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Results: 1 - 14 of 14
Christopher Sheppard
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Christopher Sheppard
2019-02-26 16:52
Good day.
My name is Christopher Sheppard. I'm the President of the National Association of Friendship Centres. I'm an Inuk. I am a beneficiary of the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador.
We have submitted two copies of both French and English versions of the NAFC discussion paper entitled “Our Languages, Our Stories: Towards the Revitalization and Retention of Indigenous Languages in Urban Environments”.
I will start with some information about the NAFC.
The National Association of Friendship Centres is a network of over 100 members that are friendship centres and six members that are provincial and territorial associations from coast to coast to coast. Friendship centres are Canada's most significant off-reserve, indigenous, civil society network service delivery infrastructure and are the primary providers of culturally relevant programs for indigenous people living in urban environments.
For over 70 years, friendship centres have facilitated the transition of indigenous people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment, and they increasingly support those who were born and raised in the urban environment. For many indigenous people, friendship centres are the first and main point of contact to find community, receive support and obtain referrals to culturally based socio-economic programs and services, which include indigenous language programs.
As NAFC president, I reported on May 9, 2018 to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples that in 2015 alone, NAFC friendship centres saw over 2.3 million client contacts, and provided over 1,800 different programs and services in many areas, including language.
For example, at First Light St. John's Friendship Centre, there is language programming in Mi'kmaq offered to anyone in the community. The classrooms and conversations were also recorded and broadcast, and made available through Webex so that anyone could join in person or online. The proposal we initially put forward was for three indigenous languages—Mi'kmaq, Inuktitut and Innu-aimun. However, it seemed like it was too complex for the department to understand the delivery of three indigenous languages, so they asked us to scale it to one.
Under One Sky Friendship Centre in Fredericton has a “take it outside” head start project that takes children on the land to learn Maliseet in all seasons. The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax is a partner in an indigenous-centred training program that promotes bringing language and culture into early childhood education. Native Montréal has for three years held free weekly language classes in Innu, Cree, Anishinawbemowin, Atikamekw, Wendat and Inuktitut for both children and adults. The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary offers Cree, Michif and Blackfoot classes funded by the province, and the Canadian Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton provides Cree classes.
The Dauphin Friendship Centre provided Michif language, and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres received $6 million for language programming under the provincial government.
The NAFC is here to speak about Bill C-91, because we are in it right now. We are providing language programming, and we will continue to do it because we are accountable to the indigenous communities that own and operate our centres on shoestring budgets.
Since 1972, the NAFC has built this deep, grass-rooted foundation that forms the very fabric of the urban indigenous population in Canada. We have leadership and a national network that reaches deep into urban indigenous communities that are asking for support for further use and revitalization of indigenous languages.
Urban indigenous people hold a strong connection to their identity while navigating ways to maintain cultural connections outside of their communities. This reality of our urban indigenous issues is ignored or forgotten. This is our critical hour to ensure the urban indigenous voice is heard and upheld in the establishment of Bill C-91, and respecting indigenous languages includes respecting where indigenous language is needed, and this includes Canada's urban landscape.
With the staggering increase of over 60% in the urban indigenous population in just 10 years, it is clear that a national mandate to revitalize indigenous languages must include urban indigenous communities.
Jocelyn Formsma
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Jocelyn Formsma
2019-02-26 16:57
I'll speak a little bit to what's in our language discussion paper and some of our review of Bill C-91, before we wrap up for questions.
In March 2018, the NAFC held a two-day, “Our Languages, Our Stories” forum, with representation from all parts of Canada, to discuss and contribute input into the development of indigenous language legislation; in particular, to discuss the urban perspective on the state of indigenous languages.
There were several recommendations and highlights from the gathering that directly speak to the intent of Bill C-91. Participants shared the challenge of learning their language as a second language and the importance of immersive language learning. To quote the discussion paper:
...it must be incorporated into every aspect of peoples' lives in a wholistic way and there must be opportunities to speak the language, at every age, through the cycle of life.
Strong support was expressed for friendship centres themselves acting as central hubs for language revitalization, including providing safe and culturally relevant spaces for language learning.
This gathering provided further affirmation of how proud indigenous people are of their languages and ways of knowing and being. The youth shared how integral language is to their pride and understanding of where they come from.
Our recommendations were to create a national institute of indigenous languages; conduct a national indigenous languages needs assessment and research project; advocate to make all indigenous languages official languages in Canada; support indigenous language signage in urban centres across Canada; establish a federal department of indigenous languages and education; and support friendship centres to be indigenous language learning hubs.
I'll now speak to some of the clauses in Bill C-91 that affect friendship centres and urban indigenous communities.
Reflected in Bill C-91 is the commitment to providing adequate, sustainable and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of indigenous languages. The Government of Canada realizes indigenous peoples are best placed to take the leading role in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening indigenous languages.
Friendship centres are indigenous-owned and -operated civil society organizations, operating in urban settings. This is an opportunity to draw upon the extensive NAFC network and expertise in program delivery throughout Canada. There are friendship centres in every province and territory, except for P.E.I., and each of them provides direct services to reach the urban indigenous population.
The definition of “Indigenous organization” in the bill is unclear as to whether friendship centres are considered. “Indigenous organization” is defined as an “entity that represents the interests of an indigenous group”. Friendship centres do not claim to represent the interests of any one indigenous group or its members. In fact, we represent an urban perspective and serve all indigenous groups and all members, whether they are recognized by their communities or not.
What about indigenous media organizations? Many indigenous communication organizations that have provided radio and television in indigenous languages for decades are nowhere reflected in the act.
