Friday, December 16, 2011

Call a Spade a Spade: Native Rights and Native Reserves make the situation intractable

When the grave situation in this or that remote reserve hits the news, moral outrage is the order of the day. Liberals always demand that more money be thrown the situation and invariably throw in some reference to the Third World. Conservatives, on the other hand, always question whether current monies are being wisely spent.

Neither side seems to have noticed the guy in the gorilla suit. The long and troubled relationship between First Nation peoples and the Crown has blinded them to patent absurdity of the current situation. It has blinded them to the fact that Attawapiskat is a natural consequence of an economic and legal relationship built around Native rights, the reserve system, the Indian Act and Native Self government. In any other context this would be self evident. Indeed, imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means to be Chinese, created a department of Chinese affairs, created Chinese rights, reserved land for Chinese so defined and exempted Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves?

Of course the situation is even worse than just described. Not only has Canada set up hundreds of tax havens for Status Indians to take advantage of, it also provides incentives for Status Indians to stay on them or move to them. Specifically, the feds hold out the promise of free housing, a promise to pay for upkeep and the promise of never imposing not only no income tax or sales tax, but also no property tax. The federal government will pay for any needed infrastructure. Realizing, the patent absurdity of its ironclad guarantee, the government drags its feet, provides the bare minimum level of funding for housing, upkeep and infrastructure and to, add insult to injury, proceeds in less than timely matter. In other words, the government has every reason to create living conditions that repel even as its moronic promises attract.

In practice government foot dragging does not always work so well. Some of these tax havens are so isolated and so utterly economically unviable that the government is dammed no matter what it does. If it builds up these communities too much it runs the risk of attracting more people to them. However if it does too little, the very scarcity of jobs in these places ties people living there to land all the more. The less assets, work experience and education a person has the more attractive the prospect of obtaining free housing, however squalid, becomes. There is a long waiting list of people wanting housing in Attawapiskat. A bird in the hand is better than two in bush as it were; a dilapidated house in the hand is better than the dim prospects of a better house elsewhere.

The only possible way out this mess, viz., abolishing native rights, abolishing the Indian Act and privatizing reserve lands, has been forever blocked by section 35 of the Constitution -- a decision, by the way, that renders Trudeau's time in office an abject failure. The best the government can do is to amend the Indian Act to allow for the creation of fee simple lands, thereby switching the financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing from the federal government to individual home owners, and empowering bands to impose property taxes. This will give the people living in Attawapiskat and like communities additional economic incentives to leave. Namely, either property taxes and the cost of upkeep will drive people away in the absence of a job, or the prospect of using the capital from the sale of one's house and land will.

That said, introducing fee simple opens a whole host of other problems. For example, as the idiocy of native self government is maintained in all cases, non natives purchasing native lands would have no right to take part in band elections. There would be taxation but no representation. Such a situation would greatly depress real estate values on reserves -- especially on remote reserves. Band councils must be transformed into municipal councils. The notion of a government built around a legally defined race is not only economically problematic, it is ideologically putrid. Moving to a fee simple model also does not eliminate such lands as tax havens.

The reserve system, premised as it is on the notion of native rights, is a bureaucratic, fiscal, jurisdictional, legal, intellectual and sociological abortion that does nothing save waste mountains of money, breed corruption, black marketeering and poverty, encourage tax evasion (e.g., cigarettes), instill in the native community a vile sense of identity based on “blood” and breed racism in the Canadian society at large. If politicians and the media want to accept this as Canada's historical cross to bear, so be it. However, it is high time both acknowledge that the problem is intractable so long as the only possible solution, viz., the abolition of native rights and the Indian Act and privatization of reserve lands, remains legally untenable.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Abolish the Senate Already

Constitutionally senators have all kinds of power and every once in a blue moon the Senate has stalled major pieces of legislation (e.g., free trade and the GST). However the aforementioned instances of stalling are so rare they are the exceptions that prove just how "ineffective" the senate truly is. Moreover, no senate I can think of has pursued a legislative agenda of its own accord; opposing legislation is one thing; purposing legislation is quite another. The reason the senate is not an "effective" body is that senators are not elected and as such lack legitimacy. Furthermore, senators are members of legitimate federal political parties and the parties that they belong to are loath to have their unelected members exercise real authority least their actions undermine the party. Finally, the fact that it is the ruling federal party and not, say, provincial governments that appoint senators defines a clear pecking order, with the Senate answerable to the House.

