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A real nation would not let this happen

We care more about postal service, child care and tax credits for the suburban middle class than we do Aboriginal issues. What kind of a nation are we?


 
(Joe Bryska/Winnipeg Free Press)

(Joe Bryksa/Winnipeg Free Press)

As this goes to print, the election campaign has run for 60 days. That’s eight weeks, four debates, dozens of rallies, hundreds of speeches, and countless promises.

Politicians have run from coast to coast and back again, handing out prizes to you and you and you. Stephen Harper has promised dairy farmers he will maintain the supply management system, for the Northwest Territories it was a paved highway, and for sports fishermen in British Columbia it was money to protect salmon. In Newfoundland, Tom Mulcair vowed he would reopen a Coast Guard centre, in Kamloops, B.C., it was money for community sports, in Niagara Falls, Ont., it was support for the tourism industry. In Waterloo, Ont., Justin Trudeau pledged $500 million for skills training, in Quebec it was to cut the proposed toll on a bridge, and for teachers a $150 tax credit.

The full lists of promises made, money pledged, attention paid, runs for many pages. Almost every special interest group, economic sector and demographic has been showered with lavish praise and money. The middle class, in particular, has done very well since the election began.

Meanwhile, for other Canadians, the last 60 days have been not quite as fortunate. If it’s a typical eight weeks in Canada, then 1,425 Aboriginal kids dropped out of school, a rate three times the national average. Since the campaign began, 45 Aboriginal children died in infancy; they would have lived longer if they’d been born in Sri Lanka. As Canadian politicians bickered on the evening news, 1,074 Aboriginal children and 6,265 Aboriginal women were sexually assaulted. Since the writ dropped, 33,534 Aboriginals were violently victimized. Another 182 committed suicide, roughly eight times the national rate. And, if the last two months were anything like the last decade, 11 were murdered, at a rate almost seven times higher than the national average.

But sure, let’s talk about the niqab instead.

Politicians are pushing each other out of the way as they scramble to give the hard-pressed suburban middle class the help they need. Meanwhile, other Canadians living on reserves and in the inner city are disappearing, assaulting and killing each other and themselves, at a rate typically only seen in countries that have been torn apart by war.

MAC40_22

But these things are not what we talk about in an election. When we measure our leaders, we weigh their views on postal delivery. We count their tax credits. When we choose who governs us, the ballot question is not what can they do for my country; it is what can they do for me, my wallet, my petty fears.

Political advisers call this micro-targeting, the direct appeal to specific, identifiable groups. As voter turnout rates continue to fall, this strategy has proven very effective at motivating supporters off the couch and into the voting booth. The stay-at-home mom in Halifax? She hates her rec room, so you give her a home renovation credit. The bigot in Hamilton? He dislikes Muslims, so you promise to limit refugees. The dock worker in Vancouver? She needs a raise, so you pledge fealty to her union.

Related: A deafening silence on Aboriginal issues

The party leaders build their campaigns on these isolated, focused announcements. Small promises for small men and women, them and us—because this strategy only works if we respond. And we do.

We respond because we are nothing more than a collection of special interest groups. We are dairy farmers or oil workers, urban or rural, francophone or anglophone, Manitobans or Nova Scotians. But we are not a people, not a nation, not really. If we were, we would not be able to ignore each other, ignore other Canadians, the way we ignore the Aboriginal community. We would not allow our politicians to reduce us to Pavlovian demographics, salivating at the sight of a specially crafted handout. We would be unleashing a full-throated cry of anger and dismay, that so many fellow Canadians are growing up alone and lost, that so many of us are living in abject poverty and then dying miserably.

We would shout down every stump speech about the “struggling” middle class and demand more for the least fortunate among us. We would scream in frustration as yet another young Aboriginal is found hanging, unnamed and unmourned.

But we don’t. We just stand there, heads down, hands out.

I don’t know who to be more ashamed of, our politicians or us.

 


 

A real nation would not let this happen

  1. Ask Conservative candidate Mark MacDonald. He’ll explain ‘Indians’ to you.

    • Unfortunately this isn’t high on Harpo-the-Clown’s radar any more than all the murdered Aboriginal women. What really pissed me off was when he out right claimed he NEVER stated that!!! Oh but hey lets give away BILLIONS in aide to other countries and totally IGNORE then needs of the people in YOUR country!!!! Fking P.O.S.

