~~~~~~ Learning a better world ~~~~ with Greg Macdougall

Hi, here’s a short (3m45s) video message from me explaining a bit about what EquitableEducation.ca is about, and why you might consider putting your email in the box on the right-hand side of this site in order to receive (low-traffic) email updates from me.




Joseph describes the context and leadup to the foreign kidnapping (by US military, with aid of Canadian and French forces) of Haitian President Aristide in 2004, and talks about the situation in Haiti since that time.

He was in Gatineau/Ottawa to accept the Canadian Apology to Haiti – www.ApologyToHaiti.ca – as part of a Canadian speaking tour to mark the ten year anniversary of the events. Interview date: February 28, 2014.

Further info:
Institute for Justice and Democracy In Haiti, http://ijdh.org
Canada Haiti Action Network, http://CanadaHaitiAction.ca

Interview translator:
Jean Saint-Vil, Haitian-Canadian author and activist with AKASAN & Canada Haiti Action Network

Interviewer and video producer:
Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca



Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont (South Wind) was interviewed by Judith Matheson on 12 February 2014 about the spiritual importance of the Chaudière Falls (in Ottawa/Gatineau).

What resulted is a dynamic and compelling conversation between two Elders about Spirituality, Responsibility, and the crucial importance for humans to stay connected to each other and to Nature. Deep conversations like this and listening to our Elders is essential in these times of rapid change, social upheaval, and environmental stress.

Connect with Albert at http://albertdumont.com
Connect with Judith at http://birthottawagatineau.com

Filmed and produced by Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca




Film Review: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
By Greg Macdougall

Set in the time of mass de-institutionalization of psychiatric patients, the Mental Patients Association (MPA) emerged in Vancouver at the start of the 1970s. This 36-minute documentary film, produced in 2013 by History of Madness Productions, captures the MPA experience and its impact through interviews with former members, supplemented with animated illustration and archival footage

The tone is set when an interviewee articulates MPA’s philosophy: “We’re not going to let ourselves … feel internally like there’s something wrong with us, and we’re not going to let our voices be shut down – we’re going to change the way things are done. We’re going to change how people look at a psychiatric patient.”

The MPA was a radical political group recognized as a world leader at the time. Run by and for mental patients, it had a horizontal and democratic structure. Rather than a president, MPA had coordinators. Staff were elected by, and from, the membership every six months; if you weren’t doing a good job, you simply wouldn’t be rehired.

Members’ sense of participation and ownership in the organization gave them a sense of community, belonging and empowerment, countering previous feelings of loss, anger and/or hopelessness. The MPA was formed after weekend suicides in a professionally-run, weekday-only support group inspired mental patients to get together and organize to support each other. Even today, isolation affects many with mental health problems – so it’s powerful to hear the story of MPA’s success in addressing this challenge and expanding possibilities some 40 years ago.

Radical mental health history is often overlooked, even by those currently engaged in the issues involved. The film makes comparisons between our movement and the women’s and gay rights movements of the time. MPA members felt they were doing something parallel to, and in unison with, these movements, but saw that their movement was ultimately far less successful. Although they were able to build a community of people who could and did support each other, they couldn’t achieve the same level of lasting, concrete change as other struggles.

The MPA still exists in Vancouver, though in a very different form. Its name was later changed to “Motivation, Power and Achievement.” More recently, and interestingly, it has renamed itself “MPA Society,” and its new logo is accompanied by the slogan “Empowerment in Mental Health Since 1971.” As of early 2013, MPA had 250 employees and an annual budget of $15 million.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum explains how the organization became bureaucratized through government influence. Government funding was instrumental in MPA’s early success, but as the group grew in size its funding came to have “accountability” strings attached. As a result, it lost its democratic and horizontal nature. As one interviewee states, “1977 was a bad year.”

Another describes the change from “We will do this together,” to “What are you going to do for me?” This shift points to the greater context of the mental health field being predominantly service oriented and focused on individuals, rather than client-led and collective in nature.

