Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I've decided I'm going to stop reading the comments that people post in response to online news articles - they simply make me too angry. I've been researching for some time now the situation in Attawapiskat, Ontario. It's a complicated situation, and unlike the plethora of ignorant commentators that litter every online news site with their trash, I didn't want to write anything until I felt I had a decent grasp on what's really going on. I'm not going to pretend that the grasp I do have is all that firm. It would take years of study before I could even begin to comprehend the profound impact European settlement in this country had, and continues to have, on its indigenous people. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share the small amount of insight that I have gained.

Attawapiskat is a small, northern Ontario fly-in community of about 1500 people. Of those, 19 families are currently living in tents, 122 families are living in condemned houses, and 96 people are living in a large trailer. Children in Attawapiskat have been attending school in decrepit portables ever since their school was closed in 2000. There was a massive natural gas leak under the school in 1979. Despite complaints that people were getting ill, it took 21 years to close the school. It's been a decade now since the school closed, and there are currently no plans to replace it. The portables the children are now forced to attend school in were built on the same grounds as the original school. Ground shifting due to the natural gas has resulted in damage to the portables. Windows and emergency exits don't open. There are cracks in the walls. There are gaps in the doors, allowing cold air and snow in. It's so cold that children wear their snowsuits in class.

I don't know the solution. I don't even know all the causes. I do know, however, that this would never be allowed to happen elsewhere (except for other reserves). People like to simplify the problem, blaming the residents of reserves. It's easy to say that they misspent the money given them by the government, wipe our hands, and forget about it. We all know, though, that it really isn't that simple.

Families in Attawapiskat receive the same amount of money per household as families on any other reserve. Their remote location is in no way taken into account by the government. So while families on reserves in southern Ontario are capable of building suitable homes, families in Attawapiskat are forced to build poorly-insulated homes on wooden foundations. It's simply too expensive to ship in supplies, and to fly in contractors and inspectors. The forests surrounding Attawapiskat are now Crown land and cannot be used for lumber, hunting, or trapping. Essentially, we've placed these people on this remote piece of land and taken from them their means of survival.

These are people who thrived on this land for thousands of years, living a nomadic lifestyle, following the game and trap lines, before we arrived. But go ahead and place the blame on them...

Goodbye Canada - Hello Harperland

It's old news that Stephen Harper, our oh-so-humble Prime Minister, took it upon himself to replace all the portraits of former Prime Ministers in the lobby of the House of Commons with portraits of himself. It's also old news that government communications have been replacing the phrase "Government of Canada" with "Harper Government". Harper and his spokespeople have vehemently denied that this change was directed by Harper or his office. Documents recently acquired by The Canadian Press suggest otherwise.

It's also old news that our Defense Minister, Peter MacKay, used a search-and-rescue helicopter as a personal taxi last year while on a fishing trip. MacKay has defended his use of the helicopter, claiming that he was being shown its search-and-rescue capabilities. The cost of the 25-minute "demonstration" was $16 000. When MacKay sent out the request for the helicopter to pick him up, according to The Star, his plans sent "military personnel in three provinces scrambling" to accommodate the unplanned flight. Colonel Bruce Ploughman, who was the director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre at the time, warned that MacKay's personal use of the military aircraft would result in backlash from the public. He wrote to colleagues, "So, when the guy who's fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minster getting on board and post it on Youtube, who will be answering the mail on that one?" He continues, "If we are tasked to do this we, of course, will comply. Given the potential for negative press, though, I would likely recommend against it."

Even older news is Tony Clement's gross misdirection of $50 million in border funds to "beautify" his riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka for the G8 summit in 2009. In an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility, Clement has consistently claimed that he was not involved in approving any of the projects carried out in his riding. Not surprisingly, documents show otherwise. Obtained through freedom-of-information legislation, new documents show that Clement's office was responsible for approving projects costing nearly $45 million. According to The Star, Clement's office actually "edited an official parliamentary transcript, in an effort to hide a trail of documents showing he directed how $50 million in G8 funds should be spent in his riding." Tony Clement is now the Treasury Board President - he's in charge of our money.

So much for the transparent, accountable government Harper campaigned on. Clearly, our megalomaniacal Prime Minister and his lackeys are going to do things their way, the rest of us be damned. Harper wasn't joking when he said, "You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it."