Should Canadians treat First Nations like charities?

ski-doo_blog_140213A teenage girl working as a page in Ontario’s legislature hears then lieutenant-governor, James Bartleman, talk about how, growing up as an aboriginal person in a small community in northern Ontario, books were his ‘ticket out of poverty’.

Bartleman went on to describe how the shortage of books contributed to lower education outcomes in many Ontario First Nations, and how the situation endures today. Determined to do something, the girl and her sister begin collecting books to send to remote northern First Nations. To date, their organisation, Books with no Bounds, has delivered more than 15,000 books to such Ontario communities, and earlier this month the sisters, Emma and Julia Mogus of Oakville, received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal from Mr. Bartleman.

Good for them. I sincerely mean that. They are doing something, they are acting on their beliefs.

But … Continue reading

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Did the poll really find ”hardened” attitudes toward aboriginal Canadians?

Poll_hardened_160113

(c) Oiwi TV.

That’s what the headline on the Globe and Mail website said on Wednesday, and that was also the lead of the news release on the Ipsos-Reid website:

“Last week’s protests by First Nations activists appear to have had a hardening effect on Canadian public opinion regarding Aboriginal issues, according to a new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the National Post/Postmedia News and Global Television.”

I know very little about polling but when I read through the release, I started to wonder about that lead. Here’s what I found:

1 result that found attitudes had hardened compared to earlier responses to the same question:
•    “Most of the problems of native peoples are brought on by themselves (60% nationally, up 25 points from 35% in 1989.”

3 results that found attitudes unchanged or softened:
•    “While there’s general support for resolving land claims to provide Aboriginal Peoples with the land and resources needed to become self-sufficient (63%) and for the federal government to act now to raise the quality of life for Aboriginal peoples (63%, unchanged from July 2010).”
•    “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers. Two thirds (64%) nationally share this view — unchanged from July 2012.”
•    “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are treated well by the Canadian Government. Two thirds (62%) nationally share this sentiment, down from 66% in July 2012.” Continue reading

(The new) Two Solitudes*

Peter Mansbridge asked an important question Monday night during a panel discussion about the Idle No More movement. ‘Why is it that such extreme views are voiced when indigenous issues are discussed?’ asked the host of CBC-TV’s The National.

The question is important because I see the gulf between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians growing instead of shrinking, and I don’t think that a wider divide is going to benefit any of us.

I see the gulf between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians growing instead of shrinking, and I don’t think that a wider divide is going to benefit any of us.

 Having grown up in a small town on Vancouver Island where many people had strong views on this issue, I think I can answer Mansbridge’s question, for the non-aboriginal side: fairness. Many non-native Canadians believe it is unfair that aboriginal people in this country receive benefits like free education and tax-exempt status.

 I don’t think it’s unfair that aboriginal people are treated differently. Continue reading