WhatFinger


Legislation doesn't do it

Aboriginals need help that works


By —— Bio and Archives--February 15, 2018

Canadian News, Politics, Opinion | Comments | Print Friendly | Subscribe | Email Us

traditional headdress on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
On giving thanks for his commitment to indigenous issues, the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary bestowed the traditional headdress on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and gave him an aboriginal name Gumistiyi, which translates as the one who keeps trying.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week: “We need to get to a place where Indigenous peoples in Canada are in control of their own destiny, making their own decisions about their future.”

That contradicts what Indians and Inuit have always told me. Young or old, they don’t believe that legislation and phony recognition of aboriginality can enable themselves or their children for the much-vaunted Middle Class where they want to belong. They say leaders don’t speak for followers, and they don’t see equality of citizenship and opportunity as culture-specific, or that it conflicts with their identity. As individuals, they want help that works, and they aren’t getting it. That’s what Chief Poundmaker thought he was getting when he affirmed Treaty Six in 1876.

Controlling destiny and legislation don’t build houses or provide purpose-oriented education and the support people need. There’s never been anything to prevent delivery of what Indians thought they were getting when they affirmed the Treaties. The late Harold Cardinal said decades ago that fixing the Indian Act would be easy if the government first met its obligations—meaning the totality of support systems.

Senator Murray Sinclair says education is the foremost answer, and I agree with him. But he never actually suggests how to deliver the opportunities for schooling, sports and recreation, and career planning that he had when growing up in Selkirk, Manitoba.

Ironically, in 1925 anthropologist Diamond Jenness told the federal government that the fur trade was precarious and that northern peoples should be educated and trained for the jobs in their own lands. But the majority of Aboriginals don’t fill professional, managerial or trades jobs anywhere.

When in 1980 I was the advisor on education for Ontario’s Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, we asked these questions at community meetings:

  1. Should we deliver education for the modern world?
  2. Should we deliver education for life on a remote northern lake?
  3. Or should we combine these objectives?
  4. And, if we aim to combine them, do you think that can be done successfully?

Overwhelmingly, Indians said they wanted education for both objectives, and they were emphatic that it would work. But having fifteen people living without hope for the future in an overcrowded shack unfit for human habitation defeats all educational objectives.

Alison Nakoolak with two of her children in Iqaluit

Alison Nakoolak with two of her children in Iqaluit. With affordable housing unavailable, she and her husband and four children lived in this tent for three months, with night-time temperatures falling to minus 20C. (Photo by John Van Dusen, CBC) 

Ottawa Councillor Mathieu Fleury says 40 percent of the clientele at the Shepherds of Good Hope are Inuit. But the Murdered and Missing Women inquiry seems to be ignoring its mandate requiring recommendations for “concrete and effective action to remove systemic causes of violence and to increase safety ... .”

It’s obvious that educated and skilled women of any ethnicity in rewarding jobs are seldom murder victims, and they seldom disappear. And men with stable lives are seldom perpetrators. But most troubled adults were once children who got left behind. Why is that?

There are templates for success. For addicts and dealers, drug courts work as an alternative to jail, with its $213 daily inmate cost in Ottawa—but only when combined with intensive treatment and supervision.

Intensive education works universally, like the well run hostels that former cabinet ministers Leona Aglukkak and Ethel Blondin attended. That’s why Indian chiefs in northern Manitoba currently run a residential high school in Winnipeg. Another template for success is the Indian-run program in Vancouver that provides comprehensive counselling for housing, addictions, remedial education and job placement. In the United States, the Knowledge is Power program (KIPP) and the Teach for America program prepare children in marginalized communities for university.

Aboriginal youth can retain their identity and also become educated, skilled and gainfully employed members of the wider society. Those objectives are not mutually exclusive. Expecting less is the bigotry of low expectations.

Ireland, back left, Aubree, with bottle, and Amber, along with their mother, Faith Strang, and five other family members died in a fire on the Indian reserve at Pikangikum in northern Ontario

Ireland, back left, Aubree, with bottle, and Amber, along with their mother, Faith Strang, and five other family members died in a fire on the Indian reserve at Pikangikum in northern Ontario—a frequent occurrence in remote settlements. Chief Dean Owen says his community suffers from overcrowding, unsafe building standards and a lack of firefighting equipment. (Faith Strang’s Facebook page)  

Continued below...

Everton Lewis holds a coffee container that Jayko Langer and Linda Shaimaiyuk delivered to him, with other foodstuffs, at the abandoned boat where he lives on the beach in Iqaluit
Everton Lewis holds a coffee container that Jayko Langer and Linda Shaimaiyuk delivered to him, with other foodstuffs, at the abandoned boat where he lives on the beach in Iqaluit. (Photo by Jane George, Nunatsiaq News)


Colin Alexander was publisher of the Yellowknife News of the North. He has family living in Nunavut.

[My daughter Madeleine is mayor of Iqaluit. I know whereof I write!]

 


CFPSubcribe

Only YOU can save CFP from Social Media Suppression. Tweet, Post, Forward, Subscribe or Bookmark us

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>


Commenting Policy

Please adhere to our commenting policy to avoid being banned. As a privately owned website, we reserve the right to remove any comment and ban any user at any time.

Comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence and death, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal or abusive attacks on other users may be removed and result in a ban.
-- Follow these instructions on registering: