This week's summit between First Nations chiefs and the Prime Minister played out according to Stephen Harper tightly scripted wishes. It was all pictures, good wishes and no substance. Harper works very hard to stage manage his appearances; and this summit was supremely stage managed. There was no mention of the fact that, six years ago, the prime minister tore up the Kelowna Accord.
But, for a government that is on record as not paying attention to statistics, there are a few which should be on every Canadian's mind:
• More than half of the First Nation population in Canada is under 23.
• The aboriginal birth rate is double that of many regions of Canada.
• Sixty-one per cent of First Nation adults aged 20-24 have not completed high school, compared with 13 per cent of non-aboriginal Canadians.
• The unemployment rate for First Nation peoples living on-reserve is 25 per cent, three times the rate for non-aboriginal Canadians.
There is rebellion brewing. The government has been warned that an Aboriginal Spring is around the corner.
Years ago, I sat in on a meeting of African American kids from ghettos in the southern United States. It was 1969, a year after Martin Luther King's assassination, and American cities were burning. I was one of a group of white middle class kids who were getting a taste of what life was like for the kids we only saw on television.
One of us said to a young lady who was vocal, but not hostile, "There are 22 million of you and 180 million of the other guys -- and they have more guns than you do."
"I'd rather die standin' up," she said, "than on my knees."
If people get desperate enough, all hell can break lose. Mr. Harper is sitting on top of a volcano. The pictures from that eruption will not be carefully stage managed.