First Nation struggles win recognition

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It has been a hot and humid summer in northern Ontario. However, the political climate for First Nation people in this province and right across Canada has been refreshing. Good things are beginning to happen for First Nations in education, housing and economic development. All this has been possible mostly because of the federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Although I was very sad to tune in to the final Tragically Hip concert in Kingston on CBC, it was also a chance to witness cultural history being made and to pay homage to an incredible Canadian band and of course the creative genius Gord Downie. During the concert Downie put Trudeau under the spotlight and urged him to keep moving ahead with making lives better for the people in the north. Of course, we all knew that he meant the First Nation people of Canada and in particular, my home community of Attawapiskat and other locations on the great James Bay.

I was so proud of those moments when Trudeau and Downie were connecting and in a way making an informal pact to make a difference for First Nations people. Downie and the band were one of the few major music acts to ever travel north and play for First Nation people while they were in their prime and could have performed on any stage in the world. The Tragically Hip really voiced their concerns and love for First Nation people over the years and they are a favourite band of Native people right across Canada. To realize that Downie used his precious few moments at his final concert ever to lobby for my people made my heart swell with pride and hope for the future.

The Tragically Hip really are about what it means to be Canadian. The band is caring, kind, responsible and not afraid to take a stand. That is who we are as Canadians when we are at our best.

As Canadians we care about the weak, the elderly, the children, minorities, the sick and the down and out. We have developed a society with a lot of programs that make sure we are caring for each other. As a First Nation person I can tell you our struggle has been long and difficult and we have had to endure a lot of pain and grief but things are looking up thanks to quality people like Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau.

Gord and all of our First Nation leaders and the public are right to keep some pressure on Trudeau and the Liberal government. After all, nobody gets elected as prime minister who is not rubber stamped by the very powerful one percent, and that small and influential group has a lot of say in what happens in terms of government policy. For proof of that, we just have to look at the first black man to ever be president of the United States. That government has carried on the same wars and most of the same policies that the dreaded Bush government ran for years. So our voices must be heard by Trudeau to make sure he has the will of the people behind him so that he can make lives better, more peaceful and more fair for all of us.

With that in mind I want to note how proud I am of our very own Chief Marcia Brown Martel of Beaverhouse First Nation. This feisty and articulate woman has been fighting for years to make the Canadian public aware of the Sixties Scoop. The Sixties Scoop, which started in the 1960s and ran into the 1980s, was all about government policy that allowed Ontario child welfare services to place thousands of First Nation children with non-Native families over a period of some 20 years. That policy stole children from their families and robbed them of being brought up in traditional and cultural settings. The experience for so many people was disastrous.

Chief Brown Martel has been fighting to hold the government responsible through a class-action lawsuit. Chief Brown Martel, the representative in the law case for Ontario, was in Toronto recently as part of a large group demonstrating outside the courthouse where a hearing on the case was being held. Hopefully, with the new more respectful and fair approach our provincial and federal governments are developing with my people Chief Brown Martel will find success after her years of dedication to this cause. It is good to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

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