The Attawapiskat audit: Distracting us from a legacy of failure

On Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 in Articles by Elizabeth

The tensions surrounding First Nations and the federal government are, perhaps, at an all-time high.

I had hoped the Prime Minister’s decision to meet with First Nations leadership this Friday was a hopeful sign of a new beginning in building nation to nation respectful relationships. Perhaps it could finally be the beginning of implementing the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Unfortunately, there is an ugly tone in the air as Conservative spokespeople, such as Senator Patrick Brazeau, line up in the media to take pot shots at Chief Theresa Spence. Although the Attawapiskat audit covers 2005-2011, Theresa Spence was only elected chief in 2010.

The release of the audit of Attawapiskat band finances is heralded by some as evidence of – what exactly? – that the housing crisis in First Nations communities is the fault of their leadership? The audit is not evidence of fraud, but shows an unacceptable level of expenditures for which proper documentation was not provided. It does not suggest the money was spent improperly. We simply do not know. Finger pointing and attacks will not help build a relationship based on respect for treaty and inherent indigenous rights.

So let’s just step back for a moment and admit what everyone knows. Millions of dollars in federal funding for indigenous peoples goes to non-indigenous consultants and lawyers and the bureaucracy supposedly at the service of First Nations communities. Many First Nations communities could benefit from better book keeping and financial controls, but so too could the federal government as the Auditor General has frequently reported. There is a reason that former Auditor General Sheila Fraser dedicated so much of her final report to the unacceptable multiple failures of the federal government in delivering on goals in meeting minimum obligations to First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. In 2005 and again in 2011, the Auditor General set out a litany of abuse. In a report prepared by Sheila Fraser and released by her successor, she noted, “I am profoundly disappointed to note … that despite federal action in response to our recommendations over the years, a disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted.” She did not point fingers at the individual communities, but rather at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for relying on vague policy rather than the kind of clear legislation found at the provincial level to meet non-indigenous needs for health, housing, water and education.

So, just as the Idle No More movement was not an off-shoot of Chief Spence’s hunger strike, neither is the audit of Attawapiskat’s finances a relevant response to the litany of undeniable and shameful neglect of the treaty obligations of the nation of Canada to the people on whose land we live and whose resources make us wealthy.

Numerous Supreme Court decisions make it clear that the federal government, as well as private sector corporations with an eye of First Nations’ lands and resources, have a duty to consult. Yet, numerous legislative changes made by the Harper Conservatives over the last year had no advance consultation, despite significant impact on First Nations. Both Omnibus bills, C-38 and C-45, had significant impacts on First Nations, without consultation. The Canada-China Investment Treaty, signed by the Prime Minister in early September and not yet ratified, could also have huge impacts on First Nations, yet there was no consultation. From neglect, we seem to have moved seamlessly to an assault on First Nations, as though we could erase Constitutionally-enshrined rights should they stand in the way of mines, dams and pipelines. The issue of non-consultation should be addressed immediately.

The abandonment of the 2005 Kelowna Accord was the beginning of numerous blows, including cutting the following programmes aimed at redressing the scandalous disparity in health outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians: health awareness programmes curbing tobacco addiction, Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative, the Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program, the Maternal and Child Health Program, and the Blood Borne Diseases and Sexually Transmitted Infections/HIV/AIDS Program. As well, institutions to assist in understanding the disparities, such as the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) and First Nations Statistical Institute (FNSI), have been axed. As well, the high cost of food and fuel in the North is a serious problem and remains unaddressed.

Despite all the evidence, we owe it to the embryonic potential of Idle No More to hope that all leaders present will rise to a new level of decency and respect – towards each other and towards the peoples and lands they represent. As the first indigenous leader of Bolivia has done, could we not begin to discuss the constitutional protection of nature itself? Could we not start designing a path to replace the Indian Act, establish a set of meaningful goals to ensure that all children on this piece of Turtle Island, indigenous and non-indigenous, have equal access to proper education, safe drinking water, decent health care and safe housing? Could we not live up to our promises of treaties past and lay the groundwork to a future premised on the respectful sharing of this land? I believe we can. In fact, we must.

Elizabeth May is the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
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  • Buwisit

    Bravo! Well said.

  • Henk

    Wise words.

  • Sue Luzia

    Thank you!! Very well said!

  • daveM

    Our government has habitually campaigned against our indigenous people, hopefully we have entered a time of change. Thank you for this article.

    • concerned

      financiall how is this going to work out about 12 Million Canadian taxpayers py for the rest of the 24 Mill. non tax payers?

      • geo

        Natives are only 4% of canada and we pay taxes too although its illegal due to treaties

  • Bob McNarry

    I wholeheartedly agree!
    The first entry in my father’s 1911 diary spoke of the native peoples and the need to understand their problems..

    Bob McNarry

  • r.wilton

    Why is harper so evil?

    How does someone with such evil intent become the spokesperson for so many people who do not have his outlook on life?

    How do we rid ourselves of this bully before he does irreparable harm to everything we stand for as a country?

    Will this be the winter of ‘our’ discontent?

    • Barry

      I believe Harper’s had a hugely negative impact on Canada, especially in eroding our democracy, but don’t dismiss him as “evil”. Many Canadians support his policies (and even his strategies if it helps him get his/their way) – it’s our job to enlighten them that there’s a better way. I think Elizabeth May has done a great job at that so far.

      • L Peters

        Thanks Barry, great point! It’s easy to dismiss Harper, but he does ‘represent’ the views of some (a majority? *shudder*) of Canadians. Through solidarity and inspiration we can learn, teach, exemplify and enlighten. We need more dialogue & understanding, less bias & divisiveness. Thanks for reminding me of that. :)

        • Kent Bristo

          L Peters, It is debatable whether Harper “represents” anyone in Canada LEGALLY! Definitely he does not represent the wishes of the majority of Canadians or even a tiny minority of First Nations (with the possible exception of his appointed Senator Brazeau)! Solidarity and inspiration is being shown to the rest of us once again, through the acts of our Native brothers and sisters and as John Sollows comments, we should ALL be taking notes and joining our Native friends in their (and our) opposition to Harper and anyone who puts money and power before Human Rights and the Will of The People!

          • SocialTexture

            While I agree that we should definitely be concerned with *who* is in power and how they use that power, I think a much greater concern is what systems of power are in place to be taken advantage of in the first place. What if, for instance, we didn’t have a political system that was highly susceptible to representing the interests of wealthy elites (today, the handful of people that own most of the corporations) rather than the interests of ordinary people–if not designed to accomplish just that? Or what if we didn’t have an economic system built on the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “all for ourselves, and nothing for other people”, as that wild radical Adam Smith so succinctly put it?

            What if, instead, we had an economy and political system based on equity, solidarity, justice and respect for diversity–and that perpetuated those values through the very workings of its institutions? What if we had an economy where one had to help others in order to get ahead? What if we had a political system that enabled each and every person to register their preferences, constantly, about decisions that impact their lives, rather than just pushing a button every few years and hoping that some guy a few hundred miles away will act in our best interests?

            I personally think that these are much bigger and more important questions to ask than who’s in power at any given moment. Sure, we need to work with what we have for now, but I think we should also be constantly thinking about what a truly decent society would look like–and then go out there and get it.

          • freelance-writer

            An optimistic projection however, it is not only the persuasion of the ruling government that need be contended with but too, the external formidable influence of corporate lobbyist (and Canada has them too) that steer from behind the scene, much of the policy instituted .

        • Peter

          to suggest that a majority of Canadians favour Harper is wrong, I don’t recall the exact figures, but I’m pretty sure the conservatives received only 38% support during the last election. Because we have a multi party system 100% of the vote can be split 3 ways at the very least. So in conclusion it is fact that the majority of Canadians voted against Harper and the conservative party. All of this speaks to the need for election reform.

          • concerned and rightly so

            you are correct on the numbers and we have to redo the way we count votes to be representative of the voters wishes in elections. Seats won is not the way to do this fairly, and where as regions of voters in the RICH, areas ( large industrial areas with large populations ) carry the parties to victory. The result is not democratic but leaning toward communistic ideals, not what I want for the Canadian populous, nor any other country.

          • Bruce Taylor

            Actually the using of seats gives improved representation to the low population areas and small provinces and territories. I agree we need changes but popular vote actually would give those “rich” areas you mention a greater voice.

          • Logan Anderson

            38% of the 60% that voted, Would work out to be around 7 million Canadians. Hardly a Majority…….

          • Unvarnished_Truth

            And how many voted for the Liberals or NDP?

          • Unvarnished_Truth

            Put things into perspective, even more people voted against the Liberals and NDP.

          • Logan Anderson

            You don’t vote against, you vote for silly :)

          • Unvarnished_Truth

            Thanks for you highly educated insight but I guess you never heard of a protest vote.

        • freelance-writer

          If the reporting I have read is accurate Harper Conservative majority was won with only 37% of the votes cast; hardly a majority view of Canadians but then again, arguably, the fault of the majority of Canadians for not casting a vote.

        • Anti

          No, you were right first time … Harper is evil, there is no other word for someone with such a disregard and hate for anything that nature provides for us, There is no insight fullness in his eyes, he is dead soulfully and spiritually bankrupt, has lost his way so badly from any path of reason and conscionavbe thought that EVERYONE is born with.

        • Cecilidoo

          I think Harper definitely cheated through election to gain majority. Those ballot counting machine are ridiculously easy to “hack”. If a teenager can “hack” an Iphone, MmmMmmm a ballot counting machine anyone?????????????? We need to be suspicsious about technology! and those extremely fast, without consultation actions. It is indeed premeditated, and not for the good of all. The worst? It seperates us :(

      • cj

        Thank you Barry – we need more of your perspective out there.

    • Willy Ens

      Reinventing our Canadian Democracy

      “How do we
      rid ourselves of this bully before he does irreparable harm to everything we
      stand for as a country?”

      Good Question.

      I am a professional trouble shooter in my type of work and have transposed
      that skill to this problem and by that method devised a simple address to this
      plague on Canadians.

      “We just need to
      ‘Quit relinquishing our vote’ that put Canadian Political Corporations in power
      for up to (5) year terms, placing them in a position to abuse us without any

      There is a simple
      method and system by which we can rid ourselves of “The Dic’s in Canadian Politics”
      once-and-for-all and do it in just (1) election.

      With The
      “Big Dic – Harper” in focus as the harshest dictator in Canada’s
      Government(s) right now because of how he is “Diss-ing” (Chief
      Spence) and all of us CANADIANS, making it a “Glaringly obvious
      necessity” to many of us now that we need to depose him and his regime.

      However, I know we have a much earlier election coming up here in BC where we have had the “Mini-Dic”
      ‘Crusty Christy Clark’ lying to and abusing this BC senior and many others for
      the last (2) years, and whose “Deposition” I actually devised this for.

      Please do a Google search on “Chuck Cadman” for reference to this because he showed ‘us’ the way inadvertently, and we could all learn something very subtle yet such a gem of wisdom from what I gathered of his experience, as follows.

      Although I do not know all of the details or all of the information that applied to Chuck’s case, the point of what I realized was this as it unfolded;

      In 2004-2005 PM Paul Martin had been successfully running the ‘Minority’ federal Liberal Government as if it was a ‘Majority’ until he met up with a grouping of the opposition parties uniting their votes in their “Non-Confidence” vote.

      This threatened to topple ‘his asserted dictatorship’ and depose Martin by dissolving parliament and forcing an early election.

      Although, and as I understand it, Chuck had won his seat years ago, under the federal Conservative banner originally, there had been a ‘falling out’ between the party and him when his purpose of being in Ottawa changed due to his son’s murder and he wanted to see changes made to ‘juvenile delinquency’ laws while he had the opportunity and had a voice in parliament.

      The Conservatives seemed reluctant to take up his cause.

      Instead during the next election the Conservatives just “Flew in their ‘chosen son’” to run in Chucks riding, totally expecting ‘their son’ to be elected under a heavy advertising campaign funded by the Conservative party.

      Well, the electorate in Surrey White Rock didn’t like that “Bully Tactic” and handed the PC’s their butt on a platter (figuratively) as they came out in mass support and elected Chuck with a landslide victory under the “Independent
      Representative” provision in Canadian democracy and sent him back to Ottawa.

      This put Chuck in a very enviable position, namely that of only needing to answer to his electorate and not a “Political Corporation” like all of the others in politics do, who answer to;

      1 – The parties Corporate controlled Leadership,
      2 – Their adopted Corporate Political Agenda against the people
      3 – The party ‘whips and enforcers’ to keep order and ‘control’

      Instead; (and this is the real ‘Gem’ in all of this)
      Chuck went back to his riding, and called a ‘town hall meeting’ or similar and asked his electorate these Golden Words;

      “What should I Do?”

      Now you might wonder why I call them ‘Golden Words’ …

      Well have you ever had your MP show up and (figuratively) stand on your doorstep to ask you ‘what you would like ME to say on your behalf? (How do you want me to vote?)


      Well neither have I, but isn’t that be what true Democratic representation should be?

      We could all have input in nominating an “Independent Representative” for our riding, see them put on the election ballot, and then vote them in, all in the same election!

      This gives the “POWER and Value of OUR Vote” back to ‘US’ the people,
      being the electorate as it should be. Simple isn’t it?

      Eliminating the “Five Year Dictatorship” terms that all Political Corporations and Canadian Dictators so relish and want desperately to retain can also be deflated by just regularly scheduled ‘performance reviews’ of our “Independent MP” at the “Town Hall Meeting” level of the ridings electorate, or every six months to a year by e-voting in our social media connected world.

      This is in keeping with a simple concept about the fault in fighting the existing reality that I find attractive and workable in this Quote from Buckminster Fuller;

      “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
      … To change something … build a new model,
      that makes the existing model obsolete.”

      Buckminster Fuller

      • JennR

        One MP has come very close to that, Ms. May! She said from the very beginning, Town Hall Meeting – “I’m here to serve my constituents – all of you – whether you voted for me or not” “tell me what you want” .
        She’s one great MP

      • brumman

        why a mindless idiot! And a waste of bandwidth to post such drivel

    • benalbanach

      What Harper is..I have no idea. But it’s clear what he is not. He is not the leader of Canadians. He is not a unifier. He does not appeal to our better instincts He is not a listener. He is not a builder. He is not so much evil as inadequate. He is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      • concerned and rightly so

        perhaps He is the ANTI-CHRIST

      • Francien Verhoeven

        What Chief Spence is..I have no idea. But it’s clear what she is not. She is not the leader of First Nations. She is not a unifier. She does not appeal to our better instincts. She is not a listener. She is not a builder. She is not so much evil as inadequate. She is the wrong woman in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        • Neil Roberts

          francien verhoeven…from under what tree did the “reformers” dig you up…to promote your ignorance and racism

          • Dennis

            How is it racism, to use the same commentary to refer to both Prime Minister Harper and Chief Spence; both of whom display some inadequacies? We need to maintain honesty in these discussions.

          • Cecileww

            Perhaps it’s not racism, but definitely ignorance to refer to Chief Spence in the same way as Mr. Harper. She is more of a leader for First Nations people and all of Canadians than Mr. Harper has ever been. I don’t think he has ever stood up for anything he believes in…only what will further the money grubbing needs of his supporters.

          • Francien Verhoeven

            You people really don’t tire yourselves out when in repeat mode. Like robots doing the talking points. Ms.May must love that kind of followers.

          • me here

            Actually, money grubbing needs of his supporters is what he believes in …

          • Unvarnished_Truth

            You won’t get honesty from him; You can speak your mind against the government but heaven help if you say the same things, which are true, against Spence. She is a complete fraudster

          • Francien Verhoeven

            From that tree which grows money, the one you people keep believing in.

          • Elle

            oh, burn!

          • Francien Verhoeven

            Burn, burn, burn the money which grows on trees. And when all of that money has been burned it’s time to grow up, right?

          • benalbanach

            You seem to have a tree fetish Francien..I doubt it’s curable

        • benalbanach

          How droll for a troll..Mimic and substitute. But keep might just learn something if you allow yourself to think.

          • Francien Verhoeven

            I’m reading and learning all the time. Hey I’m not the one afraid of telling the truth.

            Pam Palmater’s new approach: “Idle Some More!” :)

        • geo

          She’s not a fraud the media sun news mostly misinforms gullible people like you with hate. she’s accused of inadequate booking just like the government also but there’s no indication of theft stated by auditors and the supreme court. your a puppet

      • ellathehepcat

        Evil is essentially described as ‘having a moral vacuum’; dictionary definition includes ‘profoundly immoral and malevolent’ or ‘harmful or tending to harm’. This would explain Harper’s condoning, what is looking to be, a very corrupt campaign last election. The implementing of policies that he knows are destructive and unnecessary, arrogantly breaking the law and snubbing his nose at authority when his been censured for it? Evil looks pretty accurate.

    • Jacqueline

      I’m with you on this. Thanks for your comment.

    • Don McNaughton

      Because too many voters didn’t have or exercise the critical thinking skills required to learn about the core values of parties’ elected leaders, then decide and enact their vote accordingly.

    • Missjava

      I got out and marched along with the First Nations in an Idle No More march with my sign. The more people see that this is an ‘everyone’ issue, the better. I am out there appealing to the voters. Bill C-45 is colorblind, we should be too.

  • John Sollows


    One thing we ALL have to understand is that the Idle No More movement is being initiated primarily by First Nations but primarily FOR ALL Canadians, whether they understand that or not. As a resident of rural Nova Scotia, I see that loud and clear.

    The question of mismanagement of federally-provided money is a completely separate issue, well worth debating, and most likely to conclude in a realization that there are three sides to the issue: your side, my side and the right side.

    • mstevenson

      I really like your first point. It is unhelpful as a community and in fact as a nation to spend most of our energy trying to discuss this movement in isolation from the rest of society. the concerns they are raising are, on a fundamental level, ones that impact all citizens, such as environmental policy, health care, civic infrastructure as well as fighting for principles of honesty, respect and support.
      When you stop and think about it, it’s amazing to realize how many of the “demands” are not against non-First Nations communities but rather as you say for the benefit of all Canadians.

    • concerned

      did anybody think about the very small tax payer base we have in Canada, that we are in debt and that free health care free education and no taxes for status Natives is costing billions? Do we want to go into trillions debt like the US?
      With equality comes equal responsibility, right?

      • axel bushing

        Go and live on a reserve for a month and tell me that we should tax First Nations peoples. We force tham to live in housing built where no sane developer would build, on flood plains and at the foot of avalanche-prone mountains. We put water treatment plants DOWN STREAM from the sewage outlet. We make the people dependent of food that must be flown in at three times to eight times the cost of that food in southern Canada, and at the same time we make sure that alcohol is cheap and plentiful. And if they leave the reserve to find a better life, they do indeed lose the protection of the Indian Act, and become tax-payers like the rest of us. If they can find a job. It ain’t all casinos and cheap cigarettes on the reserve.

        • JD

          We don’t force them to live anywhere. They choose to live there. They more than welcome to move to any city in Canada.

          • colonial canadian

            Actually JD, Indigenous people were forced on to reserves. If you live in BC, you likely live on unceded territory. You live on the lands where Indigenous people used to call home and were forceably removed from to make way for ‘settlement’ and ‘progress’.

          • Jan

            Colonial Canadian – I live in BC and work with First Nations, and there are a lot of them who refuse to live on reserves. I also know a few who refuse to use status cards because they feel they create negative stigma. I consider those individuals as people who are taking responsibility for themselves, as fighters against the colonial system. Those who protest colonialism should at least stop using their status cards.

            And believe me, I’m well aware of the myths. Many Canadians think First Nations don’t pay taxes, and that simply isn’t true – which is why those who refuse to use status, who live off reserve, but remain connected to their culture are true fighters of the system. One can’t stay on reserve, use status, take advantage of government programs, and then complain about the Indian Act / Colonial system.

          • colonial canadian

            Hi Jan- Thanks for engaging on this issue. The issue of reserves is tres complicated, yet another example of the mess that colonial policies like the Indian Act continues to create today. As you know, reserves were set aside as tracts of land for the use of Indigenous people. They were part of the colonial agenda of keeping Indigenous people to the side, out of the way of ‘settlement’. Over the course of history, reserve lands have been “cut off”, reduced and changed largely without consultation. In BC lands were reduced and this action rationalized as White settlers would make better use of such lands. Many reserves today are on unattractive lands, without much by way of economic base and a slim slice of what were the traditional and spiritual homes of Indigenous peoples pre-contact.

            The irony is that while these lands served to isolate Indigenous people from the colonial agenda (the hope being that Indigenous people would either die off or assimilate), reserves have become very important to Indigenous peoples. When your home has been invaded and reduced, you want to hold on to what you have left. Many reserves have contained within them some ancestral and spiritual homelands. The great paradox (and this is true of the Indian Act and related to why it is not as easy as “let’s just get rid of the Act”) is that reserves do provide a physical space for building and preserving community. I am not saying this is good enough… not at all but I am getting at why the issue of reserves is not as easy as “they should just move”.

            Many Indigenous people live off reserve. I think the stats now show that there are more Indigenous people living off reserve than on. People who moved off reserve have often done so at an expense to their cultural and community ties. There is much written on this subject by Indigenous peoples themselves. Bonita Lawrence’s book “Real Indians and Others” digs into the complexities of identity which are part and parcel of the reserve issue. As a White person I am certainly not qualified to speak to the experiences of Indigenous peoples. My understanding from what I have read and people have shared with me personally is that moving off reserve can mean “facing discrimination and assimilation in urban centres, relinquishing one’s Indian rights, and losing or jeopardizing connections to family and territory” (see UBC link below). For any person, leaving our community due to economic (poverty) reasons is challenging at best. Leaving a reserve opens a whole host of other issues for people who are tied to their lands in spiritual and cultural ways… much of what I can only know in an intellectual sense as a non-Indigenous person.

            So Jan your comments about people who refuse to live on reserves are related. Having status and fighting colonialism can be framed as competing interests and often judged from the outside without full understanding of the colonial roots. Again, it can be a reproduction of the same attitudes which we saw during the formation of colonial policies. It may be that the pressures of racism and judgments around so-called “benefits”. It must be hard to stand proud of one’s identity in a society which puts you under constant scrutiny and makes judgements without a full understanding of the colonial context.

            I found this article from UBC’s website helpful in weeding my way through this issue. Other people may also be interested.


            I look forward to chatting more about this as it is core the issues that the Idle No More movement is raising… this is an opportune time to educate non-Indigenous Canadians. I am a learner and it is ongoing for me as well!

      • Anti

        funny we were NOT in debt before Harper and his corrupt unconscionable way of government came sweeping in on a cloud of fraud and lies..

        • Jan

          Hey – I don’t like Harper either, but seriously? How easily you forget about APEC and the students who were denied legal aid, the Billion Dollar Boondoggle (while we’re talking about accountability), and the Shawinigan scandal. If you thought that was a conscionable government that was any better than what we currently have, you need to give your head a shake.

          Whether we like it or not – the northwest passage is melting, which means that these resource-based discussions are going to continue regardless of who’s in power. I hate Harper as much as anyone else, but if you think that getting rid of him will fix Canada, think again!

        • eichornzen

          I think you mean we didn’t have a deficit – we certainly had a debt!

      • Natty


        Most “status Indians” pay the same taxes as you. Only transactions that occur on reserve lands are tax exempt. If you work on the reserve, then you do not pay income tax – given there are very few jobs available on most reserves, many (if not most) First Nations living on reserve work off the reserve … and pay the same income tax as you.

        If you purchase goods or services off the reserve you pay sales tax – that dinner & movie; the new toy for the kid. Now, if you order a new refrigerator and have it delivered to the reserve, you would not pay sales tax … though there would likely be a delivery charge.

        • colonial canadian

          Thanks Natty! Breathe of fresh air. It always boggles the mind as to the number of myths out there about “free stuff” without any basis in facts. For generations, non-Indigenous society has passed on these myths which continues to blur the issues and distract from the spaces where we need to come together as non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples in Canada.

      • Evey Styles

        Did anybody think that most natives actually do pay taxes (anyone who buys anything that isn’t on reserve – which is basically everything BUT gas and cigarettes – or works off reserve lands pays sales tax like everyone else), our “free” health care is a joke when we are treated with contempt by people working in the health care industry, and there are only so many dollars budgeted per band for our “free” education (many natives still get student loans)? No? I didn’t think so.

        We would have gone into trillions of dollars of debt regardless, if this government hadn’t had its own “bank bailout” of billions of dollars using taxpayers’ money, without telling us they were doing so. Please, open your eyes and educate yourself on all aspects of the situation.

      • Naomi Fraser

        You forget how heavily subsidized every canadian person’s health care is. you forget that Canada is not ceded land and it and its resources legally belong to First Nations people. we’ve paid a lot for this country. And the settler population could never even begin to catch up and pay back everything that has be extracted and consumed already. We are not even the heaviest allotment in the government use of funds. Go look at how much you pay for this government and ask me how that is fair or responisible.

        • JD

          Ummm. We’re not settlers. We’re not colonists. I have just as much right to be here as any ‘first’ nations individual.

          • colonial canadian

            Yes we are JD. I know it is hard to hear and accept. I am white colonial settler Canadian. I was not here at the time of contact or the creation of the Indian Act and other policies but I continue to benefit from the actions taken by Canadian government… done on my behalf.

            Yes, this is an ugly and uncomfortable truth… most truths about history are. As settlers we do not have any right to be here but we are here as guests…. can you explain by what “right” you live on unceded territory?
            Going to England and claiming the land mine is the same as what happened here in Canada. These lands were already ‘settled’ and were the home of Indigenous peoples from time immemorial. Can you explain how you settle already occupied lands? What do you call that?

      • Janet E.

        There are areas of First Nations land that are being very profitably mined and/or water used by corporations and the government for purposes for which the natives did not give permission, have no access, and are not receiving recompense. This would be unacceptable by all other Canadians. Natives were moved to reserves, small enough that they have difficulty maintaining anything other than a subsistence life – for that they gave up much more land and water areas, in trade for government support. Equality means paying them much more for the resources we are still basically stealing from them by mining on what is left of their land, without compensating them. Your point about the small tax base, you should make to all needy Canadians who are unable to be a part of contributing tax – newborn babies, the sick and very old, school children. Yes, in that last statement I am being facetious, only to make the point that Canadian natives are in a very bad situation, and most Canadians do not understand that, you choose instead to criticise them as if they had a choice about being moved to these reserves, which they rightly hold on to as all they have left.

      • colonial canadian

        Your concerns are sadly common, I say sadly because they are not rooted in the truth. Firstly, please read up on tax exemptions before you make bold statements like the one above. Tax exemptions enjoyed by status people are few in reality. What about a conversation of these exemptions alongside the exemptions that you and I enjoy as non-Indigenous people in Canada? What about discussing the lands that we live on and make our incomes from… and the fact they were likely stolen from Indigenous people?

        Debt, yes a concern but not the fault of tax exemptions to a small number of people and small amounts if at all…. do your homework before you start to feed the many myths that fuel the animosity and resentment towards Indigenous peoples.

  • thefreechannel

    Harper, the political strategy genius. Will enter the Laureate Hall of Fame – Great Leaders in History: Harper, Churchill and Abraham Lincoln sigh

    • Jen R

      He is a strategist for sure, but I hope he will not be alongside Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, who I envision as having truly thought about the people they served.

      • Steve Abbott

        I suspect TFC may have been being facetious. Nevertheless, although it is an aside, I feel compelled to suggest deeper reading on the monster that was Winston Churchill. He was a lover of war and a bully, and has largely been deified by his own distorted writings about himself. In this sense, Harper may indeed stand with him.

        • thefreechannel

          You’ve got a point Steve. Facetious – only way to deal with a phenomenon like Harper :{

      • thefreechannel

        Jen, on my Facebook today, after reading that Harper is planning to sell armoured tanks to Colombia, I also said that our dear boy Stevie will also enter to the Laureate Hall of Fame of political strategic genius: Napoleon, Harper and Julius Caesar. Arming a narco-state sigh New category: political strategy challenged, not political strategy able (sigh again)

    • Sandra Currie

      you’re joking, right?

      • thefreechannel

        That’s what to do when you see you’re dealing with a mind that will never learn, Sandra: you sigh – then you joke :)


    constitutional protection of nature itself? Could we not start designing a path to replace the Indian Act, establish a set of meaningful goals to ensure that all children on this piece of Turtle Island, indigenous and non-indigenous, have equal access to proper education, safe drinking water, decent health care and safe housing? Could we not live up to our promises of treaties past and lay the groundwork to a future premised on the respectful sharing of this land? I believe we can. In fact, we must. I LOVE YOU. I might add, ON THE JOB TRAINING, IN MINING, OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION, ETC…..

  • Marilyn Kennedy

    Thank you Elizabeth May.

  • margsview

    As usual thank you for the tone and honesty of this article. Would like to also have like to have seen information tying in the two White Papers of 1969 under the liberal party and the second White Paper expanding on the same attack on First Nations under the conservative party. Take care.

  • Jocelyn

    Thank you for this! I am so appreciative of your thoughtful responses. They help give me clarity amidst all the biased media stories that are flying around.

  • Brian olynek

    YES it’s time for action for each of us to be IDLE NO MORE. What can you or i do to bring some sanity to this world??

  • Peter Hayford Stephenson

    Leaking your own reports to smear someone is evidence that the government has no moral compass whatsoever. We need leadership, not authoritarian bullies in this country.

    • Dana Govang

      The report was not leaked. CBC requested it through an Access to Information request. But I do agree on your authoritarian bullies statement.

      • Glenna June Miles

        CBC said it was leaked to them. Evan Solomon said it was leaked to them . Access to Information in after the fact not before.

    • brumman

      It shouldn’t need to have been “leaked” – this is important and relevant information to the real state of affairs on native reserves. I reserve the term ‘nation’ for real ones!!!

      It is not stereotyping to point out the widespread corruption, mismanagement and control by terror which takes place on many reserves. It is NOT as Ms May parrots “a distraction” but a fundamental issue. How much longer will Canadians keep handing out money to these people who then try to blame us for their unlivable conditions. As already mentioned the Provincial system has better control over funds for non-indigenous recipients. But the problem here is everyone’s fear of being called racist – stand up for what is right for ALL people in the country not just a few who claim descent from earlier transient inhabitants and special treatment for ever as a result!
      I am very disappointed in Ms May, ready to jump on the same bandwagon because it can be connected with her green ideas. Actually native people given free reign and the ability to make money would soon wipe out the environment they claim to revere. There are numerous examples I can quote – but destroying fish and caribou stocks are examples..

      • Naomi Fraser

        you forget that Canada is not ceded land and it and its resources
        legally belong to First Nations people. we’ve paid a lot for this
        country. And the settler population could never even begin to catch up
        and pay back everything that has be extracted and consumed already. We
        are not even the heaviest allotment in the government use of funds. Go
        look at how much you pay for this government and ask me how that is fair
        or responisible.

  • Charles

    Harper is in the pocket of the multi-nationals and his sole purpose is to sell whatever Canada has to the highest bidder. Regard for people, health or the environment is non-existant if it means less money. Although he is creating jobs what is their real worth when the land, water and air is being poisoned for generations? Will those people working the oil fields feel the job was justified when they become sick with cancers, their children are either miscarried, born deformed or die young from various illnesses? Look at the Reserve near Sarnia if you want to see the future for Alberta. But Harper has the people of Canada pegged right. We’re apathetic and most will go with the quick buck so he’ll forge ahead with his steel-toed boots.

    • Patti

      I’ve heard that clean energy creates more than 10x the jobs that dirty energy does. If it were really about jobs we wouldn’t be here.

    • Purple Library Guy

      Not even the highest bidder, more’s the pity. It seems to be more a matter of getting the stuff out the door as fast as possible.

    • jarobertson6

      Don’t forget that some foreign companies have license to import workers from their own countries instead of hiring Canadians. That is certainly not creating jobs for Canadians.

    • concerned

      couln’t agree more!

    • EddieMarriage

      Now, I am no fan of the Ottawa Sun; nor of any “Sun” for that matter. I find most private enterprise newspapers — in my opinion — to be nothing more than a bunch of advertising flyers, interspersed with heavily opinionated right-wing diatribe, and a bit of actual ‘news’ sprinkled here and there. And, to me, the “Suns” take the cake.

      But I can not help wonder if Christina Blizzard has actually made a few good points. What has been the impact of the De Beers IBA? How much money has De Beers poured in to Attawapiskat?

      And what did it do? How was it spent? And why is housing still deplorable on that Reserve?

      • geo

        The diamond royalties go to the province of ontario not attawapiskkat

  • Janice Colvill

    Thank You Elizabeth, for this writing!

  • jrp2248

    Great article.

  • andria

    Thank you!

  • Phil Sigmund

    Well said Elizabeth! As I see it migrant populations from Europe and elsewhere should understand that First Nation’s peoples are the America’s “Sons of the Soil” and as such should be accorded proper respect. What has happened over the past 600years is truly shameful.

  • Proud Canadian

    While your general thrust is correct, let us not totally absolve some – if not many – of the Aboriginal leadership for their part in the fiasco that is evident in ‘on Reserve’ Aboriginal management. Yes the Department in Ottawa and the myriad consultants are criminal in their negative effects. So too are the internal rent seekers that comprise much of the Aboriginal leadership. If anything is to be learned let it be that all parties must act responsibly and with proper public oversight. Only then will all Canadians – regardless of “Status” – benefit.

    • Sandra Currie

      There is no question that there is corruption in the First Nations leadership. By the abuse we’ve heaped on those people, there is no doubt that some sociopaths have been created. The society in which we are they live enables sociopaths to reach the head of institutions. I don’t think Chief Spence is one, but if you google Harper + psychopath, you’ll see I’m not alone in thinking our PM is.

  • jrp2248

    Undoubtedly, something must be done to increase accountability on all sides for the benefit of all sides, especially the average first nations Canadians. One would think that 150+ years after Confederation, that we would have systems in place to ensure drinking water, schools and health care. We all need to look in the mirror!

  • vegguy

    Thank you Elizabeth!
    Keep up the good work.
    It is hard to accept that Canadians have elected this Fascist racist government. It is impossible to find anything positive to say about Harper and his sell out of Canada and the Canadian people plus his disdain for democracy and justice.
    I need to be reminded constantly that we can and must defeat him. It seems like such a long time until an election and his destructive power knows no limits.
    This evil must be removed. I need to temper my anger and focus my efforts on working to make the changes happen. My hope is that once we get rid of them, we can find a way to ensure that we never slip to this level of apathy again.
    Harper’s legacy to Canada must be an awareness of a need for vigilance.

    • Barry

      Words like “Fascist racist government” are absolutely not helpful and you’ll note that Elizabeth May never speaks like that.

      • Francien Verhoeven

        She doesn’t have to. There are enough of you to do the name calling when talking about Harper. And yes, they are very helpful to Ms.May.

      • brumman

        I would agree that Harper shows disdain for democracy and justice.and clearly promotes a private big -corporation agenda. I utterly opposed to him and his government cronies in particular, and the conservative party in general, but there are some things he has got right – this “native” problem is one of them

    • Mark

      If you can’t find *anything* positive to say about Harper’s government, then you are not trying very hard.

      • vegguy

        And if you’re not outraged. you either don’t care or are not paying attention.

        • Mark

          I am constantly outraged by people stroking the partisan pole, whether they be Tories, Liberals, Greens, or from that orange party.

          I’m willing to bet Ms. May could come up with something, even just one thing, positive to say about Harper.

          • Jeff Beck

            I doubt that

          • Edna Chadwick

            Is there anything (positive) ???

          • Mark

            I already provided one example. There are plenty of others. I’m no fan of Harper but, unlike most staunch “believers” (Green or otherwise), I don’t have my head so far up my ass that I cannot admit to any of the positive changes Harper’s gov’t has made.

          • Francien Verhoeven

            An adult amongst the children.Good idea. :)

          • concerned and rightly so

            your ignorance shows, the orange party is NDP, and the party [with the seats to keep the peace] that sees equality for Canada

          • Mark

            Um, thanks for that. Yeah, as a Canadian of some 40 years I kind of knew the “orange party” was the NDP. I was being facetious.

          • Francien Verhoeven

            Of course she could but she won’t. Don’t you remember in one of the election debates, the one year the party leaders all sat around the table and Ms.May was invited? At one point, Aikin, the moderator, asked each party leader to say something positive about the party leader sitting to the left of them.

            All party leaders managed to say something nice about the person sitting to the left of them EXCEPT Ms.May who happened to sit next to Mr.Harper and she flat out refused to say anything positive about Mr.Harper. Period.

            This is just one example of how to point out the hypocritical behaviour of Ms.May.

        • Francien Verhoeven

          Don’t you remember in one of the election debates, the one year the party leaders all sat around the table and Ms.May was invited? At one point, Aikin, the moderator, asked each party leader to say something positive about the party leader sitting to the left of them.

          All party leaders managed to say something nice about the person
          sitting to the left of them EXCEPT Ms.May who happened to sit next to Mr.Harper and she flat out refused to say anything positive about
          Mr.Harper. Period.

          This is just one example of how to point out the hypocritical behaviour of Ms.May.

          • vegguy

            I think you have hypocritical confused with honest – mate. There is nothing hypocritical about refusing to create a lie for the sake of appearances.

          • JennR

            At every Elizabet May Town Hall meeting I’ve attended, she mentions that there are a lot of good parliamentarians in all parties, and builds on that point. Her refusal in the one instance mentioned simply tells a truth.

          • Francien Verhoeven

            That is not what I posted about. My comment was in regards to the election debates in which Ms.May participated, the one where all the party leaders were sitting around the table.

            The truth is that Ms.May is motivated by hate. How else to explain that she could not find one, not one positive thing to say about Mr.Harper when asked by Paikin.

            And why do you feel the need to mention other instances when Ms,May has spoken about parliamentarians? My post wasn’t about that. My post was about Ms.May in regards to Mr.Harper.

          • Jan Slakov

            I am quite sure Elizabeth said he must love his children, or something like that. … As for the good Harper has done. Well, he did not prevent Minister Ritz from changing his mind on getting rid of the plant health centre in Saanich. They did enlarge the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve…

          • Francien Verhoeven

            NO she could not say anything nice. All the other leaders could find something positive to say about the other party leaders but Ms.May could not when being called upon.

            I am not making this up. Ms.May is motivated by hate. How could her followers accept that as being the right thing to do.

      • Joseph Romain

        I’m not sure I could find anything good to say about them… except maybe that they only have a couple years left…

        • Mark

          He contributed $7m to Coquitlam to expand their light rail.

          See, that wasn’t so hard.

          • Glenna June Miles

            Is that all you have? Did it help someone get re-elected? Like Tony Clement spending 50 million in his riding that was supposed to be for Border Security.

          • Mark

            It’s all I’m willing to waste time finding for you. Any twit with a computer can find more examples. The conjecture was that there is *nothing* Harper has done that can be considered positive. I provided an example of a positive thing Harper did thereby proving the original conjecture wrong.

            News flash Glenna: Politicians spend public money. And it helps them get reelected. Are you suggesting that a Prime Minister Elizabeth May would not spend public money or that her spending public money would somehow not influence her re-electibility?

            People like you are always outraged about what the other team is doing it. Until your team starts doing, then you manage to justify it. At the end of the day it your team and their team and the other team that are the problems. Us vs. them, then vs. us, and so the cycle continues.

      • Peter

        While the Harper government has perhaps done some good, many of us feel that he has done far more harm to the country as a whole. Many of us are even more concerned that the legacy of Harper will far outlive his tenure as Prime Minister. I speak specifically about a number of Bills that have been rammed through parliament, the gutting of the environmental protection act, and navigable waterways act. I am sure that we will not know the full extent of the damage done until the conservative party is removed from office.

        • Mark

          Peter, agreed. Harper has pushed through all kinds of disagreeable stuff. Don’t you think it is better for all of us if we are able to see the good and the bad? Instead of the frantic flag waving? My team vs. your team? We’ll accomplish nothing until we stop screeching at each other. If any one person reduces their politics to a colour, they are no longer capable of participating in useful political discourse.

  • Darren Gregory

    Thank you, again, for speaking out! Good words, with gracious intent! :0)

  • Donna Martin

    Thank you so much, Your view is wise, compassionate and clear. Canada needs you.

  • Cliff Esler

    It seems fundamental that all Canadians should have transparently equal access to proper education, safe drinking water, standardized health care, and by implication, unimpeded fair access to proper jobs, food and housing. Surely these are all “enshrined” rights. First Nations principals should press for legal reconfirmation of this simple fact with one voice, and the rest of us should actively press our MPs and provincial governments to support them. It’s hard to imagine the Harper machine trying to unwind the Canadian Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That would be grounds for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all citizens. Implementation may still be a long road, but let’s not be complicit through apathy toward the status quo!

    • Mark

      What if they live in a region where it is prohibitively expensive to provide these services and they refuse to move? And aren’t you confounding Federal and Provincial responsibility?

      • Arachne646

        Prohibitively expensive to provide high speed digital access, for equal access to the job market, perhaps, but adequate housing, clean water, and some basic health care access is not too much to ask anywhere in the world, according to the Millenium Development Goals. Canadians should neither be living in “3rd World” conditions, nor should they have to give up living in the area in which they were born and signed certain binding agreements with the Crown. You may have forgotten who was here first.

        • Mark

          I am reminded on a very regular basis who was here first. What of it?

          There comes a time when we need to let the past be the past. Or are “Canadians” bound by some universal law to give special consideration to the people who were here first in perpetuity? Maybe I should go hit up the Brits for their treatment of the Scots? Perhaps I am entitled some perpetual compensation. It is long past time for the people who were here first to join the rest of us in Canadian Society.

          No Canadian should have to live in 3rd world conditions. That doesn’t mean any Canadian has the right to live in a location where providing these basic services is prohibitively expensive.

          • Arachne646

            Perhaps you should consult the Constitution. Canadians have basic human rights, and there is no proviso that you must live within X miles of the 49th Parallel to collect on them. There are also treaties signed with the Crown. Many of them provide for “Indians” giving up lands in exchange for the Crown providing necessaries of life. Canada, unlike other States, has not been in the habit of just ignoring treaties when they become inconvenient, but if you say so, well….

          • Dorle733

            It’s your kind of attitude/ignorance that perpetuates the shameful conditions of the aboriginals.

          • Mark

            I’m pretty certain it is not my attitude that perpetuates the shameful conditions of these fellow Canadians.

          • louise

            There does come a time when we need to let the past be the past, but it isn’t now. Although you and i may not have contributed to the condition of many reserves and their people, we have benefited handsomely from the resources of this land – at the expense of indigenous people. Until we understand and state this clearly, nothing can be let go.
            Many reserve people live where they do because of Indian Affairs. Where they live is not a simple question. Nor is their financial management. I’ve been staying in Indian country for 35 years and I’m just beginning to understand the depth of harm that has been visited upon them, and how I have benefited by their sacrifice.
            Don’t bother doing the math – do the research.

          • vegguy

            With all due respect, Mark- I think your colour is showing.

          • Mark

            With all due respect vegguy, would you like to elaborate? What colour would that be? And what precisely do you mean?

          • vegguy

            While you attack everone else for “being partisan”,you leap to support forced assimilation that is only policy for one political party in this country. The cost for adequate reparations is not sufficient excuse to deny basic human rights and standard services to all Canadians (unless you are supporting a party who will spend 10 times that cost on unnecessary airplanes or unneeded prisons).
            The legislated “special rights” you so disdain are there because the Canadian government has refused to offer fair compensation to make changes and get rid of the Indian Act. The cost of maintaining the DINA is another huge administrative burden. Harper’s answer is to force the FN to assimilate so he can give away more to his corporate owners. Can you say “Ja vol”?

          • Mark

            Ah yes, the nazi trope … last refuge of the outraged.

            Integration, not assimilation. Please don’t assume to know my thoughts.

          • Glenna June Miles

            The FN have an agreement with the Crown and Canada. They aren’t aren’t asking for things that are not stipulated as their right/share for agreeing to share this country. There is enough to go around. They were ‘placed’ in a lot of those inhospitable areas and needed ‘permission’ to leave them. Left to their own defences without recourse . Punished beyond belief by having their children stolen from them. If you have a legitimate claim against the Brits go and pursue it.

      • Dan

        Mark, I believe that if I choose to live remotely(and I do), then if I require services not available in my community, then I must go to the nearest offering. I do expect that when I arrive I will be treated as an equal to the guy who lives next door. We don’t have that even now. Realistically, we cannot have all we want where we live, however we as individuals should be able to choose where we live and accept the conditions under which those choices are made.

        • Paul D

          I absolutely agree with you (and I’d guess Mark does too).

          For my own education (as a city dweller), can you explain how/why when you “go to the nearest offering”, you aren’t “treated as an equal to the guy who lives next door”? If that’s true, I agree with you that it’s wrong (with the exception of jurisdiction – e.g. if the nearest offering actually a happens to be in a different country or province then that’s a separate issue.)

        • Mark

          Agreed. We should all be free to choose where we want to live in Canada, but we must all accept that we may be giving certain things up by choosing to live in certain places.

    • Jeff Beck

      Now there’s an idea ! A classaction suit against Harper.

  • Ray Letts

    Kudos! Well said with good information, background dispelling their tarnishing tactics of her image and a call to working together constructively to lay the groundwork for a new beginning.

  • KMN, Nelson BC

    If only you were Prime Minister!

  • sclarson

    Thank you Elizabeth, for once agin being the voice of reason, clear thinking and accurate information in this sea of ugly spin.

