Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
|Photo Courtesy of APTN-Aboriginal Peoples Television Network|
Elijah Harper was a member of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation, which is about 710 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Harper attended residential schools in Norway House, Brandon and Birtle, in Winnipeg and then secondary schools in Garden Hill and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
He studied at the University of Manitoba and began his long career in public service when he was elected chief of his community at the age of 29. In 1981, Harper was elected as an NDP member of the Manitoba legislative assembly for Ruperts Land, an office he held for 11 years. He was the first person elected from a First Nation to serve as an MLA.
In 1993, Harper was elected for one term as a Liberal member of Parliament for the Churchill riding. In January 1998, he served a term as commissioner for the Indian Claims Commission. He was also bestowed with the title of honourary chief for life by his reserve-Red Sucker Lake.
Harper was instrumental in defeating the Meech Lake Accord in 1982. He gained national fame when he stood up in the Manitoba Legislature and refused to support the Meech Lake Accord. His refusal to support the Meech Lake Accord effectively blocked the constitutional amendment package that was negotiated to gain Quebec’s acceptance of the Constitution Act of 1982.
Harper protested the accord because it failed to have input from First Nations peoples in Canada. The accord required ratification by all 10 provincial legislatures and Parliament, and Harper's action prevented Manitoba from doing so before the deadline.
With Elijah Harper standing up in protest of the Meech Lake Accord, it gave two very clear messages to the Canadian government. One was that if they could give Quebec distinct status, than it was important to include First Nations people because we have the inherent right to self government, self-determination, more so that then the people of Quebec, and secondly it made sure that First Nations peoples voices were heard in Ottawa.
What was the Meech Lake Accord:
The Meech Lake Accord was a set of failed constitutional amendments, proposed in the late 1980’s. A key objective of the Meech Lake Accord was to gain Quebec’s explicit acceptance of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Meech Lake Accord consisted of amendments to the Canadian Constitution. The most contentious part of the agreement was recognizing Quebec as a distinct society within the Canadian federation. The distinct society clause provided constitutional recognition of Quebec in terms of both its culture and language, and the clause stated, “the constitution will be interpreted in a manner consistent with the recognition that Quebec “constitutes within Canada a distinct society.” (www.mapleleafweb.com)
The problem with a ‘distinct society’ clause meant that special status would be given to the people of Quebec. Many people felt that this was wrong because it would have provided recognition to Quebec and would weaken the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec (since in the future the Courts would need to interpret the Charter in a manner consistent with Quebec’s distinctiveness).
Opposition to the distinct society clause meant that Quebec would be placed above the rights of English and French speaking minorities, and for English and French speaking people outside of Quebec there was a fear that there would be fewer rights for those living outside of Quebec.
The Meech Lake Accord if implemented meant that Quebec would be given power in key areas. This meant:
• changes to the Senate, including those relating to its powers, method of selection, and provincial
• changes to representation within the House of Commons;
• changes to the Supreme Court of Canada;
• the establishment of new provinces; and,
• the expansion of existing provinces.
Additionally, the right of a province to opt-out of a constitutional amendment, limited in the 1982 Constitution to matters of education and culture, was expanded to include all areas related to the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments.
The failure of the Meech Lake Accord illustrated the difficulties of achieving constitutional reform under the new amending formula found in the Constitution Act, 1982. If the Meech Lake Accord demonstrated the difficulty of achieving constitutional reform, it also illustrated that future efforts would need to be more open, and be inclusive of everyone especially of the First Nations peoples of Canada.
R.I.P. Elijah Harper, you were a warrior of the people and a role model for us all.
Posted by Christine at 8:46 PM
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2013
Benaway gives Voice to Dead in New Book
CAPE CROKER, Ontario (May 10, 2013) –
Just as the sun brings us back to life in spring, Giles Benaway awakens the
bones of ancestors and gives voice to the darkness in his debut book of
poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead.
Join Benaway at Glad Day Bookshop, 598A Yonge St., Toronto, on Friday
May 31st from 6 to 9 p.m. to celebrate the launch of Ceremonies for the Dead
with a reading, book signing and reception.
