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Preferential treatment of Indians isn't working

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    ... Subject: Preferential treatment of Indians isn t working Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2003 14:52:39 -0500 From: Russell Diabo To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2003
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      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: Preferential treatment of Indians isn't working
      Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2003 14:52:39 -0500
      From: "Russell Diabo" <rdiabo@...>
      To: <Undisclosed-Recipient:;>



      Vancouver Sun <http://www.canada.com/vancouver/vancouversun/>

      Preferential treatment of Indians isn't working

      Barbara Yaffe
      Vancouver Sun


      Friday, January 03, 2003

      As Canadians, we're concerned with politically correctness to the point
      where we pursue policies that harm rather than help native Indians.

      Aboriginal health spending and associated outcomes provide a perfect
      case in point. Simon Fraser University professor John Richards explores
      this topic in the latest issue of the opinion journal Inroads.

      "Out of fear of being accused of racism, most non-aboriginal leaders
      have become mute on the complexities of how the races can live together."

      True enough. We've developed a policy of throwing money at native people
      in the form of band transfers and welfare, actions that skew human
      motivations and don't always serve the Indians' best interests.

      So, even as Ottawa spends half the federal health budget -- $1.5 billion
      a year -- on health care for Indians, outcomes don't always reflect
      anticipated benefits.

      Between 1975 and 1990, the spending did bear some fruit in that
      aboriginal life expectancy improved. But since 1990 life expectancies
      have plateaued and continue trailing other Canadians.

      Average life expectancy for aboriginal males is now 67; 74 for
      non-aboriginals. For aboriginal women, it's 77; 82 for other females.

      The prevalence of AIDS is 33 per 100,000 aboriginals but only three per
      100,000 for others; 62 per cent of Indians smoke compared to 29 per cent
      of others. Thirteen per cent of aboriginal males but only four per cent
      of other males have heart problems.

      With all the spending on health care for aboriginals, what gives? The
      answer: Some of the spending is counterproductive.

      That's because health is also affected by other factors -- among them,
      access to education and productive employment.

      Easy access to welfare has prompted more and more Indians to abandon
      traditional hunting and trapping and become sedentary.

      Most reserves are isolated, jobs hard to find. Regardless, Indians can
      stay put because those government cheques keep on coming.

      "The politically sensitive question must be asked: Is it a good idea for
      Indian Affairs to award large transfers to band councils, roughly a
      quarter of which are devoted to welfare?"

      Prof. Richards argues federal benefits should go to individual Indians
      who can then make their own decisions about leaving the reserve,
      becoming educated and getting work.

      Treaty negotiations should focus, says Prof. Richards, less on income
      transfers or resource royalty payments to reserve Indians and more on
      access to resources with employment potential.

      And, he says, greater emphasis must be placed on education for
      on-reserve youth -- a challenge since schools in isolated rural areas
      tend to be less effective.

      At present, only a third of on-reserve aboriginals finish high school.

      Regardless of artificial incentives to stay on reserves, a growing
      number of native people are leaving. Nonetheless, they continue to have
      health outcomes worse than other Canadians, though they're better off
      than those on reserve in terms of education and income.

      Prof. Richards wants tougher access to welfare for employable urban
      Indians, and programs to counter the drop-out phenomenon.

      "There is a need for pragmatic alternatives to the status quo," he says.
      "However, few in the senior reaches of the federal government are
      prepared to engage these matters . . . .

      "The result is an unhealthy self-censorship in public and, behind closed
      doors, an ideologically constrained policy discourse."

      The co-publisher of Inroads recommends aboriginal health services --
      like health services for the rest of us -- be delivered by the provinces
      (with appropriate compensation from Ottawa), and "undertaken in a manner
      transparently equal to all, independent of race."

      "Equal to all, independent of race" is a philosophy that tends to guide
      public policy -- except when it comes to aboriginals.

      The preferential tip-toe treatment of Canada's native Indians not only
      fosters resentment among non-aboriginals, it isn't working. It isn't
      improving the lives of aboriginals.

      Sure, Indians should be compensated through treaties for past land
      losses. But government programs are sapping aboriginals of the incentive
      to strive with determination and pursue personal goals, as the rest of
      us must.

      And Prof. Richards is right -- attacking government policies that grant
      special rights and benefits to aboriginal people is politically incorrect.

      So, we all keep our mouths shut. As a result, in the areas of health,
      education, employment, incarceration and suicide rates, native people
      suffer mightily.

      byaffe@...

      © Copyright 2003 Vancouver Sun


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