Letter to The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sports: Lake Babine First Nations and John Furlong

Hello Honourable Qualtrough,

I am a Vancouver lawyer (UBC LLB 1975), I have practised as a labour arbitrator since 1990, and my book on wrongly convicted Ivan Henry was published in 2014: https://www.amazon.ca/Innocence-Trial-Framing-Ivan-Henry/dp/1772030023

Six long months ago, I assisted Cathy Woodgate in writing a letter to PM Trudeau saying that, until and unless the members of Lake Babine’s First Nations are heard regarding whether or not John Furlong abused them (as a volunteer RC missionary in Burns Lake Immaculata Elementary school in 1969-70), he should be asked to stand down from his position as chair of “Own the Podium”.

That letter has since been passed from The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould to The Honourable Carolyn Bennett to The Honourable Melanie Joly…. and now to you, The Honourable Carla Qualtrough.

To say the least, this is a most unfortunate state of affairs.

Surely, Cathy Woodgate—a committed elder, advocating on behalf of the Lake Babine “day school survivors”—is entitled to a response without further delay.

Instead, John Furlong continues to ostensibly enjoy the favour (indeed highest plaudits) of our federal government. For instance, his name was twinned with Minister Qualtrough’s in this Globe and Mail article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/carla-qualtrough-appointed-to-federal-cabinet-in-gold-medal-day-for-sport/article27113619/

If you really care about establishing and nurturing trustworthy relationships with our First Nations people, please LISTEN to them before continuing to give John Furlong a free pass.

June 23rd—International Olympics Day–is fast approaching.

This problem cries out to be dealt with before then.

Regards, Joan

Two articles of interest as background:

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/11/26/opinion/waiting-be-heard-claimants-versus-john-furlong;
http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/12/15/opinion/colour-blind-truth-you-still-dont-know-about-reconciliation

A Story about Band Politics

Ms. McEwen,

An elder shared a story with me years ago and I was about 14 yrs old at the time.

The elder shared this knowledge with me. “Long ago before we signed treaty, our Chiefs were the poorest of the people, each person was fed first, the Chief’s family ate last he made sure everyone ate first, the women & their children who lost their partner from war were always looked after, and were part of the camp circle, the women, children and elders were in the middle of the camp circle, the young bucks slept on the outskirts of the circle.

“No one went without. If a man did a bad thing depending on how bad it was he was killed or shamed or shunned. If shunned he had to leave the camp asap. We had our own laws, we had our own way of life.

“Now today the chief and his family and relations take everything first. Same with the Councillors they take whatever the chief leaves behind for their families and relations. Than the rest of the people get whatever’s left over. This is what the Indian Act and colonial capitalism has done to my people.”

Being a 10 year survivor of the Indian Residential School system, it was difficult for me to comprehend First Nation politics, to understand why we were so dysfunctional, angry and why so many of us abused alcohol, drugs and whatever which eased the pain and shame left behind from the atrocious abuses in the residential schools. I was lost and confused as to my own identity.

But now years later I have seen and have been told by many others what the Chiefs and Councillors are doing. We as band members are being systemically abused by our own leadership. Like we are not already going through enough suffering. I earned some understanding of what the elder was trying to teach me.

This was a huge motivator in my life which compelled me to engage in higher learning and exerting the effort and enduring even the academic racism to secure all that education successfully only to hit a high and thick wall of racism reinforced by negative stereotypes which still confront me daily. But I am working on trying to change public attitude one person at a time, one day at a time.

My recipe is simple; “Educate, do not berate, raise my message and not my voice” and slowly but surely I am seeing success however small.

Gerald McIvor