Day: July 16, 2015

Cree language used as secret weapon in WWII

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Cree language used as secret weapon in WWII

Checker Tomkins’ work was so highly classified he couldn’t tell anyone … for decades

CBC News Posted: Jul 14, 2015 6:30 AM MTLast Updated: Jul 14, 2015 6:35 AM MT

When Checker Tomkins went off to war, he took with him a top-secret weapon the Germans knew nothing about.

The Cree language.

Charles 'Checker' Tomkins

More than 70 years after Charles ‘Checker’ Tomkins served in the Second World War, his once top-secret story is being brought to life in a documentary film. (Supplied)

His work was so highly classified, even after the war ended he was under orders not to tell anyone – not even his own family.

Until recently, even Tomkins’ own brothers had no idea he was involved in covert work.

“All that time, they were under an oath of secrecy,” said Frank Tomkins. “And they honoured it. I never knew about it.”

For that reason, and perhaps others, few people know about the role men like Charles “Checker” Tomkins played in the Allied victory during the Second World War.

Film director Alexandra Lazarowich hopes to change that. She’s making a 10-minute documentary about Tomkins.

“This is an important story to tell,” she said. “Because I feel like lots of aboriginal veterans in Canada have not been recognized by anyone, anywhere.”

The role of the Navajo “code talkers” was brought to the big screen in 2002, in the Hollywood movie Windtalkers.

Lazarowich wanted to tell the story of Cree soldiers from Canada who played much same the role during the war.

“This kind of sacrifice and this kind of use of our language, I thought that more people need to know about this,” she said. “Everyone knows the Navajo story, but we had our own guys in our own backyard who were doing this. Cree from Alberta and Cree from Saskatchewan.”

Code talker crew

The documentary crew was in Alberta recently to interview people for the film, including Checker’s brother, Frank. (CBC)

Tomkins was from Grouard, Alta., about 170 kilometres northeast of Grande Prairie.

Smokey Tomkins said before his brother died in 2003, at age 85, he told the family some details about the messages the “code talkers” would pass back and forth.

“Numbers, of course,” he said. “There’s 14 bombers, you know, so they say the word fourteen.

“If they were referring to a mosquito bomber, you would use the word sakimes… sakimes in Cree is a mosquito.”

Lazarowich hopes her film leads to more recognition for Checker Tomkins and other aboriginal veterans.

“I’d really love to see him get recognized by the Canadian government,” she said. “And I’d also really love for him to get a Congressional Medal. Because the United States honoured all of their code talkers … a few years ago.”

Paid 8 Month Graduate Internship Opportunity with Ecotrust Lab @ RADIUS, Due: July 26, 2015

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Paid 8 Month Graduate Internship Opportunity with Ecotrust Lab @ RADIUS

The Ecotrust Lab @ RADIUS is working with community to design, test and launch new approaches to sustainable urban economic development. Based in Vancouver’s inner city, our goals are to improve economic outcomes for inner city residents and to build the community’s capacity to advance future innovations.

Through close collaboration with inner city partner organizations and focused on helping the City of Vancouver advance key community economic development goals, your role will be to help research, test and advance high potential innovations for the inner city and its residents.

The Lab is an initiative of Ecotrust Canada with RADIUS SFU.

You must be currently enrolled in a Canadian graduate studies program to apply for this position. No exceptions, sorry!

Applications are due by July 26th – details below.

The Opportunity

We are looking for three pro-active, dynamic, curious and driven graduate students to join our team for eight months beginning in September 2015. In our inaugural year, the Lab will work with three core community partners on three distinct projects with cross-cutting themes.

Each Team Member will have a key stakeholder (client) and a set of objectives and deliverables. You will receive orientation and training in design thinking, community economic development, social innovation, business model development, and developmental evaluation. You will be primarily responsible for determining appropriate methodologies for your work and project management, with close mentorship and support from the Lab manager and a faculty member connected to the RADIUS Social Innovation Lab and Venture Incubator at Simon Fraser University. You will be accountable to the Lab Manager, as well as your community client.

How to Apply

Please thoroughly read all positions descriptions and apply to only one position. Apply by sending a CV and cover letter to by midnight, Sunday July 26th, 2015. Identify which position you are applying for in the subject of the email.

Please address the following questions in your cover letter:

  1. Why are you interested in a Team Member role with Ecotrust Lab @ RADIUS? (max 200 words)
  2. Briefly summarize what makes you a good candidate for this position. (max 300 words)
  3. What first steps would you take to initiate the project proposed in the position description? (max 300 words)

Interviews will be conducted Wednesday July 29th and Thursday July 30th.

The Fine Print

  • You must be currently enrolled in a Canadian graduate studies program. Master’s, PhD, and Postdoctoral candidates may apply. This opportunity is ideal for students who are mainly finished coursework and are in the internship or thesis stage of their degree program.
  • We are open to applicants from diverse backgrounds, but preference will be given to candidates with interdisciplinary professional and academic experience in, for example, design, business, community economic development, social innovation, economics, social or political science.
  • Experience working with marginalized or vulnerable populations a plus.
  • Funding for this position is provided by Mitacs Canada. Stipends are provided as fixed rate scholarship grants for current graduate students at Canadian universities (no exceptions, sorry!). This is not an employee position.

A Little More About You

You know there is something wrong with our current social and economic systems. You feel a deep sense of purpose in creating positive social change.

You’re part art and part science: you tap into your creativity and don’t shy away from voicing your most off-the-wall ideas. Meanwhile, you delight in observation, pattern identification and meaning-making. You’re willing to listen longer than feels comfortable and you are systematic in testing your hypotheses.

