‘Money isn’t Attawapiskat’s problem’

“Let’s be clear — what’s going on in the Northern Ontario ‘First Nation’ of Attawapiskat {a ‘nation’ of less than 2,000 people} is awful – the attempted suicides, the suicide pacts, the decrepit housing and foul water, the chronic unemployment, substance abuse and general despair.

“But let’s be equally clear: a legion of government social workers flown in from down south, visits by consoling cabinet ministers, emergency Parliamentary debates, and a few barge loads more of taxpayer dollars aren’t going to make an ounce of difference.

“Because the problem is neither lack of government, nor lack of other people’s money. attawapiskat1“When we see images of the squalid homes in Attawapiskat (or scores of other northern reserves) and hear about how residents use buckets as toilets because their towns lack water and sewers, we wonder how such Third World conditions can occur in a First World country such as Canada.

“It’s only natural, then, to conclude ‘First Nations’ are being starved for funds by Ottawa or the provinces.

“Then you hear someone such as Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day say

“What if even just 25% of the profits from the diamond mine [90 km from Attawapiskat] went to the ‘First Nation’, do you think they’d have a new school? They might have two or three. Do you think they’d maybe have a swimming pool for the kids? I think so.”

“And that sounds pretty reasonable to you.

“But consider this: Diamond company ‘DeBeers’ already pays the Attawapiskat council nearly $3 MILLION A YEAR for a town of under 2,000 people.

“Five years ago, DeBeers gave the community 22 housing units after former Chief Theresa Spence declared a housing emergency. Spence (whose ‘Idle No More’ hunger strike made her famous) was only too happy to tour southern reporters around the walled tents and uninsulated shacks some residents were living in during the winter.

“But what most newscasts missed were the empty DeBeers units that Spence and council couldn’t figure out how to distribute.

“The mining company has also done over $350 MILLION in business with companies at Attawapiskat since 2006 to supply DeBeers with helicopters, camp catering, fuel, dynamite and other supplies. Many of those businesses are owned by the band.

“The proceeds are supposed to go towards new housing, sanitation and recreation. But by the looks of Attawapiskat, the money isn’t making it to where it’s supposed to go.

“Moreover, one in seven adults at Attawapiskat is employed by DeBeers – 20% of the mine’s workforce.

“Ottawa sends the community another $18 MILLION OR MORE A YEAR, plus more for new houses. Then, there is the million or more from the Ontario government and a similar amount from a revenue-sharing agreement for proceeds from aboriginal casinos in southern Ontario.

“It’s not uncommon for the Attawapiskat council to receive $30 MILLION ANNUALLY, or somewhere around $18,000 per resident.

“A typical ‘non-aboriginal’ community in Northern Ontario would have revenues of about $3,500, mostly from its own taxes. It wouldn’t have to pay for its residents’ clinics or housing, the way the ‘First Nation’ does, but it would have to pay some of its own infrastructure, plus sewage, snow clearing, garbage collection, policing, rec centers and so on.

“Now, recall that an audit of Attawapiskat’s books in 2013 found OVER 80% of the band’s transactions lacked sufficient paperwork to determine where or how the money was spent.

“The problem is not too little money. If anything, it’s too much money – money that comes too easily and is replaced too quickly if the first batch dries up; money with too few strings attached and too little accountability; that leaves the impression the solution to Attawapiskat’s woes are someone else’s responsibility.”

–‘Lack of money isn’t Attawapiskat’s problem’,
LORNE GUNTER , EDMONTON SUN, APRIL 19, 2016 {CAPS added}

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/19/lack-of-money-isnt-attawapiskats-problem Attawapiskat3“A young man in the troubled ‘First Nation’ of Attawapiskat asked the federal ‘indigenous’ affairs minister on Monday why his community was living in Third World conditions while Canada is greeting refugees with open arms.

“Robert Sutherland was among several youths to express frustration to Carolyn Bennett over the lack of basic supports so desperately needed by those in his James Bay community.

“Tell me why we ‘First Nations’ live in Third World conditions”, he said during a meeting with Bennett and other officials… {He needs to read the previous column…} “We don’t ask for much.” {?}

“The public youth council session followed a private two-hour meeting with Bennett, activist New Democrat MP Charlie Angus and Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh, who also made his frustration plain.

“Bennett was able to commit to a new, properly-equipped youth centre {that was supposed to already be built by the Band}, as well as some programming for young people — a key demand in the isolated northern Ontario reserve.

