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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Comments
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commented 2015-05-24 10:38:11 -0400
Bill, both international nor Canadian law support the notion that long term traditional land use and occupancy convey title; and Canada and FNs have generally been pretty good at figuring out what that means – see the various agreements that convey multiple levels of title and rights depending on volume and nature of modern and traditional use (e.g., surface rights, subsurface rights, negotiated percentages of resource revenue, etc.)
The goal of removing obstacles to FN underachievement is inarguable. A good test of the goodwill of those proposing it was suggested by Thomas King; if the “solution” is stripping away treaties and title, or REDUCING the level of authority and control FNs and Inuit currently exercise, then it’s not Aboriginal interests being served.
Canada has gotten it right in the past, and may again: I still wonder today what would have happened if the Kelowna Accord had been implemented.
commented 2015-05-24 10:27:46 -0400
Terry – I think the idea of FN "land claims) at least those large scale claim dissolved logically and ethically when they adopted a lifestyle other than that which needed large land claims to sustain it. The hunter gatherer culture is gone, and with it goes the claim for needing land for this purpose.
That said, I want any rational and fair claims FN has settled RFN – then on to building a unified nation.
Personally, I see FN as co-founders and co-builders of this nation and they deserve to be recognised as founding nations – but perpetual welfare dependency and reserve system apartheid is not on the table – programs for individual and collective FN achievement are.

I agree with those who say the state of our FN people is the shame of this nation – it is. We have to remove the obstacles preventing FN from taking a full share of governing and building this nation and we need to start by examining the systems/policies/ideologies which are producing FN underachievement.
commented 2015-05-24 09:24:03 -0400
Joan: " The best way to help FN progress is to dissolve the Indian Act and with it, apartheid law in Canada."
I think some intelligent conservatives make this suggestion with good intentions; and many First Nations would agree that scrapping the current Indian Act is essential.
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.
commented 2015-05-24 09:11:40 -0400
As is usually the case, there are two ideological narratives battling it out here, and a truth somewhere in between.
Some elements of that non-ideological truth are:
My impression is that a large percentage of First Nations and Inuit in Canada (I exclude Métis, because they don’t have a land base) want the same thing as other Canadians; success and opportunities for themselves and their children, health, prosperity, stability, and all that good stuff. In terms of development, that boils down to responsible, sustainable development that’s both profitable and environmentally sound. The evidence of that is the collaboration with oil, gas and mineral development that’s going on right across Canada on the basis of mutually beneficial and agreed upon Impact Development Agreements, negotiated between industry and First Nations (or Inuit), that mandate development in return for training, employment opportunities, community infrastructure, revenue sharing, and occasionally equity. Those agreements are in place, and for the most part working, from Nunavut to Ontario and from BC to Labrador.
Those agreements also include provision for things like measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of development, the maintenance of water, air and land quality over the course of a development project, and remediation of the land upon completion.
Those agreements require that industry, First Nations and governments deal with each other in good faith, and respect historical agreements on title, treaty or land claims. When that happens, progress can be excellent, and everybody wins. And as Mr. Jago has pointed out, entrepreneurial First Nations need no coaching from right wing ideologues, especially in BC, a centre of inter-national trade for centuries.
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. That’s a bit like claiming that the Occupy Movement is representative of the United States as a whole.
Much of the opposition to development within Aboriginal communities is not about a fuzzy-minded environmentalism. It’s about federal and industry attempts to ignore or bypass the requirements associated with Aboriginal title to the land they occupy, as defined in treaties or in land claims agreements. When the Berger McKenzie Valley Pipeline hearings put a stop to development in the seventies, the rationale wasn’t indigenous rejection of development; it was the need to figure out exactly what rights and title the various Inuvialuit, Gwichin and Dene groups had. Ditto in Nunavut: Kivalliq residents didn’t reject mining in the eighties because they didn’t want jobs or development; it was because they needed assurance that Inuit-owned land would be protected. Since that was assured, mining has taken off in the region.
commented 2015-05-24 00:20:41 -0400
Good to hear from you ꞱɹƎQOɹ JAGOing . Regarding NFL. they actually are not on the dole , given the past several years of resource development, That may change again, soon though. You said, “Not much beyond that. I loathe these people in the comments that talk about how natives are all welfare cases, all corrupt, dependent, lazy et al.” I didn’t read that anywhere in the comments, if there was any neg. it was toward chief’s who don’t funnel the money to the people, but line their pockets instead. There are many responsible chief’s, but there are many who do not have the best interest of their people at heart.

