It’s hard to be critical at Christmas.
Especially so if your regular job involves writing things that don’t always cast people in the best possible light. With people rushing around planning office parties, drawing names for gift exchanges, and tacking up non-offensive “Happy Holiday” cards from every elected politician within a thousand-mile radius, I sure don’t want to be the one accused of being the staff Grinch.
Never mind that I’m not a practising Christian, or that it seems to take 160 years to get a land claim settled around here – if you don’t believe me, just ask Chief Peter Collins of Fort William – the pressure is on to make nicey-nicey with everybody, no matter what they might have done to us in the 358 shopping days before Christmas. Everyone’s afraid that being seen as naughty can get them crossed of his list by Santa Claus who, I maintain, is really the Tooth Fairy wearing a fat suit.
As I consider writing something appropriately serious, say, the fact that many First Nations families will have to haul water from outside sources in sub-zero temperatures to boil their mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner, I am wary of someone telling me after the holiday break that my December column gave them more indigestion than a plateful of turkey.
So I will attempt to make my points in a non-accusatory manner.
This is my first opportunity to respond to those cowardly right-wing back-stabbers at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who accused Indian chiefs of being nothing but a bunch of greedy scoundrels.
Allow me to re-phrase that.
The esteemed economists on the payroll of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation – many of whom have been previously employed by loyal adherents of the Conservative Party of Canada – think it unseemly that 30 of the 600 First Nations leaders in Canada are receiving annual stipends somewhat larger than those being received by provincial premiers. Indeed, several of them apparently had more take-home pay than His Majesty, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
(The sound you hear is that of my teeth gritting.)
Let us not dwell on the fact that the selective data on chiefs’ pay was mysteriously leaked simultaneous to allegations that construction firms awarded Parliament Hill contracts were receiving kickbacks from the Conservative party, or that members of various legislative bodies in Canada get to keep their jobs after criminal convictions. And for Yuletide’s sake, let’s not complain about the 2,000 new people added to the Indian Affairs’ payroll over the past decade – none of whom will be hauling water from the bush to boil mashed potatoes for their Christmas dinners. No, let’s not do that.
So, instead of being argumentative at the height of the holiday season, I will try to leave my readers with a smile on their faces as 2010 winds to a snowy close.
In 1927 word leaked out that New York Yankees slugger George Herman Ruth was being paid $100,000 at a time when the average American family was making $1300 a year. Reporters mobbed “The Babe” at the first opportunity to ask him why he should be paid more than Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States.
“Why not?” grinned the slugger, whose 60 home runs had been more than any other American League team total. “I had a better year than he did!”
In the true holiday spirit, affluent Indians should help those less fortunate in their time of need. There are many things we can do to make their Christmas seasons merrier. How about holding telethons to raise money for impoverished premiers? Give your complimentary office turkey to a starving Senator, or donate warm gently-used winter clothing to down-and-out Members of Parliament.
It will make you feel good about yourself.
God bless them every one.
Maurice Switzer is a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation. He is director of communications for the Union of Ontario Indians and editor of the Anishinabek News.