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What if Natives Stop Subsidizing Canada?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Barriere Lake community members block logging machinery on their territory. Photo: Pei-Ju Wang
Barriere Lake community members block logging machinery on their territory. Photo: Pei-Ju Wang
DeBeers' open pit mine near Attawapiskat.
DeBeers' open pit mine near Attawapiskat.

by Dru Oja Jay

There is a prevailing myth that Canada's more than 600 First Nations and native communities live off of money -- subsidies -- from the Canadian government. This myth, though it is loudly proclaimed and widely believed, is remarkable for its boldness; widely accessible, verifiable facts show that the opposite is true.

Indigenous people have been subsidizing Canada for a very long time.
Conservatives have leaked documents in an attempt to discredit chief Theresa Spence, currently on hunger strike in Ottawa. Reporters like Jeffrey Simpson and Christie Blatchford have ridiculed the demands of native leaders and the protest movement Idle No More. Their ridicule rests on this foundational untruth: that it is hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians that pays for housing, schools and health services in First Nations. The myth carries a host of racist assumptions on its back. It enables prominent voices like Simpson and Blatchford to liken protesters' demands to "living in a dream palace" or "horse manure," respectively.
It's true that Canada's federal government controls large portions of the cash flow First Nations depend on. Much of the money used by First Nations to provide services does come from the federal budget. But the accuracy of the myth ends there.
On the whole, the money that First Nations receive is a small fraction of the value of the resources, and the government revenue, that comes out of their territories. Let's look at a few examples.
Barriere Lake
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have a traditional territory that spans 10,000 square kilometres. For thousands of years, they have made continuous use of the land. They have never signed a treaty giving up their rights to the land. An estimated $100 million per year in revenues are extracted every year from their territory in the form of logging, hydroelectric dams, and recreational hunting and fishing.
And yet the community lives in third-world conditions. A diesel generator provides power, few jobs are available, and families live in dilapidated bungalows. These are not the lifestyles of a community with a $100 million economy in its back yard. In some cases, governments are willing to spend lavishly. They spared no expense, for example, sending 50 fully-equipped riot police from Montreal to break up a peaceful road blockade with tear gas and physical coercion.
Barriere Lake is subsidizing the logging industry, Canada, and Quebec.
The community isn't asking for the subsidies to stop, just for some jobs and a say in how their traditional territories are used. They've been fighting for these demands for decades.
Attawapiskat has been in the news because their ongoing housing crisis came to the attention of the media in 2011. (MP Charlie Angus referred to the poverty-stricken community as "Haiti at 40 below.") More recently, Chief Theresa Spence has made headlines for her ongoing hunger strike. The community is near James Bay, in Ontario's far north.
Right now, DeBeers is constructing a $1 billion mine on the traditional territory of the Āhtawāpiskatowi ininiwak. Anticipated revenues will top $6.7 billion. Currently, the Conservative government is subjecting the budget of the Cree to extensive scrutiny. But the total amount transferred to the First Nation since 2006 -- $90 million -- is a little more than one per cent of the anticipated mine revenues. As a percentage, that's a little over half of Harper's cut to GST.
Royalties from the mine do not go to the First Nation, but straight to the provincial government. The community has received some temporary jobs in the mine, and future generations will have to deal with the consequences of a giant open pit mine in their back yard.
Attawapiskat is subsidizing DeBeers, Canada and Ontario.
The Lubicon Cree, who never signed a treaty ceding their land rights, have waged a decades-long campaign for land rights. During this time, over $14 billion in oil and gas has been removed from their traditional territory. During the same period, the community has gone without running water, endured divisive attacks from the government, and suffered the environmental consequences of unchecked extraction.
Sour gas flaring next to the community resulted in an epidemic of health problems and stillborn babies. Moose and other animals fled the area, rendering the community's previously self-sufficient lifestyle untenable overnight. In 2011, an oil pipeline burst, spilling 4.5 million litres of oil onto Lubicon territory. The Lubicon remain without a treaty, and the extraction continues.
The Lubicon Cree are subsidizing the oil and gas sector, Alberta and Canada.
What will Canada do without its subsidies?
From the days of beaver trapping to today's aspirations of becoming an energy superpower, Canada's economy has always been based on natural resources. With 90 per cent of its settler population amassed along the southern border, exploitation of the land's wealth almost always happens at the expense of the Indigenous population.
Canada's economy could not have been built without massive subsidies: of land, resource wealth, and the incalculable cost of generations of suffering.
Overall numbers are difficult to pin down, but consider the following: Canadian governments received $9 billion in taxes and royalties in 2011 from mining companies, which is a tiny portion of overall mining profits; $3.8 billion came from exports of hydroelectricity alone in 2008, and 60 per cent of Canada's electricity comes from hydroelectric dams; one estimate has tar sands extraction bringing in $1.2 trillion in royalties over 35 years; the forestry industry was worth $38.2 billion in 2006, and contributes billions in royalties and taxes.
By contrast, annual government spending on First Nations was $5.36 billion in 2005 (it's slightly higher now). By any reasonable measure, it's clear that First Nations are the ones subsidizing Canada.
These industries are mostly taking place on an Indigenous nation's traditional territory, laying waste to the land in the process, submerging, denuding, polluting and removing. The human costs are far greater; brutal tactics aimed at erasing native peoples' identity and connection with the land have created human tragedies several generations deep and a legacy of fierce and principled resistance that continues today.
Canada has developed myriad mechanisms to keep the pressure on and the resources flowing. But policies of large-scale land theft and subordination of peoples are not disposed to half measures. From the active violence of residential schools to the targetted neglect of underfunded reserve schools, from RCMP and armed forces rifles to provincial police tear gas canisters, the extraction of these subsidies has always been treated like a game of Risk, but with real consequences.
Break the treaty, press the advantage, and don't let a weaker player rebuild.
Idle? Know More.
The last residential school was shut down in 1996. Canadians today would like to imagine themselves more humane than past generations, but few can name the Indigenous nations of this land or the treaties that allow Canada and Canadians to exist.
Understanding the subsidies native people give to Canada is just the beginning. Equally crucial is understanding the mechanisms by which the government forces native people to choose every day between living conditions out of a World Vision advertisement and hopelessness on one hand, and the pollution and social problems of short-term resource exploitation projects on the other.
Empathy and remorse are great reasons to act to dismantle this ugly system of expropriation. But an even better reason is that Indigenous nations present the best and only partners in taking care of our environment. Protecting our rivers, lakes, forests and oceans is best done by people with a multi-millenial relationship with the land.
As the people who live downstream and downwind, and who have an ongoing relationship to the land, Cree, Dene, Anishnabe, Inuit, Ojibway and other nations are among the best placed and most motivated to slow down and stop the industrial gigaprojects that are threatening all of our lives.
Movements like Idle No More give a population asleep at the wheel the chance to wake up and hear what native communities have been saying for hundreds of years: it's time to withdraw our consent from this dead-end regime, and chart a new course.
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dru (Dru Oja Jay)
Member since January 2008


