Is Chretien’s Attawapiskat suggestion an antagonistic one?

The ex-PM suggested remote communities like Attawapiskat are economically unviable, and residents may have to move


He mentioned the unmentionable. Jean Chrétien—the former prime minister and former minister of what was once called “Indian Affairs”—suggested that one solution the tragic situation in Attawapiskat might be to move the community. He argued that isolated communities might never be economically viable. “There is no economic base there for having jobs and so on,” he said on Tuesday, “and sometimes they have to move, like anybody else.”

It is an explosive suggestion that some see as a legacy of the thinking that led to the residential school policy. Others see it as simply the hard truth we can’t ignore. Does it make sense to ask or is it an antagonistic idea?

Read Joseph Boyden’s story on why investment and education will help Attawapiskat.

Read Scott Gilmore on why Attawapiskat residents should consider leaving their land.


Is Chretien’s Attawapiskat suggestion an antagonistic one?

  1. It’s a ‘well, duh’ moment. Chretien’s right, some communities aren’t viable. Ati fits the category and it has nothing to do with residential schools – although there is a part of that ‘thinking’ we’ve missed.

    While the main reason was to ‘broker some change’ in the native population through education – this was, alsio being done at a time when tuberculosis was rife in the population, the means of survival was little advanced over what it had been in times past and a hard winter could still kill people – the old and children in particular.

    While the means of survival have changed, isolated communities are still dependent on the outside for the basics – food and fuel, as well as for necessities like medical care. We have all read how a faulty pump or an ice jam can make these places uninhabitable in rather short order and on a sickeningly regular basis. This takes the resources that could be spent on improvements, but it doesn’t change the fact that the traditional lifestyle doesn’t fill enough time and many, particularly the young have no intertest in that. Which means they get bored, sick and tired – depressed and see no way out.

    Let’s give them the support they need to come out, to move closer to places that provide an opportunity to participate in modern life and a fuller society. ‘Ati’ can be a place to go back to.

  2. OH geez…..

    Imagine that. Chretien saying something yesterday that many of us have been saying for years.

    Only when Conservatives mention it, we are being bigots, racists, or demanding assmilation.

    And yet when Liberal Chretien says it, “it is time for a discussion”


    • Frankly,

      If the Liberal Justice Minister continues her quest to get rid of the INDIAN ACT, and JEAN CHRTIEN convinces Trudeau to start looking at viable alternatives…..I may have to hold my nose and vote Liberal next election.

  3. In defense of Chretien (OMG the world as ended as I’m defending Chretein!!) I don’t think he said move the community. He suggested that people may need to move to where work/education and good services are. Big difference.

    People have moved to better themselves every day and have for centuries. My grandparents came to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and I get down on my knees and thank them every day – having visited where they came from they did it to provide a better life for their children and yes it was difficult. My Irish grandmother must have thought she landed on the moon when she arrived in the drylands of Sask. My mother wanted to finish high school and in the 1930s, the school in the closest town only went up to Grade 9. To complete grade 10 and 11 she had to go to the next town, pay the fees and pay for room and board (which traded for providing house keeping services to the family she stayed with), To finish Grade 12 she had to go all the way into Regina – pay fees, pay for room and board – for small town girl who had never lived away from home and her home community was all of 300 people, moving to the capital was a HUGE deal. And I thank her every day because if she hadn’t she would have been trapped on a small farm at a time when farming was shedding workers due to automation. She would have married a dirt poor farmer and eked out a living on a dirt poor farm. Instead she went on to take a secretarial course, moved to Winnipeg and married my Dad (an engineer).

    She often talked about how lonely and afraid she was, but she knew life had to be better and it was.

    So yes, prepare families and children to relocate to communities where there are more options – I would much rather spend a billion dollars on providing those kinds of support than throwing money into a dead end reserve.

  4. If a fraction of the problems at Attawapiskat happened in a town like Coronation – relocating would be a non-issue. Nobody would debate how many millions to throw at them to stave off third world conditions.

  5. I know you may not post this because Macleans is a Rogers entity but Christie Blatchford wrote a brilliant article today in the National Post. Part of her point was that as Indian Affairs minister, Chretien and his wife adopted a child from one of the most northern First nation communities. He saw first hand, the need to give these children a better life. For those that are dismissing his comments as being “colonial”, he actually recommended an end to the Indian Act decades ago and unfortunately we still find ourselves in this mess today.