Opening up 'idle' discussion
The “Idle No More” movement has drawn me to join the conversation and maybe come up with some ideas directed towards easing the issue. A total and perfect resolution would be almost humanly impossible, but with dialogue and imagination, I believe we can make the situation of our indigenous peoples far more viable than it exists at present.
I can’t pretend any expertise regarding the Indian Act, but from what I do know about it, it is completely antiquated and out of touch with our present time. Revision of the Indian Act I would have to leave to the experts and initially it would require a major overhaul of its administration. Aboriginal peoples need a far greater voice in the running of this country and since their requirements are often unique as far as us Euro-types are concerned, I think they should be guaranteed a certain number of seats in Parliament, the seats to be filled by members voted in by “pods” of reservations. By way of example, a “pod” in our area could consist of the reservations adjacent to the eastern shore of Georgian Bay.
I have floated the idea to certain people over the last several years, but the response has been almost universally given over to reasons why it wouldn’t work. Maybe I was talking to the wrong people, so I would be pleased if other North Star readers were to weigh in on the issue.
Another idea might be to have the Ministries of Indian and Northern Affairs on both the federal and provincial levels led by Aboriginals elected by their fellow parliamentarians. Yet another idea, and this one is easy, is to include natives in the Anglophone-Francophone rotation of Governors-General. Some years ago, Phil Fontaine, then Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was on the short list of candidates for the office and, for the reasons just stated, I endorsed him in a letter to the prime minister. Adrienne Clarkson got the job and I was happy with that choice, but with the later selection by Ontario of Lieutenant-Governor James Bartleman, a distinguished precedent was set.
With respect to the current demonstrations, on one level I am not comfortable with the idea of blocking railway lines, roads, and border crossings.
On another, however, I can empathize with the desperation felt by a growing segment of the Canadian population who have endured years of what amounts to segregation. Do we want to be another South Africa or southern U.S. up to and including the civil rights movement?
It is a great shame that Harper and his merry band have had to be coerced into dialogue with the native community, who, so far have conducted themselves with admirable restraint, in contrast to the G20 yahoos or the hockey rioters in Vancouver.
I hope my fellow North Star readers will join me in urging immediate, high-priority action so we don’t have our own citizens living in the squalor of Attiwapiskat and so many other communities any longer.
I know, someone will read this and think, “Well, it’s their fault; they can’t manage the money they get.” Who knows? Money has this funny way of disappearing and then popping up somewhere else; how many times have we read about a cash surplus suddenly appearing in the wake of a deficit? Happened in Toronto not long ago, so having problems managing money is not exclusively an aboriginal thing.
Thanks, everyone, for listening, and I hope this opens up lots of discussion. While we can’t please all of the people all of the time, it is within our collective democratic power to please more of the people more of the time.