  2. Chilling list in the black bang box.

    Kudos to Mr. Gilmore for making a strong effort here. Sadly, there’s every reason to believe it will do little.

    It’s certainly not the case Canada is some uniquely uncompassionate country. Or that we’re completely ignorant of these terrible struggles. We are a racist nation. And we delude ourselves about that.

    The election is likely to turn on the single issue of our compulsion to demand what a specific “out group” of women are permitted to wear. In the last several years, this has been an issue for a whopping TWO women. Two women we feel are different or oppressed in being forced to wear covering. In response to that oppression, we as a nation have decided it best, not to fight the oppressors or to speak openly and honestly about that oppression, but instead to actually punish the oppressed women by denying them citizenship.

    As a nation we are numb to the stats listed above. Just imagine–seriously take a moment to play this out in your head–what our response would be if such horrors were occurring in a white community.

    We chastise Harper and Duceppe for pandering to fears and judgements and prejudices to gain political advantage, and we should because it’s cowardly, spineless leadership. But those are OUR fears and judgements and prejudices.

    We are a racist country. And worse than most in that we hypocritically and dishonestly pretend and proclaim ourselves otherwise.

    • “but instead to actually punish the oppressed women by denying them citizenship.” I don’t know about the second woman, but the one who brought this to the forefront…and to the court system has said herself that she chose to wear it. She also said her own family and husband do NOT want her to wear it! So, in her case, oppressed is probably wrong…

  3. Yes. Absolutely. Thanks for writing this, and reminding me of things that I care about but so often forget to prioritize. But also, don’t cheapen your argument with the old “insert country that sounds backwards and poor to compare Canada to here” tool, at least without being sure of your facts; Sri Lanka’s life expectancy is only slightly lower than Canada’s, and they have very good medical care.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah! Despite the overall message that appalled and shocked me, the unfair portrayal of Sri Lanka rankled me, too. I looked up UNICEF stats and while Canada sits at 5, Sri Lanka is only a little higher at 8, in comparison to other countries I found that hit high numbers such as 18 and 44.

  4. ….This is worth re posting by David King I gotta rant a bit…someone needs to explain very slowly and clearly to non-Aboriginal ppl that their taxes do not support First Nations. The truth is very few Canadians pay more into the system than they get out of it. They’re taxes are not enough to even sustain their own standard of living let alone someone else’s. Canada’s massive wealth is because of natural resources and no other reason. And as everyone knows, not one stone came over on the ships for Europe. There isn’t a village or town in Canada, not even a single detached household that is self-sustaining without natural resource wealth. It cost over $100,000 just to install a crosswalk light and that doesn’t even include mainenance. $100,000 just for 5 or 6 blocks of pavement. Public Transit/highways roads and mainenance costs millions and billions. We haven’t even discussed healthcare and education. Most all Canadians would have to live in high rise apartments for us to even have a chance at sustainability without natural resource wealth. The wealth comes from the Natural Resources and that obviously has not equally been spent in First Nations communities…yet it’s existence did not arrive on the ships with the Europeans…it was already here…the estimated resource wealth in reserved lands alone is billions and billions of dollars and that doesn’t included shared lands/treaty lands. Polticians need to act like adults and educate Canadians about this myth and tell their supporters that they’re taxes alone do not even sustain them. They are not supporting Aboriginal people and never have.

    • Thank you for the very well written article and thank you for your comments. As a First Nation person who is educated, employed and yes, I also pay taxes, it is very much appreciated when the truth is being told. I am still at a dilemma as to where I am going to place my X on October 19, I have been following the campaigning and feel that the politicians are afraid to say what they could offer to my people in fear that the general population will feel that they are sympathetic to the “Indian Problems”, that their forefathers created. With so many issues to deal with which stem directly or indirectly from the time of first contact with our visitor’s, the Residential School Era, the 60s Scoop and so forth, my people have been subjected to immense pain which has resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which in turn causes depression and other mental health issues which in turn leads to addictions, poverty, and again the list goes on and on, which in turns leads to a very unhealthy population of people, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The government if they want to do the “right thing” and act on the TRC recommendations can really help my people become healthy again, flourish, prosper, become proud people again. We welcomed our visitor to this bountiful and beautiful land and look how we were and are treated on our own home land.

