Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, May 15, 2009
| Racially tinged situation ’really out of control‘ |
By SARAH ELIZABETH BROWN
Thursday, May 14, 2009
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The Hammarskjold student, who said a school official notified him last Wednesday that he is suspended until next week, said an unrelated scrap between two Hammarskjold students occurred last Wednesday. As onlookers drifted away afterward, the teen said, he and an aboriginal student exchanged comments, calling each other “white boy” and “brown.”
The teen, who said he hasn‘t attended school since last Thursday out of concern for his safety and who asked not to be named, said he apologized to the other boy and thought that was the end of it.
But since then, he said, the situation has only gotten worse with daily fights and is “really out of control.”
“It needs to stop, all the stuff that‘s happening,” he said.
The teen said he‘s aware of “a couple of” other students who have also been suspended over the matter.
The Chronicle-Journal was unable to confirm the suspensions with the Lakehead District School Board. The board has a policy that it can discipline students for events that take place off school property but which impact the school climate.
Thunder Bay Police spokesman Chris Adams said investigators have spoken with the four main combatants of a subsequent pre-arranged fight that occurred last Thursday evening near Forest Park School, and that up to 12 teens could have been involved. The main players ranged in age from 15 to 18.
Anywhere from 20 to 40 young people were onlookers, he said.
It was after that event, which the Hammarskjold teen said he got caught up in, that the conflict migrated to the Internet. About 15 posts on a YouTube chat group involved “racially inappropriate” comments made back and forth between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, said Adams. Seven were posted by Thunder Bay teens, while the rest came from elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.
Some of the comments involve threats to specific individuals, which a parent saw and reported to police. That resulted in officers in all three north-side high schools on Tuesday.
Terry Waboose, Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said he‘s concerned over what he calls a growing prevalence of racism in the city.
“The Thunder Bay community has a growing First Nations population and it is time that we come together to address issues of racism, but we can‘t do that if people insist on labelling people as aboriginal or non-aboriginal,” Waboose said in a news release. “This creates an us-vs.-them mentality that can only exacerbate the problems.”
Though encouraged that police and the school board are treating the incident seriously, Waboose suggested the community needs to use this case as a springboard to launch a collaborative approach to the problem.
At a youth conference in early April attended by 150 people, mostly aboriginal, the top issue raised was racism, said Moffat Makuto, volunteer adviser for the Regional Multicultural Youth Council.
“We were really surprised at that,” he said.
And when the youth group conducted an anti-racism workshop with student leaders at Lakehead Public Schools three weeks later, he was again surprised to hear stories from the young leaders about how casually young people make racist remarks or jokes.
The youth council is working on a process that would allow students to register complaints about racism with their schools. The process would allow students to include how they think the issue should be resolved, Makuto said.
“Because unless you really engage them and they are satisfied with the process, that‘s when things get out of hand and people to try to settle their own scores wherever they can do it.”
It was the online comments and threats that continued after the Thursday event – there for all to see – that escalated a situation until it involved far more people, Adams said.
Police and school officials have said the sheer speed of information sharing on social networking websites is fuelling the escalation.
“This is the problem – a lot of these fights get posted on YouTube. There seems to be almost a subculture in teens interested in this kind of entertainment,” said Adams. “In some cases they‘re consensual (fights). They know each other, they‘re just doing it for the sake of being in a video.”
Police don‘t think last Thursday‘s incident was filmed and posted online, but they do believe an unrelated scrap between two boys aged 14 and 15 that officers at Hammarskjold broke up at the lunch hour was staged for that purpose. The boys were charged with causing a disturbance by fighting.
The myth of native abundance
15/05/2009 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
A lot of money — more than $10 billion, in fact — is expended in the effort to help lift aboriginals out of the poverty and Third World conditions that afflict their home territories on some 600 reserves across Canada.
For some people, that's way too much cash for what seems like very little progress.
For others, it means aboriginals are getting all the support they need, but such an attitude can be short-sighted and even preposterous.
Unfortunately, that's the perspective of a wealthy Saskatchewan couple who wanted to create a generous $500,000 endowment for needy students, providing the recipients were not aboriginal. Their intentions might be well-intentioned, but they are also misguided and uninformed.
Fortunately, the university did the right thing and turned down the offer, citing human rights legislation and other considerations in its decision. The controversy, however, has usefully focused attention on the misperception that aboriginals, as the couple stated, already receive generous funding for post-secondary education. Indeed, there is a prevalent attitude that every aboriginal can go to university or college for free, and that a treaty card is a ticket to wealth and higher education.
It is simply not the case, nor is it the case that the pockets of First Nations are overflowing with the cash needed to send them to the big city for higher education.
Native bands receive an allotment for post-secondary education, but the amount has not increased much in years.
Nor was it ever adequate to fully fund the education of First Nations youth, who bear the additional costs of moving to a strange city.
Some native band councils have also got into the habit of diverting money set aside for one purpose and using it for another.
So, while education may be a priority, housing and potable water are also essential to the well-being of those living on reserves. Faced with so many problems, native leaders have been forced to make hard decisions, including who can and cannot receive funding to attend university.
The result is that only some eligible aboriginals are fully funded.
The important point is that it is false that aboriginal education is a free gift for all who apply, which was the reason cited by the couple who thought it only made sense to direct their funds to non-aboriginals only.
