Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 9 - Evidence - Afternoon session
VANCOUVER, Wednesday, March 19, 2003
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 1:48 p.m. to study issues affecting urban
Aboriginal youth in Canada and, in particular, to examine access; provision and delivery of services; policy and
jurisdictional issues; employment and education; access to economic opportunities; youth participation and
empowerment; and other related matters.
Senator Thelma J. Chalifoux (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has been working for about the past 18 months to identify
the programs, the successes, and the gaps related to urban Aboriginal families, focusing on the youth. This morning,
the point was raised that, when we focus on the youth, we really focus on the whole family, because we are large,
extended-family-oriented nations of people.
We are very pleased to have you here with us this afternoon. I would ask you to introduce yourselves, please.
Ms Jan Haugan, Executive Assistant, First Nations Education Steering Committee: I am with the First Nations
Education Steering Committee. I am here with Christa Williams.
The Chairman: Pleased to meet you.
Ms. Gloria Nahanee, Youth Services Provider, Eslaha7an Learning Centre: Good afternoon, honourable senators.
(Ms. Nahanee spoke in her native language.)
Ms. Nahanee: I come from the Squamish Nation. I am a spiritualist and cultural instructor at Eslaha7an Learning
Centre in North Vancouver. I am very honoured to be here, to be able to speak about our youth. I have been working
with our Squamish students since 1985. I have been working in our culture with our elders and following our
ceremonies, practicing our ceremonies since 1968. I spent over 25 years with our elders in many places, and I really see
our youth struggling. I have been working with elementary students, grade 4 to grade 7, for about nine years. We take
them out of the school two afternoons a week and I do a cultural component with them. The principals and the
teachers are very supportive of the program. They see a difference in the children's self-esteem, their behaviour, their
attendance in school. It has a big impact on them for the better.
There are 3,000 band members in our nation, and there is a high dropout rate among youth in grade 8, when they go
to high school. They only last for a few months in the high schools. They find it so hard because there is little or no
support for them there. That is their main complaint, that they are lost when they go there. Their reading level is so low
in elementary school, and if they cannot read by the time they get to grade 8, then they are not going to last. We see this
year after year.
There are no follow-ups. A lot of the children have been suspended, not just in high school, but also in elementary.
The last three, four years, the children in elementary have been suspended under section 91, physical violence. That is
really frightening and sad. Most of them are young boys who have attacked teachers, principals and other students
with physical violence. Most of their families are on welfare, there is a lot of poverty and the children go to school
hungry. I work with the children and I see them. All I can say is that it is really happening.
Three, four years ago, it was the 12- to 14-year-olds who were getting into drugs and alcohol. In the last two years, it
has been the 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds who have been using alcohol, and they are already sexually active at this young age.
Most of them have been through physical and sexual abuse from parents, from other people around them. Most of
the students live at the condos, we call it the ``ghetto,'' and a lot of drugs are being sold there to these youths. They go
to someone's store and buy a joint for $5. There are all kinds of needles, condoms, everything lying around in their
little playground. It is a real ghetto there. The children see this every day at a young age, so that is all they know and
that is what they are going to do. It is very sad to see and very sad for me to say this, but it is the truth. We need more
support, more money to help these children, to save them.
Their attendance at school is really poor, right from elementary and up.
Because they are on welfare, their clothing is poor. A lot of the kids have to have the name brand clothing, and when
they do not, then they go to steal it. A lot of them get caught in the malls for stealing name brand clothing. That is a big
issue with our youth.
Post-secondary is just as hard for the young students if they make it past grade 12. The assessment that they have to
go through by our nation, by the education department is designed for them to fail. Very few of them will pass the
assessment and be able to get funding, a living allowance, to go to college. They really struggle. I see a lot of them who
keep trying and trying. Some of them have been in the class preparing for the GED for five, six years and it is very hard
There is no employment for even the high school students. Where there used to be summer jobs for maybe 20, 30
students, it is now down to maybe 6 jobs. That is very discouraging for the youth. They think, you know, what the
heck, what is the use of trying? They get very angry. They are frustrated. They have nowhere to turn. I am there, but
only to listen to them and to comfort them.
Elementary and high school students have to have 80 to 90 per cent attendance in order to get their travelling
allowance, their bus pass. Maybe three four years ago, the elementary students were getting $27 a month, and that is
not even enough now for a monthly bus pass. One mother confided in me that she has four children and cannot put in
the extra approximately $20 to buy all her kids a monthly bus pass to go to school. I requested that the council kick in
that money, and they did not. Our education director did her own survey, and I do not know which students she asked,
but they said, ``Thank you, but we do not need the extra money.'' That was very disheartening for the mothers, for the
children. There is something very wrong there.
I feel that our leaders hold us down. We encourage our youth to learn their culture, to have an eagle feather in one
hand and their pen in the other hand. Education and culture go hand in hand and have to be evenly balanced. We
encourage them, but then not all of the money gets to the students, which is frustrating for us who actually work with
the youth, the ones who are struggling, on social assistance, using drugs and alcohol — the ones who are really
suffering physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
I am also a foster parent. I have been one for our nation since 1976. One of our ex-foster sons, he is only 15 years old
now, has been out of school for two-and-a-half years because he is so physically violent with other students. I found
out about a year ago that he was physically abused from the day he was born. He has so much anger in him, that that is
what he is doing to other youth and teachers. Just last year he phoned the police, dialled 911, and started accusing his
parents of the wrong done to him. Then he lunged for a butcher knife, so one policeman pulled out his gun, had it
pointed on his chest, and boom, he was gone in two seconds. He was so fast they could not find him. They had the
dogs, the police running all over the condominiums looking for him. I got a phone call and I went up there right away.
His mother asked if he came to my home, and I said no. I talked to the policeman. I said, ``Remember, he is only 13
years old. He is just a kid. Remember that.''
Senator St. Germain: Can you tell us where the ghetto is?
Ms. Nahanee: It is on West 5th Street in North Vancouver. It is condominiums. I lived there in the 1970s and it has
not changed. Drugs and alcohol is an ongoing, everyday thing for so many of the people living there.
I hear that the Squamish Nation has a lot of money, but not all of it gets to the youth, for their education, for their
culture. It is frustrating, and sometimes I wonder what are we doing here? Are we even helping them? It is the right of
all the Squamish Nation to have an education, housing and health benefits. We were there for the youth and I am very
honoured to be here to voice some of their concerns.
The gangs, everything, are real. Just last weekend, one of the young girls, who is about 14, was found passed out up
at the ghetto, and we do not know what could have happened to her, or if anything did happen to her. This is what is
going on. It is an everyday thing.
(Ms. Nahanee spoke in her native language.)
The Chairman: I have a couple of questions. Is the ghetto on the reserve?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, it is.
The Chairman: It is right on the reserve?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
The Chairman: What are the chief and council doing about it?
Ms. Nahanee: I do not think they are doing anything. The few mothers who live there formed a Block Watch, and
they fundraise year round to buy new slides or swings or whatever for the playground.
The Chairman: They are getting no support, and you are getting no support then from chief and council?
Ms. Nahanee: No.
The Chairman: No support at all.
Ms. Nahanee: Yes. Eslaha7an Learning Centre where I work is right next door to the condos. It used to be St. Paul's
Indian Day School, which was built in 1959 or 1960 on the site of the residential school. It is a very old building and we
have a small room for our program. Translated, it means, ``Yes, I can do it.''
The Chairman: In the interest of the senators that do not come from British Columbia, would you like to tell us all
where the Squamish Nation is?
Ms. Nahanee: We are right across the water on the sea bus and have different reserves throughout the city of North
Vancouver, starting right at Second Narrows Bridge, Seymour.
Senator St. Germain: That is on the water?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, very close to the water, and all the way up there. Then there is North Vancouver. There is
Capilano, just below Lions Gate Bridge, and then a few more up in Upper Squamish, which is about an hour's drive
along the coast from here. There are 3,000 band members.
The Chairman: All right. Just one more question from me and then I will turn it over to the senators. What about the
parents? How are they coping? Are they doing anything other than just living on welfare? Are they volunteering or are
they trying to empower their own community to do something and to bring their children back?
Ms. Nahanee: Some of the parents do try to work with us and keep the youth in school or have someone come to
talk to them at home and try to get them back into school. Not too many of them do, though. I guess it is just
frustration, because who is going to listen? Nothing will be done. It is in one ear and out the other.
Senator Carney: Thank you, Ms Nahanee.
I am glad you said that the Squamish Nation has various sites, because the urban ones have an income from the use
of their land. You certainly have money. There is a lot of development on your lands. Is there any difference in the
social scene, in terms of drug and alcohol abuse, between the reserve land in Squamish, which is a smaller village at the
end of Howe Sound, and right across from downtown Vancouver? Is it the same kind of social disaster?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
Senator Carney: Or is it different in the rural area?
Ms. Nahanee: It is the same.
Senator Carney: It is the same.
Ms. Nahanee: We have drug dealers on the reserve. We have drug dealers who are not band members who come to
supply the ones who sell drugs on the reserves.
Senator Carney: What are the police doing on this? Do you have your own native police?
Ms. Nahanee: No, we do not. They have peacekeepers in Upper Squamish, but I am not sure exactly what they do
Senator Carney: What is your learning centre? I do not even know how to pronounce it.
Ms. Nahanee: Eslaha7an.
Senator Carney: Eslaha7an. What do you do and how do the kids react to it?
Ms. Nahanee: Eslaha7an Learning Centre is joined with School District 44. One class is for the teenagers, 16- to 18-
year-olds, who have dropped out and want to come back. Most of them are young mothers and they bring their little
babies. We all just take turns babysitting for two hours in the afternoon while they do their schoolwork. There are
maybe four young mothers doing that. There are adults in other classes preparing for the GED and for the Squamish
Senator Carney: What is the Squamish Nation assessment?
Ms. Nahanee: That is for college or university. They have to pass that Squamish Nation assessment to get a living
allowance to go to college or university.
Senator Carney: You describe yourself as a spiritualist and say that you teach the students some of the Squamish
Nation culture. Could you tell us a little about that? What is it that you are teaching them?
Ms. Nahanee: The program that I work in is called ``Yes, I can do it,'' and it is with the grade 4 to grade 7 students.
We have been cut down to two afternoons a week now. It used to be five afternoons. I do a cultural component with
them based on the medicine wheel, a spiritual cleansing using the eagle feather talking circle. Then we teach them
Squamish songs and dances, as wells the Plains style of dancing. We share our history. We do a lot of field trips to
show them where our territory is and visit the elders, the few that we have. They hear our history verbally from our
Each group comes for three months and we have three sessions in a school year. At the end of every session, we have
a feast and a presentation of what the students learned.
Senator Carney: I just wanted to point out that Senator Perrault represented that area for years and he might have
some questions at some point.
Senator St. Germain: Thank you, Ms. Nahanee, for coming. I have met some of the leadership of the Squamish
Band at various hearings in Ottawa. From what you described to me, the difference is black and white. That is how
diverse it is. I will not mention any names, but I have seen young people and parents make presentations on behalf of
the Squamish Band who are totally accomplished, totally fluent, and now you are telling me that this situation exists.
That to me is reason for concern, Madam Chair and fellow senators.
The other thing is, you have a ghetto there. One of the biggest issues, and rightly so in a lot of cases, is that
assimilation is really not the solution for native peoples. However, how do you get these people out of this culture
unless you burn that place down and disperse them in such a manner that they are away from this environment?
This morning, we heard from Morris Bates, who is working on the 100 Block with young natives who are coming
down there. The environment is so destructive that, as he said, they go by the shooting galleries, and why would a 12-
year-old or a 13-year-old not believe it is the right thing to do if you have nurses in there and everybody is shooting up
We do not have all the answers, we have to come to you people for suggestions, and I am sure that you have put a
lot of thought into it. How do we, without insulting our First Nations people, say, ``Look, you have to get out of this,
and the only solutions we see is to get rid of this ghetto,'' move these people into an environment that is more positive
for personal development and yet not destroy the Aboriginal culture. This is complex.
