Archive for January, 2013

Toasts to woman

Brisk wine and lovely women are

The source of all our joys;

A bumper softens all our care,

And beauty never cloys.

Then let us drink and let us love

While yet our hearts are gay;

Women and wine we all approve

As blessing night and day.

…..author unknown


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Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence (L) pauses while speaking with journalists about her hunger strike with elder Danny Metatawabin in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa December 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

The use of the word “chief.” It effectively means “mayor” and those given the title sometimes speak for only a few hundred people, and get to do so for sometimes questionable reasons.

Yet they are treated by mainstream media and the authorities with a reverence that borders on the sycophantic.

Can we imagine a genuinely democratically elected mayor of a Canadian town being similarly regarded by journalists and the police?

When these and other Native activists are interviewed, they frequently speak of prophecies, of seventh-generation warnings, of ancient laws and supernatural predictions.

They hold feathers and they recite ideas of pantheistic earth-worship. It’s a confused, confusing, sometimes entirely made-up spirituality and one that is often absurdly ahistorical.

Imagine, for a moment, followers of Jesus, for example, holding a crucifix and basing their arguments on an embellished and unreliable interpretation of Christian fundamentalism.

They’d be laughed out of the studio, told to separate church and state, ordered to change with the times. And to a large extent the condemnation would be correct.

It’s the racism of lowered expectations of course, where Natives are treated like children by white liberals who seldom venture beyond the comfort of the launch-and-lunch party. The same applies to some of the headdresses and costumes worn by Native activists that have no origin in their own tribe, and actually belong to people from 1,000 miles away.

It’s cultural misappropriation, like a Belgian dressing up as a Turk and claiming it’s OK because they live somewhere on the same continent.

This dressing up, by the way, is troubling. Aboriginal Canadians have valid grievances and must be listened to, but they live in the 21st century and have no need to dress otherwise.

Compare this to Scottish nationalists who cringe at the pretend Highland outfits worn by professional Scotsman to appeal to largely North American tourists.

We all have cultural identities, but most of us acknowledge that we dress for the contemporary age.

Who is actually a Native? Some of the loudest zealots are tenuously so, and one of them appears to be German! Others have some Native blood but in the past have even been denied Indian status, and it’s probably more up to Dr. Freud than a columnist to speculate why they’re sometimes the more aggressive and unreasonable ones.

Most ethnic communities in Canada are very careful to guarantee that white extremists do not try to co-opt their struggles and exploit them for their own ends.

But the Idle No More groups in urban centres, in particular, are beginning to resemble the Occupy gangs from last year. We’re seeing the identical faces protesting and obstructing.

Natives have authentic complaints; white, rich Marxists trying to annoy mommy and daddy do not.

Then there are the anti-Tory politicians, who will do pretty much anything to convince people that Stephen Harper is a dictator, a dictator apparently being anyone who defeats them in an election.

What a mess all this is, and — tragically — it’ll probably change not one iota of Native pain.

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A brilliantly scathing commentary from Bonnie Ford, ESPN.  It eviscerates Lance Armstrong.  Read on.


It was a typical Lance Event, although it was about as far from the bike as it gets. It was about spectacle and managed production and trying to craft another chapter in a punctured epic that has lost its helium and sunk to earth.

It was about what it is always about with Lance Armstrong: hubris and control, the same tightly intertwined strands of his DNA that convinced him he would never be exposed, that the dozens and dozens of people privy to his pyramid scheme would remain muzzled forever.

It was desperate. And huge chunks of it ranged from disingenuous to unbelievable. There was far too much defiance and contradiction of evidence and abdication of responsibility to respond to in one column, although I will start by saying that I don’t believe for a minute that he was clean in his comeback. And we’ve seen only half the footage from the Oprah Winfrey interview.

Armstrong exerted the last bit of leverage he had left in public life by going big-picture pop-culture first. He decided to take aim at hearts and minds rather than making the kind of detailed confession to legal and anti-doping authorities that would have advanced the plot and made a small start on freeing him up to lead the rest of his life. It was a delusional move, not to mention an utterly backward one. Armstrong is a toppled despot, a statue pulled off his pedestal, but his legs are still moving reflexively in the rubble. By force of lifetime habit, he’s still trying to shape his own narrative.


