Tuesday, November 30, 2010

John Reilly: Shut down the native industry and spend the money on natives

Former judge, John Reilly wrote a book: Writing Bad Medicine: A Judge’s Struggle for Justice in a First Nations Community and he say’s if he had the power he would “Shut down the native industry and spend the money on natives”

It’s posted over at the National Post. The NP is not a paper I frequent and I have no idea how I originally found this story/comment but I did. I was drawn to the comment because I agreed with the broader statement John Reilly writes (people make big money off the misery of the First People) and in fact just finished ranting over at Non-Status Indian my views on the “Indian Industry” .

But.................I hate it when I learn that I disagree with everything else but that statement. And that sucks cause the statement itself is easy to hate along with and will easily draw attention but say something new or intelligent afterward or why say anything at all...unless its to make some quick cash.

It’s easy to develop policies when all you have to do is draw a straight line between A and B. My friend Balbulican is always reminding people of this over at StageLeft. It’s a little more complex if you want to design policies that work. Similarly, it’s easy to sell book and make a big profit if you write a book about misery, blame government, choose easy to spot villains, and then throw out new titles and new offices like new recipes created on some Chef TV show. It’s a formula designed to make profits otherwise publishers wouldn’t touch it. The reality is solutions are complex, take time, effort, work, patience, trust, and more hard work, and more effort than most people want to give.

The reality is that the former Judge John Reilly is still just sucking at the teat of misery and only too happy to make a profit while he pontificates from an “I know best” attitude.

His simplistic statement to “dissolve INAC and repeal the Indian Act” says it all for me. It was here I began to loose interest. I mean seriously don’t we all love to hate a government office? But when answering what he would do if he had the power he said would :

“...terminate funding to the Assembly of First Nations. In my view, the AFN is a chiefs club that looks after chiefs, many of whom just look after themselves and do very little for the poor and the children of their reserves.
Then I would enact a Canadian First Peoples Enhancement Act, to preserve and maintain the cultures of the descendants of Canada’s original inhabitants, to ensure their health and well-being and foster the independence and sustainability of their communities. I would create a Department of First Peoples Services. Non-natives and former employees of INAC should be ineligible for employment in this department. INAC was created for the assimilation of Canada’s First Peoples and the eventual elimination of their communities. That purpose lives on in the corporate memory of the department and must be changed.
I would spend the $7-billion on doctors and healthcare workers, addictions counsellors and healing lodges, teachers and improved schools, so that our First Peoples could become a healthy and happy part of Canadian society....”

It’s just such an easy target but really – what is or has John Reilly doing – on the ground to improve or make comfortable the lives of people around him. Sounds to me like he like many people worked hard, payed their bills, maybe raised children.....read newspapers, formed opinions voted in elections and now in his stately years can tell us what he has learned and how it should be done.

It’s ok for him but wrong for “non-Aboriginal employees former and present at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada” to make a living off misery (he was a lawyer first, then a judge in the system, and now writes a book) – WTF? I’m all for taking to task wasted time and effort but it’s simplistic and so talk radio to blame the bureaucrats (this time "non-Aborignal" bureaucrats like it's racial or something) and the Chiefs.

And his solution is to enact a “Canadian First Peoples Enhancement Act and a Department of First Peoples Services... so he can spend the $7-billion on doctors and healthcare workers, addictions counsellors and healing lodges, teachers and improved schools, so that our First Peoples could become a healthy and happy part of Canadian society....”

I’m the first to admit I believe in faeries and I love long tales but is anybody else shaking their heads in wonder?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

An oldie but a goodie

I tripped across this a while ago- a radio interview with Tony Prudori- INAC flack in Thunder Bay in a CBC radio interview about the Attawapiskat school issue. It's an older issue now, but I just played it for Wideye and she laughed and said YOU MUST POST THIS. So here is a link to the best CBC interview that I have personally heard to date on the subject. An oldie but a goodie. Kudos to the reporter only identified as "Marcos" in this interview. Click here to hear it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY4ZNuXd5S0


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another McIvor update

Sorry folks I've known about this for a while - but it seems I never posted the info. (Only thought I did. Signs of aging.)

A while ago the government asked the courts for another extension. The new date they have to meet to pass the amendments on Indian Status contained in Bill C-3: January 31, 2011. Not much news on whether the government has made the changes NWAC and Sharon McIvor want to see. When I hear I'll keep you posted. In other news some of my family and friends are already sending in their applications to try and get a head of the rush. Not a bad idea.