Some interviewees are proud to have helped establish MPA’s housing and support services, noting that MPA still provides such services, which continue to have great value to its clients. However, the sense of loss of political consciousness and action is palpable, whether this loss is seen as a betrayal of MPA’s original principles or as an inevitable consequence of changing times.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum vividly conveys the sense of what it was like to be a part of the MPA’s early collective political action and community, and the vibrancy of those who came together to support each other and work for change. The lasting impact of their involvement is readily evident, and inspiring to see.

For more on the film and/or to watch it online, visit the website www.historyofmadness.ca/the-inmates-are-running-the-asylum




This review was originally published in the newsletter of the West Coast Mental Health Network: www.wcmhn.org


About the reviewer: Greg Macdougall is engaged in education, community organizing and interdependent media making work based in Ottawa, unceded Algonquin territory. His website is EquitableEducation.ca

He identifies as Mad and/or diffAbled, and wrote a cover article this past year for the Dominion magazine entitled Call Us Crazy: Mad movements organize against ableism, mentalism and more


40-minute video interview, along with link to full thesis document, follows article, which was originally published in Anishinabek News, www.AnishinabekNews.ca

by Greg Macdougall

Alex Nahwegahbow

Alex Nahwegahbow

Alexandra Nahwegahbow began her PhD studies at Carleton University in September, only three days after defending her Masters’ thesis.

Her academic focus has been on the place of children in pre-colonial Indigenous communities, as seen through the lens of the tikinaagan or traditional cradleboard.

Nahwegahbow’s grandmother had recently passed on at the time she began her graduate studies.

“It really affected me, and I think that’s what drew me towards this sort of work, looking at the roles of kids and how important it is to listen to children, the way that she always did, and to look at the different traditional values that surrounded parenting, community and family.”

She hopes that her work helps people understand how important these traditional Anishinabek values are, how children were held sacred at the centre of the community. It also examines the impact of settler-colonialism, in particular the devastating effects of residential schools and also the broader clash between European and Indigenous perspectives towards the role of children and parenting.

Her research focused on one particular historical tikinaagan, which she contextualized with in-depth place-based interviewing as well as examining research and analyses from other scholars and existing literature. Nahwegahbow is a citizen of Whitefish River First Nation, but the community where her study is based is in the territory of n’Daki Menan in northeastern Ontario on Bear Island, the homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai (Temagami First Nation).

She felt drawn to a tikinaagan from Temagami she found at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau during the first year of her Masters studies. It was collected in 1913 by anthropologist Frank Speck, and she really wanted to learn more about it and its context.

After initial exploratory research, she approached members of the community, but not without trepidation – she wanted to ensure she wasn’t repeating the problematic ways many academic researchers interact with Indigenous communities to which they have no personal connection, and that her work would actually be of benefit to the community and more broadly.

The research process, and the finished product she has presented to the people involved, was well received.

“I draw from a range of resources in my studies. A lot of the research I incorporated came from interviews, books, reports etc. but also from conversations or memories with family, close friends, and other speaking engagements and symposia I attended.”

Part of what she looked at were the artwork patterns on tikinaagans, noting how traditionally there were often depictions of manitous / spirits that fostered notions of balance and centrality. Much like historical Anishinabek pouches and bags that held medicines, tikinaagan wrappings were also often ornamented with upper-world or sky spirit motifs, and underwater or lower-world ones, with the child located in the middle. There was a shift over time to more floral motifs, which is generally seen as having been brought about by European influence, but she notes that the theme of balance was kept even in these.

“I felt that it was appropriate that these images that promote balance and the importance of centrality, that they would be put on these baby carriers because they’re meant for children and young people who actually are at the very centre of our communities.”

She also feels the tikinaagan symbolizes the importance of children feeling safe and being wrapped in a sense of belonging in the community.