Writer, organizer, Media Co-op co-founder. Co-author of Paved with Good Intentions and Offsetting Resistance.

1319 words


this article on Natives subsidising Canada

I had no idea. It's quite shocking. To think that no federal gov't has ever finalized treaties with many native tribes is unbelievable... This means the map of Canada is not true.... How this could have happened .........

I would like to find a map with all the native lands outlined to see the extent of this.... what should we call it...: 'fraud" that has been and is being carried out on natives...

What we have here is a much more profound question than access to land etc....This involves a systematic abuse and fraud carried out over a long period of time....

It;s actually quite shocking....No treaties, no final settlements.....Amazing.


Jim Messenger, Montreal.



Attawapiskat has a treaty, but its been pretty thoroughly violated by the government. Lubicon and Barriere Lake have never signed a treaty.


Lots of treaties were forced on our ppl. Being forced on reserves and not aloud to go and hunt and gather food for their ppl some chiefs had to sign so his ppl would not starve. Chief Big Bear stood up and was one that was forced to sign his land away. These were some of the tactics they used. U dont learn this in schools....this is knowledge we the ppl of this land posses.


Lots of treaties were forced on our ppl. Being forced on reserves and not aloud to go and hunt and gather food for their ppl some chiefs had to sign so his ppl would not starve. Chief Big Bear stood up and was one that was forced to sign his land away. These were some of the tactics they used. U dont learn this in schools....this is knowledge we the ppl of this land posses.

Canada is no longer that

Canada is no longer that quiet peaceful country where freedom is above all else. Now its on the news and seen in every country in the world who who created genocide and oppression of its ppl.this is a good start for change.

Canada is no longer that

Canada is no longer that quiet peaceful country where freedom is above all else. Now its on the news and seen in every country in the world who who created genocide and oppression of its ppl.this is a good start for change.

Canada subsidizing Canada

None of these truely depict an example of the Native Community subsidizing Canada, each one is CANADA subsidizing Canada. Not one of these examples include any effort or actions coming from our first nation population, it's entirely based on natural resources.

Yes, these are resources being stripped from Native lands, but the article itself states that no contracts have been establsihed regarding these areas. It also notes that royalties from intitatives like the DeBeers pit go to the government, earlier it's noted that the Native communities recieve susidies from the government. Money goes in, then goes out, at absolute best your argument should be that Natives are subsidizing themselves.

You wave around projected income figures, and fail to produce any numbers about the investment companies put in to create these projects, none of these endeavours are free to undertake. Costs for machinery, staff, etc. has to be in place before a project even begins. If the Native community truely wants to claim the rights as contributors to these subsidies then they should be organizing and funding these projects themselves.

Finally, Native leaders need to decide whether they want to be contributing members of society. If you view Idle No More as a movement to stop the abuse of Native lands, that's perfectly acceptable; I agree that traditional lands should be protected to preserve traditional ways of life for our first natiions. However if the communities want to keep there lands free from invasion of capitalism and industry they should not try to recieve any funding from the same sources they are then cutting off. If you aren't willing to help the Canadian economic initiative then you should not be getting any help back from it.

You seem a little confused

And the crux of it is that you don't seem to acknowledge the history (and ongoing reality) of enforced poverty and violence that has prevented First Nations from having being able to decide how to develop their lands.

