Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Governmental Ethics: Socialism and Morality

Like our neighbour to the south, Canada has a long, storied, and often sordid history with our First Nation's population. Like many colonial states, the incoming European settlers (from whom I am at least twice-descended) supplanted the native population, and there have been at least two centuries of war and bloodshed that followed, followed by stark oppression, followed by a persisting and modern undercurrent of less-than-favourable relations.

I spent the first part of my life on Canada's far western coast, in an area with a relatively large native population, which is where I picked up my first (rudimentary) understanding of the traditions and customs of Canada's native people. It wasn't until I moved out east, where I live now, and got a little older, that I started to understand why those traditions had faded into ceremonial memory as opposed to being present-lived.

Canada's treatment of her original forebears has been historically poor, and even now is less than ideal. For example, Attawapiskat First Nation has recently declared a state of emergency over a very, very major housing crisis. Housing in winter is a serious enough proposition in Canada, but Attawapiskat is on the shores of James Bay, in Ontario, which is off of the Hudson Bay, and is one of the coldest parts of the country south of the Arctic Circle. Having a roof over one's head isn't enough in that kind of environment, and adequate housing in such an area isn't just an improvement of the quality of life, but it's essential for day-to-day survival.

I bring this up because the community has been in trouble for some time now, and the government reaction only came when AP picked it up, and it got syndicated by the major carriers, and ordinary Canadians suddenly became aware of that. Before that, the matter would have been handled with the provincial and federal governments... both of which are suddenly in a mad scramble to solve the crisis, and be very visible about it, too.

The problem is, it's already well too late to build new housing in Attawapiskat this year. So no matter how much money is spent, the real benefits, outside of a few warm blankets and space-heaters, won't be felt until midsummer at the absolute earliest.

Worse than that, there's an implication here that makes me double-check myself. It seems that, if the government knew about this beforehand, and is only acting once they got caught not acting, they were doing one of two things: waiting for the crisis to go public so that they could make a show of fixing it, or simply ignoring the problem. After all, what's a housing crisis in a town nobody has heard of when we have to strengthen up our drug-use laws without adding any protection for our youth?

Perhaps it's early-onset cynicism, but I feel like I'm aware enough to say that government needs to change. Government's role should be preventing problems as they become apparant, not once they reach the crisis level. The only reason, the only good reason, to collect tax is to allow for the state to safeguard the interests of her people... of all her people, not just the ones who live in the densely-populated border regions and the rich, industrial city-empires of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Because if you think for even a moment that this sort of behaviour is limited to tundra country, well, think again. You'd be surprised how far this goes.

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