A COMPELLING SOLUTION TO ENDING THE TRAGICALLY HIGH DEGREE OF POVERTY AND SOCIAL DYSFUNCTION AMONG CANADA’S FIRST NATIONS PEOPLES: LEGAL EQUALITY!
For decades Canada’s indigenous and non-indigenous elites have been mindlessly doubling down on the apartheid-like, “separate but equal” dysfunctional status quo that has so harmed the vast majority of vulnerable, marginalized indigenous Canadians: all to no benefit!
Author-lawyer Peter Best offers as a compelling alternative the Nelson Mandela solution: complete legal equality with the rest of Canadians-the necessary precursor to social and economic equality- by amending the Canadian constitution, repealing the Indian Act, converting the reserves, and ending all the other special rights and entitlements that have so oppressed them.
Mr. Best also issues a strong warning against the serious diminution of Crown sovereignty by our Supreme Court and our politicians, resulting in a serious threat to the rule of law, serious economic harm, and harm to our national welfare generally.
A respectful and heartfelt argument and plea for our First Nations peoples to join our increasingly racially indifferent 21st century Canadian family on the basis of full equality of rights and responsibilities
Peter Best is a lawyer who has practiced law in Sudbury, Ontario for 43 years. Raised in nearby Espanola, favored with lifelong personal and professional relationships with indigenous Canadians, he brings a personal, literary and historical perspective to the greatest social crisis experienced by Canada today- the perilous state of its original peoples.
SPECIAL CORONAVIRUS INSERTS
In chapter 34 of There Is No Difference, The Imperative of Crown Sovereignty, I strongly criticize the emasculation and diminishment of absolute and total Crown sovereignty by our higher courts and governing classes in favour of “sharing” Crown sovereignty in certain major circumstances with Indigenous groups. I detail the damage to the economy, the flight of capital, the harm to the government revenue, and the harm to the rule of law. I also write that a strong, sovereign government, with sole legal powers in its jurisdiction is essential to deal with national emergencies and crises like war, and now, the Coronavirus pandemic. Immediately below are my abbreviated thoughts on this:
The brilliant George Eliot wrote: “And the present time was like the level plain where men lose their belief in volcanoes and earthquakes, thinking tomorrow will be as yesterday, and the giant forces that used to shape the earth are forever laid to sleep.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic Canada is regaining its belief in volcanoes and earthquakes.
For many years past, oblivious of history’s inevitable volcanoes and earthquakes, Canada has experienced the dangerous emasculation of Crown sovereignty perpetrated by our higher courts and governing classes, encouraged by academia and the media, in favour of so-called “separate nation-self-governing” Indigenous groups, who have been encouraged to behave as if they are not always subject to Canadian law.
The coronovirus pandemic shows what a trivial luxury that idea was and is. Correctly making no mention of these foolish notions now, Indigenous leaders are now properly seeking their full rights as Canadian citizens to the same assistance as is being given to all other Canadian citizens. There’s no frivolous talk of “nation to nation” and “self-government” now. Reality has finally hit home. We are experiencing what our ancestors always knew: that “our civilized world is not made of stone, it’s made of sand, and one bad storm is all it will take.” (Novelist David Mitchell) In this existential coronavirus volcano-earthquake-storm, we all instinctively look to a strong, totally sovereign State, the only entity with the power and resources to best protect our vulnerable citizenry- personal, corporate and Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike- that can best protect the national welfare generally. History is re-asserting itself. We are all in this one-nation-only, fragile, leaking national boat together, as equals, regardless of race, and we all must bail, row and suffer together. When this is over, as it will be, we must take this lesson and live it, by changing our laws so that we are all equal under the law. -March 24th, 2020
From the National Post, May 14, 2020
RCMP attendance at ceremony raises ire of chief
(“Stay off our lands unless you are invited.”)
An Indigenous leader is telling the RCMP to stay off reserve land after armed officers were dispatched to break up a sacred ceremony involving about 35 people. A public health order in Saskatchewan limits public gatherings to 10 people.
“These are First Nations lands. This is Indian land.” Stay off our lands unless you are invited,” said Chief Bobbie Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Public health orders do not supersede First Nations law and treaties, asserts Cameron, who added that maintaining tradition and ceremony is even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic. (emboldening added)
“Our ceremonies, our sun dances, our sweat lodges, our pipe ceremonies will continue no matter what any government or what the RCMP may try to say or do, those ways are going to continue.”
Further to and in elaboration of Covid article no.1, this existential Covid-19 pandemic is forcing us to examine many basic things about how our society is structured. In the essay immediately below I argue that the over one million Indigenous citizens of Canada, residing on or based out of over 650 Indian reserves, because of our quasi-segregationist laws, in this case the particular legal reality of Indian reserves allegedly being “self-governing nations”, are not legally subject to government emergency self-isolation, anti-gathering, physical distancing and business closing orders. Chief Bobbie Cameron of the “Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations” apparently agrees with me. I argue that this seriously endangers the national health and welfare of all Canadians, regardless of race, and is a very instructive and real-time example of the operational dangers and failures of our outdated, tragic and very harmful national, “separate but equal” status quo in this area of Canadian life.
If the virus makes no distinctions based on race, then why should we?
—-Covid Emergency essay—————————————————————————————————————–
Excerpts from There Is No Difference
From Chapter 1, Introduction.
“Look at these children that are sitting around here and also at the tents, who are just the image of my kindness. There are different kinds of grass growing here that is just like those sitting around here. There is no difference. Even from the American land they are here, but we love them all the same, and when the white skin comes from far away I love him all the same. I am telling you what our love and kindness is.” -O-ta-ha-o-man, the Gambler, Saulteaux leader, spoken during the negotiations prior to the signing of the Qu’Appelle Treaty, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, September 12, 1874
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.- King James Bible, Romans 10:12
“If we look into the future, is it not a heritage we have to leave to posterity, that all the races commingle and produce a civilization that perhaps the world has not yet seen? There are differences and misunderstandings, but I do believe, in the words of the sacred hymn, “We shall know each other better when the mists have rolled away.”- Mahatma Gandhi
“The Same, the Same: friend and foe are of one stuff; the ploughman, the plow and the furrow are of one stuff; and stuff is such and so much that the varieties of form are unimportant. Men contemplate distinctions because they are stupefied with ignorance. The nature of the Great Spirit is single, though its forms be manifold.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In May 1633, when Champlain came back to his settlement at Quebec, a large party of Montagnais arrived in their canoes to see him. Champlain gestured at the building works, including the fort, and said, “When that great house is built, our young men will marry your daughters, and henceforth we shall be one people.”- History’s People: Personalities and the Past, Margaret McMillan
“Somewhere along Canada’s way the liberal, humanist aspirations once common to our entire country have ceded to various forms of petty and chauvinistic ideological tribalisms and, with respect to our Indian peoples, to actual racial tribalism. Ignoring the emerging humanist political consciousness described by Richard Gwyn and exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, our elites, Indian and non-Indian, have decided that our Indian population’s Canadian experience will, now and forever, in most retrograde fashion, be focused on and defined by race, rather than shared, liberal, humanist values and attitudes. Our new Canadians, many of whom have immigrated from South Asia, where the odious caste system was and remains prevalent, must be bewildered to see a major element of the caste system- special hereditary rights possessed by one racial group to the exclusion of all others– becoming further entrenched in the Canadian legal and social fabric.”
“Ordinary Canadians, including me, are puzzled and perplexed about where our elites are pushing us. Why are our elites “binding us apart”- pushing us into a state of greater inequality under the law? What are they thinking? Why are they so seemingly smug and self-satisfied to be going against the grain of our hardwiring- going against the grain of human rights history– by expanding and further entrenching “separate but equal” and the reserve system? Why this rejection of 200 years of enlightenment thinking? With all the new money and rights afforded to it- mere gilding of dross metal, mere powdering over the pox- it’s still a fundamentally dysfunctional, harmful, segregationist, apartheid-like, caste-like stain on Canada’s civic and moral landscape and still fundamentally very harmful to ordinary, powerless and vulnerable Canadian Indians.”
“I write this book with immeasurable and humbling inspiration and assistance (“Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history“- “Novalis” via Penelope Fitzgerald) from numerous brilliant writers and thinkers whom I have encountered in my lifelong reading journey, as a form of plea for all of us to take the Gambler’s and Gandhi’s words to heart, to regard us all as equal human beings in the eyes of the law and the divine (in all the latter’s multi-cultural manifestations).”
“We need to restore to its former primacy our humanist, legal, social and political model as the only one to be governed and guided by in the task of carrying out our duty to improve the situation of Canadian Indians. Only by doing so will they, as one of the founding peoples of Canada, be put on the shared path of meaningful progress towards true equality and social justice.”
“Indians have always had special race-based legal status. But surely, having regard to our highest and best civic values , we must now realize that what happened in our increasingly distant past with respect to our fellow Indian citizens was a mere product of those very different times and should not constitute an unchangeable template for the indefinite future. And surely, given what we now know from experience about where race-based thinking and constructs can lead we should now be changing that old template by adopting new frameworks and solutions that accord with our current knowledge and values and that , deliberately, over time, point us all towards a common, shared, “one people”, race-free legal, political and social destination.”
“What a man has taken into his bloodstream in childhood from the air of that time stays with him. And despite all that is dinned into my ears daily…I cannot quite deny the belief of my youth that in spite of everything, events will take a turn for the better. I look up again and again to the ancient constellations that shone on my childhood, comforting myself with the inherited confidence that, some day, this relapse will appear only an interval in the eternal rhythm of progress onward and upward.”– Stefan Zweig
“We should take inspiration from the “one people” vision from a tall mountain of Black Elk, of the Lakota people, who, in his vision, “was able to see the past and future of his own people, and also the ways in which Indian lives would meet and mix with the American future:”
And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
From Chapter 2, Terminology.
“The adoption of the cause means adoption of the language of the cause. When we speak within the language of this cause we give up our linguistic capacity to question and make moral choices.”- Christopher Hedges
“The reader of this book may have already uncomfortably noted that I have repeatedly been using the word “Indian”. This is deliberate. “Indian” is the most legally accurate word to use. It is the precise legal and denotative term for what is in fact a purely race-based category of persons in Canada. It’s used in the constitution, statutes and court cases. Canadian history at least provides us with an explanation and a reasonable excuse for the original legal separation of Indians from non-Indians in Canada. But now there is no such excuse. Therefore, in order that the essentially segregationist and benignly racist nature of what is happening be brought to the fore and kept there, in order to continually highlight how this situation runs counter to our modern hardwiring and our modern values, and in order that the wrong and discomfiting nature of what is happening be not just read but felt, I will sometimes use (but not exclusively), as if it were a verbal hairshirt, that precise, legal, racial term, “Indian.” If the reader feels uncomfortable because it “sounds racist”, then good! That’s the point! In today’s Canadian context, it is inherently racist! And as such it’s inherently wrong that it’s in our constitution, statutes and court decisions in the way it is.”
“What has happened over the past thirty years or so with respect to the situation of Indians in Canada has been the result of an essentially private conversation amongst our courts, governments, governing classes, Indian elites and the Indian industry generally.
Ordinary Canadians, individual and corporate, have been excluded from it, even though most affected by it. We have not been trusted to be brought into it. This needs to end. We need to demand to be meaningfully included in this conversation. The parameters of the conversation itself need to be liberated and expanded. Ordinary Canadians need to be, to use the phrase of the era, consulted and accommodated.
The stakes are high for all Canadians, especially for the vast majority of ordinary, powerless Canadian Indians who are suffering so badly under the present segregationist, elites-driven system.”
From Chapter 3, The Separate But Equal Doctrine.
“A State which has drawn a colour line may not suddenly assert that it is colour blind.“- U.S. government submission in a 1960 racial discrimination case.
“If apartheid were measured by results rather than intent, we would have it on reserves today.“ –Indigenous writer and businessman Calvin Helin, from his book Dances With Dependency.
“We need to reverse what Canadian Indian leader John Kim Bell described in early 2018 as Canada’s official policy towards Indians: “apartheid”. To do this we must, over time, in a planned and lawful manner, end this now-archaic, wrong-headed and dysfunctional “separate but equal” legal straitjacket that Canada and Canada’s Indians have become bound and oppressed by-a straitjacket characterized by antiquated laws, institutions and arrangements that are totally incapable of addressing, much less solving, the real and serious problems facing Indian Canadians in the 21st century. Ancient pre-contact Indian cultures are extinct. Indians, like history itself, can only go forward. As the great Russian intellectual Alexander Herzen observed: “History does not turn back. All reinstatements, all restorations have always been masquerades.”
“The 1969 White Paper proposals were too quickly dropped, a victim of the counterculture movement, with its then culturally-ascendant phenomenon of identity politics, where practitioners of it seem to care more about the special group they identify with than their country as a whole- a victim of the negative, self-centered excesses of our increasingly illiterate age- a childish age devoid of any real sense of history or historical continuity,11 where the past was basically cancelled– an age “when most people stopped believing that the course of their lives would be determined by history rather than psychology, public rather than private crises”- an age rife with subjective feelings of “entitlement”- an age “which takes our inherited advantages for granted and replaces the cure of souls with the cure of the psyche, blind justice with therapeutic justice, and philosophy with social science.”
The age-old societal boundaries within which as-objective-as-possible truths have been reasonably prescribed and contained have disappeared.
When former Liberal Minister of Justice Judy Wilson-Raybould was giving her now-famous 2019 swansong testimony prior to being shown the Liberal Party door she narcissistically spoke of “my truth” instead of “the truth”, in this way perfectly illustrating the transformation of the once universally-accepted dictum, “I think therefore I am”, to “I feel therefor I am.”
“South African apartheid was an especially sordid variation of segregationist policies. Nelson Mandela, who Canadians lionized both during his lifetime and on his death as a wonderful exemplar of progressive and humanist thinking in this area, advocated the complete abolition of all traces of racial segregation in the laws of the new South Africa. He advocated the establishment of a legal regime of all races living in a state of complete legal equality.
The present circumstances of Canada and Canada’s Indians should compel us all towards working to establish in Canada Nelson Mandela’s positive and inspiring vision and goal of one set of laws for all.”
“A nation or society has a general spirit pervading all its aspects, and ideally its laws must conform with this.”– Montesquieu
From Chapter 4, Assimilation and Cultural Loss.
“Real Indian culture is just about dead on the reserves.” –Indigenous AFN co-founder and pioneering indigenous lawyer, William Wuttunee, from Ruffled Feathers– 1971.
“Assimilation is not a dirty word. For the Canadian state it should be an indifferent one, a choice we make as much as the opposite. The argument made by advocates of self-government is that the native nations were here first. This is demagogy. The aboriginals were not here. Their ancestors were. Collective rights are not inherited. If they were, we could justify special privileges for the French-Canadians descended from the settlers whose ancestors were here second; the Anglo-Saxons who came third and so on, down to today’s arrivals who would have the fewest rights.”- Montreal lawyer Julius Grey
“Civilizations were not hermetically sealed off from one another, but interacted creatively, and this borrowing and cross-fertilization was the key to progress…Human advancement is the outcome of the co-mingling of ideas through the contact of different groups…Civilization is everywhere the stimulus evoked by the friction of one group upon another.” – Sir David Cannadine
“One of the world’s most remarkable and resilient cultures in the world is that of the Jews, which has received, absorbed and survived as many shocks, slings and arrows as any culture in history. A key to its survival has been its adaptive, assimilationist nature.”
Israeli writer and humanist Amos Oz:
What does Jewish culture comprise? It comprises everything we have amassed over the generations. Elements born inside it, as well as those we have absorbed from the outside, which become part of the family.
The brilliant humanist/historian Erna Paris, in her important and inspiring book, From Tolerance to Tyranny- A Cautionary Tale From Fifteenth Century Spain, a great work of history and a paean to the benefits of human mixing of all sorts, (with a large focus on the historically-assimilationist Jewish culture), writing of Canada’s early years of development, which mistakenly and wrongly excluded our Indian peoples, wrote:
Canadian pluralism…grew not from ideology, or theology, for that matter, but from a pragmatic need to develop sparsely populated tracts of land. No matter the origin, the outcome was the same. Mixed populations ignited an explosion of raw energy and inventiveness.
Indian leaders who oppose legal integration and further assimilation with their fellow countrymen are fighting these stimulating, natural and beneficial processes, and by doing so are actually hurting their people rather than helping them. They’re ensuring further segregation and cultural loss, and further stagnation and decline overall, rather than real and meaningful progress.”
“The Roman Empire brought peace to the civilized world for two centuries. Nothing like it has been seen since…Speaking generally, the mighty Roman Empire meant prosperity for the world; and within it, peoples of different race and religion and custom learned to live happily with one another.”– Donald Kagan
“Tenth and eleventh century Moorish Spain had, at the time, the most civilized, tolerant and sophisticated culture in Europe. The key to its success was the promotion of social assimilation.” Erna Paris, from From Tolerance to Tyranny:
Accomplishment grew from a foundation of cultural pluralism, which welcomed new people, new languages, and new ideas; conversely, the exclusive ideology of Christianity set roadblocks in the way. The intellectual, artistic and cultural brilliance of Arab Spain was the harvest of an open cross-fertilization unimpeded by religious rejection.”
As Robert Kaplan wrote in In Europe’s Shadow, (above), the over 400 year-lasting Ottoman Empire showed the same assimilationist genius, “treating all creeds and races as one”, thusly creating “an extraordinary civilization”.
“Ottoman soldiers and administrators hailed from the western Balkans, Poland and Ukraine; the harem at Topkapi numbered women from Greece, Russia and Circassia: the Ottoman system provided the opportunity of rapid social advancement for those taken initially away by force from their families, however obscure their origins. As the historian Arnold J. Toynbee puts it, the Ottomans “served a positive political purpose by providing the Orthodox Christian world with the universal state which it was unable to achieve for itself.”
“Yuval Noah Harari wrote in Sapiens:
Today almost all humans share the same geopolitical system (the entire planet is divided into internationally recognized states); the same economic system (capitalist market forces shape even the remotest corners of the globe); the same legal system (human rights and international law are valid everywhere, at least theoretically); and the same scientific system (experts in Iran, Israel, Australia, and Argentina have exactly the same views about the structure of atoms or the treatment of tuberculosis…
…We still talk a lot about “authentic” cultures, but if by “authentic” we mean something that developed independently, and that consists of ancient local traditions free of external influences, then there are no authentic cultures left on earth. Over the last few centuries, all cultures were changed almost beyond recognition by a flood of global influences.
Despite this obvious reality, Canadian Indian elites constantly talk about their supposedly distinct “traditional cultures.”
To this, Edward Gibbon writes, in Decline and Fall, referring to the tendency of many nationalist, ethnic and racial propagandists, for present political purposes, to exaggerate glorious attributes or deeds of their ancestors:
On a narrow basis of acknowledged truth an immense but rude superstructure of fable has been erected.”
“Non-Indian Canadians readily admit the obvious fact that we are complete strangers to the lost cultures of our ancestors. This doesn’t mean that we don’t partially self-identify as Canadians by celebrating our respective racial, ethnic or linguistic heritages. We do, and it’s wonderful and enriching. What it does mean is that we don’t wholly define ourselves by who our ancestors were or how they lived. We don’t pretend that we live in the same world as them or that, in any real, present-day sense, we are acculturated in any way like them.
The earth has been united into a single ecological and historical sphere…The social order has been completely transformed, as have politics, daily life and human psychology.
To achieve success in modern Canada- to realize their potential as human beings- Indians have to admit this same obvious fact about themselves- that they too are complete strangers to their distant ancestors’ lost cultures- that they too are essentially modern beings with modern sensibilities living in the modern world, essentially, like the rest of us, as part of the single global macro-culture described by Yuval Noah Harari.
But that’s no real loss, in fact it can be regarded as a gain, because they too, like the rest of us, can still keep and celebrate their racial and cultural heritage and still partially self-identify by it, while at the same time living in the present in a clear-eyed, forward looking way.”
From Chapter 5, An Issue of Freedom of Speech.
“At any given moment there is a sort of self-prevailing orthodoxy, a tacit agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact.“- George Orwell
“Why do indigenous Canadians have the highest rates of victimization in the country? Because, as the latest data emphasizes, they live in the most violent communities in the country. The fact that I have to point this out, and that doing so will be met with anger, shows the embarrassingly primitive state of our national discussion on this issue.”- Journalist Scott Gilmour
“It’s not that ordinary Canadians don’t want to help Indians. We desperately do. But we’re not permitted to get involved except on the fallacious and unacceptable terms laid down by the Indian and non-Indian establishments. We’re in effect being told that to be involved and heeded, to be allowed into their conversation, we cannot challenge or question their pre-packaged orthodoxy. We cannot use our heads and think for ourselves. We cannot question the very existence of the Indian Act, the reserve system and the “separate but equal” status quo generally. So, fearful and unable to stomach that- unable to cope with the Alice in Wonderland nature of it- we find ourselves expelled from the arena of public debate and engagement on this issue and forced to stand back and helplessly watch the terrible social damage being suffered by Indians continue unabated.”
“In Ruffled Feathers Indigenous lawyer and AFN co-founder wrote:
Many thinking Canadians who are familiar with the Indian situation are reluctant to openly criticize the attitude of the Indian people. Because they are careful of the feelings of the Indian people, they tend to be silent when they should be openly critical in order that some change may take place.
Aboriginal writer Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency, referring to speaking out against abuses of power by Chiefs and Band Councils on reserves, wrote:
Generally, non-Aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labeled as racist.
The cumulative effect of this fear-based censorship, self and otherwise-this terrible situation where, on this issue, “fear is put at the core of individual consciousness”- sadly and disgracefully supported by the too-often, seemingly “culturally clueless” “priestly caste” (above) that governs the media and most of social sciences academia, is a collective decision on the part of ordinary Canadians to dare not speak truth to power about this issue, and to silently hear and see power itself lie to the people about it (a phenomenon central to life in totalitarian states).”
Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings. …How little attention has been paid to the nature of our ability to deny in thought and action whatever happens to be the case.-Hannah Arendt
And it’s not just ordinary non-Indian Canadians who are afraid to speak out. This fear-ridden reality applies to Indian Canadians as well. Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency, echoing William Wuttunee from 35 years before, wrote extensively about the “reprisal atmosphere” and the “banana republic-like mindset” existing on too many Indian reserves:
Many grassroots band members are uncomfortable talking about corruption, nepotism and mismanagement in their communities. They do not want to promote a backlash and often vicious retribution from their Band Councils… On many First Nations, anyone who dares question the actions of incumbent leaders runs the risk of being “BCR’d”. That stands for “band council resolution”, an edict forcing you off the reserve… Many Aboriginal youth are voicing the opinion that might be summarized as “God save ordinary members from the Mugabe-like dictates of some of the Chiefs.”
…I would suspect that, on a per-community basis, the incidences of abuses of power greatly exceed the incidences in non-Aboriginal municipalities. If these problems exist, they should be discussed openly and real solutions sought. If there are problems, to paraphrase Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “let transparency and openness reign from the mountains.”
