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“Indian Industry” cronyism


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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

So, if the huge marginalized and dependent indigenous underclass does not benefit from all that money that changes hands inside the Indian Industry who is benefiting?

Former Justice Minister David Lametti’s departure from government and immediate acceptance into an expensive law firm that makes millions from indigenous issues is a recent example of what has long been called “The Indian Industry” at work.

It is unknown who first coined the term “The Indian Industry.” Many indigenous and non-indigenous writers have used the term over the decades. Indigenous author, Calvin Helin made liberal use of the term in “Dances With Dependency” as did Cree writer, Harold Johnson, in “Firewater- How Alcohol is Killing My People”

However, it was Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard’s important 2009  book “Disrobing The Aboriginal Industry” that first examined the Indian Industry in detail.

The authors chose to use the term “Aboriginal Industry”, perhaps for reasons of politeness, but they are describing the Indian Industry. They tell in detail  how extensive it has become in Canada. Entire universities, law firms and virtually all Canadian institutions have become largely dependent on the money sloshing around within it. Almost all of that money comes in one way or another from taxpayers.

But they note the supreme irony that the Indian Industry is not improving the lot of the very people it is supposed to be helping – Canada’s marginalized and dependent indigenous underclass:

“Despite the billions of dollars devoted to aboriginal causes, Native people in Canada continue to suffer all the symptoms of a marginalized existence – high rates of substance abuse, violence, poverty. Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry argues that the policies proposed to address these problems – land claims and self government – are in fact contributing to their entrenchment.”

However, “Disrobing” was written in 2009, and since the Trudeau Liberals took over in 2015 the money flowing into the Indian Industry has increased dramatically in volume. In fact, that money flow, and the enormous indigenous contingent liabilities that now total $76,000,000,000 are growing so quickly – seven times higher since Trudeau took over – that the parliamentary budget officer has raised the alarm. Canada’s economic future is being compromised.

It isn’t only indigenous contingent liabilities – money owed for indigenous claims – that have grown so alarmingly, it is all indigenous spending. Reports from the Fraser Institute keep track of the shocking increases in total indigenous spending since the Trudeau Liberals took power. It is fair to say that the truly frightening federal government deficits in recent years occurred largely because of this extra indigenous spending.

And it isn’t only the largesse of the Trudeau government that has dumped money into the Indian Industry. Since 2015 it has also been the residential school bonanza. Clever lobbyists have been able to extract tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers by making highly exaggerated claims that residential schools were places of horror, where priests tortured, murdered and secretly buried thousands of indigenous children. These claims are nonsense. Although it is completely true that the residential school system was deeply flawed, and that many indigenous children were badly hurt by their residential school experience, it is also true that many received educations they would otherwise have been denied. But, more to the point, there is no evidence that even one child was murdered, or secretly buried during the entire history of residential schools. Despite that, baseless claims of clandestine deaths and secret burials have worked very well for everyone involved in the Indian Industry. Residential schools have become the Indian Industry’s single biggest money earner.

But, as Widdowson and Howard noted years ago, the Indian Industry has done nothing to solve what has always been called Canada’s “Indian problem” – namely that the great majority of Canada’s indigenous people remain far behind the mainstream on every social indicator. They are the least healthy, worst educated, most incarcerated, shortest living of any demographic by far.

They were that way before 2015, and they remain that way now. The Indian Industry, and the astounding amounts of money poured into it since 2015 haven’t changed those depressing numbers one bit.

A recent CBC investigative report on the dismal conditions at the St. Theresa Point reserve in Manitoba is a case in point. It is one of Canada’s hundreds of totally dependent reserves. Families there of as many as 23 people per house live in dilapidated housing, in a community that is almost totally unemployed and dependent. The increased money flow since 2015 appears to have only made dependency and all of its related problems – addiction, crime, domestic violence – worse.

So, if the huge marginalized and dependent indigenous underclass does not benefit from all that money that changes hands inside the Indian Industry who is benefiting?

It is people like David Lametti and Perry Bellegarde, and their law firms, universities, etc. – none of whom need special help.

And here is the second irony: The Indian Industry feeds on the human misery on display at communities like St. Theresa Point.

It needs that misery to continue to keep the money flowing.

This is not to suggest that any of the people and institutions that are part of it are deliberately perpetuating poverty, or doing anything illegal. They aren’t. They are simply picking up all of the free money our elected representatives and courts throw into the Indian Industry every day. They pick it up because we put it there.

It is probably not fair to single out David Lametti and Perry Bellegarde for their participation in this obscene waste of taxpayer money that is the Indian Industry. They are just two of many enterprising such people who have come before them, and many who will come after them. They probably convince themselves that they are doing something useful. They aren’t. They are part of an Indian Industry that fleeces taxpayers, while pretending to be solving the indigenous underclass problem, while making it worse. At a certain point, will Canadians grow tired of this game?

Because it has become abundantly clear that the federal indigenous policy that has developed over decades is a total failure. While privileged indigenous people who don’t need special attention are benefitting spectacularly, the indigenous people who do need the help are becoming more helpless and dependent all the time. The huge increase in the money dumped into uneconomic communities, like St. Theresa Point, is making things worse, not better. It is keeping young people, who should be moving to job centres, trapped in hopeless communities.

Renowned American economist and philosopher Thomas Sowell argues convincingly that simply giving money to chronically dependent people makes things worse, not better. I’m sure that Mr. Lametti and Mr. Bellegarde don’t want that to happen, but it is. And it is the Indian Industry that is making them wealthy that is doing it.

At some point the entire Indian Industry, with its racist Indian Act and brutal reserve system, will come to an end. Indigenous people living on Indian reserves now comprise only 1% of the Canadian population. Despite high birth rates on reserves, more and more reserve residents are moving away from them. By most measures only 25-40% of status Indians now live on reserves, and that percentage steadily falls.

Meanwhile, immigrants are steadily flowing into Canada. According to some estimates, Canada might have a population of 100 million by the end of the century. The percentage of the population living on reserves will become far less than 1%. Maintaining a completely separate system and bureaucracy for one tiny segment of the population will make less and less sense – especially to those millions of new Canadians, who don’t feel that they owe any special debt to indigenous people.

But while this natural process works itself out, the Indian Industry, now armed with the deeply divisive United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), is doing permanent damage to the country. We see that process now playing out in British Columbia, where their provincial version of UNDRIP- DRIPA – is wreaking havoc on their natural resources industry. It has become not only a virtual indigenous veto on any mining, pipeline or development project, it is now directly threatening basic landowner rights. In what is much like Chicago during the days of the Mafia, indigenous leaders all demand their “cut” before any project can proceed. This harmful process is spreading all across Canada, now that Canada has foolishly adopted UNDRIP.

And, in what is a perfect illustration of how the Indian Industry works, Perry Bellegard, as AFN Grand Chief, lobbied the government to bring in UNDRIP, David Lamerti, as Justice Minister, brought it in, and now Bellegrde and Lametti and their law firm benefit from it financially. Meanwhile, the taxpayer pays, and the marginalized and dependent indigenous majority remains marginalized and dependent.

Isn’t it time to end this farce? People who need education, and assistance to move to job centres should get that help. But pretending that making privileged people like David Lametti and Perry Bellegarde wealthier by dumping endless amounts of cash into Indian Industry cronyism is somehow good for indigenous people is nuts.

It isn’t. It’s bad for them, and it’s bad for Canada.

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Inner city shoplifting and Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Giesbrecht

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”.

Winnipeg, Manitoba is being hit with an epidemic of shoplifting that appears to be out of control. Thieves openly steal expensive items, such as frozen meat, from inner city food stores. Shelves are stripped bare in what are more accurately described as robberies than shoplifting. Victims describe brazen thefts by entitled thieves who become indignant when caught in the act. One store employee, who tried to stop a theft, was told “You are on Treaty 1 territory”. The stores that are hardest hit are often owned by immigrant families who have worked very hard to build their modest businesses. Some have had to close, as a result of the unchecked criminality, and others will follow.

