Health authority wants more aboriginal employees

The Vancouver Island Health Authority wants to hire an increased number of aboriginals to more closely reflect the numbers of First Nations people living on the island. Eighteen months ago they hired Steve Sxwithul’txw as the authority’s first aboriginal employment advisor. Guess what Steve?  Unless First Nations youth on the island start improving their graduation rates from high school nothing is going to change.  Secondary institutions can open training spots to First Nations people, but if there are no aboriginal kids as equally qualified as other non-aboriginals, it would be unacceptable to give them the spots since it could affect the quality of patient health-care in the future.

The focus of Steve’s work should be to hold out the carrot to aboriginal youth who are now just entering high school, informing them of the great employment opportunities in health care that await them if they buckle down and prepare themselves for a rewarding future.

Replace the Indian Act – With What?

Both Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo and Herb George, president of the National Centre for First Nations Governance are calling for a “smashing” of the status quo by replacing the Federal Indian Act which has governed aboriginals in Canada since 1876. Herb George says the act is punitive, restrictive, regulatory and an assault on the language and culture of First Nations communities.–aboriginal-crises-are-symptoms-of-a-deep-rooted-problem 

There is no question that a piece of legislation drafted in 1876 must be in need of some serious updating to reflect the changing reality of First Nations affairs in this country. However, with almost 2000 independent First Nations bands in British Columbia alone, all with different priorities and needs, the idea of just smashing the Indian Act seems a little naive without a solid vision about what is to replace it.

Would getting rid of the Act provide more transparent and democratic governance then what now exists under the hereditary chief system where aboriginal people’s lives are controlled by individuals and their relatives who benefit in many ways by an accident of birth? If so, lets put all the cards on the table and get on with it. Until Shawn Atleo and Herb George do more than just complain about the status quo without putting forward any concrete proposals regarding more accountable and responsible self-sustaining forms of governance, the Indian Act will be here for a long time to come.

Aboriginal Housing Solution

Aboriginal communities such as Attawapiskat would be well served if their elected councillors contacted the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, in southern California. This non-profit housing development corporation was formed in 1982 and since that time has constructed nearly 3000 homes and apartments for low-income households. Their Mutual Self-Help Program seems to be something which could be emulated by First Nations communities all over Canada where the unemployment rate is so high.

In this program, first time homeowners are given the opportunity to help build their own homes and thereby “earn sweat equity”, which can generally add up to be 10 percent of the value of their future home and which becomes the down payment. Families work together to build each others homes under the supervision of construction supervisors with licensed sub-contractors doing the more specialized tasks. In time aboriginal youth could be trained to take over these higher skilled tasks as well which could help solve the abysmal unemployment problem which is soul destroying for aboriginal youth and the primary source of their high suicide rate.

These are the type of real result programs that Band Councils should be initiating rather than wasting time flying back and forth to Ottawa for endless meetings which accomplish nothing.

Wab Kinew,YouTube & Aboriginal Education

Check out Wab’s comments at Wab is an educated, well spoken individual, about as far as one can get from what many would consider a stereotypical Indian guy.  His insightful comments on YouTube speak volumes of how the power of education and technology working hand-in-hand, can bridge the gap between how aboriginal and other Canadians perceive each other.  Well done.

Painkillers and Pitiful Northern Reserves

The recent documentary film called The Life You Want about a young aboriginal woman’s battle to overcome OxyContin addiction really paints a bleak picture of how boring and unhealthy it is to live on an isolated northern reserve. Who wouldn’t want to get zoned out in a pitiful place like that? Maybe it’s time to think about moving to communities where young people can get an education and have something more stimulating to do in their spare time then get stoned.

As usual, band leaders are blaming everyone but themselves for what is going on, even to the point making stupid noises about taking their case to the United Nations. Hello people, it’s time to police yourselves. You can’t tell me that nobody knows who is bringing this stuff into the reserves. Why not follow the example of the Mistawasis First Nation, near Prince Albert and evict the traffickers from your land. Then you might find outside agencies more willing to step in and give you a hand.

Aboriginal Education: Opportunity Knocking

Hats off, to courageous and generous individuals like Michelle Durant-Dudley  a teacher, who since 2009 has been volunteering her time to help aboriginal residents of the Wahgoshig First Nation gain their high school diplomas.

When close to $3-billion began to flow into the area with the construction of a gold mine, most of the local aboriginal residents found themselves shut out of the good job opportunities because of lack of education. Ms. Durant-Dudley’s personal mission to improve the quality of life on this reserve has now resulted in producing 40 graduates. She has now been hired by band leaders and provided with  $400,000.00 in funding that came with the mine business, to teach 70 more students enrolled in this year’s program.

The initative is snowballing and other First Nations want in, but the problem is lack of teachers who understand First Nations cultures and values. 

A perfect “opportunity is knocking” for aboriginal youth to fill these roles as teachers and role-models like Ms. Durant-Dudley, leading the way towards the postive change that will come when educational opportunities are provided to the countless bright aboriginal children thirsting for a chance to learn. Hopefully, the best and the brightest of today’s teenagers will “hear the knocking and heed the call”.

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?