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.


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commented 2015-05-26 07:05:31 -0400
I think every young Indian who finishes high school should get a one-time offer: a quarter of a million bucks (or half a million) on 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.
commented 2015-05-26 06:59:28 -0400
Yvette: “The lives of those living on many of the reserves (certainly not all) are not showing much improvement.”
A pop quiz for you, Yvette. Here are some of the indicators that Statistics Canada has been recording and tracking for just over three decades now, as they relate to Aboriginal people. Which of the following are improving: employment? workforce participation? business ownership? life expectancy? levels of high school and university completion? income? home ownership? Mobility?
The indicators lag behind the rest of Canada, for sure. But I don’t think most FN and Inuit believe that eliminating treaty, land claims, and title will improve things. Some measures ARE working and are having an impact, and as I noted below, initiatives like the Kelowna Accord promised a longer term set of solutions.
commented 2015-05-26 06:52:04 -0400
Rick: “Terry. I think you’re missing the whole point. Nothing stops the Bands from pursueing economic benefits.”
What enables FNs to negotiate under the current land management framework is that they negotiated on the basis of title over large territories, which they own in perpetuity, and that they exercise specific powers, functions and authorities over that title. Fee simple ownership by multiple individuals doesn’t provided that capacity (or, for example, that assurance to developers).
“And the opposition to fee simple ownership, is that the individual band members opposing, or the Chiefs who stand to lose their dictatorial control over the reserve?”
Well, on the First Nations I’m most familiar with, any elected chief and council who tried to either relinquish title, or BLOCK a popular move by the FN to relinquish title, would have his/her ass kicked out at the next election.
I will also note that the biggest Land Claims area in Canada, Nunavut, has NO system of chiefs at all, and has reached the same conclusion about fee simple ownership.
This “evil chiefs” trope is getting a little out of hand. There are, indeed, corrupt, self-serving chiefs. There are also corrupt, self-serving mayors, CEOs, Presidents of Corporation, Cardinals, and Generals. In fact, strangely enough, positions tthat offer power and money occasionally attract corrupt, self-serving people. I will note, though, that the solution isn’t to undo the Canada Corporations Act, or ban municipal governments, or to disenfranchise the Church.
commented 2015-05-26 01:47:55 -0400
I didn’t just wake up as a Clarence Louie, Osoyoos band groupie, because I came across him on the internet. I worked there the year before he first got in as Chief. I know what it was like and how it was run, and how lost the band members were. I witnessed it in the Okanagan in the 70’s and the state of those people was a sorry sad thing to behold. It doesn’t look like that anymore. Huge gains, huge.
commented 2015-05-26 01:04:34 -0400
Jago said. “Imagine that you were banned from taxing people on your land (you know how hard natives like the Squamish are fighting for the right to impose taxes on non-natives leasing land on reserve?)”

Osoyoos band, " The band also asserted control over the taxation of non-native companies leasing land on the reserve – taxes formerly scooped by the province. It was a small initiative, but it added $750,000 in annual revenue." from link in my previous post. How did Louie manage it?

There is no consensus between bands, how could there be with 600 of them? Calling Louie a useful idiot in chief tells me alot.
commented 2015-05-26 00:34:15 -0400
By which I mean, the “latter” is a garbage city … Calgary, Calgary is the bad one.
commented 2015-05-26 00:27:55 -0400
Re: Token: that some people succeed despite systematic racism is a testament to their Olympian efforts and something they should be proud of, not something people like you get to use as a cudgel against those who didn’t escape. Capitalism isn’t 100% successful or fair in all cases, but that doesn’t make it “moot”. Also, Calgary isn’t the promised land. Try setting up a business in Vancouver, and then one in Calgary and tell me the former isn’t a garbage city. For the rest, I’d just suggest reading more carefully.

Yvette, we’re not living in the stone age, and one of the markers of that is that when we make a policy, we consult with the people concerned, and we don’t batter them in the head with a club. Solutions based on ignorance, or on an over generalization from a few cases to a group of more than 600 separate peoples are by definition blunt instruments, much like the aforementioned club.

Rick: Opposition to fee simple ownership – these land codes are often arrived at through consensus, and presented for vote to the public at large on reserve. I know someone who worked on one of those consensus bodies, and it took years to come to a decision on a law, with endless popular consultation and citizen involvement. I’d get texts from this person who was trapped at 5-hour meetings where speaker after speaker came and had their say. I doubt there are more than 50 reserves in all of Canada that meet this idea of dictatorship that people have. Most of them are slow, tedious, Swiss-style consensus democracies. And BTW the body that advises on these land codes is run by none other than useful-idiot-in-chief himself, Clarence Louie.

