Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Joseph Quesnel on the Indian Act

My friend Joseph Quesnel on reforming the Indian Act. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am very supportive of our Native fellow citizens. The Indian Act has infantilized Native people and cost billions of dollars, while leaving many Natives in abject poverty. I agree with allowing more autonomy and getting rid of much of the Indian Industry. Since I also believe the Treaties with the Crown are a sacred, I have urged for some time to take the $10 billion of spent on INAC and give it as a monthly stipend to individual Natives. I also support Tom Flanagan in saying that title to Native Land should be returned to Natives. It is unacceptable that many native people live quiet lives of misery. They must be encouraged to pursue education and encouraged to participate in Canada's economic life. That is how every group of immigrants to this land have succeeded. The paternalism of the state has been a major factor in keeping Native people in Canada and American blacks in poverty. Government has most certainly not been the solution, but a major part of the problem.

This is a critical discussion, and Atleo is courageous for tackling it publicly and at such a high level.

First Nation leaders have been calling for the end of the Indian Act for decades.

Just as observers in Old Europe knew there were problems with the Divine Right of Kings, aristocracy and feudalism, it is widely recognized that the act is paternalistic, distorts First Nation democracy and locks reserves out of the economy. But to avoid the kinds of shocks experienced in Old Europe, First Nation citizens, policy makers and governments must carefully think about what would actually fill the vacuum left by any winding up of the Indian Act.

Some modern cautionary tales include Quebec, which underwent rapid change in the 1960s during the Quiet Revolution. At first, the liberal reforms were good, but eventually they replaced Catholic paternalism with state paternalism. Quebec is only starting to realize the pernicious economic effects of this model. Similarly, Russia's collectivist culture was not prepared for the privatizations of the 1990s, and corrupt commissars have been replaced with corrupt oligarchs.

Recognizing problems is only the start of useful reform. The real challenge is replacing the Indian Act with something that's actually better.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the "ending of welfare as know it" , ie let's start giving the $10 billion a year to individuals. Not forever, let's say 7 years.

Other issues are more complex

- “First Nations need a realistic plan, not just to free themselves from federal dependency, but to become independent.” Independent of what? North America is totally integrated economically we are all co-dependent economically and de facto that means politically. So how are a million First Nations people scattered amongst 600 bands all over Canada supposed to fit into that “independently”? The whole idea of "independence" based on a race makes no sense. It's racist.
- The land titles: we have to stop the notion of a hippie commune. As the economist Hernando de Soto clearly illustrates, the problem with the 3rd world (and that’s what our First Nations are within Canada) is the lack of property rights. So we are not going to give title to 105% of BC to a bunch of elitist band Chiefs.

Having said all that, this is a mess and there is lots of blame to go around. But yes at least some courageous First Nations leaders are putting forth some realism.


The Propagandist magazine said...

Political change requires the kind of courage we haven't seen to date. They'd be emboldened if more First Nations leaders were demanding change in unequivocal terms.

I Support Lord Black