Starting to sort out the Attawapiskat numbers

How much money would it take to fix the housing crisis on reserves?

by John Geddes

Dollar figures will never tell the whole dispiriting story of Attawapiskat, Ont., of course, but you’ve got to start someplace.

For the federal government, it seems to me, there’s a straightforward question that must be answered right away, and another much more difficult one that demands longer-term vision. Money is at the core of both:

Firstly, how much would it take to fix the housing crisis, in Attawapiskat and similar remote First Nations communities, if spending is properly managed for a change?

Secondly, is more needed to provide a decent life in remote reserves , or is current funding sufficient if it isn’t squandered, or is the whole notion of trying to sustain these communities a mistake?

The first question is tricky enough, but obviously the second is far more fraught.

Stephen Harper seemed to be mixing up the two when he tossed out the figure $90 million as overall federal spending in the community of about 1,700 since the Tories came into office in 2006.

Less than five per cent of the $90 million the Prime Minister referred to was earmarked for building or renovating homes. But lousy housing is, in fact, the only reason we’re paying attention to Attawapiskat just now. So did Harper mean to suggest that the band leadership might have insulated shacks by siphoning off federal funds designated for, say, education? I have no idea.

What is clear is that Attawapiskat received $4.3 million in federal funding for housing from 2006-07 to 2010-11, according to a table released to the media by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Is that a lot or a little? Hard to say, but a point of comparison might be helpful here.

So consider the nearby First Nations community of Kashechewan, which has about Attawapiskat’s population and was the subject of a similar burst of anguished national attention over lousy living conditions back in 2005. According to figures provided to me by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Kashechewan received $27.4 million for housing over the same five-year period—more than six times Attawapiskat’s housing allocation.

I’ve asked the department if there’s an explanation for the big difference and will post answers when they are provided. One possibility is that saturation media coverage of Kashechewan’s woes in 2005 resulted in extra funding. That $27.4 million was enough to renovate 78 existing homes and constructed 55 new ones in Kashechewan, and the federal government spent another $16.1 million over the same period building a dyke in the flood-prone community, and $9.6 million to clean up a school that burned and provide temporary school facilities.

Given Keshechewan’s recent history, Attawapiskat might get a major bump in funding for housing and other infrastructure. No doubt that would help. A note of caution, though, about how definitive that solution might turn out to be: Kashechewan’s chief told me last week that acute housing shortages persist in his community.

I’ve said the Prime Minister’s wielding of that $90-million, total five-year spending figure wasn’t much use. That’s mainly because I think the way to look at Attawapiskat’s immediate situation is to keep our focus in the short term on the pressing need for decent housing.

Still, there’s no denying that a broader look at spending on remote reserves would also make sense, although preferably not in a crisis atmosphere. This is a familiar, racially charged debate. Does it make sense to keep pouring money—even if spending could somehow be much better managed—into communities where the prospect of economic development and employment often appears so dismal?

Direct federal spending in 2010-11 in Attawapiskat, as has been widely reported, totaled $15.9 million. That includes, for instance, $6.6 million for education and $1.3 million to run the band council and administration.

Many Attawapiskat residents also collect welfare administered by the provincial government through the Ontario Works program. (Under a 1965 agreement, Ottawa reimburses Ontario for the bulk of welfare payments to First National communities in the province.) Ontario Works tells me 443 households in Attawapiskat received a total of $3.9 million in 2010-11.

(A single Ontario Works recipient is eligible to get a maximum of $599 this month; those collecting welfare north of the 50th parallel can get a bit more to cover basic needs and shelter, typically $156 extra.)

The housing needs of Attawapiskat and similar communities demand immediate and sustained attention. In upcoming talks between the federal government and First Nations leaders, making progress on that narrowly defined problem will be much harder if it gets blended too much into more wide-ranging discussions on what to do about isolated, impoverished reserve communities.

But once the the housing issue has been properly addressed, the right thing to do—no matter how politically uncomfortable—would be to finally face the question of whether it makes sense to go on indefinitely using direct federal funding and welfare payments to sustain communities where the prospect of most people finding jobs remains bleak.




