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A roundup of Native news from Canada

Makivik Corporation

MONTREAL, Quebec - A member of the Quebec National Assembly, the provincial legislature, is advocating that his riding (legislative district) be reduced in size to create a new riding that represents the district's large Inuit population.

Michael Letourneau, the Member of the National Assembly for the riding of Ungava, also serves as the Parti Quebecois Minister for the Development of Northern Quebec. The Ungava riding stretches over 55 percent of Quebec's total area and has a mostly Inuit population fewer than 10,000. Letourneau said there are not many roads in the more remote sections of the riding, which prevents him from spending an adequate amount of time there.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Oct. 31 that the Inuit had been lobbying for their own riding in the National Assembly for 25 years and that the move was necessary to represent Inuit concerns in Quebec City.

A statement from Letourneau's office to Indian Country Today said he has been committed to better representation for the Inuit population in the riding for a number of years. The statement also said a number of commissions are currently studying redistricting to create a new riding in Ungava based on territory and not ethnic composition.

Lisa Koperqualuk, the communications officer for the Makivik Corp., the tribal government representing the Inuit in Quebec, said the move by Letourneau was considered to be "very positive" by the Inuit. She said that having a riding with an Inuit population was very exciting for their prospects for better representation in Quebec.

"I think this has taken so long because of the small population," she told ICT in a recent interview.

She said a previous request for a separate riding in 2001 was rejected because of the sparse population in the area and that the new riding would not come about for at least another four years based on her information.

Koperqualuk said this is the second item of good news for the Makivik Corp. in recent weeks. She said the Inuit had reached an Agreement-in-Principle with Quebec and Canada on offshore resource rights. She said a final agreement would be reached in the next several months, but that the agreement was important because offshore resources like fishing impacted the daily lives of the Inuit.

Indian Brook First Nation, Shubenacadie Band

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - The Shubenacadie Band Council is locked in a dispute with the Government of Canada over treaty rights that could delay the band's commercial lobster harvest on Nov. 15.

The dispute was created by Supreme Court of Canada decisions that confirmed the ancestral fishing rights of the First Nations last year. The court added loopholes within days that limited the amounts that could be harvested to what constituted "a moderate living."

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans seized upon the opportunity to enforce seasonal and catch restrictions on the Shubenacadie and impound their boats and 345 lobster traps for refusing to recognize what they considered a betrayal by the high court.

The band could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the Assembly of First Nations said this is a typical maneuver by Ottawa in recent years.

Jean LaRose, the AFN director of communications, told ICT there was never any definition of what "moderate living meant" and that the confiscation of the band's traps and boats could have a severe economic impact on the community.

"The DFO boats even rammed and swamped the boats owned by native people and beat them with sticks while the boats were sinking," said LaRose. Many of the instances he referred to were captured on tape by several Canadian media outlets.

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OTTAWA - The National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada announced in news conference on Nov. 10, one day before holidays honoring veterans in Canada and the United States, that it had launched a claim on behalf of M?tis veterans from World War II and the Korean War who had been denied rehabilitation benefits by Ottawa.

The claim first filed on July 12 is an effort to force the Canadian government to negotiate with the aging veterans who the claim says "suffered discrimination as a consequence of a denial of availability of financial and statutory benefits following their military service" by the federal government.

The claim also alleges that the denial of benefits to the M?tis veterans violates several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The M?tis are the descendents of the first European settlers and Aboriginal peoples from northwestern Ontario and the eastern Prairies in Canada. Along with non-status Indians living off reserves they were excluded from a recent compensation package from Canada for services and compensation they were denied after returning home from their military service.

Residential school abuse suit update

EDMONTON, Alberta - The latest maneuver by the federal government of Canada in the landmark class action lawsuit against it by natives who suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse at church-run residential schools is to offer out-of-court adjudication.

According to a Nov. 12 article in The Edmonton Journal, a lawyer representing nearly half of the 12,000 claimants said Ottawa plans to pay only 70 percent of the claims, which will force claimants to file another suit against the operators of the schools for the remainder. The Canadian courts have excused the churches from most of the suits and ordered the federal government to pay any compensation on its own.

Evatt Merchant said the fast track adjudication process will net significantly less compensation for the generations of natives victimized in the residential schools and the process will not necessarily save money from legal fees as Ottawa claims.

"We may recommend to all our clients that they not participate in the process," said Merchant.

Alberta has more claims than any other province, according to The Journal. The Edmonton-based Order of Catholic Oblates, that operated several schools, is facing 3,000 lawsuits on its own.

The OCC did not respond to ICT requests for comment by the time of publication.

Upcoming events

Nov. 18, 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. - "Building the Dialogue," Simon Fraser University, 515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver British Columbia. Contact: Darlene McBeth, (403) 264-9535, Ext. 21.

Nov. 25 to 26 - Aboriginal Women Entrepreneurs Conference 2002, Best Western Park Inn and Conference Center, 19 Holiday Drive, Brantford, Ontario. For hotel reservations call Best Western, 1-877-341-1234.

Nov. 28 to Dec.1 - Canadian Aboriginal Festival, Skydome, Toronto, Ontario. Events are scheduled to include a pow wow, fashion show, economic and educational conferences, native music awards and a lacrosse skills competition. Contact: (519) 751-0040.