Monday, July 27, 2009

Canada's aboriginals have a chance to switch direction

Holy cow! I came across this article by this clown Joseph Quesnel and just had to share it. In just one article he calls us “aboriginals, Indians, First Nations, and indigenous peoples” Is it any freakin wonder so many of us have identity issues? I’d ask for accuracy and consistency but it’s about “Indians and Aboriginals” so who cares...right? Well Mr. Quesnel, you might aspire to be relevant and fool the uneducated but until you earn the respect of the larger community you’ll only ever be a hack.

Ok let’s talk about the labels. I know the dominant society likes things in nice little easy to swallow pills and pretty little packages but sometimes you can't force round pegs into square holes. And you do yourself no favours if you call yourself policy analyst and a freelance writer and not do your research. No wonder Mr. Quesnel is a freelance writer submitting opinion pieces. Hint to Mr. Quesnel – originality, factuality, and relevancy count in journalism but apperantly you can get away with just about anything in an opinion piece....almost like a blogger.

These are my definitions, perfectionists can look use their own source.

Indigenous people: any group of people from a geographic region with very historical and cultural ties to that land.

Aboriginal people: The legal term used in Canada to describe First Nation, Métis, and Inuit.

Indian: The legal term Canada calls us. (I.e. the department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)

First Nations: A “politer” label given to Nations that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans and/or others better known as Ojibway, Algonquin, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Cree, etc...

Inuit: Peoples who inhabit the northern regions of this land and did so prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Métis: I personally and technically believe these people are the first peoples of Canada as they are the reflection of what harmony and cooperation could be. But there is the Powley decision to go by too.

All First Nation’s, Inuit, and Métis can fit under the umbrella term of Aboriginal people but only when you make reference to all three groups. An Inuk is not an aboriginal. Persons who are citizens of a First Nation are not Aboriginals. Métis people are not aboriginals either. An aboriginal is not a people it has no language, no culture, no body, no nothing – it’s a political and legal terminology used to describe the three legally recognized groups in Canada period.

So right away I look at Mr. Quesnel title and I know – he hasn’t got a clue but it looks like he is after his 15 minutes of fame. No doubt he woke up and said “Hey I know how to get published...I’ll pick on the Chiefs and say they are unaccountable and then say stuff like the AFN is the problem and needs to listen to words of wisdom and conform!” Everyone likes an article like that. I won’t even have to research it. The easiest fifty-bucks I’ll make all week. OK – so you are a free-lancer and you’re hungry but honestly?

Mr Quesnel lists five helpful hints for us Indians, Aboriginals, Indigenous peoples and First Nations (but remember in reality this has nothing to do with Métis or Inuit cause...well they don’t have Chiefs or live on reserves and never have. So where the mystical “aboriginals” come from I don’t know and I know it has absolutely NOTHING to do with indigenous people outside the geography of Canada but I digress....)These hints aim to fix our live and make everything rosy (so simple – only five! Frig...if only we’d known this before!) but before I do I want to comment on his opening paragraph where he accused the AFN of killing or watering down legislation as if it was a bad thing.

The Governance Act was a sham and even the Native Women’s Association of Canada asked that the Bill be revisited and changes made. In both cases government said they consulted but ignored the voices of the majority and chose only to present what they thought appropriate. Not what the people (the women and their children) who the Bill would most impact requested but what was easiest and quickest for policy makers to write up. Those same policy writers also provided advise that when it the Bill will be protested (and yes they knew NOBODY liked it) a red herrings accusing the Chiefs of denying rights to women could be thrown out for public consumption. How friggen cheap and easy is that?

Same thing happened with the consultations on the Governance Initiative of Minister Nault. Nobody opposes good governance but good governance is not designed but twenty- something’s with university degrees in Arts that have been spoon fed by their parents all their lives. And believe it or not – that’s whose writing most of our policy. Geezuzz Murphy....

Ok so let’s review look at his helpful hints shall we?

1) Deal honestly with accountability issues. It is insane to ignore the voices of the people at the bottom who witness a lack of accountability and transparency in "Indian country."

One candidate for national chief, on his campaign website, said that, "First Nations leadership has been challenged by unfounded assertions of lack of accountability and integrity."

Unfounded? A simple look at complaints filed every year with Indian Affairs is evidence of how this campaign statement ignores the problem. With colleagues, I conduct an annual Aboriginal Governance Index, an on-the-ground survey of indigenous people in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta on governance issues. We found close to half of respondents reported that favours and payments were exchanged for votes.
Also, about 74 per cent of respondents said members of the chief's family disproportionately receive jobs in the community. About 30 per cent were aware of people removed from the community for political reasons through a band council resolution. Another finding from our survey was that 62 per cent of respondents said they "do not really" or "never" receive access to the band's business plan or financial statements.

In November of 2004 the AFN released a report “Federal Government Funding to First Nations: The Facts, The Myths and the Way Forward “. The report draws on research and analysis and the work of Canada’s Auditor-General, Harvard University and other expert sources...real experts!

Here are some interesting REAL facts that I copied from the report to counter JQ’s simple but digestible meal ticket.

• The average Canadian gets services from the federal, provincial and municipal governments at an amount that is almost two-and-a-half times greater than that received by First Nations citizens.
• Out of 557 financial management audits filed by First Nations in 2002-2003, the Department of Indian Affairs found only 16 (3%) that required remedial action.
• In 2001, the federal government estimated that its “contingent liabilities” – the debt it owes to First Nations through lawful obligations stemming from land claims, Treaties and litigation – was almost $11 Billion dollars. This debt would wipe out the current federal budget surplus of $9.1 Billion. After 2001, the government stopped reporting on its contingent liabilities.
• In 1996, the federal government capped funding increases for Indian Affairs’ core programs at 2% a year, which does not keep pace with inflation or the growing First Nations population. A recent Indian Affairs study found that the gap in “quality of life” between First Nations and Canadians stopped narrowing…in 1996.

