Opinion

Idle No More visits Langley

Idle No More came to Langley on Saturday, and from all reports, it was a peaceful and consciousness-raising exercise.

While there have been some disruptions of highways and rail lines due to blockades, for the most part the Idle No More movement has been peaceful and non-disruptive thus far. Here in B.C., where we have come a long way in modernizing relations between aboriginal people and the larger community in the past 15 years, there is a sense of realism about this issue that may be somewhat lacking in some other parts of the country.

Most Canadians want to see First Nations people be productive and contributing to Canada at large, while at the same time remaining proud of their native heritage and connected to their culture.

Many First Nations people are very productive members of society. Considering the handicap they have had to deal with, particularly through the century-long attempt at assimilation which had its most obvious manifestation in residential schools, they have done remarkably.

I have a number of First Nations friends and consider them to be among the most intelligent and interesting people I know. They can trace their background in North America through almost untold generations, unlike the rest of us.

They do feel a strong affinity with the natural world, with fish and wildlife and deeply appreciate all the wealth that the Earth offers up to humans.

Unfortunately, in many areas of Canada, First Nations people live in shacks that are poorly-built and maintained. They often are unemployed and are at the mercy of their band leadership in far too many ways. Some bands are not well-run — despite the fact that the federal government gives billions to these bands each year.

I believe the long-term answer is to ensure that First Nations have a share in economic development, as is happening with the Tsawwassen people in the Lower Mainland and the Osoyoos people in the Okanagan.

This ensures that First Nations people get good training, decent jobs and support their families. It gives bands revenue from non-government sources and brings a sense of entrepreneurship into the leadership circle.

If we look back historically, First Nations people were creative and entrepreneurial. They maintained their families in very difficult conditions; offered assistance and trade goods to the earliest explorers and were usually very good neighbours.

Many B.C. First Nations have rich artistic traditions that are not emulated anywhere else in the world. There are some outstanding native leaders in this province. We have a lot to offer the rest of the country.

I believe that many of the Idle No More supporters want to see conditions improve for ordinary First Nations people, and this is something we can all support.

Let’s do what we can to ensure that First Nations residents of B.C. and Canada are able to offer their unique perspective and make Canada a better place.

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