Please vote “Yes” to aboriginal treaty rights for Six Nations (poll is today only!)

The question: Does the Six Nations Confederacy have the right to charge fees to builders in Brantford?

The answer: Yes. Canada must honour treaty (incl. land use) rights of all first nations people!

Vote here.   (Hurry! The poll question will change after today.)

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Join Canada’s First Nations’ ‘Day of Action’

2008 edition announced here.




As members and friends of Canada’s original peoples, aboriginal peoples, prepare for Friday’s Day of Action – be it peaceful protests or inconvenient blockades – we might all remind ourselves just how bad things are here for so many, and why they might be more than a little bit fed up!

CTV – First Nations communities in crisis: report

Members and friends of my faith community, Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, will be joining the rally and march Friday at noon from the area near Convocation Hall on King’s College Circle (U of T) to Queen’s Park.


The Assembly of First Nations (AFN)[1] is calling on all Canadians to a National Day of Action to support Aboriginal struggles for justice and treaty rights on June 29, 2007. The National Day of Action is a day for Canadians and First Nations to stand together to raise awareness about the situation of First Nations and the solutions that will improve that situation. The day will call attention to the urgency of securing a better future for First Nations children through addressing poverty; and upholding respect, dignity and fairness for First Nations.

The United Church calls on the Government of Canada to honour First Nations treaty and land rights with the firm conviction that access to land and resources are central to ending poverty in First Nations communities in Canada.

Recognizing our own complicity in the attainment of First Nations rights in Canada, the General Council of the United Church of Canada is calling on its members to support First Nations justice and right relationship through:

Prayers or organizing a prayer vigil on June 29, 2007. The following United Church of Canada resources may assist with organizing a prayer vigil.

    1. A Healing Journey for Us All- Uncovering the Wounds of Empire: A United Church of Canada resource for Healing and Reconciliation.
    2. Toward Justice and Right Relationship. A Beginning: A Study Guide for Congregations and Church groups as they Forge New Relationships with First Nations Peoples
    3. Hear Our Voices, First Nations of Canada Speak: A four-part video study that explores the social, political, economic and cultural rights of First Nations
    4. That All May Be One: A Resource for Educating Towards Racial Justice


Contacting your local member of Parliament, the Prime Minister, and  the Minister of Indian Affairs to tell them you support justice and fairness for First Nations, and that you want the Government of Canada to work in partnership with First Nations to resolve long-standing issues. You can write the Prime Minister’s office at: Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa K1A 0A2.


Discerning other appropriate solidarity actions in your context. Including getting information about the National Day of Action (June 29) in your area. You can get this information by contacting the AFN and/or your regional AFN office (information is available on the AFN website at

For more information on the United Church of Canada support for the day please contact  

Choice U. Okoro,  e-mail: 

Human Rights and Peace Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit.

3250 Bloor Street West, Suite 300 Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4 Canada

Tel: 1.800-268-3781 Voice Mail: 416-2315931 Ext. 4061 Fax 416-231-3103

[1] The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.



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Continued student debt (in English or French) – ‘That’s Our Canada. Voilà Notre Canada’: Cons

Among the many ways the French language uses the new Harper government’s budget title “Aspire” are:

yearn for, yes, but also breathe in or inhale, or – worsesuck in or suck up.

(Check the Dictionnaire Français-Anglais at if you don’t believe me.)

This would account for the Bloc’s strategic no-brainer to support the budget.

Let’s see if the Harpocrites get a re-elected Charest government they would like in the Québec election or a minority parliament, like their own, the governing party to be determined later.

I also wait to see how federal Liberals in Québec justify, via endless nuance, voting against the Harper-Flaherty budget which makes such strides in addressing the ‘fiscal imbalance’ that is such a sore point in the province.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily want a federal election, at least not in the short-term (nor, let’s be real, do any of the opposition parties). In that sense, the Bloc is taking one for the entire opposition team. Frankly, I don’t want a vote in the fall, either, when the Ontario general election will be in full swing.


So, as of this evening’s respective party stances, the NDP can oppose the budget – and, by extension, the government – while delaying a federal election for tired partisans like me. Even better (for them), the Liberals can do the same. If ever there was a time for the Conservatives to break another little promise, and ignore their fixed election date way down the road, it would be soon.

The oft-repeated applause cue for sleeping Conservatives, during the Finance Minister’s budget speech today was, “That’s our Canada. Voilà notre Canada.”

Whither the environment and climate change? Enough with the green screens and EcoTrust™ feel-good announcements, Stephen (or Ballistic Baird)!

What about First Nations? Nothing!

Oh, and what’s Stephen Harper’s solution to high tuition fees now (and student debt for years to come)? Let parents sock away more money, and earlier, in RESPs.

