Thursday, December 22, 2011

Canada's Shame: The Abandonment of Our First Nations

Canada's First Nations have been abandoned by the Harper "Government". When one considers the blatantly anti-First Nations approach this government has taken from day one... it is difficult to pretend that Canada is somehow that much better than nations we see in the news with chronic mistreatment of First Populations. In reality we are not any better. Recent UN reports put Canada in a "club" of rather nefarious nations when it comes to how we treat the ancestral owners of our lands.

Growing up on the Prairies, I know the vehement anti-First Nations sentiment that abounds. The NORM is to bash these minorities. Whether it is job discrimination, or blatant public racism, the campaign against Canada's First Nations has it's home in Reform's heartland. We know that many of these Reform-Conservative MPs were sent to Ottawa for a handful of issues which pissed off many ultra-Conservative Prairie residents:

1) End the Gun Registry

2) Get out of Kyoto

3) Kill the Wheat Board

4) Keep incessantly, irritatingly whining about the 40yr-old NEP

5) Get rid of Quebec (no, seriously, that's how many of these extremists feel)

6) Take away the imagined "special rights" of minorities, including First Nations.

Anyone that can argue these heart-felt driving motives of many a Prairie NeoCon, is either ignorant, mislead, or blatantly lying. Of course the Harper Government won't just jump out and say what they're doing... it will be "incremental" - just like Harper has preached for years in his "incremental Conservatism" arguments he's handed out to his anti-choice and anti-gay supporters. To just state what they want to do wouldn't be wise - even for them. So, we'll continue to see an axe fall here... another one there... All under the guise of budget cuts (while Cabinet Ministers galavant around the country on "emergency" inspections, or squirrel away spending in their own ridings), and "austerity" - while the rest of their spending ways continue.

This ideologically extreme government will cut whatever they hate (and hate is the right word to use) under the guise of "deficit reduction", but will continue to carry a structural deficit, record spending (including idiotic tax cuts - which are just another form of gov't spending, building prisons, and buying "Star Wars" toys), while they carry out their ideological mantra.

In the end, Canada will be diminished as a nation. Our poor will be poorer. The gap between rich and poor will grow. Minorities will be more marginalized. The pre-60's Canada of the Diefenbaker Era will be back.

The nation will take serious re-building, as we attempt to pick up the scraps, and raise our standard of living to what it was. More seriously, we'll have to repair our reputation in the World, and rescue 100000s of Canadians who will have lost hope, jobs, rights, or all three.

Ralph Goodale had a great post the other day, on what this government has done to our First Nations...


When Parliament adjourned last week, there were several hot topics on the agenda – like the demolition of the Wheat Board, the government’s personal attack on Irwin Cotler (one of the finest MPs ever elected), the wild expenses of Defence Minister Peter MacKay … and on it goes.

But the deepest trouble flowed from the appalling housing crisis in the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat.

When people there cried out for help, the first to respond was the Red Cross.

You might expect that to be the case, if this crisis were occurring in Haiti or some other third-world location. But in this country, the fiduciary responsibility for Aboriginal people rests with the Government of Canada.

That government’s response has been slow and indifferent. They heaped all the blame on the community itself, claiming the government had no idea there was any problem whatsoever, until just a couple of weeks ago.

But the Auditor-General has reported at least three times about housing and other painful issues afflicting Aboriginal people. Such problems are notorious, and there’s more than enough blame to go around, all governments included.

The one bright spot in this sad history was the 2005 “Kelowna Accord” – a ground-breaking effort to come to grips with housing, water, education, health, economic development and governance issues among Aboriginal Canadians.

That Accord was rooted in 20 months of careful negotiations, led by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. He pulled together more than 30 federal departments, 10 provinces, three territories and five national Aboriginal organizations. They agreed on priorities, work-plans and funding – to start making a real difference.

But just days after the Accord was finalized, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc forced a snap election. Mr. Harper came to power. He quickly cancelled Kelowna and nothing has been achieved since.

Tragically, six years have been lost. And so we have Attawapiskat.

post signatureVICTORY FUND

1 comment:

Koby said...

Harper was right to dump the Kelowna Accord. It did nothing, but a promise to throw more after bad.

The problem with Attawapiskat and like communities is A) not knew B) is not due to a lack of funding and is C) not due to mismanagement of funds. The problem stems from the fact that such communities are utterly economically unviable and the legal relationship crown and Canadians native people's is absurd. ( The income gap between those Status Indians living on reserve vs those status Indians living off reserves is huge. In terms of median income, it is just under $6000 a year. Furthermore, whereas median income for those living off reserves has increased rapidly since 1995, median income for those living on reserves is stagnate.) In any other context this would be self evident. Indeed, imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means to be Chinese, created a department of Chinese affairs, created Chinese rights, reserved land for Chinese so defined and exempted Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves?

The problem is the only possible way out this mess, viz., abolishing native rights, abolishing the Indian Act and privatizing reserve lands, has been forever blocked by section 35 of the Constitution -- a decision, by the way, that renders Trudeau's time in office an abject failure. So long as this absurd legal relationship exists, an Attawapiskat like situation will rear its ugly head every three or four years. When that happens, the Liberals will cry shame, throw in some reference to the third world and demand more funding. The Conservatives, meanwhile, will point to mismanagement.