Archive for December, 2011

Aboriginal Education and Housing: Put First Things First

In a year-end interview with James Bradshaw, Governor-General David Johnston agreed with my opinion that education models on most Canadian First Nations reserves are not working. He suggests that initiatives in British Columbia which develop curriculums that fit the language and employment needs of the reservation such as logging, mining, and fishing are good ideas which should be expanded. This is fine as far as it goes, but without first having the security of adequate family housing, aboriginal kids have little chance of succeeding in these other areas.

Each reserve must make a priority of educating individuals in the basic construction trades to build and maintain new and existing housing on their reserves which will provide a safe learning environment for children without the stress and dysfunction that occurs with housing debacles like Attawapiskat. Any kid growing up in crowded, unsanitary, unsafe conditions, with no privacy or confidence about having a decent roof over their heads, doesn’t stand a chance to succeed. 

First Nations councils and government beaurocrats must put First Things First.  


Attawapiskat Incentive Opportunites

Federal government crisis management to provide fifteen modular homes for the isolated community of Attawapiskat has provided a sudden windfall for the construction company and its employees who successfully bid on the project. At $200,000 per unit, these homes are probably overpriced but with the limited time frame available and the public uproar over the deplorable housing conditions, the government and the taxpayer really have no choice but to plug the gap that now exists. This should not be the case going forward, since like all crises, this one also provides opportunities which should not go unrecognized.

All future commitments for this type of funding by the federal government should be conditional upon the following:

(a) Aboriginal communities receiving benefits must commit a significant portion towards the construction and maintenance costs from their operating budgets so that they have a vested interest in the construction and ongoing viability of these projects.

(b) Committed and capable individuals from within each qualifying community must be trained to maintain and repair these buildings which will also provide good paying jobs in the future.

(b) Successful construction companies bidding for these contracts must commit to hiring, training and continually educating these individuals as part of their long term business relationship with the community.

Anything less will be another wasted opportunity and more money down the drain. 



Aboriginal Education and Native Housing

Native housing problems can only be solved by strategies which educate aboriginal people to design, construct and maintain housing for themselves with a clearly defined goal of attaining self sufficiency as soon as possible. This is not rocket science.

Culturally sensitive initiatives are important, but they take a back seat, where defenseless aboriginal children are not provided with adequate shelter and educational opportunities to allow them to pursue their dreams and build a better future for their communities.

Aboriginal leaders cannot continue to make excuses or blame government, when they continue to fail meeting the needs of their people in councils which are not transparent, consultative or democratic. Aboriginal nepotism and incompetence are the sad reality in communities like Attawapiskat and this must change.

Aboriginal Private Property Rights

Ever since the Indian Act of 1876 was proclaimed, Reservations in Canada have been deemed to be communal land with no private ownership available to individuals.*%3A  The Conservative government is now considering a change in the law which would allow aboriginals on reservations to buy their own homes as an alternative towards encouraging individual self sufficiency and independence through ownership of private property.

As usual there are some including the Assembly of First Nations who are suspicious that such a move would dilute their power and have come out against it. However, the status quo is not working as evidenced by the deplorable living conditions at Attawapiskat and on other reservations across the country. All options must be open for individuals living on reservations to gain more control over the decisions which affect their daily lives, including housing.

With private home-ownership making up the majority of the net worth accumulated by most Canadians over a lifetime, why shouldn’t aboriginal Canadians be given the same opportunity to create and build wealth for the future prosperity of their families?

Aboriginal Education: The KISS Rule

The KISS Rule aka Keep It Simple Stupid, is mostly ignored by bureaucrats and politicians of all stripes who tend to propose overly complex, less achievable solutions to problems as a way of promoting their own agendas or careers rather than solving the basic problems on the ground.

The deplorable state of Aboriginal Housing is a perfect example. Rather than building well equipped workshops to train and pay young people in the community to build and maintain their community housing, Government and First Nations beaurucrats point fingers of blame at each other while clamoring for more meetings that solve nothing. It’s time to wake up people! Keep It Simple and get something done.

The crisis in Attawapiskat didn’t happen overnight. It was manufactured over many years by negligent and incompetant First Nations and Government employees , who refused to take the small simple steps which would have gradually improved the situation over the long term.

By default, they are proposing another band-aid solution of sending up fifteen prefabricated modular homes that I guarantee will start falling apart next spring because nobody in the community has the knowledge or the vested interest to maintain them.

When I propose a simple achievable solution like building all-weather construction sheds in these communities where young people could learn the tools of all the practical trades as well as earn a good living by actively building and maintaining their community shelters, I’m ignored by elitest media outlets, First Nations Councils and Government employees because its not a sexy enough solution. Give me a break!

Aboriginal Education and the Shame of Attawapiskat

Aboriginal leaders can talk all they want about getting rid of the Indian Act, being given more respect by government and taking control of their own destiny, but what they should do is roll up their sleeves, solve some real problems and earn that respect. The housing situation in Attawapiskat is deplorable and disgusting but it has been like that for years like so many other reserves in Canada. Why haven’t aboriginal leaders put the millions of dollars they have been given towards educating their young men and women to become carpenters, plumbers and electricians to build and maintain the housing in their communities? This is the realistic on-the-ground answer to this basic problem but I fear that the continuing inept responses of aboriginal leadership is going to lead to another lost generation. Shame.

Can One Government Agency Solve a Problem Created by Another Government Agency?

Vancouver, BC: Noted aboriginal issues blogger Dan Green (, had this to say about a Montreal Gazette article regarding the $60 million Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent statements. The agency issued a statement advocating for more cash to complete its mission of facilitating the healing and reconciliation process for survivors of the system residential school system:

Where has all the money gone?

“Certainly not to improve the welfare of the people to which it was originally intended,” says Green. “It has been gobbled up by the unconscionable actions of bureaucrats within various church, government and native agencies where a general lack of trust and cooperation between the parties has resulted in unnecessary road-blocks and a waste of taxpayer’s money. What else is new?”

“The goals of the Commission are laudable,” says Green, “but in these difficult economic times this kind of nonsense without accountability should not be tolerated by working Canadians or their parliamentary representatives. No more funding should be forthcoming for this project until an independent audit of all expenditures is completed and sustainable budgets are put in place.”

Dan’s Green’s new novel, Blue Saltwater, addresses the dysfunctional philosophy behind the residential school system, a system whose effects continue to reverberate within First Nations communities to this day. It can be purchased online or in stores acrossCanada.

To learn more about Dan and his book Blue Saltwater visit:


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