Archive for May, 2011

Robbie Robertson admitted to Order of Canada

Congratulations to the Robbie, a half-breed kid just like Blue Saltwater, who found fame as the lead guitarist with a famous rock group called The Band. About the plight of aboriginal Canadians, Mr. Robertson said “it’s a work in progress” but at least something is happening unlike in the United States where Native Americans are simply dismissed. He also said that things are going in the right direction for aboriginal people but appealed for government to “please do it faster.” No can do Robbie! 

The plight of aboriginals will only diminish when the young people decide just like Robbie did, to put in the many hours of hard work  that is required to achieve the goals they desire. Respect cannot be given, fast or slow, but only earned the old fashioned way.

Auditor-General Criticizes Dismal State of Reserves

In her final address as auditor-general, Sheila Fraser criticized government policies for the dismal condition of Canada’s First Nation reserves. Over the past decade, her office has produced 31 audit reports on aboriginal issues and yet conditions on reserves “are worse than elsewhere in Canada”, she said. Obviously Ms. Fraser has never walked in Blue Saltwater’s shoes and taken the stroll through Vancouver’s downtown eastside.

She went on to say, “What’s truly shocking however, is the lack of improvement.”  Why is this when close to a billion dollars has been directed to First Nations issues over the last decade? The answer lies in the ongoing backward-looking approach taken by both high level government beaurocrats and First Nations leaders who continue to waste time and pour precious financial resources into programs that dwell upon the mistakes of the past. We get it. Enough already!

Within the last ten years about 475 million dollars was spent by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation on addressing the issues in the residential schools. This money was lavished upon expensive conferences and academic studies that for most part were elitist, repetitive, and unnecessary rather than being directed towards addressing the appalling state on the reserves.

I am hoping that the aboriginal youth across Canada who are part of the world-wide social media generation will take a page from their sisters and brothers in the Arab world and begin to demand that the government and most importantly their leaders, take a more pragmatic approach to solving today’s real problems on the ground rather than continuing to hash over the events of the past for the umpteenth time.

Aboriginal Education Today

Dr. Eugene Richard Atleo, the father of National Chief Shawn Atleo and the first B.C. aboriginal person to earn a doctorate was recently honoured by the B.C. Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association .

In reviewing the Association’s website, I was surprised to find that much of the data regarding Labour Market Information has not been updated since 2005 and that although trade opportunities were offered, most of the institutions seemed to be emphasizing cultural and academic programs.

As important as these loftier pursuits are, if the majority of aboriginal children are continued to be raised in overcrowded and poorly maintained housing with their most basic needs not being met, very few will ever be able to overcome the challenges and achieve a higher education.

More emphasis must be given now to training young men and women on the reserves, especially the isolated ones, in the basic trades of carpentry, electrical, plumbing and health care. This should be on-the-job practical training provided near their home, preferably on the reserves, and not in far off institutions like the residential schools of the past.

Only when aboriginal people have decent living conditions that are built and maintained by themselves, will they be able to provide the positive learning environment necessary for their best and brightest to blossom in the future.

The Sooner the Better

As reported in the May 14 issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper , heated discussions between Enbridge Inc. and the first nations affected by the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are now underway. The sooner these issues are resolved, the better it will be for all the residents affected and the Canadian economy as a whole. Since treaties were never signed by B.C. first nations, they now have much more negotiating clout then if they had signed off back in the 1850’s. Let’s hope that National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, is successful in negotiating a new national framework affirming title rights that is fair to both sides and that creates a mutually beneficial partnership going forward. Who came first and who came later, doesn’t matter now because we’re all in this together. In this era of globalization where powerful emerging economies trample on human rights and the rule of law, Canada’s first nations and the federal government have an opportunity to build a bright independent future for our children and show the world what we have learned from the mistakes of our past.

Molesting Priest’s Past Swept Under the Rug

An 82 year old priest who was convicted and served time for molesting two British Columbia girls in the 1970’s has been assisting in an Ottawa parish for the past ten years without the knowledge of either the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Ottawa or the even the parish priest whom he had been assisting. The only one who knew about this man’s past was his Oblate religious superior, one of the “good old boys”, you might say.

The 82 year old priest pled guilty and served his time. He surely isn’t the same man, physically or psychologically, that he was forty years ago and he is now working in a parish made up of elderly parishioners and apparently, has no contact with children. With no reports of further misdeeds over the intervening years it seems as if he has rehabilitated himself. Should he be allowed to resume his priestly duties and earn God’s forgiveness by helping his fellow human beings? I’d say yes, but under proper supervision and not under false pretenses.

This is another example of how the Church is struggling to come clean with this sad chapter of its past. When the Vicar General of a diocese says he doesn’t have the details of an employee’s criminal past, it’s a cop out. Other professions have systems to protect the public in this regard and so should the Church, especially in view of its past record.

How secure can elderly parishioners feel when due to a shortage of priests they are often forced to deal with individuals who drop in on a casual basis. Ever heard of Elder Abuse?

Election May Bring Ottawa Spring

The federal election results last night have given us a completely new look in Ottawa with a Conservative Party majority and for the first time in Canadian history, an official opposition made up of the New Democratic Party.

These right and left wing camps are diametrically opposed in their political philosophies and many will foresee a fractious and partisan parliament in the the next four or five years.

However, back in June of 2008, when Prime Minister Harper made the government’s official apology to the former students of residential schools, he first specifically thanked NDP leader Jack Layton for his personal counsel and contribution in convincing him of the need for this apology.

This may be a good harbinger for future cooperation and dialogue between our two parliamentary leaders as they work to build a better future for all Canadians and it may signal a thawing of the personal animosity and adversarial attitudes that have paralyzed federal politics in Ottawa for too long.