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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Apr. 20, 2004)

Native Affairs = Wasted Billions


By John Pifer


Seven-and-a-half billion dollars … per year.


That’s 7,500 million dollars, or $7,500,000,000 of your tax dollars that are “spent” every 12 months on “native affairs”.


What in hell is going on here? Where in hell does the money go, in this ever-expanding Indian industry? Why in hell do we put up with this waste, where the likelihood of corruption seems to be as certain as another Vancouver Canucks’ playoff collapse?


These questions must be asked; it is getting honest answers to them that is so elusive.


The issue has again arisen because Canada’s alleged white knight in shining honour, Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, says that his goal is “to improve the lives and living conditions of aboriginal Canadians”.


Gosh, how flippin’ noble of you, Mr. Martin; but why in hell should Canadians believe you on this one, any more than we believe you when you say you knew nothing about the assorted corruption, con games and phony payouts to Liberal friends and insiders in the sponsorship scandal?


The prime minister, seeking yet another media-friendly, pre-election soundbite, told a conference in Ottawa that the status quo was simply unacceptable when it came to native affairs and the selective poverty on the Indian reserves across the country. Is it churlish to point out that Mr. Martin, as finance minister of Canada for much of the past 10 years, created and sustained the status quo here?


Tanis Fiss, aboriginal director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation pointed with alarm to the PM and his Indian Affairs Minster Andrew Mitchell, who said: “Doing the same thing, in the same way, and expecting different results is a pretty good definition of insanity. Well, we are not insane, and we will not fall into that trap.”


Says Ms. Fiss: “It’s too late for that. The government’s plan IS to do more of the same by creating more bureaucracy and establishing several aboriginal secretariats and commissions.  Increased government spending will not help native Canadians escape the welfare trap. If more money were the solution, the problem would already be solved or at least be showing signs of improving.  Ottawa spends $7.5-billion a year on Aboriginal affairs, of which 80% is transferred to reserve councils.  Sadly, life on many reserves resembles Third World living conditions.”


Ms. Fiss says the segregation of Indians from Canadian society for more than a century must end, as it severely limits their ability to participate fully in the economy.


Only by phasing out the reserve structure can we progress, giving natives ownership of individual properties, to allow them to borrow against their own private property to obtain capital to invest in business ventures.


All of that is hard to argue with, but you may rest assured that the lawyers and politicians who are on the Indian industry gravy train will do all in their considerable power to retain that aforementioned status quo. Also likely to oppose any such sweeping changes are the native leaders on the reserves who do not live in poverty, who drive the big SUVs, and who seem not to be concerned about the inequitable treatment of their own people.


As the CTF executive states: “Treating natives differently than other Canadians is wrong, morally and intellectually, and it has not improved their economic outlook.  It serves only to perpetuate poverty – and if that isn’t insane, what is?”


Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at







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