Treating natives as scapegoats or with equality

The following is a comment posted to an article on The Economist about Canadian natives in the Nov. 17, 2011 issue. This may not be about economics but having lived on a reserve for four years it is something about which I have strong feelings.

http://www.economist.com/node/21538794

 

The way in which us Canadians currently  treat our native population is mostly nasty and much worse than anything which happened in the past.

If we are to treat them humanely we must come to terms with two things.

First, they were and still are a conquered people. When the Europeans came to North American,  they conquered the natives with the help of smallpox. The royal decree that they had to negotiate treaties was a fiction to cover the reality.

The second is that the way we currently treat natives is working to make them into scapegoats.  By allowing them special privileges other  Canadians are developing a lot of resentment.  As the economy goes down it will be convenient to be able to blame natives rather than ourselves.  This is already happening with respect to parts of the West coast fishery where natives are being blamed by some people for a decline of the Fraser River salmon run.

The most important thing to do to for natives is to treat them with equality.  They should have the same rights and responsibilities as every other Canadian.

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Resource projects and natives in British Columbia

B. C. first nations need to embrace natural resource projects

This is the headline for a column on the front page of today’s Vancouver Sun in which  Barbara Yaffee   argues that British Columbia natives should embrace rather than oppose three high profile and controversial projects in the northern part of the province – a mine, a oil pipeline and a tanker port to export tar sands oil.

It is not just native peoples who are against these projects but when the economy is tough the search is on for scapegoats.  It is sad that the way we have treated natives and the way their leaders have demanded they be treated is setting them up to be scapegoats.  But then maybe societies need someone to blame when things get difficult.

Ms. Yaffe points out Canadian natives suffer from lack of clean water (that is not the case in Kitamaat village near where the port would be located), high unemployment, high suicide, high incarceration and a lower life expectancy than the rest of us Canadians.

It is not clear to me that these project would solve any of those problems.  There will be shor-term  benefits but these projects could well be against the long-term interests of all of us.

Yes, we do have to make tradeoffs and sometimes they should be in favor of environmental concerns.

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