No Reserves Here

Aboriginal Futures, Commentary, Frontier Centre, Poverty

I noticed a couple of references to New Zealand and Maori in articles in the FCPP website.

I spend a couple of months each winter in a Maori nation. The Cook Islands is a sovereign nation “in free association” with New Zealand. In practical terms what this means is that the Cook Islands are self governing but foreign policy and defense is left to New Zealand. There are 15 islands only a few which are inhabited. The main island is Rarotonga. Parliament is on the Westminster model.

Think of scattered and isolated island communities in a relationship with New Zealand. Think of scattered and isolated communities in Northern Manitoba and their relationship to Winnipeg. The same problem exists. Because of a lack of employment opportunities in their local communities over half Cook Islanders live in New Zealand. Sort of like coming from northern Manitoba to Winnipeg for opportunities.

But there the similarity stops.

THERE WERE NEVER ANY RESERVES. (and non-Cook Islanders cannot own land.)

No massive government funding of aboriginal support programs. Of course they get support from Wellington but nowhere near the scale of resources that Ottawa pours into our Indian Reserves with seemingly little impact on root problems.

The Cook Islands is most certainly NOT a third world country. Not wealthy but doing very well compared to countries where I have worked in Africa and Asia.

The Permanent Resident (expat) proportion of the population might be around 10%. This is a guess. This would be people who live and work there; not tourists. Many Permanent Residents have intermarried.

I have many friends in Rarotonga, both Maori and expat. There is no racism or any sense of racial discomfort. I truly believe this because I frequently get together with a gang to go to the pub to play darts or whatever and there are Maori, Kiwis, Aussies, Europeans and maybe the odd Canadian.

It seems to me that we in Canada may be looking at things the wrong way. Is it that there are problems on Indian Reserves, or is it that the whole archaic concept of Indian Reserves is the problem?

The bottom line is, the Cook Islands are doing very well thank you; NO RESERVES HERE.

Bob Foster
Winnipeg, MB