Containing my frustration

Over the summers I work at a bank as part of their Aboriginal Summer Internship Program and in Canada most banks get quite busy at the end of the month for a number of reasons. The end of the month is when most rent payments are due, mortgages tend to close, government checks come in (including social assistance, disability, pension, etc.) and this week was busier than normal because Monday is a bank holiday. Being busy means that there are lines (which could be avoided by using online banking or ATMS), however the bank that I work at is also the only one in town that will cash government cheques for non-clients free of charge (if they have two pieces of ID), making lines a bit longer.

This past week I had one client who tested every ounce of my patience and who subsequently ruined a lot of my faith in humanity. In my time in University and out of Canada I guess that I was exposed to people who genuinely believe that all people are equal and within my program at university I was among people that I shared ideology with. However this one woman yesterday just infuriated me and reminded me of how far Canada still has to go before we can actually be considered an ‘accepting country’.

This woman, who is a complete stranger, acted as though she was speaking in confidence with me and mentioned that the bank would be busy that day because one particular group of people would be getting their paycheques (i.e. welfare). I tried to stop the shock from showing in my features as she walked away. I really didn’t know how to react and was too shocked to react quickly enough. But I felt as though that comment highlights a lot of the issues that we still face in Canada.

Firstly, we need to remove some of the stigma associated with being on social assistance. Social assistance exists for a reason and the vast majority of people do not abuse the system. The people that I see on social assistance use it and need it – sure, there may be exceptions but the exception is not the rule and is not right or fair to paint everyone with the same brush.

Secondly, it really does not matter what the background, ethnicity, culture, age, gender, etc. is of the person collecting social assistance, what matters is that they need the funds and are using the funds.

Thirdly, if you are racist do not act like you are in the right! If you want to say something demeaning about anyone DO NOT DO IT. Just stop thinking that racism is okay, don’t try to justify it. It does not matter what my background is (or what yours is), it doesn’t matter what I look like, it is not okay for anyone to be offensive and/or racist. I don’t care if its a joke. It’s not funny, it is not okay. It is rude, it is offensive and it is harmful.

I’m still angry about this, and probably will be for a while (or at least until that person comes back and I have a better response). How would you have reacted? Do you think that there is any hope of things improving in Canada anytime soon?

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Where do we go from here?

A wonderful post for anyone who wants more perspective on Idle No More, why it’s important, and to pose ideas for the sustainability of the movement.

Idle No More: Where do we go from here? – âpihtawikosisân

 

Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

Wonderful history for anyone wanting to learn more about colonization and the need for #Idlenomore

Behind the Hedge

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British Colonies along the Atlantic Coast and the newly conquered lands of New France.  Remember the Plains of Abraham?  Also, the Royal Proclamation declared clearly the Crown’s understanding of the status of the aboriginal people of the New World. To be clear, the Royal Proclamation is a statement of Canadian Constitutional law which remains in force today, both on its own and through the Constitution Act (1982).

The Royal Proclamation, together with the Quebec Act of  of 1774,  is the legal reason that Quebec continues to have a distinct Constitutional position as a Nation within Canada and as a Nation with distinct, constitutionally guaranteed legal institutions.

The First Nations are very clearly described in the Royal Proclamation as…

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#idlenomore

“Our government has a clear objective to focus on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. We take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada.”

What Canada has proven is that Canadians cannot count on Canada with regards to freedom, democracy or human rights. While Canada may reject its failing grade with regards to Human Rights, Canadians are standing up and demanding better.

“We find it strange that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs are devoting their scarce resources to countries like Canada, instead of countries like Iran and Syria where citizens do not enjoy rights and are subject to serious human rights violations at the hands of those regimes,” Rick Roth said.

And we find it strange that Canada isn’t focusing on the serious human rights violations in Canada that have been happening for longer than Canada has been a nation.

On December 10th, the world woke up and something long overdue happened. The Idle No More movement is unprecedented in my generation, this is one of the first times that I have seen people in Canada organize together and not only advocate for change, but demand change. The demand for change does not only affect Aboriginal communities in Canada, but all Canadians. Idle No More is advocating for better human rights, better environmental treatment and a wake-up call to Canadians and the Canadian government in general.