Imagine Stalin saying the same to peasants

Let's modify your statement slightly to imagine Stalin making similar comments about Soviet peasants in the 1930s and see how we feel about it:

"Peasant leaders need to decide whether they want to be contributing members of society. If you view the peasant movement as one to stop the abuse of peasant lands, that's perfectly acceptable; I agree that traditional lands should be protected to preserve traditional ways of life for our peasants. However if the communities want to keep their lands free from invasion of collectivisation, 5-year plans and industrialization they should not try to receive any funding from the same sources they are then cutting off. If you aren't willing to help the Soviet economic initiative then you should not be getting any help back from it."

Surely this isn't fair to First Nations in Canada, as they are actually separate nations; still, the above is a useful way to think about the principles at work here.

We can see clearly that forcing peasants to "contribute" to the Soviet economy by destroying their communities, traditions and lands and assimilating them into the Soviet central planning system is reprehensible when Stalin does it; why not when we do it to natives in Canada?

What's actually being said here is, "If you don't comply with our demands, we're going to make your lives miserable." I doubt we would agree with it if we were on the other side of the attack.

never ending

Our people had over 50 million here on this continent before ppl came and now theres 8 million. Explain that!

it's your own fault

what happened to those 42 million people over several hundred years? all lot happened. Most indians were killed by pathogens brought over by europeans since natives were more homogeneous racially(they inbred more) their immune systems didn't have the antigens to kill these new pathogens so they all died out like it was the black death, Small pox was what really killed off almost all natives along with typhus not to mention more recent outbreaks that killed millions such as the spanish influenza outbreak of 1918 which killed one in every six canadians(natives were more prone to dying from influenza due to their weak immune systems compared to all other races). Every race of humans on the planet are growing in population except for one, whites. The white population is experiencing slavery and genocide right this very second but it's not public because of political correctness. In 1950 there were 1.3 Billion whites in the world, today there are 1.1 billion. WHERE"d the 200 MILLION people go in 50 years? there wasn't a pandemic. There wasn't a major war that claimed more than a few thousand white lives so where'd 200 million people go in 60 years? the lower birth rate alone isn't enough to account for the missing 200 million nor does it come close even with war, famine and natural causes. Then theres the issue of slavery, We like to think that we've ended slavery forever but that just isn't true. we just ended black slavery in the americas there is still slavery all around the world. Africa isn't the only continent that slavers have pillaged and raped. Right now in Eastern Europe millions of men and women are bought and sold in slave markets but we dont call it that anymore we call it human trafficing so it doesn't sound like what it is, they want to downplay it as not being as serious as slavery since they didn't call it slavery but it's slavery never the less. Are we equal? are all humans equal? then why does one group deserve to get paid for a "genocide" that lasted hundreds of years and only killed 42 million. It wasn't genocide at all, First lets assume EVERY one of those 42 million natives were killed directly by white men with guns or whatever. 42 million dead over 500 years is not a genocide , genocide is the deliberate attempt to exterminate another group of people. If whites wanted to exterminate the natives they wouldn't've killed 42 million over 500 years they would've killed 50 million within a few years. The Aztecs killed 1.5 million of their own people and those of neighboring tribes from 1491 to 1521, they sacrificed 250,000 people a year to their gods. all in all the white man didn't kill you. 80-90% of the entire native population was killed off by one disease alone(small pox) Whites litterally only ever kiled about 30,000 natives in all of their history directly.Did you know that by the end of the 19th century there was less than one million natives alive? Do yo know what that means now that you have 8 million people? IT MEANS YOUR PEOPLE ARE THE MOST INBRED PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. get a job, stop stealing from white communites, buy your own fucking house or build it in one of your so valued traditional ways and don't fucking dare complain that the white man isn't giving you enough money, you have more rights than any group on the planet and we're supposed to give u money unti lthe end of time for a genocide that never even happened. You died because of your isolation, if you were smart enough to build ships and sail around the world and establish trade with other counties then you would've been able to build up an immunity to the same diseases we did but you didn't so you died. the end .fuck off.

Advot, you seem to have

Advot, you seem to have missed the point, here. It doesn't matter how much money you spend on equipment, or whether you believe I'm using my resources adequately, or deserve recognition of industriousness by your standards: if you come into my house, loot what you find there, and sell it, you are a thief, and any proficts you accrue are stolen.

The whole issue around the lack of treaties is that these areas are contested. They are occupied land. They are not Canada's to dispose of, unless you are willing to stand and defend the invasion, genocide, atrocities, and appropriation practiced on the people who lived here as being a straightforward, legally binding, and fair means of securing land and resources. Are you? Don't try arguing that it's "ancient history", either: these offenses are ongoing. Just because First Nations aren't out there with weapons doesn't mean Canada isn't deliberately abusing the treaty process or lack thereof to its own gain.

"If you aren't willing to help the Canadian economic initiative then you should not be getting any help back from it."

You know, I think that's rather the point of the article? Multiple examples were given regarding how the people have been actively prevented from practicing their traditions by colonialization. I'm interested in why you feel you have a moral entitlement to dictate to the victims what they owe you and the rest of Canada, according to some metric of fairness that you ALSO get to dictate. Doesn't that seem a bit off, to you? 

Explain the difference, if any, between what the Canadian government is doing to first nations (and your implicit support of it), and what, if the transaction were being conducted in a back alley, would be instantly recognisable as menacing, hostile, and totally lacking any regard for human rights and autonomy?

