Online Learning Resources

The unprecedented attention on Attawapiskat and on wider issues involving aboriginal peoples in this country has people asking a lot of questions.  I don’t have the time to answer all of them, nor do I have all the answers.  (A fantastic backgrounder on Attawapiskat was compiled by Dr. Pam Palmater here.)

On this page, I provide you with links to various documents that you can explore to gain a deeper understanding of the issues, and to perhaps answer some of the questions you have.

This is not a quick process you embark upon, if you wish to truly understand what is going on in Attawapiskat and other First Nations communities.  It is not a matter of a few hours of research or even a few days.  However, you can start digging with the time and interest you do have.

This list is a work in progress.  I just wanted to get some resources up quickly.

The 8th Fire

This is an absolutely amazing resource which is why I’ve decided to go ahead and make it the first thing you see!  There are a few different sections to the site that I want to highlight for you.

Aboriginal 101

– these are a series of videos addressing myths about aboriginal peoples, identifying what non-aboriginals know (or don’t know) about us, and giving you other interesting and important information.

Short documentaries

– the 8th Fire is hoping to have over 40 short documentaries on a variety of issues impacting aboriginal peoples.  Browse through and you’re more than likely to find things that interest you!  (My kids LOVE these short pieces!)

Profiles and interviews

– meet some of the people featured in the 8th Fire television series.  Reading through these profiles can be a real eye-opener for those who have little contact with aboriginal peoples…perhaps you don’t realise just how diverse we are!  There are some excellent interviews with some of these folks that you should definitely check out.

Episode one: Indigenous in the City

Episode two: It’s Time

Episode three: Whose Land is it Anyway?

Episode four: At the Crossroads

Cultural and historical information (Virtual Museum of Canada)

I recently found a new resource through the Virtual Museum of Canada that I think might be of interest to many.  I find their search-by-theme approach frustrating however, as there is no specific ‘aboriginal’ section, so I’ve gone through and picked out some gems.  These pages are intended to be used in a classroom, are broken up into different themes with learning objectives and outcomes  and are easy to read through.  The level varies, depending on whether the lessons were designed for elementary or even post-secondary students. If this is up your alley, please enjoy!

Excellent topical articles from other sources

I am going to eventually get to a post on First Nations education, but in the meantime here is an excellent blog post by James Wilson who has direct experience with the disparities First Nations students face.  He does not just identify problems, he also identifies what we could be working on to make improvements.  There are other great resources on that site, you should check it out!

The AFN put out a paper on Federal Funding to First Nations that is an absolute must read.

Robert Lovelace provides some historical context to the reserve system.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996

This is an immensely important report.  It hasn’t satisfied everyone, but it is a very thorough investigation on the living conditions of aboriginal peoples in this country and it includes numerous recommendations for creating new relationships.  The report is composed of five thematic volumes, so you can jump to the ones that interest you the most, or you can read the whole thing.  Very, very informative.

The full report of the RCAP can be found here.

For a look at the 444 recommendations made by the RCAP, you will find that here. (PDF)

If you’d like a shorter overview, there is a “Highlights” publication you can go through.

Auditor General Reports

The Auditor General provides annual reports on federal issues.  Every single report since 1981 is available online.  The reports are not limited to First Nations issues, but I will pick out sections that are relevant.

First Nations program delivery

The June 2011 status report linked to in my post on Attawapiskat, and referred to often in the regular media, can be found here.  The report specifically addresses how programs are delivered by federal agencies on reserve.  The report highlights problems, offers solutions, and evaluates how the government has followed up on previous recommendations.

The June 2011 report, is a follow up to a 2006 report called, “Management of Programs for First Nations“.

First Nations housing

This 2003 report deals with housing on reserve.

First Nations health-care

In 1997, the AG published a report called “Health Canada: First Nations Health” and a follow up to that report was published in 2000.  Excellent reading.

First Nations education

In 2000 the AG addressed First Nations Elementary and Secondary Education.

This 2004 report deals with the Education Program and Post-Secondary Student Support.

More reports

When you read the ‘main points’ sections, you get a bit of a description of what INAC (now Aboriginal Affairs) does and is responsible for as well as a bit of background on various subjects.  That alone gives you some great information.  Note that the Ministry has undergone name changes a few times, so you’ll see DIAND, INAC, and so on.  It’s still the same Ministry throughout.  I’m going to continue to use the term “INAC” because it’s easy to say and recognisable.

You’ll note that the AG has been identifying some of the same problems with INAC for decades.  I’d like to crack a joke here about a need for third-party management, but this here is srs biznz my friends!

1986 report, detailing problems, recommendations and INAC’s follow up.

1990 report on INAC’s Northern Affair’s Program.

1991 report.

1992 report on “Indian Forest Management”.

1993 report on “Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy”.

1994 report on “Social Assistance” via INAC.

1995 report on “On-Reserve Capital Facilities and Maintenance”.

1996 report on, “Funding Arrangements for First Nations”.

1998 report on, “Comprehensive Land Claims”.

1999 report, report card on INAC follow-up on recommendations to date.

2001 report on, “Streamlining First Nations Reporting to Federal Organisations”.

2003 report on “Transferring Federal Responsibilities to the North”.

2005 report on “Development of Non-Renewable Resources in the NWT”.

2005 report on “Meeting Treaty Land Entitlement Obligations”.  2009 follow up to “Treaty Land Entitlement Obligations”.

2008 report on “First Nations Child and Family Services Program”.

Correctional Investigator Reports

In 2006, Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator (independent federal Ombudsman for federal offenders) spoke to Parliament about his annual report of 2005-2006.  He referred to a growing crisis regarding aboriginal inmates and described what he referred to as systemic discrimination.

