Prime Time Crime
(Published in the Abbotsford News week of June 14, 2004)
The Issue that Cannot Be Named!
By John Pifer
Hands up, anyone who has heard any politician of any of the major parties in the federal election mention the issue of native affairs.
None? Neither has this scribe.
(I have avoided writing about the current bunfight, which mercifully will end shortly with the June 28th decision that will no doubt mean a significant difference in government from the current one. The whole process bores most people; and at least 2/3rds of the electorate believe the incumbents do not deserve another chance to screw things up even more.
(I also have been using my 30-plus years of experience in media and communication to help out a couple of candidates, so it did not seem fair or wise to enter the fray, so to speak).
Anyway to Indian affairs this is one can of worms that will make the sponsorship scandal of handing out $100million of tax dollars to Quebec ad agencies look like a paltry sum. With seven billion or more dollars spent per year on the Indian industry, getting to the truth of who sucks up the loot will make the $2billion gun registry look like small change indeed.
The trouble is, the auditor-general is not allowed by law to look into that kind of obscene expenditure, which this corner has no doubt is riddled with corruption and sleaze
A new book, First Nations? Second Thoughts, by Tom Flanagan will stir most Canadians souls.
In it, Flanagan calls for public debate on the issue, or else Canada will be redefined as a multinational state embracing an archipelago of aboriginal nations that own a third of Canadas land mass, are immune from federal and provincial taxation, are supported by transfer payments from citizens who do pay taxes, are able to opt out of federal and provincial legislation, and (who) engage in nation to nation diplomacy with whatever is left of Canada, he writes.
Even finding media comment or reviews about this provocative book is difficult, although it is true that it is not for lack of trying by those such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Recent CTF studies have raised similar concerns, but have hardly been widely circulated or discussed.
The federation calls for Crown land to be transferred to individual Indian band members, leaving it up to them to decide if they want to transfer the land into a communal arrangement, or to allow for the property to be owned and managed individually.
Not surprisingly, opposition from some native organizations (all of which rake in a portion of that $7billion, dont forget) has been vitriolic and condemnatory. It would seem that any suggestion to kill the goose that laid those golden eggs every year is not seen as a welcome idea!
The CTFs Tanis Fiss notes: The Indian industry is composed of a multitude of consultants, program analysts, researchers, administrators and managers who deliver the myriad of programs and services which make up Indian affairs. In addition, Indian lobby groups are funded by the federal government to lobby for more money and special rights for Indian communities.
If the federal government abolished the reserve system and Indian Act, the entire Indian industry complete with all who work in it would no longer exist, she adds. The Liberal governments response has been to increase funding and incentives for Indians to remain on reserves and continue the status quo.
Bless you, Ms. Fiss, for raising it, rather than being like our lily-livered politicians.
Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at email@example.com.