Why fixing First Nations education remains so far out of reach

Aboriginal youth face a fate that should horrify Canadians and there’s an obvious fix


On Aug. 17, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was pulled from Winnipeg’s Red River. Police divers had been scouring the waterway in search of Faron Hall, a well-known homeless man who drowned in the river, when they discovered Fontaine. She had been murdered, her body wrapped in a bag. Her death has renewed calls for a public inquiry into the disappearance and murder of aboriginal women and girls.

This article exploring the plight of Canada’s aboriginal children originally appeared on July 14, 2014:


Photographs by Derek Mortensen

Mike McKenzie celebrated his 21st birthday in May. For many Canadians, 21 is a milestone, an age when they graduate from university and begin their adult lives. For McKenzie, it’s something of a miracle.

Growing up in the isolated Skeetchestn Indian Band, a community of around 260 in the B.C. Interior, he spent his childhood shuffling between the school on the reserve and, when it was shut down for a time, enduring racist taunts at a Catholic school in Kamloops. Eventually, he dropped out altogether. His family was devastated by his older brother’s suicide in 2003, and four years ago, McKenzie decided he, too, was destined for an early grave. “I had a hard time at that time in my life, controlling my anger,” he says now. “I got to the point where I was really upset and really isolated in my community. There was just nothing there for me. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it, that I wanted to kill myself finally.”

His turnaround came after attending an Aboriginal youth conference that allowed him to meet with other First Nations teens living on reserves. He realized his struggles were hardly unique. Isolation, depression and substance abuse are rampant among Aboriginal youth growing up in remote communities. Many of the youth that McKenzie has since met have bounced in and out of foster care or jail, struggled to escape from gang violence or are grieving family and friends who committed suicide.

Today, McKenzie has re-enrolled in school, online, and is active in Aboriginal youth organizations, determined to help blaze a new trail for future generations of Native Canadians. “I thought, there’s no point in sticking around if I’m not going to make some meaningful change,” he says. Even so, it’s been an uphill battle. On the day he speaks to Maclean’s, McKenzie has just come from the funeral of a 23-year-old Kamloops Indian Band man who died of pneumonia. The community has buried at least one young person a year for the past four years.

Ending the cycle of poverty and violence among Aboriginal youth can seem like an impossibly daunting endeavour. After decades of negotiations, commissions and protests, including last year’s Idle No More movement and Ottawa’s recent unsuccessful attempt to reform First Nations education funding, Aboriginal children continue to face a fate that should horrify most Canadians.

Half of First Nations children live in poverty, with rates reaching as high as 64 per cent of children in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They are far more likely to grow up in communities racked with violence, live in overcrowded housing and lack access to clean drinking water. Nine of Canada’s 10 most violent communities are Aboriginal, according to Statistics Canada’s violent crime index, as are 92 of Canada’s 100 poorest communities.

Deep poverty and domestic violence have pushed many Aboriginal youth toward a life of crime. Compared to non-Native Canadians, Aboriginal youth are seven times more likely to be victims of homicide, five times more likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to die an alcohol-related death. A rising number of Native teenagers are in custody: in 1997, just 12 per cent of young offenders in custody were Aboriginal. Today, it’s one in three.

That’s if they make it to their teenage years at all. The infant mortality rate is double the Canadian average, and Native children are at higher risk of a wide array of serious health problems, from cavities in toddlers, to substance abuse, HIV infections, tuberculosis and chlamydia. Aboriginal girls are at greater risk of sexual assault, domestic violence and teenage pregnancies. The number of children taken from their homes by child welfare authorities now exceeds the number taken at the height of the residential-school era, says Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be placed in foster care than the Canadian average and make up half of the roughly 60,000 kids in care.

So how, in one of the richest, most progressive countries in the world–where non-Native youth seem to have the world at their fingertips–is this allowed to happen? Even Ottawa has admitted Canada’s Aboriginal population has essentially become entrenched as second-class citizens. In a federal government study comparing Aboriginal communities to the United Nations’ Human Development Index, an international measure of quality of life, Canada ranked eighth, between the U.S. and Japan. The Inuit population, meanwhile, ranked 63rd, slightly better than Libya, while First Nations reserve communities ranked 72nd, on par with Romania.