The Indian and non-Indian establishments, for their own sometimes selfish purposes, contrary to the cause of truth, and contrary to one of the most fundamental values of democracy – free and open debate on important public issues – have in effect declared a ban on free speech around this profound political, economic, constitutional and human rights issue – effectively erecting “no trespassing” signs around it, thus preventing needed discussion and exposure of their “weak points”. For ordinary Canadians, only those who “dare to be a Daniel” go past those signs. So the obvious goes continually unspoken and thus the duty, need, and sad novelty of saying some of it in this book.”.
“At times of great cultural catastrophe, an intellectual’s task is not to offer consolation, but to secure the foundations of humanity endangered by ideological lies, to find anew seeds of good sense, ethical norms with which to resist despondency.”– Czeslaw Milosz
“The quest for truths is synonymous with intellectual controversy.” -Samuel Huntington
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”– Abraham Lincoln
From Chapter 6, Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New.
“Within a generation or two of the first contact by any Indian tribe with Europeans, that tribe’s essentially Stone Age technological culture, with all the skills, arts, knowledge, crafts and practices inherent in it, was to a large extent caught up in a process of being given up, let go and assimilated by and into the all too rationally-compelling, easy and understandable attractions and advantages of that more technologically-advanced European culture.”
“But haven’t Canada’s aboriginals, by generally foregoing their pre-contact ways and means in favour of European/North American modern ways and means- by “culturally appropriating” these non-aboriginal ways and means- just as described by Joseph Boyden in The Orenda and Annie Proulx in Barkskins-done just that? And on a massive and all-encompassing scale? In fact, haven’t aboriginals” culturally appropriated” almost all of non-Indian, Eurocentric culture? Of course they have! And good for them! Everyone benefits from this! That’s how the world works!”
“Where would Canadians be, culturally- where would any of us be- without the post-Paleolithic explosion of technical and artistic creativity first occurring in Europe and then brought through the process of human migration to the rest of the world? Scientist, humanist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward O. Wilson, in his recent book The Origins of Creativity, answers as follows:
The critic Helen Vendler broadens the key question as well as can be phrased: “If there did not exist, floating over all of us, all the symbolic representations that art and music, religion, philosophy, and history, have invented, and afterward all the interpretations and explanations of them that scholarly activity have passed on, what sort of people would we be?”
Neither the question nor the answer is rhetorical. There would be no literature, little or no abstract or symbolic language, no tribal government (with a radius greater than can be run on foot in a day). The technology would be Paleolithic, and art would still be crude figurines and stick figures drawn on rock walls, with little meaning left to decipher. Science and technology would consist of the sharpening of spear points, the knapping of stone axes, and perhaps the piercing of snail shells to thread for necklaces.”
“As the passages from Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda and Annie Proulx’s Barkskins illustrate, what rational Indian did not choose to use a copper kettle for cooking instead of a straw or reed basket or a clay container?
What rational Indian did not choose to shoot an animal, or another human being, with a gun, from a safer distance, rather than trying to kill it, or him, with an arrow, spear or knife?
These are just a few examples of the countless decisions taken by Indians, from the time of first contact with European migrants onwards, in the conscious pursuit of their own best interests as they reasonably determined them to be, as in Barkskins, to intelligently and rationally choose- to ” culturally appropriate”– European artifacts, decorations and ways over their own, the overall effect of which was to quickly cause them to stop living in their own, old cultural ways and thereafter to slowly but surely forget how to live in those old cultural ways.
This point was recently made by Duke University Professor, John Terborgh, who worked in the Peruvian Amazon for decades, in his review of the book The Unconquered: The Search for the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes. He describes the effect of the introduction of Western goods- machetes, axes, metal pots, fish hooks, mosquito netting and clothing- on hitherto pre-contact Amazonian aboriginals. He writes:
The seductive appeal of such things was nearly irresistible, for each of those items can make a quantum improvement in a sylvan lifestyle. Acquisition of several or all of these goods is a transformative experience that makes contact essentially irreversible. Once a person knows such things exist, then that person and his community are irreversibly changed.”
“Pukatire, Chief of the Amazonian Kayapo tribe, a “knowledge keeper” of ancient, pre-contact Amazonian life skills, when asked if young people were still seeking him out to learn this knowledge:
He shook his head. Staring into cupped hands, he said mockingly, “Only cell phones.”
Pre-contact indigenous societies were “fiercely egalitarian…where profitable exchange, (i.e. capitalist practices), hierarchy and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”The emphasis was on sharing and redistribution.
From Aboriginal Ontario- Historical Perspectives On The First Nations:
The Iroquoians believed that no community member should go hungry or lack necessities while others had more than they needed. The principal motive for accumulating surplus food stuffs and obtaining rare goods from other groups was to be able to give them away to fellow tribesmen. Chiefs and their kinsmen strove particularly hard to accumulate goods so that their clan could win approval and influence by giving them away. The Iroquoians strongly disapproved of stinginess, a trait that could lead to accusations of witchcraft. Prestige was derived from giving away property.
How tragically different now. Instead of egalitarian societies, where everything is shared and everyone is equal, Indian bands are now capitalistic in economic orientation, where too often oligarchic, family and crony-based elites control everything and use their power, not for the community’s benefit, but too much for their own. (See Our Liberal Values, chapter 42, below.) In pre-contact times this kind of personally selfish, egoistic and acquisitive behaviour, epitomized by the modern saying: “The chief’s driveway is always paved”, resulted in banishment or death. Now it’s the norm, and it’s rewarded.”
“The notion that indigenous Canadians are or would be better stewards of the land than non-indigenous Canadians is completely unfounded in history or by anything happening in the present. It’s not enough now, in the 21st century, clutching their cell phones like the rest of us, to just say that they have this “special relationship” with “the land,” (a tired, meaningless, overworked term if there ever was one), and that this somehow makes it still true or somehow makes them distinct as a culture. The feelings that Indians have towards the land- being the Earth and nature which all humanity shares and experiences- are no more profound, special or reverential than those of most other Canadians. All humans, of all cultures, have a profound relationship with the Earth, which we all equally and properly regard as life’s nurturing home.”
“Eurocentric man, as opposed to Canadian “indigenous man” (if you will) has only been a worse destroyer of nature, because, through a fluke of asymmetrical historical progress, he has developed the better technological capacity to do so. But Canadian indigenous man is catching up quick and proving, as he always in fact was, to be the depressingly equal of Eurocentric man in this dismal category of human behavior.”
“Just as Indian elites falsely say that they are better “stewards of the land”, so they similarly and falsely say that they have a “special relationship” with the land, thus unknowingly invoking variations of the creepy, “organic”, us versus the “other”, “Volkish”, mystical, anti-intellectual, proto-racist and proto-nationalistic “blood and soil” rhetoric that prevailed- with disastrous consequences- in Germany in the 1930’s (“blut und boden”), to a shocking degree in France as well, and more recently in countries like Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and even, with the election of the American plutocracy’s stooge, Donald Trump-in the United States. This kind of crap, exceptionalist- “I’m an essentially different human being that you are because I, because of my race or blood, possess this unique, innate, authentic characteristic that you, because of your different race or blood, either don’t possess or possess in far lesser degree”-completely irrational, unscientific, racialist, ethno-tribalistic and superstitious thinking and talking leads only to bad ends. Such talk should be called out, discouraged and refuted.”
“There are no Hurons today in the vicinity of Lake Huron. That’s because in the mid-1600’s the Iroquois exterminated them, along with the Eries and the Neutrals, and then reduced the Algonquins to tribute bearing vassals…examples of Indians migrating, then conquering, enslaving, colonizing or exterminating other Indians, or perhaps more benevolently, merely assimilating with them!”
“Pre-contact aboriginal shelters were as rudimentary and dangerous to inhabit as those terrible, unsafe dwellings in Attawapiskat. Samuel de Champlain, who wintered with the Hurons, who were more domestically advanced at the time than the Indians who then inhabited the Attawapiskat area, describes their housing as follows:
They live in lodges made of bark. These lodges are about twelve yards wide and up to fifty or sixty yards long, with a gangway a foot or two across running down the middle from one end to the other. On each side there is a bench about four feet high, where they sleep in summer to get away from the fleas. In winter they sleep on mats on the floor near the fire, where it is warmer. They gather dry wood all summer and pile enough in the lodges to last the winter. At one end of each lodge there is an open space where they store their Indian corn in large casks made of bark. Mice are everywhere and everything they want to keep safe, such as food or clothing, has to be hung up on wooden pegs. The average lodge will have a dozen fires and two dozen families. The smoke inside is thick and blinding and diseases of the eyes are common, in fact many of the older people have lost their sight altogether. The trouble is that there are no windows and so there is no way for the smoke to escape except through a single hole in the roof.
Jesuit Father Paul Le Jeune, in his 1634 Relation, his report for that year to his Superiors in Paris, commented thusly on the smoke:
But as to the smoke, I confess to you that it is martyrdom. It almost killed me, and made we weep continually, though I had neither grief nor sadness in my heart. It sometimes grounded all of us who were in the cabin; that is, it caused us to place our mouths against the earth in order to breathe; as it were to eat the earth, so as not to eat the smoke. I have sometimes remained several hours in that position, especially during the most severe cold and when it snowed; for it was then that the smoke assailed us with the greatest fury.
Yet notwithstanding these blunt and unquestionable historical truths, our elites, from very distant vantages, constantly romanticize what it was like back then.
Novelist George Eliot:
What horrors of damp huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque through aerial distance!”
From Chapter 7, Still Waters Stagnate.
“Time is a transparent medium. People and cities arise out of it, move through it and disappear back into it. It is time that brings them and time that takes them away. Time flows into a man or State, makes its home there and then flows away: the man and the State remain, but their time has passed. Where has their time gone? The man still thinks, breathes and cries, but his time, the time that belonged to him and to him alone, has disappeared. There is nothing more difficult than to be a stepson of the time.“- Vasily Grossman
“If life didn’t change, it wouldn’t be life, it’d be a photograph.” (Novelist David Mitchell) Indian elites won’t admit this. Instead they pretend (as human nature dictates that we all do to some degree) that the river of time has flowed into and now ended in a wide, calm, totally-enclosed lake of the present, where the status quo will never fundamentally change. This is a wrong and harmful view. Life-lessening stagnation and decline is the fate Indian elites must expect for their peoples if they continue to embrace this blinkered, static and wrong view of history and time, if they continue to try to dam up time’s river and prevent it from flowing into and through them and allow it to carry them along with us, if they continue to prevent the active, uncertain future from unfolding naturally, and, by that blind intransigence, condemn their peoples to always be stepchildren of the times.”
From Chapter 8, Taking a Longer View of Time.
“All modern humans, regardless of their skin colour, form an entity united by physical bonds of descent from a recent African root, which embraces the idea of a common humanity. The reality of human unity is no idle political slogan or tenet of mushy romanticism.”- Sir David Cannadine
“It makes no sense, in these early days of man’s recorded history, in these still early days of human civilization, in these very early days of our own country’s brief history- given that we are all, Indians and non-Indians alike, being swept down this perpetual change-ridden river of time and history together-to permanently lock us all into the quasi-segregationist, race-based social and legal straitjacket we are creating for ourselves.”
“The idea that the happenstance of one’s birth should determine one’s fate in life is fundamentally feudal. Non-Indian Canadians, like Saul Bellow, (Canadian born!), would never accept such a debilitating concept as being applicable to themselves. Yet our courts, governments and elites, Indian and non-Indian, inexplicably and wrongly, fundamentally embrace it and endorse it for our Indian population!
We condemn those societies which ascribe to women a different legal and social status merely because they are born female. Canada was in Afghanistan partially to fight against that vile notion. We should be taking the same active and idealistic approach to the different legal status given to Indians in Canada, who are only given that different legal status (which so demonstrably results in inferior social and economic status for them), merely because they are born “Indian.”
The status quo in this area of Canadian life is inconsistent with the way history naturally unfolds and with the value system of an enlightened society. It denies our common and related humanity. It’s backward, stifling, dispiriting and wrong for Canadian Indians and for Canadian society in general.
Instead, Canadians should be civically conducting ourselves on the basis that we are equal and contemporaneous members of the same human family being swept down time’s river together- not as if we are members of different species each originating from disparate beginnings, doomed by outdated, backward and uncivilized laws to live separate and apart forever.
The great river-courses which have shaped the lives of men have hardly changed; and those other streams, the life currents that ebb and flow in human hearts, pulsate to the same great needs, the same great loves and terrors. As our thought follows close in the slow wake of dawn, we are impressed with the broad sameness of the human lot, which never alters in the main headings of its history- hunger and labour, seed time and harvest, love and death.-George Eliot
From Chapter 9, The Violence and Dispossession Caused By Migrating Peoples.
“The history of mankind is the history of migration. The first farmers of the Stone Age arrived from the east to displace the hunter-gatherers, the copper users did the same for the stone users, the bronzesmiths for the copper users, until eventually we reached the Iron Age and the first millennium A.D.”- Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians
Grossman felt at home in Armenia, where anti-Semitism
was absent. Armenians were genetically diverse, like
Jews. He met Armenians who had black hair or blond,
blue eyes or brown, hooked noses or small straight ones…
This diversity reflected thousands of years of Armenian
history and the population’s contact with different nations- numerous raids, invasions, enslavement, and liberation. The same genetic diversity was found amongst Jews, whose faces “looked Asian, African, Spanish, German, Slav.” Like Jews, the Armenians had experienced genocide, enduring “incalculable loss and suffering” in Turkey in 1915. They proved their resilience: “In spite of everything, life would go on.” -Alexandra Popoff- Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century
“There is no justice in history. Most past cultures have sooner or later fallen prey to the armies of some ruthless empire, which have consigned them to oblivion. Empires too, ultimately fail, but they tend to leave behind rich and enduring legacies. Almost all the peoples of the twenty-first century are the offspring of one empire or another.”-Yuval Noah Harari
“The migration, violence, dispossession and/or assimilation norm – a norm exemplifying the too-often “sheer blood-soaked awfulness of the world” has shown itself to be a fundamental element of human behaviour. It seems to reflect “what we do” as a species – one of our defining, less endearing traits. Not a norm to be proud of – a norm to struggle against – but in any event a norm evidencing a seemingly hard-wired reality of human nature.
Writer Zadie Smith, (echoing author John Lanchester in the headnote above):
Only the willfully blind can ignore that the history of human existence is simultaneously the history of pain: of brutality, murder, mass extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror. No land is free of it; no people are without their bloodstain; no tribe is entirely innocent…In this world there is only incremental progress.
Importantly in this present discussion, the existence of this norm- this awful reality of humanity’s oppressive “blood-soaked” history- a “history written in letters of blood” demands to be acknowledged as an accepted assumption underlying any fair inquiry into the nature of colonial Britain’s treatment of Canadian Indians and how that should be regarded today.”
“Why not consider the coming of the Europeans as a fourth migration, a new set of tribes pushing others in front of them?Should we hesitate to do so because the European colonists had lighter-coloured skin, hair and eyes than the older inhabitants? At bottom the assertion of a right of self-government is a kind of racism. It contends that the only legitimate inhabitants of the Americas have been the Indians and the Inuit. According to this view, they had the right to drive each other from different territories as much as they liked, even to the point of destroying whole peoples and taking over their land, but Europeans had no similar right to push their way in.” – Professor Tom Flanagan, from his book First Nations? Second Thoughts.
From Chapter 10, Great Britain: A Conqueror With A Conscience.
“The degree to which Great Britain showed restraint and civility towards the Indians of Canada in its colonial dealings with them was an unprecedented departure from the historical norm of violence and dispossession. The norm, being a norm, was still operative. But the usual excessive effects of it- genocide, murder, pillage, rape and enslavement- were, in Colonial Canada, minimized to the extent so as to be almost non-existent. Instead of regarding and treating Indians as the sub-human “other”, the usual mental approach consciously or not adopted by conquerors since the beginning of history to justify their bloody deeds, the British, acknowledging to a remarkable degree the humanity of the Indians, dealt with them, in relative historical terms, in a benevolent and respectful manner. Most astonishingly, and probably never in history before, the British deemed the Indians to have legal rights, a purely European concept, and dealt with them accordingly.”
“Even subjects of British colonial rule elsewhere have acknowledged the partial good that came from it, as the following extracts from Robert Conquest’s Reflections on a Ravaged Century reveal:
“The writer V.S. Naipaul, from Trinidad, and of Indian Hindu origin, rather reluctantly acknowledged that India’s entry into the broader world- “mentally as well as physically-was brought about by foreign rulers, and yet how vital is was.” He described the British imperial record as “pretty terrific, It would be churlish to say otherwise, It would be foolish to say otherwise, It would be unhistorical to say otherwise.” …Similarly, Nirad Chaudhuri, veteran critic of both Britain and India, dedicates his book The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, to the memory of the British Empire in India which conferred subjecthood on us but withheld citizenship; to which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: “Civis
Brittanicus Sum” because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule. (Heart of Darkness is based on Joseph Conrad’s experiences in the Congo, where fearful chaos and misery and death had resulted under Belgian rule- writer)…Conrad specifically attacked the Belgian experience, and also that of the Spanish in the Philippines and the Dutch in Indonesia, and commented on the latter’s Boer offshoot that it “was a fact that they have no idea of liberty, which can only be found under the British flag all over the world.” (emboldening added)
Finally, Mr. Conquest writes:
A statistical analysis by Seymour Martin Lipset…recently found that the variable having a higher relation to democracy than any other the world over was “having been a British colony.” They-none of them of British origin incidentally-attribute this fact that many of the old British colonies had had “elections, parties and the rule of law before independence.” so that, unlike the French, Dutch, Soviet and other empires, “out groups” were gradually incorporated into the polity.”
“Finally, history is filled with “what if?” speculations. The world in the sixteenth century, the beginning of the “age of discovery”; an age characterized and driven by the development of ships that could cross oceans, the rise of the nation-state, a new dynamic form of globally-integrated capitalism, messianic religious zeal, new civil and military technologies and bigger and better armed forces, meant that some country, some empire– a country or empire way more technically advanced than the small, mainly paleolithic tribes then thinly occupying this vast land, was going to “discover”, settle and dominate what is now Canada. That, looking back, is a certainty. It was just a question of which country or which empire. What if, instead of Great Britain, it had been the United States, Spain, Portugal, Holland or Russia that ended up as “colonial masters” of Canada? What if France had defeated Great Britain in the Seven Years War, and the 1763 Treaty of Paris had ceded all of Canada, as it then was, to the politically backward, “L’etat est moi”, absolute monarchy that that country then was? What if the United States had invaded Canada after their Civil War? In all of these “what if” scenarios and any other similar scenario, the outcome for the Indigenous peoples of Canada would have been far worse than what unfolded under the relatively enlightened British, and, without the benefit of British law, the present situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada would be far less to the liking of Indigenous elites than the powerful situation enjoyed by them in Canada today.”
“Therefore, by properly and necessarily taking a deeper, longer, more informed, reflective and relative historical point of view, by considering Canadian issues today not with reference to a blindly naïve, never-attained standard of human perfection, but rather with reference “to the human norm, not with Utopia”, with reference to how man has actually behaved in similar circumstances throughout history, we can justly say that, after its victory over France in 1759, Great Britain did indeed act in a unique and superior fashion- in a manner way above the moral standards and regular practices of the times- in its subsequent dealings with the Indians of Canada…This is a part of our heritage to be proud of.”
From Chapter 11, The Grant of Legal Rights To Canadian Indians.
“The Royal Proclamation of 1763 in fact evidenced a benevolent, solicitous intention towards Indians, and in effect represented the extension of a soft, open, “unmailed” helping hand towards them. It was the very opposite of “genocidal” in wording or intent, clearly signifying as it did intentions to create an environment where Indian peoples were deemed to have legal rights, and thus they and their cultures could not, as was normally the historical case, lawlessly, (or lawfully), be casually and ignominiously erased from history…This was a total departure from the historical norm of violence and dispossession.”
“Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Persuasion and physical force were the only methods of arbitrating disputes; social outlawry or physical violence the only means of punishing infractions of the moral code or offences against the band or tribe. Strangers however, even people of a neighboring tribe, might be robbed or killed with impunity: they had no rights unless they married into the band or placed themselves under the protection of some powerful family.”- Diamond Jenness
“”Call to Action” number 28 of the Truth and Reconciliation Report calls upon Canadian law schools to teach “indigenous law.” The reasoned and scholarly position of historian Diamond Jenness and the 1850 statement of Ojibway George Copway are apparently wrong. Their view was to the effect that, amongst Indian bands and tribes, law and order depended solely on strong chiefs and the strength of tribal opinion, that there were no private property rights, ( in fact, all property being communal, equal sharing, unlike today, was a mandatory matter of survival), and that there were no impersonal written laws, as in Anglo-Canadian law. So, other than the immediately above rather banal “tribal code” realities inherent to all tribal cultures the world over, past and present, what are the substantive particulars of Canadian “indigenous law”, worthy of being taught in law schools? It turns out that there are little or no such substantive particulars. It’s another emperor has no clothes situation.”
“Great Britain treated Canada’s Indians in this situation far better than Canada’s Indians treated each other in similar circumstances. Francis Parkman’s Jesuits in North America, and Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda both graphically and chillingly describe the “lawless”, brutal, torture-laden treatment meted out by battle-victorious Indians to their defeated enemies.”
“On a world historical level, the perpetual omnipresence of migration and assimilation means that it has to be regarded as essentially a neutral, mainly unconscious, collective human phenomenon- one that is a fundamental and unchangeable part of simply being human. To migrate, to set the process of assimilation in motion, is as natural as breathing. It’s definitely not always to participate in a blameworthy process! There are moral issues in history of course, and in this area of history a main moral issue is how the successful migrators behaved towards the people they achieved dominance over. That’s where the concepts of blame and shame arise. Were they cruel? Did they rape, kill and plunder as a matter of seeming policy? To what degree did they let the usual historical norm of violence and dispossession simply play out? How did they act relative to this historical norm? Viewed with this issue and these types of crucial questions in mind, the behavior of Great Britain and then Canada towards Canada’s Indians, overall, has to be regarded positively and with great admiration.”
From Chapter 12, The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada.
“Too much history discourse is “big sweep-big picture” in nature, where the people who were actually involved in the narrative in question are abstracted and dehumanized in the service of some grand, overarching historical theory- treated like mere automata or bloodless units in some supposedly vast and inexorable world-shaping force or movement like communism, fascism, capitalism, colonialism or imperialism…This is how the Indian Industry- with these essentially empty word constructs- these abstractions, euphemisms and stereotypes- falsely portrays European migrators to Canada: as “colonizers”, “colonialists”, “settlers”, “exploiters” and “imperialists”- fictional”ist” or “ism” people– essentially as knowing, callous culture-killers and land thieves….But which non-Indian Canadian among us regards his or her pioneer ancestors in such an insulting, shallow and cartoonish way? Hardly any of us, and with good reason. It’s not true! In fact these were mainly innocent, vulnerable, individual human beings, just like us, not humans “ists” or “isms.” They were nearly as much the victims of larger forces beyond their control as were the indigenous peoples of their “new” lands whose lives they changed so profoundly. They were often themselves “oppressed” as much as they were ever “oppressors.” As such they have almost the same call on our powers of imagination, compassion, empathy, admiration and respect as do the ancient Indian peoples whose former lands they settled and whose way of life they inadvertently helped to end. Failing to maintain and defend our non-indigenous ancestors’ memory, sacrifices, hardships, accomplishments and legacy is wrong and dishonorable.”
