TORONTO – I’m grateful former prime minister Jean Chretien mused this week that people in Attawapiskat should move.
Asked about the state of emergency over a spate of suicides in the beleaguered James Bay first nation, Chretien, who once served as what was then called Indian Affairs minister, said: “People have to move sometimes. It’s desirable to stay if they want to stay but it’s not always possible.”
That struck a chord with me because earlier this week, provincial Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer had waxed on about the terrible conditions in Attawapiskat — the despair, the isolation, the lack of economic opportunity. I asked Zimmer the obvious question: Is the community sustainable? He got quite huffy.
“These communities have lived in the remotes in Attawapiskat and other places in the far north for thousands of years,” he said.
“They want to live on the land and this government, and I am sure the federal government, is not going to get into the business of telling people they have to leave their homes and they have to move somewhere else, which is perhaps the suggestion in your question.”
Now a former Liberal PM has said the same thing, so I feel vindicated. Zimmer said the solution is to make these communities economically viable.
The First Nation is just 90 km from the De Beers Victor diamond mine and do-gooders point to that as the solution. Why can’t the First Nation people get jobs there? The answer is that they do.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/13/status-quo-for-first-nations-isnt-working