" But you don’t toss out an entire level of government because 5% or 10% misuse it –" So , are you wanting to keep the Indian Act in place then? You speak of it as a stop gap measure, stop gap to what?
commented 2015-05-24 00:10:14 -0400
ꞱɹƎQOɹ JAGO said, "I loathe these people in the comments that talk about how natives are all welfare cases, all corrupt, dependent, lazy et al. It blows my mind that people on the troglodyte right obsess so much over aboriginal dependency yet don’t spare a word for the crippling dependency of the elderly, or the Maritimers. For one thing, Maritimers exist, Aboriginals don’t. "

What term should we use to describe the large majority aboriginals who do live off the dole?

It is great than the Salish are 9X% self sufficient and entrepreneurial. As a white man, about as white as can be, I applaud this and have deep respect for the Salish people for that reason. But you are a minority in the larger aboriginal community. There are others that are entrepreneurialist, and Ezra has sought them out an shown the world what the aboriginal community can be if they choose to be, but they and you are still a minority. It is the chiefs of the failed aboriginal communities that are to blame for the poverty they experience.
commented 2015-05-23 23:51:18 -0400
Ernie Crey is Coast Salish, as am I. The Coast Salish languages have more words and concepts for types of property than does English. We are an ultra-capitalist people – and need no lessons on it from anyone. That interview took place within sight of one of my offices – an office set up with no government money or assistance of any kind, and with huge and frequent tax bills. Look through any of the Salish reserves, almost all own businesses, one owns a commercial port, some own energy operations, mine owns a property development firm. Their books are open for all to see – most are in surplus, at mine Indian Affairs cash is less than our surplus – meaning all the so-called largess we get from the feds is effectively chucked in a bank account and ignored. In the entire Salish nation, I think there’s about 1 crooked chief – could the province of Ontario say as much about all of its communities? The welfare budget on my home reserve is about $30,000 – that’s for 400 people. It pays for a welfare officer, and maybe 2 or 3 people on disability? Not much beyond that. I loathe these people in the comments that talk about how natives are all welfare cases, all corrupt, dependent, lazy et al. It blows my mind that people on the troglodyte right obsess so much over aboriginal dependency yet don’t spare a word for the crippling dependency of the elderly, or the Maritimers. For one thing, Maritimers exist, Aboriginals don’t. There’s no such thing as an Aboriginal. There are Salish people, Cree people, Mohawk people, but no actual group that identifies as aboriginal. Yet if some person who is essentially a foreigner to me, yet who lives on reserve as does much of my family, cheats or steals or whatever, you people magically think it has something to do with me – and that all of us should be dealt with in a single, sweeping, crippling blow. The Indian Act governs all of us, and is an essential piece of stop gap legislation (badly in need of replacement). We use it to revitalize our language, create businesses, to provide for state subsidy and protection of our indigenous religion, and extraordinary aide for seniors. Others use theirs for corrupt garbage. But you don’t toss out an entire level of government because 5% or 10% misuse it – if we did that, there wouldn’t be provinces. Also … when we talk about FN under employment, you people seem to think it means 80% of us are sitting around on welfare. What we’re actually talking about is a workforce participation rate gap of between 1.2% and 4.5% between non-natives and natives … it’s low single digits. Many think that’s due to chronic funding of education – something that forces natives into the lower wage professions that are some of the first cut when there’s a downturn, but I don’t think any serious person attributes this gap to greedy injuns sitting around their fancy reserves being lazy on the dole – that’s Newfoundland, that’s not us. Rather than repeat what you heard on talk radio, maybe try actually reading the articles these comment sections are attached to, or better yet, not comment at all.
commented 2015-05-23 19:43:28 -0400
Peter and Rick are right. The best way to help FN progress is to dissolve the Indian Act and with it, apartheid law in Canada. The very vocal few who profit from the legal inequity oppose it and say it failed once, so can never succeed, but I disagree. I’d like to see Harper dissolve the Act if he gets another majority. Trudeau will never do it – he wants FN to stay on reserves, stoned, and die out. I don’t know how NDP see the issues. But that is the way to go. Scrap the Indian Act.
commented 2015-05-23 17:10:42 -0400
“it’s not just the radicals like Idle No More that are doing this, a lot of white lawyers, beaurocrats, etc are also involved. ", good point Rick. There are some nasty parasites out there, feeding off the misery of others. It is a large part of the “industry”.
commented 2015-05-23 14:28:42 -0400
Of course aboriginal peoples want some of the “Good Life”, and why not? A good start would be to dissolve the Indian Act, thusly eliminating all the “hangers on” profitting from keeping the aboriginals poor and dependant. And it’s not just the radicals like Idle No More that are doing this, a lot of white lawyers, beaurocrats, etc are also involved. Time to bring all into Canadian Society and what it has to offer. Some bands are doing well, to be sure, but currently they are the exception, not the rule.
commented 2015-05-23 13:55:47 -0400
The “native grievances” industry in Canada is live and well.

