Archive for the ‘Other Musings’ category

Ontario Independent Music Archive – Aboriginal

June 15, 2012

Hello friends of independent music! Maybe you are here by chance or maybe I’ve already spoken to you and talked about my current gig. As the title Ontario Independent Music Archive suggests, that is precisely what I am involved with. The project is directed by the National Campus and Community Radio Association [NCRA] in conjunction with the newly formed Ontario Independent Music Archive [OIMA]. As per their Media Release, the mandate for the project is to provide ” a place for musicians to post and share their work with the public, but will also collect and provide new life for independent music that was originally produced in small batches on vinyl, cassette and CD. ” As a lover of the vinyl format, this very much interests me. However, that is not to say that I will not actively seek out older music on cassette and CD. Moreover, NEW releases that is already available in the digital domain will be welcome too! Furthermore, I will be seeking not only fully-produced releases but I will be on the look out for one-off singles too! As for my involvement in this initiative, I will be acting as Curator or the “go-between”, as it were, to assist YOU – the artist – on the website. My job will be seek out music between mid-June until December 2012 when it is expected the Ontario Independent Music Archive [OIMA] will launch. As for my part of this involvement, I will be the contact for the Aboriginal component of this project. Incidentally, there are five other Curators working representing the English and French component of OIMA. In short, I will be seeking out “Independent’ music from Aboriginal musicians in Ontario only – for now anyways. This music can be in any genre imaginable from hip-hop to fiddle, traditional drum to blues, alternative to ______? – well you fill in the blank. Read on, but just for example here’s one my faves from the past courtesy of David Deleary of his former Ottawa-based band, Seventh Fire! Enjoy!

Personally, it is my hope that I will be able find as many recordings as possible to add to the archive. The benefit for contributors will be to have yet another place where their music will live to be available for public consumption. The benefit will be to provide access to a wider audience from both the general public to the many community and campus radio stations that are almost always the first to embrace independent music prior to going mainstream. In terms of some legalities that will need to be address, there are presently entertainment lawyer types out there working on Creative Commons type agreements that give options on how YOU – the artist – will prefer to licence your work to the Ontario Independent Music Archive. These will be available soon in the coming days for your perusal and consideration. This is presently being looked at by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). In short, CIPPIC, is the organization that works with other interests who lobby for protecting copyright issues as it pertains to how your art is proliferated on the internet.

In closing, I want to avoid getting too technical and keep your attention as to what I believe is most important here. That being, that musicians in Ontario – like you – now have a great opportunity to partake in a project that will preserve and promote your music for posterity such that future generations can enjoy it once again! Well that’s it for now. I’ll keep you posted in the coming days, weeks and months. For me this is a dream gig and I am very happy to help this initiative along. Any questions can be directed to me and michonmedia@yahoo.ca of via the facebook group “Ontario Aboriginal Musicians Music Group“.

As a final note, I wanted to share this tune a dear friend of mine, Clarence Louttit, who represented the finest of all the great “James Bay Fiddlers. I first met Clarence in Moose Factory, Ontario in 1993 while working up there. Aside from the obvious name association, Clarence took me to school as a musician and made me an admirer of classic fiddle tunes. Thank you Clarence for the kinship! In closing, though Clarence passed a few years ago, his music still manages to live on in the digital domain, [YouTube] thus giving opportunity for future generations to come to discover and hear his amazing talent. Like YouTube, OIMA’s initiative is also aimed at and will strive toward assisting making independent music available to people everywhere! Watch this space!

ABOUT THE NATIONAL COMMUNITY CAMPUS RADIO ASSOCIATION AND THE ONTARIO INDEPENDENT MUSIC ARCHIVE INITIATIVE

To learn more about the Ontario Independent Music Archive initiative headed up by The National Community Campus Radio Association you can read the initial announcement via Media Release here.

Furthermore, you can hear a testimonial by independent musician Sarah Mangle explaining how she foresees how the Ontario Independent Music Archive will benefit her via this audio PSA. Listen now! Click here.

Me and Daniel Lanois at the Juno Awards

April 1, 2012

This story happened to me back in the day around the time when I was learning Recording Engineering at Harris Institute for the Arts. It’s a story about my Daniel Lanois connection. But first I have to tell the back story, because it’s important to the years and moments leading up to my Dan Lanois “encounter”.

Marie Claire

This story begins back in my hometown of Geraldton, Ontario. It was high school and just getting set to go to Thunder Bay to be an Electronic Engineer. A few words on that later, because my abandonment of that aspiration may have changed the path that led me to this point in my life. Also, important to note, I had just begun starting produce my original song in a little studio I had built fashioned out of an old vegetable truck container. [Read more here} So as the story goes, let us begin by my introduction of a good friend in Geraldton named Mike Daigle. We were best of friends throughout high school. Anyways, Mike would often rave about his older musician brother Gilles who was a touring musician and recording engineer. I always thought that that was cool and perhaps maybe I might be able to maybe Gilles someday. Well it wasn’t too long, because lo and behold Gilles and his band were hired to do a gig in Geraldton during a Canada Day celebration in the basement of the Catholic Church. The day came and I was excited to meet this luminary of musicianship of whom Mike spoke so highly of. It was the evening of the gig and Mike and I sat in the audience as the band launched into some Beatles and Fleetwood Mac if memory serves me correctly? He and his band were astounding and the musicianship of all in the band was everything that Mike raved about. Gilles, it turns out, was the finest of Bass players I’d ever seen. Later, when the evening had endee, it was my pleasure to be able to speak to Gilles because apparently Mike had volunteered us for tear-down of gear. Moreover, I got to meet the rest of the band. The one I was most impressed to meet was the lead guitarist. He pulled off one of rocks most difficult of solos on the Eagle’s Hotel California with ease and grace. I was to learn that this fine guitarist name was Daniel L’Heureux. Now remember that name because it’s is central to this story.

Fast forward a year or two? I was now in Thunder Bay attending my Electronic Engineering course at Confederation College. It was also convenient at this time that Mike – who was attending the Film Program – and I room together with another Geraldton school chum. Also, it was about this time that Gilles had moved back from Quebec to settle in Thunder Bay. He was married now – with a child on the way – and was in the process of getting a 24-track Recording Studio up and running. Sadly though, I was to learn that his former band had folded most members therein were back to their respective provinces of Quebec and Ontario – including Daniel L’Heureux! Remember I said remember that name? In any event, I got work through Mike to help Gilles set up his Recording Studio from scratch. My first job was to sweep the dirt and sawdust from the floors left there by the former tenants prior to moving all the recording gear in. Thereafter, Gilles put my rudimentary carpentry skill to work as we erected walls of the gutted warehouse. Following that, I was then employed to help wire the recording console late at night after school was done at the College. In a few weeks, the Studio was up and running and taking in clients. I remember, in a short time BPI Studio was recording jingles and had set to record one of its first “real” recording artist. The musicians name? Roger McGraw – no relation to Tim – hailed from the small town of Caramat, Ontario. Caramat, incidentally, was just a few short miles down the road from Geraldton. “Hmm?” I thought to myself, “Maybe I too could do this someday?” This all too soon becomes relevant.

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Now fast forward – paying no regard to my now long forgotten Electronic Engineering career – I had now moved on to Toronto to pursue a Recording Engineer career. I first took an 8 month course at a now defunct private Institute called the Audio Visual Institute of Canada. Despite the school’s short -lived status, I was able to visit many of Toronto’s prominent Recording Studios as part of curriculum and placements. Number 9 comes to mind, but there were plenty others. As a matter of fact, it was at Number 9 that our class elected to utilize one of my original songs as a working “project”. It was eventually all recorded professional like, but sadly at the time the school was in financial turmoil and had “forgotten” to pay its bills, As a consequence, Number 9 withheld the 24-track tape and I never got hold of that recording. Where it is now? Don’t know, however, I still have it in a notebook somewhere? Perhaps to revisit that one? I remember it not being half-bad, even in comparison of my current standards. Why is this all important? Well, as part of my Recording Engineering education, this one name kept popping up. Daniel Lanois. Who was he? I inquired to fellow students and apparently this Lanois fella had a Recording Studio in Hamilton called Grant Studios. “Oh, okay. Another guy with a home recording studio. Good luck fella!” I thought.

This is someone’s home-made video based on Ray Materick’s song Linda Put the Coffee On. Produced by Daniel Lanios at Grant Studio back in the day. In fact, that’s Dan on Lead Guitar.