These conditions have given Canada a black eye internationally. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both inveighed against Ottawa for the treatment of Natives, which mocks the values Canada espouses on the world stage. So has the former United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people: “Treaty and Aboriginal claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels,” noted James Anaya in a report earlier this year.

No one can agree on how to even begin to address the crisis. Some blame government paternalism. Others, including some Native youth, say it’s the Native leadership that benefits from the status quo. Better education would seem to offer one solution, but many deeply distrust a system that has failed them so badly, and governments have failed to put forth an attractive alternative.

Perhaps the problem has become so big that no one knows how to tackle it. Meanwhile, Aboriginal Canadians are the country’s youngest and fastest-growing population. Between 2006 and 2011, the Aboriginal population grew 20 per cent, compared to five per cent for non-Native Canadians. The average age among Aboriginals is just 28, compared to a national average of 41. Among the Inuit, it’s just 23. If unaddressed, the problems will only get worse.

The picture painted by statistics is bleak—more so because many non-Aboriginals have tuned out Native issues. Speak to people of influence in the indigenous population and you’ll hear words like “partnership” and “relationship” to describe the way forward for First Nations and the rest of the country, even as they vent anger. One is Mervin Brass, a former official with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations who now publishes Treaty 4 News, a Saskatoon-based newspaper that covers Native communities. Yes, stereotypes still prevail among white people he hears calling open-line radio shows.

“But it’s the people in the middle I worry are tuning out,” he says. “The thinking, liberal-minded people, because they’re the ones who’ll help determine how this relationship continues.” That withdrawal, says Brass, is part of a vicious political cycle in which disinterest in Aboriginal issues makes it harder for even well-meaning non-Native leaders to get the topic onto the political agenda. “They know that First Nation, Métis and Inuit issues are not high in the voters’ minds. And they know if they take a tough stance against First Nations, it’ll increase their support in some demographics.”

The result, say community leaders, is profound misunderstanding of the despair in First Nations territories—both its scale and its causes. Almost all of the reserves in crisis are located in remote areas where no industry emerged to supplant hunting and fishing; those that succeed are located in the south and are increasingly integrated with the economic life around them.

Herman Michell grew up in one of those remote places, the Reindeer Lake First Nation, near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary. Today, equipped with a Ph.D., he runs a company that trains teachers to work in Saskatchewan’s isolated northern communities. “We have kids coming into our classrooms hungry,” he says, voice trembling. “They’ll have been staying up all night because of things that are happening in their homes.”

John Cuthand, an addictions counsellor who works at the Yekooche First Nation in B.C., about 250 km northwest of Prince George, sees the fallout first-hand. Some 40 children have been removed from their homes in the community, he notes, where only about 100 people live permanently.

Alcohol abuse continues—though it is a nominally dry community. Prescription drug abuse is rampant because pills are easier to transport than liquor. Sexual violence, meanwhile, is a reality to which some in the hamlet seem resigned. Cuthand described cases involving girls who have been sexually assaulted, yet whose attackers continued to enjoy acceptance in the community. “To have to see the perpetrator every day, that’s very difficult,” he says. But at least some of the victims stick around: “They’re dedicated to the community. Or maybe they just don’t know anything different.”

Photographs by Derek Mortensen

Photographs by Derek Mortensen

Nothing represents the intractable nature of the problems facing Aboriginal Canadians more than the battle over education, which remains the best way young people can climb out of poverty and yet continues to be one of the most politically charged issues for government-Aboriginal relations.

More than half of Canada’s Aboriginal population hasn’t finished high school and just six per cent have a university degree. Many blame the federal government for spending less on Aboriginal schools than the provinces put into their public school systems. The size of the gap is the source of much debate, but an analysis last year by economist Don Drummond found the difference was as large as $8,000 per student in Ontario.