Lance Armstrong

Mark Gunter/AFP/Getty ImagesLance Armstrong has had little practice at defeat. That showed Thursday.


There will be a colossal amount of time expended in the next 48 hours taking his emotional temperature, parsing his facial expressions and applying sincerity sensors to his tone of voice. And it will be time entirely wasted. The one absolute truth that has emerged about Armstrong over the past 15 years, much of which I spent observing him at close range, is that he is one of the world’s most gifted actors. There was no manifesto like an Armstrong manifesto, no gimlet-eyed stare-down any more Oscar-worthy.

Beware of the sudden conversion. Beware of loose ends that are too neatly cauterized. Beware of a man who is powering past the mile markers of the past two decades, up the latest mountain of his life, at such dizzying speed — pages fall off the calendar! — that it’s clearly impossible he could be doing it naturally. The legions of people he bullied and knifed and misled are not so easily dropped.

Beware of myth-making. That’s what wrong-footed so many about Armstrong in the first place.

Forget about trying to judge his contrition level. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Oprah’s interview, with all due respect to her and her efforts to do a credible job, is window dressing. Armstrong can make a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge about doping whether he’s sincerely sorry or not. But very little of what he said Thursday night leads me to believe he’s ready to do that.

He could start by detailing the methods he used to beat those hundreds of tests he held up like a hall pass all these years. He is a walking, talking Rosetta Stone who could almost single-handedly light the match that finally leads to much-needed reform of the international federation that runs cycling and dismantles the questionable cabal that oversees it in this country.

He can agree to pay back a substantial portion of the money the U.S. government has spent on investigating him and help make good on an obvious breach of contract with the naive but still rightfully owed U.S. Postal Service. Fairness ceased being a part of this years ago, but I have zero problem with the fact that his former teammate Floyd Landis, whose belated honesty kicked down the first of many doors, would stand to get a cut of it in his capacity as a plaintiff in a federal civil whistle-blower lawsuit.

But Armstrong can help bring about those outcomes only if he shuts down his most basic instincts. I have serious doubts that the once-consummate enforcer of omerta can bring himself to rat out virtually every single person who aided and abetted his cheating. And if he somehow machetes a path back to competition through that jungle, I wonder who’s going to be left to help him rebuild? Will there be a single person standing who has the energy?



I’m not suggesting all of the emotion can or should be siphoned out of this week’s extravaganza. So many people still bear the mark of Armstrong’s bulldozer treads. So many people are entitled to decide between permanent scorn or forgiveness. That is their right.

I’ve had a taste or two of Armstrong’s intimidation myself — not nearly on the level of the wrecking ball he swung at the steadfast Betsy and Frankie Andreu, or his bright, articulate former soigneur Emma O’Reilly, or his ex-personal assistant Mike Anderson, or Greg and Kathy LeMond, or the relentless journalist David Walsh, or others too numerous to name, all labeled as unhinged and vindictive and jealous. But enough so that I can empathize.

At the Tour of California bike race in February 2009, early in Armstrong’s ill-conceived comeback, I was on the business end of one of his vintage, hourlong telephone browbeatings. I had written a column explaining how he’d misled the world about his much-vaunted “extra” drug-testing program with anti-doping researcher Dr. Don Catlin, saying it was under way when, in fact, it was a nonstarter.


Throughout his career, Lance Armstrong has been able to exert unbelievable control over the media and the flow of information, writes Matthew Beaudin of VeloNews.com. When I was summoned to the phone by his agent Bill Stapleton, I was concerned enough about the threats Armstrong might make that I asked a friend to sit with me as a witness.

One of Armstrong’s opening lines, delivered with inflection that gave off the chilling smoke of dry ice, was, “Are you on the Slipstream payroll?” He was referring to a series of stories I’d written the previous year, about an American team that was putting an anti-doping credo front and center. Its cast of characters included some of his former teammates and least favorite people.

It was a window into his thought process. This is a man who covered all his bases, backing up physiological doping with administrative performance enhancement by co-opting or paying off the powers that be in his sport. Everyone was on the take, he reasoned, so I must be, too.

