Six lessons from a brilliant, scathing year-old CBC report on Attawapiskat’s mismanagement – by Jonathan Kay (National Post – January 8, 2013)

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CBC News made headlines on Monday by publicizing a scathing audit report on Attawapiskat, the impoverished northern Ontario Cree community led by hunger-striking chief Theresa Spence.

Yet you’ll find an even more searing indictment of Attawapiskat’s leadership in a televised report from the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault. That segment is a year old, but it’s getting a new life on the internet thanks to a Twitter-based resurrection campaign led by blogger Richard Klagsbrun.

Watch the video: It’s shocking how many important lessons from Attawapiskat Ms. Arsenault manages to pack into just eight minutes.

1. The idea that the destitution of far-flung First Nations such as Attawapiskat is a result of Ottawa’s neglect is wrong. Ms. Arsenault’s quick tour of Attawapiskat — a place that then was supposed to have been in a housing crisis — shows a half-dozen well-constructed houses with no one living in them. When questioned about this total waste of resources, Chief Theresa Spence has no real answer.

2. In fact, Ms. Arsenault’s reporting suggests that the real problem in Attawapiskat is Ms. Spence’s own incompetent leadership — in which capacity she is aided by her live-in boyfriend Clayton Kennedy, who serves as the community’s manager. Neither apparently can be bothered to fill out the paperwork required to get needed resources from Ottawa, or even supply basic accounting information.

When Ms. Arsenault bluntly asks Mr. Kennedy whether its appropriate for the chief’s unelected romantic partner to be running the place, he answers that it’s “nobody’s business.” (A decade ago, Art Eggleton got thrown out of federal cabinet for awarding a research project to a former girlfriend. Yet Ms. Spence has become a “grass roots” hero after giving an even cushier job to her current boyfriend.)

3. Ms. Arsenault didn’t intend to profile Attawapiskat’s economy. But she did a good job of it nonetheless. Take a look at every backdrop: Every home is made from materials transported from hundreds of miles away. The temperatures are frigid, so every home goes through gallons of heating fuel daily. All the chairs and paneling in the leaders’ conference room, all the North Face coats, all of the snowmobiles and hockey equipment — it’s all flown in from Timmins or elsewhere, or trucked in on winter roads at high expense.

This might be one of the most expensive places in the world to operate a human settlement. Yet the town itself has zero private economy — except for a few cafés and the like. There is a major diamond mine in the region. Yet we do not meet anyone who has any sort of high-tech job skills, or any way of achieving them in Attawapiskat. Put aside culture for a moment: In economic terms, Attawapiskat exists as a pure sinkhole for resources produced elsewhere.

4. Perhaps the most pitiful scene in the whole piece is the one in which Ms. Arsenault examines the masses of boxes containing (apparently useful) donations from concerned Canadians.

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