News From the North: A roundup of Native news from Canada

Mushuau Innu

DAVIS INLET, Newfoundland - Moving day for the entire 680-member Mushuau Innu band is scheduled for Dec. 14. The band is being relocated from the site of its present community to the newly constructed village of Natuashish, 15 kilometers away, but sadly, not everyone will be making the trip as planned.

An estimated 150 band members will be left behind because their houses are not yet finished despite six years of delays already on the $152 million (Cdn.) relocation project.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is funding the project and has released statements to the press that the homes will be constructed sometime in March and that it will keep both settlements running until then.

As recently as the end of November, DIAND has said families should consider staying with relatives or doubling up in what homes are finished.

"This is unacceptable," said band council Chief Simeon Tshakapesh.

He said meetings this week on the relocation project did not go well and even when the project is complete many band members will still not have places to live.

Tshakapesh will meet with federal government officials next on Dec.9.

The project was originally supposed to cost $82 million (Cdn.) when the agreement was to move the traditionally nomadic Innu from their troubled island settlement on Davis Inlet across the sea ice to mainland Labrador in 1996. The Third World living conditions at Davis Inlet have seen the Innu living in plywood shacks without electricity or running water.

International media reports have focused on the dangers of the move across the ice that must be made on snowmobiles. So far this year, three snowmobiles are reported to have gone through the ice, luckily with no casualties. The seasonal weather has also made the route impassable, according to a report from the Canadian Press wire service.

Innu leaders have expressed concern that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the tribal police will not be able to provide adequate law enforcement to both communities over the winter.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

WINNEPEG, Manitoba - A statement released by the New Democratic Party provincial government said gaming Minister Tim Sale met with the 15 First Nations leaders from across Manitoba to discuss on-reserve gaming.

Amongst the topics discussed are ways to save the "floundering" Aboriginal casino industry in a province that has received considerable opposition from several communities where it has authorized gaming.

Native leaders, including Grand Chief Dennis White Bird of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, have said the NDP will alienate many Aboriginal voters if it tries to seize any more control over on-reserve gambling.

Premier Gary Doer is holding a summit with the chiefs in January in hopes of keeping the growing dispute from affecting provincial elections in 2003.

Romanow report on health care

OTTAWA - A federally-commissioned study of rural health care in Canada, completed the last week of November by former Saskatchewan Premier Ray Romanow, is recommending that remote communities, including many isolated Aboriginal settlements, be guaranteed the same level of access to care as urban patients.

Romanow said in his report that it is time measures be taken to correct the "appalling" and "unacceptable" state of Native Canadian health care.

"The poor health status of Canada's Aboriginal peoples is a well-known fact," said Romanow, adding steps must be taken to address the problem.

Natives in Canada suffer many of the same chronic conditions as their American Indian cousins, including a plague of both forms of diabetes, HIV infection, cardiac problems and other physical disabilities that have shortened their life expectancies compared to the non-Aboriginal population in North America.

Steps the Romanow Report is recommending to improve the situation are:

oThe establishment of links between rural centers and facilities in larger urban centers;

oExpansion of "telehealth" capabilities that will connect patients in remote areas with specialists in urban centers over the Internet;

oMore rural training opportunities for medical professionals to encourage doctors to practice in remote rural and reservation communities after graduation;

oThe establishment of a $1.5-billion (Cdn.) Rural and Remote Access Fund to deliver health services to the affected areas.

Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien and the Government of Canada have not responded to the study at the time of publication.

Upcoming Event in December

Dec. 14-15, North American Aboriginal Art Auction, Vancouver, British Columbia.