May 23, 2015

First Nations leader: Most aboriginal Canadians "are looking for part of the good life"

Ezra LevantRebel Commander

When we met up in Vancouver recently, Ernie Crey of the North West Indigenous Council made it clear that militant aboriginal groups like Idle No More represent "a fraction of one percent" of Canada's almost one million First Nations people.

He's working to encourage First Nations people to participate in all aspects of Canadian life from within the "system": becoming lawyers, teachers, elected officials and CEOs.

As I said to him:

"You can be outside shaking a fist and protesting, or you can be inside on the blue ribbon panel."

Crey provides a glimpse into the positive, encouraging developments within the First Nations community that you don't often get from the rest of the media.

READ Ezra Levant's bestselling books debunking environmentalist propaganda against the energy industry:

Groundswell: The Case for Fracking
Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands

Richmond Hill city council won’t sing O Canada because it contains the word “God"!

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commented 2015-05-29 06:48:19 -0400
Liza, you are correct. We can do better than that, and we have. We have avoided the wholesale abandonment of title as a an approach to FN and Inuit Lands management.
commented 2015-05-28 23:49:27 -0400
Terry , the Alaska land claim was an American mishandling, not Canadian. I think we do better than that.

Jago, " There is not a single solution to FN problems that can apply to Mohawk and Haida alike – that’s part of what makes the Indian Act so horrible." That statement is logical, aren’t you sick to death of the Indian Act, I sure am. I don’t see how any band could have the patience to wait until some sense could be made for them. I know you call Clarence Louie a useful idiot in Chief, but he has no patience for the government fix, and is fixing it himself. I think that is something to emulate. I know not all bands have mineral resources to rely on, Osoyoos Band being one of them, yet they lead in employment rates, and that means quality of life for their members. I do however get your point, there is no easy fix, too many different nations, no two problems alike.
commented 2015-05-28 13:06:02 -0400
Nicole: “You’re either one of us or you’re not”: When a provincial premier says “our people” – does that upset you because they only mean the people of their province? When a mayor says it, do you shake with rage that they’re ignorantly excluding others just because of some arbitrary line on a map?

Re: Rick: The current government in Ottawa often treats FN peoples’ as a single group – and dictates to them. When they do, everyone fails – case in point, the FNEA. There is not a single solution to FN problems that can apply to Mohawk and Haida alike – that’s part of what makes the Indian Act so horrible. The solution isn’t to repeat the mistakes of the past, but to look at where things have worked. In the US and Canada, where solutions have worked is where the government created ‘off ramps’ – places where tribes and bands had the option of stepping away from central control and asserting their sovereignty – or not. If you create enough of these small off ramps, almost every FN will find one that takes them where they need to go. For example, if the feds won’t fund education properly, or a specific reserve doesn’t want to deal with federal rules on management of education, the feds could give them (or at least those of them whose fiscal house is in order) an off-ramp by creating taxing space for them over resources in their region – something it’s done successfully with provinces in the past. With that taxing space, the reserve would then be able to raise its own money on its own land and pay for what the feds have failed to do. And you see, that’s not something that can work for everyone, because not everyone has valuable resources to tax – which is why it can’t be a one-size fits all solution, and why almost no one-size fits all solutions work. From 1999-2006, this was the approach the feds took btw, and it’s where we’ve seen the most progress.
commented 2015-05-28 12:20:41 -0400
Liza, the best and most famous example was the first settlement of Claims on the North Slope Borough of Alaska, in which title was ceded to the state in exchange for a one time cash settlement. The state promptly issued exploration permits, and subsequently long term leases, and the municipal corporations of the north slope were left landless and bankrupt. All that happened at the same time as Canadian FNs and Inuit were beginning their Claims and negotiations, and around the same time as the Berger hearings in the Mackenzie Valley. The lessons were learned. (And in fact Berger was brought to Alaska to work with the devcorps, the municipalities and the state to try to salvage the communities, which he did.)
Tom Flanagan has recommended exactly the same approach in Canada: repudiate the treaties, cease land claims negotiations, and reclaim federal authority to issue leases for exploration and development on Crown land without any input from the pesky natives who live there.
commented 2015-05-28 09:49:26 -0400
Terry you say, "Thus these arguments inevitably center around demands that First Nations and Inuit surrender land and title to the market, in some form or another – all for the good of the Aboriginal people, of course. "

An oil lease is essentially an agreement between parties to allow a Lessee (the oil and gas company and their production crew) to have access to the property and minerals (oil and gas) on the property of the Lessor.

