Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat

I still intend to get a series of posts out clarifying issues like First Nations housing, health-care, education and so on, but I have a confession.  I haven’t been staying away from the comments sections of articles about Attawapiskat.

I know.  It’s not healthy.  There are so many racist rants and outright ignorant responses that it can bog you down.  Where do you even begin, when the people making these comments do not seem to understand even the bare minimum about the subject?

Well, I try to answer questions with facts.  Here are some of those facts, if you’re interested.

Harper said Attawapiskat got $90 million, where did it all go!?

Yes, Prime Minister Harper is apparently scratching his head about where $90 million in federal funding to Attawapiskat has gone.  Many commentators then go on to make claims about lack of accountability, and no one knowing what happens to the money once it is ‘handed over’ by the Federal government.

Let’s start simple.

First, please note that $90 million is a deceptive number.  It refers to federal funding received since Harper’s government came into power in 2006.  In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Attawapiskat received $17.6 million in federal funds (PDF).  The document linked to shows the breakdown of federal funds in case you wanted to know how much is allocated to things like medical transportation, education, maternal health care and so on.

Thus, $90 million refers to the total of an average of about $18 million per year in federal funding since 2006.

[As an aside, you will often see the figure of $34 or $35 million in funding given to Attawapiskat a year.  This actually refers to total revenues.  As noted, federal funding was $17.6 million, and provincial funding was $4.4 million.  The community brings in about $12 million of its own revenue, as shown here.  So no, the ‘government’ is not giving Attawapiskat $34 million a year.]

Okay fine, but where did it go?

Attawapiskat publishes its financial statements going back to 2005. If you want to know where the money was spent, you can look in the audited financial reports.  This document (PDF) for example provides a breakdown of all program funding.

Just getting to this stage alone proves false the claim that there is no accountability and no one knows where the money goes.

But $90 million could have built the community 360 brand new houses!!

Assuming, as Grand Chief Stan Louttit of the Mushkegowyk Council has stated, that a new house costs $250,000 to build in Attawapiskat (with half of that being transportation costs), then yes, 360 new units could have been provided by $90 million.

However, this money was not just earmarked for the construction of new homes.

An important fact that many commentators forget (or are unaware of) is that section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867 gives the Federal Crown exclusive powers over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.”

You see, for non-natives, the provinces are in charge of funding things like education, health-care, social services and so on.  For example, the Province of Ontario allocated $10,730 in education funding per non-native pupil in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.  For most First Nations, particularly those on reserve, the federal government through INAC is responsible for providing funds for native education.

How is this relevant?

It helps explain why the entire $90 million was not allocated to the construction of new houses.  That $90 million includes funding for things like:

  • education per pupil
  • education infrastructure (maintenan­ce, repair, teacher salaries, etc)
  • health-care per patient
  • health-care, infrastruc­ture (clinics, staff, access to services outside the community in the absence of facilities on reserve)
  • social services (facilitie­s, staff, etc)
  • infrastruc­ture (maintenan­ce and constructi­on)
  • a myriad of other services

These costs are often not taken into account when attempting to compare a First Nation reserve to a non-native municipality.  In fact, many people forget that their own health-care and education are heavily subsidised by tax dollars as well.

What’s the point here?

How much money was actually allocated to housing in 2010-2011?  Page 2 of Schedule A (PDF) shows us that out of the $17.6 million in federal funds, only $2 million was provided for housing. Yes, even $2 million would be enough to 8 brand new homes, if those funds were not also used to maintain and repair existing homes.  The specific breakdown of how that money was spent is found in Schedule I.

Now, I admit I am confused about something.  The Harper article states:

According to figures providing by Aboriginal Affairs, the Attawapiskat Cree band has received just over $3 million in funds specifically for housing and a further $2.8 million in infrastructure money since 2006.

That is actually less than I estimated it would be, going by the 2010-2011 figures.  I estimated $10 million for housing, but INAC (now Aboriginal Affairs) is saying it was $5.8 million.

Anyway, that isn’t too important.  The point is, if INAC is correct, only $5.8 million has gone towards housing for Attawapiskat.  At most that could have built the community 23 new houses, if Attawapiskat had merely let the older houses go without any repairs or maintenance for 5 years.  Letting existing homes go like that is not a great strategy, however.

The point here is, $90 million sounds like a huge amount, but the real figures allocated to housing are much, much smaller.

Fine, they got $5.8 million for housing, surely that is enough?

Again, assuming 23 new homes were built, and all older homes were left without maintenance and repairs, and the people in charge of housing worked for free and there were no other costs associated with administering the housing program, Attawapiskat would still be experiencing a housing crisis.

It is estimated that $84 million is needed for housing alone to meet Attawapiskat’s housing needs (you’ll find those figures in a small table on the right, titled “Attawapiskat by the numbers”).

The Feds are just handing that money over and the Band does whatever it wants with it!

Many people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that First Nations have self-governance and run themselves freely.  This is far from the truth, but given that most Canadians are familiar with the municipal model, the confusion is actually understandable.  It isn’t as though Canada does a very good job of teaching people about the Indian Act.


I am going to quote the following so that what I originally said is still viewable here. After the quote I am going to correct a factual error and clarify the issue.  My apologies for not getting to this sooner! 

Section 61(1)(a-k) of the Indian Act details that: “With the consent of the council of a band, the Minister may authorize and direct the expenditure of capital moneys of the band” for various purposes.

What this means is that Ministerial approval is actually a requirement before any capital expenditures can occur on reserve.  In practice, a Band will generally pass a Band Council Resolution (BCR) authorising a certain expenditure (say on housing), and that BCR must be forwarded to INAC for approval.


First of all, I was actually quoting section 64(1)(a-k) of the Indian Act, not section 61. This section allows the Band to empower the Minister to make capital expenditures on behalf of the Band, and does not require the Minister to okay all Band expenditures.  My apologies for this error, made in haste when this was initially posted.


The above does not mean that there is not federal oversight, however.

Federal control of expenditures is exercised through a variety of very restrictive funding mechanisms, a major one of which is contribution agreements.

To give you a sense of what contribution agreements are and how they work, I’m going to use Health Canada Contribution Agreements as an example. The following quote explains what the contribution agreement is and what the requirements are: (bolding my own)

  • It is the basis on which Health Canada will monitor your progress and assess your claims for payment;
  • It specifies the maximum federal contribution and what activities are eligible for funding;
  • It outlines the objectives of the project and how they will be measured and identifies the deliverables;
  • It tells you how often you must submit progress reports and claims; etc…

Please also note this quote:

When you receive a cheque depends on when you submit progress and financial reports

Health Canada cannot issue a payment until you properly account for expenditures through a claim submission and progress report.

Similar spending restrictions and reporting requirements exist in contribution agreements between Bands and INAC as well.

That’s right.  Most First Nations have to get permission before they can spend money. CLARIFICATION: This does not equate to individual approval for each separate expense, but rather involves very specific expenditure restrictions laid out in formal agreements. Not only that, but Bands must submit regular and detailed reports in order to continue to receive funding. That is the opposite of ‘doing whatever they want’ with the money.  Bands are micromanaged to an extent unseen in nearly any other context that does not involve a minor or someone who lacks capacity due to mental disability.

Any claims that INAC has no control over what Bands spend their money on is false.

I would hope by now you’d ask the following question:

If INAC has to approve spending, why is Harper so confused?

There is a tendency to believe that our government officials do things in a way that makes sense.  This, despite the fact that most of us don’t actually believe this to be true.  We want to believe.  I know I do.

So upon learning that the federal government is the one in charge of providing services to First Nations that are provided to non-natives by the province, we might assume that the provision of these services are administered in a comparable manner.

Not so!  And it actually makes sense why not, when you think about it for a moment.  Have you ever seen a federal hospital, for example?  No, because hospitals are built, maintained, and staffed by the provinces.  Thus, when a First Nations person needs to access health-care, they cannot access federal infrastructure.  They must access provincial infrastructure and have the feds rather than the province pick up the tab.

If only it were as easy as federal funding via provincial structures.

The Auditor General of Canada speaks up.

The Auditor General of Canada released a report in June of this year examining Programs for First Nations on Reserve.  A similar report was published in 2006.  This report identifies deficiencies in program planning and delivery by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Health Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

The reports also provide a number of recommendations to improve these deficiencies.  The 2011 report evaluated the progress made since the 2006 report, and in most areas, gave these federal agencies a failing grade.

Don’t worry, there is a point to this, stay with me.

The 2011 report has this to say:

In our view, many of the problems facing First Nations go deeper than the existing programs’ lack of efficiency and effectiveness. We believe that structural impediments severely limit the delivery of public services to First Nations communities and hinder improvements in living conditions on reserves. We have identified four such impediments:

  • lack of clarity about service levels,
  • lack of a legislative base,
  • lack of an appropriate funding mechanism, and
  • lack of organizations to support local service delivery.

I know this is going to look like mumbo jumbo at first, so let me break it down a little for you.  This will help explain why millions of dollars of funding is not enough to actually improve the living conditions of First Nations people, particularly those on reserve.

Lack of clarity about service levels

As explained earlier the federal government is in charge of delivering services that are otherwise provided by the provinces to non-natives.  The Auditor General states:

“It is not always evident whether the federal government is committed to providing services on reserves of the same range and quality as those provided to other communities across Canada.”

Shockingly, the federal government does not always have clear program objectives, nor does it necessarily specify specific roles and responsibilities for program delivery, and has not established measures for evaluating performance in order to determine if outcome are actually met.


That’s right.  The federal government is not keeping track of what it does, how it does it, or whether what it is doing works.  The Auditor General recommends the federal government fix this, pronto.  How can a community rely on these services if the federal government itself isn’t even clear on what it is providing and whether the programs are working?

Lack of a legislative base

“Provincial legislation provides a basis of clarity for services delivered by provinces. A legislative base for programs specifies respective roles and responsibilities, eligibility, and other program elements. It constitutes an unambiguous commitment by government to deliver those services. The result is that accountability and funding are better defined.”

The provinces all have some sort of Education Act that clearly lays out the roles and responsibilities of education authorities, as well as mechanisms of evaluation.  There is generally no comparable federal legislation for the provision of First Nations education, health-care, housing and so on.

As noted by the AG, legislation provides clarity and accountability.  Without it, decision can be made on an ill-defined ‘policy’ basis or on a completely ad hoc basis.

Lack of an appropriate funding mechanism

The AG focuses on a few areas here.

Lack of service standards for one. Were you aware that provincial building codes do not apply on reserve?  Some provincial laws of ‘general application’  (like Highway Traffic Acts) can apply on reserve, but building codes do not.  There is a federal National Building Code, but enforcement and inspection has been a major problem.  This has been listed as one of the factors in why homes built on reserve do not have a similar ‘life’ to those built off reserve.

Poor timing for provision of funds is another key issue.  “Most contribution agreements must be renewed yearly. In previous audits, we found that the funds may not be available until several months into the period to be funded.”  This is particularly problematic for housing as “money often doesn’t arrive until late summer, past the peak construction period, so projects get delayed and their costs rise.”

Lack of accountability.

“It is often unclear who is accountable to First Nations members for achieving improved outcomes or specific levels of services. First Nations often cite a lack of federal funding as the main reason for inadequate services. For its part, INAC maintains that the federal government funds services to First Nations but is not responsible for the delivery or provision of these services.”

The AG also refers to a heavy reporting burden put on First Nations, and notes that the endless paperwork often is completely ignored anyway by federal agencies.

Lack of organisations to support local service delivery

This refers once again to the fact that there are no federal school or health boards, no federal infrastructure and expertise.  Some programs are delivered through provincial structures, while others are provided directly by the federal government, with less than stellar results.

As the Auditor General states, “Change is needed if meaning full progress is to be realised“.  There is extreme lack of clarity about what the federal government is doing, why, how, and whether it is at all effective.  No wonder Harper is confused!

Tired yet?

Don’t worry, the commentators aren’t finished, and neither am I.

The Chief of Attawapiskat made $71,000 last year while her people live in tents!!!

Apparently we are supposed to be outraged at the excess involved here.  This of course follows on the heels of a report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation about ‘jaw-dropping’ reserve salaries.  It’s become fashionable to rant about Chiefs making more than premiers (though no one could make that claim here).

Attawapiskat publishes its salaries, travel expenses and honorariums (again, nothing being hidden here).  Chief Theresa Spence was paid $69,575 in salary and honorariums in 2010-2011, and had $1,798 in travel expenses for a total of about $71K.

If you are like most people, you don’t spend a lot of time looking at what public employees actually make.  What number wouldn’t shock you in the absence of such context?  $50,000?  $32,000?  I suspect any amount would be offered as some sort of proof of…something not right.

Well okay.  Why don’t we take a look at some other salaries?  But first, note that Ontario Premier McGuinty made $209,000 in 2010, and apparently over 100 public service executives made more than he did.

It is difficult to do a really accurate comparison of salaries, because Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (doc) of 1996 only requires that salaries over $100,000 be reported. (in addition, if the salaries are reported elsewhere, they are not necessarily included in this report)  However, the annual reports are a fantastic resource.  Here is the list of various public sector employees making over $100K a year.  I offer this merely in order to ask…were you aware these people were making this amount of money?

I sure wasn’t.  These are salaries paid by tax dollars too.  I have no idea if the Director of Quality Services for the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation should be paid $147,437.58 a year (sorry to single you out, sir, I chose randomly).  If this Corporation were in the news and having financial difficulties, I have no doubt this salary would be brought up as somehow relevant…but is it?

I don’t know if it is.  That’s the point.  I don’t think the people bringing it up know either.  I haven’t been able to find a source listing the salaries of mayors of municipalities in Ontario to compare to Chief Spence’s salary.  Then again, I doubt anyone would seriously claim that if she worked for free, the housing crisis in Attawakpiskat would be over.

A good comment was sent to me recently on the issue of salaries that I’d like to share.  “Whenever one is talking about the salaries of say a [premier or a] prime minister versus someone else, two things: 1) parliamentarians get very good pensions and for a relatively short time of service; 2) more particularly, a post like the prime ministership or the presidency of the United States opens up all kinds of doors for later life. So even if the salary is $200,000, the person is virtually guaranteed a very comfortably post-office life. Counsel in a big law firm. Paid corporate director. University professor. Etc. etc. I don’t think we imagine that the Barrick Gold Corporations of the world will be banging down the door of a past chief of Attawapiskat in a comparable way.”

I wonder what kind of pension Chief Spence can count on?

The more you know…

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the common accusations and arguments being made about Attawapiskat on various forums and comments sections of online news articles.  I might update if necessary to address them, but I think you now have at least a base to begin with, whether you honestly just want to understand the situation a little better, or want to fight those comment battles.

If you would like an on-the-ground perspective, please check out Smoke Signals from Cree Yellowlegs. (a song starts playing automatically so have your speakers turned down 😀 )

Update: December 2, an article by Michael Posluns sheds some light on what third party management means in practice.

Chief Theresa Spence has published a press release on the imposition of third party management in Attawapiskat.

Above all, my relations, don’t let it get you down.

You will see people call for the abolition of the Indian Act, for the abolition of reserves and the ‘assimilation’ of First Nations into ‘Canadian society’.  You will see horrible things said about aboriginal culture.  What you will rarely see are people responding to facts.  Don’t be discouraged when facts are brushed off in favour of accusations.  We do have the power to educate those around us, and even if we can’t reach the most vocal of bigots, we can reach the ‘average’ Canadian who is merely unaware rather than necessarily outright hateful.

A note to those taking the time to comment

I am trying to keep up and answer your questions, but the amount of views and comments this post is getting is unbelievable!  Wow!  Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to say a few words or ask questions!

I will try my best to get back to you as quickly as possible, but there may be delays.  Please be patient:)

Update and personal request: I wrote this article so that I could get out of the adversarial environment of the comments sections referred to.  Please help this comment section avoid descending into more of the same.  I do not want to censor people, but if your comments are only angry accusations and you show no willingness to engage in a dialogue, I am not going to give you a platform to engage in this.  Keep it classy, nitôtêmitik.

NEW! (December 8, 2011) Do you want a (corrected) print version of this article, with footnotes rather than hyperlinks?  Send me a request via the comment section with your email, and I will send you a Word document.  I will edit out your email address before your request is posted publicly. 

About âpihtawikosisân

Métis from Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. Currently living in Montreal, Quebec. Passions: education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller derby. Education: BEd, LLB, working on a BCL
This entry was posted in Aboriginal law, First Nations, INAC, Injustice, James Bay Cree, Representation of natives and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1,014 Responses to Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat

  1. Andy in Vic says:

    Madam, you are a voice of reason making a case for sanity. Keep it up. Never quit!

    • O.B. says:

      Can’t figure out a way to make my own post – sorry for not being techno-savvy!

      Thank you for this!! Hearing the numbers in the absence of context can be horribly misleading. I’ve been wondering why no one has actually compared the numbers spent (per person) on non-native Canadians. 90$million (or 17$million) sounds like a lot, but who knows what the cost is to support the infrastructure for an individual living in, say, suburbia. If you factor in the astronomical cost of anything in remote Canada – whether you live on or off reserve – the numbers actually seem rather small to me.

      Just one tiny note though: there are, in fact, Federal Nursing Stations on some remote reserves (the hospital in Att is provincially run). These nursing stations are not hospitals, but my understanding is that they are largely funded by the federal government rather than the provincial government (of course, as you mentioned, it’s not quite as simple as that because many of the resources are still provincially subsidized). However, there can be significant discrepancies between the resources available at a Fed. nursing station and those available at a provincially-run hospital on-reserve, and the Feds usually don’t offer the same number of services.

      • There are also federally constructed and run schools in some communities. In general, however, federal infrastructure for things like health-care and education simply can’t match up to provincial infrastructure. This makes sense, given that these are areas that are primarily a provincial concern.

      • anna says:

        Amazing read! Thank you for writing this article to educate. (I also was unable to create my own post.)

      • shelley says:

        I wonder if it had anything to do with world war two. had anything to do with it…Cause I know people who went to war in world war two and lost thier Indian status rights….And from my understanding ” Anything that has to do with ” war” is always at a” fredal ” level not provincal level cause our groverance goes by fredal then provincal levels .weather you are at a provincal level or at a fredal level …Makes me wonder when vets meaning both non status and indain staus went to war everyone one that went to war was it at a ” fredal level ” or ” provincal level “or was it at a fredal level at all …oh yeah I forgot thier rights were taken away just not in a provincal way. You would think fredal would be in charge or are we just following a American way .In America they have csi etc.. this is thier fredal way well how about our canadian fredal way..or are we just followers of the american way…cause I remember in grade 8 ..the teacher let us know when travelling to the other countires, make sure you don’t joke about where your from..cause if you travel around the world …Candians were always best know for being the nicest people on earth and not the americans …At this day and age you would think the fredal level whould be on top of this subject…Since thier the ones with all the brain power..

    • Erika says:

      Thank you so much for writing this. It is so clear and well formulated. I really appreciate your positive message as well. Ay hay.

    • Keetha says:

      Wow, thank you so much for making sense of the insanity. I teach College First Nations Social and Economic Development and live relatively close to Attawapiskat so it hits close to home. Also well aware of the fight for a decent school there as well.

      • That’s another important point…the housing crisis is just a small part of what this community has been facing for years.

        • MC says:

          Thank you for this. I often wondered what it is that people don’t understand (or pretend not to understand – we all know that the media and politicians will only share what is congruent with their own understanding and what ‘atmosphere’ they want to promote in Canada). Uneducated Canadians then feed on the misinformation – a scary frenzy sometimes. I was almost 100% convinced that Canadians in general were wilfully ignorant and ‘outright hateful’. Thank you for pointing out that may not be the case even though those are the types of people we do have to deal with on a very regular basis (daily?). Your article has wiped the smug smile off some people within our own community. Thank you for going down to the basics and summarizing it all AND providing links. I think I am going to use your writing for my first “First Nations Peoples” class next time around and go further in depth with the legal aspects, requirements, etc., as well as the fed/prov battle regarding money and the conflict of laws on reserve. This is an excellent starting point. I am a member of the Attawapiskat FIrst Nation and because of this maybe, felt a sigh of relief that someone took the time to sit and write this all out. Meegwetch ntotem!

    • Old Geezer in Markham says:

      Thanks to the author for this explanation of how the system works (or at least part of it). I found this site from a link in the National Post. It would be very valuable for this information to be part of a W5 or Fifth Estate program so that the population at large can be provided with an understanding.

      I find it frustrating that with seemingly good intentions, the Feds, the Province of Ontario and the FNs can’t reach a workable solution. Maybe all FN lands (I guess for now that would have to be defined as the reserves plus whatever other land claims have been settled) should be a province of their own and the Assembly of FNs be the “provincial government” – – there must be dozens of alternate structures that can be worked out. Maybe once and for all, with enough media attention, an agreement can be reached.

      This has been going on now since before Confederation – surely we have reached a national maturity that will allow a solution. I truly believe that the majority of Canadians want the FN peoples to be treated fairly. Everyone deserves an equal chance at the opportunities the country has to offer.

      • Chris Brown says:

        Making native land a “province on its own” would cause some very interesting problems all over the country – starting with Parliament Hill, which is unceded Algonquin territory, along with most or all of Ottawa. I’m not opposed to the idea, just putting that thought out there 😉

        • Old Geezer in Markham says:

          I was trying to read and understand some of the on-going land claims on the Govt website for AADNC and am astounded at the size and complication of them. I had always considered myself reasonably well-informed about Canada – I had no idea things were such a mess. As for the Indian Act – reading it makes me cringe – imagine if the word “Indian” was replaced by any other name of a group of people.

          Trouble is, I guess this isn’t a vote getter, is it? Not much hope that things will get better. Maybe the Indian Act should be subject to a Charter of Rights challenge?

        • Land claims, holy moly. I’ve been considering writing a piece that looks at a single land claim, tracing it through the years and the different legislative regimes set up to deal with it…regimes that change, new rules created, new hoops to jump through. I’ve dealt pretty intensely with land claims and the history of them shocked even me…and I was expecting some shady stuff! The fact that so many communities have doggedly pursued these claims for decades, even centuries, spending countless person hours on research and advocacy, on negotiation meetings, on petitions and so on…and yet STILL do not have a settlement of the claims? It’s mind-boggling.

          Just detailing the various land-claim regimes that have been created over the last couple hundred of years is enough to fill a full blog post. You’re not alone in finding it complicated!

        • Rhoda says:

          Couldn’t agree more.

      • shelley says:

        I don’t think you would want our country ( canada ) considered as a provincal state..compared ( mirror) to the americans..cause it seems were like were the blue collar of the states government and they want to stay and take whatever they can from canada means oil….and the states want to extract that from alberta…and the pay grind in the 80’s from what i remember..the futher you go north meaning n.w.t….the more money you pay..this means rent, food, ice roads , so the truckers import the material to these remote places ,,mostly businessmen hire the truckers and whoever else is involved in drilling…now we have these other place like ontairo who don’t have much work up there and we don’t have anyone that wants to invest in that area besides ( mine ) so roads and expencies are more costly . Cause there is no oil up that way no thoughts on this subject 🙂 p.s edmonton is the capital city and calgary are the white collars and we are the blue collars…and the usa have been here infrusrture our roads and jobs here in alberta meaning catering camps ..not too many canadian owned companies. To me i think if you don’t have progress happening in that area then you have to suffer the price and it’s all about the money . You would think the government would have known this before you know the ( pay grid ) . The status of canda are not looking good in my eyes..They should of thought about this when they did the enfriasment..

  2. jeff slack says:

    Wow, the most clear, detailed, informative thing I’ve read on Attawapiskat by far, and on Federal-First Nations relations generally. Thank you.

    • Laura says:


    • spectator says:

      This is fantastic; I have been searching all over the internet to get a clear picture of what has been going on in Attawapiskat and this is by far the best I’ve found.
      Honestly, I would not be discouraged by the commenters – many of them are like myself and just trying to untwist the media’s story to find the truth. It is very hard, especially when you don’t know much about the native people. I think we should all be optimistic now that these issues are being investigated and discussed, maybe this time we can make some progress and help mend the gap that exists between the native people of Canada and other Canadians.

    • Harmony says:

      Agreed! I’m just blown away at how much nobody knows!
      I have spread this article like crazy! Thx 🙂

      • E says:

        I just want to add people that the Ring of Fire is another important aspect to the lives of First Nations in The North. A multibillion dollar international project and this in the middle of it all. I don’t see how companies can exploit governments and overlook this horrible situation.

    • lrunnalls says:

      helpful. thank you for your time and tone. I will definetely share this.

    • Allison Patterson says:

      Here here…well done!!!

    • Stephen Price says:

      Absolutely agreed. This post should be mandatory reading in high school social studies.

  3. Jesse Desjarlais says:

    Wow, an absolutely excellent article!

  4. Tom H says:

    Good information. What do you think of the general comment that such small community should reassess their geographical location as a population? That a small community of this size should try to prosper in a location more condusive to economic activities (employment and business opportunities) and access to other necessities such as education, health care, cheaper houses, etc. What is the main incentive to stay? That other citizens, would opt. for a mass exodus if faced with the same situations. i.e. Go where the jobs are, and where their children can prosper.

    • I think that, as is the case with the ‘they pay no taxes’ argument, the ‘they should move’ argument only gets brought up in the context of aboriginal peoples. Like the tax argument, it ignores the fact that aboriginal peoples have a different series of relationships. With the Crown, with each other, with the land. It is clear that many non-natives do not understand the relationship with the land, or think it is some sort of excuse with no real meaning.

      How do you get someone to understand this then? How could I explain to someone that my territory is a specific place on this earth, and that I am tied to that territory? That the land means something to us? That it holds our stories, our medicines, our histories, the foundation of our socio-political and legal structures? How can I possibly make someone understand these things when their cultural understanding relegates land to ‘something I can own and make money from’, and very little more?

      Further…why should I have to make anyone understand this? These were our lands. If Canadians ONLY reocognise that the reserves remain our lands, why the hell would we turn the last bits of it over when we’ve fought so hard to keep at least this?

      The reserves are postage stamp, throw away pieces of land that First Nations have been forced to settle on, but they form a land base. Without land, we have no homes for our children’s children, no community, no ties. Obliterating the reserves to scatter us throughout urban centres is no guarantee of increased living standards (as is amply demonstrated by the challenges faced by urban aboriginals) and would further deprive us of the cultural grounding that despite everything has been the main factor in how we have managed to survive SO MUCH for so long.

      So what would I say? I would say that the people suggesting this don’t get it. And until this country commits itself to building meaningful relationships with us and with our communities, these people will likely never get it. That is a terrible thing to accept.

      • J.J. says:

        I thoroughly enjoyed your insightful, researched and educational response to this issue… and while I might be setting myself up for some flak I must challenge your question: “How can I possibly make someone understand these things when their cultural understanding relegates land to ‘something I can own and make money from’, and very little more?”
        This negates a strong sense of place that many non-natives also experience. Perhaps the lens and understanding of place and land differ, but implying with one single brush stroke that non-natives have no attachment to land other than ‘something I can own and make money from’ is problematic.
        There is plenty of literature about place attachment, cultural landscape and even urban change (ie gentrification) that will illustrate that a relationship with land exists broadly and that its loss has long lingering effects. These spaces also hold memories and histories. So, I totally agree with you about displacing people from their homes in the hopes that it would be more cost effective… I just think that this connection (or similar) is not exclusively one that aboriginal peoples have.

        • I was thinking about this after I posted it, and you are right. Not all non-natives are unable to understand what being tied to the land is like and I don’t want to give the impression that I believe non-natives just can’t understand. I do think that there is a general difficulty in recognising the validity of cultural differences however. And yes, generalisations are important to a certain extent. Our particular tie with our particular territories differ from nation to nation even, but still aboriginal peoples tend to share a belief that this tie is key. It goes so much deeper too, it is the source of our pedagogy, it is how we teach.

          These are conversations we need to have, but they are a bit outside the scope of an immediate housing crisis. These conversations do need to happen in the long run, and when they do, I think we discover similarities and not just differences.

        • Joey Smallwood, Premier of New Found Land, tried this with the white kids.
          Didn’t work did it.
          It was a disaster.
          I don’t know anyone in Attawapiskat but I do know a lot of people on the Quebec side
          of James Bay and a few from Great Whale River.
          They are noble people under great duress. It is easy to be noble with a silver spoon in your mouth. Try it on the mid Canada Line or above the 60th.
          I was despised by my white “friends”, because I loved and respected the people.

      • Adrian K says:

        I think most non-natives, even if they can’t fully understand the relationship that aboriginal peoples have with the land, have some sympathy for it. But at the same time, can you not understand their point of view that they are essentially being asked to pay large sums of money, in perpetuity, to keep growning numbers of people in isolated, economically dependent communities alive?

        Similarly, it often sounds to non-native ears that aboriginals are being selective with respect to the elements of non-native society they want to participate in, and which ones they should be exempt from. They want to have modern housing, vehicles, TV, electronics…but not pay taxes or be treated in the same way as non-natives from a public policy perspective. Can you not understand how this comes across as fundamentally incompatible with a society in which people are treated equally in law with zero regard to their racial or cultural background?

        You talk of building meaningful relationships between non-native and native society but everything you’ve said just seems to imply non-natives should be quiet and pay out billions of dollars. Anytime any criticism comes of natives, it must of course be racist, or is just dismissed outright as “you just don’t understand”. How is that constructive to real dialogue? A real partnership involves give and take. What are native communities willing to change in exchange for change in approach from the government and non-natives? Would they accept that any new approach should have the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency for natives?

        So what

        • “Can you not understand their point of view that they are essentially being asked to pay large sums of money, in perpetuity, to keep growning numbers of people in isolated, economically dependent communities alive?”

          No. I cannot understand this point of view, because it is so terribly inaccurate. It would take a series of posts on the things I mentioned wanting to cover…housing, health-care, taxation, self-governance, etc to really give you a full explanation of why this view is inaccurate. I want to do that, and I am going to work on it, so please accept that I recognise this answer is not going to be satisfactory.

          As for non-natives being capable of understanding our tie to the land, of this I have no doubt. But capacity does not mean that understanding exists right now. Having this discussion requires a respectful dialogue, which is why it isn’t often possible to explain in the comments section of a news article, or even in a response to a comment on this blog. It’s a discussion better had face to face because it involves culture, and communication, and relationships.

          “Can you not understand how this comes across as fundamentally incompatible with a society in which people are treated equally in law with zero regard to their racial or cultural background?”

          No, I cannot understand this, because people are not treated equally in law with zero regard to their racial or cultural (or other) background in this country. Again, this is a topic outside the scope of this blog post, but there are both positive examples (accounting for differences that treated ‘the same’ would create injustice) and negative examples (system discrimination).

          As for the mention of certain technologies, I would like to point out that there is a common misconception that ‘traditional’ First Nations culture means no accepting any technology. This is a strange approach. For example, when guns were introduced, First Nations took to them quickly and adapted traditional hunting values to the new technology. Living in a house with a foundation does not mean that you can no longer travel to the bush and hunt during certain seasons. Using the internet does not mean we no longer have traditional values of kinship, community, and so on. The values and principles of our traditions are not technology dependent, any more than yours are. Driving a new kind of car does not mean your traditional values have disappeared.

          “You talk of building meaningful relationships between non-native and native society but everything you’ve said just seems to imply non-natives should be quiet and pay out billions of dollars.”

          If that were my position, I’d not have bothered going through the work it took to put this post together.

          I don’t want anyone to be quiet. I want people to not just assume things, and state things without looking into the situation further. It is a complicated situation and it takes some work to understand it. If non-natives are confused (and I think most are to be honest, because this stuff is not very well explained to any of us), I want them to have the ability to learn more. It is about more than just ‘money going in, nothing comes out’. I could sit with you for hours discussing this, but I am limited by time and by the fact that typing out responses is not the most effective form of communication.

          Recommendations for relationship building are core to so many studies and proposals. The desire is there, and has been articulated many times…in the Royal Commission of Aboriginal People’s report, in the Auditor General’s report, in the negotiation frameworks between First Nations and various levels of government, and so on. I cannot answer all your questions at once, but I do urge you to look at some of the agreements that have been made to see for yourself where that ‘give and take’ occurs.

        • Craig B says:

          “can you not understand their point of view that they are essentially being asked to pay large sums of money, in perpetuity, to keep growning numbers of people in isolated, economically dependent communities alive?”

          And that, dear sir, was the deal. The simple fact of the matter is, when we stole Native land and built a country on it, we made an _explicit_ deal with these peoples that we would support them, in the land that is their home, in perpetuity. THAT was the deal. And we have a sacred trust to live up to it, not just in letter but also in spirit.

          It is hard for most non-aboriginals to understand this. Canada – I mean this in the sense of the political collective as well as the state itself, the Crown – has taken everything from its aboriginal peoples, and given them a crust in return, and now we see people complaining about the price of flour. I know you very well may mean well, and you may well be genuinely confused. But make no mistake – if you really want a relationship of “partnership” with aboriginal peoples then we must treat them as being *equally* sovereign. THAT would be a place to begin a discussion of “partnership” – but to our state, that can never be. It can never (has never, and likely never will) admit that it cannot be the exclusive master in its own house. (Hence the painfully slow work of land claims, for example). And as a result, we as Canadians don’t have an equal partner – we have a trust we have imposed upon ourselves, one we must live up to.

          It’s a small price to pay for having a country to live in.

        • very well put, and said with class

      • Alex S. says:

        First of all, I’d like to say thank you for this. One of my closest friends is native, and this really helps me understand where she/you are coming from. I had so many questions, and didn’t realy know where to turn for answers. I still don’t.

        This article made it much easier to understand for those of us who admittedly know nothing of the Federal/Native dynamic.

        That being said, I still struggle with understanding why people choose to stay. I fully accept that I really don’t get it. I would never suggest that people on these remote reserves just need to move to a city and integrate in to society. Native culture is important, and should not be abandoned. My question is NOT “Why not integrate”, but more specifically “Why stay?”.

        Is there not some way these remote communities could relocate closer to the access to education/health care/employment opportunities/building resources? There is plenty of land across canada that isn’t so impossible to reach. Land that you can build a road/bridge to. Land that would allow the people living there to live better/healthier lives, while still preserving their heritage. I don’t suggest taking the land away from them… but couldn’t they keep it, while living somewhere more habitable?

        It feels like $84 million is a LOT of money for so few people… especially when there’s no guarantee that it’d fix the problem. How much would it cost to help those people flourish where they are?

        In my “ignorant” opinion, we shouldn’t be pouring so much money just to make life “bearable” for these people. We should spend it finding somewhere they could live where they can thrive as a community and as a people… and I don’t mean downtown Toronto.

        And that is the part I don’t understand. If they’re so miserable / unhealthy… why stay. What is it going to take to make life better for them, or, worst case scenario, for them to accept that the land they have is not meant for modern living.

        • Nicole says:

          As a non-First Nations member, I feel as if I understand the tie to the land…. at least in a way that my experience allows. I feel an emptiness in the deepest part of my soul because I am not really rooted anywhere, although I’ve been searching for it my entire adult life. Sometimes family, community and ancestral ties run stronger than the idea of a “nice” house and “nice” job and access to consumer stuff – wouldn’t this world be a better place if it was like that for most? Identity and values are incredibly important; they make us who we are and how we make decisions – and are incredibly complex.
          Besides that, tell me, how easy is it really for someone to leave a place (and community) only to be thrust into a world that will treat them with systemic and systematic discrimination? Racism and stereotyping run rampant in this country denying people equitable access to jobs, services, housing and often dignity.

        • hh613 says:

          I was born and raised on a reservation. I now live in the city, but I know the day will come when I can no longer afford to support myself here, and I will end up back on my family’s land on the reserve. I could NEVER afford to buy or build a house anywhere else. There was a time when I thought I hated where I was from, and never wanted to live there again. I couldn’t wait to get away. And, I come from a good family of hardworking folk who place a high value on respect, a strong work ethic, and doing what makes you happy. I would say I am lucky I had such a good foundation.

          As rough as conditions can sometimes be on reservations, there is a real sense of community in my home territory. That is one reason why people stay. Family and community. People who share the same culture and understand you. Meeting new people who don’t say “WHY would your parents name you THAT?” as soon as you introduce yourself. There are a million reasons why people don’t leave the reserve.

          Also, many people don’t have a choice. They can stay on the reserve where they have a better chance of getting by on a daily basis- and, if they’re lucky- they have a legitimate job. Jobs are few and far between. The alternative? Sure, you can leave the reservation, but unless you have a considerable amount of savings and a job and place to live already lined up, you might find yourself living on the streets.

          It’s not all black and white, cut and dry.

        • kinanâskomitin mistahi. What you say is very familiar to me. I went through a period of hating where I was from too, of not valuing it and wanting to be somewhere else. I was also sick of being viewed with such contempt, and I am certain I internalised some of it. After all, when everyone outside your community, including the ‘experts’ who teach you tell you that your culture has no value, and that your history merely sits as proof that you are little better than children, it has an impact. I focused only on the bad things, because it’s there no matter where you go.