Harper, of course, wants to reform the Senate. Being unable to reform the Senate in one fell swoop, Harper has proposed electing Senators piece meal. Under the Conservative plan, new senators would be elected and would be limited to serving out a 8 year term. The elephant in the living room is that if the senate's lack of effective powers flows from the senate's lack of legitimacy, then electing senators might provide the senate with a degree of legitimacy it currently does not hold. One problem with proceeding thusly is that current senators are free to serve until the age of 75. As a result, Harper's actions could either transform an unelected political body with no real power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power. Always content to play the Tin Man and Lion to Conservatives scarecrow, the Liberals remain largely mum on the subject.

Setting aside problems associated with implementation, is the cause of democracy even served by reforming the Senate? Well, the Reformers always held that the regions needed more say and an “equal” “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. Of course, Reformers also lamented that "the West's" growing population was not translating into more political clout. Such was movement's internal inconstancy and intellectual shallowness. The Reform party aside, such a conception, and for that matter an "effective" version of the current senate, does not stand up to scrutiny. The problem is fivefold.

First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. Consider the 905. There are currently 4 plus million living in the 905 and there are currently 32 seats for an average of just over 127,000 people per riding. There are 6 ridings with over a 140,000 people in the 905, Bramalea - Gore - Malton (152,698) Brampton West (170,422) Halton (151,943), Mississauga - Erindale (143,361) Oak Ridges - Markham (169,642) and Vaughan (154,206). By contrast there are 4.5 million people in Sask, Man, NWT, Nuv, Yuk, PEI, NS, NFLD, and NB and there are 62 seats for an average of 72,000 people per riding. Moreover, there is but one riding in the 9, Selkirk Interlake (90,807), with over 90,000 people. Given current growth trends, the 2011 census might show there to be more people in the 905 than the aforementioned provinces and territories. Given population growth, Harper would have to give Ontario alone another 70 seats to make things half way equal. Of course, the problems do not stop there. Not only are the smaller provinces grossely overrepresented so too are rural areas in most provinces. For example, the riding of has Labrador has 26,364 people as compared to the riding of St John's East which has 88,002, Kenora has 64,291 and suburban riding of Oak Ridges - Markham 169,642, Miramichi has 53,844 and Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe 89,334, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing 77,961 and Vanughn 154,206.

Second, simply by virtue of having provincial jurisdiction and provincial representation people living in Canada’s less populated provinces already have a means of leveraging far more attention and support from the Federal government than their numbers warrant. Danny Williams had the government's attention in ways that the mayors of Surrey, Red Deer, Brant, Fredericton and Churchill did not even though we are talking about equal number of seats in both cases. There is more. There is also the asinine Canadian tradition of handing out cabinet posts based not on talent but region.

The third reason is that while one person one vote is bedrock principle of any democracy, one province one senate vote is something else entirely. People, not provinces, deserve equal representation. A province is no more or less than the people that make up that province. Giving the 135,851 in PEI the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, provincial representation and 4 MPs well all the while giving the 170, 422 residents of Brampton West one MP is bad enough as it is. Piling on and giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the American Triple E Senate model, as 12,160,282 Ontarians is beyond stupid and grossly undemocratic. Equally silly is having one "effective" Senator for every 72,997 New Brunswick residents (10 senators in total) versus one Senator for every 685, 581 BC residents (6 senators in total). And that is what the current configuration gives us.

Four, as Benjamin Franklin put it, having two equally matched houses makes as much sense as tying two equally matched horses to either end of a buggy and having them both pull. Having two houses is not only a lobbyist's dream, it is a recipe for political gridlock and pork barrel politics. The only thing that would be worse is if one needed 60% of the votes in the senate to overcome a filibuster.

Five, leaving aside the fact that no province has a second chamber, most having abolished them long ago, and that there are numerous examples of unicameral nation states (e.g., New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal), we already have a de facto unicameral state as it is -- just ask the supporters of a Triple E senate. After all, one can not argue on the one hand that the current senate is undemocratic and so contributes to the "democratic deficit" and on the other hand argue that the senate is “ineffective”. A body that adds nothing to the genuinely "effective" process can not take away anything either.

