Decades of failed policies and broken treaties have created an appalling level of social and economic misery that affect every layer of aboriginal life. So the first thing needed to fix the problem is a decision about where to start.

To that end, First Nations leaders will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and key government members on Jan. 24 in an Ottawa summit to address what Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg ranks as the most important issue facing Canadian society today —  forging a new relationship between the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and the rest of Canada.

Published in Editorial

When Canada’s first aboriginal saint is canonized, it will be an answered prayer for native people across Canada and beyond.

“There’s a natural sense of pride and joy,” among native people said Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon.

On hearing the news that Pope Benedict XVI had cleared the way for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to be canonized, perhaps as early as spring 2012, Gordon planned to phone his old friend Steve Point, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Point is a former elected chief of the Skowkale First Nation.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Shocking, shameful poverty among Canada’s native people goes far beyond the remote Northern Ontario community of Attiwapiskat. Native poverty is walking the streets and crowding the basement apartments of Canada’s largest cities, according to a new report by St. Michael’s Hospital researcher Dr. Janet Smylie.

Smylie gathered detailed health information from 790 aboriginal Canadians living in Hamilton, Ont., and discovered the greatest, most prevalent risk to their health is poverty. Almost 80 per cent of respondents to Smylie’s survey reported an annual income of less than $20,000 per year.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - Senator Gerry St. Germain knows first-hand the role a good education can play in lifting people out of poverty and despair.

“I grew up in a Métis community where there wasn’t much hope, and there wasn’t a very strong light at the end of the tunnel,” St. Germain said in an interview.

The senator had an aunt who “sort of grabbed me out and helped our family educate me.”

Published in Canada

MOOSE FACTORY, ONT. - Poverty. No clean water supply. No electricity. No heating. Lack of proper housing. Lack of education. Minimal health resources. Suffering. Hopelessness. Loud cries for help. And yet no one is listening. No one is paying attention. No one is showing care and compassion.

This may sound like a Third World, developing country, but, no, this is Canada. This is the Canada that so many people do not know exists and is ignored. Until recently, I was one of these people.

I am a registered nurse who has served in impoverished villages in Nigeria and the shantytowns surrounding the cities of Lima, Peru, and Guayaquil, Ecuador. I have experienced much poverty in my travels, but I have also experienced hope, courage and love. Although these people may seem to lack the basics, they have so much more. It is a poverty of material, not of spirit.

Published in Canada

It’s a good thing the federal government wants to know where millions of dollars given to the Attawapiskat community has gone, Fr. Rodrigue Vézina told The Catholic Register on the phone from the Northern Ontario reserve. Since 2007, the government has given more than $90 million to the struggling community.

“All of us want to check where all of our tax money is going,” said Vézina, an Oblate missionary and pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Attawapiskat, supported by Catholic Missions In Canada.

The small isolated town near the western shore of James Bay received international attention when Chief Theresa Spence declared a state of emergency in October as temperatures began to drop. For at least the past two years, many residents have lived in makeshift tents and shacks without heat, electricity or indoor plumbing.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA - The Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council has focused its annual message for the National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples on a young woman named Rose Prince.

Each year, Catholics remember aboriginal peoples on Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The aboriginal council, an advisory body of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops composed of seven aboriginal members and two bishops, raises awareness of little known aboriginal Canadians who were known for their holiness, like Prince, who was born in 1915 to a devout Catholic family at Nak’asdli, a First Nations community near Fort St. James in northern British Columbia.

Published in Canada
December 7, 2011

Show genuine care

Before Canada’s federal and First Nations leaders hold a summit in late January to address the shameful state of native reserves, they should read Megan Blair’s plea for help in this issue of The Register.

They should feel the pain, share the despair and experience the sorrow she witnesses daily. A registered nurse in Moose Factory, Ont., Blair’s patients include the sick and dying from Attawapiskat, the small northern village that is Canada’s new symbol of neglect for its First Nations peoples.

“The poverty is immense,” she writes. “But it is not just a poverty of material things. It is a poverty of spirit. There is so much hopelessness and suffering.”

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