Wednesday, January 16, 2013

People, land, water ahead of accounting, bureaucracy and rules for First Nations

The survey found that 64 per cent of respondents think native Canadians get too much support from taxpayers. A similar percentage, 62 per cent, believes that aboriginal peoples are treated well by the federal government.

Despite the poll’s findings, however, 63 per cent of respondents believe that the federal government must act now to help raise natives’ quality of life. The same number supported resolving land claims to provide aboriginal peoples with the land and resources needed to become self-sufficient. (quotes from Jill Mahoney's piece entitled "Canadians' attitudes harden on aboriginal issues: new poll" in Globe and Mail, January 16, 2013) included below)

Clearly the headline writer did not wish, or was instructed so, to pay as much attention to the 63% of Canadian respondents who believe that the federal government must act now to help raise natives' quality of life, when compared with the other underlying poll results.
Nevertheless, the poll, like most polls that claim validity and reliability, generate complex, even sometimes confusing results. We do think and perceive that aboriginal communities are not precise in their accounting principles or execution. Neither is the federal government, so too much evidence suggests.
We also believe that there is a considerable flow of cash into the First Nations communities, without actually knowing how and where it is spent, and whether long-term planning and decision-making of indigenous bands warrants such a flow to continue, and under what kinds of monitoring.
So let's sort this mess out, just a little, even if only for our own attempt at comprehension and clarity.
First, something must be done to help aboriginal peoples because self-sufficient, economically, physically, fiscally, intellectually and professionally. And the only way to accomplish such a goal is for the federal government to listen to former Prime Minister Martin, in his interview this morning with CBC, when he said, "The first thing the federal government needs to do is to extend its hand and tell First Nations peoples it is willing to work together as a partner to come to workable solutions with them, for their people!"
Partnerships demand trust; in fact, without trust there can be no partnership. If the federal government, as the survey sample in the poll tends to do, puts First Nations accounting "responsibility" ahead of the need for change, there will be no partnership possible. If the federal government holds fast to the over-riding importance of accounting and  spending, to the denial of the deeper and profoundly dispiriting underlying issues, there will be no partnership. In short, if First Nations people are placed down the "totempole" below all the white man's priorities, (to borrow a metaphor), there will be no totempole to celebrate the new relationship for which the First Nations are protesting.
People and land and rivers ahead of accounting, rules and bureaucracy....that comes closer to "listening" to the legitimate demands of the indigenous people. And if too many of both elected and career bureaucrats are deaf to that differentiation, there will be no partnership forged.
Under people, First Nations people want what every other Canadian takes for granted: good houses, good schools, good food, clean water, access to quality health care and the opportunity to work in dignity. Of course, they also want to see a drop in the number of cases of drug addiction, suicide and desperate poverty among their people.
As for the lands and waters, First Nations people have become the voice of the planet (including the air we all breathe) and, if we are to take both them and ourselves seriously for the long-term, we need to listen to their perspective.
All Canadians, both those of aboriginal descent and those from the non-aboriginal community have a shared, mutual and inter-dependent interest in seeing that these legitimate needs are met without rancour, without contempt, certainly without the kind of sophisticated racism that is implicit in placing "the white man's priorities" ahead of the priorities of First Nations....and to do that we will all have to let go of our tight, sometimes anal grip on the pursestrings, so that justice, fairness and long-term equality can result.
The First Nations peoples have already taken the first step, and while we may not appreciate delays in our travel, or in the flow of our commerce, (provided no violence ensues from the protests) we have to resist our "control" or our perceived dominance for more than a century and let that give way to a kind of openness to authentic listening, truly hearing the plaintiff voices that are part of the culture, an intimate component of the culture of something called Canada.
John Ralston Saul, in his work, "Fair Country" poses a three-legged stool as the metaphor for the Canadian culture and society...one leg each for English, French and First Nations peoples. He also paints a highly supportive picture of the emergence of indigenous leaders in growing numbers of graduates from Canadian universities ready to take their rightful place as leaders in the Canadian community.
Are we ready to fully enact the title of Saul's book, and is the government courageous enough to invite Saul to take a leadership role in the ensuing conversations ahead?


Canadians' attitudes hardening on aboriginal issues: new poll
By Jill Mahoney, Globe and Mail, January 16, 2013
Protests by native Canadians appear to have done little to gain public support as a new poll suggests attitudes are hardening on aboriginal issues.

The opinion survey by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television found that a strong majority of Canadians believe that most of the problems of indigenous peoples are brought upon by themselves and that reserves should not get any more federal funds until independent auditors can review their books.
The poll comes as frustrated native leaders threaten to shut down major transportation corridors throughout Ontario Wednesday as part of a day of action. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with some aboriginal leaders but did not sit down with all the chiefs who wanted to discuss treaty rights and other concerns.

Such blockades risk further alienating the broader population. Only 31 per cent of poll respondents believe shutting down road and railways is a form of legitimate protest.
The survey found that 64 per cent of respondents think native Canadians get too much support from taxpayers. A similar percentage, 62 per cent, believes that aboriginal peoples are treated well by the federal government.
Conversely, only 27 per cent of Canadians believe that federal money spent on reserves is managed well by native leaders and communities.
Ipsos Reid also surveyed attitudes on some of the key players involved in recent events. National aboriginal leaders, including the Assembly of First Nations, got the highest support, at 51 per cent of respondents. Mr. Harper was a few notches lower, at 46 per cent support. The Idle No More movement received the approval of 38 per cent of those who took the poll while Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence trailed at just 29 per cent.
Despite the poll’s findings, however, 63 per cent of respondents believe that the federal government must act now to help raise natives’ quality of life. The same number supported resolving land claims to provide aboriginal peoples with the land and resources needed to become self-sufficient.

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