“It’s beyond the scope of this essay to examine or categorize the millions of Europeans who emigrated from Europe to the various “new worlds” during the approximately 400 year (1550-1950) period of European migration to and hegemony over the “uncivilized” parts of the globe – the Americas, Africa, parts of Asia and the lands down under.
But it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them left Europe for new lives in these “new” lands not because they wanted to, but because, for reasons like poverty, war, famine, disease, persecution, expropriation, military duty or forced transportation, they had to.
They were by and large decent, intelligent individual human beings-products of their times- each with a heart and a soul and a unique history and outlook -forced by circumstances to be uprooted and to sail away from their family and loved ones and everything familiar to them, usually, with hearts breaking, knowingly never to see any of them again.
Witness historian Allan Levine’s description of a young Eastern European Jewish man taking final leave of his parents before emigrating to America, in Scattered Among the Nations: The Jewish Diaspora in Ten Portraits:
Most Jews who left the Pale after 1880 were not well-read or worldly. They were largely poor and superstitious tailors and peddlers seeking better economic opportunities for themselves and their families in the New World. Leaving was never easy. “Just before train-time mother put the gold-clasped prayer book into my grip…She seemed calm and resigned,” recalled Marcus Ravage, who immigrated to New York in 1890. “But when the train drew into the station she lost control of her feelings. As she embraced me for the last time her sobs became violent and father had to separate us. There was a despair in her way of clinging to me which I could not then understand. I understand it now. I never saw her again.
These brave human beings were nearly as much the victims of larger forces and circumstances beyond their control as were the indigenous peoples of their “new” lands whose lives their arrival changed so profoundly. They were often themselves “oppressed” as much as they were ever “oppressors.” As such they have almost the same call on our powers of imagination, compassion, empathy, admiration and respect as do the ancient Indian peoples whose former lands they settled and whose way of life they inadvertently helped to end.
We are not superior to them. They cannot be just dust to us- of no consequence. We do a terrible disservice to them, and to ourselves, when we rashly deride them and tear down their, and our, symbols, namesakes and monuments. We stand on their civilizational shoulders!
Our cultures, our histories, grasp us with a thousand invisible fingers.
What we regard as our “past” was very much their present. And, while we regard our present as worrisome and uncertain, their present, characterized by an ethical ethos entirely different from ours, was a lot more trying, worrisome, uncertain and difficult. And as our future is uncertain, so much more, in the absence of any “social safety net” or any other such thing, was theirs!
After we join them in Canada’s other country- the country of the dead- do we want our joint and several struggles, compromises, injustices, follies and failures- our imperfect achievements- to be as harshly caricatured and condemned as we are permitting be done to theirs?”
“Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that all of the one-dimensional, finger-pointing authors discussed above, including Messrs. Saul and Rae, are right about European racism, colonial duplicity and all the other sins of omission and commission alleged, because of the inherent nature of our Enlightenment-based culture and heritage, we have gone a long way towards recognizing and acknowledging our wrongs and mistakes and attempting to correct them.
No other culture in world history, to my knowledge, has done that, or today, even exhibits the capacity to do it.
Robert Hughes, (from whom this insight derives), wrote in relation to the abolition of slavery in Western Europe and North America:
Africa, Islam and Europe all participated in black slavery, enforced it, profited from its miseries. But in the end, only Europe, (including here, North America), proved itself able to conceive of abolishing it; only the immense moral and intellectual force of the Enlightenment, brought to bear on the hideous oppression that slavery represented, was able-unevenly and with great difficulty-to bring the trade to an end.
The brilliant, humanist American playwright, Arthur Miller, made the same point, observing that no other culture in world history has better evidenced “mankind’s will to evolve”, or experienced so many positive eruptions of this glorious trait.
These same thoughts apply to Canada’s recent and present uneven, difficult but best-intended efforts to ameliorate, however imperfectly, the still playing-out effects of our ancestors’ relationships and dealings with our indigenous peoples.
These best-intended efforts are a product of a culture and heritage that should be, rather than so denigrated by our elites, extolled and celebrated far more than it is. We have something rare here, which we could lose if our elites, including our political, academic and intellectual elites, don’t stand up for it more.
The Comeback criticizes the “delusional European belief in the centrality of race.”
But in fact Western Europe and Canada are trying to move past and beyond the belief in the centrality of race, as a casual glance at a newspaper and at Europe and Canada’s immigration statistics show every day. Europe and Canada, overall, are trying, however haltingly, to become racially indifferent. (Again, in the case of Canada, with the inexplicable exception of our First Nations peoples!)
No, it is Mr. Saul, and his aboriginal “new elite”, and Mr. Rae, and all their supporters and ideological kin who are race-obsessed, who insist on viewing life through a “racial lens”, who reject our supreme Western values of racial harmony, inclusiveness and equality, who deny the common, imperfect, but fulsome and beneficent, humanity of all Canadians, regardless of mistakes made in the past, and regardless of race or origin.
Canadians want to move on from all that. Canadians want to dispense with the “civilizational boxes”, (Amartya Sen, in Common Themes, below), based on race, religion and ethnicity, that Mr. Saul and his “new elite” and that Mr. Rae seemingly want us all to be forever confined in.
Canadians want to move on towards a united, race-free, William Wuttunee- Nelson Mandela-inspired, civic and political future where Canada is one big, single, equal home for all. It’s time for Mr. Saul, Mr. Rae and the rest of our elites, Indian and non-Indian, to cease all this insulting, divisive, glass-always-half-empty, race-obsessed talk and to start aligning themselves with these higher, superior values and aspirations.”
“Mr. Saul’s and Mr. Rae’s books are illustrative of the sad fact that rarely before has an oppressed minority in a liberal society been so let down, so ill-served, so abandoned (albeit unintentionally) by their social, political and meritocratic elites as have been Canada’s aboriginal peoples.”
From Chapter 13 The End Times of Indian Cultures in Canada.
“The crows tell me” he says to the few men left, “that I shouldn’t listen to my dreams, that I should only listen to the crows and the Great Voice. But I can no longer ignore my dreams…my dreams tell me that it won’t be long,” he says, “before fires consume this country.” The last of the donnes walk out. Aaron looks at us three Jesuits. “My dreams tell me the end of this world I know is near.”-Joseph Boyden, The Orenda.
“But once the surveyors, the mapmakers, the constabulary, the government officials and the rest of the apparatus of British law and order had done their preparatory work- one the Hudson Bay Company’s ownership of and monopoly over the western lands of Canada was ended in 1870- then ever-greater numbers of settlers and traders began to pour into the West. The railroad was built. As the inevitable result of all this, the immediately destructive impact of European culture on pre-contact Indian cultures that first occurred in the 1600’s- and which had increasingly and uninterruptedly occurred after that time- quickened, and, for the Indians of Canada, reached its pathos-filled, catastrophic climax in the mid-to-late 1800’s.”
“The civilized world is intolerant of primitive peoples, whom it has neither the time nor the patience to protect and train for three or four generations until they can bridge the gap between the old conditions and the new. So the world is strewn with their wreckage…”- Dr. Diamond Jenness, 1932, from The Indians of Canada, published, 1932-1972, by the National Museum of Canada.
From Chapter 14, The Myth of Nation to Nation Dealings.
“William Robinson, in his report to his superiors on the Robinson-Huron Treaty, wrote that there were only 1422 Indians inhabiting all of the Lake Huron area, “including probably two hundred half-breeds; and when I paid the Indians they acknowledged they knew of no other families that those on my list.” Seventeen band chiefs, representing all the bands from Pentanguishine to Batchawana Bay on Lake Superior, signed the treaty, meaning that each chief signed for a band of only about 85 people! 85 people, or 1422 people in total, can’t make up a nation in the modern nation-state sense of the word that current Indian leaders like Chiefs Mahdahbee and Day incorrectly use it.”
“There can’t be a “nation” in the modern nation-state sense of the word when the highest loyalty of its members is to other members of their same extended family. That’s characteristic of a small tribe, band or clan only, not a “nation” in the modern sense of the word. The situation may have been a little different in western and northern Canada, but not so much as to constitute any of the Indian groups or tribes in Canada at the time of the original treaties as nation-states, or as nations generally, in any modern sense of the word.”
From Chapter 15, The Treaties: Fairly Made and Honourably Implemented.
“Ordinary Canadians often read and are told that the Indians of Canada are the victims of fraudulently or coercively-induced treaties, which even then were afterwards broken by the Crown, and that this is a large part of the cause of their present troubles. But an examination of some of the treaties entered into in the latter part of the 19th century and the circumstances surrounding the signing of them shows that this is generally not true. With respect to the implementation of the treaties, Canada and our provincial governments have more than just honoured them. Over the many years since they were signed they have, even though there are well-recorded and to me, over-emphasized exceptions to this, generally followed them to the letter. They have, in addition, in more than reasonable fulfillment of their fiduciary and “Crown honour” obligations, generously granted countless, significant, additional benefits to Indians, over and above the treaties, for which there is no basis in the wording of the treaties themselves, and which go far beyond the original intent of them.”
“The Supreme Court’s Daniels decision, granting legal “Indian” status to 400,000 Metis and 200,000 non-status Indians, highlights one of the great contradictions of our age. The author of the decision, Justice Rosalie Abella, is a Holocaust descendant. That event was a horrific but logical end-result of the irrational, perverse and racist blood myths that permeated Europe at the time, epitomized by the Nuremberg laws. Similarly, but with the best of intentions, Daniels defines legal rights based on considerations of “mixed ancestry” and “Native hereditary basis”- racist race terms! There’s even an uncritical reference to “Indian blood,” as if it were a biological fact, when in fact it is scientifically “nonsensical.” Metis Professor Chris Anderson wrote of the “deeply racist logic” of Daniels. The inadvertently “racist” Daniels decision, and similar recent Supreme Court decisions granting Indians new, special rights and entitlements based solely on their so-called distinct blood and race are all antithetical to the lessons of the Holocaust.”
“Now, to the bafflement and frustration of ordinary Canadians, Indians are making increasingly strident, excessive, unreasonable, unaffordable and never-ending demands on non-Indian Canadians- demands unsupported by historical behaviour or precedent or any reasonable reading of the treaties, even taking a contextual approach to them- demands based on a stale and outdated interpretation of the Crown honour principle- and demands made on the basis of an outdated, backward and quasi-racist view of Canadian social and political life.”
From Chapter 16, The Robinson Treaties
…they, the said Chiefs and principal men, on behalf of
their respective tribes or bands, do hereby fully, freely and
voluntarily surrender, cede, grant, and convey unto Her
Majesty, her heirs and successors forever, all their right,
title and interest to, and in the whole of, the territory above
described, save and except the reservations set forth in the
schedule hereto annexed…. – Extract from the Robinson
“In 1850, by the Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior treaties, the approximately
1240 Indians inhabiting the shores and islands of Lake Superior, inland
to the height of land, and the approximately 1422 Indians inhabiting the
shores and islands of Lake Huron, inland to the height of land, a combined
area stretching from near Penetanguishene, Ontario to the western end
of Lake Superior, did “…freely, fully and voluntarily surrender, cede, grant and
convey unto Her Majesty the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors forever, all their
right, title and interest…” in and to the vast lands described in the treaties.
Such small numbers of Indians! Only 1422 in all Northern Ontario, from
southern Georgian Bay to Batchewana Bay, just north of Sault Ste. Marie!
In the Superior region, only 1240 from Batchewana Bay to just east of Duluth, Minnesota!
These minimal numbers alone would again show clearly that, on the Indian side, these were not “nations,” in the modern sense of the word, that signed these treaties. They were, as stated above, merely small bands of clan-tied families, scattered loosely and tenuously over a vast landscape, which, to the extent that they defined or organized that landscape, did so only to informally divide it up into family or clan hunting territories.
These bands, given their very small numbers and their Paleolithic, migratory ways, despite roaming over and inhabiting these lands for centuries, had never exercised any effective occupation, possession or control over them. The brave, banned and shunned, (such a threat did his views represent to the new, burgeoning, Indian Industry, gravy-train order), Aboriginal writer and lawyer William Wuttunee, in Ruffled Feathers:
The idea that “Indians were the first owners of this country” and “the land was taken from them”, are misconceptions. At the time of the arrival of the white man, the Indian did not occupy all the country; therefor it cannot be said that the land was taken away from him. Those areas which were unoccupied were never taken away from anyone. Indians never owned Canada.
As stated, even their own Indian enemies had frequently invaded, pushed them around and caused them to flee.
The treaties extinguished “title” to territory all right, but it was “title” that Great Britain had legally invented in the first place for Indians, in the Royal Proclamation (which British legal invention was a basis of the Supreme Court’s proclamation of “aboriginal title” in Tsilhcot’in), and it was territory that Indians had never, in any real sense, effectively possessed.”
On December 21st, 2018 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in its Restoule vs. Canada (Attorney General) decision, ruled that Canada and Ontario were liable- 50-50- to pay to the 21 Robinson Treaties bands a share of all the revenue that Ontario has received – yes, possibly going back to 1850-1875- from all sales, leases and licenses of Crown lands, less Ontario’s expenses incurred in selling, regulating and collecting that revenue.
This will involve legions of number crunchers going back over an approximately 150 year period, and will cost millions to do. The final payment to these Indian bands if this decision is carried out will likely be in the many millions- perhaps billions – of dollars. This payment money will have to come out of taxpayers’ pockets, because, as we know, Canada and Ontario are already virtually permanent debtors and are providing services to the citizenry only with the artificial and precarious aid of massive amounts of borrowed money.
The Court ruled in substance that Canada and Ontario, and thus the non-indigenous people of Canada and Ontario, acted dishonourably towards these Indian bands in carrying out the treaty obligations owed to them during this long period, by essentially, albeit unknowingly and unintentionally, short-changing them of their proper entitlements under these treaties.
When and if these payments are received by these bands, they will constitute payments received in addition to the non-treaty honour of the Crown payments and benefits described in Chapter 15, above, that Canadian taxpayers are already paying or conferring on Indian bands and individual indigenous Canadians.
While this may result in the appropriate legal “reconciliation” of “prior indigenous sovereign occupancy” of the subject territories with the new sovereignty of the Crown -the kind of legalistic “reconciliation” that was relevant to the Judge -(see the discussion in this regard in the Haida Nation case- chapter 23 below) -it will not lead to the personal, social, community and political “reconciliation” of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians- it will not lead to social harmony on the basis of equality- which is the only kind of “reconciliation” that ordinary Canadians think of and want to achieve.
“The “Honour of the Crown “ principle, and the fiduciary principle, the two principles so heavily relied upon by the Court to decide virtually every evidentiary and legal issue in favour of the Indians, were only seriously developed after the passage of the “blank slate” section 35 of the Constitution Act in 1982. After that the Supreme Court filled in this blank slate with new interpretations of the law, many of which, like the consult and accommodate obligation, were, with all due respect, basically invented out of legal thin air. The Judge in the Restoule case applied several of these principles. (See my chapters on the Haida Nation, Mikisew Cree and Rio Tinto cases, below, where these principles are discussed at length.)
Based on these modern doctrines, (or old doctrines re-defined and re-applied in a thoroughly modern and radical way), which didn’t exist until the 1980’s or so, the Court re-interpreted the Treaties in a new way and made her re-interpretation retroactive to 1850, and found, in my view unfairly, that the Crown breached honour of the Crown and fiduciary duties owed to the Treaties signers in the 1800’s and early 1900’s (which at the time didn’t exist, and which the Crown couldn’t have precisely known about or have predicted would come into existence in the future.)
Likewise, the Crown couldn’t have “ignored” what it didn’t know about. The Court took these recently developed doctrines and, as stated, imposed them retroactively. It is submitted that this was not reasonable or fair. So it makes no sense for the Court to say that the Crown was “neglecting” a duty that it didn’t know about at the time, or breaking a “promise” that it didn’t know it had made.
The Honour of the Crown and fiduciary doctrines and now the “reconciliation” approach invented by the Trudeau government (and wholly adopted by the Judge in Restoule) seem to be being applied so strictly against Crowns in Indigenous-Crown cases that the Crowns are unable anymore to fully and properly defend themselves, and to defend the non-Indigenous citizens and taxpayers of Canada. As stated elsewhere herein, any vigorous defence of Crown sovereignty, which “vigor” is required by lawyers’ rules of ethics, seems to be deemed unseemly and “not honourable” towards Indigenous claimants. Crown lawyers seem to be hampered and somewhat intimidated by this, as if they felt they had to represent their client’s interests, (in this case the client in substance being the non-Indigenous people of Ontario and Canada), with one hand tied behind their backs. Is this why the Crown lawyers here agreed to the Eagle Staff being allowed to be placed in the well of the Court? Is this why they agreed to participate in the “teachings, ceremonies, presentations and Feasts?”
“The status quo should not have been so easily jettisoned by the Court.
Finally, this decision continues the trend on the part of our elites, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to continue to further divide Canadians on the basis of race. It will cause racial tension. The opposite of “reconciliation” will occur.
It is actually shocking that the Court would think it reasonable to double-down on the perpetuation and expansion of an antiquated, race-based, separate but equal, apartheid-like social and political model, that is, on a daily basis, causing so much harm to the vast majority of vulnerable, marginalized, dispossessed Indigenous Canadians, who will derive no net benefit from this decision. The benign and unintentional “systemic racism” inherent in the Indian Act, the reserve system, section 35 of the Constitution Act and in the cases decided under it, will continue and strengthen.
This decision, if carried out, will only increase the learned helplessness characteristic of reserves. Only the Indigenous elites and the legion of non-Indigenous technocrats that will be needed figure it out and carry it out will gain short-term benefits. There will be no long term benefits for anyone.
The decision is great for the lawyers and the accountants but not for Indigenous Canadians, or for Canadians in general.
It will create a precedent for the other treaties discussed in this book (below) and every other non-modern treaty in Canada to be challenged on similar “Indigenous perspective and worldview” grounds. Other treaty challengers will similarly say, if they think it to their advantage: “We didn’t and don’t understand our Treaty in the same Euro-Canadian way you did. We want our treaty reviewed and renewed. We want to keep the non-treaty honour of the Crown payments and benefits we get, plus, we now want our collective share of the value of the lands we agreed to share with you, retroactive to when our forefathers signed the Treaty.” (With interest?)
The decision will seriously destabilize and harm the already fragile Crown revenue. It further dangerously erodes Crown sovereignty, the fount and foundation of the rule of law and a strong economy.
You do not emerge from the isolation of one form of racism to enter and confine your country to another and further isolating form of it. (Nadine Gordimer)
This decision prevents Canada’s anachronistic treaties from ever becoming civically vestigial. It contemplates an infinite, never stable, ever-changing, race-based relationship between ordinary and Indigenous Canadians, It is demoralizing for all Canadians who believe in a true coming-together of all Canadians, regardless of race. Ontario has appealed this decision. To its shame, in the name of “reconciliation”, the foolish Trudeau government has not.
Our elites must start thinking of ways, based on Nelson Mandela’s goal and vision of “one set of laws for all”, to bind us together, instead of, as the Restoule decision does, bind us apart.”
From chapter 20, The Prairie Treaties
“In Alberta three Cree chiefs sent messages to Canada’s Lieutenant Governor at the Red River settlement to attempt to hasten the making of treaties covering them. Cree chief Sweet Grass, describing the uncontrollable social breakdown amongst his people and the breakdown of law and order in Alberta generally as the result of culture collapse, American incursions and civil war amongst the Indians themselves (people will invariably turn on each other in extreme situations of dwindling basic resources), pleaded in cri-de-coeur words to Canada for the protection of a treaty (it would be the Treaty of Forts Carleton and Pitt):
Our country is getting ruined of fur-bearing animals, hitherto our sole support, and now we are poor and want help- we want you to pity us. We want cattle, tools, agricultural implements, and assistance with everything when we come to settle-our country is no longer able to support us. Make provision for us against years of starvation. We have had great starvation the past winter and the smallpox took away many of our people, the old, the young, and children.
We want you to stop the Americans from coming to trade on our lands, and giving firewater, ammunition and arms to our enemies the Blackfeet.
We made a peace this winter with the Blackfeet. Our young men are foolish, it may not last long. We invite you to come and see us and speak with us. If you can’t come yourself, send someone in your place.
A fellow Chief, Ki-he-Win, the Eagle, sent a similar plea:
Great Father – Let us be friendly. We never shed any white man’s blood, and have always been friendly with the whites, and want workmen, carpenters and farmers to assist us when we settle. I want all my brother, Sweet Grass, asks. That is all.
And Kis-ki-on, or Short Tail, added:
My brother, that is coming close, I look upon you as I saw you; I want you to pity me, and I want help to cultivate the ground for myself and descendants. Come and see us.
These are the heart-wrenching, self-aware words of leaders whose peoples were indeed in their pre-contact cultural and political end days, and who were agonizingly and helplessly aware of it. How could the Crown fiduciary and honour principles not arise in these awful circumstances?”
From Chapter 21, Common Themes (of the Robinson-Huron, Manitoulin, Manitoba, North-West Angle and Prairie treaties).
“The historical record shows that the overall theme of the treaties, in the circumstances giving rise to them, in the talks engaged in before they were signed, in the treaty wording, in the speeches made by the parties after they were signed, was extinguishment of Indian rights and control over the lands surrendered, with no residual obligation on the Crown to continue to “share” the surrendered lands and the resources on them. Generally, the only (rather paltry) things given to the Indians in the treaties were small, annual cash payments, reserves, and the limited right to hunt and fish on the surrendered lands, all of which, in the Crown’s mind, were to be followed, hopefully sooner rather than later, by assimilation and integration of Indians into the mainstream of Canadian life, such as it was at the time.”
“Indian leaders today assert that the treaty-making processes were coercive against and therefore unfair towards Indians. The historical record, a prime example of which are the reliable Alexander Morris’ accounts, accounts relied upon by Indian court activists, shows how false this assertion is.
In Nation Maker, Richard Gwyn draws attention to the difference between the American and more positive Canadian experience in this regard:
At this time, Canadian Indian policy was far superior, in effectiveness and sensitivity, to American Indian policy. As the Halifax Chronicle put it, the policy and treatment here were “humane and successful,” while in the United States the approach was of “war and extermination”. The Globe similarly described American policy as “a dark record of broken pledges, undisguised oppression and triumphant cruelty.” A great many Americans thought exactly the same way. A report to the House Committee on Indian Affairs concluded admiringly that Canadians would be “known in history as having striven to do justice to the aborigines,” and a study for the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners described Canada’s system as “immeasurably superior to our own”. Most importantly, Indians agreed. Their name for the American border was the Medicine Line, meaning that above it there was healing.
