By Steve Beckow, Golden Age of Gaia
I must say that the issue of negotiating with Canada’s native population strikes a chord with me. And my interest in what is happening only increases over time.
Yes, I know that their protest is shutting down Canada’s rail lifeline. I guess that’s what it took to get us to listen.
When the situation is “contained,” we don’t seem to hear anything about the natives or their perspective. In my view, this is the magnitude of what was required to get our attention.
My first career was as an historian, as you know, and one of my specialties was racial-supremacy theories in Victorian English Canada. I’m familiar with the way English-Canadians thought of themselves at that time.
Their scorn for other races provided the foundation for the internment of Japanese Canadians in World War II. Chinese and Sikh immigrants had to run a gauntlet of discriminatory legislation.
Just because slavery didn’t exist in Canada did not mean we didn’t persecute people. The residential-school deaths of young native children is perhaps the worst example of it.
In later life, I made human-rights decisions for Canada as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. It required me to rule on matters of discrimination and persecution.
In my opinion, we’ve never stopped discriminating against and persecuting our native population. And admittedly I don’t follow the national news any longer so I’m basing my opinion on recollected events.
But from the days during which I did watch it, I allege that we did not treat with the natives in good faith or, on the occasions on which we did, we didn’t faithfully observe the treaties which resulted.
We’ve disrespected, denigrated, and incarcerated them. We haven’t extended to them the same rights and privileges we do to us non-natives.
Those who enforce the treaties seem mostly and in the end to serve the interests of the non-native population, which in turn so often doesn’t respect the natives and doesn’t deal with them sincerely and compassionately.
It’s a circle whose parts cooperate to keep natives in a marginalized position in Canada.
I’m in favor, not just of negotiating the issue of pipelines crossing their legal territory, but of all issues outstanding between native and non-native populations.
But it’s more than that. What I’m really in favor of is negotiating with them in good faith. That’s the sea change I want to see happen – a change of attitude. That’s the kind of change from which all else unfolds. Without that, nothing occurs.
In a press conference today, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, I thought, summed up the situation:
“We say we want to de-escalate and we want dialogue. And I say that our people are taking action because they want to see action. And when they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way. They’ll respect the need to give everyone time and space for that dialogue to happen.
“Going forward this will be a clear sign that … we need a new approach. When governments ignore First Nations’ rights, title, and jurisdiction, it creates conflict and court cases, but when governments respect First Nations ‘ rights and title, it’s a path to peace, progress, and prosperity.” [My italics.] (1)
A change of attitude from disrespect to respect has to happen and it will happen, eventually. I’m simply asking for it to happen now.
(1) “Assembly of First Nations chief addresses Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests and rail blockades” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc_a_YV5e6M&feature=youtu.be