“In addition, a youth delegation from across the region will be invited to Ottawa…”

–‘Minister gets earful on visit to Attawapiskat; commits to new youth centre’,
COLIN PERKEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS, APRIL 18, 2016

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/18/minister-gets-earful-on-visit-to-attawapiskat-commits-to-new-youth-centre ATTAWAPISKAT-WATER-NATIVE-RESERVES-large570‘Phase out Attawapiskat? Worth a shot’

“None other than former prime minister Jean Chretien has said the ‘First Nations’ community of Attawapiskat should be phased out and relocated. It’s worth a shot. What can we lose? Everything that’s been tried to date has done little to improve the situation, it seems.

“There is no economic base there for having jobs and so on, and sometimes they have to move, like anybody else,”

the former PM said Tuesday during a visit to the Parliament buildings for other business…

“This isn’t the first time the idea’s been put forward. In 1969, under Chretien’s tenure as Indian affairs minister, the Pierre Trudeau government released the controversial “white paper” that advocated bringing First Nations people into the economic mainstream, including winding down reserves and increasing property rights.

“The idea still has traction today…

“The remote northern community of 2,000 this week declared an emergency Saturday, due to 11 suicide attempts in April alone. Then on Monday, police broke up a suicide pact between 13 youths — including a nine-year-old…

“It’s a shame stories from Attawapiskat frame the debate for how many Canadians view all aboriginal communities. The truth is education and business development are making great strides.

“There are an estimated 40,000 aboriginal-run corporations. ‘Statistics Canada’ data from 2011 shows 48.4% of Aboriginals aged 25-64 had some form of post-secondary education. In other words, success is possible. Aboriginal prosperity is happening and within reach for the people of Attawapiskat, too…”

–‘Phase out Attawapiskat? Worth a shot’,
ANTHONY FUREY, POSTMEDIA NETWORK, APRIL 13, 2016

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/13/phase-out-attawapiskat-worth-a-shot attawapiskat-map“Attawapiskat is a remote community of 2,000 people. While money may be available for infrastructure improvements, until such time as people obtain the basic ingredient of happiness — a sense of purpose — better facilities will change little.

“That’s because new facilities do not eliminate the root causes of hopelessness.

“Hope is provided to youngsters when they have the freedom to develop their talents. On many reserves, these talents are never even discovered, let alone nourished.

“Young people who have aspirations and a genuine hope for a better future have the ‘joie de vivre’ needed to ward off feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide. The opposite occurs when there isn’t adequate schooling, or programs aimed at supporting isolated ‘First Nations’ youth, who are failing in droves.

“Many in Attawapiskat and other ‘First Nations’ communities are already battling abuse, violence and alcohol and drug addiction in their own and extended families.

“They lack goals and aspirations. They live in a cultural wilderness, neither traditional nor modern…

“The solutions aren’t going to be easy.

“But if public money is going to continue to be directed towards native communities, it must be spent wisely so that a collective sense of optimism so tragically missing among these young people living on reserves can be developed.

“This can be achieved, in part, through expanded youth programs, especially exchange programs between young people living on reserves with other Canadian youth living in modern cities and towns.

“Let these young people experience the entire spectrum of opportunities available to other Canadian youth through more interaction with them.

“Let them develop their talents to the fullest in order to attain that sense of purpose that propels all of us to get up in the morning and go on living.

“Even if that purpose is only, for now, to combat the social ills rampant in their own communities, that in itself would be a useful beginning.”

–‘How to restore hope on reserves’,
FARZANA HASSAN, TORONTO SUN, APRIL 21, 2016

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/21/how-to-restore-hope-on-reserves SpenceWEBFrom 2015:
‘Controversial former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence fails in bid for higher office’

“After a five-year tenure as chief of Attawapiskat marked by controversy, Theresa Spence resigned to seek a larger political role, only to be rebuffed by her fellow chiefs…

“Spence was seeking election as one of the three deputy grand chiefs of the Nishnawbe Aski ‘Nation’, the political organization representing the 49 ‘First Nations’ of northern Ontario.

“But after a day of speeches on Wednesday by the nine candidates for deputy grand chief and voting by chiefs assembled at the Aroland ‘First Nation’ {a ‘nation’ of 700 people, 300 on reserve}, Spence received just three votes on the first ballot. Finishing in a tie for second last, she chose to drop out of the race…”

–‘Controversial former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence fails in bid for higher office’,
Graeme Hamilton and Douglas Quan, National Post, August 13, 2015

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/controversial-former-attawapiskat-chief-theresa-spence-fails-in-bid-for-higher-office Attawapiskat (2)See also:
‘Just Getting In The Way’ (INAC Occupations) {Apr.13, 2016}:

https://endracebasedlawcanadanews.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/just-getting-in-the-way/
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