  • Joanne Hutchinson

    I am so pleased that these issues are finally being heard and are in the forefront of the news. There are so many Canadians who do not see that the state of our aboriginal peoples is a direct result of our inattention to a peoples who live in a harsh
    environment trying to find a happy medium between their culture and modern living. I would compare it to the people of Tibet who have lived as nomads for centuries and are now placed in townhouses, in villages with nothing to do. They too are turning to alcohol. Everyone needs a purpose. We are now seeing the political leaders of our aboriginal people better able to assist and speak for their people. I think we should allow funding for the aboriginal leaders to build trade schools on the reservations to train them to build their own communities. They could have a restaurant/guest house/art & cultural centre/ agriculture & animal husbandry right in the school. It would attract tourism and teach the younger generation several skills. I am in the process of setting up such a school in Zambia Africa and would be happy to share my model. Thank you Joanne, Toronto

    • concerned

      As much as we like to help, the fact is there is a very small tax payer base in Canada and we are in debt. Wher should all that money come from?

      • Joanne Hutchinson

        Very good point! But we have all of these non profit organizations helping communities all over the world. Why not in our own back yard. I emailed World Vision and asked if they were helping our Canadian communities and they said yes. Maybe they could do more. I bet there are a lot of Canadians who would gladly sponsor one of there own rather than some one in another country. We just need some one to organize it all. The school I have in mind would be “primarily” self sufficient. It would grow it’s own food, make there own clothing, furniture, etc. There are many teachers in Canada waiting for jobs. This proposition is very possible!

  • pongopup

    Well Said!!!

  • K. Sandford-Albarda

    Thank you. Very clear and informative.

  • R.J.

    Amazing! Elizabeth, don’t ever give up, you are a ray of hope! Why is it that almost no one else in our government can function or speak in a respectable, responsible fashion? Time and again, your articles and actions secure my vote for the Green Party.

  • Gerry Bates

    Thank you, Elizabeth!

  • paula jardine

    Thank you very much. I think many many canadians are excited to support this grassroots first nations movement because it is led by first nations, and because we have been increasingly uncomfortable with the actions of successive governments – especially this one.

    • Susan Reddekop

      Why are you monopolizing this space???

  • Barry

    It’s dangerous to so quickly dismiss concerns about the Attawapiskat audit as “We simply don’t know”. What we do know is that they are asking for more money, while not being accountable for the money they’ve already received. That’s really not acceptable – period.

    I do appreciate May’s comment about a “path to replace the Indian Act”. At the end of the day, I think the real solution to the poverty and poor human welfare on reserves is not improved record keeping, or even spending more money, it’s the elimination of the Indian Act. Obviously it hasn’t helped the First Nations, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that it is also a source of resentment to others that there are different rights/rules for different people based on their ancestry.

    I’d like to hear more about what the “path to replace the Indian Act” might be, and what it might lead to.

  • Robert McFarland

    Time for a positive change. We can no longer sit back and watch our environment and quality of life wither away through corporate greed.

  • David

    you put everything in amazing perspective! thanks so much!

  • Pokey000

    Mr. Harper is PM, but he has proven time after time that he is the enemy of all Canadians & should be removed from office.

    • Mark

      Enemy of all Canadians except all the ones who keep voting him in to office you mean.

      • Mary Prankster

        Do your homework, Mark. Check on the Elections Canada website. Note the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries in favour of conservative members. Note also the overall numbers of votes for those same members. Less than third of people who bothered to vote chose conservatives in the last election, yet, thanks to our “first past the post” system, that was enough to elect this disastrous government. I’ll say something positive about Harper. He knows how to manipulate the parliamentary system and the apathetic electorate better than anyone currently in government, which is why he’s still in office. (e.g. prorogation, omnibus bills, silencing his caucus, etc., etc.)

        Also, HE didn’t “contribute $7 mil. to Coquitlam’s light rail system”. He chose to use taxpayer’s money where he thought it could buy him votes in future. He’s by no means alone in that method of use, but he’s most effective at it and flagrant about it. (Is that a “positive” in your thinking?)

        • Mark

          “He chose to use taxpayer’s money where he thought it could buy him votes in future.”

          So, what would would you have called if Ms. May had directed that $7m to Coquitlam?

        • Mark

          And more of the same … “I’ll say something positive about Harper … he’s really good at being EVIL! That’s positive right?! HUH HUH HUH”. Good one Mary P, good one.

          All our governments get elected by FPP. If Ms. May won the next election it would also be by FPP. I suspect you might not mind so much then (I wouldn’t mind either). I’d love to see some electoral reform myself. Dump FPP, make the senate an elected body and for pitys sake, outlaw political parties.

  • Rick Shaw

    Thank you Elizabeth! The truth is very hard to find in these matters and I believe you can bring some of it to light. We must ignore the spin doctoring and concentrate on fixing what is wrong with our dealings with native peoples.


    I’m afraid that clever Mr Harper speaks a ‘language’ which is, very sadly, spoken in living rooms and pubs all over Canada – not by the majority, but by a vocal minority who are sure they have been dealt a bad hand and could be a lot wealthier and more powerful if it weren’t for some group of ‘other’ people who ‘don’t work hard like me’… Harper is using an old and rather terrifying concept: find a despised minority (or a powerless non-minority) and focus the attention of an uneasy electorate on them. Europe’s Jews in the 1930′s; Europe’s Roma today; Rawanda’s Tutsis in 1994; South Africa’s black people in Apartheid times.
    Thank you Elizabeth for all you do. This article is amazing. Which media outlets have published it? It so needs to be read in full, published on paper in a mainstream outlet.

    • Linda

      You raise a good point. Mr Harper has a potent ally in the state of Israel. Internationally, he is being acknowledged as Israel’s most staunch supporter. This is a state that has taken the occupation of another people, the Palestinians to another level, another form of apartheid. Israel exports its oppressive and suppressive technology to its allies, so Harper is well schooled. We can tell a lot about people by looking at who they hang out with!.

  • Karyn Lehmann

    Thank you for a truly real response to the situation with only the welfare of the people in mind rather than a political agenda!

  • Anne Jardine

    In this letter, Elizabeth May has given the most Prime Ministerial statement I have seen on this subject!

  • Rob Bear

    “We are all treaty people.” We all have a stake in how the treaties are implemented, for the benefit of everyone.
    Thank you, Ms. May.

  • Jean-Guy Levesque

    Well worth reading to understand and see ” The Big Picture ” . Years of promises with never an intent to fullfill…… isn’t that what politics is and has been from the start….. each one party blaming his predecessor when in office…each one not being able to accomplish much because not one party can work hand in hand with the other….. because each party has different visions of what is right…. each is pulling in different directions…… until a new leader steps in and now comes still an effort to kill the past and plan a new future, repeating past errors in the process….. Have they not learned anything …. starving one’s self is not the answer….. it is time to stand united with one vision….. a vision of equality for all the People of Canada, not a vision for the mighty dollar sign….. may peace come soon….. before every thing falls into pieces….

  • Victor Woods

    Well written article this is.

    Perhaps the recommendations of the 1996 report, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People can be implemented? Equality, equality and equality would be gained by all of us.

  • Janet

    Thank you once again for your insight and articulate thoughts on this problem. Since Harper has been in power I have this constant fear of the direction our country is heading. You are such an important voice of reason and compassion. I support the Idle No More movement and believe that the more the rest of us educate ourselves on the realities
    and FACTS of the plight facing First Nations Communities, then the quicker some meaningful change can start to happen.

  • Joanne

    I hope you become our next PM! You have a way to explain complicated political issues to all Canadians… so we can understand what is really happening in Ottawa. Thank you from Northern Ontario.

  • belle400

    Once again – thanks Elizabeth. We not only need to be rid of the Harperites, we need a deep reflective critical analysis of all we are loosing and how; a vision of life with dignity for all that is not only authentically sustainable but enables all to have a high quality of life; and a multi-faceted strategy for achieving this with ideas on how how each of us can contribute to its co-creation. We need to stop giving energy to the frustration of Mr. Harper et al being in the service of global corporations but destroying our country in our name is creating. We need to challenge the notion enculcated within us by the likes of the Fraser Institute and the CCCE that government can not work for the common good and well-being of all – and demand that it works in our interest … all is connected.

  • Patricia Anne Garrett- Onesi

    You are awesome and completely right! There is so much more to this than Chief Spence , can we imagine this tyrannical government run amok what Canada will look like in 20-50 years? Water will be the new oil and guess what, and who blew it, not to mention a billion other things as well. I hope this is a revolution of ethics and environmental/humanitarian and anti-bias …..please let it work…for all of our children.

  • L Peters

    Thank you so much for providing a thoughtful, balanced, considerate and informed opinion which reinforces my long-standing respect for you Ms. May. Thank you for acknowledging, as we all must, that the Canadian federal government (and by extension, Canadians) are failing First Nations people. The very least everyone can do is to inform themselves, without bias, on the basic issues, injustices and solutions. This article is a good step!

  • Jacques B. Nimbelle

    Good Day, Green Girlfriend,

    Thank you for looking out for all of us voters in the House of Commons. If someone like you didn’t bring some common sense to this august house, I don’t know where we’d all be…it must be crazy making sometimes.

    In my house and business dealings, we have a rule called ‘paper for paper’…meaning for every dollar out we have a receipt in. Pretty simple. If Ottawa asked for some proper book-keeping to be done regularly, so that there is a trail of where government money goes then we voters, the government, and all band members would know where the accountability lies. Then, if schools need to be built, septic systems need to be upgraded, or roofs need to be repaired, everybody would know who holds the purse.

    Government is not blameless either, as they are often less than transparent. But before a band is placing 9 million dollars into the stock-market casinos, they should be looking after the welfare of their people, doncha think?

    Absolutely agree with actions like in Ecuador and Bolivia..protecting Mother Earth as an over arching principle, but let’s clean up the basics of Health, Housing, Education for these people first, by making them and government accountable and open, eh??

    • concerned

      ABSOLUTELY! Couldn’t agree more! There is not only one Chief that walked off with a few million to some Carrinean island! Chief Spenceherself makes hundreds of thousands of salary. Accountability is a foreign word to many forst Nation people. I spent time on reserves, trust me. How far in debt does Canada wan to go?

  • Patricia Ward

    Until Attawapiskat and other tribes like them have enough resources to assume self-government, they are the responsibility of the Federal Government who put them on reserves in the first place. The Gov’t needs to oversee the accounting, etc.

  • Robert Kennedy

    Thank you for this thoughtful statement.

    • mych

      In the extensive commentary I have read about Attawapiskat’s remote location, I have yet to see someone remind us that we need to occupy the lands we call Canada. The many remote First Nation and Inuit communities serve this function on behalf of all Canadians. I have received firsthand accounts of how, in the extreme uninhabited North, the Canadian forces perform this function by being dropped off and going on a walkabout with camping gear for weeks at a time. Imagine how expensive that is. Remote communities (notably Inuit) perform a national function as Northern Rangers … I have seen an entire school gym filled with high school students and community members practising. Remote communities maintain a knowledge of the land and what is happening year-round to the animals and the waters, through their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering activities. This knowledge is evolutionary, and an accretion of generations. It is accessed by southern researchers who can only do field work during limited windows of time, Many remote community members come and go from their home reserves on a regular basis, using them as “bases”. Any federal initiative to relocate remote communities for economic reasons would indicate to me that “somebody” wishes to remove resident eyes and ears for reasons that can only be suspect.

  • Sharon

    Our lawyer, who is on Canada’s Immigration Board (and not happy with the actions taken by Ottawa with regard to immigration) told us last spring, that we have hope for the future of Canada and a turning of the tide, from three sources; our First Nations people, who have tremendous powers to make change, our lawyers (he smiled and said the word “ironically” when he told us this), in the form of the highest Canadian courts, and an awakening of the Canadian people from their years of slumber and lack of interest on what they have to lose. Thank you Elizabeth May! I forward your emails to one of my activist friends in California, and she would love to see you as our PM or as her President. We get first dibs!!

    • concerned

      wow! Sharon, right on!

  • Donna M. Dodds

    Well spoken, Elizabeth. The ‘Idle No More Movement’ is made up of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples of Canada..and I agree we must step back re what is happening from 2005 – 2011 at Attiwaspikat with regard to Chief Spence taking over in 2010 as the elected Chief…and re ‘supposed accusations’ in regard to Chief Spence…we need the full picture…for sure…re finances there…and now we must hear and see the Prime Minister’s responsible action of a working and meaningful meeting tomorrow..(hopefully with Chief Spencer and the Governor General taking part somehow)…with all the First Nation’s Chiefs. We are at a doubt about it – in our beloved Canada.

    Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives must be held accountable re the omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 and in regards to the unratified and yes very deplorable Canada-China Investment Treaty signed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper in Sept. 2012 in all regards – Indigenous and Non-indigenous people are affected by it – but especially the First Nations people of Canada!

    I agree totally with Chief Atleo..we must build on a Nation to Nation relationship – NOW!!

    Thank you for an informative, as usual, article…well done and please keep me on your list…(from up here in the Comox Valley and formerly from your riding on Saltspring Island) – as Leader of the Green Party. Keep up the good works! Best wishes for 2013.



  • concerned

    I have come to expect nothing better from Harper, unfortunately. He has no intention of negotiating in good faith with First Nations. It is clear he wants their land for resource development at any cost – to anyone but himself and his corporate buddies. It is a sad time for Canada. Bravo to those who stand up to his bully tactics, knowing full well how they will be treated. More of us need to do that same. It’s time for the left to get together and work together to oust this man and his “boys” before they destroy even more of Canada than they have so far. No one opposition party can do it alone. It’s time to be strategic or this WILL be the “Steven Harper government” for a very long time to come. .

  • CR

    really should any of us be surprised that corruption is prevalent in every society including native peoples perhaps they learned it from the rest of us .I consider myself linked to the indigenous movement but for different reasons native people can be just as ignorant, greedy and indiferent as any race of people we are ALL GUILTY for doing nothing and even more guilty for our selfish lust for comfort , money at the expense of other cultures including the NORTH AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE ! No one wants to be accountable for fear of it disrupting their personal comfort zone ! So what is the answere to this unfolding DRAMA your guess is as good as mine “you say you want a revolution well we are all doing what we can

  • Chimosabe

    governments and corporations like to keep the people arguing among themselves so as to distract the people from from more important issues,namely, their hidden agendas involving foreign policy and sneaking laws through the further suppress us debt slaves.These latest moves by the government regarding indigenous peoples are,I believe, designed to do the above mentioned.

    Ownership of land and resources was never a thought in the native mind ;anymore than owing the air we breathe. The resources belong to all of us and should be treated as such.Having two sets of rules has got to be the most stupid concept anybody could possibly dream up for a socio/democratic society.Gotta ask yourself WHY anybody would do that!? It`s the modis operandi of the USA that destabilizes countries in order to try to ,ultimately control them; and Canada is no different,with Harper at the helm. He works for the corporations.

    So, let`s not fall for it.

  • Peter

    Thank you Ms. May. I am proud that you are my member of parliament.

  • Ron Kinch

    Elizabeth, as always your clear communication of respect and of historical facts would make you an excellent candidate for judicial appointment.
    Your insight into the games that go on at the pinnacle of power known as The Hill make your role vital beyond that of a referee.
    You are a player with more ice time that anyone.
    Keep up the Press Releases and the cheers for those who play fair, who speak with intelligence to gain the attention they need toward a change in the score.
    As the Prophet once said, Do Justice, Love Mercy and walk Humbly…in all these you do it with passion. We’re cheering for you.