With her PhD, Nahwegahbow, 27, aims to continue working with material culture, historical objects that were made for children and childcare, to examine their contextual power and the stories they have to teach us today.

You can download the full thesis (167-pg PDF file) here:
Springtime in n’Daki Menan, the Homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai: Babies, Cradleboards and Community Wrapping




Audio interview (34min) and accompanying article. Article first published in Anishinabek News, www.anishinabeknews.ca. Interview includes reading of two poems:

  • how granny braids
    intro starts 21m37s, poem at 24m14s until 25m17s, postscript until 25m50s
  • coyotes in the city
    intro starts 26m22s, poem at 28m00s until 32m23s


By Greg Macdougall

Photo by Amanda Shea

Photo by Amanda Shea

OTTAWA – Vera Wabegijig’s first book, “wild rice dreams”, comes after 20 years of writing poetry.

The mother of two was born in Sudbury to a mother from Mississauga First Nation and a father from Wikwemikong, and says her upbringing in Blind River and Iron Bridge was missing any cultural context.

“We never smudged when I was a kid, or there was no sweat lodges, or there were not those kind of ceremonies. Nobody had Indian names.”

After graduating high school and moving to Ottawa she started to spend time with the elders there.

“They were talking about more traditional or spiritual things,” she recalls, which helped her to sense the importance of storytelling – and to start living that through writing and sharing stories in poetic form.

Discovering Aboriginal writers such as Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie and Joy Harjo helped Vera connect with literature and poetry, finding a different form of narrative that she could relate to and understand. Before that, she had trouble with the European-style writing presented in her schooling.

“It’s coming from a different voice, and it’s coming from a different perspective and a different history,” she says. “It didn’t fit with me, it didn’t fit with my voice that I had.”

While living out west, she began to tell stories through video and film, as well as continuing to write, entering the Canadian Council for the Arts Aboriginal Writer’s Residency program at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Wabegijig entered the program to work on short story writing, but credits Metis writer-poet Marilyn Dumont with suggesting that poetry might be a better focus.

Her mentor helped get her started on the work of collecting, editing and revising already-written poems, and Ojibway-French poet David Groulx connected her with Bookland Press, which published “wild rice dreams” two years later.

vera bookThe book divides the poems into four sections : “this native land”; “look around us”; “tending dreams and memories”; and “all in the family,” with a mix of light and more difficult subjects.

Wabegijig says her goal “was always to write so people could understand, especially my people – I thought it was really important for that to happen.”

She says she hopes readers “can see themselves in the poems,” that her stories “give them hope that things can change.”

Her website is verawaabegeeshig.wordpress.com



by Greg Macdougall  | originally published on rabble.ca


Members of the Lubicon Lake Nation had been preventing PennWest fracking operations in their Northern Alberta territory for three weeks before a December 16 injunction ordered them not to interfere with the company’s operations for a six month period. Their peaceful assembly on an access road has now shifted to a court appeal of the injunction, citing their inherent rights to their land.

Protest-ending injunction won't stop Lubicon effortsPennWest has put forth the position that they have been issued the necessary provincial permits, and are only legally required to work with the new federally recognized Lubicon Lake band chief and council. This council was elected early last year, and is separate from those engaged in the peaceful assembly and the existing Lubicon Lake Nation leadership that is not recognized by the federal government.

“The Lubicon people haven’t signed a treaty, we haven’t ceded any land, so for the government of Alberta to issue licences that they shouldn’t be issuing, because of the land issue, the jurisdiction issue — we just want them to respect our jurisdiction. It is our land, and until they do something about that end of it, the federal government and the province, it’s still unceded Aboriginal title; we still hold the title to the land,” explains Cynthia Tomlinson, Land and Negotiations Advisor for the Lubicon Lake Nation.

The 1899 Treaty 8 includes Lubicon territory, but was not signed by the Lubicon Cree. The federal government then transferred the land to the province in 1930, but ”you can’t buy the house from the neighbours, so to speak,” says Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation Communications Coordinator. ”So in that case, all the 2,600 leases and oil and gas wells that have been drilled on the Lubicon territory have essentially been done illegally, in accordance with Canadian and international legal standards.”

