from today's press conference re First Nations and Six Nations issues

This email is from a friend who attended today's press conference at McMaster University. The conference was called to highlight important issues of Canada's First Nations People, the ongoing plight of the Six Nations, and Canada's lack of education of the general public about our Indigenous People and the abuses perpetrated by our governments upon them. Many very good points were raised and excellent suggestion made.
"Dear Friends,

I attended the press conference today at McMaster U. and it was very good. There were two statements read and then there was a question & answer period. The two statements consisted of a press release from 9 Faculty members from across campus and a press statement from the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada read by a non-native physician in solidarity, Dr. Joanna Santa Barbara. The 2 statements will be available on the Peace Studies, Globalisation and Indigenous Studies web page but I didn't see them posted yet*. I will send the links once I have them. [After I had posted this piece, my friend sent me another email with the link to the 2 press releases, which you will find at the end of this article. -- amd]

These are my rough notes and points that I jotted down from the question and answer period which was also very good.

Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill (Director of Indigenous Studies and member of Six Nations), a woman from the Aboriginal Health Centre on campus, Dr. Gary Warner, Dr. George Sorger and Dr. Graeme MacQueen as well as people from the audience including Dr. Don Wells and Dr. Peter Archibald spoke to a number of issues which were raised. The point was made that the Canadian people's support is needed. The aboriginal community has to fight very hard for everything little thing--even a place at the university for programme where education can be taught about their people, culture and history.

You can access education on almost everything world wide at the University, but very little if anything about our own aboriginal history, culture and people. The First Nations people have been marginalized and do not have the resources required to educate the broader base of Canadian people on their issues and to pressure the government to uphold their legal obligations. Canadian citizens help is required in:

- pressuring the federal gov't to deal with the land issues and to deal with them in
a timely and just manner (there are Royal Commission recommendations on how the land issues could be better handled and would provide a more timely resolution)instead of the inept process that is being used;

- electing responsible politicians (i.e not re-electing or electing politicians who abdicate their responsibilites and do not uphold aboriginal rights, and in some cases who are outrightly racist);

- the media has a responsibility to go beneath the flash points of a crisis and inform people about the true issue of conflict and to dig more deeply to find out the facts; educating ourselves and others on our own history in Canada with relation to aboriginal people.

The point was made that Six Nations people no longer feel safe in Caledonia and that native students are losing their year of school because they feel afraid to go to school. Points were brought up about the residential schools and how they have harmed the health and society of native people and Canadian people have not be taught about them even though the last one was just shut down in the 1990's(?). If people were taught about the harm that has been done to our First Nations people, they would understand instead of judge. The damage to native health and life-expectancy (7 yrs less than the rest of Canada) can be directly linked to land issues, lack of dignity, lack of resources etc. The treaties provided some 950,000 acres of land and the Canadian gov't has sold this land without permission or compensation or even sharing the profits and there are now only 45,000 acres left. The point was also made that money that was held in trust for Six Nations people, that was their money, has been spent on the infrastructure of Ontario and so the issue is not just the land but the large amounts of money that has been taken from them.

I'm sure I've left some important points out, but it was a very good press conference. Dr. Graeme MacQueen said his experience over the years with similar conflicts is that there are 2 components, Crisis and the underlying conflict. It is important to deal with the Crisis because it has the potential to do serious harm to people. But the underlying conflict has to be dealt with and it is a mistake to focus solely on the crisis points--which will continue to happen until the underlying conflict is dealt with (i.e. the land issue).

Basically, we need to reach the people of Canada in a big way and get them to pressure the federal Government. This will require educating people about our Canadian history and the legal obligations of our government. Dr. Sorger made the point that many people say the treaties are ancient history and we don't need to honour them. But as long as we are benefitting and profiting from using the stolen lands and gaining at the expense of First Nations people it is our responsibility today and not ancient history. A point was also made about the large scale genocide that has occurred in our country against the First Nations people. It is covered up, ignored and treated as though it hasn't happened.

All the best,"
---- (Name withheld)

* Here is a link to the 2 McMaster press releases today. On the Peace Studies web page ( Click on the box to right that says McMaster University Press Conference, May 25 2006 -- Media Releases Release I, Release II

1 comment(s):

Keep up the good work » » »

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 PM  

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