Metis Scout Troupe Stands Tall!
Terence Leung For Neighbours
By Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald March 22nd, 2007
Scouts Canada has one Calgary group that has drawn on Canada's deep-rooted multiculturalism to bond together. Although any youth or volunteer is welcomed with open arms, the Aboriginal Metis Scout Group 256 of Calgary features children with full or part Metis backgrounds.
Many of these children grow up in communities where there are not many aboriginal influences and the intent of the scout leaders is to ensure the children have a greater understanding of their ethnic origins.
"The importance of this scout group is to preserve the Metis culture, heritage and have the Metis children feel proud of who they are," says Rose Spike, the group commissioner who spearheaded the creation of the group. "Younger people may have the tendency to lean towards their friends' culture instead of their own.
"Our younger generation could get lost experiencing other traditions that's not their own. We need to encourage our children to embrace their own culture so they can share it with other Canadians and ultimately pass it on to the next generation of proud Metis people," she adds.
Spike has been organizing the formation of the group since September, 2006 and saw the fruition of her efforts when they had their first meeting in January, 2007. According to Spike, it is the only aboriginal Metis scout group in North America.
Initially, some of the children in her group were withdrawn, shy and unclear of their sense of belonging. Since then, she has seen a significant change in their
You're going to get a lot of kids who don't know what they're about with low self-esteem," says Spike, who runs a day home outside of the scout group.
"They're starting to blossom. You see the kids coming in and they're just so excited. The moms come in and say this is what their kids have been looking forward to all week
The group is split up depending on their scouting level. Despite a limited budget, Spike and her small but dependable support group are able to organize a bevy of activities to keep the children engaged.
"It's wonderful. I look forward to it every week," says nine-year-old Clear Water Academy student Lauren Sentis."We've done dreamcatchers, sculptures, and a picture of a bird. My favourite part is the crafts and games. All the other kids have become my friends.
The uniqueness of Spike's scout group has gained the acclaim of the Scouts Canada community.
"I think it's tremendously exciting. In past years, it's (scouting) been seen by the public members as more of a mainstream group," says Linda Maki, Scouts Canada council commissioner."But we welcome any and all members. We live in a culturally diverse city and our mission is to make a difference in youth's lives by developing leaders of tomorrow."
All children are welcome to join the group by contacting Scouts Canada or Spike directly at 257-0493.
Canada Scolded Over Exploitation Of Indigenous People's Lands
Submitted by the Western Shoshone Defense Project
UNITED NATIONS - Canada, like the United States, is facing international scrutiny for its treatment of indigenous people. This week, (March 16th) a United Nations treaty body took the rare step of telling Canada to change its behavior on the human rights of native populations.
In a report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said it was concerned about complaints of exploitation of indigenous resources by corporations registered in Canada.
CERD, which is based in Geneva, told the Canadian government to take "appropriate legislative or administrative measures to prevent the acts of transnational corporations on indigenous territories."
The CERD report comes in response to a petition filed by indigenous organizations that charged private businesses from Canada were unlawfully involved in the exploitation of their lands located in the United States.
Their petition particularly focused on the situation facing the Western Shoshone, a native American tribe, whom some non-natives also refer to as "Snake Indians," although in their own language they are called Newe people
Stretching across the states of Nevada, California, Idaho, and Utah, the Shoshone lands are currently the third largest gold producing area in the world, where numerous multinational corporations are operating and many are planning to move in.
Many of these companies, which include Bravo Venture Group, Nevada Pacific Bold, Barrick Gold, Glamis Gold, Great Basin Gold, and U.S. GoldCorp, according to the complaint, are registered in Canada.
Many areas where mining is going on have been used by natives for spiritual ceremonies and cultural purposes for thousands of years. Certain areas are home to Shoshone creation stories and vital to indigenous traditions of acquiring knowledge.
"The sites where the Canadian [corporations] are operating or preparing to operate are akin to a church or mosque to us," said Carrie Dann, a Shoshone elder. "We believe we're placed here on this land as caretakers. We are responsible for the health and preservation of our lands."
Shoshone elders have repeatedly charged that the enormous amount of toxic material produced as a result of mining is causing enormous damage to the health and well being of their people and the environment.