Despite the fact that I am currently in Vietnam, this is a movement what I will be a part of, I am committed to doing everything I can for the rights of my own people and the rights of Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities around the world. I cannot advocate for international development or development unless I can see that it is done in my own country. I can’t stand up for the rights of people around the world unless I’m willing to stand up for my own rights. I urge you, Aboriginal or not, stand up for basic human rights, protect the environment and demand change from the Canadian government.

The message is simple: respect treaty rights, stop federal legislation that could affect the environment and improve living conditions in Aboriginal communities. 

This is about more than Canada’s reputation, this is about more than money. This is about making right for decades and decades of injustice, this is about making right on our commitment to protect our natural landscape. This is not radical, it is not uncalled for. This is common sense, basic human compassion and necessary.

“Once the last tree is cut down, once the last river is dried up, once the last fish is caught is when Harper’s going to realize you can’t eat money.” – Melvin Wilson, Cheam First Nation

Learn about Idle No More

Read more:

Wake-up call to Canada – findingdevelopment

Idle No More protesters remember Oka crisis – CBC

UN envoy blasts Canada for ‘self-righteous’ attitude over hunger, poverty – National Post

Idle No More protest continues in Vancouver – Vancouver Sun

A peoples’ movement that is Idle No More – CBC

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike – Rabble.ca

Idle No More: Women rising to lead when it’s needed most – Rabble.ca

Chief vows to ‘die’ if necessary to improve the lot of Aboriginal People – Leader Post

Wake-up call to Canada

I’m certain that a lot of my readers know this, but some probably don’t. I am Aboriginal, Metis to be specific and while I was not solely raised according to this heritage, it is a part of who I am, it is part of my identity, my culture, and my family. It pains me to see that discrimination based on heritage, culture, ethnicity still happens every day in Canada (and many parts of the world) and that it is happening by our governments, the groups of people who are elected to protect and guarantee basic rights.

People have been talking about the failures of the Canadian government with regards to the Aboriginal population for longer than I have been alive. We have the extensive crisis in Attawapiskat regarding education, housing, water, and so much more. There is also Kashechewan where there have been numerous evacuations, boil water advisories for years (this is one of 100 First Nations communities with extensive long-term water problems), a housing crisis, and in one month alone this community of 1700 people lost 21 to suicide. In Manitoba, rather than send the appropriate tools to deal with flu outbreaks (i.e. hand sanitizer) a community was sent body bags. Let me guess, you probably haven’t heard of most of this? It has been a fairly invisible crisis to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world, remarkably hidden and that received extremely limited news coverage. Why? Because these things happen so frequently within Aboriginal communities, human rights transgressions (at the fault of the government) are so commonplace that they have become normalized.

And that’s just the beginning.

So is it really any surprise that Canada received a failing grade for human rights by Amnesty International? As said in the report “By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.”

What are we going to do about it? What commitment do you make as a Canadian to improve the status of human rights in Canada? If you are not Canadian, what will you do to protect and improve human rights in your nation (or abroad)? As Canadians who do we think we are? Why do we erroneously believe that we can push for, represent, and speak on behalf of human rights around the world when we haven’t the common sense or decency to guarantee those same rights within our own borders?

Those of us who have had free, equal, unlimited and fully realized human rights for years cannot become complacent in the misplaced belief that this does not affect us. Because it does. When we become complacent or apathetic about the human rights of others, we are complacent about our own rights and freedoms. My rights, my education, my freedoms mean nothing to me if I am exercising them at the sacrifice of other’s rights.

And just because I’m a decent human being.

Where should women live?

I’ve recently made a twitter account and I have to say I’m learning to love the way information is shared on it. I find that I’m able to scan and see way more data than I ever would have otherwise. Knowing my passion for gender equality and rights, I’m sure its not surprising that I focused on these topics. I came across this infographic and I have to say that I was a little bit startled to see some of the ratios and data regarding gender equality. Canada is currently ranked 17th among the best/worst places to be a woman, and that indicates a fall of 3 places from the last time these indicators were compared. What is most interesting, is that much of Canada’s failures regarding women’s rights and gender equality can be directly correlated to their relations with the Aboriginal population. Check it out, and tell me what you think.