The young parents I know, even the two professional income parents, are paying off mortgages or lines of credit needed to have one of them stay home with the kids since there’s precious little licensed, affordable day-care. There is no money, or very little, to sock away for the little tykes’ university years which – don’t kid yourself – are coming on quickly!

The ones who can afford to do such sock-stuffing, the über-wealthy, will get a nice tax break while the student loans for the rest will maintain a debtors’ economy for generations.

And, for that, we still can’t get a break on ATM fees?

Thanks to Jim Flaherty, “That’s our Canada. Voilà notre Canada.”

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UNAIDS Report Redux – no highlights

Is something, which we now know to be so preventable, so inevitable?

The days before December 1, World AIDS Day, are rarely filled with good news – despite attempts to put spin on the statistics released by UNAIDS. For example, overall (when taking into account the wealthiest nations) those infected with HIV are living longer thanks to antiretroviral medications. This means little to those who do not have access to these medications (mine are pictured here in their morning and evening pill cases).

Finding any good news in the overwhelming statistics – even the press releases are daunting – leads to comparisons of needles in haystacks.

It is impossible to give a hierarchy to the importance of the sad facts. The face of AIDS, worldwide, is that of a woman. Women cannot take control of the world fast enough. One of my own parochial biases, gay men, leaves me shaking my head and asking, “WTF, gay men?”

More discouraging than the 2.9 million lives lost to AIDS this year is the 4.3 million new infections. In short, the dead are being replaced, and then some, with the living ill. When, in the name of the 25 million who have died, will this staggering reality change?

When will prevention efforts in the gay community – or in the broader “men who have sex with men” category – start to see sustained changes in behaviour? It doesn’t take too many lapses of judgment, however caused, to get infected. 46 percent of new infections in Canada – that’s new infections – are accounted for here. So “MSM’ (that’s not mainstream media in the case of HIV/AIDS parlance) is still the most affected group in Canada, ahead of injection drug users (19 percent).

Does anyone not think that the link between increased infection rates in North America and the availability of life-saving drugs ought to make us deserving of a collective slap across the head? Sure there are sociological factors – like poverty, drug abuse and homophobia – to consider. But it makes me crazy to think that any gay men, the average supposedly being wealthier, better-educated, etc., might believe that testing positive is just a matter of taking a few pills! Don’t take this frustration as an indictment, either against gay men or the prevention programs. That would be far too simplistic and there are enough politicians who will advance such arguments.

How the newly-diagnosed look and feel as long-term survivors may be better than a lab mouse from the early years such as me – but no one can say that for sure. Besides, from Epidemiology 101, the more who are HIV-positive and sexually active the more will become infected as a result of even casual slip-ups in prevention. I do not believe that most young gay men nowadays, in modern western society, have all of the predispositions I might have had. Maybe I’m wrong. Yet, as I look back on my youth, I recall never much believing I’d live to be 40, and gay, (and that youthful immortality is almost universal) so I leave the what-to-do list to professionals.

The report points to increasing evidence of HIV infection among men who have sex with each other (there’s that MSM again!) in Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand, but it said few of these countries’ AIDS programs really address the problem of sex between males. The problem? Homophobia and head-in-the-sand denial – read enormous stigma – of homosexual behaviour.

Canada’s First Nations peoples remain over-represented in this country’s statistics, by which it is meant the prevalence rate is disproportionate to the size of their population. The infection rate is nearly three times higher than for non-Aboriginals. Canada’s overall total of 58,000 cases must seem laughable to many countries and yet the skewed impact on our First Nations gives us prominence which is only shameful!

Never before has HIV infected so many women and, hello, they find themselves in that situation largely as a result of infected men – who may, or may not, know their own HIV status. Worldwide nearly 18 million women are HIV-positive, a jump of more than one million compared with two years earlier. In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for 59 percent of people with HIV/AIDS!

Of course that area of Africa already carries the burden of the world’s AIDS infections -63 per cent or 24.7 million people — but in East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia there are 21 per cent more people living with HIV than two years ago. Ten percent increases per year? That’s unacceptable!

Dig deeper and it gets worse. HIV spread fastest in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with a nearly 70 per cent increase in new infections over the past two years; 15 percent over the same period in South and Southeast Asia.

After sub-Saharan Africa, Asia is the second-most infected region. Almost eight million people with HIV/AIDS live in South and Southeast Asia.

Again, is something so preventable so inevitable? Will those of us privileged to have the best medical care live to see this pandemic begin to decline?

Other links to explore (in addition to the many listed in the sidebar):

Healing Our Spirit – B.C. Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Society

Stephen Lewis Foundation

Canadian AIDS Society

Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative


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‘Ownership’ of disease?

This CNN report caught my attention on their website. I see it might have come from here. (Free registration may be required to view either link.)

