I talking to you, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada. Remember that national apology? Remember the folks who said they wanted to see substance not words? Well, I was one of them.
“Although great lip service is always paid to Indigenous communities in Canada, the reality is that both domestically and in terms of international leadership, Canada has failed to deliver.
“The health disparities between Indigenous Canadians and the rest of the population are huge. The burden of illness amongst Indigenous peoples in Canada is desperately severe. And there is a lack of commitment by Canada’s politicians – and also by the health system – to addressing these scars on Canada’s soul.”
First Perspective in Winnipeg:
After a meeting that was less than satisfying, Mosakahiken Cree Nation Chief Jim Tobacco and his council refused to leave Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) offices in downtown Winnipeg until someone with authority answered their concerns over a 2% cap in place over First Nations education.
“We’re having problems on our reserve accommodating everyone who wants to take post-secondary education,” said Tobacco. “The number we’ve had to turn down this year is 25.”
He said that every year more students are graduating from high school and that many look to continue their education.…
He said education is a treaty right that is fundamental to improving the lives of First Nations people. Offering an example, Tobacco told the story about one young woman who went back to school believing that her community would sponsor her to attend university.
“She cried when I said, ‘look, we don’t have the funds,’ but I told her that I was going to do all I can to make sure she goes to school.”
Margo Cobiness, from Hollow Water First Nation, said, “I know where that chief is coming from.”
She’s a single mother of five children attending the University of Winnipeg who wonders about her future.
“They’re always telling us to get an education but there never seems to be enough resources,” said Cobiness.
The federal government is asking the courts if the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has the right to hear the case by two First Nations organizations that the federal government is discriminating against the thousands of First Nations children in care by underfunding the agencies that are supposed to look after them.
“At its heart, this issue is about caring for the most vulnerable members of our society. Our children deserve the same care afforded to other children in Canada. We hope all parties to work together to address the inequities in the system,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo. “We look forward to the fair and independent process offered by an independent Human Rights Tribunal, as a step towards solutions which are urgently needed.”
Monday September 14, 2009 was the first time a human rights complaint case involving discrimination by the federal government against First Nations has been filed with the Human Rights Commission.
Anticipating an H1N1 outbreak later on in the year, Health Canada shipped H1N1 kits to Northern Manitoba First Nations. Body bags were included as part of the shipment to some of the communities. The H1N1 kits also included facemasks and hand sanitizer.
First Nation Chiefs in northern Manitoba are outraged. They believe that this delivery of body bags has sent a horrifying message to their communities.
“This is an ominous sign that the government is predicting a grim outcome,” said St. Theresa Point Chief David McDougall in a press release.
“This is an absolute disgrace. This is morally appalling,” said Liberal health critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett in a press release. “Instead of flu-kits, instead of preparing and planning to get the vaccine on time – instead of planning to save lives – they spent their time planning on how to deal with the deaths.”
I could go on… but the sheer weight of ignorance and disdain for Indigenous rights becomes an exercise without purpose. The Conservative Party’s “final solution” to native issues in Canada is self-evident; obvious to anyone willing to look.
It is long-past time for Canadians to send Harper and the rest of his Reform horde back to their holes if only for the above examples. But there are a lot more reasons than just Harper’s – and the Conservatives’ – disgusting record on Aboriginal issues.
Whether it’s the Harper government’s disastrous economic and monetary policies, avoidance and denial on climate change, advocating barbaric changes in prison reform, a disgusting record on women’s rights, complete disrespect for fundamental human rights and corruption of the Rule of Law, failure to stick to its own promises to be more open, transparent and accountable, Harper and the Horde have trashed whatever illusion there may have been about the so-called “honour of the Crown.”
Even the National Post, that ever-faithful cheerleader from the right-wing sidelines, couldn’t hold it’s nose too hard.
I’d expect this from Liberals, but the Tories promised to do better. (Federal Treasury Board minister, John) Baird didn’t even bother to wait until the noise of Stephen Harper’s Senate appointments had disappeared. The Conservatives can no doubt argue that Mr. (Robert) Poirier is fully deserving of the position, and supporting the government shouldn’t preclude anyone from appointment to important posts, but there is a disregard for past promises that smacks of the arrogance Liberals specialize in.