In a 2009 report, UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari had called for a moratorium on all oil and extractive activities in the Lubicon territory until a negotiated settlement was reached. This followed the initial 1990 ruling by the United Nations Human Rights Committee that “Historical inequities…and certain more recent developments threaten the way of life and culture of the Lubicon Lake Band, and constitute a violation of article 27 [of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] so long as they continue.”

Negotiations between the Lubicon and the federal government broke off in 2003. This past summer, Lubicon Lake Nation filed a $700 million lawsuit against both provincial and federal governments, due to the unwillingness of Canada to engage in good faith negotiations.

Meanwhile, around 70 per cent of their territory is leased to industry, and there have been two recent oil spills. Community members live in deplorable conditions, while the Lubicon estimate that in total some $14 billion worth of extraction has taken place from their territory.

“From an outside perspective, and having lived in the community, it’s some of the most aggressive colonial tactics that I’ve seen in present day,” says Garrett Tomlinson, describing the way the government has treated the Lubicon, and referencing federal interference in Lubicon self-government, as well as past efforts to trick individuals into signing into ‘fee simple title’ for their land that would have given up their Aboriginal rights.

“As of late, all the press is worried about or asking questions about is a governance dispute or division, or there’s one or there’s two [groups],” says Cynthia Tomlinson. “We want to take the focus away from a government-endorsed leadership that we didn’t choose, or any other tactic that the government wants to use to deviate from the actual issues that exist in the nation.”

“It does such a grave injustice to the people who live there…there’s an actual people here who have been affected by resource activity and industry for the last 50 years and the same issues that they had then are still going on today, why aren’t we talking about that?”

With the November/December actions against fracking on their territory, the Lubicon gained some attention through social media and with the backing of the Idle No More and Defenders of the Land groups.

“The Lubicon have always had very good support from outside bodies, from international bodies, and it’s been very helpful in raising the profile of their issues and it’s actually helped to protect them in a lot of cases. In 1988 when people were arrested, it was not only the negotiations of Chief Ominayak with Premier Getty that had those people released, but the international pressure that was put on both levels of government at the time to ensure those people were released,” says Garrett Tomlinson.

But the historical backing of organized support networks in Canada and internationally is no longer as strong. Garrett Tomlinson states how the Lubicon’s main focus now is to reach out across Canada and internationally, to reengage organizations and networks to help support the ongoing struggle.

“One of the elders, and that’s one of the stories that’s been passed down to us, he had a dream and he could see the nation and he could see what was coming…and he said, you cannot let this happen, he said, never let your land die,” Cynthia Tomlinson explains. “Seeing the destruction that oil and gas or any kind of resource extraction does to the land, to the water, to the animals — if we were to not do anything, then we would be letting it die. So it’s a promise that we’re trying to keep, is ‘never let our land die’ — because if we let it, then what becomes of us?”

For more information, visit the Lubicon Lake Nation website

Watch the complete video interview:


Greg Macdougall is a member of IPSMO, the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa, and a maker of interdependent media that is available through his website, www.EquitableEducation.ca


Niigaan: In Conversation, a grassroots Ottawa project led by four Indigenous community members who have held 13 public events since March of last year, partnered with Winnipeg-based Ojibway/Métis comedian Ryan McMahon to host a live panel discussion recording for his Red Man Laughing podcast. The event was also a fundraiser that included food, live music, hoop dancing and an art auction.

Introducing the event, Niigaan organizer Linda Nothing explained how Niigaan came into being, not with the goal of being political. Instead, the aim is to shift thinking in settler society and help re-establish Indigenous ways of living and Indigenous laws to achieve success.

