If you’ve been following Attawapiskat in the news, then you have probably heard or read Ezra Lavant talk about the hockey arena and the Zamboni.
Ezra Levant got two things right.
1: the awesome picture
2: the title of his article: “Hockey Rules in Attawapiskat”
Here’s what he said in the Toronto Sun last week:
“Except that, right in the middle of this so-called state of emergency, when people were in leaky houses and tents, the Attawapiskat Indian band — with three chiefs and 18 band councillors on the payroll — made an important financial decision.
They needed a new ice resurfacer for their hockey rink.
They haven’t rebuilt their school up there, since it was torn down because of diesel fumes. They’re living in shacks. (Well, not the chief, of course.)
But forget about such trivial problems. These clowns needed a new ice resurfacer.
You can see a copy of the invoice for it on this page: $96,089 for an Olympia model ice resurfacer.”
The picture he used for the article shows two kids with hockey sticks walking past some homes in pretty bad shape on their way to the arena.
I LOVE this picture!
Nevermind that the “diesel fumes” were the result of a massive 100 thousand litre diesel leak right under the school, where kids attended for 20 years, causing nosebleeds, nausea, headaches and kids passing out in class. (Kids should never have to choose between an education and health). Nevermind that the arena was the project of an Attawapiskat elder who spent 15 years fundraising for it before passing away. Nevermind that the “Olympia Ice Resurfacer” was purchased with money the hockey parents and community members raised through bingos, hotdog days and other fundraisers. When your as angry as Ezra Levant, those details don’t matter.
And that’s what I don’t get. Why is he so angry that the parents of this remote First Nations community wanted to give their children a safe place to play in the wintertime?
I have been to Attawapiskat and visited some of the worst homes there. I have seen the black mould that lines some rooms like a carpet. I have seen frost on the inside of walls. I have been in the tent-houses where some families are forced to spend the winter because of the severe shortage of homes. The state of emergency is real and it is not over for Attawapiskat.
In the middle of this crisis, because parents in Attawapiskat love their kids just as much as my parents love me, we see two boys walking down the road toward the arena. Now look closer at the picture, what do you notice?
Do you see the house that looks like a shack behind them? Do you see the snow that covers the ground for more months than it doesn’t? Or, do you, like me, see the huge smiles on their faces.
Before the UN Convention on The Rights of A Child was written, parents everywhere knew that play (sports, recreation, cultural activities) made kids happy. Realizing this, the United Nations declared article 31 of the Convention On the Rights of a Child :
Article 31 of the UN Convention
- That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
- That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
My friends in Attawapiskat love hockey, just like many of my friends here in Niagara Falls. Why shouldn’t Attawapiskat have an arena and the equipment to have good ice, just like my community? (Our arena in Niagara Falls, by the way, cost almost $40 million dollars to build and cost $2.5 million every year to operate – I’m guessing that a lot of that comes from our taxes). The government didn’t pay for the arena or the Zamboni in Attawapiskat, even though in my opinion they should have, just like they paid for mine.
I hate politics. I hate that people have to waste time in government debating and arguing about what should or shouldn’t be done. I hate that while that debate goes on in Ottawa, newspapers and television shows argue about the same things. I hate it because, while all that debating and arguing is going on, the truth gets lost.
There is a wrong and there is a right. It is time to make things right for Attawapiskat and for all of our First People. With or without politics. With or without the angry news people. With or without the debating. First Nations kids should have access to the same opportunities that I have access to in education, health care and recreation. Anything else is discrimination and just not fair.
“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.