There is no denying that living conditions for many of Canada's First Nations citizens are deplorable.
This is not some Third World country. Canada has one of the strongest economies in the world, yet we still have reserves without clean water and where residents live in little more than makeshift shacks.
It is quite sad, really. And a world away from what most Canadians experience in their daily lives, which is why some find it difficult to feel sorry for the sins of their great-grandfathers. It is difficult to comprehend someone else's hardship from the comfort of your living room.
But that doesn't mean we can turn our backs on Canada's reserves.
The growing Idle No More movement has thrust the issue back into the spotlight, but, like so many other movements with laudable aims, it is in danger of being co-opted by opposition activists who see it as just one more way they can attempt to bring about a regime change in Ottawa.
We have legitimate ways of doing that - they are called elections.
While we have yet to have an NDP federal government, native living conditions were no better under the Liberals, so tarring the Conservatives with the blame is disengenuous.
Ottawa most definitely should have consulted more on proposed changes to the much-maligned Indian Act. That is a legitimate beef of the protesters; and treaties must be honoured.
But critics, including First Nations, have long slammed the Act as an outdated, paternalistic document that needlessly meddles in the lives of aboriginals. And rightly so.
However, they are also the first to attack any attempt to bring the Act into the 21st century.
We have two of the most prosperous Indian bands in Canada right here in the Okanagan - Osoyoos and Westbank. Theirs is an example to be followed, yet changes to the Act that would encourage such entrepreneurial spirit are being slammed as the break-up of the reserve system.
Perhaps the biggest question Canadians should ask is for a clearer accounting of how the tax money directed to reserves is being spent and why it is not filtering down to those who need it most.
- Managing Editor