… Read full article at: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/panel-reflects-idle-no-more

Reflecting upon 1 year of Idle No More – Biiskaabiiyang: Returning to Ourselves, featuring (L-R): Wab Kinew, Celina Cada-Matasawagon, Geraldine King, Leanne Simpson, Serpent River FN Chief Isadore Day, Lee Maracle, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, and host Ryan McMahon.

Intros by Niigaan organizers Linda Nothing and Jocelyn Formsma, followed by stand-up segment by Ryan McMahon and then the panel discussion.

Hoop dance by Theland Kicknosway (separate video).

December 10, 2013 at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa.

*Note: At the event, there was a special announcement from Ryan McMahon:
Red Man Laughing will be coming to CBC Radio this year!


Ryan’s notes on the discussion:

Winter Time is the time of year where the earth becomes covered in snow. It’s a time for rest and reflection. Last winter we rose. We did not rest, we did not reflect. We took to the malls, the streets, and the hills. The community rallied around, there was a desperate feeling, people gathered at teach-ins, the scent of medicines was everywhere. We need to get that energy back. Niigaan: In Conversation asked ourselves, what happened to the fire? The problems are still here, we still have work to do. Let’s get together as a community and talk about our future.

A few highlights from this talk that you should listen for are:

  • Lee Maracle talking about the prophecy that told us that we’d be teaching the world about the power of our drums & community.
  • Chief Isadore Day breaking down the importance of self care and taking care of the homefires.
  • Leanne Simpson sharing her thoughts on the Wampum Belt – letting us know what the belt DOES mean to her and what it DOES NOT mean to her.
  • A spirited and heart felt discussion on education for Native Youth (FNEA rejections) – we can/need to take better care of our young people as they head to institutions.


Websites: Niigaan.caRedManLaughing.com

Video (2hr20min) by Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca
Or listen to the podcast at Red Man Laughing


Theland Kicknosway – Hoop Dance:



eqed_logo_squareFeaturing: 8 articles, 22 videos, 3 audio interviews, 2 photo albums, 3 PDFs, 1 poem, and quoted in a toolkit.

Covering the time period from the winter solstice 2012 to the winter solstice 2013. I sent this out in my newsletter (which you can read here, including the intro message).

And note, maybe now would be a good time to subscribe to the newsletter? (just enter your email in the box near the top on the right hand side –> )

So here’s the summary of what I was up to the past year:




Idle No More: What does Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike mean?
As 2012 wrapped up and 2013 began, Chief Spence inspired many and supercharged the Idle No More movement. This is what I wrote mid-way through her hunger strike.

Campus Activism Under Threat at Carleton
There was a referendum at Carleton University to try and defund the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Carleton, and in this article I examine both the defunding efforts and why OPIRG is so important to social justice work both on- and off-campus. Spoiler: the referendum was ultimately unsuccessful and Carleton students still financially support the organization.

Residential Schools: Addressing a Lasting Legacy
This is my report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Québec national gathering in Montreal, where survivors shared their stories and I was able to interview both the TRC Chairperson Murray Sinclair and Barney Williams Jr, the Elder of the TRC Indian Residential School Survivor Committee. Includes video of both interviews, as well as printable PDF of the article.

Call Us Crazy: Mad movements organize against ableism, mentalism and more
In-depth look at radical mental health perspectives, that was the cover article for The Dominion magazine’s 10th anniversary edition. This is probably the piece that I got the most positive feedback on over the course of the year. Includes printable PDF versions, as well as a 15-min audio interview of me discussing the article.

On the loss of the National Aboriginal Health Organization
An article based on my interview with Simon Brascoupé, who was the Interim CEO of NAHO when it’s funding got cut and it had to close down. NAHO was doing a lot of great, needed work and this article is my attempt to document it. Includes 20-min video of the interview.

The Bedford case and decriminalization of sex work: What it’s all about
Here, I articulated the argument presented by Emily Symons of POWER – Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau: Work, Educate, Resist, on why the prostitution laws were unconstitutional. You may have heard that the Supreme Court recently released their judgement, agreeing on all counts. Includes a 10-min video from the June teach-in hosted by POWER, and a link to photos from the rally at the Supreme Court.

