News From the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada
Nunavut judge shoots down gun registry
IQALUIT, Nunavut - Justice Beverly Brown of the Nunavut Court of Justice granted an injunction exempting 23,000 Inuit from most of the provisions of Canada's new gun registry law until the court challenges to the law are heard in January, the Canadian Press wire service reported on Dec. 10.
Part of the Inuit land claim settlement states that Inuuk are exempt from having to obtain any permits or to pay fees to the federal government to hunt on the land claim. Failure to register their hunting rifles and pay fees to own the weapons they use to support themselves would have made many law-abiding Inuuk into "instant criminals," according to James Eetoolook of Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc., the entity that administers the land claim.
Ottawa has not made it easy for Inuuk to comply with the law by not making forms available in Inuktitut, the only language of most, if not all, hunters.
CP also reported that a compromise agreement worked out between Inuit and Ottawa in May 2002 was rejected by federal Justice Minster Martin Cauchon. It would have allowed Inuit hunters to use their land claim beneficiary card in lieu of a federal license without additional fees when hunting on the land claim.
The Auditor General's Office, Canada's version of the U.S. General Accounting Office, has blasted the government of Jean Chr?tien for cost overruns from implementing the Firearms Act that have reached into the millions and weak administration and oversight of centers responsible for carrying out the law.
Nault announces First Nations infrastructure project
OTTAWA - First Nations in Canada's eastern Maritime Provinces will be benefiting from an investment by Ottawa in several infrastructure projects announced so far in December. All amounts are in Canadian funds.
Dec.2 - Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Robert Nault announced a federal contribution of $541, 000 to help improve the water services of the Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia. The funds, in addition to $109,000 being spent by the band, will aid in the construction of a water tower on the reservation and two community wells to increase water quality and firefighting reserves.
Dec. 10 - Nault, Allan Rock, the minister responsible for the Office of Infrastructure Canada, and Chief George Ginnish of the Eel Ground First Nation, said the federal government would be contributing $479,167 on environmental projects for the New Brunswick reservation. The Eel Ground First National will also be spending over $95,000 to make improvements to its sewer system and business development plans.
Dec. 11 - The Eel Ground First Nation was the beneficiary for the second time in as many days when Nault announced the Government of Canada planned to invest $1.7 million in the tribe's Osprey Commercial Park and Truck Stop. The investment supports Eel Ground efforts to diversify their economy and to bring jobs to the entire region. The Eel River First Nation is located on the New Brunswick-Quebec border and has approximately 300 members.
The First Nations component of the Infrastructure Canada program has received $31.13 million for the period of April 2001 to March 2004, according to government figures.
Cross Lake Cree ink deal with Manitoba Hydro
CROSS LAKE, Manitoba - A war of words between the Cross Lake Cree has ended with what press reports in Canada are calling "a temporary $36-million truce."
The Province of Manitoba announced on Dec. 17 that the public utility would pay the settlement for damage caused to reservation lands from dam projects that began in 1977 and a 15-month plan to implement the disputed 1977 Northern Flood Agreement.
In a related announcement, Manitoba Hydro said it was also going to spend $4 million (Cdn.) to hire members of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to clear downed trees that have accumulated near the intakes of the Jenpeg generating station.
Other affected bands have accepted lump sum payments for flood damage.
Pauingassi children stripped and held in drunk tank for gas sniffing
WINNEPEG, Manitoba - From the "sad but true" files of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came a Dec. 18 report that three Native children were stripped and left naked and unattended by city police and children's services workers in a police trailer normally used for overnight accommodations for intoxicated adults.
Reports of the incident have said that the children were placed in the trailer by the local police after three workers from the Winnipeg Southeast Child and Family Services told police they feared the children were suicidal after sniffing gas fumes to get high. Their clothes and shoes were taken to prevent them from being used by the children to harm themselves, according to a statement from the agency.
Linda Flett, a spokeswoman for Winnipeg Southeast, said what happened was wrong, but added outsiders needed to understand the pressure on her staff.
"I'm not sure what the thought process was but I imagine it was keeping the children safe at all costs," said Flett.
The Mounties are considering pressing charges against the aid workers.
Gas sniffing and other inhalants have become a serious problem on many reservations in Canada. The dangerous practice can lead to brain damage, radical emotional problems and suicidal behavior.