Tuesday, May 10, 2016

You Asked, I Answer (Being The Prime Minister)

So here we are once again with a post that will tackle this year's 'Ask Me Anything' inquiries. And just like last year, I saved one question till the end that grabbed my attention from the get-go and really got me thinking.

Debra asked:
If you could be Prime Minister of Canada for one day, with unlimited power, what change(s) would you make to our country?

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on things that I feel are important to our beautiful country and what changes I would make if I had unlimited power. And although one day is obviously not long enough for any Prime Minister to implement significant change, we’ll pretend for a moment that it would be a very, very long day.

There are many things that stand out for me, some of which I listed on a previous post, and although quite a few would rise to the top (like major improvements in our mental health care services and working toward eliminating poverty and homelessness), I’m going to zoom in on one that is a national disgrace:

The deplorable living conditions of our country’s First Nations reserves.

The sense of despair in these communities is beyond disgraceful. It offends our values, everything we stand for. We should be unleashing outrage that fellow Canucks are living in third world conditions in such a wealthy nation. We should be hanging our heads in shame the way we ignore and criticize and harshly judge and discriminate against these communities. We should be shocked and infuriated that so many Canadians are living in such poverty, such appalling conditions. And feeling isolated, desperate and hopeless.

This is one of our country’s greatest failings. And it is in our collective interest to change it. Right now. We should not stand for this one minute longer. Not one. We are all in this together and when we cast our ballot to choose who will govern us, our questions should not be “what can they do for my wallet or for my petty fears or for my first world problems?” but rather “what can they do for my country, for all of us?” Because we should be looking after each other. When we’re all doing well, our nation is stronger, healthier, happier. And more united. Truly united.

So this would be my priority, Debra, if I was the Prime Minister for one (very long) day. But I won’t pretend to know what the solution is. This situation is very complex with many social and economic issues to untangle and tackle. These marginalized citizens have been subjected to immense pain and mistreatment and atrocities that have affected their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing, which in turn has caused depression and mental health issues that can lead to addictions and poverty and on and on. It is a vicious cycle, a hopelessness that gets passed on from generation to generation. But no matter the complexities, we must come up with a strategy, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

We must come together and fix this. And help our fellow citizens become healthy and happy and whole, so that they can move forward and prosper. So that they can become a proud people again.

That’s the Canadian way.

And that concludes this year’s “Ask Me Anything” series of questions. Thank you to everyone who participated. Enjoy the day!

24 comments:

  1. Yes, I agree. The Native Americans here in the US have the same issues.

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  2. Is there a choice to work with your Prime Minister for a day? Let's make that a very long day, as well. I am thinking the one-armed push ups with the Invictus team was pretty easy to watch. BOOM!

    Yes, as Linda said in her comment, the US has it's issues as well with how Native Americans live and to a greater extent, how they are treated.

    You are so correct in your statement that is is a hugely complex problem. Not limiting myself to just the Native American demographic but generally speaking about poverty, homelessness, and substandard lifestyles for the poor, there are so many programs that are supposed to be helping but it seems for a myriad of reasons not everyone can or does tap into the programs that could help them. AND to be fair, some programs are just ineffectual. I do think there is a large segment that has to deal with mental health and drug/alcohol dependencies that work against some individuals getting control on their situations. Those types of things make a difficult job even more difficult to fix.

    Over the years, I have worked with a number of organizations to help the needy especially in terms of finding housing and jobs. About the time I think I have helped in some way, another problem rises to the surface. When I was younger I lived very near a "reservation" and became very aware of problems unique to that segment of our population but some of the problems are exactly the same as other poverty ridden communities. Additionally, many of the Native American tribes have a far higher unemployment rate and lower education level than the general U.S. population which exacerbates the ongoing lower income levels within the Native American population. The extreme poverty continues.

    I don't think I want to be in charge for even a day..not a short day, not a minute. I would find it terribly depressing to be in charge and yet not able to "fix" the problems. I am a "fixer" but in some cases, it would take a nation of "fixers" to work together and even then...it would take a long time and a lot of money.

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    1. It is a very complex problem and there are services available, for sure, but there are other shortcomings, as well. It's not a black and white issue; there are a lot of grey areas involved and therefore there are no easy answers. We only know what the media puts out or what we have come to believe or whatever stereotypes have been created. There is a lot more to these stories, sometimes generations worth.

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  3. I had no idea, I looked up a few photos of these reserves and they're horrid. If those houses were in my city they would be condemned.

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    1. That is exactly right, Adam. The living conditions are horrible.

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  4. Doesn't happen often with you but... I completely disagree! First off, I am a Status Indian (Montagnais), however, I never lived in a reserved and never will.

    I think the solution to the Native problem has to come from them not from us (I consider myself as non-native for all intended purpose). Do you know that any native member can attend University with all cost pay plus cost of living expenses? When you live in a reserved and work on it, you pay no income tax nor tax on good bought an deliver on the reserve? They (and I) get free medical and dental insurance? On the reserved they don't pay municipal tax? Sadly, nothing we do help them. You can built bright new houses for them and give them the key but you go back 5-10 years latter and it look like shack.