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Starting to sort out the Attawapiskat numbers

  1. A good start might have been not to throw around “if spending is properly managed for a change?” and “could somehow be much better managed” particularly when you come straight out and admit you haven’t the faintest idea what an appropriate level of funding for housing would be.  But in spite of that, you haven’t a problem in inferring the band spent foolishly.

    •  ”if spending is properly managed for a change?”

      A person doesn’t have to know what is the appropriate housing funding,
      to know that buying a Zamboni when those you are responsible to have not had their basic needs met, like emergency sleeping bags.

      How many generators, for example,  could have been bought with the cost of one Zamboni?

      • What makes you think the band got to make that decision?

      • Not many. Zambonis start at 10K new

        And every penny spent has to be approved by the fed govt.

        Mind you, it’s cheaper to have the kids sniffing gas.

      • God yes, this is written through the lens of ‘all this money we’re throwing at them’ and look at the results meme.  Not exactly unbiased reporting.  I suggest you listen to Chuck Strahl’s CBC interview where he talks about the problems of financing the building of infastructure.

      • The government ok’d a hockey rink some time in the past, not much good without a zamboni is it?  Or don’t you think the community should have any recreation for the kids?  I live in Victoria, we have a sizeable homeless poplation sleeping on our streets.  I have never heard anyone suggest we should halt all unnecessary spending until these people are looked after. 

    • This is a valid comment. I shouldn’t have made an off-hand allusion to endemic poor management without explaining my reasons. My starting point is the “2011 June Status Report of the Auditor General of Canada,” which stated on the delivery of services, housing among them, in First Nations communities:

      “It is often unclear who is accountable to First Nations members for achieving improved outcomes or specific levels of services. First Nations often cite a lack of federal funding as the main reason for inadequate services. For its part, INAC maintains that the federal government funds services to First Nations but is not responsible for the delivery or provision of these services…

      “We believe that there have been structural impediments to improvements in living conditions on First Nations reserves. In our opinion, real improvement will depend on clarity about service levels, a legislative base for programs, commensurate statutory funding instead of reliance on policy and contribution agreements, and organizations that support service delivery by First Nations.”

      This is just part of what the AG wrote, of course, but it conveys the broad point. Nobody’s accountable, the basis for funding isn’t clear, federal support to make sure services can be properly delivered isn’t there. Under these conditions, I don’t think I was out of line to start from the assumption managing any program properly would be a welcome change from the norm.

      • Thank you.  Much better!

  2. “So did Harper mean to suggest that the band leadership might have insulated shacks by siphoning off federal funds designated for, say, education? ”

    This is exactly what the Department expects. If you look at the Auditor General’s 2011 report on the Depratment of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, ongoing funding is provided in annual contribution agreements that are signed as long as 7 months into the current year so the bands have no choice but to shift resources from one pot to another. Uncertainty about the amount and timing leads to short term planning which isn’t going to solve long term problems.

    • Wait a minute.  If you are given a fund labelled “recreational equipment and infrastructure” it would be irresponsible to spend the fund on, say, school books and housing.  Sort of like if you were given a fund for “border security,” only a most irresponsible person would buy a gazebo 100 miles away from any border.  That you have money in a recreational equipment and infrastructure account when your water is poisonous and your houses are falling down garden sheds is a very big point, but can you imagine if the Federal government gave you money for a thing and you didn’t spend it on that thing?  Not a leg to stand on when they invoke the third-party manager bit.
      Maybe that was the point?

      •  Wait a minute, who do you think makes submissions for funding labelled “recreational equipment and infrastructure”?  The Chief and Council….

        • Submissions aren’t approval.

  3. This is an unbeleivable  waste of Canadian Taxpayers dollars,  $70,000 per year per person – plus work for the band- stop stop.  These people chose to live there… so why are we paying welfare  etc etc.   … move and get a job.

    • If you were a northern aboriginal person from one of these poverty-stricken communities, who can’t read or write in English, may have never attended school as we know it, and live in a tent or a black-mould work trailer most of your life — just where exactly would you move, and what jobs would you apply for and get?  Think maybe you could move to Toronto and be a chartered accountant?  Since you advocate the entire reserve moving, where would you suggest they put down roots and set up their homes, and who’s paying for the move and the new housing etc — oh now we’re back to square one?  Canada wants all the northern resources, and with that comes a little responsibility to the people who live there.  Watch the video; notice the open sores on the childrens’ faces, and the black mould they breathe in, day in and day out.  And tell me you think they’re living high off the hog; tell me you and I are paying for them to lead a grand old lifestyle while we work and sweat.

