Monday, August 17, 2009

APTN panel

Hello everyone:

Sorry for the delay in posting! I have been uber busy recently with different work and home-related issues.
I was on APTN tonight. This is actually the second time I have been on this national news show.
The show can be viewed here:
It is hosted by the talented Patrice Mousseau. Patrice is an excellent host/producer. She allows her panelists the freedom to explore different areas, yet manages to keep things under control!
Tonight, I was debating the relevancy of the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs.
The whole issue went off the handles when we discussed First Nation housing and I raised the issue of (cue ominous music) private ownership of homes and the condition of housing.
One panelist I argued with was journalist Trevor Greyeyes. For those in Manitoba, Greyeyes is a reputable First Nation reporter. He now freelances at the Drum/First Perspective (, my old stomping ground. The Drum is an Aboriginal newspaper that is committed to Aboriginal governance reform.
I was very disappointed that Greyeyes felt he had to be argumentative with every point I made. Greyeyes has written in support of accountability measures for bands, so I am surprised he felt he had to attack me because I work for the Frontier Centre being as we promote such measures. This is the evil "right wing" he was referring to in his commentary.
Anyways, I think it is accurate to mention that private ownership is a key component of any successful housing strategy. I mean urban Aboriginals have access to individual housing, so why should on-reserve First Nations be excluded from the benefits? There are MANY bands out there that are experimenting with private housing.
I wanted to ask Greyeyes whether or not he felt that if a First Nation person owned their own house they were somehow less indigenous than someone who did not.. I think this is the crux of the issue. Certain indigenous activists like Greyeyes have this pre-conceived, deterministic image of what an Indian is and has to include ideas of collective land ownership. There is no room for change in their view. I wonder what this means for urban Aboriginals who own their own home? What about the New Zealand Maori who do not live on reserves and live in cities? Are they not indigenous?
The bottom line for me is does a system work or not.. And if it does work, why can it not work for everybody? Why would the benefits of capitalism all of a sudden stop working for Indians? Because there is some magical force that makes indigenous people so much different than anybody else?
I like to compare it to technology. When one particular society comes up with a great new invention or new labour-saving technology, we do not obsess over where it came from, like we do with certain ideas. This whole "I can't support this because it is Western or Eurocentric and we are indigenous" argument is very unconvincing and silly. When we invent new technologies, we allow all humanity to benefit from it, regardless of their background or culture. The same can be said for conceptions of individual human rights or the free market.
Are they good ideas or not? If so, why are they applicable to some groups and not others. I am not arguing we should impose ideas on people, but I feel that the truth or utility of something can be verified empirically irrespective of its origins.
I argue that First Nations should embrace individual rights and capitalism because I believe fundamentally it will create the conditions to stop group oppression and in the case of capitalism, it will enlarge their material conditions which will allow them to prosper.
Please tell me why arguing for this is evil..