Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's insightful analysis of the State of the Union address

It's finally happened and I am not even going to try to fight the truth anymore. The Jon Stewart show is the only news source I completely trust. What's more I am choosing to make him my sole source of news south of the border. I came to this decision after watching his analysis of Obama's State of the Union Address. If you haven't seen it you can still catch it online for a limited time.... For an hour, the show made me forget I was an NDN. (Snerg)



Watch especially for the CNN "twitter," Chris Matthews Post Racial comment and Wyatt Cenac's response. Too funny.


Friday, January 29, 2010

In your face Peta!!!

So People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals aka PETA thought it would be funny to pie a politician in the face... Well. Actually...It was kinda funny. (Sorry Minister Shea.) But what's even funnier? When the tables are turned.....

PETA protester gets pie in the face
St. John’s Telegram
Published: Friday, January 29, 2010

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Revenge may well be a dish, or at least a pie, best served cold.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protest was on the receiving end of a pieing on Friday.

Emily Lavender stood outside a hotel where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was slated to talk Friday before meeting with Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams.

Dressed as a seal and protesting the hunt, Ms. Lavender was accosted by the dog mascot for Downhome Magazine who came up behind Lavender and pulled her around, tripping her in the process. Her seal head went flying and, as the dog mascot helped pull Lavender up, he pied her in the face and ran off down the street.

Ms. Lavender was fine. She wiped her face and went back to protesting, holding a sign that said: "Harper Stop the Seal Slaughter."


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Russians go Native at Olympics

And for their next trick Domnina and Shabalin don blackface to dance the routine of the "Happy Plantation" to the tune Dixieland....
Why is it some people find it so difficult to understand that they're being offensive?
Good on the Four Host First Nations for promising to intervene.

Olympic skaters on thin ice with B.C. First Nations over Aussie aboriginal costume flap
VANCOUVER — A Russian figure-skating duo who wore an aboriginal-themed outfit at a recent competition in Europe are skating on thin ice with natives in British Columbia.

And when ice-dancing stars Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin arrive in Vancouver next month to compete at the Olympics, Tewanee Joseph, the CEO of the Four Host First Nations, hopes to talk to the couple about Canada’s indigenous culture.

Domnina and Shabalin — favoured to win a medal in Vancouver — made headlines last week with their performance at the European championships. The two were criticized for a dance routine on Thursday that offended Australia’s aboriginal people.

Despite the criticism of their aboriginal ensemble, Shabalin made matters worse by indicating he would be wearing the same outfit at the Vancouver Olympics.

Joseph, who represents the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh bands who are partners with VANOC, said they are working hard to avoid stereotypes and cultural put-downs.

He plans on sending Domnina and Shabalin a letter so they can meet when they come to Vancouver for the ice-dancing competition.

“I’m sending them a letter and would like to meet and educate them on aboriginal culture,” said Joseph.

”When they come here they will get a real sense of aboriginal culture.

“We’re not just Indians with a headdress and feathers.”

In their European performance, the skating stars said their dance was based on traditional practises of Australia’s indigenous people.

The dancers wore brown bodysuits with paint patterns similar to those seen on Australia’s aboriginals.

To round out the outfit, the dancers wore red loincloths and had strands of green leaves hanging down.

In an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian aboriginal leader Bev Manton wrote: ”From an aboriginal perspective this performance is offensive.”

Aboriginals from other parts of B.C. said the outfit is a mockery.

“Sometimes people make fun of us and it is painful,” said Arthur Manuel, a former chief of the Neskonlith band in Chase. “That is something they should have been very cognizant of.

“It gets you upset about the way indigenous people are represented.”

Figure-skating experts say it may be difficult for the Russians to change their routine so close to the Olympics


Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's not apathy, I'd just rather not cast my ballot passive agressively

It amazes me that despite the outrage over the proroguing of Parliament (and we saw those manifestations on the streets today) the Liberals are still not leading in polls. You'd think this would be enough to tank the conservatives, but no. Perhaps there are others who feel as I do that voting should not a passive aggressive act.

The Liberals could be doing better. But all they have offered in terms of an alternative is a leader who is less creepy than Harper.

For all the criticism of Iggy being arrogant and elitist, I don't think that's the problem. (After all Pierre Trudeau did ok for himself.) At least it's not for me. My own lack of enthusiasm for Iggy is that he always sounds so damn scripted. Like a roomful of whacks on a roomful of Apple computers are typing around the clock, calculating each word to capture votes with the precision of a VLSI chip. I mean sure I know that's politics, and it's not just Iggy. Jack Layton suffers the same problem.

It's just that lately they've been so damn obvious. They are not supposed to sound like all they want is to get elected. Where's the romance? At least Harper has that nice soft sweater and plays piano.... At least his spinners are trying.

I know it's a very naive thing to say, but it would be great to see some of the politics taken out of politics for just just for a while. Ideas to cope with pension shortages, layoffs, university tuition's and student loans. Maybe something a little... well inspiring.

I don't agree with the prorogation for all the reasons that people have well articulated elsewhere. The reasons need no repeating, here. They are all good and valid. But now that Parliament has been prorogued, and liberals and NDP are determined to show up anyway, well maybe they can workout a platform and some bundles of goods and services that will actually make me want to elect them, instead of merely wanting to unseat Harper.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Canadians Against Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament

A group supporting the government's decision to prorogue called "Canadians Against Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament" has been struck on facebook. It has 8 members. Nuff said


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Caught on Twitter

Caught this on the CPAC Twitter
Ignatieff: Senate does an important job of "catching our mistakes." Cites Patrick Brazeau as reason to consider term limits.


3 bizarre but fascinating facts about the movie Avatar

I loved this movie. It had amazing special effects, and a neat little anti-Bush pro indigenous, pro-environment message that was rarely preachy and balanced with humour. And of course, like everyone else, I have loved James Cameron since Terminator. So I was just googling around and found these 3 bizarre but fascinating facts about the movie that I'd like to share, in case you didn't know either.

1) Creating computer-generated boobs is apparently harder than one might think. It took a team of hundreds of designers a whole decade to perfect breasts for the character Neytiri, who is a motion-captured rendition of actress Zoe Saldana.

2)The movie’s deleted sex scene between Neytiri and Jake featured pre-marital tentacle sex ... Yes they have sex by joining the tendrils on their tails. (Makes you wonder what's under the loin cloths) This is disturbing to know, after seeing them plug their tail tendrils into plants and animals thoughout the movie. Like ICK. Glad they cut that one.

3) I had no idea that the Vatician Newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and radio station reviewed the movie Avatar (apparenlty they also review the simpsons--go figure) They didn't like it. Good thing they didn't know about the tail-sex thing.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

National Post: Nah nah nah nah Hey hey, Goodbye

I think that the fact the Aspers put every holdig except the National Post under bankrupcy protection is telling. Or at lest I hope so. Could my dream finally be coming true?

CanWest's newspaper empire for sale

In the biggest shakeup in Canadian media in years, debt-laden Aspers cede a chunk of the family's legacy Canada's largest newspaper group is on the auction block amid the biggest upheaval in the country's media industry in years.

