Series: 'Broken peoples, broken policy' among the First Nations
"The Chippewas who call the east shores of Lake Couchiching home are part of one of the most successful Indian bands in the country. “You’re not going to drive through the community and see the kind of Third World conditions that you will if you go to some other reserves,” says Shawna Snache.

And it’s true. Unlike some of the worst off First Nations in the country, Rama’s residents drive on paved roads. They live in homes without mould. Some even have swimming pools.

“We might have money, but it’s still a struggle,” says Snache. “(Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) dictates the rules to us. It’s an unfair relationship and it’s keeping us back as a people.”

The 30-year-old is a member of the Rama Citizens Coalition, a collection of disgruntled community members who feel that, despite their relative wealth, the Chippewas remain trapped in the same broken Indian Act system as every other Indian Act band in the country.

The 1876 Indian Act was passed into law as a means to protect, civilize and assimilate the Indian population. Today, it remains a barrier to real improvement in Indians’ standard of living and has created a system of governance on many reserves that is devoid of transparency and accountability.

Despite the systemic problems facing the 616 Indian Act bands, Indian Affairs recently labelled Rama one of the most successful bands in the country."

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Investigation: Broken peoples, broken policy (The Toronto Star 10/3