The section of the report dealing with aboriginal offenders can be found here.  He notes that annual recommendations for over a decade have been mostly ignored, with little improvements made.  I bring this report up in particular because it was one of the first times that systemic discrimination against aboriginals became a national talking point.  The Correctional Investigator continues to make recommendations year after year.  Some of them are followed, but the gap remains very wide.

Legal Links

So much of what I do is linked to Aboriginal and Indigenous law, that I thought I should start compiling some useful legal links.  I have clarified this previously but it bears repeating that Aboriginal law is not the same as Indigenous law.  Aboriginal law is the body of law developed by the colonial state to inform and explains its relationships with native peoples, while Indigneous law is the pre-existing legal order of native peoples themselves.

Henderson’s Annotated Indian Act

This is still not a plain English ‘translation’ of the Indian Act, but doing something like that would require a lot of background context that would quickly make the issue anything but ‘simple’ regardless.

Bill Henderson is a lawyer who has taken the time to introduce some context before jumping into his Annotated (that means with comments) Indian Act.  Reading it will still not give you the full story, but it is a helpful start.

Check it out here.

Aboriginal law

– if you have very little understanding of the rights of Aboriginal peoples as understood by the Canadian state, then this is a good clear primer.

7 Responses to Online Learning Resources

  1. Tony Belcourt says:

    We have to be cousins. I’m eager to know who you are. If you care to, please send me an email at:


    Tony Belcourt

  2. Pingback: Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat | âpihtawikosisân

  3. Great resource. Looks like the link for Henderson’s annotated Indian Act refers to the wrong site.

  4. David E.H. Smith says:

    Dec. 6, 2011
    Dear Mr. Vowel,
    I hope that the following may give you some more hope & ideas to share.

    Thanks for explaining Attawapiskat’s $90 million expenditure to Native & non-Native Canadians, & others, in such an understandable way that even the politicians who are claiming to be “confused” by the issue as a means of, both:
    a) “inflaming the issue” based upon their mutual interests of continuing to use the “race card”,
    b) to get the limelight off of the arrangements of the main beneficiaries of the relevant politicians’ agenda,
    may have to admit that they understand your explination. But, let’s not count upon their thanks yet.

    And, speaking of the sharing of understandable information in the area of Native to non-Native affairs (&/or vice versa), I was wondering how many Canadians, both Native & non-Native, do you think have been invited by Native & non-Native politicians to share their thought, their feelings, their questions, etc. (without their fear of recriminations) about the information that is in “The Australian Question” (a.k.a. “The W.A.D. Accord”) as it pertains to Aboriginal Canadians & others?

    (Basically)…The Australian Question” as it pertains to Aboriginal Canadians states that most Canadians, et al, agree that it is a “right”, not a “privilege” for the most the most vulnerable Aboriginal community members, et al, to obtain from the government of Canada, et al, its (the government of Canada’s) criteria for ascertaining the health and robustness of Native communities’ economies. That is to say; the criteria would probably include, amongst other things, a list of those businesses, industries and/or enterprises that can:
    1) provide the most vulnerable community members with the direct, cash dividends that amounts to over two times (ie. factor of 2+) the amounts that the most vulnerable can obtain from all the present sources of social assistance,
    3) be expanded to provide over 100% employment to the most vulnerable members of an Aboriginal community,
    4) etc.

    And, finally, “The Australian Question” states that because “some” of the most vulnerable Aboriginal community members are being deprived of the aforementioned benefits, and/or, the information regarding these benefits, the most vulnerable are entitled to be compensated for their deprivation (ie. their poverty, despair, disenchantment, the high rates of unemployment & suicides, etc.). “The Question” asks; is $47,400 ($87,000 Australian, circa 1984) per year a reasonable compensation for their deprivation?

    By way of closing & on the “lighter side”, I brought to the attention of a professor of European history that I had just read some history about a European country that was so disenchanted with the “corruption” (&/or dubious practices, etc.) of their leaders that they got another European country to manage their finances for them. I thought that this was very “funny” (both, peculiar & humorous) until the professor named six other European countries that handled their “corruptions” in a similar manner.

    The reason that I mention this is for those who still may be influenced by those who would like to continue to benefit exclusively from their “managing by manipulation” of the aforementioned “racism” (the “race card”) that is still being perpetuated in Canada. That is to say, given:
    1) the reasoning of the aforementioned European nations
    2) given the number of times that the Auditor General of Canada under both of the traditional parties has declared that he can not figure out the finances of Canada by way of its masters accounting,
    would it not be reasonable that Native & non-Native Canadians demand that our finances be turned over to the third party managers of our choice?

    By way of closing I look forward to reading about your thoughts, your feelings, your improvements, etc. regarding the above; particularly regarding “The WAD Accord”. I can be contacted by way of, amongst others, my email address (please see; below) &/or your member(s) of parliament.


    David E.H. Smith
    – Researcher
    Sidney, BC

    P.S. – Besides being a potential ally, what do you think is significance of sharing the aforementioned information, questions, etc. with the “coveted” foreign investor who made the following remark about some Canadians? I’ll paraphrase his remark:
    It is not that we are racist when it comes to dealing with Canadians,
    it’s just that we can’t stand the way that you suck up to us.
    So, Mr. Vowel, if he was not talking about me & I seriously doubt that he was talking about you, then which Canadians was he talking about?

  5. daveM says:

    May I suggest that you add a twitter bar to the pages so that interested people might easily publicize the information in your site.

    This site has content that is important to Canadians and deserves to be seen

    Thank you

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