It is time to put an end to Third World conditions in our country

Perhaps getting rid of of the Department of Indian Affairs and renegotiating relationships

To the Expositor:

Re: The plight of First Nations

The story of Nahnebahwequay the ‘upright woman’ (September 7) recounts a powerful story of injustice which, to be honest, still exists to this day. In Catherine Sutton’s time her people were systematically deprived of their lands and their rights by fraudulent treaties and the underhanded tactics of the early, mostly English powers. Now, more than 160 years later, we see the terrible effects which the residential school system, run largely by ’holier than thou’ church systems trying to knock the Indian out of Indian youngsters, has had on today’s First Nations people. As well, we read that right now—in 2016—First Nations schools are still under-funded as compared to other Canadian educational jurisdictions and that today, more than 80 native communities are at this moment living under a boiled water advisory!

We can add to the above account the fact that many isolated Native communities exist in totally inadequate, overcrowded housing conditions and pay, for their daily food supplies, almost double what it costs the average Canadian family per month to feed and sustain their families (Toronto Star, September 17)! And remember how many years it has taken for Ottawa to finally admit to and act upon the matter of the disappearance and deaths of well over 1,000 First Nations women! Given this gross litany of neglect and indifference by decades of federal and for that matter provincial government control, to which anyone who looked seriously at the current situation could easily add more examples (consider reports detailing official police indifference and, at times, outrageous treatment of First Nations people) it should not surprise anyone that many remote, Northern communities live daily with alcoholism, violence, despair and high rates of suicide. How could it be otherwise?

I have always been a supporter of Canadian efforts to help less fortunate countries and communities worldwide because we are, by any standard, more blessed and fortunate than most folk in this world. However, surely it is time now to turn our efforts and our incredible good fortune towards our own people and put an end to the third-world conditions which still exist in our own backyard! The task is huge and complex and it is not going to be easy; we might have to begin by doing away with the Department of Indian Affairs and renegotiate Federal and First Nations relationships and responsibilities and insist on full and open accountability on both sides of the table! At the same time, we could certainly begin concrete action to deal with many of the day-to-day problems facing First Nations communities. It will all take time but, if we do anything less, Nahnebahwequay will surely turn in her grave!

Sincerely,

Eric Balkind

Gore Bay