I have written columns previously about the problems Canada has and has had with its Aboriginal people.
Although I have spent a considerable amount of time studying this issue, I am no expert on the topic. However, common sense does make some of this issue apparent.
There have recently been a couple of issues with regards to the Indigenous dilemma that have irritated me. I will attempt to explain.
The current federal government and the media seem to discuss the problems that occurred due to the residential schools to no end. What I find irksome is the subtle suggestion that it was OUR fault.
Most of the people living in Canada today are not decendents of the people that were responsible for the residential school policy so why should we be expected to apologize for an ill-conceived policy.
You cannot compare the attitudes and culture of people from 150 years ago with today’s society. As I have said before that was then and this is now.
The residential school policy implemented by Canada’s first government was a big mistake. By today’s standards, it was a clear violation of human rights.
The government bureaucrats at that time thought it would be a simple way to assimilate the native population into Canada’s European style society. It didn’t work.
Every government since that time has been trying to find a way to integrate/assimilate the aboriginal population into our society.
In 1969 the Trudeau government came out with a white paper that they thought would solve the problem with the aboriginal peoples. The basic concept of the white paper was to phase out the Department of Indian Affairs over a period of five years and turn the responsibility for administering education, health care and housing, etc. over to the provinces.
That initiative was totally rejected by the aboriginal leaders and the provincial governments.
We seem to be no closer today to finding a solution to improving the lives and living conditions of Canada’s aboriginal people than we were 150 years ago.
They keep insisting that they want to govern themselves. As far as I know, no one has, as yet, defined what self government for these people would look like.
If they want self government, they would need to take responsibility for financing that government just like any other government in this country.
Certainly they would be entitled to assistance from other levels of government, the same as municipalities and our provincial governments do, from the federal government.
So far many of these bands of indigenous people have not proven that they are capable of responsibly administering their finances.
It was discovered that there were chiefs and band councillors paying themselves salaries of up to $250,000 while the people they were responsible for were living in abject poverty.
The Harper Government passed legislation that forced them to make public an annual audited statement of the bands financial affairs. Some bands still refused to disclose their financial records.
When the Trudeau Government was elected in October 2015 they said the bands would not be required to follow the legislation.
One band council in northeastern Alberta that refused to disclose their finances were taken to court by a lady resident of the band and with the help of The Canadian Taxpayers Federation were successful in forcing the band to make public their financial affairs.
In my opinion, as long as the indigenous people insist on living on reservations where they do not have property rights or viable economic development, they will be second class citizens in their own country.
A community where the people do not own their housing soon becomes a slum and that is a major contributor to the problem because that is what they are.
They take no pride in living in a rent free house that they do not own.
Solving this complicated problem will not be easy.
by Herman Schwenk