The first nations

tundra wolf Publications

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They’ve lived here for thousands of years, owners and inhabitants of this land. Yet on a visit to Canada, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he found the conditions on Native reservations to be as bad, if not worse, than in South African townships. Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, noted that, if the conditions of Aboriginal peoples were isolated, Canada would rank 63rd, not number 1 among the best countries to live.


On Native reservations, 65% of households live in substandard housing, 74% in Manitoba, 71% in Ontario, and 70% in Saskatchewan. Many do not have any of the basic necessities. 25% do not have working bathrooms or proper insulation.


And of course, overcrowded homes! If you think that’s just a statistic then tell that to the parents of these children.


On May 7, 2009, five-year-old Tristan Mousseau died in a house fire on the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation. There were 11 people in that home including eight children. Alvin Maytwayashing, the grandfather of the boy and the owner of that home said the boy may have been forgotten in the confusion as they escaped through the back of the house through a window. His words, “He was in the bedroom, the master bedroom, on the bed. He was sleeping but they woke everybody up. I don’t know how they forgot about him. I can’t really say”.


In February earlier that year on the same reserve, a grief stricken father buried his 9 year old daughter. The house that was destroyed due to fire had 15 residents. Michael Dumas, the father of nine year old Hope Richard could not attend the wake for Tristan Mousseau; it would be like living the death of his daughter all over again.


Overcrowding in those community homes was blamed for both the deaths.


For communities beset with poverty which is way higher than for non-indigenous people, isolated on reserves, with little social and economic development, the results are almost a mechanical derivation. Unemployment, sometimes as high as 75%, rampant substance abuse, health and emotional disturbance, gang activity and so many other social phenomenon, that are now a regular part of life among the First Nations. If you list out words such as HIV and AIDS, suicide rate, birth defects, infant mortality and many such health related issues, you will find a clear distinction in how much higher this rate is among the First Nations.

If you are loathe to think that it does not affect you, look up the statistics of the largest demographic of young people. If thousands of these young are marginalized then we have a huge problem on our hands in the near future Canada!