La Loche shows us it’s time to help people escape the North

Scott Gilmore on a sad cycle of violence in remote communities


 
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Flowers are left as the RCMPA work on scene on the grounds of La Loche Community School in La Loche, SK that left 4 dead and 7 injured.  A 17-year-old boy faces four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to a series of shooting in the northern Saskatchewan town of only 2300 people. ( Photos  by Chris Bolin For Macleans Magazine)

Flowers are left as the RCMP work on scene on the grounds of La Loche Community School in La Loche, Saskatchewan. (Photo by Chris Bolin)

This week, Gerald Moise piled up a stack of firewood in the La Loche cemetery. He poured gasoline on it, set the bonfire alight, and kept it burning for three days to thaw the frozen ground enough so he could dig a grave for his son, Dayne Fontaine.

Dayne was killed last week, along with his brother, a teacher and a school aide by a 17-year-old boy with a gun. Some people described the suspect as a black sheep. Trying to explain the shooting, one of his friends suggested he had been bullied for a long time and promised one day he would hurt his tormentor. But the causes of this tragedy go deeper than playground taunts, or a bad childhood or even his parents’ bad childhood. In fact, in La Loche and in similar Aboriginal towns across the north, the cycle of violence goes so far back it is impossible to find a first cause.

The small remote community sits next to the Methye Portage, one of the most important links in the earliest European exploration of Canada. The journals of those paddlers, looking for new routes to the Pacific, record a state of constant fighting among the Aboriginal peoples. Disease and fur traders, plagues literal and figurative, followed the explorers close behind. After this came the missionaries, the reserves and the residential schools. As Canada kept moving forward, becoming one of the most prosperous nations in the world, the people of the north stayed isolated, economically and socially.

When you look closer at La Loche, with the highest suicide rate in the region, in a region with the highest crime rate in the country, the immediate explanations are insufficient. It is true: the available social services are insufficient. The schools are underfunded. The police could use more resources. The gang problem is intense. Unemployment is high and opportunities are few. But even this is not enough to explain the constant violence, or how it is possible that one of the victim’s brothers was himself killed last year in a drive-by shooting.

We can dig past the poor governance and inadequate services. We can go deeper, into the injustices of the Indian Act. Or even further down to the establishment of the reserves and the deprivations of the missionaries. And still, the roots don’t end there. You can keep going until eventually you have stop in exhaustion and admit the north itself is violent and has been forever.

Isolated regions always are. Australia’s Northern Territory has that country’s highest crime rate. The remote regions of Papua New Guinea are more violent still. Siberia is the most dangerous region in Russia. In Brazil, the state of Pará, straddling the undeveloped stretches of the Amazon River, has one of the highest murder rates in the country, rivalling the lawless favelas.

These regions all have different histories, cultures, police systems, governments, economies and social safety nets. The only thing they have in common is isolation. They are disconnected from the economy, from the government and from society. In each, efforts have been made to change this. New roads were built. Industries were propped up. More teachers were sent in. Doctors, too. It all failed. To everyone’s dismay, remote regions remained remote.

Likewise, a better road to La Loche won’t significantly reduce the suicide or the homicide rate. Neither will more doctors, psychologists, teachers, federal inquiries or royal commissions. But we’ll still try, and to everyone’s dismay, Canada’s isolated Aboriginal peoples will remain isolated.

Why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep pretending that somehow we can make the reserve system, and communities like La Loche, work? That this time, with a little more money and a little more empathy, we can end the culture of isolation, despair and violence that has plagued Canada’s remote north since before there was a Canada? It could be political correctness: we are afraid of sparking more moral outrage from Aboriginal Canadians and their supporters. Or perhaps the idea of dismantling the 140-year-old Indian Act seems too daunting. Or it could be just a naive romanticism that believes Aboriginal people should never be separated from what Jacques Cartier described presciently as “the land that God gave Cain.”

The only way we can ever truly help the people of La Loche and hundreds of other remote communities like it, is to give those who want it a viable option to leave, to build lives in southern Canada, integrated into one of the world’s healthiest, safest, most rewarding societies. If we really want to end the violence and depravation that plagues Canada’s remote Aboriginal communities, we need to help them leave these communities, forever. And if we are still not ready to do that yet, then the least we can do to help is to send them a backhoe as they keep digging graves.

Scott Gilmore writes on international affairs and public policy. He is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada and is married to Catherine McKenna, the minister of the environment.


