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Summer launches with concerns of sovereignty while Line 9 gets a rough ride in Ontario

The weekly Peace Pipe low-down on what’s making news

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim

Jun 21, 2013

by Tim Querengesser

‘Sovereignty Summer’

This week, in Hamilton, Ontario, protestors – including aboriginal groups – blockaded construction of an Enbridge pumping station , which is being worked on as part of the Calgary-based company’s plan to reverse the flow of the Line 9 pipeline and deliver Albertan bitumen to a refinery, and ultimately to port, in Montreal. The blockade group opposes the proposal because of fears of a spill contaminating the Hamilton region’s largest watershed.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Herald reported that aboriginal activists are aiming to “increase tension” this summer, which begins today (and which is National Aboriginal Day) with resource extraction companies, as part of a re-invigoration of the Idle No More movement that made headlines at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. One organizer of what’s now being called the ‘Sovereignty Summer’ said the increase in tension was to push the rights of aboriginal people back into the mainstream conversation.

Poverty

A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives highlights what many people already recognize: the fastest growing population in Canada, aboriginal people, is also the most impoverished. Based on data from the 2006 census, the report found that three tiers of poverty exist in Canada, with aboriginal peoples dominating the bottom two. “The average child poverty rate for all Indigenous children in Canada is 40 per cent, compared to 15 per cent for non-Indigenous children,” said David Macdonald, senior economist with the CCPA and co-author of the study, in a press release.

The Globe and Mail noted with a tone of surprise that the left-leaning CCPA did not blame the child poverty problem in aboriginal communities on a lack of money, but instead on a dearth of accountability. “As the report says,” reads the Globe editorial on the report, “what monies are already being spent are filtered through a system whose accountability structure can only generously be called ‘dysfunctional.’” The editorial shared out the blame for this situation on both federal and First Nations governments.

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Homelessness

An unrelated study, also published this week, found that Edmonton and Alberta lead the country in tackling homelessness (which, of course, is directly related to poverty). The report lauded Edmonton’s efforts in particular to engage aboriginal peoples, which make up six per cent of the city’s total population but roughly 60 per cent of its homeless population. It noted that many of its programs are “designed to address the specific needs and circumstances of aboriginal populations, and their historic experiences of colonialism.”

Employment

Further linked to homelessness and poverty is employment, and on that measure the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business was referenced this week in a Vancouver Sun report, arguing that the natural resource sector could be an “important asset” to address high unemployment among aboriginal peoples and communities.

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