  • John Northey

    Funny how the general media has not said one word in all the articles I’ve ready about Theresa Spence only being elected chief in 2010. That means this audit is like blaming Harper for what happened from 2000-2006 even though the vast majority of that time the Liberals were in power. Guess that means Harper should take the blame for the Quebec advertising scandal then.

    • JennR

      Agreed John… except for the Globe and Mail where ‘reporting’ is still their main business and made this information available, along with many other facts that are missing from mainstream media.

      My concern is that a great number of the population form their opinions and decisions on what mainstream media provides. If we look at ‘popular media’ things reach a point where they deserve a libel suit for their misinformation.

    • Lynn M. Morrison

      I have seen this information in media several times.. SunNews, Global and a few others… She was elected chief in 2010 but has been part of the Band Council for many years previous to that

  • Louise Booth

    Thank you, Elizabeth for putting the issues in the broader context and including a look not only at the audits of federal spending but also the eroding of more programs and non-consultation. You are a true gift to Canadians.

  • M. Kelly

    Excellent letter. Informative and enlightening.
    Keep up the great work.

  • Janice Arandelovic

    I see that too loud and clear; they are speaking for all canadians.Harper and his cronies should be help accountable for their spending and non spending of bureaucracy as well.I’m sure elizabeth knows that political bashing inthe media and on parliament gains nothing and is totally unnecessary as they reduce themselvees to the kindergarten kid mentality of fighting over the prize toy to gain control.Their budget cuts to science of testing the waters and not standing up for the kyoto accord do not speak well for their track record.

  • Carl Pentilchuk

    Very good article. The national government (and public in general) clearly need to get serious about the unacceptable situation (social, economic, overall well-being) at many Reserves. Never ending reports depicting the widespread squalor, drug addiction, FAS, idleness, fiscal management questions, etc. are personally very depressing. I’ve witnessed things first hand!!! Over the decades, I’ve had extensive dealings with Reserves both in Manitoba and B.C. And, I had childhood friends that were First Nations persons. (Not much has changed in 30 years). It’s far, far from simply funding more homes, Band jobs, etc. that supports the nepotism that I’ve witness in several communities. A key factor in my view is the general absence of “personal ownership” and associated “sweat equity”, etc. that is critical to sustaining anything for any length of time. The practice of outside contractors building homes that are handed to band members without any personal input is simply crazy. In short order homes become unliveable because of the absence of appropriate care and upkeep; most often simply due to unfamiliarity – critical home owner ongoing inputs, e.g. minor maintenance, moisture control, etc. For example, even Habitat for Humanity requires a contribution from house recipients. Frankly, I speak with personal experience dealing with very limited means. We were a large rural family in Manitoba living off what little our subsistence farm could produce, in a very small shack (dirt floor in the sleeping area), immigrant father was illiterate, etc. …..yet I and several siblings completed university degrees.
    Give the opportunity, community leadership (and role models) a turn around is achievable; it must be. Our local band in Kamloops, B.C is a great example.

    Thanks you from speaking forcefully on this matter. As a taxpayer I am quite happy to do my part in ending the ugly legacy. It’s certainly very complex and throwing money aimlessly is useless if not disasterious….as we well know.

  • Joseph Romain

    You are amazing. The soundest sound in Ottawa.
    If you joined Tom Mulcair, you could win. As it is, you will remain the smartest and loneliest voice in Ottawa. I sure hope you can find a way to pull the opposition together and remove this blight from our country. (The blight is, of course, the poisonous Mr. Harper.)

  • neworldawn

    Thank you remind me that a knee-jerk reaction to these kind of deep and soul searching social issues is never good enough. The ‘coffee-shop-gab’ to blame the victim and, thus, make the problem go under the rug…or in the case, go under the snow is understandable…shamefull but understandable. I even found myself doing this…ie blame the natives themselves for their lack of leadership and needed financial skills. Shame on me for this. They are, in fact, in many parts of our country …refugees. Refugees from a social and racial and buissness conflict that has not stopped since Buissness and Commerce hit the shores of New France and Hudson’s Bay. The average native is simply on the front line of this constant assualt of Dollars vs Decency and is the first to fall. If we , as a caring society, stand for them , than they , indeed will be both willing….and alive…to stand for us. Thank you for ‘snapping’ me out of my place of rhetoric on this very complex and very broad social issue. It is too easy to use condemnation against the ‘loser’ as a band-aid on the wounds of conscience of the …so-called…winners. posted by chris dutton

  • Linda

    Thank you Elizabeth May. I enjoy reading your posts – they are a breath of fresh air in this otherwise stale political climate. I also appreicate the effort you make in educating and putting forth a balanced and honouring position that embraces all Canadians.

  • LLP

    Thank you, Elizabeth May

    You are the voice of reason and
    integrity, in a time of great change. I, as a settler Canadian, will
    proudly stand with IdleNoMore as all the elements of our collective need
    can be addressed through this movement. Great change, more often than
    not, has come through grass roots, and this is Our time as a nation to
    stop the corporate mentality and directive from eradicating our
    Constitutionally- enshrined rights and altering our democracy. Yes, we
    must keep our eye on the inherent and correct reason driving the
    evolution of this force; Bill C-38 and C-45. This is an arrogant and
    destructive abuse of governmental power and is a travesty for our entire
    All comments here are worthy, need to be heard and require
    discussion and implementation. This government will never be the one to
    adequately, reasonably or ethically implement the changes that must
    happen – Eye of the Tiger, comes to mind.

  • Patti

    Could we not overthrow this government and our fake democracy and get busy with a non-partisan overhaul of our electoral system, vision, and values from a place of life-centric truth and good sense? Thank you for being a voice of reason in Parliament Elizabeth. It must be lonely for you there. Don’t worry, though, the grassroots are rising here in Canada now, thanks to our Indigenous Peoples – most especially the women. We girls need to get serious, light our Spirits on fire, and shift this country and globe back into balance. Enough is enough. As they say, idle no more.

    • concerned


  • Gail McCabe

    The Harper government has honed their attack skills as a response to any critique of their actions. They will get right down in the muck to draw out some little snippet to be used against their opponents or to deflect criticism of their many failures, one of them being the lack of accountability on their fiscal management (not) and pork barrel spending!!!

  • Michael

    Telling it like it is once again. Well done Elizabeth! The only question I have is, “Why are your accurate and illuminating comments not front and center on every news program in prime time?

  • Doreen E.

    Your comments demonstrate once again why I am a strong supporter of you and the Green Party

  • Ming

    Well put Elizabeth! I am glad that you have clearly put it out there the plight of the First Nations.

  • Jocelyn Reuben

    Thank you.

  • Sally Stewart

    Let’s thannk Elizabeth May for doing her homework and keeping us imformed. She helps to arm me with facts of which I wasn’t aware . ie Spence’s term beginning just as the audit years were ending. Small overlap .

  • Angele62

    Elizabeth I always appreciate your clear headed, concise, analytical thought – so on point. I am so glad you are in parliament and I wish we had more parliamentarians like you.

  • Gene Craig

    …it all sounds to me like the aboriginal nations are only taking their accounting practices from the ruling powers. As we have all read/heard about the financial shenanigans perpetrated (AND perpetually) BY the ruling elite, is it no wonder such funds are “seemingly” misaccounted?

  • Michael Edmondson

    I could kiss you Elizabeth! In a respectful… Grateful for you sort of way. Thank you for your efforts.

  • John Swanson

    My God! How come you can make things so simple and clear (over and over, on many issues), and why can’t the rest of our political representatives do the same? Can it be that difficult? Is it a matter of brains, or writing and speaking ability, or a matter of agendas and the style of obscuring issues to promote an agenda that can’t be named, for fear Canadians will reject it? Thank you, again.

  • antismartmeters

    Thank you for Elizabeth. Your clarity & understanding of what’s going on is a godsend. I hope more people are going to rally to Green party in the next election.

  • Ron Lehman

    What astounds me about Harper and other politico is how they are rushing to the bottom of the slop barrel. I always thought anyone wanting to run our country would try to be a shining example of hard work, how to make our lives better, do something for everyone in the country in a fair and equitable way so we all can share in the wealth of such a great Nation. Boy . . . guess I’m too naive to hope for that one, or maybe Harper is a Johnny-come-lately and will end his tenure as someone to look up to . . . . oh heck stop the wishful thinking Ron.

  • Dale Bent

    Thank you, Elizabeth May, for clearing the air and putting the present deplorable situation into context. I am forwarding your essay to everyone who I think will listen.

  • Galadriel Lawrence

    Thank you for your words.

    I agree 100%.

    Integrity-Respect-Our Word.

    Three, very, very important words.

    The misuse, manipulation, and deceiving use of words by Harper and his minions is disgraceful, insulting, and demeaning.

    I want professionalism, integrity, respect, and honour in my government.

    That is why I vote Elizabeth May.

    I dont ask myself, Can the Green Party run Canada?

    I ask myself, who is the best representitive?

    Someone who is all of the above. The use of the word is the most important.

    When people do what the Conservatives are doing, they are untrustworthy.

    Thank you for your words, Elizabeth :D

    Sincerely, Galadriel Lawrence

  • Arachne646

    I am just so glad to see such a wise and perceptive article from such a prominent Canadian as the Leader of the Green Party. Bravo, Ms. May! The attention given to this distraction from the real issues and power of Idle No More is directly proportional to the fear and racism felt by the people who are confronted by the prospect of First Nations and non-indigenous Canadians united to demand First Nations be consulted on any legislation affecting them.

  • Iain S

    I believe that in the next election a clear message must be heard and that is simple; Harper’s Government, the Conservative Party MUST be elected out of Parliament completely. Unlike the end of Mulrooney’s career where the PC Party still had two seats in Parliament, there must be nobody standing for the Conservative Party in Parliament at the end of the next election. We will share in a better Canada with just the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Parties in power. The Conservative mantra, whether it’s by the old PC party or the new Conservatives, of ignoring the will of the people MUST be put to an end. I know it might be too much to hope for, but this is what must happen. We can’t afford a return to the past, we must look to the future and most conservatives can’t see that, the old ways are the tried and true ways. Unfortunately we know more now and the old ways are now becoming a hindrance to the future.

  • Dana Govang

    A well written, effective and positive article, with one error. Chief Spence was Deputy Chief from 2007 to 2010, before becoming Chief. Therefore, she had a hand in four of the six years that the audit covered.

  • Judy Michaud

    Excellent article and comments. Idle No More is great because it sparks “Change” and dialog among many people who normally may not ever get involved. Our Government may find “Change” difficult to handle and with this small grass roots gentle push they may decide they need to take a closer look at the direction they are taking with regards to Aboriginal Affairs. No matter what happens going forward, Idle No More has been successful in just getting some kind of “Movement” going. Hopefully this change will help everyone get back to the basics of “Learning to Play in the Sandbox, Together,” or at the very least respecting we are all in the same Sandbox.

  • Logan Ashley

    Thank you for your words Elizabeth you truly are a leader.

  • Megan Franken

    Very well written. Elizabeth May’s views are informed by both public opinion and clear evidence. This letter is an excellent reply to many critics classic cry of “what are they asking for!?”

  • Dave Rushton

    Elizabeth, you continue to be a model of reason, clarity, and statesmanship. If only more elected parliamentarians, especially influential leaders, would follow your example. You make me wish we could elect our Prime Minister separately from their party. You’d have my vote, and many more, I am sure.

  • Bill Lee

    The dismal response of the Conservatives to Chief Spence and Idle No More has been disturbing.One would only wish that the media would put forth a similarly fact based, thoughtful and analytically solid piece as you have done.

  • Jennifer Conkie

    Excellent indeed. Thank you, Elizabeth.

  • Annabelle

    As many others have already said “Thank you Elizabeth!” I do so wish and want you to be our next PM! How do we make that happen? How do we wake people up to the potentially irreversible damage that Stephen Harper is doing to Canada and Canadians?

  • toby dent

    How we treat First Nations people has a direct connection to how we treat ourselves, our environment, and our resources. The words social justice for all means just that.

  • Mike Coyne

    “The release of the audit of Attawapiskat band finances is heralded by some as evidence of – what exactly? – that the housing crisis in First Nations communities is the fault of their leadership? The audit is not evidence of fraud, but shows an unacceptable level of expenditures for which proper documentation was not provided. It does not suggest the money was spent improperly. We simply do not know.”

    I believe Ms May is delusional if she believes that having 60 MILLION DOLLARS unaccounted for only shows an “unacceptable level of expenditures for which proper documentation was not provided.” It’s 60 MILLION DOLLARS. To answer your question; Yes, the housing crisis in Attawapiskat is the fault of their leadership, directly. It’s criminal!

    The audit isn’t distracting anyone from a legacy of failure, it’s highlighting a legacy of fraud and corruption. To call it anything else is to bury your head in the sand.

  • Ross

    Bravo! Well said, Elizabeth. Thank you for standing up and calling a spade a spade. we do need to work together, not against each other. Let’s keep supporting positive change, not this bullying idea so prevalent in the parliament these days.

  • bgame

    the failure of the canadian gov doesnot erase the corruption and incompetence of theresa spence she basked in wealth as her people lived in dire poverty so did her incompetent boyfreind corruption of native leaders is truly the biggest obstacle for native people everywhere they live good lives and their people suffer theresa spence is a vile corrupt abuser of her people her hunger strike a bullying joke she should go back and exlpain where the money went to her people its their money not hers and she shoulds allow reporters on her reserve to interveiw the people she is acting like a little dictator its not her reserve its the ppeople of attawapiskat down with all the corrupt theresa spences of this world and i pray the native people of canada will move forward to a better day through their own efforts

  • Gail Taylor

    It is so reassuring to hear a voice of reason coming from our political benches. Thank you.

  • R.MacDonald

    If it was back a few hundred or so years ago maybe they meaning this current corrupt government would re-issue more of those smallpox laden blankets

  • lee

    Thank you. You give me hope for the future with your intelligent compassion.

  • David J Parker

    There seems to be a pattern of behaviour here by the governing party: If it looks like someone is taking you to task and making your life difficult, malign and discredit them. No effort to explain your actions, simply smear the person. The same tactics destroyed Stefan Dion and all Liberal leaders since him and is now used against Mulcair. It appears to be the only strategy they know.

  • Nancy Hubbard

    Very well said Elizabeth….I would definitely pick you to lead the country! However we must realize our political system is broken and to fix it, it really needs to be disassembled. We need a fresh start, a start where Canadians are engaged, an opportunity we now with the Idle No More movement. This is about Canada, it’s land and it’s people! Unfortunately Stephen Harper is a corporate whore, and it is time that we the people took our government back and remind them, they are here to serve us, this is why we call them Public Servants! Thank you Elizabeth for a fresh and honest voice!

  • JR Cat

    I think the most important thing to remember is WHO is the Actual Owner of this Nation Turtle Island/Canada. When were looking at how much Money or how the money was/is spent we can understand that the Native peoples are the ones who should be asking the questions pertaining to spending. They are owed an unfathomable The Queen of Canada( ELiz II) and her ancestors thru various unbreakable and immutable Treaties…… PTTP

  • Pam Little Manitoba

    Thank you Elizabeth again for such a thoughtful article on this issue.

  • rita

    I wish the Liberals, NDP and Green Party would merge and elect you leader!

  • eugene

    canada’s needs everyone active and awake to renew our democracy and retake our democracy from thieving billionaire$$$$$ fascists and their corrupt, criminal, fraudster, thieving, entitlement piggie MPs and senators. we also need 300 MPs with e may’s integrity, veracity, love and respect for people, children, and mother earth.

    • concerned


  • Anne

    Thank you, Elizabeth for hitting the nail on the head!

  • Krysta

    thank you for this Elizabeth… I have spent my day reading up on the history and issues that have led to this moment and to the IdleNoMore movement … and your words complement all the other information I have gathered. I remember a university course in which we learned to analyze the media and how information was put forth and this really takes aim at the strange attack on Chief Spence that seems to stem from Harper’s fear … Does he realize that if one of the First Nation grandmothers dies over this, things could erupt and quickly… ? Does he understand their culture of respect for their elders and, in particular, their powerful respect for their grandmothers? Thank you again Elizabeth and thank you to your research team… You give all of us courage in these difficult yet important times of growing awareness.

    • concerned

      where is the accountability of forst nation people?

      • geo

        U been owned repeatedly on all your concerns yet you continue asking same questions. your a troll and a harper puppet

  • verderojo

    Bravo, Elizabeth! Idle No More and other First Nations’ movements are a rallying point for all of us.

  • Bruce Rosove

    Harper represents 39.6% of the Canadians who voted in the last election. He does not represent a majority of Canadians. I
    believe that if the current opposition parties win more seats than
    Harper’s Conservatives that they need to be willing to form a coalition government.

  • Edda Loomes


    I agree with you. We can’t have people in Canada live like people in the third world.

    Let’s hope the Idle No More movement will help Canadians to become aware of the abysmal living standards on reserves.

    • concerned

      when are we going to wake up to the fact that ‘government’ money is tax payers money , and in Canada ther eis a very small tax payer base. I don’t even think Canadians can afford to pay for millions of free health care and education for forst Nations. how far in debt do we want to go? As far as the US?

  • Carolyn Pogue

    Thank you, Elizabeth May for your analysis. I am one tax paying, white Canadian who fully supports Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement. This is an exciting time to be alive! Mother Earth must breathe a little easier because her dream is so vibrantly alive throughout this past month. Onward for the children. All the children.
    Carolyn Pogue
    Calgary, Alberta

  • garyt

    The monster lives in fear of wisdom.

    It’s characteristic of democracy that majority rule is understood as being effective not only in politics but also in thinking. In thinking, of course, the majority is always wrong.
    Joseph Campbell

    The idolization of the ephemeral institutions is the nemesis of creativity. Arnold Toynbee

  • jarobertson6

    Dear Ms. May, I heard recently that the harper government has spent about 9 billion dollars in government advertising since they took power. If this is true, it is an utter disgrace. Even if I heard incorrectly, and it was million, not billion, that is still a disgrace when we have citizens of Canada, whether First Nations, or immigrants (which includes everyone who is not First Nations) who are starving, homeless and without the basic necessities of life.

    I would like to know just how much money has been spent on advertising the conservative party.

    By the way, my form of protesting the “harper government” is to not capitalize harper’s name since I don’t believe he deserves the respect of a proper noun, since I do not believe he is acting in a proper manner towards all Canadians.

  • jarobertson6

    This is an interesting blog comparing the fiscal health of Attawapiskat with Toronto:

    When you look at these figures, then the question posed by Lorraine Land makes a lot of sense.

  • Philippe Cormier

    I’m voting for Trudeau but this is a damn good article thanks for posting Elizabeth.

  • Manuel

    Harper IS evil, though not as evil as Hitler was. Harper and his cronies are in power because a minority of voters cast their ballots for his candidates and, as a result of the type of voting system we have, he won a majority of seats (but not a majority of the voters). It is patently obvious that the voting system must be changed to a proportional system.

  • Linda Fraser

    Elizabeth May, you always put into words the thoughts inside my brain, concerning most issues. For this article, I absolutely agree with your thinking. Decency, respect and equal access are definitely a must for EVERY Canadian, indigenous or not. We must establish meaningful goals. Thank you.

  • bernard

    we need a government with vision and i believe ms may is the leader of the party to lead this wonderfull country into the new age…do not be fool’d by fear mongering big corporational politicians (mr harper’s conservatives) but follow the still small voice of reason and light…

  • Paul Gagné

    Comme Harper est le premier ministre des sables bitumineux et le pantin des compagnies de pétrole, la juste cause des amérindiens ne peut le toucher; car les compagnies ont besoin de leurs territoires.

  • Bridget MacKenzie

    Good for you. We need as much of what you say out in the world.

  • Nora

    Thank you for your clear explanation of the situation to help us better understand some of the complexities of these issues. Many of us care but do not know how to help.

  • Laura Pope

    Thank you for shedding light on this issue.

  • AWS2

    I was surprised to see that the CBC ran with this audit. It made me realize just how much they’ve been co-opted by Harper’s government. CBC used to be a much more trustworthy news source before Harper’s budget gutted their funding and made them get rid of a bunch of employees.
    Then I see a story on CTV about how the government is literally employing people to “correct misinformation” on news sites and social networks. It’s scary going to the CBC now and seeing all the highest rated comments saying things like “Oh, what a surprise!” to the audit story. And any comment that says “Hey, wait a minute, how does this apply to Idle No More or Chief Spence’s hunger strike?” or “It just means they didn’t document all their expenditures. They’re a community, not a business.” is voted to the bottom. I sincerely hope this is Harper’s shills in action, because if that represents the general opinions of the Canadian public, then dear god.

  • Lisa Johnson

    Thank you for the informative article.

  • Big Buffalo

    Congratulations on your well-worded thoughts on this touchy subject. I fear too many ‘average’ Canadians think our indigenous peoples don’t deserve better than they now receive – for many reasons. These include straightforward prejudice, false beliefs that failures in our Federal native programs are mostly the natives’ own fault, and straightforward envy of the benefits for which Canadian indigenous people have negotiated over the years past. I think these feelings are shared by a large number of none-natives, whether they admit them or not. The ‘Conservative’ government are master manipulators of the media and popular opinion. Cashing in on ‘negativity’ of any kind is their hallmark. They are certainly cashing in on any negative opinions of the current ‘Idle No More’ movement in the non-native community. I unfortunately think the Conservatives will continue to do so as long as their strategists think that fostering division and discord between natives and none natives generates more Conservative votes in the long run among those Canadians who take the time to vote. One thing I am certain of, however, is that Prime Minister Harper and his gang of right wing thugs may win the day in the short term, but Steven Harper will go down in the annals of probably the majority of Canadians as a mean-spirited bully representative only of the corporate interests of this country. He will certainly not be remembered as as any kind of populist visionary who worked towards unifying the country and making it a better place to live for all of us. He is, if anything, the opposite.

  • Rae McRae
  • johanne

    Je suis d’accord avec mme May, malheureusement j’entends beaucoup de non autochtones qui s’impatientent envers les demandes des autochtones. Je pense qu’il y a une grande tâche d’éducation à faire auprès de la population non-autochtone quant aux abus passés, aux droits enchassés dans les lois que nous avons mis en place et aux conditions de vie sur les réserves.

  • G. Thompson

    If we work together NOW toward Proportional Representation by creating a large enough public demand for it, we can achieve it for the next election. If we achieve Proportional Representation as the voting process for the next federal election, we can unite the vote of the center parties (Green, NDP, Liberal), and defeat the Conservatives who rule with only 38% of the electorate. Please consider this strategy. Elizabeth May strongly supports this strategy.

  • Avg CDN

    With respect, I don’t believe that the Canadian government has done all it can to uphold its treaty rights, but at the same time we cant continue down the same course of throwing money down the well. There must be some accountability of the finances. To say that there is no record for a gross majority of these funds is simply untenable.

    I think engagement is the right approach, but if an entity cant manage itself, then it should at least acknowledge that fact and relinquish its role until such time that it can manage itself.

  • Mary Dunn

    The Green comments on this topic provide a lovely antidote to the stuff that fills my local newspaper, the Peterborough Examiner. Thanks

  • disqus_KXZOsFfR0S

    one sane voice amoung a lot of shrill shouting.

  • Jacqueline

    Thank you Ms May for this article. I was unaware of the failed Kelowna Accord and all the axed First Nations programmes and intiatives and thank you for clarifying the point about Attiwaspakat’s finances have nothing to do with the fact that treaty rights have been consisted ignored over the years.

  • Catherine Luminous

    This brought tears to my eyes!

  • Tinker

    Well said Elizabeth May.

  • SherryGreens

    A very excellent summary of this issue, by my very favourite MP. As First Nations stand up for themselves, for mutual respect, for the environment, they stand up for us ALL. Idle no more!

  • Jane McCall Woods

    Hear, hear!

  • Andy Reddekop

    Good for you, Elizabeth! I enjoy reading an analysis of this file which is a little more in-depth than the mainstream media. I have gotten so tired of CBC – including Evan Solomon, who have continued with the same, tired, superficial approach which focuses on the financial audit issue. I loved Mr. Atleo’s response today to the first question he was asked during his news conference: “Do you think it was appropriate that a reporter – who was just going about her business – was escorted from Attawapiskat by Band Police?” He responded with a list of “do you think it appropriate that . . . ” related to Canada’s shameful history vis a vis aboriginal peoples. I’m waiting for political figures or someone in the Idle No More movement to respond to this question with the fact that the judicial review of the govt.’s third-party auditor appointment to Attawapiskat found that there was “not a financial mismanagement crisis but a housing crisis” in the community. More people need to know that the band’s finances had been in co-management for ten years at this point. Does anyone really think that the feds were not aware of/responsible for those finances? More people also need to know that the govt. appointed, at that time, a third-party auditor who was an individual who previously had worked for the band – and been fired. Why, also, do more commentators and political figures NOT refer to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples from 1996? We, as Canadians, keep playing to the fatigue factor. “What do aboriginals want, anyway?” and, “They can’t even agree among themselves. How can we solve these complex issues?” Truth is, if we BEGAN to follow the 20-year set of recommendations in the RCAP, we would make a damn good start. (Andy Reddekop)

  • dominik

    well said and explained!

  • Karen McFarlane

    Thank you for helping me to understand what is really going on. Sometimes it’s difficult not to fall for the media hype–in this case that the government is already pouring millions of dollars into First Nations programs.

    • wallyj

      Yes,it is actually billions.

  • Marietta

    You have done a thorough investigation on the many problems that our aboriginal people face. It is deplorable that the Prime Minister and Governor General have not met with the aboriginal leaders long before now. What a mightier than thou attitude!

  • Deb Sinclair Darwish Glenfield

    best article I’ve read.

  • Dennis Jones

    Well written Elizabeth May.

  • Norman

    Beautifully and thoroughly reflected upon and formulated.
    Thank you, Elizabeth.

    Link to an 8 minute film offering a complementary perspective: (version française)

  • Terrence G Neraasen

    Wow, I read all the comments attached here. I am heartened that so many understand the threat Mr. Harper represents and what a mean spirited, small minded bully he is. Indeed the corporations rule us, aided and abetted by our elected representatives and the right wing ideologues who currently run both the government and the economy. Idle No More, just like the Occupy movement and the student protests in Quebec, are clear indications that many sectors of society are fed up with the autocracy and economic colonialism under which we live. This is not a democracy. I hope all these disparate forces can be brought together to the extent we see a mass uprising of the people. But beware. One of the first things Harper said about Idle No More was to the effect that “Canadians expect the participants to conduct themselves within the laws of the land”. This was likely his response to blockades and the like and to me is a clear indication that Assad will have had nothing on Harper if Canadians really rise to the occasion. Just remember the G20 in Toronto.

    • concerned


  • Sheila Brown

    The last paragraph sums it up.

  • Hélène Gilbert

    Très bon article, madame May, et très bien écrit. Félicitations! Il faut tous aller signer la pétition d’Avaaz à ce sujet:

  • Cassandre

    Bravo !

  • Norman

    Beautifully and thoroughly reflected upon and formulated.
    Thank you, Elizabeth.

    Link to an 8 minute film offering a complementary perspective and additional context:… (version française)

  • Marie Gionet

    There seems to be a lot of finger pointing and Harper slaying from your readers, but no ideas on resolve regarding First Nations.
    I have spent most my life living in communities in BC with First Nations people. People keep blaming the politicians but nobody asks the First Nations to accept responsibility or help resolve the poverty. We have witnessed the consequences from the lack of distribution of funds by band leaders to all members, and the success of other bands who’s leaders have led their people honestly and constructively.
    The only hope the First Nations people have is the final settlement that treaties will bring, and the abolishment of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. I only hope the wealth from these settlements gets distributed equally to all members of the bands not just the leaders.

    • concerned

      I agree with “nobody askes the first nations people to accept responsibility or help resolve the peverty.”

      • geo

        You lie the natives ask thier leaders it just doesn’t make your beloved hateful sun news

  • DaveB

    What… sane, reflective, empathetic responsible comments from a politician… THANK YOU! You serve as a wonderful example to the rest and have certainly caught my attention

  • wallyj

    ” Although the Attawapiskat audit covers 2005-2011, Theresa Spence was only elected chief in 2010.”
    Chief Spence was continuing a tradition,and the racists dump on her.
    Sheesh,… the cons have no respect.

  • Davis

    On Jan 11th,2013, please attend Toronto Idle No More protest @ Dundas Square (south east corner of Yonge/Dundas) @ 1PM. See you there-Greeners!

  • Sudoku

    Can we all get along, and lower my gas price of $3.09 to $1.50 at least? Lol

  • Mr Savage

    Replace the Indian Act? how about living up to it first, before it was raped and pillaged as was the rest of Canada since its inception. In order to ‘replace’ something it has to be implemented first. That goes for both sides.On my reserve for example, you have a corrupt and improper election last time, a chief that supports and appoints pedophiles to key positions on the reserve, audits that are not released and/or completed in a reasonable time frame due to the administration doing everything it can to have it ‘buried’, oh yes, the audit that was ‘leaked’ rang all to clear on my reserve, Carry the Kettle in Saskatchewan. In fact, I think ours is worse, yet, after talking to INAC, APTN, CTV, CBC, noone would even address it. It seems to be the times we live in, noone addresses anything or everyone is too afraid to address anything for fear of being UN-PCorrect. I say, grow some balls and do something rather than all this talking. We have the opportunity, what will we do with it?

    • wallyj

      You have to link the problems on your reserve to the Harper gov’t if you want the media to notice them. Otherwise,you and your friends/family will have to endure or take care of business yourself.
      Good luck,I wish you well.

  • Nancy Wigen

    We are all cheated and disrespected by the Harper Conservative government omnibus bills that have made massive changes and cuts to essential services and rights with no consultation, both to all Canadians, but especially to indigenous people and communities. This is outrageous and contemptible in what is supposed to be a democratic country. I am thankful for the courage of Chief Spence for her hunger strike that has brought attention to the need to redress these wrongs and hopefully reverse the destructive decisions. We should learn from, respect and emulate the people who lived a sustainable lifestyle here for thousands of years. At the very least we should be sure that they have the same benefits as all other people of Canada.

    I agree with Bolivia that there should be Constitutional Protection for Nature Itself. Our lives and the future of all life depends on it.

  • Ray Solomon






  • Marsha Greenfield

    Beautifully said…thank you!

