Jun 19/98: AFN urges native-run social services


Sudbury Star
June 19, 1998
Denis St. Pierre

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

SUDBURY, Ont. (CP) - Canada's aboriginal people need to control their own social assistance programs to reverse the widespread dependency on welfare that "sucks the soul right out of our people," an aboriginal researcher said Thursday.

"Social assistance is killing our people," said Herb Nabigon, a Laurentian University professor and contributor to a report by the Assembly of First Nations aimed at reforming the social security system.

The federal and provincial governments should acknowledge existing policies aren't working and allow aboriginal people to run their own social assistance programs, Nabigon said. The dependency on welfare by generations of aboriginal people has placed them in a weak position, he said.

Traditional aboriginal economies have been wiped out and unemployment in some communities ranges between 50 and 90 per cent, he said. "No society can survive in a healthy state with that kind of unemployment."

Nabigon is one of several professors from across Canada selected to prepare the report, entitled Towards a National Framework for a First Nations Social Security System. It has been in the works for more than a year and is expected to be completed by fall, when it will be submitted to the federal government.

A First Nations social security system would empower people to rise above their dependency through better education, training and economic development, Nabigon said.

Nabigon said the proposed system would take years to realize - but not as long as it will take to remedy chronic poverty and hopelessness faced by many aboriginal people. "There's a lot of work to be done to move from dependency to more independence."

A discussion paper on the proposal stated existing programs do not reflect the needs or perspectives of aboriginal people. The unique problems facing aboriginal people "can only be overcome by developing a First Nations social security system based on aboriginal cultures, values, social and economic systems and world views," it states.

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