Riding transit, walking my dogs, at our hospitals and on campus I have heard some interesting complaints. Taxes, tuition and hemlines are too high. Immigration requirements, the temperature and your best friends dating standards are too low. These themes rarely give me pause. An illness I like to call ‘Aboriginal issues burn out’ plagues our community to an equal extent. This grievance makes me pause, recoil and die a little inside. Simply complaining about something does not make it go away- I present Mike Gillis, Canuck’s GM, as Exhibit A.
Canada’s Aboriginal population is often perceived as having little value in our society. In reality, indigenous knowledge and leadership is the solution to problems dating back to colonialism.
Whatever your dogma, including Aboriginal leadership in the development of public policy makes sense. Here is some data for the soul-less capitalist. Multiple World Health Organization studies prove involving target populations in policy design increases success rates and reduces costs. Translation, tax dollars are spent more effectively. Research published in the Journal of School Health concludes Aboriginal graduation rates rise when indigenous knowledge is included in content delivery and design. The trickle down effect is a more educated population, which according to Stats Canada, will enjoy better job access/retention and reproduce less.
Proactive, culturally aware policy design creates a population empowered to move out of poverty. Ethical behavior and a healthy bottom line can be symbiotic.
If you are a person of faith or spirituality I am willing to bet that equality, ethical conduct and community are foundational concepts in your belief system. I am not asking for the metaphorical shirt off your back. I am asking you to make room for a valuable voice at the table. Whomever your divinity(s), reducing suffering through egalitarianism will definitely get you bonus points, maybe even make up for that unfortunate incident at the office Christmas party.
Hippies, homesteaders and SHTF nation, please look to Aboriginal practices for inspiration and concrete instruction regarding sustainable growth and self-sufficiency. Did you know, pre Colonialism, Aboriginal communities subsisted without irrevocably altering their environment, used naturally occurring minerals/plants as medicine (with great success) and employed selective hunting strategies to preserve biodiversity for thousands of years? I do not care how many MBA’s your Ministry of Environment panel may hold Mr. Harper, they have a lot to learn from the Aboriginal community.
I am not a bleeding heart Liberal, guilt laden Colonialist or delusional utopia seeker. I am a realist. Our current system is broken. European settlers are the new kids on the block, having been on this continent for a little over 200 years. In which time, we have sold rights to the majority of our natural resources to foreign interests while marginalizing and abusing the Aboriginal population to the point of extinction. We have funded a renowned foreign aid program, while unsafe drinking water, lack of housing and suicide have steadily increased at home. Let’s shift our perspective, consider ancient proven strategies for community development and share the burden of solving today’s problems.
What I am asking for is social solidarity. Stop thinking in terms of ‘Us’ verses ‘Them’. If you really want a bandwagon, try defining ‘Us’ as Canadians who want a culturally aware and evolving publicly funded system, which wisely allocates funds based on building communities.
Team ‘Them’ should be politicians and policy makers who serve the 1 per cent, ignore knowledge that is different from their own and seek Band-Aids rather than preventative strategies. We need Aboriginal nurses, politicians and teachers. As a community, we can choose to support the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in educational, environmental, political and health care systems. All Canadians will benefit. At the very least, there could be one less thing to complain about.
Naomi Osberg is a third year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at the University of Victoria. In her formative years, Naomi had the pleasure of attending Eagle View Elementary, working at First Choice Fitness and playing a lot of volleyball.