Tag Archives: aboriginal

More evidence that StatsCan disagreed with Clement (aka Helping @kady out)

Over at the CBC the ever resourceful Kady O’Malley has posted documents from Statistics Canada surrounding the decision to make the long form of the census voluntary.

She’s starting to notice some interesting bits, here’s two I saw that she might want to add to the list.

First, there are two lines written by public servants that seems to run counter to Minister Clement’s defense of eliminating the long form last week

There is this statement referring to both the short and long form of the census:

Census information is used in planning schools, community health services, housing needs, daycare and emergency services and other important services for our communities.

Worse still, this next one refers explicitly to the long form (renamed the National Household Survey or NHS in this memo):

The NHS questionnaire will cover topics such as language, immigration, Aboriginal peoples, mobility, ethnicity, education, labour, income and housing.

The information in the NHS will provide data to support government programs directed at target populations. Information from the NHS will also support provincial/territorial and local government planning and program delivery.

So here is an official government memo that appears to run counter to Minister Clement’s argument last week that the only special interests were benefiting (and were thus opposed) to changes in the census. As we see here (and as I argued last week) the biggest users of this data are government who use it to ensure that programs (say for the elderly) are targeted effectively and so tax dollars used efficiently.

More importantly, the document seems to recognize that the provinces/territories and municipalities are huge stakeholders in this process – wouldn’t that suggest they should have been consulted before hand?

Indeed, Kady points this out in her piece by highlighting a comment that vainly tries to raise the flag that “stakeholders” (read other ministries, the provinces/territories, municipal governments, the bank of Canada, the list could go on for about 300+ organizations) should be consulted.

The other interesting piece from the documents that I noted was this hilarious comment (comment number 7) of which I’ve taken a screen shot.

I love the comment! “If this that important why not mandatory?

Ah the lonely voice of reason, hidden in a comment bubble of a MS Word document.

Huge credit to Kady O’Malley for doing the hard work of getting these documents and for being a grade journalist and posting them online. If you do link to this post, please also link to hers (again found here).

Urban Aboriginal Interview and survey

For those who haven’t caught it, there is a great piece/interview by Jeffrey Simpson of Mark Podlasly in the Globe and Mail about urban aboriginals, identity politics and economic opportunity. I encourage you to take a look – it’s a quick read.

If, however, you find all of this deeply interesting… I strongly encourage you to swing over to the Urban Aboriginal People’s Survey website and, to even download the report. The report summarizes the findings of the first survey of Urban Aboriginal People in Canada – looking at their identity, aspirations and situation. The questions were designed, and the conclusions shaped by, an Aboriginal advisory circle so that the substantive of the report has been driven by first nations people. Mark – happily – was a part of this circle.

As Canadians this is deeply interesting and important stuff. An increasing number of aboriginal people live in cities and they are forming a growing part of the work force. It’s an issue that is likely to impact many communities – especially those in the west. Hope you find it interesting!

First Nations Renaissance: Or Why Canada's next First Nation debate won't involve you

I wrote this post a year ago but, out of nervousness never posted it. Canada’s racial stalemate around First Nations-Non-First Nations issues makes it challenging to feel talk about this subject. But with conversation with and urging from First Nation colleagues, along with the release of the Urban Aboriginal People’s Survey (UAPS) has persuaded me that this conversation needs to be shared, and if not one talks about it, that would be a bigger problem. I don’t claim deep expertise as an observer of First Nation politics but I do follow it much more closely than the average person. What I’ve been witnessing is astonishing and, potentially explosive.

For the past few years I’ve become increasingly persuaded that First Nation’s Community is in the midst of a seismic shift. Pick up and read a copy of the UAPS. It is a dramatic document. One that shows the underlying demographics that are driving this shift. Want to know the two most important lines in the document? Here they are:

1) In 2006 half the First Nations Population in Canada lived in urban areas, with almost a third living in cities with 100,000+ people

2) Pursuing higher education is the leading life aspiration of urban Aboriginal peoples today.

For Canadian baby boomers – and possibly First Nations themselves – the conversation and identity of First Nations was focused on the reserve. The defining moment of the 80’s and early 90’s were Oka and the Meech Lake debates. Here the emphasis was (understandably and justly) on land rights and treaty obligations. The result was a conversation (not always civil, and not always using words) between First Nations and Canadians that helped define the identity of both groups.

