Two young boys walk past substandard housing on their way to play hockey in Attawapiskat, Ontario, December 17, 2011.
Credits: Frank Gunn/REUTERS
Last fall, the Attawapiskat Indian reserve declared a state of emergency. Despite $90 million poured into the reserve over five years by the federal government - into a town with fewer than 500 families - there were dozens of band members living in shanties and shacks, and even some families in tents.
The consensus media responded like Pavlov's dog. They knew the official narrative: Attawapiskat needed more money. The problems were clearly caused by the heartlessness of the Conservatives who were mean at best, and probably racist, too.
That was the official line of the Media Party, and it was regurgitated again more than a week ago by the Court Party. Michael Phelan, a liberal judge on the Federal Court, declared that the problems on the reserve were most definitely not the fault of financial mismanagement or "incorrect" spending, and so the financial manager sent there by Ottawa to look into the mess had to leave.
Except that, right in the middle of this so-called state of emergency, when people were in leaky houses and tents, the Attawapiskat Indian band - with three chiefs and 18 band councillors on the payroll - made an important financial decision.
They needed a new ice resurfacer for their hockey rink.
They haven't rebuilt their school up there, since it was torn down because of diesel fumes. They're living in shacks. (Well, not the chief, of course.)
But forget about such trivial problems. These clowns needed a new ice resurfacer.
You can see a copy of the invoice for it on this page: $96,089 for an Olympia model ice resurfacer.
Now, a nitpicker might point out that the state of emergency was not formally declared until a few weeks after the Olympia order was made. But that's the thing. There may have been a housing emergency in the mind of the media. But the highest priority for the band was their hockey emergency. So that deal for the ice resurfacer still went ahead.
Attawapiskat, if you look at a map, isn't just down the road from the dealer selling ice resurfacers in Ontario. In fact, it isn't down a road at all - it's accessible only by plane and by boat.
So the new ice resurfacer was trucked from Elmira, Ont., to Cochrane. Then it was put on a train to Moosonee. Then it was put on a barge and sailed up to Attawapiskat.
Look, when there's a hockey emergency going on, you spare no expense. Even if you wind up spending as much shipping that beast up north as you did to buy it in the first place. The band, on its website, says money raised through community bingo paid for the new Olympia, while proceeds from Casino Rama went towards the freight charges and the barge costs were donated by the transportation firm. Don't like it? Think maybe they should have used the money to patch up a leaky house or rebuild the school? You're clearly a racist.
Oh, one more thing. See, Attawapiskat already had an ice resurfacer. But it was a 1997 model. And the trustees of Attawapiskat's money, those guardians of the interests of ordinary Indians, those three well-paid chiefs and the 18 well-paid band councillors, plus all the civil servants and permanent government staff up there, thought the latest model was what Attawapiskat needed to buy.
Oh, and they paid cash - half up front and half on delivery. Poor folks - most normal Canadians - might have to finance a big new vehicle. Not the high rollers at Attawapiskat. They had the money in a bank account.
I didn't get a copy of this Olympia invoice in a manila envelope slipped under my door. I don't have a secret source leaking me this information. It's posted right on the Attawpiskat band's website.
The purchase of the ice resurfacer is a scandal. But the Media Party's willful blindness to the purchase - the $90 million of other waste - is an even bigger scandal.