A couple of years later, when federal grand jury witness Tyler Hamilton repeated to me the language Armstrong used to harass him at an Aspen, Colo., restaurant, I heard the echo of the same phrasing — “How much did ’60 Minutes’ pay you?” — and shuddered, and knew every word Hamilton was saying was true.

Armstrong threatened to call my bosses. (He never did, to my knowledge.) He kept railing. With some difficulty, I kept my cool. He couldn’t identify a single factual flaw in my story, but he insisted that his commitment to race clean was “as legitimate as our cancer work.”


If he does eventually come clean enough for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to consider reducing his lifetime ban so he can compete in Ironman triathlons before he turns 50, there will be no shortage of emotion about that, either.

By sheer coincidence, Andrew Messick, the CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation, was in Melbourne (where I am covering the Australian Open) for meetings this week, and I had a chance to speak with him.

“If he’s eligible to race, he can race, but Lance has been controversial in our community from the beginning,” Messick said. He said that under no circumstances would the WTC abandon its status as a World Anti-Doping Agency signatory to accommodate Armstrong or anyone else.

Sidelined and hemorrhaging money, Armstrong has finally found himself in the psychological position of weakness where he put so many others.

I don’t know when I’ll feel he’s paid enough of a price for his cruel reign, but my instinct is not nearly yet, not for a long, long time.


One of the cornerstones of Armstrong’s creation story was the image of him post-cancer treatment, healed and sent back into the world by his oncologist, Dr. Craig Nichols, with instructions to honor something called “the obligation of the cured.”

Whenever I had a chance to ask him about doping allegations — and I never did an interview of any length without asking, although obviously it didn’t get me very far — I’d bring that up.

I recall one episode in particular near the end of the 2001 Tour de France. In those days, Armstrong sometimes deigned to do briefings with a small group of English-language reporters. We were sitting at a table under an umbrella in a pleasant courtyard outside a posh little chateau-style joint where the U.S. Postal Service team was staying, as it usually did, at a distance from most of the other teams. As worldly as I thought I was then, I could not have imagined the gruesome business of transfusing that was going on inside some of those lovely hotels. I told Armstrong, in more of a statement designed to provoke than a question, that he had much more at stake than most athletes because of the level of trust and admiration and emotion cancer patients and survivors had invested in him. If he was cheating, I said, it had the potential not just to disappoint but to gut that constituency.

Armstrong locked onto my gaze. “Those people don’t have to worry,” he said. “They won’t be devastated.”

I know cancer survivors are not a monolith. I’m sure they have reacted and will react as individuals. I would not presume to speak for them. But I have no hesitation speaking for myself on this issue.

I find Lance Armstrong reprehensible for having passed off fiction as documentary. Two dear friends of mine had their bodies sliced up and pumped with chemicals and radiated but still wasted away before my eyes and died, the disease feasting on their bones like soft fruit, flooding their lungs, robbing them of their voices and keen intellects, and finally stopping their generous hearts. I am and will always be more moved by the bravery they demonstrated while losing than I would ever be by the amoral celebrity who “beat” cancer.

Armstrong purported to be honest about the fear and pain and side effects of the drugs used to treat his disease, and that laid out a course map for millions. But I also believe he had an obligation to be honest about what he proceeded to do with his newly intact body and his presumably grateful mind, and he completely blew it.

One of the few comments that struck me as completely genuine Thursday night was Armstrong’s observation that in recent months, he found himself completely lacking control over his life for the first time since he was diagnosed. He had to do something, and chose this dubious route. After all the drama dies down, I wonder if one single mind will have been changed or if he’ll live the second half of his life — whether in motion or in relative hiding — as the same polarizing figure he’s always been.

The same impenetrable hard-headedness that helped make him an exceptional athlete with an unworldly capacity to defy and deny also blinded him to any possibility that he would ever be in this position. He has had very little practice at defeat. Thursday, that showed.


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Have a read thru the following two essays about today’s hot button topic, Native Rights in Canada.  It’s fascinating how the same topic can be presented in such diametrically opposed viewpoints.  One essay is from Toronto’s NOW magazine, a notoriously lib left publication.  The other is from the Toronto Sun, arguably the most right wing conservative newspaper in Canada.  If you were a foreigner reading about this issue, can you imagine the distorted perception you would get if you were to only read one article?!?   It certainly points out the importance of getting a balanced diet of news if one is to maintain an objectivity about world events.  Hard not to gag though, no matter which article you read!


