My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Love it or leave it! Peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Can we talk openly about native issues?

Certainly. What do you know for a fact? Anything?

Studied ignorance is not rationale for anything. ...g

Aug 17, 2008 04:30 AM

"That's dynamite, don't touch it!" a politician once told me when I expressed the desire to write about Caledonia and the natives. I agree, it was and still is dynamite, but is this a valid reason not to talk about it?

I don't think so. There are pre-Confederation treaties signed but never respected, and $12 billion a year from Ottawa to assist the aboriginals. But still Canada's natives are dying in their reserves. Can we talk about it?

With the proliferation of media outlets competing for readers and viewers, the attention goes almost exclusively to those who scream the loudest.

The daily headline hunters use their shrill voices to throw heavy, loaded words like "racist" at whoever dares to challenge their views. People who want to have a civilized debate but who aren't willing to participate in a verbal riot are forced to leave the stage to the professional screamers and join the frustrated "silent majority" of Canadians.

This exclusion of the silent majority means that many problems may never be solved, and one such issue is the embarrassing treatment of natives living on reserves.

There are 1.2 million aboriginals in Canada. Some 700,000 of them live on reserves in conditions similar to those of Third World countries despite massive federal government spending. Alcoholism is widespread and the suicide rate among young natives is three times higher than in the rest of the population.

Unfortunately, instead of debating how our governments and aboriginal leaders spend taxpayers' money, the discussion turns to the choice of words used by OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino in trying to keep one of the busiest Canadian highways open and remove an illegal blockade.

Can we do better? Of course we can, if we focus on two main issues: a settlement to replace the pre-Confederation treaties signed but never respected, and a better accountability system to see how the $12 billion from Ottawa is spent.

Somebody was wondering if the OPP had forgotten the lessons of Ipperwash. I don't think so. Last year in Deseronto we may have had harsh words, but nobody got hurt. I'm wondering if the lessons of Ipperwash were ever learned by politicians and native leaders.

Aboriginals are still frustrated with their leadership because their quality of life is deteriorating. And Canadian taxpayers are frustrated with their governments because they are exposed to criticism from the international community despite being very generous.

Instead of debating how we have created a black hole into which billions are funnelled with minimal accountability and why human rights and legal processes are suspended, we talk about a frustrated Mohawk, Shawn Brant, who is taking the law into his hands, and OPP Commissioner Fantino, who has the almost impossible mandate to enforce a rule of law that, regarding native issues, has taken a leave of absence.

Focusing only on Ipperwash, Caledonia and the highway blockage at Deseronto is misleading if we don't recognize that they aren't the problem, merely the symptoms.

The problems were there long before Fantino and are going to be there after he leaves. In fact, they're going to be worse because the natives are increasingly disappointed by the work done by the governments and by their leaders.

In the meantime, while the lawyers are trying to find out if Fantino's language was appropriate, does anybody out there have any idea how to handle the historical native claim? Can anybody tell us how our leaders spend $12 billion a year while natives live in poverty? Where is the money? Or are these racist questions?

Angelo Persichilli is the political editor of Corriere Canadese. His column appears Sunday.

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.