Betty Hinton, MP Masthead
Member of Parliament for Kamloops Thompson Cariboo
[press releases]
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As Chairman of the Canadian Alliance Leader's Advisory Committee on Indian and Northern Affairs, I have a 30-month mandate to meet nationally with band members, business (including ranchers, forestry, fisheries), and tourism representatives. The objective is to gather grassroots data from a cross section of Canadians. This data will be correlated to enhance current Canadian Alliance policy and develop new policy in preparation for forming government. February, March, and April were used to develop a business plan, make contacts, and establish a process. May, June, July and August focused on speaking with band members, visiting reserves, and examining the cost and effectiveness of existing federal native programmes. The same in depth research will be directed toward business, and tourism over the next twelve months.

In the process of learning more about the complex issue of Aboriginal Affairs I discovered two components of federally funded native programs that leave many frustrated.

One component of The Department of Indian and Northern Development (DIAND) is reserve housing. This obligation began as a Cabinet policy decision. It bypassed the traditional, democratic parliamentry debate process. The legislation continues today. In 1999-2000 there were 2,313 housing units completed and 3,243 renovated. Taxpayers paid $303 million through CMHC and an additional $160 million through departmental spending. These figures do not include costs that were covered by Public Works. Given this spending pattern, you might logically conclude that all reserve natives live in pretty fine accommodations. My personal observation is that nothing could be further from the truth. However it is often quite easy to identify the homes of the chief, council, and their family members on a reserve.

At an all party committee meeting on the subject of native housing, I suggested we employ the Habitat For Humanity "sweat equity" philosophy, coupled with a teaching element. If Canadian taxpayers must continue to fund reserve housing, doesn't it make sense to have the recipient contribute labour to the project? The teaching of construction skills also qualifies as an economic development component, so two needs are met. Pride of accomplishment is achieved through active participation in housing construction and band members are taught skills that will assist them in seeking future employment on and off reserve. My suggestion was poorly received by the Liberals, but remains a matter of public record.

Another component of the department is prescription drugs.

DIAND obliges Canadians to bear the cost of all prescription drugs for status natives. At an all party committee meeting on this issue, witnesses were called. Mrs. Lorraine Stonechild told of the deaths of both her brother and her son from prescription drug overdoses. Her brother acquired and filled more than 200 prescriptions in 365 days. Her son died of similar circumstances. I asked two specific questions of the Liberal government . Number one - why weren't these obvious abuses of prescription drugs noted and stopped by the department? Answer: the government doesn't track native prescription use because it would be an invasion of their privacy. Number two - does the department have any evidence to show that any native people may have filled prescriptions at taxpayer expense and sold these drugs to others for profit? Answer: yes.

Where is the common sense in these two programs?

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come has publicly stated that " Canada is carrying out a secret, racist policy to oppress First Nations." I disagree.

Past and present governments have failed all Canadians. Corruption and nepotism are left to flourish in the current environment. DIAND is the vehicle that enables government to continue its tail chasing, paternalistic approach to native issues. Accountability to band members and taxpayers is not a priority with many. Part of my job is to correct that. I fully intend to do so.

Betty Hinton, MP
September 10,2001
Contact Person: Sandy Wiseman, 851-4991, email: srwise@home.com

 

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