For younger First Nation and non-First Nation (Xers and Millennials) I would argue this conversation has shifted. The defining issues in the conversation are less tied to place and tend to be broader in theme – residential schools, poverty and/or addiction. These reflect the demographic shift noted above. As First Nations have urbanized, so to have the issues. These issues are indeed a social crisis that Canadians need to address and that frequently do not receive much attention given the size and scope of the issue. Again, however, this conversation has certainly defined First Nations in the minds of Canadians – and in an often less than positive view – something that is both unfair and creating a new racial stalemate in the country.

But it is that second line I wish to zero in on. Less well understood by most Canadians is the sheer number (in both absolute and relative terms) of first nations attending college and university, or even working in high paying, knowledge economy jobs. There is a tsunami of young educated first nations young people who are radically changing the make up, complexion and identity of the First Nations community.

Why is this? Because a growing number of First Nations people have access to good jobs, urban communities, effective public services – in short to well managed economies and governments. This has numerous implications. The first is that “urban” is going to become a bigger part of the First Nation identity. Moreover, this process will not be an easy one, especially given that this group does not have an equal voice, either within the mainstream culture, or even within the First Nations community. The UAPS survey found that 40% of status and 50% of non-status First Nations felt no political organization represented them. No mainstream party and not even the AFN (or the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

But there is a deeper implication. My conversation with First Nations colleagues suggest that increasingly, many looking home at their own reserves and wonder – why aren’t there effective public services, accountable governance and good jobs there? Everyone agrees that imperialism and government structures contribute to the problem, and many also conclude that first nations’ mismanagement is a significant contributor to the problem (see quote below). In other words highly educated First Nation millennials are increasingly wanting to challenge their boomer leaders who are the powerholders on reserve. My sense is that there is real tension between these two age cohorts, exasperated by an urban/rural and educational divide. In addition, a number of conversations have lead me to believe that, in many cases, the community elders, are siding with the millennials in this conversation. Thus, this is is not simply a youth uprising, it is a complex conversation that – in an overly simplified description – is pitting elders and young First Nations against many boomer powerholders.

This has important implications for first nations/non-aboriginal relations (also see quote below) but the real dynamic is internal. There is a First Nations renaissance occurring. Like a tsunami a large talented, ambitious, smart generation of First Nations is emerging from universities across the country and they are shifting the conversation, not with other Canadians (that will come) but within First Nations communities. Obviously this is a sensitive topic (as, again, Helin’s alludes to) and hence my nervousness around this post.

“Aboriginal people are reluctant to speak publicly about these issues [poor governance] because they do not wish to provide grist for the political right in Canada who many feel are racist, and have no real interest in actually trying to make the situation better (though often there is a sizable, but silent contingent that supports the publication of such issues in what might be considered right-of-centre publications, because they are regarded as only telling the truth and trying to make things better for the ordinary Aboriginal folks). Generally, non-aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labelled as racists. Even the many Chiefs and Councils that are running honest governments in the best interests of their members feel compelled to defend against such reported abuses, because they fear their activities may become tarred with a brush that does not apply in their particular circumstances. Usually when this matter is raised publicly, there are entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and little communications as to how to solve these problems.”

In addition to trying to quietly challenge boomer powerholders this cohort of urban first nations faces additional challenges. On the one hand they are facing all sorts of abandonment issues – communities that are simultaneously disappointed that “they left” for urban centres, eager to have them return, and threatened by the knowledge and skills they have learned and could bring back. Indeed, I’ve talked to many who are struggling with raising issues of governance and building sustainable communities while sustaining a respect for authority that many want to adhere to, but that sometimes prevents them from voicing their concerns, accessing the levers of power, or contributing in ways they feel they are able. In addition, many are meeting and marrying other first nations (but often not from their band) or non-aboriginals and so are confronting (through their children) all sorts of identity issues about what it means to be first nation growing up off-reserve or with mixed heritage parents. Indeed, this is also a generation of First Nations that, with urbanization, is experiencing mulitculturalism for the first time. Canada’s major urban centres, with the diversity of backgrounds, is a far cry from the biracial world (with First Nations and mostly white non-aboriginal populations living side by side but segregated) that defines much of Canada’s rural space.

This is obviously a simplified narrative – one that does not pay tribute to the nuanced challenges and successes of many nations. But my readings and my conversations with first nations’ friends and acquaintances suggests this is all bubbling under the surface. I’m not sure if there is interest in the poll capturing what I think is an emerging intergenerational conversation within First Nations communities, but my sense is that this issue is becoming a more important driver of First Nations politics (one member, one vote in the AFN as an example), and in particular, urban first nations politics.

Hope this is thought provoking.

