Don Marks

  • Rich Indian, real Indian

    First Nations people have long been negatively affected by misleading stereotypes. But few could have imagined the latest stereotype that is being used to denigrate First Nations people and deny them their rights -- the myth of the "rich Indian." You would think being thought of as rich conjures up images of successful people who got that way through hard work and talent. That is not often the case when it comes to First Nations people. Many of their members who have become rich through honest means are being discredited. It is all part of a stereotyping strategy that has kept First Nations people in their place -- a strategy employed when newcomers arrived in North America.
  • First Nations election law could face rough ride

    The First Nations Election Act slipped rather quietly through Parliament this spring even though it is important, history-making legislation that can solve a lot of problems for 37 First Nations in Manitoba (241 nationally) that still hold elections under the Indian Act. Those who want to opt into the new legislation can change the terms of office for chief and council from two years to four, and First Nations in each province can choose to hold their elections at the same time. This is intended to introduce stability and co-ordination to the election process. Under the old system, First Nations had to hold elections every two years, which could hinder progress as frequent changes in political leadership could slow things down while a new administration got up to speed and became familiar with various projects, programs and services underway or in development in their community and provincewide. To elect a government that will hold office for four years would allow more time for experienced leaders to see projects through. This makes sense, except of course, if the community elects a government that is incapable or corrupt and gets stuck with poor leadership for four years. This would then require some form of complicated and time-consuming recall system.
  • Exposing Canada's dirty secret

    Imagine if the front page story on the London Guardian, the New York Times and Pravda (Moscow) was the same as the Winnipeg Free Press was on Monday. What would people around the world think of Canada if they saw pictures of a murdered 15-year-old aboriginal girl and a homeless aboriginal man who had both been found dead in Winnipeg's Red River on the same day? It is not an image the federal government and Canadians in general want for our country. Unfortunately, those front-page stories might be the only way First Nations will convince the Conservatives to hold a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
  • First Nations rarely see charity meant for them

    Many of the leading foundations in Canada identify "Aboriginal Peoples or culture" as a priority. Many Canadians make donations to those foundations believing their money will be used to improve living conditions for First Nations people. But according to a study done by Cree lawyer Delia Opekokew, very little of this money ends up being allocated to First Nations people. For example, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation provided grants of $15 million all over Canada in 2012. There is only one aboriginal culture grant, out of 10 grants listed that year, for $217,00, which was given to Corporation du Wapikoni mobile in Montreal. The Gordon Foundation lists "Aboriginal Peoples" as its priority interest, but there are no aboriginal recipients for 2012 when it provided over $1.8 million in donations. There are no aboriginal groups listed as having received a grant from the $4 million given out by the Joyce Foundation in 2013, despite the foundation's desire to fund aboriginal peoples.
  • Chiefs don't answer to Ottawa

    Public disclosure of chiefs' salaries has shown most First Nations leaders in Canada on average are paid a sum that is in line with the work they do and the responsibilities they have, with certain exceptions, just like mainstream political and business leaders. But this latest round of sensationalist accusations about accountability and transparency raises a much bigger issue that needs to be resolved. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is often the instigator of these stories as they assume the role of watchdog over how governments spend our tax dollars. But as Chief Jim Bear of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation said: "This is not somebody else's tax dollars. This is our own money. They have brainwashed the Canadian public into thinking this is their money when it is not."
  • Council ripe for third-party rule?

    The City of Winnipeg is currently going through a management crisis. Deals that have been made by city council and the civic administration over the past three years have been criticized as unethical, immoral and even illegal. Citizens are wrestling with what to do to correct things at city hall. Outside measures are usually called for when there have been complaints by citizens that they are being denied the services they expect, or that there has been criticism over bad budgeting, fiscal mismanagement, deadlocks on council, poor-quality reporting, cronyism in hiring and exorbitant pay. Examples of all of this taking place at city hall have been reported in the mainstream media recently.
  • Elders push self-help through indigenous foundations

    First Nations elders are revered for keeping their spirituality, traditions, history and lifestyle alive. The role elders play in leading their people into the future has not been as well-recognized. A new organization called the National Indigenous Council of Elders (NICE) is changing that.
  • Fishing for a better deal

    The problems that have plagued the freshwater fish industry for the past three years can be solved. All that is required is for the different sides in this dispute to show a little flexibility and deal with the reality of fishing as it exists in Manitoba. Fishers from the Interlake area (Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, Lake St. Martin) say they cannot make a decent living for the prices they are paid from the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, which has a monopoly to sell all commercial freshwater fish caught in Manitoba. The co-operative representing many of these fishers believes the FFMC spends too much on high management salaries, exorbitant marketing costs, "Cadillac" pensions and unionized wages.
  • First Nations need the modern white buffalo

    When legislation allowing gaming on Indian reservations in the United States was passed into law, it was called the "modern white buffalo." The buffalo had provided Plains Indians with everything they needed -- food, clothing, shelter and tools. The White Buffalo Calf Woman provided sacred teachings of the Sun Dance and the sweat lodge. It was hoped that modern gaming could at least generate the wealth and employment that many Native American tribes needed to overcome widespread poverty today.
  • Having the right outlook goes a long way

    There is one huge drawback to living in the No. 1 neighbourhood in Canada, (according to some national survey that was published last year). Osborne Village becomes the absolute worst place in the world to live when you have to go through the kind of winter we have just experienced, because there are so many good things to miss and you suffer that much more.
  • Investigative journalism a public trust

    A recent Free Press editorial appropriately called for a new mandate for the CBC (CBC needs fresh mandate, April 14). That mandate must include independent coverage of local, national and international news. Investigative journalism is dying. It costs a lot of money to retain professional journalists who make the calls, hit the streets, and do all the research it takes to uncover a new story or keep bringing fresh information and angles to existing stories.
  • Time to ice racial conflict at the rink

