First Nations people a cash crop?

Dear Uma: The peaceful feeling that resulted from my encounter with the bear lasted for days, and what a wonderful time it was - to go through all the hours of my day in a state of smiling relaxation and with a benign sense of all being well in the world

Dear Uma:

The peaceful feeling that resulted from my encounter with the bear lasted for days, and what a wonderful time it was – to go through all the hours of my day in a state of smiling relaxation and with a benign sense of all being well in the world.

The certain knowledge that I will not be smoking cigarettes ever again contributed to this feeling; there really is a kind of euphoria, as of chains falling, when one is freed from a negative habit. Much as I enjoyed my smokes, I could no longer deny they weren’t loving me back – that I was in an abusive relationship.

Sad to say, my halcyon days are over, at least temporarily. No, I’m not smoking again, but I am unsettled, and suffering from that never-ending cry of “why? Oh, why?” that is so often triggered by a news story on TV, found in a magazine or heard in the marketplace.

On this occasion, it was an online article that harshed my mellow.

One of the greatest business success stories in history, says the author in what he refers to as a “cash crop,” is not the growing of wheat, corn or even marijuana, but the growing and making of black criminals and their resulting incarceration; a genuine homegrown industry that provides thousands and thousands of jobs – mostly for white people.

According to this writer the amount of money generated by this continued endeavour makes the total profits from the Fortune 500 companies look like chump change.

Police, lawyers, judges, jails, federal and provincial agencies, social workers, counsellors, politicians in all parties are just some of the groups that benefit from the population of black Americans and the subsequent imprisonment of many of them. The monies spent to ‘grow,’ arrest, prosecute and jail black folk represents billions of dollars a year in income for the mostly non-black workers who are so employed. Then there are the billions more spent in the building of facilities to house these many “businesses.”

Governments spend more money to promote the conditions that are ideal for the growing of black criminals: welfare, substandard housing, low-paying dead-end jobs and inferior public education to name a few.

Although welfare is a powerful contributor, when combined with drugs, the continuation of this cash crop is assured. Drug lords all over the world give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to political leaders and to federal and provincial law-enforcement types to ensure drugs are not made legal. It is imperative to this towering economy that the people continue to believe the legalization of drugs would constitute a major threat to North America when, in reality, it is primarily a threat to this edifice of greed.

Drugs, especially cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine and other such additives, combined with welfare, are critical to the continued growth of this economic bonanza, this “cash crop.”

The author says if drugs were made legal the resulting reduction in the crime rate would throw the USA into a depression as the millions of people associated with black imprisonment would be out of work.

The writer is not saying all blacks are criminals, of course, but the numbers of black Americans on welfare and in jail are considerably higher than those of white people. I could not help but see the similarities to the condition of aboriginal people here in Canada.

We, too, have an inordinate number of First Nations people on welfare and in jail, and I was struck by fact that this situation does indeed provide a lot of jobs and a lot of construction of facilities.

The living conditions for many blacks described in this article are also remarkably similar to what we have in Canada for aboriginal people.

This country has the aboriginal population grossly overrepresented in prisons, with 24 per cent female and 18 per cent male First Nations people in the jails. These figures, by the way, are a substantial increase on the figures of 10 years ago.

More shocking, and infinitely saddening, is the fact that 82 per cent of the aboriginal people in jail suffer from substance-abuse issues. Despite this well-documented knowledge, they are also the prisoners most likely to be sent to maximum-security facilities.

This not only generally puts them far from family and community, but also means there is less likelihood of them being able to access rehabilitation programs.

These are also the prisoners least likely to be granted parole.

The abuse and neglect, the racial discrimination suffered by these prisoners is much higher than that of other ethnic groupings: another fact that is well known, as the recent case of the death of Silverfox appallingly demonstrated.

Our current government has spoken many times of their plan to build more jails; it was one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election platforms. It seems our Conservative leader is going the route of the American system, which has the highest rate of incarceration in the Western world.

Harper’s ‘tough-on-crime’ agenda aims to imprison more citizens and keep them there longer, which according to one published estimation means the building of at least 23 more penitentiaries. The original cost estimate was $11 billion.

There has been an updated cost analysis which must be considerably more as the government is refusing to release these newest spending estimates.

There has been a host of studies about this issue, all of which agree the situation for aboriginal people is worsening every year. Wouldn’t you think this would be a sort of clue the current methods of dealing with crime from this group is not working? The figures have been available for years; the figures that show poverty, joblessness and poor education to be the primary cause of these revealing figures.

I knew something of this problem from a research job I had a couple of years ago, but the idea that there might be some deliberation about this situation had not occurred to me until I read this online article. It makes a certain kind of hideous sense, though I cannot, and will not, believe it to be based on truth. It is surely conjecture, very original, and futuristic, but conjecture.

However one must ask, as one often must about government plans, what is the sense of perpetuating a system that is proven to be not just ineffective but damaging?

What possible benefit can there be, other than to the economy? Although it is hard to imagine politicians could be unaware of the situation, it is even harder to imagine they could possibly believe the building of more jails as a solution, but so it would seem to be.

Enough angst; the weather has been close to perfection and the absence of the usual seasonal horde of blood-sucking insects makes it even better.

I find myself outdoors more than I have ever been, puttering in the garden or going for long walks around the outskirts of the town. My garden is promising abundance this year, and the flowers are adding great shapes and colours to the whole yard scene.

You should know I am holding you to your promise of a summer visit. There is no problem with us about Juan coming with you; we will become accustomed to the reality that there is no longer an Andrew and Uma and this visit would be a good opportunity to begin the process.

We too seem to have lost Andrew in the divorce; did the two of you share out friends along with the properties?

Between thinking of the online article this morning, and now Andrew’s absence, I am feeling the need not of a cigarette, but of another bear encounter.

Maybe I am onto something here; a marketing scheme is forming, one which will benefit the Yukon economy while helping folks to feel better.




Heather Bennett is a freelance

writer based in Watson Lake.

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