Some determined aboriginals have been forced to take out student loans to advance their education, but research has shown that, for a variety of reasons, many natives are reluctant to go into debt when their futures are so uncertain, even with an education.
That's a problem, particularly at a time when more and more young aboriginals are finishing high school, only to find that little in the way of financial help is available to advance their educations.
Hopefully, therefore, the Saskatchewan couple can be convinced to alter their terms, because aboriginals still need plenty of help, particularly in the area of education.
The couple wanted to help needy students. Well, there are none more needy students in Canada than aboriginals, whose ability to achieve success should be important to every Canadian.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
BY JANET FRENCH, THE STAR PHOENIX
MAY 2, 2009
Sheila Kennedy teaches Grade 2 and 3 students Friday as part of the Nehiyawiwin Cree language and culture program at Confederation Park School
Photograph by: SP Photo by Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix
Saskatoon Public Schools' board of education has voted to make a Cree language and culture program for young elementary students a permanent fixture in the division.
"I'm thrilled and excited that the board recognizes the value of this program and that it's meeting the needs of our students," Cort Dogniez, co-ordinator for First Nations, Inuit and Metis education for the division, said following the board's unanimous vote Tuesday evening.
The Nehiyawiwin Cree language and culture program began at Confederation Park School in 2005, when 12 children enrolled in kindergarten for the pilot project. The program followed the students to grades 1, 2 and 3, with a new class starting kindergarten in each successive year.
A report to the board says about 70 per cent of kindergarten instruction is in Cree, as is about 60 per cent of Grade 1 instruction and 50 per cent of lessons in the Grade 2/3 split class.
This school year, the division also added a pre-kindergarten class in Cree in order to give children five consecutive years of lessons in Cree. There are now 72 students enrolled in all five years of the program.
The program arose out of a partnership among the division, the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. It's one way schools are trying to engage aboriginal students, Dogniez says, and the more engaged students are, the greater their chances of sticking with their education.
"(Although) Cree is probably the most widely spoken (aboriginal) language in Saskatoon, it doesn't mean that it's not threatened, in terms of being lost," Dogniez said. "We need to really focus on that revitalization."
In 2007, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools also introduced a bilingual Cree program for kindergarten students at St. Frances School. This year, there are 12 students in Cree kindergarten and 14 in Grade 1.
"We believe we need to do our part for First Nations language retention and the Cree language is a predominant First Nations language in this geographic region," said superintendent of education Gordon Martell.
Martell said the program will follow the students through their schooling. As long as there are enough students interested to sustain classes, the division will provide them, he said. The Catholic division hasn't termed its Cree program a "pilot," or "permanent," but instead calls it a program "in development."
Both programs are about more than reading and speaking Cree -- advisers have told the divisions language is inseparable from culture. Dogniez said elders come into the classrooms to talk to the children and tell stories. The students learn aboriginal histories, partake in feasts and join smudges and other cultural ceremonies.
Resolution Title: Native American Language Revitalization in the United States
WHEREAS, Every child born to the American Communities must have the resources to learn their native language and to be a part of the continuity of a living and vital language.
WHEREAS, The Native American Languages Revitalization Act affirms the intent and covenant of the United States to fully support and promote the speaking and learning of Native Languages.
WHEREAS, Tribal members living on their reservations or in the urban and rural areas must have equal opportunity to speak and learn their native language.
WHEREAS, Language revitalization programs must include the youngest children - who are the most natural and powerful language learners and who represent the continuation of native languages.
WHEREAS, Dakota and Ojibwe are a vital resource to preserve family and community and will be a resource to support learning readiness and academic excellence for the American Indian people in living in Minnesota
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Minnesota Legislature support language revitalization; the use of "Legacy Funds" for Indigenous Language Immersion programs; and a working committee made up of tribal and urban Ojibwe and Dakota people to develop a strategy and remove barriers to revitalize the Dakota and Ojibwe language in Minnesota.
Liberals push for investigation into missing native women
Sue Bailey, THE CANADIAN PRESS
13/05/2009 6:40 PM | Comments: 0
OTTAWA - The Conservative government is deflecting calls for a public investigation into more than 500 cases of missing or murdered native women.
Liberal MP Anita Neville says her party will push until the government acts.
She says there would be national outrage if hundreds of women from another cultural group were targeted the same way.
A recent report found that 520 native girls and women - most under the age of 30 - have been killed or have vanished since 1970.
Two-thirds of them - 348 women - were murdered, and almost one-quarter are still missing.
The government cites $5 million spent on the Sisters in Spirit research campaign, and says it's working on a second phase.
Neville says more action is needed.
"Their plight has been ignored long enough - it's time," she said Wednesday in the House of Commons.
The Liberals say they'll write to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asking for action that goes beyond research.
"It's time to go beyond the record-keeping and find out why the police are not responding," Neville said.
"Why are these women missing? Are they women who come from poverty? What are their life circumstances that have put them in this position?"
Media also have a role to play to ensure no missing-person case is swept aside, said Liberal MP and aboriginal affairs critic Todd Russell.
Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, says native girls and women still don't get the same attention from police or the media when they vanish.
Time and again, families are told by officers that their daughter likely ran away or doesn't want to be found, she said.