Canadians drowning in Debt: further Decreases in Amortization called for

The cost of housing gone through the roof since 2006 and the main reason for that is the Conservative government decided pour fuel on an already red hot real estate market. The Conservatives extended the mortgage amortization period from 25 years to 30 years in February 2006, extended it to 35 years in July of 2006 and extended it yet again to 40 years in November 2006. During this period they also reduced the needed down payment on second properties from 20% to 5% and allowed for 0 down on one's primary residence. Ever since the down turn, Jim Flaherty has been scrabbling to undo the damage his past actions have done. Flaherty first reduced amortization period from 40 years to 35 and again mandated a 20% down payment on secondary properties and 5% on primary properties in October 2008 and on March 18th he reduced the maximum amortization period to 30 years. Never once acknowledging that it was he who raised the amortization period to begin with, Jim Flaherty has repeatedly over the course of the last 2 and half years claimed that reducing the amortization and increasing the minimum downplayment was the right thing to do. "In 2008 and again in 2010, our government acted to protect and strengthen the Canadian housing market,".


With Canadians drowning in debt, Ed Clark, the chief executive officer of Toronto-Dominion Bank has said Flaherty should go back to where he started. That is, amortization should be capped at 25 years.


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/mortgage-rules-should-be-stricter-td-chief-says/article2271588/


The problem is that it would be tricky to do this without creating a downturn in the housing market and this would not reverse the damage that has already been done by Conservative stupidity. Whether it be Bloomberg, the Economist, the IMF, Paul Krugman and, if you read between the lines, Mark Carney many are worried that Canada's housing market is headed for a crash and that such a crash would have dire implications for Canada. For one thing, since 2006 Canadian mortgage and housing corporations liabilities have gone from 100 billion to 500 hundred billion. If the housing bubble bursts and Canadians start defaulting on their mortgages, the Canadian tax payer will be picking up the tab. The Canadian government guarantees all that debt.

So long as Native Rights and Reserves exist so will Attawapiskats

When the grave situation in this or that remote reserve hits the news, moral outrage is the order of the day. Liberals always demand that more money be thrown the situation and invariably throw in some reference to the Third World. Conservatives, on the other hand, always question whether current monies are being wisely spent.


Neither side seems to have noticed the guy in the gorilla suit. The long and troubled relationship between First Nation peoples and the Crown has blinded them to patent absurdity of the current situation. It has blinded them to the fact that Attawapiskat is a natural consequence of an economic and legal relationship built around Native rights, the reserve system, the Indian Act and Native Self government. In any other context this would be evident. Indeed, imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means to be Chinese, created a department of Chinese affairs, created Chinese rights, reserved land for Chinese so defined and exempted Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves?


The reserve system, premised as it is on the notion of native rights, is a bureaucratic, fiscal, jurisdictional, legal, intellectual and sociological abortion that does nothing save waste mountains of money, breed corruption, black marketeering and poverty, encourage tax evasion, instill in the native community a vile sense of identity based on “blood” and breed racism in the Canadian society at large. If the Liberals want to accept this as Canada's historical cross to bear, so be it. However, they need to acknowledge that the problem is intractable so long as the only possible solution, viz., the abolition of native rights and the Indian Act and privatization of reserve lands, remains legally untenable.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A guide on handling Conservative Marijuana legalization talking points and Liberal reluctance

The US will never legalize Pot

Proposition 19 failed, but the issue will likely be revisited in 2012 and this time it stands a very good chance of passing. Voter turn for mid term elections is always significantly less than when the presidency is up for grabs. For proposition 19 to have stood any chance of winning Democrats, and the young needed to be energized. They were not and stayed away in droves. Even with everything stacked against them, though, the yes campaign still garnered 46% of vote.

A yes vote would kick start a debate stateside that would wipe out any legitimacy prohibition has left in vast swaths of the country. So, while it is likely that a yes vote would likely be contested by whomever is president in 2013, the response is likely to be muted. This will be especially so if Obama wins. Obama is not going to go to war with the biggest State in the Union and one that is heavily Democratic to boot.

Obama's ability to push back would be for other reasons as well. He freely admits to having marijuana in the past ("I inhaled frequently. That was the point") and his marijuana use is not a part of some redemption narrative, a la George Bush. It was a path he choice not to continue going down. Drug use was never presented as a demon he had to overcome yet alone one he still struggles with the way an alcoholic does with drink. This would leave him open to the charge of hypocrisy. Far more importantly though, the war and drugs, especially with regard to marijuana, has had a profound impact on the African American community in the States. If Obama was to toe the standard line in the face of California promising to end the war on drugs, he would be in a world of hurt politically. The African American community would not, of course, abandon him, but they would be unhappy and their unhappiness would have the potential to throw his whole re election campaign out of whack politically. His whole message of being the candidate of change would be called into question.