 

La Loche shows us it’s time to help people escape the North

  1. Another white man with the answer.

    • Yes, but is there something in the column you disagree with? If Whitey McWhiterson is wrong about something, that would be interesting to know. His race is somewhat less interesting.

      • White men imposing solutions on Aboriginals has produced the results Mr. Gilmore is complaining about. As for his proposal – it’s the same thinking behind the residential schools.

        • He doesn’t propose imposing anything. And believing extreme isolation and decades of failed federal policies have robbed northern communities of their viability is hardly akin to believing that First Nations are lesser beings and their children should be kidnapped and horrifically abused in the name of Christianity.

          • What he is proposing is assimilation, it’s not a new thought at all. He has a complete lack of perspective, he is an outsider looking in with no understanding. Is he that naive that he thinks urban areas don’t have their own existing issues, and that poverty isn’t prevalent in urban spaces? Ridiculous. The only thing holding these people together is their tight knit community.

    • Well, what we’ve been doing up to now certainly does not work, and Scott Gilmore’s suggestion at least sounds plausible.

      It seems reasonable that unless people have jobs and opportunities they will not be able to create a healthy, viable community. And it’s difficult to see how a community situated in the middle of nowhere, and without resource extraction as a potential job creator, could ever achieve a situation where something even remotely akin to full employment would be possible.

      • This entire article reeks of white privilege, mansplainin’. If I were the author, I’d be so embarrassed because now the whole world knows exactly how ignorant and utterly racist you truly are. I have to question as well why would a magazine like Maclean’s publish this? It’s just gross.

        • Is it racist to provide factual statements that isolated areas around the world are higher in crime? Is it white privilege to suggest that the current system doesn’t seem to be working? Is it ignorant to state that options to provide a look at the outside should be an option?

          Staying quiet after a mass school shooting because it was committed by a minority is racist. Regardless who did it – finding out why and helping prevent a reoccurrence is paramount.

          • It’s white privilege to have your ignorant perspective published and read by the world. What they should have done is use the perspective of Indigenous people from the community, Indigenous scholars, and Indigenous experts. This is simply a white opinion with zero substance, background, or knowledge and yet it has the power to influence many. Sad.

      • Many people up north are connected to their traditional roots, living and hunting off of the land. Resource development will destroy that way of life as it already has. The people who are connected to their roots tend to do better, and any loss of that knowledge or way of life is directly correlated with the issues at hand.

        • Sure, some are connected to their roots. But, that and $1.75 gets you a medium double-double. For most native communities, the sole economy that does exist in most of these communities revolves around the disbursement of band funds. There are no jobs beyond that.
          We’ve spent a lot of years, and substantial effort to bring the 20th and 21st centuries to the Indians. We’ve brought Canada to the Indians, but now it’s time for natives to decide if they want to be part of the greater society, or continue the ghettoized existence that now prevails. Many reserves and native communities are at the end of a single road, but that road goes both ways, and choosing not to get on that road and get the f–k out of La Loche Keshechawan or any number of no account towns is simply another way of consigning your offspring to more of the same.
          What’s the point of having internet and satellite TV and an education, if you’re never going to leave La Loche? At some point, it behooves the natives of this country to start the process of becoming part of the greater society. Falling back on the old canards about native culture is simply empty talk. Like it or not, there does not appear to be any tangible upside to being immersed in a “sacred, ancient culture.”
          You can talk all you want about the supposed racism endemic to the broader society, but the simple fact is that we are an egalitarian society that respects effort. People don’t really give a rat’s ass about skin color and ethnicity. Most have more important things to deal with, such as how to pay for their kids braces, and why are the gawddam taxes so high. Any time spent worrying about someone’s skin color just isn’t on our radar. So, for natives and their apologists to justify the continued huddling on the reserves, wasting their lives away, doesn’t really sit well with us. We’ve given them everything they require to join the broader society and thrive. All they need to do is get off the rez and do just that.
          It’s up to the leaders of Canada’s native community to begin the process of encouraging their people to pack up and leave the scores of native communities that would not otherwise exist without the band administration infrastructure. The failure to do that is simply an act of consigning another generation to a bleak existence marked by economic deprivation, violence, and suicide.

          • In many cases it was the feds who decide on the location of northern communities. It would make more sense to consider what are the strengths of these communities rather than talk about assimilation, which has never been a desire of most FN.

