THE FOLLOWING IS AN ARTICLE THAT CLEARLY PERPETUATES IGNORANCE AND HOSTILITY TOWARD FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE. FOLLOWING THE ARTICLE, I WILL POST MY CRITIQUE.
Attawapiskat, the answer is … well, we’ll get back to you By Kelly McParland
The National Post December 1, 2011
How is the government supposed to know what to do about Attawapiskat if the editorial writers of the country can’t agree?
Here at the Post we made our position clear: Spending another $90 million subsidizing misery in remote, unsustainable communities is not a solution but an avoidance mechanism.
It doesn’t matter what your skin colour is: If you live in a community where children have no future, where there’s no incentive to get a job or fix your house, where everyone is infantilized by a taxpayer-funded system run by distant bureaucrats funneling money to incompetent local leaders, the result will be the same.
No Canadian politicians will say it, but the only solution for places like Attawapiskat is to stop subsidizing their existence. While inhabitants should not be forced from their homes, they should not be provided with a taxpayer-funded incentive to stay in destitute areas. Instead, the money should be used to resettle inhabitants in less remote places, where a new generation of aboriginals actually has a chance to live the Canadian dream.
The Globe & Mail comes down firmly in support of something being done. Like, well … something.
Aboriginal leaders say that more than one third of the $80-million has been used to send children to school off-reserve. The community’s school was built on a diesel spill and had to be torn down. This year’s federal housing allocation was only about $1-million — that is enough to build four houses. Yet there are 314 people waiting for new homes.
The children and families of Attawapiskat deserve better. Canadians don’t expect to encounter these scenes of poverty and devastation in their own backyard. But they also expect scarce public resources to be well-spent.
The Star says that encouraging the natives to leave ( “as some are quick to argue”) is not the answer.
Others, including First Nations leaders, say the solution lies in revamping the Indian Act that prohibits more than it allows and focusing on economic development to create sustainable communities. Ones that can provide a good education for children, jobs for their parents and a standard of living that isn’t a cause for national shame.
Yeah, and when they figure out how the government can guarantee all those things, let us know right away, will you?
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who wanted to send $5 billion to native communities under his Kelowna Accord, says the thing to do is (what else?) to reinstate the Kelowna Accord (even though the government already spends double that amount every year, and hasn’t seen much improvement for it.)
“Rather than reinvent the wheel, go back and say, here’s the Kelowna accord, here’s the foundation — let’s build on this and see where we can go,” he said. “Was the Kelowna accord the final answer? Of course not. It was probably the biggest step forward in finding the answers that has ever been done in the history of the country, but it was nonetheless, the structural foundation on which to build.”
It’s almost as if the solution wasn’t really simple after all.
AND NOW MY CRITIQUE….
In this paper, I will critically analyze an editorial I found in The National Post called, ‘The Answer to Attawapiskat is… well, we’ll get back to you’ by Kelly McParland published on December 1, 2011. Granted, an editorial is not news per se, since it is an opinion piece. This editorial is however about the Attawapiskat housing crisis which is a news event, it also indicates that the editorial supports the National Post’s official view on the Attawapiskat housing crisis. I submit that it is even more important to critically analyze editorials published in newspapers since they are often more biased and less factual than regular news articles. Readers are often more influenced by editorials and do not take the author’s personal opinion into account, but treat the article as factual.
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate three main errors within this article, which reinforce negative stereotypes about Indigenous peoples. Firstly, it assumes remote reserves and their inhabitants are inevitably doomed to failure because they have no incentive to improve their living conditions, secondly, the author misleads readers by stating that Attawapiskat recently received $90 million dollars from the federal government with out explaining why or when the installments were paid and thirdly, it states that only the Canadian federal government can create a solution to the housing crisis in Attawapiskat.
Kelly McParland asserts in this article that remote reserves and their inhabitants are doomed to failure due to a lack of incentive to improve their own affairs. This assertion is doubly wrong since it first indicates a false inevitability that these communities will fail and disappear and secondly, that it is they who have brought this about by their complacency and general deficiency in handling their own affairs.
The widely accepted idea of Indigenous communities and individuals doomed to failure by either dying off or by assimilation is extremely pervasive in all forms of media.
