More than 300 students from Quinte Mohawk School, their teachers and dozens of members from the community walk to give First Nations children in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, ON the same chance to grow up safely, get a good education and to be proud of their culture, during a walk held on National Day of Healing and Reconciliation Monday, June 11, 2012.
Credits: JEROME LESSARD/QMI AGENCY
Anyway, health care is one of those issues that is difficult to tackle, partly because we are tired of hearing about it. In fact, I'm sorry I mentioned it.
The subject of constitutional reform is tricky for other reasons. Constitutional reform holds the distinction of being able to elicit both mind-numbing boredom and red-hot anger in the span of about 20 words.
Back in the '90s, that discussion, designed to unite us, almost blew the country apart. Finding solutions for aboriginal Canadians is another one of those difficult discussions.
After just 80 or 90 years of trying different things, all the good intentions, blab-fest conferences, consultations, accords and strategies have got us exactly nowhere. Despite tens of billions of dollars of "help," if anything the problems have grown worse. It's understandable if there's skepticism about yet another new initiative to make things better. But this time we have reason to be hopeful.
Pretty much all of the previous attempts to reform things on reserves involved working within the reserve system. Unfortunately, the reserve system and the communal ownership of land often causes many of the problems that need fixing. But now the Conservatives are moving forward with a plan to allow private property ownership on reserves.
Once people are allowed to own and sell their own homes, a whole bundle of powerful incentives come in to play. Home ownership encourages the owner to maintain the home and to build equity. In turn, the equity can be leveraged to start a business.
Of course, western civilization has only recognized for, say, 600 or 700 years that private property and markets incent beneficial behaviour and create tremendous prosperity. How nice that we've now agreed to offer the same opportunities to on-reserve Aboriginals.
Unfortunately, not all aboriginals will benefit to the same degree, especially those who live on remote reserves. Without several potential buyers for homes, the benefits of private ownership aren't nearly as great. That said, many northern reserves are close enough to oil and gas, mining or forestry operations that they could still benefit.
At the same time, the government wants to reform education on reserves, which is way overdue given how few Aboriginal young people actually graduate from high school.
That may be a much tougher nut to crack. In the past, the government has mused about calling in the provinces to do the teaching, but we should question whether their results would be much better. This might be the time to try a variety of approaches, ranging from charter schools to private education providers.
Just as interesting, these initiatives, along with the government's proposal to give matrimonial property rights to aboriginal women, make it hard for their critics to label them as mean-spirited. Thanks to these initiatives, for the first time in decades on-reserve Aboriginals have reason to be at least mildly optimistic about the future.