A new book aims to revolutionize how Canadians think about reconciliation.
Let The People Speak: Oppression in a Time of Reconciliation, a new book by Sheilla Jones, will be launching at McNally Robinson Grant Park on Thurs., Sept. 19. The new book details the history of Canada’s efforts towards reconciliation, and how the current strategy will continue to disenfranchise Indigenous Canadians.
Instead, Jones proposes an alternative: Modernize the treaty annuities and tie it to the value of the land. Jones said this will empower Indigenous Canadians.
"When the treaties were signed, they contained an annuity provision for every man, woman and child. That annuity was intended to empower (Indigenous) families by giving them independent resources and income," Jones said. "But the money has never changed. Treaty 1 land … is worth $5. Imagine what that land is worth now."
Currently, annuity payments are around $5 per person, meaning a family of five would get around $25 for the Canadian government using their land. The funding is handed out by Indigenous Services Canada.
Jones said that hopelessness is entrenched in Indigenous communities, which is mostly due to poverty. The payments were intended to give Indigenous people enough independence to speak for themselves, but since funding is controlled through the government, Indigenous people rely on the government for their livelihood.
In essence, the government has all the power in the relationship.
Jones said many Indigenous populations feel like there’s no hope.
"The media tends to focus, justifiably so, on the bad. It seems like nothing will ever change. Powerlessness is at the core of so much of what’s wrong in (the policy) today," Jones said. "The solution is empowerment. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Power corrupts.’ Well, listless power tends to destroy, and that’s what we’re seeing in (Indigenous communities.)"
Sheilla Jones is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, leading the Treaty Annuity/Individual Empowerment Initiative. She could not specify how much modernizing the treaty annuity would cost, but she has established a group that will research how it might work.
Community journalist — The Metro
Justin Luschinski is the community journalist for The Metro. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org