You’re motivated by challenge, love autonomy in your workplace and are self-starting. You value transparency, integrity and generosity and are jazzed on the idea of working on real problems and the real people affected by them.

Does this sound like you? Apply now!

Job – CCAP administrator and community organizer, Due: July 21, 2015

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CCAP Job posting: administrator and community organizer

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is looking for an administrator and community organizer to work with their volunteers to help low-income Downtown Eastside residents implement their Community Vision for Change and to ensure that decisions about the future of the community build on community assets. This includes working for more and better housing, higher welfare rates and to stop gentrification. This is a two day per week position through December, 2015 with the possibility of extension.


  • Manage and track budget with support from accountant
  • Manage funding and year-end funder reports
  • Coordinate CCAP employee and volunteer team
  • Raise funds


Maintain CCAP website and Facebook page

Publishing & speaking (In collaboration with experienced volunteers)

  • Speak and support others to speak at meetings, events, classes, city hall, news events
  • Write bulletins & newsletter articles and layout newsletter

Community meetings & actions (In collaboration with experienced volunteers)

  • Track actions of city hall, province and federal governments and coordinate response statements with other staff and volunteers
  • Support volunteers to act and speak out for their community, developing leadership capacities.
    • Organizing low-income residents to attend rezoning and development application hearings and to speak out through other venues like news conferences.
    • Attend weekly CCAP volunteer meetings

Research:  Help with producing CCAP’s annual hotel and housing report

Support:  Help low income volunteers get what they need to keep volunteering

Desired experience:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to use computer for research, emails, formatting flyers, posters, etc.
  • Web or blog design skills
  • Good people skills
  • Grant writing and reporting
  • Facilitating workshops
  • Media/communications
  • Developing campaigns for social justice with community groups
  • Ability to work in a team and on own, and with a community board
  • Research on housing, income, and/or planning issues
  • Knowledge of city planning processes
  • Experience working in the DTES

Pay is $21 an hour gross.

Only people who are to be interviewed will be contacted. Thank you to everyone else for your interest.

The job will start when the candidate is available.

Please submit resumes by email with a half-page essay on the causes of homelessness and two references who are familiar with your work by July 21 to:

Jean Swanson
Carnegie Community Action Project

Please keep the entire application, including covering letter, in one email file.

People who are Indigenous and residents or community members of the Downtown Eastside and people who can speak Cantonese/Mandarin are encouraged to apply.

Applicants are encouraged to check out these websites before applying:

Post End Date Tuesday, July 14, 2015

AFN asks Ottawa to declare all aboriginal languages official

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AFN asks Ottawa to declare all aboriginal languages official

The head of the Assembly of First Nations is calling for the nearly 60 indigenous languages spoken in Canada to be declared official along with English and French, an expensive proposition but one that he says is becoming more urgent as the mother tongues of aboriginal peoples disappear.

Perry Bellegarde, who was elected National Chief of the AFN last fall, agrees it would not be easy to require translations of all indigenous languages to be printed on the sides of cereal boxes and milk cartons.

“That would be the ultimate goal,” Mr. Bellegarde said in an interview on Wednesday at the three-day annual general meeting of the AFN, Canada’s largest indigenous organization. “But let’s do small steps to get there.”

As a start, he said, the federal government should draft legislation that would set aside the financial resources needed to promote, protect and enhance Canada’s aboriginal languages, some of which are now spoken by only a handful of elders and could be gone in five to seven years.

During a session on aboriginal language preservation at the AFN meeting, chiefs and other delegates debated a resolution calling on the federal government to provide money that would begin the work of revitalization. Without putting a dollar figure on it, they agreed it would be costly.

The federal funds should be used for things such as an indigenous language institute, language programs and immersion at aboriginal schools, Mr. Bellegarde said, adding that he has raised the issue with all federal leaders as they prepare for an election in the fall.

“Because of the residential schools, there has basically been a killing of the languages in Canada, and our languages should be looked upon as national jewels, national treasures,” Mr. Bellegarde said. “There’s nowhere else in the world that you will hear Mohawk or Cree or Dene being spoken.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which spent seven years examining the legacy of the schools, released an interim report last month that recommended the creation of an aboriginal languages act to make the federal government financially responsible for preservation.

The TRC also recommended that postsecondary institutions create degree and diploma programs in the languages of the First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit. And that is starting to happen.

This fall, the University of Saskatchewan will offer its first certification for teachers of Cree and will eventually branch out to other indigenous languages. Michelle Prytula, the dean of the university’s college of education, said she was moved by the words of an elder who said the residential schools were responsible for the assault on indigenous languages but that schools also have the power to revitalize them.

The 2011 census found more than 60 aboriginal languages grouped into 12 distinct families. The most common are the Algonquin languages, which include Cree, Ojibwa, Mi’kmaq and Innu. At the current levels of funding, Mr. Bellegarde said, studies have shown that just three languages have a chance of surviving. “That’s a travesty.”

First nations elders say language explains the way their people view the world. For instance, in Mohawk, the word for mother is the same as the word for a mother’s sisters, because parenting is done by the collective.

And the Cree word for school – kiskinwahamatowikamik – means “a place we go to cry.”

Marie Wilson, one of the TRC commissioners, said she heard over and over again that the loss of language was one of the most devastating results of the residential school system. One of the former students of the schools, she told the chiefs, said “they took my language, they took it right out of my mouth, I never spoke it again.”

Language is the key to culture and identity, Ms. Wilson said. “We live in a country that understands that perfectly well.”

It is part of what is required for self-determination, Mr. Bellegarde said. And to have aboriginal languages on the verge of extinction, he said, “is not acceptable and it’s not right.”