          • Your assuming there are no jobs yet I work with a lot of people from La Loche. We have these silly things called mines in northern Saskatchewan and because it’s Saskatchewan these mines have to give preferential hiring to northerners. Now before you start in with the racism I will let you in on something, most of our northerners are good workers and the younger generation are getting a better education and moving into the tech jobs and management. So don’t assume that La Loche or any other community in northern Saskatchewan has no employment because unlike Ontario we give our northerners opportunities.

    • Scott Gilmour is correct in his assessment of isolation in northern communities like the one described but not all northern communities respond the same to the isolation because some have access to transportation out of the community (regular air travel; good roads) and others, even though they are small communities are within a short travel by good road to decent sized community where they can find recreational facilities; cultural endeavors and good shopping. The facility in this article is not far from Fort McMurray which does have regular air travel and other things like movie theatres, etc but they never developed a proper road between the two sites. I grew up in a small northern Alberta town which is dying business wise but is flourishing with young people. It is agriculturally based. People shop on the net and in the nearest big town which is Grande Prairie.

      • La Loche has a good road and there are other communities like Buffalo Narrows and Il La Cross a short drive away.

  2. I’ve heard that tired-old, morally bankrupt, fall-back argument: If they only we all left our “remote” communities, it be all good. He even had the nerve to say: “the north itself is violent and has been forever.” Remote from where? From what “forever”? Tyranny and senseless violence is something we learned – it isn’t inherent in the “North”. Who brought the gangs and the drugs and even the idea of isolation? And what are gangs but mini-capitalist corporations? You should be proud that gangs are clear signs of assimilation. Who parades big money? Who destroys land and livelihood? Better to get those people out of there – because then there is no land to protect. Curious coming from the husband of the environment minister. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • Well said. I was shocked when I read this article. It reeks of racism and I am disheartened that it was published in a national magazine. Nothing will ever change for the Indigenous people of Canada as long as we have pompous white ignorant racists spewing garbage like this. I am a white person and comments like this coming from a place of white privilege embarrass me. For the indigenous peoples reading this article, please know that this person does not speak for all Canadians. Unfortunately he does speak for many who agree with his antiquated point of view. While I pray for healing in La Loche, I also pray for healing for all of Canada.

    • If Scott Gilmore ever came to northern Saskatchewan he would be shocked at how ignorant he is. It troubles me that I have to learn from a writer from Ottawa that we are such a violent society out here in the sticks. Strange because when I was in Ottawa there were more murders and criminal acts daily then we ever see in the north.

  3. Thank you Scott Gilmore for finally saying what needs to be said. The reserve system was and is simply a means of trying to bury a race in obscurity like sweeping dust under the rug. The chiefs, of course, don’t ever want this to happen because they would be out of a job worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. To maintain infrastructure, educate and care for small, scattered populations usually only accessible by winter roads and flights is completely impractical. The people living there, take it from someone who has worked in the remote reserves of eastern Manitoba, they have no interest in trapping, fishing or hunting. They rely on the exorbitantly priced processed frozen foods supplied by the Northern Store. The time has come to end this antiquated system of heavily subsidized isolation, it is completely impractical and benefits only a handful of chiefs and their friends and family who commute in and out of their respective reserves to attend ‘conferences’ and other government funded events while the people that actually have to live on reserves are feeding their infants overdoses of toothpaste to get a free trip and accomodation to the Health Science center in Winnipeg. Enough already.

  4. Yes because southern white Canada has always been so welcoming to indigenous people who try to join ‘one of the world’s healthiest, safest, most rewarding societies’. What a naive, paternalistic, and insulting piece of drivel this article is.

    • Good answer Callen John Diederichs!

  5. It was hard to read the whole article but I did. It is obvious the writer does not comprehend the scope of what he chose to write about (never a good thing to do). I am embarrassed for him. Herein lies the state of our country, we have a lot of work to do. I am thankful for our First Nation people who have a way out of this mess that has devastated the whole world.

    • Yeah it was quite an article. Had I never been to La Loche I would be scared to ever go there, such a violent community according to Scott Gilmore. But then according to him the whole north is violent, uncivilized, unemployed and destitute. Must be a different north then the one I spend half my life in…

  6. Can u honestly blame it on isolation or was it introducing white man into the equation. By that I mean how were they before white man came were they self sufficient and learned to adapt to their surroundings like all aboriginal people. Are there records that showed they fought and killed each other prior to introducing whiteman. I think not I believe without alcohol and drugs and the influence of white man they lived the way people lived maybe not in harmony but in the way that allowed them to live together. Where in order to survive u had to help each other the way it should be. I don’t believe that isolation is not the problem it’s how society is now with the availability of drugs and alcohol.

