Friday, 28 December 2012
(Part 3) Those Who Live in Glass Houses Should be Wary of Casting Stones: The NDP & Indigenous Relations (Part 3: 1993 – 2012):
Throughout part 1 and part 2 of this write-up I had looked to shed light on the relationship between the NDP and Indigenous peoples via policy, voting, and mindset. As was quite noticeable in part 1, the NDP had no difference in their mindset from that of the other Canadian political parties – that is until after the 1969 White Paper had been introduced (a paper which mimicked an NDP policy from 1963). In part 2, the NDP was struck by internal division from members and sitting parliamentarians, as well as provincial NDP wings, on how best to handle patriation of the Constitution and the accords of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But what of the NDP from 1993 and up to the present date? This is an important question to consider and will be done in this 3rd, and final, write-up on the NDP and Indigenous nations.
I will state now as I always state: The Liberal Party of Canada has made many mistakes, even into the 1990s – I acknowledge this and I don’t hide it or defend it. However, I argue that no party – whether in forming government, as opposition, or as a third party, can be saved from guilt of past policies and legislation that has been implemented. Unfortunately this is just met with more partisan mantra by my ‘orange’ friends to the left. So, after many attacks on not just me and my choice of party, but also my family and the mindset I, and those Indigenous people who vote Liberal, are helping to assimilate ourselves, I decided to do some research. This research is specifically on the NDP and the hypocrisy it espouses when it attacks another party for policy that is decades old, such as the White Paper.
I do want to acknowledge now, this may be a long post to follow –but one of importance due to the sheer amount of research done to shed some truth to the NDP/Indigenous relationship.
The 1990s & early 2000s: The Changing of the Guard and a ‘Golden Age’ on Indigenous Rights
With the federal election of 1993, the NDP saw not only a new leader at its helm but almost its destruction as it was reduced to 9 seats in the House of Commons. The new NDP Leader, although being from the Yukon, lost support amongst Indigenous people due to the NDP standing on the Charlottetown Accord. This led to many high-profiled NDPers at provincial levels to leave that party and join the Liberals federal – one being Elijah Harper who helped quash the Meech Lake Accord and campaigned against the Charlottetown Accord.
Currently, I have had a difficult time finding platform points from the NDP on Indigenous issues in the 1993 election platform that they would have ran on. There is belief that the unified support of the Charlottetown Accord by the NDP had led to many Indigenous people moving to the Liberals in 1993, including potential candidates. Throughout the time of McLaughlin. Being the MP for the Yukon, it is quite interesting that this would occur and that no substantive policy existed in the NDP Platform of 1993 to show support to Indigenous people.
With the many cuts being made by the Chretien Liberals after their win in 1993, support did sway back to the NDP. By the 1997 election the NDP had again obtained a new leader, Alexa McDonough from Nova Scotia. Additionally, discontent with Liberal cuts to areas such as employment insurance, healthcare, and Indigenous funds should have led to an increase in voter support from various groups. This was very noticeable in Atlantic Canada. But what of the Indigenous Population? What did the NDP promise to do in the 1997 election campaign?
Upon reviewing much of the 1997 NDP election platform it is suprising to see little to no acknowledgement of promises and acknowledgement of Indigenous nations and rights. In fact, the 1997 election campaign was fought specifically over the issues of the Canadian economy and employment from the NDP side. It was clear the issues of the majority took precedent in this election. The Indigenous population again was left out from the NDP. Again, I will express that the NDP still had within the party that it was important to consult and work with Indigenous people – yet it offered no substantive policy at a time that would have been a perfect time to ‘cash in’ on the possible Indigenous vote. But, other then the Yukon, Winnipeg North-Centre, Winnipeg Centre, Churchill, and Churchill River, the other 16 seats the NDP won that year head very little ability to be impacted by the Indigenous vote. Additionally, it is not fully clear how Indigenous people voted in these ridings because the information seems to be non-existent.
Traditionally, Indigenous turn out in urban areas could be less, as his been mentioned in more recent articles and thus it can be argued that the urban ridings listed above may have been impacted by employment and cuts to services then Indigenous people angry at the Liberals. Again, Indigenous policy was not at the forefront for the NDP in 1997 either. The same can be argued, and seen when dealing with the 2000 election under McDonough as leader of the NDP. No policy was really introduced nor were many solutions considered.
