It’s time to keep Ottawa’s fingers out of micro managing reserve land
Systemic Aboriginal Reserve Reform Ideas
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Imagine if Canada could finally lift more aboriginal people out of poverty without the tired old “spend more money” approach.
Imagine if all it took was for you to sign a petition or speak to your Member of Parliament’s office.Would you do it?
If you’re humming and hawing because you don’t think your voice counts, remember that the House of Commons just passed a bill to put all aboriginal chief and councilor pay details on the internet every year because people signed petitions and spoke out.
Now it’s time to focus on the bigger issue – the disastrous aboriginal reserve system that is contributing to the impoverishment of too many Canadians. You know, the system that has contributed to high unemployment rates, lower incomes and higher suicide rates to name a few woes?
Well, here are a few ideas the government should consider and discuss with Canadians if they are serious about helping aboriginal people.
First, Ottawa should take a bold step and start treating all Canadians the same. Yes, of course they must abide by the treaties, however, Ottawa should stop subtly telling aboriginal people that they’re different all the time by coming up with special grants programs, special status in courts and other policies that segregate aboriginal people. Ottawa should also start a big discussion on getting rid of the archaic elements of the Indian Act; something an aboriginal Member of Parliament (Conservative MP Rob Clarke) is trying to push right now.
Second, it’s time to keep Ottawa’s fingers out of micro managing reserve land. They should set a goal of transferring ownership and control of reserve land to reserves themselves by the end of the year. That would allow reserves to develop their land much more quickly. The federal government has taken some positive steps in this area; it’s time for more.
Third, instead of continuing to pour millions into communities that are in remote and economically bleak areas, Ottawa should offer to help people in those communities transfer to where there are jobs and opportunities.
For band members wanting to leave to seek a better life, they should receive some assistance to go where there are jobs and better educational opportunities for their kids. For Ottawa, they’ll save money in the long run as people switch from being dependent on government to paying taxes; a win-win idea.
Fourth, we need more accountability. How could Ottawa’s bureaucracy allow the “hunger striking” chief’s community to be so reckless? Remember, the audit showed her community displayed “no evidence of due diligence.” The bureaucracy has some explaining to do and improvements are needed.
Fifth, Ottawa should try transferring money to the people on reserves directly, rather than to chiefs and councilors who sometimes abuse their power to decide who gets how much. At least in the short term, this idea would ensure the poor get the assistance intended for them. Band councils could then tax back an amount for their administration and services.
If you like any of the ideas above, know that they’re not going anywhere unless Canadians stand up and refuse to let these issues get swept under the rug or “fixed” with a larger government cheque.
The time for tinkering is over.
Colin Craig is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation