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National Aboriginal Day: Speak up for food security

Posted by Bob Rae on June 20, 2012 | No Comments

When I visited Attawapiskat last December, I met a two-month-old aboriginal girl named Caley. I still remember her lock of dark hair and peaceful face as she slept.

While Caley’s mom and dad do everything they can for her in troubling conditions, there is a crisis in Aboriginal communities across Canada that is robbing hope for children like Caley, and their families.

There is no fundamental human right more basic than the right to eat when you are hungry. In a country as bountiful as ours, truly no Canadian child should want for food.

Yet this National Aboriginal Day, June 21, tens of thousands of Aboriginal peoples, including children, will experience hunger, and the insecurity of not knowing when they’ll eat next – which is why I’m asking you speak up and sign our petition.

The growing disparity between the rich and poor in Canada, particularly between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, has left 2-3 million men, women and children across the country food insecure.

Access to sufficient, safe, healthy and adequate food also has a profound impact on the productivity of our workforce. Food insecurity increases poor health and drives up healthcare costs.

Yet this Conservative government continues to deny that Canada has a problem – all the while ignoring the 800,000 Canadian households in crisis.

As National Aboriginal Day approaches, we recognize and celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada for their important contribution to this nation that gives each of us so much.

Please take a moment on behalf of kids like Caley to draw urgent attention to the problem of food insecurity in Aboriginal communities.

Join me, along with the Liberal Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission, and speak up for food security this National Aboriginal Day. Click here to sign and share our petition.

Thank you.

Bob Rae

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  1. Avatar of Don Girard Don Girard said on

    I do not want to seem uncaring, because I have seem all of this first hand on many occasions, but it is the system that needs fixing, more money sent the way it is done now, will fail in the long term. Like Africa, when the land barons demand their cut to all food sent for their own starving citizens, some of the money sent to our reserves goes to land barons there as well.

    Money for food goes to drugs and alcohol, food gets sold to buy drugs, managers and chiefs control federal income payments for their benefit. Not all of this can be fixed but it is time to make sure the money goes directly from Ottawa to the individuals, not through intermediaries; it is time projects are managed better with more checks on the disbursement for projects and community management.

    There is no reason for anyone to go hungry, other then addiction to substances, addiction to money and greed, and addiction to our intentional blindness to the problems of these communities. NO amount of money will solve these problems without some real concern by the immediate peers of the hungry, and some real initiative beyond paying to make our consciences feel better.

    It is not easy to solve children’s horrendous abuse by addicted parents, on or off native communities, persons of any nationality, but it is possible to start to deal with the native communities, more importantly it’s whole membership. I have mentioned it before, we need to make every native family a titled land owner, they have that right, we did not only take land from the chiefs but from all. Natives should have the right to own homes anywhere and keep their benefits as natives. They should have the rights to sell their property in the native communities, how many of you would be happy and proud of the home you share in a commune, but have no financial benefit of living in the commune except to share what the leaders decide to give you? You can not leave and take part of the assets your earned, and if you leave you lose the benefits.

    The man I most honoured in my 65 years of life so far, was an Ojibway native, who at the time 45 years ago was my age now. He lived in a one room cabin with a sway backed roof and it sole source of heating and cooking was a wood burning tin stove called a puffer. A puffer literally puffed smoke into the building if it got burning too hot and the front of the air inlet would turn almost white with heat. The washroom facilities was an outhouse and the one sink was serviced by a pail of water from the creek outside.

    Frank was his name, and I will not try to either say or spell his last name, I don’t remember it clearly. I slept on the floor of that home often enough and enjoyed his moose stew as well.

    Frank lived off of the wilderness; his pension cheque and any funds from the reserve were saved to buy food for the children of the addicted in the community, he was a hero to me and a life saver to countless children. He could have spent the money for his own comfort, but he had priorities. When asked about the money needed for the children and the reserve management, he said they were lost people to white man ways, they forgot what is important.

