WINNIPEG– The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a study from policy analyst Joseph Quesnel which proposes that for the sake of future generations, First Nation leaders consider the relocation of reserves they themselves deemed not viable.
The Frontier Centre backgrounder Respecting the Seventh Generation: A Voluntary Plan for Relocating Non-Viable Native Reserves, argues that some of the most isolated First Nation reserves are not capable of economic growth. Therefore, indigenous leaders should consider alternate sites or the creation of new reserves closer to urban centres. The reasoning is straightforward: on-reserve residents would be better able to access needed services, Native youth could better take advantage of a wider choice of educational opportunities, and all reserve residents would have better access to greater economic and career opportunities.
"Despite the attachment of many First Nations to their ancestral homes, the long-term interests of community and its members’ human rights should come before that attachment,” writes the report’s author, Joseph Quesnel. In addition, before reserves were created by colonial and federal governments in the 19th century, migration by Canada’s first peoples was routine and expected.
Quesnel points out First Nations will always retain constitutional and statutory entitlement to their traditional territories. His proposal calls for indigenous leaders to voluntarily work with Ottawa to determine which reserves are viable and which are not, and to develop a strategy for relocation of some communities for the sake of future generations.
As an example of the problem of isolated and marginal reserves, Quesnel points to empirical evidence of proportionately higher rates of suicide, addiction and domestic strife in many of these communities.
A major part of the problem for some reserves is the near impossibility of creating sustainable economies. Isolation from commercial markets and high transportation costs contribute to the high costs of doing business in these communities.
“This lack of opportunity feeds into this dysfunction and youth deserve opportunities that come from viable economies,” notes Quesnel. "To be confined to an isolated area without hope is a recipe for social dysfunction. Is it no wonder communities such as Kashechewan suffer from obscene levels of suicide, addiction, marital breakdown and violence,“ writes Quesnel.
The Frontier Centre backgrounder, Respecting the Seventh Generation: A Voluntary Plan for Relocating Non-Viable Native Reserves can be downloaded here:
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s author, media (only) should contact:
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