Hobbema’s problems are our problems

Another tragic shooting in Hobbema has led to an initiative by band leaders to see if they can evict gangsters from reserve housing. Good luck to that, I say.

Another tragic shooting in Hobbema has led to an initiative by band leaders to see if they can evict gangsters from reserve housing.

Good luck to that, I say.

A close friend rented an apartment in Calgary to a person who was a drug dealer, unbeknownst to the landlord at the time. It was virtually impossible to evict this person.

That’s how it is off-reserve.

On reserve might be a different matter.

Maybe the chief and council can order an eviction. An eviction from the house and from the band and from all band rights.

I’m assuming that to do that one would need evidence. Already it is virtually impossible to gather evidence since most people on reserve (and in adjacent bands) are afraid to talk.

They have good reason to fear — and not just death.

How about having your house burned down? That causes more significant pain on a reserve than off-reserve. You can’t just buy or build like you can off-reserve. There’s already a housing shortage.

A fellow from Hobbema whom I worked with a few years ago described the economic and housing realities of the reserve this way:

“Houses are not a very exciting form of economic development — but when you are talking about families, they are. Without a house, you are homeless.”

As all too many people know on the Samson Cree Nation, and on other reserves, without a house, you probably have to move in with relatives.

With unemployment, disability and our tendency to live as extended families, that means you might end up with 15 people sharing one small house!

That overcrowding often contributes to domestic violence and abuse.

Then there’s the money matter. Let’s say houses are worth a modest $100,000. In one neighbourhood alone on the Samson Reserve, some eight houses have been burned down completely and a few others damaged by arson.

There’s a million dollars you just threw away — when with better supervision of kids, better street patrol security, and a better sense of community, that money and those houses would be providing shelter and a future for 50 people or more . . . and that includes the next generation.”

Needless to mention, that original $1 million for those houses came from taxpayers.

I ask you, off-reserve Canucks: If the gangsters are evicted from the reserve, where will they move? To our neighbourhoods, of course. They have to live somewhere.

Moving a gang member off-reserve or kicking them out of the band will also not prevent violent retaliation against real or imagined witnesses.

So what is the alternative?

I go back to the idea of work — get more people work.

Look at the Fort McKay First Nations and the Osooyoos Band.

The Osooyoos nation benefited from Chief Louie demanding for 21 years that band members “get a job” or “go to school” and making economic development deals that could support that.

The Fort McKay First Nation is the beneficiary of Alberta Environment’s socio-economic impact mitigation requirements for the oilsands companies, and the community support of the oilsands companies themselves.

In the area, some 1,700 First Nations people are working at real jobs, with real salaries and real lives. In 2009, some $810 million in goods and services were contracted from aboriginal owned businesses.

Aboriginal author Calvin Helin, in Dances with Dependency — Out of Poverty through Self-Reliance, notes that the workers are respected for their skills. These are not token jobs.

Likewise, Helin points out there is a coming aboriginal tsunami. A massive, unskilled, unintegrated sector of aboriginal youth (fastest growing in Canada) is arriving — while a larger declining boomer workforce is on their way out of the earning/taxpaying cycle.

Add to that ever-increasing fiscal responsibilities to aboriginal and Metis communities, many of which also suffer tremendous, expensive social problems like higher injury rate, diabetes, substance abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, criminal activity leading to expensive justice system and corrections needs . . . and really, just the human tragedy of it all.

We won’t be able to afford to support it then.

Better think about how to manage or solve it now.

Gang evictions or none, the aboriginal tsunami is coming soon to a neighbourhood near you. It’s our problem.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance writer.

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