Racist rhetoric is not the way forward

This is hastily done and I’m as far from expert in these issues as one can be so don’t take anything I’ve written as gospel. Someone asked me what I thought of the statements from Sun News (in bold).

“Between the government money and money pouring in from the nearby diamond mine, it works out to $250,000 for each family, each year. Tax free. That’s like $400,000 a year for the rest of us” — Ezra Levant

Actually the mine royalties go to the province. There are Attawapiskat band members employed at the mine. I would hardly characterize their wages as “money pouring in from the nearby diamond mine”. I would argue that money should be pouring in from the diamond mine. It’s in their territory.

Levant tries to make us think each family is being handed $250,000 cash, tax free, with which to buy big screen TV’s and popcorn. Leaving aside the validity of the figure, it’s not going to each family, it’s going to everything the community needs; water, roads, housing, health-care, education, etc, etc. The “$400,000” figure is pure fantasy. There was some sort of large payment when the mine opened, most of which has been put into a trust fund to provide for the future (see the stock investments ranted about further down).

Aboriginal Affairs spending is up under Stephen Harper, $7.9-billion last year from $6.1-billion in 2006-2007

That’s Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). It provides services to “First Nations, Inuit, Metis and people living in Canada’s North”. Not just aboriginals, though aboriginals are the fastest growing sector of Canada’s population.

According to Aboriginal Affairs the number was actually $7.8-billion in 2012. Some of the increase since 2006 due to Residential Schools Resolution and “increased focus on settlement of claims”. Some 17% of the money goes to run the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The remaining money covers what most Canadians receive as federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government services, eg health-care, infrastructure, social services. The portion for essential services and programs for First Nations has been capped at 2% annual growth since 1997-98.

Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike isn’t actually a hunger strike — she’s consuming fish soup, medicinal tea, and lemon water several times a day

I’d like to see Levant try it.

Chief Theresa Spence makes just under $70,000 a year tax free

$69,579 salary and honouraria and $1,798 travel expenses to be precise. And we can be precise because Attawapiskat publishes all of its financial statements. I think it is correct that First Nations do not pay Canadian income tax on income made on reserve. Chilliwack’s chief administrative officer in 2008 (what I found with a quick online search) made $215,121. He presumably paid income tax. Is ~$70,000 out of line for someone in Chief Spence’s position?

Chief Theresa Spence’s boyfriend, Clayton Kennedy, is Attawapiskat’s town manager and earns $850 a day income tax free

Chief Spence excused herself from meetings where filling the position were discussed and it appears a healthy tendering process was followed. (Kind of like should have happened with the F-35’s) Kennedy’s consulting company was hired. He does their accounting, looks after finance staff and oversees reporting to various government agencies. He works 3 weeks out of 4, 5 days a week. Is he worth $850 a (working) day, or about $12,750 per month? I don’t know. My accountant charges $100 per hour. The previous outfit that held the job at Attawapiskat, BDO Dunwoody, charged $23,860 per month.

Attawapiskat purchased an Olympia ice resurfacer for $96,000 during a so-called housing crisis

The machine cost $85,035 so I assume Sun’s figure includes shipping costs. The community paid for it with money raised through bingo. Would a responsible community not look after recreation for it’s people, particularly the youth?

Speaking of housing, Attawapiskat receives $580,000 per year for housing. With cost of getting materials in, that could build 2 houses per year if no money was spent on maintenance of existing housing stock.

Attawapiskat has 21 full-time paid politicians for a town of 200 homes

Again I don’t know where they got these numbers. Audited statements show elected and unelected officials receiving various rates of pay from about $1,000 a month to nearly $7,300 a month. The highest being Technical Services Manager Mike Gull, mentioned again below. Looking at elected officials in the fiscal year ending March 31 2011, there are 8 councilors that served 12 months. Most made under $30,000. What do our city councillors make?

Attawapiskat also has its own health authority, school board, power corporation, development corporation, and a corporation to run the hockey rink

Well yeah. It’s a community. It needs health-care, school, etc. The population is young – they need recreation.

Development corporation? Do racists really want to rant at them for receiving tax dollars AND rant at them for having a development corporation? Pick one maybe.

In 2007, Mike Gull made $126,000 tax free as technical services manager

What happened in 2007? Mike made $87,381 in 2011. Must be doing a good job, he’s still there. Payscale.com shows Technical Services Manager Salaries in Canada as being $50,700 to $111,542.

$450,000 a month pours into Attawapiskat in welfare payments

APTN reports that according to Ontario Works 443 households got $755 per month for a total of $334,465. What does $755 a month get you in a remote community where everything has to be flown in? Let’s wish the development corporation all success.

Attawapiskat First Nation owns $9 million worth of stocks in Apple, Disney and Chinese cell phone companies

Yes, they have a fund from resource money received. Alberta used to too, but it’s pushing a $3-billion deficit now despite tar sands expansion. Who’s the bad manager?

All Canadians receive services from government without anyone saying we should empty our bank accounts first.

In 2011, acting Manager Wayne Turner, ran up more than $68,000 in travel expenses in just two months

Wow! He did. I don’t know why.

Harper’s 5-day trip to China in February cost $725,000 in travel expenses and $972,000 in hospitality and conference fees. I’m curious about Turner’s $68,000, but a quick search didn’t turn up any detail. Whatever it was he has to answer to Attawapiskat and AANDC.

Algonquin First Nation and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau has received death threats for speaking out against Idle No More

Not surprised. Wonder if we can get Trudeau to beat him up again? You can find Brazeau’s history on-line.

