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ALEXANDER: Indigenous youth deserve more than sympathy — they need opportunity

“The tragedy of the state of First Nations peoples in Canada is a national shame, but one that will continue for generations to come unless we are willing to free them from paternalism.” Colin Alexander

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Canadians were mortified at the rediscovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous students at the residential school at Kamloops, B.C. The death of so many young people is tragic. Almost everyone agrees there should be respect for cemeteries, but Canadians must engage in more than self-loathing. We must look soberly at the state of First Nations in Canada and resolve to give the next generation the participation in the modern economy that eludes so many. 

For their first century, many residential schools seem to have replicated the horrors of boarding schools of Dickens’sOliver Twist. We don’t yet know the cause of death for these 215 souls, but Canadians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – deserve answers. 

One could readily believe from the summary TRC report that all residential schools were horrendous, even in recent times. However, within the full report there’s a substantial section telling the other side of the story. 

In 2010, before the TRC Report’s publication, Commissioner Murray Sinclair wrote in the Calgary Herald: “While the TRC heard many experiences of unspeakable abuse, we have been heartened by testimonies which affirm the dedication and compassion of committed educators who sought to nurture the children in their care. These experiences must also be heard.

More to the point, I believe, is the foundational Indigenous challenge today is quite different from what the three major Indigenous commission reports say it is. Instead, it’s whether Canada should enable the next generations as equal participants in the high-tech economy, or whether they should try to recreate the once-real traditional lifestyle of days long since passed. With the fur trade effectively extinct, the Indigenous peoples in remote settlements and urban slums have no real economic base. I submit that promotion of a Disneyfied iconography is fundamentally impractical and dishonest. 

Neither politicians nor ostensible leaders have been asking young people what they want out of life. Oligarchs live high on the hog while there’s a burgeoning underclass of marginalized Indigenous that’s doubling every 20 years. Former Indigenous commissioners Sinclair and Marion Buller never even hinted next generations should get the education and skills training and opportunity for a rewarding career, that they themselves had in their own childhood and youth. It eluded them those who are employed in a rewarding career seldom commit suicide or disappear; they seldom become serious addicts or street people; and they seldom go to prison.

When I was the advisor on education for Ontario’s Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, we consulted parents and youth in remote settlements. Universally, they said they wanted education for participation in mainstream society and economy. And they believed it was compatible with learning traditional skills and lifestyle. University-educated game management officers and wildlife biologists all achieve both these objectives. 

Notably in Asia, there are templates from around the world for bringing marginalized people up to speed for the high-tech economy within a single generation. Saudi Arabia’s recently retired oil minister, from a nomadic Bedouin family, joined Aramco at the age of 12. The company taught him English and he rose through the ranks of the company after getting an intensive education, including advanced degrees at American universities.

Today, remote Indigenous settlements have the world’s highest male youth suicide rate. And there are significantly more Indigenous prison inmates than there were students in residential schools at peak enrolment. The $3.5 billion in compensation cheques Commissioner Sinclair secured for former residential school students too often feed addictions and worsen societal and family problems. I know a former residential school student and multigenerational welfare recipient who received a cheque last month for $10,000. It went within a week for previous and current drug purchases. This man – or at least his children – need opportunity to pull out of the cycle of addiction and dependency that plague First Nations. Independent people are happier, more prosperous, and prouder of themselves. 

Ironically, there was more forward-looking discussion in the 1950s and 1960s than there is today. In the March 1953 edition of The Beaver, then Minister of Northern Affairs Jean Lesage envisioned a policy that, if implemented, would have worked for all Indigenous peoples.

“The objective of government policy is to give [Inuit] the same rights, privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities as all other Canadians. In short to enable them to share fully the national life of Canada.”

With the fur market having already collapsed, there was also articulate Indigenous advocacy for enabling next generations as equal Canadians in the mainstream society.

Why can’t our next Indigenous generations prosper alongside once-marginalized and now-successful Asian Canadians? I think of residential school graduate Douglas Cardinal, architect for the Museum of History in Ottawa, and the renowned Inuit thoracic surgeon Noah Carpenter. He was born on the trapline and graduated from a residential school in 1963. However terrible the conditions in his school, he undertook to make a better life for himself, his family, and his people. 

The tragedy of the state of First Nations peoples in Canada is a national shame, but one that will continue for generations to come unless we are willing to free them from paternalism. 