Above History

My family was forced out of our home country by threat of execution in a government-imposed ethnic cleansing, we get nothing from the past or current government there, nor do we expect it. We didn't even have the option to continue to practice our traditional lives, instead we were forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on our backs and had to make a new start entirely on our own.


"I'm interested in why you feel you have a moral entitlement to dictate to the victims what they owe you and the rest of Canada, according to some metric of fairness that you ALSO get to dictate."

I'm not trying to say that these victims should owe us anything, I think in an ideal situation the Native People should form their own government and protect the lands themselves. That would enable them to use them exactly as they want, they can preserve their own ways of life and their own natural resources, independant of anything that could help or hinder them from outside influences.  I hate that globalization is increasingly leading us to a cultureless, uniform society, I would love to see people live in traditional ways to protect the unique heritage of their ancestors. What I AM saying is that it is unfair for these settlements to pick-and-choose which parts of society they want to associate with. If you expect governement run services (such as fire trucks, ambulance, modern health care, loans, grants, etc.) taking it without contributing anything in return is also unfair. I believe first nations should have access to natural resources, and the essentials of life. Yes, lands were unfairly taken (which, is the histroy of most human civilization), but treaty natives are recieveing far more than any other displaced peoples in the world ever have, and more native bands are being added to the status protection still. I supprt actions to better the lives of the indiginous people, I think initiatives like the post-secondary school tuition grants issued are a hugely positive step that many other troubled communities aren't offered.

If all  First Nations are truely intent on protecting their traditions and ways of life then things like the Native Status Tax Exempt cards would never get used, but the draw to imported culture, things like big screen TVs and XBOX games prove to be a stronger draw to some people than protecting heritage and lands. I think denouncing those cards for use on anything besides natural Canadian-made products, and items developed/invented by aborignal peoples would be a huge first step in convincing society at large that your goals lie outside of simply recieving special treratment.

What I'm saying is that people need to decide whether they want to be part of modern society and play by the rules, or set out on their own and preserve their own ways, but taking only the percieved "benefits" from the government whilst ignoring anything you disagree with is completely outrageous. If people want to preserve their ways of life then fine, but don't expect the outside government to bend-over to appease your needs once you denounce them.



The image of people taking what they want, as if there's a choice, is inaccurate. Lots of native people do carve out self-governance and a land based existence against all odds. But the system that you live under isn't a consumer choice, it's a policy enforced with a great deal of violence over many generations.


You really don't appear to be listening. This land is held by the Canadian government. These people are denied autonomy, and have been insufficiently recompensed in education or resources for the brutal efficiency with which they were divested of culture, even being forbidden to speak their own language. That you insinuate blame against them for "wanting" consumerist western culture without recognising that that cultural sundering was accomplished by forced integration is ignorant beyond belief. The Canadian government took First Nations children from their homes by force, and subjected them to religious, cultural, and racial brainwashing. If you see a First Nations person with grey in their hair, chances are excellent that person attended a Residential School.

"Bend over to appease"? What are you even TALKING about?

When First Nations HAVE attempted to assert autonomous claim to lands occupied by the Canadian government, they are met with force of arms in the form of an increasingly militarised and unaccountable police force.

"Appeasement"? What, exactly, has the Canadian government done to redress the crimes committed against First Nations peoples? Please don't try anyone's patience by suggesting that billions of dollars filtered through multiple layers of bureaucracy until a few million are left for use by people who are treated like untrustworthy children is somehow "recompense" for genocide. Oil and gas corporations bleed more than that, and have received far more subsidy with infinitely less oversight and for far less reason.

Understand the facts

I am sorry to hear about your family.  It is unfortunate your poeple did not have the power to be considered for treaties as the First Nations did.  But the fact remains that treaties were signed, without which the Confederacy and, later, the Country of Canada could have been formed as it is today.

These Treaties are legal agreements which must be honored.  Whether you like it or not, the Federal and Supreme Court of Canada recognizes the Governments legal fiduciary responsibilities to the First Nations.  

First Nations are not beggars, they are contract holders.  It is their funds being mismanaged, not the governments.  

Welcome to Canada, time to get to know her people.

Nope soon it will be welcome

Nope soon it will be welcome to the republic of kanata where we will be free. The indian act is not a lawful document that was forced on us. The goverment cares not about the law but the end of our ppl. Genocide is happening even now.

"My family was forced out of

"My family was forced out of our home country by threat of execution in a government-imposed ethnic cleansing, we get nothing from the past or current government there, nor do we expect it. We didn't even have the option to continue to practice our traditional lives, instead we were forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on our backs and had to make a new start entirely on our own."

I know someone else whose family was forced out of their own country as well and came to Canada.  According to her, once they got here they were given a house to live in right off the bat, clothes for all family members through Community Living, and large cheques for thousands of dollars from the government in order to start their new life.  The older members are able to take ESL courses for free, they were shown where they could go to school (and welcomed in the schools), taken on group outings paid for by Community Living, and had no problems finding work here since the government subsidizes many companies who hire immigrants. 

Did you have a similar experience, or did you really come here and have to start out with no place to live, no clothes on your back, and no support at all?