Last year, in response to the Western Shoshone petition, CERD assailed the U.S. government for violating the tribes' rights and said Washington had run afoul of the international antiracism treaty.
The 18-member UN panel of experts, set up to monitor global compliance with the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said it had "credible information" that the Shoshone were being denied their traditional rights to land.
In its petition, the tribe had challenged the U.S. government assertion that it owned 90 percent of Shoshone lands covering about 60 million acres. CERD members said the U.S. government must cease all commercial activities on tribal lands, including mining operations.
The United States recognized Shoshone rights to their land under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that the pact gave Washington trusteeship over tribal lands.
The federal government justified its position by saying that tribe members had abandoned traditional land tenure and practices and cited "gradual encroachment" by non-natives as evidence to claim much of the land as federal territory.
The Western Shoshone, in their petition to the UN panel, countered that "gradual encroachment" in fact took place as part of a U.S. policy to steal their lands, and that this constituted racism.
The Geneva-based panel agreed with the Shoshone by noting that Washington's claim to the land "did not comply with contemporary international human rights norms, principles, and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests."
Shoshone leaders said they went before the UN panel because they had exhausted all other legal options to prevent the U.S. government from taking over their ancestral lands, and for similar reason they had to challenge the role of the Canadian government.
In addition to recommending legal steps to change corporate behavior, the UN panel has also asked Canada to submit a report on the effects of the activities of transnational corporations in Canada on indigenous peoples abroad.
For their part, Dann and other indigenous leaders said they were pleased with the UN response to their petition."This is ground breaking news," Dann said about the CERD report on Canada. "This is the first time a UN treaty body has addressed government accountability to its corporate profiteering of ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples."
Major Clean Water Act Ruling In Alaska
Submitted by WSDP
Published on Mar 17, 2007
The federal Clean Water Act cannot be used to destroy an Alaskan lake, a federal appeals court said today, in a ruling that may set precedent about how the Act is interpreted nationwide.
Although the full ruling is not yet released, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was wrong in letting a gold mine company dump toxic mine tailings into a lake near Juneau.
"In issuing its permit to Coeur Alaska for the use of Lower Slate Lake as a disposal site, the Corps violated the Clean Water Act," the court said in the first of a two-part ruling on Kensington Mine dumping operations.
Today's ruling disallowed a diversion ditch which the court said was environmentally destructive and which violated a previous injunction against the mine. But, the court said it would rule against the entire dumping procedure in its final opinion.
The ruling should prevent mines across the United States from likewise dumping into lakes, streams and rivers, said Tom Waldo, attorney for Earthjustice, a non-profit law firm that filed the appeal on behalf of citizen and conservation groups.
"The Kensington permit was a test case by the Bush Administration to resurrect destructive mining practices from the pick-and-shovel days," Waldo said. "We've learned from the mistakes of the past. The Clean Water Act prohibited these practices, and today's court ruling confirms that."
Waldo expressed hope that the court ruling would deter such operations elsewhere in Alaska -- notably the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home of the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Pebble Mine, like Kensington, is designed to dump vast quantities of toxic mine tailings into lakes. A broad coalition of business, environmental, fishing and native groups is opposing the mine because of its damaging potential.
In 1982, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted regulations under the Clean Water Act prohibiting new gold mines from dumping their tailings into waterways. Even at that time, EPA determined that most mines no longer dumped their tailings into water bodies, and that "The plain language of the Clean Water Act simply prohibits the discharge authorized by the Corps of Engineers,'' Waldo said.
The Corps' permit granted Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation the right to dump 210,000 gallons per day of a toxic waste slurry into the lake, despite the availability of disposal methods less damaging to the environment.
The slurry is a byproduct of a gold extraction process that blends water with crushed ore. Attorneys representing mine developers and the federal government said the slurry is legal fill material in their view of the law, but the court rejected that argument.
The mine site is in Berners Bay, about 35 miles northwest of Juneau. The disputed permit would fill Lower Slate Lake, a 23-acre wooded, sub-alpine lake in the Berners Bay watershed. All fish and most other life forms would have been killed.
Coeur already had approval to build a conventional dry land tailings disposal facility, but the company applied for a permit to dump tailings directly into the lake as a cost-cutting measure.
Earthjustice represents the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, and the Sierra Club.
Read the decision (PDF).
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