You are surrounded by the European or Western influence, so it is very difficult to see how you would try to resolve
these problems without being insulting to the Aboriginal peoples. I leave that with you, and I know it is a complex
question, but you may have some suggestions that would be useful for the record.
The Chairman: Maybe you could just think about that, because as we say, it is a very complex situation.
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, it is.
Ms. Christa Williams, Executive Director, First Nations Education Steering Committee: Good afternoon, senators
and other guests.
[Ms. Williams spoke in her native language]
Thank you for the opportunity to present to you this afternoon. I am from the N'laka'pamux Nation, just three
hours north of Vancouver on the Fraser River. I am currently the Executive Director of the B.C. First Nations
Education Steering Committee. I will just provide a little background on the committee. We are a provincial steering
committee. We have been incorporated as a society since 1999 and have been around since May 1992. We are made up
of about 52 First Nations education technicians from around British Columbia. We came into being after a conference
of First Nations education technicians in May 1992 where we felt that because of the diversity of cultures, geography,
our schools and the student population, we wanted to pull together and start brainstorming on how we could advance
First Nations education across British Columbia. Since our small communities were in so many varied places
geographically, we felt isolated from each other. We felt that by having a committee at the provincial level and being
able to represent First Nations in B.C. at the national level, we would be stronger. That is how we came to have 52
directors who are appointed directly by their community, so we are accountable back to First Nations. Communities
are responsible for appointing and removing the membership.
Our commitment is to supporting First Nations in their efforts to promote quality education for First Nations
learners. We are directed by First Nations and work at the provincial level to provide services in the area of research,
communications, information dissemination and networking. We also work to collect and share up-to-date
information about available programs, government policies, legislation and other initiatives; local, provincial and
national education issues that affect First Nations learners in British Columbia.
In B.C., one-third of the Aboriginal student population attend school on reserve in their communities or in First
Nations schools, while two-thirds attend off-reserve schools in the provincial education system. While we work to
support both First Nations schools and the public education system, for today I will focus solely on the work that we
are doing with the provincial education system.
In reviewing the invitation that was sent to our office to speak today, I noted that you are seeking information on a
couple of matters, the first being best practices and policies that have proved successful in improving the lives of urban
Aboriginal youth; also key issues affecting urban Aboriginal youth and some options for enhancing intergovernmental
coordination and cooperative policy responses.
I will focus on education for a couple of reasons. The first, of course, is that that is the mandate of our organization,
and secondly, because we believe that a quality education is one of the key factors in supporting urban and rural
Aboriginal youth to set realistic goals and achieve them.
For years, we have known anecdotally that Aboriginal youth have not been experiencing success in education, and
in 1998, the Ministry of Education in British Columbia began to publish the data that confirmed our assumptions. This
has been the single most effective effort that has served to draw attention to the challenges facing urban and rural
Aboriginal youth. The B.C. Ministry of Education has been able to separate out the graduation rates for Aboriginal
students, and by examining the results by district, we were able to see that urban Aboriginal youth often fair worse
than their rural counterparts. I have included some data for your reference.
In the District of Vancouver, the graduation rate for non-Aboriginal students is 82 per cent. For Aboriginal
students, it is 20 per cent, and there are 1,947 Aboriginal students in that district who live off reserve. In New
Westminster, the non-Aboriginal graduation rate is 64 per cent. The Aboriginal graduation rate is 18 per cent. In
Surrey, it is 80 per cent for non-Aboriginal, 37 per cent for Aboriginal. In North Vancouver, 81 per cent for non-
Aboriginal, 36 per cent for Aboriginal. In Prince Rupert, 87 per cent for non-Aboriginal students and 40 per cent for
Aboriginal students. Prince George, which is another area with a large off-reserve population, it is 74 per cent for non-
Aboriginal students, compared to 36 per cent for Aboriginal students.
You will see there is a huge gap between the success of Aboriginal students and that of non-Aboriginal students,
especially in the urban areas. The provincial graduation rate for non-Aboriginal students is 80 per cent, compared with
an average of 43 per cent for Aboriginal students. Since the data has been published, there has been an increase in the
graduation rate from 34 per cent to 43 per cent. Much of the success can be attributed to the partnerships between First
Nations communities, both rural and urban, and school districts and schools to jointly support strategies for
improving school success.
You will find that I have attached to the presentation a list of the graduation rates for all of the districts in British
Columbia, so you can see the diversity across the province.
With this data in hand, FNESC has been able to initiate discussions with the education partners in British
Columbia. They include the B.C. Teachers' Federation, the B.C. School Trustees Association, the B.C. Principals' and
Vice-Principals' Association, the B.C. College of Teachers and the B.C. School Superintendents' Association, in
addition to the Ministry of Education and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
In February 1999, we signed a memorandum of understanding that is two sentences long, and I would just like to
inform you that it took us two years to negotiate these two sentences, so one year per sentence. And it reads: ``We the
undersigned acknowledge that Aboriginal learners are not experiencing school success in British Columbia. We state
our intention to work together within the mandates of our respective organizations to improve school success for
Aboriginal learners in British Columbia.''
Part of the reason people were hesitant to sign was we had to have everyone's lawyers look at it to see if, by signing
this, they were admitting guilt or liability for the lack of school success. Two years later we signed it, and we were
pleased with the end result.
Two years later, we were able to agree on three priority areas. Those are: Aboriginal teacher recruitment and
retention, employment equity, and an anti-racism strategy. I will give you a little detail on what we are doing in each of
First, with respect to Aboriginal teacher recruitment and retention, we have created an Aboriginal Teacher
Education Consortium. It includes all of the partners I have listed, plus the deans of all the teacher education programs
in British Columbia. About a year and a half ago, we sat down together to brainstorm on how to increase the number
of Aboriginal teachers in British Columbia schools. The change in attitude amongst the deans of education has been
great. We did not have the money to do much at the beginning, so we got to sit around and do a lot of talking.
We found that by talking and developing strategies together, without money being there to make us competitive, we
were able to come up with a strategy that we have all bought into and which was funded just recently. We are now
moving forward with this strategy, and it includes partnerships with colleges and the teacher education programs to
facilitate bridging programs to help First Nations students enter teacher education.
At present, the number of Aboriginal teachers in British Columbia is approximately 400 out of 40,000 teachers. This
falls woefully short of the required 2,000 to have the representative number of teachers to the Aboriginal school
population. Currently, Aboriginal people make up about eight per cent of the school population in British Columbia.
We feel that it is critical to have Aboriginal role models in schools, as well as teachers who can relate to the realities of
In looking at research to support this strategy, over and over again the research has said that teachers have to
understand the realities of the student. If they do not, then they will not be able to connect with the young people, so
we do feel it is important to have Aboriginal people in the school system.
The second part of this involves working to have the B.C. teacher education programs include a mandatory focus on
the diversity of the B.C. First Nations. At present, there is no requirement within the teacher education programs to
have even a sense of the history of British Columbia with respect to First Nations people. We are working with the
college of teachers and the teacher education programs to convince them that this is important, as these teachers will be
facing, as you see from the data, Aboriginal students all over British Columbia, not just in those areas where there is a
high population of students on a reserve.
In the second area, employment equity, the partner groups have agreed to work together to develop an employment
equity tool kit to support principals, superintendents and school trustees to develop and implement employment equity
policies that would enable them to hire and retain Aboriginal teachers. In fact, the B.C. Teachers' Federation passed a
resolution about two years ago that supports employment equity, and we are currently working with them to determine
how that can be translated into action. This has been extremely difficult over the last year and a half, given the union
environment and last year's legislation that required them to go back to work without completing the negotiation of
their collective bargaining agreement.
We are finding that the union is the primary barrier to having more Aboriginal people in the education system,
especially as there have been cutbacks in many of the districts. The first people to be laid off are those with the least
seniority, and often times, they have recently hired Aboriginal people. We are looking to the union to live up to the
commitment to which all of their membership agreed, so we are currently holding their feet to the fire and hoping to get
somewhere in the next, probably six months.
The third area of focus, and this has been important all across British Columbia, has been in the area of anti-racism,
where we have had the greatest struggle with the partner groups. Two years after we agreed on the priority areas, the
partner groups acknowledged that systemic racism exists within the education system and serves as a significant barrier
to the success of Aboriginal youth in school.
For two years we talked about this, and people could not look us in the eye. It was as if we were sitting at a table
with this ``lump of racism'' in the middle and nobody wanted to look over it and acknowledge that there is systemic
racism, and that all of our partner organizations, as well as First Nations, have a part in perpetuating it. After two
years of not being able to look at each other, we were finally able to develop a work plan to address the issue of racism
at the ministry level, the school board level, the school level and in the classroom, because we felt that there are so
many different types of racism embedded within legislation, within policy, within the tone and the set-up of the school,
and within the classroom in terms of the lack of knowledge of some of the teachers.
As this is such a contentious and often complex issue to deal with, the working group has elected to implement one
portion of their work plan at present. We successfully applied to Canadian Heritage to secure dollars to hire two anti-
racism officers to work in particularly challenging areas of the province. At present, those include Terrace and Prince
George, as well as on the Island in Campbell River. They are also providing anti-racism ``train the trainer'' workshops
across British Columbia. We have created a tool kit containing several items, ``conversation starters,'' we are calling
them, and in addition we have two-page curriculum pieces, or lesson plans. Any teacher can pick this up and use it and
have the proper supports to create conversations about diversity, human rights issues and, specifically, Aboriginal
Now we want to provide training to those teachers who want to use this. It is a tool kit that is appropriate for
students, teachers, parents and other workers in the education system.
At the end of the two years for which we have hired these two people, we are hoping to have a strategic plan for
addressing racism across the education system.
Some of the other challenges facing urban Aboriginal youth that are being addressed by other organizations and
that we feel should continue to receive support include addressing the disconnection from their nations that youth feel
when living so far away from home. Many face identity issues, as they do not know where they are from or what their
nations or cultures are like.
I often use my son as an example in this case. I have a 6-year-old son and I am from the N'laka'pamux territory. I
am living in Squamish territory, and I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that he is part of his community. As I
speak, he is at home with his grandparents, learning about where he is from while I have a break, but the real reason he
is there is to spend time with his grandfather, who speaks his language, and so it is an opportunity for him to learn as
well. Not everyone has that luxury of being able to return to their communities, and I think that is something that
contributes to a lot to students feeling disconnected and without a sense of belonging.
There are also people working to increase the number of role models available to students, both within education
and the urban community in general. We are looking to support children in care in an urban setting. The number of
Aboriginal students in care in British Columbia is appalling. We have been meeting with the Caring for First Nations
Children Society in British Columbia, which is a provincial organization, and talking about how we can work together
to support children in care to be successful in school.
With the disharmony in their homes, the moving around and the challenges that they are facing, school often
becomes the least priority; safety becomes the first. We want to see what we can do to work in partnership with that
organization. Recently, we have also made a concerted effort to work with the Ministry of Children and Families to
maintain the hot meals programs that they have been funding. The budget speech of February 18 did do so. Initially,
their thinking was that they would go from a hot lunch program to a hot breakfast program. When we talked to the
community people, they said that they often use the hot meals program at lunch to leverage funding for breakfasts, so
that if they had taken away that funding, they would have lost both sets of meals instead of just the one.
We also feel that it is important to have increased partnerships in urban areas, specifically due to the high
population. Many districts are saying that it is difficult to know whom to talk to in the urban environment. There is a
need for support for urban Aboriginal people to organize themselves and have influence on school districts to increase
the success of their learners in urban settings.
The final point is that a good start, being prepared for school, is important. There are several programs within the
federal government that support early intervention and early childhood education, but unfortunately, they are housed
within three different ministries. Health Canada is doing Head Start; you have HRDC delivering dollars for daycare
and early childhood education; you have the Department of Indian Affairs providing K-to-4 or K-to-5 education, as
well as the National Child Benefit, and we cannot get any sort of harmony among the three organizations.
Our organization has certainly held two conferences on integration of services. We have brought together the
childcare workers, the health workers and the education workers to talk about how we could integrate these services at
a community level. Because of the way the funding comes down through these pipes, the difficulties are mirrored in our
communities. People often become territorial about ``This is my job, and if I do that it is going to get difficult,'' so we
have spent a lot of time and energy trying to break those walls down and explain that there is more than enough work
for everyone. There is a role for everyone to play; it may just look like a different role.