      • Actually they offered to move one isolated band to Timmins…in the same general area but not as isolated; with a year-round road and more employment opportunitites.  The band would not go.
        As for the mould…it will always be a problem according to a retired chief.  The heat from the houses melts the permafrost and then moisture gets into the building materials…that allows mould to grow.  You cannot kill the mould so you have to replace the materials or build new homes….nothing lasts very long so it would likely be wise to invest only in mobile homes $100K each and try to get 10 years out of them?
        I am not sure what “resources’ you think exist on these reserves.  I am not aware of any resources under the permafrost at Attawapiskat?  The Debeers diamond mine is located 90 kilometres away from the reserve.
        Unfortunately, no easy answers…..

        • Yeah, they should do what they’re told, right?

          • If they want to live a life with infrastructure. Then they should move to a place with infrastructure. That’s what everyone else does.

          • But they aren’t ‘everyone else’….they are separate nations, and specifically spoken about in the constitution.

    • $70,000 – where did you get that from?

  4. The more information about this the more confusing it gets.   I’ve been following the blog and comments of http://apihtawikosisan.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/dealing-with-comments-about-attawapiskat/
     
    Mention is made there that the “the community grew by 500 people in two years, sorely taxing available housing,”   That would put a big strain on housing if it is accurate.
     
    Also reference to Treaty 9(?) which isn’t clear if housing is actually covered – just education and health.  This seems to be the big sticking point and why they are not using any of their own money on housing.
     
    Interesting too is the “connection to the land” – yet were not these James Bay communities originally Hudson Bay fur trading posts which the FN moved to?

    • “The connection to the land”is not open to question. They moved up and down that river and the coast long before the HBC arrived.

      • Exactly – they moved.  Most bands were semi-nomatic, hunters and gatherers with a winter and a summer camp.

        That blog link above talks about how people in Atlantic Canada go back and forth to places like Ft. Mac for high-paid work and perhaps they should develop a similar pattern in order to maintain their community and culture.

    • Many of these nomadic families moved to trading posts after their children were sent to residential schools. Every member of the family , even the youngest, had roles to play in the  cycle for survival. The separation from the nomadic way of life meant that the returning children lacked essential survival shills that should have been learnt in their formative years. At school the children were forbidden to speak their native language & participate in cultural activities a further cause of generational alienation. In desperation to be close to their children many families opted to settle near the trading posts. 

  5. “But once the the housing issue has been properly addressed, the right thing to do—no matter how politically uncomfortable—would be to finally face the question of whether it makes sense to go on indefinitely using direct funding and welfare payments to sustain communities where the prospect of most people finding jobs remains bleak.”

    We frequently hear the phrase:” You’re not listening!” from Aboriginal people…you’re not listening either JG!
    Tune in to APTN for a moment and “hear” what almost all FN’s leadership is saying – has been saying for ever – they want some kind of control over what resources leave their lands – revenue sharing at least – and to be left alone to decide their own future. The issue of govt funding is not the central issue; they have no control over it in anycase. Respect the treaties and tear down the portions of the indian act that hold them back and we will see change. In the case of Attawapiskat we know there is a nearby diamond mine. The communitiy’s deal with debeers is secret/confidential. If the community held the upper hand in negoiations with the company i very much doubt we would see these recurring problems; besides after the mine is gone it’s doubtful the land will be worthwhile anymore for traditional purposes. At the very least the band wouldn’t be able to blame the GoC for its problems anymore.It is my understanding is that INAC leases the land out on the band’s behalf – what kind of a negoiating position is that for the real landowners? 
    We have to stop treating these folks like colonists; we being the guilt ridden colonial administrators.
    As for deciding whether these communties are viable or not – listen to even the most vociferous band council critics – they are not leaving. It’s their home; their refuge; the land where their ancestors are buried. They wont leave and let’s not forget who put them on these reserves in the first place, when we lecture them about living in unsustainable remote communities.

    • I’m not an expert, far from it. But I do try to listen, and I have interviewed many First Nations leaders over the years, most recently about Attawapiskat. Viewpoints vary. But here’s a common refrain: the perceived need for more federal funding is invariably raised, and forcefully, so I don’t see how that’s not a central issue. 

