Just settlements on native land claims and governance issues? There IS public will!
Governments need to know there is public will, nay demand, for just settlements on native land claims and governance issues. Canada has pushed aboriginal issues -- and the human casualties -- to the back burner for far too long. Justice delayed is justice denied.Smokes cloud bigger issues TheSpec.com - Opinions - Smokes cloud bigger issues http://www.thespec.com/Opinions/article/407634
Robert Howard The Hamilton Spectator (Jul 23, 2008) The multimillion-dollar trade in contraband cigarettes is infuriating to law-abiding Canadians who see the black-market industry scoffing at the law. Even worse, to some, is that police turn a blind eye to it. The black market in tobacco -- almost one-third of cigarettes smoked in Ontario and Quebec are "illegal" (a term First Nations spokespeople dispute) -- has huge social and economic impact. Spectator reporter Steve Buist investigates the contraband tobacco industry in a four-part series, Tobacco Road, that concludes today. Ten billion contraband cigarettes are smoked in Canada every year, depriving governments of taxation income of up to $4 million a day. Cheap contraband cigarettes fuel youth (and adult) smoking, and subsequent addiction and health problems. Natives smoke at three times the national average -- again because of cheap tobacco. Intimidation and violence is an intrinsic part of the tobacco black market. The RCMP says about 30 reserve manufacturing operations and 150 criminal organizations are involved in the contraband tobacco trade. Police have seized illegal cigarettes -- sometimes by the truckload -- but have no plans to shut down operations on reserves. The reality is that arrests would fuel a new wave of native militancy. The problem -- not just for police but for governments and for the public -- is that the tobacco issue cannot be dealt with in isolation from flashpoint native issues such as sovereignty and taxation. And those issues are linked to a wide, deep and historic schism between natives and the federal and provincial governments on land claims, treaty rights and treaty obligations. It's a knot of intertwined issues, drawn even tighter by a century of intransigence by successive federal governments that dragged out, stalled and delayed negotiations. Dealing with native claims and grievances in a holistic, timely and expeditious way has to become a national priority. An analogy: For decades, Canadians said the country's military deserved more funding. But when it came to allocating tax dollars, it was never a priority. Then a crisis came along, and public will gave government the green light to give the Forces what they needed. We are reaching the same sort of crisis point in aboriginal issues in Canada. We can no longer ignore, delay or blame someone else. Poverty, poor health, crime and other social ills exist in the native communities at levels most Canadians could not tolerate. Governments need to know there is public will, nay demand, for just settlements on native land claims and governance issues. Canada has pushed aboriginal issues -- and the human casualties -- to the back burner for far too long. Justice delayed is justice denied. Ottawa needs to set a new tone and new direction and decide that a new, modern and progressive relationship between First Nations and governments is possible and will happen. It's a grand vision. But Canada will never truly prosper or realize its potential unless all Canadians resolve to make it a reality.