A funny from Indian Country.

A friend of mine who works at a First Nations organization gets an email asking for an application for a status card. She is typing a reply explaining why she cannot help out, when she notes the email address is from ainc-inac.gc.ca.


Monday, November 1, 2010

First Nations accountability story - now this is more like it.

In response to A toronto Star article criticizing chief's salaries - as if that were the only accountability issue in Indian Country I wrote: "Yet no one shames the Minister of Indian Affairs or his army of bureaucrats – lawyers, policy analysts, spin doctors – many of whom earn more than the average chief -- and who are also on the tax payers dime." Well, I pleased to note this excellent follow up by the Toronto Star which exposes exactly what's afoot in Indian Country and takes a much more even-handed look at the many places accountability is needed. Much better than the last one, Mr. Popplewell. Hat's off to you.

An Indian Industry has emerged amid the wreckage of many Canadian reserves

Ads by Google
Student Loan Debt

Assistance w/ your Student Loan.
Get Help & Advices. No More Fear

The economic crisis on many of Canada’s Indian reserves has become a meal ticket for the “Indian industry” — an army of consultants, lawyers and accountants who are sucking hundreds of millions of dollars out of First Nations and from federal government coffers.

One-quarter of the country’s 616 First Nations are in trouble, many of them crippled by “unmanageably high” debt. Ottawa has resorted to dispatching the Indian industry to partly or completely take over 83 of the 157 most indebted First Nations.

In some cases, the financial problems stem from mismanagement by the chiefs and councils charged with dispensing federal funds on their reserves. In others, it’s the result of chronic underfunding from Ottawa. Often it’s both factors combined with a lack of oversight from the more than 5,130 employees of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Officially, the Canadian government doesn’t collect information on how much debt First Nations are actually in. Nor can it say how much money is being spent to try to fix the problem.

But a Star investigation has found the situation on many reserves is becoming increasingly dire.

This, even though the federal government gives about $7 billion a year to First Nations and has added 2,000 bureaucrats to Indian Affairs over the past 15 years.

Mismanagement and poverty have long been problems on many reserves. As has the reality that the daily efforts of the country’s fifth largest bureaucracy — Indian and Northern Affairs — have failed to better the lives of the 430,000 status Indians on those reserves, many of whom live in Canada’s most deprived communities.

And now, Indian Affairs statistics show the gap in quality of life between those living on reserves and the rest of Canada is getting worse.

This despite decades of criticism and recommendations from entities including the Auditor General of Canada, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the United Nations Human Rights Council, conditions on Canada’s reserves remain a blight on the country.

“It’s a national disgrace,” says Bob Watts, a Harvard-educated Mohawk from Caledonia, Ont., one-time bureaucrat with Indian Affairs and former CEO of the Assembly of First Nations, the mouthpiece for Canada’s Indian chiefs.

“We’re a country that holds ourselves out to the rest of the world as a great place to live. But in this country there are people that are living in the Third World. At what point are we going to actually look at these issues and demand real change?”


By looking at government funding records and building a database of every contract and grant (valued at more than $10,000) that was awarded to the Indian Act bands, the Star has discovered massive disparities in funding among bands.

Example: the Toquaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island has received $18 million over the past three years to support an on-reserve community of just 16 status Indians. That works out to $1.1 million per band member living on reserve. Meanwhile, the Pessamit First Nation in Quebec has received $23 million for 2,877 status Indians living on its reserve on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. That works out to roughly $8,000 per band member.

But the disparity among First Nations tells only part of the story. Relying on census data, Indian Affairs researchers have developed a “Community Well-Being Index” — a spreadsheet that gives every community, native and non-native alike, scores on education, employment, housing and income.

Among the bottom 100 communities on that list, 96 are First Nations.

Yet senior executives within Indian Affairs are loath to acknowledge what their own statisticians have discovered: that the gap between well-being on reserves and in the rest of Canada has been growing since 1996. Gina Wilson, a senior assistant deputy minister at Indian Affairs who is responsible for 1,800 bureaucrats working in the department’s regional offices, says: “There’s a lot of progress being made. I wouldn’t say that’s the case in every community, but to overall say the situation is getting worse, that’s probably a personal opinion.”


The financial plight of Canada’s First Nations has given rise to a brigade of consultants, lawyers and accountants who, the Star has found, collectively secure more than 1,500 contracts from Indian Affairs, valued at roughly $125 million a year.

