We have all been idle for too long
Without question, Canada’s native peoples have been the victims of a great many transgressions over the past 150 years.
Through the late 1800s, European invaders (many of our ancestors) took their land, brought them disease, bastardized their culture beyond repair — and for decades, we’ve treated them as second-class citizens.
Today, we continue to ostracize and cripple our aboriginal population by dumping buckets of Canadian tax dollars into reserves and special native programs with no measurable benefit.
Many of Canada’s native communities resemble Third World slums with low employment, rampant crime and inherent substance abuse problems.
In addition to the billions in annual reserve funding that flows to Canada’s 633 bands, aboriginals are granted special privileges like treaty cards and various legal exemptions. It has bred resentment and hostility among the country’s considerable non-native population.
To make matters worse, much of the federal cash designated for aboriginal communities is eaten up by greedy, corrupt and incompetent band councils.
Political commentator Ezra Levant recently pointed out that one chief in Atlantic Canada earned $978,000 in one year — tax free — to serve as chief for a band of a few hundred people. To put that in perspective, Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes $317,000 a year to run a country of 34 million people.
The recent aboriginal Day of Action demonstration snarled traffic in several locations across Canada, including Hwy 2 south of Edmonton.
Bands were permitted to form blockades along highways and rail lines while RCMP could only do their best to reroute traffic around the protesters.
I couldn’t help wonder what would’ve happened if a group of non-aboriginal protesters attempted to obstruct one of the country’s busiest traffic corridors.
The blockades were all part of the much-publicized Idle No More campaign, which seems to have mobilized the native population but lacks a clear message.
In fact, the Idle No More movement seems to be more about inciting the aboriginal people against a common enemy — like the prime minister — rather than earnestly seeking solutions to the cultural and societal problems that plague their people.
The muddled message I’ve managed to glean from Idle No More is that Canada’s aboriginal leaders want to protect and even enhance the level of special privilege for natives.
But as a nation that values freedom and equality above all, we cannot allow ourselves to be entrapped in this mess any longer.
My generation faces the challenge of fixing a problem that should have been addressed decades ago.
How do we straighten out Canada’s aboriginal nightmare so that all native peoples can live productive, happy lives, and our children aren’t still paying the price 50 years from now?
It’s time to start phasing out reserves and special aboriginal privilege and begin integrating the native people into places with better opportunity for employment and education.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation recently made a number of recommendations on ending aboriginal poverty, such as making reserve leadership accountable for the public financing they receive.
The argument that we must continue to pay for the way our ancestors treated natives, without making progress toward a solution, can no longer hold water.
It’s now time to move forward — together.
Leo Paré is the Advocate’s online editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LeoPare