Wednesday, 6 June 2012

To blog or not to blog

Blogging has been an interesting experience for me. I had never really used technology to express my opinions other than word document and power point so this was a new endeavor and I am happy that I gave it a chance. Technology is an amazing tool to do research, to spread your message around the world, and to utilize the different programs on the internet.This has positively impacted my learning and my thinking as it allowed me to benefit from other people's ideas and to see many different points of view of all the issues.
Another benefit with blogging is the ability to share one's ideas with ease. I thought it was much simpler than I had first thought and being able to share my information without much hassle proved to be a selling point.

So... Why bother?

My father’s friend was sentenced to three years in jail. He is an aboriginal man who, because of repeated abuse from his girlfriend, made the grave mistake of retaliating. He deserved his sentence. What he didn’t deserve was the racism and prejudices he received once inside the prison gates. The aboriginal community does not receive the same treatment as non-aboriginals. They do not receive the funding for their programs; they do not have the funds to have decent lawyers who care about their freedom; they are not treated like they ought to be. In the case of my dad's friend, the programs that ran for Aboriginals weren't even run by Aboriginals, but by outsiders who didn't know the customs or the heritage. Some of the guards even took the art they had made and sold it for a profit, giving the artisan only a small portion. Also, whenever a non-aboriginal wanted food from their culture they were granted it without having to pay; Aboriginals had to pay to have traditional food and it was rarely offered to them. These small things make a huge difference in the lives of Aboriginal offenders.For me, as a young girl thinking Canada was a perfect and free place, I was appalled. Ever since then I have had the strongest desire to help those aboriginals who are emotionally abused in our justice system.This, along with the horrible stories my dad's friend has told me about reserve life, have steered me towards this issue. I feel very strongly about the issues and it has since been my life goal to make Canada an equal place for Aboriginals, the very first Canadians.Through this blogging endeavor I have learned even more about the terrible inequality problems they face and I have come to understand that the causes are so complex and confusing making the multitude of problems difficult to solve. I used to think that I could simply 'fix' the problems with a few anti-racism policies and some funding for their schools but I now realize it goes much, much deeper than that. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Problem with Canadians

When was the last time you put a dollar into the jar that promised to send a Chinese or Malaysian girl to school? Or the last time you read about the starving children in Africa? It probably wasn't that long ago. Now when was the last time you read about a Canadian Aboriginal issue or gave money to fund Canadian organizations that directly help Aboriginals? It probably didn't happen or if it did it was rare. I am still trying to understand why Westerners think that helping people overseas is more worthy and worthwhile than helping people in our own neighborhoods. Is it more glamorous? Do they think that the situation in Canada is not 'bad' enough to help?
What people fail to realize is how 'bad' the situation actually is. Hopefully in reading my blog you get the smallest idea of the terrible reality in Canada's reserves and the issues Aboriginals face everyday. Imagine being judged during a job interview because of your race or getting less funding because of where your school is or having lower expectations put on you because of the oppressed history of your people. This is what they face every day. If that is not 'bad' enough for people to take notice then think about all the systemic racism they face in the prisons. They are denied parole and access to programs. Of think about the land that is being destroyed by tar sands, pipelines, and over-exploitation. People in Fort McMurray are getting cancer because of the fumes and toxic water. This is bad. This is very bad.
Wordle: what will it take?
Wordle by Me
What will it take for Canadians to notice? It is a scary thought. Do not wait for a catastrophe to help.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

So what now?

Finding a cure-all  solution is impossible. The issue of inequality manifests itself in every aspect of Aboriginal life with many different symptoms and effects. To better see all possible solutions  we should look at each problem individually and see what the government and its programs and systems can do, what NGOs can do, and what we, as Canadians do.

Poverty and Reserve Life

Government: The government has a lot of power to improve the poverty rates for Aboriginals and the living conditions on reserves.
  • Provide clean water for all reserves: There are a total of 85 reserves under a boil-water advisory in Canada today. Unclean water leads to illness and child and infant mortality. Providing a life necessity should be a priority.
  • Finance infrastructure: Ottawa has given more than 3 billion dollars to fund housing but the UN still says it is an embarrassment. The government should send in top quality companies to go in and use durable materials and fix up existing homes and build new homes. They should also hire locals as laborers to train so they will have a job skill. To add economy Aboriginals should have more access to natural resources on reserves so they can have more jobs. Since unemployment is so high on reserves the government should be providing job training and financing small businesses so the locals can have somewhere to work. 
  • Finance and support NGOs who are already doing something about poverty.
  • Build hospitals, doctor's offices, post offices, and social services building in reserves or nearby reserves. Many reserves are very isolated from other communities and do not have access to simple commodities. There should be help available to youth, women, children, and elderly people in all communities. 
NGOs: Non-governmental groups also have the power and willingness to make change in reserves.
  • Raise funds and awareness to job training and housing initiatives.
  • Put pressure on the government to follow through with its promises and to make Aboriginal rights a topic of discussion in parliament. Right now, one of the few Native NGOs, the Assembly of First Nations, is too shy to bring up the real issues and only talks about benefiting the band leaders, instead of the members.
  • Keep doing what they are doing! There are so many organizations that are striving to make change in Native People's lives. To see a good list of National Aboriginal Organizations see this link: National Aboriginal Organizations
Canadians:  We have quite a bit of power these days but since we are told that Canada is the best place on earth we tend to not voice our opinions unless it affects us directly. There is a lot we can do though to combat poverty.
  • Write letters to our MPs.
  • Donate to local foundations that support Aboriginal infrastrutue.
  •  Volunteer for a foundation that supports Aboriginal rights and helps the poverty issue.