Finally, it was Obama that set the wheels of legalization in motion in the first place by declaring that he would not crack down on medical marijuana. For you see, unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible for medical marijuana. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, such a system is ripe for abuse and the Bush administration was right to see medical marijuana program as a potential Trojan horse. But Obama let wooden horse to be wheeled into California and other States anyway. In so doing, Obama has allowed the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere to grow to the point there is no saving prohibition from Odysseus. There are more medical marijuana dispensaries in LA than Starbucks. It is not a question of if marijuana will be legalized in the US it is matter of when.

The US will Never Let it happen

Canadians understand that the US, despite prohibition's crumbling foundation there, would not be pleased about legalization. As such, Harper's musings about legalizing marijuana causing trouble at the border seem reasonable enough. The problem is this does not make marijuana prohibition any more legitimate; it just means that Canada is tailoring its own laws to meet the demands of Americans considered so illegitimate that popular cultural considers them a symptom of madness “refer madness”. This can not stand. Any perception that Canada is enforcing laws to met with illegitimate demands of a bullying third party, whoever that may be, is simply poisonous to the health of a functioning democracy.

Moreover, the notion that American prohibition would stand if Canada were to charge ahead with marijuana legalization is wrong. Not only would Canadian boldness create a tidal wave of domestic debate State side, but should Canada have the guts to go through with such a move various European countries (e.g., Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands) Australia and Latin America, Mexico in particular, would soon follow Canada's led. The international dominos would start falling one by one. This in turn would further embolden domestic proponents, especially those in California.

Potent Pot

Potent pot is more myth than reality.

However, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 "chemically supercharged" joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of "dad's joints" would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School concurs, so does Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California and so does UCLA's Mark Kleiman.

That said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. After all, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

Finally, the attempt to scare parents that have grown up on marijuana by distinguishing between potent pot and “your dad's marijuana” is too clever by half. After all, it begs the following question. If today's marijuana is truly different in kind from "dads marijuana", would it be ok to legalize "dad's marijuana", i.e., low potency pot?


The Black Market will live on

It is one thing to illegally sell a legally produced product and make a profit, e.g., black market cigarettes. It is quite another thing to illegally produce and sell a product (e.g., moonshine) in market where there is legal competitors. The reason is simple. People want to know that what they buying and consuming. So when given the choice of buying an illegally produced product versus a legally produced product they are going to go with the later. (There is one notable exception and that is when an illegally produced product is successfully passed off as a legal one, e.g., fake brand name goods). That is why no matter how much Canadians drank during the time of American prohibition, I am sure that it never crossed the RCMP’s mind that American moonshine might become a competitor of Molson’s.

The gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time

One of the arguments that I have repeatedly come across recently is that should marijuana be legalized then the gangs will move onto other things. I prefer to call this the gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument.

The problem with this argument is that the gangs are already into other things and it is profits from marijuana that are helping them do that. In the context of Canada, marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand operations into the States, for example, and to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns). It is not like the gangs have excess to capital markets. This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this in the bud.


Gateway Drug

Researchers have rightly noted that people who have try marijuana are statistically more likely try other illicit drugs. This gave raise to the theory that there was something about marijuana that encouraged drug experimentation. Marijuana, it was alleged, is a gateway drug. This, in turn, was given as one more reason to keep the drug illegal.However, the gateway drug theory has until recently fallen on hard times for lack of an intelligible mechanism. The problem was that there was no coherent explanation for why marijuana would lead people to experiment with other drugs. Without this explanation doubt was cast relationship being more than mere correlation. That said, in recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana's pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana's illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged blackmarket relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gateway. Ironically the gateway drug theory has been turned on its head and used as reason for legalizing the drug. The Canadian Senate employed the new and improved version of the gateway argument as a reason for legalizing the drug.

In this context it should be noted that when the Dutch partially legalized the sale of marijuana, heroin and cocaine use went down despite an initial increase in marijuana use. Dutch use of hard drugs remains well below the European average.


Schizophrenia Marijuana

Epidemiological studies have consistently failed to show a positive correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia and there is no causation without correlation. Specifically, should there be a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia, there should be a positive correlation between marijuana consumption and schizophrenia, but such a correlation is conspicuous by its absence. Despite a massive increase in the number of Australians consuming the drug since the 1960s, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland found no increase in the number of cases of schizophrenia in Australia. Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California similarly found the same with regard to the US population and Oxford's Leslie Iversen found the same regard to the population in the UK. According to Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University,


"If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the '40s and the ‘ 50,"


Much of the evidence linking marijuana to schizophrenia suggests not that it causes schizophrenia but rather that it may cause the earlier onset of symptoms in people who would sooner or later develop schizophrenia. Much to Gordan Brown's dismay, this was the opinion of Dr Iddon.



Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse [Britain], said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed. "If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.

The Failure of Current Liberal Policy

A promise to legalize marijuana would be a welcome respite from the Liberals shamelessly taking inherently contradictory policies in hopes of capitalizing on both sides of this issue.

Indeed, on the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chr├ętien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand, just as they long downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have long stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Both positions are popular with the public, but run the two positions together and it is as if Chr├ętien said this instead. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” If the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to mix an acknowledgment on behalf of the Liberal party that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

Far from helping the Liberals such an approach probably harmed them. It angered ardent supporters of both sides of the political divide at the same time and prevented the Liberals from saying anything intelligent about the issue. Moreover, as far the general public is concerned, the Liberals have gained nothing by trying to emulate the Conservative's tough on crime stance. The reason is simple. As Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election that there are certain issues that just favour the Conservatives. The example he gave was the economy. No matter how successful the Liberals were in balancing the books and creating jobs, Conservative research suggested that when it came to economics people trusted the Conservatives more than they did the Liberals. It does not much of leap to suggest the same is true for crime. After all, to presume that the public has a working knowledge of each party's justice policies is giving the public way too much credit; the public trades in stereotypes and they are always going to believe that Conservatives are tougher on crime. This is especially so now. The Conservatives are in power and for this reason alone what they say with regard to crime garners headlines. By contrast, past Liberal support for some those Conservative tough on crime measures has drawn almost no attention at all. Of course, even if the Liberals were able to convince Canadians did support this or that Conservative measure, the Conservatives have a fail safe. They have claimed and will continue to claim that the Liberals had ability to introduce such policies when they were in power and failed to do so. No one likes a Johnny come lately.

Of course, Liberal bad faith goes much deeper than playing both sides against the middle. Despite a long term commitment to decriminalize marijuana the Liberals have failed to act for fear of angering the Americans. The Marc Emery case is a great example Liberal cowardness. For years Marc Emery had been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in Federal taxes on money he made “selling marijuana seeds”. Yet in 2005, at the behest of the American government, Canada arrested Emery so that he could face charges in the US. Emery pleaded guilty to the US charges and was sent the US to serve a 5 year prison term for crime that had not been prosecuted in Canada for 7 years and had only ever warranted a $200 fine. It gets worse. Under the terms of the extradition treaty, one can not be extradited if one is facing the same charge in one’s country of residence and one was arrested there. So, a BC marijuana activists tried to save Emery from being sent to the States by having Emery charged under Canadian law. His efforts were unsuccessful. Despite a mountain of evidence against him, Canadian authorities were unwilling to charge Emery under Canadian law.

So long as the debate is centered around sentencing, the Conservatives win. The Liberals need to shift the focus from punishment to the legitimacy of various laws. This is the only way of Liberals will be able to starve the Conservatives' populist tough on crime agenda of oxygen.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Time to Abolish the Reserve system

Imagine if the government happened to, oh, legally define what it means Chinese, create a department of Chinese affairs, create Chinese rights, reserve land for Chinese so defined and exempt Chinese living on reserve land from paying taxes of any kind. No one would doubt that is a recipe for disastrous social relations. So, why would anyone doubt the same about Native Affairs, native rights and native reserves? Abolish the reserve system and native rights and comments about "drunken Indians" will become as rare and archaic sounding as "drunken" whatever.

Not to sound too much like a historical materialist, but a culture ceases to form a coherent whole once the dominant mode of production completely changes. This is not controversial. Everyone realizes that recreating the culture of feudal France or Ancient Athens is impossible. Such a task would mean recreating the economic basis upon which fostered these cultures. However, many people it seems have the hair brained notion that it is possible to create a close facsimile of traditional native culture. They have not noticed that what underpins native culture today is not subsistence hunting carried out with modern rifles with scopes in place of traditional hunting tools, but rather Canadian law and past Canadian attempts of social exclusion. The dichotomy between “their” culture and “our” culture is hence false. Canada is the authors of both. The Indian Act and the reserve system is the basis by which status Indians reproduce themselves.