The results are palpable, especially in already economically depressed reserves. Unemployment among Aboriginals is more than twice the Canadian average. A third of the population is on social assistance, rising to more than 80 per cent in some communities. Closing the education gap between Native Canadians and the rest of the country would add more than $36 billion to the economy by 2026, according to a 2010 report from the Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

The national education statistics, however, mask a growing divide among Aboriginal communities, one that has helped fuel bitter disputes between the Native leadership over how to fix the problem. Off-reserve Aboriginals have made tremendous gains in educational achievement, while those attending federally funded schools have stagnated. By 2011, more than 70 per cent of those off reserve had graduated from high school, compared to 45 per cent on reserve. Inuit communities have been going in reverse; between 1998 and 2011, the number of students who hadn’t finished high school rose from 48 to 59 per cent.

Yet efforts to reform the First Nations education system, with its tarnished legacy of the residential-school era, continue to divide politicians and Aboriginal leaders. “The people who are letting everybody down are the governments and primarily the federal government, which continues to underfund education on reserves,” former prime minister Paul Martin told Maclean’s last year. “The discrimination by the federal government is absolutely abhorrent, but I certainly believe that Aboriginal Canada is rising to the challenge.”

Martin’s own legacy on the issue is mixed. Many blame him for freezing education funding to reserve schools at two per cent a year in the 1990s when he was finance minister. That cap remains in place and hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the Aboriginal population. Yet Martin devoted his two-year stint as prime minister to negotiating the Kelowna Accord, a $5-billion funding agreement for health and education that he says was meant to “telescope 150 years of this kind of discrimination and try and eliminate it right away.” Stephen Harper’s Conservatives later scrapped the accord.

Education reform has likewise proven to be the poison arrow for Aboriginal leaders. Before he was felled by his personal demons, former Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau angered many Aboriginal leaders by coming out against the Kelowna Accord, at one point calling it “an exercise in throwing more money at problems.” Shawn Atleo, who came to power as Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief on a promise to “smash the status quo,” was soon labelled an Ottawa insider for his willingness to negotiate with the Harper government, particularly when it came to education funding. He was ultimately brought down by his decision to support Harper’s proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, the Conservatives’ $1.9-billion scaled-down answer to the Kelowna Accord.

The legislation represented Harper’s most ambitious plan to reform Aboriginal-government relations, but it came with enough strings attached to deeply split the Native leadership between those who wanted to use it as a springboard for negotiations with Ottawa and those who felt the bill would erode Aboriginal rights and treaty agreements. In a heated day-long meeting in May, AFN members, representing 633 communities across the country, voted to reject the proposal and demand the government spend the $1.9 billion immediately. Atleo resigned. Ottawa, expressing “disappointment,” walked away.

Division among a group as large and diverse as the AFN is normal, argues Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. “To me, that’s a healthy symptom of democracy.” But Mike McKenzie, who attended the meeting as a delegate from Skeetchestn and was one of 60 people to abstain from voting, sees the Harper government’s proposal as a flawed but important first step in talks with Ottawa. He worries some elders are sacrificing a generation of Aboriginal children whose schools won’t receive any new money in order to preserve the status quo. “Some of the chiefs, they really don’t want to see the youth get up and speak,” he says. “It’s like some of the people don’t want to see change and so the dysfunction lives on.”

While it may be gone, the residential-school system continues to fuel the deep distrust toward education in many First Nations communities given its history as a tool of cultural assimilation, says Laura Arndt, strategic director for the Ontario Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. “In my house, it is not a proud thing to be a university graduate. It means you’re less Indian because you’re educated. Why would children want to get a good education when they feel they lose themselves in the process?”

Yet as the first generation to grow up without experiencing the residential-school system, many First Nations youth don’t always understand what’s driving that distrust toward education within their own families. “When you go into some of these communities, there’s an air of something but no one knows where it’s coming from,” says Uko Abara, 25, who helped launch Feathers of Hope, a forum for First Nations youth in Northern Ontario. “A lot of people who went through it still don’t acknowledge that residential schools happened. So a lot of the young people growing up don’t recognize that their parents or grandparents went through this traumatic experience.”

