Sunday, January 13, 2013 | Categories: Episodes
AFN Chief Shawn Atleo
I suggest that our governments, both federal and provincial, do nothing else until all Native treaties are dealt with. Yes, it will be a lot of work. But it has to be done. The future of all of this country depends on it. Piecemeal treaties, laws, and agreements obviously have not worked. If it takes two years to get all of this researched, discussed, re-written and signed,then it takes two years. Sometimes things have to be completely done over. This is the time.
I wish someone would stand up to these people. They only wish to cause havoc and are not reasonable. I am disappointed the Prime Minister agreed to meet with them. Enough is enough already. The law should be enforced if they carry out their threats.
St. John's, Newfoundland
This is not a new beginning. It is merely a resumption of the dialogue that resulted in the Kelowna Accord that Harper repudiated. Several years have been lost while the situation has festered. Had the dialogue continued forward from the Kelowna Accord, Idle No More may not have been needed.
There are those who claim Canadian aboriginals are claiming race-based preferences. The dialogue would be on a more factual footing if it acknowledged that Canada owes a great debt to the original landowners who have only received crumbs in return for their lands on which Canadians now enjoy a great prosperity that is largely denied to the original landowners.
Turner Valley, Alberta
I am frustrated with the inherent bias of reporting on this Idle No MOre protest. Our government provides significant funding to our First Nations people. The funds seem to be spent without controls or for what they were intended. Two Zambonis for Attawaspikat with a population of 1,500? A $56,000 goose hunt takes priority over leakey roofs? Where did all this money go? No one is above the law. Since when did our economic wellbeing become the responsibility of the government? Receiving public funds makes you accountable.
I have had enough. Let us hear both sides of the equation in a more balanced approach.
Peachland, British Columbia
If this is not already being done, why don't you have a program where one spokesman from each of the major nations (I believe there are 600 or more) is invited to state clearly their demands so that we ordinary citizens can recognize what the most common complaints for the government to address are, if they are not already being accounted for? And also to question the counteraction to cases of corruption and nepotism which seem to be widespread among the nations.
In all this talk about Mr. Atleo's problems in dealing with the issues at hand, and with those First Nations leaders who don't seem to agree with his leadership, I feel you are overlooking one person who is having a worse time. That is, John Duncan, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Mr. Duncan has been largely invisible during this whole time except when he held a press conference after the meeting between Mr. Harper and the First Nation's leaders. In that press conference, he mumbled and stalled and generally made no sense when answering the questions from the floor.
You have asked about changes that need to be made. I would suggest that Mr. Duncan should be sent back to the back benches where he belongs and that Mr. Harper bring forth someone with the intelligence and understanding to work with First Nations. Duncan has shown that he is not that person.
Cumberland, British Columbia
I believe the current government's obsession with the economy, and the need for prosperity at all costs, has been sold to most Canadians. We need people to stand up for the values that make this country great and Idle No More is bringing our attention to issues that are very important to all Canadians and not just the First Nations.
I do not agree with most of Stephen Harper's policies but I do think that he is still the smartest man in the room. If he really wants to solve these issues then perhaps he should put aside the partisan politics and get Paul Martin involved in attempting to find some real solutions.
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
I hope Friday's meeting will be the starting point for negotiations which will eventually result in improved conditions for our First Nation people. For several years now third-world conditions on reserves here in Canada has been Canada's shame around the world. I believe the federal government, not just the present Conservative government but Canadian government for decades, has ignored our Native peoples' living conditions. I believe our government and many Canadians would like to see First Nations people integrate into our society and abandon the reserves altogether. After all, wasn't this the general purpose of the Residential School System in the first place? Again I am hopeful the meeting Friday and the pressure of the Idle No More movement will force the issue, but I'm not holding my breath.
From my experience, and observing the recent events resulting in the meeting, it remains my opinion that it is the reponsibility of the Aboriginal people to provide managment and accountability of their affairs first. Secondly, the continuing special status relied upon by Aboriginals must end and they must participate in society as Canadians like the rest of us. Then some constructive progress in their culture and their relationship with fellow Canadians may result.
Bakers Narrows, Manitoba
The people in government and Aboriginal leadership roles that will sit down to discuss this issue are to be commended. Those that choose to stand on the side deserve whatever outcomes are achieved which I expect, given the commitments demonstrated by those that want to make a difference, will be positive.
Those who blame the Prime Minister for this are hypocritical in their comments. This situation has been somewhere on the agenda of all prime ministers for decades. To single one out is ludicrous. Finally, one will try to resolve issues and make it important. Yes, he will have to deal with other national issues, but to say he doesn't get it does, in my view, show the narrowmindedness of many.
The best comment I've heard is that we need to reset the relationship of Aboriginals with the other occupants of Canada. The government is strictly the vehicle for doing so. The outcomes will test the principles of equality and fairness. A simple example is education. A single family wage earner (with three kids) who heard that his taxes were going to pay for free university education while he is mortgaging his house to pay for his kids was not happy. So the outcomes need to reflect how we serve the whole needs of people, not just assign responsiblity and money to specific activities.
The First Nations people I work with don't want handouts, they want to be treated fairly. Those Aboriginals that want the government to fix everything with money are just doing what they've been condition to do because of the inadequacies (one could say mistakes) of previous decisions. However, if one assumes that most politicians truly want to do the right thing (despite those who create lots of opportunity to raise the inadequacies of humans) then everyone needs to grow up and approach this with open and respectful dialogue.
It's apparent from listening to the comments from some of the callers that a lot of work remains to reconcile the relationship between Canada's Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens. A caller referred to the reserve chiefs taking care of their own people. Well, these are our fellow Canadians facing some serious issues - issues that will need to be acknowledged and resolved by all Canadians.
