NORTH BAY – Guest Editorial – That great editorial writer in the sky — the Sun Media guru whose opinions are regurgitated verbatim every day in several dozen newspapers across Canada has decreed that the answer to dealing with First Nations social conditions is to round up citizens of communities like Attawapiskat and ship them somewhere else. Where, he doesn’t specify. Perhaps he would suggest Mars, if that would be far enough out of his sight, and out of his mind?
Oh, and burn their communities to the ground following the forced evacuations, he suggests, the Yuletide season apparently having left him in an ethnic-cleansing humour.
The evidence on which such drastic perscriptions are based are figures thoughtfully provided by our friends at the federal ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, who changed their name in complete disregard for the opinions of First Nations people, the same way they fulfill all their appointed chores. According to “the books”, as Sun Guru so reverently refers to them, federal funding support for the James Bay community of Attawapiskat are routinely squandered into exhorbitant salaries paid to elected members of the First Nation’s band council.
That would include Chief Theresa Spence, who is currently entering the third week of a hunger strike in a tent pitched on Victoria Island, a short limousine ride from Stephen Harper’s palatial residence in Ottawa. (Canadian taxpayers picked up the tab for the Prime Minister’s Christmas turkey, but not Chief Spence’s wigwam or water.) Chief Spence merely wants the PM to tell her face-to-face why his government has thumbed its nose at promises implicit in treaties made by Canada with First Nations, pledges which, if kept, would ensure a sharing of the nation’s natural resource wealth with the people from whose lands it has been unilaterally plundered.
It is problematic, to say the least, that Sun Guru would base such harsh opinions solely on numbers provided by Harper’s Indian Agents. This is the mathematically-challenged gang that last Christmas tried to smokescreen the desperate housing scenario in Attawapiskat by leaking figures that purported to show that dozens of the 600 First Nations Chiefs in Canada had bigger paycheques than the premiers or prime minister. Subsequently, more authentic arithmetic showed that the average chief earns $36,000, about $10,000 less than the average Canadian worker, but the intended damage had been done, thanks to distribution of the erroneous information by willing accomplices like Sun Guru.
The gang that couldn’t count straight is currently preparing to appear before a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to explain why they provide First Nations child welfare agencies 22 per cent less than provincial governments suply to Children’s Aid Societies. The answer to this question might help Canadians understand why Ottawa provides at least $3500 less a year for each First Nation student who attends a reserve school than the per-student norm paid by provinces.
These are complex issues that require comprehensive solutions in keeping with Canada’s reputation as a human rights pillar, not shoot-from-the-lip notions concocted by armchair media critics whose reasoning hints that they may have enjoyed too much Christmas egg nog.
Canadians deserve better.
Maurice Switzer is the Director of Communications at Union of Ontario Indians.