Ceremonies for the Dead examines the haunting themes of inter-generational trauma, cyclical abuse and inherited grief. Four generations of the dead take turns narrating these themes, navigating from the Great Lakes through the Appalachian Mountains, and examining the fur trade, an exile from Minnesota, the experiences of West Virginia coal miners and the legacy of mission schools. Black humour and satire fill the collection, illuminating a fun fierce determination to survive and resist colonization and the endurance of culture and identity under extreme duress.
Ceremonies for the Dead is available for purchase at kegedonce.com, through LitDistCo: 1.800.591.6250, or by ordering through your local book store.
“Ceremonies danced me through my very soul and I fell into my own ancestors as I read. It feels
like I have been looking for these poems since all my life...”
- Lee Maracle, Award-winning Poet, Novelist and Performance Storyteller
Giles Benaway (Anishinaabe/Métis/Tsagli) is of Odawa/Potawatomi, Cherokee, Métis and European descent. A descendant of women from three Indigenous nations, French and Scottish voyageurs and original Mayflower immigrants, he represents a unique voice in the field of Indigenous writing. An emerging Queer / Two-Spirited poet, he has often been described as the spiritual love child of Truman Capote and Thompson Highway
His poetry can be found in First Nations House Magazine, Muskrat Magazine, Prairie Fire, Matrix Magazine and scrawled within bathroom stalls at truck stops across Ontario.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Giles Benaway, please contact:
Publishing Manager, Kegedonce Press
w’daub awae, speaking true.
Cape Croker First Nation
RR#5 Wiarton, ON NOH 2TO
Kegedonce Press gratefully acknowledges the generous support of its Funders:
Posted by Christine at 9:33 PM
Monday, May 13, 2013
A Story of Recovery:
By Christine McFarlane
The shout out
“It’s dinner time”
Used to be the three words I dreaded the most. I remember sitting on my bed, hunched over my night table furiously coloring in the book I had bought at the hospital gift store on one of my trips off of the 8th floor hospital ward.
I want to ignore the call out, but knew that if I did, my doctor would be told that I was being difficult. I put my markers away in their plastic wrap, and put them down on my table where my poster lay. I swing my legs over the edge of my bed, and stand up. I feel a wave of dizziness; I stop, grab the table beside me and close my eyes until it passes.
I walk slowly out of the room, pulling my sweater around me closely, as I feel the cold from the hospital’s a/c system, and shiver. I try not to pay attention to the scurrying of the other patients around me, as they head into the dining room.
I hear the attendant start to call out the patient’s name and their room numbers.
“801A, 801B, 801C”
I don’t have to sit with everyone. My doctor has decided that I need to be kept an eye on. He wants me behind the nurse’s desk, so that they can see whether I am eating or not. I try to tell myself that I don’t like this arrangement, but secretly I do because it means that I don’t have to be near anyone else. I like being alone, separated from everyone else, because then I won’t have to hear the comments from the other patients
“Christine, why aren’t you eating?” or
“I’ll take your food, if you’re not going to eat it.”
I didn’t want people taking my food. It was my food, I always thought to myself, even if it did mean I wasn’t going to touch it.
I pull out the cold plastic chair that’s in front of me and prepare to sit down. I look at the tray in front of me and subconsciously go over what I’ll try to eat and what I won’t touch. Food occupies my mind ninety per cent of my waking hours. The other ten percent that occupies my mind is how I can fool others around me into believing that I’m trying to get better and that I’m going to start eating. Food is my enemy.
I have been in the hospital this time for over a month. I remember when I got admitted; the nurses shook their heads and said
“Christine, you have to stop this, you have to start eating.” And they would ask
“You want to get better don’t you?”
I couldn’t explain to anyone why I was so afraid to eat. I just knew that this disease-anorexia nervosa had all begun with a passing comment from a classmate in grade 8 and had escalated from there.
“Look at you! You’re so fat; you can’t fit into your desk.”