CanWest Global Communications Corp., whose late founder Israel (Izzy) Asper once dreamed of creating a worldwide media empire, put most of its big-city dailies into bankruptcy protection Friday after sinking under about $3 billion of debt.

The move ends almost a decade of efforts by the Asper family to make many of Canada's leading newspapers a key part of their drive to turn what was once a small, Winnipeg-based company into a national powerhouse, influencing opinion across the country and beyond.

CanWest said its newspapers – including the National Post, its only daily not now under protection from creditors – are looking for new owners in hopes of wiping out some of the company's debt while keeping the newspapers in business.

The long-anticipated filing for a court-supervised restructuring comes as the newspaper industry undergoes wrenching changes. Advertising revenue is beginning to recover after the recession, but the move by readers and advertisers to the Internet remains a major challenge for the industry.

"It's a sad day for me. The Aspers have lost control of Izzy's legacy," said Ray Heard, a longtime Asper family adviser. Izzy Asper died in 2003, leaving his son Leonard in charge as CanWest's CEO.

The company hopes to fetch between $1 billion and $1.5 billion for the newspaper group – less than half what it paid Conrad Black's Hollinger group for it in 2000.

Last October, CanWest took many of its broadcasting properties, including Global TV, into bankruptcy protection.

The Aspers intend to retain control of their broadcasting business, the foundation of the family's shrinking empire, but they are likely to have little role in the future newspaper company


Friday, January 8, 2010

It's not about the front-line workers - it's the policy makers and government officials

Once again when it comes time to place responsibility the blame game starts - and it's laid at teh feet of the front-line workers.

In the tragic story yet to be told of what happened to Edward Redhead a few facts are known. He was 11 years-young, was a ward of the Awassis Child and Family Services, and was alone in a house his grandparents had locked up and left for empty, and it took two-days before anyone noticed he was missing.

Questions are being asked and rightly so. But I am amazed at the new lows that the government would sink to shirk responsibility.

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Bruce Owen writes that ..

”...the Opposition Progressive Conservative Family Services critic Bonnie Mitchelson said any review has to look at "devolution" -- how the NDP government handled turning over child-welfare responsibilities to native-run agencies several years ago.
"It was rushed ahead without the proper training, without the proper protocols, without ensuring that people that were working in the system were trained and had the ability to put the safety of children first," she said.””

But worse the Minister Mackintosh replies:

"...If there were shortcomings by a child-welfare worker or a foster parent for example, or a guardian, that has yet to be determined," he said. "We should not jump to conclusions at this point that there were was [sic}a lack of adherence to standards in the child-welfare system...”

How about admitting the system is inadequate and that it was never funded to be effective but was transferred as part of devolution because it was cheaper and the government wouldn’t have to take responsibility in the event of a tragedy.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Year in Review: the Craziest Bitches of 2009!

This year Wideye and I decided to honour some outstanding women who have touched the lives of other men, women and children by being truly crazy bitches (as per the definition of this blog): by standing up for themselves for others and the people they love. Here is our list of 2009's Craziest Bitches.

March 11, Update has new info on McIvor and status. Check it out: Click here to read, get links to INAC and a call in number.

In the #1 Spot: Sharon McIvor. First Nations governments do not have the power to give Indian status to their members, this important power to determine who is legally Indian has rested with the federal government since the 1870s. Having Indian Status is important because it means being able to live on reserve, vote in band elections, qualify for health benefits and post-secondary education. To many, it also means a connection to a community and identity as a First Nations person.

The federal government has always discriminated against women in the way it awards status and First Nations women have fought the federal government in courts and before the UN for decades.
The latest battle started in 1985, when a British Columbia law student Sharon McIvor applied for status for her children. The federal government denied the children status because Sharon's mother was Indian. If Sharon's father had been Indian, the government would have recognized her children. Sharon spent the next 25 years fighting in court. During that time the federal government decided to recognize Sharon's children hoping she'd drop the case. Sharon did not. She kept fighting on behalf of all the other First Nation women and children in the same predicament, even after the federal government cancelled the Court Challenges program and Sharon had to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars on her own. Sharon has also had to face criticism from a small number of chiefs who nitpicked over the nitty gritty of her legal argument. Easy to criticize boys, while you sit on your duffs and do nothing to help the women in your community. Fortunately the majority of chiefs threw their support behind Sharon, at least verbally. They were a little tighter with support when it came to their pocket books.

Sharon scored a minor victory in BC court last year which will give legal status to a generation of children. Unfortunately the decision is not a complete victory as it does not end discrimination, it will only delay discrimination for one generation. The Supreme Court of Canada had a chance to hear the case but decided not to. As per usual the court gave no reason for it's decision.

You may not have gotten all you hoped for but you fought the good fight and or standing up for yourself and others you are are the Craziest Bitch of 2009.

Other Posts on this topic include :

Here are the other picks and names we consider to be 2009 Top Crazy Bitches. (In no particular order.)

Olive Patricia Dickason a Métis woman born in Winnipeg MB won a life time achievement award, because of the remarkable body of historical research and writings. He work continues to influence and changed the way historian, academics, and Canadians regard First Nation and Inuit nations in Canada.

I nominate her because of her tenacity and for the never ending lessons she gives all women everywhere. She fought for the right to study Aboriginal history as a graduate student because in 1970 the University of Ottawa did not believe that Indians had a history. She earned her doctorate as a historian at the age of 57 years after having raised her family in Montreal. And she fought mandatory retirement at 65 and won in the lower courts but in 1992 at the age of 72 she lost the appeal to the higher courts and was forced into retirement form professorship at University of Alberta. And 1997 she was the recipient of the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award for bringing a truer historical perspective to the history of Canada and Aboriginal people.

She came to grad studies in the early 1970s, after a 20-year career as a journalist with the Regina Leader-Post, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Montreal Gazette and the Toronto Globe & Mail. She won numerous awards during her newspaper years. She took a media job after graduating with her BA from the University of Ottawa, based on work done at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask.

"After my family was grown up, I was able to return to university," she said. "I applied, and was accepted at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto. But by then, I had to work while I was going to study, so the logistics of the big city were too much. I went to Ottawa, which was a small city.

Her book Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times has become a standard and accepted text in history classes across the country. It includes the first consistently accurate portrayals, in a sound academic work, of Indigenous people in history.

Her time as a professor, and her significant contributions to the literature of history in Canada, have influenced a whole generation of scholars, and will continue to be the basis for much historical work done in the future. She was honoured last February with the order of Canada, and this year received the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award. She was selected over 24 other nominees for the honour.

Last Spring Governor General Michaëlle Jean sliced off and ate a raw piece of a seal’s heart commenting that it tasted just like sushi. It was a token action designed to show solidarity with sealers who were being devastated by a European ban on seal product imports. Criticized by European animal rights groups, but praised by the Inuit, Michaëlle Jean also exposed the ban on seal for what it is, cultural prejudice. And that gesture earned Michaëlle Jean a spot on our top ten Craziest Bitches of 2009.