Just because there are too many programs, it does not mean there is too much money. We want to maintain the
same level of available funding and streamline the system to make it more accessible so that we can integrate these very
I certainly appreciate the challenge you have in front of you to gather all this information and then produce a
complete and balanced report. If we can provide any further information or support you as you prepare an action plan
for change, please do not hesitate to contact our organization. I would just like to note that we have attached two
documents in addition to the supporting material. You will see our memorandum of understanding, which is the last
page of your kit. I would like to point out that the only signatory to this document who is still involved with each of
these organizations is Chief Nathan Matthew, who signed on behalf of our committee. All of the other heads of the
organizations have changed. What is good about it is that it has become institutionalized in those organizations and
they are still sitting at the table. Even when the people change, this agreement has maintained its life, which we think is
We have also handed out to you the annual report of the steering committee, which is the one with the bright yellow
design on the front. The second document is called ``In the Future First Nations Children Will:'' I would turn your
attention to page 17. This document is asking children what will their future be like.
Senator Carney: We do not seem to have the second document.
Ms. Williams: This one? I am just going to read this piece. You can have mine when I am done, no problem, and we
can provide others if you would like. I will just read this story. This is from a youth. In the future, First Nations
children will: have to try to have a good education, have no alcohol, no fake I.D., no smokes, no guns, no abuse, no
wars, more money for the poor, everyone to have money, no bills, everyone to have a cell phone — it really is children
by the children — and more food for the poor. There are many more stories like this. This is the other one that I like:
no chores, no teachers and no grownups, only grandpas allowed. No cars and only planes.
The idea is that these are the voices of children and the dreams they have about the future. Our kids start out with
the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as every other child, but somewhere along the way, somebody takes those
dreams away. I think we are all part of that and we have to be part of giving those dreams and realities back to our
(Ms. Williams spoke in her native language.)
Senator Sibbeston: In the Northwest Territories, where I come from, in the 1970s and 1980s, it was recognized that
the normal institutions of education were not really sufficient to fast track and provide the numbers of educated people
that are necessary in different fields. At one stage, we set up a Northern teacher training program with a view to getting
Aboriginal teachers into the system, and this was also done with social workers and other professions. Obviously there
is a need for Aboriginal teachers in B.C., so has anything been done to fast track that requirement so that you could
have many Aboriginal teachers in the schools throughout the province?
Ms. Williams: That is happening. That is what the strategy is about. Having worked with the deans of education for
the last two years, I know that one of the mindset or paradigm shifts they have made has to do with the fact that we do
not just have to pay for more seats. They thought that if we could just get extra dollars and add them to their
programs, we would have more Aboriginal teachers. However, we said that the programs would have to fundamentally
change. Working with the teacher education programs, we have been able to tailor some of them to set up more
supportive environments for teachers to be successful.
Our strategy is over five years, so we are hoping that in five years we will have a new crop of First Nations teachers;
plus we also have what I am calling a ``full court press.'' We are out there encouraging everyone to become a teacher. It
is a rather awkward climate, in that the teachers are unhappy at the moment, so we are out there saying, ``Become a
teacher,'' and the teachers' federation is on TV saying it is not great to be a teacher. However, we are still out there
doing it anyway.
One of our target groups has been people who already have some post-secondary education. We are looking at
people with early childhood certificates or Aboriginal support worker training and having those credits count towards
their teacher education program.
Senator Sibbeston: Another question relates to education levels and standards in the urban centres. Obviously
Aboriginal people do not have much say in that, it is the ongoing society that sets the limits and obviously it is a fairly
high standard. Would you comment on the education levels in rural areas and particularly on reserves? How are they
faring in preparing students for today's society?
Ms. Williams: I think there are two questions there. If you look at the stats that are attached here, they are all
provincial stats dealing with the public education system. If you look at some of the more remote areas, and I am
looking at, say, the Queen Charlottes, you will see that the statistics are poor, not just for First Nations students but
also all students. The education system in some of the rural areas is not serving anyone well, and so we are trying to
have an influence on that.
When you say that we would not have influence on the standards, I beg to differ. Because we are a provincial
organization, we are able to sit down with the people who are creating those standards and have a voice in looking at
things like the current review of the graduation requirements. We certainly are an active player in that role. We are also
involved in the development of some of the First Nations studies materials and documentation on reserve. I would say
that there is a challenge for everyone in the rural settings. The education system has inherent difficulties in serving any
part of society well.
Second was the question about on-reserve schools in British Columbia. We have 125 First Nations schools run by
their communities, and at present we do not have the same kind of data that is produced for the public education
system, but we are working, through the First Nations Education Steering Committee and the schools association, to
be able to do that. Anecdotally, as students are taking part in some of the provincial exams like the Foundation Skills
Assessment, which tests numeracy, literacy and reading at grades 4, 7 and 10, we are finding comparable levels of
achievement. However, when students leave our schools and go into the public systems, there is often a drop off.
As Ms. Nahanee mentioned, grade 8 seems to be where it hits the hardest, and going to high school is a really
challenging time for First Nations learners, regardless of whether they are going through our systems or through the
public education system, so we have a lot of work to do.
Senator Carney: I find both presentations fascinating, but I just have some questions to clarify the information.
What is an education technician?
Ms. Williams: That is the person in the community who is responsible for education, and in each community they
may call them the home-school co-ordinator or the education director. It could be the administrator of the school or
one of the teachers, and we have grouped them all together, but they are people who are actively involved in education
in the community.
Senator Carney: They do not have to be a teacher?
Ms. Williams: No.
Senator Carney: Also, could you explain a little more about what is in your tool kit? It sounds fascinating; perhaps
you could supply the committee with one?
Ms. Williams: We certainly can provide one, and if you will indulge me for a moment, it starts with a story.
Senator Carney: No, please do.
Ms. Williams: Well, there is a ton of interesting things in the tool kit. The gentleman who makes the tool kit has a
hammer, a set of earphones and a hockey jersey. The story that I am most familiar with is about the hockey jersey. He
gives the teachers the story and the accompanying documentation to support it in a lesson plan, so it makes the teacher
look really smart. At least, that is what I am telling all the teachers.
The jersey is a Montreal Canadians jersey, and he talks about a gentleman who was a hockey fan in the late 1940s
and early 1950s. He would go to the Montreal Forum, watch the Montreal Canadians and then go next door to a pub
to have a beer before going home, and that would be his evening. He was a season ticket holder and would do this
every time the Montreal Canadians were in town. One evening he went to the game. The game was great, he went next
door to have the beer before he went home, and the manager of the pub said, ``I am sorry, but we do not serve black
people here. You will have to leave.'' The gentleman said, ``Look, I have been watching the Canadians, and I come here
all the time, you cannot do this.'' The manager said, ``We are under new management, and the rule here now is that we
do not serve black people, so you will have to leave.'' He refused and was arrested. He was charged, went to court and
The courts at that time, before the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, stood behind the pub owner and said
he could refuse to serve people on the basis of colour. Usually, the reaction that you get from young people is that they
cannot do that. That leads into a discussion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and so you move on from there. I
am afraid I only memorized the first part. However, the idea is that you are able to have that conversation and ask
young people, ``Well, what do you think about that? Do you think that was appropriate?''
The idea is that you get them to look at things from their own perspective and recognize the stereotyping. He has
different stories. He himself is an Asian person and he was giving this example at our conference. Let us say that
Senator Carney is driving a car, we are driving behind her and she decides to cut from the right lane into the left lane to
make a left-hand turn. What would be your first thought? ``It is a woman'' might be one. Now, if she was driving
behind an Asian person and he cut across, another stereotype comes to mind.
He walks us through examples and then he asks, ``Well, what did that make you think?'' The idea is that you are
getting students to talk about things themselves. You are not calling it an anti-racism meeting, you are not calling it
``anti-racism'' in your curriculum, but you are talking about stereotyping, how to appreciate diversity and asking
people, ``Do you think it is a good idea to support diversity and think about ways to accommodate people with special
needs and other issues?''
Senator Carney: I have a couple more short clarification questions. Do you have thoughts on whether it is better to
have Aboriginal schools for Aboriginal kids? Some people have said in this committee that Aboriginal students should
be taught in Aboriginal schools. Also, why do girls do better than boys in the school system?
When you say that you cannot just add on to a teacher training program, you have to change the program, could
you give us an example of that? We will leave the other questions until later.
Ms. Williams: One of the things that we are asking to have added — or not added but inculcated into the program
— is a requirement to take a history course. We have objections to some of the history that is being taught. We are
suggesting that there be an appreciation of the diversity in British Columbia within the history course.
Certainly, when I went to school in Lytton, I learned about the Haida and the Cree, but there was no place where I
saw myself in the history, and I thought, ``Well, we have a huge part in history.'' We were part of the Gold Rush, but
there was nothing written down about it. We did not exist until more recently. We are looking for some reflection in the
history that is taught to all teachers, not just Aboriginal teachers, of the fact that there is diversity in British Columbia
that we need to appreciate, because the people sitting in the classroom come from those diverse cultures.
The Chairman: Ms. Nahanee, have you contemplated Senator St. Germain's question?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, I was thinking about it. I probably know who the young man was, one of our leader's sons.
There are only a few chosen to get that private education and a lot of our band members feel very upset about that.
Our band brings in $44 million a year from our leased lands, but only 1,500 band members on reserves get the services;
1,500 living off reserve do not get any of these services. The funding for the programs and services should be given
directly to individuals so they can get the same education as our chief's and council members' children.
The ghetto is a really an issue of housing and land. Our housing list came out a few weeks ago and my youngest
daughter, who is 23 and has one son, is 430th on the list. She will probably not live to get a home, as there is no more
land to build them. We are running out of land. Our council wants to surrender some of our land at Seymour for a mall
but our people are against that. We run into brick walls everywhere we turn, and it is very frustrating.
The poor people are the ones that do not get that education, that do not get some of that $44 million, and I am one
of them. I stand for our youth, and I have said that to our council. I am an advocate for our youth. I cannot go out and
find the money for them, but I am there for them when they need somebody to talk to. Again, thank you for listening
Senator St. Germain: Can you explain the Dogwood Certificate?
Ms. Williams: Dogwood is the adult graduation diploma for British Columbia.
Senator St. Germain: I got out of school years ago, but I would like to make a brief observation. I attend a lot of
committees, and whenever there is a banking committee or a committee related to something glitzy or glamorous, there
is tremendous media coverage. However, there is no media coverage here today on what I consider to be one of the
most shameful scenarios in Canadian society.
I listened to what Ms. Nahanee said today, and you know what came to mind? I just received an Elvis CD as a 65th
birthday present, and one of the songs is ``In the Ghetto''' It relates to the ghetto in Detroit. We always say we have the
greatest health care system, we do not have the problems that the Americans have — the ``shameful'' Americans, the
radical left wing calls our American friends — but we really have the same thing in our midst. What do we do? As the
song says, we just turn our heads the other way. I want that on the record, because I am very disappointed that on a
huge issue like this there is no media interest.
This situation will severely impact our country in the future, because if all these young people were to join the
workforce with an education, we would not need to call on immigration to improve that workforce, which is
diminishing because of old guys like the three of us here. I am not talking about you ladies, of course. I leave it at that.
Senator Pearson: I found the conjunction of your two presentations fascinating, and I hope, Ms. Nahanee, that the
work that Ms. Williams is doing will help to address the issues on which you are working. I know it will take a while.
I know, of course, of the delightful book about our future. I got a copy of it last May. I have been talking to Cindy
Blackstock about that and I hope it will be widely distributed. You are called the ``First Nations Education Steering
Committee.'' Do you have some room for students on your steering committee?
Ms. Williams: We do, and we have been struggling with this for a couple of years, but I think we are beginning to
find a solution. We had a meeting with the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council that is affiliated with the B.C.
Association of Friendship Centres, and they have an amazing group of youth who are articulate, bright and committed
to having a voice, so we have invited them to participate in our committee.