Fast forward another year or two? By this time I had moved on to surviving. I still had my home recording setup at home and continued to write. I also did recording with alumni at their studios too! However, I felt compelled to move on to taking up Radio Production and Broadcast Marketing at Ryerson part-time. In the interim whilst studying I took on various Production Assistant gigs with various TV and Radio production companies in between working part-time at a place called Roblan Distributors. Roblan, incidentally, was the distribution arm of Sam the Record Man. And yes, I saw Sam on a daily basis as his office was on the top floor of the building formerly located at the corner of Dundas and Church. Fine memories and good times. Loved that guy! Anyway’s that’s another story for another time. But, it was relevant being ppart of the Sam the Record Man’s marketing department, because I was handling “new releases’ by all the popular artist of the day. I always took time to read all the liner notes on the “albums” as I prepared them for shipping to all the Sams across the country. Central to the story, I remember glancing at releases by U2. U2 and Bono were not yet household names. Hang on to that thought.

Rewind a bit here now. Remember Daniel L’Heureux? Good! In between my school year in Toronto I would return to Thunder Bay to work in a grocery warehouse. During this one particular summer, I bumped into Mike and he gave me all the updates from Mike, my former roommate. He had informed me that Dan was now in Toronto and was in a band called BULLY and apparently that had a Recording deal. I contacted Mike’s brother Gilles and he supplied me with a contact for Dan. So, upon my return to school in Toronto, I looked Dan up. Turns out BULLY was actively performing around Toronto. I took a few opportunities to see them on occasion. Now this is where thing got interesting because it led to the “encounter”. Dan and I had become pretty good friends and somewhat of a mentor. He was about 10 year my senior with many music industry contact. He was always supportive of my endeavours as both an aspiring Songwriter with Recording Engineer inklings. At this time Dan was living with his sister – who I remember being quite cute – so, I started to go visit Dan a little more frequently. 😉 Actually, Dan, his sister and another gal were in the midst of putting a band together. Given, I was always welcome there at their apartment, I’d just t show up on Jam nights to horn in, oggle…err…I mean watch and maybe learn something? Press “Pause”.

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The Unforgettable Jam

No fast forward required here. I remember it was now Juno Awards time of year and soon came the day of. I hod gone over on that day for for a late-afternoon Jam. This was an anomaly because Jam time had always been in the evening. But, given the Juno Awards were on that evening, I thought nothing of it. Well the Jam went right on into the broadcast of the Awards that eventing. Between songs and sipping beverages we chatted music stuff, all the while horning in on what was taking place at the awards on TV. Well it was on occasion of this one particular break, the time had come for the Producer of the Year Award was to be presented. I don’t recall as to all the nominees were, but there was that name again. Daniel Lanois. I still didn’t know exactly who he was1 Anyways, the presenters at the Junos were at the podium preparing to announce the winner. A hush took over the room as they opened the envelope. The audience at the Gala too was silenced. The Winnier? Of course! Who else, but this Dan Lanois fella for Producer, along with his cohort Brian Eno for U2’s Unforgettalbe Fire. From that moment on, I would never again forget that name. Not because Daniel Lanois had produced one of Rock’s most iconic albums, but because of what was to transpire next. Here’s the kicker! Dan – the L’Heureux one not the Lanois one – exalted in the win, breaking the subdued silence of the Jam room. “YES!” he proclaimed. “Way to go Danny!” “Err? Danny?’ I thought to myself, “Like he’s good buddies with him or something” I thought to myself. Then it occurred to me to ask aloud “Come on Dan. DANNY? Really? Like you know him personally or something?” To my surprise, Dan replied “Yeah, known the dude for years. “ Dan went on to tell me how whenever it was he was out Clubbing or Gigging or simply walking downtown, people would a stop him thinking he was Daniel Lanois. This was substantiated by his sister and other band member. To further, substantiate this, close to an hour had passed since the Daniel Lanois win and the Juno Awards had concluded. Dan then went to his black book and retrieved a number. I a few short moments he was on the phone talking to Daniel Lanois. I remember him chatting up and congratulating Daniel Lanois. The conversation lasted for about 3 to 5 minutes when he turned the phone handset to “us”. “Wait a minute Dan! ” OUR Dan asked Lanois Dan “ I have my sis, [forget her name] and Clarence – you don’t know Clarence – but they have something to say.” With that we were prompted to collectively shouted in unison “Congratulation Dan!” And that my friends it my story of my nearest encounter to Daniel Lanois…thus far.

Thanks for the visit people for letting me share that fine story with you! I kid a lot, and it is April Fool’s today as I write this, but that is the God honest truth. I swear!

P.S. Regarding my abandoned Electronic Engineering career? Well as part of Semester One, I found my heart wasn’t in it and started to spend more time hanging out at Gilles’ Studio. Probably a better education there than at College. Moreover – as a side note – as part of Semester One, we were required to build an LED Clock Radio. Uhmm..never finished it. However, I still have it in a trunk in my basement stored along with other memorabilia. In the event, if this Songwriting/ Broadcasting thing don’t take off again soon I may have to go back to school and start over again. Press “Rewind”. Hmmm..what haven’t I tried yet?

Post Script

The Unforgettable Fire is the fourth studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was released in October 1984. The band wanted a different musical direction following the harder-hitting rock of their 1983 album War. They employed Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce and assist them experiment with a more ambient and abstract sound. The resulting change in direction was at the time the band’s most dramatic. There rest of the story here!

You can also view the making of The Unforgettable Fire on YouTube if you are so inclined.

P.S.S. If you’d like another Juno story by me, check out the time I had to make the trek from the northern outposts of Northwestern Ontario to Toronto to cover the Junos as a journalist. It’s just as funny as Trains, Planes and Automobiles – but TRUE! Read on Clarence Goes to the Junos. Oh there’s a little story of my “encounter” with then little known Sarah MacLachlan. Click here!

Occupy Attawapiskat – A First Nation Housing Crisis Primer

November 24, 2011

Note * This is a primer designed to bring folks up to speed. Trying very hard to keep up as this story develops. Latest updates are located at bottom of page. Thanks for the visit!

Human Mic: Mic Check!
Concerned Occupiers: Mic Check!
Human Mic: This is what democracy looks like!
Concerned Occupiers: This is what democracy looks like!

Or is it? You would be hard pressed to find a single soul in Attawapiskat First Nation that would agree with that.

As you may have read or heard in the media, the Attawapiskat First Nation located on the James Bay Coast in Ontario is in dire need – yet again – of proper housing as another cold Canadian winter sets in. However, one can only hope that this year will be different and move that agenda forward. I am writing this blog, not to offer solutions, because I know personally this has been an ongoing problem that persists from longer than I care to remember. I hope this rather to serve as a primer to bring new and old interested persons up to speed on the crisis. I believe I know of what I speak. Back in 1993 was the first time I visited the community while working for Wawatay Native Communication Society in Moose Factory. This was my introduction to working more or less independently as a video journalist and learned the issues. From then on, I had many opportunities to visit Attawapiskat during my three year tenure. Fast forward to last June. Again, I went along as a camera-person for a documentary team that wanted to bring the situation to light. Skeptical, yet curious I took on the task. In short it was nice to see some familiar faces and meet new folk from the community that carry on the struggle for a better future for the youth. Sadly, though, it was like I hadn’t missed a beat and found myself immersed in and exploring the same stories I had heard almost 17 years earlier. The situation brought to mine the Bruce Cockburn song The Trouble With Normal in which he postulates that Corporate interests and Third World will always clash. And if you have any doubts, I can attest that Attawapiskat is truly the Third World in our own back yard. Maybe it’s time to clean up our own back yard? With the proliferation of the Occupy movements here in North America who will speak for such a small population in a democratic country. Obviously, with such a tiny populous in a large country, they alone cannot sway the vote in their favor. However, as of late we have seen how social networks have served to level the playing field to a favorable degree, but yet the critical mass is still way out of reach. However, we do see with the media attention this story is now receiving – and rightfully so – the momentum is teetering and creeping toward the tipping point. Will the momentum be quashed once again by indifference? I for one hope not. Moreover, for whatever reason brought you to learn more and offer your support, I hope this effort generates dialogue for a much ignored problem and the powers that be note the paradigm is shifting. So with that said, I know it’s near impossible for many to physically Occupy Attawapiskat, we can certainly occupy it with support, good thoughts, prayers, donations and every imaginable means. It seem the plight of First Nation is the plight of all Occupy movements. Change is all that is asked.

Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?

And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal, is it always gets worse.

