Oil & gas makes full employment & self-sufficiency possible for First Nations!

Credit Bloomberg. Click for FP.

A December 7th, 2016 CBC article by John Paul Tasker caught my attention this morning on Twitter (H/T @PipelineAction). It had the title “Environmentalists have impoverished First Nations.”

Yet, when I read the article, I found that where First Nations embraced the development of such natural resources as oil and gas (never mind forestry, fishing and mining), the reverse was actually the case — which has not always been so.

  • First, there were the anti-fur campaigns in the 1970s which eventually destroyed the Native way of life, not only for those who were hunters and trappers, but furriers and retailers as well.
  • Then, there was the anti-seal campaigns both off the coast of Newfoundland and throughout Europe.
  • Now, there is the 2014 pro-whaling fiasco by the anti-whaling Greenpeace. Known for stopping the whale hunt world-wide, Greenpeace recently supported the killing of a whale by the Clyde River Inuit in Nunavut even though whales are endangered in the Arctic. Given the destruction of the fur and seal trades of the past, I believe this latest turn of face is pure political theatre to try to turn public opinion in Greenpeace’s favour. The problem is that if whales are endangered in the Arctic, pretty soon there won’t be any left to hunt, traditional native values and way of life notwithstanding.

Anyway, the good news is that times are changing because there are forward-looking First Nations Chiefs who know that there can be a balance between care of the environment and providing jobs and wealth.

For example:

  • As I linked at the start of this post, Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nations in Alberta, recently spoke at an Assembly of First Nations Gathering in Gatineau, Quebec and is quoted as saying that: “His community … has an unemployment rate of zero, an average annual income of $120,000, and financial holdings in excess of $2 billion, thanks to its willingness to do business with Canada’s oil and gas companies.” Not only that, but as a result of this windfall, that band is self-governed, receiving only 4% of its revenue from the Government of Canada.
  • A similar good news story was recently heard from First Nation Chief Joe Dion of Frog Lake, Alberta. A quote from a BBC article, also dated December 2016, states that: “[Dion] heads up Frog Lake Energy Resources Corporation, which is wholly owned by the First Nation and manages the on-reserve oil and gas drilling facilities” which has been able to use oil production dividends to build homes, community and senior centres, as well as help fund education programmes.

Thankfully, then, history will not repeating itself if enough First Nations leaders realize that oil and gas and everything connected to those industries, if done right, can benefit their communities.

At the same time, however, caution and awareness is needed because there are still a lot of environmental activist groups that would have First Nations living in poverty, as illogical as that seems. For a full description of who wants to stop anyone from receiving any benefits from oil and gas resource and pipeline development, I would recommend reading a very detailed Vivian Krause October, 2016 article in the Financial Post.

Anyway, let’s look forward with confidence.

The crux of the matter is that First Nation leaders and their communities in both Canada and the U.S. can benefit financially and purposefully from oil and gas extraction and pipeline infrastructure on their traditional lands — with business development and full employment and all the positive outcomes resulting from those activities.


Is distrust & self-preservation why AFN Chiefs rejected education reform?

Credit Globe and Mail.

Given that 58% of on-reserve aboriginal young people do not graduate from high school (compared to 16% when all Canadians are included), it’s really unfortunate that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chiefs have rejected the native education reforms recommended by the Conservative government and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

Specifically, the current Conservative government wants to move ahead with a new native education act, the purpose of which would be to provide money for reserve and regional school boards — thereby providing the same type of publicly funded programs and services available to Canadian children and youth living off-reserve. And, they want to have everything in place for September 2014! Continue reading

Partnerships can end Aboriginal school funding gap

Courtesy John Woods, CP

We know that there is a huge gap between federal funding for Aboriginal elementary and secondary schools on reserves compared to what provincial and territorial governments pay for similar non-Native schools. But, do most of us have any idea how big that gap actually is? 

Well,  the reality is that the federal government pays between one-third and 40% LESS per pupil than their provincial counterparts, regardless of which political party is governing. So, if the per pupil grant is $10,000 for non-Aboriginal students, it could be anywhere between $6670 to  $6000 for Native students.

As a retired educator, I can tell you that is a HUGE gap — between $3330 and $4000 a student — particularly given the cost of keeping good teachers, buying textbooks and using assistive technologies that are current.

Put succinctly, if regular public schools were denied what that money can buy, provincial and territorial graduation rates would be as low as they are on reserves.

So, what is the solution? Shovel more money into Aboriginal allocations — or — develop federal government, school board and reserve partnership agreements that can narrow or end the gap altogether?

Sound unrealistic? Well, read this Macleans article by Andrew Stobo Sniderman.  In it he explains a funding model that if generalized and tweeked to accommodate the needs and concerns of different Aboriginal and municipal Canadian communities, could very well be the solution to ending the gap.  

