‘It’s … insulting,’ Mi’kmaq warrior chief says of Canada’s 150th celebration

By Oscar Baker III | CBC News | January 25, 2017

As Canada celebrates its 150th year of Confederation, Mi’kmaq Warrior Chief John Levi says First Nations people are still struggling with poverty and he’s made a call to action to remind the country of its shortcomings.

“Where we are right now, like the frustration with Canada, we are struggling,” said Levi, from Elsipogtog First Nation. “The First Nations are struggling. We’re pretty much living in Third World countries.

‘Our children here on the reserve, like a lot them, go to bed at night hungry and drink poor quality water, and some of them barely have a roof over their head.’– John Levi, Elsipogtog warrior chief

“It’s kind of insulting to me and … I imagine all the First Nations also

“While we are struggling here and the government is spending millions of dollars on celebrating 150 years, think about the First Nations that are struggling and going without.”

Levi said equal resource-sharing would go a long way in helping to solve his community’s problems, a goal the community set out to achieve by filing a rights-and-title claim for more than one-third of the province in New Brunswick’s Court of Queens Bench on Nov. 9, 2016.

“With all the resources here in New Brunswick, speaking for us in New Brunswick, we should have a share of the resources,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to rely on their money with all the resources in New Brunswick.

“We wouldn’t have to rely on their money if they gave us the equal share.”

Call to action

Over the weekend, Levi put a call out for all First Nations to have a day of action on Canada Day.

He’s calling on Indigenous people and their supporters and hopes a powwow will be a reminder that not everything about Canada’s history is worth honouring.

Levi said the history of Canada being celebrated includes a history of rights violations and environmental degradation in First Nations territories, including his own.

“Look at it this way, we were here thousands of years and just within the last 500 years of the Europeans, pretty much our water is contaminated, the land is contaminated and it didn’t take long for them to do it,” said Levi.

He remembers as a child drinking from lakes and rivers, but today the water is contaminated, he said.

“Our children here on the reserve, like a lot them, go to bed at night hungry and drink poor quality water, and some of them barely have a roof over their head and Canada should think about that first, instead of celebrating 150 years,” said Levi.

New Brunswick reaching out

The government of New Brunswick said it will be reaching out to First Nations to participate in the 150-year celebrations.

“Government is committed to building a positive and respectful relationship with First Nations and working collaboratively with the chiefs,” said Valerie Kilfoil, a spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

“Nation-to-nation reconciliation with Indigenous people is a key theme of Canada 150 celebrations and the province is reaching out to New Brunswick First Nation communities.”

The federal Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs hadn’t responded to a request for comment by late Tuesday afternoon.

Get Aboriginal perspectives

Jessica Christmas and Julia

Jessica Christmas (right) and Julia Augustine (left) are both Mi’kmaq women and university students but see Canada 150 differently. (CBC)

Jessica Christmas from Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia said that as Canada marks its 150th anniversary, she would like to see non-Indigenous people taking time to learn more about Indigenous people.

“They can educate themselves, they can take our workshops that we provide, like powwows or sweats,” she said. “Like non-natives, they can get Native perspectives by attending these things,” said Christmas.

And Christmas was also concerned about the loss of Indigenous languages.

Julia Augustine, a Mi’kmaq woman from Elsipogtog, said she hopes Aboriginal people will one day be seen as equals by non-native people.

“The fact that we live in reservations and they’re poor —  lives are not great here,” said Augustine.

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