I will give credit to the NDP for speaking up against various pieces of policy that would impact Indigenous people during this decade, and the early 2000s. The NDP had developed a good method for keeping the HOC in check when relating to Indigenous people. In most cases, the bills they had to speak out against would not be passed – such as Bill C-7. Thus the NDP support for Indigenous rights was becoming apparent, but specifically when attacking the governing party of the time. From minutes recorded on various Bills that impacted Indigenous people the NDP did nothing more then to point out the flaws, the need for consultation, but lacked suggestions to move forward. During this time it was apparent via the media and correspondence between the NDP and Indigenous organization that they were listening and expressing what they were hearing to the HOC – but not possible solutions per se.
The Rise of Jack Layton:
By January of 2003 the NDP had obtained another new leader, one of whom most of us recall more readily then his predecessors: Jack Layton. Layton came from a political family, with his father serving in Brian Mulroney’s Caucus within the HOC in the 1980s and early 1990s. Layton espoused what one would expect for an NDP leader – one who was to the left, social responsibility, and one who was supposed to understand Indigenous issues and their rights.
In fact, the platform for the NDP in 2004 actually had a section reflecting Indigenous people, like the Liberal Party had done. They were committed to respecting treaties and working with Indigenous people to resolve land claims (including with the provinces). They advocated for clean water for first nations communities, for Indigenous communities to administer their own health care programs, work with the communities to foster economic growth, and so on. Majority of this reflected Health Care and governance. Similar aspects were put forth by Paul Martin in the Liberal camp, who had also adapted his understanding and viewpoints on Indigenous nations, rights and Jurisdictions. Thus, the Liberals at this time also had some strong points that it put forth. In turn a minority Liberal government was sent to the HOC with also the only true Indigenous representation within the HOC. In fact, in the 2004 election it was not clear that the NDP had even put forth any Indigenous candidates – even in ridings with high Indigenous representation. Why? I do not know – only the NDP would.
Despite the push and change in the platform from past platforms, the NDP still were not making breakthroughs at this time. Instead, they continued to hurl past actions of the Liberals upon the Liberals, forgetting about their own history of similar policy and Eurocentric mentality.
The Kelowna Accord and the 2006 Federal Election:
Between 2004 and 2006 the Liberals and NDP had found common ground and had agreed to work together, given a few demands by the NDP that the Liberals agreed to. This had been done in the Minority governments of Trudeau, Pearson, as well as Mackenzie-King. During this time Paul Martin, also used his new found opinions on Indigenous people to start moving forward – the first time, in my opinion, a Canadian political Prime Minister and Leader had shown true action and truth to his words. Martin, in the late 1990s, had, as he told the APC Executive in January 2011, had a change in mindset via a discussion between him and LPC MP Jane Stewart. He then began an educated movement for himself to learn and open his mind about Indigenous people, to which he had done and was still doing upon taking the Liberal leadership in 2003.
This was reflected in his ability to encourage support and representation from the Indigenous population as candidates, as voters, and when drafting policy. The best example of such a policy was the Kelowna Accord. The Accord sought to help support Indigenous nations to come to par with their Canadian counterparts on issues such as Healthcare, Education, Infrastructure, Clean Water, and so on . Almost all of these items, as I listed, were in the NDP platform for 2004 – excluding education and infrastructure which the Liberals added on their own. Paul Martin, at this time, also was one of the first leaders to have direct involvement of Indigenous people in his inner circle, with one of his policy advisors being Indigenous himself.
The Kelowna Accord was agreed to by not only the federal government of Canada, but the provincial governments, as well as almost all Indigenous leaders – A first time in Canadian history. It was applauded by the Indigenous side and considered a major breakthrough and stepping stone forward for Indigenous/Canadian relations, despite the long list of past mistakes from within Canada and its political parties. Even the NDP supported the Accord, but that was to change as the Gomery Inquiry released its preliminary draft and polls showed an increase in support for NDP – albeit not a substantial amount.
One must remember though, Layton came in to take over a party that was stuck with 14 seats prior to the 2004 election. Even after the 2004 election, the seat count only increased to 19. Polls were showing that Layton believed there was an opportunity to be in striking distance of what the NDP achieved in 1988 – a seat count in the mid 40s. Originally the NDP and Liberals also had an agreement that Martin would call an election in February –once the full inquiry was released. But with the polls, statistics, and so on showing possible advantages the NDP expressed that the Liberals must abide by a key health care plank of theirs. This was unprecedented due to the original agreement of support over other concessions given for the budget in 2005 to secure the support of the NDP. Thus, the NDP, under Layton, joined the Conservatives and Bloc in a motion of non-confidence and leading to the general election of 2006.
