Photo by Fred Chartrand/ CP Photo
Every morning I wake up, turn on the radio and hear the latest update on the Senate. As someone who's spent 25 years in theatre, it's hard to argue with the scandal's dramatic appeal - and the all-star cast is terrific. The movie pitch could be Wall Street meets Parliament Hill.
Listening to it all, I go from astonishment (these people are appointed for their accomplishments?) to anger (is it too late to repeal Confederation?) to a final stage enjoyed only by the First Nations of Canada, a state of mind for which, ironically, there's only a German word: schadenfreude - "pleasure at someone else's misfortune."
Why? Just two years ago the federal government was in a tizzy over supposed financial mismanagement in Attawapiskat, willfully ignoring the horrendous housing shortage the village was wrestling with.
The alleged mishandling of funds was deemed so severe, the feds imposed the dreaded "third-party management" solution and a non-native administrator was parachuted in to save the day.
It took less than a day for Chief Theresa Spence to boot him out and launch a judicial review of the appointment. Attawapiskat won, and the feds sent a cheque for $136,132. That incident helped inspire the Idle No More movement.
Now back to the Senate's fiscal mess. This is my tax money at work. (Yes, most native people do pay taxes, though all those senatorial fingers in the cookie jar may help explain why some refuse to.) The upper chamber looks like it needs serious help. Should we - could we - send in a third-party manager to whip the place into shape? If it's good enough for First Nations, why wouldn't it be sufficient for any other tax-funded institution?
And how's this for tit for tat. Let's make it an aboriginal person! Being "in the red" has more than financial connotations.
It's true the Attawapiskat situation left all kinds of misconceptions, like the idea that all native communities are poverty-stricken, and that dozens upon dozens of such reserves are just looking for any excuse to run a third-party manager out of town just to liven up the day and take our minds off issues like racism and an unfair judicial system.
The truth is, there are 630-odd First Nations communities spread across Canada. Take a random cross-section of any 630-odd non-native municipalities across the country and you might be surprised to discover there are several that are quite poor and not so well off in that mixture, plus a lot that are middle-class and a few that are affluent. Same variety with First Nations.
Many reserves, like mine, for example, are surprisingly middle-class. It's exactly the kind of place where mainstream America could have filmed family sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show or Leave It To Beaver (though our beaver wouldn't be riding a bike or wearing a baseball cap).
So here's my proposal: I humbly suggest offering Curve Lake's general manager to Ottawa to see if we could knock some sense (and cents) into the Senate using some good old-fashioned Indian and Northern Affairs Canada-inspired financial planning.
I haven't cleared this with the reserve's chief and council yet, but I don't think the Senate is in any condition to turn down help.
Meanwhile, the First Nations people of Canada will be viewing this crisis through a large helping of schadenfreude. There has to be an Ojibway translation for that.