          It took travelling away for a while to even recognise that my culture is beautiful, that it does not have to be about anger or self-loathing. It took learning my language in earnest to understand the Elder’s English words, seen as ‘hippy slogans’ by so many non-natives, but with deeper meanings you start to see finally when the words aren’t in English anymore.

          I haven’t left my territory for good. I’ve woven it into my hair, and I go back to renew my ties to it when I can.

          Anyway, it was a nice way to wake up this morning, reading these words. I thank you again.

        • Hmmm says:

          This question, and the fact that people are asking it at all, is really about attitudes and racism, I think. Canada is a northern country where everywhere is fundamentally “uninhabitable,” including Toronto, where winters would not be survivable without good housing, heating, a food-delivery system, etc. There are many colder, more remote communities that are white and relatively wealthy (Yellowknife?) but we don’t question their existence because they’re doing fine. It’s racist to equate native people with poverty and assume that the people in this community “shouldn’t” live where they want to live simply because it’s cold and they just won’t have the infrastructure to survive it. Also paternalistic. They get to choose where they want to live, and better support, in a way that works for the community, could ultimately change life there in ways that you can’t imagine now.

          Or, using simple logic, there are native communities in equally northern and isolated climates that aren’t dealing with anything as terrible as this. Which should give you pause.

        • sharon rose fox says:

          Hello Alex S.,

          I would just like to chime in here. I grew up as a non-native in a remote farming community in Saskatchewan (45 min from the closest doctor, 1.5 hrs from the closest hospital etc…). It was not until I was 12 or 13 yrs of age that we reconnected with our Metis relatives. I write this post in hopes that other non-natives can relate to and understand that “picking up and moving” is not realistic for non-natives and natives alike.

          My father and his father and his father before that were all farmers. In fact, my grandfather pioneered and cleared the land that we presently farm (only 65 years ago). I am sorry if the clearing of the land causes pain to the first nations communities in close proximity to us. However, the point of my comment is that, I know what it is like even as a non-native person to have a connection with the land. Our land is not prosperous. We have not made a profit from farming in over 17 years. However, my father goes out every year and plants, hays, and harvests because he is devoted to the land. It is really the only thing he has ever known. I know that even when he is too old and feeble to farm, he will not leave the farm and the land because that is his “home”, his place that he knows and is connected to.

          Since leaving home some 10 years ago (I left when I was 17), I moved to an urban region where I am, in comparison to my parents, more “prosperous”. However, I miss the land, the smells of the forest in the morning, the pungent cleansing of the air after a rain, the smell of decay when the snow starts to melt, the smell of freshly turned soil in the spring and the smell of cut hay in the summer. A connection to the land is not something you can just “pick up and move”. I cannot re-create the stories, sensations, memories and history on the land that we steward if we were to just “pick up and move”. We cannot just “pick up and move” our farm. Each piece of land is unique and different just like each of my children is unique and different. I cannot replace one with the other. My dad for example, knows which corners of the field are dry and which collect water, he know which sections yield better and which do not yield at all. These are “connections to the land” that you cannot replace. To talk of just “moving natives into more prosperous areas” entails a plethora of social, spiritual, and political issues that fail to address the deep culture and history of first nations.

        • suezoo39 says:

          Why do the miners stay in Lynn Lake and Leaf Rapids where there is no mine? Why don’t they just move?

          Why do all the people living in very remote fishing villages in Newfoundland, where there is no more fish, stay, why don’t they move?

          Why do the black people living in slums in the inner cities in the United States stay? Why don’t they move?

          Why do people [how many millions of people] live on the flood plain of the Red River. Why don’t they just move. After the flood of ’55 or ’57?, why didn’t the city of Winnipeg move?

          Because. It. Is. Their. Home.

          Literally, “their home and native land”.

          Whose need were all the beaver killed for? Where did the buffalo go? Who is cutting down the Boreal forest and selling it? Who is mining the nickel? The diamonds? Where is that money going?

          Who flooded how much of Northern Manitoba to boast to the world about our clean energy source and is profiting from the sale of electricity south of the border? Whose homeland is now at the bottom of a lake or a reservoir?

          Who profits?

        • Troy says:

          In addition to what suezoo39 has already said,
          I’ve left the reserve, numerous times. Usually because I’m trying to escape this poverty, get a job, or some education.
          But I always end up homeless. I leave the reserve with nothing, and wherever I end up I’m still the same penniless bastard. I lived on the streets of Vancouver for about a month, and then somehow got into a low income building. Lemme tell y’all. East Hasting Street is like the rez. The problems of poverty remain the same. All the problems are exactly the same as on the rez, but! Family is even more broken apart in the inner cities.
          And the problems First Nations are embroiled in are spreading to the other cultures within Canada, including the white one. How Canada is treating its First Nations is how it begins to treat its poorest and most helpless.
          We can’t give up our land. It’s our last refuge from defeat of this pressure cooker society. If we’re not on the reserve, we might instead end up in the gutter. Transplanting problems won’t solve ’em.

      • Yvette says:

        @ âpihtawikosisân thank you for your courageous work!

        @ J.J. I too struggle to imagine non-Natives being ‘connected’ to the land. Having a similar point of reference to further a dialogue is very important when trying to build a meaningful relationship, so thank you for the information.

        @ Adrian K its not sympathy that is needed. This is not pity politics. Perhaps a bit of empathy, a release of ‘knowing,’ and a good book “Unsettling the Settler Within,” by Paulette Regan. If you happen to be so fortunate as to find yourself living in the beautiful unceded Coast Salish Territories there are information events put on by Settlers, for Settlers, to further Settlers understandings about their relationship to First Nations peoples and their lands.

        Here is a link to their site that includes video (in case you don’t live here):

        • CogD says:

          I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog (and the comments thus far). However, I am saddened (and irritated) by the assumption that non-natives may not/will not/can not understand the commitment and spiritual and cultural connections native populations have to the land. This is a gross overstatement and quite harmful towards reaching understanding. I would suggest that in the future rather than make such claims you ask them as questions (as I am curious whether perhaps you too may have a space of ignorance concerning cultures within Canada other than those you identify with?): “Do non-natives feel they can understand this? How do non-natives feel about this, as I am concerned that perhaps many do not get it?” or some such thing.

          So, I’m writing just to add one more narrative to what I view as the lead authors most problematic (perhaps only problematic) statement. First, look at rural Canada! Canada has an incredibly large rural population, and in many many many of these communities and towns life is a struggle. Yet, people stay. Not only do they stay, but, when they go away for education or for employment (when unable to make it at home) they often return at the first opportunity.

          Second – Newfoundland. I’m from Newfoundland, and while I left to pursue education (one I was unable to obtain at the university in Newfoundland) my soul aches for my homeland. I will never ever feel the same connection to a landscape/place as I do with Newfoundland. No other place on earth will ever bring the peace and centering of spirit that interactions with ‘my’ jagged cliffs & temperamental ocean provide. Many Newfoundlanders understand to respect and be grateful to the land & sea. Yes, our livelihood has, and to some degree still does, come from the bounty of the cliffs covered in partridge berries amid the tukamore, the fish in the ocean, the trout in the rivers, the moose in the woods, and the blueberries and bakeapples in the fields and marshes. But also, our spirits are made of the wind, salt air, waves and rock of ‘the land’ (Scare quotes – because I doubt many Newfoundlanders would distinguish their soul from the ocean – the ocean and land are somewhat one . . . married). Many Newfoundlander’s are like the tukamore trees that brazenly cling to those windy cliffs. They cling and spread and continue to grow – “stunted” by standards on the mainland – despite the pressure to leave. Bring me to the most beautiful and plentiful places in the world and show me bounties and cliffs and seas considered far greater than those in the Atlantic and you’ll hear me say, “It sure is beautiful, but it’s not my ocean and it’s not my cliff and a mango or a peach have nothing on my jiggs dinner and spotted dick pudding”. I, like many, have only temporarily left my home – I will die there as I was born there and yes, it is about more than the riches the land provides, it is a relationship and it is unique and worthy of respect.

          I’m not at all trying to claim that our (or my) relationship with the land is the same as the relationships between the native people’s and their lands. I’m merely stating that a hierarchy among native and non-native peoples based on this assumed relationship is ridiculous, ignorant and hurtful – to us all. I know little of large city life, but I wouldn’t for a second believe that people in the city feel no connection to the landscapes that surround them, the parks they’ve preserved and the lands they travel to see nor the cement upon which they tread. I admire the tenacity of the native peoples to maintain their relationships and cultures . . . but I do not think their tenacity wholly unique (nor Newfoundlanders’), I see shades of it across this country in many groups…some shades are deeper and others lighter but the importance of their presence is beyond measure – I assure you.

          Again, thank you for your fantastic blog post – I certainly will be sharing this information with others so their educational deficits can be more satisfied.

          We are one people with various diverse needs and I hope that I am supportive of all people in obtaining their needs. My empathy and support is certainly focused on native populations at this time, so again, thank you for your strong and wonderful voice.

        • suezoo39 says:

          @ CogD – your third paragraph made me weep.

      • :-D:-D says:

        Thank you for doing what you do…keep it up! As to the issue of people who do not understand how people can be one with their land, I highly recommend “Wisdom Sits in Places” by Keith Basso. It worked for me!

      • JK says:

        This statement of “why don’t they leave?” comes up so much… Understand that the Mushkegowuk Territory is our homeland and our connection to our herstory! IT IS PART OF WHO WE ARE AS A PEOPLE! My grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried there, in Attawapisakt. My grandfather was Chief in Lake River in the early 20s and was an honorable man who ensured that his community was cared for! It was his home! We shouldn’t have to leave, besides where would you like us to go? We are here to stay!

        • Exactly. Understanding this needs more than a Q&A in a blog comment section. It isn’t something that can be understood easily if it isn’t part of your own cultural understanding, and I think the ‘move away’ suggestions can only be addressed with more face to face dialogue.

        • Paul says:

          Edit: accusation with no follow up.

        • I hear ya…“why don’t they leave?” put that back on their laps and say…“why don’t they leave?”??…wonder what they would say….??

        • suezoo39 says:

          All of the people who are here now, who are not of Aboriginal descent, come from a long line of people who were facing severe hardship, deprivation, sometimes the brunt of racial ostracism and left their homes to make their lives and the lives of their children and grand-children better.

          As you are descended from -this- land as home, we are descended from those who left their homes. Many of us were not welcome when we arrived either.

          I think this is the root of the “why not move to a better place?”, it is who -we- are.

          Then divergence happens to form yet another section of the “otherness”. Some new arrivals cluster in communities of like-minded individuals. My ancestors went the other way, led mainly by my grandfather who passed away 2 weeks ago, he was determined that he and his children would raise his grandchildren, me, as Canadians.

          I grew up on moose, venison, pickerel and goose. We have a lake named after my grandfather who partnered with a band to harvest wild rice. I was the only kid in my school wearing moose moccasins in the winter. When I got my first paycheque from my first job, I bought my first [and only] canoe. Family legend says that I swam before I walked. As teenagers, my best friend and I would go into the bush “camping” for weekends at a time, on showshoes, in the winter.

          But I’m of hardy eastern European peasant stock. I am very very blonde and girly looking, well, Ok, maybe not so much now, but y’know, in my youth and still in my mind.

          Men, of any colour, see me and absolutely do not believe I can do anything in the bush, never mind feed and shelter myself, and him if it came to that. I grew up loving this land and water. Now that I am old and crippled and fat and grey with time on my hands I have a yearning to learn what you know.

          Ach, I’m so involved in this site, I’ve now been up for 30 hours, the last 8 at least, here reading. I feel like someone gasping with thirst that’s just been given water. There’s so much to read, to learn, to ask, to fight for … I suppose the internet and the problem won’t disappear if I go sleep for 8 hours.



      • M.S. says:

        Thanks for taking the time to educate Canadians and cut through the bafflegab surrounding aboriginal issues. I would like to clarify one point. Canadians have, in fact, argued that other (non-native) Canadians should move (Thomas Courchene at Queens believes that Atlantic Canadians should pack up and move where the jobs are) and we have a number of examples in our history which demonstrate that resettlement doesn’t work. (To name but two: the resettlement program for outport communities in Newfoundland in the 1960s ; and Africville in Halifax, NS in the 1960s ) You cannot simply move people and expect that there will be no attendant problems. Moving to a new location doesn’t mean that there will be jobs available for your skills and even if you attain education/training it doesn’t mean that you will be given a fair shot at the jobs. The people already living in the area don’t necessarily greet the new arrivals with open arms. And when resettlement doesn’t prove itself to be the great panacea (as it has over and over) – the relocated (or dispossessed) no longer have the same community supports and the psychological, social, economic etc. impacts can be devastating. Resettlement is not a solution. We can and must do better than that.

        • When the conversation turns to ‘you need to move to where the jobs are’ I definitely think of Atlantic Canada. The number of people flooding into Alberta (and also the North) from Atlantic Canada is astounding. While this has created wealth for Alberta in particular, I’m not of the opinion it’s been wholly positive. Look at the ugly sprawl of Fort McMurray, and the way Edmonton has changed with so many young men just starting develop communities ties, with plenty of money to burn. Most folks I’ve met from the Atlantic provinces would love to go back if they could…they understand the longing.

          Money isn’t everything. It is not the only part of ‘sustainable’.

        • patmcramsden says:

          Perfectly said!! This is an island in the sky..where are people supposed to move to? The Native/nonNative issue is so critically unimportant when people are suffering in real time. Education is the key to understanding but cold, undernourished sick and neglected people can’t learn .. they are only able to feel bad. We can talk about how the fire got started after we extinguish it …but unfortunately history tells me that aid and assistance offered and accepted is often used as a weapon to further denegrade recipients in discussions long into the future.

      • Some Canadian Guy says:

        First, thank you for your article.

        Second, could you please elaborate on the different relationship between aboriginal peoples and the government vis-a-vis the ‘they pay no taxes’ argument.

        Thank you.

        • Yikes, another issue that can fill an entire blog post and then some! Actually two, because you’ve asked about a Constitutional relationship and specifically about First Nations taxation.

          Very quick, unsatisfying answer right now. There is a very narrow tax exemption available to First Nations on reserve in section 87 of the Indian Act. source:

          Income earned on reserve is exempt, but income earned off reserve is not. Goods purchased on or delivered to the reserve are exempt from sales taxes. Off reserve? Taxable. Services too.

          Otherwise, First Nations pay those taxes, and no one is exempt from the various taxes folded into the cost of certain goods (recycling fees, ‘sin’ taxes, fuel surcharges, so on and so forth).

          I often point out that there are many low-income Canadians who do not pay income taxes, do not pay full property taxes (assuming they are renting…some rental agreements split up property tax among unit renters, others do not) and get GST rebate cheques as well. Most people do not get angry about this, but will get angry when tax exemptions for First Nations are discussed.

          I know that isn’t a fulsome discussion and I apologise, but a deeper analysis must wait.

        • patmcramsden says:

          I am a low income pensioner and pay almost no taxes. I spent many years working as a single mother to raise my children and working as a homecare worker. I am sixty seven year of age and spend half of my life in other countries away from my children and grandchildren because I can’t afford to live full time in Canada…and Canada is where I was born. There are many, many , many non-native Canadians trying to exist on $1300.00 per month where the housing is expensive and not within our grasp.. The native community is mostly in the same situation or worse. They often live in communities where the infrastructure is non existant…I have the option to travel volunteer in developing countries that most do not have.. thanks to my family who provide me with low income housing .. Paying taxes?.. I hope they are not required to pay taxes..

      • Luna says:

        It seems to me that many First Nations treat their lands in a way similar to the way some Christians treat their churches. As holy, sacred, and precious. Try telling a church member that the church is “only a building”. Then tell them to imagine that all of their ancestors for as long as anyone can remember went to that church. Now imagine someone coming in and telling them they can only use one pew. One with an obstructed view, that gets feedback from the speakers. And then, after all that, tell them that if they have a problem with that, it’s their fault. They could have gone to that synagogue down the street years ago.

        It’s not a perfect analogy, but it might help get the point across at least a little, at least to the church goers.

      • Kelly says:

        to the initial poster: so how about moving all those farmers and towns that are dying, would you be in support of that as a fellow canadian? The government would never dare to force farmers or members of small towns out of there lands (even though they don’t pay taxes and can’t make a living due to lack of opportunities).

        • Don says:

          As a former farm kid from SW Manitoba I have seen no less than 6 communities within a 40 mile radius of Killarney MB completely disappear. 30 years ago they had schools, churches, rinks and stores. But with school consolidation, railway abandonment and farm consolidation they are no longer viable. I had to move away to get a career, move away from the land and all that sustained me. But I did it, much like my ancestors from Europe whose option was to move or die.
          So I cannot for the life of me understand why a man or woman would stay in a place with no job, hope or reason to stay there. As a human being why would you allow yourself or your children to get sick and live in squalor while there is opportunity elsewhere.
          Yes life delt the first nations a crappy hand. But to wallow in pity is doing you a worse disservice. All that is going to do is destroy your soul and all the other souls around you.

        • All of these ‘move away!’ comments forget that it is not a foregone conclusion that any of these communities are unsustainable. They are currently unsustainable, and there are a host of reasons for that, but it need not always been that way. Part of what we are fighting for is to change things so that we can stay on our territories and we aren’t forced to watch our youth leave year after year.

          The biggest concern in these communities when looking to the future is exactly the issue that so many seem to think we need to just give up on, which is, how can we make sure that future generations can stay on their territory too?

          We’re not giving up, and it’d be nice if you didn’t give up on us either.

      • Mick McIreland says:

        As an immigrant, this point makes perfect sense to me. These reserves are (what remain of) your homeland. If the solution is to move, then what happens to them? Your homeland will die off and disappear forever. This isn’t asking someone to move from Ontario to Alberta for a job. This is asking a nation to abandon its homeland, heritage, and history and let it die. I couldn’t do that to my homeland, and I cannot expect you to do it to yours.

        • I actually really appreciate your understanding. A lot of the ugly comments I (should avoid) read[ing] are from immigrants who argue that aboriginal peoples should have the same status. It is…confusing. When in Alberta this summer, I had a horrible conversation with a taxi driver from the Punjab region of India. He went on an incredibly offensive rant about First Nations, wouldn’t listen to my arguments, and told me how grateful he was that the British had brought civilisation to his people. Where do you even start with people like that? I could find no common ground and it made me sad.

        • Mick McIreland says:

          Next time you’re in his taxi, ask him if Gandhi should have worked to get the British out of India? Ask him if he wants India to become tropical England and to have Indians virtually disappear from their land and be replaced by pale-faced, awful cooks. 🙂
          It always bothers me when people who should know better (Indians, Irish, or anyone who had their land taken from them) complain about the situation in Canada. They’ve forgotten their history.

      • Libby Dawson, London, ON. says:

        I totally understand your ‘connection to the land’ assertion. Some groups have it more than others. About 1/3 of my ancestors came from Scotland and the rest from England, Ireland, Scotland France and the Netherlands. But my family 4 and 5 generations later still has a connection to the Scottish ‘land’. The hardships, the culture and the intense connection to the hills and glens has been passed down whereas the same connection with the other ‘lands’ has not.

        I also totally get the difficulties that Attawapiskat faces. Everything in the history of their relationship with the Queen (Victoria) to the present day government has been a struggle for justice and trying to find ears that will listen. Everything they try to accomplish has a Catch 22 attached. I have nothing but admiration for this group of people who have been beaten down time after time, have seen little to suggest that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but continue to try to do the best they can.
        I’m ashamed that my Scottish ancestors were part of the group which created that struggle. They should have known better. They faced the same put downs in Scotland.

      • bloomgirl says:

        Economic Activity? What about the De Beers Diamond mine near Attawapisakt territory? I am certain that this and other resources abound on these people’s territory, but, they perhaps it has been stolen from them/there hasn’t been profit sharing. I think Attawapisakt and other First Nations Communities should follow a model similar to the largely indigenous country of Bolivia under the Evo Morales goverment and take back “state” ownership of natural resources and take a significant share of the royalties from these resources. It’s like we have all of these pockets of developing countries within this developed country of Canada with similiar methods of exploitation taking place as those that rich countries (re: neo-colonialism) inflict on the developing world. Just my 2 cents.

      • Northern Nurse says:

        Thanks for your response. I am a nurse living in Attawapiskat and I like to ask Native people what to say in response to the question of geographically relocating to be less isolated. Every Native person I have spoken to states that perhaps white people don’t understand that they feel connected to their land. Their reserve is their home and they feel tied to their land. One Native person said that if he was forced to leave, he would lose a part of himself, would probably become depressed, and depression kills people (re suicide). He asked me why white people want him off his land and make him depressed.

        • Roxanne says:

          I completely agree, as a Canadian born non-Native, I lived for 15 years in the States. It was a wonderful time, jobs were easy to find. However I always felt like something was missing. The rest of my family is still living in the States and are very happy but I never felt complete until I moved back to Canada. I live in Northern Ontario and every time I leave I can’t wait to come back home. It is a feeling that some people just can’t seem to understand. For some, the pull of their homeland is very real and such an important part of who they are. I do know what it feels like to lose that sense of community, history and family. It is not a life then, I was just passing time and that is not how anyone should have to live.

      • dawn secord says:

        As a “white” person, who knows lots of Aboriginals, I’m EMBARRASSED! And, have been for many years! That reserve is not the only one in trouble. It;s the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind”. I think what a lot of people don’t understand, is that, we basically STOLE their land. AND, we’ve abused the land, not taken care of it.
        Our European ancestors stole their culture, tried to “assimilate” them, with no respect for the way of life that , brilliantly , sustained them for thousands of years. Once that was done, NOW WHAT? We’re past the point of sending them to “live off the land”, so, thus, we OWE them, BIG TIME! This requires a long term solution. No political posing. Those jokers in Ottawa need to have a history lesson, and grow a conscience!!!

      • jofacilitator says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful and careful clarification, and for your passion for the truth.

        I understand this as the aboriginal knowledge of “belonging to the (specific) land” or “the land owns us and we are responsible to it”, rather than the white understanding of “land belongs to me” or “we own land”. That simple but profound difference in perspective makes all the difference to the question of “why can’t you just move”. It would mean being deeply irresponsible.

      • ramona says:

        This question, and response troubles, me too. In various ways. At a visceral level, I get the land attachment part; land is part of who people are. Its what makes people whole, and I think that’s evident everywhere, most poignantly in the general increase of mental unrest in cities and suburbia. But I think the question, coming from people living and working near services or economic centres, is an honest one, and something that can’t be explained simply by cultural difference. I wrestle with the question too. I am non-native, coming from a small-farm family that would fight tooth-and-nail to try and keep the farm in the family no matter how rotted out the barn has become, or how much debt the farm seems to be going in when crops fail and prices are low. But its part of us. I don’t live there anymore but I long for the place. I’ve also lived on a remote reserve for a couple years and worked at a school. And, honestly, when I left, I had less idealism and optimism, more confusion. Their were so many systemic hurdles for children and other community members to climb through, and decades of systemic racism and discrimination hanging heavy on everyone’s shoulders. I guess what I’m getting at, though, in my limited experience, is I don’t see how more money or new houses could, in the short-term, or long-term fix anything. Part of it has to do with history, and the destruction of culture, part with the remoteness, part with the importation of new gadget cultures, partly a culture of waste that permeates the whole world now, and a host of other things. But I just don’t see any of it as sustainable; in a way, conditions seem to be deteriorating.

        So I guess my question is, and its an honest one, I’m not trying to frame it rhetorically: can a culture assert a meaningful, permanent relationship with the land, and seek an equally permanent dependency on economic support from outside the land, including the support of healthcare, education, infrastructure which is all part of that economic machinery. What are the sustainable options here? Personally, I really don’t know, and boundaries seem to have so many holes in them. As you seem both very knowledgeable and reflective about the situation, what are your thoughts? As some nations are talking about in British Columbia, is more land in exchange for less financial support an answer? (and by more land I mean vast, vast tracts). That’s the way I lean, personally. Cause, for better or worse, taxes and economic activity are all tied up in the housing and education and transportation and healthcare most of us have come to depend on. What is a sustainable, not-monetary dependent, way forward?

        So I guess what my question comes down too

        • Sustainability is indeed a big issue, but why do so many people assume that it’s not possible. What’s needed is dialogue and some action that is solution focussed rather than blame focussed. It’s impossible to attend to the housing and infrastructure problems by just throwing money at them!

          Over the past few days, after my initial shock concerning the situation in Attawapiskat, and my horror at all the talking about cash and no-one attending the emergency, I’ve spent some time looking at some of the fundamental issues.

          At first I couldn’t understand what was going on with the pipework: both the broken fuel pipe that contaminated the school for so many years, causing so many health problems (and resulted in the school being demolished), and the sewerage pipework that contaminated so many homes with sewage.

          The reason? Permafrost. This causes pipes to crack and break due to a frozen layer under the surface of the land that changes temperature during the year.
          This also has an impact on the housing. Where floors are not insulated from the ground, heat from the people trying to keep warm inside causes melting underground and because this is uneven the structure of the home becomes compromised.

          I’m sure there are those that will say that this is a good reason to move elsewhere, but this can be overcome…and has been, in communities in Alaska. The U.S. cold climate housing research centre has found ways to build sustainable communities in these conditions for native people to live in . There are also ways to protect pipework using insulation and other methods.

          Human beings are very resourceful as a collective.

          As my Mother would say “where there’s a WILL there’s a way”

          What we need is the WILL…

      • Jean says:

        Posters on news sites often say rural people should move if they don’t like —— fill in the blanks, whatever’s going wrong at the time. City people rarely understand the tie farmers feel to their land. If grain prices are bad or BSE has closed the US border to Canadian cattle, online posters say the farmers should move and get another line of work. So it does happen to non-aboriginals.

        I think there are many people who understand the importance of identity and land–it’s just that so many people have already left the place they were tied to and have lost the feeling of connection.

      • Arya Lake says:

        What efforts do the people of James Bay make to engage in traditional lifestyle like hunting, fishing and trapping? Is the possibility of a viable traditional economy sincere in the 21st century- the pictures of flat screens and laptops in their inadequate homes indicate a more modern recreation based focus.

        • Traditional values are not technology dependent.

          Many aboriginal peoples spent large portions of the winters engaged in games and story-telling. We, like most peoples, have always had a recreation based focus at certain times. The idea that ‘traditional lifestyle’ refers to the tools you have available to you is a gross misunderstanding of what ‘traditional’ means. It isn’t living like we did at some frozen point in time. It is about the fundamental values we hold as peoples, and technology is absolutely adapted to those values.

          You no more lose your ‘traditions’ when you upgrade to a new iPhone than we do when we help maintain traditional ties to kin and community via the internet.

      • O.B. says:

        Once again – thank you for your clear and insightful explanation. I can’t tell you how much this helps me.

      • D. S. says:

        Wow! You sure pack an impressive punch! I don’t think anyone could have worded or described an answer to such a emotionally provocative question as well as you just have. I have been moved. I wish I knew more about this subject in order to engage myself easier, none-the-less I find your writings very educational & impressive. Keep up the good work!!

      • Brown Cow says:

        That’s laying it on a bit thick isn’t it? The whole “the land binds us, defines us “, etc. History is rife with examples of human movement in the search to escape violence, famine, adverse weather conditions etc. Your people’s cultural self-definition clings to a past, a lifestyle which no longer exists and will never return, i.e., truly living off the land, etc.
        That link is further degraded when some so-called “natives” are really nothing but white men or women with a tan. My father is the real deal from the Andes. But that does not make me an Inca or Aymara or whatever lives up there. Why would it? What would it profit me to go worship some Sun-god like a savage in this modern world. My father saw this reality and educated himself in order to escape the cycle of savagery. Residential Schools in Peru ran by the Oblate order were the tool to eventually come to Canada for post-secondary education and to get a high paying career back in Peru and to become part of the greater establishment and society; and then he moved us to Canada where – thanks to what he learned – we integrated seamlessly into the greater Canadian society. No, holding on to ancient beliefs about land, spirits, the Sun, etc are no replacement for progress. Hold on the the former and you will hold on to poverty, and poverty is not a badge of honour.

      • suezoo39 says:

        This is one area that I think is the saddest of them all.

        “How can I possibly make someone understand these things” and “why should I have to make anyone understand this?”

        How – by engaging,like you did in the article above; why – for the betterment of us all.

        I have had a longing for such knowledge for most of my adult life and I am frustrated that I live literally surrounded by a people who have so much to teach that I am interested in, but few avenues to ask the questions.

        I know that the area I live on has long been inhabited by First Nations peoples and I’m incredibly curious to know why and how. There are interesting things literally in my backyard that are not in any books. The books start with the Selkirk Settlers, I want to know why some things are here a thousand years before that.

        I’ve also not asked a lot of questions of the First Nations peoples I’ve lived with because I don’t know the proper terms and the last thing I want to do is offend.

        There is such a gulf between “us” and “them”. You and me. I think there are many on both sides that just want to reach out across the gulf.

        I am interested. I am curious. I want to learn.

        I want to say I want to help but it sounds patronizing in my head and, pffft, really I have little to offer.

      • Thank you for this, I understand what you’re talking about with regards to ties to the land. The only time I feel at home on this earth is when I am in the forests, fields and mountains of Alberta or British Columbia. I was born in Canada to European immigrants, this is my home and I know it was the First Nations Home before it was mine.

      • Andrew says:

        I just want to chime in on the “why don’t they leave” conversation.

        There is (in my opinion) an unfortunate lack of emphasis placed on sense of place in our society. People are encouraged/expected to following the jobs, regardless of where they were raised, where their family is– in short, where “home” is.

        I feel this leads to a situation where people have no real attachment to any geographical place. And when that becomes the case, you cease to care about what happens to it. Used up too much of one resource? Move somewhere else to use up another, that’s where the jobs are.

        If more people committed to being where they are from, they may worry more about the long-term health of individual communities and geographies, and sustainable economies rather than boom ones. Constantly moving to where the jobs are can contribute to systemic, long-term problems.

        • Old Geezer in Markham says:

          At the risk of going off on a tangent, there’s nothing to stop us from practising good husbandry of the lands and environment as we move from each opportunity to the next – just like a good camper leaving the site as good or better than when entering.

      • Mowich says:

        That is all fine and good but what do you propose is the solution to employment on some remote reserves. The Canadian government and the Canadian taxpayer are not in the business of creating employment.
        I well understand your connection to the land but waxing warm and fuzzy about it does not negate the fact that decent jobs for all the people on this reserve will remain the number one problem well into the future.
        So what is your solution to the problem?

        • “The Canadian government and the Canadian taxpayer are not in the business of creating employment”.

          Really? How many hundreds of thousands of Canadians are employed in the public sector, earning salaries directly paid for by tax revenue? The Canadian governments are in fact some of the largest employers in the country.

          What is my solution to the problem? I give a few answers in the blog post, a big one of which is to fully implement the Auditor General’s recommendations. That is only part of a much larger need for a national dialogue on all the issues.

          What is your solution?

      • Tanya says:

        I look forward to your posts covering Tom H’s questions. I am a non-native but I am a visible minority and have some slight understanding on where first Nations people are coming from.

        On top of the reasons âpihtawikosisân pointed out, the people who leave the community could face obvious racism and more pressures to assimilate. Considering how much of First Nations cultures have been deliberately destroyed, I would imagine staying on their own land could help them keep what they have left of their culture.

      • Axiome says:

        Well, you would think that the Harper government and all those who voted for it would be perfectly capable of comprehending the attachement of a people to a specific place on this earth, to which they are tied to, a place that holds a people’s history and foundation of its socio-political and legal structures… they do support everything Israel does and that is a perfect example of a piece of land given to a people based solely on the fact that they claim it, that it is their God given land. How does that differ from the claims that any and all aboriginal peoples in all of the Americas? Well, I’d love to know.

        Thank you for your excellent article. I will share it far and wide.

        • Rhoda says:

          This is just a thought worth considering, it could be that, similar to the people of Davis Inlet some years ago, this band was stuck there, in an isolated flood zone, not of their chosing with the ability to migrate seasonally removed.

          The means to move and expense involved would/has only increased with every passing year and probably would mean separation of band members unless covered by the federal government. As pointed out the location is isolated limiting financial success with the exception being the recent Victor Mine and positive relationship with DeBeers. Other than that the world outside the reserve for most natives has been and often still is hostile to natives; witness the abusive and ignorant comments of the racist ranters and neglect of the adjacent (federal and provincial governments). Now one sees many more first nations working in the non-native community but, still there could be many more and what prevents this is that they are not generally hired, though they strive extremely hard to look for work for the most part.

    • E says:

      Well, I would tend to think that the is a great idea however there will always be opposition from Canadian Immigrants and caucasian’s when a whole reserves move into town. Then again the government will always find away or a plan to tear it’s people from the land and misplace them until they are happy. I think maybe that any immigrants that come to Canada should be put into communities where these reserves are and be provided the same services and the first nations be put into the high rise buildings and towers that they are providing these new comers. When you think it of that way people tend to get mad but what the heck dialogue is dialogue even if it means suggusting that immigrants are treated 1000% better than and typical First Nation person. But I believe that the Government will try to put this community and others near urban centres because where do you think these communities reside, IN THE MOST NATURAL RESOURCE RICH COUNTRY IN NORTHERN CANADA.DIAMONDS, GOLD, URAINUM, i WONDER WHY THE GOVERNMENT WANTS THEM MOVED. MONEY MONEY MONEY

      • E says:



      • Fnet=ma says:

        The government doesn’t provide housing for immigrants. Not sure where you got that idea from. Refugees, which are totally different from immigrants, are given temporary housing.

        • Brown Cow says:

          Truly “E” make a distinction. Most immigrants – and I should know – came with our own resources and money (unlike refugees) and once in country are left to fend off by ourselves. The bigger question is how some of us immigrants can become influential CANADIAN leaders, captains of industry, mayor, government officials, without federal help and YOUR PEOPLE CAN’T.

      • Brown Cow says:

        Truly “E” make a distinction between immigrants and refugees. Most immigrants – and I should know – came with our own resources and money (unlike refugees) and once in country are left to fend off by ourselves. The bigger question is how some of us immigrants can become influential CANADIAN leaders, captains of industry, mayor, government officials, without federal help and YOUR PEOPLE CAN’T.

  5. sean gauthier says:

    This evening, you are my hero. Keep up the amazing work!

  6. Ed says:

    This is the most concise, intelligent, and coherent piece I have read about the issue so far. Thank you.

  7. korenle says:

    You never cease to amaze me.. great article it helps to ease my frustrations because I so have been wanting to write too lol.. … I absolutely love it. Thank you.

  8. maryanne says:

    Clear, open, this is based in facts while couching readers in context. I was aware of the main points of the big picture before, but your detailed breakdown really taught me a deeper understanding of the issues. I hope the info gives folks the tools they need to see what is really happening.

    And somehow in all of this, your writing remains positive. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your transparency and willingness to teach, and keep up the good fight.

    In solidarity, M.A.

  9. Lorin Brest says:

    just help the community first, then work out everything else later…all i saw was finger pointing from all governments…..and that was B.S

    • Karen Trigg says:

      I agree.I couldn’t believe what our government was saying so I was compeled to write Mr.Harper to voice my opinion.He should have gone immediately!Nevermind the money for now.Not just visit Attawapiskat, but all reserves in this country where help is needed.I also expressed that this may be the legacy he leaves behind.
      As for Mr.Duncan.As Minister he should be more accoutable too.He doesn’t seem to have much of a handle on his job.
      Hopefully because of Attawapiskat Native issues reguarding their lands and reserve conditions will finally be brought to light and dealt with.
      I’m anxious to see how our government handles these issues.

      • from calgary says:

        He should go, I can’t believe that he hasn’t already. He should bring his family, too, so that he can see his own children against that backdrop. Then we would finally see if he has a soul or not.

      • Arlene says:

        You won’t get anywhere with Harper and to understand why, I eagerly suggest all Canadians read I am ashamed to be Canadian under this man’s cruel hand. Native people are our allies and I truly can’t wait for a day when the media stops feeding the racism in this country. I wish this country celebrated Native History month as well as Black history month. We should showcase all the positive developments and discuss the issues as they are being discussed here. We deserve to feel proud of ourselves and each other!

  10. wolf says:

    Everything exactly to the tee! These exact things I have been saying for years! Daam and its almost all there too! Great job!

    From a FN leader!

    • wolf says:

      Oh and now the bigger question!
      What are we going to do about it now and to move forward into the future? Self governent means self sufficient! We can do it!

  11. simonlnu says:

    nice post. thumbs up from a Mi’kmaq/Abenaki in Mtl.

  12. Inez says:

    Wonderfully clear, covering all the points in a relevant manner.