Why Idle No More matters to us all

First Nations represent Canadians’ last best hope of stopping the mass destruction of our shared lands


As the country awaits Stephen Harper’s meeting on Friday, January 11, with the Assembly of First Nations, and Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence continues her hunger strike, there is no end to the blockades and round dances, expressions of an upsurge many believe will end by totally re-wiring First Nations/government relations. One Idle No More spokesperson explains what’s at stake.

Idle No More arises from our responsibility to live up to the sacrifices of our ancestors and to the duty we have as guardians of the earth and to the expectations our children and grandchildren have of us to protect them. We all carry that responsibility, from the moment the Creator blesses us with our first breath until our last.

Right now, many of our indigenous brothers and sisters are facing multiple, overlapping crises; the very grassroots people on the front lines are there because they lack clean water, housing or sanitation, and politicians have done little to help.

This movement is distinct.  Unlike Occupy, it’s made up of peoples with a shared history and has a special spiritual significance: it was prophesied that the seventh generation would rise and restore the strength of our Nations.

Idle No More is also unique in that it includes non-natives as our allies. Just as in the early days of contact, when settlers needed our help to survive the harsh winter months, Canadians once again are relying on us to stop Harper’s destructive environmental agenda.

First Nations represent Canadians’ last best hope of stopping Canada from mass destruction of our shared lands, waters, plants and animals in the name of resource development for export to foreign countries like China. Why? Because only First Nations have constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights that mandate Canada to obtain our consent prior to acting. These rights are also protected at the international level by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

When Idle No More opposes federal policies, we do so to protect all of our interests – aboriginal and Canadian alike. After all, the most precious resources in the near future will be farmable lands and drinkable water. We are standing up not only to protect our lands and waters, but also to restore justice for First Nations and democracy for Canadians. We can work together to defeat the Harper threat.

What we want in the short term is for the government to withdraw the suite of legislation impacting First Nations, amend the omnibus bills that threaten our lands and waters, and restore the funding that was cut for our advocacy organizations and communities;

But in the long run, there has to be a nation-to-nation process whereby First Nations and Canada can address the long-outstanding issues related to the implementation of treaties and sharing of lands and resources.

Ultimately, we want to be free to govern ourselves as we choose and to enjoy our identities, cultures, languages and traditions. Canada must respect our sovereignty and get out of the business of managing our lives.

Given that the federal government has worked hard to put us in the situation we are in, Harper will have to come to the table Friday with good faith and offer solutions to address the crisis facing many of our communities.

Idle No More is inspiring hope when many had lost it. It has inspired pride in who we are as indigenous peoples, leadership in those who thought they had nothing left to offer their Nations and a reconnection of youth to elders, citizens to leaders and men to stand beside women.

We are alive again, and the spirits of our ancestors are walking with us.

We fought for your rights in 1812; fight for ours.

If Harper has time for Justin Bieber, he should have time for Chief Spence.

Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq lawyer and professor, is academic director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.


The RCMP, not Harper, should be meeting with Chief Spence


 TUESDAY, JANUARY 08, 2013 04:54 AM EST  The Toronto Sun

A new audit of the Attawapiskat Indian reserve was released Monday. It was shocking.

The accounting firm of Deloitte randomly chose 505 financial transactions, between April 1, 2005 and Nov. 30, 2011, to review. They found “81% of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60% had no documentation of the reason for payment.”

A lot of that money was supposed to go to housing. Attawapiskat is the reserve where some houses have leaky roofs, poor insulation, broken plumbing and are generally unfit for habitation. But Deloitte wrote, “There is no evidence of due diligence in the use of public funds, including the use of funds for housing.”

Deloitte can’t find where the money went. But maybe the long list of people on the band’s rich payroll might know, starting with Theresa Spence, the chief, or her boyfriend, Clayton Kennedy, who just happens to be the town’s financial manager. He bills the band $850 a day to manage their finances.

