Dec 06 2011

Disband the First Nations Reserves. Start with Attawapiskat

Published by at 9:36 pm under Canada,politics,Vancouver

Imagine you’re the slumlord owner of a rent-controlled bedbug-infested hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. You’ve pocketed big bucks over the years from the government that was supposed to pay for essential renovations. Your welfare-dependent tenants usually don’t complain too loudly about the mold or the rats or the lack of working toilets, for fear of being tossed out on the street.

But this time, they couldn’t help themselves, when a wall fell down, exposing several families to the elements and the shocked stares of onlookers from Hastings Street. They spilled the beans. Reporters from all over the country started talking about the deplorable crisis. It’s downright embarrassing.

An independent auditor comes knocking to go over your financials. He wants to find out what you’ve done with the millions of dollars that you were supposed to use to fix the leaky plumbing and the crumbling brickwork and rotten wood and broken windows. You tell him to take a hike. When he objects, you physically throw him out.

Then you get an epiphany. Oh, this is brilliant. You file a grievance with the United Nations over your ill treatment.

How do you think this story ends? With you keeping your hotel? With the United Nations giving you a badge of honor? With your long-suffering tenants patting you on the back for your courageous stand? With you not going to jail?

No.

No, no, no, no.

The crisis of Attawapiskat has thankfully helped put the entire system of First Nations reserves under more scrutiny. Band leaders on many (most?) reserves operate with impunity and an explicit rejection of democracy. The nepotism, corruption and wastefulness not merely of money but of human beings is something that people in the rest of the country would never stand for.

I’ve been ambivalent about this problem over the years because I don’t live next to it. I see the conditions on reserves in the news from time to time. The places do look awful. But that’s not the fault of the government shoveling cash into these places. No amount of cash can paper over this perpetual horror show. Not with band leaders demanding 280 new houses at $250,000 a pop, according to the NDP — houses in the middle of nowhere that are just going to fall apart again after a few years because under the rules on reserves, no one actually owns the property.

Think about that figure again: $250,000 per house. That’s just to build a house, since the land has no value. This is a house that will stand in an isolated community with no jobs, no schools, no hospital, no reason to live there at all. Why does it cost that much to build a house there? Because that’s what the band council says it costs… for houses that are going to end up as firewood.

This problem needs to be solved yesterday.

The solution? Simple. Stop the flow of money. There are some examples of well-run, prosperous reserves that are closer in development to Whistler than Attawapiskat. They will survive, maybe even thrive. But those reserves like Attawapiskat that cannot survive without massive infusions of funds (or fail even with such generous support) need to be dismantled. Let the people living on those reserves migrate to places with education, jobs and a hope for a future.

No more money. No more reserves.

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Disband the First Nations Reserves. Start with Attawapiskat”

  1. E Macon 07 Dec 2011 at 4:10 am

    Since the early 50’s I can remember seeing this type of squalor on reservations in Saskatchewan of which I passed through and assume the same took place in other provinces.
    It seem’s nothing has changed during that time and the government is still shovelling capital into this endless scheme.
    Now the government is attempting to get a handle on the situation but the reserve Chief puts the boots to him. Something doesn’t smell right here and/or something is rotten in Denmark as they say.
    Stop all funding until some answers are given.
    You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, so honey is better than vinegar in attempting to “fix” your decade long problems.
    When you can’t remember and $8600.00 dollar trip to Toronto, there is definitely something amiss here. NO?”

  2. Dollops - Eric Dollon 07 Dec 2011 at 7:41 am

    I recall the 50’s as a time when reserves were emptying and Indian youth had ambitions. My Native schoolmates had been brought up in Christian homes and didn’t consider themselves victims. The 60’s do-gooders changed all that and brought Canada’s indigenous people down to the sad state they are in today. How long will we continue to segregate and diminish these poor people?

  3. dmorrison 07 Dec 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Good comment,ED,my own experiences on the Rez’s near my hometown in the 50’s and 60’s were similar to yours,hard working,self-sufficient people.

    One of the sad/funny results of all the ’60’s activism was on a Rez I knew fairly well, went to high school with dozens of kids from there,population was about 600. This Rez was run,in the 50’s,by a Chief and four Councillors. Housing was adequate,no worse than most off Rez housing, crime was minimal, no one lived as depicted in Attawapiskat.

    The men hunted,fished,trapped,logged,farmed,worked in sawmills,and we all got along pretty well.

    Then,the activist 60’s arrived,the Chief and four Band Councillors were replaced by a First Nations government,which was comprised of a Prime Minister and thirty MP’s. Within a few years, everyone stopped working off Rez,and went on welfare,crime and substance abuse skyrocketed,and no White Man dared set foot on the Rez.

    But the Native politicians prospered,and still do,and THAT is the main problem and the reason why the situation will never change as long as we allow the fantasy that a dysfunctional, isolated Rez in the middle of nowhere,is a Nation,equal to Canada.

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