Are We Going The Same Way?

Many of us in Canada have been a bit mystified by the uproar over aboriginal conditions and the rights they have under their many treaties.  While few of us  believe that they were well treated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the argument is harder to make about the present.  Lots of money is being spent to little gain. 

What is going on and why?

  • Most of the remote, emphasize remote, first nations have ideas about reality that don’t match the ideas that most of the rest of us hold.  They will continue to hold them until the other choices are clearly connected to their benefits.  See Mike Caro’s law.
  • It is hard to help people who feel oppressed and who mistrust the ones that are trying to help them.  Worse, many do not have the tools that could help them understand their choices.  That may be a carryover from older days.  Some of it is cultural and language driven.  Most aboriginal communities have a very high connection to physical things and the present time.  Theory and the distant future do not exist.  If your understanding of the future was very short, how would you rationalize education or even health?  Some languages have very limited future tense.  How hard is that to overcome?
  • Some of the first nation hierarchy uses the existing system to their own benefit.  Accountability is overdue but difficult to impose.  In some ways it would similar to changing a union’s hierarchy and attitudes.
  • Many of the helpers don’t understand the people.  They think our ways will work in their environment.  They will not. Traditions and other value systems need to be integrated not replaced.  The people in the First Nations want most of the same things that we want, but the system conspires against them.  They want, in no particular order and an incomplete list, safety, security, cultural integrity, opportunities for their children, healthcare and education.    Some of their strongly held beliefs and cultural limits conflict with their achieving these.  They may need to compromise a little, too.

The Man from Mars would have no trouble diagnosing the original cause of the problems.

400 years ago, the Canadian First Nations had an inadequate immigration policy.  Everything since is just details.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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