So, there’s a federal election coming up in October, eh?

Canada’s First Nations people are all but forgotten in the lead up to October 19

To the Expositor:

So, there’s a federal election coming up in October, eh? There was a news report recently about election campaign information being provided in Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese. But there was nary a mention about any campaign information being provided in Anishinaabemowin, Cree or Inuktitut. Makes you wonder who the federal government thinks is going to vote. Ah yes, Anishinaabemowin. I was in a public place recently making a formal presentation, and had just completed my address to the ancestors. The so-called authority in charge said, “Stop that! We’re not playing games here.” Luckily, Anishinaabe ancestors heard my full message before that unfortunate outburst.

And then we hear about election messages being tailored for the “middle class” who are “struggling to make ends meet.” No one mentioned that Anishinaabe people earn incomes that are less than half of those earned by Canadians. No one talks about food insecurity affecting single parent female heads of households, aboriginal people, black people, and those in the far north. No one mentions that approximately half of all the homeless in Canada are aboriginal people. I am homeless.

Canada was built on 9 million square kilometres of indigenous territories. Canada is in debt to the tune of $600 billion dollars. Guess which peoples were mostly excluded from the “land of milk and honey.” Guess which peoples were forbidden to sell their livestock and produce on the open market. Guess which peoples had to ask for a pass to leave their territories. Guess which peoples had their children stolen wholesale to be “educated, Christianized and civilized.” For sure, Anishinaabe peoples are not responsible for Canada’s $600 billion debt.

CMHC reported recently that there are about 99,500 houses available on “Indian reserves” in Canada; and that there is a current shortage of about 20,000 to 35,000 houses. Of course we hear all about the most expensive houses in Canada being in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. And then we see the ads in the paper for the number of properties available for sale on Manitoulin Island. Then we’re yanked back to brutal reality hearing about the overcrowded-ness of indigenous homes, of boil-water advisories on Indian reserves, about mould and substandard building materials.

And then there’s the drought in California, in its 4th year, and that Governor Brown in January 2015 called a “drought state of emergency.” An interagency task force has been working on strategies to address the shortage of water. Guess where lots of our fresh produce comes from, folks.

Add to that the drought on the Prairie provinces. Some farmers estimate that only one-third of what they planted will survive as harvestable crops. Once again, guess where some of our foodstuffs come from.

There was also a little news report on the radio the other day about a woman in Sudbury offending a bylaw about lawn grass being too tall. So someone came along and cut the lawn including some of her wildflowers on the property. Hardly anyone talks about keeping milkweed as a food-source for Monarch butterflies, or keeping wildflowers for the bees, insects and other small wildlife to have access to. I don’t hear much mention of planting groundcover so as to retain moisture in the soil. There isn’t much talk about how much pesticide and fertilizer gets spread on the lawns which get washed into the watercourses. And for sure I don’t see many gardens being planted at Whitefish River. Can’t eat lawn grass, I say.

Federal election, eh? I haven’t heard anyone talk about domestic violence, violence against women, elder abuse, wrongful eviction, homelessness, or loss of indigenous women’s rights to indigenous lands. When someone evicts an Anishinaabe female from traditional Anishinaabe home and land, that is elder abuse. When someone benefits unjustly from an Anishinaabe female’s hard-won investment of $30,000 in housing repairs and renovations, that is elder abuse. When someone charges an Anishinabe elder with a so-called crime, that is elder abuse.

Oh, and the more than one thousand missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada? And no public inquiry? Makes you wonder. Federal election, eh?

Marie McGregor-Pitawanakwat, voter

Whitefish River First Nation