I cannot find an instance of land and title surrender to any extraction company. What do you mean?
commented 2015-05-28 08:33:20 -0400
Sorry, Rick. That should read: " the “problem” is the fact that the current system of treaties, title and claims represents an obstacle to resource extraction, in that it requires that oil, gas and mineral developerss consult and achieve agreement between developers and title holders on entry and access, environmental standards, and benefits to the community. "
commented 2015-05-28 08:30:27 -0400
Rick: there are several solutions. It just depends on what problem you’re trying to solve.
To put it bluntly, for Ezra and some elements of the Conservative party, the “problem” is the fact that the current system of treaties, title and claims require that oil, gas and mineral developers represents an obstacle to resource extraction, in that it requires consultation and agreement between developers and title holders on entry and access, environmental standards, and benefits to the community. Thus these arguments inevitably center around demands that First Nations and Inuit surrender land and title to the market, in some form or another – all for the good of the Aboriginal people, of course.
An alternative solution would be to renew, resume or rebuild an FN/Inuit/Provincial/Territorial/Federal accord on a process to finally redefine the relationships, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, and to move forward from there. That was the basis of the Kelowna Accord.
commented 2015-05-28 02:56:22 -0400
What is this “our people”? You’re either one of us or you are not.
commented 2015-05-27 21:01:23 -0400
I just don’t see how perpetual government placating of 600 different bands, will reap any rewards for anyone , ever. More welfare money isn’t a solution for native Canadians, or non native Canadians, it is a band-aide, nothing more, and has a history of being ineffectual. It has never helped anyone OUT of poverty. Strong families and job opportunities are a proven solution. We know it works. Getting there is the problem. If nations like Attawapiskat (the example nation I use for this comment, because it is one that does not function on any level, and more money won’t help it.) wish to remain on their traditional lands for example, then some income source must exist. That might include saying yes to a resource project or two. How much sense does it make to continue throwing money at their infrastructure, when the town exists on flood plain, lands their ancestors, left for higher ground every spring ? Every year it floods, then they have no safe water, the homes sent up there by truck when the ice road is still sound are damaged by the flooding. Every year its the same stuff. Then CBC goes up there takes pictures of the devastation and uses it as an example of how the government mistreats First Nations. Where will it end , and is not some of the responsibility on the shoulders of the leaders of those bands to make real time moves to help their people lift themselves. A little empowerment could go a long way.
commented 2015-05-27 19:56:20 -0400
Mr Jago, as usual, you make some fine points, but where is the solution? Or is there one, except to continue the present situation? FN childrens’ potentials are being lost. And nobody seems willing to do anything about it!
commented 2015-05-27 19:36:48 -0400
Rick: As an aside, the FNEA was bad legislation. To the point – that article highlights a big dividing line between First Nations, specifically the continental divide that separates BC from Canada. Atleo is from BC (where about half of all FN bands are located) and is used to the way BC FN’s work – which is productive, step by step, business friendly improvements. It fits with many of our cultures. FNs in Canada on the other hand, as the article notes, have their heels dug in and view government actions with more suspicion. Prairies natives lived through the “pass” system, where they were forcibly confined to reserve – so you can excuse their weariness. But I think that goes to my point about big, and I’d say “lazy” solutions. Coming down hard against the Indian Act doesn’t just break through any obstructionism and criminality, it also punishes productive groups like those in BC and the north. Every time the feds impose another layer of reporting and bureaucracy on FNs, it hurts saints and sinners alike; yes it makes it harder to mis-allocate money, but it also makes it harder to do business. The solution to the Indian Act is not to treat every FN the same, but to continue to create exemptions from the act like the land management regime, that are individualized, and that bands can go with if they so choose.

Re: Liza – why did Atleo fail? The AFN is kind of like the first United States, the one that failed and was replaced with the current constitution. There the states were in charge, the centre had no authority, and the president was merely their delegate. They went through 10 presidents in 7 years. If they couldn’t make it work with 13 states, imagine trying to make it work with 600 first nations.

Re: Jamie: yes.
commented 2015-05-27 17:24:03 -0400
TERRY RUDDEN. Is he claiming it’s not sufficient?
commented 2015-05-27 15:17:42 -0400
Certainly education is the key. However there are elements within the “Indian Industry” that appear to desire keeping the status quo. And thusly, no progress has been made. I attach the following link: For those that like to criticize sourcing, note the origins. Not everyone gets their messaging from only one source as they claim.
commented 2015-05-27 12:34:21 -0400
Jamie, Mr. Jago gave a pretty detailed and well argued response to your concept. Is “sure” the extent of your response?
commented 2015-05-27 06:55:10 -0400
LISA ROSIE: For the ones who are desperate to get out of the muck, it wouldn’t be.
commented 2015-05-26 23:50:17 -0400
I wouldn’t agree with the one time payment you suggested Jamie M. That would be a recipe for disaster.
commented 2015-05-26 22:25:06 -0400
JAGO. Sure.
commented 2015-05-26 21:49:59 -0400
That is some lame article Jago.
commented 2015-05-26 21:45:49 -0400
I think you are definitely correct Jago, that education is key. Do you have a comment on why Atleo’s work with the government regarding educational changes aimed at bringing FN youth up onto a level playing field in the employment market, failed so miserably, so much so that Atleo resigned?
commented 2015-05-26 21:37:33 -0400
We are as a country are being badmouthed globally, for continuing this system. Is it racist? Is it apartheid? FN seems to want to hold onto it because they don’t think they will come out of it fairly treated by any Canadian government. Its like a stalemate, we have to do something. What is it going to be?
commented 2015-05-26 21:24:54 -0400
Jamie McMaster: "…the condition that he/she becomes just another ordinary Canadian and forfeits aboriginal status forever. When you look at the per capita federal expenditures over a lifetime, it would be a far more economical route than what we’re doing now. "