Urban Aboriginal Peoples Survey Launched

I’m very excited to share that today is the launch of the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Survey. For the last two years, more than 125 people have been working at various times to make this project a reality – the first ever survey of First Nations, Metis and Inuit who live in Canada’s major urban areas. I was lucky enough to sit on the steering committee of this project and so have had a very, very small role to play in this project. I’m happy to put anyone in touch with the amazing people who made this ambitious project a reality. People like Ginger Gosnell and David Newhouse (who is intelligent, compassionate and wise beyond description) are Canadians everyone should get to know.

Below is the press release that went out earlier today and you should be able to download the report here. This is a tremendously important piece of work as First Nations increasingly live in urban settings – indeed over half of the First Nation population now lives cities. Yes. Over half. And despite this, Canadians know almost nothing about this important group of citizens. Who they are or what they want. In short, there is almost no dialogue. I, like many involved in this project, hope this survey serves as a one starting point for changing that.

Urban Aboriginal peoples (First Nations peoples, Métis, and Inuit) are an increasingly significant social, political and economic presence in Canadian cities today.

First-of-a-kind Research Study takes new, in-depth look at growing population in 11 cities.

TORONTO, April 6, 2010 – An extensive new research study has gone beyond the numbers to capture the values and aspirations of this growing population.

By speaking directly with a representative group of 2,614 First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit living in major Canadian cities, as well as 2,501 non Aboriginal Canadians, the Environics Institute, led by Michael Adams, has released the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS), which offers Canadians a new perspective of their Aboriginal neighbors living in Canada’s eleven largest cities. In the 2006 Census 1.172 million people self-identified themselves as “Aboriginal”, half of whom (one in two) reported living in urban centres.

“This study is about the future, not the past. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study offers Canadians a new picture of Aboriginal peoples in cities. Ideally, the things we have learned will help people understand each other better, have better conversations, and live together better in our urban communities.” ~Michael Adams, President, Environics Institute

Guided by an Advisory Circle, Aboriginal people designed the research themes, methodology, and executed the main survey. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study may be downloaded free from www.uaps.ca.

“When urban Aboriginal peoples are researched it’s often about problems like homelessness and sexual exploitation. There are hundreds of thousands of us living in cities, and there are a lot of positive things happening in our communities; it’s not all crises. But unless someone comes along and says, ‘This is interesting. Tell me about your choices; tell me about your community,’ then people don’t notice that they’re part of a wider social change.” ~Ginger Gosnell-Myers, UAPS Project Manager

KEY FINDINGS

For most, the city is home, but urban Aboriginal peoples stay connected to their communities of origin. Six in ten feel a close connection to these communities – links that are integral to strong family and social ties, and to traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture. Notwithstanding these links, majorities of First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit consider their current city of residence home (71%), including those who are the first generation of their family to live in their city.

Eight in ten participants said they were “very proud” of their specific Aboriginal identity, i.e., First Nations, Métis or Inuk. Slightly fewer – 70 per cent – said the same about being Canadian.

Urban Aboriginal peoples are seeking to become a significant and visible part of the urban landscape. Six in ten feel they can make their city a better place to live, a proportion similar to non-Aboriginal urban dwellers.

Six in ten were completely or somewhat unworried about losing contact with their culture, while a minority were totally (17 per cent) or somewhat (21 per cent) concerned. As well, by a wide margin (6:1), First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit think Aboriginal culture in their communities has become stronger rather than weaker in the last five years.

They display a higher tolerance for other cultures than their non-Aboriginal neighbours: 77% of urban Aboriginal peoples believe there is room for a variety of languages and cultures in this country in contrast to 54% of non-Aboriginal urbanites.

Almost all believe they are consistently viewed in negative ways by non-Aboriginal people. Almost three in four participants perceived assumptions about addiction problems, while many felt negative stereotypes about laziness (30 per cent), lack of intelligence (20 per cent) and poverty (20 per cent).

Education is their top priority, and an enduring aspiration for the next generation. Twenty per cent want the next generation to understand the importance of education, 18 per cent hope younger individuals will stay connected to their cultural community and 17 per cent hope the next generation will experience life without racism.)

Money was cited as the No.1 barrier to getting a post-secondary education among 36 per cent of those planning to attend – and 45 per cent of those already enrolled in – a university or college.

Urban Aboriginal peoples do not have great confidence in the criminal justice system in Canada. More than half (55%) have little confidence in the criminal justice system and majorities support the idea of a separate Aboriginal justice system.

A significant minority (4 in 10) feel there is no one Aboriginal organization or National political party that best represent them, or cannot say.

