Prior to settler colonials infecting the original ways of the Indigenous, the First Peoples had sustainable systems and communal ways that worked for centuries.
In this year of “reconciliation” and with the celebration of the century and one half of “Canada”, a spotlight is being thrust on Canada’s treatment of its First Peoples. The consensus of Canada’s agencies and representatives is that “much is being done”.
Apologies, press releases, press responses, released budgets and policy statements are all just words. Where is the action?
When the original settlers thought to “open up” this land for homesteading, did they envision the eventual withering away of the Indian? Homesteading has now become economic development but the idea to “wither” away the First Peoples remains the agenda of Canada.
How can this be accomplished?
- By legislating all things Indian into an act or piece of legislation. This legislation will then hinder the First Peoples from keeping their ways by restricting their movement and placing them on reserve concentration camps; (Indian Act)
- By hampering them with this Act economically. Make them unable to challenge settler businesses or to hire legal representation. (Indian Act);
- By destroying their inherent governance systems and replacing these true mechanisms with a chief and council with two year terms so no long-term planning can be encouraged; (Indian Act)
- By taking away their children forcibly to break the language and kinship ties of their society (residential schools).
The redeeming quality of this strategy is that it can be “undone” with an apology.
Today we see “movement” by “Canada” to rectify the harms it has bestowed on the First Peoples.
Every federal government undertakes some national tokenized ceremony or action to give Canadians and the global community, “the appearance” of rectifying century old wrongs. It comes under various names: the Royal Commission, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and now the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry.
Can there be solutions put forth by the oppressors who created the problems?
Every federal or provincial action that has a one-size, cookie cutter approach with partisan “Indian” involvement will fail. There are grassroots people working to quell the many issues of injustice directed at First Peoples. They are not part of the government approaches or actions. Why? Because the federal government continues to view “Indians” with their archaic colonial looking glass that shows them a paternalistic view, encapsulating this slogan: “We know better”.
So federal government policies and laws create problems ranging from inadequate land bases, unresolved land claims, water and emergency issues, road access, unequal funding formulas for every department which leads to corruption, high incarceration rates, high infant mortality, high suicide rates and poverty BUT the government “knows better”?
Mainstream media reports daily on the many ongoing crises in First Nation communities but the answers to the problems come from carefully crafted communication personnel who sit in federal offices completely removed from the reality of the problems.
Historical truth, unpleasant as it may be, is still the truth.
Reporters and journalists schooled in mainstream programs with no cultural understanding or context exacerbate the “Indian problem”. This has been rectified to some extent by First Nation owned or operated media and with the placement of few “aboriginal” reporters in mainstream media. However, the daily news items should flag to all Canadians, the fact that something has gone terribly wrong for the First Peoples.
On reserve, there are groups of families and sometimes other linguistic speaking peoples that have been placed together. This means that there are sometimes competing interests or ways of addressing community issues. It may look like infighting, but in fact, it is different tribal nations trying to work together when they are sovereign people.
However, the biggest problem on reserve remains the interference of the federal government with underfunding, onerous reporting regulations and caps on addressing the actual community needs. Federal or provincial government representatives will then take it upon themselves to “address” some of these issues. But the issues can only be assessed in a very small vacuum. Funding or dollar management is usually the benchmark that governments are willing to address.
Recently the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs has undertaken a study of “Default Prevention and Management Policy” to look at (1) financial management in First Nation communities. This is the preferred discussion to (1) inadequate finances and the inability of First Nations communities to effectively continue a separate way of life.
This Standing Committee will also look at (2) the current policy on default management and prevention in particular the role of third party managers. This should read: (2) Outdated policy caps and onerous reporting on underfunding leads to our placement of overpaid third party managers on reserves.
The Standing Committee is also looking at (3) existing federal programs that support financial management in First Nation communities which should read: (3) highly paid civil servants with benefits will run a program that keeps financial reporting and controls supporting the federal paternalistic system. Indians are big business.
The Standing Committee is looking at: (4) identification of alternate models for default management, with a focus on innovative solutions and promising practices (reworded INAN/INAC “best practices”).
Can the Standing Committee go to an actual First Nation reserve?
Can the Standing Committee that sits in comfort in their Ottawa offices with technology and infrastructure at their beck and call, go to a reserve to see what the REAL issues are?
It seems more than just stupid that the federal government has a Standing Committee trying to mitigate how best to stop interfering in the historic underfunding that exists on reserve.
In this “celebration” of Canada (the State), it seems that the voices of the First Peoples, guaranteed a way of life through treaty, should be the priority. Canada was given this statehood based on the fact that Great Britain signed international covenants with the First Peoples to “share” the land. Therefore, Canada exists because of the Treaties.
Canada should be celebrating “150 years of being a colony with 35 years as a designated state”. Historical truth, unpleasant as it may be, is still the truth.