Native leaders are always eager to pull the twin levers of unsettled land claims and aboriginal poverty to keep the non-native population feeling guilty, sympathetic and willing to ship billions of dollars a year to natives on reserves.
Clearly, it works. This year, the federal government will spend $7.4 billion on services for the 428,000 people on reserves. When has so much money been spent on so few people for so little result?
The issue of land claims is the most vexatious. Again, we are supposed to feel guilty because we haven’t written cheques quickly enough. And yet, how credible are these claims? Take as an example the Algonquin claim to ownership of pretty much all of Eastern Ontario, including Parliament Hill. It rests on the idea that the ancestors of today’s Algonquins once roamed through this territory, although there was no concept of land ownership in the European sense.
A lawyer representing the Algonquins says a key point in their favour is that some Algonquins in the 19th century charged people for the use of the Ottawa River. Must mean they own it, no? Sure, in the same way that Robin Hood must have owned Sherwood Forest. Toronto lawyer Bob Potts, who represents the “Algonquins,” says any money they receive will help to “maintain their Algonquin-ness.”
Native leaders like to talk about poverty and injustice, but what they really want is money. Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine says native people were shut out in each of the last two federal budgets. Some shutout. The federal government spends $10.2 billion a year on native people. What he means is there weren’t any new handouts on top of the ones already being dispensed.
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