The Conservatives Government under Stephen Harper has lied to Canadian voters over and over again. Voters should ship them out on the first banana boat back to where they came from.
Indigenous peoples might consider packing that same banana boat with Harper’s little band of spear carriers. You know the types. The Manny Jules, Calvin Helins, Chief Louies and Patrick Brazeaus of this world. Let’s throw in the Joe Quesnels while we’re at it.
They’re “anti-Indian” Indians. Their solution to the “Indian problem” is no different from what Duncan Campbell Scott advocated at the turn of the last century, or what the Canadian Government articulated in its 1969 White Paper Policy – assimilation. Cultural obliteration, elimination of Indigenous rights, and dispossession.
I’m not interested in excuses like: “oh, but they mean well.” I don’t believe they do. But make up your own mind about them. Go ahead, “google” the above names because you will no doubt want to match up what they’re doing, saying or writing to what is about to unfold. It’s from the “Summary” section of the ’69 White Paper.
I’ll include “plainspeak” interpretation (in italics) after each point.
True equality presupposes that the Indian people have the right to full and equal participation in the cultural, social, economic and political life of Canada.
The word “equality” is a perennial favourite among the anti-Indian lobby to imply that treaty and Aboriginal rights are a problem that needs to be eliminated. Elimination of these rights will do nothing to achieve “true equality” since Indians will still be poor, discriminated against, receive disgustingly substandard government services, health care, education, etc. In reality, it means removal of protection of lands and resources to further the “we stole it fair and square” polices of the past. Some Indian “entrereneurs” may benefit greatly, but most Indians won’t be able to overcome the deck stacked against them.
The government believes that the framework within which individual Indians and bands could achieve full participation requires:
1. that the legislative and constitutional bases of discrimination be removed;
Means remove “Indians… and lands reserved for Indians” from Sec 91.2 of the Canadian Constitution; relieve the Federal government of sole jurisdiction for “Indians”; allow dumping or off-loading of federal responsibilities onto provincial governments or even individual Indian communities.
2. that there be positive recognition by everyone of the unique contribution of Indian culture to Canadian life;
We like your fluffs and feathers (good for tourism) but not enough to respect your political rights to exist as unique Indigenous cultures in the world.
3. that services come through the same channels and from the same government agencies for all Canadians;
As noted in (1.), first eliminate federal jurisdiction for Indians, then dump responsibility and the cost onto the provinces. Keep in mind that there is no recognition whatsoever of the Indian Nations that signed original treaties – just individual communities under the Indian Act. It’s “Colonialism 101”, comparable to the denial by South Africa’s apartheid system of African nations such as Xhosa, Zulu or Khoi-san and creation of homelands that lumped their peoples together, eroding long-term cultural stability and cohesion.
4. that those who are furthest behind be helped most;
An old PR trick. Some sh*t, then some perfume. Them more sh*t.
5. that lawful obligations be recognized;
Begs the question:After removal of federal jurisdiction, who will recognize those obligations? Answer: nobody. Shambolic, ain’t it?
6. that control of Indian lands be transferred to the Indian people.
Privatize reserve lands. Get rid of collective ownership. Much easier to avoid treaty and Aboriginal rights. Easier to get desperately poor people to sell their lands, or rights to land and resources. What happens to hunting and harvesting rights? This is supposed to lead to better lives? Sounds more like the same “we stole your land fair and square” tactics used to dispossess Indian peoples for the past 250 years.
The Government would be prepared to take the following steps to create this framework:
1. Propose to Parliament that the Indian Act be repealed and take such legislative steps as may be necessary to enable Indians to control Indian lands and to acquire title to them.
How nice of them.
2. Propose to the governments of the provinces that they take over the same responsibility for Indians that they have for other citizens in their provinces. The take-over would be accompanied by the transfer to the provinces of federal funds normally provided for Indian programs, augmented as may be necessary.
Propose a fait-accomplit?? Provinces would suddenly have a million Aboriginal peoples on their doorsteps – dispossessed, political refugees in their own country.
