Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Taxpayers' Federation Pitches Solution to End First Nations Poverty

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Taxpayers' Federation Pitches Solution to End First Nations Poverty

Article excerpt

Lobby group wades in on First Nations poverty

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OTTAWA - An influential lobby group with close ties to the federal Conservatives is recommending that Ottawa ditch the Indian Act and give First Nations more control over their land in order to end aboriginal poverty once and for all.

On the surface of it, those are goals that First Nations could agree with. But any agreement ends at the superficial level.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- architects of a campaign to open up chiefs' books to the public that was instrumental in recent federal legislation to publish salaries and benefits -- is now urging Ottawa to treat First Nations people like everyone else.

"For the sake of kids living in poverty on too many reserves, we don't need another decade with more social programs and tinkering," said Colin Craig, the group's Prairie director.

"We need a new approach, one that treats all Canadians the same and connects aboriginal people with jobs and opportunities."

Craig said that means Ottawa should get rid of legislation such as the Indian Act, parts of the Criminal Code that allow for reduced sentences, as well as arts grants for aboriginals -- all while respecting treaties and the Constitution.

Ottawa should, however, be proactive in giving aboriginal people in remote communities the support they need to move to areas where they can find jobs and education, he said.

The federation also says band members should be able to own their homes, and develop, lease or sell their reserve land without Ottawa's permission.

The group is also proposing a pilot project that would see funding go directly to band members, and then have the band council tax some of it back to pay for services.

"Whatever the Harper government decides to move ahead with, it should first discuss the changes with grassroots taxpayers and grassroots people living on reserves," Craig said.

The proposals are bound to be controversial.

The federation made many enemies among First Nations leaders when it published a list of high salaries going to chiefs and pushed for legislative changes.

The Assembly of First Nations has also resisted some proposed changes to land and home ownership, althoug it also has some proposals of its own on that front. …

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