Today I am embarrassed to be Canadian...

Lindsey - posted on 11/29/2011 ( 13 moms have responded )

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Imagine living in a tent in the midst of a frigid winter. Imagine having no running water and no toilet. Imagine living in a tiny run-down trailer with 18 other family members. Imagine having to care for a newborn (or any child for that matter) under these conditions. Add to this a lack of adequate education for your children and health care for yourself and your family.

This is happening throughout hundreds of communities in one of the richest countries in the world.

What is wrong with this picture?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011...

Are you as ashamed as I am?

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Johnny - posted on 11/29/2011

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Corruption is a huge problem on the reserves. But when it comes right down to that, a lot of it stems from a lack of accountability. Not all reserves run "free and fair" elections. Some places, it is still hereditary chiefs and councils running the show. That has been allowed to persist by the government and I doubt those in power are going to be offering to give it up any time soon. Not to mention that there is no audit process, no commission looking at spending, and no way for local members to request records from their councils. The Indian Act makes it easy for this corruption to persist. The government allows this to happen too.

Amanda - posted on 11/29/2011

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No this doesnt make me ashame to be Canadian but it does make me ashamed to be Native American. Let me tell you how this system works. This is not the governments fault, it is the cheif and consoles faults. Each reserve is givin money to support their own communities, how the people of those communities spend it is up to them. I also have a reserve in northren Ontario. We are around the same area as those reserves. 2 1/2 hours north of Timmins (Chapleau Cree Reserve). I can personally tell you my families reserve does not look like this. All the families have real homes. with hydro and running water, my father personally makes sure the water is cleaner then city water. He also drives all the children on the reserve to school daily. Thats right there are very good schools in this area, but it is the reserves responsiblity to get those children to the schools.

Most reserves have gas stations, where the reserve can make millions of dollars selling cheap gas to the locals. The reserve I am talking about brings in around 3 million extra a year just from their ONE gas pump.

As for healthcare, it is again the reserves responsiblity to hire a local nurse or doctor, but they can also drive into town for medical care. My reserve takes anyone who needs it to Timmins or Subury for medical care. The government PAYS for this. The cars are bought with government money, the reserve gives the people so much money a day for the travel, and pays for the gas. This comes out of the money the government gives the reserve yearly. So please dont think this is a Canadian problem because in truth its a Native affairs problem.

Come to hamilton and check out the native homes here. You will be shocked how natives live in a mega city, because yet again Native Affairs is to cheap to actually repair anything even though our government gives them money to do so.

Denikka - posted on 11/29/2011

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I'm right there with Amanda.
One of my grandparent's friends is actually supposed to be the chief of one of the bands in their area. He chose not to take on the position specifically because of the corruption in the counsel.
Having been on the reserve a couple of times when I was younger, I could tell EXACTLY which houses and cars belonged to those on the counsel and their immediate relatives.
All of them had ATV's, trampolines, nice houses, manicured lawns (which, in the area, was a pretty difficult feat. Clay is not conducive to good growing XD), the list was endless. I knew some kids off the reserve and, once again, obvious to see who had the family connections. Designed jeans and tops, expensive jewelery, etc.

The rest of the place, was pretty much a crap hole. My grandparent's friend's place leaked for 10+ years and he couldn't get the funding to get the roof fixed. Not only that, but he was told he wasn't allowed to do it himself or get an independent in to do it because of the way the band worked. They had their own workers and wouldn't allow others in. His place was TINY (actual house, not a trailer) and it was pretty gross. Not from lack of care on his part, but just wear and tear that was never fixed. Lino was peeling, paint had rubbed off in spots. The house was something like 50yrs old and hadn't had any renovations done in over 20yrs. He spent a summer and fall with no water heater because they *couldn't afford* to fix it while the acting band chief took $10,000 (of band money) and took his family on vacation.

Not all are bad, but a lot are corrupt. It's sickening and sad.

But in reality, isn't the government doing the same thing on a larger scale?? It's just less noticeable BECAUSE it's on a larger scale. A lot of government funded housing is disgusting and desperately needs renovations (or to be completely torn down and rebuilt in some cases XP) and the government keeps coming up with excuses as to why they can't find the funding to keep programs open, or keep them running as they're supposed to. Hello!?! It might be the 6 or 7 figure salaries that most politicians are making every year!
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. . . . .
It doesn't make me ashamed to live in Canada. It makes me ashamed to live in this world.