The perspective of non-Aboriginal urban Canadians:

Non-Aboriginal urban Canadians are divided on where Aboriginal people fit in the Canadian mosaic: 54 percent believe Aboriginal people should have special rights and 39 percent think they are just like any other cultural or ethnic group (this divide varies across cities).

Perceptions of the current state of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are divided, but there are signs of optimism.

NA urban Canadians are starting to recognize the urban Aboriginal community and their cultural presence, but have limited knowledge of Aboriginal people and issues, although they do demonstrate a desire to learn more. There is a widespread belief among NA urban Canadians that Aboriginal people experience discrimination.

The Study

Through UAPS, more than100 interviewers, almost all of whom were themselves Aboriginal, conducted 2,614 in- person interviews with Métis, Inuit and First Nations (status and non-status) individuals living in eleven Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa (Inuit only).

The study also investigated how non-Aboriginal people view Aboriginal people in Canada today through a telephone survey with 2,501 non-Aboriginal urban Canadians living in these same cities (excluding Ottawa).

This first-of-its-kind study, conducted by the Environics Institute, and guided by an Advisory Circle of recognized experts from academia and from Aboriginal communities, is designed to better understand the values, identities, experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) living in Canadian cities.

Findings and insights from this research are intended to establish a baseline of information on the urban Aboriginal population in Canada, prompt discussion within Aboriginal communities and between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal peoples, and inform public policy and planning initiatives that pertain to urban Aboriginal peoples.

Major sponsors:
INAC – Federal Interlocutor
Trillium Foundation
Province of Alberta
Province of Saskatchewan
Province of Manitoba/Manitoba Hydro
Province of Ontario (Aboriginal Affairs)

Sponsors:
Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation
Calgary Foundation
Elections Canada
The Mental Health Commission
City of Edmonton
City of Toronto
Province of Nova Scotia (Aboriginal Affairs)
Winnipeg Foundation
John Lefebrve
Tides
Edmonton Community Foundation
Toronto Community Foundation
Vancouver Foundation
Halifax Regional Municipality
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Media contact:
Claire M. Tallarico: 416-616-9940, uaps@rogers.com.

The Environics Institute for Survey Research was established in 2006 to sponsor relevant and original public opinion, attitude and social values research related to issues of public policy and social change. We wish to survey those not usually heard from, using questions not usually asked.

Articles I'm digesting at the moment

While I keep track of the books I’m reading to the right I don’t often get to talk about the articles I’m reading and loving. Here are a few I’ve stumbled over in the past week that I’m still digesting.

1) Via Mike T, Obama and the dawn of the Fourth Republic by Michael Lind on the cycles of American progress and why the next 36 years are going to be very exciting.

During the first 36-year period of a republic, ambitious nation-builders in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton strengthen the powers of the federal government and promote economic modernization. During the second 36-year phase of a republic, there is a Jeffersonian backlash, in favor of small government, small business and an older way of life. During the backlash era, Jeffersonians manage to modify, but never undo, the structure created by the Hamiltonians in the previous era.

2) Via Alo, Why Canada has to wait for it’s Obama Moment, by Jeff Roberts. A piece few Canadians would be willing to write about why the politics of Aboriginals and the rest of Canada remain separated.

In the case of black Americans, their ascension to the political mainstream came in part from leaving behind talk of rights and identity and embracing a postracial style of politics. Barack Obama’s rise has followed his willingness to move away from the swamp of identity politics.

It’s a thesis that parallels that of Calvin Helin’s in Dances with Dependency that I thoroughly enjoyed. Moreover, Roberts is only half right. There is an emerging generation of (particularly urban) First Nations who are going to transform the politics of both the First Nations community and Canada.

3) Via Jeff A, Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle by Nicholas Carlson . Shocked? You should be. As the author concludes:

Are we trying to say the the New York Times should force all its print subscribers onto the Kindle or else? No. That would kill ad revenues and also, not everyone loves the Kindle.

What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.

Besides, think of the forests that would be saved.

4) Via Amy L, The $300 Million Dollar Button, by Jared Spool. As Amy said to me, “you’re a believer in small changes” which I am. Very often I find people jump for the big lever to create big change which often creates numerous unanticipated (and almost always unwanted) changes. I’m much more interested in finding the small lever that creates big change. This piece is about precisely one of those moments in the design of a webpage.

It’s hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Canada's racial stalemate

Calvin Helin author of Dances with DependencyThe other week – as virtually everybody is now aware – Obama gave his much celebrated speech on the racial stalemate in America.