The insistence of many that the communal tenor of Native culture be maintained no matter what amounts to call to save native culture screw the natives. Yes these collection of idiotic laws have helped foster a strong Native identity (legally defining a group as other always does), but on a human level they produced nothing but misery. Why this does not bother more people I do not know. It is time the Canadian government shut down this ant farm. All it has done is produce levels of poverty that could only be described as third world, substance abuse levels that rival countries undergoing serve economic dislocation, suicide rates as high as gay males and American soldiers serving in Iraq and rapid criminality.

Friday, December 02, 2011

An Attawapiskat will show up every 3 years in perpetuity.

Thanks to the idiocy of the 1982, aka section 35, the only way forward, viz., abolishing native rights, abolishing the Indian Act and privatizing reserve lands, has been forever blocked. An Attawapiskat like situation will show up every 3 years or so in perpetuity. The incentives built into the system are perverse.

Indeed, most governments try to limit their citizens ability to take advantage of tax havens. But not Canada. The Canadian federal government provides incentives for Status Indians to stay or move to various tax havens and it backs up its promises with an ironclad guarantee. Specifically, the feds hold out the promise of free housing, a promise pay for upkeep and the promise of never imposing not only no income tax or sales tax, but also no property tax. The federal government will pay for any needed infrastructure. Of course, the reality is less rosy than the brochure makes it seem. Realizing the patent absurdity of its ironclad guarantee, the government drags its feet, provides the bare minimum level of funding for housing, upkeep and infrastructure and to, add insult to injury, proceeds in less than timely matter. In other words, the government has every reason to create living conditions that repel even as its moronic promises attract.

Now, some of these tax havens are isolated and economically unviable. Perversely, the very scarcity of jobs in these places ties people to land all the more. The less assets, work experience and education a person has the more attractive the prospect of obtaining free housing, however squalid, becomes. There is long waiting list of people wanting housing in Attawapiskat. This is doubly so if one already owns a home there. A bird in the hand is better than two in bush as it were; a dilapidated house in the hand is better than the dim prospects of a better house elsewhere.

So, should residents of Attawapiskat be moved to more southerly location? No, Attawapiskat must be allowed to sink or swim and above all else people living there must be given additional economic incentives to leave. That means at least points two and three of the following have to happen. 1) All reserve lands and homes need to be privatized with home owners given the right to sell their homes on the open market. 2) The financial burden of maintaining and upgrading housing must switch from the band -- in reality federal government -- to the individual home owners. 3) Band councils must gain the ability to impose property taxes. Either property taxes and the cost of upkeep will drive people away in the absence of a job, or the prospect of using the capital from the sale of one's house and land will. The later is obviously preferable, but thanks to the idiocy of 1982 nearly politically impossible.

Native Housing: Perverse Incentives

Most government's try to limit their citizens ability to take advantage of tax havens. Not, Canada. The Canadian federal government provides incentives for a certain class of citizens to stay or move to various tax havens and it backs up its promises with an ironclad guarantee. Specifically, the feds hold out the promise of free housing, a promise pay for upkeep and the promise of never imposing not only no income tax or sales tax, but also no property tax. The federal government will pay for any needed infrastructure. Of course, the reality is less rosy than the brochure makes it seem. Realizing the patent absurdity of its ironclad guarantee, the government drags its feet, provides the bare minimum level of funding for housing, upkeep and infrastructure and to, add insult to injury, proceeds in less than timely matter. In other words, the government has every reason to create living conditions that repel even as its promises attract.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Trudeau's unforgivable Sin

Prior to 1970, whatever group rights that existed were granted out of political necessity and certainly not any kind of ideological attraction. In the 1970s that changed. Various groups championed group rights both as means of correcting historical inequalities and as a manifestation of the concept of nation build around the idea of blood. Pearson and later Trudeau recognized these inequalities, but felt that such inequalities could be better addressed by means that did not elevate the poisonous and divisive concept of a blood nation. So far so good. The only problem is Trudeau sold out. Such was Trudeau's desire to repatriate the Constitution that he was willing to enshrine in it the intelluctual abortion that is collective rights as a guiding legal principle. His actions are unforgivable. The country has suffered as a result, but nearly as much as the Liberals. The bi polar nature of today's Liberal party can be traced back to Trudeau's Faustine gambit. The Liberals are now a party that celebrates Trudeau's principled Federalism well all the while practicing an unprincipled and opportunistic form of asymmetrical federalism. They are a party that celebrates, on the one hand, a famously inclusive, albeit nebulous Canadian identity that the party helped foster, while all the well paying homage to exotic level of government whose membership is exclusive to one legally defined race.