What it takes To Save a Peoples….

Rabble.ca published an article today that read very much like Kevin Annett’s numerous accusations against the Catholic Church for the ‘Genocide’ against the Indians….

While I don’t disparage an actual member of a First Nations peoples for highlighting the failings of the Harper Government to raise the status of this country’s poorest and most marginally compromised people, I must ask the question… What will it take to Save a Peoples?

Clearly, the Harper government (as Ms. Palmater points out) is blatently sending a message, and it’s “I said I was sorry, what more do you want from me?”.

What Palmater should have also written about is the government’s cuts to funding to over 100 social programs that directly or indirectly impact the health and well-being of First Nations peoples, or the ‘suck-it-up-buttercup’ attitude with regards to the ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ living conditions in Northern communities.

In Canada, the person, at one time, responsible for the welfare of Aboriginal peoples and for oversight of the Residential School settlement was Maurice Vellacott (MP – Conservative) who said that Harper’s apology was the right thing to do, and that the settlement was a ‘fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Residential School System”.  This is the same Maurice Vellacott who opposes Gay Marriage, Stem Cell Research, and was “” the only MP to speak against a parliamentary motion recognizing an Armenian  genocide as having occurred in 1915″.  He was quoted as saying:

“What the Turks so strenuously object to is the Armenian activists’ one-sided portrayal of the tragic events to the world community and labelling them as genocide, using, in some cases, distortion or exaggeration of facts to further their political agenda of obtaining money and land from Turkey. While doing so, Armenians ignore the death and massacre of more than twice as many Turks at the hands of the Armenian revolutionary bands and the Russians whom they were helping during the First World War.[31] ”    

-Maurice Vellacott (Wikipedia)

Ummmm… what do you mean Canada’s not full of White People?
In addition, Vellacott continued to remain controversial when he asked to re-open a prickly case against two Saskatoon Police Officers, who dropped a Native man out in the North end of Saskatoon on one of the coldest nights of the year, claiming that they were told by the man that he lived near there.  Later, in 2006, he alleged that Saskatoon Natives had a drinking shack located on the outskirts of the city where police often took people they picked up (as if they were somehow doing the Natives a favor).  He resigned his position with the Commons Committee on Aboriginal and Northern Affairs over a comment he made regarding Supreme Court Justices acting like ‘God’.  Clearly this man can’t keep his mouth in the realm of the appropriate, and it’s maybe not a bad thing that he no longer wields decision-making power over Indian Affairs.
The question is, with friends like these… who needs enemies?  It is exactly the point I’m trying to make… Vellacott should be the person you’d write to express your dismay.. but in my experience in writing to the man who once called me a ‘paranoid conspiracy theorist’, and whose right-wing politics have been veiled in saran wrap, he gets no endorsement for me on fairness to the Natives.

What made me write this blog today was my first day of fall Clinical.  As if by divine intervention, I have been placed at St. Mary’s Wellness Centre, which was nominated in 2008 for it’s innovation towards integrating Primary Health Care, Wellness with Education.  The Centre, which has been recently been re-built on the site of the old St. Mary’s School, was an initiative of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Board and the Province of Saskatchewan with partnerships with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan.

Principal Darryl Bayzlak attends a traditional dance at St. Mary’s Wellness Centre

The Centre is “The first of it’s kind in Canada” and offers a pediatric clinic, mental health services and respiratory therapy in what is Saskatoon’s poorest neighborhood.  It incorporates the principles of the Medicine Wheel and First Nations spirituality to provide a holistic approach to education, health and well-being of the child that will ultimately impact the family and community in positive and culturally appropriate ways.

St. Mary’s Wellness Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Today, I had the opportunity to hear the passion by which the people involved with this initiative talked about the work that they are doing.  The phrases they spoke were of “mutual respect”, “honoring their culture”, and “working together” and their focus was on addressing and reducing the social determinants of health that caused hardship for First Nations people living in the inner city.  They stressed the formation of trust and that poverty and marginalization was a human problem deserving of humane solutions.  I left my 3 hour orientation feeling awestruck and energized because a small group of people had come together to make a big thing happen…. And the Catholic School Board was part of it!

While Palmater is correct to bring up Harper’s agenda and Canada’s shameful legacy, I wonder about the “Now What” part of the equation?  It is one thing to level accusations and inflame emotions… quite another to say what needs to be done and work towards real solutions.  This is where Palmater, and dare I say, many pundits of all issues ‘Aboriginal’, fail epically…. No one wants to go out on a limb and state what must be done to save these peoples.

My answer is that the Aboriginal/First Nations people must save themselves because it is clear that neither the Harper Government or any of the politicians (like Vellacott) who run Indian/Aboriginal Affairs Committee’s etc..really understand the issues facing First Nations Peoples, nor do they seem to care.   It is time to fix what is broken and to let go of the past as people like Palmater and Annett see it.

September 19th is just around the corner, and that will mean an end to Residential School claims in this country.  The truth is that No amount of government money will mend the broken hearts or bring dead children back to life, and the witch-hunts against the Pope and Queen will do nothing to put healthy food on an inner-city childs’ dinner table, nor break the cycle of sexual abuse and poverty.

It is time to face the real issues and deal with them head-on with the First Nations people in the lead with their Allies there to support and clear the way.  I believe that we can forge a real future together, one that is full of hope and healing if we all can choose to leave evil where it lays… behind us in a past that need not follow us into the future.

We Are All Treaty People
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