Compare this to my life.  Born and raised in Canada, my single mother had to basically sacrifice watching me grow up to work and keep the rent paid and food on the table.  I went to a "white" school, where I had no friends (I did once, but their parents wouldn't let their children play with me for fear I turned them into savages or stole their things).  I have been turned away from getting student loans based on my treaty status when my band couldn't afford to fund me; and have had more than enough trouble finding work in my life...I eventually had to change my last name to a whiter-sounding one just to get interviews.  The list goes on,  but I'd rather not get into it because just thinking back on the way I was treated for being HALF native is depressing.  And you know what?  I pay my taxes, I pay sales tax...just like everyone else.  The treaty tax exemption only counts when buying items that are on reserve land...the govt took that away back in the 90s.  So...yay for you?

In an ideal situation, self-governance and control over the resources is exactly what natives would like.  BUT, this is not an ideal situation, is it?  In an ideal situation, they would have been left alone as was stated in the treaties, instead of scooped up and shipped off to various parts of the country and as far away from their families as possible.  Ideally, they would never have been abused, subjected to Nazi-like experiments, sold as slaves to the UK. Ideally, there would never have been a government-wide plan to rid Canada of natives for as long as this has been a country (even longer).

Since you are not originally from Canada, I urge you to read further into the history of this government and the Indigenous Peoples, starting from when Britain first came to Canada.  Make sure you touch on the blankets they were offered as presents that were diseased with smallpox in an effort to kill them off from the beginning, and take some extra time to look up what happened in the residential schools (the last one closed in 1996).  Talk to some natives, too.  It doesn't hurt to find things out from the people who are affected.



Current Law

My family was lucky enough that when they came here they were able to find a farmer who was willing to hire the males on to pick beets and herd livestock, and also worked at helping them learn basic English. At that time, as refugees the government gave them a change of clothing and a train ticket to the prairies. There were no cheques or subsidies  at that time.

And I agree that society still has a lot to learn about tolerance, even in modern times families are being urged to name their daughters something like "Alex" or "Lee" that is unisex if they want her to be succesful in a business world, as feminine names have been proven to receive fewer intervews and promotions. My heart does go out to you for having to endure unwarranted assumptions about you as a person, and the character of your family.

As for taxation, an official law is here:

"The point-of-sale exemption for Status Indians, Indian bands and councils of an Indian band will apply only to qualifying off-reserve acquisitions or importations of property or services that are for the personal consumption of the Status Indian or exclusively for consumption or use by the band or the council of the band."

Yes, depending on local legislature there is still a very real tax exemption policy, for any tangible property that is not one of the few expressly excluded (Ex: Restaurant meals, wine, electricity).  I've worked retail at a (non-reservation, obviously) mall and sold countless playstations and copies of video games like Call of Duty to people who use their Status card to recieve the point-of-sale exemption.

Finally, when I was younger my best friend's father was a man who had been in the residential schools, over the years I've heard many stories about it, and obviously agree it's a shameful part of our nation's history,( and unfortunatley not even a terribly unique one, the suffering of the local Japanese population in Canadian camps largely goes unnoted most of the time.) 

Dear Advot



I am sorry that your family was forced out of your home. Your right this is a story common across the world but just because it is a common story it does not make it right or acceptable. We as settlers, meaning everyone who is Non-Indigenous to Canada, have to take responsibility for these ongoing injustices against First Nations people, just as the people who forced your family out should some day be held accountable. This is especially the case here in Canada because the settler laws (made by the Canadian Government) recognize that what settler communities have done and are still doing to First Nations people is wrong and illegal.

Furthermore in regards to your comment “[w]hat I AM saying is that it is unfair for these settlements to pick-and-choose which parts of society they want to associate with. If you expect governement run services (such as fire trucks, ambulance, modern health care, loans, grants, etc.) taking it without contributing anything in return is also unfair.”

It is very unfair of you to say that because a person is First Nations and do not want to give up their land to Industry for exploitation they should not be allowed to access services such as fire trucks, ambulance, modern health care, loans, grants, etc. Many settlers (Non-First Nation people) “own” land as per their agreement with the Canadian Government but do not have to allow Industry to exploit their land in order to access services such as fire trucks, ambulance, modern health care, loans, grants, etc. First Nations people who work contribute to our society just as much any other person and that should be good enough for them to access public services. Furthermore, I do not think that First Nations “people need to decide whether they want to be part of modern society and play by the rules”. In reality settlers should be playing by First Nations rules, if we follow the Canadian Governments laws regarding ownership this is their land, hence their country. When you say that they should follow the rules you are basically saying that it is ok to accept oppression, unfit living conditions,violence, etc. Do you know that Industry has caused so much pollution in some reserve areas that the water is undrinkable and the government nor industry have tried to correct this? If this was a settler community this would have been fixed by water treatement plants ASAP.

Oh one more thing regarding the “free” post secondary education. I don’t know many people who would utilize “free” education that is not in their native tongue, tells lies about the violence committed against their people and is administered in ways that do not fit their world view.

It is similar as asking a speaking Jewish person to take free education by a Nazi school which also denyies the holocaust.  If you think this is extreme  it’s because you do not know the actual history is colonization.

Great Argument, Faulty Premise

This article's argument makes a great deal of sense, except when one considers the context of land entitlement.  The argument assumes that 100% of the land in question is legitimately the property of various native peoples.  In British Columbia, aboriginal people have laid claim to >110% of the territory in the province, just to show how reasonable that line of thinking is.

