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My own first impressions of the First Nations
By Alastair McIntyre


I thought it would be useful to record my own first impressions of the First Nations people in Canada as I feel it would be helpful to make this a marker to see how my research might change my views.

These views to date have been built on having a very few conversations with First Nations people and others but mostly on what I have watched on the TV. I have to say my views are not favourable and here I'll tell you why.

One of the first things I was told was that if you could claim First Nations ancestry then you'd be entitled to a lot more support than other Canadians could get through the welfare system.

As I started to travel around Canada I heard how projects that were meant to benefit all in an area were being blocked by the First Nations people as they wanted to milk the system and get much more money than they deserved. That was a common theme in my early days in Canada.

As I started to try and explore the history of the First Nations I found they were not prepared to help directly and so I was left with using antiquarian resources. I was also puzzled why they apparently produced some historical material but it was not free and thus could only be purchased and that the product they produced was copyright and they were not interested in allowing any of it to be used.

I then found that a number of tribes were living in pretty poor conditions and especially where they were remote communities. At first I was very concerned that people could live like that in a modern country like Canada. 

However as I dug into this situation there were two factors that concerned me.  First was why they chose to live like that just to continue to live on their own lands.  The world has moved on greatly and now we expect much better housing, education, a whole raft of social benefits and a much higher standard of living.  So if you choose to live in these lands why should you be given support by the Government to do so?  It's their choice after all. No-one is forcing them to live like that.

The second factor was transparency. As they do receive government money it seems to me they are reluctant to account for the spending of that money that all Canadians provide through taxation.  So my question was are some taking that money for personal greed rather than spending it wisely for the benefit of all? 

In a couple of TV debates I learned that First Nations people were concerned that their children were not being given adequate support when they went on to higher education. My view was that's a problem for all ethnic groups in Canada so why should the First Nations people be different?  Was it because of their own early educational system that was not preparing them for entry into the larger world?

Then in more recent days I learn that most of the First Nations people are protesting about the building of an oil pipeline from Alberta to BC.  This is clearly a project that would benefit all Canadians and yet some of the First Nations, where the pipeline will go through, seem determined to block it.

Yes there are environmental concerns which rightly should be addressed but I do wonder if this is just an excuse for trying to once again get more money from Canadians?

There are some First Nations people that do seem to have got their act together and are doing very well indeed.  So why are they doing so well whereas others are not doing well at all.  There doesn't seem to be any real discussion on this and little sharing of information. 

In history some countries in the world were taken over by others through wars, etc. The whole world has moved on and we're becoming more global in our outlook.  I have no particular problem with the First Nations being paid by corporations looking to exploit their resources.  That's just business.  But it just seems to be that on the whole they are looking to get as much money as possible without giving much back.  That of course is a trait all over the world. 

However given the debate on First Nations lands and their people and what they are entitled to my overall view is that transparency is just not there.  Why are some First Nations people doing well and others are not?  What attempt is being made to find out why?  Why are First Nations people not prepared to be open about their treaties and how they run their tribes?  The Canadian government has to report on how they spend tax payers money so why shouldn't the First Nations?

They say education is important but some First Nations people are well educated and can travel the country and world with no problem.  Yet other First Nations people report many problems. So I have to ask how well that education is being done.  Of course they should be educated on their local culture but they also need to be prepared to enter and communicate with the greater world outside their own lands. What are they doing to prepare their children to do that? You can't just throw money at the problem if the system is broken. You need to fix the system and that's not always a money issue.

As far as I can see no-one seems to be willing to ask the awkward questions of the First Nations people and it also seems that the First Nations people are likewise not prepared to be open on their own operations.

And so my first impressions are mostly negative although I personally have no problem with any of the First Nations people individually. I would like to learn more about their culture. I would like to know more about their treaties and how Canada is living up to them. I would like to know why some of their people are doing well and why others are not. I would like to know if there is any system in place so that all First Nations people can learn from the successes of other First Nations people.

There are many questions and I hope in the coming months and years I can get some answers.

I will also say that I have made an attempt at contacting various First Nations people through the "Contact Us" on their web sites. To date I have not had even one response.

I will end by saying that in 2019 I watched a TV news channel show where the First Nations people were discussing the strike that closed Canadian railroads.  One of the chiefs actually said that new Immigrants to Canada should learn the history of the First Nations people to better understand them.  As a new Immigrant myself I can tell him it's because they mouth the words but don't actually do anything about it. I've lost count of the number of First Nations people I've talked to on the phone where they promise to send me information but nothing ever arrives. I visit Moraviantown in Ontario quite regularly and everyone I've talked to claim to know nothing of their own heritage.  I spent some time researching them and found a great deal of information on their early heritage.  When informing them that I've posted my findings on the web they showed no interest in it.  I think that says a lot about the problems the First Nations are having.

Reference:

Transforming the Relationship to Work Together on a Shared Vision for First Nations

Assembly of First Nations January 2012

Royal Proclamation of 1763 [External Link]

Assembly of First Nations [External Link]

An Illustration on how some Canadians view the First Nations

1st February 2012


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