Thursday, September 13, 2007

Colonialism Revisited

Making dinner tonight, I was listening to the radio, hoping to get caught up on some local, national and international happenings. Little did I know that I'd be given a stark lesson in contemporary colonial politics.

Not surprisingly, earlier today Canada, along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been in the works for nearly 30 years. Not only am I utterly embarrassed, but I'm nearly at a loss for words. Nearly.

Another segment that followed only a few short minutes later discussed the story of the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) in northern Ontario, based in Ignace to be exact. The board has refused to accept any Aboriginal students from the Obashkaandagaang First Nation (OFN) because their government is apparently $1 million in arrears in their debt to the KPDSB. Forget the fact that the debt is perhaps decades old, or that the OFN has actually paid tuition for its students for the past 8 years. Let's also forget about the fact that the money for Aboriginal education is a federal jurisdiction and that school boards in Ontario normally see any status First Nation student as a source of extra, federal funding for their operations. Let's forget about all of that.

Let's just think about the fact that the local school board and all of its affiliated schools are barring local students from attending these schools. In reality, regardless of their avowed intentions, what they are doing by taking away these children's rights to an education, is violating one of child's primary rights. Luckily, we signed the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, not joining the United States and Somalia (which had no functioning government at the time) as the only hold-outs. Here is an excerpt of Principle 7 of the Declaration, one I argue the KPDSB is in direct contravention-

"The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.

The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance[...]"

Thus, it is into this context of national and international disregard for the rights of indigenous peoples that I see these two events as intimately connected. How can I not? The school board trustees in northern Ontario see the rights of indigenous peoples in a much different light than they see their own, and those of their own children, otherwise, how could they not take a different bargaining tract? Their budget does not face a shortfall, they are not on the verge of insolvency, they are simply harking to get back what is apparently owed, using Aboriginal students as leverage.

But if we all properly considered what was owed in a much different moral universe, a mere $1 million would seem a drop in a bucket of colonial misdeeds. I won't bother to list these indiscretions off here, but the position Canada took today is a very accurate reflection of the status of indigenous peoples in this country. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking otherwise.

Our story as Canadians is premised in the first order on violence against indigenous peoples, and sometimes it seems we are unable to see ourselves any other way. I'm only glad that the children from the OFN were able to secure spots in the local First Nation education authority for this year, just in time for October. What a sorry state.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The North Side Bike Polo Invitational 2007

I went to the final game of the NSBI 2007 at Ev Tremblay Park in west Ottawa on Sunday, September 2nd, and it was a wicked game. The Shottas from Ottawa played Overrated from NYC, who won 5-3. It was a well contested match, with lots of blood left on the court, which seems somehow inevitable in bike polo given the number of collisions.

Overall, the NSBI was a huge success, with teams from NYC, Philly, Milwaukee, Dayton (Ohio), Toronto and Ottawa. Here are some pics.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Festival de montgolfières de Gatineau

J’ai été au Festival de montgolfières de Gatineau avec des amis ce soir, et c’était plus mémorable que j’aurais pensé.

Quoique que nous avons décidé que $15 était un peu trop cher à payer pour la rentrée sur le terrain officiel, nous avons pu trouver un endroit idéal pour regarder le départ des montgolfières. Comme vous pourrez constater des photos ci-dessous, c’est un événement coloré.