Straight Talk
ERIC DUHAIME - Chief Spence's hunger strike opens eyes to specific Aboriginal reality

Drummers during a flashmob in support of the Idle No More movement at Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, Ont. on Sunday Dec. 30, 2012.



The native leader of Attawapiskat, Theresa Spence, should be praised for opening a long-expected and needed debate regarding the status of Indians in Canada.

I don't care if Spence was on a hunger strike or a low-fat diet while camping for the last month on an island in the Ottawa River just next to Parliament Hill, eating only fish stock to obtain a meeting with the prime minister and the governor general, the Queen's representative in Canada.

With all the information that has came out over the last few days about the mismanagement of her Northern Ontario small community - and kudos to my colleague Ezra Levant for digging up that story - we now have a perfect example of what is wrong with our current way of treating the First Peoples.

Levant and the audit commissioned by the federal government showed us this week that more than 80% of the spending in Attawapiskat examined in the audit was done with insufficient or no paperwork at all.

A million dollars given here to a contractor without any kind of paper trail, Chief Spence and her boyfriend making more than $250,000 income without paying a penny in taxes, the $96,000 purchase of a second ice resurfacer for a community of 300 families are just a few examples from a list that goes on and on.

More than $100 million has been spent that way since 2005.

A bunch of elitist chiefs are wasting - or worse - millions and millions of our tax dollars while many Aboriginals on the reserve are suffering, often being deprived of basic essentials such as tap water or electricity. And such a depressing and sad story could unfortunately be written about many reserves all across the country.

When the prime minister meets the chiefs Friday (excluding Spence), I truly hope he will have at heart, first and foremost, the interests of the poor on the reserves and the Canadian taxpayers, instead of trying to please a bunch of self-interested lobbyists dressed up as Aboriginal chiefs.

Wouldn't it be the perfect timing for our PM to suggest abolishing the Indian Act all together?

My ancestors came to America 17 generations ago. The new immigrant who just became a citizen today has the exact same rights and responsibilities as me.

That's great.

Why should we then give different rights and responsibilities to certain people based on their ethnic origins, or the date of arrival of their ancestors on the continent?

Not only has this policy created a certain form of racial segregation but it has also led to a rotten regime.

The time has more than come to free Aboriginals from their corrupted leaders and stop considering them as second-class citizens.

Thank you sincerely, Chief Spence, for opening our eyes to your specific reality and let's all hope the police will also open up their eyes to deal with those who took advantage of the old system for too long.

You are a true symbol of what went wrong for those of us who want to consider all Canadians equal and eliminate the discrimination that has impoverished our First Peoples.

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