One of my right-wing friends asked me to watch Ezra Levant's take on the Attawapiskat crisis, feeling, I suppose, that he presented a compelling argument.
Levant is right when he suggests that it is hypocritical for Charlie Angus to use the photos of the devastation against Stephen Harper. Angus has been the MP in the riding for seven years. Why have we not seen these photos before?
In fact, the NDP MPP, Gilles Bisson has served the area since 1990.
In fairness, though, how often does any MP or MPP share images of the horrendous living conditions that many of our aboriginal people are forced to live under? This should not be "a scoop".
HOWEVER, the rest of the 11 1/2 minutes on the video, is just noise.
Noisy false accusations. Noisy skewed figures. Noise, noise, noise.
Right off the top, the Harper government does not give $34 million a year to the band. According to Âpihtawikosisân, for the 2010/11 fiscal year, the federal government contributed only $17.6 million. The rest of their budget (which they post online) comes from other sources.
The five year, $90 million figure used by Harper, includes a school that had to be torn down because it was built over toxic waste.
Levant tries to make this about "white guilt" and reverse bigotry, because we don't have faith in native people to take care of themselves. But he ignores the fact they are not given the same allowance for education and healthcare, as non-native communities. Everything has to come from these allotments.
An important fact that many commentators forget (or are unaware of) is that section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867 gives the Federal Crown exclusive powers over "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians." You see, for non-natives, the provinces are in charge of funding things like education, health-care, social services and so on. For example, the Province of Ontario allocated $10,730 in education funding per non-native pupil in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. For most First Nations, particularly those on reserve, the federal government through INAC is responsible for providing funds for native education.The federal payments are legal treaty commitments, not "hand outs" as implied. If they spent it all on housing, how could they afford other basic Canadian rights, like the right to education and health services?
Levant also mentions the fact the De Beers has been generous to Attawapiskat, but they just don't appreciate it. However, in order to mine in their backyard, De Beers had to sign an Impact Benefit Agreement, contractually obligating them to provide training and job opportunities, to the native community. And the reason the Native workers don't return home to build a house is because as part of the Indian Act, they can't get a mortgage on a reserve.
This reduces them to children, depending on their father figures, Papa Harper and Papa De Beers, with no mention that Attawapiskat's "baby daddies" (???) are legally responsible for the things they provide. How much profit is De Beers making from that mine, and the best they can do is send some old tin work shacks that they are no longer using???!!! They should be ashamed, not congratulated.
Many of our aboriginal Canadians are living in Third World conditions, and this story only shone a light on Canada's shame.
It is rich that Harper is sending auditors to Attawapiskat, when he recently reduced funding to the Comptroller and Auditor General, whose jobs are to keep track of his spending.
Levant's rant was hate mongering. Nothing more, nothing less. Count how many times he screams "white people". "White, white, white", as if it's a badge of honour and privilege.
Harper's base will eat it up. Fortunately, Harper's base does not represent the views of the majority of Canadians.
And neither does Ezra Levant.