~ The Trouble With Normal – Bruce Cockburn

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Now by utilizing the above image, on might think that I am trying to be facetious, however, things can be further from the truth. Actually, the mock-up I did of the popular book for Dummies, I was tempted to replace ” for Dummies” with for Government. However, that would be unfair to one, Charlie Angus. The recent media attention that Attawapiskat is now getting can, in part, be credited to him and those individuals in the Attawapiskat willing to share their plight, thereby putting a face on this plight. Charlie Angus – MPP for Timmins James Bay in recent days has been leading a gallant campaign to both educate the general public and directing the rally cry toward the ears of the Feds, under whom First Nation are under their jurisdiction. His recent article ” Would if They Declared an Emergency and No One Came” appeared in the Huffington Post on-line on the 21st to start the ball rolling. This is as good a primer as can be offered up. Read the full article by clicking

here!

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Following is the YouTube video of Charlie Angus’ recent visit to Attawapiskat First Nation. It’s a must watch to get the gravity of the story. In the video you meet a young mother living in a makeshift tent with her children, a young boy with terrible rashes, but most importantly see the deplorable housing situation. So, not only is this a housing issue, it is also a health issue and impending crisis in that regard. As a heads up, in the video, we learn that currently there are five families living in tents; 19 families living in sheds without running water; 35 families living in houses needing serious repair; 128 families living in houses condemned from black mould and failing infrastructure; 118 families living with relatives (often 20 people in a small home); there are 90 people living in a construction trailer. There’s a need for 268 houses just to deal with the immediate backlog of homelessness. Though the video is embedded in the preceding article, you can watch it here. You can cut and paste the url and share. I encourage that you do do that. Watch now!

Assuming you have watched the preceding video, what follows next if a video of Member of Parliament – Charlie Angus makes a plea to call on the Feds to attend to the crisis – three weeks after the community of Attawapiskat asked the Feds to attend to their self-proclaimed emergency.

What follows is a summation of the above video Media Release from the office of Member of Parliament, Charlie Angus asking ” Where is the Action Plan?”

WHERE IS THE ACTION PLAN? Angus says Ottawa and Queen’s Park Missing in Action in Attawapiskat -2011 11 21 – Press Releases

Today in Question Period, Charlie Angus called on both levels of government to help the residents of Attawapiskat. Angus says it’s been 3 weeks since a state of emergency was declared due to poor and lack of housing.

“Not a single official of the federal or provincial government has bothered to visit the community to see first-hand the deplorable conditions. Not even one aid agency has stepped forward.”

Angus says conditions are deteriorating every day. “Temperatures have dropped 20 degrees and are likely to drop even more very soon. Families in makeshift tents and un-insulated sheds with no hydro or water are facing immediate risk.”

Immediate risk is the language that is being used by medical officials in the area. Residents are at risk of infection, disease and fire.

Angus says children are using a bucket as a toilet. “This is unacceptable in a rich country like Canada. This is the same community that houses one of the richest diamond mines in the western world.”

Angus is calling on both levels of government, as well as national aid agencies, to work with Attawapiskat to respond to the crisis.

You can find the press release here.

So has the media been reacting? I know for one that the message is getting through. I’ve yet to see a mainstream story, with the exception of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network who had Mr. Charlie Angus on their newscast on Wednesday the 23rd. Apparently, the missing in action aid agencies that Mr. Angus complained about are set to step up to bat and are set to consult with the community to see what capacity they can serve. I’m speaking of the Red Cross incidentally.

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You can find the interview in its entirety here.

So what happens next? My understanding is that Federal representatives of Aboriginal Affairs are scheduled to meet with Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat will meet in Thunder Bay today – today being November 24th, 2011, to announce some sort of strategy.

In conclusion, I hope that sheds some light and brings you up to speed on the crisis looming as the community of Attawapiskat prepares to confront yet another chilling winter. Who will occcupy? What you can do? I am aware that dialouge can be found on the recent facebook group called Attawapiskat- Making a Stand for our Children & our Elders. This can be found at this link. Log into your facebook and join a href=”https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123153503410
” target=”_blank”>here. Incidentally, this time two years ago an Elder named Sophie Spence did a 112km walk to raise awareness of the housing crisis which sadly went practically unnoticed in the media save for APTN and local media.

Also, I’ve noted dialogue is also happening at a new facebook group called Attawapiskat Housing Crisis – Fundraiser/ Awareness. You can ask to join here.

IMPORTANT – WHAT YOU CAN DO

You can write Members of Parliment. Both Provincial and Federal at these addresses to express your discontent and to let them know this situation is not acceptable. I found a recent editable note composed by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario that succinct and gets the message across effectively. Maybe use this as a guideline? I suggest you do so. It reads…

This action alert is to urge the federal and provincial governments to work together to immediately address the critical housing crisis currently taking place in Attawapiskat, Ontario.

As citizens, we are shocked by the life-threatening conditions in which residents of this community must live. We are deeply ashamed that federal and provincial officials point fingers at each other and refuse to take responsibility. As nurses, we are profoundly concerned about the danger of fires, freezing, infectious diseases, skin conditions, and mental health challenges that arise when people are forced to live in inhumane living conditions, particularly as winter approaches. People need warm, safe shelter, reliable plumbing, and safe drinking water to be healthy.

As we mark the passing of another National Housing Day, Canada remains the only major industrialized country without a national housing program. The hardship faced by millions of Canadians who are living in adequate or unaffordable housing is disproportionately borne by Aboriginal people, racialized communities, women, people with disabilities, seniors, and other marginalized groups. Now is the time for you as our elected leaders to immediately address the emergency in Attawapiskat and work together to ensure that every Canadian’s right to housing is met.

I don’t have all the addresses but, many are at the Registered Nurses found here.

Also, there is also an online petition site you can add your name to regarding this issue. Apparently, the the person who posted this petition and monitoring it has asked for 5000 signatures. However, it has surpassed the 6000 mark and it set to be sent off to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, John Duncan on this day, November 24th. If you act now, you may still be able to add your name? The petition site is here.

Direct emails and letters can be forwarded to:

Office of the Prime Minister Honourable John Duncan
House of Commons Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: pm@pm.gc.ca
E-mail: john.duncan@parl.gc.ca

Premier Dalton McGuinty Kathleen Wyne
Legislative Building Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Queen’s Park 160 Bloor St. East, 4th floor
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1 Toronto, ON M7A 2E6

E-mail: minister.maa@ontario.ca”

THIS JUST IN. Posted November, 24, 2011. This would be of interest to Toronto residents and those in the GTA. Message pasted from Zainab Amadahy:

FYI: The Attawapikat First Nation on the James Bay Coast declared a state of emergency three weeks ago and the provincial and federal government has failed to answer them. ~ JOIN US FOR A PEACEFUL RALLY AT THE ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT OFFICE IN TORONTO, 25 St.Clair Avenue East on Friday November 25, 2011 at12:00pm ~

Human Mic: Mic Check!
Concerned Attawapiskat Occupiers: Mic Check!
Human Mic: This is what democracy looks like!
Concerned Attawapiskat Occupiers: This is what democracy looks like!

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Watch this space! Just as a closing remark. As is was with occupiers of UC-Davis, who by their physical presence as “Occupiers”, who where subjected to excessive force by one Lte. John Pike by being sprayed with pepper spray, that is not a likely a possibility if collectively the concerned occupy on social networks like fb and spread the message accordingly. So, with that, I think I need to explain that the image depicted below is not to meant to offend, but rather presented to shock and wake you that some are comfortable with maintaining the status quo without qualms. The kids depicted here represent the future of Attawapiskat, whom yet do not have a political mindset, nor should they. These kids, however, – for those who know of the Atttawapiskat story – only want what their parents and Elder want…a better life. It’s been my experience on the occasions that I’ve visited that the youth are self aware and have formed opinions at a far too young age of their situation. Not by choice, but for survival. In fact, I remember vividly walking down the muddy June streets of Attawapiskat on a bleak damp day when I happened across about seven youth – both boys and girls – gathered around a trampoline playfully bouncing on it and singing at the top of their lungs the words to Wavin’ Flag by K’NAAN. It was moving and touched me deeply. Did they know what they were singing? I think they did. If not now, then I hope soon. Thanks for the visit. Spread the word!

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait for that fateful day
It’s not far away, but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag

Wavin’ Flag – K’NAAN

UPDATE! UPDATE! – Friday November 25, 2011 – UPDATE! UPDATE!