      • ACFN411, I am also an educated, employed Anishinabe women. I totally agree with your comments. I have worked all my life to educate Canadians and work for our people. I truly believe there are millions of Canadians that are not heartless nor hate our people. They just don’t know the realities. Thank you Scott for writing this article. I’m sharing it all over the country.

        • Am interested in your thoughts on how we can ever TRULY move forward on these issues…. Money? Time? Training? but also, as I learnt in my native studies classes at UofM there is also the issue that as much as I would love to help or get involved I am also looked upon as never understanding and just trying to be a do gooder (white middle class female)…. The issue as troubled me for decades (although was out of the country for 11 years).

  5. Thank you for putting into words the mounting sense of shame I have for this country, and for holding a mirror up to the absence of compassion Canada as a whole has for its most marginalized citizens. If Canadians cared about the Aboriginal infant mortality rate, or the violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women, or the impossibly high cost of food in the north, or the failure of this country to provide Aboriginal kids with an equivalent education to the rest of us…the politicians would be talking about it. We are using our voices to speak for our own self-interests, rather than giving a voice to the people who desperately need to be heard. Thank you for this article.

  6. Incredible ignorance by our Canadian government! If the #’s were that alarming in any other province..there would be a swift call to action, justice at the least.

    I apologize to ALL Native Canadians for the wrongful treatment you have endured throughout your lives, and the constant struggle that you seem to be fighting with equality and justice. Peace be with you, and God Bless EVERY Canadian.

  7. So, 80 or 90% of those victimized in the above graphic were victimized by other natives. The author is right. If that was happening in mainstream Canada neighborhoods, we wouldn’t put up with it. But, if our local government was not doing anything about it, we would likely have a tendency to shoot, shovel, and shut up.
    Natives, and especially native leaders need to look in the mirror. What are they doing about the problem? I know that they are often the first ones to rush to the defense of the perpetrators when they run afoul of the law. I’d like to have $100 for every time some native man has committed some heinous crime against a member of his own community, only to have other members of that community lining up to advocate for a reduced sentence. Really? That simply makes it hard for me to care.
    Worse, when we read of the leaders of 200 member bands pocketing quarter-million dollar pay packets while the water treatment plant is perennially out of commission due to lack of infrastructure funds, it’s impossible not to make certain assumptions. When we see Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited’s and Escalade’s parked in front of the band office on a news story about band housing problems on a reserve that’s 200 miles from the nearest paved road, those assumptions are merely confirmed.
    The only people who can fix the problems in Indianville are the natives themselves, and part of that solution might just be a healthy dose of shoot, shovel, and shut up.

    • Addendum for added clarity- If I were wanting to bring back capital punishment in Canada, I’d sell it using Robert Pickton as my poster boy. Most of his victims were native women. It would be an easy sell. Yet how many native leaders have stepped up to take any kind of responsibility for the conditions these women fled?
      Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. A big swath of this country would have no problem gassing ol’ weird Bob. Most of those people would fall into the category of “not Liberal” and “not New Democrat”, yet those same people are the ones that the usual suspects (such as the author of this article) point to as the biggest roadblocks to any solutions to what ails our natives, Seems misguided to me.

      • Sonya Devos and Bill Greenwood. For clarity First Nation people’s are not Indians and you are in Canada not India. And Sonya you look like you might be First Nation yourself, but if not just remember you are visitors to this land. It is sad when people such as yourself are so very ignorant to the truth. Again the Author has done an awesome job reporting the truth.

  8. That’s why I’m voting GREEN again, they are the one Party that has never been part of the atrocities done to the First Peoples of this once great country.

    • As a thoughtful, but pragmatic person I find myself in a dilemma: I truly admire Elizabeth May. but this is trumped by my desire to OUST Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. I will vote accordingly.