Guest Column from Colin Alexander. He was formerly publisher of the Yellowknife News of the North. He was the adviser on education for Ontario’s Royal Commission on the Northern Environment

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Western Standard

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    June 9, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Imagine if early 19th Century Canadians who were helping Demokkkrat Slaves to freedom in Canada had gathered them on plots of land in difficult to access areas and told them they had to behave like their ancestors in Africa. Denied them the ability to integrate into society and get an education. Sent them a few dollars every month and allowed their Chiefs to rule like a despot taking much of the bounty for himself.

    That’s exactly how Canada’s mostly Lieberal Govts treated the natives. Keeping them trapped in far-flung outposts of failure & despair. Then in the 70s “Woke” Supreme Court Judges found them “Special” Rights that have cost taxpayers of the country 100s of Billions with little result. A massive bureaucracy grew up in Ottawa but did little for the people they were supposed to serve.

    I grew up on the prairies over 50 years ago, most of the people of native descent I knew in school and on the job wanted no part of the nonsense, they just wanted a home, a car and a good paying job like everyone else. In fact one native guy that bought a home near my dad, came by to introduce himself, told my father that if any of his relatives come looking for him to say you never heard of him. He said if his relatives knew where he lived they would sponge off him till he was broke. Tradition evidently!

    “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan

  2. Darlene Belford

    June 9, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Thank you Colin Alexander for expressing what I have thought/believed for my entire adult life. We can start by abolishing Aboriginal Affairs and allow funds to flow directly to First Nations. It is obvious that past and present governments are incapable of ensuring even basic utilities (e.g., sewer & fresh water) are accessible to many First Nations.

    Make sure the mechanisms exist to ensure accountability/transparency to First Nations people themselves and then get out of the way! The rights and freedoms “allegedly” available to citizens of this country should be unequivocally available to all; the sooner the better.

  3. Claudette Leece

    June 9, 2021 at 6:53 am

    There are too many select fn leaders who benefit from the system being just as it is. You empower the people they begin to recognize the narrative they have been fed for years, was the wool pulled over there eyes. There is no stronger opponent than one that sees the light

  4. Mars Hill

    June 8, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Best insight and opinion on the subject I’ve ever come across. My two cents for what they’re worth are: it really wasn’t that long ago the pale face appeared – the spirituality and humour of natives is for the most part not within the grasp of the pale face – the notion of progress between them is as different as darkness is from light. The native has nothing to learn from us, we have much to learn from them.

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Manitoba response to Freedom Convoy has politicians cowering

“Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.”

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Federal politicians and bureaucrats will probably be hiding in their closets or under their desks, frozen in fear, when the massive Freedom Convoy arrives in Ottawa.

And they should hide in shame until they get it straight — that they were elected to carry out the will of the people; that it’s long past time to start listening.

Maybe a crescendo of blaring horns in the capital will improve their hearing.

They’ve created a big COVID-19 mess, underestimated the Canadians they’ve tormented and tried to crush, pulled cheap stunts, and delivered fancy, empty condescending lectures.

Few are listening to them anymore. Truckers have taken the wheel and won the trust and respect and hearts and minds of countless Canadians who oppose vaccine mandates and freedom of speech being trampled on. 

Elected pooh-bahs who’ve lost any esteem they may have had just don’t know what to do about that. 

Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.

That’s why hundreds of freezing supporters braved -30C temperatures to greet the convoy when it blared into Brandon, Man., population 60,000, around noon Tuesday.

A driver going the other way told the Western Standard the convoy was 100 km long.

It was a magnificent, electric scene that has, and will continue to repeat itself along highways, roads and overpasses in towns and cities across Canada until convoys coming from several directions converge on the capital January 29.

The cheering Brandon supporters didn’t come empty-handed. They brought more than 1,000 bagged lunches — sandwiches, homemade cookies, muffins, puffed wheat cakes — prepared in kitchens throughout the province. 

Someone even very thoughtfully hauled in porta-potties.

These regular Canadians don’t have much use for most politicians (Of course, Carlton MP Pierre Poilievre is an exception).

But Canadians love, love, love the truckers!

“People have been dropping food and drinks off all morning,” said Virden’s Ingrid Wilkinson, who organized the bagged lunches served at several stations.

“I’m doing it for all the harm that’s been caused. I personally know many people who have been greatly harmed. I’m doing this for our parents who had to live through Nazi occupation. Thankfully, they’re not in this world now. I do it for the kids, their future,” said Wilkinson.

