Sunday, June 12, 2011
Pound The Table
I'm not sure why we never really seem to have a national conversation about First Nations, whether it's because of collective shame, indifference or elements of racism, but the relative silence equates to passive acceptance. Last week Sheila Fraser again raised the issue of appalling conditions on reserves, which was followed by the usual shaking of collective heads, which invariably will lead to nothing of consequence.
Whatever your measure, rather than things improving on reserves, things are getting worse. The education gap is widening, living conditions deteriorating, essentials of life that other Canadians take for granted simply non-existent, it all congeals into a profoundly intolerable situation, and yet no sense that things will change in the future. Fraser's conclusion, not a new one, the present way of doing things simply doesn't work, it's time for a drastic rethink. However, it is depressing obvious that the political will doesn't exist, within that WE the populous are ultimately guilty for not demanding or caring, at least in any sustained way.
When Ignatieff first took the helm for the Liberals, I suggested he travel to one of Canada's most impoverished reserves and highlight the issues. Not a one day stunt, but part of a dedicated effort to draw attention, focus, a CORE issue that would define the "new" Liberal brand. For a party desperate to find an identity, I couldn't think of another "issue" that Liberals should wrap themselves in, because at the most basic level, that's the job of a politician to draw attention to issues, slights, concerns, which can then resonate because of unilateral focus. Part of the reason nothing ever changes on the First Nations file is because no party bothers to speak on the issues ad nauseum, nobody rolls up their sleeves and walks the streets, day after day, month after month until these issues become top of mind for Canadians. Within that reality, some dark elements exist, there is much hostility towards First Nations peoples, let's not kid ourselves and let's try to understand that part of the equation when translating to lack of action.
What we require moving forward is people who will pound the table relentlessly about the inanity of Third World conditions existing in one of the most prosperous nations on earth. We also need a complete evolution of thought, rather than dictation, mutual advancement, which means challenging both sides instead than appeasements. We need controversial solutions that attack the status quo all around. It's hard to think of a more pervasive, systemic issue that haunts the Canadian experience, that desperately needs addressing. The Liberals have failed in the past, these Conservatives convey underlying disinterest, I look to see something within my party rise and champion perhaps our greatest challenge. I also believe this type of moral imperative, if genuine in nature, would be rewarded. Politicans can make news, rather than simply react to it, let's plant a firm flag and force the conversation.