  13. Thank you for posting this. As a First Nations woman who lives off reserve I struggle with a way to understand and educate people about what really goes on. I’m retweeting and reposting this anywhere I can.

    • It is all so frustratingly confusing, and no wonder with the way things are obscured in the media and how little we learn in school about these issues. It took me YEARS just to understand status versus non-status to the point where I could explain it quickly to someone hearing it for the first time. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing what the heck is going on, but I do want to try to break down those barriers and get the information out there. I’ve seen it work, I’ve seen people transformed by the information, and I think that is incredibly powerful. Thank you for reading, and for trying!

  14. elementalpresent says:

    So glad you wrote this. I feel better equipped. Now… stay away from those online news comment sections! Imagine the bulk of them coming from the same 4 disgruntled 50-year-old men over and over, who are hunched over a 10-year-old desktop, probably in their undies, probably on dial-up, probably at 3 in the morning.

    • It is the same group of 3 or 4 people creating the bulk of posts on any given comment section. It is interesting to track them through a few different articles and see how the same counter-arguments are presented and then ignored as though it never happened. That cannot be anything but deliberate. This small group manages to push the conversation in a particular direction, much as Harper is trying to.

      The difficulty is in dealing with the issues through a haze of anger, and I mean anger from those posting the typical accusations. A lot of them make statements that are actually questions…because they do not actually know. It is off-putting to have someone do the equivalent of screaming in your face, “WHERE DID THE MONEY GO!!!!!!!????” However, sometimes you can make some effort to answer the question without getting angry back, and it deflates them a little. “Oh. Oh, okay. Um…thanks.”

      It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. It happens despite the few trying to drown out all the other voices.

  15. Ditto…… Shelly said it ,” i try so hard to explain issues[[, thanks for spelling it out.
    I have been yapping since the Walkerton crisis about water conditions on reserves,

  16. balbulican says:

    Absolutely wonderful rebuttal to the smoke and mirrors. Linking to Dr. Dawg’s, with your permission.

  17. Thank you for giving us the words, backed up by excellent research, to fight back with. I just read your blog profile – roller derby? I think I found my new best friend 🙂

  18. Joyce says:

    Well Done! Thanks for such excellent information. I’ve sent your blog to the Peter Mansbridge and APTN, the former for his education and hopefully more accurate reporting, the latter as a shortcut for their coverage; you’ve already done so much work. It is time to accurately portray First Peoples’ lives, homes, reserves, and difficulties in the face of geographical and social isolation. A few years ago I tried to do the same for Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug but couldn’t get the Aboriginal Journal of Health to consider the empiric study as significant for publication. Another issue is the salary paid to co and third party managers which comes from the coffers of an indebted FN prior to anything else. In 200-2001 the managers were making $175,000 – 238,000 while chiefs were paying themselves $40,000. How do FN get out of government control when this is the first thing paid from their funds?!

    • Hehehehe, the Peter Man’s Bridge…my favourite piece of Canadian transportation architecture!

      Researching these issues is difficult, because there are so many factors to consider and it is hard to get the full picture. All the people complaining about the Chief’s salary for example…well, first of all what is an acceptable salary for that position? Then I want to know, what are other heads of communities making? Is that outrageous too? What is the purpose of focusing on the chief’s salary anyway, what information are these people looking for?

      You make an excellent point about consultation and management fees. There is SO MUCH going on financially that the average person simply is not qualified to analyse the data. Heck, plenty of experts don’t understand it either if they are not familiar with the relationship between the Federal Crown and First Nations.

      Just figuring out something that should be simple…like funding for education…is intensely complicated. The studies have been done, comparing per pupil spending and comparing spending on infrastructure, teacher training and so on…but where are those studies? Who did them? Where can I find them? What did they say?

      Most of us have limited access to information. I pulled up sources available on the internet to everyone, and included some of the legal training I have, but most of the information is not so accessible. That is definitely a bar to understanding.


      • Trinity says:

        One of the greatest challenges to recognize when assessing the salaries of individuals living on fly-in reserves, is the cost of living. One of the articles I have read on Attawapiskat quickly mentions that a quart of milk is $10. Coming from a community along the James Bay I know that this is just one aspect of the cost of living. Take into consideration fresh fruit and vegtables and the costs with trying to eat healthy. In retrospect a $70,000 salary does not amount to much when you have to pay $20 for a McCains frozen pizza that go on sale for 2 for $5 in Southern Ontario.

        I’ve noticed that many commentators believe that there are roads that lead to Attawapiskat, which is not the case. There is a winter road, which becomes extremely dangerous given that these roads are not patrolled or maintained by any sort of provincial or federal regulation. And these roads are actually comprised of frozen waterways that are driven over. I have lost friends who have died on these winter roads travelling between communities along the James Bay coast. This of course explains why food is heavly inflated compared to other parts of Canada, they must fly everything in since these roads are unsafe.

      • I think you’ve done amazingly well to explain everything so clearly..have also tweeted and facebooked your blog hoping that it will help other people understand. The Feds are accountable and have a responsibility I can’t believe that they are behaving like over-privileged schoolchildren!!

        When I first heard about the crisis, and the Governments retort regarding funding, I put Attawapiskat into my Google searchbar and came up with the website linking to all the audited financial statements…there they were for anyone to see, so what was the big mystery- I was thinking?? From the books there was $11M in debt and most of the ‘capital’ was tied up in infrastructure and existing houses etc. I’m no financial wizard, but it was clear enough to me, I really wonder what those folks in Gov do all day long…

    • shelley says:

      lol …. thats because the whiteman got paid more…lol

  19. susan says:

    THANK YOU!! Amazing.

  20. Dawn Dumont says:

    Thank you so much.

  21. Excellent explanation of the complex inner workings of the reserve funding structure, this is the hardest thing to convey to those of my colleagues with a lesser grasp on the system. Keep up the great work.

  22. Excellent and well written! Meegwetch..

  23. Lorraine Muskego says:

    Thank you for your eloquent comments, explanations, courage to educate us!

  24. rob says:

    Thanks. I was frustrated and confused by the numbers. No longer!

  25. Jennifer Baker says:

    I love this thank-you. I am also so sorry for the horrible racist comments that you and everyone else reading the article is subjected to. I do have one question for you: Are the funding numbers gross or net to the community? In my experience when the government “funds” something there is at least a 25% “corporate cost” to actually deliver it.

    • It appears that the figures are gross. There was a note however that about $2 million of projected federal funds didn’t actually get delivered in the 2010-2011 financial year, so it was money on paper only. I would expect that INAC administration is a cost that is calculated elsewhere, but I could be wrong about that. It would seem strange to fold that cost into the Attawapiskat finances. If I find out differently I will definitely edit to reflect that!

  26. Bo says:


  27. Pingback: Racism and Attawapiskat

  28. Jo says:

    Thank you very much for this. Amazing! A must read for anyone who wants to know the facts about Attawapiskat. I’m sharing it far and wide!

  29. Lisa says:

    This is excellent, thank you. It’s been awful watching the news reports and not seeing anyone run the numbers (my fellow journalists need to get much better at covering stories like this) or give context on what $90 million actually means. Retweeted!

  30. Scott Piatkowski says:

    Why couldn’t so-called professional journalist have done this analysis?

    • Maddie says:

      Unfortunately, facts and accurate research do not make a news piece sensationalistic. Due to the increasing availability of the 24-hour news cycle, sensationalism is what sells, regardless of what the real facts or motives of an individual or a group are. The current temperament of media (and therefore “journalists”), is to report stories from the point of view that will get the most attention.

      As much as I wish that news organizations delivered just the facts and didn’t editorialize everything, I sadly admit that I doubt it will ever be that way. Controversy sells. Period.

      • Maddie says:

        I suppose it would also help if the general public made it a point to keep themselves better informed, rather than just believing the opinions in editorials. If we, the general public as a whole, demanded facts and accuracy rather than opinions, perhaps that is what we would get.

  31. Lisa Jackson says:

    Thank you for attempting to shed light on this. I too have become discouraged by the comments that I have read. What the general public needs to know that the reason we fight so hard is that the majority of funding received is our TREATY rights that were made from Nation to Nation long before ‘Canada’ was even formed. It is appalling that people do not even realize this or even know what this means and The govt of Canada is doing it’s best to undermine our Treaties at every turn. We have people
    who are and have been fighting for our treaty rights for decades at the United Nations.

    • The foundation of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the Crown is definitely not something that is well understood in Canadian society. The history is not well covered either. I was taught that had settlers not arrived, First Nations would have died out due to intertribal genocide! This was the narrative only a few decades ago.

      Some people call these discussions ‘rewriting history’, but the fact is, we all need to rediscover it. When you know where you come from, you have a better sense of who you are, and that also applies to nations.

      • So true.
        Schools in my area of BC seem to be doing a little better teaching this these days.
        My kids have been taught about the Residential Schools and were horrified…they can really relate to the plight of other children, whatever their culture they may be from. I’m hoping that this bodes well for the future, as it’s in their hands…

    • sharon says:

      This article and most posts are excellent learning sources for me. I am “retired” (unemployed) and truly understand how a depressed financial position over time will wear one down.
      The “citizens” of Canada, off reserve, are not educated in our First Nations political problems. These same citizens are now experiencing a downward trend in income, the gap ever wider between ultra-rich and average to low incomes, and they will be getting angry and cranky – few will get sympathy then, let alone understanding regarding FN conditions.
      ” Walk a mile in my moccasins” . . . no one wants to experience that – it would tug at conscience, would weaken bodies, would require energy to fight unfairness – thus, we prefer to blame.
      But our time is coming. The 90% shall all be poor, the environment will be further degraded, and we shall see no rescue.
      I hope I am dead wrong on all of this. Keep up the educating of our Cdn population.
      Keep the press on task! Don’t let anyone off the hook.
      Powers that be, please prove me wrong!

  32. Bob says:

    I don’t get free government money for housing. Maybe it’s time we start looking at abolishing treaties? In this day and age, why is it that a large portion of population don’t have to work for anything?

    • The salary figures in the financial statements quickly puts to rest the idea that everyone in Attawapiskat is unemployed. The unemployment rate across Canada is 7.3%. I wonder what you think about those people, and what sorts of benefits you believe they should receive (or not)?

      You are right that many Canadians do not receive funding for housing, outside of low income social housing provided by the CMHC, or through various provincial and municipal subsidies. Actually, that means a fair amount of non-natives do receive funding for housing, but that was not your central point. You want to know why First Nations receive funding for housing (and for the sake of being fair, I’ll approach that as though you are okay with comparable levels of funding for social housing as is provided to non-natives).

      Well first of all, it isn’t accurate to say that First Nations on reserve all get ‘free housing’. You’ll note that in the Auditor General’s report, as well as in the financial statements for Attawapiskat that rental funds are collected by the Band from its members. There are problems with collection, but a rental model is on place for some units.

      So far that means we have social housing (subsidised), and rental housing on reserve. Is the rest free?

      Well, most First Nations on reserve cannot get a regular mortgage through a traditional bank because they cannot offer the land or the house as collateral. To deal with this, some Bands have started to guarantee these mortgages, so people apply through the Band itself to get a mortgage. When a Band is cash strapped though, it is difficult to provided that guarantee, and only a small amount can then be covered. So the Band can’t afford to build enough houses that people can actually pay rent or mortgages on.

      So we have social housing (subsidised), rental housing on reserve and mortgages being covered by the Band, where people are indeed paying for their homes.

      The federal government provides support for housing on reserve. It does not provide it all. There are many housing programs available to non-natives to help with the cost of first time ownership, to help with renovations, to help with achieving higher r-values. The programs available to First Nations people are similar in some ways, different in others and that has to do with the unique relationship between First Nations and the Federal Crown.

      You personally might not get government money for housing perhaps (neither do I), but you may be eligible for some programs, and others may be eligible for more (or less). None of this is as simple as ‘they get and I do not’.

      • Bob says:

        the only eligiligiblity i qualify for is “Get a job, save, go to school using savings, work hard and keep saving, buy house with said savings”. I literally live next to multiple reserves, and see just how much there is an entire lack of effort put into housing. I will not dispute your comments about finances behind it, however as a renter i do understand sometimes you have to clean up your place yourself, or get permission to fix something. Steve Joe’s comment is a great example. As well, first hand I know that there are houses falling apart, and 50″ flat screen tv’s in the living room. Where are priorities? Lots of reserves bitch about how the government does nothing, but yet there are big screen tv’s in houses??? As for unemployment, there are tons of jobs available, and well paying ones. Lots of scholarships available, and I know firsthand the effort that is put into the primary and secondary school system around where I live, yet kids stop showing up for school because they would rather be outside. Teachers work very hard but end up giving up becuase parents don’t care. There kid can sit on welfare and have babies while they keep getting funding. No jobs nothing to do around where you are? MOVE. wow, hard concept. I’ve had to move many times in my life for work. Treaties have no use in this day and age. Times have changed, the world has changed, and there needs to be a serious look into how much a waste of money treaties are. There was a chief who was making 280 gees a year for looking after 90 people in the maritimes. Tell me that is appropriate compensation.

        • When I bought my first home, I used my RRSPs to help with the downpayment under a first time homebuyer’s plan. This allowed me to access the funds, tax free. That is one program available to you. There are others that help with renovations, etc. Some federal, some provincial, possibly some municipal help. You have to look around.

          TVs are cheaper that even small renovations.

          The cost of a tv saved won’t build you a house either.

          You make a lot of statements, and have some strong opinions, but I am not going to try and deconstruct it all. Too much involved there. If you want to narrow it down, please feel free…right now you are asking me to explain literally hundreds of years of history, constitutional law, and the sociology of poverty and colonisation. Too much to ask, frankly. Some of the work must be your own.

        • Tybalt says:

          “Treaties have no use in this day and age.”

          You wish to abrogate the treaties that are the only basis on which Canada has any claim to exist here? I really wish you wouldn’t. But if you insist… I guess you can go.

          Because that’s what’s at stake here – the right of us as Canadians, as settlers, to live here. Those are only established by treaty.

      • Awesome explanation..thanks yet make a great voice of the people 🙂

    • Tybalt says:

      “I don’t get free government money for housing.”

      Yes you do! You most certainly do. Most of the value of your house, assuming you live in a town, city, county or township, comes from the infrastructure that government provides and maintains at its own expense.

      • TJohns says:

        Tybalt, just where do you think the government gets the money to pay these expenses? The government does not have it’s own supply of cash that it doles out. It comes from you and I and every other tax-paying citizen and corporation.

    • Miss Lynx says:

      Bob, if you want to abolish treaties, you need to understand that that would work in two directions. The part you object to is the part where Native communities are guaranteed certain forms of support and services, but that part is there in exchange for having given up large areas of land (i.e., most of Canada) to non-Native communities.

      You want to stop fulfilling your half of the deal? No problem. Just give back all the land and move back to wherever your ancestors came from.

      • GInger says:

        What an extremely “white” attitude. Its not about land ownership, or at least it shouldn’t be, since it is my understanding that First Nations people don’t believe in owning the land.

        I was born in Canada (as were a great many people commenting on here) and it is my home. I have lived outside of Canada, and even occasionally wish I did live in Europe (Where my ancestors came from), but every time I come home, I have this overwhelming sense of joy to be back where I belong.

        Dissolution of the treaties is not a bad idea, but they can’t just be dissolved without resolving the problems that currently plague many First Nations communities. I have a feeling that if all the white people just up and left things the way they are, First Nations communities would still have problems. Ending the treaties isn’t about land owner-ship, its about giving back the right of self-governance to the peoples that should have maintained it in the first place.

        • Who are ‘white’ people? Polish? Ukrainian? Italian, Irish, German, British, French? It’s an extremely vague and unhelpful term.

          Aboriginal peoples don’t have European property regimes, so it’s correct to say none of us had European notions of land ownership. It isn’t correct to claim this means none of us had or have any sense of land ownership at all. It’s a completely different approach based on reciprocity, not a ‘free for all this land is everyone’s and no-one’s land’. “Ownership” is not a good term for it, no…but “no ownership” suggests something to those familiar with common-law and civil-law property regimes which is not accurate either.

          Just a pet peeve;)

      • Nicole says:


    • Gerhard Gehrmann jr. says:

      well Bob, natives on reserves don’t get “free” housing. they have paid for this in advance through their having giving up exclusive rights to the land.

      • Bob says:

        (Edits made to take out personal attacks, and unsubstantiated accusations in the form of anecdotes. In the future, please attempt to avoid more of the same.)

        I’m sorry if i find that giving reserves money to waste away on chief salaries.

        Miss Lynx, I was born here. I have as much a claim to this land as anyone else who was born here. Because someone has two more generations that were here before me means that they should have more of a claim to the land, and I should be paying them to live on their land? So does that mean that immigrants moving in this day and age can start paying me to live here?

        As for the unemployment rate, well, as most people know, when there is no work, sometimes you have to move and start over.

        as for home purchasing, first time home buyers plan. You stated you used YOUR rrsp’s. yes, YOURS. not the government’s money. As for the renovation grants and such, that’s more about helping make sure people stop using environment killing furnaces from 1950’s and use energy efficient heating methods.

  33. Marky Mark says:

    Very informative-thank you. One overall question I have relates to the issue of sovereignty and how that fits into the analysis. I’ve dealt with senior band members of a particular First Nation who take the view that they aren’t Canadians but rather that they are [insert name of the applicable nation]. This point came up in the CBC interview last night as part of the discussion that touched no treaty rights, but I think it is very much not fully understood by most people, myself included.

    • I don’t identify as Canadian unless that is the only context someone is going to understand. I always identify myself as Métis from Lac Ste. Anne. To me, that is the core of my identity. Many native people identify themselves by their community, their nation.

      Sovereignty is approached in different ways by different peoples. Some approach it in a secessionist manner (for example some Quebecois, and some Mohawk) which others approach it in terms of having control over one’s own governance while still maintaining relationships with the Canadian state.

      The general desire is, I believe, to have more control over our own governance and over our territories, based on our cultures, our socio-political and legal structures and on our needs. That gets misunderstood a lot as being a threat to Canada.

      No community wants to be crippled by poverty and lacking in the basic necessities of life. We want capacity building in truth, not just piecemeal funding that never really allows us to get beyond desperately trying to meet those basic needs…but that’s where we are. We can’t address nation building, the application of indigenous laws, proactive community planning or anything else until we have enough to eat, clean water to drink, and a roof over our head.

      • Marky Mark says:

        Thanks for the reply. The band I dealt with was Mohawk and that was the attitude expressed. It was difficult because part of what was required was filing some corporate forms which required reporting on the residence of the directors (Canadian resident vs. not) and the only answer I could get was Mohawk even for those who lived on the Canadian side of the border.

        Many of your references in your post are to intra Canadian law which allocate responsibility for “Indians” as between the federal and provincial levels of governement. But if each First Nation (and there are many of them) views itself as sovereign, then really this is more about treaty rights and international law, is it not?

        I find it hard to disagree with anything in your post and appreciate your strong rebuttal on the facts, but in the end we’re still left with a large issue. To the extent that members of First Nations are disadvantages and do not have equal access to things like health care and they are Canadian, those facts leads to certain familiar conclusions that are operative in the cases of other like groups who are having a hard time. But to the extent that individuals and their collective representatives do not view themselves as Canadians or as part of Canada, I think the analysis becomes very different. In particular, how do members of First Nations convince the people of Canada that they are responsible for some sort of equalization regime with no strings attached?

        • The Mohawk are a distinct people with a specific history and approach. I did not know much about the Mohawk until I moved to Montreal, and I won’t pretend I understand as well as I do my own people in my own territory.

          There have been many attempts to look to international laws to help us interpret Treaties, and the relationship between First Nations and the Crown, but with little success, at least in the Canadian courts. It is definitely one area that we continue to pursue and which many do feel is appropriate.

          I apologise if I am rushing…I’ve been answering questions for hours and I should really just take a break and eat:) Yes, the analysis is always going to be different when a people or peoples do not see themselves necessarily as part of Canada in the same way that other Canadians do. I have a new understanding of that living in Quebec!

          However rather than answer you, I ask you this…how can Canada convince us that we must turn over all our lands and resources with no strings attached?

      • HI again. I’m replying to your reply and before I did I checked out the legal links on your site and read a good part of the BC summary of aboriginal law, most of which was new to me as I finished law school before the Constitution Act came in.

        I wasn’t able to get my hands on any of these treaties that the ’82 Act says still are in force and now have constitutional entrenchment. So i don’t know what Canada and its predecessors promised in those treaties that is relevant to this discussion -i.e., running water? modern infrastructure? health care? subsidized food prices to absorb transportation costs?

        But we have an interesting political question. To what extent must the federal government, using taxation revenues from all Canadians, support communities (whether native or non-native) that otherwise can’t survive? I’m asking about the legal and political aspects and also asking whether there is a difference between a community in Newfoundland and Labrador which keeps shrinking and where the young always leave (even if they yearn to return) a community in a largely underpopulated corner of the country which needs a lot of assistance to survive. It’s one thing for a minority community who wants “in” to the mainstream to ask for assistance and a “head start” to achieve “equality of opportunity” but it’s a different discussion when it is about a sovereign people or peoples (some of whom don’t consider themselves Canadian or recognize their being subject to the laws of Canada) asking for a broad interpretation of treaty rights-we need to know what our framework is.

        I think the situation that has burst into the media spotlight is appalling and terrible and cannot continue. Your post is incredibly important as part of people having an intelligent reasoned discussion and I think once people start absorbing many of the points you’re making here (whether it’s from your post or otherwise), some of what I’m raising will come up.

  34. C. T. Ball says:

    I pose the following question for 2 reasons: first to get clarification for myself and second to highlight a potential criticism your detractors may use to dismiss your entire article.

    You list that the $90M goes to things such as:
    – education per pupil
    – education infrastructure (maintenan­ce, repair, teacher salaries, etc)
    – health-care per patient
    – health-care, infrastruc­ture (clinics, staff, access to services outside the community in the absence of facilities on reserve)

    But how does “education per pupil” not also include “education infrastructure”? How does “health-care per patient” not also include “health-care infrastructure”?

    Thank you.

    • Funding formulas are tricky. This is why I want to do a full post on it, but here is the short version:

      Provincial funding formulas usually split ‘funding per pupil’ and ‘funding for infrastructure’. Funding per pupil is what is allocated to a school board by the province and covers things like teacher salaries, pay for supplies etc. On top of this funding there are often grants for specific programs (help for students with disabilities, lunch programs and so on).

      Capital funding for infrastructure is also on top of per pupil funding, and goes towards construction of new facilities, maintenance of existing ones etc.

      There are even more programs that may be set up, to bring new technologies to school, to improve teacher training opportunities and so on. Transportation cots, staffing costs…all of this can be folded into different areas of the funding formula. Nor do all provinces allocate the monies int he same way.

      Anyway, what is often discussed is merely a comparison of ‘per pupil’ amounts between non-native students and First Nations students. This is a fraction of the total story, which is why I split it up. Two categories isn’t even enough to give you a sense of what numbers have to be compared, but it was a start. Pretty much ditto with health-care.

    • Tybalt says:

      Provincial formulas also separate these out. Most capital funding for schools, for example, comes from the provinces and is allocated by formula. It’s separate from ongoing costs of running schools. They’re treated differently (and woe be to the school board or local health care network that tries to use one to pay for another! 🙂

  35. Dr. S says:

    Thank you so much for this: a clear, well-researched explanation that I can post everywhere!

  36. Thanks for the lengthy, thoughtful response to the madness. I find myself stunned by the comments I find out there.

    • It is rather wordy, but I find that it’s almost impossible to explain this in a shorter version. So many questions come up that you have to address them or expect people to just take you on your word. I’m not fond of doing that myself so the result is a longish post:)

      • Karen Trigg says:

        You are doing very well I must say.Thank you .Please continue posting and educating us.I know it is frustrating but you are bringing a clearer picture to those of us who want to listen and help.

  37. G. W. Markle says:

    I’d just like to know where the 1.2 billion dollars went that was spent on the G20 summit.

  38. Maggie says:

    This post is excellent. We are linking to it on my law firm’s blog. And, e-mail me when you get a chance.

  39. This is marvellous. It’s made the rounds at our firm and we like it so much we’re going to link to it from our blog ( Hope that’s ok. Thanks for writing it — particularly in the midst of what I assume is the usual end-of-term law school craziness.

  40. Mi'gmaq Warrior of Words says:

    Refreshing, thorough and informed. Finally someone devoted the time to set the record straight. It would be great if your piece could be published in the national paper(s). Great job. Wela’lin

    • I like your name, “Warrior of Words” 🙂

    • adm says:

      Yes, yes. This deserves a national audience. This post will educate most Canadians who read it. You provide information that is missing from the discourse on a multitude of First Nations issues. Generally, journalists (like the public at large) are ignorant of the structure of the relationship between First Nations and INAC. This valuable piece should be distributed widely. Thank you.

  41. Sam C says:

    Great article – I admit, I was confused by the numbers and made some assumptions. It is appalling that First Nations people live in such conditions and that a call for help was ignored for a month. Clearly, the “system” (for lack of a better word) is beyond broken. What can I do on a local level?

    • Thank you for being willing to face your assumptions, that’s pretty huge. I think there are a few things you can do at the local level. In immediate terms, you can donate to the Red Cross:

      In a more long-term sense, you can ask INAC (now Aboriginal Affairs) to start implementing more of the Auditor General’s recommendations. You can talk to the people around you when this subject comes up. You can find aboriginal organisations in your area that are struggling to provide much needed services. Above all, you can keep asking questions!

    • morehistory says:

      Best start — call your local MP, and start asking questions. Your MP is supposed to be your rep in parliament, and it’s important that you make your concerns known.

  42. Pingback: A Thoughtful Piece About Attawapiskat | OKT

  43. It’s sad that stories like these need to be published for people to get a full understanding of how Aboriginal Peoples are represented in the media or by politicians.

  44. Nadia Heyd says:

    BRAVO. I will be sharing this article all over the place. Let’s grow some understanding in this country!

  45. Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing this information.

  46. Ron says:

    Hi, apihtawikosisan… An amazing article that explains the issue with easy to understand language on such as complex issue. I say, sell a fighter jet(approx 460 million) and send that cash to get things started in Attawapiskat. One question, I want to blast this article everywhere on twitter but the link takes up like 30 characters. Is it possible to create some sort of short-cut link with less than 10 characters? If not, thats cool. Overall this article kicks diyaash! Chi-Meegwech!

  47. wil says:

    even repairs on the houses wasnt done,and transportation cost on building the new houses ,that werent built wasnt done ,oust that chief councilor and do a proper audit.and u d think the chief would have took running water for his village over anything else,what a dumbass.send in an accountant before handing them any more money.and as far as medical expenses go we r covered by the department of indian affairs ,that money is seperate from that 90 thousand so there seems to b alot of fraud goung on and pocketing of money,try taking a look at the present chief councilors house and see if he has the same problems as his village

    • An accountant has been involved with the community since at least 2005. I don’t know if that accounting firm was the third party who was involved in co-management of Attawapiskat or not, but nonetheless professional financial eyes have been on the community. Now with third-party management you are getting your wish.

      Yes, medical expenses are covered by INAC, but the funding amounts are included directly in the budget for Attawapiskat as well as the figures for how much was spent and on what health area. It is not separate from the $90mililon, but is rather a part of that total figure.

      The accusation of fraud gets tossed in a lot. I don’t know whether fraud has occurred or not, but so far no evidence has been presented that it has. The auditors stated that there was no indication that funds were misappropriated. I know management on reserves aren’t perfect, but that does not mean that everyone is automatically stealing. No one seems to be managing their finances very well right now, as can be seen in many municipalities, provinces and countries.

      • Kelly rodgers says:

        I have been going to the community since 2005 and have never seen any evidcence of fraud or corruption. They have had a co-manager for a decade and do run deficits. Of course Canada, Ontario, Toronto, the U.S., and most of Europe also run deficits but we don’t see Ottawa putting Ontario or New Brunswick or Newfoundland etc. into third party management. Thisrd party management is an excellent way to ensure that non aboriginal accounting firms obtain a steady source of funds in the way of fees so it can create employment, just not on the reserve.

        Excellent article, I will be circulating it

    • creebabe says:

      lol @ “village” :s

  48. Brian says:

    I am just wondering if your privy to the information on the 3.8 million spent on Elementary and Secondary Education Teachers wages. For a community of roughly 2000, even if they required a teacher for each grade of lets say 10 elementary teachers, and I’ll use my own reserves amount of teachers for post secondary (adults in motion), which is 4…lets toss in some support staff, 6…and even then each person would still have 2x (190000) the amount of Ontario average teacher salary. This of course is all speculation, but I would be interested in the housing situation of the people on the education staff.

    • As a former teacher, the teaching salaries were one of the areas I felt competent to analyse to see if the salaries are (as is often claimed) totally inflated and out of whack.

      Edit: thank goodness I wasn’t a math teacher! Editing to rework these numbers! Will come back!

      • Brian says:

        I believe that the section states that their salary is 265,000…aside from the other amounts of ‘benefits’. If a community is able to provide 3.8 million to roughly 14 people…the onus is on them for the conditions of the people in poverty as much as they themselves can deem its the governments fault. 140,000 to make the education staff fit? That money right there provides 2 houses alone.

        • Where are you getting the $265,000 number from exactly, so I can follow this?

          $3.8 million for 14 people equals a salary of $27K a year. That’s just over minimum wage. Hardly a king’s ransom. Where are you getting the figure of 14 from?

          I’m not sure what you are suggesting here. Not paying the teachers so that houses could be built?

      • Brian says:

        I believe that segment shows that each persons salary is 265,000 let alone the other amounts of benefits as you stated. 153,000 to provide the staff a fitness center? That amount alone can provide housing for 2 families, let alone probably provide emergency shelter for all those impoverished people. Where does the blaim lie for such outrageous wages.

      • Some Canadian Guy says:


        “$3.8 million for 14 people equals a salary of $27K a year.”

        Your math is wrong. Specifically, it is off by a decimal point. $3 800 000 / 14 = $271 428 (not ~27K). Brian’s salary estimates seem appropriate.

        • Opinion8dCdn says:

          Would you move up North to conditions that are less than adequate (i.e. access to health care, the cold, etc) for less than that? I think people need to keep in mind that the teachers are mostly brought into the area, it’s an expensive area to live, and to travel back to see family would also be incredibly expensive. I think the compensation is appropriate.

        • You are right, my math IS off!

          I will edit.

          We still need to know how many staff members there are, and how much the benefits are. Do they include travel allowances? I received RRSP contributions as part of my benefits when I taught up North, and those were significant. Etc.

        • Phil says:

          As in most things, I sense cherrypicking of facts to make arguments in the article & the comments, both those on the lib-left and the right.

          To those of you who have felt educated, I am sure that if you read enough, your mind will boggle not only with the historical complexity of where we find the situation of today, but the many interpretations of it.

          Let’s just throw more money at it. that’s what will happen, mark my words. left & right gov’ts in Canada have done so, will do so.

          Last thoughts: you get assimilated if your culture is too weak to resist it. the old life is gone. My ancestors worked with wooden tools, yours hunted. If you don’t like how life is, do something about it. Nostalgia is fine, but nobody is as interested in helping you as much as you . My parents left their land in search of a better life. The real problem in Canada is overdependence on government, native or non-native. Move on!

          they will throw more money at it, mark my words. To coin a phrase: Go south!

        • Troy says:

          No, your culture didn’t assimilate, it integrated, which is vastly different.
          The moldy houses are a product of assimilationist policy. Were this an integrationist policy, the federal goverment would’ve worked with the band ages ago to solve this problem.
          Assimilation refers to an adverserial relationship, whereas integration refers to working together.
          Besides, First Nations have adapted. We’ve taken in whatever new technologies we can afford.
          The problem is the federal goverment disallowing us to do what we need to to do to succeed in this world.
          Had Attawapiskat been allowed open up a lumbermill, it could save itself millions. Were Attawapiskat allowed to sustainably log the surrounding forest, then millions could be saved.
          If Attawapiskat was allowed to function like a healthy community, then there’d be no problem that couldn’t be solved with little effort here. Instead, the band has had to cobble together policy that was overseen by INAC, every little dollar accounted for, that things have come apart so badly now.
          Neglect by the federal government with the threat of interference overhanging the chief and coucil and band administratin does not foster a healthy community. It brings it closer to ruination, such as we are now witnessing.

        • I really like what you’ve said about assimilation versus integration. I’m going to think about this some more, very thought provoking, thank you.

        • I don’t think anyone believes ‘throwing money at it’ will work. I hoped that my highlighting of the Auditor General’s report would have clarified that there needs to be systemic change, not just ‘more money’.

          I’m sorry that you believe our traditions are dead and gone. I hope you get the opportunity soon to realise that this is not true at all.

      • Ginger says:

        I’m confused. In Schedule A there is also a section for Education, which lists a total amount of $5.5M spent on wages and benefits. Can you provide an explanation for this number?

        According to the Attawapiskat First Nation Authority Website, there are ~800 students taught by teachers making at least $48,000 ( With the funding number of $3.8M/$48,000, that is approximately 79 teachers for the entire school (or a pupil-teacher ratio of 10:1, which is a pretty good ratio). Of course, there are probably fewer teachers than that, and the salaries would also include administrators, support staff, etc, but the $3.8 million seems to me like a Goldilocks amount to spend on education. Not so much that people would complain, but enough to provide decent service.

  49. Nadia Heyd says:

    RON: use a website like bit-ly to shorten links: The link to this page shortens to using

  50. Pingback: Occupy Attawapiskat – A First Nation Housing Crisis « Michon Control

  51. Thanks for this article – With your permission I would like to post it to – a website of legal information for people in Ontario. Since posting it to my Facebook page many friends and colleagues have been grateful to have a response that is fact-based as a response to the mainstream “where did the money go?” arguments.

  52. Wayne Borean says:

    I don’t see a license on your post. Would it be possible to reprint it on my blog with commentary? I cover some Canadian politics, and I get some international readers.


  53. Josh G says:

    I admit I did not read every comment to see if this issue was addressed, but I did read the article in full.

    There is zero mention of the people contributing money for the purchase and/or upkeep and maintenance of their housing. The federal government does not provide my family with even a single cent to maintain our home. I work, my wife works, and we use our hard earned income to provide the necessary housing for ourselves and our child.

    Whether or not any of the $90 million was spent on housing is irrelevant, where is the self sustaining responsibility of the people? I expect they make every effort to work and provide for themselves the same as most Canadians. Taxpayers should not bear the entire burden of their lives. I realize there are treaties in place, created and signed over 100 years ago, but I doubt the intent or purpose of those treaties at that time was to provide EVERYTHING to them for free.

    You may disagree, but i think it’s fair to expect every dollar made or earned by the people, the band, the nation, etc. to be put towards essentials first – food, clothing, shelter – before requesting any additional help from either the federal or provincial governments.

    • I understand not wanting to wade through all the comments! I want to go into housing in further detail in a different post, but here is my response to a similar question posed earlier.

    • Ron says:

      Wow… a typical ignorant privileged, Upper-Class, ill-informed Canadian has found his way here, knew they’d get here eventually.

      • I know that tempers can and will get heated. I understand how hard it is to deal with some of the negativity, but I ask everyone to please “kiyam”. There is enough fighting going on in the comments sections of the big papers, let that stay there.

      • Allen says:

        Please Ron, name-calling does not elevate the discussion. Do you want to ban people who ask uncomfortable questions or make uncomfortable statements? That would just make this blog an echo chamber. Is that what you want?

      • Josh G says:

        Far from “privileged, Upper-Class, ill-informed Canadian” Ron. I am a hard working middle class immigrant. We barely qualified for our $200,000 mortgage just before the housing boom six years ago after scrimping and saving for years. We maintain our home at our expense and are debt free by choice – the choice of making proper financial decisions buying only what we need, and more importantly can afford. In the years following my immigration I had trouble finding work. I worked day jobs through temporary labor services for months. I, like many Canadians, am willing to do whatever it takes to succeed and would feel ashamed rather than entitled to receive government handouts.

        I think the “privileged” person here is you, and I’d even dare to guess you worked hard for what you have. My problem is that though I’ve worked hard for what I have, I simply cannot afford to pay for those who aren’t willing (I’m not talking about people who are not able) to work hard themselves.

        Sorry to invade “your” space with dissenting opinion in what seems to be an open forum. Without discussion there can be no progress.

      • Ron says:

        JOSH G: The option to immigrate back home is always an option for you(not for me), you know, if things are too messed up here. And yes, I probably haven’t earned my keep here in this country you call home, in your eyes. Yep, I haven’t pulled up my own boot straps, I don’t like to work, I’m on welfare and I’m an alcoholic and constantly breaking the law. Oh yeah, I don’t pay taxes and I get everything for free. Thats why my quality of life is skyrocketing, and my limo expenses are so high. You think someone coming from another country would understand oppression, but perhaps you’re from the US where you’d fit in nicely with the republicans. I welcome people like you who give us another reason to educate. So thank you for your posts, and keep them coming, it shows where you’re coming from.