Police protection is weak. Even in rare cases where culprits are caught and prosecuted, sentences are minimal.

The problem of brazen theft from Winnipeg liquor stores reached such a serious level in the recent past that customers at urban liquor stores in Manitoba are now allowed to enter the store only after lining up single file, and producing identification. Liquor prices have risen as a result, because special government employees must be hired to sit at the door to inspect ID’s. Customers must line up outside, even on the coldest winter days, because freeloaders choose to steal liquor. And everyone – including the police – are too shy to confront the robbers.

Other western cities, such as Regina, Saskatoon and Thunder Bay are having similar problems. Even small cities, such as Wetaskiwin, Alberta, are hard hit.

The common element is that all of these cities and towns have significant indigenous populations who migrated to the cities from largely dysfunctional reserves, where attitudes of dependency, entitlement and victimhood prevail. Most arrive poorly educated, with few job skills, but with an expectation that they will be provided for. They proceed to live rough lives on the mean streets of these cities. Many drift to shoplifting and other crime. The inner city thieves are disproportionately from this demographic.

This problem is only made worse by gullible writers and politicians who make excuses for the thieves. Their excuse is that these people are disadvantaged, so they are less than fully responsible for their criminal conduct. Some sympathetic souls go even further, and suggest that these indigenous shoplifters are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs as “reparations” because the shop owners are on “stolen land”. They argue that these indigenous people are victims of a system that gives them no chance to succeed, or that they are suffering from the “intergenerational trauma” presumably caused by the fact that 1 in 6 indigenous children attended residential schools in the past.

The shoplifters readily adopt these excuses, and claim to be victims of “systemic racism”.

But, wait a minute! Isn’t the Premier of Manitoba, Wab Kinew, indigenous? Isn’t he a successful, law-abiding person? And wouldn’t most indigenous Canadians laugh at the idea that they had to steal to survive? How is it that Wab Kinew, and the many other successful indigenous Canadians manage their lives just fine while the shoplifters cannot?

The answer is that Wab succeeded the way all successful people do. He went to school, worked hard, and went where the jobs are. He was fortunate to have competent, caring parents who understood the importance of education and hard work. His parents also understood that assimilation (or, if you prefer, integration) was essential for their son to succeed. Wab’s father had a rough time in residential school, but used what he learned to raise a son who has become a provincial premier.

 The fact that Kinew is fully assimilated does not prevent him from celebrating his indigenous heritage. Recently, a video of him energetically performing a prairie chicken dance went viral. It showed indigenous youth that they too can be both successful Canadians – and proudly indigenous – at the same time.

It is clear from watching him dancing so vigorously that he would have been a formidable warrior in pre-contact indigenous hunting culture. Colonialism ended that possibility. But it is equally clear that he, and the other indigenous people who were willing to learn the new ways, received a lot in return from the settlers. He is now an articulate, literate, thoroughly modern man, thanks to “settler colonialism”. Colonialism has also given him an expected lifespan more than double that of yesterday’s hunter-gatherers. Colonialism gave at least as much as it took from him.

Kinew’s memoir, “The Reason You Walk” describes someone determined to live his life not as a victim, but as a confident indigenous Canadian.

He built his own life – making mistakes along the way – but learning from those mistakes, and is now the leader of a province – and lauded as a possible future prime minister. He offers no apologies to critics who suggest that an indigenous person who is successful is somehow “selling out” indigenous people. His famous reply to that old saw is “Aboriginal success is the best form of reconciliation”.

Don’t expect to find Wab Kinew stealing frozen hamburger from a Food Fare store anytime soon.

