Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Canada: Its Time to #IdleNoMore

            The last two weeks have been interesting in ‘Indian Country’ and I have been mostly silent due to my own commitments. However, this now is changing as I can no longer show commitments to items without first protecting my own rights, the rights of my family, community, the Anishinaabeg Nation and many other Indigenous Nations. The developments over the last two weeks has been troublesome – developments that some of us knew were coming. Last week the federal government of Canada, headed by Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party of Canada, put forth Bill C-45, which is considered an Omnibus Bill.

            Many had problems with this bill, particularly First Nations, as there were various sections that look to be implemented that would have direct impact on them, their rights, their jurisdiction, and their existence. This was the final proverbial ‘legislative slap in the face’ that has now led to the increasing protesting, action, and vocal ability of those who are apart of the many Indigenous nations across the Northern section of Turtle Island (in fact solidarity and support is now extending throughout Turtle Island). The fact is, the sections that impact Indigenous people in C-45 (specifically First Nations), are not the first onslaught, or the second, from the Conservative government. Thus, there are many pieces of Canadian legislation that are being forced upon Indigenous people via the Canadian House of Commons – without any proper and dutiful consultation.

Current legislation being imposed include:
·      Bill S-8 (First Nations Safe Drinking Water)
·      Bill S-2 (Matrimonial Interest or Rights Act)
·      Bill C-48 (First Nations Taxation Act)
·      Private Members Motion Bill C-428
·      Bill C-27 (First Nations Accountability Act)
·      Bill S-207 (Interpretation Act)
·      Bill S-6 (First Nations Elections Act)
·      Bill S-212 (Self-Government and Examining Non Derogation
·      First Nations Education Act
·      First Nations Property Ownership Act

I will warn those who are reading this – do not be fooled by the way the titles sound. They are not as probable and proper as one would think. The fact is all of these pieces of legislation strengthen the Canadian colonial hold on Indigenous nations and its peoples and moves forward the degradation of their recognition through 1969 White Paperesque formulations.

            This Canadian government has continued to move on policy based off of selected individuals who are denounced, for the vast majority of the time/part, by those who these policies impact. Individuals such as Tom Flanagan, Manny Jules, and Members of Parliament such as Rob Clarke are just a few. Clarke is pushing a bill that will abolish the Indian Act without proper consultation and proof that the treaties that Canada has unilaterally pushed under it would be protected when the dismantling occurs. Kelly Block, another Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, is imposing ‘transparency legislation’ on First Nations – yet doesn’t seem to support the same when it comes to her own government and items such as F-35s, etc. The Matrimonial Real Property Bill has been turned into a ‘womens’ rights issue’ when the reality is the bill will do more harm to Indigenous women then help them due to the problems and loopholes in the bill – especially when some communities already have their own matrimonial real property laws that work effectively and properly.

One final Bill to discuss is the Private Property Bill that is coming forth with Bill C-45. This bill, it is argued, allows for First Nations people to be able to have the ‘right’ to have better valued land in order to properly obtain mortgages to build houses, to allow banks to take the property if they do not pay their loans, or to sell the land. This is a heavy and offensive attack on Indigenous lands that are to be reserved for them based on treaties. There was no consultation for this piece of legislation and it is unilaterally being imposed. Do the claims of what would be done truly hold up and benefit Indigenous people? No. What bank is going to give a loan to a single parent with 4 children who is on social assistance? What if it was two parents; still no. For most First Nations people their income and credit will automatically prevent them from such a thing. For many, the selling of land is their only possibility to obtain some form of financial gain since the Indian Act continues to impose restrictions on economic development in First Nations communities – thus making many in the northern regions dependent on Canadian funds.

            The truth is this policy will be far more detrimental to our well being as Indigenous people and as partners alongside Canada. Is there proof this is the case? I suggest you look up the United States’ Dawes Act. This was the exact same policy, more or less, and it has led to a far worse situation for the Indigenous nations that now share territory with the United States. Again, I echo: Far worse.

            After six years, and the stagnation of the period prior to the 2000s, Indigenous people are starting to rise up and it is these items that led to anger and action. Our elected Chiefs, whether through the Band system or not, had tried to bring attention to this on December 4th – only to be man handled by House of Commons security. These elected officials, who represented the people these pieces of legislation would impact, were denied the right to be there to speak for their citizens. Outrage from the Indigenous world ensued.

This would give birth to the #IdleNoMore campaign that is now apparent on various forms of social media. I would like to say thank you to all of those, like Tanya Kappo, Autumn Eagle Speaker, Chrystal Sinclair, and Cherish Clarke, who spear headed movements in their areas.  I also thank all of those who are keeping this movement going on and it reminds me why I do what I do now and why it is important to be involved. No matter the consequences that could occur for me - protecting the rights of my family, the future generations of my family, my community, and all Indigenous nations, that Canada must remember it shares this territory with, is too important to let fall to the wayside!

            While many of us push back through the forms of protest, blogging, social media, and so on – we have allies coming to our side. One such ally that has not been given any credit is the Member of Parliament for St. Paul’s – Carolyn Bennett. As the Liberal Party of Canada’s Critic for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs she has been instrumental in pushing the government on its colonial mentality (even after they tried to accuse her of being ‘racist’ for doing so to individuals like CPC MP Leonna Aglukkaq and Rob Clarke). Just recently, Dr. Bennett rose in the Canadian House of Commons and told all Members of Parliament that the Indigenous people were justified in their actions and that, in a more proper and civil speech, that it is time for realignment, a proper and working relationship, and to wake up to the realities. I for one thank her.

            On top of this you have individual people now on a hunger strike to bring attention to Indigenous treaty rights. Attawapiskat’s Chief, Theresa Spence, is the best-known individual who is involved with this cause. How can Canada and its citizens simply stand by and not realize that the problems that exist are real and not simply just the fault of Indigenous people and their ‘vassal state’ governments? Well, the longer they continue to be oblivious the worse it will get – The level of the Oka Crisis in 1990, the Gustafson Lake Standoff, and the Ipperwash Standoff is being reached and soon will be passed. Where will we all stand when it gets to this because of a Canadian government that is controlled by people who have their heads stuck up their own specific ideological butts?

            In a time when Canadians are focused on employment, how much they deserve to be paid or not be paid, International concerns like Syria, Israel and Palestine, as well as pipelines, guns, and leadership campaigns – Indigenous people struggle for adequate food, water, housing, incomes, and recognition. While Canadians prepare for the holidays, Indigenous people are now protesting, being vocal, blockading, and going on hunger strikes. The Canadian government tries to ignore this and stifles the inherent and legally binding rights of the Indigenous people. But are we surprised, the CPC Prim Minister has stated “Canada has no history of colonialism.” So what is one to do in relation to the increasing turmoil that is impacting Indigenous people and leading to their vocal opposition?

            I for one will be there in full support – for the sake of and survival of the rights that belong to my 11 and 7 year old nephews; my 7 year old and 1.5 year old nieces; for my family as my mother ages and requires more healthcare, assistance, and medication; the right for my sister to consider a university degree with the proper funding she is supposed to be guaranteed. I also stand for these things for all Indigenous people.

            I will not go away – nor will the vast majority of others who are being persecuted (and even possibly punished, for standing up for their rights as citizens of their Indigenous nation). I may consider myself a Canadian citizen – but I also consider myself an Anishinaabeg citizen and if Canada makes me choose – then so be it.



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