      • Norma says:

        Maybe not a privileged, upper class Canadian – maybe someone who is working really hard to try and support his family in these trying times and someone who is frustrated???

        I know that is how I would describe myself. I think it’s unacceptable that children in Canada are being raised in such deplorable conditions. It’s so sad that they don’t have schools or have to leave their families to attend schools. But the frustrating thing is what the heck can we do about it! What can we do as individuals and as a country. Where is all the money going to come from?

        I really do care but I feel helpless. We are asked to donate money to so many things every week! At this time of the year it gets even worse.

        I know that I am very blessed and that I have less challenges than the people struggling in tents on reserves but I also work a lot and worry all the time. Just to give you an idea in this faceless blog format as to where I am coming from I’d like to share a little bit about myself. I have worked since I was 13, often at more than 1 job, and I am struggling to support my family. I have a Bachelor’s of Education from McGill University that took me 9 years to pay for but I have not found work in my field. In the past I have moved over 3600 kms away from my family to try to give my kids a better life. I earn $25 500 a year. My kids work and go to school. We don’t own our home. Our health care is less than ideal – 2 weeks ago my son was sent home with an appendix that needed to be removed but there was no surgeon at our small town hospital. (it was removed 18 hours later but it could have burst at home) Mental health issues in our community are seriously underfunded. My son has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and we waited the better part of 3 years for treatment. When treatment came it was 12 sessions.

        Despite my education and interest I am ignorant with regard to Native Affairs and the Indian Act. I don’t even know if those are the correct terms to use. I do believe that I am empathic though and I certainly try to understand. I know that the media is biased – not only to Native peoples by the way. So I am grateful when I come across informed pieces like this one.

        I don’t know about the cultural identity or land connection you addressed earlier on in this blog because my family immigrated to Canada in 1952 after their home and land was taken from them in war. They chose to become Canadian and I am a first generation Canadian and I do not speak the language of my ancestors. We have family traditions but my Father is a proud Canadian. Montreal, Quebec was home and my grandparents are still in their home of 55 years, but language laws and politics drove many businesses away and now my family is scattered in Quebec and Ontario. It would have been nice for all of us to be together but it made sense to pursue better opportunities.

        Maybe other Canadians have trouble understanding the Native Culture and the decision to stay on the land because they have made other choices for their families. It is wrong to judge of course but it is human nature.

        I’m not sure how to compare what happened to First Nations people to what happened to other people in other countries that were driven off their lands in other parts of the world. Maybe it’s not necessary. How do you compare pain anyway?

        My Uncle in New Hampshire understands land (or maybe water) connection. His family were lobster fishermen in Maine, USA. He tried to support his family doing what he loved in a 100+ year old home but he couldn’t make a go of it.

        To me it doesn’t make sense to live somewhere where your children will not have access to health care, education and opportunity. I feel the same way about communities that are in drought areas. Billions of dollars never seems to make a difference. On the other hand I understand that moving does guarantee an ideal life either.

        I think most people would feel better about all of this if there was a plan. Is there something 1 person like myself can do?

        This is a very complicated issue and I appreciate all the time everyone has put into sharing their views.

        Thank You!

        • You’ve shared a lot and I think you really demonstrate a willingness and an openness to look at all of this with fresh eyes. I know you’ve asked some questions, and if I do have time later I’ll come back, but I just wanted to thank you for taking the time that you did to post.

      • Josh G says:

        Impressive Ron. I comment that I’d guess you’ve worked hard for what you have and you reply with derogatory stereotypes about native people, and then further Americans?

        It seems you’re of the opinion non-natives are all bigots and racists. Personally I resent that. I grew up in an area with many reservations (yes I am from the United States) and have many good native friends both on and off the reserves as well many other nationalities.

        I don’t discriminate with the exception of ignorance. I will not be moving back. Things are not too messed up here for me because I’ve followed a path of good decision making based on providing a better quality of life for my Canadian wife and son. My wife and I work very hard for what we have and simply expect that all citizens, residents, whomever do the same.

        You should be careful about calling other names and accusing them of bigotry. It really shows your close-mindedness which makes me sad. Enjoy your self described hard life.

    • Brock says:

      Josh G., contrary to your understanding that the federal government does not contribute to the maintenance of your home, and since you’re engaged in liberal individualized responsibility rhetoric, I would like to remind you about the home renovation tax credit in order to maintain your house. To quote the Government of Canada “This initiative is estimated to cost $3 billion over 2009-10 and 2010-11.” Where do you think that money came from? You. The federal and provincial governments have many rebate and incentive based programs in order for you to maintain your current home, or to purchase a new home.

      • Josh G says:

        Brock, yes the Federal Government created an optional Canada wide home renovation tax credit. It was an economic stimulous to get people spending money (raising tax revenue to help pay for the program) which is part of the reason Canada faired so well in the worldwide recession. The program was open to ALL homeowners, not just the homeowners in your neighborhood or mine.

    • Bill says:

      A lot of things have been provided to you for “free”, such as water, roads, parks, weed removal, water quality control, air control, animal control, police, fire, broadcasting, power infrastructure, communications, etc.

      Perishable items and gasoline are extremely expensive due to the fact that they have to be trucked in. A case of coke can run up to 50 dollars. Fruit and vegetables are hard to come by and expensive. They are difficult to grow locally.

      • Josh G says:

        Bill, I, like the rest of residents not on a well service, pay for my water. We pay taxes to maintain roads and parks. Weed removal is next to non-existent here. Any item from your list is paid for by property taxes or directly by bill from a utility company that we as home/land owners (including renters) pay.

        As for persishable items, coke is hardly a necessity. Spending $50 on a case of coke is asinine and quite possibly part of the problem. That is a luxury item, not a necessity and there seems to be a problem with the distinction of the two. I understand fruits and vegetables are hard to come by, expensive, and difficult to grow. That said, people all over the world survive without fruits and vegetables. I personally eat very few and have full access to them.

      • Bill says:

        You said weed removal does not exist in your area, so i will assume you are in a smaller town. You are NOT paying a fair price for your water. If you live in a city of ten thousand people, it would cost roughly 100 million dollars to pay for building the sewage, water treatment, water pumping and water distribution systems. Did you personally pay ten thousand dollars for your water? Then you are not paying a fair price. Do you live right next to a power generation facility? If not, then the power has to be sent over very expensive copper wire to you. Do you pay ten times the price that someone living near a power generation plant does? Then you aren’t paying your fair share.

        You are being given a lot for free.

      • Josh G says:

        Bill I am not in a small town, in fact over 1,000,000 – you can narrow it down from there. The city, in an effort to be green, has decided that weed control is not required in most cases. The province has banned weed control chemicals…but we digress.

        Water and power plants are built with both private funds and taxpayer money. These are capital projects with useful life payback schedules. I did not pay a lump sum for the project costs, but I do pay monthly for access to their products. I also pay property taxes which help fund these infrastructure items including new projects for new people to the city who also do not pay lump sums up front.

        You should be smart enough to realize that nothing is free. I doubt there are any government based entities operating at a loss – at deficit maybe, but not a loss. Their budgets come from tax dollars which most of us pay – income tax, GST/PST/HST, property tax, special use fees, transmission or delivery fees, etc. I pay my share and I expect my neighbors do the same.

    • Karen Trigg says:

      100 years ago we took “everything ” from the keepers of this land and told them where they could live.Aren’t we responsible?Just a thought.

      • Karen Trigg says:

        That was intended for Josh.

      • Josh G says:

        Karen, from the beginning of time cultures and people have moved from place to place. We (Europeans) did not take anything from anyone as Europe moved west across the Atlantic any more than happened the 2000 years before that. Yes people moved to North America. It’s basically urban sprawl on a global level. You can try to stop it, but it will always find a way to continue. Our choice is to accept it and adapt and blend and make the best of it, or hide in a corner.

        I do not have a problem with help, but if I reach out my hand someone on the other end needs to reach out as well. We meet in the middle and find the best solution we can. 100 years ago people were riding around on horses and wagons down bumpy trails. 200 years ago there was no electricity. Things change.

        We might not all agree with all the changes, but it is our choice to accept them or pretend they don’t exist. I choose to accept and make the best of it.

        • I don’t agree that there are just two choices i.e., to accept changes or pretend they don’t exist.
          It is not the absolute right of one group to impose their values on another group any more…that is one thing that is changing for the better.
          Respectful dialogue between parties on a level playing field is the key.
          Pass the talking piece…

    • MLB says:

      “I realize there are treaties in place, created and signed over 100 years ago, but I doubt the intent or purpose of those treaties at that time was to provide EVERYTHING to them for free.”
      I beg to differ with your comments. The intent of the treaties were to provide EVERYTHING for free because the expectation and hope of the government at that time was that the aboriginals would just die off! The government wasn’t actually expecting to be providing EVERYTHING for very long.
      “The deals were often viewed cynically by those non-Indians responsible for both making and implementing these agreements as relatively cheap and expedient ways to ease natives off most of the lands of Canada so that these resources could be opened for exploitation by other groups and interests.”
      It really shouldn’t be a surprise that today’s government is still attempting to pull the wool over the public’s eyes with mis-information and blatant lies. I’m waiting to see a news report of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan offer a handful of beads as a solution to the abhorrent situation in Attawapiskat. It is about the equivalent of what has been done so far!

  54. Morel Caissie says:

    your detailed breakdown and references hopefully helps to inform and educate the general population . Prjudice, discrimination and racism comes from from ignorance and misinformation.
    Thank you and keep up the fight to combat the injustice endured by first nations people
    Morel Caissie
    Canadian Association of Social Workers

  55. Joseph Boyden says:

    âpihtawikosisân, I think I love you!

    • *approve! approve! approve!*


      • Susan Munro says:

        âpihtawikosisân, today is your lucky day!
        All this great support for your post, and a declaration of love from Joseph Boyden!
        Well deserved, I say … I too will be sending other people to this excellent information.
        (My book club just finished Three Day Road; I don’t think we’ve ever enjoyed a book so much.)

  56. truepenny says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve tried to understand the situation as best I can so I can actually deconstruct the comments of people who think the solution is as simple as walking down the street and finding a house that “works” (yes, someone has actually said that to me during a particularly uncomfortable debate) besides just staring at them agog. This has definitely been the best break down I’ve seen. I might just send them here from now on!

  57. l.dawson says:

    Thank you for putting this information out. Its refreshing to get valid information. The mainstream media has certainly failed and it seems the Harper government is still relying on a dis-information campaign to hide their shame. Canadians need you to educate them.

  58. Steve Joe says:

    I am a Mi’gmaq First nation man who left the reserve (I would rather not say which one) when I was 19 years old. Your story is one that ever Canadian should hear. I am well educated and live in a nice home and have all the comforts that a family should have. This makes me feel sad for the people on reserves…..most people. I visit our reserve often because many of my family still live there. My parents live in a well maintained small home with flower gardens and vegetable gardens. However their home stands out when you see what surrounds them. I get mad at times when I see what my friends have allowed their lives to turn into. The house on one side of my parents lost about half of their siding during a windstorm 2 years ago. They never even picked up the siding and it has blown away. It would have taken them little time to gather it and a few nails to re-install it. Across the street the front window was broke out during a brawl and no attempts to replace it. It had been covered with a sheet of plywood for a long time. They have at least 6 rusted cars on their property…..3 on their front lawn. Most people make no attempt to clean their yard or keep the grass under control. It makes me mad that these friends that I grew up with (and swore that they would never let this happen) are living in filth and don’t seem to care. Some go North and work for several months a year and make good money but they spend it on Satellite dishes and large televisions and cars and their properties are falling into the ground. I have a great need to understand my friends way of thinking. I feel sad for them but at the same time, I feel mad at them.

    • P says:

      Thank you.

    • I understand your conflicting feelings. I have them too. Those of us who grew up in native communities know there are serious problems. Plenty of us manage to live positive, but it’s a struggle, and not all of us make it. You’re going to find that kind of hopelessness in any impoverished community, however. I’ve seen similar living conditions in rural non-native communities.

      It is hard to even talk about those problems, because certain people will take our words and use them to back themselves up when they declare that our cultures are ‘broken’, that the reserve system needs to be destroyed and First Nations need to be assimilated. That we have normal concerns gets used to score political points. I understand why there is then a reluctance to discuss these issues in public.

      There are no easy solutions to any of these problems. It’s going to take work on many levels. It can’t just be the government engaging in reforms, but neither can we expect that communities are going to magically solve their problems without real support. Money isn’t the only ingredient needed. You can’t bake a cake with just flour.

      • Steve Joe says:

        Thank you for your reply. My family went through some very rough time when we were growing up but my parents were always very optimistic. My mother would always say “work hard at home, work hard at school and always take pride in what you do and you must learn to look after yourself”. I think the key words are “work hard” and “pride”. My siblings and I benefited immensely from those words. I think that a lot of the people of Attawapsik not only need funding from the governments but also counseling to help them deal with their poor conditions. Depression caused by deplorable conditions can cause people to lose all hope. My heart goes out to each and every one of them that didn’t have the parents that I had. BTW, my siblings living on the reserve have learned to make something from nothing and I am very proud of them. So, remember that funding without counseling will not work.

      • Allen says:

        Who cares what others will say if you can say it honestly and respectfully? If you believe in your rhetorical position then that is all most open-minded people need.

    • Josh G says:

      I respect you and the efforts you’ve made in life to get where you are. Thanks for your insight.

    • Boater says:

      Well aren’t you just one noble Indian. Care to offer any further insight on this issue? Or is it your position that Indians are just lazy? The reason that so many houses on reserves are dumps is because there is no incentive to maintain them. I would certainly be reluctant to invest in renovations for something that I did not own. Milton Friedman was correct in saying, “nobody takes care of someone else’s property as well as he takes care of his own”. Don’t be mad at the Indian, be mad at Canadian legislation that sets the Indian up to fail.
      There are systemic problems on First Nations in Canada that require attention. If you are so ashamed and angry at the Indian, why don’t you contribute to solutions instead of just bashing your own people to feed your ego?

      • P says:

        Boater. Most renters across Canada are required to maintain to a certain degree and not damage the homes or face eviction and damage costs. No, they should not be expected to upgrade their rental, and I don’t see why they would feel they need to. But minor maintenance should be expected, and destruction/damage should not be allowed or go unpunished. If you do enjoy quotes “Respect that of others as you would your own” and the infamous golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – ie don’t damage my property, I wouldn’t damage yours….

        Based on Steve’s comment, the band and the band members’ families need to start raising their expectations. Do that, just as Steve’s parents did for him, and you will be happily amazed at the results. Perhaps his friends stopped having any expectations to live up to?

      • This is not a forum to engage in personal attacks, please respect that.

    • Miigonasens says:

      If you can’t tell your ‘friends’ that, maybe your use of the word ‘friend’ is not warrented. Maybe use ‘these guys I used to know’ is more appropriate. If it was my ‘friend’ I would have have showed up with a hammer and nails, knocked at there door, I would say, “Good, your up, I noticed you siding is off and its a nice day.” If you get the door slammed in your face or you can’t be bothered…they are not your ‘friend”. Stop complaining, apathy isn’t sexy.

  59. Ruth Kult says:

    Thank you for your effort in providing some really helpful/clarifying information. I, too, was one of those multitudes making uninformed assumtions. Your article has given me alot to think about, not least of which is the folly in rushing to form an opinion on something without being fully informed first! On that note, I really would like to ask a question and hope that you can answer it. As Alex S. posted earlier:
    “Is there not some way these remote communities could relocate closer to the access to education/health care/employment opportunities/building resources? There is plenty of land across canada that isn’t so impossible to reach. Land that you can build a road/bridge to. Land that would allow the people living there to live better/healthier lives, while still preserving their heritage. I don’t suggest taking the land away from them… but couldn’t they keep it, while living somewhere more habitable?”
    I do feel that I understand the connection between land and culture. As a person of Irish descent, I find myself inescapably pulled to return to Ireland just to…well, re-connect with my heritage. It is a strong, real, physical pull. I was born here in Canada because the land in Ireland failed to support my ancestors. It became untenable to stay somewhere that they couldn’t raise their children because they couldn’t feed and house them, so they left. Not because they weren’t connected to the land. Talk to almost any person of Irish descent and they will tell you they feel the same way and I’m sure that many other cultures do as well.
    I am wondering if, in the history of native civilization, given groups of First Nations people didn’t do essentially the same thing? Did they never find themselves abandoning an area due to circumstances beyond their control? Like forest fires, or drought, or disease/die off of animals to hunt? Did they never move on and re-settle new, more hospitable areas? Having lived for a time in the Arctic, I know how ridiculously expensive it is to live a modern lifestyle. (Frankly, if you could build a house for 250,000 I would be impressed!) Re-locating closer to, not actually to, a populated area surely would mean a more sustainable community.
    Having said all this, as I type this and reflect on what you wrote I do realize that if the issues you presented were effectively addressed, there might just be enough improvement that relocation might not be necessary! Anyway, I am not being “deliberatly obtuse” as my father used to chide me as a teenager! Lol! I really am interested in your thoughts on the above question!

    • I chose to move away from my territory. I made this decision for a number of reasons, but it was not done lightly. I struggle with the fact that I am no longer on my territory, and that it is expensive and difficult to visit it. I worry about how this separation will impact my children. I work hard to ensure they develop ties to my community while still growing up and integrating here in Montreal.

      What would I do if my community disappeared? If it became so unsustainable that everyone left? If the land was sold off to those who could afford to live out in the country where there are not many local jobs? If no one remained to take care of the blueberry patches, to remember the stories, to honour the land? Already our lake is polluted to the point where we can not make a living fishing any longer. Already our youth flood into the urban centres to get an education and find employment. The displacement is well underway as it is.

      My territory is in a relatively settled area. The more isolated northern communities face different pressures, but are also experiencing this drain. What many people do not realise however is that the movement is often circular in nature. We go back home every chance we can, because that home still exists. Many of us still go out on the land when we can. Particularly in northern communities, people still rely heavily on what they are able to hunt themselves. I do not think that you can understand how tied we are to the land unless you have visited one of these communities, and see it for yourself.

      Despite all the horrific challenges we have faced, our communities provide us with strength. That is true even when our communities themselves struggle to be healthy. Take that away from us, scatter us to the winds, break our kinship ties that rely so heavily on the land, and you inflict a violence on us that merely follows in the footsteps of Residential Schooling and the 60’s scoop. That isn’t hyperbole.

      It isn’t much. It isn’t working as well as we all want…yet. But it’s the base for something more and we have never forgotten it.

      • Marky Mark says:

        When you put it that way I understand your struggle a lot better.

        There are similarities between what you describe and what many Canadians who don’t live in big cities describe-we’re becoming more urban and many longstanding communities are shrinking if not worse.

      • Anna says:

        I think it’s also worth pointing out that when Ruth’s ancestros left Ireland, and when my ancestors left Scotland and England, and whenever anyone immigrates anywhere in search of opportunities, Ireland stayed behind. Scotland stayed behind, and England stayed behind. If leaving Ireland had meant that every Irish person also left, so that the Irish people were scattered across the world and Ireland as a place no longer exited, I imagine her ancestors may have had a very different decision to make.

  60. Pingback: What’s Up with Attawapiskat? at MentalPolyphonics

  61. Angela says:

    Thanks for making sense of an issue that is so far from home but at the same time, close to my heart. What I’m wondering though is…. why can’t the individuals in the reserve help eachother out too? If children are ‘freezing’ at night, can the Chief ( who can clearly afford it) not help to personally provide these children in her community with space heaters or sleeping bags? I’m not saying the rest of Canada should ignore them. As a Canadian, I’m embarassed by the state of this community.But come on…. when I saw on the news the other night that this woman’s children were freezing at night because they didn’t have heat? Really? I wanted to go out andbuy aspace heater for her.Why can’t the Chief doit?

    • With what funds? We do not know what has already been done in the community to help those in need. We cannot assume that the community has merely stood by and done nothing. It is too easy to say, ‘they should do this’, without seeing the whole picture. This is a community struggling with many more problems than just housing. Elementary aged children attend school in cold portables. There is inadequate water and sewage infrastructure. The Chief only has so many fingers and funds to use to stop up the holes in the dike.

      I cannot answer your questions for the same reason you do not already have the answers. These issues are not being discussed in the media. We are all seeing a mere fraction of the story at a time.

  62. Thank you for this article. You’re a voice of reason in a sea of… something. Ignorance, I guess?

    The government’s treatment of aboriginal peoples is just appalling, the average non-native’s response to these issues is just as bad.

    Will you be posting a summary of the Indian Act to help people understand why their “helpful commentary” has no basis in reality? I know I could use a plain-language, non-legalspeak guide to help “get” the Act, too.

    • I’ve long considered putting together a ‘layperson’s guide to the Indian Act’. We’ll see if I can ever get to it, given how many comments I’m trying to keep up with here 😀

      • Ruth says:

        I would love to read a ‘layperson’s guide to the Indian Act’ not just for myself, but for my teenage children. As a Mi’gmaq living off reserve, I appreciate the time it took for you to complete this blog, you have provided a clear, consise agruement against Harper’s insinuations against mismanagement of the $90 million dollar . I have forwarded the link to my son & daughter since I belive they need to have the ability to rebuttle any comments with facts.

  63. Amy says:


    This is a very interesting breakdown – and information that a lot of people clearly appreciate. I work at CBC radio in Thunder Bay. I’d like to speak to you about this if you have time. Please contact me and let me know if you’re interested.



  64. Great info! Appreciate the time it took to do the research and submitt the “real story.” The “mainstream” media is not where I get my news, just a starting point. I like dig deeper ,to see what’s really going on. Kudoos to YOU for providing clarity, on this important issue.

  65. Darren Henry says:

    Chi Miigwech âpihtawikosisân for this article and I also agree with the eloquence and insight you have shown in your response. This is something that is needed as a rebuttal to the misinformation that is out there and being propagated specifically by the government as is attempts to wash over the issue which is the crisis that exists at Attawapiskat and elsewhere across the Country ( I cannot even say the name!).
    One other point that needs to be made is the stringent requirements that are dictated to First Nations regarding their financial audits. This needs to be submitted back to the government to ensure that the funding which in many cases is a fiduciary responsibility/duty is allocated for the next distribution (yearly funding). Again Chi Miigwech for the article if I were to continue I am sure my adjectives to describe these events as they are happening would not be printable.

    • The heavy reporting burden put on First Nations is discussed in the Auditor General’s report, but even that does not give people a sense of how intense the requirements are. I have seen some amazing people in Band offices doing the job of three people just to keep up with reporting, without training or support, and certainly without acknowledgement. People forget that we still don’t have a tonne of University grads with specialised training we can call upon to do these jobs…it’s ordinary people doing their best to work in a very confusing and complicated system.

  66. Opinion8dCdn says:

    Thank you so much for this!!!
    The comments have been frustrating me, I’ve had to take a step back, however this document gives me renewed vigour! I will be using this often in my conversations with the simpletons.

    • I recognise you from some of the comments sections I was referring to:) Good luck, and take a break when you need to!

      • Opinion8dCdn says:

        I’ve been trying to be a warrior with you 😀 Not so easy with a 2 year old!

        I just wanted to reiterate that there are Non-Native Canadians who have done everything they can to understand 😀

      • Opinion8dCdn says:

        Also wanted to mention that this post came to me on Facebook through a friend of a friend. It’s definitely getting around!!

  67. It is truly sad that professional and well-paid journalists cannot be bothered to research the topic in order to get to these facts, choosing instead to regurgitate the words of a Prime Minister who refuses to accept any responsibility. I’ve yet to see an article published in a paper that mentions that this government while in opposition voted down the Kelowna Accord that might have helped prevent this situation or make it less severe. The government has chosen apologies after the fact over acting in the first place. What good is a residential schools apology if the same ignorance to the needs of aboriginal people is continued in modern times as the government ignores the substandard living conditions of those in deplorable and preventable poverty? While it is sad that it takes a blog to bring up these facts and issues when we fund a government responsible for acting and rely on supposedly professional media, I am glad you are using your voice to combat the vicious bigotry that is very present in modern day Canada, specifically in the anonymous comment sections of poorly researched newspapers.

  68. Roger Misquadis says:

    Awesome article!! I’ve shared this with all my friends!!

  69. linda says:

    Now that was some awsome for someone to actually speek there mind with no crap didn’t it feel great I could feel relief just reading my god its so true and many reserves are going threw this and if harper ever grew up on one only then he would know he just keeps taking away and not understanding its his job to pay attention your so awsome two thumbs up

  70. Renee says:

    Important note re: salaries. Salaries in the North are much higher than salaries elsewhere in Canada, due to the cost of everything resulting from the geographical isolation – food alone is between 2 and 5x as expensive. You can pay $30 for a watermelon. So $71k in the North simply doesn’t go nearly as far as $71k anywhere else – even in comparison to other municipal salaries, this should be noted.

    • Very good point.

      I used to work at a grocery store in the Kawartha Lakes area. A couple from Nunavut stopped by to buy some things (teachers that were visiting the Kawarthas, IIRC), and when they saw their grocery bill, they were shocked – it was at least three times LESS than what it would cost them at home. I think they said eggs alone would have been $6-$10? This was nearly a decade ago, mind you. /coolstorysis

    • Living in Inuvik taught me not to even look at the grocery bill if I didn’t want grey hairs. You have to eat, even when a litre of milk is $7 during freeze-up, and the lettuce is brown but you need it anyway. They ‘lured’ us teachers up there with high salaries for sure, way more than I could have made down south, but housing ate up a huge chunk of that salary and don’t even get me going on the heating bills! My standard of living wasn’t actually higher once all that is factored in.

      I remember being amazed that the bank machines in town gave out $50s and not $20s…until I saw how quickly the money goes just buying everyday necessities.

      But let’s not forget the billions of dollars in oil, gas, gold, diamonds and other metals that the North produces.

      Oh how I miss caribou meat…I wish I could go back to be honest. Even with the black flies and the tinfoil on the windows to keep out the 24 hr light in the summer.

      • Deborah Kent says:

        I have enjoyed being educated by your article and your responses. You are a very articulate young lady that truly does care. I am replying to this specific post because I got so excited that you mentioned Inuvik. I lived there for three years in the early 80’s. Back then the cost of fuel was around a $1.00 a litre when the rest of the country was 30 cents. Milk was over $5.00 for two litres when it was around a $1.00 down south. The cost of heating, electricity and building was also way over the top. I remember the fear the whole community had the night in November when there was a big fire at the heating plant, the military had the Hercules aircraft on standby to evacuate the town because if we lost the heating plant no one would be able to survive for long.

        It was one of the best places I have lived in this wonderful country. They also have some of the most innovative building practices for the North (many other countries have come and copied it). This may be something that our own people may want to do also instead of trying to build down South houses in the North. Just does not work.

        If anyone would like to have a bit of an understanding of what it takes to get things to the North they should watch a bit of the “Ice Road Truckers.” Not an easy thing to things delivered to the North, and before anyone says we should move South, remember for right now the only way we show our sovereignty of our great land is by having people live on it permanently.

        Another way to have change in the INAC or AA (I wonder if they thought about the short form when they renamed it?) is to have the people in the organization to go and live on the reserves for a few days. I have found that familiarization with a situation goes a long way with helping to get things done quickly and with innovation. This should not be a protocol visit but a “get your hands dirty” visit and all levels of people in the department should go. I think we would find that things would move much faster through the department when people can put a face to the name/area.

        Once again, I thank you for the time you have taken to investigate and write your blog and the answers you have given. Thank you for keeping things at an educational and positive level. It has been a pleasure spending time with you. I will be posting this link on my facebook.

        Debbie K

  71. Susan says:

    Thank you for the clarity and excellent information. I have shared this with the hope that people will take the time to read.

  72. JK says:

    Mee’Kwetch SISTA!!!!!!

  73. Johanna B. says:

    Thank you. As a non-First Nations Canadian, I have to date been at least aware of my ignorance at what is REALLY faced by Attawapiskat and similar communities, but the media and parliamentary rhetoric does nothing to clarify. Hope you don’t mind if I share around this awesome post.

    • My partner is non-native and about as open to learning these things as anyone I’ve met and even he learned some new things. It’s not easy, and I thank you for your willingness to try!

  74. Angela says:

    Keep writing dear. You do an awesome job! I have shared this article on Facebook with my confused friends who i hope take the time to read it and perhaps understand their country better. I plan to share it again and again.

  75. carmen says:

    Having been doing some (unrelated) research lately on the costs of roads and rails, my first thought was than $90 million is a miniscule amount with which to run comprehensive government services and infrastructure maintenance/development for a whole community. Thanks for giving me some teeth for that argument.

  76. Thanks you for your wonderful article that provides information to substitute for the fuzzy thinking and prejudice that can inform citizens and the Harper government. The federal government takes advantage of opportunistic posturing to sound like they are the virtuous ones. Your point by point analysis puts the lie to this and helps us all come know what is happening and not.

  77. Moira Dunphy says:

    Thank you for an elaborate effort to inform, to slow down the fast-paced opinion-making people seem determined to share. I am astounded that the lack of expertise does not keep so many from making declarations. While I know no more than the average Canadian about the Indian Act or life on a reserve, I do know that I can’t make facile comparisons, that it is quite complicated, and that any Chief living in an impoverished community on James Bay is not living the high life. I have read enough of the initial coverage to know the condemned housing and the subsequent shortage is partially due to a diesel spill many years ago, and removal of the contaminated soil further complicates any development. I know that my youngest son will leave grade school this year knowing what a grade school building looks like, and that his graduationn photos will not show him covered in rashes from unclean water. I also know tents and uninsulated shacks are untenable as we head into winter, especially a James 40-below-zero Bay winter! So while it is great to have the information, I don’t really need it in order to demand that the same country that sent the army to my city to dig us out from a snowstorm react to a state of emergency on a reserve.

    Since Charlie Angus first posted his video, I am hit by waves of anger, but more than that, deep personal shame. Ashamed of my government’s reputation internationally for the treatment of First Nations people, ashamed that they have been right in ignoring the situation because of the apathy of the rest of us, and ashamed to think how many years I have known of the inequities, but have never acted upon them.

    Well, no more. I sense there is an opportunity to take advantage of this moment as mainstream media are paying attention, and to educate the country to the situation beyond Attawapiskat. I hope more people share this post. I am so thankful to have a new source to help educate me about the indignities happening in m own country, look forward to reading more from you. I wil be personally looking into ways that my skills can be put to good use by an organization working with aboriginal communities.

    • Norma says:

      Well said. I am so glad that I kept reading through this blog! Please consider sending this piece to the papers!

  78. Leigh says:

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  79. koinosuke says:

    Thanks for the clear analysis. I’ll be sharing this with the many naysayers. I will be writing my MP over this disgrace.

  80. Ryan says:

    this should be required reading before anyone is allowed to post ignorant comments on news websites….thanks for your research!!!!

  81. Alanna says:

    Your writing is clear, factual, well-supported — and also heartfelt. I hope that your piece gets the attention it deserves. I’ve emailed a link to the Edmonton Journal and the Globe and Mail’s new editors.

    Keep it up!

  82. John says:

    Even with this explanation….WHY DO NATIVES FEEL THAT TAXPAYERS SHOULD BE BUILDING AND MAINTAINING HOMES FOR THEM…shouldn’t they have some pride and build their own damn residence…everyone else does.

  83. Jeanette says:

    Thank you for this. Not an easy set of concepts to sum up but you’ve done it elegantly. Even I understand it! I’ve been hoping something like this would come along to share with others and help them understand. The vitriol has GOT to stop.

  84. Teika Newton says:

    Thank you SOOOOO much for posting this balanced, clever and insightful article. I’m reposting and sharing with my vast network. I fully agree with you – the average Canadian isn’t hateful or bigoted, but is just woefully ignorant about issues relating to Aboriginal people in Canada (and even more ignorant of the level of their ignorance). Thanks for your excellent work!!!

  85. Patti says:

    Thank you! This is exactly the corrective that is needed.

  86. A. Leo says:

    Given that there is an attachment to the land and some traditions as well as an interest in some things from non-Native culture, is there anyone with a clear vision of how things should evolve and play out ideally in the near future? What should your people be bringing to the table, and what should they be doing, and what should non-Natives be doing?

  87. the fascist cons, lying and fudging the truth yet again for their own fascist agenda. I suppose the people appointed by the fascist cons are only appointed to run the community into the ground, because people in the community complained.

  88. Nina Martin says:

    Hello, I emailed B.B. (found the name on some website and associated with a school?) yesterday. I have about a dozen to fifteen unwrapped kids toys. I wanted to send them to someone’s attention. They would be appropriate for kids between 6-10. Any chance of having a contact to send them to?

    Best wishes

  89. steve richter says:

    excellent writing. I find the negative posts on comment boards irritating as well. this does clear up a lot of stuff. I like the way you wrote this article as it seems to follow the natural rhythms and patterns that many Eurocentric jackasses travel along everytime they discuss a “Native Issue” without knowing – or having completely ignored -the facts laid out in front of them *(Us, I should say)….it seems as though every time they get into a debate and have been rebutted on all the points their end hail mary argument-for-sake-of-arguing-till-someone-acknowledges-their-self-ascribed-expertise seems to always be “why dont they just move to a better situated more accessible place”
    …it is as though they somehow think First Nation Communities decided democratically to live on the worst possible packages of land(sarcasm)…it is as though they think that the government is such a caring group of people with everyone’s best interest in mind and would ensure that the move would be to a better piece of land and its their fault, somehow they are standing in the way of the government doing something wonderful for them…so i like to argue back and say to fellow europeans (maybe it should be “you’re-a-peein”…as many are so often fond of trickle down economics)….: “what if your neighbors took over your house gradually, occupying more and more space in your house with their people, and claiming that rooms they dont even occupy they may need to occupy one day…then, when you have a leak in the ceiling of your room tell you to simply move rooms, but then tell you that all other rooms are off limits as the may need them at some point in the future, so they indicate you should try to use the side of the room where the ceiling isnt leaking, until they decide that they have money to fix the leak and they decide to give it to you and they decide to let you spend the money on fixing the leak at which point the leak is a big whole and repairs are now more costly than what they gave you to fix it and you have to fix it before the winter comes, which is a week away, then you start to feel ill from mold, cold and environmental factors so you tend to not be able to keep up with the work then you run out of resources and they say “see, we tried to help, you just dont want to work very hard, you mismanaged the funds we gave you to fix the house you used to inhabit but we claimed as our property, and now you want more money from us…lets do this…..the closet in that room is free of damages, and the next room’s closet is just behind it, so we will knock out that wall and you can spread out in that closet really nicely…..all four of you.”…..
    obviously, this little scenario could go on an on….and usually does until i get sick of trying to explain over the din of their continual baseless accusations or they throw their hands in the air and say”oh, i guess theres no clear solution, i dont know what those people want anymore” …..but form now on i will just get your link for this and give it to the person making comments……as it does a much better job more eloquantly….you should write a book! your a briliant writer! I noticed you mentioned studying, what are you studying…..?

    once in a while i encounter another form of idiocy in more educated people with no reason to be ignorant who argue that they heard that supplies were delivered toa community for building structure x, but someone stole the stuff and used it on their homes instead (even after maintaining that the community doesnt do anything to maintain their houses)….i think if a pile of building supplies sat there waiting for permissions to build something to be signed and no action being taken etc etc…i would bet my bottom dollar that any other community would say “we have immediate probs, we have immediate resources, lets get to work on this” and would be praised for their ingenuity and hard work…..

  90. Jess says:

    Great article. Very thorough and well-researched. I might add one comment about your last paragraph though. When you refer to “abolishing the Indian Act” as a negative approach you should be careful because many First Nations, while very aware of what the Indian Act does to protect the limited rights and supports they are offered by the Canadian Government, are now looking to move away from the Indian Act. It is an out-dated, racist, and paternalistic piece of legislation that was designed to eliminate First Nations, not protect them.

    What really needs to happen is that the relationship between the Canadian Government and First Nation governments needs to be redefined so that both parties sit at the bargaining table as equals. The Indian Act should be dismantled, albeit over time, and although I personally believe any replacement legislation would symbolically further the same paternalistic sentiment, the Canadian Government may have to draft up some sort of agreement that would hold them legally accountable for honouring Treaties and compensating First Nations for decades of abuses, ignored consultations, and misappropriation of lands. They should also be responsible for assisting First Nations as they transition out of the Western governance systems (band councils) that were imposed on them under the Indian Act so that they may return to traditional forms of governance that actually WORKED and made sense within their cultural context.

    That point noted, I really appreciate the time and thought you put into this article. I will be sharing this widely 🙂

    • “Abolishing the Indian Act” in the way some people suggest doing it is negative, in my opinion. It is often offered up as a panacea, and argued on a rights based platform when it really means assimilation.

