It used to be that in the old days, it was only really disturbed or ultra fanatical people that would say overtly crazy, racist things in public. Today, if you read any of the online comments after news articles related to First Nations people, you will see a segment of Canadian society filled with anger, hatred and racism who lack any actual knowledge, context, history or factual basis for their opinions about our issues. That is to be expected given the lack of education in public schools, work places or society in general about who we are as Indigenous peoples. However, when it comes to educated and experienced Canadian Ministers and politicians – there are no excuses. In fact, each Minister has an army of policy advisors, lawyers, assistants, communications specialists and advisors that fully brief him or her about all the facts, history and context. They don’t even have to think for themselves as they have issue binders, speaking notes and press releases written for them. Once in a while though, a Minister gets caught off guard by a reporter and has to speak for him/herself and then their REAL views come out. I am writing this blog today because the ignorant, racist comments against Indigenous peoples in Canada seem to be increasing by Harper’s Conservative Cabinet Ministers. Since they are so well informed about our issues, we cannot excuse them based on ignorance – their words reflect not only their lack of empathy for our peoples, but also their outright disdain for us. I hardly know where to start with this one, but here goes… Minister Duncan has said a great deal of really dumb things in his tenure as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) which is likely one of the reasons he is “handled” so obviously by his staff. One of the worst things he has ever said was that he did not consider the devastating loss of language and culture caused by the residential school system to be “cultural genocide”. http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2012/01/13/federal-official-wanted-emails-deleted-outlining-plan-to-stonewall-on-residential-school-genocide-questions/ Of course this ignores the actual realities of residential schools, and of all the people who should know better, it should be the Minister of Indian Affairs. http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/pamela-palmater/2011/11/unbelievable-undeniable-genocide-canada Then there is his most recent comments about our sovereignty and law-making powers. When asked about over sovereignty, Minister Duncan laughed and said “well, that doesn’t really work does it”. He went on to say that “we are a federal government” and “that’s the way it has to be”. This was in response to several First Nations in this country exercising their right to trade tobacco between First Nations. http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2012/06/01/minister-duncan-dismisses-dakota-claim-theyre-governed-by-law-of-the-land/ It seems to me that First Nations can’t ever win in this battle – if we are impoverished our communities are referred to as “human cesspools”… http://m.torontosun.com/2012/05/18/un-envoy-offers-no-food-for-thought?noimage=true If we try to hunt and fish to provide for our families, we are stopped by brute force: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsvG4KpFHOA If we try to engage in inter-First Nation trade of traditional products like tobacco – our right to our livelihood is criminalized: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/03/06/mb-dakota-chundee-smokes-raid.html Canada can’t have it both ways. Government can’t create laws and policies to keep us in poverty and then complain about the cost of poverty. Similarly, government can’t tell us to “pick up our socks” and then arrest us when we find ways to provide for our communities. But, if we think this is bad, it is only going to get worse as governments race to extract as much oil, minerals and riches from our traditional territories as possible with little or no input from us. Yet, Canada’s well-informed Ministers continue to make statements based not on fact, but on their own self-interest or racist views about Indigenous peoples. Look at Minister Aglukkaq’s denial of food insecurity in Canada. This Minister comes from the very region which suffers the highest food insecurity in all of Canada and she denied that there was even a problem – alleging that everyone just hunts and fishes for a living. http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2012/05/16/food-security-not-an-issue-for-aboriginal-people-because-they-hunt-every-day-says-aglukkaq/ But this is just the tip of the iceberg, many other Conservative Ministers have made racist or derogatory comments against our people. Think of Prime Minister Harper’s denial of colonialism in Canada, Minister Oliver’s description of First Nations people as “dysfunctional” or the very telling Canada-AFN Summit held in January where everyone smiled and shook hands, while Harper outlined his assimilation plan. Time and again the Harper Conservative government denies Canada’s role in our poverty, they try to sugarcoat the past and have put their assimilatory agenda on fast forward. Where is the Assembly of First Nations in all of this? They should be standing up for our people! They should be educating Canadians about the facts and most of all they should do what they were mandated to do: advocate for better conditions in our First Nations and “to protect our succeeding generations from colonialism”. It’s time the AFN joined all the Chiefs, First Nation organizations and grassroots people in standing up and defending the very strength of our Nations – our sovereignty, land and people.
The government is the Crown and the Crown is the PTB, power's that be, that hold us all down. Keep talking and all keep passing this around.
So true,Pamela. Each year I endure this ignorance in the classes I teach as well. It always amazes me at how hard students will argue and the amount of energy they will extend to try to justify their racist beliefs about exactly the topics you mention. Canada needs to wake up and look in the mirror and not just look at a mirror image of what it thinks it sees there but what the truth really is and take a good look at reality. Good words. Stay strong.
Let's not forget when Harper made the comment on Canada and colonialism. It was shortly after the heart felt apology to the survivors of residential school. I was fortunate to be asked to speak on Columbus Day in Baltimore a few years back and I made sure 500 teachers were aware of this flat out denial comment. Here is a copy of my speech:
The recent classification of FN ppls as a "labour pool" concerns me as well…
Another good piece of informative, inspiring writing.
It is clear to me that it the will of the PEOPLE who voted for this government – to carry on and out the same values and beliefs which people of this great country Canada and also the USA first had for Indains. (Intentionally spelt Indains"
For me there is so much to be sick about – the feel and the thought – the knowing that this is now – a concentrated push to finally "kill the Indain" by ending the process of negotiation and going through a process of challenge about treaty and rights and ownership of natural resources and now, even the right to do civil disobedience or protest.
There is so much being changed for the worse – each step is based on eliminating our ability and capacity to keep up with issues.
Even the "helpers or supporting" programs or agencies are being eliminated – like environmental groups or groups fighting for human rights!!!! This is not a fluke.
More and more, the hard-liner person (racist, prejudiced, bigot) will run for political office.
This present government is progressively MORE CONCENTRATED than any before… it even has many more representatives of people CLAIMING to be our own people – even those are suddenly who are very aware that "now claiming" Indain or of "indain descent" is profitable.
We have many more of our own who have become so powerless about what is going with those of us who live troubled – they right in alongside with those "true racists" and those who are just trying to right for justice and social reform sake.
We are in trouble – for too many of us in our social problems and now for our political system and mostly our representation – Especially with this particular type of governing style.
Maybe too this government sometimes reminds me of some of our own leadership.
Also too – MOST of the media is in on the limited-exposure of issues involving Indains – unless it is a crime being committed by an Indain.
Regardless – we need to face our own problems and get really prepared for these times we are in.
I appreciate your commitment to do us true justice. We need leaders such as you! I help through psycho-social support and have been doing this for many years now.
Please keep standing strong and expressing yourself for us – we will grow too!
This night, My nephew – who is in university met with me to talk about writing on healing change for our people – he spoke highly of you and what you do… I checked you out and I agree with him!
Pilamaya – Mitakuye Oyasin
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