Jukasa News Update – Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says Indigenous communities have been facing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases during the last few weeks.
Miller says 673 COVID-19 cases have been reported in First Nations communities in all, and about 130 of them are active cases now.
He says Indigenous communities were successful in facing the first wave of COVID-19 with measures that limited the spread of the virus.
The measures included closing communities to outsiders, imposing local restrictions on gatherings and making sure that people were observing basic health and hygiene protocols.
Reopening schools and businesses and places where physical distancing is not possible are all factors in the rise.
A utility company says contract staff have been fired for making racist comments during a smudging ceremony at an Edmonton public school.
Epcor says school officials reported that students and staff heard construction workers swearing, using racist language and running their equipment during the ceremony last week at Edith Rogers School, which teaches students from Grades 7 to 9.
The workers were at a dry pond project across from where the students were participating in the smudging ritual in which Indigenous peoples burn sacred herbs and medicines for cleansing or health purposes.
“EPCOR does not condone racism or hate of any kind, and we thank the students and staff who brought this incident to our attention,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
The company said the workers were with a sub-contractor, Wilco Contractors Northwest, and under the control of Sureway Construction Group.
Epcor, Wilco and Sureway said they will together donate $30,000 to the Edmonton Public School Board’s amiskwaciy Academy, a junior and senior high school that offers Indigenous programming.
Wilco said in a separate statement that it has fired the workers involved and that racism will not be tolerated.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil apologized Tuesday to Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians for systemic racism in the province’s justice system, and said the government is committed to reform.
Institutions such as the police and the courts have failed Black and Indigenous people, McNeil told a gathering at a YMCA in downtown Halifax.
He apologized for the harm, trauma and pain he said many Nova Scotians have endured over generations. “I see you, I hear you, I believe you and I am sorry.”
The premier described the humiliating “lived reality” of Black mothers warning their sons to be fearful of police officers.
“We are sorry to young Nova Scotians, to adults, families and their ancestors, who have been failed by racist institutions and systems,” he said. “I can’t take away your pain. I can’t bring back lost opportunities or lives.”
The Black Lives Matter movement in Nova Scotia and around the world, he said, has highlighted the systemic failures that have resulted from relying on law enforcement for public safety.
McNeil said he is putting together a restorative justice team composed of members of Black and Indigenous communities, as well as members of government and the police, to work on ways to reform the justice system.
A panel of Indigenous business leaders says limited and slow access to capital is a major barrier to their First Nations’ ability to take an ownership role in the resource megaprojects being built across their lands.
In a webcast discussion sponsored by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, the panellists said they view ownership of oil and gas, pipeline and transmission line projects as essential to providing prosperity to their people, while also protecting their environment and culture.
Mark Podlasly, director of economic policy and initiatives for the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, points out that First Nations don’t own their land under the Indian Act and can’t use it as collateral to obtain funding in the millions or billions of dollars needed to invest in big projects.
The member of the Cooks Ferry First Nation in B.C. says many Indigenous people are reluctant to support change, however, because they fear losing control of the land.
- Previous Jukasa News Update – Monday, September 21, 2020
- Next Jukasa News Update – Thursday, October 1, 2020