We are looking for that youth voice. We have had a couple of youth conferences. We had different youth groups
from around B.C. organize it each year. The first year — I learned the second year not to do this — I went out with a
draft agenda of what I thought was important to Aboriginal youth, and they politely told me, no, those are not the
right things to talk about. We tossed out my agenda, they came up with their own and we had an awesome conference.
We recognize the need to include youth and we are excited to have the group that we have invited to join us; they are
from around British Columbia. Many of them are from off reserve, so we are bringing in as many perspectives as we
can. We see that as valuable.
Senator Pearson: I am delighted to hear that. Do you meet regularly as a committee?
Ms. Williams: We meet quarterly.
Senator Pearson: If you could find eventually some young people to be official members of your committee, that
would be great. There is a model in Ontario that has turned out to be quite interesting, where it is mandated by the
provincial government. This is not necessarily for Aboriginals, but for youth involvement. It is mandated by the
provincial government that every school board have three young trustees who are students at schools within that
school board. Now, often, these people turn out to be, of course, the presidents of the student councils or people like
that. They are mandated and funded by the province to meet once a year without the adults and discuss what they
think are their primary issues.
I think that is a really interesting model because it is mandated, it was included in some changes to the Education
Act, so I am hoping that the kind of work that you are doing will become institutionalized.
Are you members of school boards as well? I think there is a need for an Aboriginal component within every school
board that is not just a token, but which also has a real impact on the curriculum. You can change the curriculum, but
in order to get it actually adopted and taught, you will probably need more power.
Ms. Williams: To respond to the first part of the question, the Minister of Education in British Columbia, Christy
Clark, has committed to amending her legislative amendment of last year to include a youth on all of the school
planning councils. We are excited about that because we think that certainly in schools where there is a high population
of First Nations young people, we can get people on those planning councils.
The Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council told us that they need leadership training. They said, ``You want us to
participate and provide good feedback, but we get nervous and it would be helpful if you could provide some
leadership training.'' When we talked about this at the steering committee, people cautioned us that only those students
who are already doing well would want to do that. We found that this is not always true, because many times the best
leaders are those who are leading others astray, as opposed to those who are leading for good, so we hope to harness
some of those youth as well.
There is representation of both on the Provincial Aboriginal Youth Council, that is, students who are doing well in
school, plus those who have experienced some of the nasty challenges and have come through them.
Secondly, in terms of having a stronger voice within school districts, we are currently in negotiations with the federal
and provincial governments on the transfer of jurisdiction over First Nations education to First Nations people. That
would include greater influence and decision-making authority within school boards. That is why I was suggesting
that, for example, in Vancouver, there should be some mechanism to allow urban Aboriginal people to organize. There
is currently no funding for that, and we feel that there should be so that they can speak for themselves about the needs
of their young people in the urban setting.
Senator Lawson: Ms. Nahanee, you were talking about the Squamish tribe earning $44 million a year. I take it this
has been going on for a number of years?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
Senator Lawson: You made requests for funding there and you cannot get it?
Ms. Nahanee: We have very little funding for the Eslaha7an Learning Centre, and especially the cultural component,
the program that I run.
Senator Lawson: Why is there very little funding if millions of dollars are being earned every year?
Ms. Nahanee: Politics, who's who.
Senator Lawson: I see.
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, that is it, very sad to say.
Senator Lawson: Something seems very wrong when those kinds of revenues are generated for the tribe as a whole
and you cannot get it to help you.
You were talking about how the council wants to turn over some land for a mall, obviously to generate more
revenues that they will not share with you, and that some of the people are against it. I can understand that. Is the land
that they want to turn over owned by the tribe as a whole, or do individual members of the band own individual
parcels? Do you know?
Ms. Nahanee: I think both.
Senator Lawson: We have had a few meetings over the years where individuals have demonstrated that they do own
a piece of property. It has been handed down from mother to daughter, daughter to son and so on, but they cannot get
access to or use of their land.
Ms. Nahanee: No.
Senator Lawson: Now, that simply offends against any sense of fairness or justice to me, and I am sure it does to
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
Senator Lawson: Do you have any explanation for that? Is it just the tribal council that decides that is how it will be
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, it is our council.
Senator Lawson: However, it is very wrong. Now, Madam Chairman, is there any way that we can have any
influence? There has to be a better way of doing this, and John Wayne is not available any more.
The Chairman: When you look at the proposed Governance Act, which is really amendments to the Indian Act, I
think that is where there should be strong representation, because right now under the Indian Act they have no voice
Senator Lawson: Does it not cry out for a tribunal of some sort where these claims could be made and deeds to
property or whatever put forward? Presumably it would be a native tribunal, but it cannot be the same people who
have been locking others out.
The Chairman: That would have to go under the Indian Act, along with several other things.
Were you aware, Ms. Williams, Ms. Nahanee, that under section 17 of the Indian Act, the Indian Act supersedes the
Human Rights Act? That has to be discussed. You talk about anti-racism, but even if you can prove it, you have no
place to go. That has to be considered too.
In Alberta, the province is responsible for curriculum. They meet every five years and they change the curriculum or
do whatever they want with it. We had an opportunity before, when I was in another life, to work in one of the
Northern B.C. communities to develop and include Metis curriculum. When we met with that school division, plus the
teachers, we were told that in British Columbia, all kinds of people have written Aboriginal curriculum, but it sits on
the shelf because the curriculum division of the province has never approved it. When we worked on developing that
piece of curriculum, we tried to have Aboriginal justice included in the justice part of the curriculum. Even that was
You are in a difficult situation in trying to get Canadian history, which is Aboriginal history, even included in the
curriculum. In Alberta, they hired somebody to write three books and included them in the curriculum, but that was it
— just read these books. There was nothing else. Now, it is beginning to improve. They are starting to have classes, but
it is still not mandatory. I would like your comments on that and what is happening here.
Also, we now have the first Aboriginal school in Edmonton. Dr. Phyllis Cardinal is the founder of that. I am
watching that closely, it has come a long way and we will have the opportunity to meet Dr. Cardinal in Edmonton so
that the committee can hear what is going on there. What is your opinion on that? They have French schools and
whatever other schools they want, yet when we tried to get the Aboriginal school in Edmonton, Amiskwaciy Academy,
it was classed as segregation. I would like your comments on both of those.
Ms. Williams: It might sound a little Pollyanna-ish this afternoon, but in terms of inclusion in the curriculum, I
agree that we were having trouble with all of that material that has already been developed, but which people kept
tossing aside. However, in the last couple of years, it has really been driven by the fact that the data has been published.
It is being able to hold the data in the faces of decision makers and say, ``Your system is not working; something has to
Over the last three years, we have been able to secure seats on all of the curriculum review teams, which means not
just social studies, but also mathematics, literature and the sciences. We have a seat for a First Nations person on each
of those teams, plus a First Nations person within the curriculum development branch. That means that at least our
voice will be heard at the table. It does not mean that everything has changed and the world is fine.
It just means that at least we are at the table, we know what is going on and we are able to have some input. It will
be very slow. We have a First Nations studies course that used to be First Nations studies 12, and it was determined to
be the equivalent of social studies 11, which is a graduation requirement in British Columbia. However, the social
studies teachers got really upset, saying that they were watering down the civic responsibility portion in order to focus
more on First Nations. There has been a big brouhaha about that.
With the graduation requirements review, they want to incorporate a civics course, supposedly to balance the First
Nations studies. Now, we obviously have an objection to that and feel that those resources should be put into
supporting First Nations studies, because out of the 60 districts, only 29 are offering it. Furthermore, they are only
offering it if there are additional outside dollars through Aboriginal-targeted funding to support the course. However,
it is a core course and can be used as a graduating course. We have had conversations with Christy Clark about that on
We have the privilege in British Columbia of having Emory Dosdall as our Deputy Minister of Education. He was
the superintendent in Edmonton when the Amiskwaciy Academy was established. He has been sharing that experience
with us and it sounds like it is doing a good job.
What has helped with that school is that it is not just for Aboriginal kids, it is open to everyone. They have been
successful because when kids go there, they subscribe to a certain code of behaviour and to a certain way of applying
themselves to schoolwork, so the students are engaged. It did not ghettoize the students. That is something that we
have worried about: If you establish a school without those kinds of foundations, then you could potentially ghettoize
However, I certainly applaud Dr. Cardinal for the work that she has done there and we look to that as an example
of what is possible in B.C. There has been a change to our School Act to allow what are called ``magnet schools.''
Those are schools with a particular focus, such as fine arts, music, technology and trades, or it could be an Aboriginal
school, so we are involved in discussions with the Ministry of Education about piloting some of those. We think that is
a good start.
Senator Lawson: One supplementary question to Ms. Nahanee. If I am a male member of the Squamish tribe and
have title to a piece of land, are my chances of being successful in claiming that, or getting on the housing list, better
than if I am a female member?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
Senator Lawson: Yes. Therefore discrimination does apply?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes, it does.
Senator Carney: I just wanted to say in response to Senator Lawson's point that Ms. Williams remarked earlier that
racism sat on the table and nobody would acknowledge it. One of the problems that we face is that mainstream
Canadian society will not recognize that the most discriminated against group in Canada are Aboriginal women. They
have been essentially stripped of their Charter rights and nobody will talk about it or deal with it. It is time that we did.
If you ask the treaty commissioners about family law, the women's right to own property or the mall location, they
will say that family law applies, but in B.C., of course, you have to have control of the property in order to divide it
under that law. That is one of the problems that we have to tackle, and it is one of the reasons women leave the reserves
and move to town, because they cannot get their property. I am glad we had a chance to raise that issue.
Senator Lawson: Good.
Senator Sibbeston: There is the psychology of poverty. I come from a small rural Aboriginal community where a
segment of the society is poor. It seems as though the alcoholics are disaffected and shunned by the society. It is as if
the society feels that the alcoholic has been given a chance to change and has not taken the opportunity to do so. This
dog-eat-dog attitude seems to be quite prevalent.
When somebody drinks and becomes an alcoholic, there is really nothing you can do to help that person. They
eventually have to help themselves.
The Aboriginal people, particularly poor Aboriginal people who are living in ghettoes and so forth, are powerless;
they are powerless because they have no voice. That situation will never improve until someone with a social conscience
does something to improve it.
I would like you to comment on this psychology of poverty. Tell me about the people who are shunned by society.
Tell me about the hopelessness that these people experience.
Ms. Nahanee: I do not know everyone in the ghetto personally, but a lot of them think that way. There are quite a
few who are trying to get their education by coming to Eslaha7an to, you know, prepare for that GED. One of the
mothers quit drinking. She has, I think, four children. Her father just received a chieftainship, and she is really
struggling. She is on welfare and she is trying to further her education. She does beautiful beadwork. She told me last
week that she went to our band office to ask for a food voucher because her welfare cheque did not stretch for six
family members and she was refused. They refused to help her. She is relying on her arts and crafts to be able to put
food on the table, for even one day.
It is hard to get out of there, really hard, and I do not have the solutions. I wish I did. I wish we could wave the
magic wand and everybody would have a nice home, a car, a job, education, but it is not that way.
Senator Sibbeston: Is there hope? Who is unfair? Is it the leadership?
Ms. Nahanee: Yes.
Senator Sibbeston: That problem should have been solved. They were very insensitive not to help that woman feed
her family. Is it the woman's fault for being in the situation or is it the leadership that is at fault?
Ms. Nahanee: It is our leadership.
Senator Carney: I believe that mainstream Canada has pushed the people to go back to their band councils. We
assume that since the natives have self-governance their band councils will deal with their problems. It is the band
councils who strip them of the property in the first place.
The problem is not just the leadership; it is a Canadian society that thinks this is fine for the leadership to do.
Senator St. Germain: I do not know whether he is doing it the right way, but I think the present Minister of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development is trying to rectify that situation by way of this legislation. This is likely going to
shock you, but the fact is that I honestly think that the man recognizes the problem and is trying to do something
Hopefully some of you will come forward as witnesses when these pieces of legislation appear before our
committees. You should try and appear before the House of Commons committees when these pieces of legislation are
at that level so that you can voice your opinion and make the injustices known.
I can see a lady sitting in the gallery who has been fighting a cause for a number of years. We have tried to help her
and so have MPs, but our help has been to no avail.
