Sooner or later indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada are going to have come to grips with the fact that attempts to rectify the past do not produce benefits today or into the future.
That’s the blame game. It’s a favorite of ideologically motivated activists and guilt ridden liberals. But it’s game where there are no real winners and a lot of losers.
There is no question that indigenous people have suffered at the hands of colonialists. Too many indigenous communities have a standard of living that is sub par.
So how do indigenous communities improve their standard of living? How do they provide for jobs, for education, for social benefits that the rest of Canadians take for granted?
This goes to the heart of the national debate that the actions of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
A literal handful of the latter are trying to make the pipeline protest about sovereignty and indigenous rights in British Columbia.
Yet the example of highly successful indigenous communities says that those which focus on economic development and establishing trade in goods and services with their non-indigenous neighbors succeed.
Ironically, the top 20 most prosperous indigenous communities in Canada are mostly located in British Columbia which lacks the very treaties activists are demanding.
The Musqueam Indian Band, the Shuswap Indian Band, the Tsou’ke First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, the Osoyous Indian Band, to name but a few, are all doing well.
But those communities have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them by virtue of location or resource wealth and improved the lives of their citizens. They are economic players in real estate, in tourism, in services, in resource development among other things. They are fully engaged with the wider, non-indigenous world.
In fact, not one of British Columbia’s 11 indigenous communities in the top 20 can be compared to the impoverished First Nations in the northern parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, which are often only reachable by airplane or winter road.
All of which makes the protests and blockades over the stand of the hereditary chiefs so utterly pointless.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline will provide for the Wet’suwet’en the jobs and revenue that other bands in the province have enjoyed for decades.
That a handful of hereditary chiefs would seek to block development that would directly benefit their people because they feel left out of the governance of the territories boggles the mind.
That outside activists and agitators would exploit this dispute to push their anti-development agenda is shameful.
The challenge facing the two senior levels or government is to find ways of promoting the kind of economic development seen in B.C. in the rest of the country so that indigenous people can prosper.
Indigenous and non-indigenous people are in this together and only thing that is going soothe the wounds of the past is the balm of economic development.
The world, after all, always looks better on a fully belly.