[Update: My wife told me I should delete that line above as it appears to condone violence. I said “I’m not condoning violence, I just said I’m not surprised.” As usual in areas of communication and empathy and the like she was right, as was made apparent by Peter’s comment. I took this part of what Sun News published too lightly, in part due to an assumption that said threat would just be some frustrated person venting. Not a safe assumption, particularly for a public figure like Senator Brazeau. I’ll leave that in now to give context to Peter’s comment, but I apologize for not having been more thoughtful. (And for not listening to my wife!) I do not condone threats or violence. Violence in various forms is part of the problem. We won’t solve our problems with the same thinking that caused them.]

Attawapiskat made $2,738,339 profit in 2010 and $3,140,041 in 2011

Oh good! Not sure what they’re calling profit or where that’s coming from. I read that the community brings in $12-million of its own revenue. Again the audited statements are all on-line. I started to go through it, but it’s a lot of pages and I’m hungry.

The government says Attawapiskat has received $90 million since 2006

Yes, and BC got $6,470,000,000 in federal transfers in that time, plus we get services from provincial and municipal governments. Just throwing the $90 million number out with no explanation serves only to feed ignorance.

In 2011, Attawapiskat spent $200,000 on ‘gifts’ and $36,000 on ‘goose hunting’

I’ve moved this item to the bottom because I looked at it last. “Gifts” doesn’t show up in a search of the financial statements and a quick search on-line didn’t come up with any details so I don’t know where they got this number or what it was about. Goose hunting is a big part of Attawapiskat sustenance and culture. Maybe they needed a couple of ATVs.

On the tail end of a failed attempt at cultural genocide Canada has a long way to go to actually live up to the spirit of the treaties it signed and to work out a relationship with First Nations. A big part of that job will be to educate non-aboriginals (some might notice I avoided the term “settlers”, I don’t ‘feel’ that label at all).

Sun News and Levant are bottom-feeders. I may be a little angry. I’ve begun work on educating myself in this area, reading Chelsea Vowel’s blog http://apihtawikosisan.com and beginning to read the report from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Actually I’ve only read the 51 page summary linked to from that blog, but the full report is on my list. Our past is dismal. Criminal. We reap what we sow. If we can find the ways to work together with understanding and respect for each other and our place on the Earth we will ALL be better off.

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7 Comments on “Racist rhetoric is not the way forward”

  1. hindsthecanuck Says:

    Thanks for the facts. Not familiar with how things are or how they have been in my almost 30 year absence.


  2. Thank you! This is a much needed post with some very good balanced information. I have been trying to get a handle on all the facts, too, and obviously many of the figures have been used out of context. I have shared this, and hope many more will read, and learn.


  3. Someone emailed me with a poster version of the news bullets you elaborated on. My initial reaction was exactly what the article’s author would have hoped for; middle-class worker outrage that MILLIONS of tax dollars are being squandered while I live with a less than ideal income myself. It’s a cheap shot designed to take advantage of people going through tough economic times. While I searched to find a way to post this propaganda to broadcast my outrage (it wouldn’t copy into FB thank GOD!), I came across YOU- Move Forward-please bring cookies. I can’t be sure that what you say is anymore true than what the newspaper said, but you reminded me of something we all forget as adults….don’t take candy from strangers!! Don’t take information at face value!! Just because you read it doesn’t make it true! Thanks for the reminder and thanks for provoking me to higher levels of thought than just my knee jerk that-makes-me-mad! You are right of course, the issues surrounding aboriginal rights are rooted in a dismal past…Money can’t help lack of collaboration and communication.

    • isjustian Says:

      Thanks Isabelle, that’s a heart-warming reply that gets to the core of why I wrote this post. I don’t claim to have answers, but we have to stop tossing rhetoric and extreme arguments back and forth. A thought I had this morning was that whatever the issue we should approach it with the attitude “If this was my brother or my sister how would I deal with it?” Would I listen more patiently? Would I try harder to understand? Doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll agree in the end, but I am going to make that my standard. That being in the context of my family where fortunately I really like my siblings!

  4. peter Says:

    “The government says Attawapiskat has received $90 million since 2006

    Yes, and BC got $6,470,000,000 in federal transfers in that time, plus we get services from provincial and municipal governments. Just throwing the $90 million number out with no explanation serves only to feed ignorance.”

    That works out to roughly $1500 per B.C. resident, and $75,000 per Attawapiskat resident. Who is it that is feeding ignorance here?

    However little sympathy I have for Brazeau, I have much less for someone who appears to be in favour of issuing death threats.

    There are several other points to be made about your blog here. I personally have little sympathy for either side, if one refers to the Attawapiskat politicians as one side, rather than the residents, with whom I have lots of sympathy.

    Will you continue with your ad hominem style arguing, and simply dismiss my points above by calling me a racist? If not, a decent discussion might be possible.

    • isjustian Says:

      “$1500 per B.C. resident” Yes, that federal part. How much when provincial, regional and municipal money is included? How much do economies of scale play a part? I don’t have answers to those nor time right now to research them, but they are part of the picture and need to be considered if a fair comparison is to be made.

      Re Brazeau you are right and I am sorry. I have made an update to the post that I hope addresses that. Thanks.

  5. Iggy Hanks Says:

    In 2011 I attended the 4 day TRC in Inuvik as a non-aborginal person from southern Canada and I say that we have no right to be putting down our Inuit, Metis, and First Nations brothers and sisters. The majority were force to endure years in children’s concentration camps, aka residential “schools”. How dare we put them down.
    Best wishes to these folks in the North. I hope they get everything they need and want.


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