  9. Very persuasive, but I think the issue is more complex. Ever since the 1960s, there hasn’t been a serious national discussion about the Indian Act or Indian Status, probably because it would be politically disadvantageous for any party do instigate one, and it would be portrayed as being uncaring towards aboriginal people. The Indian Act is one, (there are others, such as geography,) significant variable that affects the experience of aboriginals compared to non aboriginal people, but it’s mostly off the table in discussions about how to improve first nations quality of life. In general, the reasons for the plight of first nations and the best solutions may be ones that are politically incorrect at this time, and the status quo being that these have dominated and failed for decades, they fail to arouse much enthusiasm. I think Canadians do care about this issue, but there is a disparity of new, credible solutions. Perhaps you could write a follow up in which you present some.

  10. Dear Leaders (and Advisers) of All Political Parties;

    This is very short and easy to understand … and could win the election.

    During this election, make a solid promise that you will increase funds to indigenous schools equal to that of all other Canadian schools. Ensure that it is a solid promise that may not be avoided once in office. Additional benefits will also be welcome.

  11. Yep, politicians care more about immigrants than helping Canadian citizens, whether they be white or Aboriginal, which is amazing because us Canadians who have been here for generations, are all struggling. I feel sorry for Aboriginal people, but I have to wonder if the decisions of their ancestors really didn’t help them to become successful and well off people today. In this I don’t really refer to the treaties, but clearly things like the reserves are not working and they are not helping Aboriginal Canadians become productive members of society or successful people. Us white people see a group of people with a deep heritage and a lot of pride for who they are, but at the same time we see people who don’t want to associate themselves with us by living on the reserves and in some cases, loath the very ideologies that our ancestors set out when they came to Canada. Why are we Canadians as a whole, being treated like second class citizens while the government smiles with arms wide open for immigrants? Why are Aboriginal people being treated like animals? That much is on our government to fix, but it is certainly an issue that should be discussed. No more fighter jets, no more wasteful handouts for the rich and well off people, we need more health care, we need to help the Aboriginal people want to succeed in life because as Canadians, if there are people not happy living here, we aren’t the perfect, friendly nation we like to project ourselves as being. Canada has been a great country my whole life, and sadly Harper has turned us into a laughing stock on the world stage, meanwhile he gives major corporate handouts and breaks to the rich while we all suffer, and the Natives suffering even worse than the rest. It’s time to end it.

  12. First how reliable are those numbers quoted on the article? From who? Second, I heard that for the most part aboriginals don’t vote so for that reason politicians are not going to do much for them. If they don’t want to get involve then how are then how do they expect change. Third, I have also heard that the majority of the violence is committed within the aboriginal community. Where is the aboriginal leadership on this? Am I wrong on that point? And final point, Aboriginals born as of a certain point in time along with whatever family they have should be given the right to live anywhere in Canada with whatever benefit they were to get while living in their reservation for the next 100 years. After that the money would be reduce by 5% every year until the would get 0 dollars. During the first 50 years they would pay no tax whatsoever from the money that they received from the government. They would be tax only the income that they earn on top of that money received from government. During following 50 years they would pay only sales tax. At the end of 100 years they would pay taxes on everything. They become like any other community. There would only be allowed one residence to be tax exempt of their choosing at any one time for the first 100 years. At any time that they have found to have defraud the government all their tax exemption would be forfeited but not the money they receive. Crazy wish but why not give it to them. We have marginalized them for so long and ruin their life for so long that this is the least we can do for the next 5 to six generations of aboriginals. At least that is my wish.

  13. MacLean’s survives because it receives tax payer support from the federal government.

    The Indians get more tax dollars than many small countries have a bloody national budget.

    I am tired of Maclean’s and their lefty tax supported agenda.

    I am also tired of the sob story for the Indians – by now they could have had their act together if they were not so drowning in corruption.

    If they want to know why there is so much trouble – time for them to look in the mirror.

    No sense blaming today’s government – the libs were no different – so for all you blaming cry babies – go and look in the mirror – perhaps you also had a hand in this.

  14. The issues in native society aren’t going to be fixed by outsiders, or an even bigger pile of money.

  15. Are not many First Nation communities “self governing”? The statistics are tragic, but is throwing more money at the problem the fix? There seems to be a disconnect between the demanded independence of each First Nations band and the seemingly contradictory demand for the intervention of the national government. The problem is self evidence, as are the consequences…. The solution not so much.

