The big question that has been present in my previous posts about the Attawapiskat situation has been the question of responsibility. It was unclear whether the funds which the government claims to have sent to the tribe over the past years have been mismanaged, or whether there was something going on at the government’s end of things. This is a critical question. Who is responsible??
The implication that arises due to the government’s appointment of a Third Party overseer is that the Attawapiskat tribe has somehow mismanaged funds and require government intervention. However, an article at HuffPost points out that the Attawapiskat band has been under co-management for over ten years and that their accounting is open to scrutiny by anyone. They have long acknowledged a willingness for assistance in managing financial affairs. The indication in this article is that the $90 million which the tribe has received in funding over the preceding years was duly accounted for to the satisfaction of the federal government through this co-management mechanism. How that led to the crisis situation that is currently in the news is not mentioned specifically, which is unfortunate and of some concern. I still don’t feel that I understand exactly what happened here and how the homeless families never benefited from the federal funding, and until that understanding is clear there will always be a suspicion of tribal mismanagement or corruption.
However, two things are clear. The first is that supporting a community in a situation where it is forbidden to pursue its traditional practices by bans on hunting, fishing and logging, and situated as far from civilization as it is, results in very high maintenance expenses. All materials and food need to be flown in. The restriction that the invaders (that’s us) placed on these people are a main cause for this situation. We can either take the attitude that invaders rule and the conquered need to suck it up, or we can take responsibility for the history of cruelty and hardship which we’ve foisted on these people and know that there will be a price for us to pay.
The second thing that is clear is that the Harper government is on a campaign to discredit Canadian Aboriginals. By putting the Attawapiskat band under Third Party control, the Conservative government sends an implicit message to Canadians that these people are unfit to govern themselves. The Kelowna Accord, which was designed to inject funds into a nationwide housing crisis for aboriginal people, was cancelled by the Conservative government. As the HuffPost article states
If we read between the lines, Harper is signaling to Canadians that “we” no longer owe First Nations anything. “They” have taken enough of “our” hard-earned tax dollars already. Such an approach is dangerous in its ignorance of the history behind First Nations destitution. Thankfully, the government’s latest manoeuver has partially backfired, with many Canadians beginning to ask rather deep questions about how Ottawa relates to First Nations and the mainstream media persisting in its coverage of Attawapiskat.
As I said before, things smell a little fishy all around. It seems more in the government’s best interest to bury facts and truths as it plays into their apparent strategy for Aboriginal disenfranchisement.