By every measure the Canadian reserve system is an abject failure.

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.

 

The stats below came from here.

 HEALTH

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.

Suicide rates among native youth are 5-6 times that of non-native youth.

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 

Housing is a chronic issue on native reserves and I have written on why it will never improve in the current system here.

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 

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.

CRIME

 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
On-reserve Outside reserves
Number of incidents Rate per 100,000 population Number of incidents Rate per 100,000 population
Homicide 41 13 581 2
Attempted murder 24 7 693 2
Robbery 162 50 27,315 93
Assault 20,804 6,464 225,843 770
Sexual assault 1,694 526 21,840 74
Other sexual offences 123 38 2,502 9
Abduction 30 9 605 2
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
Fraud 691 215 96,400 329
Total property crimes 19,291 5,994 1,255,640 4,283
Prostitution 9 3 6,484 22
Gaming and betting 2 1 191 1
Offensive weapons 1,289 400 16,713 57
Arson 603 187 12,545 43
Bail violations 5,337 1,658 98,997 338
Counterfeiting currency 282 88 159,607 544
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
Other 12,883 4,003 209,047 713
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.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 thoughts on “By every measure the Canadian reserve system is an abject failure.

  1. Absolutely true. It’s long overdue for change. We should be conscience stricken as a nation for this Indian “industry”… The push back against a meaningful change is led by those who profit by it, including many in the Indian and Northern affairs bureaucracy. Until a bold forward thinking plan is forced thru we can’t expect anything better. Good for you in putting this forward..

  2. Cory, EXCELLENT! Simply Excellent, I’d say this is perhaps your best post yet! It should be required reading for every MP and native leader; if for no other reason that it puts out facts and a courageous idea of ending the native apartheid in Canada; a means of ending the “colonialization” that the IdleNoMore are calling for.

  3. We have a cabin in a golf community that is on a First Nations reserve. The lease will expire at the end of this season and the referendum to renew the lease was rejected in early December – an indirect casualty of ‘Idle No More’, I suppose. We thought our resort was an example of two groups of people working and playing together in a partnership that became more inclusive each year as more First Nations people bought cabins or took up the game of golf. In turn, the cabin owners became members of the First Nations Interpretive Centre, attended the Pow Wows, and raised funds for First Nations projects.

    Some of the people who voted No to the referendum did so because they want the White People off their land. They do not see the Reserve system as being a cause of their misery. If the Federal Government would give them all the land they demand, all the resources they demand, and the sovereign nationhood they demand, all would be good.

    All would be good for me if our lease had been renewed and we could look forward to many more years of a unique partnership. Small projects like ours have a far better chance for improving life on the reserve than anything else on the horizon right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>