Friday, December 16, 2011

Call a Spade a Spade: Native Rights and Native Reserves make the situation intractable

When the grave situation in this or that remote reserve hits the news, moral outrage is the order of the day. Liberals always demand that more money be thrown the situation and invariably throw in some reference to the Third World. Conservatives, on the other hand, always question whether current monies are being wisely spent.

Neither side seems to have noticed the guy in the gorilla suit. The long and troubled relationship between First Nation peoples and the Crown has blinded them to patent absurdity of the current situation. It has blinded them to the fact that Attawapiskat is a natural consequence of an economic and legal relationship built around Native rights, the reserve system, the Indian Act and Native Self government. In any other context this would be self evident. Indeed, imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means to be Chinese, created a department of Chinese affairs, created Chinese rights, reserved land for Chinese so defined and exempted Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves?

Of course the situation is even worse than just described. Not only has Canada set up hundreds of tax havens for Status Indians to take advantage of, it also provides incentives for Status Indians to stay on them or move to them. Specifically, the feds hold out the promise of free housing, a promise to 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. 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.

In practice government foot dragging does not always work so well. Some of these tax havens are so isolated and so utterly economically unviable that the government is dammed no matter what it does. If it builds up these communities too much it runs the risk of attracting more people to them. However if it does too little, the very scarcity of jobs in these places ties people living there 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 a long waiting list of people wanting housing in Attawapiskat. 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.

The only possible way out this mess, viz., abolishing native rights, abolishing the Indian Act and privatizing reserve lands, has been forever blocked by section 35 of the Constitution -- a decision, by the way, that renders Trudeau's time in office an abject failure. The best the government can do is to amend the Indian Act to allow for the creation of fee simple lands, thereby switching the financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing from the federal government to individual home owners, and empowering bands to impose property taxes. This will give the people living in Attawapiskat and like communities additional economic incentives to leave. Namely, 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.

That said, introducing fee simple opens a whole host of other problems. For example, as the idiocy of native self government is maintained in all cases, non natives purchasing native lands would have no right to take part in band elections. There would be taxation but no representation. Such a situation would greatly depress real estate values on reserves -- especially on remote reserves. Band councils must be transformed into municipal councils. The notion of a government built around a legally defined race is not only economically problematic, it is ideologically putrid. Moving to a fee simple model also does not eliminate such lands as tax havens.

The reserve system, premised as it is on the notion of native rights, is a bureaucratic, fiscal, jurisdictional, legal, intellectual and sociological abortion that does nothing save waste mountains of money, breed corruption, black marketeering and poverty, encourage tax evasion (e.g., cigarettes), instill in the native community a vile sense of identity based on “blood” and breed racism in the Canadian society at large. If politicians and the media want to accept this as Canada's historical cross to bear, so be it. However, it is high time both acknowledge that the problem is intractable so long as the only possible solution, viz., the abolition of native rights and the Indian Act and privatization of reserve lands, remains legally untenable.


Anonymous said...

"The tragedy at Attawapiskat was not only predictable it was planned. The current government has promoted an ideological solution to the 'Indian problem' ever since the Conservative's incubation as the Reform Party. Their strategy needs a tipping point to convince the Canadian public that it is the only, and more importantly the final, solution. If it not Kashechewan or Attawapiskat, it will be some other community taken to the depth of despair. The plan is to dissolve Reserve communities through offering them up as private property to individual band members and turning Bands into municipalities. One more step away from the legal titles and rights protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and one more step toward complete economic and social chaos in Indian country."

Your comments regarding taxes, more specifically income taxes and your simplistic view that Aboriginals interests would be best served simply by creation of incentives to leave Reserves, require significantly more research.

Koby said...

Nothing says simplistic and stupid like you referencing a passage that speaks of a "final solution". Your insistence that the communal tenor of isolated utterly economically unviable northern reserves be maintained no matter what amounts to call to save native culture screw the natives. So long as Attawapiskt and other like communities are kept alive by government monies, generation after generation will be condemned to a life of poverty. This situation predates the Reform party by decades.

Anonymous said...

If Koby is the author of this blog, and I'm assuming that to be true given the response offered, then I once again suggest some serious research before offering more opinions on this matter.

Your not so subtle inferences suggesting Aboriginals interests would be best served simply by creating incentives to leave Reserves, are truly indicative of a simplistic approach to a final solution.

Read the statistics regarding percentage of Aboriginals living off Reserve, employment statistics, poverty conditions etc.

Then brush up on income tax regulations as well. You will be surprised how far from the truth commonly foisted propaganda really is.

Koby said...

"brush up on income tax regulations as well."

My bad. I was mislead by an article I read in the Finical post. I was under the misimpression that all status Indians living on reserves paid no income tax. The income has to be “situated on a reserve” and derived from actions that are an “integral part” of the reserve. It is good to see that Canada's tax policy with regard to Status Indians living on reserves is not as insane as the Court's initial decision to count income as personal property.

"Aboriginals interests would be best served simply by creating incentives to leave Reserves,

There is a reason why I ignored you the first time. This is what I said. "This will give the people living in Attawapiskat and like communities additional economic incentives to leave." Stick to the text.

"are truly indicative of a simplistic approach to a final solution."

I once again I suggest some serious research into Hitler's Final Solution before comparing a plan to turn band councils into municipal councils -- the horror -- to a plan to kill all of Europe's Jews.

"Read the statistics regarding percentage of Aboriginals living off Reserve, employment statistics, poverty conditions etc."'

I have. Status Indians living off reserves do better than those living on reserves and those living on isolated northern reserves do worst of all.

Anonymous said...

So post the sources you base your opinions on, regarding Status Indians living off reserves doing better than those living on reserves. Charts, percentages and credible sources work well.

For the sake of considering the bigger picture, you could also include non Status Indians. That should indicate the depth of your research.

Koby said...

Not only are these figures well known, they have been all over the news recently.

The gap income gap between those Status Indians living on reserve vs those living off reserves is huge. In terms of median income, it is just under $6000 a year. Furthermore, whereas median income for those living off reserves has increased markably since 1995, median income for those living on reserves is stagnet.

Now, when it comes to non-status natives they do best of all.