Straight Talk
EDITORIAL - Time to break First Nations' cycle of misery

Thousands marched on Parliament Hill Friday Dec 21, 2012 in Ottawa, ON to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Harper. I



Has the time not come to finally end the annual cycle of misery and despair in remote northern reserves like Attawapiskat and Kashechewan, two God-forsaken places that make gulags look hospitable?

Has the time not come to shut them down, and move everyone south to locales and climes where hell doesn't freeze over?

We think so.

Early this month, the Kashechewan First Nation declared a state of emergency over lack of fuel and, before the federal government stepped in, it was poised to shut down the band office, two schools, 21 uninhabitable homes, the power generation centre, the health clinic and the fire hall because the buildings were not heated.

These woes are perennial, not one-off.

Remember last year at this time? Who can forget the gut-wrenching images of Native children in neighbouring Attawapiskat living in unheated sheds and tents with no electricity and no running water.

We condemned the band's leaders for this, and they deserved it for their mismanagement and their bullheadedness.

For years, Canadians have rightfully been asking how billions of taxpayer dollars intended for reserves somehow disappear into the bureaucratic ether and fail to raise the living standards of those struggling in places like Attawapiskat and Kashechewan.

While Canadians shake their heads over how $90 million in government funding to Attawapiskat over the last five years still has children living in frigid tents as winter grips the Far North, a true look at the money trail makes it all too clear where the money is lost.

In 2010, for example, some $34 million was pumped into the squalid Cree community of Attawapiskat, but not much went to improve the lives of the reserve's children through housing assistance to their parents.

Instead, $11.2 million -- 32% of the reserve's total grants, and 36% of its entire expenses -- went to the salaries and benefits of band leaders, all while their peoples' children were left in frozen Third World squalor.

Check the books.

And start the conversation about more effective ways to spend those millions of taxpayer dollars. Perhaps it's time pack up both Attawapiskat and Kashechewan, and raze both communities on the way out.

And welcome them with open arms to the First World.


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