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Canadian colonialism lives on in Attawapiskat

Amelia Murphy-Beaudoin

December 10, 2011

The plight of the Attawapiskat First Nation is the most recent blatant example of Canadian colonialism.

Harper sidestepped questions about the myriad of issues that have forced Attawapiskat into a state of crisis by questioning how the isolated community nearJames Bay spent $90 million in federal funding since 2006. Harper put the community under third party management–a system that a recent review found to be not cost effective, and harmful to a band’s ability to govern itself.

Harper is running a PR campaign to paint Attawapiskat as unaccountable, when in fact their public financial reports attest that the money was appropriately disbursed.

Charlie Angus–NDP MP whose riding includes Attawapiskat–explained that while $90 million sounds like a lot of money, 80 per cent of the community’s budget goes to education and another 10 per cent to social services, leaving little left for infrastructure.

The housing crisis has become more urgent as the weather turns cold. Much of the community is living in shacks and tents with mould and inadequate heat, plumbing, and electricity. They were forced to abandon their dilapidated homes. Because of these Third-World conditions, there are numerous health issues.

Angus said: “If these conditions were faced by tenants anywhere inSouthern Ontario there would be charges laid against the landlord, who in this case is the federal government. These people are handcuffed to a colonial system. The federal government treats these communities as children of the state.”

The appointment of the third party manager adds insult to injury. The band is opposing the government’s “colonial Indian Agent”, and is demanding the imposition be removed. Attawapiskatis being forced to pay the appointee $1,300 per day from its own budget.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) heard from Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation at a meeting inOttawa in December. The AFN has voiced its unwavering support for Attawapiskat and its leadership. First Nations communities across Canada are prepared to mobilize for Attawapiskat and vocalized that the situation could escalate to civil disobedience.

Harper’s government is doing its utmost to distract attention from the real issues, by inventing a spending scandal on the reserve. We must cut away these distractions and expose the racism at the center.

Canada has a long history of oppressing First Nations people; Attawapiskat is another example that colonialism is alive and well, and it represents another in a long list of reasons why it is vitally important for socialists to organize in solidarity with First Nations people everywhere.

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