Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Shifting The Focus

Deloitte-Touche did as requested, and the reaction was predictable. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

The audit is out, the verdict is damning. As reported by CBC News, an independent assessment of six years of transactions on the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation reserve reveal “no evidence of due diligence.”
Auditors Deloitte and Touche concluded that out of 505 transactions, “an average of 81 per cent of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60 per cent had no documentation of the reason for payment.”

The argument is, "those who can't control their finances deserve no sympathy."  Let's recall that, when the crisis erupted at Attawapiskat last year, Stephen Harper's solution was to send in an accountant. Let's also recall that, eighteen months ago, the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament for not revealing the cost of jet fighters and prisons. Now they refuse to let Kevin Page see the budget cuts they are making.

Worse still, the Harperites claim that  natives peoples' inability to account for their spending makes them the source of their misery. Rather than seeing the audit as a symptom, the government claims it is a cause. Ultimately, the Conservatives say, Canada's native peoples seek to hide and avoid the truth.

But, writes Michael Harris, we are approaching a moment of truth:

Does anyone really believe the PM has had a conversion on the road to Attawapiskat? How long will he contribute to the working session? Does anyone think Chief Spence’s call for action will be answered by anything other than the bureaucratic sludge in which these events are normally embalmed?

What Idle No More is asking for is changes in Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill which has gutted Canada's environmental legislation:

The Harper government has unilaterally changed the Indian Act. It has unilaterally changed environmental legislation that weakens protection of fresh water and endangered fish species. It has made it easier for major developments to take place with less study of the environmental impact and no equal say for aboriginals. And in 2012, the very year Stephen Harper pledged to renew the search for justice for all native peoples, his “little minister” — as Chief Spence described John Duncan — announced sweeping cuts for core aboriginal organizations across Canada.

No one in Canada knows better than its aboriginals that a moment of truth has arrived for both them and the land. For good or ill, an explosion of development quivers over the West and the Arctic. Huge fortunes will be made by a few, great change will be ushered in, and the environment will be altered forever. Either the aboriginals make their stand now, or they will be eternally bypassed. As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip put it, “We’re the last line of defence between the country’s resources and a federal government that wants to open it up and devastate it.”

This is, indeed, a last stand. We used to believe that the land will endure. But, if Stephen Harper gets his way, the land will be despoiled for profits -- and those profits will not be shared with the people of the land. To do that, Harper must shift the focus. That is what he and his acolytes are now trying to do.


Lorne said...

While I don't think that any possible financial improprieties should be ignored, Owen, reading the Harper assertions reminds me of when I used to teach fallacies of reasoning as a supplement to Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

The release of the information so close to a meeting with the Aboriginals would seem to be an attempt to undermine the credibility of Chief Spence and the cause she represents. A form of ad hominem, it probably comes closest to 'poisoning the well,' which Wikepedia defines in the following way:

"Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well) is a rhetorical device where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say."

So reminiscent, isn't it, of the sleazy characterization of Jack Layton as Taliban Jack? I suspect it will be a long time before the Harper regime has finished deploying its weaponry of denunciation and debasement of its many opponents.

Owen Gray said...

Like you, Lorne, teaching logical fallacies -- and 1984 -- used to be part of my Grade 13 English course.

They don't teach Orwell any more in Grade 12 English. It's easier for Mr. Harper to use his weapons.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Our Aboriginal "cousins" are fighting the battle for the environment for all of us. (I prefer cousin to brother for no one would treat a brother as badly as First Nation's people have been treated and many are still treated) I support their cause for it is our cause. I live on a waterway, (the Temagami river) which is no longer protected. I was once told by the police that I could not swim in it naked as it was a public thoroughfare and someone might come floating down it and take offence. I guess it is no longer a public thoroughfare and could become a private corporation's sewer. In farm company it was quite often the practice to place the barn such that livestock waste went downstream for the next fellow to deal with and water was drawn from the river upstream for this abuse.
Hopefully we have learned something since then. But maybe not which is why we need regulations to protect out waterways and the environment. I am particularly a lover of rivers. We, even with regulations, have a abused our water resources. Water is our most precious natural resources and should not be easily sacrificed to corporate interests.

I can still drink the wonderful water directly from the Temagami. Sadly you cannot say that about too many of our rivers.

Owen Gray said...

I grew up on the shores of Lake St. Louis -- part of the St. Lawrence River system -- before Montreal built sewage disposal plants, Philip.

In the summer, the lake could get pretty rank. Those regulations made a world of difference to the lake.

The Harper government will set the clock back sixty years, unless Canada's native peoples -- and all of us -- win this battle.