    • Hard to say because there is no written record prior to contact with the ‘white man’.

      But regardless, you can’t go back to that time. The genie left the bottle many generations ago. Now the question is how to move forward. Pointing a finger at my deceased great-grandfather doesn’t help anything.

      • It’s not pointing fingers, it’s addressing the historical impacts and how they affect the way in which Indigenous people are impacted today. Without understanding the depth of history, one cannot find solutions to move forward.

  7. Living is a much more remote northern community myself, I know there is much less violence and crime here in the Yukon than any “civilized” city I have lived in. I cannot believe this man is being published, …”admit the north itself is violent and has been forever. Isolated regions always are.” Really? Maybe Scott Gilmore should stop making up facts and actually come and visit these areas before passing judgment. McLeans I am disappointed.

    • So where do you live in the Yukon? In an isolated small community serviceable by only air and winter roads? Are you unemployed with no hope of ever getting a job? How do you know Gilmore has never visited these communities? Your speculation based on how your life is in the Yukon correlates to the reserve system doesn’t compare, sorry. Reading all of these comments here shows why the reserve problem will never solve itself when so many ignorant Canadians who have no idea what actually goes on within these isolated communities and yet they feel that they have the right idea by just carrying on with the same program only with more money, more community centers, more social workers and more everything. This is not a matter of more money.

      • Yes, it is. The government spent millions keeping Indigenous people down, putting them in residential school, keeping them out of the economy for decades, it’s time they step up and provide services to clean up the mess they made. Additionally, urban spaces won’t solve anything, it would be more people struggling to live in the city and could end up living in poverty all the same, only further disconnected from their community.

      • La Loche has a good all season road. Maybe you should visit sometime and learn about the town before you judge it. Or be like Scott Gilmore and just pull words out of the air and put them on paper without knowing anything about what he is writing.

  8. you want to solve the problem of unemployment in the north.
    Stop the importing of crap from china and promote the native arts and crafts. I am sure that there are thousands of Canadians that could create a small business selling arts and crafts they make with local resources. Support them with federal promotion of their goods, bring them into the 21st century by teaching web literacy, create stores in the larger cities that sell their goods, all these people need is something to do to occupy their free time and increase their self esteem.

    • I used to wear moccasins often because they were quite comfortable and practical for hunting quietly. This was during the 70’s and 80’s.

      Many years I did this until I started receiving comments about what amounted to cultural appropriation. At first I just shrugged it off, but after the third time I believe, receiving cultural appropriation comments from FN women I stopped wearing them. Over the years reports of cultural appropriation have exploded in the media. In my opinion, FN people has forever sabotaged any chance they may have had with marketing their goods to anyone beside other FN.

  9. What an ignorant, arrogant article! This writer shows an incredible lack of understanding of the history of our indigenous people. (He starts by using the opinions of fur traders to prove his case.) The imposition of solutions to solve the “Indian problem” have proven to be useless and genocidal. Isn’t it time to respect Canada’s First Nations, and listen to what they have identified as their needs and their solutions, and provide the support required to achieve a sustainable life. A first step might be to sign on to the UN Charter of Rights for Indigenous People.

    • And what would that do exactly? What rights are being violated currently? How is Canada not respecting the First Nations? Trudeau has stepped in and said that First Nations no longer have to report how they are spending taxpaying dollars, I find that interesting, that having to report exactly where public money goes is somehow a violation of someone’s rights. With an annual budget of 8 billion dollars for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs alone, and this doesn’t even begin to touch all of the subsidiary agencies and programs that fall outside of Aboriginal Affairs, when they’re included the number is more accurately 26 billion dollars annually. That’s a LOT of money and what has it gotten us? First Nations should be responsible to come up with solutions to this growing problem and yet we have seen the same for decades, outrageous salaries paid to chiefs and their staff to manage relatively small communities that suffer from sub standard housing, chronic unemployment, substance abuse and crime.

      • Laloche is not a first nation. It is a community under the the governance of the province of Saskatchewan. Please do some research.

        • Actually I was replying to the comment by Mary McKenna saying that the First Nations need to sign up to the UN Charter of Rights for Indigenous People but thanks so much for your interest all the same. I think it’s so important for discussion forums to have comments from people that are obviously uninformed and not really reading the entire discussion or taking the time to comprehend the article being discussed.

