Last year, an independent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada based on Statistics Canada figures found that status First Nations children in Ontario -- those who would be affected by these cuts -- have a staggering poverty rate of 40 per cent, compared to 15 per cent for non-Indigenous children.
This latest energy hubbub is not about corporate power and exploitation rights. Rather it's about the rise of native empowerment and the deal that Canada has yet to strike with natives that recognizes that they are power-brokers in shaping project outcomes. Rexton is but a symptom that all is not well, right across the country, in terms of business-as-usual approaches for resource access. There's more to come!
Approximately 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed in Canada's residential school system from the late 1800s until the last one closed in 1996. At least 3,000 children -- possibly many more -- never got out of those schools alive. Telling their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helps survivors begin to heal.
First Nations are looking for an educational system adapted to their realities and their culture. Unfortunately, the federal government's new approach seems to be based on the view that band councils are the problem and provincial school boards (or bodies like them) are the solution. But the evidence shows the government will not be able to solve the problems experienced by schools on-reserve simply by handing responsibility for them over to new or different institutions. The students will remain in the same communities with the same challenges.
What would the future look like if someone were to hit the "reset" button on the Crown-First Nations relationship and just start over? First Nations would be able to manage their own affairs. This would include the ability to access capital at wholesale rates in order to finance major infrastructure projects.