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Opinion: Changes needed so Natives can succeed

"Canadian taxpayers spend about $10-billion each year for federal and provincial programs aimed at natives. But there is little to show for all that spending: Many reserves continue to exhibit high levels of unemployment, substance abuse and poverty. In some cases, living conditions resemble those in the Third World -- such as at the Kashechewan Reserve on the shores of James Bay, which is now being evacuated by the Ontario government because of contaminated drinking water.

But change is possible. Even a few modest tweaks to existing policy could provide new hope for hundreds of thousands of reserve-resident aboriginals.

In the past, native leaders and activists have responded to similar CTF recommendations with the argument that any effort to promote accountability on reserves will water down native rights, and thus contribute to "cultural genocide."

This is nonsense. Our goal is simply to free natives from the paternalistic policy that has long been embedded in the Indian Act and the Department of Indian Affairs. When natives are enabled to succeed in the same way as other Canadians, they will be no less Cree, Mohawk or Ojibwas. But they will be more prosperous and self-sufficient."

Get the Story:
Tanis Fiss: A better life for Indians (The National Post 10/27)

Related Stories:
Conditions on First Nation called Third World (10/25)
First Nations finally invited to top-level meeting (10/24)