The legacy of residential schools also lives on in the fact that Aboriginal youth living in remote areas are often forced to leave their communities to attend the nearest high school. With few jobs back home, many never return. It has become a Catch-22. Communities need jobs to give their young people a reason to get educated, but they need education to create the economic development that leads to jobs. “You can get an education that allows you to walk in two worlds, the big city and your home community,” says Arndt. “But the problem is, you can only survive in one.”

Mike McKenzie has a foot in both of those worlds. His father is a residential-schools survivor, 30 years sober. Yet as a dropout himself, now three credits away from finishing his high school diploma, McKenzie worries about the future of the children he sees now going to school in Skeetchestn, where—due to funding constraints—Grades 8 to 12 are all in the same class. Grades 11 and 12 are studying on a “home school” curriculum.

“I can agree there’s lots of government paternalism out there. I can agree there has been hundreds of years of discrimination. What I can’t agree with is justifying our behaviour because of that,” he says. “We can’t keep going like this for another three years until we find another agreement. It’s putting us behind.”

While he’s frustrated at lack of progress from both government and Aboriginal leaders, McKenzie isn’t waiting around for someone else to fix the problem. He is weighing his options to either head to university or join the RCMP. He’s involved in a handful of community organizations, including counselling young people in remote and isolated communities. The work has brought him to Ottawa to meet with government officials and ministers. In his spare time, he earned his certificate in basic B.C. firefighter training and served as chief of his local volunteer fire department.

What Aboriginal youth need most, he says, is to hear they’re not alone, that however intransigent the present-day problems may seem, the future is far from hopeless. “If you can give young people the initiative and the opportunity to see it, it’s possible to pull yourself out of it,” he says. “You don’t have to be condemned from day one just because you were born on a reserve.”

Still, for so many Native children, that remains the harsh reality of life in Canada.


Why fixing First Nations education remains so far out of reach

  1. The Kelowna Accord could have ended the Third and Fourth Worlds that exist in our 21st century nation.

    We KNOW what to do, we just lack the political will to do it.

    • The Kelowna Accord was nothing but political posturing by Paul Martin preparing for the next election. It had a large sum of money attached to it, but no plan or accountability. It would have just been more money handed over to corrupt chiefs with no strings attached.

      • Enough with the cheap racism.

        Solve the problem. Now.

        • How about one common citizenship for all Canadians, and therefore no more separate First Nations system? That’s the solution.

          • So we just throw out contracts, treaties and legal obligations because you don’t like them?

          • No, you throw them out because they’re not benefiting your people, and actually prevented your social mobility.

          • so… if they threw out the Treaties…what would happen to you??? remember…if you are a Canadian Citizen…you are Bound by the Treaties that govern this country… what kind of repercussion would it have on your life… well, all i can say it’s a lot more than you think.

      • That’s all Paul Martin was ever good for. Pretending to have bold new ideas while really just committing more and more taxpayer money to be thrown into the same rat hole.

        • What Paul Martin was that?

  2. We already know how to fix the problems……..but the folks WITH the problems want no part of it.

    If you take any group of people and stick them in the middle of nowhere, with no jobs, no economy, no attachment to the country’s infrastructure…this is what you get. No hope.

    throw in a “leadership” cohort, that is more interested in milking the system for personnel gain….and there you go.

    Oh..and if you include opposition to ANY development of resources that would actually help these folks…….you get what we have today.

    If First Nations want to actually help their people they need to do one thing first. Fire most of their chiefs, and ignore their leaders.

    • Do you know how many FNs there are?

      And that they are as different as the Danes are from the Italians….even though both are European?

      Now you want them leaderless as well?

      • @Emilyone they would already have gone through the $5B that Mr. Dithers wanted to give them and would be crying for more, that’s what the DO………..

        • It’s going to cost money no matter what is done….but it would cost far less enabling an education so they can live differently.

          Almost a decade ago….we could have started reversing it….instead we are still sitting on our collective ass.