    It is impossible to defend the violence that took place during the bantam hockey game between Lake Manitoba First Nation and a team from Stonewall. An official was attacked. There is no excuse for this kind of extremely negative behaviour and the perpetrators must be punished. But that won't stop this kind of thing from happening again, because we are not dealing with the real problem and the underlying reasons these things happen. We keep ignoring the significant role racial conflict plays.
  • Tough haul to setting up urban reserves

    The recent election of Terry Nelson to the leadership of the Southern Chiefs Organization seems obviously intended to push the establishment of urban reserves, regarded as a key driver to economic development. The SCO's plans are ambitious, and a close look at the hurdles involved in the land-conversion process would make most people throw in their cards. Hence, the selection of a man with a track record of dogged determination. Most of the steps are to address the concerns of people who may fear waking up next to an urban reserve someday.
  • Hughes report doesn't have all the answers

    The Hughes commission report is out and the recommendations to improve Child and Family Services are mostly practical solutions matched to the problems uncovered during the inquiry. But we are probably going to witness a tragedy such as the murder of Phoenix Sinclair again because we can't solve major flaws in the system.
  • The deadly toll of drug-approval drag

    A recent survey of general practitioners by the Canadian Liver Foundation revealed 57 per cent of GPs don't know hepatitis C can be cured despite the fact more than 70 per cent of hep C patients who undergo treatment with available medicines are being cured right now. Obviously, we must create more public awareness about hepatitis C when even medical professionals seem so unaware of what's going on. Especially when there are thousands of people who don't even know they are carrying the virus (hep C is a "silent disease" -- symptoms often don't appear until the liver is severely damaged).
  • Now this is going to be interesting

    To say the election of Terry Nelson as grand chief of the Southern Chiefs' Organization is going to be interesting is an understatement. The controversial First Nations leader has a knack for getting under people's skin and creating sensational headlines. I suggest we wipe the slate clean and get off to a fresh start with Grand Chief Nelson. There are a lot of reasons this makes sense.
  • First Nations awaiting anti-apartheid's dividend

    As I watched Canada pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, it reminded me of the difficulties this country had supporting the end of apartheid and its role in setting up the whole system. The indigenous people of South Africa and the First Nations share a unique relationship. And there is an important lesson to be learned here. The system of apartheid Mandela opposed confined the indigenous people of South Africa to homelands, required them to obtain special passes to leave those homelands, and they were denied the right to vote. If this sounds familiar, it is not only because Indians in Canada were confined to reserves, required passes to leave their homes and could not vote until 1961.
  • First Nations can mine $650 billion

    If you have been wondering what all the fuss about resource extraction and development on First Nations land means, you need look no further than a recent report by the Fraser Institute. It reveals the enormous potential in wealth and jobs that can be created by developing these resources. According to the report, 600 projects worth $650 billion depend on co-operation between First Nations and mining companies within the next 10 years.
  • What we don't know about bullying

    Canadians are caught up with the problem of bullying. The Manitoba legislature is enacting laws to deal with it in our schools, and research is being conducted to help devise prevention and cessation programs that are meaningful, relevant and effective. This is all well and good. But all too often in the past, these programs tended to get applied universally. This would be a disaster, or at least a failure, if we do this with First Nations children and youth.
  • Slow to remember

    WITH Remembrance Day nearly upon us, we will try to remember the great sacrifices made by the veterans of two world wars. Many of us have only known peace and now face our own mortal end free from the horrors of combat and sudden death. But on Nov. 11, we will try to remember, and be grateful for those who have fallen for us. The manner in which First Nations people pay tribute to their veterans might help us carry this appreciation in our hearts for more than just this one, most important day.
  • Over 30s still can't be trusted

    "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" (Howard Beale - Network) "You guys had it so much easier than we do!" (any parent to their child)
  • The two faces of Mount Rushmore

    Many Winnipeg tourists head down to South Dakota to marvel at Mount Rushmore. The faces of four of the most beloved American presidents carved into the side of a mountain is quite a sight to see. As a child, I recall the messages of freedom and independence that I read about in Dennis the Menace comic books and saw on the Wonderful World of Walt Disney TV shows that drove me to Mount Rushmore, and I wasn't disappointed. There is a certain highway you take where the glaring white visages of those four highly revered leaders blasts into view and it is breathtaking, just as it is from the viewing platform set up in front of this incredible monument.
  • Manitobans must right these wrongs

    Legal experts Charles Huband and Thomas Berger have argued the case for and against Métis land claims on these pages, and most Canadians would have difficulty disagreeing with either of these esteemed jurists because their arguments are both so well-researched and reasoned. The problem is the true meaning of justice is often betrayed by legal intricacies and interpretations, and the laws of the land leave plenty of room for injustice. Do we really want Canadian history to be defined by who had the best lawyer and which group is most able to twist the law to serve its best interests?
  • Panhandling should be confined to the streets

    It appears to be an innocuous question in an innocent situation. "Would you like to donate a dollar to the (insert body organ/disease here) fund?"
  • Thompson, Matamoros: There's a link

    Many young adults who lived in Winnipeg during the 1960s will fondly remember that special connection we had with Mexican border towns like Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, which provided an inexpensive break from our harsh winters. You just had to drive down I-29 and on to the mighty Rio Grande and soon you were developing a cheap melanoma you could bring home along with a Mexican onyx chess set, bargained down to $13 at a flea market and a ridiculously huge velvet painting of Jesus, even if you weren't particularly Christian. The Mexican people were so very, very friendly and the local la policia smiled at you at every turn.

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