3. Make substantial funds available for Indian economic development as an interim measure.
How many times have they promised to provide the necessary funds to remove mould or asbestos from over-crowded homes, ensure that their drinking water isn’t polluted, provide for Bill C-31 members (new members who regained status illegally stripped from them), promised schools that won’t poison children, promised enough education funding for both students and teachers’ salaries, committed themselves to sufficient employment and training dollars? More importantly – How many times have they kept those promises? (hint: none)
4. Wind up that part of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development which deals with Indian Affairs. The residual responsibilities of the Federal Government for programs in the field of Indian affairs would be transferred to other appropriate federal departments.
With all of this dumping of federal responsibilitoes, what were the provinces promised? Remember the federal government’s record on keeping promnises (see above).
In addition, the Government will appoint a Commissioner to consult with the Indians and to study and recommend acceptable procedures for the adjudication of claims.
The new policy looks to a better future for all Indian people wherever they may be. The measures for implementation are straightforward. They require discussion, consultation and negotiation with the Indian people – individuals, bands and associations and with provincial governments.
Success will depend upon the co-operation and assistance of the Indians and the provinces. The Government seeks this cooperation and will respond when it is offered.
3 The Immediate Steps
Some changes could take place quickly. Others would take longer. It is expected that within five years the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would cease to operate in the field of Indian affairs; the new laws would be in effect and existing programs would have been devolved. The Indian lands would require special attention for some time. The process of transferring control to the Indian people would be under continuous review.
OK, quick preview. Here comes the need for your friendly neighbourhood spear carriers (come on down all you Mannys, Calvins and Patricks. (thought I forgot ya, Guiseppe?)
The Government believes this is a policy which is just and necessary. It can only be successful if it has the support of the Indian people, the provinces, and all Canadians.
The policy promises all Indian people a new opportunity to expand and develop their identity within the framework of a Canadian society which offers them the rewards and responsibilities of participation, the benefits of involvement and the pride of belonging.
Final note: from Hansard. It’s Manny Jules’ presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance on September 15, 2009:
In its history, Canada has faced two critical questions. What is the place of Quebec? What is the place of first nations?
As chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, I am pleased to appear before the Standing Committee on Finance to suggest a solution to this first nations challenge for Canada. I am here to ask the finance committee to support the first nation property ownership act, a project we have been advocating for the last four years to the finance committee.
This legislation would allow interested first nations to opt out, should they choose, from the reserve lands system of the Indian Act. It would transfer title of our lands from the federal government to our governments. It would see the lands of participating first nations removed from the wholly inadequate Indian Lands Registry and transferred to a Torrens land title system, the best registry system in the world. It would allow us, if we want, to issue a fee simple title so that our lands are as valuable as any others in Canada.
Jules could have written the ’69 White Paper himself, except that I hear it was actually written by a well-known and long-standing member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. et tu Brute?
Jules is right about one thing though, but I’ll bet he didn’t even realize it.
The 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy was designed to strip Indians of their rights – their COLLECTIVE rights. But they weren’t the federal government’s real target back then.
Think October Crisis. The federal government’s aim in 1969 was to erase any mention or recognition of COLLECTIVE rights from Canadian laws and policy, including the Indian Act. But let’s face it, back then Indian and Indigenous rights were irrelevant to the Federal Government. The sovereignty movement gaining momentum in Quebec was at the top of Ottawa’s agenda/ Consider why.
There was a very real possibility that Québec might separate. The separatist argument was based on the assertion of collective rights. Collective rights was based on the following conditions: distinct language; distinct culture; a defined land base; legal and historical recognition; a system of governance; religion. Those are similar to the positions repeatedly and consistently asserted by Indigenous nations across Canada – since contact (and to this day). So the 1969 White Paper Policy was a mere afterthought of a much larger situation that the Federal government wanted to deal with.
That’s how Indians almost became road kill in the Federal Government’s fight against Quebec separatism.
That was then. Today, the Canadian government may soon be the only nation in the world not to sign the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Today, the only explanation for Canada to continue pursuing or actively encouraging a policy of assimilation of Indigenous populations is racism with or without his trusty band of spear carriers.
That’s why I say that Stephen Harper can take that fake, meaningless, empty apology – and shove it!