          • Throwing $5B at a group of people with nobody to be held accountable for it was nothing but a recipe for disaster. Harper was absolutely right to ditch it.

          • Emily,

            If you want to see who is sitting on their “collective” asses……just look at the employment rates compared to welfare rates on Indian reserves.

            As mentioned, you stick a bunch of people in the middle of nowhere without a functioning economy, nothing will get better. Throw in the refusal to develop resources, and you get what we have now. The reserves who are workign with industry, and providing employment where possible, are doing much better. Those who think like you do (Just keep chucking OUR money at them) end up with Attawaspikat writ large.

          • Emily,

            I”m sue you have read the Macleans article outlining the 8 MILLION spent to train 8 midwives.

            Unfortunately, when it comes to Aboriginal funding…….the truth is that we pay far more than we should be paying. No doubt, due to the fact we have 5 managers, 4 supervisors, 3 counsellors, 2 beaurocrats, and one shaman to perform cleansing rituals before class.

          • @jameshalifax- you pay taxes because you have to and please don’t feel privileged to still call it your money that you are “throwing” at natives. This is not just a simple out in the boonies and can’t develop the economy crisis. This is a broken population that must heal to move forward. You have young children who have seen violence and abuse their whole life because of a previous education system that was “good for them”. Besides the point, how would you cope if you left your family at the ripe age of 7 to live with abusive women and men who didn’t speak your language? You never saw your parents and you lived in fear for YEARS. A lot of these residential school survivors turned to alcohol as a means of suppression. Years later they get a big paycheque for their abuse and how is that supposed to fix it? Youre vast insight into this topic is deeply unappreciated. I hope ” your” tax money may always find its way into a natives welfare cheque because they aren’t capable of working a normal job from what they have had to deal with in their lifetime.

          • Julia Paul noted:
            “This is a broken population that must heal to move forward”

            I’m all for healing and moving forward…….I would just like to know why natives refuse to do so, and why native “healing” always involves vast gobs of money that disapper down black holes, or end up native leader bank accounts.

            And even after the “healing” is over, and we’ve forked over even more billions…..how is an economy going to develop if natives refuse to actually develop it? Cycle will never end until natives realize the biggest problems they face are of their own making. Residential schools were atrocious; on that we agree, however, if alcoholism, sexual abuse, and violence remain on reserves….then perhaps those folks on reserves doing all of this should stop.

            Sometimes life just sucks, but it won’t get better while you wait for someone else to look after you. At some point, you need to look after yourself. AND PAY FOR IT YOURSELF.

          • Sorry James, but it is their money, despite your hilarious we gave them electricity! spiel.
            But try that next time you’re shopping:
            My great grandad invented the dishwasher. So, I’m going to take these pants and we’ll call it even.

          • Lenny,

            In order for one to “own” the money they receive, it is traditionally expected that one works to earn it.

            Just giving money to someone who hasn’t lifted a finger…..isn’t really the definition of a salary or wage.

            It is welfare.

          • “In order for one to “own” the money they receive, it is traditionally expected that one works to earn it.”

            That’s going to come as an awful shock to the country’s shareholders, landlords, business owners, and the Canadian public who collects stumpage and royalties and licensing fees from the forestry, mining, O&G and fishing industries.

          • Lenny wrote:
            ““In order for one to “own” the money they receive, it is traditionally expected that one works to earn it.”

            That’s going to come as an awful shock to the country’s shareholders, landlords, business owners, and the Canadian public who collects stumpage and royalties and licensing fees from the forestry, mining, O&G and fishing industries.”

            Lenny, I am a shareholder, a landlord, and a business owner. You earn money in stocks by taking the risk of investing the money you have ALREADY earned. I am a landlord who inveted money in housing, as I expect to get a return on the money I have invested; which as just mentioned, i have ALREADY earned. Business owner…same deal. I expect a return (profit) on the money I have invested; which i have ALREADY earned. I know these points will escape you, but I don’t think you are fond of the market system in any event.


