For decades Canada has been doing everything possible to try and repair the grossly broken native reserve system. Every year expenditures directed to reserves are increased by all levels of government. Veritable armies of consultants are sent to reserves to improve conditions. Summits, conferences and special events are held constantly trying to address challenges on reserves in Canada and academics churn out endless long-winded but hollow papers expounding on how reserves are essential to the well being of natives in Canada.
Despite all of these efforts, the socioeconomic misery of native reserves continues and is actually growing worse. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in misery on these race based enclaves with utterly no sign of relief in sight.
When will it be time to face reality and accept that the reserve system itself is a total failure? How much more time will we let pass before coming to this general realization? How much more suffering has to happen?
One of the main things that has neutered politicians and the press alike has been the tactic utilized by people invested in the status quo of labelling all who criticize the system as racists. The tactic has now been so overused that it really is beginning to lose effect. True native leaders are beginning to surface and seek systemic change and self-serving activists like Pam Palmater & Theresa Spence are finding themselves delegated to the sidelines due to their own extremism
I am going to list the stats below that clearly demonstrate the catastrophic failure in the system. It is not racist to do this. I am not claiming these stats are like this because of the shortcomings of a race. These stats are like this due to people living in the apartheid system of racial segregation that we call reserves. Any race would be dysfunctional in the circumstances that reserve-born people find themselves in under the Indian Act.
Please look at those stats and honestly try to think to yourself how any of them will change in the current system. We can do some things to ease these issues, but as long as we have a separate class of people segregated racially and living under different set of laws, these conditions simply will not change.
Healthcare is always a dominant issue in Canadian politics. It is cliché but true that if you don’t have your health, you truly have nothing. While supporters of the status quo love to quote a discredited study showing apparent increased cancer rates among natives near oilsands areas, they neglect to mention that natives on reserves suffer from higher cancer rates on pretty much every reserve in Canada due to lifestyles that create health problems.
Teams are sent to reserves and health education programs tailored to on-reserve natives are myriad. Despite that, the health issues and challenges faced by reserve dwelling natives are untenable.
While over 76% of Canadians are non-smokers now, only 41% of natives on reserve are non smokers.One doesn’t need to be a doctor to see how this increases cases of cancer on reserves.
Drinking and other substance abuses are well above and beyond those suffered by off-reserve citizens.
Obesity rates are more than double that of off-reserve Canadians. This leads to all sorts of complications such as diabetes and heart disease.
All of these factors among others lead to a general and unacceptable gap in life expectancies between natives and non-natives.
In 2000, life expectancy at birth for the Registered Indian population was estimated at 68.9 years for males and 76.6 years for females. This reflects differences of 8.1 years and 5.5 years, respectively, from the 2001 Canadian population’s life expectancies.
Many health issues are related to the overwhelming poverty of residents of reserves.
Housing and poverty
Members of the Indian Industry and others who personally benefit from the current system keep insisting that if we simply increase expenditures on housing that problems will end. That has been proven wrong so many times that it is depressingly laughable. The capacity to absorb resources for housing on reserves is infinite.
Davis Inlet was a perfect and prime example. Like so many reserves, Davis Inlet hit the wall and hit an untenable wall of substance abuse and housing shortcomings. At a cost of $200 million the entire community of a few hundred people was moved to a brand new location. Despite that move, the issues remain and continue in the town’s new location. It is the system, not the lack of expenditures that is destroying these people!
Native housing falls below normal standards by every measure.
Sewage, water and emergency services all fall short on reserves despite money spent as well.
Generating local taxes on reserves is one idea but with the appalling differential in income between on and off reserve natives, it simply will not work. The money is not there.
Education is often and correctly pointed out as a means to ease native poverty. Despite this knowledge, despite extra-spending through scholarships, grants, affirmative action in post-secondary institutions and countless other native education plans and programs, the outcomes simply are falling short.
Just over a third of reserve residents manage to even graduate high-school.
The inspiration to pursue education simply is not there for a dependent people who see no future for themselves no matter how many opportunities are presented.
As can be seen below, crime rates are incredibly higher on reserves as compared to off of them. Much goes unreported of course in cases of domestic abuse and animal cruelty that are difficult to monitor. What do we expect with people locked into isolated locations of poverty and misery?
|Criminal Code incidents reported to police on-reserve, 2004|
|Location of incident|
|Number of incidents||Rate per 100,000 population||Number of incidents||Rate per 100,000 population|
|Other sexual offences||123||38||2,502||9|
|Total violent crimes||22,878||7,108||279,379||953|
|Breaking and entering||7,276||2,261||267,441||912|
|Motor vehicle theft||2,887||897||166,657||568|
|Theft over $5,000||257||80||17,037||58|
|Theft $5,000 and under||7,586||2,357||673,299||2,297|
|Possession of stolen goods||594||185||34,806||119|
|Total property crimes||19,291||5,994||1,255,640||4,283|
|Gaming and betting||2||1||191||1|
|Disturbing the peace||13,721||4,263||103,301||352|
|Mischief (property damage over $5,000)||810||252||11,836||40|
|Mischief (property damage $5,000 and under)||15,990||4,968||325,025||1,109|
|Total other Criminal Code offences||50,926||15,823||943,746||3,219|
|Total Criminal Code offences||93,095||28,925||2,478,765||8,455|
Increased law enforcement will not ease this epidemic of crime. Natives are already hugely over-represented in our justice system. Again we have to change the system rather than trying to patch the current failing one.
We often hear of people trying to claim that we need to maintain the reserve system in order to preserve native culture. As with so many things, that is failing dismally. Language and cultural practices are vanishing quickly on reserve. When one starts looking into the more accomplished native artists and performers out there, they will invariably find that most of those people have left their reserves or were never on one to begin with. As has been said before; poverty will kill culture far faster than prosperity ever will.
Do Chinese Canadians need utter separation from society in order to retain their culture? Jamaican Canadians? Ukranian? Of course not.
Ending the reserve system is not cultural genocide nor assimilation!
I really get tired of idiots perpetuating the crap above. Cultures flourish all around the world without segregation and native ones can and will too. The current culture being fostered on native reserves is simply one of dependency and misery. Hardly a reflection of some kind of noble past culture that some naïve academics and activists appear to envision.
Nobody can honestly look at the trends and numbers with regards to the Canadian reserve system and claim that it is sustainable or even humane. It is a catastrophic failure being held together by the racist Indian Act. We need to work to get away from both the Indian Act and the reserve system as it stands or things will only get worse for everybody concerned.
I understand that we can’t simply end these sorts of things overnight. Until we set ending the system as an end goal though, all we are doing is futilely trying to fix a system that needs ending rather than repair.
I look forward to informed and realistic discussions seeking ways to end the cycle of misery that we have in Canada with the reserve system under the Indian Act.