The Chairman: I have been involved with this issue for many years, and I find that as long as we work together we
are going to be all right. I really like what Manny Jules said: ``If you are not part of the solution you are part of the
problem.'' The accountability on reserve is raised in this issue. It affects everything about us. I would like to thank you
all very much for attending.
I would like to welcome Misty Thomas from Night Hoops, Jerry Adams from the Urban Native Youth Association,
and Frazer Smith, President of the Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Association of British Columbia.
It is a great pleasure to meet with you and to hear the successes, the issues and the concerns that you have within
your communities. It is very important that your voices are heard.
When we first started this research and study with an action plan for change, I chose to not to have any bureaucrats
establish the agenda. Each one us on the committee went into our communities and we met with the Aboriginal
agencies to help the agencies and the people establish the agenda for this action plan for change.
We have chosen to listen to the Aboriginal people. What I found in my years of organizing and working with our
own people is that when you look at all the studies that have been done, it is non-Aboriginal people who have studied
us. We need to have our voices heard, so this is what this action plan for change is all about. We welcome each and
every one of you.
I see that we have Gail Sparrow here. Welcome, Gail. You are a weaver.
Ms. Sparrow: I am not a weaver, my sister is.
The Chairman: I was presented with one of her wonderful blankets about three weeks ago. Please give her my
regards and thank her very much. I am putting it on the wall, as a matter of fact. It is too beautiful to use.
Let us begin maybe with the gentlemen this time, starting with Mr. Frazer Smith.
Mr. Frazer Smith, Chairman, Aboriginal Sports and Development Centre: I am also President and Chairman of the
First Nations Advisory Committee to the Vancouver Island Health Authority. I am Vice-Chair the Saanich First
Nation Adult Care Society. I am also head co-ordinator for our elders in Saanich. I am a liaison with the police
departments in Southern Vancouver Island. I am very pleased and happy to be here today. I am glad I came a couple
of minutes early to listen to what was going on with the speakers before me.
To hear the things that are happening and going on with our youth is really hard to comprehend. To try and reach
out and touch or create partnerships with people becomes a stumbling block in some of our cases.
You have heard about the failures and the bad things that are happening in our communities. I think you need to
focus on the accomplishments of some of the organizations and some of the individuals within those organizations.
You know, one of the failures we have at ASDC is that we do not have any government funding anymore, which is a
legacy of the Commonwealth Games. When I became president last year, we were broke, but we managed to survive
somehow by creating partnerships with different organizations and different people. We still do not have any sports
development programs happening because the governments do not recognize ASDC anymore. We have an
opportunity today to do those things because of the board members we have today.
People are making things happen and trying to make a change, trying to reach out and touch our youth to get them
involved in sports or education or things like that.
I have heard all morning and part of this afternoon about what the youth want. I wish I had that choice when I was
young. I never had that choice. I was taken way from home and put into a boarding school, and learned how to survive
and be tough and to work for what I wanted. I thank my late father for his advice that we live in two societies, two
cultures. How do you balance these things out?
I heard a lot of questions at the table this morning. You know, I thought I was at a regular meeting. I was putting
my hand up to try and answer your questions. I forgot that my turn was coming. All those questions and answers you
had, those answers are gone today right now. I come to a lot of these tables, I do my own little thing in my own little
way. I am not well known like Manny Jules or Phil Fontaine or any of those guys. I do my own thing in the
background. I do not go out looking for a pat on the back. I was surprised my name was here. Somebody phoned and
confirmed my attendance. I really did not know what was going on. I am pleased and honoured to be here today.
A lot of the things that I wanted to talk about are really gone. There has to be commitment, whether from your part
or my part or the people that spoke this morning. You know, too many times the programs and organizations become
I like the concept of the new government although I do not agree with the new government a whole lot of times I like
the concept of 10 per cent administration costs and 90 per cent deliverables. That way it makes me work harder, it
makes me to go out and look for more people to become partners so I can balance the programs and the things that we
do out there. If you do not create partnerships, you do not get anywhere, you cannot.
The government dollars that we get are next to nothing. Yet the government of today wants you to do things in a
business way. If you want to look at a business, do not look to the reserves because they do not know how to run a
business but for themselves.
If you want to look at it business-wise and you want to make things happen, you have to get people that are 110 per
cent committed to these causes, whether it be education, sports, mental health, better health or better living
I brought my son with me today, who worked at oceans and science for a year. He got so frustrated with the
program he quit because his bosses would not commit to doing something after the one-year pilot project. They went
from reserve to reserve throughout the province talking to the different bands and councils about the environment,
environmental health and how we create and make a better environment, and it never happened.
I did not blame him for quitting because when you talk to people and they lend a deaf ear, nothing begins to
happen, nothing begins to go anywhere. You know, like you said in your own words, Aboriginal people have been
studied inside-out, sideways, every which way you can think of. We are tired of it. I always tell our people that today is
a good day to begin a new life.
As past co-ordinator of the 26th Annual Elder's Conference last year, I am honoured and proud to say that we put
on the biggest and the best show in the past 26 years because we had elders from all over the world and all over
Canada. I have to agree with one of the senators who said he is appalled that there was not any media coverage at the
event. If you want media coverage, you have to go out and get it and you have to work for it. You have to put your
foot out there and make these things known that what you want to do and where you are going.
If you want to continue to make the media and the public aware of what you are doing, you have to make sure you
have the media coverage all the time, but you also have to make sure that there are people standing behind you. If you
are standing alone, the tasks that are before you become impossible to do. That is one of the problems that we face.
A lot of times we talk about racial discrimination. It has been with us since the time of the Europeans, but we have
survived it. We have survived it because of the will and determination to stand proud as Aboriginal people, Indians,
First Nations or whatever you want to call us. I prefer you to call us Indians because they never got rid of the Indian
Act or changed it.
Every time we make a move, legislation changes the rules and the laws on us. If people are not up to date as to what
changes are happening, what is going on, we fall back into the woodwork again and we are lost. We tell this to our
leaders and they fail to understand because they are the chiefs and they are supposed to know more than we do. As an
ordinary Indian, I am not supposed to know these things.
I am an advocate and a person who stands for my own personal rights and the rights of our children. That is
something I am going to be doing for a long time. As I tell my children and my grandchildren, I want to step down, I
want to go fishing and go hunting. When I think about it, there is nothing left to fish, and there is nothing left to hunt.
I continue to fish and hunt for possible answers, that maybe this Senate can help us in accomplishing some of these
things that we have to do to make not only my life easier, but also the life of our future, to try and get rid of some of the
discriminations, the racism that we have to deal with.
Whether we change the curriculum in our public schools or not, we must make these things happen. We have to
decide whether to try to fight and change legislation or be a part of the legislation.
You said this morning that you wanted to put one Aboriginal on each school board. I say when you sit on a school
board of any sort you have nothing. But if you sit on a pack, you become something and people hear you. In Manny
Jules' words: ``If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.'' I have become part of the solution.
I sit on two packs in my school district, and I am very grateful to be a part of those packs because I work with the
children in Brentwood Bay Elementary and Bayside Middle School. I am honoured to see what is going on, what our
kids are doing. In the Bayside Middle School, we do what we call a ``walkabout'' with the teachers and the students to
see what is happening, what is it that they want, and what they see in their future.
In Brentwood Elementary School, with our pack and our Aboriginal part of the program we try to discourage
racism. We work with all of the students, white students included.
When they do begin to work, it makes me proud to see that white people want to be part of the Indian, and work
along side of him. I always feel that racism sometimes becomes put upon us because we want to be a part of it. We
want to talk about racism and we want to talk about discrimination. We have heard about it day in and day out. We
have heard about the residential schools.
You ask people about the solutions and they sit there with their mouths opened up and nothing comes out. They
have no answers because they are too busy talking about them. You talk about them, I talk about them, the people
that sat here this morning talk about them, but nothing gets done.
In our own little ways we do these things and make a change. You see it in little successes. Maybe we do not have a
100 per cent accomplishment, but at least if we save one person it is an accomplishment, it is not a failure.
The programs and the HRDCs that you talked about this morning are nothing. When you get an HRDC program,
there are limitations to the things you can do. They give you administration dollars or whatever it is they call it, but
you cannot create things and do things with it because it is not in your budget. Those are the things that you have to
look at. You have to look at what is going to happen. You have to think about what you want to do. You have to
think of what you want to accomplish.
You know, very recently we have been approved for a three-year project in management of chronic diseases. In that
management of chronic diseases, we have implemented programs such as traditional healing and traditional medicine,
along with modern day medicines, and nutrition of today and yesterday. That program is becoming a success. Maybe
there are only 10 or 15 people, but those 10 or 15 people are going to get a good healthy lifestyle.
When we talk about our education systems, we look at what is going on in our schools, and the gangs that I heard
about. When you ignore those gangs or the drug dealers, they never go away.
You talk about our chiefs and our councils and why they cannot do anything. Our chiefs and our councils are too
busy being politicians and trying to save the world. It is the people, the grass roots people that you had sitting before
you today that make a change and make a difference. It is the people from the communities, the people from the
streets, the people from the friendship centres or your education department that make these changes.
The people that I heard this morning, who are 110 per cent committed to what they are doing, they are the people I
am proud to sit with and follow. Those are the people I like to see and hear. I know them by name and I do not know
them personally, but I know of their accomplishments. Those are the things that you need to look at and those are the
things that we all need to look at, whether they become role models or become a model for all of us.
When we start looking at models and people that are up there or wherever they might be, sometimes we build up our
people too strongly and they get too top-heavy and they start to look down on us little people again. We should
remember my fathers' words: ``Don't climb that ladder too high because someday you are going to run out of ladder
and then where are you going to be?'' ``You are going to be at the bottom with me.'' ``The best way to accomplish
things is to stay on the ground where you can see and hear everything.'' ``When you are way up there on top of the
ladder there is nothing to see but sky.'' ``You look over everybody, and you look past the things and the problems that
you have.'' ``When you are down here on the ground you see everybody.''
I hope that I am not offending anyone. If I am then forget it. Do not take it home with you. I do not like to beat
around the bush about the things that are going on. You know, for a lot of years I beat up on the governments.
I have been through six ministers of health in this province because for the simple reason I do not go away. I want to
make that change, maybe not in my lifetime, but I want to make the change anyway.
When I look around and I looked around today as I was coming over, I thought yeah, we did make a change. At one
time we had 100 elders. Today we still have 100 elders that are living healthy. We have made them become independent
of looking after themselves and giving them the will to live. Now the elders are saying, ``How come I am fighting so
hard to stay alive and my children and my grandchildren are out there trying to commit suicide or doing drugs and
alcohol?'' I say it is not the children. It is the people at the top, it is us older ones that have to tell our children. We have
to teach them.
We live in a fast world and we have to keep up with the times and a lot of the time because of depression or whatever
you want to call it or poverty, we have to try and make do. You know, as you heard the young lady this morning a
little while ago talking about the mothers, the young mothers on welfare. Let us talk about the single people that are on
welfare who get about $200 a month. I would challenge anybody to come and live for that.
In order for you people to understand where we are coming from, in order for you people to know what we are
really talking about, I challenge you to come and live with me. I do not know how many times I have put that challenge
out there and I have yet to be taken up on it. As my dad used to say, ``Come and walk in my shoes and you will see for
yourself what it is really like to live like an Indian.''
I am grateful for the things that you people are trying to do and the things, the changes that you are trying to make.
Hopefully, maybe not in our lifetime or your lifetime, that these things do begin to change, whether it be poverty or
whether it be the drug and alcoholics in our communities or in the streets.
You know, I noticed in your paper it talked about people in the urban areas. I think we all come from an urban
area. We are all urbanized. You know, I think that is one of the biggest problems we have amongst our societies is the
fact that people turn us and divide us into different ethnic groups. The people that are sitting beside me are no different
than I am. They still have the same colour skin, they still have the same colour blood, and they think and talk about the
same issues that I talk about day in and day out.
Hopefully the Senate can make some of the changes that we are seeking. Hopefully before we leave we will get the
time and dates as to when they are going to be here or wherever they are going to be, I would love to be there.