“This is not sustainable. It’s a big lie.”

Virden menu for truckers

The Virden group had $825 left over from money raised to buy food to donate it to the trucker’s GoFundMe which stands at $4.6 million and counting. This amazing feat was accomplished in just 10 days.

About 193 km away in Headingley, more food and support awaited the convoy where Hutterite communities prepared for the arrival of the “dear” truckers.

“We are setting up kitchens n gonna feed you all. We are with you, and we fully support this massive convoy for freedom,” tweeted Paul Kleinsasser. “May God protect you on your journey, keep on going, we are praying for you. God bless.”

The convoy was expected to arrive in Winnipeg a few hours later.

The truckers oppose the cross-border vaccine mandates that severely impact their livelihoods.

The truckers also oppose vaccine mandates inflicted on everyone else — nurses, police, military, worshipers, children, students — everyone. 

Canadians embrace and are emboldened by their courage and stamina. 

So yes, they are well fed, dearly loved, and, it appears, to be shunned by most politicians.

However, Conservative MPs Andrew Scheer and Warrant Steinley did show up to greet the convoy in Regina Monday night.

Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen blasted the Liberal government and threw her support behind truckers.

“I support peaceful demonstrations against these mandates, and our truckers from Portage-Lisgar and from across Canada,” the Portage-Lisgar MP tweeted Tuesday.

Bergen said Trudeau “dealt our crumbling supply chain another blow” when he implemented mandates making 26,000 truckers unable to transport of goods across the Canada-U.S. border “which will only drive inflation higher than it’s been in over 30 years.

“Conservatives have been opposed to federal mandated vaccines since Trudeau introduced them: and we oppose the mandatory vaccine on Canadian truckers.”

Bergen noted that truckers bring much-needed supplies to Canada and “worked tirelessly over the pandemic” to keep supplies moving.

“Hamstringing this essential industry is nothing more than a political move to further divide Canadians.”

As for the main event in Ottawa, count on People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier to be there.

But hell will freeze over before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds the courage or respect to greet the convoy that speaks for a huge segment of the country.

Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole repeatedly dodged questions Monday about whether he supports the truckers offering a wishy-washy non-committal word salad. So no, he’ll be absent. Lord help the Conservative party while he’s at the helm.

Let these two ‘leaders’ hide in the closet from the big rigs, blaring horns, and burly truckers headed their way.

Time has passed for them to speak. Nobody cares about what they have to say anymore.

The people have spoken. 

It’s time for the politicians and unelected bureaucrats to listen.

And with every blaring horn, the message gets stronger and clearer: Enough!

Exciting times.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SELICK: Ontario’s health minister should get a second opinion

“In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. “

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of getting a second opinion from a different doctor when the first doctor’s advice doesn’t seem to be producing the desired results.

In a widely publicized speech she made on January 19, Elliott said: “I want to respond to some extremely concerning reports that some doctors are spreading misinformation about vaccines. At a time when it’s never been more important for Ontarians to have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, this [dissenting advice] is unacceptable. I will be sending a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) urging them to do everything that is possible to put an end to this behaviour. They should consider all options in doing so, including reviewing the licenses of physicians found to be spreading misinformation.”

It is certainly true that some Ontario doctors have departed from the “must-vaccinate” narrative of the majority and the CPSO. However, it is not a mere handful that are creating such stress for the health minister. Forty MDs were already under investigation by the CPSO before Ms. Elliott expressed her wish for an even broader witch hunt.

There are many other dissenters that the CPSO has not yet targeted. For instance, a group calling itself Canadian Physicians for Science and Truth posted a declaration on May 9, 2021 responding to the CPSO’s April 30th threat to impose disciplinary action on any physician who questions or debates COVID-19 orthodoxy. The declaration has garnered 718 signatures from healthcare professionals (many of whom have shown their credentials as “MD”), as well as 20,171 signatures from ordinary citizens. Those signing the declaration accuse the CPSO of ordering physicians to depart from the scientific method by shying away from debate on scientific subjects.

Another group, the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, is more protective of the identities of its members but indicates that it is an “alliance of over 500 independent Canadian doctors, scientists, and health care providers…committed to providing quality, balanced, evidence-based information to the Canadian public about COVID-19 so that hospitalizations can be reduced, lives saved, and our country safely restored to normal as quickly as possible.”