Under the definition of “ Indigenous peoples”, there is reference to subsection 35(2), which is “Indian, Inuit and Métis”. The NAFC would encourage that the definition be expanded to ensure the inclusion of all indigenous people, including non-status Indians and non-beneficiary Inuit, and be clear about what is meant by Métis. Indigenous language revitalization should not be tied to a political affiliation.
Under paragraph 5(b)(iii), under the “Purposes of Act”, it mentions supporting indigenous peoples to “create technological tools, educational materials and permanent records of Indigenous languages”. The NAFC would like to encourage that the purposes be expanded to support the technological tools, educational materials and permanent records that have already been developed. There are indigenous organizations that have databases, tapes, documents, materials and apps that have already been developed.
There are indigenous media organizations that have worked for decades and have reels of language material. If they were able to access funding and support, they would be able to mobilize and, for example, digitize these materials and make them more readily available to the public and indigenous communities and organizations, such as friendship centres.
Jocelyn Formsma
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Jocelyn Formsma
2019-02-26 17:02
Through Bill C-91, a commissioner position will lead the implementation and oversight. What is not clear is how it will be rolled out into Canada. It lacks assurance of accountability to indigenous people.
This gap leads to the potential implications for key stakeholders in the community, including friendship centres. NAFC will want to see direct measures clearly outlined to connect impacts of Bill C-91 to the urban indigenous population, including equitable access to resources.
Further, we recommend that the commissioner and three directors be given a special mandate to consider language revitalization within urban indigenous communities, or establish a fourth director whose mandate would be solely focused on urban perspectives.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you very much.
Could you give me a bit of a breakdown with respect to the aboriginal friendship centres across Canada? What percentage of indigenous people do you believe live in urban areas, and how would that break down for various provinces or regions across Canada?
Christopher Sheppard
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Christopher Sheppard
2019-02-26 17:26
It's on record from one of my previous presentations that the national number is 61.1%. We have an email from StatsCan to confirm that, and I think I provided it in one of my previous presentations.
I don't have a breakdown by province, unless Jocelyn is rocking that data somewhere. It's 61.1% of all indigenous people who live in urban communities.
Jocelyn Formsma
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Jocelyn Formsma
2019-02-26 17:26
I don't know what the breakdown is percentage-wise, but I was just looking at some statistics that are available on the Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network website, uakn.org.
In some areas—some of the bigger cities like Winnipeg, Edmonton—the percentages for indigenous peoples living in urban settings are anywhere from 8% to 12%, depending on which city you're looking at. With that website I just gave you and the research projects that were undertaken, there's a little snippet at the bottom that tells you the breakdown for each community that they had the research projects in.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
Certainly, in British Columbia, we're told that within a two-kilometre radius of Main and Hastings in downtown Vancouver, there are more indigenous people living there than in the rest of the province.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
Where I was going with that—in finding out it's 61.1%—is that a lot of the indigenous people, particularly in downtown Vancouver, are street people. Many of them have a number of challenges.
We've heard consistently from the testimony in our hearings that indigenous language is an important part of culture, values, of being able to connect with others, to feel like you're a part of something.
Is there something that we could or should be doing that might do that, in terms of being able to look at the social value, social impact, being able to connect indigenous languages with the downtown areas, with the friendship centres?
At Main and Hastings in downtown Vancouver, we're establishing a large aboriginal centre. We have large components to it. Street people have been active in developing it. We took over the old City of Vancouver jail, so it's a really interesting place for them, going through the issues there and some of the rituals they have.
It seems to me, with 61%—and you tie that with the other testimony we've been hearing—that there may be some synergies there that could have a profound impact for some of those urban areas.
Could you comment on that, or help me with that?
Christopher Sheppard
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Christopher Sheppard
2019-02-26 17:30
I'll start by saying that Canada needs to start creating public policy based on facts. We have language legislation, and although 61.1% of indigenous people are urban, urban's not mentioned. Maybe we could start there. And it's not just there; it's across policy. It is a very challenging topic. Conversations need to be had in general, but I think when you start talking about the revitalization of languages and keeping the unique languages that exist only here, it's a reason to have those conversations.
I think making legislation and public policy decisions on data that we collect on every census, even when indigenous people always say that they're indigenous.... We don't even listen to the data that we have, and this has been the reality of friendship centres for the last 70 years.
I think the place to really start is to be honest with the legislation and the programs that Canada creates.
That's as honest as I can be.
View Gordie Hogg Profile
Lib. (BC)
I know that Paul Lacerte has done a really wonderful job in developing the aboriginal friendship centres in British Columbia; he expanded them and they're all thriving. He's now off doing his Moose Hide Campaign and is removed from that for this period of time, but he was certainly active in looking at the value they could have.
If you were to place some statement into this legislation that's consistent with the value you've been reflecting, what would you put in, and where would it be? You've put that challenge out there in saying we need to do that. What facts should we use? What data should we use? What should we put in here, given that Bill C-91 is about indigenous languages, yet everyone's telling us there's that strong correlation with this....
Is it wrong to put it in here? Is it something that would be able to help in some meaningful way?
Jocelyn Formsma
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Jocelyn Formsma
2019-02-26 17:32
We don't want to speak against the distinctions-based approach, but what ends up happening on the ground with the facts is that urban...ends up getting lost within those three streams. We're all of them, and we're none of them.
Jocelyn Formsma
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Jocelyn Formsma
2019-02-26 17:33
Exactly.
I think we already made the comment that we would like to have urban...reflected specifically within the bill.
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