      I agree the Indian Act needs to go. However, I want it replaced with self-governance and structures in place to support communities. Pulling the proverbial rug out from under First Nations by just waving a wand and making the Indian Act disappear is not a good solution for anything.

      I note you understand this and discussed it though, so my comments are more in the way of agreement 🙂

  91. thevillagegeek says:

    “You see, for non-natives, the provinces are in charge of funding things like education, health-care, social services and so on. For example, the Province of Ontario allocated $10,730 in education funding per non-native pupil in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. ”

    I understand the need to clearly distinguish the federal and provincial responsibility for different populations, but I question the description of all people off reserve and out of the INAC system as “non-natives”. Plenty of Metis, Inuit in Ontario and non-status people would disagree.

    • I lost track of this post, glad I found it. I myself am Métis. I consider myself native, and consider Inuit and non-status as native too. Not everyone might share this definition, so I wished to clarify. Thank you for your comment!

  92. Kelly says:

    Very impressive article and discussion, if not for the bands businesses the situation would be even worse i imagine. I wanted to discuss Chief salary, i myself am a gov’t employee and i make more than this chief, i would never want to take a paycut to put myself in this position that has too many difficult issues to deal with. Even paying taxes i probably make more than this chief, and yet were does my taxes go? it doesn’t help my people, it goes to musuems and art galleries and sports facilities that my kids are discriminated against for the top teams even though they were drafted #1 in the league. As an off reserve indian i get tired of the double standard, why are indians on welfare and then why should they get our jobs? Equal opportunity debate- if we leave quotas off the table i will still be the only indian in our company of 150 for another 100 years.

  93. LC says:

    Loved the article and I’m so glad you cleared it up! We need more people like you. Who can get straight to the point with facts! Also want to say To Our Cree brothers & sisters Stay Strong! Your in my grasp for change 🙂

  94. Anita Huggins says:

    Although I do agree with the bulk of your information, I am really struggling with the idea of the comparisions of Salaries on and off reserve. A Chief on reserve who makes $71k a year can not be compared to a person making that same amount money of reserve. For example, my salary may be $56k a year, but I only actually get to keep $36k of that. Therefore, when we read of Chiefs & Councillor’s making $36 a year, that translates to $56 off reserve. To actually take home the $71k this chief does, my salary would need to be over $100k!

    • Fair enough. I can see how it might work to compare net earnings.

      I still do not understand how it is relevant, however. I’m not dismissing it, but I would like more of an explanation of why this is brought up so often. What does this salary mean to you? What do you think her salary should be, and on what basis do you make that judgment?

      I don’t have all the answers, and I too have plenty of questions:)

      • FN Councillor CC says:

        This “tax-free income” argument always irks me. Canadians enjoy many tax breaks and advantages annually. Every year come tax preparation time, Canadians and/or their accountants are busy making sure that each individual pays as little income tax as possible and even resort to loopholes to do so. Why should First Nations be looked upon any different than any other person who makes a concerted effort to pay as little income as possible? I would like to believe the reason there is no tax collected is because the government recognizes the nation-to-nation relationship…one nation cannot tax another nation. The members of First Nations who work on reserve are the only people who enjoy this exemption (eh hem.) Off-reserve members of First Nations do not enjoy tax-free income because the government decided that once you leave the First Nation, you are no longer eligible even though you remain a member of the nation they agreed not to tax.

        The recent stories and studies about Chiefs’ salaries was just another example of the government blowing stuff out their behind. There are VERY FEW Chiefs who make those huge salaries…and the Chief of Attawapiskat is certainly not one of them. The travel expenses in the north are shocking…of course these expenses would be high. Where is people’s common sense? Have they looked at a map to see where this First Nation is? Can they even fathom the cost of living in the north?

        • morehistory says:

          FN Councillor CC says:
          Where is people’s common sense? […] Can they even fathom the cost of living in the north?

          I think common sense departs when peoples rage and bigotry take over.

          You say, quite rightly, that Chief Spence’s Salary doesn’t seem that out of line, in context. However, when you are trying to make a point, it’s easier to get angry and generate lots of heat, rather then do some research to see if that is reasonable.

          Light always beats heat in these things, but why try and dispel your own misconceptions when they do such a good job of supporting your argument, facts be damned?

        • That being said…the North is a very different place. It is a region most Canadians have not had experience with. Most Canadians live within a few hundred miles at most of the US border, and the North can be as far away financially and geographically as Europe or Latin America. And where are you going to choose to travel, if you have the chance? Inuvik, or Varadero?

          I was pretty ignorant about the North until I moved there. It really felt like I’d relocated to a different country…a mostly English speaking one, but very different culturally and geographically than anything I’d known. I lived on the third floor of an apartment building on stilts that sat a story above the permafrost, and that swayed in the wind. I saw children walking to school on top of the insulated above-ground utilidors (utility conduits) rather than slogging through waist-deep snow. I endured the bizarre sleeplessness that comes when the sun is up at 3pm and 3am.

          I recognise that Inuvik is higher up in the North than Attawapiskat…but there are a lot of similar challenges. I don’t expect Canadians to understand this intuitively if they’ve never seen it. It’s not impossible to learn about, however, even if you don’t actually go up there.

      • morehistory says:

        I think the line of thinking goes something like this:
        “Politicians are all corrupt. They get tons of money directly (salary), and then since they get to decide how to spend money, they either get kickbacks or are employing their family and friends to do “work” (whether it really gets done or not) and enriching themselves.”

        I came here after wading through a board full of “I want to see what the Chief’s house looks like” and “Follow the money”, since our PM ordered a review. I was disgusted, of course, because the Attawapiskat were under co-management, which meant an outsider appointed by the government was overseeing all monies being spent. This is
        in addition to the fact that the Attawapiskat have their financials on their website. One post had a link here, and it was very informative.

        While I had done some research on my own, it was clear that I had a definite information deficit in this regard. I’m sure that our “armchair auditors” are much less informed. Thank you for your effort to bring light where previously there was only heat.

  95. Cameron McNamee says:

    I think this was very well written and should have been posted to the major newspapers. I am following a link given in one of the comments posted in one of the threads in the Globe and Mail. I do have some questions and forgive me if I seem racist; I am not. I just want to understand some of the whys and wherefores.

    First of all, my question has to go to the size of governance. Why are so many Councilors needed? Is this not an area where money could be better spent?

    Secondly, I saw the following – also in the Globe – and I am wondering to what truth there is in it or to what extent the truth lay:

    “Amount in De Beers business contracts with Attawapiskat related to mine construction and operation: $325 million. And they have a poverty problem?

    Go the the Attawapiskat Website and check out their financials. From what I read they have several corporations that provide administration services for the Arena Facility, Health Services, Educational Services, etc. One corporation is the Attawapiskat Power Corp (how can people not have hydro, if they own a Power Corp?) They also own 1/3 share of Five Nations Power Corp which put in the Western James Bay Transmission Line- 275 kms of power lines servicing several reserves and the DeBeers Mine. They have a stake in the luxury Casino Rama in Southern Ontario and receive dividends from there. They have $108M in assets. They have 7,264,301 assets in Loans and Mortgages. Debeers has money given them money that the Band as put in trust for the members.

    This is a small reserve of 2800 registered members with only 1293 living on-rserve. Why is anyone on this TINY reserve living in poverty? Where is the money from the federal and provincial govt going? Where is the money from their various corporations, Casino Rama, and deBeers going to – it certainly doesn’t seem to be filtering down to ALL the members of this reserve.”

    As a fellow Canadian citizen, I am very concerned with why Natives have not pressured for the elimination of the INAC and, in my mind (please correct me if I am wrong) the apartheid-like situation which the system of “Reserves” has created.

    And thirdly, as an ex-teacher (high school and college), I am concerned about the manner in which education is not only administered, but also the pedagogy behind any schooling done, whether it is relevant and takes into account the history and culture of FN’s and how new methodologies in delivery could be of any assistance.

    I could go on, but I think this is a good start in my “Education”. If any of this could be addressed, it would be greatly appreciated.


  96. Heather says:

    I really learned so much from your article. I wonder if you would have time to explain what ‘third party management’ is – and what you think of it in this situation?

    • I know little about third-party management at this point. It is something I will research, however. The information is out there, both what it is meant to be, and how it is actually administered. It is an investigation we can (and should) all engage in.

      • Tahneeyah says:

        Each year, a First Nation must submit an audit conducted by an independent auditor.

        If an audit shows a cumulative deficit of more than 8% of total revenue, the First Nation goes into Intervention status.

        There are 3 levels to intervention:

        1. Remedial Action Plan – the First Nation develops a one-year plan to improve the financial situation on their own. ANAC monitors to ensure improvement. If it worsens, it does to the next step.

        2. Co-Management – the First Nation along with the help of an independent professional (accountant) develop a plan to improve the FN’s financial situation. ANAC monitors. If the co-management agreement fails to improve, it goes to the next step.

        3. Third Party Management – this level of intervention occurs when a First Nation is unable or unwilling to improve their financial situation.

  97. Frank Fiddler says:

    To bad, the mainstream society are to IGNORANT and STUPID to take time to read this small message.

  98. taxedman says:

    I was immediately suspicious when I saw Harper standing there in the House effectively saying “I don’t understand.. they got 93 million, that should be enough for anyone…”

    It’s just typical of his government’s apathy on the matter.

    Thank you for shedding light, it becomes obvious pretty quick that they’re just playing politics.

    • I think Mr. Harper does not understand. I believe him.

      Is this acceptable, however?

      Absolutely not.

      • Anna says:

        Really? Do you really think Mr. Harper doesn’t understand? I’m really trying to understand all of this, and this comment definitely caught me off guard. It has been my understanding and/or assumption that the government is well aware of the conditions on many reserves, and that the relationship the government has established with First Nations has been systematically and intentionally designed to keep First Nations communities from prospering.

        I’ve seen the Canadian government’s overseas development projects – they use “best practices”, they have clear mandates and objectives, they make good use of monitoring & evaluation procedures. I can’t believe that the situation at home is an accident or an oversight.

        • GInger says:

          Why would the federal government intentionally prevent First Nations communities from prospering? (I understand that there are many, mostly bureaucratic/legislative reasons why many First Nations communities are not flourishing, but wouldn’t intentionally preventing prosperity puts the government on the line for more money to fix the problem when it gets out, instead of preventing it in the first place?

        • M.S. says:

          Ginger, that’s an excellent question: Why would the federal government intentionally prevent First Nations communities from prospering? Why did the Harper government fail to fund the Kelowna Accord after the passage of Kelowna Accord Implementation Act (2008)? For a little background:
          We need them to provide us with some answers for their inaction.
          Unfortunately, I think, as well, the finger needs to be pointed back at us because we have not insisted that the government must address aboriginal issues and concerns. Aboriginal peoples are approx. 4% of our population and until non-aboriginal Canadians step up and show support I fear our federal government will continue to act along the same lines as it has previously.

        • Anna says:

          I wish I knew. Some combination of political hot potato and fear of losing control over resources? There’s an awful lot of disputed land out there, holding an awful lot of lumber, water, oil, and minerals. I cannot believe that the government couldn’t be doing better if they were really trying. They’re not stupid, and I can’t imagine they haven’t noticed that money isn’t the problem. But I’m sure someone else knows better than I do.

          To address your last point, arguments to make investments in people now because it’s cheaper than the ensuing welfare, prison, healthcare, and other costs associated with poverty have never held any ground in Ottawa.

        • Hope Livesinme says:

          “I think Mr. Harper does not understand”

          I would say that too. Because the thought that “our” collective leader, our “indian affairs” minister, and sometimes even our very own chief and councils would put their own “agenda” above the well being of their own people is just so …… “I don’t know the right word”, but it tears at the soul. (so to speak). And as a human being who cares about other human beings regardless of their skin color or where they live, it’s hard for the heart to grasp that that kind of “heartlessness” exists in others. Especially “our” leader.

          I say we can have sustainability. Our Lands around us “the reserves” are I would say super rich. ie. The ring of fire. The ring of fire is not the only multibillion dollar venture that will be in the north. There are more “parcels” of land which are being explored and which have just as much if not more than “the ring of fire”. I know this first hand, because there is another “trapline” (parcel of land) that has a deposit said to be larger than the ring of fire. It is a “battle” that has only just begun. They (multibillion dollar companies and the government) will get their fair share I’M POSITIVE about that part… But will “they” let us share in this too?

          Our traditional hunting lands will be raped and polluted, Nature will ABSOLUTELY be affected. It will not AT ALL remain the same or even close to the same. They are taking out HUGE,,,, MASSIVE chunks of land. And they are right now trying to “force feed” us the idea that the land WILL remain the same or “very” close to it. Really?!? The Government and multibillion dollar and smaller companies (Multimillion) really expect us to believe this. Our chiefs are fighting for accountability on this and all the other money stuff that goes with it. (Matawa First Nations) The “gov and $$ are” trying their darndest to fast track this. Why? I really honestly don’t know the motive behind the fast tracking.

          We “Canadians” in the true north, strong and free 🙂 live in a land that is “ultra-rich” in resources. Water, minerals and I’m sure there will be more resources found. Yet the government allows $$ from outside of Canada to take most of these profits home to their “stakeholders”. For what? So that “Harper” can say that he’s bringing jobs in. At what cost. Short term,, jobs for some Canadians,,,, Long term …. the non canadian $$ take their profits and leave us with the land that is left.. and no more jobs.

          Fresh “life sustaining” water will be eventually undrinkable, therefore making the animals that drink and live in that water inedible.. Because we are Canadian, and it is so abundant, we forget how in other parts of the world water is more precious than gold. The water, it will go. As it is going in other parts of the world. Our very own neighbors (USA) are as we speak running out of water to supply their nation. Look it up. Also check out the “Blue Gold” documentary. It will awaken you to a new understanding on the importance of our freshwater.

          My post is so long, but still have more to say. I’m trying to make it as short as possible.. 😛

          Another part is understanding of the human being. super short form on how my life has so far developed.

          1. our parents went to residential school. This is where they learned their life skills..
          —– Life skills – be ashamed of who you are as a native person. no hugs, love or compassion or even communication. Not taught how to live in the “white world” aka money sense, politics, rights etc. etc. STRICT discipline. All out beatings,, rape, sometimes gang rape (from 4 to 9) and everyone look away and don’t talk about that part. it doesn’t exist. NO MISTAKES are allowed to be made. OR ELSE. among other things. Look it up. Mine is not the only story like this and there are worse and some have not lived this, but definitely parts of it.

          3. These are the values that our parents learned in residential schools, (oh not just that, they also learned manners and how to speak english); therefore; this is how we were taught.

          4. No idea how to properly function as a “healthy” adult. But I did function. had a job, LOVE to work. had children….

          5. The having children part changed my world. Coming from that nightmare of a childhood I knew that there had to be something “opposite” of that and I would do everything that I COULD to give them that life.. tried raising them in the rez for a bit. but there are little to no resources there for someone trying to change their life for the better.

          6. Education and therapy… HAD to move to urbania for my children to have a chance at life. My children have dreams and I hope to help them achieve those all the while I am learning how to live and be healthy, hoping to “yahknow” and back that I haven’t messed them up. and can only hope to rectify and make it better for them. Moving to Urbania has been ABSOLUTELY a struggle. The amount of racism we receive on an almost DAILY basis is just so hard on the soul. JOBs ha ha ha ha. we were on welfare after our savings ran out. But us and welfare. NO. That is not a good mixture.. But THANK GOODNESS for odd jobs here and there for my partner, but nothing permanent, cuz you know, he’s brown. 😛

          7. We’ve only just begun. We have hope. My children will be the best of both worlds combined and in my soul I know that they will do great things.

          Maybe that will give you a bit of understanding from where some of us come from. and not be so quick to assume that we are all healthy individuals who had wonderful nurturing childhoods.

          We “natives” as a people lack education. We as a nation lack “understanding”.

          We are two great nations. IMAGINE what we could do TOGETHER. I believe we could have the greatest nation in the world, if only we would put aside our differences and “assumptions”.

      • Kathy says:

        He may not understand, but may be too willing to grab on to “facts” given to him by minister and a civil service looking to cover themselves – “facts” that play into his preconceptions. That after all is easiest for all of us. But he has a responsibility here.
        May I ask about solutions, maybe not magical but more incremental. In addition to immediately implementing the Audit General’s recommendations, what else should we be pushing for?

  99. Desiree says:

    An article even I can understand and learned a lot from. Thank you!

  100. Paxalot says:

    When will people wake up and realize the reserve system is now and has always been a human-rights disaster? Do you know that statistics on child sexual abuse on reserves? When you look it up your hair will curl. The only reason the reserve system is kept up is because the native elders and their clans profit handsomely from it. Ask anyone that has actually worked on a reserve and they’ll tell you all about it. What we have in Canada is a native elite that demand apartheid for it’s members. It’s sick. It should end with a national referendum terminating the Indian act and absorbing the native population into the rest of the country. Unless you think native children should be condemned to a live of poverty and abuse, it’s a fight worth fighting.

    • I see a post that refuses to consider suggestions made by Royal Commissions, by Auditor Generals, by Federal Ombudsmen and many others. I see a post that pretends to care about aboriginal peoples, while calling for a ‘final solution’ of full cultural assimilation. I see human rights brought up as justification for violating our human rights, and I wonder at the hypocrisy.

      I see a false dichotomy, and I reject it.

      I’m sorry, but you aren’t asking for solutions. I am very aware of the problems our communities face. I am also aware of our strengths, and our beauty, and the richness of our culture. Please do not pretend to advocate for us when what you suggest is more injustice on top of what we already face.

    • FN Councillor CC says:

      I don’t think any government in the past took into consideration human rights for Natives when establishing Canada. It toook them a very long time to consider us as human, let alone consider what they did as genocide which is the true intent.

      Please post a link to the statistics on child sexual abuse in First Nations…and post a link to the statistics on child sexual abuse in simlar sized rural and remote “mainstream” towns and settlements. Then factor in the multiple generations who were victims of abuse while under the care of the Government of Canada in the residential schools,dayschools and childprotection agencies.

      “Native Elders and their clans” Hmmm? Can you please provide the names of the First Nations and the specific Elders and clans in question. You are just another who has bought into the hype. I can tell you that when I ask people who have worked on our First Nation, not one of them will tell about any “native elite” because we don’t have any.

      You must know the purpose of the residential schools, among many other initiatives of Government are a means to assimilation, as you describe. Look at how well that turned out, dolt.

      I think the Government never expected we would be so strong, so resilient…we are still here! S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E!!!! Our voices are getting stronger, louder and united as more and more join us in identifying and calling for better treatment of our people and our children.

  101. fatherbuffalo says:

    Many maybe attached to there lands but far more complain daily that they where sent to reserves built on swamp or muskage,since mankind migrated all over the world they moved if there is no food or resources to make shelter they moved,today its either you take one step forward or one step back,take that step forward the people can thrive and should be a rich nation,take one step back then you go back to making homes out of hides and hunting and living off the lands which is our rights,but life is what you make of it,step forward or step backwards its up to you,the children today deserve much better and should not be stuck and able to educate and move on to bigger and better lives,children are our future and should not have to stay or be stuck in our past,we used to preserve seven generations ahead for our kids not fall seven generations back.

    • P says:

      Thank-you. I think natives and non-natives alike WANT to see that step taken.

      Here is a major crux. No-one can stop a person from being a bigot, a racist or whatever they are inclined to be. However, they are only an individual. GOVERNMENTS and LAWS should be made without any inclination or interference of race, religion, creed sex or other discrimination. But what we have are laws and governments – and yes treaties – BASED on race, creed, religion, sex, any other such discriminations. The result. It breeds contempt, it breeds racism, mistrust and generations of anger.

      So why don’t we all just move to take those steps? I know I have mistrust, anger and contempt that can be done without. I know native and non-natives alike have these, many of the fueled by the same laws intended to remove them. But we all have children, who all deserve a future without these laws and these horrible angers.

      Maybe we need to remove the discrimination from law and from government rules, and from treaties. Can’t we all just be people?

      P.S. Maybe one day I won’t have to type native and non-native…I can type “people”
      I am Canadian. I have a heritage too. But, I identify as Canadian first, and respect my heritage for what else it gives me as I move forward.

      • starhC says:

        I agree, I don’t think we have to ‘assimilate’ anyone to treat everyone in this country as equals. There has to be a better way and the treaties and Indian Act seem to be divisive and not accomplishing anything that either ‘side’ hopes for their children in the future.

  102. Gail says:

    Many non native people are about the all important education except when it comes to learning the real history of the relationship between themselves and native people. But don’t despair over the comments of these ignoramuses. Because while these people point a finger at Native people through their negative, ignorant and downright stupid comments what they actually are doing is telling the world what idiots they are. We like anyone else in this world have problems to deal with. And I am damn proud to be Native!

  103. Kris says:

    Thank you for this!

  104. Cathryn Atkinson says:

    Hi there,

    I would love to reprint this piece on — we would provide a link to your blog and attribution. Can you email me at ?

    Thanks and great work!

    Cathryn Atkinson
    News Editor

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  106. Rosemary White says:

    Thank you âpihtawikosisân, for an informative and unbiased explanation. Like many others I believe it is important to make this information known widely. I’m a subscriber to and think it would be a good place to start. Not all national newspapers will give the whole story.

  107. Vicks says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve been following the Attawapiskat housing crisis in the media recently, but none of the “journalism” that I’ve been reading comes close to being as informative as your post. The fact that you’re able to stay positive (in your post and in response to some comments) and avoid the mud-slinging that sensitive issues often causes is particularly refreshing. Keep up the great work!

  108. georgina weber says:

    gobbledygook translated with gentle granny wisdom from a young single mom warrior! mahsi cho…xgeo

  109. Vince Genereaux says:

    Canada’s Master Plan at Work, divide and conquer / no soup for you attitude. AANDC’s 3rd party Intervention policy should not be used as a tool to punish the First Nation as a whole for the actions of a few. Some First Nations have not had access to Section 95 based loans in years and it’s the People’s health and well being that are adversely affected by this policy. Some of these long-term 3rd partied communities have up to 40% fewer homes than similar size populations and they as a community are suffering with the effects of overcrowding including increased and yes even catastrophic health and social problems. The housing department’s meagre dollars go towards the impossible challenge of trying to maintain a unit that is severely overused and they simply cannot keep up any longer. First Nations have written numerous letters warning funders of the catastrophe that was and is now reality for these communities affected by AANDC’s intervention policy. There must be a better strategy developed in order that the people are no longer placed in these discriminatory and in-human situations, situations that contravene the universal human rights act to adequate shelter and the government must be taken to task on this.

    Main stream says why don’t they move away, find a job and quit bitching but they don’t do their research before making these types of comments. Relatively speaking, First Nations were only very recently allowed to leave the communities they were placed at and in some cases they were made to sell treaty rights in order to do so. When these archaic laws changed, the discrimination was set in like concrete and First Nations people had to work twice as hard to prove themselves and even that was not enough. Trust me we lived it, a lot of our people simply gave up and it will take generations to even begin to reverse the effects of the cultural genocide that happened.

  110. Karrie Oliver says:

    This is fuel for the fires of change. Thank you.

  111. John P. B. says:

    WOW Totally amazing, I’m a non-native grew up in Northern Ontario and have forever felt sorry for the way we have treated our native people. I recall first hand many situations to this day that have never left my memory. We lived in a mining company supplied and maintained home with all the luxuries. Not more that a quarter mile away we could watch from our windows the activities of the local native families who lived on what we called Hiawatha Drive. There had to of been at least a dozen one room shanties, no running water cause you could watch everyone carrying their water buckets back to their sub standard dwellings. I don’t recall our school bus ever picking up any of the kids.
    Funny how the present government wants us to pick on someone, I was wondering who would be in their line fire after all the issues with the CBC had dried up. A month ago our youngest asked the question as to why we (Canada) was sending millions to corrupt foreign countries in aid when we had situations right here at home that should be dealt with first. Please keep informing us with the truth, you are a bright fresh light, Thanks

  112. That is a great read. and you are an interesting writer. sadly ( a word I use too often ) I deal with harper and his psychosis on a daily basis so that word come up all too often. I would ask a favour. I would be delighted to have you read and comment on a post that I wrote overnight last night, It is at which is my blogs home page, but it is a doorway to all of it of course. I did not finish reading this, but I certainly will do that as soon as I have eaten my fill.

    Enspiring stuff. It reminds of my early days when there were always racists and creepy people all over any thread that even mentioned a first nation. There is actually a poem there (on my blog) that i would love to share with you as I wrote it one day a few years ago while consoling a friend who had had her fill. It might interest you.

    I am inspite of my name a white caucasian male, but I am not sterotypical. The name Kim is a throwback to a day when all Kim’s were male. Kim Novak stole it from us and she was a next generation Marilyn Monroe type who popularized her adopted name within a couple of years in the late 50’s.

    Like I said I am no expert on the subject of native culture, but I do have a couple of questions and would love to be able to insuly Syephen Harper while being witty in a few more languages. My field is free thought. . Please drop in there and give me your impressions of the blog that Iam referring to or to which I am referring if you are a pureist,it is entirely your call.. I never like to offend ~ at least not un-intentially. I can be rather intense when necessary though, but generally i only need to play that card once. Again, âpihtawikosisân, amazing!

  113. karen says:

    What a great article. Its just driving me nuts how Harper is turning the whole problem into “where did that 90 million go?”, and getting the general public thinking that the Attawapiskat Nation brought in on themselves. Hello! These people are suffering in CANADA, and that is unacceptable. Period. I am hopeful that such national coverage will inform many people who, by no real fault of their own, were unaware of the vast problems First Nations face.
    A doc on Attawapiskat;

  114. Dave Benson says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been following the Attawapiskat story intently since it broke and trying to educate myself about the issues. Your blog is the clearest and most thorough source of information I’ve found. Please keep writing.

  115. Lisa Deanne Smith says:

    Thank you!

  116. Tahneeyah says:

    Thank you for clarifying this.

    I was a band administrator for 2 years and I’m going on my 6th year on band council (3 times elected to 2 year terms). My First Nation is small population-wise and with road access in close proximity to an urban centre. We don’t have a school as our population is small.

    I knew the moment Harper mentioned $90M over 5 years given to Attawapiskat, that he would anger Canadians that do not know the costs of running a community.

    Most people don’t realize the costs of operations: grading roads, infrastructure maintenance, maintaining water and wastewater plants and lift stations, maintaining any heavy equipment, paying utilities on community buildings (Ontario Hydro rates are outrageous!), paying for what health services are provided in the community, insurance costs, emergency service costs (to the local municipality).

    And then there are the people we must hire…our band staff. These workers don’t get anywhere near what they should be earning….we average $11-13 per staff member. That is including Water Treatment Plant Operators that are required to take the same certified training as Operators working in a municipality!

    The housing dollars my community receives would build .75 of a house per year. In Kenora, the low estimate by contractors to build a 1200 square foot bungalow averages $160 per square foot. That is $192,000 per house. Now double or triple that estimate to include shipping of materials to a northern remote community like Attawapiskat or any fly-in First Nation in Canada!

    How callous of the Conservative government to blame the Chief and Council!! First Nations reporting is endless! If late, funding is suspended immediately. And if we submit an audit that does not meet GAAP standards, the FN audit is flagged and placed into “Intervention” status. This does not to be the case with Attawapiskat. Their audits are online…NO mismanagement declared by the independent auditor.

    Didn’t Conservative MP Tony Clement dole out $50 million in his own riding to host the G8 Summit? There were no paper work to show checks and balances!! What does Harper do to rectify the mismanagement of Canadian dollars? He promotes Clement to President of the Treasury Board! How insane is that?? The Harper Conservatives need to appoint a third part manager over Tony Clement.

    Thank you for going into detail on the matter of financial management in Attawapiskat.

    Believe it or not, there are quite a number of Chiefs and Band Councils that honestly care for their communities, we work hard, we try to make our limited dollars stretch but we are not miracle makers. If Canada would honour our treaties, we would not be in this situation.

    Thank you for letting me vent.

    • Norma says:

      Thanks for venting! We need to know these things. I am sure the average Canadian with basic math skills has been taking 90 million and dividing it by 1500 people and thinking WTF…I myself thought the 90 million was for housing alone.

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience. We need more of this to counter the accusations and falsehoods that pass as reality for too many.

  117. Julie says:

    Chi meegwetch, âpihtawikosisân. I hope it’s okay that we added this blog post to the recommended reading for an urgent action that KAIROS launched last week. We will be adding a commentary of our own on the government’s responses to this crisis, but your piece says so much that non-Aboriginal people need to hear, in a way that will get many of us thinking. We want to promote it.

  118. Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough research. Sechanalyagh (thank you).

  119. You have it mostly right. You didn’t mention Tribal Councils which are in place to assist each community (with varying degrees of success). There are required inspections of all band owned buldings such as daycares, schools, fire halls, etc., as most TC’s are mandated (and funded) to have a qualifed housing inspector and a qualified fire inspector. There is also a regular requirement for a third party to inspect band owned assets (ACRS report) which forms the basis for INAC funding for minor (core) capital that each community receives to maintain these facilities.

    New houses can be paid for out of minor capital at the expense of maintaining other community buildings–and generally, bands use minor capital to service the CMHC loans they get to build houses (CMHC provides loans/mortgages) as few are successful in collecting rent to actually repay the loan (that is a whole article in itself).

    You touched upon the delay in receiving band funding but not on some of the significant consequences. Because most contractors require payment, these sometimes significant delays in getting funding (funding can be held up until paperwork unrelated to it is sent in by the band), there are few contractors who will work with First Nations and most charge ‘premium prices’. Its the same with suppliers who are well known to have “Indian Housing Packages” which are substandard but when you can’t guarantee timely payment, the bands take what they can. The push for new housing by band members is relentless and results in excessive turnover in band elected officials. Since it takes several years to learn how the funding system works, the frustations mount.

    All the best.

    • An excellent post, helping to clarify even more, thank you! Some of the news articles did mention how delayed funding can cause costs to mount because of the short construction season in northern communities. Housing itself is a huge issue with so much to look at and understand. I have always wondered how any Chief and Council, usually with a turn-around of two years, can get up to speed and get anything accomplished before the next election. I do know how long it takes to figure any of this out…I’ve spent years at it and I still don’t have it completely understood!

  120. Vicki McCulloch says:

    The facts well presented and so very timely.

  121. Charles Boylan says:

    Thank you for compiling this invaluable information. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators’ Human Rights & International Solidarity Committee (BC college & university teachers union) will hear from Chief Bob Chamberlain, Kwicksutaineuk-Ah-Kwaw-Ah-Mish First Nation, this Friday (Dec 2) on the water crisis in many Indigenous peoples’ villages and reserves. The Attawapiskat Nation has the ardent support of informed, democratic and humane Canadians coast to coast to coast! (This excludes the Harper government of course).

  122. Tim Lemieux says:

    With regards to the comments about non-natives not understanding the attachment to the land, is it not similar in some ways to Newfoundlanders being forced to move when their traditional livelihoods were destroyed when the cod fisheries collapsed? People had to leave to find work, but it they still kept the ties to their culture.
    Or going back further, Sicilians who were faced with poor prospects at home emigrated to North America, but still kept ties with the motherland and their culture. They still consider themselves proud Sicilians in some cases.
    Wouldn’t the land still be there for any that wanted to visit and reconnect with their roots, even if people left the reserves to find work and opportunities elsewhere?

    • As I mentioned earlier, I definitely think of Atlantic Canadians when it comes to issues that natives and non-natives share. I appreciate your words.

      • Glen Fiddler says:

        Share is what the Governments and immigrant Canadians should LEARN. We as Anishinabek(Natives if you like) never said that that tree, rock, or water is OURS but the creators! We never defaced the land for personal gain and we SHARED our land as we were taught to do so. Expoitation does not exist in our customs…WE are at the point of being pushed to the level of labelling what BELONGS to us but in reality does not. We are to share the wealth of Gods creations and thats how we are rich…is it so hard to share the wealth that was given to us? o yeah! WE signed a Treaty that not a single Native knew what it meant! Now thats sharing? If the Tax payers were educated on how the first people of this land were cheated out of a deal(Treaty) then EVERY Native Canadian wouldnt be in such a state of poverty! But WE are still rich in our pride and when we face judgement one day then I am glad to say that I did not exploit the creators gift to us. If only they could understand what sharing a piece of pie means and not just the crumbs! Peace ya’ll

  123. isjustian says:

    Thank you for this education!
    One point that didn’t come up here — why don’t the people of Attawapiskat build using the trees available from surrounding forest? I read elsewhere that because the forest is Crown land the people are not allowed to log, nor mill logs if they did! It’s like hog-tying someone then saying “Why don’t you get up?”

  124. kim says:

    thank you.

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  126. Shannon says:

    This is an excellent article and details clearly a perspective on the situation with many northern native communities. Our country is large, and the balance of funding services where the majority of the population resides is overwhelming, never mind in northern and small communities. However when I read about the conditions that some children in Attawapiskat are living in, I find it heart breaking. While I can understand the importance of being connected to the land is to the writer, I do not understand putting connection with land (or a building, or any other life style choice) over the feeding, basic shelter and education of children. If living in a particular location, or a building or anything else means your children will suffer, then move. A adult’s right to be live where and how they choose should not infringe on the basic health and well-being of a child, ever. As important as a cultural connection is to children, it cannot be considered more important than basic housing, food, medical care and education.

    • Anna says:

      There are a lot of pro-moving arguments in these comments, and I understand and agree with them all if we’re talking about, say, someone from North Bay moving to Ottawa, or someone from a small fishing town in Newfoundland moving to Nova Scotia, or even someone from Sicily moving to North America. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’d say a closer analogy to expecting First Nations to move to urban areas where there are more opportunities would be to expect all Greeks to leave Greece, move to the country and city of their choosing, and to have all the Greek land taken over by the rest of Europe. They’re having some financial problems, so why don’t they just close up shop and move on?

      It’s ridiculous to think of a entire nation throwing in the towel, giving up their land, and dispersing. Every person who chooses to migrate in search of better opportunities is leaving a homeland behind that continues to exist in their absence.

  127. Mona says:

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to educate us. Your post should be required reading for every journalist and politician!

  128. Susan Wood says:

    Great article! When the House of Commons is full of accusations of mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility by government ministers (Peter Mackay & Tony Clement, among others), how dare these same people treat a State of Emergency in a community as a means to once again denigrate First Nations people!

  129. ElliMinty says:

    To all those who are trying to understand land attachments:

    I am from Northern Ontario. I’m not Native, but I can — and believe that you can too — understand the attachment to reserves.

    The attachment is not to living in the country vs the city, nor is it a small vs big community problem. It’s more fundimental that all of this. Think of your home when you were a child. Each landmark had a special significance. Now imagine that instead of just your childhood, that home had been in your family for generations. Your playroom was also your mother’s playroom, and her mother’s playroom. Maybe a hundred years ago, your great-grandmother gave birth in there. Maybe before that she and her husband wedded in that same room. Suddenly it is a lot harder to consider leaving that house, isn’t it? When it has so much history. We live in a short-term society where we just toss anything outdated (like a printer out of ink), but some things still have meaning and a history (I don’t know about you, but I still have my first stuffed animal, and I’m nearing 30).

    Now imagine that instead of a single house, your entire neighbourhood has that same history. And maybe that history extends long past the longest time most of our families have lived on this continent. And then imagine that oral tradition and history means you don’t only know the history of your mother and her mother’s mother, but you have a personal knowledge of your family and friends dating back, remembered by storytellers and marked by specific places around you. Now expand that some more: maybe the lake I grew up beside really does have a cave where the great spirit once slept for the winter. Maybe that spirit was the guardian of my family. And maybe my family is related only by blood but by friendships and community.

    Now you start to get the picture. So when you suggest they leave the reserve — which is the only place that has been garuanteed to remain as it was so that a history of people is not erased. Europeans and those of European descent don’t really share those ties to the past, to our ancestry that you see in both Native and many Asian cultures, but we do often go in search of our family histories (, anyone?). Just because we don’t care preceisly when our ancestors crossed the ocean doesn’t mean no one cares.

    So no, we can’t just ask Native peoples to move. Their history, their wars, their living and their dead are tied to their home. Knowing all of this helps centre their culture. City people do yoga to go find their spiritual centres. Thing is, when you have physical anchors for your spiritual life you don’t have to go seeking through another cultures!

    There is no one true way. If you start from that, and maybe sit through a cleansing and dance through a pow-wow, you might better understand how a place can anchor history, and that can centre you. Or you can do what I do: wander, tasting cultures and taking joy in things that give them joy and try walking in someone’s boots.

    Incidentally: I totally need new Moccasins.

