Sean Moore is Canada's most experienced practionner, advisor, writer and teacher about public policy advocacy. For the past several years he has devoted his time to assisting civil society organizations upgrade their lobby and advocacy skills. To that end he is developing Advocacy School which will be able on line and through Sean's personal appearances. Here is Sean's contribution to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011? You can also Download Becoming Visible - the complete collection of 58 essays.
Improving the Lives of Canada's First Nations People
My 2011 hope is for bold new progress in improving the lives of Canadaʼs First Nations people.
Living conditions on many Canadian reserves are what one normally thinks of as Third World. The experience of many urban aboriginals is hardly any better.
The "vital statistics", as it were, of Canada are heavily influenced by the grim realities of aboriginal life in this country: child poverty, infant mortality, single- parent families, access to basic amenities of water, sanitation and housing, educational achievement, employment – all drag Canada down the international scale of development and national well-being indices. Have we become immune to being enraged by this? Are we no longer ashamed?
Are there some good news stories in Indian Country? Yes, there are, but in most cases they are an exception to the rule when it comes to housing, employment, overall community well being and the health of democratic process. If money alone could solve the problems of Canadian First Nations communities, then annual federal expenditures (of more than $8-10 billion) would have solved it long ago.
Is there a role for government? Of course. There are scores of public-policy issues to be addressed that could have substantial impact on the lives of Canadian native peoples. There are major changes in process – and attitude – that need to take place within First Nations communities
But I believe the scale of the challenges require an effort that extends beyond government or tribal council. It requires some new thinking on the part of everyone – aboriginal and non-aboriginal; politician, bureaucrat and citizen; First Nations leaders and their people; and especially individual non-aboriginal Canadians acting both on their own and through the many institutions and organizations through which they live their civic life – associations, interest groups, employers, professional and trade associations, unions, places of worship and other communities of interest.
Why not, in 2011, challenge all Canadians to play a role? Industry or professional associations could take on projects aimed at contributing their expertise to the development of First Nations communities. Parishes, synagogues, temples and mosques could adopt a faith-based organization or social-service initiative in an aboriginal community. Sports leagues and athletics federations could consider developing a special relationship with a First Nation community nearby or in another province. Individual community colleges and universities could target a native community to support. Ideally every major association in the country would develop a First Nations initiative of some sort.
The objective would be for non-aboriginal Canadians not just to "give", as in cash. Indeed, in most cases, I suspect what will probably be even more valuable is "time" – the time it takes to learn and appreciate the challenges faced by others. The time it takes to learn enough about a situation to determine how you can truly help. The time it takes to actually "do something" that can make a difference.
That is my hope. Can it be more than a dream?
Click to read my previous post on Sean: Sean Moore's Do it Yourself Public Policy
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.