  • Reevaluate how Aboriginals are treated in the justice system. They should not be treated as failures or without the dignity that non-aboriginals are given.
  • Make sure that Aboriginals are given the same opportunities as non-aboriginals when it comes to programs, parole, cultural food, and parole officers. 
  • Put in place after-school programs and social services for at-risk youth to lessen the chances of crime.
  • Use alternative justice courts for Aboriginals that focus on their beliefs and values, all while still giving them the benefits that Canada's court system holds.
NGOs: Unfortunately there are not very many NGOs that focus on Aboriginal offenders. 
  • Run half-way houses. Some Indian bands, like in Osoyoos, run their own half-way houses for offenders from their community. 
  • Run programs in prisons that focus on emotional well-being and help prepare them for a successful life after their release.
  • Visit Aboriginal inmates. Lots of Aboriginals do not have family that can visit them and do not have a support system.
  • Run job training programs and help offenders find healthy places to live when they are released.
  • Demand change! Like I mentioned earlier, we should write letter to the government or our local penitentiaries and demand that Aboriginal rights are being met.
  • Support organizations or people who help inmates.
  • Volunteer at after-school programs for at-risk Aboriginal youth.



  • Hire more people with Aboriginal ancestry as correctional officers, government workers, and other important and influential jobs. 
  • Put policies in place that protect Aboriginals from bullying or racism and put harsher punishments on people with authority who are racist.
  • Ban media that places stereotypes on Aboriginals and place them in better light. 
  • For this one there isn't much NGOs can do except encourage the government to act and to encourage others to be accepting.
  • Be kind to everyone! :)
  • Do not use stereotypes. 



  • Give reserve schools the same funding as non-aboriginal schools.
  • Offer more scholarships to youth on reserves and to Aboriginal youth off-reserve.
  • Fix up all esixting schools in reserves. Lots of them are full of mice or the structure is not safe.
  • Finance school programs, clubs, and leadership training.


  • Run after-school programs.
  • Encourage the government to treat Aboriginal schools with dignity and to support them.
  • Raise funds for books and supplies for schools that cannot afford books.

What about our children's future? source: CBC

  • Volunteer at after-school programs.
  • Write letters to the government.
  • Educate yourself about the issue. 

Domestic Violence and Social Issues


  • Provide social services to Aboriginals, whether they are in reserves or not. (ex. pregnancy crisis centers)
  • Help NGOs run different programs for the community. 


  • Provide support and safe havens for victims of violence, megligence, abuse, and addictions. 
  • Run parenting workshops.
  • Run support groups for single parents, foster parents, and parents who are struggling raising their children.
  • Run anger management classes.
  • Provide support for victims of residential schools.


  • Stand up against bullying and domestic violence.
  • Support NGOs who help Aboriginal communities.
In conclusion, there are organizations that are helping Aboriginals, whether it be through building houses, supporting reserve schools, or visiting Aboriginal inmates. There is still so much that can be done though, especially from the government. They have tried to pay Aboriginals off but money has never solved anything. We need more long-lasting ideas that will help generations to come. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Who is involved?

So who is involved with Aboriginal inequality? Who is suffering? Whose problem is it? And who should come up with the solutions?

The government plays a huge role in determining how Aboriginals are treated from a political and legal way. The government has the power to create, change, and take away polices that either help Aboriginals are hinder them in some way and they should take ownership of the issue and do something to fix it. In actuality the government does almost nothing to address the issue. They have tried to fix things through Agreements, like the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2006, accords, like the Kelowna Accord in 2005, treaties, and large sums of money (Of the $9 billion targeted to Aboriginal people annually, only 2% is spent on economic development, the one thing that could ensure self-reliance and stable jobs and housing for the community), but the issue remains intact and it continues to grow.