In the case of the Attawapiskat (I'm getting better at typing this) they have now assigned ownership and control of their "native lands" not just once, but multiple times separated by hundreds of years.  There must have been some incentive to do so.... just spitballing here:  Perhaps it's the subsidies that they are paid by Ottawa and Ontario?

We have worked hard as a society to reconcile the sins of past generations.  Some have been compensated, perhaps not fairly, but for most (such as Japanese enterred during WW2) the issue is settled.  I don't see Chinese descendants of railroad workers picketing CN Rail tracks spanning the Rockies demanding to be paid for their Grandfather's Grandfather's hard labour. We cannot keep apologizing, over and over again.  Contracts and agreements are binding.

I have heard the rhetoric that First Nations peoples are worthy stewards of the lands spanning Canada.  Really?  Perhaps the natives of the 1600s were, but modern aboriginals seem all to willing to despoil, pilfer, and pollute with the worst of us.  One need look no further than Attawapiskat for damning endorsement of their stewardship.  

Chief Spence is a criminal, guilty of defrauding her own people (Canadians) and her own people (the Attawapiskat), and should be thrown in jail.  She has solidified her seat in power by sleeping with both her supervisor and her Deputy Chief and exploited it to surround herself in creature comforts while her own people freeze in -30 temperatures.  This hunger strike is theatre, intended to distract attention from her many, many transgressions and her general incompetence.

If #IdleNoMore seeks real change in relations with First Nations people (which I believe all Canadians would welcome) they have made a huge mistake in anointing such a corrupt individual as their martyr, and the movement will be tarnished as a result and fizzle out.

Corruption? Racism.

Unless you're willing to provide evidence of corruption, then what we're dealing with is the suggestion of corruption, corroborated by racist assumptions.

The "sins" I discuss are not those of past generations. They go right up to the present.

And I not think that the treaties say what you think they say.

I read the treaties. treaty 6

I read the treaties. treaty 6 States that the queen cannot do anything unto this land without the 6 chiefs permission and vise versa. They r doing everything without our permission. They r unlawfully stealing water, trees, animals, minerals.

Why such hatred and disgust?

Most of your comments are, at best, insults and misrepresentations, and at worst, lies and hateful dredge. It's hard to refute accusations of such little substance. All I can suggest is that you might do well to let go of some of the hate and disgust you seem to carry for natives - they're not the enemy, they're not coming to get you, and they've likely never done anything to harm you.

Getting in touch with reality might help:

- On historical and current injustices:

- On distortions and lies about Attawapiskat:

- On First Nations taxation:


You have done nothing to address the crimes done from which you still benefit, and this insistence that First Nations need to get over it (or any insistence that you know what First Nations need more than they do) simply because you're fine with it is ridiculous and callous.

Take a look at suicide rates and incarceration rates for First Nations people compared to the general population. Either you believe it's symptomatic of inherent flaws in First Nations people, in which case you're racist, or you believe it is symptomatic of an institutional social illness disproportionately affecting First Nations. If the latter, you fix it or you don't, but neither time nor money thrown at a problem count as effort made when, 20 years and billions of dollars later, the problem still exists.

As for the audit you have such faith in, perhaps you need a refresher: the court case didn't stop the audit from happening, it just recognised after the fact that the audit was nothing more than racist propaganda.

The audit WAS done, and the resulting report absolutely confirmed what the Attawapiskat residents had been saying: their finances were in order, the process was transparent, and any wastefulness and appropriation of funds was being done at the bureaucratic level, with multiple layers of people taking their cut out of the pool of funding in the name of federal bureaucratic oversight, on the basis that First Nations people cannot be trusted to know what they need or how to implement it.

The Audit

Apparently every individual who criticizes the Attawapiskat is now a racist, including the accounting firm of Deloitte Touche?  The audit's conclusions were essentially that a full audit is impossible, given that the Chief was issuing cheques without invoices or receipts, failing to properly document projects and costs, and (apparently) paying related parties significant sums and above-market salaries.

Funny though that when someone criticizes the accounting practises I use in administering my own business, it's not usually my  first instinct to accuse the critic of racism -- perhaps I should try that?  Maybe I should go on a hunger strike the next time CRA audits my company?

Or is that an outlet available only to the "oppressed" peoples of Canada's First Nations?

Your assertion contains a contradiction.  First, you suggest that I/we have no business interfering in First Nations affairs.  Then, you assert that we have a responsibility to rectify the tragic circumstances afflicting aboriginal communities.  Which is it?


So much for the Socratic Method.


I don't see how the audit really shows much beyond them not properly documenting spending. If you apply this standard to the federal government (for example), where do we get to look at an audit of all their spending? One of the former members said they were hiring inexperienced people because there's so much poverty in the community. That's far from ideal as a management practice, but it's not corruption anything comparable to spending a billion dollars for security at a week-long meeting (for example).

The hunger strike was about treaty rights and the housing crisis.

Racism is when something is a huge deal when it happens in a tiny impoverished community, but business as usual when it is done on a massive scale.


By any definition the actions of Chief Spence, given that the funds are provided to her in trust by the taxpayer, constitute fraud and inside-dealing -- not to mention gross incompetence.  The fact that her administration was overseen by a diffident and likely overstretched bureaucrat does not indemnify her against her own behaviour.

