Friday, December 02, 2011

Plenty Of Blame

Richard Wagamese writes that Attawapiskat is not an isolated case. There is plenty of blame to go around for the tragedy there and on other native reserves. The problem, he writes, is that the elites -- in Ottawa and at the AFN -- have chosen to look the other way:

The real shame of Attawapiskat is that the people who knew these conditions existed never told Canadians about them. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives knew. Shawn Atleo’s Assembly of First Nations knew. But it has taken a tragedy to reveal the stark truth.

The Harper government's first reaction was -- predictably -- to define the problem in financial terms, and then to seize control of whatever levers were available:

Rather than initiate immediate physical action, Mr. Harper scheduled another meeting with Mr. Atleo. Then he put Attawapiskat under third-party management. What this effectively means is that the government put the blame squarely on the Indians. The subtext is that native leaders mismanaged millions and put their own people in danger. Meantime, nothing was being done for the people freezing in unheated tents, beyond the generosity offered by the Red Cross and fellow Canadians.

It was classic Harper strategy -- point fingers, assign blame and never accept responsibility. Those who have looked at the amount of federal funding for housing at Attawapiskat have pointed out that it is no surprise that people there are living in third world conditions.

But Wagamese writes that Shawn Atleo is also responsible for the tragedy at so many Canadian reserves.

Mr. Atleo failed to show leadership long ago. I’ve been a journalist since 1979, and I know how easy it is to craft a press release, hold a news conference and inform the public. But you have to want to do it. You have to want to confront wrong and demand change. I wonder if having his budget depend on a cozy relationship with the government prevents him from doing that. 

These problems predate Mr.Atleo. The truth is that, for most Canadians -- living in large cities in the south -- conditions on northern native reserves are out of sight and out of mind. And, therefore, we all bear responsibility for the tragedy we must now confront.


kirbycairo said...

I have absolutely no doubt that there is plenty of blame to go around here, as there usually is in complex social issues. Hierarchy, any hierarchy, is reluctant to address issues that demand considerations of equality. But what is really at stake here is a microcosm of capitalist development - those at the periphery are the least concern of those at the centre. Sometimes that pesky problem of ethics is awakened is the mind of the workers, as it sometime was in the era of classical colonialism, and sometime is today in the neo-colonial era. Our capitalist has no need of, or interest in, the First Peoples in Northern communities, many of them live in a state of wretched poverty and hopelessness and that has been fine for generations of Liberal and Conservative governments, both of which are fundamentally capitalist. So the CBC awakened the ethical mind of those who are central to the capitalist order. But some of the native leaders have become the equivalent of the indigenous colonial masters (the Raj, for want of a better word). And the problem will slowly drift off the headlines because the periphery is just not important to the development of the core.

Owen Gray said...

The problem could, indeed, be soon forgotten, Kirby -- unless there is a concerted effort to keep it front and centre.

We shall see what kind of stuff our media are made of.

thwap said...

I've known that the AFN has been criticizing successive federal governments for decades to no effect.

I've heard the thesis that there are a lot of FN leadership who are corrupt or who sell their people out to the feds in return for gov't money, but in this instance I can't say that the AFN issuing a press release about the housing on one reserve would really change things.

Finally, I agree with you about the uselessness of harper's response. (It isn't useless to harper since it increases his power and spins things the way he likes it, but it's useless for the people who are suffering.)

... hmmm: "the people who are suffering." People are suffering and harper wishes to do NOTHING for them but blame them for what he's allowed to be done to them.

Because when all is said and done, he's a scum-bag.

Owen Gray said...

Harper's response to the problem defined the man, thwap. In the final analysis, he -- and many of his followers -- are simply "filled with straw."

Anonymous said...

Harper needs to be forced to resign. This is gross negligence towards the F.N. People. That adorable baby girl, died from negligence as well.

Harper spent $50 million on gazebos. One billion on a, stupid fake lake, $3 million on one members travel expenses, a $11.000 per hour jet, to take in a hockey game.

Harper will waste billions on his, wars, jets, armored vehicles, a nuclear sub, ships and billions on His Stalag's even if the crime rate has dropped.

Harper gives billions of our tax dollars to, banks, mines, large company's, and oil and gas corporations. That motion was passed. I saw this on, the House of Commons TV. Now, those meetings are done behind closed doors.

Harper has committed a crime against humanity, while the F.N. are struggling to survive. Harper is also being investigated for, war crimes and crimes against humanity. ICC'S Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Decampo, seems Harper ignores the Geneva Convention.

Owen Gray said...

Harper's priorities are financially warped. More than that, he has placed blame for this tragedy on the natives.

But are you sure that the ICC is investigating him? This is the first time I've heard that bit of information.