I worked over 40 years with First Nations in B.C. and one of the first things I would say is that you cannot paint all First Nations with the same brush.
Brandon criticizes people who say ‘First Nations should just get over the past.” This may be hard for many First Nations individuals to do because they were treated very poorly in the past but recent history has shown that the First Nations that are succeeding today are the ones who have moved beyond complaining about past wrongs and have acknowledged that economic development is the only road to prosperity.
Brandon also criticizes those who complain about the money being wasted on First Nations. It may be true that individual indigenous people are not spending our tax dollars but the tax dollars are being spent and wasted.
The federal government spends over $10,000 per person more on each indigenous person than it does on other Canadians. Those are our tax dollars being wasted. The money is not being wasted by individual indigenous people, but by our politicians and by their politicians. It is very clear that the individual members of the First Nations are not benefiting very much from the millions of dollars being spent. More tax dollars directed at First Nations issues is clearly not the answer. There needs to be a change of thinking from all levels of government, both white and indigenous.
B.C. has some excellent examples of First Nations who are succeeding and doing it very well with very few of our tax dollars. Two prime examples are the Osoyoos First Nation and the First Nation at West Kelowna. Both have partnered to develop their lands and are doing very well.
Osoyoos has vineyards, wineries, a golf course, a new prison, recreational developments as well as more traditional native endeavours. West Bank has retail, commercial, residential developments as well as a golf course and other recreational projects. The Tsawwassen First Nation has recently partnered to develop the largest shopping centre in B.C. These First Nations are prospering by being forward-looking and using their land and resources for the benefit of their people.
Too many B.C. First Nations are mired in the wrongs of the past and the entitlement culture developed from many years of Department of Indian Affairs paternalism. It does not matter if you were mistreated as an indigenous person, a person of colour, or as a victim of Nazi Germany or one of the Eastern European communist states; the past is past. To succeed you must look to the future and use your knowledge, talents and resources in the economy of the 21st century.