It has been a long time since I have been at a table like this. I remember the late Harold Cardinal, and the late Chief
Dan George. I followed in their footsteps. I followed them wherever they went and learned from them.
I am honoured that I can be here today and speak to the Senate. I do not know what you want to change, whether it
is the Indian Act or the legislation, I do not know. I have no clue. I only went by the one little paragraph that you gave
me. But I am honoured to be here and proud to sit beside the people who spoke earlier. I am proud to hear them and
speak about their 110 per cent commitment that they have towards their communities and their youth.
Mr. Jerry Adams, Urban Native Youth Association: We talk about role models and people who are heroes to us and I
would like to acknowledge a friend of mine who sits here and that is Cherry Kingsley.
Without her input to the Senate and to the international world, we would not be sitting here today, and I thank her
for that. She is a role model that we all have to look up to. She supports the young people and I thank you for bringing
this to us and to you people as well. Thank you for coming and talking to us.
I also thank you for listening to the young folks last night. Two of the young folks are on our board of directors.
Out of the nine board of directors, four on the board of directors are youth. We make sure that the youth are part of
the whole process for Urban Native Youth Association. Without them, the Urban Native Youth Association would
not exist. Former students that have graduated through Urban Native Youth Association are also part of the solution.
We hire them back to work for us. They may not have the right education, but they have the knowledge of the street
life, and to me that is critical.
Celebrations are also a critical part of Urban Native Youth Association. Our young folks are not celebrated enough
to be recognized as human beings. We always forget about them and we do not talk to them. We do not celebrate their
graduations. No matter how small it is they like to be heard and to be celebrated. We have to do more of that. That is
why Urban Native Youth Association really emphasizes working with young folks.
I am very privileged to work with young people because they give me the life to be who I am. They give me energy to
work with them. Although I am 53 now, I still feel youthful enough to work with them and understand them. To me
that is a critical part of service delivery. You have to enjoy those young folks. You have to care for them. We are their
family in their urban settings, and we really are their parents, their grandparents, and we see them have children. They
graduate and come to work with us.
I think there is a solution. I think it is loving one another, taking care of one another. I do not think it costs money
to say hello to Mr. Smith here and say that I am happy to see him today. That is a simple solution. We tend to walk by
each other, but not talk to each other, not look at each other and to care for each other. To me, again, we have to do
Things do not have to cost an arm and a leg. Building relationships with the police, social workers, and our leaders
does not cost anything. I mean we have to call each other on those things. We work with the Vancouver city police.
Dave Dixon is a Vancouver policeman that works very hard with the Aboriginal people. We have got social workers
that are very caring to our young folks. There are some that are not as good, but let us not talk about them. Let us
celebrate the good things that are happening for these young folks.
That is why we have to look to the future as opposed to the past, as Mr. Smith said. We do not have to talk about
the past all the time because the children need us today.
I have got a paper that I will be giving to you folks a little later because we have not finished it yet, it is not polished
up. We are perfectionists. I thank my two cohorts back here who are writing for me, Lynda Gray and Dena
Klashinsky. They are slow. I do not pay them that much. I thank them as well for the work they have put in. They are
quiet, silent partners, and to me that is what works for Urban Native Youth Association. We work as one. They work
with me to develop these services and the Urban Native Youth Association. That is why we have four youth on the
board of directors. I think that is really exciting that they are involved. They usually do the hiring.
One of our safe houses was developed by youth. They set the guidelines and rules to what the expectations were for
that safe house. It is very important that they set the guideline; I do not know what it feels like to be a youth anymore. I
am far removed from that. We need to have their input for these things.
I can quote the statistics that we have from Dr. Penny Parry in her study called ``Road Map.'' I can tell you all about
the percentage of suicides, and the numbers of kids that are sexually exploited. Honourable senators are aware of the
numbers and statistics and I do not want to bore you with them.
I think there is a solution to this problem in that we can offer young folks a place that they call their own. They need
a place that they can control and govern. We would like to create a program or a youth centre for Aboriginal kids in
the Greater Vancouver area. We do not have anything against the other centres but we feel the youth need to have a
place that they can call their own. They need their own house.
The Chinese youth have their own place at the Chinese Cultural Centre, and we need that for our young folks. We
need a place where the kids can have fun again. We do not have children that are having fun anymore. We are always
too busy trying to fix them. We are always trying to fix them and heal them, but we do not play with them. We need to
do more of that. It is critical that the children have fun.
There needs to be a place where kids can carve again. There are many young folks who have the carving skills but do
not have a place to do it.
Young moms need a place to bring their children. We want to put that in our centre for young folks so they can have
a place to drop their children off so they can go to school or go to work because they need that.
We want a theatre for young folks because that is what they have asked for. They want a place to have fun and do
their theatre. There are a lot of young good youth that are into acting and want to put on plays and do that kind of
We have a place for a hostel that will be funded through SCPI dollars, homelessness dollars. We would like to have
that long-term kind of a place for young folks because they always end up with not having anyplace to live. The
provincial government have cut those funds off for 17 to 24-year olds and they need help. We need to start working
with them again.
A lot of the young folks say they do not want to be judged. I was at another hearing, which is run by MCFD,
Ministry of Children and Family Development. The young folks were saying that social workers are making judgments
on them. The young men and young women talked about them being removed by their parents, constantly being told
about their parents being alcoholic and beating them up. The children understand the situation that they are in but still
love their parents anyway. We have got to recognize that situation.
I think listening to young folks is a real art. I do not think we do enough of that. I will tell you a little story about me
being a social worker and doing so-called listening. I dropped this young girl off to a foster home and the foster mother
and I and the young girl, we did a little plan for her. She said she would do drumming, go back to school, not use drugs
and alcohol and not work the streets anymore. After this was decided the girl went to the bathroom and ran away. Her
foster mother and I had not listened to her. We have to listen.
I think all levels of government have to work together: provincial, federal and municipal. We have a tripartite
agreement, but it still has functioning as well as I think it should.
I think there is a real need to have sustainable programs and that frustrates my co-workers because we set up a
program and then it has to be shut down again and then restarted two or three months later. That to me is not service
delivery for young folks.
I beg you people to tell the members of parliament that this is not working. I ask you guys to talk about that to them
so that we have long-term programs for them. That is the only way we will get out of the cycle. I think we can get out of
the cycle. I do not think it is hopeless. We have survived this long and we will keep surviving.
Role modeling is difficult part for these young folks. We need to start helping them with that role modeling. You
cannot replace drugs and alcohol and the life of the street with nothing. That is what we have to build up. We do not
do enough of that. That is why you need places for young folks to call their own.
The Chairman: Your testimony has been very insightful. You have offered us some good, plain, simple solutions.
Ms. Misty Thomas, Night Hoops, Pacific Sport National Sport Centre: Mr. Smith and Mr. Adams talked about
small successes and focusing on accomplishments, and I think that is what I would like to talk about in my
My background is in sport and recreation. I have an undergraduate degree in physical education, with an emphasis
in sport medicine, as well as a master's degree in fitness programming.
I work at the Pacific Sport National Sport Centre where I am responsible for athlete services and business
development on behalf of all of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes who live and train here in British Columbia. I
work with our future athletes.
I am an Olympian, an All-American in the sport of basketball. I have also coached at the university level, both in
Canada and the United States and with our national team program. None of those things bring me here today, but
each of contributes in some way to the programs that I have been involved with.
I am here because of two programs that I have created now within Greater Vancouver using sport as a means to
assist at-risk youth. You are probably not too surprised to learn that the sport I chose was basketball, but there are
very good reasons why basketball is a good choice for urban youth.
The first program that I created just over eight years ago was a program called Night Hoops. As the name implies, it
is a late night basketball program for at-risk youth. The program was initially considered in response to a large
increase in the number of breaches of probation.
Most people are familiar that when a youth is on probation, there is normally a 10:00 p.m. curfew. Most breaches of
curfew happen on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday to Thursday a 10:00 p.m. curfew is probably liveable, but on
Friday nights and Saturday nights a 10:00 p.m. curfew to a teenager is cruel and unusual punishment.
We created a basketball program that operates on Friday and Saturday nights and will hopefully provide the youth
with a place where they can turn their energy and their passion into the sport of basketball. Night Hoops offers young
people between the ages of 13 and 18 with the opportunity to become part of a team.
All youth in the program are referred into the program by one of the following sources: probation officers, police
officers, school officials or counsellors, youth workers, or any other social service professional.
Once involved in the program, the youth not only receive instruction in basketball, but also a number of educational
workshops prior to games that focus on topics such as: job skills, health issues, and personal character development.
To me it is a very simple concept. The whole idea is to make playing basketball with your friends a whole lot more
fun than doing virtually anything else that is available to you late at night on Fridays and Saturdays.
The program began as a pilot project in January of 1996 with 12 teams operating out of six facilities in East
Vancouver, and at its peak the program operates now in six municipalities with over 40 teams playing at close to 30
facilities and involves over 500 teens each week. We have had approximately 3,000 teens through the program in the
seven complete years that we have had.
The second program that I started recently is called native youth basketball, and we have just recently completed
our initial pilot project basically about two weeks ago. The community leaders from both the Musqueam First Nation
and the Squamish First Nation approached me in the summer of 2002 concerning a program for their youth. In past
years, there had been teams in the Night Hoops program from the Musqueam and Squamish Nations, as well as a
number of youth living off reserve in Vancouver.
Similar to Night Hoops, native youth basketball was developed in response to an identified need. The need was to
try and connect First Nation youth to their community in a fun and positive way. I must say that when these leaders
first approached me I noted a sense of desperation in their voices. I could tell that they were truly scared for their
youth. I felt they were almost at their wit's end about what could be done.
They told me that the kids often seemed to be shooting hoops in driveways or at the recreation centre, but often that
was where they would gather as a sort of a prelude to other activities that may not be so positive.
The simple idea of providing a safe and supervised environment for these kids to play basketball in came to life.
It is important to this program that the youth connect to their community. The program was designed to be highly
inclusive. For example, it was much more important to me in these initial stages and through this pilot project that the
people who were working directly with the youth were from their own community. Less important was their ability to
coach or their knowledge of the game of basketball. There are certainly more highly skilled coaches out there, people
with a great deal more knowledge, but the idea was to build the capacity within their own community. Other adult
leaders in the community became involved as referees, scorekeepers, timekeepers, concession stand operators, and to
me the most important role they played were cheerleaders.
In this pilot phase, building the capacity was crucial to helping youth make that connection back to their
community. The future could allow for the development of the quality of the coaching and the officiating and so on.
We have a long way to go in improving this program, but in the very short pilot project that we just completed, I feel
we had a tremendous success. It does not come as a surprise and I do not think it should come as a surprise that sport
can be seen as a solution to many teen issues.
What remains surprising to me with regards to both of these initiatives is the difficulty in accessing funding to
support them despite, literally reams of research that says that programs of this type are very good.
I am sure you are tired of hearing ``please'' for funding for good programs, and you can add my name to that
already long list and at some point maybe we will get something worked out.
I would like to point out something about the funding of the native youth basketball program. Once we decided to
create this league the next step was to secure the funding that we were going to need to carry it out. Meetings were held,
letters were written, proposals were sent during the late summer and early fall, and the responses have been slow
coming in. In fact, I am still receiving responses this week even though our pilot project is now complete.
While we waited for answers and heard nothing, nothing week after week, there were still kids continuing to be
involved in the activities and other sort of negative behaviours. I heard the desperation in the parents' voices again and
it became even more urgent until in a couple of separate incidents teens died from abuse of alcohol and drugs late in the
fall of 2002.
At that point there was no more waiting for someone else to come and help, and these communities themselves
found resources that had been committed to other areas and moved them into this program. I think this speaks
volumes for the importance that the communities have placed on sport programs as a means to reach their own youth.
I have invited Gail Sparrow from the Musqueam First Nation to join us here today because she can speak more
directly to what she has observed first-hand in her community, and so I would like at this time to turn things over to
Ms. Gail Sparrow, Musqueam First Nation: Good afternoon.
[Ms. Sparrow spoke in her native language]
Prior to coming down here, I had mentioned to my elderly aunt, that I was going to go to this standing committee to
listen and prepare a presentation about Aboriginal youth. Her comment was, ``Well, will they be standing up?'' I can
report back that you were all sitting, except for Senator Carney.