  16. I suggest that every non aboriginal person who feels ashamed about the plight of aboriginals in Canada attempt in some way to join with the aboriginal community to help them overcome the obstacles we believe they face. You must first understand that, as a non aboriginal, you have in the aboriginal communities belief, absolutely no right to meddle in their affairs.
    I’m sure there are many non aboriginal people in Canada who are quite ready and willing to jump up and help. Go for it!!
    I did and found out the hard way that they do not want your help, they just want you to listen to their sad horrible story. It is a sad horrible story, and they want you to feel guilty.
    I do feel very sorry for aboriginals caught up in their nightmare. Thankfully I also know aboriginals who have got out of the nightmare and now live happy successful lives in Canada. But I’m not ashamed.

  17. No. you’re wrong. We’re all more worried about a woman wears on her head than any REAL issues. Stay focused Canada. STOP HARPER

  18. I believe the proper term is actually First Nations, not Aboriginals. I could be wrong.

  19. Maybe if they would all convert to be Evangelical Christians they’d get some attention. Oh, no wait, that wouldn’t matter. They only want white, blue-eyed people. What was I thinking.

    In Canada we have the right to religious freedom and to worship who we please, even if we believe that the moon is made of blue cheese or that there is no God and we’re just an alien experiment. HOWEVER, when you mix that religion with politics and start making policies based on your religious beliefs, then it becomes MY business.

    The Christian Alliance Church, Evangelical Christians, believe that the earth is only 6,500 years old and all scientists are liars.

    They believe that without Israel there can be no Armageddon and therefore no Rapture. Therefore Israel must be protected at any cost.

    They do no support abortion or homosexuality and believes that those who aren’t born-again are “lost.”

    WHO is the most PROMINENT member of the Christian Alliance Church in Calgary, Alberta? Canada’s Prime Minster, Stephen Harper.

    Does this help you to understand where a lot of the policies that have been made in Canada stem from?

  20. I agee with this article and its highlight about the elections biased focus. I’ve sent 2 sets of comments n emails now to both liberal n conservative party leaders, highlighting issues us single moms face after we’ve fled our abusive relationships, I call it the silent epidemic of continued abuse for example, n the role the justice system, ministry of children n families etc all play into it…, n the struggles we face living off of the shameful income assistance budget, and no one even responded. I’m still dumbfounded by how much publicity the niqab gets vs some of the real everyday issues, real people face. Great article.

    • I have to laugh at the ridiculous accusations that all the First nation problems were all started by Harper. I did not know he was directing aboriginals to assault kids and women or sell and do drugs. Apparently he is older than he appears to be, he must be well over 150 years.

      We have as taxpayers paid trillions of dollars to the first nations bands and given them self governance to an extent and allowed healing circles to look after criminal activity but somehow it is our fault when laws are broken.
      Maybe some of the writers in here should read a history book or 2 and learn a bit on how the world has had conflict, slavery, wars and appropriation of land and countries by all races creeds and colors since the beginning of recorded time.

      How much money is enough? What has been done with the billions that have been handed over? As far as resource revenue aboriginals have been getting direct payments from the mining co., oil co. and every other resource sector co.’ s. They drive on the same roads and have access to the same medical benefits that I do.
      They have more education advantages than I or my children had there are more government assistance grants and departments than any other denomination regardless of religion, color or race.

      It is easy to lay blame and point fingers and that is all I see and hear in the media and these comments.

      The companies that work on the reserve lands try and hire aboriginals but for the most part they don’t show up.

      What is the answer? Has anyone got a viable solution other than blaming Harper for hundreds of years of problems? They have been treated with horrific programs in the past but I believe that none of the current party leaders had anything to do with it.

      But so were Jews, Poles, Irish, Chinese, White Catholic kids, Etc Etc Etc.

      I have been kicked down the stairs more times than I remember and have never blamed a sitting government or asked for their help nor was offered it.
      I pulled myself up and got on with life. I could have chosen to take it out on others robbed people and taken drugs or my own life but I didn’t.
      I found the answer within myself not others.
      We have become to political correct and prefer to go after others money and good heartedness. It is always someone else’s fault not our own.

      Thankfully our forefathers were not that weak or we (all Canadians) would really have something to cry about.