In fact, there are 21 politicians on the band payroll. Plus plenty of full-time staff. But Deloitte didn’t find that reassuring: “Attawapiskat First Nation did not provide us with any job descriptions for individuals who are involved in the financial management of funding agreements.”

The band doesn’t even produce annual budgets. High school football teams have budgets. The band council doesn’t keep regular minutes of their meetings, either. Ordinary band members can’t find out what their politicians are doing. (Spence, in a news release Monday, dismissed the audit’s release as “no more than a distraction from the true issue” and said it was an attempt to “discredit” her.)

So what does this all look like, if you pour $100 million through such a system, as the federal government has done since 2005? Well, here are a few of the findings in Deloitte’s sample of 505 transactions.

In September, 2011, at the height of the housing crisis, they spent $4,333 on breakfast supplies. No documentation. No contract, no invoice.

In April of 2011, a “consultant” got paid $303,256. The identity of the consultant is not known. The documentation is incomplete.

What kind of consultant did Attawapiskat need for $303,256 last year? In the middle of a housing crisis? Was it a roofing consultant? Someone to develop a roofing strategy? Is that why they didn’t have money to actually hire a roofer?

There are many of these employment contracts — often six figures, always anonymous.

Another common one is “other purchases.” One was for $87,150. Auditor’s note: “Occurrence questionable.” Was anything even bought? Who knows?

Countless money was spent on legal fees. One payment was for $68,910 — lawyer unknown, no supporting documentation. Was it band business? Or maybe someone’s divorce?

What about a real estate deal three years ago for

$1.1 million? But it’s an Indian reserve. The band already owns all the land. And the vendor is anonymous. There was zero supporting documentation. Was this $1.1 million property deal even in Attawapiskat? Or was it in Florida?

There are a flurry of these property purchases — all secret, no street address or even a general geographic location given.Eighty-one percent of the files the auditor checked are this way. Not 1% or 2%. This isn’t an error. It’s a way of life.

If the people involved had Italian names and were from the Montreal construction industry, or French-Canadian names from Montreal ad agencies, instead of Indian “consultants” from Attawapiskat, there would be resignations and criminal charges flying.

But it would be racist to ask tough questions of Chief Spence and her boyfriend. And, she’s so close to starving herself, it would be mean, too.

Is Stephen Harper really going to meet with her on Friday? Shouldn’t the RCMP do so first?

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Enough of this bloody nonsense of “First Nations” blockading our transportation corridors!  How about if us Caucasians and other non-first nations peoples congregate at the gates of the Indian reserves and stop them from leaving?  How would you like that Ms. Spence and all you Mohawk warriors?  Let’s keep you on your land for a few days without letting you leave into “our” territory.  This never ending list of grievances that keeps shifting and changing is getting tiresome and ridiculous.  You sound like the Parti Quebecois and its bone headed leadership always whining about the raw deal they have with Canada.  Instead of wasting my tax dollars with impunity and zippo accountability try looking at some of your fellow first nations groups that have actually created jobs and wealth for their communities.  They seem to be prospering quite well engaging in legitimate enterprises and not simply building casinos or running cigarettes across the border.  Quit your whining and grow up!

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My dog fell through the ice last December.  By the time we found out where he was he had already crossed over the rainbow bridge.  Blue was a country dog and we decided from day one, 11 years ago when we brought him home as an 8 week old puppy, that he would run free.  A husky/shepherd cross was not made to live life at the end of a rope.  Blue was a free dog.  He patrolled our neighborhood and made sure we all knew if anybody or anything disturbed the tranquil surroundings he laid claim to.  That included squirrels, rabbits and foxes; all of which he chased with vigorous abandon.  He even caught a squirrel once and the shocking realization of it made his jaw drop, giving the squirrel another chance at life.  Numerous rabbits and chipmunks were not so lucky.  Blue had incredibly good luck considering he was never even walked on a leash when we did our neighborhood loop.  He did have close calls.  Blue was run over by a school bus many years ago, and it took several weeks to nurse him back to health.  I had to carry his 90 lb frame up and down the stairs for several weeks since the bus tire had slashed his hind quarter to the bone.  But he survived.  In retrospect that brush with death was a blessing since he thereafter respected the potential for major damage that four wheeled beasts could bring.