    • Kim says:

      Emotionally appealing, I can relate. But sometimes its time to leave, to grow up, move away from home, find work, maybe you can send money back to the family, help them out. You can always return. The writer of this blog now lives in Montreal, for example.

  130. Malina Adams says:

    Great Job, thank you for taking the time to help us make sense of what is going on.

  131. Joe gionet says:

    Wow thanks so much for bringing so much clairty to this issue I had no idea the amount some of our private sector is making shame really well many go hungry and homeless on our streets because of greed Im sure that all will be well and thanks again
    peace love and respect
    Joe Gionet

  132. For the Future says:

    Thank you for this article, It makes this the money end of this issue more clear! We are all aware of inequalities with salaries, and politicians flubbing numbers, I feel like it is something that i assume automatically. The truth is we all deal with that no matter were we live or what group we are part of. If the numbers you have highlighted are correct then indeed that is not enough to have a community back on its feet. But it should have made some impact.

    Something I would love feed back on is a story that i think of often, that hurts my heart because its the youth that suffer the most from these incidences.

    My father was a worker that was sent to build 20 homes on a reserve years ago, from the time they completed the structure and had returned to completed the wiring for electrical all the homes had been torn apart people had moved in before they were done and knocked out walls and insulation. Some was vandalism and some people were already living there. He said there were children there and the homes had been wrecked so bad that they would have had to rebuild the homes. At that point the budget was gone 😦 this was money wasted and to no benefit. I know this is not always the case, and may or may not be in the case disused above but with the “need for maintenance of older homes as a concern” when dose personal responsibility take place. And were are the stories about the community efforts to help its self? There must be numerous stories. Rallies? Fundraisers that they come together and help each other out? These types of stories inspire others in the community, and out side of the community, to note this as a cause that will not be a waste.

    I know the intent of this article was to show were the money has gone, but this is something that has garbed the hearts and attention on the country, we are all watching and want to see a glimmer of how this can be successful short of pumping cash in were is the heart?

  133. Matt says:

    From the great indigenous author Sherman Alexie:

    “The Indian world is full with charlatans, men and women who pretended- hell, who might have come to believe- that they were holy. Last year I had gone to a lecture at the University of Washington. An elderly Indian woman, a Sioux writer and a scholar and a charlatan, had come to orate on Indian sovereignty and literature. She kept arguing for some kind of separate indiginous literary identity, which was ironic considering she was speaking english to a room full of white professors. But I wasn’t angry with the woman, or even bored. No, I felt sorry for her. She was dying of nostalgia. She had taken nostalgia as her false idol -her thin blanket- and it was murdering her.”

  134. Matt says:

    Great blog post on a very difficult subject!

    Why did you leave Lac St. Anne?

    • Mostly it was for love. Very little else could have influenced me move.

      • Matt says:

        Ah, as is often the case!

        This issue is obviously unfathomably complex and it’s no help that many tend to oversimplify as people are wont to do. On one side you have those who view aboriginals who live on reserves as if they’re sitting around eating steak and lobster for dinner every night on the taxpayer dime vs those who accuse anybody of questioning the status quo of racism. Both of these poles serve to stifle meaningful dialog and I commend you for hosting an honest conversation here.

        The reason I asked you why you moved is that it’s apparent that in order to cultivate the skills with which you are now gracing society you had to leave. Though not impossible, presumably you would have a difficult time finding gainful employment in your small hometown. I too come from a small town and have had to move around for work at times and now-very fortunately- I am able to work back in the town which I love, though that may not last. So I understand the idea of attachment to place because I feel it first hand.

        Often this matter becomes more abstract than I think it needs to be and so I’ll try to paint a simple picture. Suppose you have remote reservation, on which there is of course a band of which 10% of the population works for. This reservation is very remote, on occasion there is seasonal work fighting forest fires or guiding tourists for fishing or hunting but otherwise very little. My question is very simple: what are you supposed to do with your time?

        Now historically many of these reservations were sited as trading posts or because they’re in locations where sturgeon, moose or other sustenance was abundant. Certainly today having a moose in the freezer come winter is desirable (and delicious) and hunting and fishing is an indisposable component of the culture and in some places putting food on the table. Hunting however is no longer a matter of life and death as it once was and as horrifyingly impoverished as remote communities now are they are far less labor intensive to sustain than the traditional method of living off the land. So what is a person to do? Literally: from when you wake up to when you go to bed, what?

        I have come to learn in life that the cancerous effect of boredom is not to be underestimated. The human brain is engineered to achieve things; to hunt, to craft a shelter, to protect and sustain your family so it can flourish. With this comes a sense of competence, of consequence to ones actions, of power. To feel one is not just competent but going from a position of less competence to greater competence. This is true of all peoples, all cultures. People are happier when they are doing something productive, this is a fact.

        I understand that aboriginals have an intrinsic attachment to the land on which they live, the rivers in which they fish, the forests where they hunt. However they also have a cognitive system that is the same as anyone else on the planet; it is built to achieve, to create, to become. As individuals we are all experiments on the part of nature and while I sympathize with the idea of attachment to place, if there’s nothing meaningful for you to do there either for yourself or your community you must leave to flourish.

        I have spent much time and have many friends in a fly-in reservation called Eabametoong in Northwestern Ontario. Last year, in this town of 1200 there were 3 murders and upwards of 90 incidents of arson. While I fully support a persons right to argue that this can be delineated as rooted in negligent government, I believe there are more complex issues at play.

        I thank you again for an informative article and discussion.

        • Nikpayuk says:


          The ideas you present are very interesting and worthy of much discussion. I in particular will start with an intriguing question of yours (for which I quote): “My question is very simple: what are you supposed to do with your time?”

          I am Daniel. My academic background is a single undergraduate bachelor of arts degree majoring in mathematics minoring in economics from the university of Alberta. I am Inuit, my parents are from Aklavik. The old way for my people is to acknowledge each other’s differences. This is why I have here given some of my background—before I continue. It is my way of acknowledging our differences, and showing respect; and so I share some background because who I am now is shaped by such background. Giving you insight into that allows us to begin talking. It is our “hand shake.”

          As for your question, it is something I have thought much about in my journey to reclaim my culture. I will now tell you a story; the narrative of which will tie together my existing ideas on the nature of this question. I do not look to provide answers. I am trained as a mathematician after all, and us math people don’t actually answer questions, we just point out the existing structures and underlying assumptions. I will do my best to live up to this claim.

          To begin, I would like to bring up one of the comments by âpihtawikosisân herself: “I do think that there is a general difficulty in recognising the validity of cultural differences however.” It is out of context here yet I believe it still translates well and is valid here.

          I have spent much time questioning the nature of “Euro-Canadian” culture (forgive my non-Inuit style of generalization here, it is the economist in me). I have done so, so that I may better be able to understand which parts of me are “Euro-influenced” and which parts of me are “Inuit-influenced.” My meditations on the nature of culture have led me to the following way of thinking:

          Attempting to reduce culture to a “key” concept or two is problematic. Regardless, I do think a contributing factor to the nature of culture is the idea of “ambiguity.” There are many common experiences in the lifespan of a human being. As people, we need to express these common experiences and so we end up with words for them.

          Take “water” for example. Putting the chemistry aside, water, in regards to life, is neutral. What if there is a small lake out on the land, and maybe a deer and a wolf drink from it. It maintains both animals even though there is a “natural order” in nature given the wolf will try to eat the deer. Yet the water itself is neutral, it has no order, it has no preference for either animal. Yet equally well, enough of it in the lungs of these animals will drown them both. It is ambiguous.

          Take “insanity” as another example. Again, I will generalize for economy, but in some parts of the western world, an insane person is viewed, at least intuitively, as someone who cannot think properly. This is likely given these groups of people place great value on rationalism. It is a priority. I say this because the “traditional” aboriginal view (again I recognize I generalize), is that an insane person is someone who cannot relate to other people properly. Notice for the clear examples of “insane” people, both of these intuitive understandings are correct. It’s just that Aboriginal people’s in general place greater societal value on relationships—a relational worldview. Not to say that Westerners don’t values relationships or that Aboriginal Peoples don’t value rational thinking. All of this is possible anyway, because insanity is another one of those experiences we as people need to express but is ambiguous.

          Then there are the classic examples like “life” and “death” and “love.” The human experience I tend to see as a universe with many tiny holes. We have a need to fill these holes, but as much as we try they never actually become full. Different groups of people would share such experiences to the point where they formed common languages and cultures around such ambiguities.

          This for me is the basis of “worldview.”

          Even in mathematics there are different worldviews. There is Euclidean geometry but there are also other geometries such as Riemannian and Hyperbolic geometries. The key difference is the parallel postulate. In Euclidean, the parallel postulate is the assumption that for any line and any point not on that line there is a unique line passing through the point being parallel. Riemannian geometry assumes the same axioms (value system) with the exception of the parallel postulate. It instead assumes there is no parallel line. As for Hyperbolic geometries, they assume there are more than one distinct parallel line passing through.

          I hope I haven’t lost you on this math example. Bare with me, but there will be a payoff. These different geometries are equally valid and equally useful in solving different problems, yet they are fundamentally and logically incompatible because of this parallel postulate. I will come back to this, but I will also add that the famous and dreaded Pythagorean Theorem it turns out is logically equivalent to the parallel postulate. This means if one wishes to work within the frames of a Hyperbolic geometry (for example), one could not use the Pythagorean Theorem to prove anything (otherwise one wouldn’t be working within the frames of a Hyperbolic geometry).

          I will come back to this math example and tie it in with the remainder.

          Getting back to your question. As you said (to paraphrase): too much spare time is a cancerous thing. I will now retell a story once told to me. I heard it from my professor of religion 240: Buddhism (it’s not actually a Buddhist story, it’s was told by a Vedantin monk in India):


          There was a restaurant manager who everyday looked out his window and saw a monk across the street. Each day this monk just sat there, receiving free bowls of rice from those charitable customers seeking his favor. The manager got fed up one day, again seeing this, walked over to the monk, and asked: “How do you justify receiving free food each day when all you do is sit there doing nothing?” to which the monk responded “Because sitting and doing absolutely nothing is very hard to do. Allowing others to see this is the service I am providing here.” The manager was not satisfied with the answer, and so the monk proposed a resolution to this tension: If the manager could sit and do nothing, not even think about anything, for one day with the monk, the monk would work for the manager at his restaurant for free. If on the other hand, the manager could not, he would be required to provide the monk with a bowl of free rice from now on. The manager accepted, and as you might expect, he tried and repeatedly failed and finally gave up after a few hours. The monk with a free bowl of rice each day, continued to sit and wait.


          I tell this story because it is an example of a differing worldview when it comes to a surplus of time. One thing that seems to mark a main difference between traditional Aboriginal societies with many other societies is what we do with our surpluses, and what we do with our shortages. Westerns for many reasons have for a long time had material goods and service surpluses. This noticeably has been reflected upon as economics. Westerners have for a long time have had surpluses in power, which would turn into politics, for example. I also tell this story in response to the following of what you wrote above:


          The human brain is engineered to achieve things; to hunt, to craft a shelter, to protect and sustain your family so it can flourish. With this comes a sense of competence, of consequence to ones actions, of power. To feel one is not just competent but going from a position of less competence to greater competence. This is true of all peoples, all cultures. People are happier when they are doing something productive, this is a fact.

          I understand that aboriginals have an intrinsic attachment to the land on which they live, the rivers in which they fish, the forests where they hunt. However they also have a cognitive system that is the same as anyone else on the planet; it is built to achieve, to create, to become. As individuals we are all experiments on the part of nature and while I sympathize with the idea of attachment to place, if there’s nothing meaningful for you to do there either for yourself or your community you must leave to flourish.


          When I read this, I admit alarm-bells started ringing in my head. The focus points for me are when you write: “less competence to greater competence” and use the word “productive” and follow with: “…it is built to achieve, to create, to become.” and lastly use the word “individuals.” I am not trying to claim what you wrote is incorrect or wrong in anyway, yet for someone trained just a little in spotting “colonial” narratives I couldn’t help but feel you are asserting your own value system and worldview here. There seems to be emphasis on the value of “progress” and “consumption.” I say consumption because my economics background trained me to “think the way firms do,” to pursue an ever increasing profit. I always wondered where this infinite amount of potential profit comes from? somehow it just doesn’t sound sustainable. I digress. Once again, I am not claiming your worldview is incorrect, I, to risk being rude, am claiming that just as importantly, it shouldn’t be assumed as correct either. Your worldview is your way of interacting with this world. No better or worse than the way of others, just different.

          I brought up the math example because it is related to the notion of an “outsider.” I have met too many people who say, with some specific measure, that someone who is inferior is an outsider. Then, interestingly, they further claim that someone who is an outsider, must by definition be inferior. For a lighthearted example—an Edmonton specific example—some Edmonton Oilers fan might claim a Calgary Flames fan to be inferior because by default, as a Flames fan, they are outsiders. This fan would also say that anyone who is a Flames fan is an outsider, because all Flames fans are inferior. It is logically interesting because this strategy of defining an outsider is flawed; it is a circular definition. If you want to define someone as an outsider, just define them as an outsider and leave it at that.

          As for the math example, if you look at the history, it turns out the greatest and smartest mathematicians of the time, for several hundred years, tried to prove the Pythagorean Theorem using the parallel postulate. This of course failed every time on account that they are logically equivalent. Any “ingenious” argument would eventually be proven to be circular and thus invalid as a proof. How frustrating. Only after much time had passed and the later generations of mathematicians reflected on the situation and gained some wisdom did they even consider they were trying to prove something unprovable.

          How is this relevant to anything about the situation at Attawapiskat? A great many comments have been made to ask: Why don’t they just move away?

          This is a specific question, but I feel if we were to abstract it, the question we would be asking here is: Why don’t they just adapt?

          My thesis, if one at all, is that the concept of adaptation like anything, is one of those ambiguities that help shape cultural norms and values. The common nature and strategies for adaption are different for different cultures and peoples. What does it mean to adapt anyway?

          As for the different types of geometries: yeah? great! so there are different worldviews of geometry, so what? As it turns out the Riemannian and Hyperbolic geometries were the precursors and foundations to Einstein’s theory of relativity; a very important contribution to the betterment of the world I’m willing to claim.

          My first point being: don’t dismiss differing worldviews, they may lead to fruitful things.

          My other point is that when one asks “why don’t they just move away?” I would in return caution: Even if unintentional, are you sure this question is not just another circular arguement? Are you sure it’s not just another way to define Aboriginal Peoples as outsiders?

          If I can contribute to the dialogue of this blarticle at all, I would like to say, for anyone who asks this question of why they don’t just move away, I would like to say, whatever basis you use to ask this question, please let it be in the spirit of maintaining the respect and integrity of those people’s worldview; otherwise the question itself risks becoming another means of exclusion, and possibly worse, of inequality.

          Thank you âpihtawikosisân for allowing me to post my longwinded, nonlinear philosophical thoughts.

        • Beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and sharing the way we do! I get caught up in this particular adversarial way of approaching issues that I’ve learned in Canadian schools and that I have learned is the only approach that will be respected or acknowledged. It is not how I want to talk to people, however, and reading your words this morning gave me a bit of relief from that paradigm. Thank you again.

        • Matt says:


          Thanks for taking the time to give a thoughtful reply. You raise many interesting points and craft a good argument.

          You say:
          “If I can contribute to the dialogue of this blarticle at all, I would like to say, for anyone who asks this question of why they don’t just move away, I would like to say, whatever basis you use to ask this question, please let it be in the spirit of maintaining the respect and integrity of those people’s worldview; otherwise the question itself risks becoming another means of exclusion, and possibly worse, of inequality”

          I assure you I ask the question with the best of intentions and not to exclude or otherwise diminish the validity of any people’s worldview. As I once heard it put: “It is best to respond to those with differing perspectives with curiosity and not judgement”.

          You say:
          “I am not trying to claim what you wrote is incorrect or wrong in anyway, yet for someone trained just a little in spotting “colonial” narratives I couldn’t help but feel you are asserting your own value system and worldview here”

          I probably am, and I no doubt overstated my case. Humans are bias machines. We do not objectively digest the world and subsequently make moral judgements about it but the inverse; we select and sort information to cohere with our political, moral, personal preconceptions. This is why dialog among differing views is vital; on our own we will not seek out information that contradicts what we believe. I submit that you, like me and everyone else are subject to this tendency as well.

          A few quick questions:

          What impelled you to leave Aklavik?
          Do you plan to return upon completion of your degree?
          If not, why not?

          Thanks again for taking the time to engage.

        • Nikpayuk says:

          Thank you Matt for taking the time to read my very long comment and response.

          A sociology professor of mine once said to my class: “We’re all racist.” Who’s to say exactly what he meant, certainly there’s no context here for interpretation. If one really wanted to know they’d have to ask him, but I myself took it as meaning those in denial of their own bias will never grow as people until they can acknowledge the limits of their worldview. I believe you are right about our human tendencies. I am the first to admit my flaws when I recognize them (this much alone would be the inspiration for an epic I bet); it is my belief that one seldom grows stronger without first allowing themselves to be vulnerable. I will say though that I am biased to push for my people’s worldview not because I somehow think it’s superior; I push for it to be recognized as equal to any other worldview, no better or worse. Certainly though, it has its limitations as well.

          Regarding your question, I did not leave Aklavik, my parents did; as to why, you’d have to ask them. As for whether or not I desire to return? very much so, it is my homeland. In Inuktitut we have a word for our homeland: Inuit nunangat.

          Some say, why don’t these people move away ? (not you Matt I suspect, I just like rhetoric) My parents did, from their “isolated little community,” and I still ended up homeless in the middle of winter as a teenager (though only for a week). My story is only anecdotal, not of much use when it comes to the rational side of the dialogue, yet it’s amazing how anecdote can provide so much emotional motivation; which it turns out is quite useful when putting in the extra hours towards the rational dialogue needs to make healthy connections with those of other views; the healthy connections needed to bring about understanding.

          Even being raised as a southerner I am constantly reminded I am considered an outsider (by many, definitely not all), and certainly there are great things in the south and I have learned much; and I have struggled but done my best to take the good things of the southern ways and leave the bad. For me, I desire a better life for the next generation of Inuit. If I have children, will they suffer the way I’ve suffered? I want them to be proud to call themselves Inuit, to speak their language, to know their land and somehow still to learn the better parts of this new world, and the western worldviews.

          In any case, it’s taken me a long time to figure out that one of the many things many of the Canadian middle class takes for granted is the social support they have.

          This is what many of these First Nations Peoples are asking for, and rightly so. They want to give their children and the youth of their community enough room to grow and succeed as any parent would.

          As my people have housing shortages as well, I hope for the best for Attawapiskat. I will do my best, even as someone on the sidelines, to contribute to the resolution of this emergency.

        • Matt says:

          @Daniel (hope you’re still paying attention to this distant conversation 😉 )

          As to me is obvious, you are a great man with great vocabulary and likely living a great life that contributes greatly to the lives around you. In the words of a great frenchman Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

          “How could there be any question of acquiring or possessing, when the one thing needful for a man is to become – to be at last, and to die in the fullness of his being.”

          Whether this is a person who defies the blizzard to bring home sustenance to his family or one who strives to bring meaning to his people in a world of moral turpidtude,
          I wish to you, and the proprietor of this blog and any who are privy to this conversation the same: to be, to accomplish, to see yourselves as experiments on the part of nature and contribute to the mysterious and wonderful existence that is our shared world.

          To Life!

  135. Kim says:

    Wow, it took me most of the day to read this through top to bottom. Thank you for writing this. I posted a link to it on the CBC website where the comments have been mostly ignorant and often hateful. It saddens me, but I refuse to let it discourage me from keeping debate informed and reasonable.

    You’ve gone viral today, with good reason. This is by far the most intelligent forum on this issue. I’m going to share the link some more…

    I am a non status metis living off reserve, but within my territory. By the graces of my landlord, fortunately a graceful person. I would like to see democracy in Canada, with a constitution drafted online by the people to lay out our collective expectations of rights, freedoms and obligations.

  136. Mike Ruxton (Nova Scotia) says:

    According to, city councillors in Halifax make approximately $72K per year, and the mayor makes approximately twice that. Outrageous!

    • Thank you, this is a useful link! I have been trying to find any lists of salaries of other councillors. I realise that one would have to compare a similar sized municipality in a similar isolated location to really see how close the salaries line up, but this is a start.

      • starhC says:

        All of the smaller communities I am familiar with (2000 or less) in my area, the mayor and councilors are just paid an honorarium. One could not make a living as a councilor or mayor of a small community, it is basically a volunteer position in my limited experience. But I would welcome that sort of comparison to put it in perspective. I did a term as councilor for my small community and made $125/month. We also dealt with complicated funding issues,applying for grants, frustrating problems with a water treatment system that has had a boil water order on our community for several years, and while we were fortunate to finally recieve some government funding, the process to upgrade the water system has taken 5 years and the rest of the cost is going to be absorbed by everyone who lives here over the next decade. Then we’ll probably have to work on the daunting task of upgrading our wastewater management which is also not up to regulations, so we must improve that, at yet another huge cost to our community (considering the size) before the government will approve a new subdivision so that people can build homes and move into our community. Then of course there is the planning and regular maintenance of roads,waste disposal, community buildings, etc. It’s enough to make your head spin,without the added responsibilities of ,ensuring that the community’s needs for healthcare, education, etc are also met. I agree that you can do a job like that for several years and just be starting to get your footing on what all is involved and how complicated and difficult it can be to accomplish anything with the funds available, bylaws, regulations, approvals, etc. In so many ways things
        are the same, but still so different.

  137. Wooden Canoe says:

    Those who avocate resettlement should look to the east. Look at what happened in Newfoundland with the forced resettlements of the outports. A way of life destroyed. Thousands added to the welfare roles. Families torn apart. People severed from the land.

    ******** WARNING ********** SARCASM **********

    Perhaps this is the way of the future where all can be rolacated to within the sight of Toronto or Ottawa. Perhaps we should create one big reserve for all…. resettle all the indians, all the Inu, all the Metis… put them in a chunk of useless land where they can be administered more easily. Then we can take the old lands, cut down the trees, dam the rivers, kill the wildlife, and wherever we find a sacred site buldoze it and put in a golf course….. that will make things better…..

  138. 365pubs says:

    Great collection of information. I’d like to hear what you have to say on some potential solutions for these issues.

  139. Lindsay Bell says:

    I teach a third year course at U of T called “Native America and the State”. This is an invaluable summary! You are brave woman to read the comment sections of the coverage. I swore off that long ago. Many thanks.

  140. Ruthless says:

    I just want to know how the band leaders could allow this to happen? It’s been like this for years, apparently. I know the community is fly in-but there must have been a way to co-ordinate barging in of much needed housing supplies in the summer months that James bay is unfrozen. I don’t want to abolish any kind of organization that protects and preserves aboriginal peoples rights and traditions or assimilate aboriginal peoples into the rest of Canadian society when that would cost them their identity-but I DO want to know how the funds allocated by the band for housing were used in the past 5 years. You can’t fly a modular home in without fantastic expense-but you can fly in supplies, and you can definitely barge in supplies for construction at a cost the band could afford given that it’s 18 million dollars a year for 2000 people. I understand that healthcare and education and much more comes out of that but it’s still a LOT of money in total.

  141. Pingback: Deconstruction dog-whistles feeding off Attawatapiskat « Blevkog

  142. moonepower says:

    Wow! I am so depressed right now. I am Canadian, of British (Welsh) and Northern European (Norwegian) heritage. My first husband was full-blooded First Nations (although that term had not yet been coined at the time), but non-status. My children are Metis, as is the man I am married to. I believe I have always supported First Nations determination for self-government and independence. I have been horrified over the years by the degree of paternalistic, careless and ill-informed “management” of treaty lands and reserves by the Federal Government. I have been angry, indignant, pro-active, semi-militant and outspoken on behalf of First Nations. I have also been angry, indignant, outspoken and frustrated BY First Nations! There was a time when I was eager for and welcomed any and all dialogue that appeared geared toward making a real and positive difference for aboriginal people in this country.
    I don’t know how you do it, âpihtawikosisân – continuing to be a voice of reason in an ocean of misunderstanding, racism and hate. I know I am tired just reading the misinformation and prejudice of so many of those who are posting here!
    May the Creator continue to imbue your heart and spirit with strength!

    • For the Future says:

      A friend of mine who is native, as a child was beaten in a catholic school he was forced to go to and he has little to no moment in his arm (he cant even butter toast i have to do it for him at breakfast) Tells me that the things that happened to him are horrible but his life now with his sisters brothers and cousins is more shameful and hurtful. He got a large statement for the crimes against him and is happy to help his family every time he gets a check for his hardship his family descends on him and takes it all with there hard luck stories and guilt, by the end of the month he has hardly enough to get by. He tells me he is angry about this and he wishes they would change there lives. They have more opportunity than him (he is crippled). He is horrified over the years by the degree of paternalistic, careless and ill-informed “management” of treaty lands and reserves by his own people and family.

      I completely agree things have been done that are unacceptable and inhuman but i also believe that any individual native or not must take hold of there own fate for them selves and there children.

    • And the comments here are pretty tame compared to what I’m used to seeing…but yeah it can be a little draining.

  143. The insistence (by all parties) that it costs $200,000 or more to build a single family dwelling on Northern reserves mystifies me. We know from various hobbyists that a family can build a livable log cabin from their own resources (local timber and family labour) in less than a year. Could not $200,000 build ten log cabins (with doors and windows and a watertight roof, chinked against draughts) within a year? Such a dwelling was normal everywhere outside the cities during the centuries of early colonization and still common in some places 50 years ago. I see the political problem, that if someone in Attawapiskat got a spanking new city-type house last year, the next person due would want just the same sort of house, and not a log cabin. But I question whether the housing budget could be spread more evenly (and such local facilities as an indoor hockey rink with Zamboni suggest that money has been available that could have been spent on cheaper housing.)

  144. Taylor says:

    no one should ever feel like it is incumbent upon them to educate people who meet a difficult and confusing topic with hate and ignorance. thank you for choosing to do so and for succeeding so ably and eloquently, and with such understanding.

    • I think this is more for the people who want to learn…and I think that the bulk of comments demonstrate that this is in fact a need many people have.

      The hate and ignorance will always be there. Most of the time I can rise above it, because I know for a fact that our people are incredibly resilient, and inspiring, and no amount of hatred and ignorance has changed that.

  145. Gabriel A says:

    i would argue to people who claim that their tax dollars are paying for this crisis have some serious misinformation on where there tax dollars go. The claim that all your tax dollars go to this crisis is fundamentally wrong. Your taxes go into national debt, heathcare, education, old age security, employment insurance, transfers, crown corporations, and defence. Canada had a revenue of 218.6 billion in 2009/10. Canada provided Indian and Northern Affairs just under 7 billion, which is 3.2% of all revenue. In comparison, your tax dollar goes to national debt, heathcare, education, old age security, employment insurance, transfers, crown corporations, and defence. In total, your tax 3 cents is what is left to care for all First Nations in Canada. You solely do not provide all taxes to Canada. Realistically, if you make 50k a year and pay 14k in taxes, you paid $420 in contribution to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, who provides funding for all Indian Bands across Canada. Since there are around 630 Bands across Canada. You provided about 66 cents to this band to pay for education, healthcare, housing, and social assistance.

    This type of living that First Nations live with was forced upon by past governments and even the current government. It was not us who willingly decided that we would consider ourselves wards of the court and put under Canada’s care. It was not us who willingly decided we shall be taken from our homes and put into a society’s way of life forcefully through physical, emotionial, spiritual and mental trauma. So if you feel that your tax dollars are being wasted, blame your gov’ts, not on the First Nations who are surviving on funding that is being dwindled every year. If you think you’re barely surviving when you have a home (rented or owned) with heat, clean water, wastewater management, and ease of access to cheap necessities, try and move yourself to this location that has been well documented of all its deficiencies and see if you can survive with no complaints.

    The character of the people are being judged that they do not work hard enough for what they have. I am sure that they worked hard for the shacks they live in. I am sure that they earned the blankets that they cover up with. If they need to work harder for better homes, I am sure each person if asked will work hard.

    There is a much bigger issue at hand here as well. There is a mentions of why don’t they just leave and get a job and a home elsewhere. I am sure that some do not want to leave because there is no one else to take care of the family. Some individuals have diseases who cannot work or travel. Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease. I deplore you to take the challenge to change their minds that there is something worth living for after years of being told by the gov’t that they are not a people. The trauma some individuals have gone through are unfathomable by a lot of Canadians. You could not begin to imagine what some have went through. Yet the words, “get a job and work harder”, will somehow magically fix everything. Being healthy and having a healthy environment to live in are one of the few worries that First Nations face. According to the comments on this blog, we have racism, bigotry, disenfranchisement, coloniasm, and pride to beat as well. Where to begin?

    • Morgan says:

      Soooo, Canada basically pays 7 billion/year to rent the land our country is on, which returns a net value of 218.6 billion. 3.2% is a pretty sweet rental agreement, if you look at it like that.
      I have a lot of conflicting and confusion thoughts and feelings about this situation. Non-natives aren’t happy about being renters; that sense of not-belonging disrupts the bond that many feel after a lifetime or more on this land. And Natives aren’t happy about the terms of this indefinite lease – what other landlord lacks the ability to evict the tenant or raise the rent? We have an uneasy co-existence filled with resentment and guilt, we can’t find a way forward to overcome this Original Sin of the New World. The current situation is like apartheid in South Africa (actually, apartheid was based on our Canada’s reserve system, so it was actually the other way around) and it’s just as flawed. However, the end of apartheid created a black majority rule in South Africa – assimilation would have a very different consequence in Canada. But where’s the way forward? We have to grapple with very big questions like ‘what makes a nation a nation?’ and ‘what does assimilation mean?’ My accolades to âpihtawikosisân for being able to lead an even-keeled discussion on issues that are huge, complex and also intensely emotional.
      One other comment directed at people who question why First Nations people stay in remote areas that aren’t economically stable. For starters, we’re the ones who chose the reserve area in many cases and no, some are not great locations. That’s why we doled them out. Yes, that needs fixing, but is doing away with them really the obvious solution? How about a better location like, say, the Toronto Islands or Markham (both areas are unceded lands, so I choose them somewhat randomly but in proximity to a major urban center). No? That’s not really open for discussion? Funny that. Can you imagine why? Secondly, imagine for a moment that our landlords could raise the rent, and we complained that it wasn’t economically viable. Just relocate, they might tell us. Surely there’s someplace else you can move to? And here we have the fundamental problem – we’re arguing about the terms of an agreement that wasn’t exactly consensual was it? The ability to recant or retract the agreement is entirely one-sided. How will we ever find a way out of this mess?

  146. hanexs says:

    I support you. I will fight with you, in your fight to be equal to all Canadians. So that you have every right all Canadians have. The right to live and work wherever you like, as long as you can afford it. The right to be proud from what you gain with the work from your own hands.

    But as long as you fight to have different rights, to be segregated, to be privileged over regular Canadians, I can not support you.

    It’s 2012, it’s time to grow up, you deserve no more then any other person on this planet, whether you were “here” first or not.

    • ojibwe boy says:

      thats realy mean
      cuz look at what white people did to us
      – residental schools (little kids) that plan was to take the native out of the child and they also killed lots of kids and i mean it …………..and hurt them metally and Physically like kids your really sick if you can realy do what they did to little kids you should look it up!!! i meant it please!
      – they took away or rights and land and for 40 there was a law that you couldnt do any kind off native event like powwow’s or sing and or drum or anything
      – wound and knee they killed almost a whole native nation
      – they made us ALIENS in our own land
      and i mean it loook this stuff up cuz you will find it and you will under stand more
      loook up residental schools and Wound and knee

    • Liberal notions of equality as ‘everyone is the same’ which use rights based arguments to further oppress and ignore historical and social context are just a ‘kinder gentler’ force for assimilation.

      Do you support the right of women to use urinals? For disabled people to get up the stairs in their wheelchairs like abled people? Don’t bother answering, you aren’t here to have a dialogue, you’re here to look down on people ‘in the name of equality’.

      If your support requires that I give up who I am to become more like how you think I should be, then I reject your support utterly.

    • Kathy says:

      “Privileged over regular Canadians” – wow, would you like to trade?

      • hanexssso says:

        Edit: I don’t see much effort being put in on your part to dialogue with anyone here. You began by claiming some pretty inflamatory things, and now you are claiming people are being racist towards you and so on. What you haven’t done is actually address the content of the blog these comments are in reference to. I think I made it clear that I am not going to provide people with a platform to merely ‘get it all off their chest’. As such, this post is removed as it does nothing to engage, but merely seems to be a way of lashing out.

        • Comments about white people are not racist.

          One cannot be racist against white people.

          White people in Canada, in this context, are not oppressed (I cannot speak for outside North America or the UK). Aboriginal people are.

          Congratulations, you are privileged enough to be able to afford to go to your homeland every so often, to see where your ancestors and your family walked. You, unlike most white people, care about where you come from and your genetic background. Great. Good for you. Wonderful.

          The majority, as evidenced by comments along the lines of “Why don’t you just pick up and move?”, don’t. Stating “it’s racist to say that!”, aside from being a logical leap due to what I said at the start, is incorrect.

          Forcing people from their homes is a terrible idea – Newfoundland has proved that much, for an example that you may better understand – and is a non-solution to the issues at hand. Your tax dollars also go toward Employment Insurance money, the majority of which you will never see, and city services that you will never use, but that other people require. Would you like to cut those off, too?

          Your ignorance is appalling and I hope that, one day, you will understand why.

          You are no ancestral or spiritual sibling of mine, thank you very much.

        • I don’t want things to get sucked into a big debate about the statement that, “One cannot be racist against white people” in this comment section. So I am going to direct people to a brief discussion on the topic found elsewhere on this blog where it would be more appropriate to toss the concepts back and forth:

        • Kathy says:

          Hanexssso, try very hard to absorb some of what you are reading here. There are many eloquent voices on this blog. We are not all the same. Our experiences are not all the same. It will not make you racist to acknowledge this, quite the opposite!

        • hanexssso says:

          Edit: post removed to prevent further drifting off topic which is becoming increasingly personal.

      • hanexssso says:

        Very fair that posts are “edited” but the commentators responses that I had issue with are not. No need to respond I will not be visiting this blog again.

  147. sabotabby says:

    You are amazing. Thanks for bringing some hard facts and numbers to combat the shameful bigotry that so many white Canadians display.

    • Ruthless says:

      When two cultures are so different it takes great effort to understand how things work. I don’t think aboriginal peoples should be assimilated but I also think that questioning how a band that takes in 30 million a year couldn’t manage to house at least some of those people is NOT racist. Assuming all of us who are confused, upset and disgusted at this debacle are white is bigotry in itself-there are many colors of Canadians that want answers. For first nations folk on here to blame this situation on the gov’t and white people and refuse to ask tough questions of their peers and leaders is almost as bad as the non aboriginal to blame aboriginals for their lot in life. I believe we as a country owe FN for the suffering they went through, the schools, the abuse, banning of potlatch and other cultural offense – but this is not a simple situation where the government has failed to provide.

      • I haven’t seen people here calling all non-natives bigots for asking about this.

        I have not seen people here saying “this is all the government’s fault, we are saints”. Not one person has suggested there is a simple solution.

        In fact, you seem to be importing a lot of your own emotional reactions into this discussion, and I am not sure why you are doing this.

  148. Confused Immigrant says:

    Thank you for shedding so much light. I must admit I am quite confused about two points. Firstly why are natives entitled to government support when they don’t pay taxes? I know that you referred other people to a previous post of yours but non-natives who take advantage of the social security blanket (EI, subsidized housing, etc) have had to pay into the system at one point or another by income tax when they worked or will resume work as well as sales taxes. I don’t understand this. Secondly, at the risk of sounding truly ignorant of the facts, weren’t aboriginals conquered by European settlers? Or, did the First Nations peoples agree to give up most of the land in exchange for government assistance?
    I would love to understand this in more detail.
    Confused immigrant.

  149. Short Chick says:


    I will admit that my question was about why people are subsidized for housing but I did read the post about the problem with getting mortgages as people do not own the land. Why couldn’t the band give leases for the land and then people get mortgages to own their own homes? The band would be generating money for the lease and the person would be able to get a mortgage for a home.

    Thanks for helping clarify the issues. This is a great post!

    • starhC says:

      I’m not native but I do lease land on a native reserve, and I can tell you that getting a mortgage to build on that land is practically impossible. I am not sure what the situation would be for native people wanting to build their own homes on land leased from their band, but I do think this is worth looking into. If banks make money on mortgages, surely the band could as well. If banks think that giving mortgages for houses on leased land is a bad risk,as they cannot foreclose on the home and hope to sell it to get their money back. But since the band is in charge of housing they certainly could get their money’s worth out of the home by selling it to another band member or renting/leasing it – as obviously there is always need for housing. Interesting solution!

