The mainstream media has done a miserable job of “blame the victim” in this story, where it is very clearly the inadequate Indian Act system that is yet again the root of these difficulties.
These are not easy problems to solve. They go to the heart of the Canadian Constitution Act 1982, incorporating parts of the BNA Act 1867 where, in the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments (sections 91 and 92) “Indians and Lands Reserved for the Indians” are made the exclusive legislative domain of the federal government.
This gives rise to why we continue to have an Indian Act — where from Ottawa, the federal government needs to do all the things the provincial government does on “Indian Reserves” and for “Indians,” but at extraordinarily difficult economies of scale.
These problems are also deeply rooted in settler views of aboriginal territoriality — where east of the Rockies, territorial rights were extinguished by treaties, making it very difficult for aboriginal people to benefit from the wealth of their traditional lands, and here in B.C., treaties were largely never signed and governments continue to take the “denial” approach to the recognition of most territorial rights.
This is compounded with local aboriginal governments struggling under a crippled Indian Act system of diminished jurisdictions and constrained economic opportunities, and a population that is struggling with the outcomes of residential schools, territorial alienation, racism and poverty.
Profound change is needed in Canada to resolve these things.
The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples gave a roadmap out, but it was largely shelved by the federal government.
Let’s hope that our current generation of aboriginal leadership can work with this intransigent federal government to stop blaming the victim and build a better Canada.