Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Canada's shameful history -- but what are the lessons?

So Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has finally closed its books and the Canadian government has decided to apply all 72 recommendations.  Fine as it stands, the Residential Schools were traumatic.

The issue today is where does Canada go from here?  What is to be done about the Aboriginal problem, because its an C$ 8 billion per annum cost.  What are the solutions?

First, some hard truths, if you are an Amerindian in Canada you have two choices; live a coddled and largely pointless life on a "reservation" pay no taxes and receive benefits.  Education, despite being expensive, is widely seen as completely useless.  Children leave school with little useful knowledge or socially (outside the reservation) useful skills.  If you are smart -- you get out as fast as you can. My experience, at McGil University years ago, where I met a single AmerIndian was telling, smarter than most, engaged and had little time for his tribe.  He was out in the world -- a loss to his tribe a tremendous gain to Canada's society.  BTW those Amerindians who live in reservations near large centres are not the topic of conversation here -- they're doing just fine!  

The second issue, and this is a difficult one is that the Supreme court has for 30 years accepted "oral history"  the problem -- well the stories don't match, conflicts on which land belongs to which tribe -- in Northern Quebec alone, there are 60 distinct tribal groups -- that have a separate world view and very distinct nationhood.  Each with its own history -- and vision of its land rights.

Third if they are a sovereign nations -- where do we come off telling them how to manage things (well or poorly is irrelevant) granted the golden rule applies here too (he who has the gold rules!), but it remains that many problems arise from the tribes own decision process -- flawed or otherwise.

The fundamental problem is integrating a hunter/gatherer "stone age" society  -- a great part of the Amerindian heritage are hunting and fishing seasons -- when EVERYONE leaves for these activities it is how they define their society.  

Call centres, manufacturing or assembly require employees to be present -- every day and every week.  These 21st century activities cannot accommodated the labor force disappearing for weeks.     Moreover, most tribal land is in remote locations (by choice or otherwise) with generally poor communication channels.  There are no obvious solutions here -- Like Romeo and Juliette its is simply a tragedy the Amerindian's expectations and the 21st century's needs simply do not meet. 

Programs to extricate their brightest will only sentence their brothers and sister to a worse life.  It s a tragedy that within the Canadian constitution their "rights" have been inshrined in such a way that their hunter/gatherers ways are protected -- allowing them to retain their way of life -- but at the same time condemning them to their way of life.  

It seems that the solution is:  Shovel money -- a tragedy!


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