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


AFN plans opposition to "three C's"

OTTOWA - The Assembly of First Nations, Canada's largest national Aboriginal organization, is not sitting on its hands while the Canadian Parliament is in recess until Jan. 27 and is planning a "proactive resistance" to bills C-7 (The First Nations Governance Bill), C-6 (Specific Claims Bill), and C-19 (The First Nations Statistical Management Act).

The action plan is in two phases. The first calls for the First Nations to convince Canadians and the federal government to withdraw all three bills. Secondly, AFN wants the First Nations to encourage Ottawa to enter into an alternative dialogue on Aboriginal issues that is built on past progress and legal principles.

AFN is even reported to be planning a command center at its Ottawa headquarters to coordinate efforts against the bills as the Canada's national legislature, the House of Commons, begins three weeks of national public hearings on the legislation.

All three bills are expected to breeze through the Commons and the Senate as both houses are dominated by the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien.

AFN National Chief Matthew Coon Come is scheduled to provide testimony on the Governance Bill on Jan. 28 to the House of Commons standing committee on Aboriginal affairs. Coon Come and other critics of the bill have said it reduces the First Nations from sovereign nations to municipalities that do not have control over how their own governments are elected or even who is allowed to run for office.

Mohawk company wins lacrosse stick contract

AKWESASNE, Ontario - A First Nations-owned and -operated company will be supplying lacrosse sticks to the National Lacrosse League for the upcoming season.

Mohawk International Lacrosse, the leading manufacturer of lacrosse sticks in Canada, beat out larger manufacturers in the United States to win the contract for the 12-team professional league.

Company president Mark Mitchell said the contract would allow Mohawk International to expand its market into the U.S. where interest in lacrosse has increased in recent years.

Mitchell told Indian Country Today that he is encouraged by the good news, but is not sure how many sticks the NLL will be ordering.

A report by Jordan Heath-Rawlings in the Ottawa Citizen on Jan. 13 said the company made an estimated 10,000 lacrosse sticks last year, ranging in price from $65 to $250 (Cdn.) for a hand-made wooden goalie stick.

Mohawk International also provided lacrosse sticks to the Iroquois National Lacrosse team that competed in the world championships in Australia last year.

Alberta adoption crisis

CALGARY, Alberta - A social services agency in the province's second largest city is trying to find good homes for several First Nations children up for adoption.

According to the Calgary Rocky View Child and Family Services, there is a serious shortage of First Nations families as potential adopters for over 30 Native children in the agency's care.

"There is a need for First Nations children, if at all possible, to be raised with First Nations families," said Gloria Haddow, manager of Native service for Calgary Rocky View, to the media on Jan. 13.

"People who are not Native can empathize with the situation, but they can't truly know the difficulties [Native children] go through."

The children waiting to be adopted at Calgary Rocky View are Natives from across Canada, but the majority of them are from Alberta. The agency hopes that families can be found for the children in the area where they are from to maintain cultural ties to their heritage.

More information on adopting the children is available by contacting Calgary Rocky View at (403) 297-2789.

M?tis National Council president refuses to resign

OTTAWA - The M?tis National Council has retreated from a Jan. 6 announcement that its troubled president Gerald Morin would be returning to his duties after leaving an alcohol rehabilitation program on March 3 and has asked for his resignation.

The MNC board of governors reached the decision after it learned the details of a Dec. 11. incident in which Morin allegedly assaulted a woman in his Ottawa hotel and was formally charged with assault and criminal mischief.

"The Board of Governors will not condone, in any way, any violence by its leadership and has a zero tolerance for any violence against women in our communities and within society as a whole," said a statement by the board on Dec. 8.

"Unfortunately, by his actions Mr. Morin has lost the confidence of the leadership of the M?tis Nation. Therefore, the Board of Governors felt that under the circumstances there was no option but to ask for his resignation."

Morin has refused to resign, but has been temporarily replaced by Audrey Poitras, president of the M?tis Nation of Alberta. A special meeting of the MNC must now be scheduled to review the Morin affair and how the organization plans to proceed.

"I understand that alcohol has become a destructive factor in my life and this incident is the final warning sign for me to deal with the problem," said Morin in a December press release following the incident.

Morin could not be reached for comment.

Residential abuse case update

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - The myriad of abuse cases against the Anglican Church-operated residential schools filed on behalf of thousands of Natives has continued to twist and turn in 2003.

The Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon announced that it has contributed $300,000 towards a national $25 million (Cdn.) fund to compensate Natives sexually and physically abused in residential schools that the denomination ran on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Statements from the diocese said its 50 congregations and clergy members were able to do something positive to show the victims they really do care what happened to them.

Appeals are also being filed by victims' lawyers and Ottawa of a ruling made by Justice T.F. McMahon, of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, that said the Anglican Church could not be held liable for damages in the abuse suits in the province because the residential schools were run by the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church and not the church itself.

According to a Jan. 10. National Post article, the McMahon ruling admitted the Missionary Society had little or no assets.