LETTERS: Fine words do not a solution make

The Liberals are better than their predecessors, but that isn’t saying much

To the Expositor:

Re: Lack of progress in Indigenous Affairs

With a federal election looming, it’s time to take stock of progress, or lack of progress, on the Indigenous Affairs files. The Liberals promised so much during the last election campaign and the Indigenous people happily obliged with their support. Justin Trudeau certainly did more than his predecessor but that bar wasn’t really set that high. That being stated, I’ve seen no measurable improvements at the grassroots level.

The faces may have changed on the band council but the same old problems persist. Nepotism, favouritism and the lack of transparency and accountability is still rampant on my reserve. Further, the grassroots still have no voice with Indigenous Affairs. Even if someone tries to make complaints or concerns known, it falls on deaf ears as this federal department looks the other way. When someone complains about questionable spending or practices, the form letter response is, “those are internal matters.” What a waste of paper, ink and a stamp.

On my own reserve there are five vacant positions at our Health Centre. The drug and alcohol counsellor position (NNDAP) has been vacant for over two years (I guess they cured what ails the reserve) and the other positions have been vacant for months. Where has the money for these funded programs gone? No one knows and Indigenous Affairs doesn’t care. The fiscal year is coming to an end on March 31 and still, our band members have yet to see the audit from the previous year. Again, Indigenous Affairs still doesn’t care.

How do we address and fix these problems? Firstly, we need to get out from under the Indian Act by scrapping this archaic and assimilative legislation starting with the Band Election portion. The Indian Act allows corruption to take hold and fester without consequence. Secondly, every region should have their own Auditor General that reports directly to the people of each respective reserve. This individual would have the authority and responsibility to report questionable or suspicious spending directly to the police.

I could go on and on about what needs to be done but this paper doesn’t like wordy letters. The name change from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to Indigenous Affairs has changed nothing; it’s just more politically correct.

I remain, 

Orville Aguonie

Sheguiandah First Nation band member