Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Atleo: Abolish Indian Act

By Steve Lambert, Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, July 21, 2010
Aboriginals should get out “from under” the Indian Act within five years and build a new, more-independent relationship with the federal government, the head of the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday.

“Is it time to boldly suggest that within two to five years, the Indian Act will no longer be part of our lives?” Shawn Atleo asked the AFN’s annual assembly.
“Imagine a time ... when we give up all that the current system provides — the highest suicide rates, the highest rates of incarceration in the country, the lowest education rates, the lowest income rates.”
Instead of having legislation or an entire department governing aboriginal lives, Atleo said the federal government should set up agencies to ensure that land, health care and other items promised in century-old treaties are delivered.
“We will once and for all work to dismantle the unnecessary machinery of the Department of Indian Affairs, which only perpetuates our poverty. The department then will give way to efficient entities like a ministry of First Nations-Crown relations ... and a treaty rights tribunal.”
Atleo, a 43-year-old businessman from British Columbia, has pushed the idea of greater independence from the federal government since he was elected a year ago. He wants the AFN itself to get more funding from non-government sources, such as corporate sponsorship. That way, he says, the national body would not be seen to be in a conflict of interest when it criticizes the government.
Scrapping the Indian Act, with the unfulfilled promises made centuries ago to Canada's First Nations would be a beginning of repatriation of our people into the Canadian community.
For too long, their segregation, and their alienation and the accompanying social and cultural and linguistic and historic losses have plagued not only their communities (reserves) but also our country's conscience, reputation and capacity to say what we mean and mean what we say.
The White Man Solution to the aboriginal community is simply not the solution. It is the problem!
The White Man presumption of arrogance, of superiority, of patronizing the "lesser" native peoples must finally give way to a negotiation of equals, from which the White Man might possibly learn much!
But only if the White Man is prepared to listen, to walk a century in the aboriginals' mocassins, and to learn the wisdom of the aboriginal culture, history, social customs and even governance.
May the long walk to "enlightenment" begin!

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