These days Canadians cannot say they aren’t aware of some of the issues First Nations face. Attawapiskat showed housing and living conditions in many northern Aboriginal communities. Yet there are many communities like Attawapiskat throughout Canada and this problem is becoming too large to ignore by mainstream media and society.

Economic development is hamper by widespread unemployment in almost every First Nation’s community. The figures are staggering and have been for decades.

Health issues range from birth with fetal alcohol syndrome, obesity, diabetes and a host of problems related to living conditions. Food prices have soared to never seen before heights as a result of the changes to the northern subsidies made by the Harper government. What was supposed to help in making healthy choices has instead made life even more difficult for First Nations’ residents.

Educational standards and facilities are well below norm and in some cases do not even exist. This has been said and reported on over and over.

The blame game puts the onus on First Nations for the problems they face. One only has to look at Attawapiskat where their problems saw the Feds putting them under third-party management. It was a blatant attempt to submerge the real issues under accusations of corrupt politicians and fiscal mismanagement. It was even suggested the reserve be abandoned or was that nearby Kashechewan?

Even the response to the dire need for housing saw the Feds purchase 22 mobile homes as a result of public pressure and the costs will ultimately come out of the community’s budget. Some Canadians though feel this is just another example of a government “handout” for First Nations that continue the circle of reliance that Natives have to get away from. Others applaud the government’s actions as subtracting the money from the regular budget ensures that Attawapiskat will have to take responsibility for the future of its community.

On the Aboriginal and supporters side, many point out the treaties (and lack of them) that Canada has to live up to. They point out it was the government that created the Indian Act, residential schools and programs and policies that led to the Buffalo Jump Program (make living on the reservation so bad people would move to towns and cities), the Sixties Scoop (adoption of Native children by non-Natives) and more. The government should fix the problem it created in order to keep Canada’s reputation unblemished.

When you talk to Canadians (not necessarily the politicians) many want the problems fixed. They are ashamed of what they see and how it looks to other countries. It will take more than political will to ensure real change takes place. Real economies have to be developed beyond just resource development projects, such as mining or forestry, that have limited economic benefits. While this will be difficult in the North surely business and the government can find some viable solutions.

It will not be an overhaul of the Indian Act that will suddenly make everything all right. It will be measurable change consisting of many failures, but as well there will be results we can all applaud.

It is time for all Canadians to work together to solve the difficulties First Nations have to live with.