by Donald Cooper, MBA
A group of millionaire Indian Chiefs are threatening to bring the Canadian economy to a halt, because they want more money. They call their movement "Idle no more"...but perhaps it should be called what it really is, "Idle forever".
These Chiefs and their misguided small "l" liberal supporters have hoodwinked the mainstream media, and no politician has the guts to speak out.
Yes, the poverty, living conditions, substance abuse, family abuse, suicide rate and illegal smuggling on many reserves are all appalling.
But is it a funding issue or an incompetence, mismanagement, greed and corruption issue?
Or, in many cases, is it primarily a product of living in the middle of nowhere, where there is no possibility of a good education, meaningful employment, creating value, doing business and moving lives forward? For any community to thrive in the "real world", they must individually and collectively create and sell value.
Remote Aboriginal communities either have to do the work required to attract customers (tourists) to visit them for a wonderful Aboriginal experience, or they need to leave the toxic native community and integrate into society, where the jobs and opportunity are, or sit and do nothing...and perish.
We keep hearing that Aboriginals want to retain their "traditional lifestyle". Since when was opening casinos, smuggling guns and cigarettes and living in squalor a "traditional lifestyle"?
As humans, we adapt and evolve...or we perish. My family's traditional life was being chimney sweeps in Cambridge, England in the 1800s. I've never cleaned a chimney. I've moved on.
A wise Aboriginal elder told me recently that, in his opinion, reservations should be closed down and his people should become part of the economic mainstream of North American life.
"It's the only way...reservations are destroying us." he says.
The problem is that for many Aboriginals, being an Indian has become an occupation. None of my Ukrainian friends think that being Ukrainian is an occupation. They're Ukrainian, and a teacher, Ukrainian and an accountant...anyway you get the idea. They paint fancy Easter Eggs and celebrate being Ukrainian for a couple of weeks out of the year, and then get on with life.
Chief Theresa Spence, from the tiny remote village of Attawapiskat on James Bay in Northern Ontario has become the lightning rod for media attention in this matter.
She has camped out with her entourage of media-savvy Aboriginal PR hacks near the Parliament Buildings, where she's on a "fish broth only" hunger strike. She vowed to stay in her campsite starving on fish broth until the Prime Minister agreed to meet with her. When he did agree, she changed her mind and refused to meet with him.
So, let's look at the impoverished "underfunded" village of Attawapiskat. The population is about 1500 people, living in about 400 households. To run that town of just 1500 souls, they have 3 chiefs and 18 Councillors on the payroll.
Chief Spence's "boyfriend" is the Town Financial Manager and between the two of them they're paid over $300,000 a year, tax-free. That's a level of poverty that most Canadians would be happy to struggle along on.
The town has a Technology Manager, paid $170,000 a year, to serve the 400 households. That's fewer households than we have in our condo building. They spent $36,000 on a goose hunt, and about $160,000 for a Zamboni for their indoor arena.
Between Government funding and the huge amount of money put into the community by the local diamond mine, there seems to be about $250,000 per family, per year...tax free. Oh, and the town has a $9 million stock portfolio.
When the Government wanted to send in an auditor to get to the bottom of this financial mismanagement, Chief Spence and her team of mis-managers were outraged. To this day, she refuses to answer questions about where all the money has gone. She just wants more of it.