The Aboriginal crisis on our reserves: time for a land swap

There are hundreds of reserves across Canada where Aboriginal people live in deplorable third world conditions: a lack of clean running water, suitable housing, high unemployment and an array of social problems such as drug and alcohol addiction.

It’s about time for the federal government, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, to take serious action.

There is no point in pumping money into some struggling reserves that are essentially a write-off. These reserves are located in isolated parts of the country and have small populations that cannot support sustainable economic activity. Furthermore, there is no point in spending millions of dollars on creating education infrastructure in these remote areas because once the Aboriginal students are educated, they will find there are no decent jobs for them on reserve and they will move elsewhere.

Which brings up the topic of relocation. Relocation from rural to urban areas does not solve anything, and in fact may make the social situation even worse for Aboriginal people. If someone is addicted to drugs and alcohol in a rural, relatively isolated area, you can only imagine how much worse this problem will become in urban areas where there are drug dealers on every corner.

So what is the solution?

 Some of these rural reserves can be shut down and the people relocated to new nearby self-sufficient communities. Ottawa can essentially create new Aboriginal communities on economically viable, strategic and sustainable lands. It would essentially be a land swap.

This is a simple, effective and efficient way to improve the quality of life and living conditions for our most struggling reserves. This plan will also stimulate the economy and generate jobs of all sorts during a time when the economy needs it the most. Can you imagine Ottawa investing millions of dollars in new infrastructure to create modern, state of the art, self-sufficient Aboriginal communities in prime sustainable locations? It would be a fresh start and a new beginning, and the start of a new relationship.

As part of this redevelopment of Aboriginal communities, Ottawa needs to scrap the Indian Act. Perhaps an Aboriginal parliament with the same powers as a province could be created. One man and one woman could be elected from each Aboriginal electoral district to provide gender equity in the decision-making process. A process for increased financial accountability and transparency would be necessary too: an independent auditor, for example.

The Indian Act essentially treats some Aboriginal people as wards of the state. It is time to break the chains that bind them and let them flourish as new partners in our federation.

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