A Sri Lankan friend once asked me when the mortgage that we were paying to the First Nations would mature and the taxpayers own Canada. I understood his perception, but had no idea what to tell him. Obviously, the free flow of taxpayers' money to the First Nations has solved nothing. The Prime Minister (of whom I am no fan) has shown willingness to step up to the plate and be accountable. Now the First Nations should get behind Mr. Atleo and establish a real process. It is not just the First Nations who are angry about what has been happening. Some just want to see the factionalism toned down so that all parties can negotiate to real and realistic solutions.
I think the focus of the issue is the wrong one. I agree a new path needs to be found but it needs to be predicated on the principle that all Aboriginals in Canada are to be Canadians and receive the same rights and privileges all of us enjoy. What we are trying to breathe life into is the concept that Aboriginals are due special treatment and exist as a group of sovereign nations within the boundaries of Canada. We have created ghettos and an underclass in far too many communities with our current thinking.
Galiano Island, British Columbia
I agree there needs to be more openness and accountability within First Nations self government. However, the convenient timing of releasing the financial information of Chief Spence's band does smack a bit of hypocracy. Our federal government does not have a great track record in terms of openness regarding financial issues. Their attempts to block scrutiny of both the spending of the G8 meeting and costing of the Omnibus crime bill shows we also have a lack of good open governance. Maybe to redress the balance Chief Spence should be allowed to leak these reports just before the next election.
I am growing tired of the comments, both today and last week, which seem to be trying to distract the issues facing Natives that have been ongoing for over 200 years.These comments continue to try to lay blame or take issue with the governance of the many different bands across a large span of both time and geography. While these comments certainly have merit, there is nothing to be gained by focusing on the negative aspects of the political process, especially when the exact same issues exist in our own governing bodies at all levels.
Today we have a government which is anything but representative of the majority of Canadians. Our current government has been one of the worst managers of public funds ever and seems to have has no interest at all in transparency, even refusing to answer to the office in charge of both public funds and transparency. Lets keep the discussion on how we feel about the issues rather than throw rocks from our glass houses.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
In light of the many threats to Aboriginal Peoples' rights and to the health of Canadian lands and waters that have arisen in the latest Omnibus Bill, I want to express my gratitude to the Idle No More movement for taking a stand. I am part of the majority non-Aboriginal people of Canada. I believe I am one of many who are concerned about the lack of understanding of the Indigenous values and practices that might lead us into a more hopeful future. My hope is that more people will stand with the wise and courageous people who are no longer idle in the face of anti-democratic and socially, environmentally, and economically destructive policies of the present federal govement.
It was telling that Natural Resources Minister Oliver was absent from the meeting last week. I strongly believe that royalties are anathema to the federal government and that the AFN doesn't have the courage to pursue that whole issue, in concrete terms, finally. The real problem is making things concrete. Last year's meeting was held in response to the Attawapiskat crisis in the first place. The faster we go, the further we don't get.
Quebec City, Quebec
Why else did Harper leak the information if it wasn't to incite folks like the present caller, Julian? Does he care about the $50-million Tony Clement built gazebos and washrooms with in Muskoka? That money was not accounted for and wasn't meant for that in the first place. That would be about half the money sent to Spence. Why was that ok?
If there were a school on every reserve, the bands wouldn't have to fly and board thousands of kids a year in southern towns across Western Canada, just to finish high school. That's where all that money goes. That fact, coupled with the comparative level of public money spent on everyone else in Canada every year, makes this a no-brainer of public policy.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
As a new immigrant, I would agree with most immigrants that Canada is a land of milk and honey and Canadians are a very fair people. I can't understand why the Aboriginal people are unable to partake in such a vibrant economy. Or am I just naive and missing something?
As a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I feel great affinity with the First Nations people since we know too well of the great sacrifices we have made with our natural resources, especially our fish, minerals, oil and hydroelectricity which have left our province in the raw state for others to prosper while our economy faltered. It is time for Ottawa to see to it that all regions of Canada are treated fairly, especially those whose natural resources are utilized for specific areas of Canada and the World.
St. John's, Newfoundland
A Native person's thin privileges have gradually become that same person's poverty. There are no more nickel cokes left for anyone to share. And, more important, no one has changed one dash or dot in the dialogue. This has perpetuated apartheid's misery and exclusion by the colonial designed reserve system of population control, in stark contrast to all of our signatures on the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Steven Harper and Brian Mulroney are well aware of the damages visited on our Native people and Mr. Harper is now faced with the prospect of starting a needless insurrection and/or racial war where activists will be killed and those who surrender will be branded as terrorists. Paul Martin and Joe Clark - both former prime ministers of Canada - have visited with Chief Spence. They know the anachronistic paradoxes that continually lead us nowhere. It is no wonder we have never been able to become a unified nation. We've never fullfilled every Nation's most basic responsibility, that being tolerance and respect for one another's differences. Winston Churchill once said " It is better to Jaw than to War."
Only one of your callers has mentioned the importance Canadians attach to the Idle No More movement as an ally in their own concern about Harper's onslaught on the environment. The government muzzles and fires scientists and eviscerates the laws of the land which were intended to protect the environment. So long as we have hope the First Nations will fight to protect the land, they are guaranteed support.
Fredricton, New Brunswick
Having lived most of my earlier life under apartheid, and finding, on immigrating here some 15 years ago, that Canada has a similar system, although not as violently applied as the South African one, I feel that the only answer is to scrap all treaties and make Canada one nation with one set of laws. Giving certain groups of the population special treatment and laws makes for tension between them, as has happened in the fairly recent past.