August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, December 20, 2013

First Nation Terrance Nelson 'The Image of Canada'

The Image Of Canada

By Terrance Nelson
Roseau River Anishinaabe

Stephen Harper loves to point the finger at other countries for human rights violations. Iran is a constant target for the Conservative Government of Canada. The rights of women in Iran is a favorite subject for the Harper Government. The rights of indigenous women in Canada is far less an issue for the Stephen Harper Government. The 600 murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada is an international issue when the Government of Canada refuses to call a national inquiry into the deaths of hundreds of indigenous women in Canada. Stephen Harper wants the world to instead focus on the rights of Iranian women, not the indigenous women in Canada.

The reason that Stephen Harper does not want a national inquiry into the over 600 murdered and missing women became very clear when an Inquiry into the death of Ashley Smith released its conclusion. The death of Ashley Smith was ruled a homicide by five women Jurors, it was a death that was preventable as Prison Guards watched Ashley commit suicide and did nothing to prevent her death. In Canada the domestic media in reporting the "suicide" now homicide will hammer the public on how mentally insane Ashley was. In time, the guilt will wear away and no one will be charged with murder nor will there be consequences for the prison system in Canada. There will be the usual expressions of regret but no real change to how indigenous women are treated in Canada.
Ashley Smith was a one woman, a number, a statistic in a penal system that Canada has shielded from scrutiny. Harper does not want international scrutiny to show the world how indigenous women are treated in Canada. Ashley Smith was killed by the Canadian Penal System for the crime of throwing crab apples at a Postal worker. She received the death sentence even though Stephen Harper will tell you that Canada has not used the death penalty since 1962. As Wikipedia states:
Capital punishment in Canada dates back to 1759, in its days as a British colony. Before Canada eliminated the death penalty for murder on July 14, 1976, 1,481 people were sentenced to death, with 710 executed. Of those executed, 697 were men and 13 were women. The only method used in Canada for capital punishment of civilians after the end of the French regime was hanging. The last execution in Canada was the double hanging of Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin on December 11, 1962, at Toronto's Don Jail.
On June 30, 1987, a bill to restore the death penalty was defeated by the House of Commons in a close 148-127 vote, in which Prime Minister Brian MulroneyMinister of Justice Ray Hnatyshyn and Minister of External Affairs Joe Clark opposed the bill, whereas Deputy Prime Minister Donald Mazankowski and a majority of Progressive Conservative MPs supported it.
What is important about the Ashley Smith case is the extensive video of how Ashley Smith was treated. The Inquiry into her death showed the five women Jurors extensive video. Her original sentence was short but because she refused to comply, it ballooned to six years, one month, eight days before she killed herself. The psychological torture of inmates in Canadian prisons is real, as reported in the Canadian Press article by Colin Perkel, "Smith spent most of the last three years of her life in segregation, often with nothing more in the cell than a security gown. In her last year, she was transferred between institutions 17 times."  What happened to Ashley Smith is nothing new.
There is extensive studies on how badly Canada treats indigenous people, including the Manitoba Aboriginal Inquiry, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, and numerous domestic and international condemnations on how Canadians treats indigenous people. There is deliberate policy and law that keeps indigenous people in undeclared economic sanctions. In Child and Family Services, there is about 30,000 children in care in Canada and in Manitoba alone, 8,000 First Nation children are forcefully taken from the indigenous communities to be housed in other cultures. The unemployment rate in most of the First Nations in the three Prairie Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta is between 60 to 95% unemployment. The reaction of indigenous people living under horrendous economic sanctions is treated as criminal.

"In Manitoba, Aboriginals represent 15 percent of the provincial population but 71 percent of the all prisoners. In Saskatchewan, the ratio is 79 percent out of 15 percent of the provincial population. And in Alberta, the ratio is an astonishing 80 percent out of 11 percent of the people." Canada_FirstNations_BLAND_vWEB.pdf
As Smith family lawyer Julian Falconer said "It is high time that those in charge are held accountable, in my decades of work in this area, (Correctional Services Canada) CSC has proven they are an uncontrollable, unaccountable body. It is shameful." 
CSC Commissioner Don Head warned the five women Jurors "against making recommendations that would be expensive to implement."
Commissioner Head does not have to worry about the 104 recommendations made by the Inquiry Jurors, if the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples or the Manitoba Justice Inquiry Report is the standard, the 104 Inquiry recommendations will gather dust on a shelf just as the RCAP and MJI Report have done for the last twenty five years.
Stephen Harper praised Nelson Mandela, but would never allow a Nelson Mandela in Canada that used violence to oppose Apartheid like conditions in Canada. Nelson Mandela was a great human being but even he in his younger years believed that the only way to confront racism and human rights violations was by violent means. He paid the price for his beliefs and actions. White people now lavish praise upon Nelson Mandela because when he got power, he was not "white" in his treatment of his enemies. If Nelson Mandela had been a indigenous female prisoner in Canada he also may have gone crazy without books, in solitary confinement and lying naked in a cell not for months but for years. In Canada the indigenous people are not the majority, they represent about 3% of the population of Canada and rarely used organized violence against their white oppressors.
Ashley Smith escaped her prison. Death was the only escape that she could take. The system drove her insane. The other female prisoners in Canada continue to be treated without access to any escape, they remain under the conditions that drove Ashley to suicide. Renee Acoby was Ashley Smith's friend. Renee and thousands of other female indigenous women in the jails and prisons now have a little bit of hope for change. It is very likely a false hope. Some of the female institutions in Canada continue to house over 90% indigenous women inmates. Ashley Smith's death is insight into Canada's prison system but it will not last. There will not be solutions without some indigenous people willing to take the Nelson Mandela road to justice, the willingness to confront evil with violence. Violence is a necessary evil in the face of such constant evil.
While the United States would never comment much less condemn Canada's human rights violations, it is important for other Nations to continue to turn the spot light on Canada.
Terrance Nelson
Vice-Chairman of American Indian Movement.  

1 comment:

vivache6 said...

as against all the dumbing down power of 'western civilization," not only have we endured, resisted and challenged their utter ignorance, we have succeeded in becoming more collective, not less.
the resounding thunder, you have created from the North of Our Americas, is a wonderful-magnificent social/political weather report, every day from some place we call home.
please accept our greetings and the knowledge....we hear you, we see you, we join with you.
IMXMA independent mestiz@ xican@ mexican@ allianc.....we claim not a single grain of sandor molecule on any nation/tribe tierra. our Aztlan is a concept, a place of our distinct experience.
hope to connect soon.....rick trujillo