First Nations need real reform – by Lorne Gunter (Ottawa Sun – April 14, 2015)

We are killing our First Nations with kindness – and political correctness.

What most First Nations need is fewer tax dollars, better educational options for their young people and more individual liberty. Instead, Canada’s courts and politicians think more collectivism and more cash are the solutions to Third World conditions on many reserves.

Both the Chretien and Harper governments have attempted to break the cycle of bad governance that is behind much of the dysfunction on half or more of Canada’s just over 630 reserves.

The Liberals attempted to pass a First Nations Governance Act (FNGA) in 2002. It was an effort to make band councils more democratic and more accountable to their members and to Ottawa.

Chretien’s FNGA would have replaced the race-based Indian Act and introduced new rules to ensure free and fair elections on reserves, applied financial management standards comparable to those used by municipal and provincial governments, and sought to make on-reserve administration more professional.

The Liberal law would also have brought bands under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would have meant members (particularly aboriginal women) could have filed complaints against their reserve councils for unequal treatment and clannish favouritism.

However, like new education reforms introduced by the Harper government more than two years ago, the Liberals’ FNGA was opposed by about two-thirds of the country’s chiefs. And given that chiefs hold great influence – greater influence than non-aboriginal politicians – both the Liberals’ and the Tories’ reforms were stymied.

Nearly everything on-reserve goes through the chiefs and councils – money for housing, job creation, health and education. And at the end of the day, there is only as much accountability as on-reserve leaders want to accept.

Imagine if your town’s or city’s mayor and council were given by Ottawa all the money for everything that goes on in your municipality – all the money for your personal salary and the salaries of everyone else in town, for your personal housing and for your personal treatment at the local hospital.

What if your mayor and councillors had control over all the money for post-secondary education and could decide which students got free college tuition and which did not. Do you really think, as a parent, you’d stand up to them publicly when you opposed their decisions on other matters?

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