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August 15, 2013

Question:  How can Canada right the wrongs done to First Nation peoples?

The Prime Minister’s long overdue formal apology on behalf of the Canadian government on June 11, 2008 was surely a step in the right direction. But systematic, effective, long-range solutions are required. Righting the wrongs could possibly include the following:   

(1) Consultation rather than conflict holds the key to breaking the deadlock. Patient, harmonious and cordial consultation between First Nations leaders and the federal government should begin in earnest. This type of consultation will lead to genuine results rather than the disappointing showcased, hastily arranged conferences that satisfy momentary media hunger. The “them against us” political power struggle mentality and angry rhetoric have proven to be defective and self-defeating.

(2)  Aboriginals must have their fair share of  natural resources found on their lands or in their waters. This equitable sharing will allow some reserves and communities to benefit from a resource based economy. 

 (3) First Nations students should receive the necessary training and education in the trades and professions that will allow them to manage their own affairs and to meet ongoing infrastructure needs.  

(4) Canadian history textbooks should be rewritten to make all students  aware of the sorry treatment that was meted out to First Nations peoples, particularly by the cultural assimilation policy that motivated the Indian Act and the Residential Schools system. Curriculums should sensitize students to native spirituality.  

(5) The Indian Act of 1876, which has been reformed by numerous and generally progressive amendments since it enactment, was based on a policy of assimilation and control. It should be abolished and replaced by a bill of constitutionally protected rights and freedoms that incorporate its amendments. A new framework needs to be adopted. 

(6) Pouring massive amounts of federal money into the band councils has not produced the expected results. Although federal funding should continue, taxpayers have the right to know that their money is being spent wisely and honestly. Close supervision of the spending of any federal money is appropriate, but economic self-sufficiency, not welfare, should remain the goal.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen August 15, 2013
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