The concept of “democracy” is important to many Canadians. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has received awards identifying him as a “champion of democracy, freedom and human rights” and the government has frequently spoken out against democratic violations in other countries.
While the recent federal budget received much attention for its debt and deficit forecasts, a smattering of legislative reforms giving First Nations greater control of on-reserve education went largely unnoticed. Hand-in-hand with the proposed reforms, the feds also promised an additional $1.25 billion in core funding for on-reserve education over three years, on top of the current $1.5 billion spent annually. All of which was supported by the Assembly of First Nations.
If Canadians wonder why little progress has been made in bringing prosperity to First Nations communities, they just received another reminder from an Ottawa-based think tank that reinforces the status quo approach to Aboriginal policy: spend more tax dollars.
In a recent column published in PostMedia papers ('Catching up on Aboriginal services is not cheap,') Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald Laurier Institute took issue with and was highly critical of our recent study, which documented a portion of the tax dollars spent on Aboriginal matters.
Canada's taxpayers have been increasingly generous to Aboriginal Canadians over the decades but that reality is not often the narrative one hears from selected First Nations leaders. Instead, the oft-stated opinion is that taxpayers should ante up ever more.
The recent protests in New Brunswick against proposed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has put a spotlight on the Elsipogtog (Elsi-book-took) First Nation, which has been extremely vocal in its opposition to proposed shale gas exploration. But however sincere these protests, they are ultimately misguided.
National Aboriginal Day is a time for Canadians to reflect on the contributions of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Sadly, on this day most people will instead consider the sorry state of reserve communities and ask why, despite years of well-intentioned government programming, nothing ever seems to get better for Aboriginal people.
With all the attention paid to the Idle No More movement and the off-again on-again talks between some native chiefs and the Prime Minister, one basic fact about Aboriginal life in Canada has been forgotten: Most aboriginals do not live on reserve and seem to be better for it.
Thats an important fact that should be part of any debate about how to improve the living standards of Aboriginal Canadians.
In the wake of the Idle No More protests that have blocked railway lines and have hinted at more mischief, multiple grievances have been advanced in place of clear-headed analyses. But none of the slogans, clichés and guilt-tripping get to the bottom of why some Aboriginals, especially on reserves, are in a sorry state.
First, some misinformation about one supposed reason for the protests, that reserves will be broken up by Bill C-45, should be debunked.
That recent federal legislation allows First Nations to lease some of their land to others if they so choose.