Once you have a child you are a parent for life and it is inconceivable that any parent would short change their child, especially when the parent can afford to live in luxury. It must have been a difficult choice for Dena Buckshot to step into the spotlight and publicly call out her wealthy and powerful ex-partner Patrick Brazeau for being a deadbeat dad. As the National Chief of CAP Brazeau earned a tax-exempt 3 figure salary, drove a porshe and after moving into the senate, he earned $130,000 . However, during this time his child support for his son amounted to a pitiful $46.90 bi-weekly. Plus he missed payments 3 times since 2004. For standing up for her child, for taking on a powerful public figure, and finally, for making an example of dead beat parents, we congratulate Dena Buckshot and have added her to our list of Craziest Bitches.

The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) was a very important organization in the 1980s when it championed women's rights issues in relation to Indian Status. Then it stopped being relevant or even noticeable for two decades. Some of the provincial chapters delivered government programs and services, but it was hard to understand what exactly NWAC was doing (if anything) at the national level. That is until 2004 when Beverley Jacobs was elected president and breathed new life into the organization, raising awareness about the number of missing and murdered women through the Sister's In Spirit Campaign. NWAC has been working with communities, families, government and police in trying to address gaps in justice that have led First Nations Women to be targets of violence and victims of poorly executed police investigations. Beverly Jacobs decided not to run for election last year, and has left some big shoes to fill. For drawing national attention and advocating on an important issue that had been ignored for too long, and for restoring relevancy to NWAC, Beverley Jacobs makes our list of Craziest Bitches.


Children's Aid Society workers should be reined in, critics say

I accused the Assembly of First Nations of loosing it's voice for children to the mandate of the lobbyist for First Nation child welfare agencies but it was pointed out to me that the AFN never had a voice for "children." It's true I suppose because the AFN is given money to support program work that the Federal Government funds.

I think the AFN should establish a Chiefs Committee for children and a portfolio dedicated to the Indigenous child. I think if there was better – or any coordinate of research, programs and priorities to better inform themselves would be a start. Leaders need to get a better grip on whose manipulating what and why if alternate solutions are to be found. In my humble crazy view the best interest of the Indigenous child is not a worry or a concern – just a funding opportunity.

Ward hates the National Post and most of the time so do I - but every now and again they will publish a story worthy of note. This story published in June 09 by Kevin Libin describes the general child welfare system. I reprint it here to emphasise how far out of whack this system is. If it's poorly run in huge urban centres with access to supports and services and a bevy of social workers (with bunches of letters after their names to choose from) - how would the system compare in a remote setting?

I've copied and brought forward two paragraphs of note: - They're still just walking into our homes and removing the children just like in the sixties scoop. Nothing has changed but they're funded better.

"legislators grant workers astounding licence: a social work graduate, fresh from college, can enter a home without warrant; apprehend children without due process; and commandeer police officers to enforce his or her efforts. A caseworker can order children dressed, fed, medicated, and educated any way they consider appropriate. Parents who do not submit risk losing custody, even visitation of their kids. Or have them taken away permanently."

"Whether we wanted it or not, knew it or not, over time, the work of child-welfare organizations has become "parenting by the state and the imposition of their value system on other people," says Marty McKay, a clinical psychologist who has worked on abuse cases in the U.S and Canada. Provincial agencies have the power to intervene when children are considered "at risk" of abuse or neglect - even if none has actually occurred. Or, where spousal abuse happens, but kids are untouched. And what they do with the children they take can sometimes be worse than what they suffered at home."

Kevin Libin, National Post Published: Friday, June 12, 2009

They are charged with the most essential of duties: protecting vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. They will intervene in the lives of roughly 200,000 Canadian children this year.

For most of us, they are generally unseen, save for occasional mentions in news reports, when they rescue children from misery. Or, as sometimes happens, deliver it.
Canada's child-welfare agencies, says University of Manitoba social work professor Brad McKenzie, have among the broadest intervention powers in the Western world.
Caseworkers come armed with vaster powers than any police officer investigating crime. It is an immense authority easily abused, without vigilant restraint.
It is time, critics say, they were reined in.

"The social worker system, as it applies to children, is out of control, seriously out of control," says Katherine McNeil, a children's advocate who has worked with families in Nova Scotia and B.C. "And nobody's doing anything about it."

Child-welfare agencies step in when kids are homeless, exploited, hungry or abused. They do not stop there. As the highly publicized neo-Nazi case in Winnipeg demonstrates, they might seize children from parents for teaching racist views, or for "emotional neglect." They have taken newborns from parents considered insufficiently intelligent; from religious families believing the Bible commands them to discipline kids with a rod. They order homeschooling parents to enroll children in public school, deeming them inadequately socialized.

"They violate all kinds of privacy and rights," says Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Defense League, which represents Canadian and American parents.
Whether we wanted it or not, knew it or not, over time, the work of child-welfare organizations has become "parenting by the state and the imposition of their value system on other people," says Marty McKay, a clinical psychologist who has worked on abuse cases in the U.S and Canada. Provincial agencies have the power to intervene when children are considered "at risk" of abuse or neglect - even if none has actually occurred. Or, where spousal abuse happens, but kids are untouched. And what they do with the children they take can sometimes be worse than what they suffered at home.


When journalist J.J. Kelso founded Canada's first Children's Aid Society in 1891, it was from revulsion at what he had witnessed working in Toronto's slums: the filthy, homeless urchins begging on the street, the school-aged girls whored out by parents for whiskey money; children needing "rescue," Kelso exhorted, "from the environments of vice, cruelty or mendicancy."

Courts could imprison parents for cruelty, but not revoke custody. Backed by the 1893 Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to and Better Protection of Children, the society had unique authority to directly interfere in affairs of parents and children: Anyone under 14 found begging, receiving alms, out late, homeless, orphaned, imprisoned, thieving, or associating with thieves, drunkards or vagrants, would be appropriated by the province.

Since then, as child-welfare agencies multiplied across Canada, their authority expanded, too.

One Calgary mother said her kids were recently pulled from class and questioned by a caseworker after she kept them home from school for a week, fearing they might be exposed to Swine Flu. When the mother protested, the worker threatened to seize all six children in her house, including two toddlers.

"All because I was overtly concerned about my children's health," says an incredulous Ms. K, who, as is the case with all investigations, cannot be identified. Nor can she ever know who lodged the complaint against her.

The worker later visited the house. There, Ms. K reports (and witnesses confirm), when she further protested the interference - at one point calling police - the agent hollered at her, physically accosted her, and threatened to report her for abuse, of which, the caseworker later relented, there was no evidence.

The secrecy that envelops these cases makes it nearly impossible to fully investigate Ms. K's remarkable claims: caseworkers do not permit "clients," as they're called, to record meetings, and agencies cannot comment on any case. But the account doesn't shock those who work closely with the authorities.

"I'm certainly not surprised, and hear over and over again of workers ... threatening [parents] with apprehension. They'll never admit it in court, of course, but I hear it all the time," says Bradley Spier, a Calgary family lawyer. "Most of the time they're above board. ... They all have an attitude, but they'll do their investigation and, if they can't substantiate it, they're generally pretty honest about that, and won't take any action. But until then, they're god-like creatures, for lack of a better word. Or they think they are."