If I ran a private company and paid my brother 3x the market rate to work for me, and failed to terminate him after repeated poor performance, I would have to answer to my Board of Directors, and then my Shareholders.  If I ran a private company and I was the sole shareholder I could hire and fire whomever I wanted, pay them what I wanted, etc.

Chief Spence felt she was entitled to run Attawapiskat as though she was the only shareholder.  And she will answer for her deceit, manipulation, and incompetence.

If the hunger strike was about treaty rights and the hunger crisis, Ms. Spence would have ceased when PM Harper announced he was meeting with a First Nations delegation.  Quite obviously, the hunger strike is about insulating Spence from prosecution and illiciting sympathy from well-intended supporters such as yourself.

I think it's a shameful and cynical ploy that will set First Nations' relationship with Canadians back by decades, when it all blows up in her face.  Particularly when it is revealed that the administration of Attawapiskat is more the rule than it is the exception.

Even the Globe and Mail today

Even the Globe and Mail today took pains to re-state that the audit does not point to any wrong doing, just that there was questionable book keeping. There's no evidence that Spence actually did anything illegal; there is no criminal investigation, despite the government having received this report months ago. If you were audited and it was found that you were missing invoices, but no criminal accusations were laid, what would your take be on someone going around saying that you were a frauder, incompetent and deceitful? Sure, maybe it wouldn't be racist - but it would surely be wrong.

The racism in this case comes from the fact that there is a constant attack on First Nations people as being lazy, incompentent fraudsters who are only out to make a quick buck at the expense of everyone else. Tell me, does that sound like any other stereotypes you've ever heard of?


I didn't imply that racism.  Neither has Deloitte & Touche.  You have inferred it, along with so many others, and used it as a shield against any criticism of Ms. Spence's horrific performance on the job.

White, black, brown, yellow, or purple Chief Spence seems (in my judgment) to have been the beneficiary of her own mismanagement.  Prosecuting such a case takes time, and this initial audit is the first step of that process.  I suspect it will happen, but if it doesn't it will ironically be the poor record-keeping and the evident amnesia of her staff that prevent there from being sufficient evidence to throw her behind bars.

In the meantime, I am free to refract this situation through my own experiences and education and speculate as to what the real goings on at Attawapiskat were.  As are you.  It is quite acceptable that we might disagree.


Chief Spence should be accountable to her constituency like anyone else, but people in Attawapiskat didn't leak the audit, or take part in the right-wing pile-on characterizing her activities as fraud. As people who didn't know how to spell Attawapiskat a year ago, it's a little silly to all of a sudden be subjecting the community to this level of scrutiny using standards we don't apply to much bigger expenditures. As I understand it, the audit says the situation improved under Spence.

Your conclusions about the motivations for the hunger strike are pretty silly.


Chief Spence's constituency includes all Canadians.  It's our #%@$ing money.

You might want to read...

...the article you're commenting on.

I did.


I'm sorry, but...

"The fact that her administration was overseen by a diffident and likely overstretched bureaucrat does not indemnify her against her own behaviour."

Does the fact that INAC is a diffident and overstretched bureaucracy idemnify them, a government-sanctioned department, against their own behaviour in allowing this to continue for years without saying anything about it in the first place?  Because you are certainly doing that. you think you can do better?


So you're continuing to infantilise native peoples by insisting that we do a better job of administering their towns and villages?  Why can't they do this themselves?  Why are there no true leaders emerging from this morass?

You can't simultaneously advocate self-determination and dependency and have your argument be taken seriously.  These states are mutually exclusive.  The problems inherent to First Nations' issues in Canada are the continued attempts to find a middle ground between the two.  There is none.

INAC may be (likely is) organizationally incompetent.  That does not give Chiefs license to embezzle and mismanage funds.  When the cops handcuff you after you shoplift a cashmere sweater from The Bay, "...but nobody was watching!" is not a defense.

I might be able to do better.. but why go work at INAC and draw down half to one-third the income that the Chiefs I'm supposed to be administering draw, even as their communities disintegrate to rubble?


Have you ever been to many reserves? Have you been to Attawapiskat? Do you know the conditions? Do you know the wages? Cost of living?


FYI remote communities have way higher cost of living based on the cost of getting items to these communities. If some one is paid higher than standard wages in these communities it may be becuase the cost is much higher.

I think your only seeing the "truth" that fits with your views. Otherwise you have many more questions than opinions. But your probably a white middlle class person most likely male who has rarely if ever faced real discrimination. Not to meantion the ability to see and understand discrimination.


I could be wrong in my assumption and if so I would be pleased to know different because than I could take your opinions more seriously.

Wen u speak of our people in

Wen u speak of our people in term of tax payers! Im native and i pay taxes because i choose to work not on my land and even if i did i pay, its a choice. Because im not of the right colour im not a tax payer? Or does this mean im donating to my people or myself? Or does or does this mean im paying a police force that have cells for my ppl to die in? We pay taxes as well. U need to get that out of your head.


"Racism is when something is a huge deal when it happens in a tiny impoverished community, but business as usual when it is done on a massive scale."

I think what you describe is hypocrisy, not racism.  We need to hold every level of government and society to high ideals.  

PMHarper and the Minister of Defense have been fairly accused of incompetence and whitewashing when it comes to the F-35, as an example.  Whether or not that's true or whether they are caught up in trying to support DND's incompetence is for another blog post, but they are being called on it and we have auditors working to sort the whole mess out.