      On the notion that removing “portions of the Indian Act that hold them back” is the key to making real progress, I can’t help but think that Nunavut stands as a prime example where a First Nations population, in this case the Eastern Arctic Inuit, achieved the land claims settlement it wanted, the government structure it sought, the pool of capital it needed, and the ability to profit from resource development it rightly demanded—and still the familiar social and economic issues of isolated Northern communities persist.

      I don’t think I’ve ever lectured anybody about living in a remote place. (I grew up in one.) How is it the sign of a colonial attitude to ask how enough jobs are going to be created in Attawapiskat to support a community of 1,800? I don’t blame the people for being there—that’s where they’re from. But without a plausible expectation of an economic boom on the horizon, where are enough future jobs to make Attawapiskat a thriving community going to come from? Or is that the sort of question a “guilt-ridden colonial administrator” would ask?
        

      • Sorry that you seem to have take it personally. The lecture remark was uncalled for[ indeed it seems i was the one doing the lecturing ] and i’m sure you do listen – sorry about that, but i do hear a good deal of it with regard to native issues.
        You make some good points on Nunavut[ i live in the NWT where devolution is a hot button issue, particular with FNs] and they certainly have issues of their own now, but i don’t hear them clamouring to resume their old relationship with Canada; they have noone to blame but themselves now.
         Again i’m sure there are alot of confused and mixed messages coming from FN’s themselves. I am not suggesting that accountability is not a two way street,nor that dependency will die easily..
        As for the colonial analogy i beg to differ. I think it does apply still, even if it seems to be fading. It isn’t solely a matter of jobs as i pointed it out, it’s a matter of honouring land claims and meeting treaty obligations. What other sort of revenue is there for remote communties with no tax base? 
        Perhaps i’ alittle too close to this stuff? I lived on a remote reserve for a few years and came to have a good deal of respect and liking for what is still a broken culture. On that score you are indeed correct – there are no easy solutions.

  6. God yes, this is written through the lens of the ‘all this money we’re throwing at them’  meme.  Not exactly unbiased reporting. Mr. Geddes,  I suggest you listen to Chuck Strahl’s CBC interview in which he discusses the problems of financing house construction under the current system. 

    • You know what, on reading JG’s response to me i think we aren’t being fair. He is asking a legitimate question: are remote communities viable in purely economic terms? These questions can easily become unfairly personal. I continue to believe his last question is a moot one really, because FN’s in my limited experience aren’t going anywhere. We’re a nothern country and it’s damn expensive to live in it. If the Russians can manage it i’m sure we can too.

      • If you do some reading on Russia’s northern indigenous peoples you will see they are having similar problems and have less rights.  The Saami in the Nordic countries are probably doing best - reindeer herding is quite profitable – but they are the only indigenous people there.  We have over 600.

        I’m with JG on it not making sense for these tiny, isolated communities to exist if their is no economy. 

        • One favour they might do themselves is to consider forming larger bands. Presently some of the bands are too small and likely not viable. Larger groups might also have the advantage of more political clout.

      • I liked Geddes final paragraph – it strikes me as a fair question, although the focus on jobs might be a bit too narrow.

        The ultimate resolution of the underlying problems currently being highlighted in Attawapiskat needs to achieve a balance between the desires of the citizens of the northern communities (which might not be so focused on jobs) and treaty obligations.

        • Fair comment and i was a bit hard on JG although i didn’t intend to be – i know he’s a fair man, and he asked a fair question.

          But even though what you say is true it still runs into the solid obstacle of native rights, as defined in the charter/constitution, treaty and land rights.
          Many commentors are addressing this as you and i might in the situation…leave and go where the jobs are. Lots of natives already do this but in all my years of paying attention to theses issues i have yet to hear a native person say -” yes we must all move” This should give us pause. Why would any human being choose to put up with the kind of living conditions these folks do? It isn’t simply a matter of ignorance or lck of education. My experience was this is the one place where they are home – not the minority – among their own people.Among “all my relatives”. We have to deal with this fact – they’re different and they have different rights to you and i.
          That said perhaps there is room to move communities to more viable locations if they choose and if they do not give up tittle. One thing we can be almost certain of – they will never willingly extinguish tittle rights. Would you?