And, consistent with British-Canadian humanitarian traditions that carry on up to the present, there was, above the Medicine Line, in Canada, sanctuary for the in-essence refugee American Indian tribes suffering from the the United States government’s policies of war and extermination against them. (See Beth LaDow’s The Medicine Line).”
“The current misrepresentations about Indians having been “forced to assimilate” at the hands of a malevolently motivated Crown or Church are gross over-simplifications. It never happened that way. “Traditional” pre-contact Indian culture had already been largely lost long before any deliberate Crown or Crown-authorized assimilationist-integrationist measures, such as the residential schools, were undertaken.
And again, as stated, the treaty talks in no way constituted equal, sovereign “nation to nation” dealings. In fact in the Northwest Angle treaty and in all the Prairie treaties the Indian signers promised to “conduct themselves as good and loyal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen”, thereby making it logically impossible, then and now, for the Indian bands affected by those treaties to reasonably argue that they are subjects of some nation other than Canada.
In this regard it is noteworthy how often the parent-child analogy was used to describe the power dynamic between Canada and the Indians, an analogy so antithetical to the notion of dealings between equals, where Canada, or the Crown, was at some point personalized and called “the Queen Mother,” or some similar term (although Queen Victoria’s name was never actually used), and the Indians were called her “children” or her “red children.” This mother-child analogy, instinctively embraced and used by both sides, was probably as accurate as any analogy could be in reflecting the dependency and vulnerability of the Indians and the superior, dominant, power of Canada.”
“The pledges of eternal friendship made when the treaties were signed evidenced those positive feelings. Before the NorthWest Angle treaty was signed Alexander Morris took a chief’s hand and said:
… I accept your hand and with it the lands, and will keep all my promises, in the firm belief that the treaty now to be signed will bind the red man and the white man together as friends for ever….
Before the Qu’Appelle treaty was signed The Gambler, referring to the whites and the different Indian tribes present at the talks, said:
Look at these children that are sitting around here and also at the tents, who are just the image of my kindness. There are different kinds of grass growing here that is just like those sitting around here. There is no difference. Even from the American land they are here, but we love them all the same, and when the white skin comes from far away I love him all the same. I am telling you what our love and kindness is.
The Gambler saw no essential human differences between members of his Saulteaux tribe and either the Cree Indians there or the Indians who had been driven there from the United States.
But then, amazingly, he expanded his vision of humanity as essentially one all-encompassing family precariously existing under the same sheltering umbrella of mutual dependence, love and kindness, where race was no barrier to all being treated equally, by including the “white skin” in his profound and empathic declaration of human equality.
Describing people of different tribes, and then races, as merely different kinds of grass sharing the same earth, is so simple, brilliant and true. The Gambler was echoing what all the great thinkers, visionaries and humanists have always said: We are all nature’s children…any differences between us are so miniscule as to be cosmically laughable… We are all blades of grass in the same field. From a distance, we are indistinguishable. We must empathize with one another and focus on our countless, major similarities, not on our minor, illusory differences.
These great men were expressing the sentiment and idea that people are too diverse and complicated to only be able to be described and dealt with in accordance with a largely illusory identity supposedly arising from the mere fact of belonging to a certain race, religion or ethnic group. These singular affiliations constitute no rational or constructive basis upon which to categorize, judge and civically interact with other human beings. (see further, The Myths of Race and Racial Differences, below)”
“The wisdom and basic human empathy expressed by The Gambler on behalf of his people, Alexander Morris on behalf of Canada, Sir David Cannadine, Amartya Sen, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Tony Judt (below), all correctly focusing on our shared humanity, is today nowhere to be found amongst the governing classes of Canada or amongst our current Indian elites. Today, our leaders, Indian and non-Indian, are actively encouraging, only sometimes with liberal intentions, but always with the most illiberal results, the negative and harmful partitioning of Indian and non-Indian Canadians into permanent, segregated, illusory, civilizational boxes, where each segment stays socially and politically trapped and impoverished.
In doing this these “leaders” have betrayed the cooperative, progressive, unitary and humanistic intentions of our common forefathers, have set us on a divisive path against nature, and against each other, and have broken the spirit, dispensed with the wording and frustrated the purposes of the old treaties – all to Canada’s great detriment, and especially to the impoverishing detriment of the vast majority of ordinary, powerless, vulnerable, disadvantaged Indian people, who deserve so much better.
Let us consider (the people who negotiated the treaties) hereafter without frustration, and regard the treaty period as a necessary development in the process of fusing the red and the white. – William Wuttunee- Ruffled Feathers
From Chapter 22, The Emasculation of Crown Sovereignty.
We may find that a healthy democracy, far from being
threatened by the regulatory state, actually depends upon
it: that in a world increasingly polarized between isolated,
insecure individuals and unregulated global forces, the
legitimate authority of the democratic state may be the
best kind of intermediate institution we can devise. What,
after all, is the alternative? – Tony Judt, Reappraisals
A government’s most basic function is the protection of
its sovereignty. – Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the
“When states are absent, rights- by any definition- are impossible to sustain. States are not structures to be taken for granted, exploited or discarded, but are fruits of long and quiet effort. It is tempting but dangerous to fragment the state“. -Historian Timothy Snyder
“The treaties entered into in the 1800’s again, despite the extremely limited rights reserved to Indians in them, and consistent with the demographic, social and political facts in existence during that period, finished off the consolidation process and put a complete end to the era of collaboration and shared control that had previously existed between Indians and non-Indians.
A legal, constitutional and political regime of complete Crown sovereignty had become established, with there being no thought on anyone’s side, and no discussion ever, about the Crown having to consult with or accommodate Indians with respect to activities on surrendered lands.
It was during this complete Crown sovereignty era, comprised of most of our country’s history since Confederation, that Canada evolved as a nation-state into a world beacon of material progress, civility and enlightenment.
That progressive and forward-looking era is now, with respect to Canada’s relationship with its Indian population, very disturbingly seeming to be ending, and morphing into something retrograde and harmful to us all.
To an alarming degree Canada is in a very real sense going back to the pre-treaties era of collaboration and shared power with Indians – to a situation of limited, reduced and emasculated – partially self-emasculated- Crown sovereignty – which is already having very negative consequences for all Canadians, Indians and non-Indians alike, and will continue to do so, in even worse fashion, in the years to come.
“Over the past twenty years, jurisprudence emanating from Canada’s higher courts has interpreted section 35 in such an ahistorical, overly-romantic, revisionist, activist way- has read into it so much that is not there and was never intended to be there, has created so many new rights for Indians they even they never knew they had or expected to be handed- that the need and ability of the Canadian state- of Canada’s federal and provincial governments- Canada’s Crowns- to solely embody ultimate political power and authority in the country in order to legislate and govern in all Canadians best interests, has been seriously eroded. As well, Canada’s higher courts have stacked the deck in favour of the right and ability of tiny Indian bands, with virtually no checks on them, to pursue their own economic interests at the expense of our already stressed and pressed-upon government treasuries, of otherwise lawfully operating corporations, of non-Indian Canadians, and at the expense of the Canadian general welfare as a whole. “Reconciliation“, the professed high value supposedly now governing relations between Indians and non-Indian in Canada, is being more and more rendered impossible by these court decisions and the emergent effects of them.”
“Economically, an indirect form of expropriation has occurred – a court-ordered massive transfer of economic wealth and legal power from Crowns and non-Indian Canadians, individual and corporate, to relatively tiny Indian bands – a downloading of responsibility for improving the material circumstances of Indians from governments to corporations wanting to do business on either Crown lands or on their own private rural or wilderness lands.”
“The vision of Canada as a harmonious, intermingling, unified “community of destiny” has been replaced by our elites with a meaner, more pinched and prosaic vision of Canada as a mere race-based community of economic and legal stakeholders- separate communities of racial origin, or as Amartya Sen describes it, a community characterized by “plural monoculturalism.”
From Chapter 23, The Haida Nation Case.
“I was a member of the House of Commons when the Charter was debated, and remember well the discussions and negotiations around s. 35 and the valuable references to the Royal Proclamation. Some protested no one knew exactly what the implications of these changes were, but in fact we knew full well that we were making progress in reducing the unilateral prerogatives of governments.“-Bob Rae (emboldening added)
“Most Canadians since the beginning of the treaty-making processes, until now told by the Supreme Court to the contrary, reasonably thought that aboriginal claims to and rights over the land were more than “reconciled.” In fact, Canadians, Indians and non-Indians alike, thought they were, especially in treaty areas, extinguished, plain and simple, subject to very simple and clearly worded exceptions, being essentially the right to hunt, fish and trap on unoccupied wilderness Crown lands, subject to ultimate Crown sovereignty and control, small annual cash payments and reservations.
Suddenly, with Haida Nation, after well over a century of established law, practice and understanding on all sides, that’s no longer the case. The meaning and effect of Haida Nation is that now it can no longer be said that the treaties were entered into for the purpose of extinguishing Indian title to Canadian lands, thus allowing us all, under the protective umbrella of ultimate Crown sovereignty, to move on into the future with the goal of eventually becoming equals in every respect.
Haida Nation, and the cases decided by our higher courts since then, say that the treaties were entered into merely in order to “reconcile” Indians prior sovereign occupancy of the land with the new sovereignty of the Crown: they were instruments of power and land sharing, not instruments of rights extinguishment!”
“Now, according to Haida Nation – and this is the heart of the case and the source of all the legal, social and economic harm it has created – the determination and recognition of and respect for potential Indian land claims rights, rights that Indians may merely assert have some direct or indirect connection to fishing, hunting and trapping, requires the Crown, where it is proposing to engage in some future undertaking, or to grant to an individual or a corporation a license, permit or other such right to engage in a proposed undertaking, to act “honourably” and “… to participate in processes of negotiation. While this process continues, the honour of the Crown may require it to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Aboriginal interests….”
These key words set up a very bad scenario, already coming into being, for Canadians – Indian and non-Indian alike. They give Indian bands all across Canada a chokehold on huge aspects of economic development in rural and wilderness Canada, even in some parts of urban Canada, whether it be the opening of a new mine, a new forestry undertaking, the transfer of Crown land to a municipality, the building of a new dam, a wind power installation, the construction of a new road, transmission line or pipeline, or anything else like that.
All an Indian band has to do, following Haida Nation, is to merely assert, regardless of whether or not it’s even remotely the case, that a proposed off-reserve undertaking affects an Indian right or concern, actual or potential, and the “duty to consult” is then instantly activated, thereby automatically engaging the Indian chokehold, namely, the delaying, costly “consultation and accommodation, if necessary” process.”
“Haida Nation represents a very harmful, legally unjustified and unnecessary attack on and diminishment of Crown sovereignty, an irresponsible, thoughtless and dangerous attack against the necessary and legitimate powers and functionings of the Canadian state. In addition, Haida Nation, in its effect, mandates the largest, unilateral, unbalanced, unregulated, uncompensated transfer of wealth and power from government and private industry into the hands of one particular Canadian racial group- Indians- in our history. Haida Nation in effect amends our constitution without any input or consent whatsoever from the people of Canada expressed through our federal and provincial governments.”
“Haida Nation represents a very harmful, legally unjustified and unnecessary attack on and diminishment of Crown sovereignty- an irresponsible, thoughtless and dangerous attack against the necessary and legitimate powers and functionings of the Canadian state.
In addition, Haida Nation, in its effect, mandates the largest, unilateral, unbalanced, unregulated, uncompensated transfer of wealth and power from government and private industry into the collective hands of one particular Canadian racial group – Indians – in our history.
Haida Nation in effect amends our constitution without any input or consent whatsoever from the people of Canada expressed through our federal and provincial governments.
Haida Nation, by judicial fiat, transforms the economic landscape of Canada.
Section 35 and Haida Nation are huge, “large step”, practically irreversible constitutional mistakes, violating as they do one of the most basic principles of constitutional law-making:
States should take small steps rather than large ones, Policies are apt to be more successful if they can be reversed once they start to go awry, and so good planners ensure reversibility.
Though well-meaning, Haida Nation is a prime example of a Court – a small, unelected group of individuals – using its power to act as a “super-legislature” – engaging in inappropriate and undemocratic “untethered judicial activism.” The combination of an aggressively pro-Indian, anti-Crown sovereignty interpretation of Haida Nation by Crown politicians and senior bureaucrats (see below) and subsequent equally overly-activist higher court decisions which have adopted and expanded on Haida Nation, has greatly magnified Haida Nation’s deleterious effects on Crown sovereignty, Canadian economic development, the rule of law and Canadian unity
“I can’t explain the mushroom effect of the duty to consult.”– Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice The Honourable Jack Major (Written to the author in 2019)
From Chapter 26, Dancing With Danegeld.
“When you are talking about projects that could have a profound impact on the lives of First Nations people, you don’t just talk to us. You’re going to need our permission before anything goes forward. That’s just a fact of life.”– Art Sterritt, Coastal First Nations of B.C.
“Indian leader and spokesman Arthur Manuel, (who died in 2017) in his Canadian and Ontario taxpayer-financed book, The Reconciliation Manifesto-Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy frankly and coldly described the “important leverage” Indigenous groups now have because of the business uncertainty created by this decision, and by the concept of “Aboriginal title” generally:
The basis of uncertainty is the fact that Aboriginal title is protected by the Constitution Act, 1982. These legal and constitutional facts create uncertainty, because they potentially affect resource industries’ access to our lands, where the resources are found. Provincially created property rights like mining permits and forestry licences did not and cannot extinguish Aboriginal title, because the province never had power over Indigenous peoples and territories.
This means that the province never had the capacity to give full title to anyone who holds provincial property. This is what is creating economic uncertainty…So because that uncertainty exists, it is a financial risk for resource companies to come onto our land. They can never know if they are one court judgment away from having their multi-million and even billion dollar investments seized by legitimate title holders.”
“The most recent example of the drastic investment and job-killing chill created by Haida Nation, Tsilhcot’in and UNDRIP is the cancellation in February 2020 by Teck Resources Ltd. of its proposed Frontier oil sands mine in Alberta. While Teck cited an uncertain Federal climate change policy as the primary reason, there was no doubt that the unchecked Wet’suet’en blockade of the Coastal GasLine pipeline in B.C. and the unchecked Mohawk rail blockades in Ontario, happening at the same time, both based on assertions of some variation of Aboriginal title- on the general assertion that “Canadian law (as opposed to our substate law), does not apply to us”- led to the conclusion on Teck’s part that Ottawa was too uncertain and feckless about its own sovereignty and jusrisdiction over these lands, such that Teck as well could expect to be the subject of similar unchecked protests, blockades and very possibly lawsuits.”
“These elite Indian band representatives are no longer victims talking. They are cock-of-the-walk clear winners of the judicial wars of the past thirty years talking and acting as such. These are people placed by our higher courts into positions of awesome power and control over the rest of Canada- power and control in no way democratically based– power with no accompanying burden of general responsibility– people who are making no bones about the fact that they are going to exploit this new position handed to them countrywide- to the maximum- with no moderating consideration of the whole country’s best interests.”
“Indian band elites have been handed positions in the Canadian economic order partially akin to those 19th century rentiers, except for now, their new-money, passive income, Danegeld wealth is not inherited. Rather, it is coerced from anyone nearby wanting to engage in hitherto untethered, (except for the obligation to pay taxes and comply with laws of general application), normal, entrepreneurial economic activity on their now (as decreed by the Supreme Court of Canada) “traditional lands” and their now, in B.C., thanks to Tsilhqot’in and UNDRIP, for many important nation-building intents and purposes- sovereign, aboriginal title-based lands.”
“And this, from Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, (above), on the crucial importance, for the economy and the public welfare generally, of strong, clearly asserted Crown sovereignty:
…But in its extreme form, belief in the free market is as naïve as belief in Santa Claus. There is simply no such thing as a market free of all political bias. The most important economic resource is trust in the future, and this resource is constantly threatened by thieves and charlatans. Markets by themselves offer no protection against fraud, theft and violence. It is the job of political systems to ensure trust by legislating sanctions against cheats and to establish and support police forces, courts and jails which will enforce the law. When kings fail to do their jobs and regulate the markets properly it leads to loss of trust, dwindling credit and economic depression.
Our “kings” are failing to do their jobs!
Consequently, there is emerging a dysfunctional environment for modern businesses like Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Energy East, Cliffs Natural Resources, Northern Superior Resources, Teck Resources and countless others, which can only properly and efficiently operate in an environment characterized by economic, political and legal stability, transparency and predictability, all under the aegis of sole and ultimate Crown sovereignty, the opposite of the new environment created by Haida Nation and its jurisprudential successors and by the weak and craven response to it all by our irresponsible, almost economically suicidal, non-Indian political and bureaucratic elites.”
From Chapter 27, The Attack on Law and Order.
“The rule of law keeps the peace. Judging a legal result simply in terms of one’s own sense of right and wrong simply won’t do. The whole point of the rule of law is to set standards of governance that transcend individual moral feelings. The claim of moral righteousness and superiority has driven many of our species’ worst atrocities. The rule of law substitutes legal reasoning for moral righteousness.”- Lieff Carter and Thomas Burke
“Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law.” -Sophocles
“Criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred.” – Edmund Burke
“I argue in this essay that our courts have developed a two-tier system of justice for many aspects of the Indian experience in modern-day Canada.”
Some of the negative social and economic consequences of the erosion of Crown sovereignty (to accelerate even faster if the trial judge’s lecture in Keewatin about the Crown being too “strongly adversarial” is adopted by other judges) have been discussed above. Another even more important consequence of Haida Nation is the undermining of the principle of the rule of law.
Haida Nation, Mikisew and subsequent court decisions taking their lead from those decisions have sanctified “meaningful consultation” to such an extent that they have elevated it to a status above the basic rule of law, thus justifying and even encouraging lawless behaviour on the part of Indians in pursuit of their “potential but as yet unproven” interests.
In Ontario, the violent, lawless occupation by Indians of private property in Caledonia, near Brantford, was cravenly permitted to go on unchecked for months until it was finally ended, not by the application and enforcement of the law against the illegal occupiers, as the local populace and Henco Industries, the property owner/developer, initially assumed would happen. Rather, it was ended by Ontario, after it and the Ontario Provincial Police had passively tolerated that lawbreaking for months, finally buying the land from Henco Industries and, as the new owner, then “consenting” to the ongoing occupation. This was completely shameful on the part of Ontario and the OPP.
It was an astonishing decimation of the rule of law that went on for years, with the OPP and the Ontario government both denying the truth of what citizens saw daily with their own eyes.
What disgraceful, unprincipled, expedient behaviour on their part! What a dangerous, unhealthy precedent to set!
The bureaucrats and politicians in high places who made that decision – the police in high offices who ordered their officers to stand aside and do nothing while our laws were broken – betrayed their own fundamental interests and the high trust they owed to all the citizenry of Ontario.”
“This unhealthy and dysfunctional situation will apply with special damaging force in Tsilhcot’in aboriginal title-claimed parts of Canada, where the argument will be made that the particular “Canadian” law in question is inapplicable in the first place to the Indians living there! This is exactly what the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia are saying as of this writing: January 2020. Relying on Tsilhcot’in and now UNDRIP, they are asserting that a B.C. Court injunction preventing them from interfering with the Coastal GasLink pipeline projected to pass through their “territory” contradicts” Wet’suwet’en law” and is thus inapplicable to them. They have a point, and our hapless elites gave them that point. But they should not have a point. It should be legally crystal clear that all laws and Court orders should bind all citizens of the jurisdiction in which those laws or orders are made and are intended to cover- no exceptions-especially exceptions based solely on race.
Now, shockingly to ordinary Canadians, the rule of law will be increasingly be able to be trumped by the need for legal “reconciliation” of Indian and non-Indian property-type rights and interests. This is a real and certain recipe for social resentment, frustration, conflict and divisiveness. The opposite of “reconciliation,” as most people would naturally understand the word, will occur.
Ironically, it’s the beginning of a trend that could, some distant day in the future, backfire against Canada’s Indians, who constitute only a very small minority of Canada’s population.
History shows us that in unstable, fearful times and places it is the rights of ethnic, religious and racial minorities that most often come under attack by the majority. Laws and the state institutions that make and enforce them are often the only things standing between the preservation of those rights and the virulent consequences of the mob, and mob rule.
Timothy Snyder, in Black Earth, reminds us and warns us that “minorities depend most on the protection of the state and upon the rule of law, and it is usually they who suffer most from the weakening or loss of them.”
From Chapter 28, The Frontenac Ventures Blockade:
“In the present case, as in (Caledonia), the competing interests include the asserted aboriginal rights of the Algonquin First Nations, Frontenac’s private interest in pursuing its exploration plan in accordance with valid mining claims and agreements, and respect for the Crown property rights of Ontario.
And how are these rights to be effectively balanced? The answer has been clear for almost 20 years in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Canada- consultation, negotiation, accommodation, and ultimately, reconciliation of aboriginal rights and other important, but at times, conflicting interests.
Having regard to the clear line of Supreme Court jurisprudence, from Sparrow to Mikisew, where constitutionally protected aboriginal rights are asserted, injunctions sought by private parties to protect their interests should only be granted where every effort has been made by the court to encourage consultation, negotiation, accommodation and reconciliation among the competing rights and interests. Such is the case even if the affected aboriginal communities choose not to participate in the injunction proceedings.
By these words the court in effect downgraded Frontenac Venture’s mining lease, embodying concrete rights granted to it by the Crown, and no doubt representing hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditure on the part of Frontenac Ventures, to a “private interest,” having little more status in the court’s eyes than the “competing… asserted aboriginal rights.”
Now, when any Indian asserts an aboriginal or treaty right in relation to a mining lease or claim then, in the face of that bare assertion, the rights of the lessee or claimant become merely, in the eyes of the law, a “contentious private activity” that cannot be further carried on unless the Crown, “fully and faithfully discharges its duty to consult with the affected First Nations.” (See below in the Solid Gold Resources chapter how, well after Frontenac Ventures, Ontario has voluntarily, cravenly and completely unnecessarily worsened the situation for our mining industry.)
This is a disastrous new reality for any business legally operating on public lands in Canada.
Further in Frontenac, the court, either oblivious or indifferent to the huge added expense and delay involved, and seemingly indifferent to the de-legitimizing effect of its words on the validity and credibility of Crown covenants as embodied in its mining leases – on rights clearly granted to stakeholders by the Mining Act generally – on private property rights generally – in effect told Frontenac Ventures, and sent the same message out to other legitimate, law-abiding companies in their position: “Don’t come running to us for injunctive relief against illegal interference by Indians with your property rights unless you can show that before you came to us you “exhausted” (the court’s word) every effort to obtain a negotiated solution- and we really can’t be concerned with how much it’s going to cost you or how long it’s going to take you to do that.”