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Denikka - posted on 11/29/2011

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I agree with you Lindsey, and I'm glad you clarified :) I thought that might be what you meant, but figured I would address it just in case :)
I know exactly what it's like, living paycheck to paycheck. We're there right now. The place we're in is way too expensive (renters) but we can't afford the damage deposit for a cheaper place and we can't afford to pay off our debt (which is relatively small now), so it's piling up and sinking us.
We're lucky enough to see a light at the end of the tunnel as we have something coming our way in a couple of months that should help us (thank god!)

I also understand what you're saying Amanda. Vandalism and just plain not taking care of things is also a large problem on the reserve I was talking about. House maintainence is almost non existent, so every 5 years or so, the houses are such pieces of crap, you basically have to tear them down and start fresh.
I don't know much about the inside working of the reserves. Only what little I've seen in my particular area of the woods.
But a lot seems to be self inflicted. Or at least a lot of the problems are caused by internal factors. I think there's a LOT of things, not just how the money is handled, that need to be addressed before things take a real turn for the better for everyone involved.

Amanda - posted on 11/29/2011

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I agree with everything you ladies have all said, but because I have an inside view of this. I have to say there are far more issues then just curroption, there is lack of respect, and plenty of other issues, ie welfare, drugs. For example the reserve by my reserve, bought all new snow removers, within a year they ruined them, then came running my reserve begging to use ours. Unfor we had to say no to them because we cant be replacing our snow stuff yearly because another reserve is ruining it.



Many rezs dont have regulations for the type of buildings that can be built there. For example, at Chapleau Cree you must have your home built within 2 years, you may not live in a trailer for years. You must have the house plans approved by a professional. You can not build a shack. But many rezs allow people to build anything they like on the land. You must connect your home to the water system, and a spectic tank (there are no sewers that far north on rezs).



The reason many families build these shacks is because it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to get a bank to finance your home. As the bank can NEVER take your home away from you, as you dont actually own the land your home is on, the rez does. So I know the article makes it sound like these familys were froced to live in these conditions, but in many cases these families have built these very homes because no bank will give them real money to build their own homes.



My reserve will give you "grants" to build your home, but it is no where near the amount you truely need to build a home that far north.

Lindsey - posted on 11/29/2011

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Denikka,

It looks like we are on the same page. I don't disagree with your point of view at all. I realize that giving these communities more money is not the solution because as Sylvia pointed out it isn't about not having enough money. And I don't think that going in and building new houses and providing them with a brand new water/sewer system is the solution either (give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime).

I realize that when I said that the cause of these problems is irrelevant I probably sounded somewhat ignorant, and I guess I should clarify. I don't think that it is irrelevant to the issue as a whole, and I think the root causes of this problem need to be addressed in order for there to be any long term solution. I just meant that they are irrelevant to the immediate issue and from the humanitarian perspective.

To me what it important at this moment, is making sure that these people have what we would consider the basic necessities of life in order to survive, specifically warm housing, clean water and toilets.

Under the current conditions, I would imagine that it would be very difficult to focus on long-term solutions when you are struggling daily just to keep your family warm and fed. Think of it this way... if a person is living paycheck to paycheck, and is uncertain of how they are going to pay the rent this month, most likely that same person isn't thinking about his or her retirement plan, or saving money for the future. They are too busy worrying about their immediate needs to worry about what will happen ten or twenty years down the road.

I feel for these people, regardless of how they came to live in those conditions and I feel that, while we aren't directly responsible for what is happening, we all have a moral obligation to do what we can to help them in the short-term so that they can focus on the future.

I say that I am ashamed to be Canadian because, as far as I am concerned, everyone (from ordinary citizens to all levels of government) has ignored this problem for years without trying to come up with a solution that would work for everyone involved. We've all turned a blind eye to this problem, and as a result, the problem has only gotten worse.

I really appreciate hearing your perspective on this issue. I think it helps people (myself included) to better understand what is happening. Thanks.

Sylvia - posted on 11/29/2011

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I know, unbelievably appalling. I think there's plenty of blame to go around -- enough for INAC, enough for the chiefs and band councils, enough for anybody who's known about the conditions in these communities and not made more noise about it.

