Former Resident of Alberta
During 1998-1999, Federal MP Myron Thompson, Calgary, was asked by Preston Manning to help aboriginal communities come together and speak with one voice. In his travels he met a Native lady from Manitoba named Leona Freed. Together, Myron and Leona traveled the country building the First Nations Accountability Coalition. Presently, the coalition has over 5,000 members and is a strong voice against corruption on the reserves. Their motto is accountability, equality, and democracy, and they have made a tremendous differencefor grassroots aboriginals in Canada.
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Indian women say fraud, nepotism rife on reserves
Tuesday, April 13, 1999
Byline: Dianne Rinehart
Recent accusations of electoral fraud and nepotism against the chief of the tiny Scowlitz reserve in the Fraser Valley are just the tip of a monstrous iceberg of fraud, nepotism, intimidation and theft on Canadian reserves, according to a number of aboriginal women.
The women, who independently contacted The Vancouver Sun over the past two months, are battling what they say is massive mismanagement of taxpayers' money by band chiefs and the federal Indian affairs department.
And they are supported in their accusations by Taiaiake Alfred, the director of indigenous governance programs at the University of Victoria.
In his just-published book, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto, Alfred said he argues ``there's almost a complete lack of accountability'' under the system of government established by the Indian Act, and that the system makes the band governments answerable to Ottawa -- where they are answerable at all -- rather than to their own people.
``That's the inherent corruption.''
Alfred argues that most chiefs try their best. But, he said the system is ripe to be taken advantage of by ``people who are corrupt and greedy and selfish, because of the lack of accountability.''
The women who contacted The Sun all say the department's policy of transferring the administration of social programs -- as a preliminary step to self-government -- is so mismanaged and misdirected that it threatens the democratic rights and Freedoms of native Indians.
The money -- $6.4 billion this year for social support systems such as welfare, housing and education -- is simply not trickling down to rank-and-file natives on or off reserves, they say.
``There's no financial accountability, no democracy and no equality on First Nations reserves,'' said Leona Freed, a Dakota Plains native from Manitoba who established an organization called the First Nations Accountability Coalition four years ago.
Freed, a mother of six and grandmother of seven, who lives off reserve working 10-hour days at an onion-packaging plant and still finds time to organize, wants the government to redirect monies ``to us at the band level, so it doesn't go through chiefs or Indian affairs.''
Wendy Lockhart Lundberg, a status Squamish band member living off reserve in Vancouver echoes Freed's concerns, although the two have never spoken.
``It seems to me that Canadian citizens' tax money is going to the bands with no accountability and no one is checking to see that it goes to the people and programs for which it is intended,'' said Lockhart Lundberg.
Meanwhile, Meaghan Walker, a Somena from the Cowichan reserve near Duncan, is so frustrated she is attempting to determine if there is support for breaking the Somena away from the five-band Cowichan reserve leadership and establishing their own government.
``There's absolutely no accountability [in the band system],'' said the college-educated Walker, who says she has contacted Indian affairs, the solicitor-general and the RCMP about problems she has witnessed -- all to no avail.
Band councillor Dora Wilson said she hadn't heard about any complaints, so she couldn't comment.
The women all cited similar complaints in a series of interviews with The Sun.
- They are unable to obtain band financial statements and budgets to see where the money is being spent.
- They believe band chiefs and administrators are overpaid, while others on reserves live in poverty and are denied medical and educational help.
- They are tired of watching band council members, chiefs and administrators spend money on what they believe are travel junkets, while serious aboriginal health and social concerns remain unresolved for lack of program funding.
- They resent the huge sums being paid to band lawyers and consultants while band members live in poverty.
- They believe some band councils are run like family oligarchies, with plum, tax-free administrative jobs going to friends and family.
- Some band councils are continuing to deny benefits and housing on reserve to native women who lost their Indian status after marrying non-native men, despite federal legislation reinstating the women's status.
- Many band elections are not democratic and many band members vote for current chiefs out of fear and intimidation, ignorance of their rights, or simply because they are paid to.
- There is an atmosphere of intimidation in which those who complain about band leadership stand to lose access to social service benefits, such as money for post-secondary education or even the right to live on the reserve.
- They have been unable to get help from Indian affairs in battles with their bands for accountability.
Their accusations fly in the face of claims by Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart and her department staff, who insist the department monitors democratic elections on the reserves and audits financial statements.
But critics say the department is well aware of the problems, and is white-washing them to ensure there is no backlash against Stewart's self-government policies.
John Watson, the B.C. regional director for Indian affairs, insists a program was initiated several years ago to ensure band accountability. Each band is audited and that information -- including band council salaries and travel expenses -- must be published and made available to band members, he said.
Watson said bands must post information telling band members the records are publicly available. Chartered accountants who audit band records for the federal government, must certify the information has been posted, he said. The new measures also require bands to set up an appeal process and explain how decisions are made.
``Transparency, redress and disclosure are the three pillars of the process.''
Told of the women's complaints, Watson said: ``I would be naive to believe there's 100- per-cent compliance.'' But, he added, there are very few complaints, and anyone who has them should call him.
Alfred, however, said the women who contacted The Sun are not alone in their view that something needs to be done.
``These women are expressing a common complaint which is that they . . . have no way to access information and no legal recourse with the government in their community.''
Stewart, who was travelling on business, was unavailable for an interview
But Freed said the minister is not aware of the problems on reserves because she won't speak with the rank-and-file band members.
``She's a hopeless case. She will work only with aboriginal leaders.''
Audrey Huntley, a member of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network in Vancouver, agreed Stewart deals only with band elites.
``The issue goes back to how the band council system was created,'' she said. ``It's a deal between Indian Affairs and an elite leadership. . . [that] works for a very few number of individuals. There are huge discrepancies between income and living conditions of the leadership and the membership.''
But Watson maintained the women may simply be coming up against what anyone living in a democracy does: bureaucracy.
``Sometimes. finding out and accessing redress is difficult. People don't know what to do.''
Watson also said he is surprised it is women who are complaining, because he believes native women have more power in their communities than their non-native counterparts.
But Gail Sparrow, the former chief of the Musqueam band scoffs at that.
``It's male-dominated governments and most of them don't have an education,'' she said of her experience with the 220 chiefs represented on the First Nations Summit. Female chiefs represent their bands at these meetings, she said, ``but when you go home to your own community you're still dealing with the men who believe they are the ones who should [have] control.''
