Enough with the brinksmanship

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The timing is interesting, to say the least: the leak of an audit detailing the erratic spending on the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario. With the community’s chief, Theresa Spence, on a hunger strike and determined to meet government officials about aboriginal issues, “optics” as they love to say in political speak become valuable playing cards.

This latest bombshell comes after weeks of activism by native bands across the country – including protest blockades in Nova Scotia – dubbed Idle No More and aimed at bringing attention to treaty matters.

Canadians had heard before of the federal money spent in Attawapiskat. But the leaked numbers from the Deloitte audit – subsequently released by the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development – showed more than $109 million in spending over almost seven years, much of it poorly documented, undocumented, or questionable.

Spence has been demanding to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Governor General over rights and items in the latest omnibus bill. Harper has agreed to the meeting, coming later this week. But could he walk into a session where the other person potentially has the upper hand with martyr status?

Aboriginals have many concerns: among them, items in the omnibus bill they feel threaten waterways and other features of the environment.

And what of the gargantuan issue of treaty rights, in a country the size of Canada? Presumably that would entail land settlements, along with access to natural resources and the opportunity for economic development. That in itself is complex, since some bands sit on extremely bountiful lands – and others don’t.

Solving such matters will be a mammoth exercise.

This is a huge issue that has been left to fester for the past century and more. There will be no easy way to find a straight path and help make reserves self-sufficient. And unfortunately two sides trying to outdo each other in the publicity spotlight won’t help start honest dialogue.

Organizations: Aboriginal Affairs

Geographic location: Attawapiskat, Northern Ontario, Nova Scotia Canada

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Recent comments

  • Court cleared Band
    January 10, 2013 - 11:28

    I'm not sure who wrote this promotional press article...obviously not a journalist in the true sense of the word though. The writer says Canadians have heard about federal money spent by Spence's Band before and then cites this new audit....What the writer fails to point out...when that issue arose earlier, A Federal Court conducted a Judicial Review (applied to by the band at that time) and issued a Court report that found no evidence of misspending, and the Federal Court reported ministerial failure (the government) was the culprit of documentation issues...perhaps many of the Non-Native contractors who were paid to build prefer "a slack paper trail"...much easier to inflate their bills and pad those "lilly white pockets"....if the chief on a reserve gets greedy, do we not think the local First Nation community would notice an out of control Chief and family????......just as WE notice an out of control Harper and Party travelling down the trail on a monsterous Omnibus driving the money to Alberta oil industry buddies......just food for thought!!- ( thankyou for publishing my honest unbiased political opinion Truro Daily News.).