“Frontenac Ventures exemplifies our higher courts’ increasing tendency to stack the deck in favour of Indians in any civil suit involving them- to give members of any Indian band before it the full Walt Disney approach, to assume without critical inquiry that they have been injured, to regard them, regardless of clear evidence before them, as innocent, victimized, noble pre-contact beings, to refuse to place on their shoulders the same degree of personal responsibility for illegal behavior as is on the shoulders of non-Indian Canadians- all regardless of the plain, modern, reality of the situation before them. All this is a recipe for the breakdown of law and order…It’s also a recipe for economic disaster for mining companies involved in mining leases and for the mining industry generally- in fact for any other business or undertaking in Canada carrying out a state-authorized activity which finds itself in the same vulnerable, unjust situation as Frontenac Ventures found itself in.”
From Chapter 31, The Idle No More Protests: Two-tier Policing on Display
Without Canadians sharing a public expectation of obeying
the law, the rule of law will shatter. And a key support for
maintaining that expectation of abiding by the law is that
those who are empowered to enforce the law will do so,
and do so in an even-handed fashion. – Mr. Justice D.M.
Brown, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in Canadian
National Railway Co. v. John Doe
The law is our last defence against ourselves.- Playwright
“In 2020 the same CN rail line was blocked by a Mohawk group solidarity-protesting in support of the the opposition of the B.C. Wet’suwet’en band hereditary chiefs to the Coastal GasLink pipeline going through their “traditional territories.” The same injunction order was issued. The same shameful passivity and inaction on the part of the police and politicians occurred, and there were the same lack of consequences.
The OPP should change their motto from To Serve and Protect to To Serve and Observe.
The distinguished United States Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter observed in a 1943 case, McNabb vs. United States, that “the history of liberty has largely been the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.” The late political scientist Samuel Huntington famously wrote, “Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order.”
In fact, the preservation of not just law and order, but of anything good in civilized society, is dependent on respecting the rule of law.
Observing procedural safeguards includes obeying court orders. By not obeying court orders, or by standing by idly while laws and court orders are being flouted, our elites forfeit the confidence and respect of the citizenry, threaten our civil liberties and betray the values upon which our country is based.”
From Chapter 32, The Solid Gold Resources Case: Ontario’s Sovereignty Giveaway
“Constituting a deliberate, de facto surrendering of power over land back to Indians that Indians expressly surrendered to the Crown by treaty – Crown land that the Crown has responsibly managed for the benefit of us all for over a century – the new law gives Indian bands the right to apply to have sites of “Aboriginal cultural significance” withdrawn from prospecting so mining claims cannot be staked there!
What a terrible, reckless, irresponsible, dishonourable thing Ontario did! Deliberately and unnecessarily further surrendering its own power and sovereignty over its own lands, while knowing that there was very possibly no underlying legal basis for it! – further harming its own mining sector, one of the only bright lights in Ontario’s dimming and darkening economy-deep-sixing a compelling, new legal precedent in favour of Crown sovereignty and, by legislating away this important and beneficial (to all) court victory and rendering its appeal moot (as confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in January, 2013), shamefully and almost deliberately sticking it to Solid Gold, its brave (but now shut down) lawfully acting and job-creating corporate citizen.”
From Chapter 33, The 2012 Algonquin Land Claims Settlement Agreement: The Deal of the (19th) Century.
“Why are they surrendering up Crown land to this tiny, select group of Canadians without a fight, when there is so much evidence and so many good faith arguments upon which to mount a defence, not the least of which is that the Algonquins seem to have been dispossessed of these lands, by other Indians, for upwards of 200 years!
(In December, 2016 an Algonquin band from Maniwaki, Quebec sued Ottawa and Ontario, claiming aboriginal title and ownership of parts of Ottawa from LeBreton Flats to Parliament Hill (!) Again, the evidence above of complete, ancient and long-standing Algonquin loss of possession and control of the entire Ottawa River valley- of Algonquin fearful-living in inland Quebec far away from such completely exposed (to the Iroquois) and dangerous places like LeBreton Flats and Parliament Hill- should be used to mount the most vigorous and uncompromising defense of this reckless, irresponsible, grossly self-entitled and insulting attack against the Canadian people and our national capital- against our symbolic and substantive heart of Crown sovereignty.)”
“A most retrograde and illiberal agreement! A fundamentally unprincipled agreement-in-principle! An agreement that will impoverish and demoralize all the people of Ontario. An agreement that will constitute a huge, reckless and unaffordable revenue and sovereignty giveaway. An agreement that will only harmfully overindulge those few thousand Algonquin Canadians affected (they will get their perpetual benefits under this new agreement while still keeping all their existing Indian Act rights and entitlement), and that will further retard, as a group, their integration into the Canadian mainstream.”
From Chapter 34, The Imperative of Sole Crown Authority.
Though a king may abdicate for his own person, he cannot
abdicate for the monarchy. By as strong, or by a stronger
reason, the house of commons cannot renounce its share
of authority. The engagement and pact of society, which
generally goes by the name of the constitution, forbids
such invasion and such surrender. The constituent parts
of a state are obliged to hold their public faith with each
other, and with all those who derive any serious interest
under their engagements, as much as the whole state
is bound to keep its faith with separate communities.
Otherwise competence and power would soon be
confounded, and no law left but the will of a prevailing
force. – Edmund Burke
Canada’s wealth, and the reason why the world beats a path to our natural resources, lies not in the resources themselves. What makes that endowment almost uniquely valuable in the world is that it exists within another vastly more important endowment of rules, institutions and behaviours…the rule of law…the enforcement of contract…the absence of corruption among government officials and the police; respect of private property; a moderate, predictable and stable taxation and regulatory burden…a refusal to resort to violence to resolve political disagreements. This is the greatest endowment that we have. – Brian Lee Crowley
“The reckless Crown sovereignty giveaway behavior of Ontario’s political leaders and senior bureaucrats described above, and by the Trudeau federal government, described and decried well below, and the anti- law and order behavior of the Ontario Crown and the OPP in the Caledonia, Frontenac Ventures and Platinex cases, and more recently, in their stupefying passivity in the face of the many illegal “Idle No More” and similar roadblocks and rail blockages, is inexplicable and intensely worrisome. Our elites acted in these situations and continue to act in the many similar ones that are occurring daily, like weak, timid, unprincipled, reactive followers, not leaders.
Their harmful conduct in this regard is the main reason why Indian leaders like chief Moonias of the Neskantaga band could so casually (and, shamefully, but so typically, without any comment or criticism from our political leaders) expressly threaten “blockades and even acts of mischief” in relation to the Ring of Fire project, and why Manitoba chief Nepinak could so casually and arrogantly threaten the use of so-called “warriors” to advance his Idle No More political and economic goals (whatever they might be, typical of the entire “movement”- he never did say).
No less worrisome is the too silent and servile acceptance by our political leaders, media and academic elites, top law enforcement officials and senior civil servants of these civically harmful court decisions, treating them as though they constitute indisputable, unchallengable, eternal judicial verities-legal first principles.
No! They should be lawfully and loudly pushing back against them with everything they’ve got! They should be trying to restrict them to the narrowest possible application. They should be loudly complaining about them, making the citizenry and the higher courts aware by all the usual political and legal methods that they believe the higher courts are being too activist – that they’re going way too far in legal theory and policy – that profound, devolutionary constitutional change is the primary business of the legislatures, not the courts.”
“It’s as if our “best and brightest” no longer believe in the value of a strong state or in the worth of what they do or in what they represent -as if “they have wearied of the demands our traditions make of us.” As exemplified by their acceptance, with such apparent equanimity, of the devastating, (to Crown sovereignty, the economy and the public welfare generally), of the Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in decisions, and, in B.C, their adoption of UNDRIP, it’s as if they don’t believe in the value of a strong, sovereign and unified province or country, with the Crown representing and embodying that unity and strength, and best able to preserve and advance the general welfare.
It’s as if they don’t believe with any passion in the core Western value that the rule of law must be maintained and upheld above all- that without the rule of law, as people have known and written about for centuries, and which depends on a strong state, there is physical and moral danger, and ultimate diminishment of freedom. You can have order without liberty, but not liberty without order.
“Liberal ideals cannot survive without power, and that power requires careful upkeep.“
It’s as if mature, responsible, principled adults- those increasingly rare adults who are unafraid to say “no” – are no longer in charge.
In this regard our elites are at odds with the vast majority of Canadians who, in this increasingly complex, uncertain, technology-based world, where the problems inherent in it have to be regulated by strong central powers, and where Canadians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to all kinds of negative, global, economic forces, fear and disagree with the handing back of state power to small, decentralized, scattered, undisciplined, poorly governed, self-seeking, technically illiterate, Indian bands. They fear the weakening of the state’s powers to try to ameliorate the negative effects of these powerful, destabilizing, global forces. They fear the attack on our tax and revenue bases that all this represents. They sense that the weakening of the state means the weakening of legal order. They fear the increasing two-tier nature of our law enforcement and justice systems, and rightfully fear the weakening of the state’s power generally, all of which these things represent.
Ordinary Canadians sense what our elites don’t, that is, that we are going socially, economically and politically backwards, and that this weakening of Crown sovereignty can only accelerate these negative trends.
In The Social Conquest of Earth Professor Edward O. Wilson describes the State – the most sophisticated and complex system of human organization – as “the final step in the cultural evolution of societies,” with bands, tribes, village societies and chiefdoms being earlier, precursor, less complex, forms of social organizations.
A key feature of any successful state is a clear system of hierarchical control- “the ordering principle of domestic politics.” Professor Wilson:
As with complexity of any physical or biological system, the society, in order to achieve stability and survive and not quickly crumble, must add hierarchical control…hierarchies work better than unorganized assemblages (in) that they are easier for their rulers to understand and manage. Put another way, you cannot expect success if assembly-line workers vote at executive conferences or enlisted men plan military campaigns.
Nor can the Canadian state stay healthy, act for all our benefit, and expect continued success, if Indian bands are given and exercise top-of the-hierarchy control, even shared or joint control, (the latter something now being claimed in “aboriginal title” and UNDRIP parts of Canada), over the rest of us. The buck has to stop somewhere for our State to work properly. That somewhere must be the federal and provincial Crowns.”
“We see in America what happens when elites breach their trust duties and lose their discipline- cease acting like the First Men and First Women of their society-fail to fulfill their proper stewardship, guardianship, “sober second thought” function in a liberal democracy- fail to defend the sovereignty of their governments-fail to defend and maintain hierarchy and high standards- fail to defend society’s basic norms, values and institutions-fail to check the marketplace- fail to defend the institutions and rule of law- fail to defend the polity against threats to reason, restraint and civility-fail to defend democracy against its own inevitable excesses: Donald Trump!
…the liberal-democratic-capitalist matrix we all inhabit depends for its livability and sustainability and decency upon pre-liberal forces and habits, unchosen obligations and allegiances: the communities of tribe and family, the moralism and metaphysical horizons of religion, the aristocracy of philosophy and art…Alexis de Tocqueville’s fear that liberalism would eventually dissolve all these inheritances, leaving only a selfish individualism and soft bureaucratic despotism locked in a strange embrace, may now be fully upon us.
Haida Nation and the judicial, political, bureaucratic and police elites’ weak and confused- and at crucial times, frozen– response to it, represents a full frontal assault by our ruling classes against the system of state-maintaining hierarchy which Professor Wilson suggests must be present for a democracy to function properly- against what Brian Lee Crowley (above) describes as Canada’s real wealth -our “endowment of rules, institutions and behaviours” that make up the civilization we inherited from our ancestors – an assault on the century-old “settled customs” and “pre-liberal values” (i.e. “old-fashioned” values!) of the Canadian people, and to their will as expressed in our laws, history and practices.
These attributes of civilization applicable here – these settled customs and values – near-absolute Crown sovereignty subject only to a competing set of individual rights, property rights and the rule of law – all fully supported by our political classes and the rest of our elites– should be inviolable.
To diminish Crown sovereignty – the fount and guardian of our democracy, our property rights and of the rule of law – the latter themselves the basis of a superior economic system which has provided so well for us – as Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in jurisprudence and Justin Trudeau’s proposed UNDRIP and “reconciliation at all costs” doctrine have diminished Crown sovereignty- is to attack and diminish our democracy- our very civilization itself. Ordinary Canadians know or at least sense that. Unfortunately our “ruling classes” – our increasingly post-liberal (and post-literate) elites – seem not to know that any more.”
“…Like our own leaders, indigenous and non-indigenous, on this “First Nations file”:
…the divergence between facts…and the premises, theories and hypotheses according to which decisions were finally made is total…The internal world of government, with its bureaucracy on the one hand, its social life on the other, made self-deception relatively easy. No Ivory Tower of the scholars has ever better prepared the mind for ignoring the facts of life.
Like Mr. Wild’s “journey of deconstructing colonialism” and establishing “nation to nation relationships” – (make-work Holy Grails for bureaucrats, with their lack of definitions, agreed meanings, boundaries, specific goals and end points)-and all the other abstractions listed above:
...(their) rigorous methods of defactualization…dealing with hypotheses and mere “theories” as though they were established facts…the inability or unwillingness to consult experience and to learn from reality…because disregard of reality was inherent in the policies and goals themselves.”
“In the wealthy countries a mediocrity that hides the horrors of the rest of the world has prevailed.”
The post- World War Two incredibly wealthy and secure “comparatively dull decades”- a “trivial time that delights in prosperous escapism” which can quite reasonably be regarded as an unprecedented, fluky, historical “one-off”- seem to have caused our elites to become more shallow- to no longer understand that a deep sense and knowledge of history is a prerequisite to being competent and responsible governors, and to have lulled them into “the fake sense of security common to people who have lost their sense of the tragic. And the sense of the tragic (a product of the knowledge of history) “must always be cultivated in order to avoid tragedy.”
One needs to know reality before one can cross its boundaries into idealism.
Part of this lulled-into false sense of security is that they just unthinkingly assume (again, to a large degree because of literary and historical illiteracy) that some of the fundamental things about our Canadian civilization that we take for granted – our physical infrastructure and our laws and systems of general physical and economic security and well-being – the creation of which would not have been possible except under the aegis of a strong, healthy, hierarchical and active regulatory state supported by the strongest and widest revenue base possible – always existed and somehow always will.
They don’t seem to “get” or appreciate that these things – and our modern social welfare state itself, “whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience, and an increasing public strength and national prosperity”-are actually very recent, unusual and delicate things – the result of hundreds of years of “Eurocentric” enlightenment thinking and often just plain lucky, state-building events, personalities and circumstances – and that unless they are constantly and consciously defended and nurtured, which our elites- acting with such shallowness on this crucial issue– are plainly failing to do at this time, they can easily be lost.
A frivolous society can acquire dramatic significance only through what its frivolity destroys.
No society-no state- is inherently stable or unchangeable. Different historical contingencies, variations and deviations- bad things– can occur- will occur-as they have constantly and relentlessly occurred in the past.
There are in nature and life no monopolies, no measures for preventing and suppressing new biological species and new historical destinies and political systems- they are limited only by practical possibility. The future is a variation improvised on a theme of the past.
“Tolstoy wrote that “there are no conditions of life to which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him.” This is clearly a part of the problem in Canada. So accustomed are we to this ridiculous race talk- so desensitized are we by its prevalence and constant repetition- that we have lost the power to see it for what it is- ridiculous- an affront to common sense- and to call for its cessation. It’s a fundamental aspect to the failure of our elites to call out the situation of Indians in Canada for what it is- ridiculous– abnormal– “mad” even!– and to call us into action to start noticing it, and doing something new, normally old-fashioned liberal- progressive and constructive about it.
So many dispiriting and depressing thoughts characterize any serious consideration of this situation. One is that maybe, in the minds of Canadians, this situation is not so abnormal. Maybe there are no “old-fashioned liberal-progressives” anymore- no more significant, “old-fashioned, liberal-progressive” mentality.”
“We pity and decry “failed states,” characterized by weak government authority, yet that is the direction towards which our elites are permitting section 35, Haida Nation and its devolutionary legal successors to push Canada.
Not only does the Haida Nation case and its legal descendants, a vast construct of dream-castle words, phrases and harmful, impractical and unworkable concepts and practices, set us all on the path to various forms of civic perdition, it condemns Indians to remain in more entrenched fashion than ever before in their seemingly never-ending state of actual, social, political and economic perdition.
Because, in the final analysis, it is only the state, represented in Canada by our Crowns, that can protect the rights and integrity of the individual -that can protect our environment – that can be the foundation, overseer and best promoter of our economy – that can best act as a counterbalance to multi-national corporations – that can best deal with the mass social and economic trauma of a pandemic – that can best protect the national welfare generally!”
“And, more importantly to this discussion, there sections 56 and 92(10) of the Constitution Act still legally sit .Even more importantly to this discussion, these great federal powers highlight the somewhat pathetic, emasculating reality that, as the result of the Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in jurisprudential revolution, and of UNDRIP, the federal government has more power over the provinces to act in the best interests of the nation as a whole than it or the provinces have over Indian bands!
This is both absurd and harmful to the national welfare. Freely elected governments must be the repository of ultimate power and sovereignty.”
“It was strong, sovereign governments that rescued capitalism after the Great Depression of 1929. It was to governments that people turned in 2008 to be rescued from the financial collapses that the wretched excesses of immense private wealth and global, transnational capitalism had wrought. It’s only to our governments that all Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, looked to and continue to look to for help in the 2020 pandemic crisis and its aftermath. It’s to governments that people always turn in times of ultimate need.
Even Indian band elites now, as they carry on about Indian bands being “sovereign nations,” keep their hands outstretched to our governments for more Canadian taxpayer money or financial guarantees to fund or secure their “sovereign” undertakings! For example, in July of 2019 the “Anishnabek Nation” announced the Anishnabek Nation Governance Agreement, which will establish a so-called “government to government relationship with Canada”. Early in the Agreement, making clear that this Agreement does not change the “Canada pays for everything” status quo, (it only increases what Canada pays), it is stated: “The fiduciary relationship between Canada and the First Nations will continue”. And the justifiable pleas and demands by Indigenous elites for 2020 pandemic assistance come loud and clear. The worst, anti “big government,” right wing crackpots in America blame “Washington” for not solving America’s economic problems, an implicit admission by them that, notwithstanding what they otherwise profess, bottom line, they expect their state to solve these problems!
We as a society cannot lose sight of the need for strong, well-funded, central governments, as our higher courts and a disturbingly large segment of our governing classes, judging by their weak and incoherent responses to the emasculation of Crown sovereignty which is taking place, inexplicably seem to have done.
We can no longer permit our shallow, transient, ahistorical politicians to debase and fritter away the concept and reality of necessary Crown sovereignty by pretending that small Indian bands dealing with them are politically and constitutionally co-equal “governments” treating on an equal basis with the legitimate, duly elected governments of Canada.”
“They aptly point out and provide a credible rationale for the almost total absence of any consideration or discussion by either the higher courts or our governing, academic and media elites of the quite radical- unheard of even!– constitutional and political theories behind Haida Nation, Tsilhcot’in and UNDRIP i.e. that there can be three founts of constitutional sovereignty in Canada – two Crown and one Indigenous –and that there can be innumerable, sovereign Indigenous substates existing within the territorial borders of the state of Canada- and of whether these are somehow reasonable, workable and fiscally sound political ideas and in the public interest of Canada, all of which they are plainly not!
In no other country in the world is this permitted!”
“It’s our elites’ obligation to be competent and responsible in this crucial regard!- to carry out the trusts inherent in their elite positions!- to give the citizenry that honesty! -to lead in the search for the right, far-seeing and wise goal! Crown sovereignty, the foundation of our civilization, is under siege. Our elites are pretending its okay. It’s not! Lives are in the balance. Serious debates need to be encouraged and engaged in. Our elites- our governments- instead of basically propagandizing for the increasingly radical new status quo in this area, should be leading the way in, at the very least, strongly questioning it, with this “strategy of truth.”
The duty of government is to provide a basis for judgment, and when it goes beyond that, it goes beyond the prime scope of its’ duty. In the complicated, insecure world in which we are living, any diminishment of Crown sovereignty over the basic framework of our political structure and our economy or over the application and enforcement of our laws is alarming and harmful, and should be much more critically examined, publicly discussed and resisted by all means possible.
Our politicians and other elites seem to think that it’s wrong or inappropriate to criticize our courts and governments for the direction in which they are pushing us here. It’s not. It’s their civic and patriotic duty to do so. In fact, it’s everyone’s civic and patriotic duty to speak out on this if he or she thinks that what is happening here is not right or good.
Courts, politicians and government bureaucracies are made up of human beings. They can get it wrong some time, as I think they’ve all got it wrong here.
We need to restore Canadian Crown sovereignty to the pre-eminent and beneficial state it was in before the passage of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the harmful jurisprudence, legislation and government policies that have emanated from it.”
From Chapter 35, Indian Reserves as Tax Havens and Places of Privileged Fiscal Immunity.
“Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”- Oliver Wendell Holmes
“Canadians think of tax havens as places where people or businesses illegally hide income in order to avoid paying their proper and fair share of income taxes. Governments spend huge sums of money attempting to crack down on them, and on the taxpayers who illegally use them. Their very existence is harmful to the economic well-being of countries whose treasuries are victimized by them. As tax lawyer and writer Vern Krishna wrote:
Canada and other high-tax members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development dislike tax havens because they attract capital, undermine tax bases, and erode domestic spending programs. Still, we have our own tax havens-hundreds of them from ocean to ocean all blessed by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
“As the result of the new, expansive Haida Nation-inspired line of thinking to the effect that Indian treaty rights, and Indian rights generally, are to generously interpreted and applied in the context of the modern times in which we live, and, as the result of recent, fairly generous tax rulings on the part of the Supreme Court in favour of Indians- all supposedly in keeping with the “honour of the Crown” – Indian bands are now, by way of joint venture agreements, offering up to non-Indian businesses their reserves and territories, and the tax-free status that comes with them, to operate on and in conjunction with.
As the result of Tsilhcot’in, expect Indian bands covered by that ruling to be offering up large swaths of their “aboriginal title” territories to non-Indian businesses, on rentier terms to be negotiated, as tax-free havens out of which to operate.”
“What is happening here, which is a far cry from what was ever intended by the makers of the old treaties, may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right or fair. What will be happening on Tsilhcot’in created aboriginal title lands, and, if former AFN Regional Chief Day and now “Bimaadzwin” entrepreneur is right, on all Indian reserves, where Indian bands will be taking the position that Crown laws, which presume Crown sovereignty, like the income tax law, are not applicable to them, may be legally logical, but that doesn’t make it right or fair
No, it’s not right for Indians, while, on the one hand, making ever-increasing demands for more and more funding on our cash-strapped governments- in effect on already hard-pressed Canadian taxpayers– at the same time, on the other hand, adopting tax haven policies and practices that knowingly and almost intentionally weaken the treasuries of those very same governments. To the increasing extent that this goes on, non-Indian Canadians have to shoulder an increasing tax load. We have to make up the tax difference lost by these activities. This is not right or fair.