Sparrow, who held office for two years, agrees with the other women that band councils are ``run like a popularity contest,'' with the best band jobs going to family and friends, regardless of their qualifications.
But Sparrow said she believes band governments face a clash with native women, if they don't clean up their act.
``Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, we're spreading our wings and the men are all flapping around and they don't know what to do to us.''
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Women Seek Accountability in Tribal Governments
New York Times:
Jan 1, 2000
CANADA: Women Seek Accountability in Tribal Governments
Against a winter prairie backdrop of bare trees, honking Canada geese, and four-wire fences, Leona Freed stands out larger than life. Eyes blazing and firing verbal buckshot, she is a new kind of Indian radical. Her primary targets are not white people, but rather Canada´s tribal chiefs, whom she accuses of "rigging elections, stealing government money, and going on fancy gambling vacations in the States, while their people live in third world poverty." "If the non-natives operated their businesses like the chiefs, they would be in jail," said Mrs. Freed, who is 48 years old and pays household bills by bagging onions at $5.20 an hour. Her husband, Glen Freed, has had a towing business.
Mrs. Freed - one parent was Sioux and the other Ojibway - is part of a loosely organized new movement largely made up of Indian women who are taking on Canada´s native establishment and are determined - particularly after embarrassing and well-publicized corruption scandals - to make clear how the equivalent of $4 billion American is spent on Canada´s one million indigenous people, including Inuit and others. Unchecked corruption and nepotism pushed these women to violate a central tenet of minority group politics: breaking ranks when dealing with the white majority.
Mrs. Freed is president of the Manitoba chapter of the First Nations Accountability Coalition. In Saskatchewan the anti-corruption group´s chapter is led by Rita Galloway. Farther west, in Alberta, the clean government fight is led by Yolanda Redcalf, a 33-year-old Cree woman who has gone on hunger strikes outside tribal offices to demand accountability. And in British Columbia, it is Meaghan Walker-Williams, a 28-year-old woman who formed the Somena Governance Society to prod tribal leaders on Vancouver Island to open up closely guarded tribal accounts for public scrutiny. This noisy clean government movement is propelled by quiet changes in Indian society.
Over the last 30 years, the number of Canadian Indians with college degrees has grown to about 150,000 today. Increasingly business oriented, Canadian Indians under age 30 are more likely to start their own businesses than their counterparts in other ethnic groups. These better- educated tribal members are demanding modern accounting of tribal budgets and a stop to patriarchal ways.
"Who are we going up against? Mostly males," said Mrs. Freed, who added that tribal chiefs often have the power to withhold welfare and college tuition payments as well as to deny families access to public housing. Many tribes explicitly excluded women from leadership roles and from property inheritance, justifying it as tradition. Such thinking has also defined tribal membership. An Indian man who marries a non-Indian woman has full rights of membership, including a share in federal benefits. An Indian woman who marries a non-Indian man often forfeits these benefits for herself, and they do not apply to her husband at all. In 1985, Indian women who had married non-Indian men regained their legal status as Indians in Canada.
But on returning to reserves, they often found themselves off lists for services. Noting that she has six children and nine grandchildren, Mrs. Freed said: "The women are tired of what´s happening. We want a future for our children." "Suicides, abortions, crime rates are all going up," Mrs. Freed said with a raw anger. (Two days before, her 20-year-old niece, Jerilyn Dawn Price, mother of a small boy, had killed herself.) Last year, Mrs. Freed turned her accountability drive into a national road show, conducting what she called hearings, 13 of them in seven provinces, drawing Indians from about one-third of the country´s 609 reserves, lands set aside by the government for Indians. She collected stories in a 200-page report later delivered to Canada´s Senate. "I told them the elections are rigged," she said at a roadside diner here. "The chiefs pay for the voting. They bribe the people. They intimidate the people. The same crooks get in, year in, year out. "I told them like it is, some of these senators, their jaws were hanging open. The chiefs were so mad."
Under a 1988 Canadian federal court ruling, tribal accounts were deemed to enjoy the kind of secrecy accorded privately held companies. Today, even though the federal government provides almost all of some tribal budgets, the accounts are not made public to taxpayers - and are often kept secret from tribal members. During the 1990´s, moreover, federal aid to Indians increased by about 50 percent. Over the last three years, the number of tribal fraud allegations investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has increased to 48 from 3. Last summer, about one- third of Canada´s 912 Indian groups failed to file audits with the federal government.
A steady stream of stories about corruption have appeared in Canada´s newspapers, tales that have contributed to a hardening of the attitudes of non-native Canadians to tribal leaders. In Nova Scotia last spring, the chief of a Micmac reserve was found to be compensating himself with the equivalent of about $275,000 American in salary and expenses; at the same time the provincial premier´s salary was $53,300. On the reserve, which is $10 million in debt and has an unemployment rate of about 70 percent, the average per capita income of the 2,700 members is $7,735.
In Canada, however, the message of tribal corruption has been most vividly illustrated by reports of junkets to sunny climes. In Toronto, government support for an Indian addiction center, Pedahbun Lodge, was cut after it was disclosed that $110,000 in treatment money was used last year to send employees to California. In Alberta, unfavorable publicity forced the Samson Cree tribal government to cancel a 12-day trip to Hawaii for 55 members. But, according to auditors, $200-a-day stipends paid to each trip participant were never returned. Newspapers disclosed that the former director of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority had used provincial government money to travel with his wife to Barcelona, Brisbane, Paris and London.
The most damaging scandal occurred in November in Sagkeeng First Nation, about 200 miles northeast of here. In 1996, a federal audit had found that directors of the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation Inc. had used program funds for employee trips, characterized as research, to Australia, Hawaii and Las Vegas. In September, the center closed for renovations and sent 70 employees on a weeklong Caribbean cruise, billed as "a professional development retreat." Foundation officials have given contradictory explanations for that trip´s financing, including payments by the center to golf clubs, Ticketmaster and a jewelry store in St. Maarten. Barb Gervais, a center worker, said all the young people at the center were sent home before the cruise. She said it was her second, after a 1998 voyage to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, with center officials and a Health Canada official from the federal government.
