Alternative to orthodoxy
For the first time since Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike began, an alternative to received native orthodoxy has emerged in the Free Press (Taxpayers group touts native-poverty fixes, Jan. 16). Contrary to aboriginal political leaders' demands for sovereignty, Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has proposed practicable ways to promote integration -- note: not assimilation -- of aboriginal communities into the larger Canadian family.
Among other suggestions, he has put forward the unpopular proposal that treaty entitlements be awarded as cash payments to individual status Indians in order for them to have more control over their own governments, he has called for equal sentencing and treatment for all criminal offenders, irrespective of race, and he has advocated for the economic growth offered when, at their own discretion, native bands develop, lease or sell their reserve lands.
In other words, Free Press readers have now been exposed to the idea that aboriginal problems cannot be solved by an imbalanced emphasis on "otherness."
Colin Craig suggests that First Nations members are treated better than other Canadians and have more money spent on them. He is perpetuating a myth that feeds resentment.
We all know that First Nations have not been treated equally. They did not even have the vote until 1960. Residential schools were called a "national crime" in 1922, but they continued to the 1980s.
Just as important, unfair treatment -- and blatant racism -- persist to this day. There are treaties in Manitoba where the federal government promised to deliver land, and those promises are still unfulfilled 130 years later.
To listen to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the public would think that most money in First Nations is spent on chiefs' salaries. But the money that goes into those communities is spent mostly on education, infrastructure and health care -- not economic development. These are all services every other Canadian takes for granted and which the CTF considers "a waste."
It is no secret that racism is a systemic problem in our society. I knew this as I walked to an Idle No More rally on Jan. 12 and had steeled myself to come in contact with racially charged insults from passersby.
As I neared the rally, I heard a driver getting out of his car angrily say "f***ing Indians!" in reference to the protesters down the street. Imagine my surprise as I turned around to confront this racist, only to come face to face with a police officer in full uniform.
Frightened, but still enraged, I demanded that the police officer acknowledge his racist comment. Instead, he and his partner threateningly told me that I had "better keep walking" and that what had been said was "none of [my] business."
I think it is a serious problem when a man with a gun can angrily spew racism in the streets and feel comfortably sheltered by the "blue wall of silence." I think this is a sign of how deeply ingrained racism and impunity are within our cowardly police force.
Did I just call the police cowards? Yes, I did. You can wax poetic about the bravery of police officers going out into the dangerous streets, but only one word comes to mind when I think of the officer who, afraid to confront his partner's open racism, threatened the person who did: coward.
I think the fact that our tax dollars fund an agency afraid to face its own systemic problems is everybody's business.
Although it may be a scandal that many First Nations reserves lack access to basic health, education and housing, more handouts from public and private sectors will do little to rectify the problem unless band leaders and members show more initiative and assertiveness.
In education, no matter how modern and well-equipped reserve schools can become, little headway will be made to combat dropout rates that are much higher than the national average unless band leaders and parents insist on regular attendance and a commitment by their kids to actually learn something.
First Nations demands for a greater share of the proceeds of resource extraction are like those for more government funding, since native groups already receive millions from business and industry. Where these proceeds help develop trained workers and managers, positive economic development usually results. But if the money received is swallowed up without accountability, it's just another form of welfare.
In 1492, Columbus "discovered" the Americas. So began the exploitation, genocide and grand theft of the aboriginal American people. If the European (immigrant) people are to make good on the so-far idle boast that they are the premier civilized and civilizing nations of the world, they should legitimize this boast by admitting that the Europeans (of whom I am one) are guilty of the grandest larceny that the human race has ever seen by stealing the Americas from their rightful inhabitants, and should negotiate suitable reparations.
In the meantime, I suggest that Campbell Alexander (Already a nation, Letters, Jan. 15) modify his views or else return to his homeland.
JAMES RODNEY LEDWICH
If the aboriginals are so intent on blocking road and rail traffic and disrupting this country's commerce, I suggest that they also establish blockades on the winter ice roads which go into northern Manitoba.
Peter Hildebrand (Letters, Jan. 16) makes a good point when he says that we should read the actual treaties so that we know what we are talking about.
The people demonstrating and blocking the roads and railways have obviously never actually read the treaties but are accepting the propaganda of the aboriginal-rights lobbies.
Criticism 'out of line'
Surely Lindor Reynolds (He was curiously incurious; he was Phoenix's last chance, Jan. 16) does not really believe that Child and Family Services workers should be, in effect, kicking down doors to force their way into the homes of allegedly abusive parents. Can you just imagine the public outrage that would be expressed if this were to become standard operating procedure?
I believe her personal criticism of Christopher Zalevich and her reference to his "failure" was completely out of line. From all I read in her account, he was patient and respectful in his dealings with Samantha Kematch the day of his visit, which I think is what should be expected of people in his position. The fact that she deceived him hardly makes him unique.
Reynolds should realize that 20/20 hindsight is not exactly a universal gift. Any of us can point fingers at what went wrong, and heaven knows there appears to have been plenty, including missing notes, untrained staff and questionable standards.
Reynolds can go after the system as much as she likes, but not the individuals who under difficult conditions are trying to make it work.