Seven-year-old Ferlin Iahtal lies in his home-made bunk bed in his home in Attawapiskat on Dec. 17. Twenty-one people live in the house that has plastic on the ceilings to stop water leaks.

Canada’s active neglect of the First Nations continues.  Under the heavy mantle of the oppressive Harper regime minority groups and those concerned with justice should be prepared to take a pass until the current regime of plutocratic conservative troglodytes have been put out to pasture.  Harper intends to meet with First Nations leaders again, to discuss land use, resource revenue and living conditions for Canada’s first peoples.

“More than 400 aboriginal chiefs will meet Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, and government ministers at a summit known as the Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa. It is the first official meeting of its kind since he took office in 2006.  The aim is to improve the relationship between the Canadian government and what is known as Canada’s First Nations communities.  That relationship stalled six years ago when the current Conservative government abandoned a five-year, $5bn plan known as the Kelowna Accord.”

Stalled is quite the understatement as First Nations concerns were unceremoniously kicked to the curb by the Conservative government.

“Resolving outstanding land claims is among the top priorities. Aboriginal leaders feel the current process of settling the claims unjustly favours the federal government.
Also high on the list of priorities is economic development. First Nation leaders want to secure a fair share of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources on aboriginal lands.  And on health and education, most First Nation leaders will be pressing for a commitment to levels of funding and services comparable with those for non-aboriginal communities.”

Nothing unreasonable here, just people wanting to take part in the prosperous 1st world nation Canada is.  A world that has, for the most part, been denied to First Nations people.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is increasingly coming into conflict with the needs of First Nations communities as it promotes the extraction of oil and other natural resources.  A diamond mine projected to become one of the richest in the world is just upstream from the poverty-stricken town of Attawapiskat on James Bay. The mine is on traditional lands, but the royalties flow to the province.

A puppy sits on the porch of a home in Attawapiskat. Inside, the home has no plumbing or sanitation facilities.

That town also made headlines recently over living conditions when it was found that people were living in tents, shacks and trailers in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius.  Charles Angus, a member of parliament representing James Bay, describes the conditions within several of the First Nation communities as an “international disgrace for our nation”.   He[Charles Angus] tells Inside Story: “The Attawapiskat crisis certainly shook Canada. In a way it has been our Katrina moment because Canadians were shocked that people were living in such dire conditions but then also shocked that the government had no plan, no seeming interest to respond.”

Racism is alive and well in Canada as we continue to neglect our First Nations and keep them impoverished and on the margins of society.

“Canada not only created these reserves, they displaced First Nation’s laws with provincial child welfare, education and health laws that should apply to all Canadians. The result is most horribly experienced by children. One-in-six First Nations communities don’t even have the basics like water; some of them are using buckets for sewers. The list goes on and it is unacceptable in a wealthy country like ours, and completely preventable.”

-Cindy Blackstock from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

We still have far to go on improving our own imperialist record, mending decades of neglect is going to be a huge project, one that is unlikely to be undertaken by the current Conservative Government of Canada.