On Thursday, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat met with Federal representative of Aboriginal Affairs in Thunder Bay. It seems mixed messages were bantered around in the media as to a supposed $2 million dollar commitment. Read on…

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence maintained earlier Friday that aboriginal affairs representatives told her, during a meeting Thursday in Thunder Bay, that the government had pledged an additional $2 million on top of $500,000 that had already been committed.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Friday that no decision has been made to provide added funding to Attawapiskat to address a housing shortage, but his officials will travel to the northern Ontario reserve to ensure recent aid is being used effectively. “I’m saying we’ll send our people in to make some, help make some, decisions with the chief and council,”

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, a member of the NDP, told reporters Friday that the problem is lack of funding for the community and not local governance. “At the root of the problem in Attawapiskat is chronic underfunding, the inability of the community to ever get to first base,” Angus added, “That has been the problem all along and the refusal of the federal government, previously under the Liberals and now under the Conservatives, to get serious about dealing with the massive infrastructure backlog that’s hitting Attawapiskat, that’s hitting other communities.”

For full story, go here.

On another note. The Red Cross is set to send representative to the community to consult with the community as to what capacity they can serve. Will update just as soon as soon as something concrete occurs. Right now the offer is on the table. It looks like a positive step in the right direction though. Also, aid is offered from other parts of the globe, including Haiti! Stay tuned!

And finally, Musician and actor Tom Jackson visited the CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos to weigh in on the desperate living conditions in Attawapiskat.

“We have to say to them. If you don’t save the life of my child…then I’m not willing to vote for you.”

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Canadian Red Cross to support immediate needs in Attawapiskat

(TORONTO, November 26, 2011) – The Canadian Red Cross is mobilizing to help meet immediate needs in the community of Attawapiskat. The Red Cross continues to work closely with public authorities and the community to identify and address urgent, short-term needs. At the request of the community the Red Cross will also take on a donation management role to support these needs as identified.

“We have been working closely with public officials and Chief Theresa Spence to assess needs, determine the best course of action and how the Red Cross may be able to provide support,” says John Saunders, provincial director of disaster management for the Canadian Red Cross in Ontario.

According to Saunders, some of the needs currently identified include generators, heaters, insulated sleeping mats, blankets and winter clothing.

“Chief Spence has asked that the Red Cross provide support with donation management as the community has been inundated with offers of assistance,” says Saunders. “We are continuing to work closely with Chief Spence to identify what is needed immediately and make arrangements to get supplies into the community as soon as possible.”

Financial donations may be made online at http://www.redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through your local Canadian Red Cross office. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Attawapiskat” and can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Court, Mississauga, ON, L5R 3E9.

Source document can be found here.

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*****UPDATE**** NOVEMBER 30, 2011 *****UPDATE*****

So it appears mainstream has latched on to the story of Attawapiskat as did the public this week. Also, with the Red Cross and some media are on the ground, pictures and video are now making their way on to the screens across the country and around the world depicting the deplorable living conditions here in Canada’s own Third World. Moreover, Now that the outcry from the general public is gaining momentum, so has the “spin” in the media by those that are perceived as to being to blame. Here are just a few articles that caught my eye this week. First and foremost to feel the brunt of the outrage has been the Feds. PM Harper is first out of the gate to defend that his party have put 90 million toward the community in 6yrs saying that is $50,000 for every man, woman and child in the community. Read more here.

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“Obviously, we are not very happy that the results do not seem to have been achieved for that. We are concerned about that. We have officials looking into it and taking action,” ~ Prime Minister Harper

Also, taking a hit by the general public, is DeBeers, the richest diamond mine corporation in the world, which lies adjacent to Attawapiskat. Most wonder why is there no help from this giant corp who seems to be benefiting most from diamonds extracted from land that is essentially leased from the community. However, this is a
very complex issue that is need of education. Today, Tom Ormsby, Director of External & Corporate Affairs for De Beers came to the corporation’s defense explaining an Impact Benefit Agreement between the community and deBeers. Here is a letter I happened across. It reads as follows:

My name is Tom Ormsby and I’m the Director of External & Corporate Affairs for De Beers Canada. Before relocating to our head office, I was also a part of the senior management team that took the Victor Mine through construction and into operations and I have been involved with the community for a number of years in my role. In fact, I am in the community again this week as we have our second annnual career fair for students and community members tomorrow. Tonight we’re hosting a community social with traditional drummers and dancers and the Chief is among the dancers. For the past week, I’ve had in-person and phone meetings with Charlie Angus concering the current housing crisis in the community. We met again today when he was in the community.Like you – we have concerns about the housing situation in Attawapiskat First Nation, as the largest portion of our workforce comes from the community, which is a fly-in/fly-out community located 90 kilometres from the mine. Our company maintains a presence in the community with a two-person office (where I’m currently working from) and a training facility where we fly our training team in to conduct regular training programs with community members.To help with some background on our activities in the community, the Victor Mine was originally discovered in 1987. Since then, we have been working with the community through the various stages of exploration, advanced exploration, the feasibility study, the environmental assessment, construction starting in 2006 then operations starting in July 2008. At each stage of that development, a variety of agreements were put in place with the community to ensure their participation and local benefits. In November 2005 after three years of negotiation, a comprehensive Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) was reached between De Beers Canada and Attawapiskat First Nation. That agreement includes specific compensation and protocols to ensure Attawapiskat First Nation is the primary beneficiary of benefits available during the construction, operation and closure of the Victor Mine. Compensation includes items such as training, employment, business opportunities and direct financial compensation. The agreement also outlines our requirements and commitments in non-financial areas such as the environment and local cultural activities and practices. This agreement was voted on and ratified by the community in November 2005 before we began the construction of the Victor Mine. Under the IBA, a series of joint management committees were established to oversee the execution of the agreement.In 2009, a sewage backup in Attawapiskat displaced nearly 100 people. Although we had only been in operation for one year, we flew crews and project managers into the community at our expense to reconfigure previously donated multi-unit trailers into emergency housing for those displaced by the situation. These trailers are the same type still being used today by a number of our own employees at our mine, which is also fly-in/fly-out. Working with the community over a period of a couple of weeks, we were able to complete that project just before the first snow. The value of the trailers combined with the costs to deliver them to the community, redesign and install them totaled more than $3 million – a cost covered by De Beers Canada.In 2009/2010, De Beers Canada funded consultant work on behalf of Attawapiskat First Nation so the community could undertake a comprehensive study into their housing situation. This work included identifying the housing needs and deficiencies as well as the development of a plan for the community to address its housing shortage. Our understanding is that this was later submitted by Attawapiskat First Nation to the federal government.These two major activities were over and above the formal commitments we have in our IBA. De Beers Canada is continuing to work with the community through the IBA to ensure we maximize benefits to the community. Since the start of construction, over $325 million in contracts have been awarded to solely owned or joint venture companies run by the community. Just this year alone, contracts awarded to the community total $51 million. Earlier in this note I referred to the training facility we are operating in the community. In fact, this was the second training facility that we constructed and donated to the community at a combined cost of almost $2 million. The community runs the other facility. Every year for more than five years, we have been purchasing and delivering new books to every child in the community from kindergarten to Grade 12 as part of a program to grow literacy and education levels in the community. We also have in place a scholarship program. In support of the efforts for a new school, we donated project trailers, helped the community review a design proposal and offered our project management expertise. These efforts can help reduce some of the key start-up costs in the construction of a new school. Although the Victor Mine is a small mine by both physical size and production (in fact it is the smallest diamond mine in Canada with the shortest life-of-mine of the four existing diamond mines in Canada), we are proud of the commitment of our team to all of our community partners – including Attawapiskat First Nation – in just three years of operation. I hope this information is helpful to you and provides you some assurance that De Beers Canada is committed to maximizing the benefits for our community partners in Attawapiskat First Nation and across the country in our other areas of operation. Since the earliest stages of our relationship, the community has made it quite clear to us that our role is not to become involved in matters that are under the jurisdiction of the community and other levels of government. When community issues arise outside the IBA or our direct responsibility such as housing, we will continue to work with our partners to play whatever support role our resources and expertise allow.If you would any additional information, please feel free to contact me directly and I would be happy to follow up.All the best,Tom OrmsbyDirector, External & Corporate AffairsDe Beers CanadaSuite 900, 250 Ferrand DriveToronto, On416 645 1710, ext 2151tom.ormsby@debeerscanada.com

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So, the gloves are off, fingers are pointing and fur seems to be flying. We will see how thing unfold? Moreover, despite the crux of this media flurry was initiated by the immediate housing crisis, it appears the residents of Attawapiskat are taking advantage of the media attention to bring to light many of the other social ills that plague this small community. The local First Nation Band Office seems to be “occupied” as it were. Stay tuned1

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So as the Feds, province and the community meet to attend to immediate needs of the community some others think the best solution is to simply shut the community down. Uhm, yeah that oughta work!