Book review: McChesney’s “Digital Disconnect” analyzes corporate control of our digital communications future
With the revelations of the extent of state spying on our Internet activity, the topic of the future of the Internet seems very relevant right now. This book does a really good job of detailing how we’ve come to be where we are, and how things might develop – with the biggest factor being the corporations that control so much, and how we can deal with that. Note: was selected by rabble.ca as one of their best reviews of the year.

Coordinating Conversation: Niigaan looks to build Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations and learning
My look at this new grassroots Indigenous initiative, started in March with the energy of Idle No More in full swing. This article is based on an interview with two of the organizers at their September event – at the time, they’d just won a community fundraising grant through the Soup Ottawa initiative to further support their work.  Includes 20-min audio interview, and 1-hr video of the event.




Journey of Nishiyuu – final leg
(7min) Along with Chief Spence’s hunger strike, perhaps the single-most inspiring part of the Idle No More riseup was the journey of the seven walkers from the Cree community of Whapmagoostui in Northern Quebec, who travelled 1600km by foot to arrive in Ottawa in March. Along the way, more and more people joined in on the walk, and by the time they arrived here, there were some 300-400 walkers along with everyone who came to greet them and accompany them down Wellington St and onto Parliament Hill.

Storytelling and Poetry from Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont
(7 videos, each 2-5min) From a session at Singing Pebble Books, Dumont mixed humour, seriousness and teaching into his 2 hour talk. These were his selections of the best parts to post online.

The Sixties Scoop documentary – trailer launch and community gathering
(4 videos, 14-29min each) Colleen Cardinal is making a documentary about the stories of some of those affected by the Canadian child welfare policies that saw an estimated 16,000 Indigenous children taken from their families and placed with non-Native foster families. At the trailer launch, I recorded four talks: Colleen’s, Elder Joanne Dallaire’s, and also those of Angela Ashawasegai and Neal Shannacappo, who will be featured in the film. Also includes the actual trailer for the film.

Disability Justice – an interview with Mia Mingus
(20min) A great introduction to the concept of disability justice, going beyond simply access, rights or inclusion. Includes transcript.

Beat Nation / The Culture Makers: Interview with Dylan Miner, Candice Hopkins and Geronimo Inutiq
(18min) I sat down with three of the people involved with the Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aborigial Culture exhibit to have them explain a bit on what it is about.

Shamanic Painting, Cultural Connections – Hazel Bell-Koski & Dalva Lamminmäki in conversation
(36min) Dalva is currently back in Canada, and here she is in conversation with Hazel, with whom she is co-facilitating a shamanic painting session in Toronto on Jan 5th. They talk about art, community, relation, spirit and being.




Idle No More pamphlet
(1-pg doublesided, trilingual versions) I did the layout for this, working with noted scholar Taiaiake Alfred who co-wrote with Tobold Rollo this brief summary of key recommendations, “Resetting and Restoring the Relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.”

Naandwedidaa (healing one another)
A poem I wrote (bilingual – in Ojibwe/Anishinaabemowin and English) that was included in the Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nations vol.2 anthology released this year.

Photos from the Small Press Book Fair
While tabling at the fair with some of my print materials, I took some time to tour around and photograph the various writers/publishers who were in attendance. Features three compilation photos, and a link to the full album.

Multi-media and Multiculturalism Toolkit
I contributed to this guide to understanding and using multimedia to build stronger communities through diversity in Canada — produced by the Multimedia & Multiculturalism Initiative of the United Nations Association in Canada.

Decolonization and Indigenous Solidarity – An interview with yours truly
(70min audio, also with transcript) I was pleased to have the opportunity to be interviewed for a larger research project by Craig Fortier of York University. I think it’s good sometimes to have the opportunity to reflect upon and try to articulate what it is that we’re doing in our work, and this seemed to work out well in that respect – so here it is!