Sunday, January 6, 2013



I know, I know, there will already be people grasping for poison language. After all,  I dared to use "freeloaders" in a criticism of the dereliction in basic duty by our police, courts and pols in dealing with the minority in our native minority.
 They want to continue a fat life, or a criminal life, or a rich activist life, by PR stunts, blockades and propaganda campaigns so distorted that they should be used in journalism classes as examples of what to look for in media misuse.
If you remove the "halo" effect in polling, which means that too many people tell pollsters what they think makes them look good, an overwhelming majority of Canadians are furious with our "authorities"  being pushed around by a few natives.
In fact, I suspect there are many native Canadians too who are furious with the incredible fortunes in taxes that are being skimmed off by some native leaders while too many natives live in awful conditions.
The real outrage is why so many of us allow ourselves to be muzzled and gagged by some native supporters and activists, many masked illegally, who use threats and clubs and blockades to get their way.
I'm a big boy when it comes to being condemned for what I write but the gang of supporters of supposed native rights, from land occupation to harmful fishing, makes every commentator in North America think twice, or three times, when it comes to criticism.
So fiery nonsense routinely pours out against our premiers, our prime minister and the U.S. president, calling them crooks and jerks and whatever diseased epithet that those of diminished IQ can find in comic books, but just trying saying anything critical about the flamethrowers in the native movement and you will find calls for your head.
Maybe literally!
One of the times I was taken to the Ontario Press Council over columns I had written, or columns I had allowed to be published, that were critical of the native "situation," the complainant turned out to be a woman living at U of T who had a painful stutter and the Achilles' heel that she knew no natives and had never visited a reserve.
The complaint was directed at Matthew Fisher who had visited half the reserves in the country, around 300 or so, while working for the Globe and Sun.  The council, which didn't much like the Sun, ruled in my favour because the complainant basically just thought we always should talk "nice about the Indians."
The dean of  Canadian political commentators was Doug Fisher, who just happened to be Matthew's father and a former  MP for a riding with many reserves. Fisher used his intricate knowledge of government to add together the incredible sums being spent by the federal government on natives. It started around $12,000 per native per year in cash before you got into the freedom from income tax and sales tax, and then there is the aid packages, free land, special scholarships  and other concessions that also cme from provincial governments. And it's far higher now!
Yes, you guessed it. Someone complained to the press council about Doug Fisher and me but the council, which already had a taste of the Fishers' formidable knowledge which led both to despair about how politicians and police deal with natives, decided not to do battle again.
I wrote about natives barricading Highway 45 with a bonfire for weeks and the chief at Alderwood  threatened to take me to the court or press council. She demanded in a letter to the editor that I be fired, not realizing she was asking me to fire myself. Not a great thinker. I drive through that reserve a hundred times or so a year and the next time I had to make a silly detour I decided to vent my anger by shouting at the demonstrators and the police. There were threats I might be arrested, not for burning a hole in a public highway but because I had been indignant. You know the area in question because of all the stores selling native cigarettes there, an industry so rich, the multimillionaires who run it are happy to subsidize any native willing to block even a sidewalk as a distraction from their gush of gold.
I was at a function talking to a high-ranking OPP officer about how irritated the public was with lax policing at demonstrations and obstructionism and how happy I was that Julian Fantino had a tougher stance as the new OPP commissioner. "We have to do something about that," he said. And they did. The Fantino before Caledon and the Fantino during were as different as sunny day with gloomy night. Outrage followed outrage. Ordinary citizens were trampled while cops stood by. And Christie Blatchford's great book about that boil on the police nose showed it in such detail, that the friend who gave me the book had to read it in bits because it infuriated him. I had to put it down for a week before finishing it.
I think it is significant that any major story about Canadian reserves, even if it is wrapped in cotton batten by the CBC or Star, reveals that native incompetence, if not corruption, is greater than any federal failures. The federal money being skimmed off by a few is staggering.
I can remember criticizing David Crombie, then and now my friend, for championing a huge expansion in the number of natives and Metis entitled to benefits while he was Secretary of State in Ottawa.
Crombie was holding forth at a government presentation at the Park Plaza when I entered. Crombie said: "Downing just came in, and he's been critical about what I have done for the natives. I don't think he knows one."
But I did.
 My first newspaper job in the Yukon had a reserve right in Whitehorse where the waste of government aid was legendary. My publisher urged me to write about it. He never had because he wanted to live there for awhile, and with Indians (what they were called then) living all around us, he didn't want to get any mad at the Whitehorse Star, the only newspaper in the territory.
 I hired a native who had lost in a provincial election to improve how the CNE dealt with minorities but it didn't work out. He was a favourite of the Bill Davis' Tories but was too sensible for native leadership to tolerate for long. (The Ex decided later to become a supporter of natives with special ceremonies, and invited a major chief to speak at the opening. He began by welcoming us to his land. I whispered to another former CNE president that we were sitting on landfill. There was also a native claim on Toronto Island, most of which was scraped from the harbour bottom.)
A nice Sun reporter persuaded me to employ a failed native journalist who was bedevilled by drink. It was the worst failure of my career. He never produced anything but expense accounts and phoney excuses for not showing up for weeks. Unfortunately, I discovered, not an isolated incident.
 I paid a neighbour for a new cottage roof and discovered too late that the reason it was a good price is that he had used his girlfriend's treaty card to buy everything cheaper and with no taxes.
The talk over cold beers on the cottage dock, the conversations at the swim-up bars in the Caribbean, the griping over coffee in the cafeteria, often turns to how most of us think natives are getting away with financial murder.
The hunters and fishermen I know, some of whom gather to curse the natives fishing for pickerel while they are still spawning, become apoplectic at the suggestion that somehow natives have a better grasp of nature than the rest of us. Maybe a century ago, before the white man was so good at hunting and fishing regs that there are now more bear and deer in Southern Ontario than in 1900. Whether it comes to the Trent or Georgian Bay or B.C. rivers, I know of no biologist who approves of when the natives fish or the catch they keep.
This is almost trivial compared to some native claims for land in the Yukon or Newfoundland or Southern Ontario where there is no evidence that they ever lived or even hunted.
But why continue. This will go on and on until there is an uprising by Canadians, from barricades and sit-ins to demonstrations, against the pols and cops who favour a few of us. The problem is, too many of us are busy earning a living so we aren't free to block tracks or highways or bridges because we are funded by government aid and the smuggling of cigarettes and booze.
If native protest isn't a billion-dollar industry, it is in the hundred of millions. And we are the ones who pay and pay and are told to turn the other cheek so it can be slapped.

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