Health Minister Elliott must surely share those goals, so why has she moved so pre-emptively and harshly to demonize a contingent of her fellow travelers? She herself is not a doctor or scientist, and not independently qualified to determine which group of doctors really does have an accurate view of the facts.

Rational people – when faced with a choice between two opposing scientific opinions – examine both of them closely and give due consideration to the viewpoints of all the people more highly credentialed than themselves. They don’t behave like Ms. Elliott did – pretending to know that one group is wrong while the other has a monopoly on truth.

In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. Sometimes the second doctor, or even the third or fourth, has a more satisfactory answer than the first did.

Ms. Elliott must surely realize by now that the experts she has been relying on for the past two years have not served the people of Ontario well. It’s high time she abandoned her arrogant attitude towards those who are offering a different opinion and started listening to them instead of threatening them with the loss of their livelihoods.

Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

WAGNER: The benefits of a federal Western independence party

“As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows that he has nothing to worry about.”

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For Alberta to become independent, there must be a provincial referendum on independence that receives a clear majority vote. For the referendum to take place, there must be a party in power willing to hold one. That requires the election of a provincial political party that favours asking Albertans whether they want to remain in Canada or choose a path towards self-determination and prosperity. The need for a provincial independence party is clear and easy to understand.

But some people ask: what about a federal Western independence party? What would be the point of that? It could neither mandate the necessary referendum nor pass federal legislation benefiting the West. Such a party therefore seems pointless, they suggest.

However, there are some clear benefits to a federal political party that should be considered.

For one thing, a federal Western independence party gives pro-independence voters an option besides the pro-federalist parties currently on offer. Patriotic Alberta voters who reject the Central Canadian parties would at least have someone they can conscientiously support. They could “vote their values,” so to speak, and send a message to Ottawa that voting for other parties doesn’t accomplish.

Right now, many independence-minded Albertans support Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party. The People’s Party has a unique and beneficial message that is attractive to conservative-minded Westerners, so that’s understandable. Bernier’s opposition to the Paris Climate Accord would mean that a Peoples’ Party federal government would eliminate the kinds of policies that prevent Western freedom and prosperity.

That is excellent, of course. However, because the People’s Party doesn’t restrict its focus to Western interests, it can’t represent the West in the same way that an exclusively Western party could. This is not to disparage the People’s Party, but simply to note that as a pan-Canadian party it must represent the interests of every region in the country, not just the West.

Having a federal independence party – such as the Maverick Party – does more than simply provide an option for Western regionalist voters. If it were to win a substantial number of votes (whether in a by-election or general election), that would alert Central Canadians to the increasing anger towards Ottawa in the West. 

As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows he has nothing to worry about. Conservative MPs from Alberta undoubtedly sympathize with the plight of the West, but their options to help are severely constrained by the need to appeal to voters in places like Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The Conservative Party wants more than anything to achieve power, and the path to power runs through Central Canada. Thus, the interests of Alberta will always be a very low priority for the Conservative Party.

In contrast, were one or more Western independence MPs to be elected, Trudeau would see the West was not just going to lie down and let him run us over. He might finally understand that his anti-oil industry policies would be met by stiff resistance and that he was in for a real fight.

Most importantly of all, though, is that the election of one or more Maverick Party MPs would provide a significant morale boost for the entire Western independence movement. There would be lots of excitement that would lead to increased support, even at the provincial level.

There’s something about an electoral victory that generates credibility, even if power is not attained by the victor. That is, even though Maverick MPs would not form government or exercise power, the fact that they received voter support would provide credibility for the independence movement as a whole. In this kind of situation, quality leaders would likely emerge who could take the movement forward.

Some people point out that there have been Bloc Québécois MPs in Ottawa for years and they have done little for Quebec. Therefore, Maverick MPs from Alberta would be just as pointless.

However, everyone expects Quebec to send separatist MPs to Ottawa. They’ve been doing that for decades. Alberta sending independence-minded MPs to Ottawa would be entirely different. The election of Maverick MPs would constitute a political earthquake that would rock the nation. It would be the Canadian news story of the decade, and it would generate new interest and energy in the Western independence movement.

In short, a federal political party could potentially play a meaningful role in the move towards Alberta independence. A federal party is not as essential as a provincial party for the independence movement to succeed, but the potential benefits it could provide should not be overlooked.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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