    What happen when you don't feel like you are contributing to anything? Depression, mental health issues and social problems (drugs and alcohol in particular). They have every tools already at their disposition to help themselves out of this situation but are not ready to do so. I think it is the same problem with welfare (which was also my case growing up as a kid) it doesn't mater what are the program available to them, if they don't feel like they are worth it, they will never get out. I'm not talking about the ones that have real mental problem and will never be functioning well, I'm talking about the one that could but because it's easier to do nothing, do nothing.

    I know you were a single mom and went back to school, you paid the price, you could have just stay home and do nothing, would you be happier today or would you be depress because life didn't go the way you want it to go?

    I am NOT a shame of the way we treat (TODAY) our native communities.

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    1. How dare you disagree with me, Richard? It's shameful...LOL... Just kidding. I respect that you have a different opinion.

      I don't think I stated anywhere that WE should solve their problems but I do think I made it clear that we should be concerned and that we should extend a helping hand and that we should all work together. Because these are 'our people', Richard; we share this country together. It's not us and them. It's all of us. Canadians. One country, one people. The situation they're in is much more complex than you and I will ever understand, and the suffering that they've experienced for generations has undoubtedly caused significant damage. A lot of work is required to heal and move forward, and although the long term emotional and psychological healing is going to have to be led by them, in the short term, there are things that our country needs to do to provide them with the foundation, the stepping stones, to get started.

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  5. you should be Prime Minister for more than a day!

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    1. Oh, Christine, I could never do that! Politics is something that I try to steer clear of.

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  6. This is an interesting issue, Martha, and I read Richard's comment. It is also interesting because of where hubby works and what he is learning about how that particular Native American tribe was treated and how it has affected them with their health, physical and mental, over the years. I do agree, it is an issue that needs to be addressed and I think with your sensitivity, as prime minister, if only for a day, you would start dealing with it and work on improving that which needs to be improved to help these First Nation Reserves.

    As always, enjoyed your series of ask me questions. Hope you do it again next year!

    betty

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    1. The long term effects of all the mistreatment has had a significant impact on their health in every which way. You can't just throw money at people and tell them to 'get over it' or 'toughen up' or 'fix it'. It's not that simple. This is a complex issue that requires some sensitivity and certainly some compassion. And an extended hand of empathy and support.

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  7. I go into a lot of homes and the First Nations people are consistently the most gracious, grateful and kind. They deserve so much better.
    However, I think Richard has a point. I know First Nations people that have gone to university and it was paid for, 100%. We have housing here that was beautiful when built but looks like hell now. I think the problem needs to be fixed from the outside in. The last thing they want is a "white person" telling them what they need to do and how to live their lives. Money is given to them but it mismanaged. A lot stays at the top and those people are living in wealth and very little trickles down.
    It is a very complicated situation. I absolutely think that mental health and addiction issues need to be addressed. They have gone through hell at the hands of the white man. But as one First Nations lady says, "It is time to put that book on the shelf". It is time to try to undo the past as best as possible and start looking to the future.
    My step-dad is status Indian so please don't think my words are racist. ;-)

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    1. I agree, it is a very complicated situation. And it's going to take a lot of hard work to undo all the damage that has been done to these people. I will choose to empathize instead of criticizing.

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  8. You're right that you saved the best to last. the best answer. Whatever it is I would certainly want you on my side. You also know that from time to time I post about aboriginals as I spent 5 years with aboriginals, five years that changed my life forever, five years that I will never forget.

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    1. You have experienced what many few have: a first hand look into the lives of these people. You have that added insight. I enjoy reading the posts you share about that time because you help all of us learn.

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  9. Great answer, Prime Minister Martha! I agree that the long-term emotional healing of First Nations people is in their own hands, just like any oppressed group has to take back their own power and future. But in the short-term, there is no reason or excuse why the Canadian government cannot see that First Nations all have good housing, clean water, working water treatment plants and good social services available to them. Those physical necessities of life are simply a matter of political will and financial priorities, it seems to me.

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    1. You got it, Debra! This is what I want to see: the stepping stones and the foundation needed to start on a better path. It is disgraceful that many First Nations don't have clean water in this wealthy nation. And I totally agree that the long-term healing is in their hands. But our government should provide these short-term necessities. There is no excuse for that!

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  10. Hopefully the 'new' Trudeau government will put a 'dent' in this horrible/shameful situation in which our First Nations people find themselves. It may take a couple of generations for them to get back any sense of power and self worth, but it will be for future generations benefit.

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    1. I hope so, Jim. I truly hope so. It's way overdue.

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  11. This was a great series Martha. Thanks for all the time you took to asnwer our questions.

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    1. It was fun doing it. I'll probably do it again next year. Blogging pals ask the most interesting questions.

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