In early December, the Mounties arrested a center employee and charged her with threatening Ms. Gervais and another whistle-blowing former employee. Finally, federal support was cut off after center officials refused to cooperate with auditors. Political support among Canada´s 31 million people seems to be thinning for settling native Canadian claims, a process that may eventually cost $140 billion, or roughly $7,000 for each taxpayer.
An editorial in The Globe and Mail noted in reference to modern government officials and social workers that "while the missionaries of old ran roughshod over native leaders, the new missionaries pay an exaggerated respect to native elites that are often unaccountable and sometimes corrupt."
Last summer, John Stackhouse, a reporter for The Globe and Mail, hitchhiked across Canada to take the pulse of his nation after writing from abroad for several years. He concluded that white perceptions of native privilege and corruption constitute "Canada´s most hidden anger," and that the deep split between natives and immigrant Canadians is the country´s greatest division. The controversy over spending at the Fontaine Addictions center is part of "the white media agenda," said Ron Fontaine, chief of Sagkeeng First Nation, in a letter to chiefs of Manitoba´s 63 bands, as tribes call themselves. "We are easy targets; we make a mistake and it is amplified," agreed another tribe member, Phil Fontaine, who served until last summer as grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Canada´s Indian power structure, which has been working for two years with auditors to enhance accountability.
In late November, Phil Fontaine resigned from the center´s board. "The immediate reaction is that First Nations cannot manage their own affairs," he said in an interview. Mrs. Freed and other Indian critics say it is the federal government´s system of sending money through the tribal chiefs that spawns corruption on the reserves.
Taiake Alfred, a Mohawk who directs the Indigenous Governance Programs of the University of Victoria, said that "one of the most effective ways to colonize people is to give them money and make them dependent on bureaucracy for their well-being." "Indian Affairs," he added, "has set up this system and actively promotes the corruption of officials in communities, and only gets upset when the system is uncovered in the press and they get bad p.r."
Or as Mrs. Freed put it: "As long as they are good little Indian puppets, they will be rewarded with no accountability. They can do what they want with their band funds." Opposition politicians have embraced Mrs. Freed and her allies, saying they articulate criticism that Canada´s ruling Liberal Party refuses to make because Indian leaders routinely deliver tens of thousands of votes to the Liberals. After Mrs. Freed started to take on the local power structure, a gang of Indian youths smashed the windows of her husband´s tow trucks, drove their riding mower into their house trailer, slashed their tires and "slugged one of my boys in the face." Then, a friend told her, her name had been written on "a big long bullet." "She´s got a lot of nerve," her husband said after his wife had climbed into their battered 1978 station wagon.
"A few times there, she said she would get life insurance. But we never got the money together."
New York Times, Jan. 1, 2000
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36th Parliament, 1st Session
(September 22, 1997 - September 18, 1999)
Edited Hansard • Number 128
Tuesday, September 29, 1998
Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, on August 24 Leona Freed wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Health complaining about the sewage system on her reserve. That letter was illegally leaked back to her chief and council and she is facing a lawsuit as a result.
The Speaker: Colleagues, I appeal to you. We are having a tough time hearing the questions and the answers.
The hon. member for Skeena.
Mr. Mike Scott: Mr. Speaker, on August 24 Leona Freed wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Health complaining about the sewage system on her reserve. Her letter was illegally leaked to the chief and council and she is facing a potential lawsuit as a result.
Yesterday the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development accused the Minister of Health of leaking that letter. We would like to know from the Minister of Health: Is that true? Did your office leak that letter?
The Speaker: Colleagues, please address the Chair when you are asking your questions and giving your answers.
The hon. Minister of Health.
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a letter of August 24 was received by a Health Canada official from Leona Freed complaining about a broken sewer pipe that was apparently draining into a creek. She was worried about it being a health threat and she demanded immediate action.
The Health Canada official, anxious to solve this problem, forwarded a copy of this letter to the tribal council which is responsible for fixing it, and then set to work on getting the problem fixed.
Sending on that letter was not in keeping with protocol. That official has written to Leona Freed to express regret. We have re-circulated the protocol to remind all officials—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Skeena.
Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is good to see the minister acknowledging wrongdoing.
Given the government's past performance with regard to confidentiality we would like to know: Is the minister aware that this is a breach of privacy? It was found to be so in the spring when the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development violated Bruce Starlight's privacy. What is the government going to do to ensure this does not happen again? We do not want to be back here in six months with the same problem.
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the letter that was sent to the health official was copied to the Reform Party's critic, the member for Skeena. It was also copied to the provincial minister. It was about a leaking sewage pipe. There was nothing on its face to demonstrate confidentiality.
The Health Canada official acted in good faith to get the problem fixed. I have already said that he has expressed regret and we have circulated the protocol.
In the meantime, the problem has been fixed. What we are left with is the Reform Party messing around with this issue.
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36th Parliament, 2nd Session
(October 12, 1999 - October 22, 2000)
Edited Hansard • Number 004
Friday, October 15, 1999
Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege over the past two years of working with some of the most extraordinary Canadians I have ever met. First and foremost is a lady by the name of Leona Freed. Ms. Freed has built the First Nation's Accountability Coalition in an effort to restore hope to those feeling hopelessness at the hands of chiefs and councils on their reserves. In a single year the FNAC has grown to include coalitions from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Leona Freed is one of the most committed people I have ever met. I know she will not stop until there is true accountability on all 600-plus reserves across this nation. I must also recognize people like Yolande Redcalf, Greg Twoyoungmen, Rita King, Edwin One Owl, Roy Littlechief, Mike Calder, Laura Deedza and Debbie Neepoose, just to name a few. Each of these people have selflessly contributed to the fight for a better life for future generations. As I move to a new portfolio I wish all aboriginal people well and I want them to know that I will never forget the experiences we have had together.
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Standing committee on Bill C-7 heads to Manitoba
Winnipeg and Thompson slated for public hearings
By Len Kruzenga
April 17, 2003
While previous attempts to amend the Indian Act in 1968 and then again in the late 1990s ended up in the parliamentary equivalent of a landfill site, INAC Minister Robert Nault's legislative foray appears to have an increasing sense of inevitability to it. This even as the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs winds its way across the nation to conduct public hearings on the proposed Bill C-7 legislation, commonly referred to as the First Nations Governance Act (FNGA).