For example, Sniderman compares per pupil funding at Rossburn Collegiate (located some four hours west of Winnipeg), compared to Waywayseecappo Reserve School a few kilomters down the road. Prior to Waywayseecappo joining the public board, the Reserve school struggled.

Then note what happened when the funding was equalized and specialized services were made available for students having reading and learning difficulties. In Sniderman’s words, the transformation was remarkable!

So, let’s credit all sides in this breakthrough, particularly Waywayseecappo Chief Murray Clearsky. In relation to the Chief, Sniderman writes:

“The reserve will continue to oversee curriculum and effectively drafts its own budget independently. ‘I am not giving up much authority for the amount of good education we are getting,’ says Clearsky. ‘With more resources, the kids are already doing better.’ He’s also now fielding questions from other reserves hoping to emulate the model.  

And, fielding questions from other reserves can only be a good thing as can setting aside partisan bickering. In this case in point, we have a provincial NDP government and a Conservative federal government working with the Waywayseecappo First Nations.  Good on them all!

Conservatives to support NDP motion to end Aboriginal education funding?

So, now we know how this robocall issue is going to end — with a political compromise. Yes, the NDP’s Interim Leader Nycole Turmel and Pat Martin are still playing good cop, bad cop, as this column by PostMedia reporter Linda Nguyen indicates.

However, something else is going on as well. For example, check out this somewhat low-key column by Tim Harper in the Toronto Star (H/T newswatchcanada.ca) which indicates that the Conservatives might back NDP MP Charlie Angus’ motion to end the federal Aboriginal education funding gap.

Could, in fact, that be where the rubber hits the road and the NDP backs away from Bob Rae’s near hysteria? Well, only time will tell of course, but as Nguyen writes: 

“On Friday, Rae sent a letter to House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, asking him to allow an emergency debate on the matter when Parliament resumes Monday. But interim federal NDP leader Nycole Turmel says approval for such a debate is unlikely because it is not the responsibility of the federal government to probe these kinds of situations. Instead, she urged for a thorough investigation by the RCMP and Elections Canada.”

A thorough investigation by the RCMP and Elections Canada? Absolutely. Of course, even without the results of such an investigation, Bob Rae and his Liberals continue to allege a connection between the robocalls and the Conservative Party of Canada  — even while voters like me are willing to sign an affidavit that we too got such calls.

As I wondered at the time I received my call, why on earth would Elections Canada call an individual voter. Or, for that matter, why would any political party call someone on or just before election day. The reality is that no one can predict how a person will vote on the basis of their telephone number. For example, as I mentioned in one of my comments on my previous thread, I also got automated calls during the Ontario election campaign as well, but they were identified as coming from the provincial Liberal candidate in my riding. However, at no time did I actually say who I was planning to vote for. 

Meaning, no political party can know how a person is going to vote strictly based on their telephone number. And, for Bob Rae and the federal Liberal incumbents who lost on May 2, 2011, to suggest electoral fraud is truly magical thinking, albeit dangerous thinking given how the confidence in our government is being eroded purely out of political desperation.



(1) Here is another Toronto Star article (H/T Ontario Girl) about a private Thunder Bay call centre company supposed to get out the Conservative vote. Obviously mistakes were made, but mostly by the call centre workers. But I am also very suspicious. Why are we not hearing anything about Liberal and NDP attempts to get out their vote. They had to have made those types of calls. Whatever mistakes were made, in my opinion, it is far more shameful what the liberal media and Liberals are trying to do now — take down a duly elected government on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. No, the call centre workers do not prove voter suppression. Rather, they prove that call centre workers themselves decided to say they were calling from Elections Canada.

(2) Here is a Globe and Mail article about Senator Mike Duffy complaining that there are also third parties who get involved in election campaigns and likely use automated calling and call centres. Makes a lot of sense.

(3) CBC reporting that Peter McKay saying robocalls an isolated incident.

How does PM Stephen Harper deal with First Nations’ issues?

Credit Todd Korol, Reuters Files

Prime Minister Stephen Harper deals with First Nation issues the way he deals with all issues — careful consideration followed by concrete actions.  So, the hysteria by the federal opposition and liberal media about Attawapiskat is not helping anyone, least of all those on the reserve who need help now. 

To begin with, there was the righteous indignation of NDP’s Charlie Angus. At first, he made sense and yes he was correct to bring the matter forward. The Attawapiskat reserve is, after all, in his riding.  But, unfortunately, he went beyond indignation and turned the issue into a political football. 

However, even Angus’ antics for the television cameras pale beside the performance in the House of Commons  by Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae — who looked like he was about to have a heart attack when he was discussing the matter. Yet, as an Ontarian, I have no memory of his NDP government doing anything for Attawapiskat while he was Premier of Ontario from October 1990 to June 1995.