You know why reserves are messed up? Imagine if every law your province passed had to go to the federal government for approval. Imagine that you were banned from taxing people on your land (you know how hard natives like the Squamish are fighting for the right to impose taxes on non-natives leasing land on reserve?), Imagine you had to wait 1-2 years for any lease to be approved by the feds, imagine that you had to file a half dozen different audits every year – none of which you have money to pay for, imagine that if you crossed the wrong T – your province’s money would go to a 3rd party auditor who would have a profit incentive to ensure that you would have no access to the information needed to fix your books, imagine you had to run all of this with a work force educated at 30-50 cents on the dollar when compared to the people who lived just outside of your territory, and finally imagine that while doing this for an average of $30,000 dollars a year you were constantly being berated for being a greedy fat cat stepping on your people’s necks. That’s why things are broken – too much bloody government. It’s inconceivable to me that non-natives, especially conservatives, think that the solution to every problem on reserve is either more government or no government – there’s a third option you know – ‘less government’.
commented 2015-05-26 00:00:57 -0400
I’m with Clarence Louie’s standpoint, why wait for government, a job is the best social program, partnering with the outside world, and developing your resources, in Louie’s case in Osoyoos it is primarily agriculture and tourism, although his band has many partnerships. You have to read this, its turbo charged. He is the opposite of protectionist. He is also not loved by all FN’S