National Chief Fontaine stated: “If the government and Canadian citizens are serious about working with us to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians then we need to identify the real problems to ensure we’re arriving at the right solutions. Our report clears away the fog of myth and misunderstanding and illuminates a path forward that will benefit First Nations, the Government of Canada and all Canadians. I hope all Canadians who are interested in the political, social and economic life of this country will read this report.”

2) Highlight progressive models for First Nations. There are plenty of good stories happening in Indian country and plenty of First Nation bands do the right thing. These stories need to be told. The AFN has the resources to get the word out.
The 2003 Harvard Project on Native American Economic Development highlighted the components of what defined good indigenous government, such as policies separating politics from business decisions. First Nations like Siksika Nation near Calgary already do that. Also, tough-love proponents like B.C. chief Clarence Louie and indigenous author Calvin Helin should be promoted by the AFN as models for avoiding the government dependency trap.

Actually I kinda have a girl crush on Chief Clarence Louie and have had one for a long time. But let’s remember Chief Louie has one set of conditions to work within his province of BC and all the power to him for his successes. And let’s be real – just because something works in the Okanagan Valley of BC doesn’t mean in will work in Fort Severn, Ontario. Not all communities have the same resources or capacities ....Besides I honestly thought we had moved past the rhetoric of cookie cutter solutions. (Another example of bad policy – one size fits all – cheap and quick but usually doesn’t work well or last long.) I like the way Chief Louie thinks but that’s only one way – there are lots of good ways and many successes in our communities to prove it.

Calvin is just upset he’s not the millionaire he thinks he should be. He wrote a book and called it “Dancing with Dependency” (has a nice...”aboriginal” sound to the title eh?) and made sure Joe Canadian would see it was about dependency – the public will love it – regurgitate old info and strategies like they were knew and maybe he’ll even get a few speaking engagements. Good for Calvin and his self-published book, he’s a true entrepreneur with enough failures behind him to prove it. If he keeps it up he’ll have his huge debts paid off in no time flat – and he used the “Indian Dependency” problem to do it. Thank god for the market eh Calvin? But that’s business.

3) Recognize the central role of private property in promoting indigenous prosperity. The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago and command economies have been discredited. First Nations need realistic solutions, not pie-in-the-sky idealism about communal living. The AFN is uniquely positioned to promote private property rights within First Nations, which would allow First Nations members to secure loans and build businesses, moving toward self-reliance.
The Nisga'a of British Columbia are trailblazers in their current proposal to provide transferable residential property for citizens. Indigenous people must work with the private sector. Preventing development on traditional territories traps communities in poverty.

What the f.....? JQ states that the AFN is in a unique position to promote private property rights? Sounds like JQ would like to co-opt the AFN for his own personal use. The AFN is not a government – it advocates and responds to the interests of the Nations through the Chiefs. I know a lot of developers and would be cottage owners would love to get their hands on more “Indian land” but it ain’t gunna happen so put your wallet back in your pocket and quit your salivating. Let’s honour the Treaties first and live up to the original agreements.....then we’ll talk about self-reliance.

4) Lead by example and reform the AFN. Indians need to have confidence in the Assembly of First Nations, given it claims to represent them. In 2005, the AFN's Renewal Commission released a report calling for drastic reforms, including one-member, one-vote elections for national chief.

Oh crap...reform the AFN. That’s new!!! WOW. You’re so smart JQ! Over time every good incorporated institution should take out and revisit their Constitution and should update their by-laws to reflect growth or upgrades if you will. But why one member one vote? People don’t even get to vote for the Prime Minister. And how and why should the AFN be accountable to ALL the citizens of each and every First Nation. It’s the Federal Government who funds the bands.....not the AFN.
What would that change to the authorities of the AFN would they become...a government – with legislative authority that will govern over ALL the Nations? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (can you see the Mohawks agreeing to that one?)
And just HOW will this fantasy be paid – who will pay for it? If you balk at funding the AFN to do its existing advocacy work and you agree that poverty is rampant in our communities – then I would be very interested in how much you think this will cost and how you would raise the funds to pay for this ideology ? Sure it’s an option but not a very well thought out one.

JQ: 5) Stop playing politics and instead oppose oppression. Time and again, the Assembly of First Nations stalled major initiatives that would have improved the lives of indigenous peoples: Axing the First Nation Governance Act in 2003 allowed electoral fraud and corruption in band elections to continue; the AFN's call for a three-year period before human-rights legislation can be mandated for reserve governments (and to insist on a collective rights clause) exposed indigenous people to further oppression; recent calls to pull legislation that grants equal matrimonial property for First Nation women could leave women more vulnerable.
In short, the AFN and its new leader must stop using self-government rhetoric every time the government proposes ways to improve life on reserves.

Ok beyond being just to stupid “Stop playing politics and instead oppose oppression” The AFN is a political organization nobody argues do you oppose oppression without political pressure. OH frig right assimilate. I forgot.

Joseph Quesnel is a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and co-author of Rewarding Good Governance on Reserves.

See.....bad policy writers EVERYWHERE! I bet he is a young dude with a university background. I’ll bet he met Chief Louie and Calvin was swayed by their gold watches and fast talk and decided right there and then – he was gunna be just like them, promote them, and then maybe they’ll say hi at the next “Indian conference” where they can sell their wares in the name of progress.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So if these policies and recommendations are not to your standards what would you propose? What needs to be done in order to help aboriginals, first nations, indians, inuit and anyone else who's not caucasian? Where should we (everyone who lives in Canada) start?

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