The government's role in protecting vulnerable children treads an impossibly fine line. Without anonymous complaints, and the power to interview and apprehend, some children would undoubtedly suffer terribly. Accordingly, legislators grant workers astounding licence: a social work graduate, fresh from college, can enter a home without warrant; apprehend children without due process; and commandeer police officers to enforce his or her efforts. A caseworker can order children dressed, fed, medicated, and educated any way they consider appropriate. Parents who do not submit risk losing custody, even visitation of their kids. Or have them taken away permanently.

It is an authority that is sometimes severely misused. When that happens, Ms. McKay says, families can be traumatized in a perversion of the very system designed to prevent abuse.

The anonymous process, for example, invites bogus tips - commonly from divorcing parents, for instance, since agencies can unilaterally alter custody arrangements. Most complaints prove "unsubstantiated": 55% according to the most recent Health Canada study.

"Children's Aid, even when they don't start an investigation [themselves], they can be manipulated by people," says Ms. McKay.

Prof. McKenzie says child-welfare agencies typically do good work under difficult circumstances. Overstretched caseworkers, with general training, can be unequipped to specialize in interventions and the complexities each case brings. What some, middle-class agents might consider neglect, for example, is often a matter of poverty, not necessarily cruelty.

And some child-welfare workers also exploit their tremendous clout to behave unethically, prejudicially or illegally.

"Some of them get a real power complex because they have a bachelor of social work, or a masters, and they suddenly have this power [to] apprehend," says Ms. McKay. "They throw their weight around." She sees in some workers a "police mentality." It may be a coincidence, but in the largest English-speaking provinces, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario (Quebec data are incomplete), the number of children taken into care by provincial agencies between 1993 and 2001, rose a remarkable 97%, 63% and 72% respectively.

Prof. McKenzie is encouraged by a nascent trend in Canadian agencies away from historic, heavier-handed investigative and apprehension focus, and toward working more co-operatively with families to improve home conditions.

Studies show that under the current system, he says, "generally we find that the majority of children that are served [by welfare agencies] do well" - meaning they thrive at school, seem generally well-adjusted, are free from abuse and neglect. About 15% to 20%, he says, do not.

That is not a trifling number. But the stories behind it - let alone the validity of the initial apprehensions - can prove impenetrable. Cases are shrouded in silence, media blocked from reporting details, or questioning workers, in the legitimate name of protecting children involved (even in the high-profile Winnipeg neo-Nazi case, most details were concealed). But such limits thwart public scrutiny into an arm of government as capable of error as any other, yet, in determining how much or even whether families stay together, working with some of the highest stakes imaginable.

Last year, Ontario MPP Andrea Horwath tabled a private member's bill to make Children's Aid Societies answerable to the provincial ombudsman, something Ontario's Children and Youth Services has repeatedly resisted (ombudsmen in some other provinces, such as Alberta, have that authority). Ontario's CAS typically refuses to share files with its Child Advocate; in his annual report released earlier this year - which found 90 children in provincial care died in 2008 - Irwin Elman called it "almost impossible" to get information necessary to investigate potential agency wrongdoing. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled parents could not sue child-welfare agencies; provinces, it ruled, owed no "duty of care" to families. The lack of oversight, says Ms. McNeil, creates departments accountable only to themselves.

And there are numerous instances of caseworkers acting improperly. Two years ago, a Nova Scotia judge ruled that workers intervening in a divorce custody dispute were so biased against the mother, and in favour of the father - who lived with a woman previously the subject of interventions for violence and neglect - that they took "intentional and deliberate" steps to "mislead the court" by concealing evidence against him. A few years earlier, the CAS of Prescott and Russell, near Ottawa, and one worker, were convicted of contempt of court for refusing to return a two-year-old boy to his parents, defying a judge's instructions to do so. Agents insisted they were acting in the boy's "best interests." In 2001, two judges in Simcoe, Ont., criticized the CAS there for "arbitrary use of government power" and unreasonableness "verging on blind obstinacy" in fighting to keep children from being adopted by certain foster parents. Several parents interviewed for this story claim to have faced false accusations and bullying from caseworkers harbouring apparent agendas.

A report this year from Saskatchewan's Children's Advocate, Marvin Bernstein, found children suffering serious, ongoing abuse and neglect in the care of the province amidst a "culture of non-compliance with policy" among social services staff.
Even when acting with utmost professionalism, whether agents are able to provide children a better, safer environment than where they came from is not certain.
Mr. Bernstein's report found staff knowingly placing children with histories of committing sexual abuse into crowded foster homes where they preyed on other kids, without alerting foster parents to the problem (one reported that a caseworker assured her "a certain amount of sexual abuse is to be expected in a foster home").

A quarter of children were placed in overcrowded homes, he found, as staff routinely used "manipulative methods" to "trick" foster parents into taking more kids than they were approved for. Two Saskatchewan caseworkers were suspended in February after being discovered shuffling children between foster homes to hide overcrowding conditions from investigators.

"Children's Aid has no business placing into care a child that they can foresee is going to come out worse the other end than when they went in," Ms. McKay says. "If that's the best they can do, just leave them."

Two teens charged in connection with the recent double murder near Edmonton were in care of a ministry-licensed group home - a place neighbours say they warned the government for years was poorly monitored. In March, a 15-month-old baby in care of Alberta's Children and Youth Services suffered critical head injuries in a foster home; in the past four years, two Alberta children have been killed by foster parents. A 2008 report found Alberta caseworkers regularly placing kids in unsafe conditions, including abusive situations.

Last year, seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson was killed in Toronto in care of a foster parent with a record of violent crimes, and in Vancouver, police discovered minors in provincial care working as prostitutes. In 2002, Jeffrey Baldwin was abused and neglected to death by a couple with a known history of child abuse but were nonetheless granted custody of the five-year-old by the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto. A 2006 CBC investigation uncovered Ontario caseworkers drugging a seven-year-old Ontario boy into a stupor with massive doses of psychotropic medications, which a psychiatrist would later find had "no actual treatment value," except making him more compliant in his group home. While in his drugged state, he was sexually abused by fellow residents.

Those who believe in the good intentions of child-welfare agencies argue they lack the resources to deal properly with each case; with some workers handling more than 30 clients simultaneously, it is impossible to act perfectly. One problem, believes Ms. McKay, is caseworkers spread too thin, drifting far from the original vision of the state's role in family matters: protecting kids from verifiable and authentic abuse, cruelty and neglect.

"They need to go back to the basics," she says. "Do the children look well-nourished? Do they have bruises on them? Are they molested? Is the house crawling with cockroaches? If not, they're not being abused or neglected."

But with powerful, generally unaccountable agencies, dependent on justifying their place in a world far improved from the cruelties of J.J. Kelso's Victorian Toronto, the need to intervene in more cases, for more reasons, may make such discipline difficult. "I would love to just demolish the system and start from scratch again," she says. "Because it's gone very far awry here."


Awasis Child Welfare Agency under review

It's time some very "courageous" questions are asked of the First Nation Child Welfare Agencies and the people who operate or run them. Not just of the Executive Directors but their authorities too the Northern Authority in this case as well as the Director of the agencies.