Here in Canada we have a stalemate as well. It is discussed less frequently (if at all) then the American stalemate Obama spoke of, and it does not fall along clearly delineated racial lines. I am speaking of the stalemate between First Nations and the rest of Canada. On page 157 0f his book “Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance” (if you don’t have a copy I highly recommend picking one up), aboriginal rights activist Calvin Helin writes a paragraph that parallels the sentiment of Obama’s speech.

When chronicling and discussing the very real problem of abuses of power, mismanagement, nepotism and corruption found on some First Nation band councils, Helin notes:

Aboriginal people are reluctant to speak publicly about these issues because they do not wish to provide grist for the political right in Canada who many feel are racist, and have no real interest in actually trying to make the situation better (though often there is a sizable, but silent contingent that supports the publication of such issues in what might be considered right-of-centre publications, because they are regarded as only telling the truth and trying to make things better for the ordinary Aboriginal folks). Generally, non-aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labelled as racists. Even the many Chiefs and Councils that are running honest governments in the best interests of their members feel compelled to defend against such reported abuses, because they fear their activities may become tarred with a brush that does not apply in their particular circumstances. Usually when this matter is raised publicly, there are entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and little communications as to how to solve these problems. (my own italics)

While this hardly captures the entire dynamic, it highlights an important dimension of Canada’s racial stalemate.  That anger and guilt in both communities – aboriginals and non-aboriginals – can sometime build narratives about the other that reinforce their mutual distrust and preventing us from reaching out and finding a way to address what is our country’s most important challenges.

I suspect this stalemate will not last. A new force could be about to completely alter this debate. A new generation – a demographic tsunami in fact – of smart, educated, and motivated young First Nation is about to crest over this country (While Calvin Helin is an excellent example, he is much older than the cohort I’m thinking of). I’m not sure that non-aboriginal leaders – and, to be frank, current aboriginal leaders – are even aware of what is about to hit them. Gauging from those I have met and befriended, this cohort is frustrated, but motivated, organized and very pragmatic. But perhaps, most importantly, they increasingly urban and, not as tied to the power structures of the reserves or chiefs. In this regard they transcend the discussion, living in, and comfortable in, both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal domain. One way or another they are will redefine this debate.

First Nations Negotiation Process: …and into the fire

Yesterday I was commenting on Jim Prentices proposed reform to the First Nations treaty negotiation process. Specifically, he is considering giving the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) the authority to make legal rulings and thus settle agreements.

While the details have not all been made clear, it would appear that Prentice’s reform seeks to shift the ICC’s role from that of mediator – where any agreement is determined by the parties themselves rather than being imposed by a third party – to arbitrator – where agreements are imposed by the arbitrator and to which the disagreeing parties agree, in advance, to be bound.

The problem with arbitration is that it may not solve the underlying problems plaguing the process. For example, Prentice sites two shortcomings of the current process – it is too slow, and not perceived to be legitimate.

Arbitration, may increase the speed. However, it may not be any more legitimate, and could actually be less so…

For example, on what basis would arbitrated decisions be made? What would be the guiding principles the arbitrators would reference? Who would establish these principles? Will these be negotiated? If so, by who? All First Nations and the government? Or a representative sub-group? Ultimately, if the principles that guide the arbitration are not perceived by all parties to be fair and legitimate, or if the arbitrators themselves lack the respect of the opposing parties then the process may actually be seen as less legitimate then the current negotiations.

Indeed, this is even more important given the nature of the negotiations. Because the parties are negotiating over sovereignty this process is deeply political. Will Canadians, or First Nation, feel comfortable handing such a sensitive decision over to a third party who has no track record in making these decisions and so, to which the outcomes will be unpredictable?

Another problem with arbitration is that it does little to resolve any relationship/trust/cooperation problems between the parties. By bringing in a third party to resolve the dispute First Nations and the government will establish a problematic precedent: When we don’t agree, bring someone else in to arbitrate.

In many respects, treaty settlements are not the end of the process but the beginning. Treaties form the basis for a new relationships between First Nations and the government. Regardless of the treaty’s specifics, the parties are going to have to learn to work together more effectively going forward. To assume, that once the settlement is out of the way, all the actors will know their jurisdictions and powers and so will get along, is probably a false one. Just ask anyone whose ever worked on Fed-Prov relations…

If Canadians are serious about creating a new relationship with First Nations it feels odd that the first step in establishing this new relationship would be to put a third party between the two groups. Negotiating can be fair, legitimate and (relatively) speedy. The question isn’t about arbitration, it is about whether this (or any) government wants to make it a priority.