Saturday, January 7, 2012

Canada: towards a two-state solution

In reading up on the last round of spit-ball exchanges between the local council in Attawapiskat and the federal government, I am struck by how far we really are from any realization that "our" native people are not in any way "ours".

Attawapiskat, for those of you who don't remember, is that native reserve way up north where conditions are so deplorable that the community caught the attention of the international media a few months ago. Sub-standard housing, unemployment, an epidemic of substance abuse... Attawapiskat made headlines from Stockholm to Sydney.

The international attention has subsided and now it's back to business as usual, which, long story short, consists of the federal government making the natives grovel for more "help".

I've been pondering this issue for a long time, and I've come to the conclusion that there is a solution; the two state solution. Not a state and a pretend lip-service series of state-reserves scattered here and there, but two independent states.

Before that can happen, our native neighbors have to get their act together. The fact that there are approximately 600 First Nations in Canada is a legacy of colonialist divide and conquer strategies. Dignity and sovereignty aren't going to happen as long as the federal government can get away with dealing with a community of a few thousand here and another few thousand there.

Those 600 native communities need to be held together under a cohesive central authority, and while there are national umbrella organizations today, they obviously aren't up to the job.

Secondly, non-native Canada needs to recognize that for a sovereign people to thrive, they will require adequate resources. By adequate resources I don't mean welfare cheques. I mean the resources that come with having sovereign control over an equitable share of Canada's land mass.

What is an equitable share? Based on their proportion of the population of what is now Canada, this should be at a very minimum at least five percent of the land mass. That is about a ten-fold increase over the amount of resources natives have today. There may be good sound arguments that will allow a higher figure to be negotiated.

Before there are negotiations there will need to be that central authority that speaks for the aboriginal people, and in no way can it be made up of the hang-around-the-fort types who populate the leadership of national native organizations today.

We've had a system in place that's proven itself detrimental to the First Nations for well over a hundred years. That system seems to work OK for the side that has all the power. Attawapiskat tells us it doesn't work for the other side.

It's time for change.

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