Lately it was arthritis that began to slow him down.  No doubt it had its genesis in that collision with the bus.  Daily doses of glucosamine had a marvellously therapeutic effect, and brought his mobility back to the point where he could once again take off after the wildlife that thrived all around us.  Blue slept outside behind the garage, in a straw filled doghouse.  Even in minus 25C January freezes, he preferred the outdoors and rarely lasted more than 30 minutes inside. It was just too hot for him.  He wanted to be out in the fresh air, the colder the better as far as he was concerned.  In the early years he sometimes disappeared for the entire night, chasing some scent or just running because he could.  I’d spent hours when he was much younger, walking the neighborhood and calling for him, worrying about his safety.  Packs of coyotes ran wild in the forest around us and we worried that he might one day challenge them.  But Blue would come home when he was ready.  And he always came home.  So we let him live free.  I knew he would not reach a tired old age and his death would be premature.  We are so thankful we enjoyed his company for almost 11 years.  Until that fateful night in late December when his beautiful frame fell through the thin ice during another chase.  This time after a fox.  And the fox outsmarted him, drawing him out onto the ice.

It’s only been a few days but the hole in my heart is not growing any smaller. I imagine with time the sorrow of his passing will slowly recede.  But not yet.  I walk around the snow covered property and see his massive paw prints slowly melting away.  I take pictures of indentations in the snow, marveling at the size of his paw.  I search out his running tracks, trying to hold onto his physical presence.  Soon the only thing left will be pictures and memories.  Of a big boy Blue who so enriched our lives.  We were able to retrieve his body and give him a proper burial, laid gently to rest on his favorite blanket in a cedar wood box I crafted with my son.  Tears roll down my cheeks, and spill onto the blanket as I measure his frame.  We place his favorite toys and photos around his strong black and tan body.  Memories of many happy moments.  My wife places a Tim’s coffee cup in the box.  Blue loved collecting discarded cups on our walks and hoarded them with pride.  His collection.  Thank you Blue, for giving us so much love.  You will be dearly missed, but we will always celebrate your memory and try not to mourn your passing.  You died a free dog, just like the way you lived.  I know you would not have wanted it any other way.

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Jonathan Kay: Six lessons from a brilliant, scathing year-old CBC report on Attawapiskat’s mismanagement

Allison Dempster/CBC News

Allison Dempster/CBC NewsPhoto of a property indicative of the bleak conditions in Attawapiskat, the northern Ontario First Nations community that has dominated the national news.

CBC News made headlines today by getting its hands on a scathing audit report on Attawapiskat, the impoverished northern Ontario Cree community led by hunger-striking chief Theresa Spence.

Yet you’ll find an even more searing indictment of Attawapiskat’s leadership in a televised report from the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault. That segment is a year old, but it’s getting a new life on the internet thanks to a Twitter-based resurrection campaign led by blogger Richard Klagsbrun.

Watch the video: It’s shocking how many important lessons from Attawapiskat Ms. Arsenault manages to pack into just eight minutes.