  • nature nut

    Constitutional protection of nature, yes! If governments recognize person status for corporations, nature, a living, breathing entity which sustains us, certainly should be given person status. Everything we have comes from nature; we owe our very existance to it!

  • PeterK

    I have voted for the Green Party for many years but if Elizabeth Mays’ view is that of the Green Party, they have received my last vote.

    I’m all for giving people a leg up but only if they are prepared to help themselves which, apparently some people aren’t.

  • Montreal Ouest

    While the debate on fixing our political system needs to happen, first we need to elect someone using the current system who is open to changing it.

    Let’s work on spreading this email of Ms. May’s. I learned so much from it, and from her China free trade email, that it motivated us to join in the 24-hour solidarity fast called for by KAIROS Canada on this auspicious day.

    I am no partisan, but perspectives like this speak volumes for its author. In today’s vicious political environment, the courage to speak boldly and truthfully is a precious value. Thanks Ms. May.

  • Kevin D Brown

    Lovely analysis, Elizabeth. Thanks! Now more people definitely need to read this. I had no idea that Chief Spence was only in power for one year out of the period that the audit covered – a fact missing from the press reports arising from the release of the audit. There seems to be no limiting the brazen audacity of the conservatives in their attacks against those people who dare tell them what to do.

  • Joe Parascandalo

    The continued arrogance of the Harper Government is reflected in this critical national issue. From the Omnibus Budget Bills to the CF35 purchase process, the government has proven both its ineptness and disregard for the critical views of Canadians. The most devastating aspect of the circumstances that confront Canada for the foreseeable future, is the lack of a viable opposition to bring down the current Conservative *regime’ (meant in every sense of the word) .

  • Gina Bisaillon

    Ms May, as usual you are the most articulate member of this government. Thank you for adding your sane voice to this conflict.

  • Marie-Claude

    merci : c’est un message d’une grand sagesse. Espérons

  • wabigoon

    Its not just the natives, its all of us that are affected by these obscure legislations that the CRAP have enacted. The Idle No More movement is just more focused.

  • Heather

    Thank you for a coherent and well-reasoned response. How refreshing it would be to see this government rise above their typical aggressive response to actually listen respectfully and take positive action. And pigs fly.

  • Laura Lee Roberts

    Well put! Elizabeth May, Chief Spence and “Idle No More” give me hope for our country. I hope to see others standing in their truth as well! Yay for committed citizens, free thinking politicians, our grandfathers and grandchildren, leaders and Spirit! “…we can’t eat money”.

  • Lily

    Slowly, one by one we are awakening and seeing the truth. We are all connected. What affects one affects us all. Harper is trying to throw up a smoke screen, and cast shadows of doubt. Some will be blinded but those who have awakened will see through the smoke and know the truth for what it is. It’s time for the people of this country to stand up and take charge and stop being lead about by their noses like cattle to the slaughter. I am grateful that the First Nations People have begun “The Idle No More” movement and grateful to all who have joined in and lent their support.

    If this happened anywhere near where I live, I would definitely be out there lending a hand and making my voice heard right along beside our Native Brothers and Sisters.

  • Carole

    Yes, YES, YES!

    The time is now.

    To honour treaties

    To replace the Indian Act

    And for EACH OF US to get to know

    some First Nations people near us

    & to learn about and from their culture!

  • Susie Wileman

    Thank-you, Ms. May for your astute, well-reasoned analysis. I fear that it will take years for the country to recover from the damage inflicted by Harper gouvernment. Please keep fighting the good fight.

  • gail

    Thank you Elizabeth May! This piece was easy to read, and covers the basic issues. I hope many Canadians read this to clarify what the true issues, and possible solutions are.

  • Johanne

    Regardless of who is in power, which nation is concerned, peoples of this earth should all have access to the most basic ammenities contributing to their welfare and dignity.

  • peter

    What is also disturbing is that the same ignorance that is visible towards Canada’s First nations is also evident in Canada’s dealings with the Quebec nationalism. We need more of Ms .May’s political wisdom and her attitude of respect and tolerance.

  • Suzane Labbé

    Merci infiniment pour cette solide déclaration…
    De tout coeur avec vous et mes frères et soeurs autochtones …
    Il y a toujours espoir…toujours … ne pas douter mais foncer …

  • Dedee Bobb

    Awesome, and I am in full agreement with what is being versed here in this report or letter!

  • Heather Barclay

    Elizabeth May speaks for all of us with a solid knowledge of history and with a dynamic vision for the future. I am now Keen on Green,
    Heather Barclay

  • Bruce Carter

    We again thank you for reminding Canadians of the facts and standing up to the bullying of some of our most disadvantaged peoples. Don’t allow the current regime in Ottawa to divide us. We trust all peoples from all over this great land share the values of honesty, equity, and respect that have been denied to so many of us. It is the courage of our First Nations to stand up to tyranny that most inspires us. This is a critical moment for Canada, not just our (broken) relationship with First Nations, but our relationship with all peoples who share the planet.

    We thank the current regime in Ottawa for making the choices much more clear.

    Yours truly,

    Bruce Carter

  • cathy mcelroy

    I WANT YOU AS OUR LEADER !!!!This is everything that I want to see !!!! thank you for your leadership !!!!! Thank you for your words of sanity !

  • Erin

    So clear and beautifully-written. Thank you, Elizabeth. Thank goodness you’re speaking for us in Parliament.

  • Léa Langelier

    Well said!

  • M Harvey

    $106 million over 7 years — say $15 m per year to the band since 2005, and the Federal Gov’t is just discovering inadequacies in accounting. Who is the guilty party here?

  • take_a_pill

    at the risk of exciting the shrill and the frantic further, lets all keep in mind that Ms May has that luxury of saying all the right and noble things, with no attendant responsibility to see anything thro. A lot of people are feeling she would be the right one to lead us going forward, but things are never as simple as they may appear to some. yes, we can go all green and give everyone everything they ask for, but there would be a cost to each one of us. we may well need a change of government, but something we should all ask ourselves is how much we would be willing to pay or do to change things as someone see fit. its easy to go on about honouring treaties…if that meant your were going to lose your property because that land was included in a 300 year old treaty, would you still be so enthusiastic? nothing is ever as cut and dried as many in this thread seem to feel.
    and please, stop the name calling. Steven Harper is not evil. we can disagree with his policies, but lets do it in a mature manner. Those of you who are claiming he is, well, we all know your type…incapable of rational discourse.

    • Sue Cetinski Ferguson

      So true..easy to sound live the saviour when you’re not leading the country.

  • Island-Mike Robinson

    As Settlers we must respect those that share this land with us; decency demands it, as do millions of concerned citizens of every creed.

    • Jan

      As a Canadian, I do respect First Nations. That’s why I’d like to see accountability. i was just as mad when Chretien swept his billion dollar boondoggle under the carpet, and was just as vocal.

      We are not doing First Nations a service by ignoring the elephants on the Rez. Chiefs are politicians, and like all politicians, a lot of them are corrupt. Pay attention to this story – because believe me, it has legs.

  • Gisela

    Thank you for helping Canadians be more of aware of the plight of first nations people. I am so dismayed that so many programs have been cut. More power to you and our first nations people! Harper and his government are the coldest politicians I have seen in a long time.

  • Bernice Butler

    Nous devons nous joindre à leurs cris.

  • marg

    Don’t you think some accountability is in order for the millions of our tax dollars given to First Nations ? Toronto Sun’s investigation discovered that Attawapiskat with a population of 1500 has 3 chiefs and 18 councillors on its payroll. Theresa Spence’s boyfriend is the town’s financial manager and has a contract for $850.00 per DAY. He takes in about $300,00.00 a year. The business manager gets $170,000.00 per year. Theresa Spence runs a day care and gets $8,000,00 per MONTH. Last year $200,000.00 was spent on “gifts” and $36,000.00 for a goose hunt.The band has a stock portfolio of 9 million dollars. Remember ,we’re talking about a town of 1500 people.

    Yes, there are aboriginals living in extreme poverty while they pay for a millionaire class of chiefs and executives. It’s not Stephen Harper they should get after but their own chiefs, and demand change and justice. Surely some of the income from the stock portfolio could be used to fix the leaky roofs and other needs to improve the quality of life for the ordinary person.

    Elizabeth May is right on about Mr. Harper’s China deal but off track by overlooking the responsibility of the aboriginals to use the money they get from Ottawa for the welfare of ALL of their people, not just the chiefs. Many bands have received millions for their land claims, where does all that go?

    • geo

      You do know the sun is a puppet of the pm. don’t believe the lies the supreme court stated there is no indiacation of fraud the auditors said the same. Your a gullible puppet of the media

  • Roland Penner

    status quo is hurting our country and everyone in it.

  • Mr Fact

    Wasn’t Theresa Spence the Deputy Chief for several years prior to 2010?

    • Jan


  • kidshurt

    The youth of First Nations communities are struggling dreadfully. Please keep them in mind when you argue about politics. What if your teenagers were living with hopelessness and few resources? The suicide rate is the highest in the world. Look it up and think about it.

  • terry jones

    but the question remains that by isolating themselves, and remaining on the res there creating a ghetto,better to go to public school etc. get jobs etc. they can keep there culture as others have done.
    yes we are at falt for what our forfathers did,but even corp.
    have to have audits,that aside they need help no guestion about that put pouring in money without other help is a waste of time

  • Onni Milne

    As a non-First Nations person, I the actions of Idle No More. I feel thankful they are able to stand up to Harper’s bullying through their Constitutional rights when he has ignored or removed ours.

  • Andrea D.

    Kudos to you Ms. May! I wholeheartedly agree with every last word.

  • JustAnotherGuy

    I couldn’t (respectfully) disagree with you more Elizabeth. The Attawapiskat audit is just the tip of the ice berg. I’ve spent a good number of years in and around northern reserves. I am telling you with all sincerity that the federal programs that were cut were doing absolutely nothing for your average native on a reserve. You can provide all the access you want to programs but the unfortunate truth is that your average native won’t make good use of them. If they accept help from white people they are ostracized from their community and called an “Apple” (red on the outside, white on the inside). I’ve seen and heard this stuff with my own eyes. I doubt that most of those who comment on this issue have.

    • Jan

      I have – and I still believe there is a huge need for programs. I wonder if the programs need to be channeled differently though. It is a real problem, – I have also witnessed people being called “apples,” as I have watched addicts mock those who have gotten sober – but we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

      Just the fact that Clarence Louis has done so well, and that some of the reserves on the lower mainland are wealthy (Squamish and Campbell River) – is evidence that there is a way forward. There’s also a reserve up near Prince Rupert that is doing tons of business with China – and making a mint.

      Instead of us focussing on what doesn’t work, we need to analyze what does…

  • Maxiview

    Thank you Elizabeth for a great informative post.Why wasn’t loss of protection laws of 2.5 million lakes and rivers not front page news? PM Harper is not working for our interests but is a puppet for other more powerful interests who want control of our natural resources; in order to do this he has systematically manipulated our votes, our laws, ignored our rights and has a disgraceful record as a cheat, fraud and liar. All Canadians need to become more aware and join Idle No More! This Bill 45 effects all Canadians but especially the Idiginous peoples’ rights. Conservatives need to stop supporting Harper and wake up to the fact that this dangerous government effects them too.

  • elvira lusa

    Congratulations again, Elizabeth.

    And here is (one version) of the great Chief Seattle letter – one of the best ever written on the environment:

  • cj

    Thank you Elizabeth!! Your (as well as others) well articulated views and insight are what we need more of in order to understand better. These are complex issues, sometimes contradictory. It takes great patience and care to attempt to gain understanding and insight into, but when we care deeply, I believe we are obligated to do just that. Simplifying the issues in order to dismiss or judge, is unfortunately becoming the way many people deal with life these days. This goes for the environment; inequity etc Are we too distracted? Are we content to just live as entitled individuals, disconnected from one another? Fortunately, the tone of many who have replied to your letter, reflects a deeper commitment to trying to understand.

  • Dr Eimear O’Neill

    First Nations carry a sacred trust to protect the lands and waters for all. Harpur and his Alliance Party govern for profit not care. They have put us into debt (to their friends in global monetary systems) while downloading all their responsibilities for care for us and the environment onto local levels. Corporations pay less taxes and are able to trump the treaty, UN, and constitutional rights of First Nations and ourselves. All of us, each indigenous to some place and peoples on this planet, need to fully support Idle No More and First Nations courage in speaking to what is going on under the table.

    • Jan

      It really bothers me when people make claims like you’ve just made. I’m completely against corporations and Harper too – but to say that First Nations carry a sacred trust, (as if they are all the same) is romanticism. Years ago, the Green movement printed up t-shirts to save Clayoquot Sound, using a picture of a Native American person wearing a headdress. The Dididaht First Nations hired a bus to go and protest the protesters when they found out about it. (They wanted jobs in the forest industry).
      What the Green movement did was absolutely distasteful. Typical self-righteous attitude by non-Indigenous peoples to indigenize the environmental movement, and print up Prairie people on shirts to protest logging in Nuu Chah Nulth territory.

      Some First Nations are against logging, some are for it – people are people. You can’t group any of us together based on ethnic background, gender, hair or eye colour etc.
      Also – look around BC for all sorts of environmental infractions on reserve lands. There are countless numbers of them…and in most cases, the Chief in charge fails to share the earnings from the sale of those resources.

      I think what’s being missed by everyone, is that the Chiefs are by large, corrupt politicians being made out to be saints. We need to be realistic and honest about the fact that we are all human beings, if we wish to move forward.

  • Sue Cetinski Ferguson

    After reading many of these comments posted here, one thing I know for certain. People simply cannot and will not rise above name calling and finger pointing to come together to solve our problems. The same old rhetoric abounds. I don’t see people working together in unity here..I see poeple continuing to spout off about their own personal political agendas. Until people can LAY DOWN there poltical differences, there will never be a solution to this problem. All Canadians should have the same goal. – to protect our lands and rivers, to provide a way for people to make a decent living, to respect one another regardless of religious, ethnic, or political backgrounds, to honor treaties that are in effect or if need be, to come to an agreement on perhaps even better ones. I have no hope that this will happen because when potentially good movements like Idle No More get off the ground, they soon turn into a name calling, foot stomping pile of nonsense from people who have no other intent then to stir up trouble and spout off about their own personal agendas. This simply clouds the issues at hand. Grow up people. Take position actions to help build bridges between Government, First Nations and all Canadians. When problems are faced with calmness, respect towards one another, clarity of mind and pureness of intent, then there is a huge possiblity that we will see a peaceful resolution of these very important issues.

  • gil perro

    so many people dont like what harper is doing,yet are afraid to do anything,join the natives

  • Anti

    time for ptchforks and nooses i say!! emough of pussyfooting around anymore, the word of law means nothing anylonger when its changed to meet the need of profit and greed at the slightest request fom those with the most money to buy our representatives..!

  • lester

    We don’t owe the aboriginals any more money for anything……or land for that matter…even the respectable leaders from the aboriginal community agree….see any of Chief Clarence Louie’s speeches. They need to stand on their own just like anyone else and this and only this will give them their pride back and will make their people take reponsibility for their lifestyles. Stop worrying if we are doing enough for them. We’ve done too much and made them dependent on a government syster like a spoiled child who now doesn’t know how to fend for themself. I’m not saying don’t offer them any help, just don’t offer them more help than any other Canadian.

