First Nations should be Canadians first
By: By Allen King
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 07:43 pm
So Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was fasting for over three weeks on Victoria Island in the middle of the Ottawa River until Prime Minister Harper and Governor General David Johnston agreed to sit down and talk about Canada’s treaty relationship with the First Nations leadership.
She wants more respect for treaties and aboriginal people. What were the original treaties? Does Theresa Spence herself really know? Did the original aboriginal people who signed those treaties really intend these treaties to be other than what we have come to know them as — just treaties. Did the original Crown representatives intend that the First Nations people be left on reservations and be given a monthly stipend, so that these people would, in effect, cause no further problems in the desire to develop this great country?
If this was the intention, it was not the right thing to do. I think over the years, Aboriginal Canadians have been ill-treated.
I would also suggest, however, it should be made abundantly clear to Spence and other chiefs and band councillors, they are a conquered nation, and are fortunate the leaders of this country did not force them to assimilate into our society as has often happened to indigenous peoples in other countries.
Do First Nations people have privileges? Yes. Do these people pay tuition for entry into post-secondary education? No. But the rest of us do. Do First Nations people pay for medical care? No, because they have fully funded government health care.
The First Nations people want to be treated equally with the rest of us. To this I agree wholeheartedly. I can say for the nearly half century I was in business, I feel I did so.
If these people want equal treatment throughout Canada, possibly they should prove they can manage the affairs on their own reservations. With regard to this I would ask Spence; where has the $3 billion gone Ottawa allocated the Attawapiskat reservation, plus the $90 million DeBeers (diamond company) paid your band for mining rights? Perhaps when she can prove all members of her band have decent food, clean water, proper clothing, sufficient housing and other amenities, she and her council will deserve more respect.
I would suggest Spence could put her resources to much better use tending to pressing problems on her own reserve of Attawapiskat.
It can be done. The four reservations surrounding the postal outlet of Hobbema (Samson, Ermineskin, Montana, and Louis Bull) have oil reserves and with outside management and counseling, are handling their fiscal affairs reasonably prudently.
I recall the struggle the Peter Lougheed government had here in Alberta when they first attempted to build the dam on the Old Man River. For those who do not recall, there were innumerable and unnecessary obstacles thrown against securing its completion, and many of these were caused by First Nation people. Today that dam has helped First Nations peoples as many others, and what a great boon it has been for all of Alberta.
We now have a proposed bitumen pipeline from Alberta through British Columbia to the west coast. Who are the two main parties protesting such a project? First Nations, and, as might be expected, the government of British Columbia. Do these two groups realize how all of Canada would benefit were this project to be completed? Where is the cooperation here?
There is a higher incidence of crime and drug abuse among aboriginals than almost any other faction of the Canadian mosaic. What are the chiefs and elders of the reservations doing to combat this problem? I am sure they would receive all kinds of assistance from the different levels of governments, should they attempt to address these problems. I would venture idleness on the reservations is due largely to poor education, drug and alcohol abuse, and lack of local employment.
It should be noted many people from the reservations have become assimilated into the Canadian type of society and have been successful.
If Spence et al want to be treated as the rest of us then they must “step-up-to-the-plate” and shoulder their responsibilities properly as do the balance of Canadians. In simple words, assimilate and become Canadians as the rest of us are. It appears that a Nation within a Nation does not work effectively. There are better solutions. That does not mean they have to lose their cultural identity. New Canadians are proving all of the time cultural identity can in fact be strengthened and made to grow with assimilation.
I would suggest all Canadian citizens be federally governed with one set of laws for everyone, by a government which is located in Ottawa.