Certain questions come back time after time in mainstream Canada’s hunt for understanding of First Nations issues. One of the most important focuses on the nature of reserve communities. If the situations on Canada’s First Nations reserves are so horrible, why don’t the people just leave?

Canadians seem baffled by this. The images of squalor, poverty and rampant Third World conditions have confounded them. No one can imagine having to endure such despairing environments. Yet, year after year, another First Nation community emerges to shock them all over again. They listen while governments and First Nations leaders blame each other for the failure of the system.

It’s wearying. Our nonnative neighbours can’t understand why the situation exists in the first place and why it continues in the second. The image of a Canada that allows people to live in such grievous states does not jibe with the idea of a cultural mosaic founded on equality from sea to sea to sea…

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