Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Attawapiskat and the Aboriginal Service Industry

Aside from the despicable display of complete lack of empathy for fellow human beings on the part of the neo-cons as epitomized by Harper's partisan reaction to questions in the House of Commons, much has been made and said about the supposed oodles of money - $7 billion dollars, $90 million dollars, $300+ million from De Beers for the construction of the diamond mine - giving the impression that Aboriginals are swimming in money. This is just perversed and wrong.

Just as we never (or hardly ever) see the $illion dollars of our public health care system (where is that money, Canada?), much is the same truth with the money that is supposedly going to the people of Attawapiskat. Not only that, aboriginal communities usually have no choice but to lapse funding because they simply do not meet the criteria and/or funding arrangements set by bureaucrats in Ottawa, so it was not surprising to hear that the Attawapiskat housing had "surplus" of paltry $50,000 in their accounts when so much is going so wrong there.

The Aboriginal service industry - at $7 billion and change every year - should be made to account for the federal dollars spent on administration and active neglect and abandonment of duty: how much is spent in Ottawa itself; how much of it lapses because of airy-fairy criteria that no reasonable Canadian would ever accept as fair (well, maybe the teaser rates and weaselese fine print used by banks and financial institutions to swindle their money is roughly cognate to our chagrin and frustration with governments). Anyhoo, the money looks and feels real enough on paper, but look at our sad history! What is going here?

Then there are capacity issues (in both management and program design and delivery). Our academic achievement rates are directly commensurate with our participation rates in health, criminal justice and welfare systems - something about the father-knows-best and stultifying mothering instinct of distant power structures and their attendant bureaucracies (who are usually non-aboriginal even here in Nunavut, and, sadly, in Greenland as well - the Inuit Nunaat most Inuit envy) who think our lot of poverty and squalor is natural. Something happens to even the best of missionaries who soon forget when they come up here our humanity and rightful citizenship in this great country of our's and all that it supposedly entails. It's as if the recognition of our humanity would be too much to ask.

Harper's alienated reaction is sadly typical when questions of neglect and sin by omission are raised, but what strikes even us fellow aboriginals is that things got so bad in Attawapiskat even the International Red Cross had to intervene while our nation's leader and leadership continue to play the blame game.

Where is all that money? I would bet there are 1.3 bureaucrats for every single aboriginal at the federal and provincial/territorial levels. Do the math. Aboriginals do not run things let alone decide where money goes and how it's spent - all of this is done at the top where big "P" policies and programs are set. Think a couple of summers ago when Harper's government spent a quarter of a million dollars to tell some aboriginal community they had no money for the construction of a school.


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