Like all other socialist/marxist/communist/liberal system, the huge cash flow is stopped at the top and never makes its way to the masses – there are exceptions – but the rule is that native poverty is never been worse, while their scum sucking leaders are multi-millionaires.

Yes sir!!! It’s all about making sure the natives are lifted out of poverty – it’s just never going to happen.
commented 2015-05-23 13:51:36 -0400
If most Aboriginal’s are looking for a piece of the pie, why are important projects halted over and over. The excuse is that environmental guarantees are never good enough, and the salmon and hunting grounds must be preserved, for the survival of their people. So a good number of the Chief’s,( many of which make more than provincial premiers ) are quite happy with keeping their people in the last century, impoverished, uneducated and unable to function in Canadian society. Some, blatantly declare they want no part of it, absolutely say no to any assimilation. Too many of these Chief’s keep their people stuck in the past, while lining their own pockets, at the same time pointing fingers at and blaming the government for all FN’s problems. The Chief’s who are lining their pockets have no incentive to cooperate.

I believe most want to prosper and have a piece of the pie,and many are and have been doing it. However some of the more radical Chief’s are standing in the way of progress for the majority of their own people. All Canada suffers. Just think of the economic engine we would be if resource developments were carried out responsibly. Just think of the energized work force if more Aboriginals came on. It would help create a healthy society. The best social program is a job.
commented 2015-05-23 13:49:53 -0400
Aboriginal peoples can make a big difference if they dissolve the reserve and accept private ownership of the house lots they occupy and accept shares in corporations formed with the unoccupied reserve lands. That way they can collect debts and start businesses and get mortgages just like anybody else. Now, most aboriginals on reserves do not own their own homes. This means that they have no incentive to keep them repaired. At the present time all property on the reserves in held by the chief. In addition all government benefits would come them as individuals. As it is now, money for housing etc. comes through the chief and council and very little makes its way to the individual natives. This can be done but it is up to the natives to do it. We can not do it for them. Native reserves can be communities with a real economy, just like the non-aboriginal communities. They do not have to be the tax payer supported welfare cesspits of despair that they are now.
commented 2015-05-23 13:29:21 -0400
What a wise and well-spoken person to have representing indigenous people! I totally agree with his philosophy that First Nations’ people have the ability to play pivotal roles in the Canadian community. These are the people who need to be in the spotlight discussing aboriginal issues.
commented 2015-05-23 11:57:26 -0400
Mike said, “Get rid of the reserve system.” and of course the Indian Act along with it.

Well done Ernie Crey. Some of the chiefs think as you do and as a result their bands prosper. We need to get all aboriginals working and then do what Mike suggested. Time to get rid of that blight on Canadian society, but the highly vocal (and almost physically) opposed chiefs will have to be removed from their positions of power first.
commented 2015-05-23 11:35:54 -0400
Isn’t funny that the overwhelming majority of us can support ourselves, but the natives just cannot without our tax money. IF any of you really know what happens in these ‘tribes’ your blood would boil. The greatest criminal enterprise in Canadian history. Don’’t speak with these Marxist thugs. Speak with the average native living under the thumb of these scoundrels. AND YES, I have worked and am still working with native populations; have spoken with dozens, including former chiefs. Serious about helping natives? Get rid of the reserve system.
commented 2015-05-23 11:26:20 -0400
Great interview. Ernie states the facts that contradict the prejudiced bias you so often see expressed about FN. Canadians need to accept – and remember – these facts.
commented 2015-05-23 10:07:11 -0400
Ernie Crey
You are so right, there are no reasons why native people can not partake in the development of Canada and their own bands. Personally I have many first nation friends all of them are hard working and have chosen this life style. You are doing good work for your community
and are good example, keep up the good work.
From The Ground Up