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No Canadian politicians will say it, but the only solution for places like Attawapiskat is to stop subsidizing their existence. While inhabitants should not be forced from their homes, they should not be provided with a taxpayer-funded incentive to stay in destitute areas. Instead, the money should be used to resettle inhabitants in less remote places, where a new generation of aboriginals actually has a chance to live the Canadian dream.

Read full article printed in today’s National Post here.

And this just in! The Conservatives have now chosen to put Attawapiskat under “third party management”, which essentially means they are taking the financial reigns from the community. Moreover, they are launching an investigation into looking into recent audits and following the paper trail to see where the money went. All $90 million of it! Stay tuned! Read on. Source via the Globe and Mail found
here.

*** UPDATE *** December 1, 2011 *** UPDATE ***

Further to my last posted update yesterday. Obviously, with the announcement that Attawapiskat has now been place under third party management by the Feds, Chief Thersa Spence is livid and suspects that by this action the Feds are sending the message to other First Nations ” embarass us and look what will happen”. Timmin James Bay MP, Charlie Angus is of the same mind. At to where the $90 million went, asks PM Harper? Well apparently someone is not doing his/her job because the Fed have someone in the community to co-manage the finances of the community. That person should have sent red flags a long time ago, given that person is to report back intermittently. Moreove, it’s been reported that the Feds have visited the community no less than 10 times this year. Apparently, blindly, because no one person apparently never note while there that maybe there was a housing crisis? Anyways, links to more on this…

Where the $90 million went. A comprehensive analysis by someone more informed and competent than I. Harper said Attawapiskat got $90 million, where did it all go!? Read on here!

Federal officials visited Attawapiskat 3 times in October, triggered no red flags on housing View article here!

“Their solution is to blame the community. Why is it when a First Nation community is in distress does this government’s response is in contempt.” ~ Charlie Angus MP Timmins-James Bay

“The government that should be placed under this party management is the government across the aisle,” said Rae. “This government is all hat, no cattle.” ~ Liberal interim leader Bob Rae

“Unlike the party opposite when it was in government, this government is prepared and determined to ensure results with those funds. That is why the people of Canada placed the Liberal party under third-party management.” ~ PM Harper

Full article for above topic and quote can be found here!

So, the partisan gloves are on. The passion of all players are peaked and the nation and much of the world is watching. Watch this space.

Finally, today, Assembly of First Nation Chief Shawn Atleo is scheduled to meet with PM Harper in the afternoon. Atleo: Time to stop “finger-pointing” on Attawapiskat and “smash the status quo”

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Article and video here!

RE: Latest developoment as of my time of posting today. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Duncan is now pointing the finger at Angus accusing him of not informing him of the deplorable and looming housing crisis. He claims he only became aware of the crisis October 28th in a recent CBC interview, immediately contradicting himself telling CBC they’ve been attending to Attawapiskat by having had his representative visit at least 10 times since April this year. Media now chastising him for this BIG faux pas. In the House of Commons today, when asked, he staying the course and reading directly off a prepared script. In other news. Nothing regarding the meeting with PM Harper and National Chief Atleo. Stay tuned. This is sure to be a long drawn out “knock ’em down, drag ’em out, no holds-barred fight”. Things are really heating up. Stay tuned! Err wait….Just found!

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The interviews with both Duncan [left] and Angus [right] who coincidentally meet on a stairwell in the House of Commons as CBC reporter, Julie Van Deusen, corrals them both in a scrum. In between interviews, Angus takes a verbal jab at Duncan with words something to the affect that Angus is putting Duncan on notice of the Attawapiskat crisis and to not be caught flat-footed. Video can be found here.

*** UPDATE **** December 2, 2001 *** UPDATE ***

Chief of Attawapiskat speaks via a Press Release for public consumption to the position of the First Nation being placed under third-party management to effectively “decapitate” the communtiy – figuratively speaking -as Charlie Angus has expressed. Some quotes highlights are as follows:

“The taxpayers of Ontario and Canada should be made aware that the majority of the $94M received to support the Attawapiskat First Nation over that past six years from Aboriginal Affairs does not remain or circulate in our community. The majority of these funds go to support the greater economy of Northern Ontario and Canada for goods, materials, services, contractors, legal advice and auditing services to mention a few, which in turn support urban northern communities such as Timmins, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Toronto, Kenora and Winnipeg to name a few. The majority of these firms are non Aboriginal tax-payers.”

“On our traditional lands, that we once shared in the past with the visitors to our land, our lands, have proven to be bountiful in natural resources, and have been a benefit to all of Ontario, and Canada, but we were left behind. In our territory, we have a world class diamond mine, the pride of the Canadian, and Ontario governments, as well as De Beers Canada. They have every right to be proud of that mine, but…While they reap the riches, my people shiver in cold shacks, and are becoming increasing ill, while precious diamonds from my land grace the fingers, and necklaces of Hollywood celebrities, and the mace of the Ontario Legislature.”

For the full Press Release, visit here.

What follows is a clip from yesterday’s scrum outside the House of Commons. Many of the pressing issues in regards to the Feds response to the housing crisis are posed and answered here by a passionate and charged Charlie Angus.

“What they’re going to do in Attawapiskat. They’re going to move people into this hockey arena. You know what this hockey areana is? It’s not like a hockey arena that Tony Clement builds. This is a shed with ice. Their solution is that they’re going to take families and put them in a shed with ice. There is no showers there. There is no adeqate heating and then they’re going to walk away on them because there is no plan. You haven’t heard a single word from them that they are going to have a long-term housing solution.” Link directly to quote by clicking here.

On Prime Minister’s focus on the alleged missing $90 million.

“I think Mr. Harper did a very calculated move. He basically blew the dog whistle for certain basic Canadians. He said, “Bad Indians. Taxpayers dollars.” He didn’t have to say anything more. The day that they misrepresented the money. That they exagerrated the way it was being spent. That they didn’t tell Canadians that there is online audits. What that says to his base is “Damn right! Be hard on them.” But what I’m hearing from the rest of Canadians is ” This is a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Why is that the government is at this point blaming the victim lying on the ground? Saying, you know what? We are going to punish you even further. If there are questions about finances? Sure! But nobody ever stops in the Red River in the middle of a flood and says “Hey! How come we’re throwing this money at your communities that keep flooding? No they don’t say that. All Canadians rally. All Canadians help out. But, when it’s one of our communities in the North, when it’s First Nation kids it’s like ” Hey! What did you do with our taxpayers dollars? That speaks volumes I think for the subtle, less than subtle message that’s given out here. It’s the politics of division.” Link directly to quote by clicking here.

Watch full scrum below. Running time is 5m59s

More later folks. Thanks for the visit!

Clarence Michon is a broadcast journalist and filmmaker who has worked primarily on issues pertaining to Canada’s First Nation affairs. He has worked extensively along the Eastern James Bay coast including the community of Attawapiskat on many occasions. Link directly to quote by clicking here.

*** UPDATE *** DECEMBER 8, 2011 *** UPDATE***

WOW! Busy week, both personally and with this story. Anyways, I’ve been following and there’s is just so much happening it’s hard to keep up. In any event, here are the highlights of the week that caught my attention.

This week many Chiefs under the umbrella of the Assembly of First Nations met in Ottawa for National meeting. Big on the agenda was the Attawapiskat situation. The chiefs voted unanimously in favour of a motion that calls for, among other things, first nations to stand behind Attawapiskat and its leadership and for the membership of the Assembly of First Nations to ask the United Nations to monitor Canada’s actions. Moreover, a small assembly of Chiefs marched to Parliment Hill demanding a meeting with the Feds and threating action for future blocks directed at existing pipelines benefitting from resources on First Nation’s land. The term “resource sharing” seemed to be the rallying chant for the day. Once at the Parliment’s Centre Block, , they met with Charlie Angus, but their peaceful demonstration was circumvented when the RCMP arrived to whisk them from the steps to the Parliment. Cheif Theresa Spence forewarned that “This is only the beginning, only the beginning, this is a warning to the government that we are going to be more aggressive, that we are going to do it together,” It appears, come Spring Chiefs west of Ontario promise to circumvent Article and video can be found here.

“Canada saw for the first time last week what we see every day … This is a national disgrace. We have reason to feel angry and betrayed…The way forward is based on respectful treaty implementation and an equitable share of resources from [first-nations] land, not imposed punitive unilateral action.” ~ Shaun Atleo,National Chief – The Assembly of First Nations

Jacques Marion, the man selected by the government to step in and take over the handling of the roughly $17-million that flows annually from Ottawa to the reserve, was told to go home when he turned up in Attawapiskat on Monday. Apparently, he continues to work remotely representing the consulting firm BMO and charges $1500 a day.