    • Tybalt says:

      The biggest problem there, Short, is that lenders have no interest in lending in these isolated communities. The market value of property in an isolated community is low, because few outside the community wish to live there, but it’s compounded by the fact that the bank is barred (by law) from owning reserve lands. So they cannot take mortgage security in the conventional sense.

      As a result, even if you wanted to get a mortgage to build a house on an isolated reserve, you’d have a heck of a time getting one.

  150. K says:

    Why not go the route of Tsawassen and sign a deal that enables self-governance. If the federal govt isn’t meeting your nees-ditch them.

    • Tybalt says:

      K, that’s a good idea, but it only works if the government will play ball and negotiate a treaty. In Tsawwassen’s case, that was easy – there was a lot of very valuable real estate (with powerful people living there) whose status was in some doubt due to the treaty issues. And the local courts were beginning to show a recognition and understanding of aboriginal rights in these matters.

      That, and that alone, raised the stakes for non-aboriginals sufficiently for the government to act, to come to the table, and negotiate an agreement.

      Attawapiskat, to take one example, has NONE of these advantages. And they can’t negotiate a treaty with themselves!

  151. Taking Back Control says:

    It is shameful that Canada is deflecting their culpability by portraying First Nation communities as wasteful, unaccountable and somehow crooked.

    It is difficult for non-First Nations people to understand housing on reserve. Most can’t understand why First Nation members don’t just pay to build their house. Mortgageability is a right most Canadians enjoy. Other than the CMHC housing program, obtaining a mortgage on-reserve is not available due to the Indian Act limitations.

    The problem is not that their is not enough oversight, it is the restrictive archaic Indian Act and the paternalistic condescension of the Federal Government. Canada is most concerned with mitigating their liability, and the result is inaction. Where is Canada’s accountability to First Nations?

  152. Ed says:

    The following is a personal email I have sent to John Duncan. It might be of use to anyone else looking for ideas, or even a template, for their own letter/email. Not to say that many of you haven’t already sent your own regards, nor that you don’t have your own ideas to bring up. I just thought I’d put it out there.

    Dear Minister Duncan,

    I am writing to you regarding the current situation in the Cree
    community of Attawapiskat. As a concerned taxpayer, I hope that I will
    have your attention for a moment or two.

    Frustration at the lack of an appropriate and timely response to the
    present crisis has evolved into a sense of shame; I am ashamed to live
    in a country as wealthy as Canada that must rely on the Red Cross to
    step into a crisis situation and provide relief for the people of
    Attawapiskat. The responsibility to take such action clearly falls
    under the fiduciary obligations of the Government of Canada.

    Taking finances out of the control (albeit partial) of the Band
    Council, and requesting an audit of prior finances, will not help the
    people who need help now. An appropriate response would be to provide
    shelter for the band members who need it. Then, and only then, would
    it be appropriate to look into the financial history of this
    community. Contempt for alleged misuse of funds, or searching for
    blame, will do nothing to solve the present crisis.

    Minister Duncan, these people need shelter immediately. And I
    respectfully request that you use the tax revenue at your disposal to
    go to Attawapiskat at your soonest possible convenience, and tell the
    community they will be provided for.

    While there, you will also find that the community is still without a
    proper school building. As a teacher myself, I find it appalling that,
    despite the valiant efforts of the late Shannen Koostachin, this
    community is still without access to a proper school.

    Finally, Minister Duncan, I am hopeful that the unfortunate
    experiences in this community, though by no means isolated, will
    prompt a concerted effort on your part, and that of the members of
    your department, to find lasting solutions to the decades-old problems
    faced by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people across the country.

    I respectfully request a reply to these concerns.

    Thank you for your time.

  153. Jim Nickel says:

    Wow….what an eye opener. I was completely ignorant of the deplorable way that the Government handles First Nations monies.

    We don’t want to see it, so we pretend we can’t see it.

    My eyes are no longer closed.

    Jim Nickel

  154. Canuckistani says:

    Thank you SO much. I really appreciate some true numbers and expertise. I’m unfortunately one who looks at “train wrecks” (i.e. comments) as well. My immediate concern is help, now.

    Afterwards, that’s a whole other story, but I hope this experience makes both sides realize there have to be serious changes and concessions.

    I had a small screed written about “people” and “societies” in general (we all exhibit the same traits; Aboriginal, European or otherwise – all humans). I hold these opinions very dear, but while you graciously encourage intellectual discussion, I’ll have to bow out of this one…

  155. Tania Lori says:

    Dear Khodi Dill,

    In response to your very well intentioned summation of the “Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat” put out on November 30, 2011 on the website called Apihtawikosisan, I have a request. I don’t have linguistic accents on my Mac software to name the website correctly. In reference to your break down of funding, put the comparisons in plain English. Most Canadians are not beyond a grade 7 level of education, if you look at the statistics. Therefore, after stating your facts about the basics of the money infrastructure, compare First Nation hospitals and distances of travel to the urban centres. There is a comparison everyone, the Canadian citizens can understand. I believe you are trying to reach the concerned-Canadian citizen not the academic who is invariably hiding away in a closet right now doing an overload of papers for their final term marks.

    Furthermore, when you talk about education money per pupil. You need to say where they money is going. For instance, do public high schools get funded for their Indigenous students? How much? And where does it come from?

    In addition if you are going to name the “permission” First Nations need to get, name the amount of documents and exactly who and what they have to get documents for in each circumstance. Giving a very general and ambiguous summary is very hard to understand and loses credibility and thus, becomes embarrassing.

    Could you consider this? I wouldn’t mind helping you or talking this over with you, if you do not understand. My email address is:

    Thank you,

    Tan Lori
    Sto: lo First Nation band member

    • Tan’si,

      Khodi Dill is not the author of this blog, I just linked to a poem of his previously:)

      I agree that certain topics need to be broken down more. I intend to try to do this, but the various topics mentioned are too complex to try to explain in the kind of detail you’ve described in a single blog post. Minimally I believe that each topic needs to be addressed on its own in separate posts.

      This post is indeed intended to be a very general summary, much as most of the media coverage has been general in nature. The intent is not to present myself as an expert on every facet of First Nations issues, because I don’t think there is a single person who can claim such expansive expertise. Whether or not I have ‘credibility’ is not the issue. I am striving for dialogue. A dialogue that has been mostly absent from the mainstream discussion of this particular situation.

      I appreciate your comments, and I understand your frustration. Simple, clear, comprehensive information is seriously needed in order for average people to access it and understand some of the fundamental problems faced by First Nations. I am doing what I can to provide some of that information, but I neither intend, nor am capable, of doing it all. If you have written anything on the subject yourself that you would like to share, I would have no problem linking to it.

      ay-ay mistahi.

  156. Jay Lambert says:

    Wow! Well thought out and written, thanks for taking the time to research this out. The only thing I feel that is missing, that I strongly believe is of relevance, is the administrative overhead incurred by the government in managing these services. Maybe someone else brought this up in the comments but I haven’t yet had a chance to review them all.

  157. Larry Hubich says:

    Thank you for this!

  158. David Alexander says:

    Great document – puts the media and government to shame. Thanks for compiling.

  159. redward says:


  160. Mark Lee says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for this article. It is beautifuly crafted and helps explain this debacle in a way that the government never will. Thank you for being a voice of reason and clarity in this age of hate speak, intolerance and ignorance.

  161. Stacey McKeown says:

    I am non native and have been absolutely disgusted at the victimization in this crisis. How people can be so hateful is beyond me. I appreciate the clarification of the facts that this article provides.
    I Will be asking my MP to speak to the irregularities in his parties statements.
    Thank you for the time and effort it must have taken in researching and writing this article.

  162. Melody says:

    I see your point I do.

    I am just always astonished that people see it as being ok to have the band funding for the reserve be the ONLY income they recieve. Sure I get education grants from the government… but that’s not the only money I get. I am in school more than full time and still work a paying job to pay the bills.

    So if there’s no work there… move? or create something else to bring in money to the reserve or band. Obviously the money isn’t working right now, and I am aghast that people have to live in such terrible conditions. but the solution can’t be, “we need more tax money”. Because my First Nations friends get paid to go to school, and I’m living on Ramen with huge money in student debt.

    The system breeds resentment and racism. I hope I’m not a racist, but I’m sure resentful.

    • Ruthless says:

      I thought the 18 million a year was the only revenue but this article states that the total revenue is about 30 million which makes this even MORE confusing to me

    • shelley says:

      You forgot to mention immigrants…..they probally get more free monies…then the status indain… and …. get treated better from your… average canadian…

  163. Troy says:

    I saw a John Ivison article with every rancid argument the trolls are now spewing out the day before the government announced it was sending in third-party management Attawapiskat.
    It’d disgusted me, this hatchet job. He couldn’t reach the band because of a ‘busy signal’! My god! The filth he had the oppurtunity to spread! The chief and council should have every right to sue this bastard and his disgusting rag of a newspaper into the next millenium for the worst sort of libel and slander.

    • A lot of the commentary out there right now is really, really ugly.

      The sad thing is, this isn’t new to me. It isn’t new to most of us. We’ve heard the same things our whole lives. I would like more people to realise that, and understand that despite hearing about how lazy, drunk, corrupt, stupid, savage, pathetic, etc we are, a great many of us manage to continue to speak to one another respectfully, and sincerely. It would be nice to get more of that in return.

  164. Pingback: Friday’s Show Notes – December 2, 2011 « CKUT's "Morning After" and "Lendemain de la Veille"

  165. Luana Klassen says:

    Thank you for such a complete yet simple explanation. Non-native people like myself are so in the dark as to how treaties, education etc. work for First Nations people. Most of us want to understand. We are NOT our parents and grandparents in regards to the way we view the world. But we are often hesitant and sometimes downright afraid to ask questions because we feel that maybe our questions will make us appear as bigots. And frankly sometimes we’ve been accused of just that when all we wanted was for someone to finally explain the issues to us, which of course makes us more silent and frustrated in our ignorance than ever. So THANK YOU!
    Peace & rest to you. I look forward to following this site in the future.



  167. Donna Morrison says:

    So glad I read this. It’s exactly how I understand it. By writing this, you have cleared through all the bureaucratic language and clearly stated what actually goes on between a FN and the Federal Government. And….you did it with some humour. Thank you for that. Maybe one thing you could mention in relation to the chief or councillors’ salaries is that they are ON CALL night and day. There is no 8 hour workday for them. I’ve witnessed this time and again.

  168. Jon says:

    This a good article in explaining how the First Nations are funded either provincially and/or federally. I am a Leader myself and I see how we First Nations are marginalized by INAC or Provincially funded projects. Here is an example: Under INAC policy any project minor or major over $ 500,000.00 goes to public tender. Consultant/Design Firms are hired through Public tendering process and through this INAC officials are part of the selection process of the contractor. It is also a requirement that a separate bank account for Capital projects be utilized not with the general account of the First Nation and the Project Manager has to re view and authorize a progress payment. The Project Manager submits project reports to INAC and that includes the financial too.First Nations are not allowed to charge an administration fee on any project in their communities. So this is how the Government marginalizes the First Nation so the First Nation would not realize any economic spinoffs from any project.The contractor may hire a handful of locals but mostly labor workers at a minimal wages and 80% of the workforce are the workers of the successful contractor. At the end of the day, the contractor, project manager etc walk out of the community fist full of money but no economic realization of the First Nation. Further the resources that are extracted from our lands we don’t get no royalties or even to have a revenue sharing agreement but the real coffers are both levels of Governments with the royalties they are getting from our land.Do you agree that this picture is wrong? IBA’s are not legislated nor are they required by law. It is only a way to say to the People,here is something for you and these I regard are crumbs under the table.If ALL First Nations or the Governments legislated a Revenue Sharing in ALL Provinces, we as First Nations would have a sustainable future.Look at the shape we are in for the last 500 yrs under the scheme of the Indian Act?
    Meeg wetch!

  169. Shelley Smith says:

    Although I have Cherokee in my bloodlines, my family chose (or were pushed to) abandon their culture generations before my birth. Fortunately, my profession brought me to a community within 15 minutes of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. My students have taught me an enormous amount about my own culture and our school strives to embrace our native community and highlight Algonquin customs. What many people don’t understand is that the legacy created by the Canadian government is passed down from generation to generation. As teachers, we are teaching students one short generation removed from the residential school system. With each graduating group of students, we gain a little more trust and respect from the community. It is not always easy, and the mistrust is understandable. Due to the actions of our government, I have to work twice as hard to build close relationships with my students and their families, and to work with them to find a balance between their culture, land and customs and their pursuit of education. We have come to a place where the Pikwakanagan First Nation feels at home within our public school and where we welcome their involvement (the school offers Algonquin classes as a second language option and has an educational liaison worker employed by the band full-time on our school staff). The situations our government has created with their funding model, coercive treaties and horrible past practices requires long term solution processes. There is no simple answer but empathy, understanding and a commitment to work together are the only way we will find a solution.

  170. JD says:

    I’m not First Nations, don’t have a drop of Native blood in me. I’m a European child of a Holocaust survivor. Never even met Natives until I was college. Grew up in a small, insular Jewish community in Montreal and boy did I hear the rants about Native parasites. That said:

    I’ve been blessed to have quite a few Cree, Metis and Anishnabe friends in my life, I collect First Nations art (but only that bought directly from the artisan, none of that mass-produced-in-China crap) and admire the First Nations and Inuit of Canada greatly for their beliefs, their sense of history, the culture and art. I’ve worked most of my adult life in industries that let me meet world leaders, Oscar-winning movie stars, globally-known musicians, business leaders, you name it – and no one made me more proud than meeting Elijah Harper at an event where some of my friends were performing for him.

    Thank you so much for bringing clarity to the subject. Five of my non-Native friends linked to your article today, and I’ll be the sixth.

    • Rena Morrison says:

      Thank you so much for such a positive comment. You have lifted the “heaviness” in my heart today. I am Aboriginal and I so wish that my non-Native friends would write in like you have. Incidently, I was honoured to attend Mr. Harper’s annual Christmas gathering this past Saturday.

  171. Ernie Turner says:

    Excellent work as usual and as usual a great voice for those of us with only 99cent words for understanding. Education is always the key to better understanding any and all situations where the money is being controlled for you and you don’t want to rock the boat for fear of losing the meager minus dollars ALL bands receive. Thanks Peter.

  172. TCossier says:

    Edit: this post was nothing but hateful vitriol, and as such is not welcome. There was no attempt to address any of the issues, and the language used was particularly foul.

  173. dcoder67 says:

    Thank you for this article! It is nice to read something that actually puts it all in perspective. I grew up near a reserve; my dad worked for the band. It was hard seeing what the reserve members went through trying to make a life for themselves – good people trying their darnedest to make it. Harder still to make non-native people understand that nothing is really as it seems when it comes to money. The racism and hatred that some people displayed was horrifying. As a kid growing up I was amazed at how hostile the local people could be to the native people – not all of them, but too many.
    I read a post asking about mortgages and ownership of land. The native people can and do own land on the reserves, but since the banks cannot seize said properties, they will never be in a position to offer mortgages since there is no collateral they can collect on if the mortgage goes into default – reserve property is and always will be reserve land. There are mortgage companies that will not deal with you even as a non-native if you try to buy a house within so many kilometers of reserve land. As for the bands generating money for leases and mortgages, it depends on the band and their resources. Take Attawapiskat for example, they have a high unemployment rate, and limited monetary resources. How do they implement a mortgage or lease program? When you have people living in tents, do you want to be the politician that says you have to stay in that tent until you can find a way to pay for a place to live. Even off the reserve we offer people who need it welfare and subsidized housing. Don’t get me wrong, I think mortgages and leases are a good idea, just not feasible for some of the reserves. Perhaps a First Nations bank?
    One thing I am curious about is DeBeers. They promised money to the reserve to develop the diamond mine. Has the reserve ever seen any of that money yet? DeBeers seems to have started the mine, polluted the adjacent lands with mercury (bi-product from decomposing foilage stripped off the land as DeBeers started their strip mining procedures) and now it sits and waits. The promise of jobs, the promise of profits from minerals rights – perhaps this is also something the government should follow up on. One has to ask – is DeBeers waiting for the reserve to die so they don’t have to share the wealth?

  174. Diane Rogers says:

    Thank you so very much for finally providing the truth of what this devastated reserve is suffering through. You have done many a great service in telling it like it is so we can understand exactly what the true issues are. Assumptions and perceptions cause misunderstandings…hugs to you for your honesty…excellent work….

  175. Gregory Brass says:

    You should write a book about the propaganda generated by politicians and various organizations that don’t seem to like First Nations peoples and our communities. I have a suggested working title – a debt of gratitude to Mordecai: “Lies My Conservative Government (and its right-wing friends posing as think tanks and watchdogs) Told The Canadian People” – Dispelling ‘Mis’-facts and Misinformation on First Nations Issues

    Keep up the great work!

  176. Rex says:

    Edit: sorry, but if you want to engage in a personal attack on me, you can find your own platform.

  177. js says:

    thank you for this insightful and resourceful piece. namaste

  178. FN Councillor CC says:

    Miigwech and thank you so much for posting this. I am spreading it around. And a huge thank you for deleting the ignorant posts…the whole purpose of your page today. I am sickened by the ignorance of the posts on the national news sites and cannot believe that the “average” Canadian Joe eats up the bs so willingly. It almost becomes a mob mentality there.

    • I know that no matter what I do, I’m going to get flak from some people. The public discourse is already full of hate and accusations and I don’t feel any pressing need in the name of ‘free speech’ to allow that to continue here. There have been many people here who question what I’ve written, or what others have said, yet who have done so in a respectful manner. I don’t see any reason to delete their posts, because they actually seem to want to discuss the issue rather than just getting angry and lashing out. Hopefully people understand the difference and act accordingly.

      I think for the night, I’m going to change the settings so that all comments have to be pre-moderated. That way if a bunch of trolls decided to post hateful things, I can weed it out before putting the posts up. I don’t need it, and neither do the rest of us. People making legitimate contributions on any side of the debate will still get their words out there in time.

  179. MikaB says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. As I learn more about the history of the relations between the Canadian government and the Aboriginal people of this land I get more and more angry and frustrated. We really do need to teach the history properly in schools, we all deserve to know the truth. I believe that there would be less racism and more understanding if aboriginal history was taught properly and the average Canadian knew the atrocities that have been inflicted on Aboriginal people since colonization. It has certainly explained a lot to me about the current situation.

  180. Andrew Johnston says:

    we should ask canada for help, nevermind the governments, ask the people for help, the governments dont seem to care at the moment

  181. Teddy Ryan says:

    Please hold on to your courage. Ignorance is an enormous battle and you’ve done a magnificent job of explaining an awful lot of issues. This seems to be the time when we are going to learn about aboriginal lives/culture/history and reality – and we have so much to learn. God help us if we leave it to our government to teach us. Thank you for taking such pains to explain this to the nation..I’m sharing on FB and will keep on talking to everyone who’ll listen. Please keep up your strength and god bless your courage.

  182. Janet says:

    Chi-meegwetch for this article. When I heard the comment the PM made about ‘where the money has gone’, I was like wth – as if he didn’t know, all first nations ‘must’ file their annual reports each year to INAC and INAC then reports to the government, and those audits posted by Chief Spence is what INAC receives. Thank you very much for your insightful and informative resources – a much needed dialogue. I highly recommend this read for all those who don’t understand the processes and plights ‘we as first nations’ must endure needlessly. Keep up the excellent work !!

  183. John says:

    I will never deny that aboriginal people have been mistreated in Canada in the past. I will also not deny that racism still exists in certain circles in Canada etc…I’m saying this first because as soon as you open your mouth and question how things run on reseves and within aboriginal communities there is a side of people in Canada/a certain side of the political spectrum that automatically calls you racist in this country. Same thing goes wth issues like multiculturalism etc….

    My question is this….the govt of Canada has never bought me a home and never will. Why is it that others have there homes provided or can request their’s be fixed up/repaired? I have to take my hard earned dollars and pay for repairs or go down to the local hardware store when my home needs repairs. How is it my fault and others if someone destroys or neglects their home?

    Lastly, I have a few aboriginal friends who are educated, have good jobs and have their own home. These people are examples to others, not just other aboriginals, and it is time for some people to see the light. That’s not ust aimed at aboriginal people, that’s aimed at anyone. Canada is a country full of oppurtunity…student loans, training allowances, training programs etc, education for all regardless of colour, sexual orientation etc….Use and be part of the system or you don’t. There is no excuse for anyone to not be happy and a success at whatever you enjoy. Time for a change, time for people to accept that change.

  184. patmcramsden says:

    âpihtawikosisân…. Thank you!

    In truth.. to those who are not blind…there is no ” they”.. only an “us”
    Education will bring us together.

  185. steve brearton says:

    Beautifully reasoned post. Thank you.

  186. Brad S says:

    Thank you for posting this. I wish people were more educated on this issue before speaking. I know I wasn’t. It hurts to read the ignorant, prejudiced comments people are leaving on various news articles.

  187. Murray Campbell says:

    Thank you for the excellent information. I too am tired with all the knee-jerk hyperbole that is currently “available” on this subject, and which makes having an informed and intelligent discussion nearly impossible.

  188. thank you for putting this together and posting this.

  189. Nicola Smith says:

    Why don’t they leave? Hmmm. Well, I cannot speak for First Nation peoples and their reasons, but I have my own answer for that one. I am living in my third country now. I was the first generation of my family born in the country of my birth, but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave my home, my friends, and my family behind. Every place I leave I must leave every memory I have, all the people I’ve grown to know and love, part of my history. And that’s just speaking from the viewpoint of one lifetime, one generation, moving to places that were supposed to be easier to live in, speaking the same language and with comparable cultures. It isn’t easy to rebuild a home, and there’s no guarantee that life will be any better somewhere else even if you’re going from a third-world country to a first world one, which I did. They told me the roads were paved with gold. They believed this. I got there and found myself living in a house with mice in the oven and mould growing up the walls, and drug dealers in the park over the road. I’d been better off in the third world, at least there I had friends and family who would’ve taken me in if I needed it. I wasn’t forced to leave home either through financial necessity or political expediency, it was my choice to go, but I will never call it an easy decision to make and I would always caution people not to assume their life will automatically be better because of it.

    • I relate to this completely.

      As an immigrant to Canada, from the UK 10 years ago, I thought it would be fairly easy to integrate into a country where English was spoken and everything seemed very similar.

      On the surface it seems so but there are far deeper connections with the land you are born into, and also the land your ancestors walked. It’s viceral and very difficult to put
      into words.

      Three years ago I went back to visit the place in England where I spent my first 6 years and where my Grandparents spent their lives. It’s not a great part of the city, run down, depressed, subsidised housing, but I felt a huge pull in my heart. The people spoke with the accents I had heard in the womb and in my first days of life…their humour matched mine perfectly and although they weren’t strictly speaking “all my relations” I felt a connection that I will never feel anywhere else. It’s not a place I would ever go back to live…but there is a deep connection that can never be erased by the power of thought or will alone…

      • Paulette Halliday says:

        I am also an immigrant to Canada. I have been here 43 years now. I am always aware I am not a native, but I can say this nation is as close to home as I am ever going to get. In order to understand Canada, I listened to CBC radio–the ordinary one–and I watch only CBC TV. I am not biased–ha ha–I just don’t get any other chanels on my TV. I try not to watch anything made in the USA, especially cops and robbers shows because their laws are different and I am trying to learn Canadian stuff. I think Rick Mercier and 22 Minutes and David Suzuki and Fifth EState and shows like that have the Canadian point of view or essence.

        Someday when you have been here long enough, when you come back to Canada from a trip somewhere else, you will suddenly know that Canada is home now and you could never go back to anywhere else.

        Canada is full of flaws, like the situation on reserves. We need to continually keep this problem on the minds of our parliament. We must bring it constantly to their attention they are disgracing us in the eyes of the world–they cannot seem to understand it in terms of heart–would they allow themselves or their loved ones to live in such conditions? But perhaps international shame will have some effect.

  190. Sam says:

    Thank you! Meegwitch!

  191. Maryanne MacDonald says:

    Thank you.
    I too have gone in to the swamp of the comment section and left feeling stained. There is so much hate and anger.
    I did leave with a gift though, and that was a link to your site. You have ignited a spark of hope and for that I am truly grateful.

    Best wishes to you and may your voice ring loud and clear over the din of hate.

  192. Lauralee says:

    Thank you for providing this.

    And for not ignoring all those comment threads – I have several times been told that I should avoid the agravation and just not go there – but if we all do that, how can we ever hope to overcome the gross ignorance out there?

    It is always my hope that something I post in such threads might seep through to at least one or two people – they might not agree, but perhaps it might be enough to make them stop and THINK for a moment.

    • I do it to, with the same hope. Sometimes I feel I’m getting through, but usually not. I’m feeling the pressure here too, a kind of ‘explain it all to me right now or you’re a big liar!’. Except that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m not here to make everything make sense, because it doesn’t make sense. We have to do that together.

      • suezoo39 says:

        Thank you for what you are doing.

        I feel like I’ve found a safe place to ask questions and learn.

        This mess wasn’t created in a day, there is no pressure to answer all our questions immediately. This is going to be a long conversation.

        • Whew, I honestly needed to hear that. I need to know that people aren’t going to demand ‘all the information right now or I’m losing interest forever!’, because it’s literally been a full time job these past few days just keeping up with comments!

  193. Fancy says:

    Further to your excellent discussion, most people are unaware that INAC regions have frequently had to raid capital funding for housing and infrastructure to make up for shortfalls in funding for education, child and family services, income assistance, assisted living, and other social programming. The 2009 Impact Evaluation on Income Assistance, National Child Benefit Reinvestment, and Assisted Living lays it out in section 3.3.1 (available on the AANDC website).

    It’s hard to keep up with the housing demand when the regions can barely afford to pay for the basics of living.

  194. emkfeminist says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time, not only to write this articulate blog post, but to patiently discuss these issues with all of your many, many commenters. I will be spreading this post far and wide in an effort to combat some of the misinformation being spread by news outlets like the National Post.
    I will also be making a donation to the Red Cross to help with the housing crisis in Attawapiskat; the link is here if others would like to do the same: Obviously, this is a temporary, stop-gap measure during a declared state of emergency; the government must make MAJOR changes to prevent things like this from happening again.
    Thanks again; I’ll be following your blog from now on!

  195. This is a Major Learning Opportunity- Begin to understand the complexities and the REALities facing Aboriginal people that implicates all Canadians. Please, do NOT have an opinion, unless it is an informed one.

  196. chad gottfriedson says:

    Indian and Northern Affairs has been failing us for decades, Indian and Northern Affairs has the second largest Budget in Canada all the money stays in Administration before it goes to the first nation community : example our education, health, land claim, Sharing the land revenue etc has to be dealt with , it states in our Charter of rights they have to serve and provide us those programs : in my opinion they (government) have been failing the first nation. The AFN is failing there job to hold the government accountable for those programs.
    c. gottfriedson

  197. landoncreasy says:

    Thank you for your research and patience with folks who are clearly reacting without thinking. I too, wondered where the heck the money went… I will freely admit that I wondered this without any idea of what, beyond education costs, it would go to, if not infrastructure.

    Clearly the arguments surrounding governance structures, management and audit results is for another day. Today’s focus must be on resolving the living conditions as quickly as is possible!

    Once again, thank you for answering all of my questions in one spot!

  198. Anne Gillan says:

    Thank you so much for laying this out so clearly and forcefully, I appreciate the education.

  199. Carole says:

    As many commentators said before me, thank you for this insightful, researched, fact-filled post. Too many people make assumptions without understanding a fraction of the story and the history between First Nations people and the Government of Canada.
    For anyone interested, an excellent read by a Canadian historian, J.R. Miller, is Lethal Legacy: Current Native Controversies in Canada. It explains through examples and stories this history that is so little known by most Canadians.

  200. Mer says:

    I have to comment, because I have been struggling with ignorant people lately. The more I become educated on these matters the more frustrating it becomes to listen to people and their unfounded opinions. You are SO right that nobody is educated regarding the Indian Act, or Indian rights in Canada. My husband is native and had an angry police officer put a gun to his head because he (my husband) was duck hunting on RESERVE land. The officer had NO knowledge of my husband’s rights in this matter and confiscated all his (registered) guns and treated him like a criminal. At the very least we should educate our RCMP and municipal police on these matters before someone gets killed. How will whites ever truly undersand anything about ‘Reserves’ and the Native people without being educated on the matters? It frustrates me to hear people’s ideas on how to ‘fix things’ when they don’t even understand the problems.
    I speak as an average caucasian Canadian married into a Native family.
    Please, continue to spread the word, maybe it will raise some awareness for all bands across Canada.

  201. Proud to be..... says:

    My fore bearers arrived in this country from Holland and Britain over a century ago. Unlike many I am not opposed to say that I am ashamed of the way they treated those that were already here. The wars that they fought in their homeland before they arrived gave them the advantage they needed to prevail in taking the lands from the aboriginal peoples.
    I read your comments, although not completely, but I did notice a disturbing comment. On several occasions, I noted your reference to the FN relations with the Crown. This is a legal description only now. Fact is that the people of Canada “ARE” the Crown. This inclused the FN people who would seek to sever this tie. FN relationship with all Canadians requires an inclusive and open dialog. It is we who determine the people who will make the decisions that affect how issues are dealt with. It is we who will determine which issues are a priority. It will be we who set the course that this country will take moving forward. By we, I include the bigots and the ignorant s and so must you.
    I appreciate the education, but, being from Alberta, where many reserves flourish and have become self-sustaining, I would postulate that location is everything. The reserve being discussed in this post will likely never become self sustaining. It is far too isolated, and in truth, if that is the land that originally had been a home for any tribe, they would have been forced to abandon it long ago. Simply put, resources would have dwindled and life would have become unsustainable. The alternative would have been that the tribe would have died off. i would liken it to a school of fish eating all the available food in one location. They move on and find another source, there is no choice.
    Native peoples history shows a nomadic lifestyle, not an attachment to a piece of land. Those that I have known, have a deep respect for traditional burial grounds (which of us doesn’t?) and speak longingly of old hunting grounds, but they never speak of owning land. Rather they speak of using it and existing in harmony with it. I believe it is the very housing which you point to as being lacking, that is the thing that roots them to this place. Realistically, this land would not be desecrated by developers due to the isolation, and I’m sure there would be little objection by the people of Canada, to setting it aside as a protected area, even one accessible to FN alone. Why is there not some talk of relocating the reserve to a more productive site.
    I believe that we need dialog, and that we need to find a solution to many of the issues raised, but if the premise of the solution begins with the unyielding stance that moving cant be a part of the solution, I fear that the rest is moot. I am not speaking out of ignorance when I say that home to a FN person is a tent with a dirt and skin floor and a fire in the centre. A house is a white mans convention that the FN people have adopted. I do not believe that the treaties promised housing since when they were negotiated, housing was not a concept that the FN poeples understood. I also doubt that they had a lot to say about clean water, education or health care. To be blunt, those that initiated these treaties were only interested in acquiring territories for as little in return as they could get away with, and were most certainly short sighted. The FN people had concerns such as fishing and hunting rights and were isolationists that just wanted to be left alone so I very much doubt that they had any interest in discussing anything else.
    In the time since those treaties were signed, there has been a shift in attitude by both sides. FN people have come to want what most of us take for granted today. Education, heath care, access to electricity and communications, clean water and sewage, and many of the “comforts” like cars, nice homes and entertainment. non-native people have made equality and human rights a priority in conducting themselves.I believe that we are all entitled to pursue these things as we see fit. That we should all have the right to expect our Government to oversee and regulate the provision of the necessities, and even to pay for or subsidize them. But I believe this is the right of all “Canadians”
    Isn’t it about time that FN peoples began to be a little more inclusive? Being in Montreal, you can surely feel the resentment so many Canadians have towards the separatist in Quebec. I am a proud Calgarian, I am also a proud Albertan, but I am Canadian above all. I can travel this country freely from PEI to Vancouver Island and am always home. I can travel to almost anywhere in the world and be accepted and welcomed as a Canadian. Why is it so hard for FN peoples to call themselves Canadian? After all Canada is a native word. Once that shift occurs, we non-natives will have no choice but to stand beside you and fight for you. I think it is long past time that you claim your birthright, not just as FN peoples, but as Canadians. I will never abandon my heritage as a Brit and a Scot, and I do understand the ties to my roots, and to the land where my father was born and many of my ancestors are buried, but my home is here and thus I AM Canadian. Aren’t we all?

    • A lot of misconceptions in this post (really? We were all nomadic? You need to brush up on your history). I approved this post not because I think it is helpful, or full of information that is worth sharing, given how extremely inaccurate it is, but rather because it does an excellent job of highlighting the kinds of things many Canadians believe. THIS is the kind of thing we need to change, as a nation. This is what we are up against…a very deep rooted series of myths about not only aboriginal peoples, but about Canadian history in general.

      • Nicola Smith says:

        Even me, an immigrant of a whole 5-years standing, knows that not every First Nation tribe was nomadic, so not despair! Have you read any Louise Erdrich, by the way? I just studied one of her books, “Tracks”, in a Magical Realism class and loved it. That was a great class for learning things about colonialism and native cultures in the Americas.

    • lampro2008 says:

      Actually you are also free to travel to quite a bit further east than PEI, and would be just as warmly welcomed in any community in Newfoundland.

      On topic: The biggest impediment to change and healing for both the Government and the FN is the political will to do what is needed. The Government is ultimately accountable to the voters and as long as the ignorance and stereotypes are perpetuated on both sides, that political will is never going to gain traction. Education and reconciliation is needed and this starts with children. This generation can get the process started and lay the foundation, but it is the next generation and future generations that will ultimately close the gap. But we have to give them a solid foundation from which to grow.

  202. Joseph says:

    Thank you so much! You said so clearly what many reasonable and articulate Canadians wanted to see in the news. Please continue to do more. We are grateful.

  203. RebaVerrall says:

    I learned so much from this, thank you very much! Please do keep educating us, such a needed voice in all the adversarial chaos.

  204. Denis L says:

    Nice article. I am not native in any way, and often am unhappy with a lot of the stories that come out. Its nice to see actual facts explaining the situation, and fighting the stereotypes. Good on you! The more you know, the better off everyone is 🙂

  205. maryam says:

    to echo what so many have already said…THANK YOU for writing this

  206. Amber says:

    I haven’t had time to read through all the comments yet, but am very pleased to see that intelligent and thoughtful debate can exist on the internet. This is an incredibly complex issue, and the dynamics at play are so vast that it requires multiple conversations, and a desire from everyone across Canada to hear all points of view.

    I know this isn’t exactly the same situation here, but maybe those who can’t understand why people, no matter who they are and what their culture is, choose to “stay” someplace and can’t fully understand one’s ties to their native lands might want to watch this documentary by John Pilger called Stealing a Nation, about the people of the Chagos Islands and the effects of being removed from their lands. Perhaps this will help to start shedding some light on some of the delicate issues at play, and can bring forth the questions and concerns brought up from this documentary and putting it an Aboriginal/First Nations context to help shape this debate.

  207. Wally says:

    Thank you for enlightening me. I have been following this story ever since it broke and have attempted to inform myself. You cleared up some confusion for me especially regarding how reservations and native communities are governed and administered. In addition I can see more clearly where the Government of Canada’s response to this crisis to date is a continuation of a most shameful and intolerable charade.

  208. George Will says:

    Come on… You claim to be presenting the facts with “No spin”, and yet you’re comparing the salaries of a “Mayor” of a town with less than 2,000 people, which is basically a part-time job, to the Premier of the most populous province in the country. You’re pulling random jobs out of the air, from a much larger municipality, whose management requires much more expertise and experience than a small village.

    What you should have done, if you weren’t trying to spin the story, and were trying to present the facts, would be to make a more reasonable comparison. Kingsville, Ontario for example. Population of 20,900, and the Mayor takes home $27,052 per year. Look across the board at communities of similar sizes, and you’ll notice that $71k is much, much higher than the average.

    • Please don’t put words in my mouth. I have never claimed to ‘have no spin’ or no bias. We all do. My spin is this: people don’t understand enough about the issues, and end up pointing fingers at First Nations people and hurling accusations. What’s worse is we apparently have a Prime Minister and other members of government who are willing to play up to this rather than helping Canadians learn more about the situation.

      No, in fact I was not comparing the salary of Chief Spense to the premier of Ontario. I brought up the premier’s salary because the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been raising a big stink lately over chief’s salaries being higher than the premier’s. Since so many are questioning salaries right now, I put the recent comments into a wider context. I hope this helps clarify things for you.

      I am getting a little tired of people telling me what I should have done, to be honest. Any one of you is free to do the research I have done, and to ‘spin it’ based on your ‘bias’ if you wish. I was clear about what information I lacked at the time I wrote the piece.

