Friday, August 10, 2012

Progressive Patriot: The First Nations

Maybe this will be Part I of an exciting series or maybe it'll be the latest thing that I started and then abandoned out of sheer disorganization and laziness. Who really knows? Only God knows and only God can judge me. Anyway, the point of this possible series is to articulate, as a Canadian who wants to make his country something he can proud of, a series of progressive positions on a number of issues and to contrast them with the right-wing or "conservative" view.

So, on the left we have the progressive idea of the First Nations in Canada: The First Nations are an unconquered, sovereign people with whom the Crown entered into treaties, wherein we got the rights to use most all of their traditional lands in return for which we would give the various First Nations guaranteed sovereignty within greatly reduced lands and we would provide them with assistance to "integrate" with the modern economy. (I can't think of a better word than "integrate." They were to hoping to become independent farmers as was the norm for people in the 19th Century.) (These efforts were deliberately sabotaged by the settler society.) They were also supposed to receive annual gifts from the Crown for having surrendered their lands. There was no end date for these gifts. We crazy leftists believe that these treaties are binding forever. We believe that the First Nations have a right to their lands retained in treaties and to full sovereignty over these lands. We would like them to be partners in building Canada with us, but they are, Constitutionally, autonomous, independent partners.

Before getting into a few details about what that entails, let's quickly dismiss with the right-wing view about the First Nations. First of all, these people tend to believe that the First Nations were conquered, and as such, that they should simply get with the program. By "getting with the program" they mean to get off the reserves (which will be abolished or rendered meaningless by being divided into individually owned slices of property). Once off the reserves, the First Nations will also be weaned off of the payments from the federal government that we aren't bound to pay them even though we've upheld treaties that said we would.

This isn't simply meant as parsimonious cruelty though. This is seen by the right-wing as "tough-love." You see, the ONLY thing holding the First Nations back, and keeping them mired in misery, suicide and addiction and unemployment, is their stubborn desire to cling to the past (which is no longer feasible) and their moral degeneration caused by their dependence upon federal government hand-outs. (At least that's how the right-wing argues in mixed company. When they think they're alone with each other, right-wingers tend to hee-haw about the First Nations in all sorts of racist ways. [See: "Girl on the Right" and the crew of human garbage at "Small Dead Animals."])

In short, the right-wing see treaties as being bothersome pieces of paper. The word of Canada is to be given lightly and solemn promises forever can be broken with impunity if the culture that the promises were made to is thought to be incapable of fighting back effectively or, probably more importantly, if that culture is owed something by us. The First Nations should be forced to give up their culture and assimilate into the wider Canadian society (which despises them).

The link about transforming the reserves from collective to individual holdings is in reference to the racist pseudo-scholar Tom Flanagan (who "advises" stephen harper in the same way that a piece of shit gives food to a fly) on Aboriginal issues. There's talk of bringing an actual bill before Parliament (the one with the stolen majority) to destroy the reserve system in Canada. Both the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail have editorials from writers critical of it.

The Globe has "First Nations want property rights, but on our own terms" by Jody Wilson-Raybauld. (I don't have the stomach to even look at the comments section today.)
The land tenure discussion in our communities has, therefore, not been just about what is needed to make the land more marketable or provide security of tenure, but how to do so while maintaining a community and collective rights. When it comes to property systems, both domestically on or off reserve, and internationally, there are, of course, many ways to govern.
Recently, there has been talk of a proposed federal First Nations Property Ownership Act (FNPOA), which reflects a particular ideological approach to land ownership. ... First Nations are advancing innovative and sustainable approaches that will unlock capital, create partnerships and protect their lands and resources for future generations consistent with their rights and responsibilities – on their own terms. And it means the approach and ideological underpinnings of the FNPOA is simply not for them.
Then there's the Toronto Star's "Why not extend aboriginal rights to aboriginal peoples?"
First, we must stop looking at aboriginal Canadians as socioeconomic liabilities or aboriginal rights as a threat to Canadian prosperity. As the head of BMO’s aboriginal banking unit has pointed out, Canada needs the “capacity, creativity and skills” of its aboriginal citizens. Like the Quebec Cree, many of them are quietly making enormous contributions to their communities and their country, individually and collectively through mutually beneficial resource development ventures in their traditional territories.
Second, if we remove the obstacles preventing other aboriginal peoples from getting “started in modern society,” we will also save millions of tax dollars that are currently wasted on managing, bandaging or avoiding the consequences and liabilities of neglecting aboriginal peoples and their rights.
Third, implementing aboriginal rights is not a threat to Canadian unity. Quebec separatism is in decline because Québécois no longer see a threat to their “aboriginal” rights vis-à-vis English Canadian “newcomers.” Likewise, Cree separatism within Quebec is also on the decline because Cribécois — as one Cree leader put it — see good things coming out of their new relationship with Quebec. This relationship was just renewed with the signing of a regional government agreement that shares authority between Cree and non-aboriginal residents of James Bay.
Fourth, except where our dysfunctional system has allowed it, aboriginal rights are not “race-based” or “special.” Rather, they are inherent rights that require special attention, at least until the formal legal and political framework fully acknowledges and protects aboriginal peoples’ prior relationships to the land, resources and each other.
Fifth, the essence of what aboriginal peoples ask for is what non-aboriginal Canadians take for granted. Who among us worries about newcomers showing up one day and driving a bulldozer into our backyard, building a dam that will flood our farmland or community, or marginalizing us in our own homeland?
Sixth, if non-aboriginal Canadians have their “aboriginal” rights protected already, what we need to do is extend the same protection to aboriginal people. Until we do this, northern Ontario’s First Nations are right to protest, and we may finally get beyond the aboriginal vs. non-aboriginal divide, while still remaining Cree, Anishinabe, Québécois, Canadian and whatever else we may become.
So, basically, the progressive viewpoint on the First Nations in Canada is to:
  1. Recognize their treaty rights
  2. Recognize their inherently separate constitutional status as the original cultures within these lands
  3. Give them full sovereignty within their reserves
  4. Give them the control over their resources and the means to develop them in the ways they see fit so that they can be self-supporting


the salamander said...

Well said, perfectly clear.. astoundingly valuable.. such perspectives and beliefs are incredibly rare, Thwap .. Thank you..

I saw this staggering example of photojournalism and thought to myself that this scenario could easily take place in the tar sands, parliament hill, kitimaat, Fort Chipewayn, Grassy Narrows, Labrador, downtown Calgary, Peterborough, Montreal, .. and you can add your own location where this kind of civil action is becoming necessary and very very likely.

Nobody was hurt.. though some landed hard on their ass and burst into tears with shame and embarrassment.

I look at the images and easily visualize The Harper Government being removed en masse from Parliament and the House of Commons and rudely dumped on the sidewalk with their briefcases and twitterphones..

What kind of sick, arrogant and pompous government do we have, that trumpets they will send 500 Canadians to the Ukraine to act as electoral watch dogs, ensure a fair election and advise on transparency and more accountable government. We should send 500 First Nations people there to warn them about the continued radical deterioration of Canadian democracy and the accelerating growth of electoral grooming, vote suppression and fraud during the Harper Corporatocracy.

Beijing York said...

Also note, Harper's minions have quietly announced plans to cut AANDC (formerly INAC) on-Reserve housing program funding by 30%:

Some good background information from Pam Palmater (who should have won over Shawn Ateo):

Another good site from âpihtawikosisân:

thwap said...


Thanks for your comment and the link. I hope to hear more from you.

Beijing York,

I read that one from apihtawikosisan. She is definitely someone to watch.