http://penny2.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/story/gam/20140530/RBMCLARENCELOUIE
commented 2015-05-25 23:30:00 -0400
Jago, I read your comment re: how costly it is to live in Vancouver. The thing is, that applies to everyone, not just FN people leaving the reservation. I live in a small town in Saskatchewan, I also can’t afford to live in Vancouver. Does that give me any special status? You say you could live in Calgary, which is the same, just not as good. WTF? How is Calgary like Vancouver, just not as good? I know a few Calgarians might take offense to that! Coming from a small prairie town it sounds a lot like you’re pretty biased against small towns, when Calgary isn’t as good as Vancouver for some reason. Why can’t someone from a reservation move to a small town, where it doesn’t cost a million dollars for an apartment? We have jobs, housing, most services, and it’s still home to about half of all Canadians. It really sounds like you wouldn’t accept any kind of a suggested solution to your problem that doesn’t include some method to allow anyone moving from a reserve right into an apartment on Robson with a view, and a nice union job with benefits. Why not just make it the same as for any other Canadians, you know, the ones who aren’t coming from a reservation but rather from Canora, Saskatchewan? And, why does culture have to be government mandated? If you want more people going to the smokehouses, make it something they want to go to. If they don’t want to, I don’t see how having a government policy or law is going to make it any better.
commented 2015-05-25 23:13:56 -0400
Allow me to join in the fray. The first person I heard suggest the elimination of reserves and the Indian Act was a Liberal senator, who said it in front of a table full of the richest and most powerful “professional Indians” in the province, the movers and shakers of the local bands who had recently opened up the first casino in the province and were raking it in by the truckload. I agreed with him then (one of the very few times I agreed with a Liberal), and I agree with it now. To Terry et al: what you’re missing is the basic concept. The reserves create a system of dependency, for everything from basic infrastructure to the next meal. You’ve pointed out some examples of where a band used one aspect of the Indian Act to act like it’s their land to sell, or develop, or whatever and it didn’t turn out too well for them. You see, that’s what happens sometimes. I’m sure, if one looks, there could be found some examples of other places where the same applications were made and everything turned out good. That’s where the “freedom” is, you see. The system you are supporting is the same system that practically guarantees failure. A successful application would be one where someone steps out from under the “benevolence” of the government, to sink or swim. If it’s successful, the participants have the same rights and responsibilities of everyone else in Canada, they can call themselves equal to any other entrepreneur or taxpayer in the country. If it isn’t, they can also call themselves equal to pretty much any other entrepreneur. You have to stop equating “freedom” with “guaranteed success”. Sometimes, freedom is freedom to fail. Hence the losses. When all First Nations’ peoples in Canada can take the same risks as anyone else, that’s when the problems unique to them disappear and their problems become the same problems that everyone else has. Then it’s a level playing field. Not before. You will say “but what about white colonization, and all that implies?” I say so what? For every example you give of a native being disadvantaged because of racism present or past, I can point to a couple of people who made it despite that, and that makes your argument moot. If the white system is so flawed that a native person can’t make it because of the residential schools or the systemic racism in (insert cultural institution here) or because of the missing women or whatever, then explain those that do. Forced integration is pretty much a thing of the past, we don’t have a need for government mandated anti-integrationist policies anymore. The main difference between Mr. Crey and Chief Spence is one gets the basic concepts of capitalism, and one only sees opportunities to abuse the system. One system makes it hard for Mr. Crey to do what he does, and the other would make it impossible for Spence to do what she does. I say do away with the act altogether. Let society work it out, it’s all good!
commented 2015-05-25 22:47:34 -0400
Terry R: In Mb, from what I read almost on a daily basis, in my newspaper is that the lives of those living on many of the reserves (certainly not all) are not showing much improvement, despite the millions handed to the band chiefs. Why is that? Some teachers whom I know personally have had to quit teaching there because of abuse by some students. Many of these rez are located up north where the cost of living is out of whack & Ice truckers risk their lives in the winter delivering goods/equipment, some losing their lives by falling through the ice. High unemployment on many rez leads to boredom which leads to alcohol/narcotics abuse which leads to bad parenting which then leads to children running wild which then leads some to suffer depression which in turn may lead to sadly, suicide. What about urgent medical attention? The patient & some family members along with a nurse have to be flown in to the city with the family being put up in a hotel, all at great expense. The list goes on & on. In this day & age are there not better ways to deal with all those issues? Where are the aboriginal professionals in these situations…….why are they not involved to find solutions? Hanging on to those rez almost seems uncivilized in some ways. Who is benefitting there anyways? Is it the members? I have my doubts. In some instances some reservations are like segregated communities. I know many in Canada are doing extremely well & kudos to the leaders & members who have made that happen but what about all the others? I just feel like those people are not getting a fair chance at a better life. After all re not living in the Stone Age, we are in the 21st century.
commented 2015-05-25 20:24:57 -0400
Mr. Jager: “You all on the right are often obsessed with tradition and faith.” Please do not attempt to pigeon hole me into a category. I am world travelled, thusly much of my conjecture is based on those experiences. I have seen it all, abject despondant poverty and too much money for their brain power, wealth. That said, your perspective is worth considering. I just find it appalling and unfortuneate that for many FN bands in this country, their living conditions are abysmal. And the opposition to fee simple ownership, is that the individual band members opposing, or the Chiefs who stand to lose their dictatorial control over the reserve?
commented 2015-05-25 19:29:51 -0400
Rick – most FN’s oppose fee simple ownership of rez land because it is connected to past policies of forced assimilation. Look up the Dawes Act and you’ll see what I mean – natives lost control over 90 million acres of land. While personally I’d support fee simple ownership of land within the Salish Nation as a whole (not just on 1 reserve), I, like many other natives wouldn’t support the sale of our land to non-citizens/non-members of the nation. Yes, I know who Hernando de Soto is, and I know how property rights aide in development – but they aide in the development of majority groups. For small minorities like FN’s, when we’ve tried these types of fee simple ownership, it hasn’t helped us.

That might seem an outdated stand to take but look at the city of Vancouver, where land is freely to sale for anyone who wants it. The effect is that offshore billionaires and their spoiled brat kids have driven the price of a home out of the range of 95% of the people who were actually born in the city. Why would we want to emulate that? Get priced out of Vancouver and you’re forced to move to Calgary – it’s basically the same thing, just not as good.