This is more than Indians biting the hands that feed them grants, services and programs. This is Indians biting off the hands that feed them these things, and that have to finance all Canadians’ services and programs. Non-Indian Canadians are being unfairly burdened by this. The long-past misfortunes and sufferings of Indians shouldn’t justify forever into the future this unfair behavior towards non-Indian Canadians.
The point was made in Dancing With Danegeld (above), and is worth repeating: The “Crown” is all of us! The Crown, the victim of all this revenue-siphoning, is not some merely abstract, intangible concept that feels no pain and suffers no damage. It’s all of us who feel the pain and suffer the damage.
The state is not an abstract entity, It’s rights and duties are the rights and duties of men.”
“It’s not only a duty, but a privilege, to pay taxes. It means we live in a self-financing democracy, where all taxpayers and others have a direct stake, and a clear and present moral right, to demand a say in how it’ s run. We need to develop new laws, and a new civic ethos, with a view to extending that duty and privilege to our indigenous fellow-Canadians.
The relentless onslaught of new problems caused by our constantly changing, constantly modernizing, public and private lives profoundly challenge all of us. Our old traditions and values- Indigenous and non-Indigenous- don’t answer. They have not prepared us for the nature and massive scope of the budding social and environmental catastrophes facing us. We look to them for answers but they offer none because these grave new challenges are unprecedented for us all. Only a radically new, joint, common approach will give us all a chance to survive with the basics of the civilization we have painstakingly built remaining intact. Or else maybe we’ll just have to wait for relentlessly changing and unpredictable history to solve the problem: something like an earthquake, volcano, economic meltdown or pandemic to disturb the level plain we think we live on.
Canadians are all basically in the same financially and environmentally flimsy and precarious national boat together, being tossed about on increasingly rough and unstable economic and environmental seas. For the sake of our very survival, likening our country, and our planet, as environmentalists properly do, to a large, threatened ship, we have to at least strive to, over the long-term, jettison unnecessary and excess-weight material things -like carbon-based energy for example- that can sink us.
So also we have to strive to jettison those unnecessary and excess-weight abstract things that impair our collective ability to take maximum, survival-purposed action- things that must be regarded as outdated, to-be-foregone luxuries- things that are basically irrelevant and that impair the mission of survival and repair- like backward, progress-retarding distinctions based on class, ethnicity or race.
To keep our threatened Canadian national ship buoyantly and safely moving forwards, we’ve got to work together – all of us – as totally equals – Indian and non-Indian alike, through strongly functioning, total sovereign governments.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. – Chief Seattle, 1855.
From Chapters 36, 37 and 38, A “First Nations” Education.
As Calvin Helin, who, in his much more socially useful and virtuous pre-Eagle Spirit Energy (above) days, authored a report entitled Free to Learn: Giving Aboriginal Youth Control over Their Post-Secondary Education, wrote:
…if you are one of the 70 percent of Indians who live off reserve, you would probably not receive a dime…Nobody knows you and there is no political payoff to financing your education.
Also, if you’re a reserve parent of a young Indian hoping to head off to university or college, you’d better stay in the good graces of chief and council. The situation is obviously ripe for subjectivity and abuse.
It’s totally inappropriate that a parent of a university or college aspirant should even have to consider having to stay in the good graces of anyone in order to better his or her child’s chances of receiving Canadian taxpayer-funded educational financial assistance. No responsible, credible non-Indian government department or agency would ever conduct its affairs in such a casual, undocumented and irresponsible manner (except maybe those who funded First Nations University…see below).
But, as evidenced by Shawn Atleo’s 2010 statement and the education panel report discussed immediately above, Canadian Indian elites are now demanding more in this area than just the maintenance of their control over educational financial assistance for Indian youth. They’re demanding complete control over the entire Indian education system itself!”
“Because “Indians only” schools encourage young Indians- who, like all young children are oblivious to race until foolish adults teach them to the contrary– to think parochially and tribally, rather than expansively and ecumenically, thus limiting their imagination and human potential.
The cultures of the world’s peoples are complex and diverse, but they are manifestations of one phenomenon, the uniqueness of the human presence on earth…Touch a limit of your understanding and it falls away, to reveal mystery upon mystery. The one great lesson we can take from the study of (other civilizations) is the appropriateness of reverence, of awe, and of pity, too.-(Marilynne Robinson, from Decline, in The Givenness of Things (above)
They will, as Amatya Sen wrote, tend to “miniaturize” young Indians as human beings, rather than expand them. They will devalue, denigrate and hold back the assimilation of Indian-Canadians with the rest of Canadians, which, for the reasons stated earlier, despite all the massive, ill-considered propaganda to the contrary, is the supremely liberal, humanistic, positive and constructive value and goal for Indian-Canadians to strive for.
Therein lies Indian progress, pride, achievement and liberation., because, in the final analysis, a person’s full humanity can only be realized when he or she goes to school, or lives generally, amidst a genuine and equal plurality of different peoples.”
“Canada and Canadian Indian elites are failing Indian youth in this area. They’re failing them by supporting the existence of the dysfunctional, harmful “separate but equal” status quo for Indians, and now the further expansion of it in the area of education. And if this further expansion does happen as demanded, instead of education being used as a means of starting to get Indians out of the social and economic rut they are in, it’s going to be used as a means to put them deeper and more securely into it”.
“Segregating children from others solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of the child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law tends to impede the educational and mental development of children and deprives them of the benefits they would receive in an integrated school system.” -Chief Justice Earl Warren, United States Supreme Court, in Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954.
“Canada succeeded by actively supporting ethnic and religious multiculturalism, believing that children educated together in the country’s public schools and hockey arenas would emerge as integrated citizens.”- Erna Paris, in From Tolerance to Tyranny.
“Our public school systems not only advance personal achievement. They also prepare young Canadians to advance the interests of society as a whole. By providing young people with daily exposure to others of different races, backgrounds and perspectives, they help create civic understanding and tolerance- they bring about civic assimilation and integration- they civically “Canadianize” young people.
Canada succeeded by actively supporting ethnic and religious multiculturalism, believing that children educated together in the country’s public schools and hockey arenas would emerge as integrated citizens. From From Tolerance to Tyranny, above.
Public schools thus help bind the citizenry together and create a healthier democracy.
Indians-only schools, like religion-based schools, help bind the citizenry apart, and thus they hurt democracy.
In any event, there is presently no body of Indian “traditional knowledge” being used and practiced on a daily basis anywhere in Canada, or which could possibly be significantly useful or relevant in the teaching of such science and technology-based disciplines as mining or forestry. If there is, let it be shared and taught in public schools, where everyone, of all races and ethnicities, can benefit from it.
There is little Indian “traditional culture” being practiced or lived on a daily basis anywhere in Canada. All that is mainly lost and in the distant past. To the extent that it still exists, let it be shared in public schools with students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. And, as stated, native values today are no more nor less than the values of all human beings the world over. They are not special, unique or superior in any way.
“Indigenous teachings” is just another phrase denoting romantic, baseless, anti-intellectual, non-scientific, new age malarky, the teaching of which, again, only guarantees after graduation the swiftest of return to the hapless, cheated student’s old bedroom in his or her parent’s house back on the reserve.
“The approach of Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein is eschewed in favour of an approach that would countenance such an intellectual fraud as “native science”, and in favour of an approach grounded in “the spirit of things”, that is, in favour of the irrational and superstitious.”
From Chapter 39, Indian Reserves: Canada’s Gated National System of Gated Communities.
“A Canadian Indian reserve is Canada’s poor man’s gated community, where the pervading spirit is one of inertia and dependency, and the essential qualification for belonging and the essential reason why “outsiders,” i.e. the rest of Canadians, are implicitly told, “you don’t belong here”, is race, rather than wealth.”
“The aboriginal orthodoxy encourages aboriginal people
to withdraw into themselves, into their own “First
Nations”, under their own “self-governments”, on their
own “traditional lands”, within their own “aboriginal
economies”. Yet this is the wrong direction if the goal is
widespread individual independence and prosperity for
aboriginal people. Under the policy of withdrawal, the
political and professional elites will do well for themselves
as they manage the aboriginal enclaves, but the majority
will be worse off than ever. In order to become self supporting
and get beyond the social pathologies that
are ruining their communities, aboriginal people need to
acquire the skills and attitudes that bring success in a liberal
society, political democracy and market economy. Call
it assimilation, call it integration, call it adaptation, call it
whatever you want: it has to happen. -Tom Flanagan, First
Nations? Second Thoughts
“Much of what Mr. Judt so aptly says about gated communities, and what they and the mentality underlying them represent, applies to Indian reserves in Canada, and will in future apply even more forcefully to Tsilhcot’in-created aboriginal title lands.
A Canadian Indian reserve is Canada’s poor-man’s gated community- a form of voluntary ghetto where the pervading spirit is one of inertia and dependency, and the essential qualification for belonging and the essential reason why “outsiders” i.e. the rest of Canadians, are implicitly told, “you don’t belong here,” is race, rather than wealth.
This is an undeniably true statement, which to merely put down on paper and then read it there makes one recoil in embarrassment and gloom from the sheer backwardness and illiberality represented by it. One gets a brief hint of what it must have been like seventy five years ago for Jews to have been banned from membership in certain clubs- for American blacks to have been refused entry into so many places- for Canadian Indians themselves to have been discriminated against.
Now, reserve Indians (and a great many non-reserve Indians as well) live a constrained and self-conscious existence.
They’re constrained physically and legally by the boundaries of the reserve, and constrained mentally and in spirit by what the reserve represents: an enervating recent past, stagnation and isolation, segregation, passivity and discouragement caused by constant dependency- by living lives “too much at large, unmoulded by the pressure of obligation.”
They’re constrained by their sense of free-agency and individual autonomy being diminished by an essentially undemocratic governance system and a lack of traditional legal and property rights-(“Give him land and legal rights: only then will he be a man!”)
They’re constrained by a suffocating ethos of excessive, backward-looking, race-obsessed, “blood and soil”collectivism, possessing, like nationalism, “no universal values, aesthetic or ethical”, where the individual’s sense of identity becomes too subsumed with that of the collective, “which imposes a deadly uniformity on talent and initiative”.
They’re constrained by their “oppressor/oppressed” story in which the current orthodoxy has trapped them. Their oppressors- white “settlors/colonialists”- having been clearly and unquestionably defined, their blamelessness and virtue is secure. “Virtue without obligation.”
What is the moral order today? Not so much the reign of right-thinking people as that of the right-suffering, the cult of everyday despair. I suffer therefore I am worthy. Suffering is analogous to baptism, a dubbing that inducts us into the order of a higher humanity, hoisting us above our peers.
The crooked timber school of humanity says the line between good and evil runs through each person and we fight injustice on the basis of our common humanity. The oppressor/oppressed morality says the line runs between tribes.
They’re constrained by being psychologically kneecapped by their leaders who constantly tell them: “You’re an Indian first, and, maybe, a Canadian second.”
There’s a terrible, unconscionable, psychological and social price to be paid for all these “pathologies of exclusion” this oppressive narrowness-this Indian elite-willed “unnatural divorce from the life of their society.”
With their leaders unable to transcend this distorted and unhealthy psychological reality- or even try in any realistic way to lead their peoples out of it- they suffer the general consequence of feeling “different” from the rest of Canadians- of not being able to contribute meaningfully to the life of modern Canada except by, relying on false and tiresome historical-racial tropes and bad laws, hitching onto others’ wagons. This can never be healthy or confidence-building.
With their old culture gone, and their present one based mainly on borrowings from and imitations of modern Canadian culture, (yes, “cultural appropriations”), they will remain, as peoples, confused and static- perpetual stepchildren unsure of their place in the family-self-imposed (by their leaders) wallflowers at the dance that is modern Canada- with little sense of a vital, maturing, free-agency growth process happening.
In the chapter of Ruffled Feathers aptly titled Reservation Exiles William Wuttunee, confirming the immediately above, writes of reserves as follows:
Designed to take Indians away from their natural habitat and to segregate them on small parcels of land so that the surrounding areas would be safe for settlers, they have caused nothing but hardship to their inhabitants, and the reserves have become cemetaries of once-brave tribes…. While the rest of the country progressed into the 20th century, the Indians remained behind… The Indians suffered quietly from malnutrition and disease in primeval silence, and turned the reservations into permanent havens away from the white man…The exile which was imposed on Indians by treaty has turned itself into a voluntary exile. Reservations are now completely out of date. We no longer need reservations; their function has changed and it is time to change them.
Mr. Wuttunee recommended that they be turned into forms of municipalities.”
From Chapter 40, Setting Indians Free From Their Past.
“Do not grieve- misfortunes happen to the wisest and best of men. What is past and cannot be prevented, should not be grieved for.”- Teton Sioux Chief Big Elk
“The current problem is that many indigenous leaders still seem to be stuck in grieving mode when the time to move on has already come and gone.”- Indigenous writer and businessman Calvin Helin.
“The truth is more important than consolation, and in the long run, would be more effective.”- Penelope Fitzgerald
“Canada’s Indians need to “grow up” and stop being negatively fixated on their past.
Dealing with the past, for individuals and societies, is always a balancing act. It should never be forgotten or distorted. On the other hand, it should never be clung to and dealt with to the obsessive extent that it distorts the present and constricts and hampers adaptive and ameliorative conduct directed towards the future.
As aboriginal writer Calvin Helin wrote in Dances With Dependency (above):
The current problem is that many indigenous leaders still seem to be stuck in grieving mode when the time to move on has already come and gone.
The problem with always looking back is that there is nothing we can do about what has already happened. How can the constructive future of indigenous nations be founded on festering grievances of the past? Should we not be focussing on positive, forward-looking solutions to a new polity, a new economy, rather than being anchored entirely in rancorous injustices of the past (no matter how justified such views are)? How is dwelling on historical injustices going to lift indigenous peoples out of the morass of social and political pathologies? Memories of (past) government duplicity are distant history to today’s youth who see only a systemic treadmill of misery with little hope of reform.
We should be asking, “What pragmatic steps can we take now to make the lives of ordinary indigenous peoples better”? It should be obvious that we must begin moving forward and start looking for real solutions. To paraphrase Bill Wilson, the result of simply continuing to seek blame is that we continue to “wallow in the puke of our own suffering.”
This is ironic. The tough, realistic Bill Wilson was the father of former federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Indian industry stalwart, (she was an AFN Regional Chief before she decided to run for office), and one of the driving forces behind the Justin Trudeau government’s pointless, (in terms of real solutions), finger-pointing, blame-seeking, grievance-obsessed inquiry into murdered and missing women.
The relationship of Canadian Indians to their past is out of balance. They are prisoners of it. Almost their whole intellectual and psychic orientation is towards what is irrevocably and unchangeably behind them, not towards their future.“We live forward but we can only think backward.” Their elites keep falsely telling their people that they are what their grandparents suffered. They obsess over it, constantly turning it over and picking at its scabs and finding new ones to pick at and complain about.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much time goes by. Our shared past continues to provide them with a bottomless trove of old and new grievances to fret over and blame, and often sue, the rest of Canada for. Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency:
Though the system was created through no fault of their own, a host of past Indian chiefs have made an industry of pointing fingers and assigning blame.
And all for no ultimate benefit for Indians!
It’s frequently and correctly said that a person can never really reach a state of adult maturity until he stops laying sole blame on his parents for how he turned out as an adult – starts to see his parents as only human – tries to forgive them for their feet of clay, just as he begins to realize that his feet are made of the same thing – and then undertakes the task of taking responsibility for himself.
It’s the same with Indians in Canada. They will never “grow up” until their elites stop so relentlessly blaming the rest of Canada for their present plight, and start to see their history in more relative, mature terms – start to regard Canadians, past and present, as generally the well-meaning, flawed humans (just like them), that we were and are, and forgive us for that – and start to move on and away from the petulant, culturally adolescent, intellectual and psychic state they’re presently mired in.
It’s harmful for Indian elites (and for our governing classes) to be still stoking such a strong sense of present grievance and anger in relation to events that happened to Indians in their now long-distant past.
And going into the vast, limitless Canadian future, does it make sense that a hundred or five hundred years from now Indians should still be complaining to the rest of Canada about events which occurred in the 1700’s and 1800’s? It would be like France still nursing a grudge against Italy for Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, or England still harping at France over the Norman Conquest. At some point in time what happened in the past has to become dispassionate history.”
“Their tragedy- partially self-induced- was a million times worse than that of Canada’s Indians, and after only three generations, we can say that Germans have processed it reasonably well.
For the reasons set out in this essay, and to the shame of our Indian and non-Indian elites, we can’t say that about Canada’s Indians.
And clearly the victims of the Germans, the Jews, as a people, somehow managed to survive the barbaric, world-ending ferocity aimed at them. They then went on to establish their own country and to ultimately thrive there, though still in perilous, equivocal and tenuous circumstances. Miraculously and heroically, they mastered their colossal task as well as any such tragedy-burdened people could.
As William Wuttunee wrote, in Ruffled Feathers:
Indians can learn from the Jewish people, who number about the same as the Indians in Canada. Their contribution toward the economy of this country is considerable… Although they integrate into Canadian society, they still retain their own religion…They have not given up the Jewish faith or their way of life. They have succeeded in business and their children are well-educated…They have enriched their culture with these new interests and developments. The same process must be the aim of the Indian people. They must participate in the non-Indian society, bringing with them their culture and taking the time to contribute more to Canada as a whole.
Mr. Schlink’s words, as clearly suggested by William Wuttunee, also aptly apply to Indian Canadians who, unlike the Jewish people, haven’t even tried to master their past in any proper way. Thus they, and to a large degree non-Indian Canadians, continue to be held captive by it.
If the Jewish people could do it, and they experienced unspeakable, genocidal horrors at the hands of the Germans, why can’t our Indians? After all, what happened to them was minor compared to the Holocaust! They did not suffer genocide in any way, shape or form, including “cultural.” In fact it’s an insult to the memory of Holocaust victims to even suggest that these two experiences have anything in common, or have one iota of moral equivalency. It so trivializes the catastrophic sufferings, ending with their mass murder, of those millions of innocent fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters- those millions of persons, each with a name, each with an identity, “each person a universe.”
“Canada’s Indians did not suffer “genocide” in any form…Please all, this writer begs you- especially you elites, who should know better, and who should be more careful and responsible with your words and with your privileged positions powers and media access, like retired Madame Justice McLachlin, late of our Supreme Court (see her description of the residential schools as “cultural genocide” below), and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair- do not, in any way, equate or conflate the Canadian Indian experience with any of the German state-organized and carried out intentional, murderous, disgusting, repellant and unfathomable evil- “this Hell, in comparison with which Dante’s Hell seems no more than an innocent game on the part of Satan.”
“If, as Irwin Cotler says, we should shudder to mention the name genocide, then we should shudder to use it lightly, and we should never use the word in any context other than Juanita Vishniatskaia’s or Tamara and Itta Willemberg’s…We fail to act responsibly and to the highest of our abilities when we permit the key word denoting Juanita’s and Dina’s sufferings- genocide– to be casually, wrongly and insensitively conflated with much lesser events of personal and collective historical disturbance- as opposed to profound, cataclysmic events of personal and collective human annihilation… It’s insulting and demeaning to the memories of true genocide victims.”
“Despite generally atypical, isolated instances of racially motivated group manslaughter, (See James Daschuk”s Clearing The Plains, above), we cannot reasonably and rationally say that there was anything genocidal about the historically tragic, (as so much of history is) relatively-commonplace experience of cultural shock and cultural-world-ending loss experienced by Canada’s Indians as the result of contact with Europeans, whose superior technological culture was impossible to resist. (See Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New, above)
Nor can we reasonably and rationally say that, however flawed they were in operation, there was anything “genocidal” about residential schools- which were an effect of cultural loss, not a cause of it- which were a very late manifestation of this collision of worlds, when pre-contact Indian culture had already, before their inception, been substantially lost, as so poignantly described by Diamond Jenness, Peter Newman and Richard Gwynn, (see The End Times of Indian Cultures in Canada, above).
Residential schools couldn’t have “killed” aboriginal culture. Three hundred years of contact with European culture caused that culture to tragically but inevitably diminish to the point of near-disappearance- before residential schools were ever thought of.
Richard Gwynn (above) wrote of the “cultural castastrophe” that befell Prairie Indians and that climaxed with the extinction of the buffalo herds. He quoted Crow Chief Plenty Coups describing the cultural “nothing” that ensued- the state of cultural “living death”.
Encouraging Indians to turn to farming- starting up residential schools- these generally were attempts, however flawed or misguided in theory or execution, to save human beings, not to murder them- to save human spirits, not to crush them- to provide a human body, soul and spirit-sustaining something in place of Chief Plenty Coups’ tragic, heart-rending, cultural “nothing”.
These things, with all their flaws, were the opposite of “genocidal” in intent.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report repeatedly and misleadingly describes all residential school attendees as “Survivors”.
Well, the point about genocide, is that there are no survivors.
And so, the writer begs the reader again, out of respect and reverence for those poor, dear individuals named above, and for their memory, and for the individual persons and memories of the millions of real, deliberately murdered, physically extinguished, victims of real, horrific, physical genocide- each one a human being with “a name given by the stars, given by his neighbours”- to suit your purposes and convey your simplistic message of alleged, deliberate cultural “theft”, and of, yes, undeniable (but I’m sorry, commonplace- it comes with the territory of being human) cultural trauma and loss, please stop cheaply, wrongly and insultingly, (to true genocide victims), misappropriating the word “genocide”!
Surely now, Canada’s Indians, especially their highly sophisticated elites, are sufficiently equipped with a modern sensibility, the cultural tools, the literacy and the knowledge, to recognize this master-their- task ideal – this goal – and advocate attempting to achieve it. To me, they’ve run out of valid excuses for not doing so, leaving the thought that mainly considerations of self-interest are what are stopping them from even trying.”
“The Jews, sans justice or “reconciliation” for one of the greatest crimes in human history, despite that, are now embodied by the strong and independent State of Israel. While they properly vow never to forget, (determined to retain at least that purely abstract form of justice), they’re not claiming “intergenerational trauma” for their failings.
Millions of Ukrainians were killed by Stalin’s genocidal terror-famine, where, as in Stalin’s Russia generally, “senseless absurdity- the murder of millions of innocent and loyal people-masqueraded as cast iron logic.”
The Stalin Harvests
The black earth
Was sown with bones
And watered with blood
For a harvest of sorrow
On the land of Rus.
Ukrainians too endured, survived as a people, and overcame. They too mastered their task. Despite persistent and ongoing threats to their national survival from Russia, and despite their difficulties establishing the basics of a functioning liberal democracy, they’re not claiming “intergenerational trauma” for their failings.
Millions of other Eastern Europeans were murdered by the Germans and the Russians in the World War II period (see the heartbreaking Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder). Russia itself suffered 42 million deaths at the hands of Stalin and Hitler!
None of these peoples, in the midst of constant, formalized remembrance, now claim intergenerational trauma for their present problems. They knew, and know, that, like the Armenians, (see headnote to c. 9 above), resilience was all, and that, “in spite of everything, life would go on.”