But here’s the lesson indigenous youth can learn from the example Wab Kinew, and other successful indigenous people have set: “If they can do it, so can you”. They should also tell the apologists who want to give them tired excuses – excusing theft as “reparations” for perceived past wrongs, or “intergenerational trauma” – that they, like Wab, refuse to live their lives as “victims”.

In short, the solution to the shoplifting problem is not to condone theft. It is not to treat criminals differently because they are indigenous. It is not to offer them excuses. The solution is to create more Wab Kinews.

And that’s up to Indigenous parents. No government can do that for them. For many families, like Wab’s, that will include the difficult decision to move from dead-end reserves.  But if they have the same commitment to their children’s education and upbringing that Wab’s parents had there is no reason that they can’t raise successful children in this country.

Long before he became Manitoba’s premier, Wab Kinew, regularly entertained listeners on CBC Radio. He was a refreshing, common sense voice, and always refused to play the victim. He never failed to remind young indigenous people that Canada worked just fine for him.

And, with a bit of grit and hard work, it can work for them too.


Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Where was Canada’s Governor General on D-Day?

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

There really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

On D-Day June 6 Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon should have taken her rightful place. At ceremonies in France. But she wasn’t there. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed her aside. As usual.

The D-Day landings may seem like ancient history even as June 6, 1944 was a defining day for Canada. But it’s important to recall that over 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach, as part of the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 5,000 Canadian troops were killed and thousands more injured in the Battle of Normandy. While we celebrate the eventual defeat of Germany, we may also recall Winston Churchill’s saying we need to remember that there was a Germany before Hitler.

The military historian Basil Liddell Hart had a view of history that’s largely gone missing in the western democracies. Essential reading is his book, Why don’t we learn from history? He quoted the Roman historian Polybius: “There are two roads to the reformation of mankind—one through the misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…we should always look out for the latter, for thereby we can, without hurt to ourselves, gain a clearer view of the best course to pursue… the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all education for practical life.”

Arguably, the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza could have been averted or could have evolved less disastrously by heeding the lessons of history—and, specifically, from history of the two World Wars. Undoubtedly, the mismanaged exit from Kabul emboldened President Putin. Disaster in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea represents failure to heed the ancient principle, also from Roman times, If you want peace, prepare for war. There was no deterrent to the invasion of Ukraine. And the western democracies have consistently delivered far too little materiel and far too late.

There’s abject disrespect at the highest levels for truth and tradition, and the values that made of Canada a great country. I came across a phrase in news  reports that made me shudder. The Governor General was relieved of her duties when it was she who should have hosted a state dinner for President Joe Biden in 2023. Prime Minister Trudeau had no business relieving her of her duties. He usurped her constitutional role.

The Governor General was also relieved of her duty to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France. Arguably, it was her job to unveil unveiled a statue commemorating Canada’s participation. In her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, Princess Anne performed that ceremony. Fair enough. But as a minimum, the Governor General should have been there too. Instead, of course, Trudeau traveled to France after shunting the Governor General off to perform a token ceremony in New Brunswick.

My point is, there really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

Canadians don’t normally need to know that the British North America Act vests in the Governor General an ultimate duty to override political abuse. But that’s why King Charles’s representative signs legislation into law as well as other proclamations. That function, and the power to withhold it, is the last resort for maintaining the free and democratic society that Canada purports to be.

History tells of ultimate leaders who failed that duty to their people. In 1921, under pressure of riots, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III refused to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. Instead he dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to take the power that evolved into his dictatorship. Similarly, in 1933 Germany’s ailing President Paul von Hindenburg signed into law the Enabling Act that empowered Hitler’s unbridled exercise of power.

D-Day reinforces this lesson from history, from two thousand years ago. The Roman political philosopher Cicero warned: “Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our constitution speaks of the people’s general welfare. Under that phrase all manner of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants …”

In sum, it’s important to learn history and to maintain traditions. That includes having Governors General who insist on taking the lead role as Canada’s functional head of state—and, most importantly, not having politicians usurping the vice-regal role.

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.  

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