I think it is important to submit that yes, many Indigenous nations have died off, but examining why is important. Has it been because of a natural deficiency or lack of evolution fundamentally as human beings? No, the scientific study of eugenics has been debunked, therefore, there must be a cultural dimension involved. Are Aboriginal societies culturally inferior in some way? In the 1960s and 1970s, many sociologists believed Aboriginal culture to be the underlying cause of their poverty, this idea is referred to as ‘the culture of poverty thesis.’ It was first developed by Oscar Lewis in 1961, although the idea of white cultural supremacy goes back much further than that. Since the 1970s sociologists promoting conflict theory have shown the internal colonial model has created the vast socio-economic inequalities suffered by Indigenous people. Internal colonial theorists and many Indigenous people themselves believe the Indian Act is too paternalistic and disempowering. The cause of Indigenous social suffering, I submit, is colonialism.
We do not live in a post-colonial Canada, the violence of colonialism is very much alive today in Canada. Colonialism manifests itself as white ideals, which contrast Native people as inferior, stupid and lazy among other harmful and incorrect stereotypes. These ideas are the driving force behind the Native social problems in communities and individuals. Kelly McParland fails to address the violence of colonialism as the reason for social suffering in Aboriginal communities, I believe this is because he refuses to acknowledge his white privilege. He places the blame on communities which he asserts are lazy as well as the Canadian government for subsidizing said laziness. This is apparent in the following passage, “It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is: If you live in a community where children have no future, where there’s no incentive to get a job or fix your house, where everyone is infantilized by a taxpayer-funded system run by distant bureaucrats funneling money to incompetent local leaders, the result will be the same. No Canadian politician will say it, but the only solution for places like Attawapiskat is to stop subsidizing their existence.” His meager attempt to appear non-racist in this passage is lost on the fact that the whole article is deeply steeped in racism and colonialism.
The second stereotype I would like to address in McParland’s article is the idea that Indigenous communities squander the money allotted to them by the Canadian federal government. McParland mentions that Attawapiskat received $90 million dollars in federal funds without explaining why or the period of time over which the funds were allocated. The $90 million refers to federal funding allocated in installments between 2006 and 2011. The funds were used for health, education and social development. The misuse of the $90 million figure is very telling. McParland and other Canadians are asking what are THEY doing with OUR money (note the blatant entitlement)? Indigenous people are saying, it isn’t fair that OUR lands are being destroyed and OUR natural resources are being STOLEN and CANADIANS profit while we get the crumbs. Indigenous people are starting to ask, what if Indigenous peoples stop subsidizing Canada?
McParland falsely indicated that it was Aboriginal leadership and not federal bureaucrats who were incompetent. After McParland’s article was written, in a federal court ruling, the federal government was unable to prove Attawapiskat’s chief and council were guilty of any financial mismanagement, instead insufficient funding and bureaucratic inefficiency were blamed.
Finally, I would like to address McParland’s false assertion that only the Canadian federal government can create solutions for remote northern Aboriginal communities such as Attawapiskat. This assertion indicates that Aboriginal people are helpless and ignores that our communities have existed for thousands of years prior to the existence of colonial governments. As the court ruling which exonerated Chief Spence of Attawapiskat illustrated, it is the structures within the federal government which have hindered Attawapiskat’s development. Self-governance and self-reliance through economic development of Aboriginal lands is likely a more effective approach for reversing the effects of violent colonialism. This will of course require a great deal of structural changes within various policy and economic areas.
In conclusion, I assert that the people of Attawapiskat have as much potential as anyone else in Canada to develop socially and economically, but in order to do that, colonial structures which reinforce inequality and distort the truth need to be abandoned. This of course includes the nature of current government relations as well as racist media attitudes.
I have illustrated that Kelly McParland’s National Post article, ‘The Answer to Attawapiskat is… well, we’ll get back to you’ is an example of media circulated racist attitudes toward Aboriginal people. I have shown three main racist errors within the article which reinforce negative stereotypes about Aboriginals. I have shown how McParland wrongfully assumed inevitable failure of remote reserves and their inhabitants due to lack of incentives to improve their living conditions, secondly I have shown how McParland misleads readers by stating that Attawapiskat recently received $90 million dollars from the federal government with out explaining why or when the instalments were paid and thirdly, I have shown how McParland has erred in stating that only the Canadian federal government can create a solution to the housing crisis in Attawapiskat.