Betty Hinton, MP Masthead
Member of Parliament for Kamloops Thompson Cariboo
[press releases]
Canada Coat of Arms

The Indian Act Needs Changes

The Indian Act needs both review and revision.

The Canadian Alliance put forth a motion in the House of Commons in March of this year calling for more transparency and accountability with regard to the financial affairs of Indian bands. The motion was carried with overwhelming support. It served as a wake up call to the federal Liberal party.

Three months later, Minister Robert Nault of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) announced his intent to consult directly with native people instead of relying solely on the views of chiefs and councils. It's a concept borrowed directly from the Canadian Alliance policy manual. We have embraced and employed direct consultation with band members and other stakeholders for the past eight years. I applauded Nault's intent during discussion in the House, but cautioned him to reconsider the unrealistic time frame and his exclusion of other Canadians in the process. He chose to follow his own agenda.

For two months Nault visited various communities before the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) declared they would block roads and protest across Canada if he continued. Nault let down all Canadians when he called a 30 day halt to the process. Does direct communication with those affected by the Act pose a threat to chiefs? Perhaps. They and their councils would be the only people who would benefit from maintaining the status quo.

In Ottawa DIAND is referred to by many as the Indian Industry. It's a lucrative business for those who spin, advise, represent, refer, train, support, or develop programs directed toward native people. DIAND doesn't have to be cost effective, beneficial, or sensible because it often functions in secrecy and is screened from public scrutiny. A perfect example is band spending. Access to information is stonewalled.

Federal programming for Aboriginal people focuses primarily on Status Indians living on reserve. They represent roughly 60% of the Status Indian population. In this fiscal year we will spend approximately $7 billion dollars to meet the needs of 411,400 reserve residents. Off-reserve Status Indians receive government services primarily through their Provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, like all other Canadians. Ninety-six

percent of the population is not Status Indian. If the federal government applied the same per capita outlay to the population as a whole we would be bankrupt several times over. The same holds true for representation.

Approximately 63% of reserves have fewer than 500 residents - only 5% have more than 2,000. Each reserve has a Chief and Council. Canada has in excess of 30 million non native citizens. Those citizens are represented federally by 301 Members of Parliament.

Next time we will examine some DIAND programmes and their effect on native people.

Betty Hinton Column
August 10, 2001
Contact Person: Sandy Wiseman, 851-4991


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