Many of us recalled what happened in that election. The Conservatives would win a minority and in doing so they killed the Kelowna Accord. Not only did they destroy Kelowna, but they also killed the National Childcare plane that Martin had etched out, as well as the Kyoto Accord. For many of us this was not a surprise as we, especially on the Indigenous side, knew where the Conservatives stood on Indigenous items. Again, this election only saw Indigenous candidates under the Liberal banner. In the House of Commons, the Liberals had Gary Maresty, Tina Keeper, Nancy Karetak-Lindell, and Todd Russell. The NDP did not have any Indigenous candidates, that were known of, again – even in Nunavut where they ran a non-Indigenous person. One would assume that you would try and run someone who is connected with the majority population of a riding, like you see the parties do in urban centres.
The NDP did see their seat count increase to 29, which also included the riding of Northwest Arctic. This riding was originally held by the first Indigenous female to be elected to the House of Commons – Ethel Blondin-Andrew. The NDP would replace her with a non-Indigenous male who now represented a riding with a Indigenous population over the 50% mark. I understand that all is fair in the war of elections but I did find this shocking since the NDP consistently argued that they advocated for Women, representation of women in the House of Commons, Indigenous rights, the rights of children, national child care, and environmental protection. Even the current Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, chastised Layton and the NDP for a clear push on an election to obtain more votes and seats – rather then based on seeing good policy and legislation passed that worked for the masses and many groups the NDP considered important to them.
Thus began the re-emergence of a dark period for Indigenous/Canadian relations and even even more ignorant and colonial minded one since the 1960s and 1970s, I would argue. Who do I hold at fault for this? Both the CPC for being ignorant on this and the NDP for becoming electorally greedy. I don’t care if other parties do it, or that it is the name of the game – the truth is I strongly view the NDP as selling their morals in November of 2005 – all in order to obtain 10 more seats. But again, this was in 2005/2006. I shouldn’t be like the NDPers who consistently attack me for the White Paper, which again I must point out was like their 1963 Indian Policy Paper and that they initially supported the White Paper on the day it was introduced. Or the lack of proper consultation or proper consideration for Indigenous views in the 1980s and early 1990s like that of the NDP, as previously shown.
But alas, when you question the NDP about their support in destroying the Kelowna Accord, despite their contradictory mention of it in their 2006 election platform, the replies I get are “that opinion is obsolete and not important,” according to NDP MP Linda Duncan (see blog post on this), or that Martin would never have allowed it to pass. I guess people say what they need to in order to make up for their mistakes – and the Liberals have been no different in this when reflecting the past. However, perhaps I am being too partisan and that after 2006 there was more sign of NDP wanting to truly work with Indigenous people … unfortunately there are some examples that will show that partisanship was more important then the plights of the Indigenous nations and the continued attack of the Harper Conservatives.
The Matrimonial Real Property Debate of May 2009:
As the political process and increased control of the Conservatives occurred from the 2008 federal election, the push to bring back pieces of legislation that the CPC had been trying to enforce since 2007 was noticeable. The best example I know of that should be assessed from the election of a CPC government in 2006 to almost the 2011 election, would be that of the Matrimonial Real Property Act – a bill with no proper consultation, many loop holes and possible disastrous outcomes if passed. During this time I was working for a political organization, of which had sent representatives to meet and speak with members of each party on this bill – in hopes of convincing a change of mind on the policy. It was clear the CPC would not, abiding by party line. The Bloc said they would support the CPC and ignored the repress from Chiefs in the Ontario area – mainly due to the fact they were not ‘from Quebec’ most likely. The NDP came out heavily in support of the Indigenous push to ‘kill’ this controversial and misguided bill. The Liberals, did not know where to stand.
Eventually, after months of work from my position as well as my internal involvement, the Liberals, with the help of Todd Russell who was an Indigenous MP, chose to do what they could to ‘kill’ the bill. The Liberals chose to do this on May 14th, 2009. The used the support of the majority of Indigenous peoples as well as Indigenous governances and organizations for why this bill needs to be redone. However, in a surprise move, after Russell was attacked by Duncan, Brunooge (From the Conservative side) and Lamay (from the BQ), the NDP stood up and did a 180. Denise Savoy, the NDP critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development at this time, stood up and expressed that the bill must be allowed to continue to second reading and be discussed in committee – rather than its destruction. It was shocking to see, in 2009, the NDP stray away from what Indigenous people wanted and instead was now supporting the ability to further colonial legislation. This was even more horrific to me due to their continued attack on the Liberals for its past experience with colonial policy, including the First Nations Governance Act of 2002, under Chretien, as well as financial caps in the mid 1990s. How could this be and why would they do such a thing one may ask. They must have had a good reason others would say. The answer: They didn’t want to let the Liberals look good.