MP Timmims James Bay responded “What they’ve done is taken $300,000 out of this band’s limited budget for political cover to pay for the mistakes of an incompetent minister…They have to shut down programs to pay for this guy.” ~ Charlie Angus – MP Timmins James Bay

Read on here.

“We need to stop building crap. It’s as simple as that.” ‘The smartest thing we can do is to teach the First Nations how to do it.’

Words spoken by Canada’s most famous — and outspoken — home renovator, Mike Holmes. He went on to elaborate that the solution to the First Nations housing crisis is remarkably simple. Full article here.

15 modular homes on the way! Window dressing? Band Aid solution. Justification for 3rd Party Management? Read on here.

Incidentally, it is expected Mike Holmes will make an appearance at the AFN National Cheifs meeting. However, no details available to the specifics of that meeting are as of yet.

Also, the Red Cross has announced that December 8th will be their last day of involvment of the crisis, citing they have done what within their capacity to do in the short-term by seeing those most in need requirements have been met. They also promise to monitor the situation and are readily available should further need of assistance arise. Full article New Release
here.

That’s it for the moment. G’day and thanks for the visit. Stay tuned. And just as a sign-off I included the following video depicting RAMBO as Indian] NDN Rambo in a scene from the ending of First Blood. Not to belittle the seriousness of Attawapiskat’s plight, but to sort of parody the ridiculousness of the inaction of the government.



*** UPDATE *** Decemeber 14, 2011 *** UPDATE ***

Seemingly, things have slowed down. However the media has certainly maintained the coverage thanks to the many good grassroots who have been feeding this to the media. With the third party in place and purchasing modular homes and Chief Theresa Spence being unrelenting in her comments toward that avenue and comments directed at Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Duncan, this game is not over. More about the short-term modular home “solution” from a reaction by Chief Spence here.

Also, I recently read article in the UK, Finland, Australia etc..press. It’s an international affair and this is going to play out on an international media “scrum”. From every “wing” left and right of center, people seem to know the answer. However, seemingly, little is being done in terms of the long term. Christmas is upon us. Politics will take a break, yet the crisis goes on. In any event, this meeting Thursday? Who knows the outcome? All’s I know is that the Government of Canada does not bring coal to the table, as opposed to a a more positive solution. I know quit fixes or “gift” is going to make this go away for Duncan, who more by the day seems Duncan is set to be the “fall guy”? Just my observations. In closing, it’s been learned DeBeers sewage affluent was a contributor to the sewage fail of a couple years back. Moreover, the Chief is threatening to sue reports the Aboriginal Television Network.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan will meet face-to-face with Chief Theresa Spence this Thursday, in an attempt to clarify Ottawa’s role in resolving the housing crisis in Attawapiskat.

The meeting will take place in Thunder Bay, Ont., instead of in Ottawa or on the northern Ontario reserve.

Duncan and Spence previously met with one another last week, but the Attawapiskat chief left unsatisfied when the minister refused to budge on imposing third-party management on her reserve.

The minister later drew fire from Spence when he claimed that band leaders were ready to work with the government appointee who is tasked with handling the day-to-day finances of the reserve.

Spence said she never agreed to third-party management in Attawapiskat and later called for Duncan’s resignation. She has also threatened to sue Ottawa over the third-party management issue.

More here.

Time is of the essence here. Stay tuned.

DocsNorth – Hold Onto The Light

October 18, 2011

Just a short blog explaining the following video recently posted to my YouTube page. I was involved in a training program in Thunder Bay recently as refresher course for myself and others of varying degrees of experience. You can learn more about the DocsNorth training initiative
here!

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Here are the smiling happy folks involved. As part of the training we were schooled in the fundamentals of filmmaking by veteran filmmakers whom acted as mentors. The last two days culminated with the participants breaking up in to teams of 4-5 with a Mentor. In all, three teams were created. Incidentally, this photo-op presented itself, when during one of our sessions, smoke started billowing out the adjoining kitchen. Hence the firetruck!

The training btw, took place in Thunder Bay at the Finn Hall located on Bay Street above the world-famous Hoito Restaurant. Quite enjoyed this venue as it presented me the opportunity to tinkle the ivories on an old upright piano on stage during breaks. Moreover, plenty of good eats were catered to us by the good folks at the Hoito. Yum!

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Aforementioned, the last days were reserved for shooting and editing a short film of 5-7 minutes length – all within about a 30 hr period! Groups were formed and we had to come up with a pitch. My group consisted of all the talented folks named at the end of the following video. Luckily, we had an enthusiastic and ambitious group, one of which was Phoebe who offered up her story relating to prescription pill addiction. With little discussion, we settled on telling her story. With some scrambling, we all settled into positions we were comfortable with. Our mentor was Kelly Saxberg, who was gracious in driving, toting stuff and advising us upon request. For folks who barely knew each other at the beginning of the week, we gelled as a group! As it is with most productions, magic and synchronicity became an ally despite the challenging circumstance presented. A big kudos to Phoebe for her allowing us to tell her story as part of this exercise. An important message for all. Perhaps, someone seeing this will realize there is hope and a way out from the grip of addiction. Hope this video serves as an inspirational story, and again, thanks to Phoebe for sharing.

I suppose I can go on in a long drawn out blog, but I think we are most are well aware that this prescription pill problem is a steadily increasing situation of concern, not only on many northern reserves, but in all communities and is having detrimental affects. If you were not aware of this, as I was until recently until I attended a small gathering at our local Friendship Centre as a journalist. It was there I heard many personal stories from visiting addicts and agencies alike involved in contending with this sweeping epidemic. I know locally, and in my community, places like our Friendship Centre and First Nation umbrella organizations like Mattawa and Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the like are making positive steps in contending with this problem. So as it is with the social ills heaped upon us, it will not happen overnight, but awareness and strides to coping and healing are being attended to. For many Methadone Clinics offer solutions. You can learn more here!
of the situation in the Thunder Bay Region. As many who still grapple with their addictions and attached stigma, I don’t think ostracizing individuals is not assisting in the fight to combat the problem, but rather supporting those seeking help should be commended on their bravery. In closing, thanks for the visit perhaps its best I quote Phoebe in saying in the video ” There’s a light that you have to sort of hold on to. To say that PAIN is sort of worth dealing with and there’s a lot of people in a lot of PAIN.”

Take care all and good health to you and yours.

Clarence

P.S.S. One shocking thing I learned was the absorbent prices of prescribed opiate based pills, especially Oxycotin. An 80mg would run you $80 in Thunder Bay, $180 for the same pill in Geraldton – just 3 hours NE on Highway 11 and anywhere between $280-$380 is the going rate for fly-in reserves North of Geraldton. Apparently 80mg can keep you high most of the day. In any event, how is this affordable is beyond me? It really is a perplexing mystery.

P.S.S. Just as a sidebar, I was glad to lend one of my original tunes to the video. The song is called “Who Stole The Fire From Your Eyes”, a song I wrote in Moose Factory in 1994. I had never forseen it ever being utilized in this context, however, while digitizing the video for editing in Final Cut Pro, as an experiment Kelly, her husband Ron and I were listening to the tune and we thought out that perhaps “it just might work?” After consulting the rest of the team, we settled on it. You can find the full demo of the mp3 here!

P.S.S.S. DocsNorth Team: Phoebe Sutherland, Clarence Michon, Kelly Saxberg, Brendan Petersen, Rowena Moonias and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

A Running Luminary Reveals

July 19, 2011

Aside from the “tongue in cheek” misleading headline, the rest I profess to be true.

*This Just In* This Just In* This Just In*

Joggers Blog – Stardate August 22, 2011

Well until today, I have been an aspiring 1/2 Marathon Runner. Today, I can proclaim that I am indeed a 1/2 Marathon Runner. It’s a distance of 21km or 13 miles. However, I write this not totally out of joy. Read on if you will? This morning – I don’t know why – but I got up earlier than usual. Somewhere shortly before 6 a.m. I felt unusually spry and invigorated, ready to take on the day! All was well and good. So good in fact that I felt what I need to do was to go out and complete a task I’ve been wanting to do after a year of training. That, of course, was to do my first ever 1/2 marathon. I was looking to head out at about 8:30ish. After a few javas and enjoying my National Public Radio broadcasts I switched over to CBC Radio One. No sooner than I had tune in, the new broke that Jack Layton had died after a courageous battle with the disease. Not ashamed to say, but I did shed a tear. I know how it touches families, including my own. With condolences sent, and having read the many heartfelt bestowed in his honor during the course of the morning, my feeling ebbed and flowed between grief and anger. My thoughts also turned to my 2nd cousin who I believe just completed yet another round of chemo – much too young to have to do so. So, without rambling on for too long, I went about doing chores and my thoughts turned back to my intent to jog first thing today. And that’s what I did! ” I remember a tweet I read today saying “cancer sucks” and it truly does! With those thoughts, I took that anger and went out and completed my first ever 1/2 marathon. My thoughts and prayers to those families who have to contend with losses and the struggles this terrible disease presents. God bless!

