Avoid Blame Game and Deal with Hard Questions of the First Nations Issue

The last Federal Election have been an eye opening experience for me as I learned about the plight of the First Nations and the conditions of the reserves. While First Nations is legally under the jurisdiction of the federal government, health and education are left in limbo with provincial government being only partly involved. The aboriginals felt neglected and sense that both government are passing the bucks. The result of this half-hearted involvement on both levels of government is a neglected reserves that ends up with conditions similar to a third world country. Issues on the reserves is often treated like a can of worms that nobody wants to touch.

The Idle No More movement was spurred by the Federal government’s Omnibus bill C-45, which the First Nations felt bypasses the normal environmental protection of their lands and waters. They also claim it violates the treaty and changes the Indian Act. But aside from C-45, the movement is now bringing the reserves issues into the Canadian public view. The movement is growing so is the finger pointing. A report from a government hired auditor was leaked showing lack of paper trails on spending at the reserves, specifically Attawapiskat reserves. It is not clear from the report whether there was malicious intent or just band of local officials not used to accounting standards accepted as a norm in most modern government. The report highlights the importance of open government to ensure government spending are transparent and that there is accountability. Lack of transparency leads to corruption and misappropriation of funds. Corruption and lack of transparency is something the current federal government is not immuned to as previous scandals have shown. In one particular case, a person close to top federal government officials have attempted to profit illicitly from the First Nations fund through water filtration contract.

Canadians should step back and not get agitated by medias and politicians from whatever sides trying to pitch one against the other. Media post claiming First Nations is getting a free ride from the millions that we give to them, or aggressive actions similar to defacing of John A. MacDonald’s statue would only inflame the situation. Canadians (including the aboriginals) should instead focus all efforts on finding solutions to the First Nations issues.

So what are the challenges? In considering what aids the First Nations deserves, Non-Aboriginal Canadian should remove from the equation the fact that lands have been designated as reserves. Common comments from people after watching report from a certain media outlet, which have been accused of being the Canadian equivalent of Fox News, is we should revoke the treaty or the First Nations tax free status. Being envious of perceived “entitlements” of the First Nations will get us nowhere unless we want to return to the bloodshed of the colonial era. We should not hesitate to grant aboriginals aids on education, health and other basic needs normally accorded to Canadians. The reserves are the price we pay to original settlers of the land and is not an excuse to wash our hands away from any responsibilities. First Nations should set aside mistrust of outsiders and try to integrate their education, health and government with other Canadian communities. This does not means surrendering their sovereignty or lands but it means working together with other Canadian government to find a better way to govern in an open and efficient manner. This includes seeking ways to deal with the challenges of providing for education, health, housing and basic needs of a rural or remote communities. No doubt there will be more issues that must be tackled. Chief among them is to help make First Nations self reliant without violating their treaty or status. This calls for innovative approach and for the aboriginals to make good use of what they have, the isolated reserves. Creative solutions can only be attained by working together in good faith and not by trying to turn Canada into a nation of us against them.

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