Writer questions validity of First Nations protests

To the Expositor:

In his letter of January 30 in The Expositor (page 4), Chief Franklin Paibomsai, Shining Turtle, said that he is excited that the youth of his community has raised their voices in a call for change. I would be excited too if it sounded like they were raising their voices for a hand up and not a never-ending handout.

In his letter Chief Shining Turtle made reference to three pieces of legislation that are included in Bill C-45 and pertinent to Native Canadians. 1. The legislation fails to recognize the native right to commercially fish, 2. The legislation allows Native bands to lease their lands. 3. The legislation requires that band councils be held to the same laws of accountability and transparency in the spending of moneys they receive from the taxpayers of Canada as all other elected public officials.

As far as the right to commercially fish, the Supreme Court’s historic ruling said Natives have the right to fish for food and ceremonial purposes. Don’t you think it is a little disingenuous that the courts treat Native people as less advanced aboriginal hunters and gatherers? That primitive lifestyle ended in the 1600s. The Native persons I have met are as intelligent and capable as any Canadian. Isn’t it time everyone moved into the 21st century?

In regards to allowing Native bands to lease out their land take a second and Google Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian band near Oliver B.C. or Chief Robert Louie of the West Bank First Nation near Kelowna. Both of these chiefs have been responsible for creating not just financial prosperity but jobs and social prosperity for their bands by leasing lands. They continue to own the land and benefit from the jobs created by things like a golf course, a hospital, a luxury hotel and a federal jail.

A cynical non-Native might see the legislation to require bands to be accountable for the spending of taxpayer’s money as the real reason for the Idle No More movement. Unfortunately, the movement provided non-Natives with Chief Spence and an optimum example of taxpayer’s moneys horribly mismanaged. There is no “Great White Mother” who magically conjures up billions of dollars to support the Indian Industry. There is only us non-Native Canadian taxpayers and we would like to know the money spent on reserves is being spent equitably and fairly.

Like you, I think it is wonderful that young people are becoming aware of environmental concerns. But blockading roads, railways and disrupting the economy is sort of like biting the hand that feeds you. It is possible to follow the Rule of Law and work together with all Canadians to ensure politicians listen to our concerns and institute measures to protect our environment. That would be a worthy cause.

Gaye Smith