Where Tragedy Falls Off Canada's MapThis is from an article in the Toronto Star, Where tragedy falls off Canada's map by Marie Wadden. It starts:
Aboriginal communities are out of sight from most Canadians. Our family spent two weeks one summer on Vancouver Island. My children were hoping to see the people who made the wonderful totem poles of Stanley Park. We didn't see a single Aboriginal person in our travels.
I understand better now, after a frustrating drive back and forth on the same highway this summer looking for the Nanoose Band Reserve near Lantzville, B.C. There aren't many off ramps for reserves.
Reservations aren't on the best land or best locations. Many are difficult to get to and from and Ms. Wadden seems to think that may be by design. I do too, although there are two Maliseet reserves in Fredericton, NB (St. Mary's & Kingsclear) and another nearby (Oromocto). This is more of the exception than the rule since these areas were also traditional "towns" for Maliseet for centuries. I also think that the white folks didn't plan on Fredericton growing so large that it would eventually encompass these reserves.
I drove past prosperous middle-class homes. The source of wealth — a large paper mill. Alongside it are railway tracks. On the other side of the tracks is a long line of cookie-cutter CMHC bungalows stretching as far as the eye can see.
I knew I was on the reserve because I'd also run out of pavement. This was the pattern wherever I travelled and I began to see the lack of pavement as a metaphor for neglect. Neighbours to reserves have told me over the years, "pavement isn't a priority for them." Or, "I guess they've got other priorities." The assumption is, Aboriginal people choose bad roads.
White people got rich harvesting our resources while our people are living in CMHC shacks, um bungalows. And of course we like it that way and the dirt roads too. *sarcasm*
The Aboriginal community has been fighting assumptions for more than a century, most of them about the money — "our money," as one friend pointed out — being spent on their welfare and problems. This year, it is about $9 billion, out of Canada's total budget of $227 billion."Our money", meaning white people, meaning their taxes. I'll get back to this in the next post. Can't let the white Newfoundlanders go without, but the damned savages? They don't need any healthcare. On my reservation, the post secondary (college/trade school) money was held up last year, which means that students do not get their scholarships and living expenses, no groceries or rent money for months. Nice.
Sometimes the money doesn't make it to them. In 2005, $700 million was allocated for Aboriginal health care, but the money never left Ottawa. The bill to free up this money was not passed before the Liberal government fell. Yet that same year, $2.6 billion was fast-tracked for Newfoundland after Premier Danny Williams insisted on getting a fair share of offshore oil and gas revenues. The message: There are twice as many Aboriginal people in this country as there are Newfoundlanders, but they don't count as much.
The United Nations Human Development Index equates the Aboriginal standard of living in this country with that of Brazil, well below the Canadian norm.Nice.
In 1978, I was in the Labrador community of Davis Inlet, where the people lived in shacks. "Indians don't know how to live in houses," I was told. Inside I found walls built without struts, sheets of drywall installed without proper framing, a single lightbulb to light a three-bedroom house. The "Indians" didn't build these houses; some southern contractor profited from the construction.
This year, I met Phyllis and Andy Chelsea, a Shuswap couple in B.C. whose house is rotting with mould. Statistics Canada says 50 per cent of reserve housing is like this.
I was so wrapped up in writing their story, I missed an event at my child's school. Later, when a parent asked where I'd been, I told her about the Chelseas' predicament. Her husband works for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and has told her the houses on reserves are mouldy because "they leave their water running."
I lived with the Chelseas for a couple of days at Alkali Lake and their water wasn't running. Neither was the electricity. Huge trucks piled high with timber routinely knock out the power lines. To add insult to injury, the truck drivers are not Aboriginal. And the timber is going off the reserve, to enrich someone else's life.
Contrary to some taxpayers' perceptions, Aboriginal people don't get their housing free. It is provided through loans to band councils that are repaid by charging rent. In B.C., I heard many stories of people being evicted by band councils because they couldn't afford to pay their rents. Taxes? Only goods purchased on reserves are tax-free — most reserves have little to sell. The Inuit pay all the same taxes we do and more because of the higher costs of goods shipped north.
Aboriginal people have another way of looking at the issue of "our" money. They believe "our" money is being made off their land. Some Canadian judges have agreed.
You see the pattern? Indians don't know how to live like civilized people, they like living like animals. And we're leaches living off welfare and paying no taxes, while white people come in taking the resources, not even hiring our people for menial jobs, and ruining things in our lives. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
In 2000, the Canadian Institute of Child Health reported 126 out of every 100,000 First Nations people has committed suicide, compared with 24 per 100,000 in the rest of the country...Allan is from Tobique (my reserve) and a distant cousin. Two of the suicides are my first cousins, Gabriel Perley and Darren Perley. Gabe died in his father's home right next door to my mother's house. Darren was raised in the home on the other side of my mom. Politics are extremely divisive on Tobique and there was a man who laughed about these suicides and said something along the lines of, "Let all these Perleys kill themselves, who cares." In a terrible irony it was his son who was the third suicide.
...I was reeling from this when I checked my emails before going to bed to find this, from Allan Saulis of the Maliseet Reserve in New Brunswick:
"There was another suicide this weekend in our community. ... This will be the third. ... How many more will it take for the authorities, governments, and the media to take affirmative action once and for all?"
One of the reasons I was glad to find this is because recently someone said there isn't any racism towards Indians anymore. As you can see this isn't true, there are several misconceptions and bigotted attitudes out there, and don't think that just because this is the way it is in Canada that it has nothing to do with the US. It is worse in the US.