          • Simpson at the G&M has an honest take on the situation:
             
            “The opposition parties, whatever their stripe, excoriate the government for inaction. The government tries to defend itself and is in turn accused of “blaming the victim.” Like the living conditions in the afflicted communities, the narratives do not change.
             
            Governments have not spent enough, cared enough, worked hard enough, so the ensuing calamities are their fault. Truth attends this narrative, to a degree. Former Ontario cabinet minister Alan Pope, asked to investigate the Kashechewan crisis, reported in 2006 that Ottawa was funding a community of 1,550 to 1,700 on a budget for 1,100 people.
             
            Mr. Pope offered other recommendations, but he spoke an inconvenient truth: “To remain in isolation with no access to income or employment opportunities is to sentence this community to despair and poverty.” For Kashechewan, read Attawapiskat.
             
            Mr. Pope put several options to the people of Kashechewan: Stay put, move 30 kilometres inland, shift to Fort Albany, move south to Smooth Rock Falls or Timmins. Early in his consultations, it appeared moving south to Smooth Rock Falls was the preferred option; ultimately, the community made the decision to stay put.
             
            It is argued, and this is surely right, that better education might break the cycles of dependency. A policy problem does exist with the lower per-student funding level for native education. But if such a cadre could be developed, why would highly educated (in a formal sense) young people stay in places like Attawapiskat when few jobs beckon, except for the band council or maybe a school or health clinic?”
             
            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/jeffrey-simpson/for-kashechewan-read-attawapiskat/article2262286/

          • Yes, mostly, I think…

            A workable, satisfactory long term solution will need to be consistent with the charter/constituion, no doubt about that, and morally if not legally it should also be consistent with the intent (if not the letter of the law) of the originating treaties.

            I do agree that the ‘simplistic’ recommendation to ‘go where the jobs are’ is unlikely to be an answer that will be entirely acceptable to all or even many of the communities, just as you outlined when talking about ‘their home’.

            But this, it seems to be, gets to the crux of the matter – it just doesn’t seem possible for all of these communities to stay physically exactly where they are today (for reasons (historical or otherwise) that I accept as totally legitimate) AND to also have a standard of living that is essentially the same as the average urban Canadian, with all of the aentities and access to essentially the same level of services (health care in particular, higher education as well).

            And this is going to require some difficult decisions, mostly on the part of the community members themselves – they need to balance their desire to stay close (or not move at all) and the benefits that that brings with their desire to share in some of the benefits that can onl reasonably be accessed by moving closer to urban centers.

            I don’t believe that this decision needs to be an all or nothing decision (ie it shouldn’t be necessary for FN to return to exactly the lifestyle that they had 200 years ago to avoid moving), but it will certainly require them to accept some trade-offs.

          • I was thinking along the same lines. The crux of the issue is lifestyle and afforability. On my [BC] reserve even when people had money it flowed like water. They liked spending it and they loved sharing - it’s in their dna – they are the people of the potlatch. Even assuming other bands are half as generous and undisciplined[ from our perspective] we have a big problem. Are they entittled to live at urban levels of consumer driven spending on the public’s dime? Most would say no. As you say the FNs have to come to this realization themselves.
            If only we as a society had addressed some of these concerns at an earlier time when connections to the land were stronger, particularly among the elders. Things are further complicated by a new generation with a greater appetite for both the consumer good life and far less independence from outside govt interference.
            Some pundits thought all along this would eventually drive them off the land and to th cities[ a sort of back door assimilation by stealth]; but it hasn’t quite worked out that way as there has been a revival of interest in culture and language in some cases  amomg the younger generation .

          • [ a sort of back door assimilation by stealth]

            Heh.

  7. Reserves.   Reserved for what and by whom ?
    When they’re loose in the wild and in the way, we reserve some lousy
    land for them and get them out of the way.
    When the reserves become inconvenient and shabby it’s time to get
    the ghosts out of the way again.
    We are so consistent.