Speaking as a gay, white man with AIDS, I think this campaign is wrongheaded. Yes, many young, gay men are ignoring safer sex campaigns – for any number of reasons. Yes, they need a serious wake-up call about the upward trends of HIV infection and the fact that the fifteen pills I take each morning, and again in the evening, are not a cure. (Several of them, in fact, are prescribed to counteract side effects of the others.) Yes, gay men still make up the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in western, “developed” countries. That does not make it their (I’ll disqualify myself as young!) disease. Presumably this is public health department money, at least in part, going into what is obviously an expensive campaign.

The fact is that those statistics include men who have been dead for many years. The infection rate among women is growing. The infection rate among racial minorities (African-Americans in the U.S., First Nations peoples in Canada) is growing! Wealthy gay fundraisers would do well to infuse some prevention money outside “the village” of our respective communities.

The campaign has its merits in that it is hard-hitting, in-your-face and aimed directly at gay men. HIV prevention has been a soft-sell for too long. It reminds gay men that HIV is a preventable disease still far too prevelant in our community. I do not want to dismiss it in a head-in-the-sand sort of way.

I’m just not comfortable with ‘owning’ HIV. It is a narrow view when, in this day and age, I am privileged (as are most gay men with HIV) to have access to prevention, treatment and support programs.

The same cannot be said in places, I’m thinking especially of Africa, where torturous death by AIDS among women and children is more the rule than the exception.

Just as I would not want to see those billboards on the streets of Toronto I continue to be disgusted with the ad campaigns, aimed at gay men here, to inject botox to mask over the effects of HIV and the medications which treat it. Such vanity makes me crazy when women and children elsewhere still dare not dream to share our wealth of treatments!

Am I missing something? I would welcome your comments!

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Some encouraging news from Caledonia

**** Greetings my friends,

This message came in from non-Native supporter Cheryl Walker. Sounds like the meeting with non-Native supporters went very well. Here is the letter and article following.

Blessings to you all,

Wahela Bluejay

Yesterday’s public event in Caledonia was very positive, informative and respectful. For the first time in a long time I left Caledonia feeling like there really are a lot of good people in our community who are working to make a positive difference. It was great to hear all the strong voices in support of Six Nations, human and legal rights. People spoke out against the racism and trampling of aboriginal peoples rights by the government of Canada. Even the most hardened person in the room could not ignore the suffering Canada’s mistreatment of First Nations people has and continues to cause, when an audience member bravely shared with us a small part of how it has affected her life. There were many wonderful people who attended this event and participated in the open discussion period. The panel speakers were great and addressed the issue from many sides, the human perspective, the legal perspective, and the broader public moral and ethical responsibility to stop the abuse of power by a few. It was a very moving, informative and wonderful day.

fyi, Tom Keefer’s report on the event is below.



From: Tom Keefer

*please feel free to forward widely*

hey folks,

Here is a quick report about the Community Friends public meeting in Caledonia this afternoon. First off, the event was a major success by any measure. Over 120 people from across the Haldimand tract and beyond attended the three-hour event which was addressed by indigenous rights lawyer Kate Kempton, Caledonia resident Jan Watson and United Steelworkers of America Local 1005 President Rolf Gerstenberger.

More than $500 was raised as people reached deep into their pockets to make a solidarity donation for the reclamation site by passing the hat at the meeting.

There was also an excellent media presence including numerous local media outlets, CHCH TV and two different crews from the CBC. The CBC ran live interviews with Community Friends spokesperson Jan Watson and had a number of reporters present. Several documentary filmmakers were also present as were radio stations CKRZ, CIUT, and CFRU. Video of the entire forum will be available on the Autonomy and Solidarity web site by Tuesday evening.

The message from the speakers and participants at the meeting was unanimous in expressing support for Six Nations land rights and calling for the Canadian government to fulfill its obligations to indigenous people. There were half a dozen members from the Caledonia Citizens Alliance present at the meeting but they did not publicly address the arguments raised in support of Six Nations. Those Caledonians that spoke from the floor of the meeting stressed the importance of peacefully and honorably resolving the issue of Six Nations land rights and spoke out against racism and bigotry. Numerous people from Six Nations also attended the meeting and gave their perspective on the Canadian government’s history of broken treaties while also describing the racism and harassment that has been directed against them.

At the meeting union activists from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Service International Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Auto Workers, and the United Steelworkers of America also spoke out to support Six Nations. The meeting ended with a focus on discussing the ways in which non-native people could organize support for Six Nations within their own communities and workplaces.

A big thank you goes out to all the Community Friends members and supporters who made this event happen. Special thanks goes to all of those who did the work of going door-to-door in Caledonia to leaflet for the meeting in the weeks leading up to the event. We also want to thank the members of the Six Nations Confederacy who while reasserting their sovereignty over lands used as a parking lot for the Caledonia Community Fair handed out hundreds of our leaflets to the people going to the fair.