To imply that Attawapiskat should somehow escape equivalent scrutiny lest we all be labelled bigots is hugely intellectually dishonest, and frankly I think you're above that sort of whining.

Every government spending program is open to scrutiny and review thanks to FOI policies.  Finding the resources and pathways to get this information can be costly and time consuming, especially for a blogger, but it's up for grabs if you're motivated enough to get it.



"I think what you describe is hypocrisy, not racism." It's definitely both. None of the people speaking out are from Attawapiskat, and those are the only people who are (hypothetically) affected.

And how do you know I'm above anything? You don't know me at all :>

Dear colonelpanic

 "The argument assumes that 100% of the land in question is legitimately the property of various native peoples".

If I stole your families land does it now belong to me? Because even our settler law (created and enforced by the Canadian Government) does recognize the theft of land as legal. This also goes for trickery regarding land entitlement, if I broke an agreement or tricked you into an agreement.


Furthermore, You made a pretty large claim of Chief Spence guilt. I am interested in knowing whether you were the one who did the audit of Attawapiskat finances? Or were you there to see the Chief miss using funds? I would not put that much faith in this report personally. There are so many things that could be misrepresented. For example just because there are not receipts does not mean the money was used inappropriately. Also the report was leaked at a very strategic time this does indicate a scramble on the part of the Canadian Government to discredit an opponent and threat to their agenda. We see similar distraction tactics during elections. There is always a personal agenda, try to think why each side would do the things they are doing.

Chief spence is on hunger strike, think about it....why would YOU take such extreme measures especially when you have so much to lose, especially is she is really criminals. I do not see many criminals put them selves in the public eye for such close scrutinity.


What is to lose for the Canadian government and industry  if First Nations people are able to control resources?


re Colonel Panic

To call Chief Spence a criminal is stupid because it turns out there was a federal govt person administrating the money.... Your white prejudice is shining through.. Perhaps you should have waited for the full story.  Whoever you are.

Advot and colonelpanic: The

Advot and colonelpanic:

The point is that the lands that remain to native communities (in and around the reserves themselves) are the ones that we continue to exploit - this on top of the historical injustices. We extract billions of dollars in resources, and we send back a relatively piddling amount of federal funding, and you're complaining that natives 'don't contribute' or participate in funding the services they're receiving? If your way of life and your people had been virtually destroyed through centuries of war and forced relocation, and then we stuck you on a plot of land somewhere as 'compensation' and then later we came along and found something of value on that plot of land and decided to take it out and leave you with the mess afterward, I think you'd agree we could increase your funding 100 fold and not even come close to making up for our actions.

De Beers decision to dump sewage into Attawapiskat

Diamonds are forever and moldy homes are too thanks to De Beers.

From APTN: De Beers decision to dump sewage into Attawapiskat played role in current housing crisis


“The general condition of the pump control panel is very poor. There is a key switch to control manual selection of the pumps. It is very difficult to operate and may fail at anytime,” the report noted.

The engineers noted that the federal government was informed of the problems, but Ottawa did little to try to fix things, according to a follow-up report by different engineers with First Nations Engineering Services.

Aboriginal Affairs refused to pay for the evacuation and the band was forced to foot the bill.



A failure of a critique.

I identify as left-wing.

This article is completely dishonest in its critique.

First of all, it endorses the idea that land ownership and capitalism are worthy causes. It is almost advocating for these ideas. As far as I know, neither of these values are traditionally supported by First Nations. 

Second, First Nations bands, including Attawapiskat, are heavily invested in the mining and gas sector. It is absolutely dishonest to not bring this up:

That is all.


I'm afraid I'm a little confused. Why is it "completely dishonest" to not mention FN investments in extraction? And where did I "endorse land ownership and capitalism" as "worthy causes"?

Don't feign confusion, you

Don't feign confusion, you must be smarter than that.

The very crux of your entire article rests on the fact that you believe First Nations "own" the land that they call home and that if profits are to be extracted from said land, they should be diverted to the First Nations. At least that is what you imply. 

Please enlighten me to the purpose of your article if it is not what I outline above.

Hidden meaning

I wasn't feigning, and there is no hidden meaning to the article. It says that the idea that FNs are subsidized by the government is a racist myth, and that more money goes to the government from their traditional lands than is paid to them.

Do you want to explain how Aboriginal Title is inherently capitalist? That would be interesting.

There you go again, with your

There you go again, with your dishonest spin.

It is not a racist myth to say that First Nations are subsidized by the government. It doesn't paint a fair or whole picture, but it is not a racist myth.

I will agree with you about the despicability of Canadian lands being exploited for profit in the manner in which they are at the moment. But to imply that it would be okay as long as First Nations received an equal share of the profit is equally despicable. Is that what First Nations values are about? Stewardship of the land, unless there is profit?

"...more money goes to the government from their traditional lands than is paid to them."

So if more money went to the First Nations, this entire situation would be kosher, in your opinion? This is how you endorse land ownership and capitalism. 

I am not here to speak about aboriginal title. I am here to speak about your lack of ideological integrity.

Ideological integrity

"But to imply that it would be okay as long as First Nations received an equal share of the profit is equally despicable." Who said that? Not me.

I'm interested to hear about my lack of ideological integrity, but surely you can do it with reference to what I actually said?