  10. Finally… someone said it! These problems have existed for a while now. Everyone keeps pointing the finger at who’s fault it is. Does it really matter!? The fact is there is a problem. So.. let’s find a solution. A solution that leads to permanent change! I don’t think it needs to be a race issue. Bottom line is if all we’re going to do is sit back and point fingers at who’s fault this is… nothing will change.

  11. I cannot believe you seriously wrote this thinking it was okay. This article is completely disappointing. Shame on you Scott Gilmore. Shame on you.

  12. I can understand about the isolation I left my reserve not far from LaLoche as soon as I could I moved to the City at 15 to attend high school sure our reserve had a nice one just built a few years before but if I stayed I would’ve probably killed myself too. I always felt outcast just a few friends always laughed at I developed social anxiety. I never got much opportunities to excel, I would’ve loved to take music class. I wasn’t from this particular reserve so I was an outcast in isolation. As for the rest if only it were that easy. I say about the reserves that they’re where dreams go to die.

      • Thank you Kirsten for taking the time to share your own personal experience on this discussion and more opinions from the people that actually live on these reserves are what are needed now.

        • Exactly we should be talking to these children and teenagers all over and see why they are killing themselves at alarming rates. See what we can do to help them not just sweep it all under the rug once they return to school. One anti-bullying day a year isn’t helping its still happens everyday they should be discussing bullying on a daily basis. Not everyone wants to leave some people have great lives up north with strong family bonds. More help for addictions would be great. More opportunities to support their families, the guy they interviewed from LaLoche talked about only having seasonal work as a firefighter the other option is to work in a mine. I would never be able to leave my babies a week or two at a time. We should be listening to the actual people that live on reserves and coming up with REAL solutions instead of this guy.

  13. If people want to leave of their own free will, then by all means they should have the right to, and assistance if needed. But I would be strongly opposed to coercion and incentives to dismantle communities and further assimilate native americans. We can’t simultaneously destroy a way of life and preach how to live our way. But we should provide a standard of living that is equal to what all canadians receive, with equal spending on health care, education, infrastructure and social services.

  14. What an utter and complete tool this writer is!

    “the cycle of violence goes so far back it is impossible to find a first cause.” = I can’t be bothered to do any research, so hey, here’s a bunch of Ottawa-based ignorance for you

    “As Canada kept moving forward, becoming one of the most prosperous nations in the world, the people of the north stayed isolated, economically and socially.” I have actually never been to “the North” but hey I’m sure glad Stephen Harper found those sunken British ships last year… that’s a fun arctic story I can get behind.

    “.. you have stop in exhaustion and admit the north itself is violent and has been forever.” = I never usually go beyond the third Bing result – my opinion is pretty much fully formed by that point.

    “Australia’s Northern Territory has that country’s highest crime rate. The remote regions of Papua New Guinea are more violent still. Siberia is the most dangerous region in Russia….” = taken out of context, I can make any stat fit this shitty opinion piece I am quickly knocking off here… LOL!

    “Why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep pretending that somehow we can make the reserve system, and communities like La Loche, work?” = My head is starting to hurt… quick throw some asinine Q+A’s in to help me get those last 100 wds.

    “The only way we can ever truly help the people … is to give those who want it a viable option to leave, to build lives in southern Canada, integrated into one of the world’s healthiest, safest, most rewarding societies.” = so not Winnipeg then? ROFL!! Gilmore might as well just come out and say that we should magically make all northern indigenous peoples white, because that’s the only way they are going to instantly benefit from the amazing world this man lives in.

    “the least we can do to help is to send them a backhoe as they keep digging graves.” = Yes, Scott, because that’s the real problem here you absolute tool.

    Stay tuned for more of this enlightening series by Gilmore… “How I single-handedly solved Canada’s Indian problem – Part 2 – You can force Aboriginal communities to relocate to the city, but you (some-how) cannot make them assimilate… It must be them, because I’m doing all I fucking can here!!”

    I can’t wait!