But if you’re priced off of reserve, you have to give up more than the beach. We’re a drop in an ocean of foreignness. You all on the right are often obsessed with tradition and faith. To keep those traditions and keep your faith alive, you need to have enough people in close enough proximity to fill a church, or smokehouse, or longhouse. Force us off our land as has happened every single other time fee simple has been imposed, and we lose our culture, our faith, and our gods. Which is a big price to pay to solve a problem that isn’t universal amongst us, and that we can work through slowly and painfully and with hard work. For me, I’d rather live in poverty than see our people lose the gods my grandparent’s generation were tortured and imprisoned for believing in.
commented 2015-05-25 17:59:11 -0400
Terry. I think you’re missing the whole point. Nothing stops the Bands from pursueing economic benefits. ‘Nuff said. I’m done.
commented 2015-05-25 16:29:03 -0400
Rick: you asked why most First Nations don’t opt for private, individual, fee-simple ownership of lands: I explained the economic benefits of the Lands in Trust model. Those benefits are real, and in many cases FNs have decided they outweigh other, alternative forms of title. You disagree? No problem. But it’s not your land.
commented 2015-05-25 16:08:02 -0400
Terry said: “Why would you sell an asset when its value will never decrease, and when it can’t be replaced?” That is an assumption. Who said anything about selling? This is about individuals having the same rights to own and enjoy property that the rest of us take for granted. The current system is nothing more than a fiefdom, sadly in some cases, shown to benefit only the few in charge of “the band”. Even so, there is still nothing preventing a band from negotiating benefits from Corporate Interests as some across the country have done. (Note: Municipalities do the same things) Case in point. The reserve down the road from me entered into agreements with a concrete supplier and recently with a recycle / lawn and garden supplier to add to their revenue base. It has already paid off for them by being able to build a state of the art medical facility for their community. Allowing individuals to own the homes they live in does not preclude any of the above accomplishments I have noted. Only the “Indian Industry” as it is called, would prefer to keep natives on reserves penniless, and in poverty, living in substandard housing!
commented 2015-05-25 15:37:09 -0400
Rick, are you asking why some First Nations remain within Lands in Trust framework? There are several answers to that, depending on the FN. But the biggest, in my opinion, is that from an economic perspective, the current model allows for negotiation of significant benefits to an entire community through long term leases, Impact Benefits Agreements, resource revenue sharing, and so on. A First Nation, a tribal council, or a Territory (in the cases of Nunavut, Nunavik or Nunatsiavut) have enormously more negotiating clout than any individual or small group of private land holders: and the benefits last in longer. Why would you sell an asset when its value will never decrease, and when it can’t be replaced?
commented 2015-05-25 14:56:46 -0400
Terry, Mr. Jago: “Rick, Mr. Jago beat me to it. If a First Nation chooses opt out of Land Management rules, they can. Most First Nations don’t.” Then the question begs….why? There are many reserves including the one Theresa Spence runs that arguably are worse than third world housing. Again, Why?
commented 2015-05-25 11:17:18 -0400
Ezra has interviewed a few Chief’s of successful bands, one being Clarence Louie, who has been Chief of the Osoyoos BC band since the eighties. He is being nominated for an award from The Transformational Canadians program, which celebrates 25 living citizens who have made a difference by immeasurably improving the lives of others. We need to hear about more success stories. There has been a lot of bad press,which has brought light to the corruption of some band councils. The likes of Theresa Spence who would repeatedly put herself out there, (hunger strikes etc.) The two who went to Iranian TV to complain about the Canadian government, and the other corrupt Chief’s living at the expense of their members, has only focused the spotlight more strongly on the “bad”.

