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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

To have and to have not

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, November 12, 2001

Part 2 of 7: A blessed Cree community


Moosonee, ON As he turns up the dirt road that trails the river, Cool glances across the water to a channel leading to the reserve and tries as best he can to put a diplomatic spin on his town's health-care crisis.

Before he became mayor, he thought he could live with the many concessions given to Moose Factory, knowing how important it was for the local native communities to take charge of their own affairs.

He had moved to Moosonee as a teen, in 1953, with his parents, and decided to stay on as an adult. He eventually bought what remained of the Hudson Bay Transport Co., running barges up the coast to a smattering of native reserves that enjoy little other contact with the rest of Canada.

To him, everyone in these parts is simply a northerner. More than half his town is native. Most of his council is white. His mother was part Ojibwa. One of his sons married a local Cree woman, and three-quarters of his work force, he figures, is native too.

So intertwined is native and white life in Moosonee that Cool did not think much about aboriginal issues until he became mayor, defeating three native men. Then he began to see a new side of Indian politics.

Whenever he visits the island reserve, Cool sees a community blessed with so much outside assistance that it now has its own luxury hotel, cable TV company, shopping mall and new elders home.

There is no record of how long the Crees have been on this long strip of land, sheltered by one of the last spruce stands heading north, but white people have been tramping around the island and the surrounding coastline known as the great muskeg for more than three centuries. In 1673, Hudson's Bay Co. set up a trading post and permanent dwelling on the island, and later built a staff quarters that still stands.

If the Europeans brought a sense of commerce, it stuck with the Moose Crees who run one of northern Ontario's few successful reserves. In a depressed region, where alcoholism and domestic abuse are so common that scores of children every year are taken away from their parents and shipped south, the Moose Crees follow their own course. They have bought construction equipment and are busy clearing trees and building rows of houses as though trying to hook up with Toronto's sprawl 800 kilo-metres to the south.

When two islanders died from kidney failure last year, the band put up $95,000 as seed capital for a dialysis machine.

The island is shared by another band, the descendants of squatters from Quebec known as MoCreeBec, who first came here to attend residential schools, and are more entrepreneurial still. Until the 1980s, they lived in tents. Now, they own the cable TV company, a bakery and a construction outfit that is busy laying water mains across the island.

"If you don't have ownership, you won't have responsibility," says Allan Jolly, a local entrepreneur who grew up in the forest, went to a residential school when he was 9 and now runs the cable TV operation, which is laying fibre-optics lines to the island.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):


Photo Essay
Gateway to the arctic

1. 'The first nations get much better health care'
A two-tier health-care system for two communities

2. A blessed Cree community
An island reserve with its own luxury hotel, cable TV company, shopping mall and elders home

3. The region's health care schism
Provincially run hospitals where Ottawa pays the bills for natives

4. Patching up the wounds of an afflicted society
"I'm not going to march down to the council chamber and say, `You have a problem with drugs' "

5. Health care in isolated communities
The only hope seems to lie in a MoCreeBec nurse-practitioner

6. Moose Factory's epidemic
Persuading her patients to modify a lifestyle that is killing the Crees of Canada's North

7. "I've never seen anything quite like this."
Cutting costs, merging two hospitals


 
 

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Two worlds - photo essay


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