  15. Holy sh***! This is one of the most blatantly racist mainstream media articles I have read in a while. What a huge crock! ‘These regions all have different histories, cultures, police systems, governments, economies and social safety nets. The only thing they have in common is isolation.’ (oh right and aboriginals who he implies are inherently violent. Yep the old fail safe ‘Savage Indian’, *rage!). And then The White Savior appears to rescue them, “The only way we can ever truly help the people of La Loche and hundreds of other remote communities like it, is to give those who want it a viable option to leave, to build lives in southern Canada, integrated into one of the world’s healthiest, safest, most rewarding societies”. What an arrogant prick. How dare you first imply that before the white man came along to ‘record’ things that all remote societies were violent. The other assumption is that ‘Canadian culture’ (well at least your version, in the south, were everything is civilized and whitened) is an improvement and has very little effect on how these remote places work. The fact that you are political ties terrifies me.

    • “The only way we can ever truly help the people of La Loche and hundreds of other remote communities like it, is to give those who want it a viable option to leave…” They could leave any time they want, there is a road, and an airport, but they don’t because…well it’s home. Besides it’s a nice community beside a lake with good fishing and hunting and wonderful friendly people, there are jobs at nearby mines and yes it has problems but not as many as most inner city neighborhoods.

  16. I felt sadness after reading this article. I moved to live in the North by choice back in the 80’s. Perhaps what bothered me about this article was that existence would be BEST if people left the area. I disagree. I was able to learn so many things about life by living in NORTH. Community is strong in the North. The beauty of the surroundings of nature made it difficult to leave. To this day, when I travel and hit that boreal forest….I roll down my window and take in the air. People of the North show great support with each other. A fine example is a wedding is often organized with potluck food. My best life experiences has been attending “a wake”. You hear beautiful music and you understand that the gathering of people help to show that life should be celebrated even in death. I truly feel I am a better human because of the experiences of being part of the North for 3 years. In fact that feeling has never left me.

  17. For his information, farming communities are isolated. Hutterite communities are isolated. The Amish are isolated. And their crime rate is low. You think moving people who have ancestral ties, and deep rooted lifestyles to the land, will suddenly function wonderfully on southern farms or cities? Where will they hunt Carribou and fish? You think people who have already gone through a destruction of their culture, wishes to be re-located and have even more lost? Is that the answer? Have a looked at the Reserves down there? Are they living in Utopia? What about inner city violence? How does he explain that away? Isolation as well? Northern communities weren’t violent or like this in the 20s and 40s. Not to mention the Treaties must be honored. How will you do that down south? Are up going to evict people off of huge farm lands to honor the same amount of reserve land granted to these people? A huge factor is the introduction of alcohol over the years, and loss of work. And there are economic reasons for places to exist such as this – huge industry such as Uranium mining, line cutting, commercial fishing, and forestry. Also, La Loche is a town, not a reservation. The reservation near by is called Clearwater Dene First Nation. The lack of jobs are due to under-developed businesses such as restaurants, hotels, trades, and stores. There are huge opportunities in the north, and viable business dealings, but many people stay away from fear. I live in Northern Saskatchewan, and have done work with youth in La Loche. This article is so off base. I’ve lived in Southern Saskatchewan and Northern Saskatchewan. The north is rich in resources, opportunities, and abundant in Native culture and outdoor lifestyles. No pollution, laid back life style, huge open lakes and forests, etc. Many people still speak their mother tongue, celebrate in ceremonies, etc. They have excellent and outstanding outdoor skills. Many tourists from all over the world, particularly Americans come to fish and hunt. What we need more of is business people/ mentorship, and economic growth. Locals often lack the funding, means, or mentorships to build successful businesses, plus being closely related doesn’t help either in communities that are so tight knit and built on a sharing model. There are opportunities. Many!!! Educated people are often highly sought out. I’m never out of work. We don’t live on the moon – we’re not that isolated. We are not “always” violent people. We don’t need to be ripped up and rooted in someone else’s back yard. That’s just asking for conflict and nonsense.

    • Thanks for posting. I think that Scott Gilmore is writing to his eastern city audience who have never been to Northern Saskatchewan and will believe whatever rubbish he writes. Like you I have been to La Loche and I feel safer there than I do in most cities. The locals look out for visitors and are always quick tell us the best fishing holes or were to put the canoe in the water, and if we stay the night someone will always invite us over for supper and a visit. Try having that happen in a city.