The struggle continues…

Tom K.

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Kashechewan’s plight a symptom of Canada’s never-ending injustice

Out of sight, out of mind – as usual

I am as guilty as the majority of Canadians in not knowing, until community leaders held a news conference at the Ontario Legislature, what has been going on at the Kashechewan First Nation for years – a ‘boil water advisory’. It gets worse. As the national media scrambles to cover this disgraceful situation more than 100 other First Nations communities, with boil water advisories, are reminding us that this tragedy in Kashechewan is, by no means, an isolated case.

It isn’t and yet it is. With electoral districts in our northern regions so huge, which keeps sparse populations under-represented, communities are isolated from each other and from the rest of Canada. Does that make them any less deserving of safe drinking water? Of course not. However the cynical way that governments cover their political asses – being lap-dogs to the largest, wealthiest blocks of voters – leaves NDP Members of Parliament Charlie Angus (federal) and Gilles Bisson (provincial) scrambling to get attention for their constituents. Well it seems that, with the prodding of first nations’ leaders, something may finally get done. Why did it take invoking memories of the Walkerton water tragedy to get southern attention? And how Hurricane Katrina-esque is it to have the Canadian Red Cross appealing for donations of toiletries for the traumatized, evacuated residents of Kashechewan?

The Lubicon take their case to the UN

On October 17, 2005, a delegation from the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation addressed the 85th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva.

It has been fifteen years since the UNHRC concluded “historical inequities” and “more recent developments” have endangered the way of life and the culture of the Lubicon Nation. The Committee ruled that “so long as they continue” these threats are a violation of the Lubicons’ fundamental human rights.

At the time, the Canadian government assured the Human Rights Committee that it was seeking a land rights settlement with the Lubicons — a settlement that is needed to provide adequate housing with running water, support economic development and restore self-sufficiency to the Lubicon people.

Fifteen years later, there is no settlement agreement and no negotiations towards a settlement agreement.

Lubicon Councilor Alphonse Ominayak spoke to the UNHRC in Geneva. He said, “Canada lied to the UN Human Rights Committee about the contents of the so-called “take-it-or-leave-it” settlement offer they gave to the Lubicon people in January of 1989.”

He said, “Canada lied to the Canadian people about the decision of the decision made by the UN Human Rights Committee in 1990 finding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over Canadian treatment of the Lubicon people.”

He said, “Canada has not engaged in any good faith negotiations sincerely intended to achieve settlement of Lubicon land rights since the 1990 Committee decision and in fact both levels of Canadian government have continued to aggressively try and tear Lubicon society to shreds in order to steal valuable Lubicon lands and resources.”

Ominayak said, “There have been no negotiations at all of any kind between Canada and the Lubicon people since the end of 2003 when Canadian representatives took the position that they had no mandate to negotiate long-standing Lubicon settlement issues including self-government and financial compensation.”

The Lubicon people asked the Committee, at minimum, for two things;

1.) That the Committee publicly reconfirm the 1990 Committee decision holding Canada in continuing violation of the Covenant until the Lubicon situation is satisfactorily resolved;

2.) That the Committee press Canada to send negotiators back to the negotiating table with a full mandate to negotiate outstanding Lubicon settlement issues and firm instructions to negotiate in good faith.

And, so, this open letter to the Prime Minister:

The Rt.Hon. Paul Martin
Prime Minister of Canada
Government of Canada
Ottawa, ON
Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Sir,

As the national media scrambles to cover the disgraceful situation on the Kashechewan First Nation Reserve I draw your attention to another crisis facing the Lubicons. For anybody to have to live under the conditions these people face is a tragedy. For the Lubicons to face these conditions in one of the richest areas of one of the richest countries of the world is appalling. For these conditions to have been deliberately imposed on the Lubicon people by the government of a country that holds itself out to the world as a human rights model for others is an affront to all decent people.

While I join with Canadians in demanding immediate action to rebuild the Kashechewan community, I also support the urgent request of the Lubicon people that the government of Canada

– stop using discussions with the Assembly of First Nations as an excuse to duck the Canadian government’s constitutional responsibility to negotiate a settlement of unceded Lubicon aboriginal land rights with the Lubicon people;

– negotiate a fair and just settlement of unceded Lubicon aboriginal land rights with the Lubicon people starting with:

– immediately giving government negotiators a full mandate to negotiate all outstanding issues, including self-government and financial compensation;

– renounce the Canadian Justice Department Guidelines for Federal Self-government Negotiators effectively giving Canadian negotiators instructions on how to negotiate recognition of aboriginal
self-government in bad faith;

– giving Canadian negotiators firm instructions to negotiate in good faith.


Kenn Chaplin

(letter, and report of the appearance at the UN, adapted from Friends of the Lubicon)

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