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Charlie Angus's blog
Charlie Angus is the Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay.
You don't ignore a mandate from the Supreme Court. But that seems to be the initial response from the Conservative government to the recent Carter decision on assisted suicide. The Supreme Court has given the government one year to draft legislation and yet after a short one-day debate in the House on the issue the Conservative response has been surprisingly laissez-faire. They have done nothing in response other than to have some back benchers complain that the court is being unreasonable and that the government needs more time.
A grade school teacher contacted me the other day with a request for help. She was asking for pencils, one-inch binders and papers for her class. "We have such smart young people here," she wrote, "they just need the resources to succeed."
Her school was a cluster of dilapidated portables in the isolated community of Kashechewan First Nation on James Bay. I represent this community and have met many times with the children who wear their winter coats in class during the freezing winter months. As a former provincial school trustee I know that there is no non-Aboriginal school in the country that faces anything close to these substandard conditions.
This past fall, I was involved in the musical-historical project Four Horses that tells the story of a dark chapter in Canadian history. Working with University of Regina Press (publishers of Clearing the Plains) we set out to introduce a new generation to the story of how the federal government used disease and famine in an attempt to destroy First Nation identity in Canada. Until I was involved in this project, I would have thought that such accusations couldn’t be true in a country such as ours. The Four Horses project forced me to look closer, and the closer I looked, the starker the picture became.
I thought I knew Canadian history. The stories of the National Dream and the Medicine Line may have been dull compared to the myths of the American "wild" west but they spoke of a nation founded on compromise and good governance. However, as I stood with guitar in hand on the grasslands of the Qu'Appelle Valley I saw my country in a way I had never imagined. Not so long ago on these picturesque fields, Aboriginal children were suffering death rates that were higher than in any western nation until the dark days of the Warsaw Ghetto. And the response from the government of the day to this tragedy was anything but fair.
If you want to know why the Conservative government has lost so much goodwill on the residential school apology, look no further than the treatment of the survivors of St. Anne's Residential School.
In the dark annals of the residential schools, St. Anne's stands out as a particularly brutal symbol of torture, shame and abuse. Unfortunately, the Federal government is re-victimizing the survivors by deliberately monkey-wrenching a process that was supposed to finally bring closure.
This week's Deloitte audit on Senator Pamela Wallin has raised numerous questions about a troubling lack of accountability in the Senate.
One of these questions is around the residency requirements for Senators and whether Ms. Wallin is even eligible to sit in the Senate. As a number of Conservative and Liberal Senators are having problems proving they meet the residency requirements themselves, it isn't likely Canadians are comfortable turning to these same senators for accountability.
I am asking you, as the new Minister for Democratic Reform, to undertake a review of both residency requirements as well as the process through which potential Senators are vetted, in order to prevent problems like these from happening in the future.
Thank you for your letter of July 17 in which you respond to the failure of the Federal Government to fulfill its legal obligations to the survivors of St. Anne's Residential School. Of particular concern was government's breach of the Independent Assessment Process by failing to inform the claimants and adjudicators of the large body of police evidence and court transcripts that confirmed widespread criminal abuse at St. Anne's. I note that, in response to my concerns, you have referred the issue of the government's failure to disclose evidence to the Ontario Superior Court for review. Given the seriousness of this breach I support your decision to refer the matter to the Ontario Superior Court. That is the proper forum.
The much-predicted First Nations "summer of discontent" has yet to materialize. Perhaps we could take advantage of this breathing space and do some fence mending on the frayed relationship between First Nation people and the rest of Canada. What better place to start then with the online comments section of every major media outlet in the country?
Whenever an article is posted on Idle No More, treaty rights or First Nation poverty, the comments section is quickly overwhelmed with abusive attacks. In cyber space the racists are loud, proud and determined to define the terms of discussion on First Nation issues.
Chief Theresa Spence hasn't eaten in over 11 days. The weather has taken a big turn for the worse and her tent home on Victoria Island is far from ideal. With Christmas week upon us, there is a real danger that the war room gamers in the Prime Minister's office will think they can simply wait this one out. It would be a terrible miscalculation. Make no mistake, as Ottawa shuts down for the holidays, this hunger strike is entering a very volatile and high stakes phase.
The notorious online "snooping" bill, C-30, looks like it may be coming back for round two. Earlier this year, the government rolled out legislation to enhance police powers in the cyber age. Bill C-30 would allow police to gather telecommunications service provider (TSP) subscriber data of cell phone and Internet users without warrants. As well, the legislation would force Telecoms to create back-door spy channels into their networks to aid security agencies in keeping tabs on online criminals (and potentially ordinary citizens).