Friday, December 02, 2011

An Attawapiskat will show up every 3 years in perpetuity.

Thanks to the idiocy of the 1982, aka section 35, the only way forward, viz., abolishing native rights, abolishing the Indian Act and privatizing reserve lands, has been forever blocked. An Attawapiskat like situation will show up every 3 years or so in perpetuity. The incentives built into the system are perverse.

Indeed, most governments try to limit their citizens ability to take advantage of tax havens. But not Canada. The Canadian federal government provides incentives for Status Indians to stay or move to various tax havens and it backs up its promises with an ironclad guarantee. Specifically, the feds hold out the promise of free housing, a promise pay for upkeep and the promise of never imposing not only no income tax or sales tax, but also no property tax. The federal government will pay for any needed infrastructure. Of course, the reality is less rosy than the brochure makes it seem. Realizing the patent absurdity of its ironclad guarantee, the government drags its feet, provides the bare minimum level of funding for housing, upkeep and infrastructure and to, add insult to injury, proceeds in less than timely matter. In other words, the government has every reason to create living conditions that repel even as its moronic promises attract.

Now, some of these tax havens are isolated and economically unviable. Perversely, the very scarcity of jobs in these places ties people to land all the more. The less assets, work experience and education a person has the more attractive the prospect of obtaining free housing, however squalid, becomes. There is long waiting list of people wanting housing in Attawapiskat. This is doubly so if one already owns a home there. A bird in the hand is better than two in bush as it were; a dilapidated house in the hand is better than the dim prospects of a better house elsewhere.

So, should residents of Attawapiskat be moved to more southerly location? No, Attawapiskat must be allowed to sink or swim and above all else people living there must be given additional economic incentives to leave. That means at least points two and three of the following have to happen. 1) All reserve lands and homes need to be privatized with home owners given the right to sell their homes on the open market. 2) The financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing must switch from the band -- in reality federal government -- to the individual home owners. 3) Band councils must gain the ability to impose property taxes. Either property taxes and the cost of upkeep will drive people away in the absence of a job, or the prospect of using the capital from the sale of one's house and land will. The later is obviously preferable, but thanks to the idiocy of 1982 nearly politically impossible.

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