So, how does PM Harper deal with First Nations issues?

Well, as Kathryn Blaze Carlson writes in today’s National Post, while former PMs Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were well-meaning and shed a few tears for some of the horrible living conditions on so many reserves, it was PM Harper who has actually done something. For example, he was the first Canadian Prime Minister to:

While there will no doubt be some who point out the endorsement of the UN declaration was initially rejected by the Harper government, once the PM established that the Declaration did not infringe on Canadian sovereignty, it was accepted. So, Harper gets things done in his own way. No flash, no tears. Just hard work and a conviction that there must be accountability and transparency by all parties.  As Carlson writes:

“Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist who once served as an aboriginal affairs negotiator for the federal government, said the prime minister’s reaction to the situation in Attawapiskat is classic Stephen Harper….’I think he will stay away from Kelowna Accord-type things — big announcements, big money — that don’t do anything. Harper’s political moves are always informed by the historical calculations and miscalculations of others, so when he judged his predecessor, he saw Paul Martin creating a wish-list that could never be fulfilled.”

So, let’s stop the finger-pointing and anti-Conservative bashing and get on with helping those in Attawapiskat, as well as other First Nations needing assistance. And, as a conservative, I fully expect part of Mr. Harper’s focus will be on creating mechanisms that provide transparency and accountability by both First Nations communities and the federal government.

C/P Jack’s Newswatch.

Update: Supplies have now reached Attawapiskat!

AFN & Harper gov’t panel to consult on fixing education for First Nations

Let’s hope that improvements may finally be coming to on-reserve schools across Canada. As Leith Dunick writes at this Thunder Bay link called tbnewsworld.com, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) will be creating a panel that will tour the country to consult on how on-reserve schools can be improved.

Let’s keep in mind that we are talking about 515 on-reserve schools and some 113,000 children and youth nation-wide.  Meaning, the panel will have its work cut out for them if they want to find out how 515 schools can be made better.

That said, I agree with AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo when he says: “We need action now…” because far too often First Nations and the Federal Government consult, a report is written and then left on a shelf somewhere to collect dust. Or worse, the government knows improvements are needed but, for some unknown reason, does nothing. Attawapiskat comes to mind. In any event, let’s hope that actions really do speak louder than words this time.

To read the complete article, click here …

Mike Holmes making it right for First Nations

Good on Mike Holmes! Rather than simply build sustainable homes in First Nations communities, he is going to show them “how” to do it so that they will learn the knowledge and skills-sets they need to build their own sustainable homes.

Whether it was the first HGTV Holmes on Homes program, Holmes in New Orleans, or the more recent “Holmes Inspection,” I am a fan of Canada’s famous contractor and now celebrity. I like him because he is a no-nonsense kind of guy who just gets the job done. He just looks out at the camera and speaks with conviction (and sometimes moral outrage) in a way that makes it look like he is talking directly to each one of us.

The trademarked phrase “Make It Right” will alway be associated with Holmes now, although it could just as easily be “helping people to help themselves.” Now, as before, he is using his celebrity to change lives, this time in a First Nations community in Ontario — apparently following on what he has been doing in Alberta.

Here is what Macleans writes on this latest venture, which will no doubt make it onto TV at some point. Holmes says:

“’If it was 50 homes being built, our target date [for completion] would be one year.’ The funding for the pilot, as well as future projects, will come entirely from the First Nations communities. ‘Certain bands and certain areas have been putting money aside for restructuring,’ he says. The ultimate goal: to provide those in First Nations communities with the tools to rebuild. ‘I don’t mean a hammer, a level and a square,’ he says. ‘I mean an education system so they can do it themselves.’”

Mike Holmes. Continuing to make it right. We need more practical hands-on educators like that!

Aboriginal “Charter of Forgiveness” for residential school abuses

Too often bloggers and professional journalists don’t write about positive news because negative stories or partisan controversies get more readers — as in if it bleeds, it leads. Well, not today as we learn about the aboriginal community’s “Charter of Forgiveness.” That charter is certainly good news because forgiving is one of the most difficult acts for human beings to do, particularly when physical and sexual abuse was involved. So, it is a huge step forward for the entire aboriginal community, to not only have a “National Forgiven Summit,” but to give the government the charter. As the CBC reported (h/t Jack’s Newswatch):

“Federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl has accepted a ‘charter of forgiveness’ from members of the aboriginal community as part of the healing process for survivors of Canada’s residential schools.Chief Kenny Blacksmith presented the charter Saturday at the National Forgiven Summit, a conference of Aboriginal Peoples in Ottawa.The charter was signed by elders and survivors, as well as young people, who said that the damage from residential schools is intergenerational.”

Next week, the long awaited “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” will begin to hold hearings on residential school abuses, a commission that will provide victims and their survivors a forum where they can share and record, for history, what really happened.