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New Oka possible, feds incapable of legislation, says poll

Some B.C. residents think that a crisis similar to the Oka standoff could happen again in Canada, according to an Angus Reid poll published yesterday.

Sixty-nine per cent of B.C. residents surveyed think an incident like the violent July 11, 1990, clash between the Mohawk First Nation and the Quebec government could be repeated elsewhere in Canada.

The crisis escalated when Mohawks opposed the development of a golf course on traditional land used as burial grounds in the town of Oka, Quebec.

The poll coincided with the recent 20th anniversary of the crisis. It also questioned respondents on other issues of First Nations importance.

Forty-four per cent of B.C. residents surveyed said that that neither federal party is capable of developing legislation that will improve the living conditions of Aboriginal Canadians.

Another Oka isn’t likely, but the B.C. government must develop more meaningful consultation and dialogue with aboriginals around land claims and the environment, Susan Tatoosh, executive director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Society, told the Tyee.

Recognition of urban aboriginal populations and the support services that exist for them is also lacking from the B.C. and federal government’s agenda, said Tatoosh.

“The services that are required are not being funded adequately in relation to the number of people that have to be served,” said Tatoosh.

As more aboriginal people in B.C. move from reserves to urban centres, it does put more demand on services, said George Abbot, minister of aboriginal affairs and reconciliation.

“I would probably be inclined to agree [with Tatoosh],” said Abbot. “But, also to recognize that there is work being done to try to improve the situation". Abbot emphasized that initiatives in First Nations education and job training are a major priority for his ministry.

Conducted online, the poll surveyed 1,003 randomly selected Canadians from July 14-15 and has a 3.1 per cent margin of error 19 times out of 20.

Polls like this aren’t the most profitable, but they are part of Angus Reid’s responsibility to find out what Canadians think of themselves and the direction of the country, said Jaideep Mukerji, vice president of public affairs with Vision Critical, the parent company of Angus Reid that completed the survey.

The Tyee tried to reach Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs grand chief Stewart Philip and B.C. Assembly of First Nations chief Jody Wilson-Raybould for comment, but they were unable to depart from talks at the annual general assembly of First Nations in Winnipeg to return our call.

Justin Langille reports on the landscape of work for The Tyee.

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