‘Financial Transparency Act’ behind protests and disruptions

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has written to the Queen twice, to protest inadequate and poor housing together with other concerns, and to request that Her Majesty have Governor-General David Johnston attend a then-upcoming  meeting between Prime Minister Harper and a number of aboriginal leaders.  Spence’s rationale for both letters is that the Crown was the original signatory to a number of treaties.

And, of course, some tribes such as the Mohawks came to Canada from what is now the United States, preferring British rule to the new Republic.  They also fought for the Crown against the Americans in the War of 1812, and consider themselves to be allies of the Crown, not subjects.

“Assembly of First Nations” National Chief Shawn Atleo and a number of chiefs attended the meeting with Harper, but a number of others did not, in a show of support for Chief Spence.

This demonstrates that the chiefs are thoroughly divided on how to approach the various outstanding issues, and are presently incapable of presenting a united front.  Prime Minister Harper may feel unable to make any concrete moves at present because of this.

Several days after the meeting took place, around 150 protesters demonstrated in front of the British Consulate in Toronto.  This protest was described as being in response to the Governor-General’s absence from the meeting between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to above, despite the fact that the Governor-General hosted a “ceremonial meeting” afterwards with those chiefs who did meet with Harper.

The letters and demonstration make for great press coverage, but it is unrealistic to say the least, for anyone to think that the Queen will involve herself, or the Governor-General, in the present disputes and argumentations.

Canada has been a self-governing Dominion for almost 150 years, the British House of Lords is no longer the final adjudicator in legal matters, and Canadian citizenship was established soon after WW II ended.  Britain no longer involves itself in the affairs of its one-time colonies, except perhaps for those that voluntarily chose to remain as dependencies in order to continue receiving  financial support.

The British are embarrassed at being asked to involve themselves in matters that they consider to  be none of their business, and in any event, the Crown in Canada is represented by the Governor-General, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

I don’t like that procedure at all, for reasons unrelated to the Indians, but you get the general idea.

Chief Spence, she of the Cadillac Escadrille, the phony “diet”, and the total household income of around $250,000 a year thanks to her salary and to her live-in boyfriend receiving $850 a day to look after Attawapiskat’s finances, undoubtedly knows this, but perhaps thinks that she can put  pressure on Prime Minister Harper by rat-finking on him to his supposed “boss”.

If she is at all serious, this is an exercise in futility.  The best she can expect is that the Queen will ask Harper how he wants her to handle the matter.

As much as anything, Chief Spence represents one side in a battle among the chiefs for power and control, and there is little doubt in my mind that she and like-minded chiefs are trying to save their own skin and protect their priviliged positions from the consequences of Bill C-27, which is addressed in detail further on.

In support of this contention, there has been suggestions that some chiefs will mount an organized challenge to current National Chief Shawn Atleo’s  leadership, and to me, the success or failure of that challenge will largely determine the future of the great majority of aboriginals, who are living in squalor and despair while their chiefs and band leaders live a life of luxury and excess.

We currently spend around $8 billion a year on somewhat in excess of 600,000 aboriginals, at a rough average of $13,000 each per annum.  If money alone were the answer to reserve problems, then there would be few, if any.

But, by sending the money as “grants” to the various chiefs to divvy-up as they see fit, we are simply begging for our money to be wasted, and enabling a relatively small number of aboriginals to live in luxury at the expense of the many.

That is the first problem.

The second is that aboriginals living on the reserves seem to be overwhelmed by their sad situation to the point that they sit back and refuse to try and help themselves get out of the rut.  Suicide, glue-sniffing, and alcoholism are rampant, with significant numbers of babies born on reservations suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and doomed to a life of misery and dependency.  A very nasty cycle indeed.

Both of these problems must be addressed, but little can be hoped for if Chief Spence’s supporters succeed in overthrowing Chief Atleo, and take control of the Indian side of the equation.

The basic idea behind the establishing of Canada’s Indian Reserve system was that tracts of land be set apart by the Crown for the exclusive use of the various tribes and groupings to whom the tracts of land were allocated.  The lands remain the property of the Crown, and are intended to be administered for the benefit of those living on them.

Up until just a few decades ago, many Indians hunted, trapped, and fished, and were proficient at living a similar way of life to that of their ancestors.  But these skills have been lost, or have died out with their practitioners.

Indians availed themselves of medical care, education, and better housing in the big cities to the south of them, became enamoured with some aspects of the Canadian lifestyle, and tried to transfer them back to their reservations with inevitably disastrous results.

The old ways could not keep them in the manner they wanted to achieve, and life on the reserves, particularly the more northerly ones, is not going to provide the lifestyle to be found to the south.

The Indians could only have the better life they had tasted by constantly moving between the two worlds, and at that point, the original intention of insulating the Indians from White culture so that they could continue to live according to the old ways was thoroughly undermined and destroyed.

The genie was out of the bottle, and essentially speaking, exposure to White civilization has rendered reserve life unpalatable for many of them, who then come to the cities looking for work and a sense of purpose.  But, unfamiliar with city ways and White culture, they find themselves unable to cope.

They either return to the reserve, or remain in the cities as welfare dependents, often addicted to alcohol or drugs.  Some Indians I have met spend summers on their reserves, and winters in the city, collecting welfare.

And as a side issue, the notorious Indian tendency towards alcoholism is believed to be genetic, (see here and here), and thus there is little that can be done about it.  This does not enhance the prospects for an eventual beneficial outcome for them.

Assuming that Chief Atleo remains in control, in my opinion, what will be necessary is for those Indians who wish to, to be encouraged to leave their reserves and join the rest of us, and for those who want to remain, to live on reservations which will be administered in such a way that proper accounting records are kept and band funds are not wasted and squandered.

And, in my opinion, the salaries of chiefs and band councillors should be set and perhaps even paid directly to them by the federal government, based on the number of band members they represent.

I have no doubt that this outbreak of lawlessness and calculated disruption was triggered by the passage of the Bill C-27, the “First Nations Financial Transparency Act’, the preamble to which reads as follows:

“The First Nations Financial Transparency Act will help ensure that First Nations have democratic, accountable and transparent governments by requiring that a First Nation prepare audited consolidated financial statements and a schedule of salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors, which must then be made public.”

That would be the ‘kiss of death’ for those such as Chief Spence and the equally notorious Chief Derek Nepinak of  Peguis First Nation, as well as for numerous other chiefs and band leaders right across Canada.

Bill C-27 has cleared Parliament, and is currently working its way through the Senate.  It must be enacted, and rigidly enforced, if there is to be any hope at all of returning sanity to our present ridiculously expensive – and greatly abused – reserve system.

Jeff Goodall.

You can sign a Canadian Taxpayer Federation petition on the above issues here.

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