While Winnipeg residents enjoy clean water, the people of Shoal Lake 40 suffer from substandard water. It's an abrogation of the basic right of all Canadians to have access to clean, safe drinking water. The fact that such deplorable conditions persist in places like Shoal Lake, and in hundreds of other First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across Canada, is a national shame and must be resolved immediately.
The failure to grant aboriginal peoples the dignity and opportunity of a land base also comes at a tremendous cost -- economic, social and moral. It is the cost of an entirely unacceptable status quo. Aboriginal rights are complicated and often poorly understood by Canadians, but behind the intricate issues of rights, title and treaties is the essential notion of sharing. Change is required. That change can come through arduous, adversarial court battles or through a more co-operative nation-building process.
As is so often the case here in B.C. when controversy arises concerning land and resources, many non-natives rally to the cry that it is "our" resources or "public land" that's at stake. To some First Nations, this is met with puzzlement: how did my people's traditional land and resources become something that belongs to all British Columbians?
It comes as no real surprise to those who have witnessed Tom Flanagan casually call for state assassinations or defend the very civilizing project that led to the abhorrent Indian Residential School system to learn that he made flippant comments regarding child pornography while giving a talk on the Indian Act. So when Flanagan, a former adviser to Stephen Harper, was summarily dropped as a commentator by the CBC and labelled a persona non grata by the Alberta Wild Rose Party and Conservative Party of Canada, the reaction among many in academia was: What took you so long?
As the battle over Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline plays out, two key questions about the moral make-up of Canada will be answered. First, will we as a nation respond to climate change with a renewed commitment to conventional energy and conventional economic growth? Second, will large companies be allowed to bulldoze through unceded Aboriginal territory without local consent?