Unbelievable! I am not sure how I can be both shocked and not, every time I see an irresponsible poll or article like the one below: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Government+generous+with+aboriginals+Canadians+tell+pollster/6867983/story.html I guess maybe some would say I am too hopeful? That despite all the racism, hatred and lack of compassion shown for our people, that this will change. But I am. I am hopeful because our people are strong, proud and have the power to stand up to this bullying. Canadians can follow the lead of First Nations in resisting and defeating this dictatorial bully government. I KNOW that there are Canadians out there who see what is happening for what it really is: after-the-fact justification for the theft of First Nation lands and resources. Most Canadians know that the right-wing propaganda is just that. What concerns me are all those new Canadians and young Canadians who can and will be influenced by the media’s irresponsible hate messaging. Take this article for example – the statements in the poll would lead respondents into a certain mind frame. The poll options seem to relate to the money spent on First Nation peoples by government. Just think about the messaging. The statements assume that there is money which “belongs” to Canadians that is then “given” to First Nations. Right off the bat, most people who hate paying taxes will latch onto any excuse to justify why they should not pay taxes. If pollsters can find a scapegoat, like First Nations, then they could easily latch onto that as their outlet for tax-frustration with their own government. More than that, thinking about the theme of the questions puts Canadians into the wrong mindset – it provides them with faulty facts – that Canada uses taxpayers money to fund First Nations. The fact is: First Nation lands and resources fund the Canadian, provincial and municipal governments in this country – NOT the other way around. The reason why Canadians have such a high standard of living compared to the rest of the world is because Canada uses our lands and resources to fund them. Although Canadian governments tax their citizens, these taxes come from land use, businesses and jobs all created off the wealth of this country – which belongs to First Nations. This kind of corrupted messaging – that we are somehow living off of Canadian taxpayer-funded welfare – has led to the current state of hatred, racism and lack of compassion for our peoples. This government propaganda forces a wedge between First Nations and Canadians and ensures that there is little public support for addressing the current crisis of poverty in many First Nations. This Harper government, together with its ultra-fanatical right-wing supporters portray First Nations as “soviets”, “communists”, “lazy”, “primitives” and describe our communities as “cesspools”. This tactic is ancient – it tries to link biology to an imagined concept of race and make us appear less than human. Why? So that land theft can be justified. So that government has an excuse to not have to spend any of our own money to address the lethal poverty in our communities. If government can convince Canadians that we are poor because we choose to be, or we commit suicide because we can’t cope with the “modern world” then this lets people feel off the hook. That is why lack of water, food and housing in other countries is considered a crisis in need of UN intervention and millions in Canadian funds to help, but in Canada it is the fault of First Nations – so no assistance. I just published an article called “Stretched Beyond Human Limits: Death by Poverty in First Nations” in the Canadian Review of Social Policy. This journal is a special edition focusing on poverty issues, and because First Nation poverty is so acute in Canada, they have agreed to allow free access to my article so as to raise awareness about the causes, the effects and what can be done to address it. http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/crsp/article/viewFile/35220/32057 I have been researching the issue of poverty in First Nations for several years now and am part through writing a book on the topic. This article is like a brief overview of the issues that will be covered in this book. The main premise of this article is: “There is evidence showing that there is a direct link between discriminatory federal laws and policies, and the crisis of poverty and preventable deaths in First Nations. Canada controls tyhe lives of First Nations, provides them with inequitable funding that results in conditions of extreme poverty, which the research has shown leads to their premature deaths.” While past governments have tried to various degrees to address the issue, this Harper government has specifically decided to ignore the problem and have even instituted more funding cuts. Now, the news paper article alleges that billions are given to First Nations with no improvements. What Canadians don’t realize is that almost half of that funding goes to support employees of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) many of whom get raises every year, have six figure salaries, paid vacations, trips overseas, go on paid language training for years at a time, get sick days, health coverage and retirement pensions. This giant INAC bureaucracy is well-paid and never has to worry about enough water, food or safe housing. What if that funding went to First Nations to provide their own programs and services? What if INAC employees had to account to US for whether they are working hard enough for our people? What if no results meant that INACers lost their jobs and funding? I am a strong believer in accountability – but it is INAC that is living high on the hog while our people suffer – not us. There are good people that work in government, many have chosen to work there to try to make things better. But they are not the decision-makers – the Harper government’s dictatorial approach to running this country means that Harper calls all the shots. Therefore we need to stand up and demand better. Irresponsible polls like this one do not help advance the issues – nor does it do anything to help us come up with solutions. How could anyone responding to this poll be able to make an informed judgement about whether Canada gives First Nations too much money if they don’t know how much money we get, how that compares to what provinces and municipalities get, and what the money is used for? I could say the exact same thing about Canada – we keep giving the province of Manitoba millions in tax-payer funds but they still have a growing problem with homelessness. Maybe we should cut off Manitoba’s transfer payments? What kind of policy logic is that?? Governments are transferred money from tax revenues to pay for essential social services like health, education and water – this is exactly what happens in First Nations except we are chronically under-funded in comparison. Why are provincial residents entitled to clean water and First Nations are not? We need to start having fact-based discussions around what the issues are and how to address them. Rhetoric and personal opinions do little other than perpetuate misinformation and hatred. Let’s have a real discussion and start treating First Nations like human beings – instead of constantly blaming them for being impacted by federal control. Canada can’t have it both ways – they can’t control every aspect of our communities, chronically underfund them and then deny responsibility for the extreme poverty and pre-mature deaths that result. It’s time for an economic action plan that includes everyone.