  1. The idea that the destitution of far-flung First Nations such as Attawapiskat is a result of Ottawa’s neglect is wrong. Ms. Arsenault’s quick tour of Attawapiskat — a place that then was supposed to have been in a housing crisis — shows a half-dozen well-constructed houses with no one living in them. When questioned about this total waste of resources, Chief Theresa Spence has no real answer.
  2. In fact, Ms. Arsenault’s reporting suggests that the real problem in Attawapiskat is Ms. Spence’s own incompetent leadership — in which capacity she is aided by her live-in boyfriend Clayton Kennedy, who serves as the community’s manager. Neither apparently can be bothered to fill out the paperwork required to get needed resources from Ottawa, or even supply basic accounting information. When Ms. Arsenault bluntly asks Mr. Kennedy whether its appropriate for the chief’s unelected romantic partner to be running the place, he answers that it’s “nobody’s business.” (A decade ago, Art Eggleton got thrown out of federal cabinet for awarding a research project to a former girlfriend. Yet Ms. Spence has become a “grass roots” hero for giving an even cushier job to her current boyfriend.)
  3. Ms. Arsenault didn’t intend to profile Attawapiskat’s economy. But she did a good job of it nonetheless. Take a look at every backdrop: Every home is made from materials transported from hundreds of miles away. The temperatures are frigid, so every home goes through gallons of heating fuel daily. All the chairs and paneling in the leaders’ conference room, all the North Face coats, all of the ski-doos and hockey equipment — it’s all flown in from Timmins or elsewhere, or trucked in on winter roads at high expense. This might be one of the most expensive places in the world to operate a human settlement. Yet the town itself has zero private economy — except for a few cafés and the like. There is a major diamond mine in the region. Yet we do not meet anyone who has any sort of high-tech job skills, or any way of achieving them in Attawapiskat. Put aside culture for a moment: In economic terms, Attawapiskat exists as a pure sinkhole for resources produced elsewhere.
  4. Perhaps the most pitiful scene in the whole piece is the one in which Ms. Arsenault examines the masses of unopened boxes containing (apparently useful) donations from concerned Canadians. Yet until Ms. Aresenault came around, no one had even bothered opening the boxes. Ms. Spence complains that she couldn’t get “volunteers” to do the job. That in itself is a damning indictment of the state of civil society in Attawapiskat. We are always told that the preservation of reserves is a great way to maintain First Nations culture. But it strikes me that the opposite is true: The best way to destroy a group’s spirit of civic solidarity is to turn the economy into an outsider-funded cargo cult; whereby the locals’ only “job” is to sit around waiting for handouts — to such extent that apparently even rousing themselves to rip open cardboard and plastic is seen as too taxing.
  5. Far from being idolized by Attawapiskat residents, Ms. Spence seems to be regarded with a mixture of suspicion and exasperation — in large part due to her cronyism. Local man Lindy Mudd, interviewed at length by Ms. Arsenault, states quite clearly that he is ashamed by the manner in which Ms. Spence has made Attawapiskat a poster-child of native poverty. Ironically, Ms. Spence is far more popular with naïve, white Naomi Klein types who venerate her from afar as a sort of Gaian martyr than with the people who actually have suffered under her incompetence.
  6. Ms. Arsenault gave Ms. Spence and her lover a chance to address all of these points on air. And yet whenever given this opportunity, all they could do was assert self-righteous but extremely vague complaints about Ottawa — even when they were asked explicitly about decisions they had made that had resulted in the squandering of federal aid. This itself is a telling spectacle: We have gotten to the stage in First Nations politics whereby you no longer even have to string a logical sentence together to connect a problem on the ground with Ottawa’s blundering or malfeasance. Turning the feds into all-purpose bogeymen is convenient for Ms. Spence, but it also effectively destroys the very idea of sovereign native self-government — since the very notion of a government responsible for its own citizens is ludicrous if every problem is casually passed off as the white man’s fault.

Attawapiskat gets about $17-million a year from Ottawa. But as the audit report shows, we have very little idea how that money is spent. “In a letter dated Sept. 20, 2012, that was written by Deloitte to Chief Theresa Spence and copied to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, [the] auditing firm says that of 505 transactions reviewed, more than 400 lacked proper documentation,” CBC News reports. “The letter to Spence also says there is ‘no evidence of due diligence on the part of Attawapiskat of funding provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for housing projects and Health Canada for health-related projects.’ ”

Nothing in the CBC report, or in Ms. Arsenault’s year-old report, suggest that Ms. Spence or the people around her are stealing money. Instead, they collectively present an image of a massively unproductive, sociologically and politically infantilized community supported entirely as a welfare state, and run by poorly trained and educated locals who have little political legitimacy and no tax base — all of it overseen by an Ottawa bureaucracy that is itself beleaguered and only semi-functional.

The idea that these problems can be solved by giving more power and more money to Ms. Spence is nonsensical. What we need instead is a candid discussion about whether communities such as this should remain in existence as subsidized entities.

Mr. Mudd says “There’s nothing here for my kids.” He plans to move away. Like other people interviewed by Ms. Arsenault, he wonders openly about whether anyone has a future in Attawapiskat.

The rest of us should be asking the same questions (and not just Ezra Levant, who’s been highlighting this stuff since 2011) — never mind the accusations of cultural genocide that surely will follow.

Ms. Spence is attracting the lion’s share of attention with her hunger strike in Ottawa. But the real issues lie 950 km away, in the well-funded wasteland she calls home.