The desks were small, and I fit into them fine, but she was the type of girl everyone was envious of. She was pretty, popular, thin and a straight A student. I was the new kid who came into the class halfway through the school year. I stood out from everyone else, not only was I the new kid, but also I was so painfully shy that I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone. I was also brown, in a sea of white faces, the only First Nations student in a small town called Kingsville.
My eating disorder began a few months after that comment was made. At the time I was just about to turn 13 years old, and I had been placed in my third foster home. I was going to be starting grade nine and I felt lost. I couldn’t tell anyone about this feeling because even I was unsure of why it was there and what it had begun to stir inside me.
My mind couldn’t grasp that the transition of moving to a new place and getting used to new people a mere few months before and essentially starting all over again could be playing a role in the turmoil I was feeling.
The feelings of confusion and feeling lost perpetuated my eating disorder. I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I was experiencing, so it turned to something that I later came to understand as being something I knew I could control-my intake of food. It began with cutting back foods that I normally enjoyed- no more peanut butter and bread, no more chips or ice cream, and definitely no more fried foods. I said good-bye to a lot of foods, without really understanding why.
My foster parents were perplexed at what I was doing. I remember when my foster parents nonchalantly asked me during a conversation we were having on the deck in their backyard
“What is wrong Christine?” and
“Why aren’t you having breakfast anymore?” and my response was
“I really don’t like having that meal anymore.”
“Not even peanut butter and toast?” my foster mom asked.
“That’s your favourite food, Christine”
I sat there and without so much of a reaction to this question, I said
“I really have to watch everything I take in, and peanut butter and toast is one of those things to watch.”
When they asked me
I could not give them a clear explanation. All rationale was lost. The list of foods I couldn’t touch grew bigger and bigger, until it became a list that I had to absolutely live by. This meant not eating any foods that were mixed together, eating anything with sauces on them, no butter or margarine, only having diet pop if I was going to drink any pop at all, no milk, or desserts. To go off this regimented list meant setting myself off into an anxious frenzy of worry, and actions that I still feel a lot of shame about.
Mealtimes became fraught with anxiety as I tried to figure out and keep to the list that I had acquired in my head, and had also secretly hidden in my journal. My foster parents at the time, didn’t know what to make of what I was doing, but they tried to accommodate me with things they knew I would eat- while everyone else would have a heaping plate of spaghetti or potatoes and meat, I would sit at the table with a bowl of plain rice, and twirl my fork around the bowl and take bits at a time. Rice quickly became a staple at every meal; it was what I called a ‘safe food’ in my early days of anorexia nervosa, I didn’t have the desire to get rid of it as soon as it hit my mouth.
Anorexia nervosa consumed me for the remainder of my stay in my foster home. I went from a quiet yet healthy looking kid, to someone who became more withdrawn, moody and a shadow of her former self. I no longer laughed or smiled with ease. My foster parents had to take measures that they had not had to take before with me - locking their freezer with a big lock so that their freezie pops wouldn’t just disappear because for some reason I believed that if I just ate a freezie that would sustain me. They had to hide their milk of magnesia and their occasional boxes of laxatives because they never knew when I would reach into the medicine cabinet and take them, and with my emotions all over the place, and the tantrums I threw, they occasionally had to hold me down just so that I wouldn’t hurt myself or anyone else around me.
Back at the hospital, as I am sitting in the cold plastic chair behind the nurse’s desk, I look at the food on my tray. I wrinkle my nose when I see that my tray consists of a salad, soup and goop they call macaroni and cheese. One of the nurses comes up and stands beside my chair. I feel her hand come down upon my shoulder and I look up at her as she says
“Christine, at least eat the salad.”
I nod my head at her; I can feel the tears threatening to spill. I grab the closest utensil, and as the nurse turns to walk away, I eat one piece of lettuce, and grimace. To me, this is torture.
Long hospital stays were the norm for me in the throes of my eating disorder. The doctors were often treating me for more than just my eating disorder because I also suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression. The hospital served as my refuge from the chaos I felt on the inside and on the outside. Today I am free from that confined refuge, after much hard work.