In fact, INAC appears confident that the legislation package will avoid any significant changes and has been conducting a series of technical briefings on the bill, including one in Winnipeg, only weeks before the committee was scheduled to arrive in Manitoba where it will conduct two days of hearings-one in Winnipeg and one in Thompson.
While careful to couch the rationale for the briefing as little more than a detailed introduction to the media of the specifics of the legislation and a chance to field various media "what if" scenarios.
However, the standing committee's hearings thus far have not yielded a lot of public support for the bill as it stands, since Nault kicked off the hearings with his presentation to the committee last month. (See edited transcript of Minister Nault's presentation to the committee on Page 14)
While Nault continues to hammer home the message that the proposed legislation is a sincere attempt by the federal government to provide first nations with the legislative tools to effect the day to day administrative and political control over their communities' futures and to provide greater accountability to their people, a stream of first nations groups and leaders have appeared before the committee slamming the intent and measure of the legislation. (See edited transcripts of AFN National Chief Coon Comes presentation to the committee on Page 14) And the hearings in Thompson on March 18 and in Winnipeg on March 19 are expected to witness a host of the province's sharpest critics of Nault take aim at the legislation.
Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Margaret Swan, Peguis First Nation Chief Louis Stevenson, former Sagkeeng Chief Jerry Fontaine, and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak Grand Chief Francis Flett are all slated to address the committee and are expected to deliver an unequivocal rebuke of the proposed legislation.
Swan has been the province's most active and vocal opponent and recently took her message to Europe in an attempt to bring international pressure to bear on the federal government. She was able to address a United Nations workshop where she underscored her group's insistence that Bill C-7 is a direct threat to inherent aboriginal and treaty rights as protected under the Canadian Constitution. Swan's trip, estimated to have cost approximately $15,000 for a party of three persons that included herself and two SCO chiefs was roundly criticized in the press as lavish.
But the combative leader quickly defended the mission as "necessary" and well within the "political advocacy responsibilities of her office."
Some standing committee members have already taken the position that the bill is inherently flawed (See NDP member Pat Martin's op-ed piece on Page 12) and are using the results of the hearings for political mileage, according to critics of the make-up of the hearings themselves.
"He Martin is trying to use the statements made thus far to discredit the legislation and increase his own and his party's political profile," fumed Andy Ross, an off-reserve college student who's been following progress on Bill C-7 closely. "The committee is stacked with those groups and individuals with some public profile and with the time and logistical support to arrange to appear before the committee, but ordinary people, the ones who this legislation will benefit the most, we're not going to be heard."
But the list of presenters isn't entirely stacked with opponents to the bill, in fact, at least one of the province's most vocal proponents will also be speaking.
First Nations Accountability Coalition member Leona Freed says she won't mince any words at the hearings and will be taking direct aim at the opponents to the bill.
"It's 100 percent clear that the majority of first nations leadership is terrified of being held accountable, of having to be responsible to the people, of the people being able to demand information and access to the administration and governance of their communities I'll be speaking on behalf of all the ordinary first nations people, who are sick and tired of their excuses, of the corruption and waste that is literally stealing the future of the ordinary man, woman and child on and off-reserve," she said.
But the composition and selection process for presentations before the committee continues to come under attack.
While such standing committees are obliged to allow any citizen or group to request to appear or make a statement the overlap and duplicity of the list of witnesses is obvious to even the most casual observer.
"Look at the list we have presentations by tribal councils, by the SCO and MKO and then by a number of chiefs who are members of both these groups. They're stacking the deck and jamming the hearings up so that ordinary people can't get their voices heard public ally," said Ross. "These people and organizations represent the same interests and people but, the appearance is that there are all these different groups and people against the bill."
And Ross also criticizes groups such as the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for occupying an already scarce spot on the witnesses list.
"The MCC won't be taking any independent position on the legislation. They form their positions and opinions based on what the various first nations political groups and power brokers tell them. It's the typical white liberal apologist guilt motive but, they (MCC) haven't held any hearings on the issue for ordinary first nations people to determine what our people really want.
"That's exactly why the majority of opinion expressed at the hearings thus far has been anti-FNGA it's orchestrated and stacked against the individual. Groups like the MKO, SCO, the chiefs and the MCC have the resources, time and money to apply to this effort."
Repeated calls by the Drum to Clerk of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs were not returned.
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Four Manitoba native chiefs spent $15,000.
David Kuxhaus Paul Samyn and David Kuxhaus
Four Manitoba native chiefs spent $15,000 to charter a plane to attend Prime Minister Paul Martin's exclusive fundraising garden party, held last night at 24 Sussex Drive.
The bill for their private charter, which took them from Norway House to Ottawa for a chance to shake Martin's hand and exchange a few words with the prime minister, will be paid by their tribal organizations.
Martin's party at his official residence was open only to members of the Liberal party's Laurier Club, which requires a minimum donation of $1,000.
Aboard the Skyward Aviation charter were Laurier Club members Sidney Garrioch, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, and Ron Evans, chief of Norway House Cree Nation, who unsuccessfully ran for the Liberals in the federal election in the Churchill riding.
Also attending as their guests were Chris Henderson, head of the Southern Chiefs Organization, and Arnold Ouskan, grand chief of the Keewatin Tribal Council.
After the party, their charter was to whisk them back to Norway House, where they are to report on the event to delegates to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who are meeting today in the northern Manitoba community.
The exclusive Sussex Drive party, scheduled to run for only two hours, was expected to attract more than 500 Liberals.
One veteran of such political events said attendees are lucky if they can get a 10-second personal conversation with the prime minister.
"Oh, for Pete's sake -- what a waste of money!" Leona Freed, national president of the First Nations Accountability Coalition, said last night from her home just south of Portage la Prairie when told of the trip.
"That could have paid for someone's salary," Freed said. "I'm upset about it, because they're forever wasting money." Freed said if the chiefs wanted to talk to the prime minister, they could have done so in The Pas this spring when he was campaigning in an unsuccessful bid to get Evans elected as a Liberal MP.
"Why didn't they ask him then?" Freed demanded.
Her national coalition wants to meet with Martin to urge him to bring financial accountability to First Nations, Freed said. "Our last step, we have to go to the UN," she said. "First Nations people, at the band level, we desperately need help to get some financial accountability measures in legislation." Garrioch hung up on a reporter when asked about the cost of the trip.