But no, I suppose that would be more crazy talk because we know it’s really just a funding issue right? Twenty-two percent more money will fix the issue and reduce the number of children entering care. You want to believe that? The whole child welfare system is broken and ineffective for the complex needs that many of our communities must address.

When you only listen to one channel - the Directors of these agencies - it's easy to see why there is no voice for Indigenous children and why Indigenous children keep dying. The Agencies get richer and staff take more trips..more cars are bought etc...all in the name of our children though.

But hey, I’m just a crazy bitch so the rest of you go ahead follow the red herring and fight for equal access to a program that is killing our children. But I'll let you in on a secret that everyone else seems to know - the child welfare system is broken in mainstream too. We behave like donkeys with blinders chasing the carrot - we want to be just like those folk - cause they're the "experts".

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Awasis director forced aside
Child welfare agency probed
By: Mary Agnes Welch
5/12/2009 1:00 AM |

Another child welfare agency boss has been suspended pending a review of his agency.
David Monias, the longtime executive director of the Awasis Agency, was placed on administrative leave a week ago by the Northern Authority, which is more than a year into a systemic review of how the child welfare agency serves kids in care.

"This is done while a quality assurance review of the agency is underway," said Rachel Morgan, a spokeswoman for Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh. "The Northern Authority wanted to ensure the review was unbiased."

The Northern Authority, the umbrella office that overseas several child welfare agencies like Awasis, appointed its own administrator under provisions of provincial legislation. Those provisions allow the Northern Authority to suspend an executive director if he is not properly carrying out his responsibilities or if the health and safety of children are threatened.

Despite five calls to the Northern Authority, chief executive officer Marie Lands could not be reached, so it's unclear exactly why Monias has been placed on leave.
Monias has been the agency's head for nine years.

Awasis is one of the province's biggest aboriginal child welfare agencies, serving a dozen of the poorest and most remote communities, including Shamattawa, Cross Lake, Nelson House, Oxford House and Split Lake.

In the last year, Awasis has been plagued by a series of child deaths.
Last November, 13-month-old Cameron Ouskan died while in foster care in Gillam. His foster father is charged with second-degree murder. Earlier that fall, Rephanniah Redhead, 14, committed suicide in Shamattawa and five-year-old Farron Miles drowned about two kilometres from his foster home on Cross Lake First Nation.

The troubles at Awasis date back even further. A 2004 inquest into the abuse, sexual assault and suicide of a Shamattawa teen came down hard on the agency for sending her back into the care of a stepfather just released from jail for sexually abusing her.

More than a year ago, the province launched a "quality assurance" review of Awasis. Normally, reviews are triggered by a child death or management misdeeds, but the province also started systematic quality assurance reviews of each of the aboriginal agencies to find problems before they exploded. Awasis was first on the list. The report was due last month.

As of the end of March, Awasis had 604 children in care.


2nd body found after Shamattawa house fire

Another child death that was under the care of the Awasis Child and Family Services.

Agency: Awasis CFS
Serves: Shamattawa, Cross Lake, Nelson Lake, Gods Lake Narrows, Gods Lake, Oxford House, Fox Lake, War Lake
Kids in care: 593
Kids getting support service: 889
Frontline workers: 44 (one added this year)
Reviews: Slated for next year
Child deaths: At least three since 2006

2nd body found after Shamattawa house fire

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | 10:49 AM

The remains of a second person have been found in the rubble of a weekend house fire in Shamattawa, a remote First Nations community in northern Manitoba.
A search through the debris will continue Wednesday but there are no other reports of any missing people in the community just south of Hudson Bay, the RCMP said.
The first body was found Tuesday. An autopsy has yet to be performed but RCMP suspect it is that of an 11-year-old boy reported missing on Monday.
An autopsy to identify the remains of the second body is also being arranged.
The fire, which destroyed the home, broke out at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 2, the RCMP said. Initially it was believed nobody was in the residence but on the evening of Jan. 4, the RCMP were notified by a band councillor about the 11-year-old, who had been staying at the home.
The RCMP along with local band constables and councillors tried to find the boy in the community but were unsuccessful. RCMP officers and representatives from the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner then searched the rubble and found the human remains on Tuesday.
They continued to search through the rubble and discovered the second body later the same day, the RCMP said.
Additional resources from the RCMP and the fire commissioner's office are being sent to the reserve Wednesday to assist with the investigation, the RCMP said.
Boy in care of Child and Family Services
Pharoah Thomas, a Pentecostal pastor in the community, said Tuesday the boy was in the care of Child and Family Services and was home for a family visit during the holidays.
According to members of the community, the boy was staying at the house with his grandparents.
Thomas told CBC News on Tuesday that he was awoken by a phone call early Saturday from a woman saying it would be the last time he ever heard from her and asked him to watch over her son. Then she hung up.
Thomas ran to the woman's home to try to find her and said he saw smoke.
He said he kicked the door open and crawled inside, feeling around in the dark. He tried to check all the bedrooms but the heat and flames drove him back before he was able to enter the last one, he said.
He hollered but received no response, and then got out of the house.
No response from firefighters
Officers from the Shamattawa RCMP detachment arrived at the house shortly after that. They attempted to contact the local volunteer fire department without success, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Line Karpish said on Tuesday.
She said she didn't know why there was no response from fire crews and deferred comment on the matter to band officials.
Band council Chief Jeff Napoakesik refused to immediately comment on Tuesday but confirmed the community does have a fire chief. Napoakesik didn't identify him.
However, Curtis Smith, who heads the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters, said fire response in remote communities can be a hit-and-miss venture.
He said that Shamattawa does have a fire truck and that a few of the community's volunteer firefighters attended training sessions in Winnipeg last summer.
Smith said he wasn't sure what emergency communication infrastructure the community has.
On Sunday, the day after the blaze, RCMP officers located the owners of the home at a relative's house in the community. They were safe, and there was no indication that anyone else was in the burned house, Karpish said.
"We were told there was no reason for anyone else to be in the house — there shouldn't have been anyone in the house," she said.
It wasn't until Monday that officers were told about the missing boy.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Frances Widdowson is a racist and how much longer until the Post goes bankrupt?

It's amazing that the National Post can publish editorials by Widdowson, and still wonder why they are hovering on the verge of bankruptcy. Who wants to read it? Well I fought down the bile long enough to skim through her latest article "The aboriginal healing boondoggle" which attacks the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF).

Widdowson clearly has no idea what the AHF actually does and she flops from one topic to another like a fish on dry land trying to grasp onto something to criticize. For example, she points out that several individuals at the AHF have prior professional experience related to their jobs. But far from being a good thing Widdowson's twists job experience into an evil conspiracy: the "Aboriginal Industry," which she described in her book of paranoid delusions last year. In an attempt to shock her readers she points out that a number of high-level professionals at AHF are well-paid. Of course these salaries are on par with what their peers earn in other government departments. So I am not sure where she's going with this, unless she believes aboriginal workers should be paid less than their non-native peers for the same work.