Clarence

P.S. You can read on if you’re so inclined to learn this is one of the reasons I turned back to jogging. Thanks for the visit.

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Well it’s been a year since I first got back into running. It’s been too many years. So many, I can’t even say it has been in “recent memory”. I think, perhaps, it has been since shortly after high school. WOW,that’s eons! In any event, I was reflecting today upon this past year since re-boosting my running career. Pun aside, I have made some great strides in my running ambitions. In fact, for those who read posts on Twitter or facebook, I periodically do post status updates pertaining to these “strides”. With on mere weeks, my newest ambition and goal is fast approaching. You see – come September 18th – I’ll be running my first ever official half-marathon in Thunder Bay Ontario. “Why only half Clarence?” you ask. Hey, I said I was ambitious, not crazy! However, having stated that, perhaps by next year I’ll in fact have turned crazy to that. Time will tell. So, just how far along have I got this year? Read on and learn. As they say…

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MY FIRST STEP

In any event, it was about this time last year I was reflecting on my health to which I felt was good overall, in terms of mind and spirit. However, the “body” part of that popular trio seemed to have inflicted some anxiety on my psyche. Alarms went off, as it were. As per my general health, I believe all to be fine internally. In fact, I’m pretty sure I do have the cleanest lungs possible, because I never have smoked. Other organs, quite good too methinks. Well, maybe aside from my liver which may need some further speculation, but that would be a whole ‘nother blog! Anyways, the long and short of it, is that I had assessed that I could stand to lose a few pounds. I was 208. Not the heaviest I had ever been, but getting up there. More alarm bells sounded! It was almost immediately I started to diet. That meant a few lifestyle adjustments. In short order, I was able to lose 10lbs. How? Well first off, I simply by cut out my 2L-a-day pop addiction. Following that, I felt I still needed to make myself accountable to someone to keep me on the straight and narrow. So, in turn, I marched myself to the local Friendship Centre which conveniently had a Program that was tailored for people with health concerns like mine and other matters. As a part of the program, I did a weigh-in and calculated my BMI [Body Mass Index} To no surprise, I was overwieght and nipping at the heels of obesity! 26 BMI btw, wit 30 being obese. Yikes! So, I signed up. Thereby, now committing me to continue on my quest for a healthier me. If you dare to, a good BMI Calculator can be found here!
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MY FIRST JOG

As a part of my new healthy regiment, I had to employ other things beside what I have always done. So, I looked at what I could also do beside the physical activities I was already doing. I have always, and continue to walk and cycle on a regular basis. Snowshoe avidly in winter and come curling and skating. Well the only thing then was jogging. “Could I still do this?” I asked myself. “Well let’s see Clarence let’s see.” I answered to myself. Then I began to plot a file like a prisoner planning his escape. With that, I went set off upon my first jog. Not even knowing how far I could go I donned some jogging gear and headed toward the golf course, not but 2.5 km down the road. I have to tell you, I was having second thoughts about this whole new idea after the first kilometre by the “Old Arena Rd.”. Yet, I fought that first bit of angst and carried on. Surprisingly, thing got worse! Silly me thinking it would get easier. Moreover, I was now approaching the small grade hill leading to the golf coarse. That grade killed me, but what kept me going was the haunting voice of my former gym teacher, Mr. Amm calling out to me. “Keep them arms up Clarence. The arms, keep them UP!” As I did then, I mustered the strength to get my arms up and pump them more vigorously. What seemed and eternity, I reached the crest of the hill. Looking around, seeing no traffic, I raised my arms in the air like Stallon after have completed his run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum the top of the stairs in ROCKY whilst “Gonna Fly Now” seemily floated in on the prevailing South wind. It was “fight” of sort, thus, I felt I deserved a good rest after that initial grueling 2km jog. So, I did.

Now it was time for my return. This time, however, down hill. Unexpectedly though I encountered yet another ghost from the past. It was Stanley Pete. Stanley was a neighborhood kid, a few years older than I, that grew up in our “hood”. Stanley was a lanky red-head teen dude, who was known and admired for his avid running abilities. I recall how he had run that hill and beyond daily. No one really knew how far he went. But, as kids, we raised him to hero status and would guess. “Probably to the Park” someone would postulate, only to be out-guessed. “No way! All the way to the Forestry Base I bet” someone else would pipe up. Only to be out done by another ” You Dinks! He goes to Longlac everyday!” “Oh yeah.” we all agreed in unison. With those thoughts fresh in my thoughts I conjured a mirage of Stanley running up the hill toward me now in the approaching darkness. His image nearer now, then the apparition soon passed on by. “Hey Stanley.” I nodded as I turned my head to see him fade into the shadows. To this day, on each subsequent run, I do on most days still see Stanley or hear Mr. Amm. On those days, I need it most, I see and hear both. In addition to the wise words that call out from the past, I also employ the use of my mp3 player. of the many tunes I have there, I found my current pace in perfect syncopation whenever Don Henley’s ” Boys of Summer” Comes on. One of my favorite influences as a songwriter too. So, doubly inspiring. So, for your listening pleasure…

JOGGING TODAY

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been jogging close to a year. As you recall, my my first grueling 5k run with a longish pit stop half way. Today,however, my longest run is at 83 minutes non-stop at a distance of 16k. Moreover, there is 30lbs less of me. My goal, for this year, will be concluded as I set out to complete my first ever half-marathon. A distance of 21km. I’m hoping for a projected time of around 100 minutes. Not too unrealistic I’m thinking.
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Learn more here about Also, result times posted FYI.

This is to take place on September 18th in Thunder Bay, as mentioned, which coincidentally coincides with The Terry Fox Run. As you may be aware, Thunder Bay was where Terry sadly had to conclude his Marathon of Hope. In addition to this being a personal ambition, I am also looking to run to have my proceeds of sponsors directed to Dilico Anishinabek Family Care. Moreover, in recognition of the event being associated with the Terry Fox Run, I’ll also be running for those families, including my own family members who have passed – in addition – to those who continue to courageously take on their struggle with Cancer. So come September 18th, I know I won’t be running alone. Physically, yes, I there will be the many participants. More importantly though my thoughts will be those families with Dilico concerns and my own family members. And when I’m feeling “tired and torn” I’m sure both Stanley and Mr. Amm will make their presence known. “Keep them arms up Clarence! Keep them arms up!” In closing, just a tune I wrote as a tribute to whom the day will belong to. That being Terry Fox! The song is “Courage Highway”

FYI, you can learn more about my writing of “Courage Highway” ,if you are so inclined, here!

In closing, what’s next? Aside from more running I looking to get some corporate sponsorship to get me there. Once that is in place, then it’s to get individual sponsors for the run on per/km pledge. Well that’s it for now. Thanks for the visit. Wish me luck!

Clarence

In Search of Samuel Iserhoff – Part I

March 10, 2011

PREAMBLE

This is a genealogy story. The story starts back in the day, just after my completion of film school. Well, actually prior to that because the name “Iserhoff” was bantered around our household whenever my Mother was asked of our heritage on her side of the family. However, you see in the early days when my siblings and I were still kids, little of the our Iserhoff/ Russian connection was known, because my Mom was orphaned at a very young age. Thereafter, she was raised at Macintosh Residential School near Kenora, Ontario where she lost the connection to her Iserhoff family connection. So, this is an abbreviated story of my genealogical sleuthing for, “In Search of Samuel Iserhoff”, with a few of the pieces of the puzzle missing. That being said, it could very well serve as a basis as a documentary as I continue to piece together and find the missing pieces. To date it’s been very compelling and for a good part the final answers may be found in this picture. A picture that I found in the archives that identifies the man furthest right as Samuel Iserhoff.

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Aside from the aforementioned rumblings in my youth of my Mother’s Russian heritage, my course was further solidified in the years that followed my completion of Film School. A journey that had more windings, twists and tributaries than both the Albany and Moose River where much of this story takes place.