I want to make some mention also to Senator St. Germain. Senator, you brought back some memories when you
referred to the Elvis Presley song ``The Ghetto.'' Back about 34 years ago when I was much younger than I am now, I
was in a hospital bed in New Westminster. A young man was driving under the influence of alcohol and clipped the
corner of the car I was riding in, and I ended up with a broken leg. I was in the hospital all by myself because the family
could not visit from Musqueam, it was a long way to go in those times, and I had the radio on because you did not
have TVs in your room. I was laying there feeling sorry for myself because no one had visited me for about five days. I
put the radio on and on came the song of Elvis Presley and ``The Ghetto'' and I started to cry because I thought I really
was in the ghetto with a broken leg and nobody there to visit me. I wanted to thank Senator St. Germain for that
because it brought back some memories.
I want to give you some insight. My late grandfather was my mentor. He was a chief and he mentored me through
my tenure as chief in Musqueam, and he taught me something. He said, ``Gail, when you are sitting down listening to
the people, you have two ears to listen more, and you have a mouth that is going to be able to voice what you hear.'' I
want you to listen clearly and closely to my words because I want to help you envision what happened in the native
Misty has enlightened you about the fact we had a problem with money. Well, you know, when you work hard, the
hard work is the yeast that raises the dough.
I had a hard time raising the dough for this program. We went out and approached every level of government. We
met with cabinet ministers and wrote letters, made phone calls, sent proposals, all to no avail. They all said, ``Well, this
department will help you,'' and Misty received the letters. ``This department will help you,'' and Misty received the
letters. We were sent from department to department. We were so frustrated that we went back to the bands for help.
Why the bands? Because that was where the problem was with the native youth.
The Squamish band prior to this had no kids involved in basketball; they were more involved on the streets. We
have spent numerous dollars on burying our youth that have died as a result of drugs and alcohol but never had the
money to invest in programs that would keep them alive. It is difficult to find money for prevention programs and we
all know that ``an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.''
Our young kids, the little pre-teens and the teenagers would jump off the school bus, pick up a smoke, a hit of some
kind of dope or hang on the streets and get into trouble. There was nothing reaching them and occupying them in a
constructive, positive way.
This problem came close to home with my own niece, who graduated from high school, ended up using crystal
methamphetamine, which is the most rampantly used drug on the street. Crystal meth was available just a block from
my home and other young children were using it as well.
Misty was right when she said that we had lost some lives when we were trying to put this program together. Our
young native kids deserve a better future. I was a kid once and I am still a kid at heart.
We had a basketball program when I was young. I do not know if you know this or not, but Musqueam had the first
ever gymnasium in Canada. It was built as a result of the older people realizing that the kids needed a place to play.
Kids need a place where they can develop their athletic abilities and learn good things.
That gymnasium is still standing and is the result of the efforts of the older people realizing the needs of their kids.
The problem is that in the past 10 years there has not been any organization in our community; the kids have not been
We approached the bands and the bands were able to dig down deep. We really had to chokehold them to get them
to fund the program. Musqueam, the Friendship Centre and the Squamish band came up with money. Tsawwassen
wanted to join, but they were a little bit short in participation and funds. Burrard would have come on board, but they
were not really organized enough for their kids to participate. I am sure next year that they will. Getting the money
together was important but not as important as the need for a good program for the kids.
We have gone from zero participation to full participation. Musqueam ended up having enough kids for three junior
teams. The gym that had been empty on Monday nights is now full with parents watching their kids play basketball.
Parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles all came to support the kids. Basketball has become an activity to
look forward to.
The Vancouver Indian Centre went from having no team when this first started to two teams that ended up winning
their junior and senior leagues. The Squamish band had four teams, but had no one to play against the. As a result of
the new centre Squamish finally has opponents to play against.
When you go to the centre you see excitement, life, fun and participation. Kids that normally would be on the streets
are participating in something productive, something that is good because they are developing both their minds and
their bodies. They really benefit from their parents being there to watch them. Their parents are the key people in their
Now that the season has ended the kids are wondering what they will do next. There is a gap in their activities. We
did not have enough money to keep the program going for a longer period of time. We did the best we could with the
funds that were available to us. We asked the kids what they wanted and they told us.
It is difficult for us to provide the kids with these programs because of the roadblocks we have, the big problem is
funding. The Squamish band has $44 million and yet we have a hard time accessing the funds. We have problems with
the government that has programs that are supposed to be able to enhance the lives of First Nations but we cannot get
the funds. There should be a level playing field so that between the government's programs that they provide and the
First Nations who are participating, can have productive lives. It is hard when you get to the door and it gets slammed
in your face. They tell us to go to this and that department and nothing gets done. It is hard when you go to the bands
and the bands have to dig deep and hard and you feel really guilty taking their money, but the money is for the kids.
All the kids want to know is what the program is going to be like next year. We wonder if we are going to have to go
through the same struggle for funding. We wonder about money for uniforms and so on. We tell the kids that they will
have a program no matter what the government says to us. We are determined to continue the program. If you want to
do something, you have got to do it on your own.
The bands are going to allocate funds in their budgets for native youth basketball. The funding is not at full capacity
and is less that what we are expecting but we will start with that.
It is important that this committee understands that we are here to speak on behalf of our young people. We hope
very much that you are listening to us. I think the time has come that the doors should open because the future of our
youth is at stake. If we do not provide these programs for our youth today then they will not have a better tomorrow. I
was given the opportunity to participate in sports and it is my responsibility to see that our youth have the same
opportunity. I benefited from the program; I went on and graduated from high school. I went on and did some years in
college and university. I then went into business and became involved in politics.
We do not want our kids to become statistics anymore. We have the highest rate of dropouts in the country. We
have the highest rate of alcohol abuse and drug abuse and many other problems with our native youth. Those stats
should change, and they can if you will listen.
We are small in numbers, but we are dealing with a big problem. We can become part of the solution by doing just
what we are doing right now; we are speaking on behalf of our youth. I just wish I had a video for you to see how
successful the program has been for our kids. We are here, knocking at the door trying to tell you that we need these
programs. These programs can change our kids' lives and make a better future for the. We can keep them in school and
get them off the streets and away from drugs and alcohol. Good sports programs can do this for our kids whether they
are on reserve or off reserve.
I say this for all First Nations, not just for our native youth basketball. We have to invest program dollars and make
sure they allocate them to the right programs. That is the key. We have millions of dollars that are allocated, but we
really need to follow through to make sure that those dollars go to the people that will benefit the most from them. It
does not matter what size the program is, but how much each individual benefits from it.
I agree with Frazer about the research; we have been researched to death. I would like to use some of those research
dollars spent on basketball programs across Canada. The research has found the problems. We also know the
solutions. We meet and meet and still committee after committee is sent out to do more research. The problems are the
same as they were 35 years ago when my dad was the chief. The problems have not changed.
The problem lies within the structure of the Indian Act. It is not a good government structure, and the chiefs and
councils have set up their structures the same way. The answers are always ``no'' when the funding is there. Then you
wonder why we have the same problems. We wonder where all the money is that we are supposed to have for
prevention and treatment and for social and economic development for First Nations.
I do not know where they all the money goes; that is a puzzle to me. Misty and I spent an unbelievable amount of
time trying to get this basketball program off the ground. You know, it baffles me that monies that go around for other
programs that get refunded year after year is a given, but programs that are new, that are innovative, that are
productive do not have the doors open to them, especially when they have young kids involved.
I really hope that this goes somewhere, that this is not just something that is going to fall on deaf ears. I hope it is
something that will get some results. We are here on behalf of our youth. We listen to what they say and we know that
these programs can help them toward a better future. They are going to live the future and that is what this is all about.
We have to level the playing field, senators, to make sure that government programs and programs for First Nations
youth are in partnership, and that they are recognized. It does not matter the size of the organization, it matters what
they are doing.
I am reporting to you because that is the old way of doing things with First Nations. I do not have a lot of it in
writing because I do not like to write. I am not a writer by nature. I am one that can speak better with my mouth. They
call me ``The mouth of the Fraser'' in Musqueam.
I just want you to know that we need this program to carry on. This program and the programs that Frazer and
Jerry are talking about can be part of a whole program that can make differences for young kids. We can do it
collectively and collaboratively through initiatives, through government changing their requirements to access funding.
That is what we need to do so that kids can have that door, their future opened up through programs like this.
I know for a fact that senators, have an opportunity to be a voice for us and would you please be that voice and
carry it back to Ottawa and speak for us. We hope to hear back from you, instead of falling on the wayside. That
happens to us too often and we get short-changed. I do not like to spend my time on something that is not productive.
We are here saying that we want to be productive, we want to work with government, we want to see that funding is
channelled down to the First Nations children, and this is why I am here, otherwise I would not be here if I did not
think it was worthwhile. I want to especially thank Senator Carney for her interest. She helped us get the Night Hoops
going. She listened to us and we got immediate action. Unfortunately, though, it did not come to the outcome that we
wanted, and as a result, we are here today.
We will continue with our basketball programs whether we get the money or not. We will find the money because
you say we believe that the hard work is the yeast that gets the dough for you and we will find it. Please help the native
youth in this province and across this country with program dollars that are there for them and that will reach them
through the other organizations that are also making a difference for them.
(Ms. Sparrow spoke in her native language)
I hope that our talking has made some kind of a difference for you and that you will take our message to the
government. We cannot break through the doors in Ottawa, but you can. We ask you to help us.
The Chairman: We have been working on this action plan for change for two and one-half years, and very actively
the last 18 months. I was our decision to do this work; we drew up the agenda with the help of our communities. Each
of us went out into our own communities and spoke to the Aboriginal agencies and to the people to help us determine
what is important to the Aboriginal people. This is an action plan for change.
We cannot promise anything, but we can guarantee that every MP and every senator will get this report. We are
going to speak to them and lobby them for change. Every Aboriginal agency that wants this report to use as
ammunition to get after the powers that be to fund our Aboriginal people will get it. We need community
empowerment and this is hopefully what we have here. We want the Aboriginal communities and the Aboriginal
nations to work in partnership with other Canadians to look after our children and bring them back to our homes and
families. This is one very important step.
I really appreciate each and every one of you being here because need to hear your voices so that we can take your
messages back to Ottawa and pressure them for change.
I really have to complement Senator Pat Carney because she was the one that led the way to the community
participation in developing the agenda. I would also like to recognize Cherry Kingsley. Ms Kingsley worked very
closely with Senator Pearson at the national and international levels on the sexual exploitation of our children. She did
a wonderful job, and because of the work that she and Senator Pearson have done, it has gone to the UN and it has
also made changes in the attitudes of the powers that be on the sexual exploitation of our children, which is just tragic
in our communities.
Senator Carney: I want to establish that everything I know about this subject I learned from Senator Chalifoux and
One of the native youth we talked to last night said that the program was too short. Is that because it was the pilot
program? How long are these programs?
Ms. Thomas: Yes, it was because the pilot project was intended to be very short.
Senator Carney: How short is short?
Ms. Thomas: This program ran for just under three months, and was to finish this weekend in time for the Squamish
Nation basketball tournament. That event is starting on Friday.
Senator Carney: How much money are we talking about to renew this program?
Ms. Thomas: It depends on the number of teams and the geographical distances between those teams, so it is a
difficult question to answer, but not much. If we could run a six-month program using the teams that we currently
have, we would need between $15,000 and $20,000.
Senator Carney: Fifteen to $20,000? Get Senator Lawson to write you a cheque.
Senator Lawson: They stole that money when they were giving out grants in Ottawa.
Ms. Thomas: I did not say that we asked for a lot; I just said we did not get any.
Senator Carney: The point you have made is we are not talking a lot about money.
Night Hoops ran for eight years; what happened to the funding?
Ms. Sparrow: It was funded through HRDC.
Senator Carney: We just happen to have a couple of HRDC people here.
Ms. Sparrow: Who are they?
Senator Carney: What was the problem? Here is a program that lasted eight years, that was in 40 municipalities, I
think you said, and involved hundreds of kids. What happened to the funding?