            Collecting royalties, stumpage, and mining fees is perfectly legitimate. Utilizing public resources, is fine, if the benefits also accrue to the public. We actually share a point here. Natives should stop opposing major investments in resource developments, as this reduces the funding available to first nations folk. If they let a pipeline go through the reserves, or their traditional land, they are entitled to a “cut” of the profits.

            When natives oppose development, then they shouldn’t complain when we don’t want to keep shovelling money into a black hole. If they want have the means to a developed economy, then by all means….allow one to develop.

            Earning money doesn’t just mean breaking your back all day….it means being involved in the creation of the wealth to which one may benefit. Just sitting back and expecting a cheque because your ancestors were here before ours…….is not a justifiable reason to get paid for not doing anything.

          • “Lenny, I am a shareholder, a landlord, and a business owner. You earn money in stocks by taking the risk of investing the money you have ALREADY earned.”

            That’s going to come as an awful shock to all those that inherited their assets or bought them with revenue from business holdings or rent, or the public who receive royalties, stumpage, licensing fees etc.,

        • Where did you hear no one would be accountable, Brasky?

          Is that what your bumper stickers say?

          • Brasky, throwing $B’s at a group of people with no one held accountable seems to have worked out just fine for the corporataucracy.

          • Emily,

            You really are out to luch aren’t you?

        • Somehow James, you think that by repeating the problems …..you can somehow solve them.

          PS…pay your rent money.

          • Sorry, Emily…..

            I don’t rent. I own.

            the folks who used to own this land before the arrival of the white man…are long since dead. After I am gone…someone else will own it. No matter who lives here, there will always be a new owner.

            Just because a land owner dies….doesn’t mean the land is passed to his dependents into eternity.

            Another note about rent……..it is easy for you to demand others’ pay the “rent” on your behalf, as I’m sure you have never had to pay out of pocket (at least not your own)

      • Emily,

        There are about 600 of them, most are quite small in number. As for their leaders……do you want to keep all of them? What about Thersa (Chief Double-chin starving in tent) Spence? Is that the kind of leadership you think is helpful.

        You want a good FN leader….look to Chief Louis.

        • There are over a million FN people in Canada, Jimmy. That doesn’t count Inuit or Metis.

          And their leaders are up to them.

          • I was referring to reserves / bands, Emily. Not individuals.

            As for their leaders being up to them…I agree.

            Now we know who to blame for the sorry state they find themselves in.

  3. I find it crazy that they choose the Skeetchestn Reserve as an example of an isolated reserve. It’s 35 minutes from Kamloops. We grew up west of the Skeetchestn Reserve and took the bus to Kamloops for school every day.

  4. Two bits in this piece stand out:

    Shawn Atleo, who came to power as Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief on a promise to “smash the status quo,” was soon labelled an Ottawa insider for his willingness to negotiate with the Harper government, particularly when it came to education funding.
    in May, AFN members, representing 633 communities across the country, voted to reject the proposal and demand the government spend the $1.9 billion immediately. Atleo resigned.

    It’s impossible to improve the system when one side of the bargaining table refuses to negotiate in good faith.

    If those so-called native “leaders” who voted against the $1.9B were even remotely concerned about their kids’ education, they would have taken the money with whatever strings were attached. Instead they voted against it because the plan included native leaders being held accountable for how the money was spent.

    Please tell me how someone would decline $1.9B for their kids’ education because of accountability measures, is in anyway concerned about the kids, and isn’t only covering their own butt? Native youth may be poorly educated, but they’re not stupid. They can see right through their leaders’ lies.

    • 3 centuries of us screwing them around and THEY aren’t operating in good faith???

      • Emily,

        You are aware that aboriginal claims to land are based upon occupancy correct? Before the white man arrived, Indian bands were routinely slaughtering each other and taking territory. The last person living there, was considered the owner, and the other indians had to make do. Cruel…sure. but that’s how it worked.

        The FN lived on this or that parcel of land or territory…and now we do. We made treaties with most of them, and now the CROWN holds title.

        Sure…..we’ve been unfair in the past, but you cannot say we didn’t provide many benefits with our moving in. what did we give them?