      • Dearest UNPCCANADIAN, I suggest you go back to grade 6 and listen carefully to the social studies lesson. Here is what you have missed during your absence from a learning institute…
        1) First Nations/Aboriginals had, and still have to this very day, self-governance since time immemorial (See the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) 1997 decision in Delgamuukw) you will understand that the Europeans did NOT give the First Nations “self-government”—- here is the simple test to prove my point… According to the standards of International Law, only nations can engage in Treaties, this means Aboriginals had to be viewed as “Nations” in order for the British Crown to sign treaties with them. This is why Aboriginal/Treaty rights can be seen as “debts owed to First Nations/Aboriginals”, the First Nations agreed to accommodate the land/space needs of their European guests (Canada is categorized as a “settler state” by International Law) in exchange the Europeans agreed (at least agreed in spirit, First Nations are waiting for the follow through of Treaty promises) First Nations would live “unmolested” from intrusion, among other commitments, Note: one will have to look at each individual treaty to understand the promises made by the “settlers” now called “Canadians”.
        2)All resources in Canada, if they belong lawfully to Canada, are thanks to the First Nations that agreed, via treaty, to share with the Europeans.
        3) First Nations in Canada accommodated the Land-Space needs of the European Settlers in exchange for DISEASE and POVERTY… Hardly seems like “Honorable People”; nevertheless, we First Nations respect, to this very day, the treaties we signed with the Europeans… We as First Nations humbly ask the Euro-Canadians to honor the Treaties we have ALL signed, and you can keep you pity, shame, and guilt, understand that we First Nations have been you friends for over 500 years, keeping you alive when Columbus first landed, followed by Jacques Cartier and Sam de Champlain, we have shared our home and native land (pun intended) with all of you…
        Lastly… without the various treaties between First Nations and the British Crown (now Canada) there is no “legal basis” for Canada to be in existence. In other words, Treaties between Canada and the First Nations are the foundational documents that gives Canada its sovereignty, without the treaties Canada has no legal business being here and all the people not of this land are squatting, but the Treaties give you a legal right to be here, so honor them. And leave your white savior mentality in Europe, try bringing respect.

  21. A painful but hard hitting article, thank you Scott for reminding us of what is important. I am also a white middle-class woman, who has followed aboriginal issues for many years, but I feel powerless. Perhaps the only thing I can do is listen, add my voice to prioritize First Nations issues in the governance of this country. We need to recognize that we owe this nation a great debt and we need to start paying it back. I don’t think it is a simple solution of providing more money or services (although both of those are critically necessary), it is somehow about providing the space for First Nations to regain their heritage and status. A starting point is for us to recognize the fundamental issues of inadequate living conditions and abuse that many are living with, and insist to politicians that it is just not acceptable to us, as citizens of Canada, to ignore.

  22. We are the kind of nation that doesn’t mind having our own refugee camps, euphemistically called Indian Reservations.

  23. I am appalled at the conditions that many indigenous Canadians find themselves in, and I find it shameful. However, this simplistic and superficial article adds nothing of substance to the issue with its tone of borderline hysteria (the bigot in Hamilton – seriously?)
    A thoughtful discussion of, or at least a mention countenancing the existence of, success stories such as Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Band would take away the offensive element of ‘you loved me as a loser, now you’re worried that I just might win’ that is in your writing, Scott. In portraying our indigenous Canadians as people who can only be helped once mainstream Canadians stop wanting things for themselves, you are putting yourself in the role of would-be saviour, and not only would-be, but one uniquely qualified to swoop in and save these unfortunates from themselves.
    Yes, there are many issues that are shocking, like the lack of safe drinking water in many places, and which are a stain on our country’s conscience that we have to work to erase. But Scott, mainstream white Canadians do not have the monopoly on a saving wisdom that they are withholding and which they need to deign to dispense. I have good friends of Anishnabe, Ojibway, and Blackfoot backgrounds. They are articulate and intelligent, and don’t need me – or you, or the bigot in Hamilton – to save them.
    By all means, let’s pressure our politicians to make FNMI issues a priority so as to facilitate a true partnership. But let’s not resort to hysterical provocations, labelling Canada a racist non-nation. We have to work together with indigenous communities to find the best way forward without casting ourselves as the villain of the piece waiting to become the hero. There are plenty of capable aboriginal folks in our land, and plenty of single moms who want both a better home to live in as well as better conditions for indigenous people.

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