It's hard to know what to do because it does sound like it's not really a not-enough-income problem, it's an income-inequality problem. You can't get people properly housed just by giving more money to the "leaders" who haven't done what was needed with the money they already have. But you also can't just let people live in those conditions. The thing is, neither giving the band council more money nor swooping in to build houses for the families living in tents nor standing around doing nothing effectively incentivizes the community leadership to fix the problems.

[deleted account]

You should check out the conditions of some families that live in the Appalachian mountains in the US. Not much better.

Michele - posted on 11/29/2011

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Reminds me of W.P. Kinsella short stories: Born Indian and The Fencepost Chronicles are 2 collections I have read.

Denikka - posted on 11/29/2011

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I absolutely don't disagree with you Lindsey. It IS a humanitarian problem.
Unfortunately, the people living in these condition are a symptom and until the root (the corruption) is addressed, things will not get better.
The reasons that things are like this are absolutely not irrelevant. But what would your solution be? Throw more money at the problem so that *they can afford to build more and better homes and take care of these people*? They can AFFORD to do that NOW. The people who are in charge are CHOOSING to allow their people to live like this. It doesn't matter how much money gets funneled into their system.
Any solution that an outside source brings in is going to cost money. Whether it be money for new homes, bringing in water/sewer pipes, even building something along the lines of a homeless shelter on residential land.

Think of it like a family. Dad brings home $3000 a month and has NO say in where the money gets spent. Mom goes and blows $2500 each month on crap. Clothes, manicures, pedicures, etc, whatever she wants basically because she's entitled and she WANTS these things. Then $500 is left over for EVERYTHING else.
If dad started making $5000 a month, that just means that mom has more money to blow, not that dad and the kids are actually going to see more of it.

The only solution I see is to have an external person handle the finances of each band. Obviously (most of them, not all) the are unable to do this for themselves, and so they need the extra help.

Helping people without making them also help themselves, or teaching them to help themselves is really helping no one in the long run.

Lindsey - posted on 11/29/2011

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Amanda and Denikka,

I absolutely agree with the points that you have made. There is tremendous corruption and misspending within FN's Council's. The entire system needs to be overhauled. Obviously self-governance, as it exists today, isn't working. As Danikka mentioned in her post, a friend of her grandparents refused to sit on the band council because of the widespread corruption, this demonstrates the feelings of frustration and hopelessness that I would think many First Nation's people feel.

But I am looking at this more from a humanitarian perspective as opposed to a political one. To me, the reasons behind this are irrelevant at this point. These people are in need of help, and I feel that it is our moral obligation to do what we can to assist them. The children who live in those conditions didn't choose to live like that, and many of the adults feel that there aren't other options available to them.

Perhaps we've reached a point where we need to stop pointing fingers and start reaching out to those in need.

I would like to add a few points about health care. First of all, imagine the extra costs of health care associated to the unsanitary conditions these people live in. How can you properly clean your home, and practice proper personal hygiene without toilets and running water? As well, I would imagine it would be quite difficult to find a health care professional willing to live in a community such as this. There is a shortage of doctors in this country and I would imagine that these reserves would be the last place a doctor (or nurse) would be willing to live and work in.

Amanda - posted on 11/29/2011

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Very true Den my reserve also doesnt hand out jobs that people on the res can do.



I missed a few points this morning as I was getting kids ready for school. As for water treatment, reserves can have people come in and teach them how to set up a water treatment plant for FREE. Thats right it doesnt even come out of the money each rez is granted yearly. The government will pay another company do teach and educate about water treatment up north (my rez is just setting up now to be able to do it for the local rezs in the area. But before that the government had its own company to do this. My rez is also setting up a program to test the other local rezs water weekly (at cost of course paid by the government not the rez they visit).



There is zero excuse for natives to live this way, other then curroption within the band office.



I would just like to note also, like a hospital, the full grant needs to be spent each year to get the same amount next year. So yes the government should look into the pay cheques of Cheifs and others working in the band, and make sure they are reasonable pays.

Krista - posted on 11/29/2011

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That's a really interesting viewpoint, Amanda. Thank you. I hadn't heard that side of it before. I wonder if other bands are going to speak up about this?

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