Treatment was often difficult no matter where I was because I often fought to comply with what my doctors and therapists were trying to teach me. Over the course of being in and out of inpatient and outpatient treatment, I came across a catalogue called Gurze Books, and though the place was based in California, I gave one of the co-founders a call.
The two people that entered my life after that initial call have become my greatest friends and allies. Over many years, through phone calls, letters, and email, Lindsey Hall-Cohn and Leigh Cohn offered me the love I had always yearned for, and the support to help guide me to the recovery point I am at today.
Though I believe that food will always be an issue for me, and it’s something that I will always have to be conscious about, I am no longer in the throes of an eating disorder that could very well have killed me. Instead I am here today, smiling and saying
I have my life back.
Author: Christine McFarlane, published in Yellow Medicine Review, and various other publications.
The above story is an example of how powerful healing through writing can be. Christine McFarlane was diagnosed with anorexia complicated by PTSD, anxiety and depression. She is on her way to recovery in no small part due to her continuous use of writing [poetry and story] to express the traumatic life experiences and cultural reclamation. Hard work, healing through story, creative expression, reconciling with food in a traditional way, culture and consistent support were the major elements of her recovery. (Lee Maracle)
Posted by Christine at 2:38 PM
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Posted by Christine at 5:38 PM
Monday, May 6, 2013
The Group Home
I was living in a group home, on the west side of the automotive capital of Ontario. Tucked away where no one knew where I was. I didn’t get that many visitors, actually none at all, unless it was a staff member from another cottage coming to get me to bring me to the activities building across the way from the cottage I lived in.
I remember the little cottages of my group home. I lived in Cottage #3. It was a three-floor spread on a tract of land owned by the five Sisters of the Roman Catholic Order of the Good Shepherd. I knew the floors of the house intimately, after all I had been living there for a year when my adoptive parents dropped me off, visited for a month or so and then ceased visits. The ceasing of visits was devastating for me. It not only meant that I was without parents, but it also meant that I was away from my biological sister. I was effectively put back into the care of the Children’s Aid Society, and I once again became a part of the child welfare system. I would be made a Crown Ward a few months later.
I remember Cottage #3 and the bedroom I shared with another girl and how cold its environment was. A thin mattress on a metal frame, with sheets and blankets folded military style. There was nothing homey about it. It wasn’t like the bedroom I had had at my adoptive parents-the bunk beds, having the choice of the bottom bunk or the top bunk, even though I was the only one occupying the bedroom. Or having a small pile of Barbie’s that I could play with, or scraps of paper I could draw or write on while I wondered when I would be let out of my bedroom next.
I spent a lot of time in my bedroom at Cottage # 3, not because I was made to, but because I was the youngest of all the girls that lived there. I was ten years old, and they were fourteen years old and higher. I couldn’t really relate to anyone, and I preferred to spend time alone. After all, I had been used to it when I was living with my adoptive family because they had kept me apart from everyone in the house and had me locked away in my bedroom.
I remember lying on my bed in this strange new building, hugging this little pink corduroy pillow I had had since I was in kindergarten, my name etched in pen on a little white label or staring out the window, tears silently falling and wondering what was so bad about me, that my parents didn’t want me.
I had to grow up quickly in this group home. I learned things before I should have. I remember how I entered the shared bathroom and saw one of the girls with a razor shaving her legs, and the trickle of blood that showed on her skin, as she pulled the razor up and down, up and down. How I said to her,
“What are you doing? and “Can I do that too?”
Her reply was “Sure, you can shave too, if you want Christine.”
I asked her “ what else do you shave besides your legs? And the girl grinned and said
“You shave your arms.”
In my naivety, I didn’t realize that the girl meant you shave your armpits, and because I wanted to be cool like her, I took a razor and shaved all the hair off my forearms. I remember running out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later, and telling a staff member at the door of their office “I’m a big girl now, because I shaved.”