The NDP opted to, instead of showing commitment to its own policy initiatives under Layton as leader, forego what it agreed to do with Indigenous people and allowed partisanship to overshadow the chance to collectively work together and ‘kill’ this legislation. Why was this not reported better in the media and elsewhere? I do not know – but it is a travesty that the NDP have never been held accountable to. When I push the NDP on this bill, silence falls rather than an answer.
In the 2011 election the NDP platform seems to try and make up for their actions with generic commitments – the same commitments the Liberals had agreed to implement during the period between 2004 and 2006, in the 2006 election, as well as during the 2008 and 2011 election themselves. They also clearly specify the establishment of a new partnership with the Indigenous nations yet one must wonder why they would want to do this when they had many opportunities to help foster this in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 with the Liberals. I don’t have an answer to this – only hypothesis that I am sure the NDP supporters would retort back with something the Liberals did in the 1990s and back.
Conclusion of Part 3:
Although the NDP had started to make some more vocal stances during the late 1990s, the disarray of the party in the early and mid 1990s seems to show the inability for them to do so during that time. I will happily express that they did try in the late 1990s – even into the early 2000s. However, by November 2005 the importance of Indigenous rights, jurisdiction, and progress was pushed aside for additional votes and seats. At a time when no such thing had been achieved before or after it, the Kelowna Accord was a breakthrough in its own. Today, problems are worse and the NDP partisans I meet consistently point out policies of the past that the Liberals had brought forth.
To this I must now saw, with close to 20 pages of research written about, they should check their own history as a party, whether in the name of the NDP or its predecessors, and acknlowedge their own Eurocentric, colonial, and misunderstood opinions on Indigenous people and their rights. They must also stand accountable for their decision to put 10 seats ahead of a heavily negotiated and consulted policy such as the Kelowna Accord. They must also stand up and explain their actions in situations like that of the Matrimonial Real Property bill in May of 2009. And my biggest reminder to them: Those in Glass Houses, Should be Wary of Casting Stones.
It can be argued that a new era has been sparked since the 2011 election – with changes in Canada’s political make up and the change in leadership that the NDP has had and the Liberals will have. Both now have Indigenous wings to their parties, with the Liberals establishing the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission in 1990 and the NDP in 2008. But to claim this would require a review of their newly minted Leader Thomas Muclair, the standpoints of some of their NDP MPs from Quebec – who put Quebec Nationalism before that of Indigenous nations, as well as their stances on items such as the place of the Monarchy in Canada, which is an instrumental to the Crown/First Nations treaties and relationship. This, in other words, is a new topic that will have to be looked into in another post – especially since the NDP, under Muclair, plan to use the Indigenous vote to win the next government. But what happens when you mix anti-monarchists, a socialist factions within the NDP, Quebec Nationalists, as well as Indigenous rights? A powder keg where some will give way to what may be considered ‘more important issues.’
Sources: (Again, these sources are not properly work cited but simply added to this blog entry in order to show where my research, opinions, and points come from)
Kieth Archer and Alan Whitehorn, Political Activists: The NDP in Convention (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997)
Russell Barsh and James Youngblood Henderson, “Aboriginal Rights, Treaty Rights, and Human Rights: Indian Tribes and Constitutional Renewal,” Journal of Canadian Studies 17.2 (1982)
Laurie Barron, Walking in Indian Moccasins: The Native Policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997)
David C. Hawkes ed., Aboriginal Peoples and Government Responsibility: Exploring Federal and Provincial Roles (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1991)
House of Commons, Issue No. 40. Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, 20 October 1983
House of Commons, Minutes, 23 October 1980
Joseph Levitt, Fighting Back for Jobs and Justice: Ed Broadbent in Parliament (Ottawa: LLA Publishing, 1996) 30
Roy Romonow, “Aboriginal Rights in the Constitutional Process,” in The Quest for Justice: Aboriginal Peoples and Aboriginal Rights, eds. Menno Boldt and J. Anthony Long (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985)
Special Joint Committee, op.cit., 5 January 1981
Frank Tester, Paule McNicoll, and Jessie Forsyth, “ With an Ear to the Ground: The CCF/NDP and Aboriginal Policy in Canada, 1926-1993, in Journal of Canadian Studies, 34.1 (1999)
Mary Ellen Turpel, “Aboriginal Peoples’ Struggle for Fundamental Political Change,” The Charloettetown Accord, the Referendum and the Future of Canada, eds. Kenneth McRoberts and Patrick Monahan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993)
Sources for Second Section 1993 - present
House of Commons, Minutes, 4 June 1993
Frank Tester, Paule McNicoll, and Jessie Forsyth, “ With an Ear to the Ground: The CCF/NDP and Aboriginal Policy in Canada, 1926-1993, in Journal of Canadian Studies, 34.1 (1999)