Evans, who was elected to a four-year term in March of 2002, had declined to talk to a reporter when contacted Monday evening. The Winnipeg office of the Norway House First Nation said Monday that it was unaware the chief planned to go to Ottawa, and Evans's executive assistant did not return a series of phone calls.
But Henderson defended the trip and its price tag, saying it was a prime opportunity to meet Martin as well as his cabinet ministers, who were expected to attend.
"We are certainly hoping to meet him and other cabinet ministers who exercise influence over many issues that affect us, like housing and justice," said Henderson, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Winnipeg in 2002.
"We have to take all opportunities to make sure our interests are heard and protected." Their decision to charter a plane was taken so they could fly directly from Norway House and return in time for the chiefs' meeting this morning. Norway House is 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
The least expensive Air Canada connections to Ottawa from Winnipeg would cost about $3,000 for all four chiefs. A regularly scheduled flight from Norway House to Winnipeg would have added less than $2,000 to the cost of the trip.
Some Norway House residents were surprised when told of the trip.
Elder Margaret Balfour said she can't understand why money would be spent to attend a party in Ottawa, given the band's current financial state.
"We're so many millions of dollars in debt," said Balfour. "A lot of people here have needs. They need housing, and there's young people with no jobs and little children." Don Godwin, a former band employee and a schoolteacher on the reserve, said it's just another example of decisions being made without consulting the members.
"This had been going on for years," Godwin said.
Band councillor Marcel Balfour, who has been critical of Evans and his leadership, said there's no reason to fly to Ottawa just to party with the prime minister.
"It's not like there's going to be a chance to discuss any sort of policies or agreements," said Balfour. "This is just unacceptable for our leader to be doing this." NDP native affairs critic Pat Martin said he is appalled at the chiefs' actions and what he termed "cavalier spending." "It is a shocking misuse of these funds," said Martin, MP for Winnipeg Centre.
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Fighting the native patriarchy
Andrea Mrozek, Western Standard
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Leona Freed's ex-husband physically abused her. But she had three children and stayed with him for about five years before walking out. For many women, finally leaving the abuse marks a new beginning: Assets in family law court are split 50-50, and a judge makes the call on support issues. That wasn't the case for Freed; leaving her ex only sparked bigger problems. Family law didn't apply in Freed's case, and still doesn't for many other women like her, because of where the abuse took place -- on a native reserve called Hollow Water, a couple of hours north of Winnipeg.
Provincial and territorial family laws regarding matrimonial property rights don't hold on native reserves. When the band forbade Freed from taking her children with her when she left (her husband's mother was a band councillor), Freed had to work her way through the courts off-reserve for nine months to win her kids back. The experience heightened her native activism -- though not the sort you're likely to see on the evening news.
That's because Freed isn't fighting for more money for natives, but rather for the basic Freedoms the rest of Canadians take for granted: property rights, accountable governance and women's equality.
When she's not at her day job as an aide in a Portage la Prairie, Man., seniors' home, Freed is working for the First Nations Accountability Coalition of Manitoba, which she started out of her home in 1995, and now has 5,000 native and Metis members across Canada. But Freed is ready to give up. The system, she senses, favours those Indian groups that play by Ottawa's rules -- selling out natives as second-class citizens, in exchange for billions in federal handouts.
Other native groups rely on taxpayer money to fund their lobbying efforts. But all of Freed's presentations, travel, lobbying and reports are done without government help. (Freed admits she once accepted a $65,000 grant from the Ministry of Indian Affairs to fund a campaign against fraud in band council elections, but is ashamed of it, and says she would never do it again.)
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation reports that funding for native programs has doubled in just over a decade, from $3.3-billion to $6.6-billion in 2002 -- with most of the money going to bands. In the wake of the November public-relations fiasco caused by the water crisis at Ontario's Kashechewan reserve, and with an election in the offing, the federal Liberals rushed through yet more native funding promises.
But while aboriginal groups rake it in, the situation for the average native remains bleak, especially for women. Reserves often operate on a patriarchal system. Without equal rights, women become trapped in miserable marriages, knowing that leaving their husbands typically means cutting off their financial support. Leaving the reserve means abandoning all their property and, frequently, their children.
When the House of Commons standing committee on aboriginal affairs and northern development tabled a report in June to address the issue of on-reserve matrimonial property, it seemed to signal that Ottawa was headed for progress. One of the critical recommendations made in the report, endorsed by the Native Women's Association of Canada, was that the government "immediately draft interim stand-alone legislation or amendments to the Indian Act to make provincial/territorial matrimonial property laws apply to real property on reserve lands."
But while women's rights have been protected for decades everywhere else in Canada by legislation and court rulings, Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott's official response to the standing committee represented yet another delay. Far from answering the call for immediate remedy, Scott insisted that more discussion and analysis is required. "An enduring legislative solution to this issue will require further engagement of First Nations to ensure the development of a solution that is best supported by and best meets the needs of First Nations Peoples," he wrote.
Freed is used to such setbacks. But even she admits that matrimonial property rights are difficult to attain when no on-reserve Indian -- male or female -- has any real property rights: The land is Crown-owned and controlled by band council, while residents only rent the property. (Recent policy changes by Ottawa do allow some real estate transactions that resemble ownership. But most reserve natives still lack the ability to accumulate true equity in their homes.)
On reserves, divorce settlements are determined by the band chief. The result, Freed says, is decisions based more on cronyism than on fairness. Freed has worked with dozens of native women who have lost their homes and children to abusive husbands. In one particularly tragic case, she says, one woman's abusive husband happened to be related to the reserve social workers. When she tried to return for her kids, the husband had them "apprehend the children and leave them with him. And yet he was abusive. It took us probably about eight months to get those children back with the mother."
Despite such outrages, the country's most powerful Indian group, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), is happy to back the Liberals' policy. The AFN consistently argues that property rights violate traditional native culture.
"They have their wires crossed," Freed counters. "Culture and accountability are two different issues. If they really want to keep their culture, they should take away all the funding."
Freed is increasingly convinced that when trying to get Ottawa to address native rights or lack of band accountability, she's talking to a wall. The feds seem convinced that simply sending money to native groups is not only the best way to help on-reserve Indians, it's the only way.