Widdowson continues to spew ignorant arguments based on her unique brand of thinly veiled racism. For example - towards the bottom of her article she says Aboriginal people (here I think she really means FIrst Nations) found the transition from hunting to wage work difficult, which is false. The fur trade started failing at the turn of the century in the east, later in the West. Within a few decades First Nations were successfully working as lumberjacks, in high steel, ran a number of successful farms, earned wages fisheries and canneries, or during the wars, worked as soldiers. She could walk into any library and crack open a book (some of them even have pictures) to get this information. In reading through Widdowson's writings once finds most of what she writes is baseless, false or based on carefully manipulated half-truths.

Make no mistake though, there is an aboriginal industry. Here is how it works based on real facts, histories, political sciences, newspaper articles (in REAL newspapers, not the Post) all of which are available either online, in public records or public libraries.

For any nation wealth is based on an ability to access resources. Over the last century First Nations were slowly cut off from resources they once harvested, traded, or sold such as gold, trees, fish. First Nations were cut off from exploiting new resources on their land as they were discovered: oil, diamonds etc. So everyone else gets their cut - federal, provincial and municipal governments who earn millions in taxes, and the corporations who get to exploit these resources. However, not a single red cent goes to First Nations. An that is why First Nations have to go hat in hand to other governments and beg for money to provide basic services like schools and water. When First Nations ask for their cut, to either exploit the resources themselves, launch land claims, or ask for revenue sharing agreements, governments fight tooth and nail, spending millions of taxpayers dollars on lawyers to keep First Nations poor. That is the REAL aboriginal industry. It's not good for First Nations, and it's not good for Canadians. The sooner we all fight back and express our desire for change, the sooner it will all get better.

Widdowson is part of this aboriginal industry. She is their cheerleader and their PR. She earns a living promoting racist ideas. You see Widdowson not ignorant or stupid. She has been to a library. She is well-read. She knows all the same facts we know. Her brain is healthy and perfectly capable of interpreting and analysing the data she reads. So when Widdowson pounds her keyboard, purposefully spitting out falsehoods like a viper spitting poison, she does so fully aware that she is twisting the truth and ignoring the facts. She writes what she knows is ugly and untrue about an entire race of people because she wants to. That is why I call her writings racist.

Fortunately, the majority of Canadians see through it. That is why they don't read the Post which seems to specialize in poorly researched opinion pieces that border on hate crimes. That is why it is about to go under. The world will be just a little bit prettier when that happens and people who want to spin hate have to go back to hertiage front chatrooms. I think we should all help it along. We should each call or write one advertiser in the Post and let them know we will ban their products so long as they continue to support such a nasty paper.


Winnipegger rescued by shiny-shoed stranger

Awwww....just when I was about to give up hope in humanity someone saves the day.

Winnipegger rescued by shiny-shoed stranger
Last Updated: Monday, January 4, 2010 | 10:46 PM ET

A frail, elderly Winnipeg woman narrowly avoided being stranded at a U.S. airport thanks to a stranger in shiny shoes who transformed into her guardian angel.

Elsie Clark's return trip home from a holiday with family in Texas last week became turbulent quickly after she was dropped at the wrong departure gate by an employee working at the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport.

"By this time I was in tears," the 79-year-old Clark said in an interview on Monday with CBC News. She said she suffers from a bad hip, making it difficult to walk for long periods.

After missing her flight, the airline arranged for a different one with a connecting flight in Chicago.

P.O.V.: Good Samaritan

Have you taken care of someone in need?

It was on this aircraft that Clark said fate stepped in.

"I noticed a man with shiny shoes," she said, adding that since she was a little girl she's admired people wearing well-cared-for shoes.

His name was Dean Germeyer.
Missed connection

Clark said she and Germeyer shared stories on the airplane, which landed late, meaning Clark missed her connecting flight and would be stranded in O'Hare International Airport overnight.

Dean Germeyer said he felt compelled to help out after hearing Clark talk about her travel troubles to an airline employee. Dean Germeyer said he felt compelled to help out after hearing Clark talk about her travel troubles to an airline employee. (CBC)Living on a fixed income, she said she couldn't afford a hotel room and would have to spend the night sitting on an airport bench with nothing but her purse.

"I'm absolutely in tears again," Clark said.

But that's when Germeyer stepped in and saved the day, she said.

The young businessman whisked her away to dinner with his wife at their apartment overlooking downtown Chicago.

Afterward, Clark said Germeyer took her sightseeing in the Windy City in his car.

At the end of their tour, Germeyer drove Clark to the Affinia Hotel where he had footed the bill for her to stay the night in a posh suite.

In the morning, a limousine arrived to ferry her to the airport and an uneventful flight home.

"Meeting a man like him — it's unbelievable," Clark said. "I will never forget him.

"You say 'thank you,' and it's not enough," she said.

Germeyer said he couldn't look the other way when he overheard Clark talking about her travel woes with an airline employee.

"I told her, 'I couldn't have slept with you sitting overnight with a bad hip at an airport. That wouldn't have been right,'" he said.

"This was a pretty easy thing for me to do — in the situation I knew exactly what to do — I had the means to really help her," Germeyer said.

Both Germeyer and Clark said they hope the story inspires others to help people in need.


Senators Brazman and Duffman

We all are expecting a new round of conservative appointments to the Senate. Pondering who these new appointees might be, I began reminiscing about Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, the two most controversial appointments from last round. It got me wondering... How do they feel being the subject of so many blogs and so much debate? Are they friends now? Are they maybe helping each other adjust? Then I found this video, called the taxpayer's twist. Good to know they are getting on well, enjoying their Harper Holiday and all that.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Child Welfare and the Human Rights Complaint

Ok so I am being sarcastic but think about this..............Cindy Blackstock Executive Director of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS)has convinced the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and therein the Chiefs of our communities to allow her and her board of directors to set the direction and pace to address the needs of our children.

Because of this the AFN is now the advocate for First Nation child welfare agencies such as Awasis Child and Family Caring Agency and the Cree Nation Child and Family Caring Agency...and other agencies that have manipulated the system to better themselves.

Ms Blackstock did so well she convinced the Chiefs to launch a HR complaint - even though it had been considered before and tossed aside by those of us that were actually impacted by the policy itself.

In my view the AFN no longer advocates for indigenous children when the AFN agreed to a partnership with the FNCFCS they advocate became lobbyist for child welfare agencies that implement a provincial policy on reserve.

With that move INAC stopped talking to AFN - why would they? I'm sure they can save some cash by not funding AFN to advocate for children if they're just going to use it to demand more money rather than help build solutions. And no I do not believe for one nano-second that increasing the funding gap by the 22% will decrease the number of indigenous children entering care. It will hire one or two more people, maybe provide a work-shop or the increase in funds did in Manitoba.(I've lost the link so please refer to the story I copied below written by Mary Agnes Welch who has done an amazing job covering the story: Rising from the ashes of Phoenix, Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION System overhauled, but the deaths continue By: Mary Agnes Welch 21/12/2008 1:00 AM)

The FNCFCS use their funds to advocate for First Nation child welafre agencies. Various FN child welfare agencies pay a membership fee (and the entire board is made up of directors of those agencies) so that Cindy can lobby for them. The FNCFCS is also funded through a few charitable organizations like this one here the Atkinson Foundation to the tune of 100K a year for the next three years.

