Editorial: Reform First Nations policy in Canada
"With its vineyard, golf course, resort and spa, the Osoyoos reserve in British Columbia does not fit the usual picture of misery associated with Canada’s 600-odd Indian bands. Its successful businesses were built under the constraints of the Indian Act, a 19th-century law governing every aspect of reserve life, from land use to the two-year tenure of chiefs. Clarence Louie, the BlackBerry-wielding chief of the 460-member Osoyoos band, says the lease negotiations required five times as much time and money as comparable off-reserve businesses because final approval rests with bureaucrats in Ottawa.

Surely that is reason enough to want rid of legislation whose origins go back to when the thrust of British colonial policy was to assimilate the Indians? No, says Mr Louie: “Natives hate the Indian Act, but at the same time, do you trust government to replace it?” he asks. “With what?”

Every Canadian federal government has faced this question since the first one took office in 1867, taking over a patchwork of reserves and treaties negotiated under British rule. In the absence of a convincing answer that satisfied both governments and governed, Canada has opted for incremental change. The result is a system that is increasingly outdated, expensive and unworkable (a fate Canada shares with other postcolonial societies like Australia)."

Get the Story:
A policy that is outdated, expensive and unworkable (The Economist 3/26)