The Federal Conservative government is planning a Workfare Program that would oblige young aboriginals on reserves to undertake job training in return for a welfare cheque.

This new money will be added to the $400 million which is already being spent on aboriginal training programs and it is likely that this additional funding will be warmly received by First Nations leaders. What they may not be as happy about however, is the idea that young band members may have their benefits cut if they don’t sign up for programs.

With aboriginal birth rates soaring well beyond the Canadian norm and current unemployment levels approaching 50% in jurisdictions where the unemployment rate is around 5%  (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) , it is irresponsible for First Nations leaders to be resistant to such initiatives.

If these levels of high unemployment are allowed to persist by allowing the status quo of welfare dependency to continue, a smoking time bomb is being primed for 15-20 years in the future when this aboriginal baby boom will arrive at a desolate landscape of hopelessness and unemployment that will breed nothing but trouble in the form of skyrocketing suicide and crime rates.

First Nations leaders must take advantage of this opportunity by partnering with the government to encourage and if necessary, pressure, their young people to take training, get jobs and become self-supporting in order to smash this revolving door of dependence and realize the dream of AFN Chief Shawn Atleo for a future that is not governed by the paternalistic Indian Act.