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Once again, trying to fix how reserves are run

Tory Indian Affairs Minister tries to revive predecessor’s plan


 

Back in 2001, Robert Nault was Jean Chretien’s pugnacious Indian Affairs minister. He tried to reform the lamentable way reserves are run by proposing legislation to force fair elections and financial accountability. Unconscionably, First Nations leaders fought the move, and Nault’s reforms died. Now, Chuck Strahl, the Tory Indian Affairs minister, is trying to partly revive Nault’s plan, this time through the back door of administrative changes. This editorial, from one of the cities most acutely aware of the plight of Aboriginal communities, applauds the effort.

Winnipeg Free Press


 
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Once again, trying to fix how reserves are run

  1. The system that was imposed by colonialist Canada didn’t work so now the solution is to impose another one? Do Canadians not get that anything other than self-government will be regarded as illegitimate by First Nations people, regardless of how well meaning?

    • Explain what you mean by self-government, because if you mean what most people do, it is far from it. So long as natives get large cheques from the federal government (while still being able to collect welfare, and other non-monetary benefits), and benefit directly from government-backed industries (guess who would be left holding the bag if a native-run casino ever went broke) without paying any of the taxes that cover that expense, I don’t think you can have “self-government”. If you divide spending by the ministry of Indian affairs by the number of on-reserve natives it runs something like $50-60,000 for every man woman in child. If all of that largesse is a colonial imposition, then frankly I wouldn’t mind being conquered a little.

      Accountable elections are not a bad thing – often chief elections involve corruption, and many natives on the losing side of those encounters get the shaft. Considering the amount of money poured in, and the lousy results, corruption is surely part of the problem – but it is only a small part. Collective ownership of land puts a stranglehold on business, such that the only enterprises that are viable are casinos and in some cases oil. The whole idea of reservations is horribly outdated – we are subsidizing people to live on land that is a reservation partly because it was remote and hard to farm in the first place. Yes, reforms are an “imposition”, but I hate to break it to you – Hochelaga didn’t exactly rely on subsidy payments. Indeed, this notion that alternate forms of governance are “an imposition that violates tradition” are rather rich considering that natives have historically been quite adaptive. Though horses and guns are not native to North America, many native tribes produced expert horsemen and marksmen.

      I think the government needs a long term plan for ending the reserve system. This isn’t a matter of expunging culture – indeed Canada is quite good at preserving the diverse cultures of its citizens. This is a matter of ending third world conditions in our midst. It doesn’t matter how many Kelowna accords we have – payments to on-reserve aboriginals encourage unemployment and discourage self-reliance (itself a native value). We need private property on reserves, so that business can operate, and so that those choosing to leave the reserve have some physical assets they can sell. We should provide some proportion of the on-reserve payments for natives moving to cities, at least for some transitional period. One of the problems with natives leaving reserves for cities today is that they lose everything by doing so.

      I recognize that there are rights and privileges legally guaranteed to natives. Rather than maintain in perpetuity a terrible system, I would prefer to buy out those rights with one-time lump sum reparations payments. I think Strahl is on the right track, but a lot more needs to be done.

      • There is no better proof that the welfare state is a squalid dead-end than to study Canadian aboriginal policies. What politicians have done to natives is what they will ultimately do to everyone in the country, if they are given the opportunity. Because what the welfare state requires in order to be successful (for the people running it) is a large population of ignorant, debauched and helpless victims.

        “Collective ownership of land puts a stranglehold on business, such that the only enterprises that are viable are casinos and in some cases oil.”

        Indeed. This describes the problems of Canada as a whole and not just native reservations. Individuals and companies may have nominal ownership of their property and their capital and profits, but the overall effect of taxation, regulation and subsidies is to transform their property into a de-facto commune. If you scan down the legislative agendas of your federal, provincial and municipal governments you will see that there is a strong and constant tendency to impose themselves more and more onto property rights and contractual obligations. It’s a flat-out case of politicians’ and bureaucrats’ pecuniary interests being the exact opposite of what is in the interest of the public. The corrupt and self-interested native chief has the same relationship to his reservation as your federal, provincial and municipal leaders have to you.

        “I would prefer to buy out those rights with one-time lump sum reparations payments.”

        I disagree. The amount of the lump sum couldn’t possibly be determined in any kind of rational way, since many natives have no valid ancestral claims whatsoever, it is impossible to calculate the cash value of most of the land being disputed, and there is no just way to assess what liability each non-native would have. To throw money around like this would be to perpetuate the wrong-headed socialist thinking that government has a legitimate and useful role as the property agent of every person under their jurisdiction.

        Natives are as smart and hardworking as anyone else. Just get off their backs and leave them alone. And demand the same for yourself.

        • I agree with most of what you have written, h2h and brakes.

          I don’t think reparations are feasible and justified. By I like the suggestion “We should provide some proportion of the on-reserve payments for natives moving to cities”. I also agree that the lack of private property on reserves is one of the biggest problems. When natives move off the reserve they leave with nothing.

  2. Past paternalistic policies have indeed failed. Now consevatives wish to fix it by telling natives what to think some more – what will we call it this time i wonder. My solution, try asking them, not just telling them!

    • I don’t see how handing over billions of dollars annually with little oversight or accountability is a paternalistic policy.

      • “I don’t see how handing over billions of dollars annually with little oversight or accountability is a paternalistic policy”.

        This statement if it goes hand in hand with past practise of expecting or asking little of its recipients is the very definition of paternalistic – unless that is you mean that now more is expected of First Nations, which it is.

        Yr assumption that is little or no O or A is dead wrong. Financial corruption is turned up in govt or band council audits all the time. If yr futher arguing that our past policies have not been paternalistic then you have no idea what yr on about!

  3. Fixing reserves. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Communal property propped up by generous inflows of taxpayer subsidies – how can anyone seriously talk about “fixing” such a system?

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