Monday, September 15, 2014
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Reform on reserves better than inquiry

BY BETTY ANN ADAM, THE STARPHOENIX

The Saskatchewan director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the government should reform the reserve system instead of holding a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

 

"It's a sad situation but I don't think an inquiry would produce the results that some hope it would," Colin Craig said.

"If there's going to be any time and energy dedicated to this issue it should be on prevention and looking at the root cause, which is the reserve system.

"Everyone knows the reserve system has been a colossal failure. It's time to look at moving forward with reform."

University of Saskatchewan native studies professor Priscilla Settee said Craig is "misguided," and that a national dialogue is needed to address the larger issues underlying the problems that lead to violence against indigenous women.

Craig acknowledged the residential schools "probably played a role too," in causing the poverty and social inequality victims have often experienced.

He said he thinks the government needs to implement a package of changes that include helping people escape poverty at remote reserves with few economic opportunities by helping them move to other communities, including to other reserves, where there are more jobs.

"We're not talking about forced relocation ... If they want to move to where there are jobs and opportunities, the government could assist," Craig said. He also thinks it should be easier to buy and sell property on reserves, he said.

Craig's suggestions ignore the importance of First Nations land, Settee said.

"What does he think, we're idiots? Those tracts of land symbolize, and they are, actual recognition that a legal agreement was put in place way back when, dotted and sealed by the treaties, which continue to be overlooked by corporations and the governments that back them," she said.

Craig said the problems with education funding on reserves are more about lack of financial transparency than insufficient amounts.

He has heard of a 2013 FSIN study that showed students at federally funded onreserve schools receive 40 to 50 per cent less than those at provincially funded schools, but he prefers a Fraser Institute report that said those schools "are quite well-funded," he said.

"It's not just looking at how much is flowing to communities for education, but making sure it's actually spent for that purpose."

Those who talk about accountability ignore the "foundational" responsibility colonizers bear for creating systems that were inherently unequal, Settee said. "Inequality is structurally designed. Everything throughout history is based on inequality. That sounds negative, but it's the history of colonialism," she said.

"Under the current neoconservative government, things are not getting better, they're getting worse."

Money allotted to indigenous organizations, social housing programs, food price policies, daycare and employment has been eroded, she said.

"The marginalized will suffer the most. Many reserves represent that.

"Rather than scapegoating and victim-blaming, we need to get more analytical about what is the reason for the problem. How can it be solved?" Canadians need education about the history of Canada and the role of colonizers in creating inequality, Settee said.

"(Canadians need to) see justice as part of the mandate of education instead of promulgating the same old racist ideology. It works. People still have a sense of justice. Some you'll never reach," she said.

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