Public Nuisances

The Big-Screen TVs of Turtle Island

November 29, 2011

Multiple Pages
The Big-Screen TVs of Turtle Island

Why is there ALWAYS a big screen tv?

That was Saskatchewan blogger Kate McMillan’s one-line post about Canada’s “First Nations communities” last Friday night. So she noticed that, too—Canada’s presumably oppressed “natives” always own big-screen TVs.

Ten months ago, New Democratic Party—that is, socialist—Member of Parliament Charles Angus was campaigning to keep right-leaning Sun TV off the airwaves, calling it a threat to “human health or public safety.” Yet he was in their Ottawa studios on Friday, sucking up those precious first five minutes of airtime to push his latest cause: the “shameful” living conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve.

Angus has literally traveled a long way since I met him in the ’80s. He was “Chuck” then, a punk musician who “ran” (although I doubt that’s the acceptable anarchist term) Toronto’s Catholic Worker house. When thankless voluntary poverty got stale, Angus moved back up north to Timmins, ran for public office, and won. I may be an evil, warmongering, right-wing capitalist, but this is Canada, so the former anarcho-pacifist now makes more money than I do. Living in North Bay’s wilds and all, he probably owns more guns, too, even though his party wants them banned. He’s also a “devout Catholic” who voted for gay “marriage.” (That’s why I could never be a progressive. Too much damned “nuance.”)

Aikin gravely warned viewers that the footage they were about to watch “may be disturbing,” and it was—but not for the reasons he or Angus supposed.

“They gave us cigarettes. We gave them booze. I call it even.”

Shot by Angus, the video showed First Nations families living in shacks. Viewers were told that residents were forced to use buckets for toilets.

Angus’s voiceover echoed the statement on his official website:

Temperatures have dropped 20 degrees and are likely to drop even more very soon. Families in makeshift tents and un-insulated sheds with no hydro [electricity] or water are facing immediate risk.

Perhaps aboriginal televisions run on some mystical power other than electricity, because I noticed that the numerous children in two of the shacks were staring at working TVs.

And I’m pretty sure Attawapiskat residents already know about Canada’s winters. After all, as we’re never permitted to forget, this land comprises the ancestral First Nations territories of “Turtle Island,” with which these deeply spiritual peoples boast a symbiotic bond no white man could possibly comprehend.

The fact is, all this “shocking” footage of “life” in Attawapiskat was virtually indistinguishable from that taken in Natuashish in 2003, when suicidal, gas-huffing Innu teens and their shiftless parents vandalized their “own” (that is, taxpayer-funded) new homes. (That was after their second relocation; they’d done the same thing at their old settlement.)

Commenters at McMillan’s blog chimed in with similar situations they’d witnessed in their travels across Canada:

Some years back, the [Newfoundland] govt [sic] built modern, warm bungalows in Nain, I think it was. Within days, people had torn out the main living room window and the back patio door from some houses so that they might drive their snow machines up into the house and unload their game, wood, etc.

Of course, the gaping holes meant snow getting into the houses.…And so you’d have an $80K home that would last 100 years if maintained properly being condemned five years after its construction.

And then the govt [sic] would build more homes.

And when they aren’t destroying their “own” property, Canada’s natives destroy other people’s. Take Caledonia:

[O]n Feb. 28, 2006, a few protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve walked on to a construction site in Caledonia, Ontario, and took it over. In the next few months, the protesters—bolstered by supporters from outside—erected barricades, dug a trench across a town street, dropped a van over a bridge on to the highway below and toppled a Hydro One tower. Four and a half years later, the barricades are still up.

One of the few people arrested during this occupation was a non-native resident, taken away in handcuffs for waving a Canadian flag.

When putting out their semi-annual “First Nations living conditions are Canada’s shame” multi-part newspaper series, even otherwise intelligent commentators habitually observe:

All of these terrible conditions persist despite the significant amounts of money that governments have spent on the native community. When it comes to the 500,000 natives living on reserve alone, Ottawa spends nearly $9-billion annually.

“Despite” all that free money. Not—as any sane, courageous person could tell you—“because” of it.

How much “free money” are we talking about? John Duncan, the Conservative government’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, issued a defensive press release in the wake of the “scandal;” amidst the requisite jargon about “complex challenges” and “working closely with the community,” the Ministry couldn’t resist slipping in the following factoid: Since 2006, his department “alone has provided approximately $80 million to Attawapiskat First Nation, which does not including funding the community will receive this fiscal year.”

According to the 2001 Census, the population of Attawapiskat was just under 1300 people. That means one federal government ministry gifted the community with over $61,000 for every individual on the reserve.

That sure would buy a lot of toilets. So where are they?

Even the mildest critics of native misbehavior are afraid of being called “racist” (at best) or physically attacked (at worst). But Christie Blatchford, one of the country’s most respected veteran reporters, dared to write an honest book about Caledonia. She was prevented from talking about it at one Canadian university after students “occupied” the stage in protest while police (just as they had in Caledonia itself) did nothing.

Most ordinary Canadians are sick of the highly lucrative First Nations victimization racket and the two-tier “justice” system it’s created. (Imagine getting sentenced to attend the equivalent of a really long AA meeting after letting your two baby daughters freeze to death.)

Even some Indians hate it. Osoyoos chief Clarence Louie, for one, is “famous for posting signs such as ‘Real Warriors Hold A Job’ around his reserve.”

The solution to Canada’s intractable “Indian problem” seems obvious: Give every card-carrying native one million dollars cash, tax-free. (It will be the last tax-free perk they’ll ever enjoy and the last government entitlement they’ll be eligible to receive.) In return, they drop all treaty disputes and other suits against the government and the Catholic Church. Then they move off the reserves. This Crown land will be turned into toxic waste dumps and—assuming some of the natives get homesick—maximum-security prisons.

Frankly, we don’t owe Indians anything. They gave us cigarettes. We gave them booze. I call it even.


Daily updates with TM’s latest


The opinions of our commenters do not necessarily represent the opinions of Taki's Magazine or its contributors.