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Film School to Moose Factory – The Search Begins

I finished film school in Vancouver in 1991 and thus began my career in the Canadian Film and Television industry. Luckily, I was employed directly out of Film School and went on to work with National Film Board of Canada as they commenced to document the proceeding on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The proceedings took me throughout Canada and into many of the small reserves that dot this great expanse that we call home. In short, it was a great experience that would served to inform me of the history and plight of various Aboriginal communities. In short, when all was said and done, the experience served to shape me as to the kind of documentary filmmaker I wanted to be. Why is this important? I think it’s important to mention, because this infused me to better know my own history and that set me upon my journey to sleuth out my own heritage. As the old adage goes ” You can’t know your future, unless you know your history.” or words to that effect. With that, little did I suspect that fate would intervene and immerse me into a portion of Canadian history that is little known and certainly was never taught in the history books I learned from. Please accompany me as I explore.

Off To The Great White North

Well, after my gig with the NFB, I returned to Toronto. To be honest, I felt I really didn’t want to be there after having already lived there for seven years while working and attending Ryerson. In fact, I was still reeling from the stories I heard on the road with RCAP and was itching to do something pertinent to history of the Canadian Aboriginal experience! In part, that was satisfied by having opportunity to work with some documentary filmmakers who were of the same mind, but I wanted more. It was about this time, the jobs ran out and my saving were also dwindling fast. Moreover, the Christmas season was upon me and I was in desperate need of work…and fast! That’s when the call came through. A former colleague from NFC, informed me he was leaving his employment in Moose Factory and asked if I was interested in stepping up to bat. My initial thought was thinking if I could handle that isolation. My second thought was I needed the money. The latter ruled over. Like I said, I needed cash. My only consolation, is thinking this could be an opportunity to explore my heritage. Also, it may be important to note, that I knew of an Iserhoff that worked there back in the day as catechist for the Anglican church. Canon Samuel Iserhoff. The name I so often heard of as a kid. ” I’ll try it for a few months until they find someone permanent. Sign me up!” And with that I was off to Moose Factory. Canada’s No.1 Reserve by the way. A Hudson Bay Company post on near the shores where the Moose River flows into James Bay.

Arrival at Moose Factory and First Glimpse of Samuel Iserhoff

So off I went. With my stuff now in storage in Toronto, I ventured off to Moose Factory. I had my flights booked from Toronto via Timmins to Moosonee/ Moose Factory. It was early December and to be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about my destination with the exception that some of my history lie there. So off I flew. After about 4 hours of flying I arrived to greet a brisk Moosonee morning when I stepped off the AirCreebec Dash-8 onto the tarmac. From here I was on my own. I mean I had the address to my new employers, but that was about it.

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So, I thought would I do what any urbanized Indian would do. I would simply collect up my belongings and go outside to “arrivals” and flag down a Cab. Yep, that’s what I’d do and all my problems would be solved! WRONG! Well, as it turns out, I stepped outside of the airport and looked about for a Cab. Not a single one to be found. Nothing! Nobody, just a Raven perched on a nearby tree cawing at me, and seemingly taunting me. With that, I went back inside and inquired to the ticket agent who informed be I needed to call for one. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that my ride arrived. There I was now. Off to the races! Once on my way, I engaged in pleasant talk with my driver about my big city life and how this was all new to me. He must have been totally enthralled, because he didn’t say much until we began to seen a hint of the Moosonee suburbs. I wasn’t until then that he asked were I was going. I told him the employer’s name and address. Things suddenly went silent and then he turned his head to me in the back seat – cause that’s where Urban Indians sit eh – and told me he couldn’t complete the trip. As you can imagine I was taken aback a little. My first thought was whether I had insulted him in some way. ” I got money.” I proclaimed. ” That’s not the problem Chum. It’s Freeze Up!” he replied. “Freeze up?’ I inquired “What’s that?” He went on to explain “Freeze up” referred to few weeks the Moose River takes to form ice in the river around Moose Factory. Thereafter, he explained it would safe to drive over to Moose Factory with vehicle via a winter road.
” So, what you’re implying is Moose Factory is an island?” I jested “Yep! you got it!” he teased. Dumbfounded, I asserted “Well I really need to get to work for my new job. Can you tell me how I might go about that?” His answered ” You know where I picked you up?’ “Uhuh.’ I acknowledged “Well you get on a helicopter right near there!” Excited by the prospect of my first ever helicopter, I instructed him to take me there ASAP! Upon arrival at the landing pad, he dropped me at a small makeshift shack that served as the ticket office for the company that provided the helicopter excursions. I paid the man and stepped inside the shed where a handful of people were waiting. One Elder First Nation gentleman must have detected I was and outsider by the what must have been evident by my confusion “Over there!” he pursed his lips, pointing to a guy behind a counter “Get your ticket.” With ticket in hand, it wasn’t too long thereafter that the helicopter arrived. It was a six-seater Ranger I was informed. Knowing it was my first ‘copter ride, ’cause I was sure to announce it, the locals let me take the copilot’s seat. Happily I climbed in as the rest of the patrons strapped themselves in the backseat. I can assure you, there is nothing as exciting as your first helicopter ride as being a “co-pilot” no matter what your age. Though the ride only lasted about five minutes, I can see we were headed directly to Moose Factory. However, something curiously went wrong. The community got bigger as we approached it, and then got smaller again as we flew passed it.

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However, it wasn’t too long until we scooted on past a church nearby where we hovered above and landed where a small collection of cars that had gathered near the shores of the Moose River. Four cars to be exact. “Wait!” I thought and made a quick calculation whilst thinking to myself. “K, the pilot isn’t getting off. There’s four people in the back. Uhm…that means…” Before I had a chance to further contemplate, we landed. Within moments the four in the un-strapped, gathered their belongings and went to their respective vehicles. The helicopter pilot motioned for me to un-strap and be careful stepping down into the mud. With the door near slapping my ass on the way out, I felt my feet slosh in the mud as I made my way to higher ground. The helicopter lifted off. The cars departed and there I was! Abandoned, clueless and alone. “Whaa just happened here?” I stood sloshing about in runners, sorely under-dressed in what amounted to little more than a mere windbreaker. I peered about looking out onto the Moose River. Cold bleak nothingness was all I saw! I turned toward the road the cars departed. There I could see above the tree-tops was a steeple of a church. I gathered up my belongings and amble on down the road toward that church. A church, I was later to learn, would hold many clues as to who the real Samuel Iserhoff was!

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To be continued…

In Part II we meet Samuel Iserhoff, but like I mentioned at the outset of this story, it has many twists and turns

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Another Clue! – Excerpt from the book Land of the Moosoneek

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Things start to get real peculiar in Part II. Thanks for the visit. Hope you enjoyed the journey so far….

CM

New Year Gun Blast Tradition

January 1, 2011

Just wanted to write and share a short video depicting a New Year tradition that happens in many Northern communities here in Ontario. Given, you can never get away with this in the city, however, many small communities and First Nations seem to be keeping the tradition of shooting off a gun of some sorts at midnight to “ring the New Year in”. My father, just recently started taking up the tradition again for the last few years in recognition of those family members who once adhered to this practice annually. Interesting to note, many members of my family grew up in a little fishing hamlet on Lake Nipigon back in the day. It was a time when everyone, and mean everyone did this. So, you can imagine the noise that came along with “ringing in” the New Year. Certainly- I can imagine – ones ears would be certainly be ringing after a prolonged celebration of this tradition. For years, I remember stories of this tradition being bantered around come New Years in the company of family. However, it seems, no one was really carry on the tradition anymore in the small community my parents have since taken up residence. Probably, due more to municipal by-laws than forgetting traditions. In any event, nowadays, we now drive out of the community for a few miles on our local “Pipeline Road”. So enjoy I hope you enjoy(ed) the video. Best Wishes and Health to you in 2011!

Clarence

P.S. As a further anecdote, I am reminded of the time I first spent a winter in Moose Factory, Ontario in 1993. MF, as the locals call it, is a small community/ First Nation of a bout 2200 people..at the time anyways. I had just moved there at the beginning of December and spent my first holiday there alone. Not knowing anyone, I ended up working all New Year’s Eve. I got wound up so much in my work, I had forgotten it was and New Year’s Eve and went along editing a TV program I had been working on. So, as it turns out, suddenly the quiet studio in which I was working seemed to be under attack. Hearing a barrage of shot gun blast I dove under the editing console. It seems it want on for about five minutes and didn’t know what to think, so , I got brave enough to crawl through the office to peer out the window. Ever so slowly, I raised the blind and looked out. Who do I see. Past Marvin Cheechoo, Dad of famed hockey player Jonathan. He was standing on his porch merrily reloading his shotgun. It was then it dawned on me, this whole “ringing in the New Year” business on First Nations. I knew then all was okay in the world. Peace on Earth!