Justice system:
The justice system has gravely mistreated Aboriginal inmates. There is extreme systemic discrimination and Aboriginals are subjected to discrimination and racism that hinders both their release and their stay as they do not have access to programs intended for rehabilitation and release. Also, the federal corrections system employs almost no Aboriginals when they make up a high percentage of the inmates. Furthermore, the meaning of justice is different for Aboriginals. They focus on the restoration of peace and the reconciliation of the wrongdoer and the wronged whereas the system focuses on punitive methods and on isolation the wrongdoer from society. Aboriginals are denied the benefit of justice circles that they have used for thousands of years and if they are granted the use of a circle as means of court they are not allowed to leave their reserve.

Obviously, the people who are most suffering are the Aboriginal people. They are forced to go through this bullying from the government, the justice and legal system, and other groups and people. Canadians play an important role whether they are Aboriginal or not. We hold more power than we think. Some of us are doing the bullying even if we think we aren't. We use stereotypes or precautions when talking to people with Aboriginal ancestry or we make assumptions on how they will act or think about something. Doing nothing is consent to so whether we like to admit it or not we make an impact.

Non-governmental groups also play a huge role in Aboriginal issues and helping the victims of all the different types of inequality and discrimination. The Indigenous Education Network and the coalition for Advancement of Aboriginal Studies aims to encourage the inclusion of Aboriginal history and cultures in the school curriculum while the Aboriginal Healing Foundation provides millions of dollars to fund community-based healing projects. Some other examples include the Belinda Stronach Foundation, Indspire, and the Frontiers Foundation. But unless these organizations are backed up with governmental policies, laws, and funds they will not be able to achieve all that could be achieved.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

To be one of the Gang

source: google images
Native gangs across Canada, especially in the Lower Mainland and Western B.C., have been expanding. The issue of Native gangs is completely ignored and unknown. Just like rebel groups pluck children to recruit as child soldiers in poor countries, gangs are plucking and enticing poor and lost Aboriginal youth to join their gangs. These gangs intimidate youth with violence and convince them to be part of a 'family', something that a lot of them do not have. A gang looks welcoming when the youth's own family life in shambles. The gangs are involved with the drug trade, prostitution, and theft. "They are certainly increasing in numbers and becoming more sophisticated in how they do business," said Carpenter, who is a member of the Inuvialuit settlement region in the Western Arctic. Gangs use prisons as recruiting grounds and a lot of Aboriginal inmates enter prisons not as gang members but leave as one.  To make matters worse the aboriginal matters conference in Ottawa said in 2010 that aboriginal youth gang membership could double in the next ten years. Also, many female gang members are traded among other male members and as initiation are asked to have sex with many members.The issue of Native gangs is an unseen one but one that needs to be addressed.

Good Ole White Folks

Amazingly (for lack of a more negative word) all the issues Aboriginals face are from one root problem: White people. With the arrival of European settlers searching for free land to conquer and expand came extreme heartache for the Native people already living in Canada. The history of how the Europeans treated the Aboriginals can be described in four words: colonization, segregation, assimilation, and discrimination.

source: National Resources Canada

To see a timeline look at my prezi on the history of Canada and how we treated the
Aboriginal people: shortest history timeline ever

With the creation of the reserves, the forced European ideals, the stripping of the Aboriginal culture, and the residential schools that tore up communities it is no wonder they are facing issues today. Aboriginals were told that there way of life was uncivilized and outdated. They were told that everything they had been doing for the past thousand years was wrong and had to be changed. This still creates problems today as Aboriginals feel unwanted and put astray with their identity crumbled. How can we better ourselves when we don't even know who we are? The residential schools enforced the European ideas and caused great suffering throughout the communities. Children were taken from their families and stripped of their identities and cultures. Residential school is also the reason for a lot of the alcoholism with Aboriginal people. With their children taken from them the adults resulted to drinking to waste away the days missing them. Or, if they themselves went to residential schools they drink to forget the suffering they went through while in the residential schools.  Alcoholism leads to violence and sometimes death. Loss of identity leads to crime and gangs, so does poverty and poor living conditions. Everything is the aftermath of the arrival of the Europeans. A chain reaction has progressed and grown like a snowball rolling down a hill at an uncontrollable pace. Every action has a reaction.
See this diagram to show one way of looking at the cycle: The Cycle of Destruction

Another Cause for a lot of grief is the absence of fathers in the Aboriginal community. As I mentioned in the last post, a lot of children are brought up by either foster parents or grandparents. This talk show explains the issue of absent fathers. Aboriginal Fathers
Without a father or support system the children turn to other people, like gang members, or end up lost with nowhere to turn. These youth are at risk to drop out of school, turn to drugs or alcohol, and commit crimes.