As the disparity between the First Nations and the rest of Canada grows, so does this Indian industry built to combat it.

Take, for example, the federal department of Indian Affairs which, despite having had its funding to First Nations capped at a two per cent increase per year since 1996, has seen its full-time staff balloon from 3,300 employees in 1995 to 5,137 today.

Outside of Ottawa, the Indian industry can best be spotted on the ground in 83 of the country’s most debt-laden First Nations, where consulting companies from across the country are being individually paid as much as $1 million a year — according to Marc Langlois, an Indian Affairs regional manager in Quebec — to either partially or completely take over the daily duties of the chiefs and councils.

Such firms include Lemieux Nolet of Quebec City, which — according to two former chiefs — gets about $600,000 a year to administer all government services for the 450 Algonquins living in Third World conditions on Barriere Lake reserve, 270 kilometres north of Ottawa.

Putting a band like Barriere Lake under third-party management is a controversial tactic which challenges the idea of self-governance on reserves, and which has placed more than 77,000 status Indians either completely or partially in the control of private consultants and accounting firms from across the country.

Cross-referencing data from the community well-being index with a list of bands currently struggling with debt issues, the Star found no evidence that the quality of life in communities governing themselves was worse than in those being controlled by consultants.

The process of putting a First Nation under third-party management has attracted the attention of Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada. Fraser criticized the department’s intervention strategies in 2004, slamming Indian Affairs for not paying attention to the warning signs before several First Nations had spiralled deeper into “unmanageably high” debts.

Exactly how those communities managed to build up such debts while each filing an average of 160 reports to the government each year is hard to understand.

And for all the reports pouring into Indian Affairs’ 28-storey headquarters in Gatineau, Que., the department seems unable to answer some of the simplest questions about the Indian file.

Like how much debt are First Nations actually in?

The official answer: “The department does not collect the total accumulated deficit (debt) of all First Nations in Canada.”

It’s an interesting answer, considering that internal documents released to the Star accidentally by Indian Affairs’ staff in Winnipeg show the department does in fact collect the total “accumulated deficit” for individual First Nations in Canada.

It’s from those internal documents that the Star is able to report that some First Nations are operating at more than $20 million in debt.


To investigate the despair and disparity on Canada’s Indian reserves, a Star reporter ventured to eight reserves in three provinces to talk to six culturally distinct tribal groups.

Some represented the poorest of the poor. Like the 450 Algonquins of Quebec’s Barriere Lake. Or the Ojibwa, Cree and Sioux of Manitoba, who live in some of the most deprived and remote communities in North America.

Others are held out by Indian Affairs as success stories. Like the relatively well-to-doMohawks of Tyendinaga who, despite living 30 kilometres from Belleville, can’t drink their tap water. Or the Chippewas of Rama, near Orillia, who benefit from the gambling habits of nearby Toronto residents.

Together they represent a collection of peoples who live within the confines of a broken Indian Act system.

Understanding the causes of the mismanagement and lack of oversight at the core of Canada’s First Nations policies requires an understanding of the Indian Act, a piece of colonial legislation passed by Parliament in October 1876.

Its goal: to protect, civilize and ultimately assimilate the Indian population.

Some 134 years later, the world has changed. But the act, still more or less intact, remains a barrier to real improvement in Indians’ standard of living.

Politicians, bureaucrats and native leaders agree that the system is broken and that the Indian Act needs to be either scrapped or replaced.

And yet it remains.


“Because no politician ever got his or her bread buttered by taking on the Indian issue,” says Harry Swain.

As deputy minister of Indian Affairs during the 1990 Oka Crisis, Swain made it his goal to kill the Indian Act, something he calls “a Victorian horror insufficiently updated and now in urgent need of replacement.”

He failed.

Now he and other former bureaucrats from Indian Affairs say the only way to kill the act and fix the system is to rally the Canadian public to care enough to do so.

But nearly everyone from Watts to Swain to the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations to the elders of some of the most troubled communities in the country say the greatest barrier to real change is that the average Canadian doesn’t care about the situation on reserves.

People see a headline on the front of a newspaper about the multi-billion-dollar mess that is this country’s Indian affairs and they turn the page, move on.

But visit a reserve and the residents will tell you exactly why you should care.

It’s your tax dollars, and it’s everyone’s mess.

Data analysis by the Star’s Andrew Bailey


Personal Business Directory - BTS Local