  8. Please people, be educated… 6250.00 reaches each families / year… NOT 70,000…of the 90M spent over 5 years… 43% went back to the government for their management, Our Chief makes 70K / year and she gives most of that back to her community, even going as far as giving up her own home to let a Family have it while she went to live in the sour Debeers shelter… .they say 32M / year, but INAC takes 52% of that, INAC is the Government Arm on Native Issues…the community receives 17M / year from the government…
    Harper wants this all to go away… it’s interrupting their spending on stuff like G8 and Helicopters and Frigets for fishing trips… and right now, what is very apparent that they are using the media to sway the public against the oppressed… just like FOX news did for the US Gov and uses fear mongering on the War.
    Unless you live up there, Like I have for most of my life, you wouldn’t know how it is, see for your self, go in for a month and try to get back out… try, none of you would dare, would you… but yet it’s so easy to judge and talk without being educated on the facts….educate yourself people, I know none of you are stupid, so please don’t come across like you are. educate yourself… because the truth will come out somehow… and you will all feel very ashamed.

  9. It’s probably not helpful to conflate welfare payments with government funding intended for housing. The welfare money is intended to build new homes. At $750/month, it probably barely covers food costs in a isolated northern community.  That said, I’m glad media people are starting to sort out the numbers, and what they actually mean on the ground, rather than take the Sun and National Post approach of yelling “$90 million dollars!  Yargle!”

  10. Thanks to everybody who commented here. I don’t often engage in this way, because I think it’s usually much better to just have my say in the original posting and then step back and let readers have a go. But in this case the discussion has been unusually thought-provoking, which I really appreciate.

    So, a few points. Tobyornotoby picks up on what I meant as a joke to point out how the current funding system forces band councils to shift money around among different envelopes. This is indeed what the AG said happens, and it’s a prime example of the problems with the way funding is handled. Hard to have accountability about results when there’s no clarity of purpose at the outset.

    JanBC faults me for examining this issue too narrowly as a matter of money spent with poor results. I admit that’s my starting point. It’s habit—that’s how I would look at, say, a defence spending issue or the cost of the gun registry. What do Canadian taxpayers get for their money? Can you suggest a different frame that would still allow us to actually analyze policy, rather than lapse into a more abstract discussion?

    Patchouli asks where the people of Attawapiskat might move and how they would be expected to get jobs there. Fair point. Sudden dislocation isn’t an option. But many young First Nations people already make the decision to leave their home reserve communities for opportunities elsewhere. If the economic prospects in a remote community are poor, and likely to remain poor, shouldn’t federal policy be adapted to make that sort of transition easier, or even encourage it?

    And on those of you who seem worried about my feelings being hurt by stuff said in this back and forth, I appreciate your concern, but that’s okay. This is all very civil and informative.   

    • You might find this interesting background reading – Treaty #9 explained by Stan Louttit.
       
      “As well, I wanted you to know that our Elders in 1905 did the best they could for us living today. Our Elders secured our education, protected our hunting, fishing and trapping rights, and ensured health care. Do you think they did a good job? I think they did an amazing job by maintaining our traditional lifestyle in the Treaty and today the governments are learning that, on behalf of our Elders, we’re holding them to this.
       
      We believe the governments of the time are responsible for the manner in which the Treaty was poorly negotiated, improperly explained, and written without our input or consent. We are now telling the present governments that we believe our peoples never agreed to give away vast tracts of our land as well as the resources. From the Elders oral history we see that they talked about sharing the land and resources and they expected the newcomers to do the same.”
       
      http://www.pathoftheelders.com/history/chapter4a-1  

    • “ But many young First Nations people already make the decision to leave their home reserve communities for opportunities elsewhere. If the economic prospects in a remote community are poor, and likely to remain poor, shouldn’t federal policy be adapted to make that sort of transition easier, or even encourage it?”

      While that is true it also has to be said that it is hard to say how many of those young people never return. I beieve i’m right in saying many do, if only briefly; the point being the disconnection isn’t just a permanent oneway ticket to a better life in the cities. Indeed many don’t make it for various reasons – cultural dislocation being a biggie - and do return,most likely to do nothing – but they’re home at least. Some just keep on shuffling in and out; some tragically will never return anywhere again.
      So, i have to disagree somewhat. Encourage those who want to leave for a better life to do so – there already is free post secondary education opportunities here in the NWT – and not just for Aboriginal kids. But there needs to be something better for those who choose to go home too. And for those who do stay there are already affirmative action programmes, programmes which offend the sensibilities of non natives and southern Canadians. Really, these guys can’t win for losing.