Ms. Sparrow: I do not know the whole story Senator Carney, but I know there were a lot of political problems
relating to the funding issue with Night Hoops. Out of our frustration we just moved on. We got out of it and decided
to form native youth basketball. We found in the end that it was too complicated and too political with HRDC
funding, and they changed their funding formula and made it really difficult to access the funding for the next segment.
I think Misty can tell you the rest of it.
Ms. Thomas: The reasons why we lost the funding, was never made entirely clear to me. Through my involvement
with Night Hoops we were able to secure additional provincial funding in order to allow a smaller sized program to
Senator Carney: Is that program alive and kicking?
Ms. Thomas: Yes, it is alive and it is kicking. It is not kicking as hard or as far, but it is still out there and that
funding has been secured for the next two years.
Senator Carney: Mr. Smith, who are your partners? You say that in your sports development you are doing a
partnership. Is it government, is it businesses, or is your partnership with the band?
Mr. Smith: No, the partnerships we are creating are with the Peninsula Diabetes Association, the Aboriginal
Resource Committee, ASRA, and the Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association. Those organizations have tried
to keep us afloat.
We have certified coaches and coach trainers that we have access to. We do not have access to government funding.
I heard that they were talking about our youth excelling in sports. You know, our youth will never excel. They have to
compete against one another.
Last summer we tried to do a pilot project with the B.C. games. We wanted to take some of our Aboriginal athletes
to the games. They wanted us to participate in adjacent games. They wanted us to participate but you know, we are
going to have you little Indians over there, but you will be still part of it. That was not what we wanted. We wanted our
kids to compete in the B.C. Games, along with the rest of the other kids. They said we could not participate because we
had an all-Aboriginal team. They were afraid of our kids because they are good. You know, all our kids are good
Senator Carney: What would the Olympics do for you? Would it drain all the money away from the programs or
would it help you? I would like each of you to answer that question.
Mr. Adams: I think it would be beneficial for young folks to have the Olympics if they leave something for us to
work with. I would want the governments to leave a legacy for the young folks, whether it is housing or recreation, just
not totem poles.
Senator Carney: Would the Olympics drain the money away from your programs or would it assist them?
Ms. Thomas: I believe the games would assist in many ways, and, in fact, already have. This is the first Olympic bid
in the history of bidding for Olympics that has created a legacy program before the bid phase. Most legacy programs
are developed after you are awarded the games. This particular bid has set forth the 2010 Legacies Now program and
for every dollar that was raised in support of the bid a percentage was set aside to do legacy programs for youth
throughout our province. I believe the bid would be a fantastic thing for not just high performance athletes, but for
grass roots programs and not restricted simply to sport programs either. There is funding for arts, culture,
environmental sustainability, and social sustainability as well.
Senator Carney: Try and get that package for the clerk because it might give us more information concerning
housing needs and so on.
Senator Pearson: Thank you very much for your presentations. I have always been sure about the importance of
sports for kids and how much it means to their lives.
Do you have any soccer programs? Soccer seems to be becoming popular and is not excessively expensive. It might
be helpful to develop a larger spectrum of sports.
Ms. Sparrow: Soccer is popular in the native communities; there are leagues for kids, teenagers and adults. The B.C.
Native Recreation Association is planning an Easter tournament in Victoria where juniors and seniors will participate.
Soccer is on the rise and in some ways competes in popularity with basketball. The kids will have to decide which one
Senator Pearson: I do not want the sports to be in competition with each other. I want a wider spectrum. I would
like to put in our recommendation that we would like support for a wide variety of sports. I know about the
sustainability and the infrastructure. You need a huge number of volunteers, but I am sure you get quite a few with this
kind of thing. However, you also need something else, which is an infrastructure with some people who actually can do
the organizing and they are not going to be worn out just because they are volunteers. They will actually get paid for
what they are doing. You will need money for uniforms because we know that the kids love the uniforms and they are
an important part of the symbolism.
Mr. Smith: In our centre we run coaching clinics to our certify our coaches from level one right on up to whatever
they want to go. We have soccer camps, and have them two or three times a year. Our centre manager, Daniel Thorn,
goes out throughout B.C. to operate some of these soccer camps. Often Daniel has to find his own funding to get some
of these soccer camps or coaching clinics going. It often depends on the communities where these people come from.
The funding is not there, so the kids end up paying for it. Hopefully we can find some money so we can offer coaching
clinics and summer camps or soccer camps or whatever it is for kids to take part in because the kids do not have the
Senator Pearson: Olympic Aid is now called the Right to Play. Silken Laumann has been involved with that
program and maybe they can help you in your endeavours.
Ms. Thomas: Olympic Aid, which recently changed it name, has distanced itself a little bit from the Olympic
movement; they focus more on the third world countries.
Senator Pearson: I think they are thinking of developing more work with Aboriginal and native populations. I
would encourage them to do so.
Ms. Thomas: I would encourage them to do so as well.
Senator Pearson: Mr. Adams, you spoke about the transition that youth make to adulthood. You told us to treat
these wards of the state with the same sensitivity that we would our own children. We should be prepared to support
these children for a little while longer. Well, we are not only prepared, we do.
Percentage-wise there is large number of Aboriginal children in the care system and they will be the ones that will
have the least outside resources to help them as they make the transition into adulthood. Please make a comment about
Mr. Adams: Yes, I think there are a lot of implications and confusion concerning kids that are in care. When you
look at children that are adopted right in the beginning, they have no connection to their family, so they are real lost
souls. Our community does not accept them, nor does the larger population. Then you have the young folks that are
generational, living in the downtown east end core. These kids are third and fourth generation downtown east end
core, and still attached to the community. Then you have the young folks that are coming off the reserve who have
been exploited and are living in the downtown east end or Greater Vancouver area. How do you deal with all of them?
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is trying to encourage the Aboriginal community to take over
those services so we can work with our young folks. That is not to say that all of them want to come to our services. At
least they have a choice and so they can work with our kids now. Those are some of the solutions that we are trying to
deal with the provincial government right now.
How can the federal government get involved? I think it would be great if they could work with the provincial
government and talk about the problems such as homelessness, women's issues and so on. We have to talk together.
All the levels of government have to work together to assist us because we are trying too.
Senator Pearson: Somebody said to me the other day that our Constitution was not written with children in mind. I
think that is, you know, there is so many things in the Constitution that work against this collaboration that we have
really to change that around.
Mr. Adams: We cannot fight over children. We cannot fight over their jurisdiction, be it status, non-status, Inuit, or
Metis. At the end of the day, we are still fighting over them through the legal system, not through the people system.
Senator St. Germain: The four of you have been inspirational and excellent in the way you have delivered your
Mr. Smith, you said that your father told you there were two societies. I find it sad that there is not the proper
recognition of your society. Obviously the wisdom that he imparted on you makes you an elder today and I really want
to thank you for coming on board.
I have a question for Jerry Adams. I am a Metis, but I am also a former air force pilot and I still fly my own
airplane. At the airport every year they ask me to make a presentation to the most accomplished air cadet in the
squadron. The ceremony is held in Aldergrove. I make the presentation and I also give them a Senate pen. We have
small memorabilia that is really recognizable. I gave a pen to one of these young air cadets and about six months later I
was just out at the airport and the mother came up to me and said: ``You know, Mr. St. Germain, he cherishes that
pen.'' She says, ``I am so happy you came and made the presentation.''
All I am saying to you is that there are six senators in the province and there are 32 MPs, and I would suggest that
you could really uplift the kids' spirits by having one of us there. The B.C. Regiment, which is a military establishment
that trains army cadets, uses us as presenters. That is just a suggestion.
You talked about smiling at each other. I see too many of our native peoples that really cannot look at each other
and just smile. We have to evangelize the smile amongst ourselves because that to me is what makes young people feel
good and feel accepted.
Ms. Thomas and Gail, if I may call you Gail, what you are doing, is really, really appreciated. The youth told us all
about you the other night. I will talk to you right after the meeting when I have spoken to Senators Carney and
Lawson. I have an idea, but I do not want to say it just now.
Senator Carney: It is probably illegal.
Senator St. Germain: It is a good idea for a good cause.
Senator Carney: I participate in the First Nations graduation ceremony at Britannia for the 170 First Nations kids
that are going graduating from grade seven. As you know, this program is to encourage them to go into grade eight.
When I spoke to Senator Chalifoux about this program she told me to the kids a Senate certificate. The certificate is
large and has gold emblems and red maple leafs and says acknowledges that the student has graduated.
For the first couple of years and I was the only non-Aboriginal on the stage. I was the only one participating and
sometimes I felt that maybe I should not be there. I asked one of the teaching aids if maybe someone else should be
doing my job, I mean an Aboriginal. She told me that it was great that I was there because it showed the kids that
someone else cared about them, that Canada cares about them.
When you stand up there and give out these certificates it means that Canada cares about them. Sometimes they
think that only their culture or their community cares about them.
Think about those things in terms of reaching your goals. We can do things to support your good causes.
The Chairman: Those certificates mean so much and they are beautiful. Our assistants write the congratulations and
the person's name and it means so much to our children and to our elders. I make presentations to our elders; fiftieth
or seventy-fifth wedding anniversaries and it is just thrilling.
Senator Carney: The student gets their graduation diploma and they get their certificate from Canada.
Senator Lawson: When I came to the Senate in 1970, one of the first bills that came before us was an appropriation
for $750,000 for a study to determine if there was too much money spent on studies. I am serious. When the report
came back it said that the study was incomplete and further studies were planned. Things have changed, but not much.
The Chairman: Should we believe him or not?
Senator Lawson: I am serious. Last year there was a professor in Quebec who said she was delighted, shocked and
surprised that she had been awarded $1.6 million to determine the impact of royal visits in France between the 16th
and 17th centuries.
I do not know about the other senators, but I have not had one single request to study royal visits in France during
that time. If we could just arrange to get 10 per cent of all the dumb decisions they make, we could cover all of the
problems you are talking about.
I come from the labour movement. The government is creating science and technology funds, technology
partnerships funds and innovation funds. They come knocking at my door to ask for my vote. I am an independent.
We have to find companies here in B.C. and in Canada who need that money, who have an innovative idea or new
technology. Each door that I knock on I get the same response: ``We don't have any money.''
I recall the one occasion I lobbied to get a lousy $2.5 million to save 150 jobs. The government leader got a
telephone call. The leader, who will remain nameless for the moment, told me that it was the Prime Minister and that
he had to leave with him to deliver $700 million to New Brunswick. I said, ``Wait, am I missing something?'' I said,
``They have cut the budget for Western Economic Diversification and no funding is available, and you are telling me
that you are going to just drop off $700 million for the Atlantic provinces?'' I was very upset.
I think what we need is one more Senate committee. We could call it the Common Sense Committee comprised of
pairs of senators from the various jurisdictions.
Senator Carney: C-e-n-t-s.
Senator Lawson: Pardon?
Senator Carney: Common cents.
Senator Lawson: Yes. We will have pairs of senators. When we see programs such as Night Hoops we will tell the
federal government to make funds available for it because it is a great program that is helping young kids to grow and
learn. It is a program that is keeping kids off of the streets. It is helping kids to make progress. We will tell the
government to fund the program.
We need to do something to break down all this bloody bureaucracy that seems to stall everything. We cannot get
anything done, while at the same time millions of dollars are being sent in every different direction for not as valid a
Senator St. Germain and Senator Carney, if there is anything that we can do to make some of these things happen,
we will do it. Do you remember that famous movie with the guy hollering at the window in the television area: ``I'm
mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore''? Well, my God, if we are not mad about what we hear today about
discrimination and all the things that are wrong and we cannot help with funding, it is about time we get as mad as hell
and decide we are not going to take it anymore.
That is my rant. Thank you all for being here.
The Chairman: It has been a very interesting day. It has been a long day, but even though we might be physically
tired our brains are working and ``I'm mad as hell and we've got to do something about it.''
I promise you that you will get copies of this report and that you will be able to use it as ammunition to really push
forward. We will be pushing forward as well. I am part of the government side. I sit in the northern and western caucus
and, believe me, we will be pushing and pushing and pushing.
Thank you very much. It has been enlightening.
The committee adjourned.