I didn’t see the cuts on my arms from the razor, or feel the trickle of blood that appeared on the cuts. It wasn’t that bad, but one of the staff members led me to a chair and had me sit before her, while she explained what shaving meant, and how I was too young to do that yet.
The staff at my cottage tried to keep me happy and occupied. They would give me hugs, bring me for walks around the group home and the grounds, and sometimes brought me to their home for a holiday, when everyone else was away for their visitations with their families.
I remember when I misbehaved and had to spend time in the quiet room. We were put there individually for punishment when we acted up. Oh how I remember that quiet room. The thin little mattress that was laid out in the middle of the floor, the flimsy blanket that was given to us that never kept you warm enough, the locked door and the loneliness that crept over you as you sat there all alone, with no one around to interact with. Depending on your crime mouthing back to staff, losing your temper, you could be there for up to 72 hours. That was up to the staff’s discretion.
The one particular time I remember the quiet room, was the day that I found out I no longer had a family and the contact with my only sister ceased. I was sitting in a little room off from the dining room, excited because I was going to be calling my sister. I remember my little fingers dialing the number 9…6…9…1…6…9…6. My heart was pounding as I recall hearing the operator coming onto the phone and the words ‘this number is no longer in service.’ I thought that I had made a mistake. I hung up the phone and dialed again. I heard the same message. My world changed in a matter of seconds.
I slammed the phone down so hard that the receiver fell off the cradle. Emotions were coursing through me, but I could not articulate them. I started to scream and swear the few choice words I had heard from the other residents in my cottage. “Oh shit!” “Fuck”. At ten years old, those words were fairly new to me. People think that at ten years old, you know a few swear words, but I really didn’t learn any until I reached the group home and heard the words from the other residents. I thought, if they can swear, I can swear too! As I was swearing and banging things around, the staff came running from the office on the third floor. One stood at the top of the stairs while another came and grabbed me. I remember Bob’s arms wrapping around me and feeling trapped. I couldn’t run. I was kicking and screaming and crying all at once. Bob tried to tell me to calm down but I couldn’t. In the distance I heard the other staff member say, “Bring her downstairs.” To the dungeon I went.
With his arms wrapped around me, Bob carried me from the brightly lit foyer of the cottage into the dark basement. I counted the doorways as we went down the hallway, hearing his footsteps as we went. 1….2….3….4… “I promise, I promise I’ll be good,” I stutter, as the tears fall and my head begins to pound.
“I don’t want to be down here!” I wail.
Bob acts like he doesn’t hear me, and strides purposefully down the hall. He stops at door number 4, the room that’s the farthest from the stairwell and situated where no one could hear you yell, no matter how loud you tried.
The rest of that day was a blur. I remember though that after the door closed behind me in the quiet room, I just laid on the mattress that was provided for me, with my knees pulled closely to my chest, and my arms wrapped around them. I wanted a hug, someone to comfort me, tell me that I would be okay, instead I was alone and I cried until I literally nodded off to sleep.
I slept rather fitfully on that thin little mattress. I had nothing to do while lying in that room. I remember just lying there and my mind racing a mile a minute. Tears flowed pretty regularly, and I remember staff coming in and out checking on me, and me asking them “When can I get out of here?” and their reply
“As soon as you can behave”
I don’t recall how long I was in the quiet room for, but when I heard the door being unlocked and a staff member saying “You can come out, Christine,”
I jumped from the mattress on the floor and bolted out the door as if a fire had been lit behind me. The staff member followed close behind me.
Shortly after my stint in the quiet room, my life started to rapidly change. I was no longer an innocent little girl waiting to go home to her parents. I was an orphan, and word of my new status spread around my cottage like a wildfire about my adoptive parents giving me up. Hushed whispers greeted me when I turned a corner, or entered a room. Some staff members would look at me, I knew they felt sorry for me, because they would come up to me, and give me a hug. Hugs that they would have never given before. They were the type of hug that made me want to cling to them and say
"Don't leave me too"
Posted by Christine at 10:56 PM