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Ottawa warned to prepare for more native conflict as critics attack budget

Sue Bailey
Hamilton Spectator
May 3, 2006

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

OTTAWA (CP) - Expect more blockades, warn critics who say the Tories have shunted native issues to the political backburner amid frustration underscored by the Caledonia standoff and the Kashechewan crisis.

The focus of many of our communities will most likely shift to conflict and other direct measures to make the federal Conservatives accountable for their lack of action, said Chief Stewart Paul. The co-chairman of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs was among several dismayed by what wasn't in the new government's first budget.

Namely, more than $5.1 billion promised under the Kelowna deal reached last November by aboriginal leaders, the former Liberal government and the premiers.

Its exclusion comes on the heels of a botched police raid that escalated a continuing land dispute in Caledonia, near Hamilton, Ont., and another flood crisis on Kashechewan, a remote northern Ontario reserve that has repeatedly made grim headlines.

We've been a very patient people for hundreds of years, said Stan Louttit, grand chief of the Mushkegowuk Council representing Kashechewan.

The tiny First Nation on the James Bay coast has been evacuated three times in the last two years because of flooding and, last fall, polluted drinking water.

I don't know how far people can be pushed before they start carrying out things such as civil disobedience to make their point, Louttit said Wednesday.

If that's what it takes, well, I suppose that's what it will be.

Opposition MPs taunted Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice in the Commons on Wednesday as he defended the budget.

It commits just $150 million this fiscal year to lift education, housing and water standards and to help close socio-economic gaps between native and non-native people.

Another $300 million is promised next year.

Prentice stressed that $600 million is also earmarked for housing off-reserve and in the North.

What he didn't say is that there's a catch.

Those housing funds are one-time payments to be paid into a third-party trust, contingent on sufficient funds from the 2005-06 surplus in excess of $2 billion, says the budget.

In other words, the Conservatives would use cash from the last fiscal year - if more than $2 billion is left over when the numbers are finalized - a practise of carrying over funds that has been sternly criticized by the auditor general.

Still, Prentice called it a very fair and reasonable approach.

The budget, if it's fully understood, involves significant commitment to aboriginal Canadians and it's one that has support out there.

Patrick Brazeau, head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, represents constituents living off-reserve.

He supported the budget after being assured he'll be included in new talks this summer toward meeting the goals outlined in the Kelowna deal - a flawed agreement Brazeau said gave short shrift to those living off-reserve.

Everybody's getting a little piece of the pie - which was not the case in previous budgets, he said Wednesday.

Others say the last thing needed is more talk.

The minister of Indian Affairs, Jim Prentice, has stated publicly that he was committed to 'putting the wheels on Kelowna', said Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Why is it now necessary to reinvent the wheel?

We are more than willing to meet to discuss implementing measures that will improve quality of life for First Nations, but this budget does not appear to offer much.

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