        Well…a formerly stone age group of people, now have:

        Writing and Reading
        running water (for the most part)
        modern medicine
        guns and bullets (little better at killing game)

        yeah….we give them all the conviences of modern life….and they gave us tobacco.

        Tobacco has probably killed more of us, than we have killed of them.

        Let’s call it even.

        • Okay James….if you just want to be silly, talk to someone else. We didn’t invent any of those things.

          The only advantage we had over natives when we arrived…..? Guns

          The advantage natives had over us….? They massively outnumbered us.

          • Emily,

            Of the list provided…….which First Nations band invented even one of them?

            As for advantages of the White man when he arrived……..what is the difference?

            Successful indian bands had advantages over other indian bands. These advantages resulted in some indians having large territory, while others did not.

            same applies.

        • Apparently the descendents of Tesla and Cugnot, as well as a number others are entitled to seize large swaths of the country, while I’m entitled to beat James with a bat and take his car because his European ancestors routinely slaughtered and stole from each other.

          Ah, the things you learn from drooling imbeciles on the internet.

          • Lenny,

            You are not entitled to use a bat to get my car…..but if I agreed to let you get my car, then it’s a done deal. The treaties gave us control of the land in exchange for other goods or services. yeah….sucked by today’s standards, but it isn’t our problem that our ancestors were better negotiators than Indian ancestors.

          • I get it. Those infantile rationalizations only apply when they’re in your favour.
            I admire your honesty.
            Now tell me about the treaty the Skeetchestn Indian Band negotiated.

      • Every country on Earth has seen one group conquer another, whether it’s in the Americas, Europe, Africa or Asia. Unlike Canada, the successful ones work for a common national identity instead of feeding a “first nations” racket that only helps the mob boss “chiefs” of those nations.

        • Really? You failed history, I take it?


  5. They’re not “2nd class” by some kind of gov’t decree. They are condemned to an inferior education system that is run by chiefs and band councils who systematically appropriate the money that is sent to their bands to aggrandize their own power and lifestyle. It’s not about their being Native Indians/First Nations/Aboriginal. Any kind of parallel system run by unaccountable leaders into which some Canadian kids were streamed would be just as bad. The solution is to abolish Indian status once and for all, abolish all reservations and bands and just make First Nations people regular citizens.
    Note to all chiefs and political correctoids: Pls be offended!

    • Well, there would go our railways, our hydro towers, our pipelines, our bridges……

      • Emily,

        1st nations folks also like railways, power, pipelines, and bridges as they are the means by which we send stuff their way.

        If they want to play that game….we can play too. And we’re better at it.

  6. Mainstream media over-simplified everything. The AFN has not mandate to negotiate on behalf of Treaty holders. Under Atleo I saw my Treaty rights eroded and saw movement that aligns with Canada’s Termination Plan for Indigenous People. There is no one size fits all solution. The government of Canada though assumed a legal and fiduciary responsibility for Indigenous education when they made us wards of the state with the Indian Act and when they assumed the burden of responsibility for the Treaties as the successor state at Confederation.

    The grassroots must be heard on any solution. The AFN is a body as far removed from the grassroots Indigenous People of Turtle Island as the Conservative caucus is from everyday voters.

    My hope is the AFN dies and goes away and the government of Canada comes forward in a fair, honest and in a way compliant with the Treaties to negotiate with the traditional Indigenous structures according to Indigenous law and Indigenous protocols. That is the promise of the Treaties and it is their obligation in the Nation to Nation agreements. Where there are no Treaties like BC, Maritimes and some of Quebec, Ontario they are again Nation to Nation negotiations but without the burden of Treaty terms.

    Before the racists start hollering, the Treaties are more than what is written per the caselaw that exists and the Honour of the Crown.

    • A racist of course, being anyone who disagrees with just shovelling Billions of dollars down a black hole of corruption, incompetence, and dependence that are our First Nations. (many of them, but not all).


      What we have now is NOT working, and the blame cannot be laid at the feet of any Government in particular. There are a lot of corrupt Indian chiefs who prefer the status quo, as they are growing quite wealthy by keeping their populations in sub-standard living conditions while they drive Escalades and enjoy their 60 inch flat screens.

