Anyone who has been to a northern reserve knows that Attawapiskat is not an aberration. Bob Rae is right. Northern native communities are "our third world." And it's most revealing that the Harper government's first response to the tragedy at Attawapiskat was, as Tim Harper wrote last week, to "send in an accountant." When faced with a crisis, Stephen Harper only has three responses: send in an accountant, send in the troops and -- if those two strategies don't work -- prorogue Parliament. Imagination is not this prime minister's strong suit.
And, if Harper does meet with people, it's on his own ground. He'll talk to Canada's native peoples in Ottawa. But, although he is fond of visiting the north, he does not visit native reserves. The Red Cross has been there and seen it all before. According to John Saunders, the Red Cross's Ontario Director for Disaster Management:
“Some of the living conditions here with the shacks that we’re seeing here are pretty extreme,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s certainly not unusual to many [aboriginal] communities across the country.”
Rae says it's time for Stephen Harper to visit Attawapiskat and other native reserves. It's time to show the people who live in the North -- which Harper vows to staunchly defend -- a little respect.
I don’t think he has a great deal of credibility with the people who are living here, or the people who are living in a great many other northern communities, because this is not about planes flying by or about defending the north from the Russians,” he said.
“This is about defending the north from poverty, from terrible conditions in terms of housing and poor substandard education.”
Harper, says Rae, “has to wear this thing, he has to take personal responsibility for what’s happened.” Don't expect the prime minister to do that. He's much better at pointing fingers than taking responsibility. But, as Harry Truman used to say, the buck stops on his desk. And Harper claims to know the value of a dollar.