June 8, 2000
The Search for Aboriginal Property RightsThe objective of this short paper is to make the case for giving natives the normal property rights that all Canadians enjoy.
The memory of my earliest contacts with native Canadians sparked a bias in my attitude towards the issue of aboriginals and their substandard living conditions.
My family was among the poorest in our hometown. Although very hard working, my parents loved children and had lots of them. There was always food on the table, but we knew as the family expanded that our resources were meagre compared to most others in the postwar period.
South of town sat the local nuisance grounds and occasionally we needed to haul refuse to it. The first time I was invited along, it surprised me to see, as we pulled into the landfill site, that other people were there at all. The place smelled, rats scurried about and comforts like shelter did not exist. I found out that four or five families lived near the dump and made a scant living by recycling anything of value that happened to arrive. They had their children with them, kids who were about my age. They were natives.
I then learned that there were actually people in the world who were even poorer than my family. Perversely, that perception made me feel better, just to know that at least some others were even worse off. But it had a redeeming feature, in that it formed a continuing bias - an absolute sympathy with the native children, my peers, who were living in such destitute conditions. It made me feel very sorry for them and very lucky to have a higher standard of living.
Dennis Owens was the Frontier's Senior Policy Analyst (1997-2007). A descendant of homesteaders near Portage la Prairie, he graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science. Over a 20-year career in the transportation business, he rose to the position of operations manager of a Winnipeg-based firm. Since then he has researched and written about Canadian public policy issues for a variety of organizations including the Manitoba Taxpayers Association and the Prairie Centre. His specialties at the Frontier Centre include municipal issues, public education, healthcare and aboriginal policy. His frequent exposure in electronic and print media has included a regular commentary on CBC radio and articles printed in the Wall Street Journal and the National Post