"We have thousands of First Nations people complaining to the government, but there is absolutely nothing the government can do or anybody can do for the accountability issues in the First Nations because there isn't any type of financial accountability issues legislated in Parliament," she says. "Until we get that, everything is going to be the same."
© National Post 2006
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Spot the Blame Game
Monday, March 6th, 2006
Aboriginal schools across Alberta won’t release their provincial Grade 3 and Grade 6 achievement test results for 2005, citing “cultural insensitivity.” ….
…..Mel Buffalo, head of the Indian Association of Alberta and a spokesman for the Samson Cree nation at Hobbema, said the test results were markedly below provincial averages. Releasing them would enforce stereotypes about aboriginals without providing context.
Blame Game 1
“It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what the result is going to be. Everyone already knows the problems we face in First Nations society, so why make it look even worse?” said Buffalo.
In other words, there is no way in hell we are going to admit that we are incapable of educating our own children. The reasons for that are numerous, but centre on our own ignorance, our own lack of emphasis on, and appreciation of, education, and piss-poor parenting.
Blame Game 2
“The point is that we have a lot of people who maybe are not within the normal curve because of the cultural appropriateness of the test,” he said.
In order to throw the spotlight elsewhere, we will now blame the test itself, and label it ‘culturally inappropriate” because it apparently contains alien, colonial subjects like math and spelling.
Blame Game 3
Many native students do quite well, but have their aggregate test scores pulled down by peers facing massive personal challenges…..
If that’s not enough, we’ll just blame the other kids, the poor ones in dysfunctional families; and we will do this despite what we say about these tests really being nothing more than confirmation of our role as poor oppressed victims — and, in turn, say nothing about our kids’ apparent lack of intelligence and ability — and are therefore irrelevant and will only serve to hurt our esteem; nonetheless, it is very important that we address the issue of these irrelevant damaging tests hurting the egos of kids who are being dragged down by their classmates. After all, we need more excuses. And, as we all know, there is nothing more anethema to a rez than a few overachieving Indians with the audacity to be bright. It’s absurd to imagine focusing on nurturing the intelligence of these individuals instead of lamenting their ‘hopelessness” as they too fall victim to the plight of their people.
Blame Game 5
….”Certainly, there is the issue of poverty,” she says. “But the bigger issue is one of culture. There are huge cultural differences between the two cultures and our understanding of the world is quite different. Kids pick up on those differences at an early age.
Just because north Americans value a production-driven culture that relies on specific education models, native Canadians shouldn’t be expected to jump on board, she said. Expecting native kids to approach education in the same manner as the rest of Canadian society is “very simplistic, and to the detriment of kids, whether they’re aboriginal or not.
“You may be talking about a child who maybe grew up in an impoverished community who doesn’t have a lot of exposure to the rest of society, who may not even use the same main language at home,” noted Steinhauer. “We’ve tried so hard to fit round kids into square holes.”
That, in turn, is a symptom of a society that values production and measured success clashing with one to whom family, culture and spiritual values often come first.
“There are so many little programs out there trying to address these issues but we forget that the sum of the parts is not greater than the whole. We haven’t looked properly, as a whole, at the differences in belief systems.”
In other words, like all good postcolonial, cultural-studies eggheads, when they come across things they don’t like, they simply change the meanings of existence and history. Illiterate children on reserves are only illiterate because they have little grasp of their traditions and culture. The standard yardsticks of literacy and intelligence are irrelevant not only because they are oppressive, but because they also paint us in a bad light. So let’s change those colonial, Western standards and make them fool-proof — from now on, literacy and education will be defined as “knowing your own culture”. That’s it.
Reading this nonsense, one would get the impression that Indian children are a separate species, completely isolated away from the rest of society and that only a fool would surmise that these children could fully grasp the mainstream idea of what an education entails.
The tall-foreheads in this article would have us believe that Indian children need to be removed from mainstream education systems to save them from a world of strange and sinister ideas they could not possibly comprehend despite watching TV for 8 hours a day, listening to and imitating rappers, and basically acting like any other pre-teen or teenaged youth in the year 2006. One gets the impression that reserves do not have TVs or radios, or the Internet, or magazines and books, and that Indian kids live in tents, hunt with spears, and can only point and grunt at the strange metal birds flying overhead.
And because of such a lifestyle, they cannot handle mainstream education and need their own special kind of knowledge system, which, coincidentally, this band or that “Aboriginal Special Education Consultant” would be happy to provide if the government would please hand them $500k to start a “Cultural Awareness Education Committee”.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this story is the underlying tone of condescension and insult aimed at Indians, by people ostensibly claiming to be fighting for them. What they are saying, basically, is “You are an Indian who cannot function in society. You need to be treated differently. When something doesn’t go your way, you can just change the definition and everything will be fine.”
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Deconstructing the Aboriginal Problem
Frontier's Senior Policy Analyst
- A paper written by Jean Allard a lawyer, businessman and long-time activist in Manitoba's aboriginal and Métis community who served as a Member of Manitoba's Legislative Assembly from the constituency of Rupertsland in 1969 cuts through the cant of aboriginal politics and offers a solution for aboriginal poverty.
- Big Bear was the last major Prairie Chief to sign the numbered treaties that established the reserve system. His starving people mostly deserted him while he agonized over the loss of Freedom entailed in the treaties.
- Big Bear's legacy is generating a spiritual revival among natives, and points the way to a system with renewed accountability and individual choice.
- The drive towards native self-government has simply changed one oppression for another. As it was once in the interests of agents of the federal government to keep Indians in poverty, unaccountable band councils now perform that task.
- The vast expansion of funds directed at aboriginals has not benefited the wider community. Rather the resources have enriched a new aboriginal elite, as unaccountable as their bureaucratic predecessors, and have not prevented the mass migration of native populations to cities.
- Allard would recalculate the payment of treaty money to reflect current value and redirect about half of the current cash flow into the pockets of individuals and families.
- Although Allard stops short of decentralizing the reserve system by including individual property titles, his proposed reform heads in the direction of greater personal autonomy and less power for collective leaders.
An important new paper points the way to the resolution of an historic blight on Canadian society - the social and economic health of our First Nations population. Aboriginals as a distinct group have not fully participated in the wider prosperity of the country whose First Citizens they compose. Nor is there any real dispute - not even from native leaders - that too many of Canada's indigenes live in dysfunctional social conditions. A new approach to these problems is now emerging, and properly from within that community's ranks. It cuts through the cant of native politics and argues for a solution framed by the needs of individuals and families, not those of their leaders or the anonymous government officials who control their destiny.