American blacks, who experienced two hundred years of slavery in America, being bought and sold like horses, suffering permanent family breakups, rape, beatings and all other manner and kind of human cruelties, are overtly trying to actively master their task.
Why aren’t Canadian Indians trying to do the same?
Why aren’t our governing classes holding up these other situations as models for Indians to emulate? They should be.
It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.
The Indian residential school program was relatively minor compared to what the Jews, Ukrainians, Eastern Europeans and American blacks experienced – compared to what has been experienced by countless other peoples in the countless other examples history provides of real, brutal, murderous “violence and dispossession” tragic events occurring on a massive scale.
Chinese and Japanese Canadians endured years of racist treatment in Canada. Again, they endured it, overcame it, mastered their task, and are now successful and dynamic contributors to the Canadian experience.
The above are just a few examples, major and minor, of ethnic, religious or racially distinct peoples who were horribly mistreated, but who didn’t end up defining themselves forever as a people and as individuals solely with reference to the injustices they had suffered in the distant past. They somehow, three or four generations after the fact, processed these horrible events appropriately and maturely, without forgetting or denying them, and, by doing so, were able to psychologically move beyond them, survive and ultimately thrive.
Canadian Indians should be trying to do the same, and non-Indian Canadians should be urging and helping them to do so.
The misfortunes and injustices they suffered in the increasingly distant past have become a fixed and never-to-be-forgotten part of their cultural identity and their (and our) historical memory and narrative. This is as it should be.
But looking and going forward, these past misfortunes and injustices should no longer be encouraged to be the driving and debilitating part of their individual and collective lives that they presently are.
Aboriginal AFN founder, writer and lawyer William Wuttunee, in Ruffled Feathers:
The new breed of native cannot look at the past as a form of defeat, but only as a necessary period of transition. These people must look at today’s events and the past from a viewpoint which will keep them going ever-forward into the mainstream of society. Indians had great leaders in the past, and there is no reason why they cannot have great leaders in the future. If they continue only to cry about broken promises and broken treaties, they can never obtain much for their people.
To try to “move on” in the manner described above is the proper approach that Canadian Indians should be taking to their past. Only in that way will they break the mental chains – the “ropes of sand” that are holding them back.
(From The Collar, by 17th century English devotional poet George Herbert, part of which is:
Leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.)
Only in that way might Canada some day have a breakthrough event in this area of our civic life – like electing a indigenous-Canadian Prime Minister! – our Barack Obama breakthrough moment!
But unfortunately no one so far is willing or able to see this or to take this approach and, until this happens, that kind of breakthrough moment is never going to happen for us.
Indian elites are encouraging their peoples to wallow in the past, with the unfortunate encouragement and assistance of our non-Indian elites- as if this is the way to be set free from it!”
“It is a great fault of the Truth and Reconciliation Report that it gave the false impression that all Indian children of school age attended a residential school, when that was nowhere near the truth. The reality was that only a small percentage of them did. This is one of many reasons why the conclusions of the TRC Report are so flawed.
The scholarship in the Report is selective. As stated, no mention of AFN founder and residential school-attendee, (a residential school Thriver, as opposed to “Survivor”), William Wuttunee, and his idea that racial integration was the answer. No mention of his and Calvin Helin’s and Bill Wilson’s warnings about the debilitating and counter-productive effects of negative and obsessive fixations on the past. No mention of any aboriginals who had anything good to say about getting an education at a residential school, like the late, esteemed, residential school attendee, Basil Johnston, whose successful life and whose book Indian School Days, (see The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada, (above), were both deliberately neglected and not even mentioned!
Mr. Johnston, clearly because of his attendance at the residential school in Spanish, Ontario, went on to become a high school teacher in Toronto, and then an ethnologist for 30 years with the Royal Ontario Museum. He became an accomplished linguist, studying and preserving his Cree-based Ojibway language. He was a residential school success story, an example of the virtue of the assimilation principle- that one can merge into and succeed in the dominant culture while still retaining one’s culture of origin. His nuanced assessment of the residential school system is as follows:
Lastly, in reply to the inevitable question, “Is there a place for residential schools in the educational system?”, I respond with a qualified yes. Some who attended Garnier (at Spanish) have said, “It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.” However, for those going to St. Peter Claver’s (a previous version of the school in Wikwemikong) in the pre-Garnier days, it was “the worst possible experience.” Just as private schools have a place in the educational system, so too do residential schools, but under vastly different terms, conditions and formats from those that existed in the residential school as I first encountered it.
It’s disgraceful that, being in abject service to their all-encompassing narrative of genocidal trauma, the TRC deliberately, in another example of the principled neglect of a primary text, omitted all reference to this great Canadian, and to Indian School Days, a most interesting, helpful, balanced 646 and authoritative account and assessment of residential schools. (It was too full of inconvenient truths, I guess.)”
“Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Jack Major was a personal friend of Basil Johnston, and knew the residential school at Spanish quite well. His reflections:
The notion that pupils at residential schools were torn from happy homes is a myth. There may have been some of which I am unaware but in my experience a significant amount of children were rescued from starving on trap lines, many of whom were afflicted with TB (tuberculosis). In fact Spanish had a separate floor to care for those. It is true that English was paramount, but how else to equip the students to function off a particular reserve? It is strange that native spokesmen are reluctant to tout any success by them in the modern world…I suppose the silence reflects the motives of the vocal elements and misguided followers.
Shortly after the release of the TRC Report the renowned Canadian Cree residential school attendee, novelist, playwright, classical pianist and Order of Canada recipient Tomson Highway, who shamefully was not asked to testify before the Commission, expressed his view on his residential school experience:
All we hear is the negative stuff, nobody’s interested in the positive, the joy in that school. Nine of the happiest years of my life I spent at that school…You may have heard stories from 7000 witnesses that were negative. But what you haven’t heard are the 7000 stories that were positive stories. There are very many successful people today that went to those schools and have brilliant careers and are very functional people, very happy people like myself. I have a thriving international career, and it wouldn’t have happened without that school. You have to remember that I came from so far north and there were no schools there.
Since then Mr. Highway’s expressed view has been consistently, deliberately and again, shamefully, ignored by the TRC, politicians and the media. And Mr. Highway himself, a talented, humane, brilliant and disciplined aesthete, (in the best sense of the word), has been forsaken by the remorseless, censorious Puritans of the TRC and the Indian Industry generally, for being a human being first and an indigenous person somewhere after that, and thus an embarrassment and of no use to them. For Mr. Highway, but not for these people, the beautiful in life must never be subordinated to the mere, grim, guilt-based, race-based pursuit of money and power.”
“The late Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel (above) rejected the concept of collective guilt- of succeeding generations being judged guilty for the wrongdoings of their ancestors. Canadians should accept Mr. Wiesel’s wise and compassionate view of this, (he lived the Holocaust and his views deserve to be deferred to), and reject the shallow, finger-pointing, anachronistic, collective-guilt accusations of Mr. Sinclair and his TRC.
The complete absence of any sense of historical proportion- of historical context- of tragic realism– of any acknowledgment or discussion of the fact that these inherently tragic events caused by the collision of cultures and differing human interests constitute but one small example amongst countless thousands of an eternal, world-wide phenomenon, of one form or another, of dispossession, that has so-tragically played out year after year throughout historical time. These crucial absences must cause the TRC Report to be condemned with the verdict of being bad history.
And this kind of bad history- this kind of obviously incomplete history-this kind of negligent, intellectually lazy ignoring of the complexity of history- this kind of myth-making, forgetful and self-deceptive history-this kind of history that mentions not one of the many realities set out in chapter 6 above, Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New-this kind of history that almost wilfully and knowingly demands, all in the name of achieving the higher “cause”, that all these crucial facts and realities be omitted- is dangerous history.
It’s dangerous because all it’s good for is propaganda- for creating and perpetuating Christopher Hedge’s myth of separateness- the bane of the world today, and, locally, a key cause of all the harm and dysfunction in this crucial area of our national life. It’s dangerous because, in its simplicity and in its self-serving close-mindedness, it exemplifies the saying to the effect that any “ism”- any race-based movement- rejects ambiguity, where truth lies, in favour of an artificial, unreal uniformity.
It’s dangerous because it exemplifies the shallow and harmful tendency to ascribe all the problems experienced by indigenous-Canadians today to one great cause: “colonialist” dispossession and racism.
Beware single cause interpretations-and beware the people who purvey them.
The TRC Report downplays the fact, and treats it almost as inconvenient, that, since the late 1960’s, mainly ameliorative government actions and spectacular Indian court victories have dominated the Canadian Indian-non-Indian relational landscape.
It ignores the present reality that, day by day, our present era offers more racial decency than any previous era, that at no point in Canadian history has there been more freedom from anti-Indian racial impediments, and that at no point in our history has there been more reason for young Indian men and women to be hopeful that investing in themselves will pay dividends for the future.”
“This form of stubborn, almost belligerent, clinging to the past, is a tiresome and seemingly never-ending continuation of the harmful, retrograde, inward and selfish position of the Indian Industry elites described in 1971 by William Wuttunee in Ruffled Feathers:
What is the Indian cause as espoused by the Red Power (the name of the Indian elites opposing the Trudeau 1969 White Paper) advocates? It is the segregation of Indians from white people, the establishment of an administration financed by the Canadian taxpayer and run by Indian organizations; it is the promotion of a buckskin and feather culture and the attempt by Indian leaders to muzzle any criticism by their fellow Indians; it is the perpetual criticism of the Indian Affairs Branch, and the process of white witch-hunting. They believe it is the white society which is guilty and which should pay retribution for their pain and suffering. They blame everything on the white man and the Indian agents. They don’t like the word “assimilation” and “integration”, and plainly they don’t seem to like anything except the white man’s money.
Not much has changed.
And no doubt, had the TRC Commissioners been around in 1971, they would have been part of the group of Indian elites shunning this distinguished and accomplished aboriginal-Canadian and suppressing his freedom of speech.”
“Finally, the Commission’s Report so lacks any country-unifying and ennobling goal or end-purpose- any concrete, realistic proposals to attack the root of the problem (the Indian Act, reserves, and all the other aspects of the separate but equal status quo discussed in this book), and thus is very unfortunately seen by most non-Indian Canadians as just a further example of the tendency of the Indian industry and our governing classes to be unhealthily, unproductively and excessively fixated on the past, and not always for the best of motives.
Despite the positive aspects of it the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and its Report, will leave no long-term, ameliorative legacy for Canadians.
Canada has and will have the same dysfunctional, quasi-segregationist, separate but equal, danegeld-oppressed status quo as before, the root causes of which the Report, so rife with moral high-horse condemnation and shapeless compassion, and so devoid of truly realistic and game-changing recommendations, completely failed to address.
In fact the Report is being used by Indian elites to reinforce all that dysfunction, to continue the stoking of the guilt-making machine behind the past wrongs done to Indians-to maintain difference between Indian and non-Indian Canadians- and thus is being seen by ordinary Canadians as being cynically used too much as merely an agent for the accumulation of more power and money in the hands of the Indian industry- seen by ordinary Canadians as being foolishly used too much as a justification to repeat over and over the same mistakes from the past.
And it is no reparation of past faults to commit new ones in the opposite direction.
Nelson Mandela taught the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa, which he saw as being “non-racial.” His Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not, like Canada’s, an end it itself, a mere instrument, purportedly about “reconciliation,” but actually being about the further preservation of the essential status quo, which represents the opposite of real reconciliation.
Rather, his truth and reconciliation commission was the means to the much nobler goal of changing his country fundamentally – of ultimate racial unity and integration amongst all South Africans- one rainbow, ubuntu people living under one set of laws.
As he wrote in his magnificent and stirring autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom:
The very first step on the road to reconciliation is the complete dismantling of apartheid and all the measures used to enforce it.
It’s tragic that Canada’s truth and reconciliation effort didn’t emulate South Africa’s ubuntu spirit and philosophy. Their new Constitution does not privilege in any way one particular race. It’s tragic that Canada’s does and that our Truth and Reconciliation Commission wants to single out and privilege one particular race even further.
A great, ennobling, country-changing opportunity was squandered.
And as usual in these situations, the ones who suffer from the limited, squandered nature of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s efforts are not the ones promoting it- our Indian elites, the Indian industry generally and our enabling media and governing classes- but rather the Janices- the “murdered and missing”- and all the other vulnerable, marginalized, powerless, vast majority of Indian people.
Because the false message sent to ordinary Indians in relation to all this – especially the message that those vulnerable, impressionable younger ones get – is that, because Indian Canadians are still supposedly suffering and disabled because of “colonialism” and such events as the residential schools experience – because they still need to be “reconciled” – because of “cultural genocide” and the “broken treaties”, even though all that allegedly happened generations ago – they don’t have the same abilities as other peoples to properly process and overcome their history – they can’t do what the Jewish, Ukrainian and Eastern Europeans peoples did – what American blacks are trying to do. They can’t do what Chinese and Japanese Canadians did- what all the other peoples throughout history who found themselves in the same tragically dispossessed situation had to do- and did-they can’t master their task.
Unlike those other peoples with a far harsher and tragic past of sorrow and pity, the message from our non-Indian and Indian elites to ordinary Indians is that they are forever crippled and dependent and therefore hardwired to fail.
What a sad, wrong, condescending, defeatist and irresponsible message.
What a classic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations.
It’s a sure recipe for the continued segregation, demoralization and social and economic failure of the Indian peoples of Canada.”
From Chapter 41, Rethinking The Honour Of The Crown” Principle.
Honour – a clear sense of what is morally right. – Oxford
Fiduciary law in Canada, particularly in respect of the
Crown’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples, is a very
dynamic area of Canadian law. The nature and extent of the
particular obligations that may arise out of this relationship
are matters that are largely unsettled in the jurisprudence.
-Nordheimer J. Brown v. Canada (Attorney General)
Haida Nation, like Brown, said that the principle of “the honour of the Crown” was a fundamental principle governing the relations between the Crowns of Canada and Canada’s Indians, arising as it did out of the relationship of inequality and dependency between the federal Crown and our Indian peoples at the time the treaties were signed, and from the perpetual trust reposed in the Crown by Indians in those circumstances. Evidencing this, as related above in relation to the signing of the treaties, were the frequent references to the mother-child relationship existing between them, with the Crown being the “Great Mother” and the parleying Indians her “children.”
“Haida Nation also laid down the principle that the treaties are living documents, which, consistent with the honour of the Crown, must be interpreted generously and in the modern context, always taking into account current social and economic circumstances. Brown, by implication, does the same, with its use of such terms as “dynamic”, “fluid”, and “unsettled”, all terms implying the notion of change and adaptation, and implying that there is not necessarily only one way, carved in stone, for our governments to carry out these fiduciary-honour obligations.
It follows that, just as treaties should be interpreted, and re-interpreted, in light of prevailing and ever-changing social and economic circumstances, so also should the Crown fiduciary-honour principle be subject to a changing interpretation and a changing application in accordance with the ever-changing, dynamic and fluid facts on the ground- in accordance with ever-changing modern circumstances.
What is honourable Crown conduct in one era may not be so in another, which, I argue, is clearly the present case here. The operation of the status quo, even with all the new rights and entitlements for Indians that have been added to it, is not working, and never will.
The status quo is dishonourable. It’s condemning our Indian peoples to continued and further poverty, dependency and despair. It’s enriching a few at the expense of the many. It’s civically immoral in conception and effect.
And the other very negative effects of it – the diminution of Crown sovereignty, the diminishment of the rule of law and the damage to our economy – severely harming the vast majority of Indians as much as non-Indians- constitute further reasons why the present manner in which the Crown fiduciary-honour principle is being interpreted, applied and carried out must be radically changed.
One main root of the problem is that Canada’s Indians have so much provided for them by the Canadian taxpayer for which they have to do little or nothing to receive other than being born an Indian, that they have no real incentive to undertake any serious efforts to improve their condition, to become free, independent and, in the civic sense, full “adult” participants in the Canadian experience.
I assert that for Indians to “master their task” they need to “grow up.” But because of the way the Crown honour principle is being interpreted and applied they have no need to do this. Applying the Queen-parent-child analogy, they have no incentive, even though they’re “adults in years,” to leave their “Mother’s” house and try to make their own way in the world. They’re still living in the basement long after they should have left home. This is the “Queen Mother’s” – i.e. Canada’s – fault as much as anyone’s, because the reserve system and the Indian Act presume a merely child-like civic status being afforded Indians.
But nonetheless, moving forward, it can’t be denied that it’s the poignant duty of every parent to raise her children in such a way that they will leave home – that they will want and be able to leave home.
A parent sadly but proudly knows he’s done a good job when his child permanently leaves the nest and sets up and lives independently on his own.
Canada, the technically-legal parens patriae of all Indians, has, despite it’s honourably-intended past efforts, essentially failed in its parental duty to properly raise and prepare Indians to be willing and able to live in the real world on their own – to leave home. It has made the basement too comfortable to want to leave. The children are afraid to leave. In this, Canada, albeit for understandable reasons, has been a rather weak and ultimately neglectful parent.”
“Therein lies the carrying out of true, honourable, adult, parental duty and responsibility. Therein, in this modern era, lies the true path and manner for our governments to justly and properly carry out their fiduciary-honour obligations to our Indian peoples.
The justification for this course of remedial action is even stronger in Tsilhqot’in and UNDRIP-affected parts of Canada, like British Columbia. The Indian bands which inhabit these areas of the country, now claim, based on aboriginal title, virtual legal equality with- in some instances even legal supremacy over- our federal and provincial governments. As the Nemiah Declaration demonstrates, they’re moving to regulate and even prohibit hitherto Crown-authorized commercial and recreational uses on their lands, which are now essentially former public lands.
They’re saying in effect to their (former?) non-Indian fellow citizens: As newly declared owners of this land we will now control what takes place on it. And, by the way, you no longer naturally belong here. And further by the way, your laws don’t apply here and we can ignore them at our discretion. This was essentially the legally reasonable position of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their blockade of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in early 2020.
These Indigenous groups are professing to be quite independent, quite in control and thus no longer vulnerable to the discretionary power of non-Indian governments, federal and provincial.
And Indian vulnerability has always been key to the continued existence and operation of the Crown fiduciary-honour principle.
Thus, by operation of law, and by their own words and actions, they are eroding the “vulnerability” rationale for the continued application of the Crown fiduciary-honour principle to them. So as their power, control, and independence increases, so should the application to them of the Crown fiduciary-honour principle decrease, as should the transfer monies and substantial other benefits that go along with it.”
“Thus the Crown honour principle needs to be re-visited, re-thought and re-applied in such a way that Canada starts to treat Indians like a responsible parent would, not in accordance with what her Indian “children” subjectively want , but in accordance with what they objectively need in order to become self-supporting, civically-engaged, civic adults.”
From Chapter 42, Our Liberal Values.
The reserve system is purportedly collectivist and egalitarian rather than, like “Western” life, individualistic and inherently unequal. But the so-called equal rights of the Indian “group” are too often and too easily controlled and exercised by an almost mafia-style form of oligarchic, hierarchical rule, which is antithetical to pre-contact aboriginal tribal life, and so the raw power of these alpha rulers- exercised unequally and arbitrarily- too often prevails over the rights of Indian individuals. This kind of “resource seizure by people in power” is more typical of the excesses of modern capitalism than authentic, pre-contact aboriginal culture, where such selfish, anti-group-welfare behavior usually resulted in either banishment or death for the offender.
Band Indians have no property rights on their reserves. They have no proper justice system. They have lessened civil liberties. This is indisputably politically primitive and morally unacceptable.
William Wuttunee, in Ruffled Feathers, described the chief and band council- controlled land management system as “feudal.”
Aboriginal writer Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency, set out in clear and depressing detail all that is wrong and illiberal about the status quo:
…band governments answerable to no one; powerless community members; an AFN comprised of and representing only the self-interested Chiefs- “colonizers of their own people”- and generally, “a situation not unlike many banana republics.
There should only be two legally recognized, fundamental units in our constitutional makeup: the individual and the state itself. Intermediate units, like ethnic or religious groups, should have no formal, constitutional, legal status per se. To the extent that, for historical and legal reasons, the Canadian Indian “group” presently does have that separate constitutional status, our overall, long-term policy should be to move away from that situation, to evolve out of it and into a higher and more morally and politically just state of national, constitutional being.
Like all in tribal societies, the political and social culture of Indian bands is male dominated, (although admittedly Indian women, possessing, seemingly more than men, the “soft skills” more in demand in the post-industrial society, are becoming increasingly politically influential.) Many women have second class social status, and only very sketchy, uncertain rights on marriage breakdown, rights that vary from band to band, and that are, in any event, practically viewed, unenforceable.
Indian elites baselessly assert that Indians are somehow fundamentally different, as human beings, from non-Indian Canadians, and thus should continue to live legally and even physically separate and apart from the rest of us. They propagate the fundamentally false (and unintentionally fascistic) idea that the individual Indigenous person best expresses himself or herself as part of “mass experience.”This disgracefully condemns these vulnerable Canadians to always be suffering from a form of ghetto physical existence and ghetto mentality. This is the opposite of universalism, which sees all people as equal “members of an extended family living in a shared and interconnected world.” Ironically, this phrase fairly accurately summarizes the basic world view and operating principle of pre-contact aboriginal societies, which modern aboriginal societies, as evidenced by their conduct, and despite the mere words of their elites, eschew.
For all the reasons set out in this essay, the reserve system and everything connected to it is the very antithesis of progressive and meliorist. Under it the situation of Indians as a whole can never improve – can only stay the same or, more likely, get worse.
A political system based on classically liberal values will give individual Indians a far greater chance of maximizing their individual potential as human beings – of “inclining them to virtue”, and thus to accomplishment, than does either the present Indian Act reserve model or would the utopian “self-government” model advocated by Indian elites.”
Unfortunately, so far today, there seems to be no Indian Canadian version of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King emerging from amongst this self-satisfied, elitist group! There was one once, William Wuttunee, but he was frozen out by his own band-elite peers!
Despite this illiberal opposition from Indian elites and from the Indian industry generally, Canadians should be shouldering them aside as much as possible, adopting the pre-contact aboriginal worldview of all of us living in a shared and interconnected world, taking Nelson Mandela’s, Martin Luther King’s and their own William Wuttunee’s positions on behalf of Indian people generally, and starting to strive to live up to our liberal values and ideals. Our politicians and governing classes, if they are to restore their moral authority in the country, must start doing the same.
Because in the final analysis, as history has taught us, liberalism, liberal values and a cosmopolitan ethos, all focussing on the sanctity of the individual over any kind of group or “ism”, are the best we’ve got.
Liberalism and democracy, with all their limitations, are what remains after every utopia and extremist scheme based on blood and territory has been exposed and shattered by reality.
(From Robert Kaplan’s, In Europe’s Shadow, (above). Mr. Kaplan quotes Romanian intellectual E.M. Cioran, who, after World War Two, when he saw where it had catastrophically led, ruefully and guiltily renounced his own former blood-and soil-nativism and concluded:
One can only be a liberal out of exhaustion, and a democrat out of rational thought.)
