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Indigenous Rights 2, Aliza

Page history last edited by David Kaczan 12 years, 7 months ago
ALIZA'S NOTES on Indigenous Rights Session
Three presentations will follow from participants to explore the issues that are faced by Indigenous people and the policies that affect both the Indigenous people and all other Canadians. 
Dr. James Dempsey is a member of the Blood Indian Tribe of Southern Alberta and Professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. We would like to thank James for his commitment to Aboriginal issues, rights, and for taking the time to share his knowledge with the group. 
Dr Dempsey has specific expertise in the areas of treaties, Indian Acts, indigenous affairs as well as interest in warfare.   He drew importance to the fact that Indigenous people in this part of the world are a minority, whereas other Indigenous populations are a majority. This presents unique issues that Canada has to deal with, similar to US Australia and New Zealand. 
Dr. Dempsey expressed the difficulty experienced in dealing with these issues through legal means; we are seeing some of issues being dealt with as piecemeal through the courts where one 'team' wins and the other loses - a system that is not sensitive to the needs of the Aboriginal peoples. These issues should be addressed through political means.
He stated the importance of acknowledging the rights and treaties given to the Indigenous people before Canada was even formed, and these rights and treaties should be honoured.
Dr. Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez is an Indigenous Zapotec from southern Mexico and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Native Studies at the University of Alberta. We would like to thank her for her insight and dedication to indigenous rights, and for sharing her knowledge with the group. 
Dr. Altamirano-Jimenez has a speciality in Comparative Indigenous politics, with a special interest in Women’s rights. She raised the important question of  whether  or not Canada should have a leading role in Indigenous government.  She voiced her frustration that Canada did not ratify The UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, adding: "what right does the Canadian government have to speak on behalf the our populations?'
Dr. Altamirano-Jimenez brought up important issues regarding gender.  She is concerned with why the Canadian government has done so little about the high numbers of missing Aboriginal Women. She questions how national like Canada can consider itself a first world country when problems such as this are left untouched.  She also lists important issues regarding women including the lacking of matrimonial property rights as well as the holes in  child and family servies.  The UN has criticized Canada on the international stage for not doing its part to address housing shortages and child poverty.  Altamirano stated that although aboriginal children and more likely to live in poverty, they receive 20 % less funding than other Canadian children - how can this be?? 
Canada should start its policy review by asking - what can I learn from other countries and how that they have dealt with such issues???   Another important issues is the under-representation Aboriginal women from all negotiation tables- climate change, business, etc.   How can we ensure that those who are currently under-represented are given a stronger voice??
Presentation Number 3 is covered by David in the page ' Indigenous Rights 1, David'


The floor was now opened up to all participants - Sarina invited people to share their individual experiences and thoughts. Please note that these are only half on the comments, the other half are covered on the page ' Indigenous Rights David'
Participant: “We have so many issues overwhelming the people" She describes how her mixed background of having one Status Indian parents and one Metis parent  has shunned her from both communities.  She has been fighting so hard to belong but has constantly been pushed away. She describes how there are there are so many fractured people out there producing fractured identities. She asks what are we trying to save our heritage  for, when we cannot stand united?? What is it that we will give to our children if we ourselve do not know who we are??
Participant:  The participant shared a similar situation with the previous speaker, with one parent being Status Indian and the other Metis.  She tells of the countless problems that have arisen from the simple concept of blood.  She states what an illusion it is to think that we live in a democracy - Canada has left out black people because they were considered property, women were left out because they were not considered people until 1960. Why are people of mixed Métis and native blood left out of the native status??  The assimilation process and genocide is overwhelmingly active in Canada. 
Participant:  He shared his personal story of being an Aboriginal orphan and being thrust into a white foster home. He described the unbelievble conditions under which a child can be seized from their home. He describes the unjust nature of the assimilations adoption policies, and how he struggled to find an identity within his faux family. Under policy laws, a child must adopt the heritage of the adoptive family.  It is important to note that native children are not given the same rights as non-native orphans. Siblings are generally kept together unless there are severe problems notesd with keeping them together. Native children however, do not share this right and are routinely separated as part of the assimilations policies.  One paper, a native child is considered white. The participant describes how many times he was told that “it was not proper to state that I am an Aboriginal"  

After breaking off into small groups to discuss individual opinions on a variety of topics that affect Indigenous peoples, we brought the discussion back together to share our conversations. David’s page outlines the key points to facilitate discussion

Group two

Group two identified four areas they believed were the most pressing issues of the community. It is these issues, they said, that deserved the most immediate attention to fix the system or promote progress for the Indigenous peoples.

1.     Education

Education about the indigenous people is key and central to all aboriginal peoples.  Indigenous knowledge should become an integrated part of the knowledge of the Canadian community, and it should not a be a constant battle of Western Knowledge vs. Indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge should be made part of everyday lives and processes that affect everyday people.  Within the realm of knowledge exists language.  The group acknowledged that there are so many languages in Canada that are disappearing as a result assimilation. The loss of a languages indicates a loss of a culture, as well as a devastating loss of knowledge.

2.     Development

Through indigenous knowledge, the group stated the need to rethink the indigenous perspectives on development. So many interpretations of culture and models exist, it is crucial the discussion on the topic be continued.

3.     Health Care

The group indentified the health care system in particular as a system that required a more culturally sensitive approach. The group was strongly against the reciprocal nature of the health care system. There should not a be a financial aspect to health care, instead it should be approached through a holistic approach.

4.     Sexualized Violence

The media plays a crucial role in discussing the devastating plight of Aboriginal women. A great number of the stories covered in the media about women are about abuse. However, the media never tells the right side of the story. They instead tell the stories of the abusers, when really they should be telling the stories of the battered women.

The group, based on these points of interest, identified policies and actions that should be take to absolve and deal with issues faced by the Indigenous communities.

The group two led a discussion with all the participants about the vast gap that exists between the Indigenous people and the policy makers.  It is clear that policy makers need to be made more aware of Aboriginal issues, but these policy makers should also come from within. Aboriginal Community Councils should be given more power within the community.  The group emphasized the need for policy makers to also be involved in the delivery of the services that are the products of these policies.

The group identified that a number of actions were also necessary, specific to equity politics. They also recognized the need for Aboriginal people to step up to the plate and take responsibility for “what we what to do, why we want to do it and how were are going to do it. “ The group also identified the absolute necessity to rebuild the people’s ability to defend themselves.


Upon ending, many of the participants called for action and were excited to know what the next step were to be taken.  The participants agreed that this would not be the end of the dialogue and that more must be done to facilitate this incredible 'meeting of the minds' 


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