In many cases native sovereignty is like winning the lottery

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

March 31, 2010

After breaking up with my fiancee and selling our home two years ago, it's been two steps forward and one stop back in some respects. While the break-up itself was a blessing in disguise, we also had to sell our home because neither one of us was able to carry a big mortgage alone.

People don't become community newspaper reporters for a lavish lifestyle, so suffice to say, the last couple years have entailed shrewd balancing of responsibilities and recreation, and saving money in order to buy again in the future. Luckily, on that front, I'm finally starting to see the light where home equity will once again be part of my lifestyle.

I'm certainly not alone on the hamster wheel these days, especially given the current economy and rising mortgage interest. But that's not to say that life, at times, can't be a bit discouraging.

Perhaps naively, I did things the so-called "right way" in the past and expected more from my country by this stage in my life.

I went to university and college and obtained both a degree and diploma. I might also add that all my post-secondary expenses were paid in full without the help of any loans, grants or bursaries, and that I've worked full-time ever since. And I'm, like most Caucasians, pay full price for my car, gas, groceries and the clothes on my back.

It's not that I mind working for what I have, and by no means am I poor. My family has come a long way from the day my great grandfather stepped foot on Canadian soil from Sutton Surrey England back in 1897 when, working as a farm hand, he had to suck raw eggs for nourishment. I guess my point here is that we all have a background and could complain about out lot in life if we look back far enough.

But that said, during the past few years I've watched the local economy erode at the hands of some aboriginals who are, according to them and their supporters, "sovereign." Yet there are ongoing examples of government support and tax exemptions for aboriginal healthcare, education and even daily living expenses. The final straw for me was an ad published in a native newspaper a few weeks ago entitled 'Notice to Aboriginal Renters.'

"The Government of Ontario, with assistance from the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Support Services Corporation, is offering up to $30,000 in an interest-free forgivable loan to help aboriginal renters purchase their own off-reserve home." Call now at 1-888-657-7519, ext. 10.

As the recording reiterates, "the Province of Ontario is sponsoring this fabulous program." After five years (20% per year) the loan is totally forgiven.

How many people out there know someone earning an annual income less than $72,000 who doesn't own a home and could use $30,000 to put down on one? It's enough to make you buy a tan-in-a-bottle and stick a feather in your cap.

What about non-natives known as the "working poor" who can't afford to pay rent, let alone a mortgage, and aren't eligible for handouts?

Maybe the government is finally realizing that the reserve system is wasting money in the long run and is therefore encouraging natives to start paying their own way just like the rest of us.

In a roundabout way, aboriginals moving off reserve would be responsible for paying property taxes that in turn pay for things like local road repairs, recreational facilities, and dare I say services such as policing. That is, as long as they don't flip their home in five years and return to the reserve.

According to a Haldimand County staff report that resolved billing for providing cross border ambulance services in other municipalities, "The regulatory framework is silent to the process of how a municipality that is 50% funded (Haldimand) would complete billing of a First Nations community which is 100% provincially funded. The cross border billings that is owed to HaldimandĀ  County for 2001-2009 is $204,088..."

My point isn't to debate the prevalence of two-tiered governance that is so obvious these days, but rather to encourage people holding signs promoting Six Nations sovereignty to give their heads a shake. Being native isn't akin to being sovereign. In many cases it's more like winning the lottery.