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.
Acadia Solomon just wanted to swim with her friends. Unfortunately the signs posted last year at her favourite swimming spot were clear: it was not safe to swim in or drink the water. So when she heard about a group of First Nations youth walking from Winnipeg to Ottawa to speak out about the "killing" of our nation's lakes and rivers, no power in the world was going to stop her from joining them.
Fed up with the double standard of aboriginal leaders who want more funds yet seem incompetent and irresponsible in their own management, many Canadian have simply shut down listening to Idle No More. How might we deal with a dismissive reaction all too instinctive to many watching this situation unfold?
The Deloitte & Touche audit of Attawapiskat is a textbook outcome of the fatal weakness in Canada's current model of First Nations governance, which is coded to fail. There could be hundreds of Attawapiskats.
Does anyone know what the average First Nations chief's level of training and management experience is? Or the average training and experience of band councillors? How many building inspectors live within 50 miles of Attawapiskat? How about CAs, CGAs or project managers capable of supervising and maintaining records on multiple construction sites?
Chief Theresa Spence will continue her hunger strike until the Prime Minister meets with her to discuss her concerns. While the government that represents me is shameful, I'm very proud to be Canadian today as I see so many people speaking out. But nobody more than Spence who is showing the world right now what it is to truly care about the country you call home.