  18. This is one of the most backward articles I have read in my life time; written by a present day person. The writer’s ideals fit right in with those of the Europeans who came here to colonize this land. Their plan was to assimilate or annihilate, neither method was successful.
    I don’t know about you but I respond well when treated with respect and dignity. I also don’t heal well when I have a raw open wound and someone keeps throwing dirt on the wound rather than providing me with the tools I need to help my wound heal.
    I wonder if the writer has ever set foot in La Loche? I wonder if he has taken the time to get to know who the people of La Loche are or did he write this article on hearsay from other lieminded people?
    Also the increasing number of school shootings, particularly in the US were not performed by members of isolated native communities, nor were the number of police shootings against unarmed individuals.
    Help people escape the north? Perhaps read up on the number of successes that have come from the north and remain in the north…Doctors, nurses,lawyers, politicians, tradesmen, athletes.
    Take your backwards idealisms and send them back to the 17th century. Open your eyes and your mind so you can see and hear the whole picture.

  19. This article is complete garbage. I can’t believe Maclean’s published this piece – if you want some real input into how the issues can be solved, talk to the Indigenous community themselves. It’s as though people don’t think Indigenous people aren’t academics or haven’t been studying social issues for decades. This white man is not an ally, it’s clear he is completely lacking in critical thinking skills, and this is not a “new” proposal or thought – it’s called assimilation. He truly believes simply moving to an urban area will end the issues/oppression Indigenous people face? You think that inner city communities don’t exist, that poverty doesn’t also exist in urban spaces? This is outright arrogance with literally zero research, just a white male opinion with zero perspective or depth being splashed all over the media. Great.

  20. Odd isn’t it. these communities were not ‘remote” or ‘isolated” until the colonial culture made them so. A bit like the possibly apocryphal headline “Fog in the English Channel, Continent cut off”

  21. In short; La Loche is getting a new backhoe.

  22. What is being suggested in this article was already tried in the 60s and early 70s. La Loche was part of the tough love experiment known as The Saskatchewan Special Northern Policies set up by the Ross Thatcher Liberals. These policies included half welfare rates, to encourage people to practice their hunting and fishing skills, and no “special needs payments” such as house repairs in order to encourage people to move to “more viable communities”. I have no doubt people suffered greatly and even died under these policies. If you have never heard about this that is not surprising. Knowing such an approach would be controversial even at that time the policy was set up by “order in council” to avoid legislative over sight. The Liberals suspended the policy about three month prior to the 1971 provincial election in what I believe was a cynical ploy to get re-elected. I believe the Liberals had every intention of re-introducing if returned to power. When the NDP won the election documentation regarding the Special Northern Policies, including special “Blue Pages” in the Policy Manual, disappeared over night, making it difficult to establish a paper trail.
    How these practices avoided being picked up in Federal Cost Sharing Audits of the Sask/Canada Assistance Plan I have no idea? The Alan Blakney led NDP were aware of the Special Northern Policies but took no action, possibly to protect the principle of privacy associated with Orders on Council?
    This story has never been publicly reviewed as it should be. I have talked about it often but I get the feeling many people do not believe me.

  23. Jesus, what a terrible article. I know Macleans has been a rag in recent years, but this might be a new low. Two things:

    First, instead of infantilizing Indigenous people by dreaming up “solutions” for them, how about we actually engage the and find out what they think? Cause jeez, we’ve done the former before, with such “spectacular” results!

    Second, I strongly suspect there has been some heavy cherry picking when it comes to the statement that remote regions are more violent. Is there actually endemic violent throughout Canada’s north? Because we sure don’t hear much about it. I know that there are issues with domestic violence, say, in some northern communities (from having spent time there) but those issues also exist elsewhere. And what about the rest of the world? Gilmore cites three regions. What about Greenland? Iceland? Iceland is the least violent country in the world, according to Forbes. Where are rates of violence highest in the United States? I’m not sure, but I expect it’s NOT the north coast of Alaska, or Hawaii. How about India? Brazil? The UK? Gilmore’s thesis just reeks of poor research.

    • It’s easy to cherry pick when most of his readers have never been to any of those places. But he has never been to La Loche, or I doubt any of the places he describes, so he has no clue as to how the people there really are. I’ve been to La Loche, and I have been to downtown Toronto, and I feel a whole lot safer in La Loche.

  24. Scott Gilmore have you ever been to La Loche? Or even Northern Saskatchewan. From your article I doubt that you have. First off La Loche is not as isolated as you make it out to be. It has a good road and people come and go as they please. Secondly there is not as much despair as you imply, a lot of the adults work in the nearby mines and have a good income. And you missed the biggest point of them all… people live there because it’s their home!
    Maybe come out to Saskatchewan and visit La Loche. It’s not what you think it is! It’s a nice northern community with a lot of very friendly people. Does it have issues? Of course it does but you would be a lot safer in La Loche than downtown in any major city in Canada.