Not bad, she manages to cripple the voice for children within the AFN - the voice that might question the policies and how those policies actually impact on the children their families while she secured other funds to continue to lobby for the Agencies. The focus is now on how the Agencies are funded not whether the policy actually helps children or harms them. The argument from the Agencies is simply we are not funded equitably and that’s why “there are as many children in care today as at the peak of the residential schools.” But try to ask point blank – will the increase in funds decrease or stabilize the number of children who enter care and there is silence.

Frankly I think the Chiefs, through the AFN, should actually challenged the Agencies, the Federal Government and the Provinces and withdraw en-mass and give control back over to the feds and the provinces to deliver the program......oh to dream the impossible dream.....They would FREAK! Both the federal government and the provincial governments know they cannot afford to implement the program so they want the communities to have "delegated" authority. The province delegates the authority to the Agencies.

I'd rather our Nations be recognized as the designate authorities similar to the Alberta model. But with this mighty plan hatched by the 'experts' I'll bet that eventually the funds will be increased by the 22% demanded by AFN and the CW agencies because the government knows it's easier and cheaper - but why give in right away? This way the AFN and Cindy will think they won something.

Truth is we will still be the biggest losers - cause we could have gone for the whole gusto and designed a program that actually helps children, mom's, dad's and the whole family. But then somebody or many somebody’s might jeopardise their incomes eh?

Rising from the ashes of Phoenix
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
System overhauled, but the deaths continue
By: Mary Agnes Welch
21/12/2008 1:00 AM |
Before five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair's body was discovered in March 2006 and the horrors of her abuse and torture spotlighted a child-welfare system in crisis, 145 kids in care had died, according to a provincial report, since devolution began in 2003.

Since Phoenix's death, the province's child-welfare system has been overhauled and pumped with money. But at least 16 kids in care or with open Child and Family Services (CFS) files, still died from homicides, suicides or accidents. Many are still anonymous because the province won't release details of the deaths, citing confidentiality.
Here is a snapshot of what we know.

Phoenix Sinclair, 5
Died June 11, 2005, discovered March 2006
Phoenix was in and out of foster care most of her life. In 2005, she was living with her mother, Samantha Kematch, and her mother's then-common-law boyfriend, Karl Wesley McKay, in Fisher River. Despite allegations of child abuse, Winnipeg CFS closed Phoenix's case just a few months before she died from repeated beatings, neglect and confinement in a cold, dark basement. McKay and Kematch were convicted of first-degree murder earlier this month.

Venecia Shanelle Audy, 3
Died Aug. 14, 2006
Venecia and her siblings had been involved with the CFS system most of their lives but were living with their mother in Bowsman when Venecia was murdered. Around suppertime the day she died, Venecia's mother called 911 saying her daughter had fallen down the stairs, but officials later determined she died from a blow to the abdomen. Melissa Audy has been charged with second degree murder and is out on bail awaiting trial. Her next court date is Christmas Eve in Dauphin. Her common law husband, Jason Allen Kines, has also been charged with sexual assault and sexual interference related to the case .
Roanna Meagan Fontaine, 14
Died June 24, 2007 while in the care of Peguis CFS
Roanna was found dead outside a North End residence in the early morning following a party. According to a source, an incident involving an older man left the 14-year-old so distraught she jumped from a sixth-floor balcony. Fontaine and her 16-year-old sister were on a weekend visit to Winnipeg to attend the Red River Exhibition. Her death prompted many in Peguis to slam their local branch of Child and Family Services, saying that despite repeated warnings the girl was at risk, the agency did nothing.

Gage Guimond, 2
Died July 22, 2007 while in the care of Sagkeeng CFS
Gage and his sister were taken from their mother and sent to live with an experienced foster family shortly after Gage's first birthday. In the winter of 2007, he was moved from that foster home to live with his grandmother, who warned CFS workers she wasn't able to care for him, and where he was neglected. He was eventually placed with his great aunt, Shirley Guimond, where he died six weeks later from severe head trauma. Shirley Guimond has been charged with manslaughter and a host of assault charges. She is to be in court for a preliminary hearing next fall.

Fonessa Lynn Louise Bruyere, 17
August 30, 2007 while in the care of Sagkeeng CFS
At the time of her murder, Fonessa had been in and out of foster care during her short life. The system returned Fonessa to a family member's home less than three months before she died, despite allegations such a move would expose her to both drugs and prostitution. Fonessa herself struggled with drugs and the sex trade before her body was found in a field on the outskirts of Winnipeg. No one has been charged in her death, but police are still investigating.

Samuel Luke Maytwaywashing, 5 months
Died March 26, 2008 while in the care of Anishinaabe CFS
Samuel died in his Lake Manitoba reserve home of what his mother said was pneumonia. But sources said the infant was dehydrated, had a high fever and was possibly malnourished at the time of his death. His four siblings were seized just before Samuel was born when his mother said she was living in a shelter for abused women, but Samuel was left in her care when he was born.

Will Trout Jr., 16
Died May 26, 2008
Trout hanged himself in a Winnipeg foster home. Child welfare sources claim an accusation was made to authorities that another child in the foster home was being abused. Trout was not removed during the investigation, and it's unclear what prompted him to commit suicide.

Keayne Franklin, 14
Body recovered Aug. 16, 2008
After leaving his home at the Poplar River First Nation, Keayne was in foster care in Riverton when he drowned while swimming.

Farron Miles, 5
Died late September, 2008, while in the care of Awasis CFS
Farron drowned about two kilometres from his foster home on the Cross Lake First Nation. He was a ward of Awasis, after he went to live with foster parents soon after his birth.

Rephanniah Redhead, 14
Died Sept. 25, 2008, while in the care of Awasis CFS
Rephanniah took her own life after being taken to Winnipeg for medical care from Shamattawa in late 2007. The Manitoba Children's Advocate is investigating.

Gerrod Head, 7
Died while in the care of Cree Nation CFS
Head was one of two boys killed in an abandoned shed fire on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. He was taken by Cree Nation from his mother's care earlier this year and placed in foster care with his grandparents. The Children's Advocate is investigating.

Cameron Ouskan, 13 months
Died Nov. 13, 2008 while in the care of Awasis CFS
Cameron was living in a foster home in Gillam, when he died. RCMP officials said they believe Ouskan's death was a homicide, and the Children's Advocate automatically launched an investigation. Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, the province's chief medical examiner, said the child had multiple fractures at the time of his death.
"It looks like everyone dropped the case," said Balachandra. "The child had fractures, and no one followed it up."

- Mary Agnes Welch

Tragic figures
Deaths of children in care since Phoenix Sinclair was found in March 2006:
16 total
5 accidental
6 suicides
2 homicides
2 undetermined
1 co-sleeping
Kids in care
2006 -- 6,629 children
2007 -- 7,241 children
2008 -- 7,837 children
70 per cent: number of kids in care who are from First Nations (as of March 31, 2008)
9 per cent -- Métis
6 per cent -- First Nations (non-status)
14 per cent -- Not aboriginal

Social workers
Number of front-line workers hired since Phoenix's remains found -- 99
Total: 697 front-line social workers

$242,893,800: Provincial budget for child welfare in 2007-08.
$89,851,600: Provincial budget for child welfare in 1997-98.
170 per cent: Increase in provincial child-welfare budget in last decade.
$48 million: Increase since Phoenix's death.
($42 million in funding to agencies plus $6 million for foster families)


The Road to Hell

I wrote this several years ago and just came across it the other day. I saw the date and couldn't believe how many years have passed but how the story remains the same.

