News from the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada

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Pankiw accused of 'hatemongering'

OTTAWA - A controversial Independent Member of Parliament has been accused of hate crimes by Aboriginal leaders for the second time in a year.

Member of Parliament for the riding of Saskatoon-Humboldt, Jim Pankiw, mailed a pamphlet to his constituents on June 5 in which he called some of Canada's leading Aboriginal lobbyists racists.

Pankiw's charges of racism, detailed in the pamphlet, are based on an incident in December 2002 when former Assembly of First Nations National Chief David Ahenakew made anti-Semitic remarks and praised the treatment of the Jews under Nazi rule in Germany.

"It's clear who the racists are," said Pankiw in the pamphlet that also included comments made by the current National Chief Matthew Coon Come.

In addition, the pamphlet included a survey in which constituents were asked to respond if they favored eliminating tax exemptions, affirmative action, Native hunting and fishing rights and cutting federal financial support to the AFN.

The pamphlet set off a series of complaints to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police calling for investigations of hate crimes by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations against Pankiw and a similar action by Pankiw against the AFN.

"It's hatemongering," FSIN Chief Perry Belgrande told reporters on June 5. "This information is revolting and disgusting. He's fanning racist fires is what he's doing, and is using taxpayers dollars to do this."

Pankiw did not respond to Indian Country Today's request for an interview, but was quoted in numerous Canadian newspapers as describing himself as "a champion of equality" who was "telling the cold hard truth."

Coon Come extended an earlier invitation on behalf of the First Nations for Pankiw to visit Native communities in Saskatchewan so he could witness first hand the conditions that have forced the aboriginal lobbyist to make serous demands.

Pankiw is not likely to accept the invitation considering he declined an invitation earlier this year to tour Saskatchewan's reserves after he admitted never having visited a First Nation. Pankiw was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 and plans to leave federal politics later this year to run for mayor of Saskatoon, according to information on his official Web site: www.jimpankiw.com.

Three seek top position at AFN

OTTAWA - As the Assembly of First Nations fends off the latest attack on the organization by Jim Pankiw it is also in the midst of an election campaign for national chief.

The AFN, representing 633 First Nations reserves with a population of 700,000 status Natives, officially announced the slate of three official candidates on June 12 that includes incumbent Matthew Coon Come (Cree Nation of Mistissini - Quebec), Phil Fontaine (Sagkeeng First Nation - Manitoba) and Roberta Jamieson (Mohawk Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River - Ontario).

The national chief earns an annual salary of $125,000 tax free and serves a three year term.

Coon Come has served as national chief since 2000 when he defeated Fontaine in a two-horse race. Observers in Canada have said that Coon Come's advantage as the incumbent may have already been lost to resentment over a decrease in federal funding from $20 million to $6 million, staff layoffs and comments he made two years ago that Natives drink and smoke too much. The AFN under his leadership has been the leading critic of Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Robert Nault and the Liberal Party's First Nations Governance Act (FNGA).

Fontaine has the leadership experience and ability to take back the reins at AFN, but is seen by many as a Liberal Party insider. Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien considers Fontaine a personal friend and appointed him as the chief commissioner of the Indian Land Claims Commission. Fontaine has said he favors a cooperative approach with Ottawa rather than the confrontational and "get tough style" of the other candidates.

Jamieson has emerged from the debate over the FNGA with a reputation as a highly effective speaker and would be the AFN's first female national chief. Jamieson was one of the first Native women in Canada to earn a law degree and was also the first elected chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Canada's most populous reserve. She was, however, the target of an impeachment attempt in the first year of her term at Six Nations by members of the community that were angered over her firing of two longtime band employees.

The election for national chief will be held at the AFN's annual general assembly at Shaw Conference Center in Edmonton, Alberta on July 16. A 60 percent majority of votes is required to be declared the winner.

Police accused of abandoning Native man

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - A Native man has accused the Winnipeg police of a practice that has become known as dumping.

According to the Canadian Press, Garrett Barthelette, 21, and three other Native men were taken into custody by unidentified Winnipeg police officers on the night of April 15 while they were walking in an inner city neighborhood and driven approximately 12 miles outside of the city limits.

Barthelette claimed in a complaint, currently under investigation by the Winnipeg police department's professional standards unit, that he and his companion were forced to remove their shoes before they were released and although they recovered their shoes, were still forced to walk back into the city where they were again stopped by police who listened to their story and drove them home.

There have been several similar dumping cases involving the police in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that have resulted in the deaths of at least four Native men. In one of these cases, former police officers Dan Patchen and Ken Munson were convicted of unlawful confinement and sentenced to eight-months in jail for dumping an aboriginal man, Darrell Night, in sub-zero temperatures causing his death.

INAC contributes to First Nations' economy

OTTAWA - Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Robert Nault announced the federal contribution to economic development and infrastructure projects in aboriginal communities in the provinces of Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia between June 11 and June 16.

Details of those projects include:

Alberta

*$350,000 for expanded well services for seven First Nations in Alberta's Oil Patch;

New Brunswick

*$55,000 for the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq and the Pictou Landing First Nation to assist in the operation of a cultural tourism and wood lot management;

*$15,000 for two members of the Paq'tnkek First Nation to open an auto repair business;

*$300,000 for the Shubenacadie First Nation to support resource remediation and training;

*$162,000 for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians to assist the advisory council of the Mi'kmaq leadership to establish government and private sector training opportunities;

Nova Scotia

*$5,000 to help acquire equipment for a silversmith in the Tobique First Nation;

*$50,000 to fund the expansion of a homebuilding business owned by a member of the Woodstock First Nation.

According to statements from INAC, approximately 60 full-time and four part-time jobs total will be created in First Nations benefiting from the federal contributions.

Please forward your questions and comments on News from the North to Robert Taylor at rtaylo16@twcny.rr.com.