Aug 01 2009
In a democracy, elected representatives are supposed to get props for talking to the people so they can build goodwill and obtain grassroots ideas about how to improve things. But when it comes to Canada’s discussions with First Nations people, it gets complicated.
Most Canadian Aboriginals live off-reserve, so the governing party in Canada has decided that we ought to be talking with their representatives, not just the First Nations people living on reserves (Vancouver Sun). This seems to be in keeping with our political system, which takes into account not only the population as a whole but also regional and municipal groupings. Nothing wrong there.
But members of Canada’s loyal opposition don’t like what they’re seeing. They’ve trotted out a number of wince-inducing quotes from Conservatives in a press release, mostly spoken with extremely poor timing, to boot, claiming that Canadians “won’t be fooled”.
But aside from the perhaps ungenerous timing of the very first quote tossed into the press release, from a Conservative on the day of the Residential Schools Apology, I’m not sure what’s terribly bad about Pierre Poilievre’s statement about Native Reserves:
“There’s too much power concentrated in the hands of the leadership and it makes you wonder where all of this money is going. …Now along with this apology comes another four billion dollars in compensation… Some of us are starting to ask are we really getting value for all of this money and is more money really going to solve the problem.”
Why is this statement considered beyond the pale by the opposition? Canadian First Nations reserves are ground-zero zones for unemployment, poor education outcomes, suicide, substance abuse and near-pervasive corruption by band councils. Why is it unfair to point out that Canadian taxpayer dollars have been subsidizing this mess, or that it’s high time we asked for better results?
Canadians do want better results. Talking with First Nations representatives living off-reserve seems like a good way to get some momentum going on improving the status of First Nations people in this country.