Straight Talk
MONTE SOLBERG - Chief Spence hides in a shadow

Chief Theresa Spence

Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY

MONTE SOLBERG | QMI AGENCY

When I was the member of Parliament for Medicine Hat, AB, almost every week I drove past a road leading into the Siksika reserve. Just off that road, sitting alone on the Alberta prairie and barely noted, sits the burial marker of Chief Crowfoot, one of the greatest figures in the early history of Western Canada.

Not only was Crowfoot a storied warrior who was wounded six times in

19 Indian battles, he was also a great peacemaker who was revered for his wisdom. He worked constructively with many of the largest figures of the day, including Father Albert Lacombe, Lt.-Col. James Macleod of the North-West Mounted Police, Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. In 1877 he and other Blackfoot confederacy chiefs signed Treaty 7 ending hostilities with the Crown in southern Alberta.

Now, let's jump in our time machine, which for arguments sake will be a Cadillac Escalade, and fast forward to January 2013. There, standing in the long shadow of Chief Crowfoot, is Chief Theresa Spence, disgraced financial manager and professional victim.

Tens of millions of federal tax dollars transferred to her reserve were spent with virtually no paper trail. She's not a real victim; she just plays one on TV.

The real victims are the people on the Attawapiskat reserve who were supposed to be the beneficiaries of that money and, of course, the taxpayers of Canada, who pay the bills.

Look, I'm very sorry the governor general mishandled the wampum. It could happen to anybody. Is Chief Spence sorry for not being able to account for $100 million? You know, the $100 million she referred to as a distraction.

Chief Crowfoot didn't just have the title of a leader. He actually led. When necessary, he fought fiercely to protect his people.

At other times he forged strong relationships and worked for peace out of concern for his people. Chief Spence has a great gig going for herself, but for her people? Not so much.

The good news is that today when chiefs don't lead, rank and file Aboriginals can leave, and they are doing so in increasing numbers. As the Fraser Institute's Mark Milke recently pointed out, three-quarters of Canada's million-plus Aboriginal population lives off reserve.

When things got tough they didn't go on a hunger strike. They didn't even go on a fish-broth fast hoping someone would feel bad for them.

They took matters into their own hands and left the reserve to look for opportunity. Most find it, too. Employment rates and income for Aboriginals off reserve are much higher than the same on reserve.

In the face of that massive migration away from reserves, Idle No More and Chief Spence's fast for cash looks like the real distraction.

The most telling fact is that despite having to leave behind family, tax advantages and all kinds of support payments, Aboriginals on reserve can hardly wait to escape.

Meanwhile Chief Crowfoot must be spinning in his grave right now to see the PR stunts that now pass as great Aboriginal leadership.

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