CBC News Federal Election


Aboriginal Affairs

Let's face it Prime Minister, this one is just not going to go away until aboriginal people achieve conditions and status equal to other Canadians.

Governments over the years have tried various strategies, including domination, paternalism, and even attempts at enforced assimilation, but facing up to the needs of the aboriginal population in Canada is probably the best way to go.

     CBC LINK: Canadian aboriginal history

Although their history is long, the issues of the aboriginal people of today are immediate.

The Assembly of First Nations describes its top three priorities as housing, health and education. Obviously, there are many non-natives with similar priorities. The problem is that the standard of living for many native people is much lower than that of most other Canadians. The latest throne speech described living conditions for many First Nations as "shameful."

Federal governments of the past have made some attempts. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples spent five years and $60 million investigating the social, economic and political conditions of aboriginal people in Canada. But despite approval in the aboriginal community, the majority of its recommendations, including self-government, have not been implemented.

     CBC LINK: Aboriginal news and issues

There are no easy answers, Prime Minister. There are land claims to settle, sure, but also self-government and the issues of non-reserve people to be negotiated. On the down side, there is chronic unemployment, substance abuse and lower levels of health and education.

Just don't assume there is a one-size-fits-all solution. The term "aboriginal" usually refers to three different groups: the Inuit, the Métis, and the First Nations. What may work for the Sagkeeng First Nation may not be right for people in Sheshatshiu or Nunavut. There are considerations of geography and finances, as well as history and governing structure.

The main thing here is action. There is enough history to show that ignoring the problems won't make them go away.

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