So my faithful blog followers, I am going to take another break from food and diet things to get a little serious. I came across this opinion piece from a cree man on idle no more, they even made a news story about it. You can read his piece here. This is a letter I wrote to him in response to his piece.
Just looking at our present situation and the things that are popping up in the press, it seems to be that the perceptions Canadians hold of Aboriginal people and the view that Aboriginal people hold of Canada are on two separate continents. Here is one example. Watch the press and look at where the focus has been shifted. We are consistently seeing in the media, focus on First Nation community funding, yet in the same token not one word on the Government Department entirely responsible for the supervision and allocation of these funds. I don’t know if Canadians are unaware of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) or have just forgotten about them, or think that they actually have no power. For a basic primer on INAC I encourage every Canadian to go to their website have a look around. Just like any other organization receiving government funding, the allocation of funds is highly supervised. In fact the government has an entire department overlooking the allocation of Aboriginal funding, they call it Indian Affairs. From their own website they state “It has long been acknowledged that First Nations and other organizations that receive funding from the Government of Canada are caught in a complex web of reporting requirements, some of which are of dubious usefulness to them or to the organizations seeking the reports…The roots of this reporting burden are deep.” The common misconception being First Nation communities are just thrown money willy nilly and told ‘there you go free for all’. Indian Affairs oversee all projects, policies and funds allocated to the Aboriginal people. Their actual power is, they distribute the money, decide where it goes, and how much goes where. They also have the power to fire band members and Chiefs when they suspect corruption. They have all the power, so when trying to place the blame for misappropriation of Aboriginal funds. Why is no one paying closer attention to the Government department that is entirely responsible for the proper allocation of these funds?
Now what a lot of Canadians should be asking is why is there even a INAC? Well for that we need to start with a wonderful piece of legislation put forward by Sir John A Macdonald in 1876, that we still follow to this day. This piece of legislation still controls Aboriginal peoples lives. In 1951 because of Canadas commitment to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, post WWII some of the disgusting government mandated racist parts were removed ie. not being allowed to leave the reserve without permission from the government, not be allowed to hire a lawyer, facing jail time and legal prosecution for practicing ‘traditional’ ceremonies. While some of that racist government mandated legislation was removed, the Indian Act still exists today. With some deplorable restrictions still attached.
Now Back to INAC in relation to the Indian Act “Section 61(1)(a-k) of the Indian Act: “With the consent of the council of a band, the Minister may authorize and direct the expenditure of capital moneys of the band” for various purposes.” So I and many First Nations people are wondering where is the media attention to Indian Affairs? Every canadian seems to be very concerned about the proper use of these funds, yet no one has asked about Indian Affairs, the Government department that has been controlling Aboriginal Funding since 1867?
Now the biggest question here is, why do we even need an Aboriginal Affairs, why can’t we just do away with them and the paternalistic racist Indian Act? The government has been aware for some time that this needs to happen, now this is where everything gets messy, you have a Conservative government that is stating it is not the oppressive deplorable restrictions on the First Nations communities imposed by The Indian Act for 137 years that has caused these current conditions, it is the all the extra rights and benefits, that the First Nations receive due to treaty agreements, that has caused this current situation. Anthony you’ve said you received free glasses? and health care benefits? If you lived on reserve some of the other benefits you also might enjoy are no sales tax, and well there you go, with no sales tax, post secondary education and free glasses, it’s no wonder First Nations people are the way they are.
Now let’s look at the opposite side of the coin, what are some of the oppressive deplorable restrictions enforced by the Government. In your piece you stated
“But those days are long over. It defies logic to have the current population pay for the tragedies committed by people that came so long before them.”
Fine lets not drudge up the long ago history that you yourself state was “The native people of yesterday were brutalized, hunted, tortured, and humiliated for decades. It’s awful, and no one should ever have to suffer like that” let’s look at what has occurred in say your life time and your parents lifetime.
Up until 1972 forced sterilization of predominantly Aboriginal women was legally protected, and in fact policy. It started under a Canadian driven Eugenics movement in the 20′s and 30′s after World War 2, the government tried to phase out these policies, but they still held strong in Aboriginal populations in Alberta up until 1972.
Between the 1960′s and the mid 80′s it was Canadian Policy to steal children from their families and adopt them out to predominately white families, or place them in foster care, without consent. Approx 20,000 Aboriginal children were stolen from their families, some adopted out of country. It wasn’t until an outcry much like idlenomore that these practices were investigated and immediately stopped in the mid 80′s. Associate Chief Judge Edwin Kimmelman commissioned to conduct the inquiry, finished his report in 1985 and referred to the practice as cultural genocide.
Looking at the current animosity toward the Government and why it exists this is very relevant. Considering the last residential school closed in 1996, and the horrors of the Residential schools have largely gone un-investigated. They are now just starting to investigate seven generations of murder, pedophile rings, torture, medical experimentation and numerous other atrocities on children. It is very relevant on to what is happening out there.
So this is not even getting into the Missing Aboriginal women, or the chronic under funding on essential social services, that every Canadian enjoys if they live off reserve. Services like housing, water, food, sewer, education and health. You are right there is access to post-secondary funding, but when you don’t have proper access to grades k-12, post secondary can seem like a pipe dream. At the beginning of 2012 there was a multi-million dollar panel created with the intent to look at the condition of education of many reserves the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education released their report stating “At least 100 schools on reserves “are not safe places for learning,” as well as “The panel found that there is clearly evidence of underfunding in First Nation schools,” “When we went to many schools we saw libraries with no books, we saw shops with no equipment, (and) we saw technology that was out of date or inoperable. We heard about teachers who are being paid 20 or 30 per cent less than provincial school teachers with the same qualifications.”
But like you say I am sure it the un-equal benefits that First Nations enjoy that is the cause for the current state of affairs in many First Nations communities.
You say it shouldn’t be the population paying for the tragedies of the past. Most Aboriginal people would agree with you. How can we expect communities to move forward when we are still legislating them backward? What are the solutions? Besides dictating their lands, their finances, making changes to racist paternalistic policies without even consulting the people whom these laws affect. We need to move forward. After the Oka crisis, the Canadian Government paid millions looking into a way to solve these issues, and a practical way to get rid of this paternalistic race based legislation, a 4000 page document, The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was released addressing all the issues and recommendations on slow policy changes to rid Canada of the Indian Act, and Indian Affairs. The recommendations have never been followed and some might argue Harper has instead moved in the opposite direction.
So Anthony, I hope this cleared up some of the history behind why there is an idle no more. I didn’t have enough time to address Bills C45 and C-38 but I just thought I would give a voice to how things potentially lead up to this point in history. As an Aboriginal person and public figure your voice holds alot of weight in this time and will be remembered for generations. That is why proper education into these matters is paramount. I hope this addressed some of your concerns.