This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Really?  Idle No More...?

First Nations reserves chiefs represent a mixed bag of competence and gross incompetence, of ethical behaviour and in reverse, nepotism and corruption.  In many instances the ethics-and-morals-challenged individuals simply have no real idea how to go about their business to advantage the community they represent.  And they appear to have little interest in applying themselves to a learning curve to master good administration.

From what has been described in various news stories coming out of Attawapiskat, Chief Theresa Spence appears to fall into the latter category.  Despite which, she is now viewed by the larger aboriginal community as a champion of their rights.  She complains incessantly that nothing that has gone amiss on her reserve is her fault or that of her reserve council.  That all is attributable to the failure of the federal Government.

She has now announced she is prepared to die of hunger, through a hunger strike that appeals to her sense of drama and personal conceit, which she will consider suspending only if and when the Prime Minister and the Governor General meet with her and other members of the aboriginal community who claim to represent the best interests of their people.  They may indeed hope to represent their best interests.

But a little bit of responsible introspection is also required of them.  And the will to do that kind of thing appears entirely lacking.  All the abysmal failures of the First Nations cannot be laid at the feet of a flawed and inadequate Indian Act and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (First Nations must take some responsibility, since they are conflicted with respect to much-needed changes in the Indian Act).

Canadians are not proud of the debilitating straits in which native Canadians live on too many of their reserves.  The reserves themselves are often too geographically isolated for a people wedded to tradition, although they no longer live in their traditional manner and are wholly reliant all too often on payments through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, dispensed to the band councils for responsible management.

It cannot work both ways.  Living on mandated welfare, living without pride of independence.  No opportunities for employment, an indolent, bored population that is wracked by alcohol and drugs and child abuse.  First Nations have an excellent argument that they have been too long abused and discriminated against; yet they do themselves no credit by their inability to make normal, decent lives for themselves and their children.

Assimilation into general society is rejected, but tribal village society is a reflection of the past, not the future.  "The kind of life my parents live, the kind of life our people live is only possible because of the reserve system. It's ironic that the same system created to assimilate us is actually what has allowed us to keep our way of life", stated one activist. She is concerned about the erosion of traditional practices and forgotten languages with the possibility of reserves vanishing into history.

But the way for native populations to advance their own self-interests is to honour their past and their heritage while integrating into general society and absorbing opportunities that present themselves through higher education and meaningful, well-remunerated employment.  "We just want peace, we just want to work together", Chief Theresa Spence iterates, in rejecting a meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

Working together works best with both sides accepting their own areas of responsibility, and through reciprocity of trust, goodwill and honesty.  Which does not let government off the hook with its responsibility to settle land claims too long a lance in the side of fairness and responsibility, as well.  Oblique threats and civil disobedience on the part of the First Nations, on the other hand, creates division.

"If I die, things might get bad.  Back home, there's been talk of people shutting the mine down, there's talk of roads being closed.  We want peace, but we can't control what happens if things get worse", warns Chief Spence.  Too blatant, too obviously polarizing.

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