      Look to the story about the FEDS giving 8 MILLION bucks…and only seeing 8 midwives trained.

      complete and utter waste.

      • “Look to the story about the FEDS giving 8 MILLION bucks…and only seeing 8 midwives trained. ”

        Yup, just more First Nations money mismanaged and swindled from them by a Canadian institution…oh wait, that’s not what you meant.

        • Lenny,

          Any time the FEDS give money to the “indian industry” this is the result. Sort of like the residential school settlements. Former students averaged about $12,000 apiece, and the lawyers involved made off with millions.

          It is time to stop giving funding the Chiefs, to disburse as they see fit. Pay it directly to the band members, and let the band council “tax” each cheque to run the place. Wouldn’t be long before FN’s folks started demanding better leadership when the $$ comes directly from their own pockets. Sure, it may not be cheaper to we who actually pay taxes, but you can be sure the money would be put to better use.

          Maybe generate more reserves with reliable water supplies and housing, and fewer Chiefs with Cadillac’s, or second homes in Florida.

          • Nice try.
            But the only evidence you’ve provided that First Nations are to blame for mismanagement is a case in which the money wasn’t given to “chiefs”. It was given to a Canadian institution. If it was mismanaged, the responsibility lies with those who spent, dispensed and oversaw the spending.
            It’s no more credible to claim that “corrupt chiefs” are to blame for inadequate FN services, than it is to claim that Mike Duffy is to blame for hospital waiting lists.

          • Lenny,

            The fact you don’t know about the mismangement of funds provided to FN bands is not surprising. Clearly, you do not read audits, follow investigative reports, or even watch the news. I wasn’t saying that money is ONLY wasted by giving it to natives…….a lot of it is wasted on lawyrs, cousellors, etc..etc….etc…

            As for Mike Duffy……when we start giving him 10 BILLION a year…then I’ll worry about it.

            If you want to see a prime example of how first nations “leadership” uses our money….look North. Attawapiskat.

            It’s easy to waste money you haven’t earned; especially when you know you just need to set up a blockade, or go to the courts and demand more.

          • 10 billion? Heh.
            Time to start worrying – we give the government of Canada and its corrupt members like Duffy, HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS to spend every year.
            The Attawapiskat audit made no allegations of corruption.

          • Lenny…..

            I have experience in the financial field……..and cleary you have not read the audit, or looked at the financial statements. I have seen most of these docs, and it isn’t pretty.

            Only an idiot (hi lenny) could read these documents and not realize something stinks to high heaven. the problem of course, is that this has been what we come to expect when dealing with first nations bands and reserves. many of these bands are led by folks who never even finished High School……and we expect them to look after millions of dollars, and follow financial probity and prudence.

            throw in a propensity to line one’s own pockets…..and the result is what we see on many of the reserves in Canada.

          • Sure, James.
            Providing evidence is hard.
            “Cuz James sez”, is all the evidence we need.

  7. This may sound rather glib and seem too simple, however to address the question of how, I believe we need to go to the basics.
    Regardless of race, language, colour, geography etc. EVERY human being has two basic needs: The need to love and be loved and the need to feel worthwhile and to be seen as worthwhile. There are a thousand and one ways to accomplish this, but in my humble opinion all programming and all attempts to address the problems as outlined in this article must adhere to and maintain that simple conclusion. It seems to me that Canada’s First Nation people are scattered like the wind, both physically and emotionally. If those two needs are constantly maintained in everything they do, the black pit of despair should gradually disappear. This is especially true in the northern areas of Canada.

  8. It’s very sad that native youth are caught in the middle of all this political posturing. I believe that education is the best way to provide opportunities and it seems to me these poor young people are victims of stand-offs between politicians and chiefs. In addition, I don’t think the reserve system is doing them any favours. The resultant depression and hopelessness from the isolation and cycles of violence and addiction has to be addressed and it can’t be by continuing on the current path. It will take some courageous individuals working together to overhaul this system.