Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the message I get from Chuck Strahl and the Conservative Government in Ottawa these days.
John Ivison’s column in the Irrational Compost a couple of days ago illustrates that, though I doubt that’s what the writer intended. I genuinely think Ivison fell for the government’s sweet talk about improving lives, cleaning up corruption, and demanding accountability.
Ivison writes (Tories plan First Nations overhaul, June 3) that Strahl is set to “unveil a new approach” in the way it funds status Indians and their reserves. Those with “good prospects of economic success” will get more money. Those deemed “bad prospects” won’t get any more money than they do now. Nothing in Ivison’s column or Strahl’s words excludes possible cuts to seriously under-funded communities if Indian Affairs decides they need to be taught a lesson in obedience because it really doesn’t like their attitude.
So what’s new in this approach? Ever since I remember, the federal government has rewarded Indians and organizations it considered “good,” and punished those it didn’t like or agree with. “Bad Indians” found themselves on the Indian Affairs’ shitlist. Good little Indians found themselves appointed to the Senate.
T’was ever thus. Ovide Mercredi was “Gandhi” one day, a shitty ass frozen out by Indian Affairs the next. Matthew Coon Come stepped out of line and found the funding to his Assembly of First Nations slashed in half. You have similar examples in Canadian mainstream. Talk to Danny Williams in Newfoundland or the folks down in Nova Scotia. What makes you think that this same type of coercion and patronage doesn’t happen in Indian country too?
Strahl & the Plan
If Indians dared ruffle the feathers of GR8 White Faddah ™, riled his anger by choosing an MP from an opposing political party, went to the news media to complain about the lack of any coherent funding policies at Indian Affairs in Ottawa, the complete lack of consultations and accountability at Indian Affairs, idiotic or incompetent civil servants, and so on… they might find repairs to their schools denied, contaminated water systems ignored, decrepit housing left for another government to deal with. And they got away with it, time after time.
Why? Because journalists like Ivison actually believe it when an Indian Affairs official like Chuck Strahl shows up saying he’s there to help. Wake up, Ivison. Indians have been hearing that bs for more than a hundred years. You can’t be that gullible. If so, I have this bridge in Manhattan I think you’d be interested in.
Indian Affairs and Indian Affairs’ ministers get away with this form of government-sanctioned bribery/coercion because too many journalists become deaf, dumb and blind at the strangest times.
On the one hand, there’s this community that’s limping along because it’s funding has been kept at pre-Confederation levels. They’re plugging holes in the walls of homes with newspaper. Kids are almost strangers to their parents because justice officials think that Indians of a certain age should get a criminal record.
On the other hand, there’s Chuck Strahl. He looks like the reporter. He talks like the reporter. He comes from the reporter’s community. So when Strahl says that the reserve described above isn’t making the grade, that they aren’t pulling themselves up by their bootstraps quickly enough or high enough to suit him… reporters believe him. They actually get sucked in.
Are there rich reserves that could be doing more? Sure there are. Just as there is an emerging Indian middle class that could be doing more to help their own communities, but prefer the latte at Starbucks. But that is not most reserves, nor the day-to-day reality of most Indigenous peoples in Canada. It’s time for Indian Affairs, and the minister, to stop blaming the victims of s system they devised and keep chugging along.
uppity Mohawks and their bridges
Then there are those uppity Mohawks. They won’t accept the rules that say they’re supposed to live in poverty. They see a loophole in economic development regulations, the ones that stipulate they must go cap in hand for approval from Indian Affairs before anything gets done, and they ram a truck through it. They actually build their own economies. Traders and merchants that they are, they have the timerity to then flip the bird at GR8 White Faddah ™.
Sovereignty? My ass, says the minister. Bad Indians. Baaad Indians. We’ll need to teach them the “rule of law.”
Is this the same as “Honour of the Crown?” Respect for treaties? Upholding legal commitments and Agreements passed by the Parliament of Canada? That “rule of law”? Or the one used only when it’s convenient to hammer down uppity Indians?
Educate yourself, John Ivison. You’re writing from a position of ignorance about issues that you seem to know next to nothing about. This leaves you open to manipulation by politicians who have engaged in these types of abusive behaviours for decades – and getting away with it thanks to writers like you. Your readers deserve better. Indians deserve better.