The paper is entitled The Rebirth of Big Bear's People. The Treaties: A New Foundation for Status Indian Rights in the 21st Century and was excerpted in a recent issue of Inroads, a scholarly neo-left journal. It was written by Jean Allard, a lawyer, businessman and long-time activist in Manitoba's aboriginal and Métis community who served as a Member of Manitoba's Legislative Assembly from the constituency of Rupertsland in 1969. As part of Manitoba's first New Democratic Party government, his political future was considered bright, and he enjoyed the high regard of Premier Ed Schreyer. He was dissatisfied with the government's direction on aboriginal and other issues, left the party's benches in 1972 to sit as an Independent and did not seek re-election.
Allard is a descendant of the French settlers who intermarried with aboriginals in the Red River Valley in the early 1800s. In 1996, he chained himself to the controversial statue of Louis Riel on the Legislature grounds, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent its replacement by a more conventional depiction of Manitoba's Métis founder. Jean Allard has been building the case laid out in this paper throughout his career. He has received support for its conclusions from other forums, including Winnipeg's Social Planning Council.
Who Was Big Bear?
Big Bear was a half-Cree, half-Ojibway leader and medicine man born in 1825. His own family had endured famine and smallpox, but he eventually came to preside over a band estimated at 400 family lodges, about 3,000 individuals. In 1882, Big Bear became the last prairie chief to sign the numbered treaties that established the Indian Reserve system. Although all other plains leaders had signed treaties by 1876, Big Bear refused to sign when presented with Treaty Six in 1878. He feared that the loss of Freedom entailed in it would crush his people's way of life. Already compromised by disease and warfare, his people faced extreme destitution due to the collapse of the buffalo hunt, and knew a national railroad would seal their fate. The Government of Canada withheld emergency rations and promised signing bonuses and retroactive treaty money to coerce Big Bear's signature. The imminent starvation of his immediate family closed the matter.
Allard uses the circumstances of Big Bear's delay to make some seminal, if uncommon observations. First was the intensely spiritual nature of pre-European society on the plains. Big Bear's four-year agon, during which he withdrew from active leadership of his flock and stopped negotiating, took the form of a religious retreat, commanded by a vision. His concern about the effects of reserve life on his people, borne out by their history since, spurred him to seek a spiritual solution. Allard describes a latter-day revival of that recourse now growing among aboriginal populations on the prairies, and believes that it will confirm Big Bear's foresight by proving to be less futile than premature. In short, native Canadians are finding their way back to the psychological strength that characterized their historic legacy.
Voting With Their Feet
The second lesson of Big Bear has direct relevance to public policy. By the time his spiritual sojourn ended, only 114 individuals remained loyal to him. Allard draws no negative conclusions about the moral stature of the apostates - the choice between servitude and a full stomach would, after all, challenge the best of us - but uses the incident to illustrate an important fact of pre-reserve arrangements. The nomadic native society of the plains employed a powerful incentive to assure accountability on the part of its leaders:
In the times before settlers arrived and surveyors divided up the land on maps, families were free to take their lodge and move to another tribe if the leader or the community was not to their liking. The success of a leader was easily measured by the number of lodges in his tribe. Those leaders who abused their positions, made poor decisions about where to hunt or camp, or treated people contemptuously quickly lost their tribe. A family would simply pack up their lodge and move on. A chief did not order his people to follow his wishes. He advised them of his plans, and if people disagreed with him, they were free to make their own decisions about whether to continue to follow him or join a different tribe. It was an effective way of providing the checks and balances on the power of a leader.
The Flaw in Self-Government
Allard's analysis of the hierarchical and patronizing relationship between the Canadian government and native people under the Indian Act is not new. It has received ample support from within the indigenous community and without, including a Frontier Centre policy series study titled The Search for Aboriginal Property Rights1. Yet he gives it new poignancy, a product of his long and intimate relationship with the problem. He traveled to reserves with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the mid-1990s and reports the shocked appreciation by Supreme Court Justice Berthe Wilson of the level of despondency in Indian men.
Allard expresses a deep, if informed cynicism about the potential to reverse that emasculation by the means of self-government:
. . . [T]he men sought to reassert their manhood through the illusory power of Chief, band council and Indian political organizations. But that power was not really theirs because it was authority given by Indian Affairs, and therefore controlled by Indian Affairs. But the power trap was also well-baited with money.
A New Approach
The current process began when Jean Chrétien, then Pierre Trudeau's Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND), tabled his White Paper2 in Parliament in June, 1969. It called for the repeal of the Indian Act and for government responsibility for Indians as a separate group to end. A storm of protest from aboriginal leaders, encapsulated in the Red Paper penned by Alberta's Harold Cardinal later that year, interpreted the government's intent as assimilation. They demanded that the treaties be followed as written, including a transfer of direct authority to their bailiwick.
This scenario fed into the psychology of white guilt, Allard trenchantly points out, and it also suited the crowd at Indian Affairs, who saw self-government as a vehicle to forestall their own elimination. The new focus presented them with "[a] veritable smorgasbörd of problem to be studied and analyzed by professionals . . . a wealth of opportunity for programs for professionals to design and administer . . . a bounty of needs to be professionally attended to." Federal spending on natives mushroomed from about $262 million in 1969 to more than $6.3 billion in 1999.
Follow the Money
New definitions of who did or did not qualify as a treaty-status Indian increased the constituent class by 40%, but the money allocated to "helping" it went up by a staggering 2,680%. Although DIAND underwent a mild downsizing in staff, Allard describes it as "a lateral shift from Indian Affairs to the Indian organizations. This mutually beneficial relationship gave rise to a vast, absorbent layer of consultants, program officials and administrators, and professionals of all kinds to soak up much of the money that filtered down through the system . . . ."
