Apr 19 2010
Op-Ed: Our Inheritance
When the opportunity came up to write an op-ed, I was ready to argue with whatever Jordan was going to say, owing to the fact that I always end up with really good points when I argue with him about First Nation funding. I was ready to rant on about how the Aboriginals of Canada didn’t have enough funding and services when I suddenly realized that I really had no concrete facts in my head to use. Calming down, I decided to research about funding.
The Canadian federal government gives the aboriginals of Canada 30million for their education and the BC government supplies an extra funding of $1,014 per student. That’s around a thousand more dollars than normal students. Then why are 70 percent of the students on reserves not graduating?
Most of the problems are there because of the environment of the reserves. If you grow up surrounded by people with no hope and people that cling to the past that is obviously not ever going to revived, you’re not going to grow up with a whole lot of optimism for the future. Also, that’s not mentioning the drugs, alcohol, abuse, and debt. All of that is fuelling the poverty cycle that is rolling around and around in the reserves. With that all that swirling around the kids as they grow up, they don’t find school a prospect anymore. At this rate, it would take 28 years for the high school grad rates to catch up to the rest of the population grad rates.
People all over the place always say that we shouldn’t be paying for something someone else’s ancestors did. Nick K’s arguments really got me really going.
So, if you are a registered Indian, you have a chunk of land reserved for you and your tribesmen that you can use however you like. You might have rights to fish a river as much as you want (for free) and sell the fish you catch even though your ancestors never sold fish for a profit and even if the river is protected from the general public.
The First Natives certainly didn’t sell the fish. They traded. All of their resources were at their disposal in their huge swatches of land. Living off the land is the way they lived for millions of years before a bunch of Europeans came and cheated them or forcing them to give up their homes. Living off the land requires a great amount of…well, land. People can’t live off a little chunk. Look at the size of farms! And the produce from farms can’t even completely support the farming families anymore. Also, when the natives lived off the land, the land was rich and fertile and could renew itself. Look around us. Is it like that now? (No.) All those reserves are far off in the mountains where transportation and environment are pretty dire. Take for example, the Bonaparte Reserve near Cache Creek. It’s extremely nice for them that the dump is nearby too, isn’t it? Financially, people inherit estate from their ancestors, but that also includes their debt. Moving to or living in Canada is like receiving the estate of the people who worked hard to make Canada a beautifully natural democratic place full of equality and free health care. But we get the debt too.
There are government housing programs for you which exist nowhere else in the country and you (status-Indians) have access to the same education, healthcare (including paid healthcare premiums if you live in B.C. or Alberta), old age pensions, and social services as anyone else living in Canada.
That makes sense. They are Canadian citizens.
I’m not suggesting that the government completely cut off help to the First Nations, because most of them wouldn’t be able to make it without the government’s help. Rather, I think that the government should help assimilate First Nations into Canada’s general population as quickly as possible because not only is it an economic problem, but it is simply not fair that someone has more rights than I do simply because my ancestors wronged them hundreds of years ago.
That’s what our first Prime Minister, Macdonald, said. He told everyone that his government would “do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitant of the Dominion of Canada.” A lot of good that did. Also, I would like to point out that though the Europeans wronged them hundred years ago, they are not my ancestors. But that does not make me free of guilt either. Just because the colonists took the land, that doesn’t make it okay now. We are still on their land while they are shoved in tiny pockets of land in the middle of nowhere. I’m not saying to kick everyone out of Canada. It’s completely impossible. But at least we can do what we can to help the people we’ve stolen from.
Canada used to be at the top for quality of life and living conditions, but the conditions of the reserves dragged us down to eighth. How about water quality? The BC government is providing 226 million to improve drinking water in our communities. The federal government spends $330 million to improve drinking water in reserves, yet 25% of water treatment systems on-reserves pose a high risk to human health. The reserves have more funding, yet many of them are equal to the living conditions or developing countries.
Here was when I read Jordan’s Op-ed and after I thought about it, I surprisingly agreed with him.
For change in the living standards of aboriginal citizens, our government needs to do a better job of spending the aboriginal money, and the aboriginal government needs to be monitored to make sure the money reaches its destination.
For change to happen, people need to be aware of the facts, and realize the first nations are not the only ones to blame for the state they are in.
We give them all this funding, yet nothing is happening. With the reserves in such remote places, the amount of money spent to just transport things there is massive. No wonder healthy food and proper medication is such a problem. Also, all that extra funding for education is not making a huge difference at all. The government needs to stop throwing money at the reserves and actually think of plans that make self-sufficiency happen.
In order to encourage self-sufficiency, the importance of having a 2 way communication between off-reserve communities is needed. In the world of today, living in a little pocket of land isn’t going to be self-sufficient. Trading and partnerships with the outside economy is the only way to prosper. The Aboriginals cannot live as they used to since the first immigrants from Europe have already ruined their past way of living for them. Since all of us immigrants (whether it was you, your parents, or your ancestors) are living on Aboriginal land, we shouldn’t complain about the amount of funding going to the status-Indians. Instead, we should think of better ways to manage the funding, so the tax money is worth being used.