Friday, October 30, 2015

Aboriginal Canadians Want In


The next parliament will be home to 10 First Nations MPs -- eight of whom are Liberals. The Fair Elections Act was aimed at suppressing native voters. But, Michael Harris writes, it did just the opposite:

Despite Harper’s best efforts to suppress the indigenous vote, aboriginals led the nation in a stunning spike in voter turnout on October 19. Several reserves ran out of ballots, and voter turnout was up by 270 per cent in some places where the indigenous vote was crucial.

If the Fair Elections Act was supposed to blunt the energy of the Idle No More movement by making it harder to cast a ballot, it actually ended up galvanizing the native vote. Just ask defeated Natural Resources minister Greg Rickford, who saw the native vote in his former riding of Kenora rise by 73 per cent.

Canada's native peoples will no longer sit on the sidelines. And they have an agenda:

The road to the grand reconciliation that Trudeau’s victory makes possible leads straight through the water supplies of First Nations communities. On the campaign trail, Trudeau pointed out that 93 different native communities were under 133 varying boil-water advisories. For seventeen years, the community of Shoal Lake has had to hike across the ice to get its drinking water.

More than a decade ago, the bill to give aboriginals the most basic human right of all — access to clean drinking water — was $600 million. The new prime minister will be looking at a much higher cost — and he has only given himself five years to get the job done. But he must get it done.

But the deeper problem is that while Canada’s First Nations have experienced a population boom, the growth in their funding has been capped at two per cent since 1995. It is virtually impossible to supply essential childhood and family services without raising that cap — unless the government concludes that a series of one-offs grants will fix these vast, systemic inequities. History shows that such an approach is folly.

The Indian Act itself must be boldly reimagined. As it now stands, its main purpose is to limit who can be defined as an Indian. The judicial argument is moving in exactly the opposite direction. The Supreme Court is now examining the question of whether non-status Indians and Metis are also the federal government’s responsibility under the Constitution. If the answer is yes, the Indian Act will be less than useless — and Ottawa will be facing an aboriginal population inflated by hundreds of thousands of people entitled to federal programs.

As important as all these things are — water, education and health, adequate funding and modernized legislation — it all ends up dwarfed by the monumental issue of treaty rights.

There is  a lot which needs to be done. And now, Harris writes, is the time to put a First Nations MP in charge of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.


zoombats said...

A First Nations representative as Minister would send a huge signal to the world that Canada is indeed on track. It is a "no brainer" when you think about it. The practical and political gains from such an appointment while being imeasurable would indicate that it is" about time" that proper representation had been recognized. I would also believe that appointing Elizabeth May to Minister of the environment would also send a signal. Perhaps we should be looking more towards an inclusive government that doesn't use party membership as a prerequisite but rather ones abilities and knowledge to lead a particular portfolio. Isn't that the more "Canadian way"?

Owen Gray said...

Until recently, that has, indeed, been the Canadian way, zoombats.

Danneau said...

Good comment from zoom bats, and Owen and Harris are also right on the beam. But let us remember that Braze was (is still) in the Senate and Aglukuk was environment minister. Neither was a good representative of FN/Inuit culture, both good toads for the powers that be (hopefully, were). Vetting is important, sorta like looking at how Christy Clark represents the interests of average BC-ers.

Raven Corvoid said...

Okay I have to be a 'myth buster' here and say the age old saying 'we owe we owe big time so off to work we go' Harper's policy with first Nations was apartheid that is why he sat flatulent in Knesset and says to the world Bibi is not pursuing apartheid policies or wars of aggression against Palestinians. All the while he was pursuing them at home in a country he had no right to pretend he was the first minister. None of you do. Sound familiar kids?

Now I have to give Michael Harris a part of my knowledge too I'm gonna email him. How dare he call us Indian? We are people of the Earth and have title to turtle Island gone unchallenged till you folks showed up you are one thieves and two beggars in a foreign land. Indians are from the sub-continent called India. Chris Columbus put this shame on us. We are not Indian got it? We are natives native to Turtle Island.

Now read this and you will understand why you owe far more than you can pay.

We own this Island Turtle Island you tried to steal it from us. We welcomed you because we had no idea what we were in for Residential schools theft of all we owned and bull tweet laws to protect your theft. Now we got the "Bull by the horns' you and we can thank Harper he passed into your bull-tweet law that we can evict you back to the country of your origin. Indians pack your bags English pack your bags Scottish Irish Europeans pack your bags Africans and South Americans stick around for a while. USA Americans stay south of the 49th and give us right to cross at will.

Bad news for all you immigrants we don't care how many generations you have been here using your 'Laws" we are repossessing. Got it kids?

And you thought we were stupid? Not

Bill said...

It's nice to be living in a post-election period that poses questions such as, Who will be Minister of Aboriginal Affairs? and that offers such interesting answers as, "One of the 10 First Nations MPs -- or Carolyn Bennett!

Owen Gray said...

It will be very interesting to see how Justin answers that question, Bill.

Owen Gray said...

Some misguided fools thought that, Raven. But not everyone. Let's hope the wiser ones prevail.

Owen Gray said...

As the Duffy trial has made clear, Danneau, it's all about wise appointments.

Anonymous said...

Funniest thing I have read in some time.

Owen Gray said...

First Nations people are serious, Anon. To ignore them is folly -- a lesson Stephen Harper didn't learn.