The Ontario North is dotted with towns struggling to survive – by John R Hunt (North Bay Nugget – April 20, 2016)

First Nations people living in remote Northern Ontario communities are having a bad time. People are living in poor housing. Overcrowding, lack of employment, outbreaks of skin disease and mental health problems all add to depressing headlines.

There has been a lengthy inquest at Thunder Bay into the deaths of seven young people from northern reserves who went to the city to for an education. Five were found dead in a river. It is still not clear if they died from natural causes or were victims of foul play. Add the mysterious deaths of or disappearances of scores of aboriginal women and it is a sobering picture.

First Nations are getting some help and lots of advice. One of the most popular ideas is they should leave their isolated homes and move south. Former prime minister Jean Chretien said that sometimes First Nations should move to where the jobs are.

All this is brutally logical. But it ignores centuries of attachment to the land and a traditional lifestyle that many First Nations people still want to preserve. Many still do some traditional hunting, fishing and trapping, but they cannot make much of a living by it.

Many First Nations claim the Indian Act is hopelessly out of date. It restricts them from building homes or developing their own resources. First Nations’ schools are not as well funded as provincial schools.

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