I thought most FN felt the Indian Act was Patriarchal, outdated and kept them down. Some of the outside world consider it apartheid. Some like Louie have obviously made it work somehow within the Reserve system. The Indian Act looks like a form of segregation, whether self imposed or imposed upon. I do not pretend to understand.
commented 2015-05-25 07:46:51 -0400
Yvette: to argue that reservations should be eliminated because there’s corruptions in some band councils is like arguing that corporations should be disbanded because of Enron and SNC Lavalin and Bre-Ex. That’s not the answer.
commented 2015-05-25 07:08:31 -0400
Rick, Mr. Jago beat me to it. If a First Nation chooses opt out of Land Management rules, they can. Most First Nations don’t. To that, I would add that roughly 50% of Aboriginal people in Canada today live off-reserve, mostly in cities, and while retaining band membership, can, if they choose, own property there.
There are a number of reasons that different people want to see the Indian Act abolished. Some of the arguments are simply Tom Flanagan-style calls for dissolution, assimilation, and an end to any agreements that limits access to lands; always, of course, phrased as deep concern for Aboriginal well being. As I noted below, Thomas King provides a useful test: if you’re arguing that Aboriginal land ownership or title should be diminished, then don’t pretend you’re arguing for native people.
The Kelowna accord proposed, among other things, a staged process for the restructuring of Canada/First Nation relations. It was a process painstakingly negotiated and finally agreed to by Federal, territorial, provincial, First Nations and Inuit groups (with the exception, I believe, of the AFNQL. It died with the defeat of the Martin government. While I’m very cynical about ANY government initiative, the KA SEEMED to reflect a surprisingly high level of consensus. Might be time to revisit that.
commented 2015-05-24 23:14:34 -0400
Aaaaand Yvette … go to Google News, type the words ‘Priest’ and ‘Resign’ and you’ll see the greatest litany of sin and shame known to man. By your reasoning time to get rid of taxpayer subsidized churches, surely.
commented 2015-05-24 23:11:56 -0400
About 1 in 5 First Nations opt out of the land management rules of the Indian Act of which you speak. Among the land management rules some FNs have brought in is the ability to mortgage leaseholds, and have these leases seized by third parties in case of non-payment – it’s one of the tools they’re using to help attract business. Which is to say, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
commented 2015-05-24 23:03:40 -0400
Liza Rosie…..WELL SAID. What a breath of fresh air listening to this aboriginal man full of passion for his people to do well & those who choose to follow him are successful. Here in Mb, there have been so many scandals involving" some band chiefs " who line their pockets at the expense of their members who live in squalor. I have been saying for many years now ….time to get rid of reservations.
commented 2015-05-24 18:08:48 -0400
Terry. They may have full citizen status, but are lacking in the basic rights the rest of us take for granted. Ownership of the home they live in, the ability to mortgage to create gains for themselves in properties and businesses. The list goes on. The current Indian Act has many more restrictions to it than advantages. As to Aboriginal rights or title. As we expect our rights to be respected, with proper consultation with Band Members, this should not be a big hurdle to get over. There are many treaties in place now that bestow such rights. Elimination of the Indian Act does not automatically mean going backwards on everything else that has been accomplished.
commented 2015-05-24 17:57:18 -0400
Rick, just to clarify:
- Aboriginal people DO have full citizen status.
- Many bands favour elimination of the Indian Act, but none that I’m aware of favour a diminution of Aboriginal rights or title.
commented 2015-05-24 17:00:45 -0400
Terry said: “But among the more rabid right wing ideologues, the call to “dissolve the Indian Act” is code for: dissolve the treaties, cancel the Land Claim agreements, let the current generation sell off the land, and absorb their kids into the mainstream.” Answer. Don’t scrap the Indian Act “cold turkey”. Phase it out over a number of years gradually in full consultation with local Bands. (And Bands, not just chiefs! Remember Attawaspitkat? Theresa Spence?) Keep those such as Idle No More, white lawyers and such who are profitting off the current situation out of it. They have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. Use the Bands that now are being successful as examples to the rest to assist in the transition from what is now essentially a Canadian Apartheid, to full citizen status. It can be done. It will not be easy to be sure, however the end result will benefit all Canadians, most importantly the 600 some odd Bands across the country. Wasn’t it one of the Beatles who sang, “Call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.
commented 2015-05-24 16:47:11 -0400
Re: Peter Neville: “What term should we use to describe the large majority aboriginals who do live off the dole?”

A few suggestions would be: myth, scapegoat, fantasy, delusion, false stereotype, caricature, fallacy, fable, etc… etc…

Stats Canada data is easy to come by – for example: http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/aboriginal/bulletins/spring2013.shtml. The workforce participation rate for aboriginal men is 70.6%. The unemployment rate is 12.8%. The participation rate is precisely the Canadian average, and higher than the rates in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Our unemployment rate is between New Brunswick and Newfoundland – more than one, less than the other.

If you think that First Nations people don’t work, that the majority don’t work – you’re living in a fantasy land. There are issues in what we call “Indian Country” – but one thing that isn’t an issue is our work ethic.

That’s certainly an issue in Newfoundland, where people don’t join the workforce, and sit on the dole – but weirdly you don’t see many articles about that particular cycle of dependency in the right wing press anymore … surely unrelated to it being the last sitting Conservative provincial government in Canada.
commented 2015-05-24 14:27:05 -0400
Peter, for the first point, I have in mind right wing ideologues like the folks who run the “End Raced Base Law” site, and others who go on interminably about lazy, stoned, drunk, entitled natives. For the second quote, a good example would be Tom Flanagan.
commented 2015-05-24 13:53:26 -0400
Terry claimed, “These right wing ideologues (read the comments below), however, like to point to the more extreme positions taken by some activists as representative of Aboriginal Canada as a whole.” and “But among the more rabid right wing ideologues, the call to “dissolve the Indian Act” is code for: dissolve the treaties, cancel the Land Claim agreements, let the current generation sell off the land, and absorb their kids into the mainstream.”

Have anyone in mind? To what “right wing ideologues” are you referring?
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