Friday, January 02, 2004
Word Count: 841
The Road to Hell

A young man from a remote northern First Nation community confesses that given the choice between life and death, he chooses a slow and painful death. The calm and deliberate testimony was captured on a homemade video last year.

The voice behind the camera asks, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” The boy pauses a moment, breath steaming in the sub-zero temperature. The sound of snow crunching beneath feet freezes in the midnight air.

Slowly he turns to face the camera. His eyes are dark, ancient pools. With slow, heavy gestures, he labours to form the words that will answer the question.

He drops to his knees and hunches over in the snow. Despite an effort he slurs his words. He tells the camera what an old Indian man once told him.

The video was shot over a three weeks period last winter. Every night all year long, volunteers gather to patrol their community. On the night the camera captures this young mans testimony the temperature is below -25 C. The temperature often reaches –40C and colder. Kids who sniff gas love this time of year. Lots of snowmobiles make finding gas easy.

The young man yanks off his gloves and drops them in the snow. He reaches behind and drags out his gasoline can. He places the small red jug beside his gloves.

His gaze locks on the camera. He gestures towards his gloves. “Let’s say these gloves are food,” he says. “This is nutritious, it builds strength and will make you healthy.” Then he points to his gas tank. “This is poison. It will rot you and will make you sick. Eventually it’ll kill you.”

With visible effort he points back to his gloves and repeats his lesson, “If you choose this you will have a healthy life. If you choose the gas,” he pauses and, stares into the camera lens, “You’ll die.”

A long silence follows. He looks back at his gas tank. His chin, slick from the gasoline vapours, sinks into his chest. His shoulders slump forward. He releases a long slow breath into the icy air.

Starring back up at the camera he says, “That is what an old Indian man told me. We all have choices in life. We can choose life if we want to.”

The boy leans into his bag of gas and huffs several times before lurching to his feet. Swaying, he stares into the camera one last time before disappearing into the bush, gas tank in hand.

It was early fall when I visited this community. Evidence of social distress was everywhere. Corners from orange and green plastic garbage bags, empty hairspray bottles, and the remnants of makeshift shacks litter the trails that thread through the bush that surround the community.

The wind off the lake whipped through back yards. Faded shirts and thinning sheets snapped in the wind. Dust whirls whipped into gusts as I walked along the dirt roads of the tiny community. Houses with no windows and front entrances covered with sheets greet visitors. And so do the children.

Everywhere I walked children were laughing and playing. Young men walked babies in colourful strollers, youth gathered in small groups, talking and playing amongst themselves. Women swapped stories and caught up with each other’s lives.

I saw a vibrant community. People have taken action to help heal and support kids that would otherwise slip through the cracks. They seek out those kids that would otherwise end up in drug re-habilitation programs or clients of corrections services — if they’re lucky. The unlucky wind up in the community graveyard.

Several years ago, there were forty active gasoline sniffers in this community. Today there are seven. Two of the young men from the video are in jail. The boy who chose gasoline over life is one of them.

How did this community succeed without support from government while so many other communities fail?

At an impromptu meeting I learned that several years ago approximately 20 community members took control and organized nightly volunteer patrols.

Council members, secretaries, health workers, and peacekeepers each take their turn. They risk their own lives to save the lives of their children, to save their community. The volunteers grew in numbers sometimes recruiting former sniffers to help them understand the problem and to help reach these kids. They needed to learn how to intervene and stop older kids from recruiting the younger ones.

Despite the despair, there is hope. Despite the problems, there are people working for solutions.

I went to the community thinking I might have some answers. I left humbled with more questions than answers. So many of us who travel through these communities enter with the best of intentions. We want to fix what is wrong, put right what is askew. The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. And we continue to create environments where youth choose death.

The answers and solutions are already up there.


SHOUT OUT - Osgoode Township Highschool Leadership Class

Way to go! I know it's a little late for a Christmas story but I found one. The kids showed true leadership in recognizing that Christmas (I don't celebrate as I am not a Christian) is more than what is under the tree.

I used to have a tree with presents under it for my kids when they were small but stopped the practice a few years back as they aged out of their teens. Although we had a tree and participated in the holidays - because we were not Christian I always asked that my kids (and I) do something or give something somewhere. There are always people or families who could use extra supports ALL year but holidays are tough on some because the "Joneses" insist that if you don't have a tree with lots of presents and bling - then you're not a good parent or Christian. ALL of you who thought of others and did something to ease the way for someone else this holiday season A BIG APPLAUSE! YAHOOOOO! YOU ROCK!

Students help to feed street kids

Students help to feed street kids

By M.J. Deschamps, The Ottawa CitizenJanuary 2, 2010 5:06 AM

When high school principal Brett Reynolds heard that the person who usually sponsors Operation Come Home's annual Christmas dinner for youth living on the street would not be able to do so this year, he challenged his students to come up with a fundraising campaign.

Members of the Leadership class at Osgoode Township High School were already working on ways to send a community message of gratitude to Canadian troops in Afghanistan in time for Christmas.

So they put the two campaigns together.

As a result, a postcard campaign raised $1,000 for Operation Come Home and over 2,000 messages of care and support were sent to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

For student Susan Hart, the Afghanistan initiative was particularly gratifying. Both her dad and brother have done tours of duty in Afghanistan.

"Living in Osgoode, we don't have a lot of contact with or awareness about street kids, so I thought it would be a good experience for the students," said Reynolds.

"When they heard about these kids who were just like them who wouldn't be home for the holidays, they became determined to make sure they would have a Christmas dinner."

While Operation Come Home estimated that $500 would cover the cost of the dinner, the students ended up raising double that. The extra money will assist in buying ongoing supplies for the organization's breakfast program.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


15-year-old girl missing

Can someone explain to me why a 15 year old girl was allowed to hitchhike? She is a ward of the state - why was she not given bus fair or a ticket to travel home for Christmas?

Tony Spears. The Ottawa Citizen Jan 1, 2010

OTTAWA — Kingston police were still searching for a 15-year-old girl who disappeared Christmas Eve while hitchhiking home to Parry Sound.

Amanda Marie Koetter — who police said has hitchhiked before — was living with foster parents in Seeley’s Bay, 35 kilometres northeast of Kingston. Police believe she was trying to visit family in time for Christmas.

Koetter never arrived. She has not been in contact with her family or with her foster parents.

She was last seen heading towards Kingston on Highway 15.

Koetter is described as five-feet-seven-inches tall with shoulder-length, blond- and red-streaked light-brown hair. She has brown eyes. Koetter was last seen wearing jeans, a white shirt under a blue hoodie, camouflage boots and a white bomber jacket.

Anyone with information is asked to call Kingston police at 613-549-4660 or Crime Stoppers at 613-542-8477 (TIPS) or 1-800-222-8477.

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