  25. That’s like Telling People in New York “Move outta The Big Apple if you don’t wanna get hit by planes…..”

  26. I see a lot of commenters here rushing to bust out the “racism” card without actually engaging with the ideas Gilmore is putting forward.

    If I may, I’d like to park the circular and rather unedifying “is this article racist?” debate for a second and actually make a brief critique that concerns on Canada’s national sovereignty and national identity. I’ll make this very straightforward: Canada is a big country geographically but the vast majority of the population resides in a very thin band of real estate bordering our American neighbours. If Canada is going to continue to convincingly lay claim to the massive territory north of that thin, densely-populated southern strip, we need at least some people to actually live up there. In my view, this is no small concern given the growing territorial disputes with other Arctic countries, recent air incursions into Canadian territory by Russia, and the opening up of the North West Passage. Emptying out the Canadian north of its inhabitants, albeit willingly, would only lessen our already tenuous claim over this vast territory. That’s why I consider the relatively large amount of federal and provincial funding directed to northerners, on a per capita basis, not simply a way of reducing inequality but also a wise investment in our continued stewardship over our northern lands.

    The second element of my critique has to do with national identity. While most Canadians live within brief drive of the US border, the fact is part of who we are as Canadians is still tied up in the notion that we are a northern people. It’s one of the few things that distinguishes us from the Americans, even if it is more myth than reality. Helping people “escape the North,” presuming they even want to, and the resulting decrease in our northern population would make it even more of a myth.

    Canadians all benefit from having some of our citizens live in the North. As long as they want to live there, we should recognize the larger national role they play by taking reasonable measures to improve their standard of living, which in many ways we already do.

  27. Geez, I didn’t realize that the author lived with the fur trappers. First white settlers gave indigenous peoples diseases causing death, then we took their lands and put them on reserves, then we took their children and tormented many of them in residential schools, then our laws took away much of their culture and ability to control the remaining land, then their families and languages are lost in the residential schools, then today we underfund the education, health and social services on reserves and again relocate children away from their families. Then we’re surprised that there’s violence and suicide in remote communities. Is there much more that white society could do to destroy the aboriginal way of life? Yeah, we could do as the author suggests and forcibly move them to white communities.

  28. I don’t have the solutions to the many problems experienced in our native communities. I know it’s far more complex than what people (including natives) think. I for one think we would put a productive foot forward if most Canadians admitted of their ignorance of native people realities and if native people stopped putting all of the blame on the dreaded white man.

    I know how important one’s culture and identity can be. I’m an Acadian and I consider this genetic, historical and cultural reality to be a big part of my identity. Yes I’m aware that the original lands where my ancestors settled in the 17th and early 18th century were occupied by the Mi’kmaq people and that they actually helped survive many of my ancestors during the deportation years (1755-1764).

    I’m also a New Brunswicker (being born and raised there), a Canadian and now a Quebecois (living there makes me a citizen). These different identities can co-exist.

    Most Acadian descendants eventually resettled in the province of Quebec and the state of Louisiana. Most people calling themselves Acadians first and foremost now live in New Brunswick (although there are still Acadian communities in Old Acadia (Western Nova Scotia), Cap Breton and PEI. The fact is a very large number of people, no matter where they live, are proud of their Acadian roots and are still very well integrated into main stream society.

    Could this be possible for Native people as well?

  29. Scott Gilmore hasn’t got a clue about remote communities, Indigenous or otherwise. I am someone who works in remote Indigenous communities. In fact, I’ve been to several communities above the Arctic Circle, some where you can only get in by plane (or boat in the summer). I’ve been to communities that are a six-hour drive to the nearest ‘shopping’ centre and I’ve driven on ice roads in the winter to reach communities that are otherwise only accessible by plane in the summer. A healthy community is one where the victims of the Indian Residential Schools have healed and reconnected to their culture. Some communities are still struggling and, yes, some residents there battle addictions as a way to numb their IRS history, but I have never been to a remote or isolated community that was plagued by violence. Scott Gilmore needs to go and live in an isolated community so that he can speak from experience instead of using his position as a national columnist to spread his uneducated drivel about Indigenous people. Once he’s actually spent time in such a community, he could start writing about what they really need to be healthy and prosperous – stupid, inconsequential things like adequate and safe housing and easy access to an affordable and safe food supply.

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