Canada has achieved great things in the past when it set out to do so: the creation of the country itself in 1867 – our participation in the two world wars of the last century – becoming a beacon of national civility and hope for peoples the world over. We can do this too! We can and we must help our indigenous peoples to become emancipated from their no-doubt reassuring, but false nonetheless, “blood”-based and “race”-based sense of uniqueness- of apartness, where illusory, non-existent, unique “blood” falsely implies unique, special rights. We can and we must help to lead Indians out of their illiberal, race-obsessed, waking dream of voluntary servitude.
To borrow from the poet Robert Browning, a country’s reach should exceed its grasp, or what’s a heaven for?
From Chapter 43, The Myth of Race and Racial Differences.
We uncritically assume that, unlike most other so-called civilized countries in the world, which work towards giving race no special legal status, Canada must always continue to do so with respect to our Indian peoples. This is partly because they are, according to Canada’s Indian and non-Indian elites, racially unique from the rest of Canadians.
But this so-called “blood” racial uniqueness – this mandatory racial “apartness”- that our elites decree must always be respected and continued – is it really that real, concrete and substantial?
The concept of race is mainly an illusion – a mental construct – perhaps genetically and historically a necessary illusion – a necessary construct – originating in Man’s emotional and psychological need to feel that he “belongs” – that’s he’s special and different from the “other”- that he’s a part of something bigger than himself.
But it’s an illusion nonetheless.
“Race,” or “racial differences” – such substantive and seemingly conclusive and definitive concepts used to categorize and divide humans, and which engender such strong and intense emotions – on close analysis, turn out to be largely imaginative social constructs only, with very little scientific validity.
Sir David Cannadine writes in The Undivided Past:
According to the findings of the Human Genome Project, people of all backgrounds, locations and “races” share more than 99.9 percent of their DNA, and in the cases of the remaining 0.1 percent there is more variation within stereotypical racial groups than between them. This means that 99.9 percent of the genes of a “black” person are the same as those of a “white” person, and that the genes of any “black” person may be more similar to the genes of a “white” person, than to another “black” person.Thus understood, race is a biologically meaningless concept and category, literally no more than skin deep. It is neither innate nor permanent, for skin color can change dramatically from one generation to another as the result of mixed-race marriages. For all practical purposes race is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood.” For all practical purposes race is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood.The conclusion is inescapable: genetically, “racially”, socially, and in every other way that counts, there is no difference between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians!”
So why are we seeing the unity glass 1% empty when it’s 99% full?
Because we’re letting our baser instincts – our autopilot, default tribalistic side – our amygdala (see below) – call the shots.
Because our leaders, especially our indigenous leaders, have all the power and money reasons in the world to perpetuate these racist fallacies.
In neglecting or refusing to infuse and inform our politics and law with this basic, undeniable science- in not fighting this – in letting it prevail so – we are departing from all our past, enlightened practices, attitudes and values.
We are being un-Canadian.
From Chapter 44, The Amygdala Factor: Our Civic Duty To Give No Legal or Political Effects to Race-Thinking.
History, self-reflection, common sense and the daily news all teach us that racism and ethnic chauvinism have been common to all human cultures at all times, including the present.
It’s been a constant fact of human life, wretched though it may be. It’s not some disease that can be cured or eradicated at a weekend anti-racism seminar. It’s a damnable part of our human character that at best can only be acknowledged, carefully watched and monitored, and its negative manifestations constantly and vigilantly guarded against.
As Erna Paris, in From Tolerance to Tyranny (above) wrote:
…(it is useful) to acknowledge that the urge to distinguish ourselves- to discriminate in other words-on behalf of the self, the family, the tribe, the religion or the nation is a human characteristic that cannot be wished away with liberal good wishes or happy fantasies of linear progress…
To acknowledge what may be true psychologically is not to condone violence; it is to stop pretending that behaviour we abhor is less than human, and to concede that people and societies will never be perfectible. To deny that ethnic and cultural difference will always exist in varying degrees in mixed societies seems far more certain to invite danger.
Theodore Dalrymple wrote (above) that some political and social arrangements nurture all the excellences of which human nature is capable, while others stunt and deform it. In other words, as that quote applies to this essay, some civic “arrangements” heighten race consciousness, which is very bad, while others, creating more of that “social scaffolding” referred to above, which encourages rational behavior, lessen and minimize it.
The arrangements comprised of the Indian Act and all its manifestations, and now Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in and all of their manifestations and sequelae, all so counter to the general Canadian zeitgeist, are increasing negative, exclusionary race consciousness in Canada.
I believe that it’s the civic duty of Canadians, especially our elites, “to create circumstances in which human nature can best fulfil itself”-to promote social, political and legal arrangements that lessen race consciousness – that appeal to our higher and better instincts as expressed by our liberal values – that, as part of our constant need to vigilantly guard against giving any civic expression to our baser tendencies, fight anything that appeals to or gives expression to them.
And so I argue against the permanent presence of the Indian Act, reserves and race-based rights and entitlements – against Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in and UNDRIP and the permanent, psychologically baser sense of racial apartness they represent.
“Our elites need to be better aware of the amygdala factor. Haida Nation’s and Tsilhcot’in’s purported “reconciliation” of the Indian and non-Indian peoples of Canada is rendered virtually impossible when the underlying legal and political basis for it is one that increasingly focuses on the emotional triggers of racial differences and racial apartness.”
“The degree to which a country can be regarded as truly civilized is marked by the extent to which it tries, through its institutions, behaviors and modes of speech, to render the darker and more dangerous side of our genetic hardwiring – of our human nature – a civic non-issue, or at least tries to cause it to be channeled only positively.
Canada was doing a pretty good job on that account until recently. We were one of the best countries in the world on that score – maybe the best.
But now, as I argue, epitomized by Haida Nation, Tsilhcot’in and the execrable Daniels, the last with its civically unhealthy (to put it charitably) and completely unscientific focus on so-called “Indian blood”, we’re seriously falling down on that job.
Our elites are dismantling that old liberal, humanist social scaffolding that for so long served us so well. It’s hard to feel that our excellences are being nurtured any more. There’s a lot of dangerous and unhealthy emotion being churned up by this jurisprudence, and by the extreme form of race-based politics emanating from it, and by the illiberal and balkanizing behavior in which our elites are engaging in consequence of it.”
“New policies must be adopted de-emphasizing race as the controlling factor, and putting new focus on racial harmony, thus creating Joseph Heath’s social scaffolding and Professor Wilson’s appropriate contexts in which to permit those higher-directed brain cortexes referred to by him – those “higher learning centres” i.e. our reason, our idealism, our liberal values – the better angels of our nature – to light up, predominate, challenge and defeat the devil- our instinctive “Dark Side” – so as to better silence input through our collective amygdala – so as to better “mediate” our beast within, and relegate him to the deep, back recesses of the dark cave of Canada’s collective psyche.
Canadians want to be led to this Promised Land of racial unity, where those better angels dwell.”
From chapter 45, Dismantling The Colossus
“Ending the reserve system and special race-based laws and entitlements for Indians would be like Canada taking over that aggressively expanding country of entitlements, rendering it legally non-existent and then absorbing it – somewhat like West Germany re-uniting with and absorbing East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall or the United States re-absorbing the rebellious South after the American Civil War.
But this wouldn’t be the first time in history something like that happened, nor will it be the last. In fact, in historical terms, such an event can only be described as normal and commonplace. Keeping in mind that change is the only constant in history, and, just thinking historically a little, we become mindful of countless similar examples of empires, countries, kingdoms, states, tribes – countless other societies generally – undergoing fundamental change – basically ending, one way or another, for one reason or another – and, as part of that, morphing or assimilating into something else. This has always been and always will be the way of life and history.
Of course loud and apocalyptic howls of protest and cries of “racism” and “genocide” will emanate from Indian elites and other parts of the Indian industry, all of whom refuse to think historically, and discourage all others from so doing.
But hopefully authoritative voices would forcefully reply that this particular assimilative, integrationist change in our status quo would not be like any of those catastrophic, negative examples of forced change and assimilation written about above – that this would be a positive, nation-building undertaking that would deserve to be set, compared to those other examples, at the very opposite end of the change and assimilation moral spectrum.
Because this undertaking in essence would be the gradual and orderly replacement of one very harmful and dysfunctional constitutional and political governance regime with a much better one.”
“Under the proposed new regime, with legitimate and necessary Crown sovereignty restored, that chaotic mafia-style regime would be ended and, taking its place, these existing government affirmative action programs would be expanded and better codified.
Most importantly, for affected businesses, these valid costs of doing business would be spelled out in advance, thus restoring rational business planning and the rule of law. Economic development would become feasible again.
For the vast majority of ordinary, vulnerable, powerless Indians the situation would improve. Government affirmative action programs would benefit them far more than the present de facto favoritism and corruption-prone system controlled by band elites. More jobs would result for them, not fewer.
And those band elites? Most of them, in the early transition years, would keep their jobs and positions. They’re all smart people with a lot to offer. Only their work orientation would change.
The immediate changes would be, firstly on the political/constitutional level, with sole sovereignty restored to the Crowns of Canada, and secondly, on the moral level. Indian and non-Indian elites, for the first time, would be working towards the positive and inspiring goal of integrating Indian peoples with the rest of Canada – rather than, as now, working in effect to preserve quasi-segregation and “legislative racism.”
The attainment of full racial integration – bringing about a Canadian world where Indians will more likely live in our residential neighbourhoods than on reserves – which the better angels of our collective, civic conscience should compel us towards – is worth the multitude of short-term minor troubles, disruptions and inconveniences Canadians will experience on our way towards it.
From Chapter 46, Why Bother?
“All the power and money pursuits Indian elites are engaged in are completely divorced from and has no bearing on the on-the-ground, behind-closed-doors, fist-to-face reasons why those hundreds of poor, dear missing women- those “daughters of famine and chaos with nothing to sell but their youth,” and with “too much thirst for life to join the suicides”, (Victor Serge) acted with such fatal desperation in fleeing from their reserves- “where the morning brings no hope…seeing only future scenes of home sorrow” (George Eliot)- why those other poor, dying young souls, male and female, their search for a safe and purposeful life too parched for far too long, were driven, in their final, respective acts of mind-numbed, nihilistic despair, to kill themselves.”
“The suicide epidemics break out again and again, the shocking and senseless violence. The handwringing “compassionate” politicians fly in again, all the right photos taken. The emergency extra funding is found, and additional psychologists and social workers, earning huge per diems, are flown in, and all is temporary excitement and focus. But, eventually, everyone who can goes back down South, the hustle and bustle is over, and all reverts to the old deadening, killing, quiet and sameness. The old despair and danger, put on hold by all the big-shots’ fuss, returns.”
“And everywhere- emanating from our sanctimonious, well-fed elites, Indian and non-Indian- there is a fundamental, sickening, demoralizing, kick-the-ball-down-the-road detachment from the immediate, urgent, life or death needs- imperatives! of these desperate young Canadians!”
“Whence this detachment? One day it would seem the very soul of the matter: a failure to imagine will make us die.“- Playwright Arthur Miller
“For the past 40 years we have been plowing money into the programs. We have no evidence that it’s working.”- Joe Wild, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, 2016.
“We see now that too little of the billions of dollars paid annually by Canadians to Indian bands flows down to and benefits the dispossessed Indian underclass. The “strong men rule” nature of the tribal/reserve governance system, with its inherent lack of accountability, with its tendency not to nurture all the excellences of which human nature is capable, ensures that, even with all the consult and accommodate monies and entitlements flowing into the possession and control of these elites, this will always remain essentially the case.”
“Many Aboriginal youth feel that they are “conquered subjects” of a systemic and antiquated form of government suited to the benefit of the elites and paid for on the backs of the suffering grassroots indigenous people.”- Indigenous writer and businessman Calvin Helin, from his book, Dances With Dependency.
“Ordinary Canadians are similarly feeling weary and disconnected today. We’re weary of reading about the suicide epidemics and all the poor criminally-neglected Janices and the Kashechewans and the Attawapiskats, and hearing our Indian and non-Indian elites solely blame ordinary Canadians and our “colonialist-imperialist” ancestors for it- all to no good end and making little difference. We’re weary of being held hostages to guilt. We’re weary of our Indian and non-Indian elites continuing to pretend that the reserve system itself– the “disease at the root of the suffering” (Michael Ten Dandt), is not the real problem and that any public discussion of that fact is forbidden. We’re weary of these elites, wielding “the destructive power of ideological abstractions over human lives”, (Alexander Herzen), continually sacrificing present generations of aboriginal citizens for the sake of a utopian future- the “nation to nation” sovereignty chimera- that is nothing but glorified nonsense and that will never come!”
In Long Walk to Freedom (above) Nelson Mandela wrote of the debilitating effects of apartheid laws:
A person’s life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth, drain his potential and stunt his life.
These debilitating effects of our version of apartheid laws will only persist and worsen.
And to continue to support the status quo, however it is dressed up, is to recklessly and indifferently support more of this disgraceful, immoral, institutionalized failure and harm. It’s to be like a person driving by endless car crashes involving Indians, seeing them suffering on the side of the road and refusing to stop and help, but instead, looking the other way – pretending not to see and driving on by – a variation of the “bystander effect” – where people see or hear someone being victimized and harmed, pretend they’re not aware of it, and neglect to intervene. At best the present efforts to improve the situation are basically like that person driving by, throwing bandaids out the car window, and stepping on the gas.
We need to stop allowing efforts to remedy the situation to be restricted to top down measures conjured up by Indian and non-Indian elites and implemented only through those elites. Gandhi reminds us to:
…recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him a control over his own life and destiny…? The continuation of the status quo here means a big “no” to Gandhi’s questions.
To continue on as we are going is simply wrong. It’s to stay fundamentally detached. It’s to act dishonourably towards Indians- towards Janice-and all the other tragic sufferers like her. It’s to continue with a course of conduct that’s offensive to our core values and destructive to the general welfare and ultimate best interests of all our citizens, particularly our Indian citizens. To continue with the status quo-to attempt to enhance it and further entrench it – is to live a national lie – to let grow a bigger stain on our honour.
For the long-term health of our country and our citizenry, Indian and non-Indian alike, we need to expunge the stain. We need to expose and expunge the living lie. We all need to stop being drive-by bandaid throwers. To continue as we are is to live in a state of permanent psychic unease, where eventually not just the mind but the body sickens. The Indian part of the Canadian body politic is already sick and getting sicker – with nothing happening that can reasonably be said to be any kind of cure.
Countries, like individuals, to live right and well, need to consciously and expressly strive to live up to their higher values, no matter how difficult and wearisome that seems to be.”
From Chapter 47, Amending the Constitution and Overiding Haida Nation Jurisprudence.
The basis of our political system is the right of the people
to make and to alter their constitutions of government-
A State without the means of some change is without the
means of its conservation. Without such means it might
even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which
it wished the most religiously to conserve. – Edmund
Wrong turns teach us the right way. – David Mitchell
“The makers of the Constitution Act, 1982, of which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a part, knowing that future generations might feel the need to amend it, built in an amending provision. So to amend our constitution in the way I am proposing would not be doing something undemocratic, as will most certainly be loudly decried. Rather it will be doing something totally consistent with the wording of the constitution, something which the makers of it expressly contemplated would and should happen in appropriate future circumstances.”
“Any steps taken by Ottawa or the provinces to fundamentally change the status quo, short of amending the Constitution by repealing section 35, would be unconstitutional, plain and simple. But constitutions are not meant to stay the same forever. They can and should be amended when circumstances warrant.”
“The unforeseen modern reality we now have is that tragically, the vast majority of Indians, with the constant exception of their extremely well-to-do, powerful, well-travelled and well-fed elites, have become a permanently segregated, largely urban or urban-oriented, almost invisible underclass of Canadian society. It clearly hasn’t worked out as the signers of the treaties envisaged.
As with the Crown honour principle, when facts change, minds and conduct should change accordingly.
As a starting point for change therefore, section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would have to be repealed. In order to do this a great public debate would have to be started. Provincial referenda and a federal referendum would have to be held and the referenda question receive substantial approval. The Senate and the House of Commons and two-thirds of the provinces representing at least fifty per cent of the population of Canada would all have to pass appropriate resolutions. In addition, constitutional conferences would have to be held, involving the Prime Minister, the premiers of the provinces and representatives of the Indian peoples of Canada.
At the same time as section 35 is repealed, section 25 of the Constitution Act, which exempts Indians from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (as stated above, they are presently quite free, because of this most illiberal provision, to discriminate against each other and against their fellow citizens on the basis of race, creed, religion, ancestry etc.) would also have to be repealed.
Just simply stating all this- as if it were all that simple- in almost child-like fashion as I do-(One can imagine any member of the Indian or non-Indian establishments, if he or she ever read this, incredulously saying: “Is he crazy or stupid or what?”- Perhaps-perhaps not.)- highlights clearly how, as stated above, this whole effort would have to be elevated to the political and moral status of a national undertaking- a national mission-with attendant risks and disturbances to be stoically and resolutely endured- akin to other similar, risk-bearing nation-building and nation-defining undertakings Canada has courageously engaged in, ultimately successfully, in the past.
The accomplishment of these constitutional changes would then set the legal stage to surely, effectively and predictably, as much as humanly possible, begin the long process of bringing Indians into the Canadian family as true equals.”
From Chapter 48, Ending the Reserve System and Race-based Laws.
“It is imperative that Indians should have full equality before the law. The provisions of the Indian Act do not give them equality. They are saddled with disadvantages which hound them continually in their daily lives. Their problems cannot be attributed to white Canadians only. It is a problem which lies on the shoulders of everyone. Canada must be prepared to repeal the Indian Act completely.” – William Wuttunee, indigenous AFN co-founder and pioneering indigenous lawyer.
“As in the case of the abolition of American slavery, an egg well worth breaking for the omelette of freedom, the passing of a law that takes away someone’s established rights or that abrogates an existing agreement can often be regarded as a much-needed and morally justified act – an act that serves a higher purpose than the abrogated law or agreement did – an act that brings a country’s reality into conformity with its ideals.
Laws abrogating the old treaties with Canada’s Indians, accompanied by meliorist measures, would fall into that category.”
“The affording to Indians of the status of full equality with their non-Indian fellow Canadian citizens would constitute Canada’s version of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery.”
From Chapter 49, Care and Compassion During the Transition Period
“The basic, macro legal steps outlined above that would need to be taken to end the reserve system would only be a small part of the national, Marshall Plan-type undertaking that would have to be carried out in order to bring Indians in all respects into the Canadian mainstream.
No doubt the undertaking would be traumatic, especially for Canada’s Indians. A people kept psychically penned up- conditioned to experience only the reserve and the state as the ultimate focus of their worldview- conditioned to look to the state- to expect the state, now and into the indefinite future- to be the ultimate provider, one way or another, of their needs- when that kind of parental state involvement in their lives is removed, and they are reduced to living merely “normal” private lives, (as when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990’s), there will be significant adaptability and identity problems.
When the zeal and moral certainties of their adversarial, victim mentality-based, “nation-to-nation” fantasies have been replaced with the lukewarm gruel of “mere” equality, there will be social trauma.
“They saw themselves as exiles from their vanished homeland, a mythical Soviet Union nostalgically remembered for its certainties, familiarities, consumer goods that never existed…For this generation the 1990’s were a catastrophe. They lost everything: a familiar way of life, an economic system that guaranteed security; an ideology that gave them moral certainties, perhaps some hope.”
This inherently grand, noble and very difficult undertaking would take decades to accomplish. The financial costs would be enormous. An eventual target year and date for integration would have to be set- a date not only practical, but symbolic, such as July 1st, Confederation Day. The time between the legal beginning of this undertaking and that target date would be a very challenging, exciting, ultimately positive transition period.
It would be like the massive undertaking to bring East Germany back into a united Germany. A target date was set in that situation. Frenzied work was carried out during the transition period, and on the target date, it happened. An old regime died. A new, better regime took its place. Reconciliation and equality were the watchwords, and eventually those watchwords, despite the inevitably occurring adjustment problems- (similar to the Soviet Union’s, but without the descent into a gangster state that befell the latter)- became a self-fulfilling prophesy. It was extremely difficult and uprooting, but again, like Lincolns’ civil war, looking back everyone agrees it was worth the sacrifices made.”
“We have the social capital to make it work.
We just can’t keep driving past the car crash and pretending we don’t see. Or seeing, just throwing band-aids out the window as we speed up and hurry on our way.”
From Chapter 50, It’s Not Impossible- (Nelson Mandela Proved It.)
“One must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him… To my mind, it is less a question of an exalted or shrewd intelligence, than of good sense, goodwill, and a certain sort of courage to enable one to rise above both the pressure of one’s environment and the natural inclination to close one’s eyes to facts, a temptation that arises from our immediate interest and from the fear which problems inspire in us.”– Victor Serge
“On some future morrow identity questions might seem incomprehensible, or beside the point, when globalization is further advanced. But for the moment, in too many places, we will have to endure divisions of identity and myth: divisions that are frankly undeniable because people believe them even as they must be resisted.”- Robert Kaplan, In Europe’s Shadow
“Nothing is irreversible except death.” -Amoz Oz
“Not one of our Indian and non-Indian elites is prepared to engage with, much less try to answer, the big question- the Nelson Mandela question: Why is Nelson Mandela’s goal and vision of “one set of laws for all races” in the country not the right goal and vision for Canada?”
“Canada needs to start off on a different path in order to better the disgraceful position of Indians in our country today, in order to achieve true progress for them. Indians and non-Indians need to become partners again, like we were in the early days of first contact, only this time, inevitably and necessarily, under the aegis of social and legal equality and ultimate Crown sovereignty.”
“Heroism is essential to politics. We live for an hour when a politician stands up in the dusty arena and we recognize, with astonishment, that here is a person to take risks, tell us what we don’t want to hear, face possible defeat for a principle, tackle insuperable odds, and by doing so, show us that politics need not just be the art of the possible, but the art of the impossible. Heroism is in fact a social virtue, nurtured by loyalties to people you know you must defend if you are to live with yourself afterwards.”- Michael Ignatieff
“I think all Canadians would be similarly richly affected if our Indian population, instead of being isolated from the rest of us, became an omnipresent, ubuntu, part of our daily lives; if that “double consciousness” described by W.E.B. DuBois (see Introduction), greatly and tragically exacerbated by the events of the past thirty years, became a fundamentally singular Canadian consciousness; if they lived in our neighborhoods instead of so far apart from us, and thus could better “share in the common inheritance of life’s best goods.” (David Brooks); if their cultural traditions were shared and seen as an open hand of greeting instead of being perceived by Canadians as a brandished fist, (“nothing comes from blame but evil tempers”-George Eliot), and as advocacy instruments in their elites’ constant, relentless, separatist-like power and money claims- were shared with other Canadians in the context of daily, commingled, community life, and thus experienced by Canadians as a positive, felt part of our Canadian community’s day-to-day- life, of our country’s rich, rainbow reality.”
“To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country.
Each time one of us touches the soil of this land we sense a personal renewal.
We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us”- Nelson Mandela
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