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Canada’s newly elevated Governor General of Canada

Open Letter to Julie Payette


By --September 26, 2017

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Dear Governor General:

Welcome to the highest position in our great country as our viceregal representative!

For all Canada’s greatness, however, I implore you to bring leadership and moral suasion to the needs and aspirations of our desperately marginalized and burgeoning underclass, doubling every twenty years. They’re largely but by no means exclusively Indians and Inuit, and not only in remote settlements. Life lacks hope or purpose for children and youth seeing from television the gap widening exponentially between what they have and how our much-vaunted middle class lives.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said recently when addressing the United Nations:

There are, today, children living on reserves in Canada who cannot safely drink, or bathe in, or even play in the water that comes out of their taps. There are Indigenous parents who say goodnight to their children, and have to cross their fingers in the hopes that their kids won’t run away, or take their own lives in the night.

Mr. Trudeau might have noted that thousands of Aboriginals live in housing unfit for human habitation, and hundreds don’t have electricity let alone taps for running water. Normality in Nunavut, for example, is fifteen or twenty people living in a tiny three-bedroom house. Inuit suicide has been running relentlessly at about forty a year, mainly between the ages of ten and twenty-six. Relative to the population, that would equate to four suicides daily in Ottawa—population one million. The 1995 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples said this in its report on suicide:

Aboriginal youth described both the exclusion from the dominant society and the alienation from the now idealized but once-real life on the land that is stereotypically associated with aboriginality. The terrible emptiness of feeling strung between two cultures and psychologically at home in neither has been described.

The fur trade is extinct, and jobs requiring chemistry and calculus have not taken its place. I asked an Ojibwa woman in Ottawa how she came to move to Ottawa. She said she was afraid to go to school for fear of getting gang-raped on the way home. Unusually, her mother had one of the few jobs on the reserve, in the band office, and she saved the money to relocate.

Educated and skilled people in rewarding jobs are seldom murderers or victims of violence. Or commit suicide. Or go to jail. Closing the gap for the marginalized requires that adults have adequate housing. Their children yearn for the self-confidence that comes from intensive schooling for jobs in the modern world, like airline pilot or doctor. They want cultural programs, organized sports and athletics, learn-to-swim programs, music, drama and mental challenges like chess.

One template for you to take the lead on remediation could be what Prince Charles is doing for troubled young people in England. Another could be what Prince Harry does for disabled veterans with the Invictus Games. He says, “Sport is surely the best way to support recovery of mind and body.” You may recall that a cross-country ski program Inuvik provided the backbone of Canada’s team for three consecutive Winter Olympics. As long as the program lasted, children went to school after a real breakfast, and many went on to university.

I submit that marginalized Canadians need the equivalent of a Marshall Plan or a space program. Faced with similar challenges, then-impoverished Singapore began a ten-year program in 1965 to re-house 60,000 Malays living in a terrible slum. By the 1990s, children of relocatees were getting scholarships to Cambridge and Berkeley to study physics and architecture. An Indian child in Pikangikum, an Inuit child in Cape Dorset, or a multigenerational welfare child in Vanier, requires help that works so as to graduate from McGill and to become an engineer or a geologist.

For adults left behind in childhood, an Indian-run agency in Vancouver provides a template for translating compassion into action. Indian CEO John Webster is reported as saying most clients arrive in bad shape. Help may start with finding a place to live. Clients with addictions get treatment. They get basic training in an eight-week classroom program that teaches essential skills for work, learning and everyday life. After graduation, clients can go into an apprenticeship program at the BC Institute of Technology. Unlike other students, eager Aboriginals rarely fail. Thousands of graduates now work in construction, food retail, the police and other real jobs.

Continued below...

As we approach the end of Canada’s 150th anniversary year, I think of what Chief Dan George said on July 1, 1967, in his Lament for Confederation:

Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.

So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.

After fifty wasted years, and more, there are no substantive signs of Aboriginals getting the support that Chief Poundmaker said he expected in 1876, when adhering to Treat Six. I implore you to take the lead, with advocacy and your own initiatives, in helping all marginalized Canadians to fulfill Chiefs Poundmaker’s and Dan George’s expectations.

Yours sincerely,

“Colin Alexander”

 

 


Never mind name-changing: For Indians and Inuit the reality is now

Aug 27, 2017 — Colin Alexander

As the Roman historian Polybius wrote, learning from history can avert repetition of past mistakes. Most name-changing unnecessarily corrupts history.

You don’t have to be fascist to oppose immigration

Aug 22, 2017 — Colin Alexander

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose immigration into Canada. Presumably a man of the Left, Environmentalist David Suzuki opposes immigration: “Canada is full! Although it’s the second largest country in the world,” he says, “our useful area has been reduced. Our immigration policy is disgusting: We plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders, and we want to increase our population to support economic growth. It’s crazy!”



Colin Alexander -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Colin Alexander was publisher of the Yellowknife <em>News of the North and the advisor on education for the Ontario Royal Commission on the Northern Environment. He lives in Ottawa and has family living in Nunavut. <em>

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