    Frank would never take money from us unless earned, he said money not earned was evil money, so we hired him to guide us fishing and hunting, often we did not need him, but he was a fine boat operator and always knew some secrets to our success, his company was worth gold to me. I was named by him in native fashion, blueberry picker. It was an honour to know him, a simple man, as wise and compassionate as anyone I have ever met, with an always smile that made you feel you were a somebody.

    It did not take much money to solve the children’s problems in the community, only Frank. I think he had his priorities right, even though the water in the bucket would be frozen over in the late fall mornings.

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    • Avatar of Brian Sanderson Brian Sanderson said on

      Hi Donald, Thank you for writing a thoughtful analysis. Being a citizen of 3 nations (NZ, Oz and Canada), I’ve observed far too much pious and pointless hand-wringing about aboriginal issues from far too many political perspectives. Although I’m most familiar with the NZ situation, I sense that there are some similarities with Canada. I think that two things need to be honestly and fully understood before any progress can be made.
      First, we took their land and left them with a lousy reservation and welfare — and these are traps, they are NOT opportunities.
      Second, many aspects of indigenous cultures have morphed into maladaptive nonsense that does not serve the needs of the people in a modern world — in this regard I recommend the insights of:
      Alan Duff (a Maori himself) in his book “Maori, The Crisis and the Challenge”.
      Is there any similar book about the Canadian aboriginal experience?

      Of course, non-native people also have a culture that is loaded with maladaptive nonsense, and the Liberal Party would do well to drop ideology — left/right/centre/green, it all leads nonsense. Solutions don’t come from pious hand-wringing and ideology. Honest analysis is a better path — and the courage to ditch our own dogma when it is shown to be inadequate…

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    • Avatar of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

      Hi Donald: I agree with you that it is the system that is broken. The archaic “Indian Act” needs to be burned and we need to find better solutions.

      I thought that the Kelowna Accord was going to be a great step forward but the conservatives felt it wasn’t needed. Now 7 or 8 years later, after things have deteriorated even more, Mr Harper says we need to sit down and talk. We already did that Mr Harper. The conservative record on aboriginal affairs is a travesty.

      I enjoyed your story about “Frank”, very touching and nicely written.

      But I don’t think we can hope for the Frank’s of the world to solve the problem. While many of the problems facing the First Nations peoples are indeed of their own making, the underlying causes and the solutions are the responsibility of all Canadians.

      I wonder … did you sign the petition? You don’t say. Here it is:

      “This National Aboriginal Day, I, the undersigned, call on the Conservative government to recognize that safe, healthy and adequate food is a fundamental human right and to take immediate action to address food insecurity for Aboriginal peoples.”

      It seems to me that this is innocuous enough and it speaks directly to the conservative government’s recent complete and idiotic dismissal of the United Nations rapporteur’s critical comments on access to food in northern Canada.

      As NDP MP Jean Crowder stated “The government is ignoring the facts, the first step is admitting there is a problem. Will the minister at least do that?”

      If you did not sign the petition I would be interested to know why – if you did, thank you.

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      • Avatar of Don Girard Don Girard said on

        Sure did, but as we all know saying anything to the CPC now is like blowing into a gale force wind.

        It is we the LPC that has to start promoting our positions and what we are going to do about it.

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        • Avatar of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

          I absolutely agree. The time for talk and idle rhetoric is long past. We need a plan and a means for these people to take care of, and responsibility for, themselves.

          Petitions don’t really help, but then, I guess they don’t hurt either.

          This is an issue I think we should all help bring to the fore in the upcoming LPC leadership campaign. I’d like to know what the LPC’s “concrete” plans are for action on this file.

          Cheers.

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          • Avatar of Don Girard Don Girard said on

            Right on Martin, I too am really tired of our party critizing, but not offering solutions, or how we would do it better, my reason why I wished for a new leader sooner, so we could get on with being the party of choice and conviction.

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