  • Fellow Traveller

    I agree that in the larger scheme of things, the auditor’s report is a side issue. That said, it is patently false to call it a ‘distraction.’ The criticism it contains faults both the Band and the federal government for allowing the situation to occur–the Band for not budgeting properly; not providing documentation and (most critically) not following the stated requirements of the funding agreements. For its part, the government was cited for not monitoring and enforcing the agreement terms. These are serious charges. If instead of a Native Band Council the evidence and criticisms in this audit report applied to a defense contractor or a bridge builder who had received $87 million in taxpayer dollars, the public would be screaming for blood, as well they should. As it is, INM supporters are saying its not worth the trouble and after all, it’s unfair to expect more from Band officials who signed the agreement. Patent nonsense–especially coming from people demanding that the federal government honour its agreements.

    • Jan

      Exactly! If Theresa Spence was a white mayor, responsible for missing money with no documentation, the media would be all over her (like they were over Chretien and the Billion Dollar Boondoggle). Instead, she shows up on a liquid diet, and people treat her like she’s Mother Theresa!!

      While everyone is busy sainting her for doing nothing (but lacking documentation for spending), what is being done on her reserve for those who are living in poverty? What is being done for average First Nations across the country who aren’t privileged enough to be related to/get special treatment from their chiefs?

      Theresa Spence is a distraction to the Idle No More Movement – and she’s doing a ton of damage to this movement. Martyrs who go on hunger strikes don’t consume calories. I find it grossly offensive that anyone would call this a hunger strike. It’s a publicity stunt to avert our attention away from her lack of accountability. By going on a liquid diet, she’s drummed up sympathy from the bleeding-heart crowd, by wearing her heart on her sleeve.

      Meanwhile, her own people are silenced and told not to talk to the media – and I know a thing or two about that. Having worked with First Nations for many years, I know that a lot of people are afraid to speak out, because if they do, they get shunned and blacklisted in their own community.

      Who wanted to take care of building the foundations for the houses that were delivered last year? Were those foundations built? Why weren’t they built? Agh – but he was still paid ?? (Yes – Spence’s partner)

      • geo

        You didn’t notice the constant racism and death mongering towards theresa spence? plus the sun hating on her? stop lying

  • Dr. Leonard Hjalmarson

    Well said Elizabeth, thank you!

  • Frances

    Having read a little on Aboriginal history in North America, I believe that your assessment of the situation is most fair that I have read in all the news reports so far. Bravo. Why doesn’t the media explain every side of an issue?

  • Lois

    I hope there are some teachers out there making sure that all their students see your articles, particularly this one.

  • Lynne Stafford

    Good for you, Elizabeth May. You are a true leader.

  • Richard N Malette

    This is a very well written article. Thank you Elizabeth for your wonderful efforts and for standing up so well and so strongly for justice, honesty and respect for all.

  • Martina Lauer

    Thank you, Elizabeth. We need more facts about the persistence of colonial policies towards First Nations.

  • JD

    You neglect to mention that Spence was Deputy Chief from 2007-2010.

    • Jan

      Everyone is black and white on this issue, which is unfortunate. People who defend Spence ignore all arguments against her, and vice versa. I’d like to know more about her partner, and his contracting company – but we aren’t getting the facts on that either.

  • Rob Mackenzie

    The way out of continued poverty and distress is for the elders to really encourage the children ,on and off reserve, to go to school. Aboriginal people should be able to own their own property. Reserves have never been fair to the people who live on them.

  • Angela Watson

    Thank you for that information and point of view. You make many viable points

  • Carol Smart

    Thanks for writing! It seems, at times, that the aboriginal peoples are our last, if not only, defence against Harper’s dictatorial bills.

  • Jo R.

    Étant francophone de naissance c’est en français que j’écris mon commentaire. Je vous félicite Madame May pour votre article. Je respecte les Premières nations, lesquelles nous ont précédé en tant que nos ancêtres territoriaux. J’ai compris depuis longtemps que tout ce qui est «Harpien» exclus les mots et les actes de noblesse, respect, dignité, reconnaissance de la différence, de ce qui est sacré, de ce qui est absolu, bref, de tout ce que comporte la vie humaine sous toutes ses formes. Ce que nous constatons de ce gouvernement conservateur n’est que leur étroitesse d’esprit, l’incapacité à accepter ce qui va à l’encontre de leurs critères désuets de ce que devrait être une société, la surdité voulue et maintenue aux demandes ancestrales validées dans les traités signés par la Reine Élisabeth d’Angleterre. Plusieurs citoyens de toutes origines et de toutes langues confondues, ont la nette impression que ce chef du Parti conversateur est façonné sur le modèle «Hitlerien». Il faut lire entre les lignes pour bien saisir toute l’ampleur des ravages que Harper produit depuis qu’il est au pouvoir. Son image, fausse, d’homme calme et souriant, cache bien son désir de détruire tout ce qui ne correspond pas à son idéologie machaviélique. On peut très bien faire le parallèle entre l’idéologie du chef allemand des années1939-1945 et du Premier ministre du Canada, quant à la race arienne. Faire votre propre réflexion et vous verrez que la race arienne de Harper c’est d’exclure les autochtones, les Québécois, les athés, les agnostiques, les homosexuels, les citoyens qui sont contre les armes, les femmes qui sont pour l’avortement, les pacifistes, les étudiants constataires, et bien d’autres. Non, je n’exagère pas. Une fois que les terres, l’eau, l’air, les indésirables seront réduits à leur plus simple expression, la nouvelle Race pourra reigner dans toute sa perversité!

  • Monique Levesque

    Je suis d’accord que les atocthones vivent des choses difficiles et que le gouvernement prêche pour ses poches. Mais quand le gouvernement fait construire des habitations pour eux et que ceux-ci n’en prennent pas soins et que c’est à reconstruire aux 5 ans comment peut-on vouloir donner quand ce n’,est pas apprécié? Par contre si le gouvernement favoriserait de l’instruction aux jeunes pour se développer et ce prendre en main comme nous devon tous le faire. Peut-être que de travailler pour obtenir ce que l’on désire permettrait à ces personnes d’avoir une meilleure estime d’eux même. C Ex.: le plan nord, on avait promit des retombées économique favorable pour le Québec ainsi que les amérindiens. Qu’en est-il vraiment? Pour avoir une bonne entente avec ces personnes il faut de la loyauté et nous en avons pas pour nous même et personnellement Harper pour moi est plus dictateur que démocratique. Il a déjà dit des québécois et des amérindiens qu’on étaient pas distinct et qu’on devraient trous être anglicisé. On a pas l’air a peser fiort dans sa balance. J’espère de me tromper.
    Bonne chance

  • Marielle d

    Merci mme May pour votre prise de position et les informations concernant le mouvement de contestation Idle No More. Les points qui retiennent surtout mon attention est la préservation des ressources naturelles et le respect du territoire. La partie n’est pas gagnée mais je crois que nous devons appuyer la présente lutte des premières nations particulièrement sur ces deux points parce que nous sommes tous concernés.

  • Douglas Jackson

    Native Indian, new immigrant, established immigrant, purple, yellow,black, white?

    Is not the point here that the Canadian Government is turning away from the needs and wishes of it’s citizens, native origin or not, treaty issues or not, land claims or not?

    If our government is not addressing the needs of communities throughout this country, the desires of its citizens to drink clean water, breath clean air, eat uncontaminated food, have access to education for our children, health care resources for those in need, then what is the difference between Canada and any other country that disfranchises any minority?

    I used to be proud of this country, proud of the willingness of Canadians to accept all peoples from all lands who were looking to better themselves and make a better future for their families in a country where individual rights and freedoms were expressed in a constitution that protected all. But I have never been proud of how Canadian governments have treated our aboriginal peoples.

    It is time for us all to understand that if a government is prepared to sweep aside the rights of one, you may be next. When a government is prepared to forge ahead, without debate, with an agenda that encounters massive opposition from the electorate then beware, when a government only responds to the desires of its own mandate, then beware, for your country will no longer represent the values it was built upon, it will no longer represent what being a Canadian means. A government that ignores the needs of its peoples and pushes aside and destroys the foundation built by

    all others before them is the greatest threat we can face.

    You may wake up one day and find that this country has been saved from becoming an industrial waste land by the efforts and cooperation of native populations across this once great land. This so called minority, treated with disrespect and even contempt from government for generations past, may be the saving grace for us all.

    What the aboriginal people want for their communities, we all want. Is it not time for all Canadians to support each other? Should we not all come together to fight the good fight? Should we not see the plight of our native peoples as our own and take up the cause beside them? Separate, isolate, disparage and you will pave the way to your own front door.

    “Idle No More” is a message we should all take to heart. Present and any future wanna be dictators in government should be made to realize that Canadians will not stand by while government policy tries to ruin the proud history of this country and its peoples.

    Signed: Douglas Jackson

    Ashamed Of This Conservative Government.

  • ian

    Best overview I’ve read yet.

  • Arnold Baker

    Harper’s government is the most shameful of any we have had to endure.

    • Jan

      Chretien wasn’t any better. Had he not screwed up so badly, we would never have ended up with another dictator. It’s interesting how soon people forget all of his scandals…

  • JF

    No way we should pay more money for them. It is a waste! It all goes to a the chiefs. They do not need anything else!!!

    • Jan

      That’s a ridiculous thing to say! I agree that the chiefs are corrupt, but to say “they” do not need anything is completely irresponsible. The Indian Act was created by government, and must be dealt with over time. While there are no easy answers, it’s unacceptable for us to just turn our backs on this problem that our government created, and that non-indigenous peoples have benefitted from!

  • me here

    ElizabethThank you ! Thank you for putting into words what i was trying to explain to a friend …

  • Doug Goodman

    Canada needs to recognize and protect traditional native use and ownership of land, and deal with legal native land claims. However, we also need to protect the rights of non-natives and need to help people in need regardless of race. Special “affirmative action” programs for people of native ethnicity are, by definition, racist. Many federal programs designed to help “natives” only keep them dependent.


    The money allocated to the Federal Ministry should be used to fund an independently appointed economic advisor as a resource to each and every band. There must be low hanging fruits for improvement in their livelihood – given their lack of opportunity for education and training, many native bands could benefit from some sincere independent expert advice. For example they had the Polar Bear Express ride in Northern Ontario that could have been polished into a major tourist attraction which in turn could have funded better transportation and housing infrastructure for tourism and natives.

  • Felicia Mareels

    I carry many of these sentiments with me into my Oral Statement Jan 17th. thank you Elizabeth

  • Lynn

    I think the First Nations across Canada might want to take up the Bolivian constitutional right of Mother Nature. We might have to find alternative sourcse of income for Canada like Bolivia’s lithium deposits in the desert. Surely out universities, the MARS project, the Perimeter Institute can suggest practical initiatives to replace pipelines and fracking.

  • Sonia

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Elizabeth. We must recognize that we are ALL treaty partners in this country, and that working together will make us stronger. I am so glad to have you in our Parliament. Best wishes.

  • susan

    High time we well-fed, urbanized, healthy Canadians get off our well-padded duffs and get out into the streets and “do something” about the appalling neglect and abuse of First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Then, maybe, this beautiful country, its resources and wildlife will have a chance for a future we can all share in. Then, maybe, I can be proud again to be a Canadian.
    Well-spoken, Elizabeth.

  • Jan

    Interesting that nobody finds it offensive that Spence calls a liquid diet, a hunger strike. What a slap in the face to all those who have died on “real” hunger strikes, fighting for human rights. Stop dancing with wolves people! First Nations should be outraged at her for taking over this movement. When you add up how much money has been given to Attawapiskat by the feds, don’t forget to add the millions that have been given to them by Debeers (look it up!). There’s a reason why the media was kicked off reserve last week. Spence doesn’t want the media talking to the locals, because she is corrupt and she knows that a lot of her people are against her.

    First Nations deserve far better than this – better than Harper, but also better from their own chiefs. Spence is no less a corrupt imposter than any other politician.

  • Fran Manary

    Dear Elizabeth,
    Thank you for ‘spelling out’ the Attawapiskat audit so clearly. We truly are in this together. We are all saddled with the same prime minister as well as senators such as Patrick Brazeau.
    Hopefully through your thoughtful insight and compassion, and people such as Theresa Spence; who displayed reserve and strength of character, as well as Canadians who are prepared to respect “treaty and indigenous rights”, Canada will, sooner than later, have an ‘audit’ we can be proud of.

  • Marion Cumming

    Thank you Elizabeth. It is unfortunate that Federal Minister of Native and Northern Affairs should characterize Bills C-38 and C-45 as “Constitutional”, when they are an assault on indigenous rights to be properly consulted and to informed consent. The Harper Government, when it was in minority status, accepted the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Given your background in law, do you see a way of identifying parts of these omnibus bills – that you diligently fought in the House of Commons on behalf of all Canadians – that are particularly offensive to indigenous communities and thus could be excised from these bills. It would be wonderful to recover the Navigable Waters Act, and restore environmental and legal safeguards that were gutted through the passage of these noxious bills. I hope the Green Party and all the opposition parties in the Commons will create a common front in solidarity with the Idle No More movement on these and other significant issues.

  • Guest

    Well said and good suggestions for moving forward. I’ll be sharing this one. Thanks Elizabeth!

  • Lester Johnson


    Thank you, thank you Elizabeth May for laying out the problem in a little more detail, clearly a Stephen Harper problem rather than an aboriginal “problem”. The list of aboriginal health programmes cut by Stephen Harper reveals the moral sewer which he inhabits when he descends to cutting things like assistance for fetal alcohol syndrome. To use the religiosity terminology of his own evangelical leanings, WWJT? What Would Jesus Think? And what would he think of Stephen Harper? But more importantly what would he do?

  • Lawrence Hogarth

    Stephen Harper should be on trial for treason.

  • Dian Clare

    Thank you, Elizabeth May

  • massagrabber

    con servatives sell the countries assets and you don’t scream. You know the mandate is fraudulent. Elections Canada has 14 ridings 6200 votes total with rob calls and mis directions under investigation. That institution is treading softly and running roughshod by neglect. Elizabeth May, you ought to be ashamed.
    Every single act of legislation they have run has an asterisk beside it. That investigation ought to have been completed before that bunch of crooks sat down. The ridings in question ought to be able to get an honest vote.
    This country has been NEO CONNED.

  • EddieMarriage

    Chief Spence may have only been elected for 1 year at the end of that audit period, but I would suggest that a year is certainly enough time for a community leader to figure out what’s going on. Especially in a small ‘town’, where everybody knows each other.

    If Theresa Spence knew what was going on with that $104-million, she’s got a lot of explaining to do. If she didn’t, what kind of leader is she?

    I’m sorry, but there is no way to successfully spin-doctor this audit, Ms. May, and I wish that at least you (if not the Liberals or NDP) would take Chief Spence aside and ask for an explanation.

    Can you do that?

    Will you?

  • EddieMarriage

    That, my friends, represents $360-million dollars that De Beers Inc. has invested in the Attawapiskat First Nation. And that includes housing!

    Yet conditions remain deplorable on that Reserve.

    So please do not throw a red herring in by claiming that most of the $104-million in federal money went to improve housing. Don’t insult our intelligence.

    Again, Ms. May, what will you do to find out the truth?

    YOU. You, yourself.

    For the sake of the majority of Attawapiskat’s 2,000 people who need your help, please find it.

    Thank you.

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