What's in Store for Aboriginal Affairs - Part III

Author: Tanis Fiss 2006/03/08

- Part 1      - Part 2      - Part 3

The newly minted Conservative government promised many things during the recent campaign. Although aboriginal policy was barely touched upon, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation offers this, part three of a three-part series examining the Conservative platform.

Replace the Indian Act (and related legislation) to provide for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal Canadians for their own affairs within the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The CTF applauds the Conservatives plan to abolish the Indian Act. Good governance, accountability and transparency cannot be built on a foundation of faulty legislation. Consequently, for native communities to compete successfully within the Canadian economic mainstream, the Indian Act must be phased out.

The CTF also applauds the Conservatives plan to incorporate the Human Rights Act. This Act does not apply to status Indians who live on native reserve. As unbelievable as this may seem, section 67 of the Human Rights Act states, "Nothing in this Act affects any provisions of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act." In other words, the Indian Act is the ultimate law that governs native reserves. Regrettably, the Indian Act is mute on the subject of human rights.

Abolishing the Indian Act and including aboriginal communities under the Charter of Rights and Freedom, will advance aboriginal Canadians to become Canadians of full-status.

Implement the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginals Affairs recommendations for resolving Indian residential school claims to expedite the settlement of claims and save money

Listening to some media reports, one might conclude that every native Canadian attended residential school. In fact, less than one in six natives attended a residential school - or about 150,000. For example, in 1960 there were 40,637 natives enrolled in government schools across Canada. Only 9,109 were in residential schools compared with 22,049 in federal day schools and another 9,479 in regular, provincial public schools.

In 1998 the federal government delivered a statement of reconciliation and apology to those people who experienced sexual and/or physical abuse while attending residential schools. This apology paved the way for an industry funded by taxpayers and fuelled by guilt.

Were Indian residential schools perfect Of course not. But what was the alternative Should the federal government not have provided education for aboriginal children

If crimes were committed in the schools - and some were - the victims of the crimes have the same right as any other citizen to seek redress through the courts. The Conservatives should take steps to ensure compensation is only paid for legitimate claims - not out of guilt.

Recognize the contribution of aboriginal veterans by implementing the resolution of the House of Commons to acknowledge the historic inequity of treatment and compensation for aboriginal war veterans.

There are some aboriginal veterans who claim they did not receive the same level of compensation that non-aboriginal veterans have. The Conservatives must view these claims in a similar way as the previous analysis of the residential school policy; any compensation should be paid for legitimate claims only.

The Conservative platform, if implemented, will go along way to eradicate poverty and increase prosperity within Canada's native communities. The new federal government has an opportunity to reform the system of aboriginal affairs. It is only through major reform that aboriginal poverty on reserves will truly be eradicated. To do otherwise is insane.

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