Treating natives like other Canadians would nearly DOUBLE the amount spent on them. That’s part of the problem. Natives receive funding from 1 level of government, non-natives receive funding from 3. Here’s just 1 example of what funding actually looks like: . Natives aren’t fighting in the courts for superior funding, they’re fighting for equal funding. So even on your own premises, your argument doesn’t stand.

You don’t break people out of poverty by giving an 18-year old a bag of cash and pointing them at their nearest big city. Have you ever met a teenager? You break people out of poverty by making sure they’re able to graduate from grade 12. That means equal funding for education, classrooms that aren’t frozen, that have supplies, that can afford to pay qualified teachers, etc … Jamie, that’s not the goal. That’s only part of it. The bigger part of it, is that we want them to still BE “Indians” once they’re out of poverty.

You know how the family farm is dying? The young are leaving, things are getting run down? A lot of people want to keep that kind of life in existence. A lot of people on the right propose solutions for that. But I don’t know of any that say ‘to hell with it’ – let’s give every farm boy 250 grand at age 18, on the promise that they’ll leave the farm and spare the rest of us the billions in agricultural subsidies they would have collected had they stayed. I don’t know what it is with you people that the only solution is to give up, rather than try some old fashioned hard work.
commented 2015-05-26 18:44:28 -0400
Jamie. Well said! Common sense!
commented 2015-05-26 18:09:08 -0400
TERRY RUDDEN. Well, I never thought of assimilation as the “goal”. I would just like to offer young Indians a chance to break out of the generational cycle of poverty and despair that has been their lot for far too long – that’s the goal.
commented 2015-05-26 14:03:11 -0400
Rick, with all due respect, your incessant return to the same well publicized cases of incompetence or corruption suggests that your knowledge of Aboriginal Canada, and its institutions, economies, and governance, is culled mostly from sites like this. I don’t dispute the existence of crooked chiefs. Nor do I dispute the existence of crooked mayors, or CEOs, or cardinals. I get it. But I don’t use them as an excuse to call for the dissolution of municipalities, or corporations, or the church. Get it?
commented 2015-05-26 13:45:29 -0400
Hmm….appearances notwithstanding, seems a couple of commentators in this thread have dug in their heels to defend the current “apartheid style” system we have seen, and still do to a degree on reserves across this country. The conversation is going ‘round in circles and becoming quite unproductive. It will take the individuals on these reserves to demand better from their “Leaders” to effect any changes. That will be very difficult in a reserve such as Attiswapiskat where Theresa Spence has an iron grip on affairs. Comments were made that the current system allows the band to negotiate on behalf of the reserve. Yeah, that really worked out well for Spence’s reserve! And she will never be “thrown out on her azz” as someone commented as she has too much control. Not only were they receiving money from the Feds, but also millions from a nearby Diamond Mine. And while they were pointing fingers at everyone else as to the pathetic state of housing on the reserve, somehow there were plenty of monies to buy new Zambonis, Hunting Trips, and off reserve (Vacation?) properties. And wasn’t her boyfriend pulling in $150,000 a day or something as the reserve “administrator”. Sadly, nothing will ever be done, as when attempted, out comes the “racism” card to put the brakes on accountability or reform.
commented 2015-05-26 11:56:48 -0400
Emil: by “assimilation”, in this context, I mean the view that Prime Minister Harper apologized for when he acknowledged that earlier Canadian policy had been “to kill the Indian in each child” – to eliminate culture, language, and traditions and promote their absorption into the mainstream.
commented 2015-05-26 11:11:37 -0400
Assimilation does not mean giving up on your culture or language. It just means participating, as an equal, in the Canadian experience.
commented 2015-05-26 10:00:47 -0400
" complete assimilation", what does that mean anyway. Everyone has freedom to congregate, freedom of religion, no one is stopping any culture from celebrating, practising. What does it mean when the Manitoba puba says no assimilation, what does it mean when Pam Palmater and others say no assimilation? I know what it looks like they are saying. How is segregation helpful?
commented 2015-05-26 08:10:44 -0400
Jamie: many conservative commentators deny that their real goal is complete assimilation. Thanks for your making that very clear.
commented 2015-05-26 07:10:27 -0400
Liza Rosie: I’ve also seen huge gains, huge, across the Western Arctic, across Nunavut, in Nunavik, in several regions of Ontario, among many Alberta FNs – and all without giving up Claims, Treaties or Title. Given leadership, vision, commitment and opportunity, any number of development models can, and do, thrive.