National Post

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by Christie Blatchford…….National Post

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff RobinsFirst Nations protesters march down the railway tracks after abandoning their blockade of the CN tracks in Sarnia Ontario, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 after a court injunction ordered them to move.

TORONTO — Saying “I do not get it,” an Ontario Superior Court judge Monday bemoaned the passivity of Ontario police forces on illegal native barricades and issued a lament for the state of law-and-order in the nation.

“…no person in Canada stands above or outside of the law,” Judge David Brown said in a decision that was alternately bewildered and plaintive.

“Although that principle of the rule of law is simple, at the same time it is fragile. Without Canadians sharing a public expectation of obeying the law, the rule of law will shatter.”

Judge Brown was formally giving his reasons for having granted CN Rail an emergency injunction last Saturday night, when the railway rushed to court when Idle No More protesters blocked the Wymans Road crossing on the main line between Toronto and Montreal.

That protest ended about midnight the same night, but as Judge Brown noted dryly, “not, as it turns out, because the police had assisted in enforcing the order” he granted.

When the judge read in the media Sunday morning that the blockade had ended, he asked CN to submit an affidavit how it had happened.

As the same judge who last month watched — “shocked,” he said later, at “such disrespect” — as Sarnia Police ignored his court orders to end another Idle No More blockade on a CN spur line, he was right to be skeptical.

And sure enough, what Judge Brown learned was that once the local sheriff got a copy of his order, by about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, she contacted the Ontario Provincial Police on scene.

The staff-sergeant there told her “it was too dangerous” to attempt to serve the order – on all of 15 protesters.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff RobinsSarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson, right, meets with Chief Chris Plain of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation at the blockade of the CN tracks in Sarnia Ontario, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 by native protesters.

But, the judge said, he’d made “a time-sensitive order” precisely because the evidence showed that the railway suffered “from each hour the blockade remained in place, yet the OPP would not assist the local sheriff to ensure the order was served…

“Such an approach by the OPP was most disappointing,” Judge Brown said, “because it undercut the practical effect of the injunction order.

“That kind of passivity by the police leads me to doubt that a future exists in this province for the use of court injunctions in cases of public demonstrations.”

Judge Brown said that while he appreciates that Ontario Court of Appeal has said the rule of law can be applied in a “highly textured” or “nuanced” way when protesters are aboriginals involved in a land claim dispute, that doesn’t apply “to 15 people standing on the CN Main Line saying they were showing support for First Nations Chiefs in a forthcoming meeting with the Prime Minister.

“Such conduct had nothing to do with the process involved in sorting out land or usage claims…” the judge said.

“…it was straight-forward political protest, pure and simple. Just as 15 persons from some other group would have no right to stand in the middle of the Main Line tracks blocking rail traffic in order to espouse a political cause close to their hearts, neither do 15 persons from a First Nation.”


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars HagbergNative protesters block a CN rail line east of Belleville, Ont., on Sunday December 30, 2012.

The judge expressed “astonishment” that Sarnia Police failed to enforce court orders for almost two weeks, and then that protesters again blocked the Main Line for five hours, just a week after another demonstration in the same area.

He already had concerns, he said, stemming out of what occurred in Sarnia, about the willingness of police forces to enforce injunctions involving native protesters, but issued the order Saturday night because CN lawyers showed how serious were the effects of the blockade of the main line.

Furthermore, Judge Brown said, police already have sufficient tools under the Criminal Code to remove illegal protests. “In light of those powers of arrest enjoyed by police officers,” he wondered, “why does the operator of a critical railway have to run off to court to secure an injunction when a small group of protesters park themselves on the rail line bringing operations to a grinding halt?

“I do not get it,” he said.

As a member of one part of the law-and-order equation, Judge Brown said, “I remain puzzled why another part – our police agencies and their civilian overseers – does not make use of the tools given to it by our laws to ‘ensure the safety and security of all persons and property in Ontario’,” which he said is the first principle governing police services.

He warned “we seem to be drifting into dangerous waters in the life of the public affairs of this province when the courts cannot predict, with any practical degree of certainty, whether police agencies” will assist in enforcing court orders.

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