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.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Utopia in the Far North of Ontario 

The untimely and sometimes inexplicable deaths of young First Nations men and women in their teens and early 20s represents a societal failure of deep dimensions whose solution seems forever elusive, and that would be owing to the vast complications inherent in the matter. Young people are torn between wanting to live in the modern world with all its benefits, conveniences, exciting innovations and opportunities, and yet not wanting to reject their heritage, particularly when they become aware that achieving opportunity can often result in the abandonment of heritage.

That abandonment relates to the choices First Nations people make, to cling to life in traditional geographic areas that are all too often isolated, where tribes living on reserves are left to their own devices, and their own devices are reduced in usefulness when they no longer live in a traditional manner to match their geography. No longer resilient and capable as they once were to fend for themselves in a demanding landscape with fewer modern conveniences their lives become sub-par.

The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15.
The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15. (CBC)

All the more so that there is little employment available to ensure that people can make do for themselves, and since there is that lack they become completely dependent on financial distributions by various levels of government to tribal councils which then dole out funding as they see fit. The infrastructures, domestic and public, that exist in the reservations are paid for by the federal government and allocated to tribal members. There is no incentive for reserve residents to maintain the property they live in and they are allowed to deteriorate.

And nor are there any guarantees that everyone living on the reserve can expect equal treatment. Instead how they fare is at the discretion of reserve councillors, the elected members of council who all too often act to benefit themselves, their families and friends. It is the plight of the children who are not beneficiaries of all the distractions and socializing variety available to children living in urban centres, leaving them bored, dissatisfied and looking for mischief that is a universal concern.

Along with the social dysfunction of First Nations societies on reserve where alcohol and drug abuse, marital problems and child-rearing lapses, along with a propensity to violence against women that is of concern generally.  With all this as background, when First Nations teens are sent to towns and cities with high schools to complete their education, they have difficulties adjusting, and often have to cope with loneliness, disaffection and self-harm.

Alcohol poisoning, drowning, perpetration of violence, all take their victims, young, homesick and vulnerable kids. A coroner's inquest in Thunder Bay was the venue for the introduction of a joint slate of recommendations to the inquest jury. The Nishnawbe Aski Nation's lawyer, Julian Falconer, was in full agreement with most of the 118 recommendations passed by the inquest; that sweeping changes take place to deal with aboriginal education in Canada.

One directs Ottawa to build a daycare and kindergarten program for all preschool children in all reserves in NAN territory, along with an elementary school and a high school as well as an adult learning centre. To take the place of existing schools on the reserves. Mirroring educational accommodations in Canadian cities paid for by municipal and provincial taxation. The schools are meant to "further the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and cognitive development of the children".

At the elementary and high school levels, extracurricular activities should be presented which "include traditional, cultural, recreational, academic, artistic and athletic activities." Another recommendation has it that the federal government must ensure adequate Internet bandwidth is present in all the schools. And that three hot meals daily be served for both students and school staff. Housing, water-treatment systems and wastewater systems must be upgraded on the reserves, alongside an anti-poverty strategy.

Among other recommendations within the 118 rendered, was another which would ensure that the federal government give allowances for personal needs including clothing, registration fees, tutoring and "travel to other cities in Ontario and Canada", to all reserve students in the Thunder Bay area. Is it likely that if any federal government had the wherewithal to provide such generous financial initiatives to one jurisdiction, it could conceivably avoid the obligation to provide the same for all throughout Canada?

The financial burden that this would entail, lifting holus-bolus all the benefits accruing to those living in dense urban areas, and who work for their living, owning properties they must themselves maintain, into isolated, often fly-in-only areas of the country would be certain to bankrupt the country. And to whose benefit might that be?

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