Trouble is, Allard points out, "[r]eserves are one-dimensional systems." Their structures contain no counterbalancing forces, as do non-native social orders in Canada, so that all problems are attacked through "the single field of politics . . . The ruling elite exercises total control while the impoverished class is voiceless and powerless." He adds:
Without checks and balances that have been built in to democratic government over the centuries, the results are a foregone conclusion. The field is wide open to corruption with all its attendant ills - nepotism, fraud, and misuse of authority, extortion and abuse of human rights . . . . There were many exceptions as people fought the corrupting effect, but slowly and inevitably greed and personal ambitiousness took hold. People with good hearts and good character who were concerned with the welfare of the people were soon weeded out. That left the people whose first priority was to serve the system - the source of their money and power - in charge of the welfare of the people on the reserves in all its aspects. Ultimately the ordinary Indian found himself, as he or she is today, powerless and despondent, living with the resultant social disorganization.
Allard points out that Cardinal soon saw the new problem and eventually "walked away in disgust and despair." He now thinks that "[n]on-accountability is the reward that Indian Affairs gives to chiefs and councils for their compliance."
The Structure Needs the Problem
Relying on democratic institutions for the accountability of leaders simply hasn't worked. The people most affected by the failure of the money to rectify poverty - the women who seek educational, health or social services for their children - have been effectively excluded from the process by arcane and arguably unconstitutional definitions of treaty status. Allard writes:
It is truly appalling that billions and billions of dollars from the taxpaying public have gone and continue to go into a system that inflicts such harm on the very people it is supposed to be helping. . . . Their problems cannot be fixed because their very neediness is absolutely essential to sustaining the whole system. There is no escape. Those in authority - elected leaders, government officials - cannot help because they are the jailers masquerading as advocates and helpers. The 'helpers' are the ones inflicting the harm. In that context, oblivion through sniff or alcohol becomes a reasonable option.
Allard provides a long, and perhaps superfluous proof of the misdirection of resources, given its extensive coverage in the popular press. He accurately documents what may not have received as much attention, namely the manipulation of census counts and the attendant grant fraud that ensues. He claims that nearly half of Canada's status Indians have simply migrated to cities, where they have at least a chance at a better life.
The Unsung Heroes
Many others in the native community share Allard's perspective, and one remarkable person in particular receives his special attention. In 1995, Leona Freed, a resident of Portage la Prairie was robbed of her treaty status because she married a non-aboriginal. Angry beyond consolation, she then suffered and has since experienced a high level of personal danger in her efforts to challenge the corrupt and impenetrable governance on most reserves. Freed has since blossomed into a national figure, galvanizing aborginal opposition, especially among women, to the hardscrabble life they are forced to live on reserves.
Although Allard supports such efforts, he thinks they will ultimately fail in their mission to exact accountability in the closed system of self-government. The correction Allard call for is rather more radical. He wants to reconfigure the spending and direct it where it will do some good - at individuals.
A Modest Proposal
Big Bear proposes an innovative reform, one with a better chance of success than simple lobbying.
When the numbered treaties were signed, each status Indian was promised an annual cash grant of five dollars a year per person. Believe it or not, many bands still hold annual, ceremonial pow-wows where people line up for their cash, still the same, unindexed amount promised decades ago. Allard applies an interesting inflator to that figure.
In 1875, "five dollars was enough to buy five acres of land in southern Manitoba. . . . That land now sells for $1,000 an acre." In other words, if the treaty money had increased in value by the same proportion, it would be worth $5,000 a year per person. That translates into about $400 a month for each individual, and that's where Allard would direct it. Not into the pockets of tribal leaders, but to those who now live by their not-so-tender mercies.
The policy shift, when augmented by the modest incomes working natives already enjoy, would effectively lift most of them into the middle class. Allard calculates that treaty payments expanded to this level would take up just half of current budgets. The rest he would leave in existing pipelines where it would adequately underwrite existing services, the need for which would be much reduced by putting resources directly into the hands of individuals.
A Way Out
Reconfiguring aboriginal spending in this way would have other advantages. Most important is the fact that it could be accomplished by a simple administrative change within the structure of existing treaty law. It would not require months of years of negotiation with stakeholders who have become experts at protecting their turf. "Those who have fed off the misery of Indians because the financial pickings were so good," Allard writes, "will disappear as soon as the money starts drying up. They will, as vulture do, go off in search of another carcass to pick clean."
This reform would also do much to reverse the cycle of dependency that has afflicted so many aboriginals. Treaty money is not the same as welfare, it is a right enshrined in law, not a handout. Allard envisions a future in which reserve economies would become entrepreneurial cultures, in which residents with money in their pockets would automatically generate accountability from their leaders. If they didn't offer timely, high quality services to their bands, they would experience Big Bear's ignominious fate. Their people would simply vote with their feet.
Why Not Go All the Way?
In The Search for Aboriginal Property Rights the Frontier Centre argues in favour of decollectivizing property on reserves, where individuals are now forbidden to own their homes or the land they sit on. This change would allow reserve residents to leverage their hard assets for capital, the mother's milk of western societies and a major source of the general prosperity so elusive for natives. Allard believes this would require too many major changes in law to achieve, and that it would threaten the communitarian basis of native society, the very thing that distinguishes it from its non-native counterpart. It would be too threatening.
We will have to disagree about that. In fact, the dispersal of assets would have the same salutary effect as decentralizing the payment of cash, to strengthen communities by shoring up the social units that compose them.
Many will argue, indeed Jean Allard explicitly admits that most of what he says in this new treatment has been suggested before. That is true enough, but it does not diminish the value of his effort. He directly connects his policy reforms to the history and culture of the First Nations from which he is partly descended. He's lived through the politics and experienced the pitfalls of current native policy first-hand.
It is aboriginals themselves that are suffering the consequences of the failed system they so laboriously defend in official forums. It is aboriginals themselves who must be convinced of the need for change. Allard is uniquely positioned to begin that debate in a substantive manner.
Big Bear may not become a must-read on reserves, but it ought to.
Dennis Owens is the Frontier's Senior Policy Analyst. A descendent of homesteaders near Portage la Prairie, he graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science. Over a 20-year career in the transportation business, he rose to the position of operations manager of a Winnipeg-based firm. Since then he has researched and written about Canadian public policy issues for a variety of organizations including the Manitoba Taxpayers Association and the Prairie Centre. His specialties at the Frontier Centre include municipal issues, public education, healthcare and aboriginal policy. His frequent exposure in electronic and print media has included a regular commentary on CBC radio and articles printed in the Wall Street Journal and the National Post.
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