      If you can provide a source for the salary you have mentioned, please do, because I have been asking for exactly that kind of information. I would love to “look across the board at communities of similar sizes”, but was unable to find any data yet. Do you have some that we can look at?

      • Taking Back Control says:

        A First Nation Chief and First Nation administration, even from a small community, have the roles and responsibilities similar to municipalities, however they also manage duties similar to both the provincial and federal government.

        First Nations manage social programs, health programs, recreational programs, conservation, welfare, economic development, elder care, daycare, fire protection, membership, housing, lands and resources, child welfare, education (elementary, secondary and post secondary, employment, food banks, women shelters, infrastructure, public works, water and septic/waste water systems, road management and maintenance, wills and estates, cemetary, etc. etc. etc. And all this without the policy structure that is standard and provided for by provincial governments.

        In addition to this a Chief is also the community leader who is required to be counsellor, a dispute resolution advisor, a public relation representative, a mediator, a negotiator, and an advocate. It is a full time, on call 24/7 job, that usually only has a 2 year term. It is a physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding life.

  209. MJ says:

    seriously somebody needs to pay you a $100,000+ not only for writing the post but taking the time to patiently and graciously educate so many folks that commented in innocent sounding but still settler-colonialist ways on your post. thanks for your gift of patience and generosity in engaging anyway.

    • I am of the opinion that my article should have been unremarkable. I am not happy that it is the opposite, because it points to the extreme lack of understanding out there.

  210. Lisa says:

    Excellent!thank you for sharing my brain will stop spinning trying to do some of the same! How do we reference?

  211. Jess says:

    As a Metis, I’m always at lost when someone asks me why are the Natives the way they are. I just don’t know what to say. But your blog has helped me gain an understanding of the the tip of the iceberg that is entrenched with so much history that it’s difficult just to make a statement. Thank you.

  212. Wow!! I came here by way of George Stroumboulopoulos’s website (I think I spelled that right).

    I had no idea of the way things work (or don’t in this case) with the Government and First Nations Reserves. I didn’t realize how little I know of the facts,and obviously, I’m not the only one.

    Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to put this out there.

    I can’t believe things were allowed to get this bad, it sickens me. As for moving away, a person should not have to…it doesn’t matter if they have a connection to the land or not. Their leaders and gov’t should provide for him/her as they should any other Canadian. Everyone has the right to basic necessities, and being in this country, I feel we have the right to ask and expect beyond that.

  213. Big Sean says:

    This is a very good post, thank you. One factual error should be noted. You state that s.64(1) of the Indian Act means the Minister of Indian Affairs approves all the Band’s spending. That section only relates to “capital monies”, which is defined in s.62:”All Indian moneys derived from the sale of surrendered lands or the sale of capital assets”. Our chiefs and councils are free to spend most of the money received from INAC and most other sources however they see fit (for better or worse)

    • Taking Back Control says:

      There are no discretionary funds for First Nation. Most programs are funded by way of Contribution Agreements, either year to year or three, five or ten year agreements. The funds are earmarked for the scope of the agreements, so education funds are to be used for education, housing for housing, band support for band support, economic development for economic development…

      The agreements are usually Set Funding (funds can only be redirected within the same sub-sub activity with the written permission of the Minister, and Flexible Funding has the flexibility to reallocate funds within the program authority. And all require strick reporting.

  214. Anny says:

    I am deeply honoured by your words and your efforts to be clear, understanding and helpful in your post. I found it very respectful. I think perhaps it IS time… to address nation building. I see no reasons NOT to create a nation aborigional party to run in the election. It is ]futile to try to fix what is so completely broken that it doesn’t even know it’s broken or how it got that way.

    “We can’t address nation building, the application of indigenous laws, proactive community planning or anything else until we have enough to eat, clean water to drink, and a roof over our head.”

    I would also just like to point out that we are all…every one of us, native to this mother earth. No one dropping in from the sky. We are indigenous to this planet. We must all live to treat the land, all living things and each other with honour and respect. Ancient history… the ancient, ancient history, speaks of all cultures living together peacefully and interweaving… and sharing stories, lives, trade. for thousands of years before hatred, greed, avarice, jealousy, can along and we turned it into the ‘modern world’.

  215. Anlina Sheng says:

    Thank you, this is one of the most accessible, educational piece of writing I’ve read in a long time.

  216. Philippe Theriault says:

    Thank you so very much for explaining everything clearly.

    As a non-native, I want to say that I am sick to my stomach reading the flood of ignorant comments from my fellow citizens.

    I am so sorry that native people have to read and be hurt by these comments.

    I really want our governments to step up to the plate and do what is necessary to aid Attawapiskat.

    But most important, I would really love it if my fellow Canadians had a little more empathy and a little less ignorance towards their fellow man.

    I feel gutted by this event and our reaction to it.

  217. Aaron Paquette says:

    Thanks for this. I shared it with everyone I know.

    Hai hai

  218. Bryce Kulak says:

    Very balanced and well informed and a good explanative style; keep up the wonderful writing, you are making a difference by taking action! 🙂

  219. P. Reed says:

    Thank you for your very informative post. I, as a non-native, am very troubled by the ignorance and lack of empathy shown in some of the comments sections. I can only hope that this is the viewpoint of a small minority of Canadians.

  220. Sean Preston says:

    This is a fantastic introduction into a set of issues that, as a proud Canadian, I’ve been shamefully ignorant of. It took me several hours to read through the article and follow all of the links, but I feel all the more informed for it. Thank you. Your diplomacy and candor are greatly appreciated. I now feel much better equipped to ask intelligent questions and investigate further.
    Judging by the resulting discourse following your article, I think you’ve done many people a great service–First Nations and non-natives alike.

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  222. Jon A says:

    One thing to have a handy reference guide; it’s quite another to get out and use it. Say, do you think our elected officials would take offense if we told *them* how to run their how-to-do’s?

  223. elina says:

    Thank you so very much for this post – so thoughtful, clear and informative. I’ve been overwhelmed with sorrow (and anger!) reading through the racist and ignorant comments all over the web – and thinking of how horrible many Indigenous people must feel reading the same junk. I think most Canadians truly don’t know the basic history of colonization in this country, and less so do they have a respectful and/or accurate understanding of Indigenous peoples histories. I’m so glad to be able to repost this!

  224. Well done, thank you for this.
    This is something that must be corrected immediately and then the whole “native issue” dealt with in a meaningful and conclusive manner. It appears self government is the final solution, the logical solution.
    I find it odd, yet natural, that all the healing and understanding must come first from the victim and then spread to the general population.
    Anyone who would like to get a bit of insight to the problems faced by natives can read The Dispossessed-life and death in native Canada by Geoffrey York. This book outlines the attempted physical and cultural genocide of our native peoples which was government policy and i fear still is to a large extent. It also deals with the peoples and their connection to the land and family and community, which really are one. It delves into so much more but this nonsense of “Why don’t they just move?” is answered quite handily in the book, however i can’t understand how anybody could not understand why they should stay. Without home you have nothing.

  225. This by far the best blog post and comment thread I have seen on this.
    Thank you so much âpihtawikosisân and everyone who has contributed.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  226. Nic Slater says:

    These days, if Harper didn’t do it, then it’s all wrong and must be destroyed. Small consolation, I know, especially when this type of politics so destroys communities and civil society across this land.

    Thanks for the article. Very well done!

  227. Paulette Halliday says:

    Thank you for your efforts to clarify a very tangled situation. I had been trying to make sense of it by reading a government report forund here
    After several tries, I thought I was going crazy and contacted my daughter who also tries to figure out what is going on. She referred me to you. Whew! I am not crazy after all 🙂

    Do not give up. At some point international attention will begin to terrify the persons who should be taking appropriate action.

  228. Sharon Fitzpatrick says:

    Why can’t journalists do this kind of research? I used to live in the USA, and when I would return to Canada the first thing I’d do is turn on the news. Cdn journalism used to at least TRY to get the facts, now it seems they grab a number like $90 million and drop it in our laps. No facts to back it up, just a big plop!!! Thanks for doing all this research, it must have taken you a long time. I will share your piece with everyone I can. I lived in a Metis community in Alberta as a teacher, I know the good, I know the not-so-good. Soon you will hear that the awesome women who is leading this community will be ill. They have so much weight on their shoulders, they work day and night, everyone goes to them with their problems. They want to serve their community but the issues are so many, mostly around funding, that the leaders crash and burn far too many times. Thanks again, great writing. Why aren’t you writing for a national newspaper?????

  229. Steve says:

    I appreciate the tone of your article and the effort to deal in facts. Two that require adjusting are: 1. federal hospitals, Sioux Lookout has one (until recently seperate facility, now a joint with the province; Moose Factory may be another, my experience up there is a tad out of date) and salaries, the Chief’s salary would be tax free (not that it would make a huge difference, however, simply stating nominal values isn’t apples to apples).

    What i still don’t have a grasp of is (even after your article): why there are reserves in the first place? If it is to allow the preservation of an aboriginal way of life, then why are they getting $17 M per annum in federal funding? I ask that without any malice. What modern benefits should be offered to (thrust upon?) the Natives without the modern responsibility to pay for them? If they can’t pay for them (obviously Attiwapiscat has very limited opportunity for industry & wealth creation) what sort of existence is being subsidized by the funding of remote reserves? Aren’t the Natives of remote reserves left in limbo with one foot in the modern world and one foot in a traditional way of life? That by its self may not be an issue, but isn’t the result of years of external funding (with little of no localopportunities) that the remote reserves are a a series of miniature welfare states, with all the social problems that accompany every welfare state that society has seen?
    If so, how do we get out of this welfare trap? If not, then i with draw my question.

    Thank you.

    • This huge question is one that needs to be addressed much better in our schools to be honest. I will keep trying to explain things, and talk to people about issues, but I can’t do it alone. The fact that you ask this sincerely, highlights how there is a need for information, a desire for it. I thank you for wanting to know, and I ask for your patience because this is not a learning experience that will take you a few hours, or even a few days. It is a learning experience that, at the very least, encompasses the history of this nation. Keep asking, keep looking, keep digging.

    • Athapee says:

      Currently reading a book called ‘Dances with Dependency: Out of Poverty through Self-Reliance” Calvin Helin. This may shed some light on how to get out of the welfare trap. Thank you Apihtawikosisan for sharing your knowledge, by the way what does your cree name translate to?

  230. Aakil Ade says:

    it is so important to know more than the headlines

  231. Danna Gifford says:

    Thank you for presenting the facts.

  232. aspearce says:

    Lovely – thank you so much for taking the time to spell this out.

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  234. L Peters says:

    thank you âpihtawikosisân. Thank you.
    When I first heard about the Attawapiskat emergency (and how it embodies the indignity that First Nations communities are subjected to in Canada) the part of me that is proud of my country had the sharp shock of pain to a chronic but untreated wound. I feel this blog itself has become a source of hope for that Canadian-shame to change into justice.*

    I am (as a sympathetic and inquisitive ‘settler-Canadian/Albertan-abroad’) extremely grateful for the information you have presented and the way in which you have done so. Not only in the original post but subsequent comments and responses have really provided a great source of knowledge that is thoughtful, accessible and meaningful. (Also thank you to the many other comment-ers who have given additional resources and information to help foster understand of the initial and deeper issues.)

    I truly hope that there will be action like you (and others) have suggested: support the Red Cross efforts, educate all Canadians about First Nations people/reservations/Indian Act, demand Aboriginal Affairs improve their ministry as per the Auditor General’s recommendations and take every chance we have to dialogue to promote understanding and build relationships.

    All the very best to you âpihtawikosisân and all the rest of you who have come here to learn – now we must take action! I do hope to hear more from you on this blog or otherwise: you are inspiring many people.

    *don’t get me wrong I am grateful for my country but feel so ashamed when we are touted as “Human Rights Champions” but then hypocritically let these systemic abuses and inequalities plague so many of our own neighbours-at-home.

  235. Pingback: Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat: A Plains Cree-speking lawyer makes sense of media coverage | Social Services in Ontario |

  236. John Paul says:

    The industry paid an estimated $11.5 billion to federal and provincial/territorial government’s taxes (corporate) in 2008 and that is only one industry. It does not include diamond mining, gold mining, zinc, nickel and copper mining. Oh yes, hydro makes a lot of money by building dams and hydro one personnel get luxury wages including Ontario Energy Board luxury salaries. Let’s say the industry revenue makes $60 billion a year (-/+). That’s a lot for corporate taxes and if we use 15% of the $ 60 billion, according to my calculation, that’s $9 billion in corporate taxes for Federal and Provincial Government. They say its Canadian payer’s money, think again, Canadian taxpayer. Where is our share of 10% and if we go back 100 hundred years, Man they owes us money, big time, darn those bastards. That is why and I will say again, IBA’s are nothing but bull shit and they are cheap, we get very less. Throw a bone to dogs and dogs will fight over a bone. Yes, our natural resources includes underground and open-pit mining of gold, oil, natural gas, diamonds, other minerals, etc, water includes hydro and off-shore drilling, don’t forget forestry industry. Government and the industry make big money on our natural resources. Yes, municipal government set their budget using 80/20 formula.

  237. hcfitzpa says:

    Thanks for making me more aware of the policies and my own reaction to sticker shock. this has been an incredibly insightful article.

  238. Kiel says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for all of this information. I have always discouraged blanket statements concerning funding for First Nations because they usually sound quite ignorant, but I’ve never had facts to relay in these situations. Thanks for putting in the time to deliver this. You’re helping make people like myself more aware of what’s going on in our country. Very much appreciated.

  239. Geoffrey says:

    Beautiful. In this day of public media, it’s great to have this sort of thing to spread around as well as to read. And thank you for taking the time to respond at length to the forum responses.

  240. Valerie Harbolovic says:

    My friend, Joseph Boyden, posted your link. I took the time to read the full article and I am glad that I did so. Your argument is informed and easy to understand. Thank you for your efforts.

    Val Harbolovic

  241. robert nelder says:

    You have provided a great service to the Native and non Native population in making this information available. My hope is that the media will pick up on what you have written. This should be discussed on The National and made available to all.
    Thank you for your service in presenting this very clear analysis.

  242. Andrea Davidge says:

    Finally, some in-depth analysis. Thank you.

  243. Danielle says:

    Perfect, thank you. Your article is well written, intelligent, and thorough. I will personally make sure that it is seen by many others.

  244. Sasha Walsh says:

    Well written! Thank you very much for an informative, realitivly unbias perspective.
    Please keep it up 🙂

  245. Love the way you’ve laid it all out. Everything I’ve been thinking and haven’t put to paper. Nice job.

    My big frustration? Just what you’ve touched on about how INAC “didn’t know”. What a joke. Those community Contributions go out to this community just like any other through the regional offices of AANDC, Health Canada, etc . If the community has a hard time managing the funds, it’s ANNDC’s job to help them build capacity. And even if the community maliciously mismanged the funds (which I’m not suggesting they did) it’s still ANNDC’s job to mitigate that risk, monitor spending, and work with the community. The blame game is so annoying.


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  248. I would like to thank you for a clearer intake of whats been happening around First Nations issues and how the government of Canada say they are TRYing to help, being an aboriginal woman, they do (government) forget that money is not everything, There is a crisis here no matter what anyone thinks or says and that is not moving as fast as it should be as other issues that have nothing to do with Canada they are on the hop…. have to say…. a lot of First Nations are always trying to appease the government and I say why is that?? because they have us being accountable to the monies that is sent and we have to rely on this money to survive…We were forced to live on these secluded reservations and some not so secluded ..there were promises and treaties signed, all we are doing is taking what has been offered to us, that’s where all that negativity stuff comes from about we get everything on a silver platter, I would still like to see or receive that platter?? I ask that more people of Canada or the world could understand ABORIGINAL PEOPLE”S way of living …before assimilation we were living a good and healthy life, it has been a struggle to be living in today’s society. We are NOT all treated EQUAL and it has been shown by the living conditions of Attawapiskat. I grew up on my reserve until I was 19 years of age and choose to move off. If someone wants to really know what its like to live there….all I have to say is…PLEASE don’t JUDGE first nations people until you have LIVED in our communities and have tried to WALK in our Moccasin’s….it would be a challenge for you believe me. Maybe that’s what non-nation people need to be doing to get a better understanding of Native people’s ways of living. And we treat you like the government treats us being accountable….try it sometime…when your name is always at the bottom of a list for housing or maintenance for housing…its years before any of the monies gets put to work and that’s only because we have to wait for the money to be sent and then follow the mandates and policies that are set for us….so here we are all of Canada and the world are wondering why , how, when, did a first nation get into a situation of housing crisis. Blame Blame Blame, you can blame everyone…no one…or just blame someone…that’s the easy way out. through all of this reading in these last couple of hours I have to wonder what they were doing in Attawapiskat while I sat here and read this document that was provided … as an aboriginal person…I wish the government kept sending my silver platter then and only then could I help my people to stay out of housing crisis…we are very giving people …we have our ways to live by…(7 grand father teachings) RESPECT comes to mind, can or would the government take the time to hear the teachings and take a look at how our clans work, etc etc etc its a shame that living a good life means $$$$ and lots of it for those politicians…let me walk in your moccasins for a week, I bet I could be eating health everyday, laundry done for me, reservations made to the finest places…and my children oh how they would love to have what government children have….everything….so can you see the difference of living…I really don’t care about how the money is spent because an understanding the differences should be taken a look at and i know the government talks about equality ..well were is my $100,000.00 to live like the government…and they are saying Attawapiskat received 90 million…and they need third party management…so here we are with this article and it has pointed out the governments spending for people of canada…its a lot..Billions and that’s just NOT for reservations its for all of us…no matter what color we are or where we come from… why is that our government is not under third party management as well…where is the equality here …I ask that all people think . …at least to be Indian for one day and see how far you will get with your silver platter.
    At this point in my life all I can do is pray, and offer my sema to the creator to assist those in this world to understanding not just aboriginal people but understand yourself!!….so at this time, rather then blame blame blame…I ask that we all pray for those to have understanding and for all people of the world to be living with a silver platter…mii gwetch!!

  249. As a secondary teacher, and a First Nations woman; thank you. I will share these facts in my First Nations Studies 12 and English First Peoples & 11 classes.

  250. shanda stamp says:

    Sooo true you couldnt have said it any better. its a tradegy that the community is in harsh times and it had to get to national news to be noticed, but what the country and world dont see is this is a common occurance on many levels and people like you getting the true, clear story out there is what us first nation people need. hiy-hiy

  251. CBELCOURT says:

    Ah Hiy! For the excellent work and time it took. I’ve been busy posting this everywhere I can. I also noticed this blog cited on CBC’s Strombo who said it had gone viral. Hope we can meet one day, again, big thanks for this.

  252. Alison says:

    Thank you so much for this …

  253. Alina says:

    Thank you so much for all the research you have done and for putting it out there. In the middle of writing papers but needed to make sure I was informed. If I think of any further comments or questions i’ll definitely come back to this.

  254. Peter says:

    So here I am in British Columbia doing my usual early morning News browsing. Once again I read about the financial woes of a First Nation. And once again I immediately think “aren’t we giving them enough money? What are they doing with what’s given them?” (sorry, being honest here). But someone responding to the news article left a comment and a link to this blog. I thought it might be an interesting read. Well that it is and more so! Makes we realize that my attitude needs to change and I need to get more educated. And with that, see what I can do to make a difference. Thanks for teaching me something today . . .

  255. Aretha says:

    thank you for this article.

    If I could add one thing to this artice it would be over generalization. Just like people and cities not every reserve is the same and not every Native person is the same. Can they have simliarities or similiar issues, yes. But just because you heard about one incident on one reserve that isn’t even in the same provence doesn’t mean you know how it is on all reserves or that all Native people are the same.

    • A good point, Aretha. However in this case my understanding is that we are talking about Attawapiskat in particular. But you’re right, every community is different and the balance between Treaties and Indian Act will different. If the community even operates under a Treaty.

  256. The Global Kiosk says:

    A really well-written and insightful posting — thank you. I am also wondering how significant greater empowerment for the community would be, possibly leading to new solutions for its many problems. I have done some research on this in my book about social movements of the poor, and although these were active in developing-world countries and contexts, I wonder if some of those ideas might not find a place in Canada as well.

  257. robert nelder says:

    just sent this article to the National on CBC hoping they will contact the writer or at least use the material for coverage on the news.

    • The CBC has picked up on this blog. I was interviewed on As It Happens last night, and spoke to Thunder Bay CBC as well. Other CBC programs have been in touch, as has, HuffPost, and local alternative news outlets. The internet is a weird place, can’t believe this has garnered so much attention!

    • suezoo39 says:

      I did the same thing using their Feedback link. I asked them to list this in their “External Links” list.

  258. G. James says:

    It is no surprise that the thinking ability of mainstream society is so weak and narrow and inaccurate. The education system/curricula is pathetic. The dominant society produces artificial knowledge supported by invalid criteria and guided by false consciousness; and the ball keeps rolling. It is a system that cultivates apathy, ignorance, fatalism, and narrow-minded individualistic thinking. The system, as it is, functions as an obstacle to progress and meaningful change and thus, maintains the status quo. In my view, I believe those 4 elements I list above are the primary sources of flawed mainstream thinking.

    P.S. Thank you for breaking down the facts for us to see and work with.

  259. Kim Mullin says:

    In case anyone wants to see what a bullshitter Harper really is. Read this and see how he spins information to make idiots of the people who fall for his crap.

  260. Thank you so much for your informed and clearly written article. I posted it to my Facebook so a few more people might read it. The subsequent comments are also fascinating with a lot of insightful comments. I wish the government would occasionally take the advice of its commissions and auditors and actually fix something instead of shelving most of the recommendations.

    Regarding the issue of subsidizing people who live in remote areas: obviously the government has a historical debt to native cultures and you cannot simply tell people “you are going to move”. So initially that’s a non-starter. If the services could be delivered more efficiently the problem might be solved. What can’t a large percentage of these reserves become carpenters and help with the building and maintenance? I know many people are, but let’s have even more training.

    However, I think the “connection to the land” is also over emphasized and a bit mythologized as well. I moved from the Yukon so I could get an education and a job. I still have ties there, but I’m happy in Ontario. I travel to the States for my work and meet many people who have moved for their jobs. Many would have preferred to have stayed where they grew up, but there were no jobs there, so they left. The early history of indigenous peoples is one of movement, first across North America as different tribes were formed in different geographic locations. And then many native cultures existed in a migratory lifestyle, following herds of caribou etc. throughout the year. When fur trade posts were build many native people made the decision to camp around them and exchange a migratory lifestyle for more of an urban one and this grew even more viable as fur trade posts turned into towns and cities. I am not arguing for assimilation because native cultures are an important part of what makes Canada unique and good. I am just pointing out that times change and lots of people move for economic and other reasons. Many fishing villages in Newfoundland and elsewhere closed because they were no longer sustainable and that is just what happens.

    Anyway, thank you again for your service to clarity.

    • FN Councillor CC says:

      That is one of the problems…you do not understand the connection to the land. The land is Mother Earth and we maintain a connection to our mother. When you ask a Native person where they are from…the majority of the time, they will not answer with the place they live but with the place they came from, their First Nation. It is an automatic response, part of who that person is, like if you ask someone their name.

      • Absolutely. Where we are from, and who our relations are…this is often how we introduce ourselves. It’s true that SOME nations moved around (others stayed in the same area and built permanent structures, a fact often forgotten), but those movements were not random. People moved between the same summer camps and winter camps and large gathering places each year. 40,000 people a year travel to my community for the annual Pilgrimage. I have seen the same families there year after year since I was a child. Are these people nomadic then?

        The connection to the land is not mythologised. The words we use in English to describe it do not do the terms or the concepts justice, and so it may come across as ‘new age’ or exaggerated to you. These are central concepts in our language and our culture however.

        • FN Councillor CC says:

          Yes…and my grandparents moved around a lot…within our territory. They had an area, a route they went on based on the seasons and the availability of game and other food. Once the reserve was established, they could no longer do this without interfering wih the activities of the newcomers. MY GRANDPARENTS did this and I am not yet 50 years old. Our lives have changes so much in such a short time.

  261. Kim Mullin says:

    This is an excellent read to see how Harper and his like spin information to make themselves look like they’re not completely disinterested in Canadians who aren’t corporations and should sound some bells about how the Conservatives make uninformed idiots out of the people who insist on being duped by the political swine of choice for Conservative party faithful.

  262. Brian MacDowall says:

    Excellent post! One thing to add, the discourse on financial distributions, band and personal accountability, and misuse of resources which has so dominated Harper’s response to this crisis has extremely long historical roots. My dissertation studies the Department of Indian Affairs in the 1920s, and the same sort of discourse about financial misallocation [couched in more explicitly racist terms than are used today, though with the same intent] was used to justify both a lack of resource allocation, and heavy-handed governmental approach to managing band and individual finances. Sad to see that colonial ideologies have not moved beyond frameworks in operation one hundred years ago.

  263. adam enright says:

    Attawapiskat Who is mismanaging money?
    Mulrooney Deficit: $38 Billion.
    Paul Martin $16 Billion Surplus.
    Harper Deficit: $55 Billion and counting, THE LARGEST DEFICIT IN CANADIAN HISTORY!
    $90,000-a-day consultant firm to figure out ‘budgetary cuts’.
    G8 gazebos $50 million.
    $1 Billion spent militarizing downtown Toronto for the G8.
    $13 Billion estimated cost of the C-25 Crime bill, when regular crime rates have been dropping since the 1970’s while white collar crime has had a steep increase, not covered by C-35. Meanwhile the conservatives are closing six prison rehabilitation farms where prisoners produce their own food because of their $4 million budget.
    $18 Billion spent in the Afghan quagmire.
    $16-20 Billion at least for 65 F35’s that won’t work as promised until 2020,
    the largest military procurement in Canada’s history-over $1000 for each man, woman and child in the country.
    $47 billion “Stimulus Spending” with no real accounting of job creation numbers, just lots of dolling out big cash.

    When Harper spends like a drunken sailor or when Wall Street makes off with tens of trillions, no one comments that they did it because the white culture breeds mismanagement and greed.

  264. Edit: I really hesitated about whether to approve this post or not, because I don’t want to stifle discussion. I understand that this issue has brought up a lot of Harper bashing, but I don’t see it as all that helpful. I’ve got some criticisms…okay a lot of criticisms about Harper’s policies, but this list is more like a litany of personal attacks against him, barely mentioning his policies, and I don’t think it moves the discussion along at all. I appreciate the time you put into it, but I think it may be more suitable elsewhere.

  265. Marmotman says:

    In looking over the financials, I seem to see an accumulated surplus in Schedule M of about 58 million dollars. Is that correct?

  266. Penny Wearne says:

    Thank you for your work and your article which gives facts, figures, and reason. I will be posting and sharing it with others.

  267. Joel Wiens says:

    Really helpful, in the true spirit of organizing support for an important issue. I will be checking in again to continue to update my understanding. Commenter Ethel Chynoweth makes a great point that authentic participation in this conversation and the right to contribute suggestions for viable solutions absolutely requires a bare minimum of time spent in these communities. I refer anyone interested in authentically organizing for native rights to the excellent Al Giordano’s Narconews ( and, which has documented struggles in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

  268. David Hickey says:

    Thank you for producing this. It is exactly what’s needed. I will be sharing it with everyone I know.

  269. philip redford says:

    Thank you so much for this informative read. The illusions and propaganda broadcast as news from the “Hill” serve to keep the status quo of the main stream alive. However, as more truth is spread, circumventing the corporate state’s media aparatus, perhaps some change will happen. One day, perhaps the First Nations will be given a rightful place at the political table, as the founding nations and equal consitutional partners they must be. Am I dreaming the impossible? The desirable even? As a once ignorant white male, I’m never certain, but I know I’m sick and tired of mainstream garbage. Where are the new ideas?

  270. Mike says:

    Your comment:
    How much money was actually allocated to housing in 2010-2011? Page 2 of Schedule A (PDF) shows us that out of the $17.6 million in federal funds, only $2 million was provided for housing. Yes, even $2 million would be enough to 8 brand new homes, if those funds were not also used to maintain and repair existing homes.

    I read schedule I. It states that of the $2 million, $400K was spent on Administration, $1.4 million on wages. And a surplus of $450K at the end of the year. What line item is actual bricks and mortar (or boards and nails). Is that program delivery ($60K)? Or is there another schedule for actual “things”. It just appears to be a lot of money on people but nothing on buildings?


  271. Kristine says:

    Thank you for your eye-opening piece. I will share your blog whenever I can.
    I am so concerned for all native people, in particular for those living on remote reserves. What can be done for the people to have a sense of purpose? I really feel a sense of purpose is needed. If I sound naive, forgive me. I am trying to learn.

  272. Matt says:

    Kudos on an excellent post. You’ve made a meaningful contribution, and done so with extreme class.

  273. Dean says:

    I completely endorse what you’ve done here…making sense of the crisis is fundamentally important in order for any of us, but especially our government, to come to terms with the situation and figure out a way to move on.
    I just have one question…being referred by your link to the consolidated financial statements (in this case the one for 2011), I couldn’t help but notice that under the accumulated surplus, it was listed at approximately $60 million dollars. I was hoping you could shed some light on this…the annual surplus for 2011 was about $3 million, 2010 was about 2 million. is it the case that they’re saving for a rainy day? or is there something else going on?

  274. Michael B says:

    I would just like to express my heartfelt thanks for your having gone to the trouble of making such a clear statement on this. Forgive me for this aside, but as a young white male who grew up relatively poor but was able to build a good life due to a great deal of societal support, it pains me greatly to see that others growing up in difficult conditions do not seem to have the same opportunities. I am appalled at how little I learned of the realities of the INAC/First Nations relationship during my public education in Ottawa, and I greatly appreciate the reasoned, well supported, and non-confrontational approach that you took. I have learned alot, and I find it has only served to make me hungry for more information on this very troubling situation.

    Thank you.

    • Kathy says:

      Interesting, Michael! You are brave enough and wise enough to be able to give credit to “a great deal of societal support” that you had. I used to believe that I deserved all the credit for “what I made of myself” – a typical conservative assumption, and an assumption that flattered me immensely. When I finally realized how much I owed to others and to circumstances quite outside my control, it changed my views forever.

      I believe this old thinking is responsible for so much of the “why don’t those people just be more like me?” comments. My father thinks this way. Although he was born into a poor family, he has to this day never realized the privilege he has been given, as a white male born in this country in the last century. And at the age of 84, I guess he never will.

  275. Thank you so much for your important investigative research. I am dissapointed in Canadian mainstream media for failing to analyse this story and the figures the same way. The failure of the media to question and investigate the claims of the Government contributres to the racist banter that many Canadians are shamelessly expressing and mainstream media is more than happy to focus on! Shame on you Harper!

  276. Vanessa in Manotick says:

    A long time supporter or aboriginal rights.
    Profound respect for the North American Aboriginal people. I am thankful for this article because I have been searching for a perspective that actually states some facts and truth!! I am going to re-post this article on my Facebook page to keep the fact rolling.
    Thank you and keep it coming!

  277. Moira Dunphy says:

    I have a followup question: Attawapiskat has been co-managed for something like 12 years. DeBeers opened their diamond mine about 7 years ago. I am assuming the discovery of the diamond vein, getting the rights and negotiating, and then setting it up took several years. Some locals from there have complained that housing was in the initial draft of the Impact Agreement, want to know why DeBeers got out of that ithe final agreement signed. Is there any chance that co-management was a political play connected to the mine, that e co-managing may have impeded instead of improved that Agreement?

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  279. pleaseenlightenme says:

    Can someone tell me the rational behind keeping Indian and Northern Affairs? What is the argument about treating them the same as ‘regular’ Canadians? Wouldn’t the whole Band be better off under the sames rules as the rest of Canada? If life is so horrible for First Nations under the current set up, what argument is there for keeping things the same? I just don’t understand why there is support for Indian Affairs.

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  282. helen says:

    thanks so much for claifying this , I had the story on my facebook and received the same old comments of getting to work and off welfare and all the money they got for land claims , the story was about deplorable conditions not about money etc.

  283. Preeti says:

    Thank you. If only everything could transparent about our government.

  284. Preeti says:

    ^^Could be***

  285. Ren Nata says:

    While there have been significant recent advances including the apology to survivors of Indian Residential Schools and the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the general Canadian public continue to remain ignorant on what is happening in their own backyard. Why is it that In a country considered to be strong economically and socially, Aboriginal peoples continue to represent one of the most disadvantaged populations. Racism is thriving in Canada!!

  286. Critical Thinking says:


    Go to Tyendienga, tell me why all the Maracles – the chief family – have beatiful homes, but everyone else is in squalor.

    Yeah, its all the white mans fault.

    How about joining the 21st century and stop thinking the world owes you a living.

    It doesn’t.

    • FN Councillor CC says:

      What I can’t understand about this comment is how you can paint all First Nations with the same brush? NONE are the same…try visiting a few other than reading about or passing through one that is easily accessible by a 400 series highway. You have over 600 in Canada to check out.

      We don’t think the world owes us a living. Canada is required to live up to their end of the contracts/treaties and personally, I expect that they would.

  287. what is this I dont even says:

    I like how they have fibre optic lines in Attawpiskat but no paved roads.

    Excellent management.

    • FN Councillor CC says:

      Say thank you to the Federal Government. The government has a pet project and they offer money for it for a short period of time and municipalities and First Nations must take advantage of them when they are offered or not have an opportunity in the future. Have you heard about the federal funds that continue to be made available for connecting the country for high speed connectivity? They will not be available forever. Do you know about the uses of high speed connectivity other than commenting on stories about First Nations?

      1. Telehealth – lower cost to visit a physician via high speed connection than flying to Kenora or Sioux Lookout.

      2. Reporting requirements in receiving funding – electronic reporting is mandatory for some programs.

      And I am sure the folks at the diamond mine appreciate the connectivity as well.

      • FN Councillor CC says:

        Please take a moment to consider perma-frost and paved roads. Imagine the maintenance costs of paved roads in that environment.

  288. I would like to thank Khodi Dill for this great explanation to a very complex set of issues and facts. We as First Nation peoples by enlarge are invisible in our own lands until it comes to such a very disturbing issue that is faced by one or more FN’s. As a memeber of an urban FN we face many of the same issues as the Rural and remote FN’s. We have a housing list that exceeds 1000 and we build 15 a year at present, you do the math! I would like to suggest that we need to look internally for answers to some of the questions and problems that we all face. As I see it most of the companies that provide services and goods belong to non FN people and it has been this way for most of our short history with the non natives. I am not a racist but until we develop a means to start owning and operating these companies we will be at the mercy of the market pricing. We need to develop a mind set amongst ourselves to multiply one dollar in to twenty by developing a concentrix circle of FN’ companies that I would see owned by FN coops and there to do the purchasing enmasse things like electrical supplies lumber, plumbing supplies etc. You get better pricing by massing together a number of FN needs and send out requests for pricing from reputable suppliers. What is needed is for FN’s who have been successful to step up and assist the others who have not been able to achieve this for one reson or another. Lets take the first step to creating the opportunity to becoming self sufficient! The only time in the history of our collectives peoples we had our hand out was in friendship ! Take care to all of our PEOPLES!

  289. Darlene says:

    No I don’t believe I have to use fancy wording to tell you how I feel. My husband are both hard working people who like to know where our money is going. We appreciate the fact that Bill C 27 (First Nations Financial Transparency act) could be coming into effect and people who live on reserves should too. This will tell you where some of the money is going that is being given to you and what your leaders are making. I don’t expect those leaders to be happy about the bill. Am I considered racist if I believe that we are all the same and should now be treated the same. Am I considered racist if I believe that you have been repaid many times over for what our and many of your own european ancestors have done to your ancestors and mine. That’s right. I am also of native ancestory. But if I and others who feel the way I do, voice my opinion (my average working person opinion) I am considered racist.

    • FN Councillor CC says:

      Myself, I don’t think it is racist to ask these questions. I think you are ignorant, meaning not understanding even though the information is right in front of you.

      Do you know what a treaty is? It is a legal contract. When a contract is signed by two parties, both parties must abide by the contract. I have to wonder:

      Have you read anything that is posted here?

      Have you followed the links that are provided for more information?

      If you have, I cannot fathom why you would not now understand about treaties and the obligations of the crown.

    • It is a little tiring hearing this constant defensiveness about racism. Have I called you racist? Has anyone here called you racist? Then why come and start defending yourself against attacks that haven’t happened?

      What you’ve said isn’t racist…but in my opinion you are incorrect. I think you do not understand that it’s very nice to claim we are all the same, but that declaring it does not make it true, particularly when we are certainly not treated the same. On the positive side of things, our differences are not weaknesses to be stamped out.

      The relationship aboriginal peoples have with Canada is not a relationship based on ‘reparations’ as you seem to believe. Instead, it is a relationship of peoples that needs to be constantly renewed. Such renewal takes effort and communication, not defensiveness and declarations about what is owed or not.