Monday, November 25, 1996

Their patience is wearing thin

Five years and $51.2 million dollars later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples has produced 4,000 pages bound into five volumes that contain a vision for the future of Canada's First Nations.

Dealing with a report born of and into troubled times will not be easy, but it is necessary.

The unfortunate impetus for the commission was the violent incident at Oka, Que., six years ago.

Since then, the problems facing the people of Canada's First Nations have only grown. It is no surprise that aboriginal leaders are again warning us their patience is wearing thin.

The commission's recommendations are numerous, radical and expensive. They include a separate aboriginal parliament, a tribunal to settle land claims, and a the training 10,000 aboriginal health professionals.

The proposal to commit upwards of $2 billion a year for the next 20 years on aboriginal concerns is perhaps the most provocative. That's a lot of money, no matter what shape the budget is in.

In today's economic climate, such sums are staggering. But we shouldn't let the money cloud the issues. The country needs effective solutions to the shameful plight of the First Nations. We need to listen to the commissioners and debate their proposals.

We need the political will and moral resolve to solve these problems.

What we don't need are threatening voices and ultimatums. If this report is to have any impact it will only come in an environment of understanding, co-operation and willingness to find solutions. ( 11/25/96 )

Contradiction of terms

Everyone, including the GNWT, says they're in favor of protecting endangered species and spaces. But sometimes you have to wonder.

The latest from our Renewable Resources minister, Stephen Kakfwi, is that the government is still committed to setting aside representative portions of Canada's ecosystems, but hasn't decided how much development will be allowed in those protected spaces.

This, to put it bluntly, is nonsense.

There can be no doubt that Canadians are tired of seeing their so-called protected spaces "developed." Things are so bad that some of the existing developments in Banff National Park are being dismantled.

The NWT is obliged to protect endangered spaces and has put that obligation in writing.

Either it's protected, or it's not. We can't have it both ways. ( 11/25/96 )