The Conservative Party outlined their election platform today, and as expected, there was nothing nearly as compelling as what other parties are offering First Nations.
But there is plenty to be concerned about.
“Increased investment in First Nations Lands Management”: In far-right-conservative-speak this means privatize Indian Reserves and offload responsibility.
The First Nations Lands Management initiative is actually a very positive thing. This Liberal initiative began nearly fifteen years ago and was passed by the Chretien government in 1999. Then, 14 First Nations, including my community of Nipissing First Nation, entered a process to opt out of the land management sections of the Indian Act in favour of a community-driven land management code. I was pleased to be on Band Council when our Land Code was passed in a referendum.
However, the Conservative Party has always had ulterior motives when it comes to First Nations land and jurisdiction. Time and time again, far-right-conservative types have openly advocated for private property ownership. They feel that if First Nations owned their own land, they could use it as collateral, buy it, sell it… and probably for many, turn over vast quantities of land for the value of the resources underneath.
Private ownership of land isn’t a political issue. Plain and simple, it is against our value system and beliefs. No one can own land. We are merely caretakers of the land for our future generations. We can’t sell the land or lose it to the bank – because it doesn’t belong to us. It is the birthright of the seventh generation. For First Nations, land is not a commodity to be traded and sold. She is our mother! She gives us life.
I really feel this is the Conservative angle to their support of First Nations Lands Management. They don’t want to recognize First Nations jurisdiction over the land – they want to offload responsibility and enable it’s use as an economic instrument.
“Controlling Spending and Cutting Waste”: In far-right-conservative-speak this means further cuts to First Nations programs and services, starting with post-secondary education funding.
From our experience with the Kelowna Accord, we know First Nations programs and services are not safe from the Harper straight edge.
Judging from their recent INAC “program review”, all things point to Conservative cuts in the post-secondary education support program. Perhaps even a reclassification of the grant program to a loan program. Can you imagine, Canada’s most marginalized people, with the lowest incomes and graduation rates, and the highest unemployment and incarceration rates, having the same opportunities as everyone else. Meaning less grants and more loans. For far-right-conservatives, “more equal” is always better when it comes to Aboriginal people.
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“First Nations Financial Accountability”: In far-right conservative-speak this means getting a few more votes from the racists and ignorants within the party.
Just as they have demonized refugees and Canadian Tamils through their assault on human smuggling they are looking to demonize First Nations Chiefs, Councillors and employees. The Conservative campaign of fear now extends to First Nations leadership.
The Conservative government stated today that their will introduce a government bill that will require the disclosure of First Nation’s salaries. From my perspective, this is a complete witch-hunt that will be used by far-right-conservatives to further reduce funding and governance support to First Nations.
Of course, equality is important for the far-right conservative. This measure is being done, and I quote to “ensure they enjoy the same rights as other Canadians”. More equal is always better!
Knowing the issue quite well, we will find that 90 percent of these salaries are very low. I argue, they need to be increased in order to attract the best talent that First Nations deserve to govern their communities. To remaining 10 per cent of high salaries will continue to fuel the fire that “First Nations are getting way too much funding” and are “probably better off than most Canadians”. The reality is that per capita spending on First Nations is half the amount of average Canadians: $8,754 compared to $18,724.
It only fuels the contemporary stereotypes that state that First Nations are mismanaged, corrupt banana republics. It only fuels ignorance of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Sadly, it also fuels racist attitudes.