Every time the destitution on a First Nation reserve piques the attention of non-aboriginals - the E. coli in Kashechewan's drinking water, the gasoline-sniffing epidemic at Davis Inlet, the fetid, ramshackle housing at Attawapiskat - some commentator will insist the problem is federal indifference.
But it is not a lack of money or attention that has led to such Third World conditions in the midst of one of the most prosperous nations on earth. If anything, it is too much money. We're killing our First Nations with kindness, not neglect.
Consider there are 30 federal departments or agencies that each year among them spend more than $10 billion on the fewer than 400,000 aboriginals who live on the country's 630 reserves. That's more than 5% of the federal operating budget on just over 1% of the national population.
On a per capita basis, the feds spend nearly $25,000 on every aboriginal man, woman and child who lives on a reserve. Of that, more than $13,000 goes directly to local band councils to pay for reserve operations that include schools and health care. Another $4,000 to $5,000 per resident goes annually to build or repair housing. That's upwards of $18,000 per person in direct cash payments.
By comparison, the federal government spends just $7,800 per non-reserve citizen. And these numbers do not include contributions from provincial governments, resource royalties, casinos and gaming or nearby businesses that use land subject to land claims disputes.