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Posted: January 4, 2013

Harper should seize the opportunity to scrap the Indian Act

Kootenay Crust

It doesn’t matter what side you are on.

It doesn’t matter if you support Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence in her so-called ‘hunger strike’ over wishing to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And it doesn’t matter if you are a full-on conservative one percenter with deeply rooted racist undertones and the personality of an incensed howler monkey.

What matters is the light that is again being shed on Canada’s First Nations – publicity stunt or not.

The time is now for Canada’s government to do the right thing and that is to kill the Indian Act.

Like any old law, the Indian Act is – OLD.

Enacted in 1876, under the provisions of the Constitution Act, the Indian Act has created, in its unbridled run, nothing but sweeping corruption, rampant pessimism and despair among Canada’s aboriginals.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada swing on the hinges of the door that is the Indian Act and this ministry slurps up and spits out about $7 billion a year of our tax dollars.

I wouldn’t say the ministry is completely useless as, surely, an annual budget of that size must provide for some use and reason. I mean, $7 billion a year flowing to Canada’s 1,172,785 aboriginal people (2006 Census), comprising 3.8% of the nation’s population, should result in some progress. Right?

Wrong. It is an annual injection of malaise and social disease to our aboriginal citizens.

The breadth of corruption on Canada’s First Nation reserves is well-documented – most recently so in last year’s eye-opening stories on what’s-a-happening on… the Attawapiskat Reserve. Massive volumes of money roll in but poverty is alarmingly evident. What gives?

Go across the country and check out the roughly 630 reserves. How many appear to be prosperous? How many are run down and seemingly on the brink of complete collapse? Why is that so, when there is an annual budget of about $7 billion flowing through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada?

Forget for a moment about social assistance such as EI and welfare and the fact that First Nations people in this country do not pay income tax. Just focus on the money being spent in Ottawa on ‘Indian affairs.’ It’s outlandish at the least and disturbing at best. It is without question the biggest vacuum of taxpayer dollars in the history of this nation.

The Indian Act, by its mere presence, signifies that First Nations people are not equal to the rest of Canada’s citizens. Is that true? Not in the Canada I love, so why do we continue to allow an Act and a government ministry to exist that serves such ignobility?

The Indian Act is the reason there is so much corruption on Canadian First Nation reserves, and it is that corruption that causes so much inequity.

Our First Nations citizens deserve to be brought into the 21st Century with the rest of us. They should be placed on the podium right next to the rest of this country’s peoples and be treated equally in every sense.

They should pay taxes; they should be given leeway to run reserves like municipalities, complete with the same set of rules that municipalities have to operate under – namely, having to be transparent and completely accountable for all funds that roll into it a given jurisdiction.

That there is ANY poverty in Attawapiskat is a shame upon the reserve’s leadership, past and present, and a badge of dishonour for Ottawa to wear on its forehead for allowing such glaring deficiencies to occur on their watch.

Poverty is a fact of life in most Canadian communities and, sadly, it appears to be a problem that is growing, not shrinking, as the global economy continues to wobble and teeter uneasily. So it is wrong to suggest that removing the Indian Act will eliminate First Nations poverty. However, it would even the playing field for all aboriginals.

Reserves are often cut into two spheres – those related to or friends with the chief and council, or those on the outside looking in. The politics and greasy games are no different on reserves than they are in other Canadian communities. The difference is – in the non-aboriginal communities, there is accountability that always ends up biting those, who push the envelope with public funds, on the ass.

I am blessed to have many aboriginal and Metis friends – which makes me, basically, an average Canadian. The aboriginal people I know are devoted to their families and communities, hard working, fun-loving, law abiding and intelligent souls- flat out some of the finest people I have ever known.

They are just as capable of running their First Nation communities in the same manner as the rest of us and they deserve that right. It is time for Ottawa and the Queen and any other game-playing, backslapping con artist, back-room dealing sons of bitches to be cut off from that annually abused bundle of taxpayer money that would be far better spent if there was AT LEAST a pinch of accountability.

To be clear, many First Nations in Canada have their stuff together and are run fairly and squarely. But far too many residents in Canada’s First Nations reserves are being royally screwed over and cut off from being able to get ahead. It is a terrible injustice and it is time to remove the root cause – the Indian Act.

It will not be an easy task – far, far from it. One simply cannot dip into a Constitution and muck about willy-nilly. Expectations would have to be tempered and managed and great patience and mutual cooperation would be necessary.

I am not saying Stephen Harper should relent and give the dieting Chief Spence what she wants, though that now appears to be the case.

I am simply saying “carpe diem, Chairman Steve.” See this as a sign and launch a process, with your nice, fat majority government that will scrap the Indian Act and put down Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada like the mangy, ragged dog it is, and once and for all, let’s make our First Nations brothers and sisters our equals.

It is the year 2013. We claim to be enlightened global citizens who shun racism as the mental disease it is. Isn’t it time we proved it?

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW


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