You’ve heard it. If you’ve been following a public comment thread on the Idle No More movement, you may have encountered it already today. If you think of Stephen Harper and his government as a source of accurate information about Aboriginal people, you might even believe it. That Aboriginal people allegedly receive more government largess than other Canadians.
Except that the way it’s put is generally less polite and lot more racist than that, usually with digs at the character of a people who would allow themselves to be such a drain on government.
Now there’s a lot of problems with that, but let’s start with the fact that it is exactly wrong. Aboriginal people do not get more benefits from government, they get substantially less. I’ve written about this before in The Underfunding of Indian Country, but let’s hang some actual figures on that statement.
Attawapiskat has been in the news, as has Chief Theresa Spence who is from that community and whose hunger strike is at the core of the Idle No More movement, so let’s use Attawapiskat for comparison.
This year Attawapiskat received a grand total of $17.6 million in government funding, amounting to $11,355 per person. All of this was from the federal government.
Citizens of Toronto on the other hand each received an average of about $9300 in tax funded benefits from the federal government, $9500 in tax funded benefits from the Ontario government and $5200 in benefits from the municipal government. That’s a total of $24,000 of government benefits per Torontonian, more than double the benefits per capita that are collected by citizens of Attawapiskat.
Who is snouting up to the government trough here? Who really has the gall to suggest that Attawapiskat mishandled their money? (Oh yeah. Stephen Harper had that gall. Right-wing racist media pundits had that gall.)
Now add in the fact that 6 apples and 4 small bottles of juice cost $23.50 in Attawapiskat and you have real racial inequity.
Yes, that’s what we’re talking about here. A country where some people are more equal than others. A country with a government mandated racial divide. A country where being Aboriginal means you get less assistance from the government. Much, much less assistance.
Some people are okay with that. We all know who they are. Not just Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party or right-wing media pundits.
And if we continue to let it happen, if we continue to allow White children, for instance, to get more educational funding than Aboriginal children on an institutional basis, then we all know who we are also.
It isn’t a nice word.