16 April 2010

Property ownership and aboriginal reserves

Admittedly I have not devoted much time and energy over the years to Canada's sometimes contentious aboriginal issue, except to note that the ongoing land dispute down the road in Caledonia has been handled abysmally by all parties, especially the provincial and federal governments. The issue is contentious for the following reasons:
  1. Genuine injustice was done to our first nations at the time of European settlement of the western hemisphere;
  2. Successive governments have repeatedly broken promises to the natives, occupying land previously reserved for them;
  3. In the 19th and 20th centuries aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and forced into residential schools where they were often abused;
  4. Native land was organized into reserves, which were generally not viable economic units;
  5. Aboriginal communities are locked into a pattern of poverty and despair;
  6. Aboriginal claims have yet to be definitively settled.
With such a history behind us, it is small wonder that this issue should continue to elude just resolution. However, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy has posted three relevant items: Discussing the Elephant in the Room: Indian Property Rights; Top Tory Touts On-Reserve Property Ownership; and an interview with Tom Flanagan. Flanagan and other like-minded people think that the key to ending aboriginal poverty is by permitting band members to own property outright without the restrictions placed on it by the Indian Act. Given that the initiative comes from the affected parties themselves and would be entirely voluntary, it might be worth a try.

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