    • “a matter of money spent with poor results”

      It is repeated as some sort of common knowledge that the money was spent with poor result, it’s not the case, not at all. I was a labourer in ’70s for the company that built housing for Attawapiskat, Mosonee and Kaschechewan. The houses we built would still be standing today, even if they were built in permafrost(another false report).

      I know why the natives say they need more money, what I don’t know is why the media interpret this as money mismanagement. It was well managed, actually. Attawapiskat received everything they were promised.

      The real problem, as much now as it was in the ’70s, is that once these houses and facilities are built, it is out of sight, out of mind for our government. So either out of spite from the natives, out of lack of maintenance knowledge, or out of just plain carelessness, everything get trashed. The houses that we built, we came back the next year and windows were broken, doors were left open, and they ripped up floor planks to start a fire in the living room.

      If they owned these houses, I’m sure it would have been a different story.

  11. There are problems that you need money to solve, and problems that are solved without money, and the problems that need money are usually the easier ones.

    Unfortunately many problems on reserves don’t need primarily money for their solution.

  12. “But once the housing issue has been properly addressed-… to sustain communities where the prospect of most people finding jobs remains bleak.” Then why pour money into these communities in the first place where even the author sees that this community is most likely going to fail? If the tribe leaders are taking 30% of the money and running off with it for personal gains, why continue making these leaders rich from doing nothing? The right thing to do, no matter how politically uncomfortable, is to put these tribe leaders into jail for embezzling all this funding they’re getting while leaving the rest of their tribe in the dark.

  13. Move the entire community into a town/city and firmly suggest they start working, paying taxes, etc etc

  14. Welcome to Canada where multiculturalism is more important than progress.  It is time for the aboriginal peoples to evolve.  Our Constitution grants rights without responsibilities.  The government will support you no matter what.  If you want the government to support you then expect the government to control you.  We immigrate thousands of people each year and provide language training and education for them.  These funds should be used to educate the aboriginals so they can become a working part of Canada.  If they prefer to live in remote northern communities and govern themselves then they should become self sufficient.

  15. The prime example of “poor management” is the hopeless location of the community in respect to lack of employment possibilities to maintain a lifestyle beyond sustinence; the formidable cost of construction of homes which will withstand the environmental challenges; the lack of social support systems necessary to combat the physical and emtional challenges of  living in the midst of chronic unemployment, etc.
    Though the Canadian citizens who live there have a right to do so, is it incumbant upon the ROC to support that right in the face of total lack of logic.

  16. The Grand Chief, the Regional Chief, the Band Chief, talk about top heavy…who pays for the Regional Chief? I find it hard to believe that vast tracks of land were somehow colonized by the wandering band of nomads that these aboriginals were hundreds of years ago, and that they are somehow entitled to whatever these lands may have.
    They should all be incorporated as townships and administered through the province using federal dollars. For now, send in the army and get this straightened out for the winter….

    • They way we govern, I’m not sure we should pointing any fingers at anybody. 

  17. I wish the Government would build a new house for me! I have the perfect property picked out. Maybe if I stop eating for a couple of weeks they will.
    When will Canadians say enough is enough and tell natives to look after themselves like everyone else has to?

  18. Hi John, I think we need to have a very indepth analysis of the sustainability of First Nations communities and I think you are the person to do it. Part of this analysis is to examine how much the Federal and Provincial government subsidize cities like Toronto? I live in a remote mining town in Cochenour (the house where you grew up!) and $200 million of the mine’s tax dollars go to sustaining southern Ontario lifestyle of paved roads and other things we consider luxuries. Our First Nation people lived across the boreal forest and were forced onto reserves. I argue that cities are being subsidized by the natural resources extracted by the lands that we ceded to live on reserves and now our small pockets of land are being argued as unsustainable?? I believe you have the ability to think this one through from a non-First Nations , educated and political perspective.

  19. That village is there because the Catholic Church incited them to relocate there in 1897

  20. isn’t it true that the $90 million was actually a partial payout from DeBeers mine for the construction and profits arising from the diamond mine they are building in Attawapiskats’ traditional territory, and did not actually come from taxpayers?

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