Wednesday, 26 December 2012

(Part 1) Those Who Live in Glass Houses Should be Wary of Casting Stones: The NDP & Indigenous Relations (Part 1: 1880s – 1978):

          The last month has been a rocky one – a consistent sight every decade of the deplorable state and relationship between Canada and the Indigenous Nations who the state shares this territory with. As my involvement has increased for the protection of my rights, the rights of my family, community, the Anishinaabeg Nation and all Indigenous Nations, I of course find myself being ‘attacked’ throughout social media by those who are attached to other Canadian political parties.

            If many did not yet know, I am a Liberal by the Canadian political standards (a Moderate one who is very big on the rule and respect of law, fiscally conservative, and so on. My view of Indigenous rights, nationhood, and jurisdiction is one viewed not through a leftwing lens but one through a ‘rule of law’ lens. After all, treaties are legally binding and thus law to be followed right? (But this is another write-up for another day). My point today is to counter some of the heavily partisan criticisms I get shot at me over twitter and facebook by, specifically, the NDPers who are so steadfastly seeing orange that they don’t see anything else.

            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 NDP before it was the NDP:

Prior to the formation of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961, there existed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). Before the CCF, there were the Labours and the Progressives. It is here I want to start first. As early as the late 1800s, the existence of Labour Members of Canada’s Parliament existed. These MPs, which I cannot find much in regards to voting records or additional information, were individuals who clearly were there at times of consistent pushes for Indigenous assimilation and destruction of their places as their own nations in their home territories on Turtle Island. The only example that is telling of their own mentality was the vote on the Old Age Pensions Act in 1927. The legislation, after being reviewed, had a section added to it that stated anyone who was “an Indian as defined by the Indian Act” ineligible. The recorded proceedings of the HOC suggests that this exclusion was of little concern to the Labour members of Canada’s House of Commons.

The same can be said about the Progressives who came to exist in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Progressives were connected to the United Farmers Parties that were in existence throughout the Prairies and Ontario. They too had MPs during this time, a time that saw removal of Legal representation for Indigenous people, more assimilationist policies, the time of Duncan Campbell-Scott, and so on. Again, little can be brought forth to how these Progressives voted or stood when it came to Indigenous people. However, their affiliation with the United Farmers Parties of the various provinces could shed light.

During this time, there was considerable representation from the United Farmers Parties in various provincial legislatures, especially as the governing party. It was also during this time that there were various restrictions that continued to be upheld on Indigenous people. First Nations people living in the prairie provinces required permits from Indian Agents to sell any of their produce. This would later turn into the need for written permission to even leave a reserve for any reason. With this being specific to the prairie Provinces one must wonder why the United Farmers Parties allowed this if they were so ‘progressive.’ An answer could be that the provinces had no jurisdiction over Indigenous people and that only the federal government could change that. This leads to a further question of why the Progressive Members of Parliament (MPs) stood by, and, at times, supported the Liberals of Mackenzie-King in imposing additional policy? I point this out because of the consistent NDP attack on the Liberals being solely responsible for all policy that they put forth – even though no current Liberal MP was even of voting age, let alone born, at this time.

This was almost 100 years ago you may say to yourself. I would agree, and acknowledge this is true and thus move ahead to the formation of the CCF, which occurred in 1932 with the formation first occurring as a Provincial party in Saskatchewan.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation: A Lack of Understanding of Indigenous Nations:

With the birth of the CCF in the early 1930s there is little proof that the mindset of the NDP of the 1990s was born then. In fact, through various academic sources, such as writings by Laurie Barron and James Pitsula, I was able to examine the early inklings of CCF understanding towards Indigenous people. This understanding, of course, was born with the formation of government by the CCF in Saskatchewan around 1944. At this time, the CCF wanted the Indigenous people of Saskatchewan to have the same advantages that all Canadians had – this included the delivery of these advantages in the same way as all Canadians. This was considered achievable only by the transfer of jurisdiction of Indigenous people to the provinces, accompanied by funds in order to implement such schemes of assimilation.

            In other words, the CCF thought the only way for Indigenous people to move forward was to be assimilated into the provinces and be under provincial duty as all Canadian subjects tend to be when related to provincial jurisdiction – which the CCF would enact while government. As Pitsula concluded, an “examination of Saskatchewan policy reveals congruity with the basic principles of the 1969 White Paper” . Wait a minute, you may say – does this mean the CCF believed in White Paperesque policy? Yes would be the answer and the fact is it would be their stance right up to the formation of the NDP. Additionally, with the founding of the CCF, their policy document titled “Social Planning for Canada,” which heavily would influence CCF policy, made no mentioned of Indigenous people, their rights, or recognition. In other words, this new party had no opinion or policy on Indigenous people.
            This viewpoint was not just in the CCF’s provincial wings but also noticeable in the CCF federal party. In the late 1940s the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons commenced hearings on revisions to the Indian Act in 1946. This provided CCF members of the House with an opportunity to address Indigenous issues. The federal wing, influenced by its provincial counterpart in Saskatchewan, heavily pushed the ideals of integration for Indigenous peoples. This was considered only achievable through education. The revisions to the Indian Act were first introduced in 1950, with support from the CCF. The revisions were met with stiff opposition from Indigenous peoples themselves. It would then be withdrawn and reviewed – returning in 1951.

            It was during Bill 267’s reintroduction to the HOC that the CCF vocally expressed where they stood. CCF MP William Bryce expressed “I think education is the crux of the question. Indian children should be educated in the same manner as white children, so that they will look at things the same way that we do.” The CCF leader at this time, MJ Coldwell, further emphasized the CCF position on these revisions by stating “I hope that in the administration of the new act, every attempt will be made to … enable [Indians] to make a contribution to the cultural life of our country and which will gradually bring about integration of the Indian population.” Paternalism reared its head when the CCF MP Joe Noseworth added “If we are aiming to educate these people, to teach them to assume responsibility, we must give them some responsibility and not place these matters entirely in the hands of the minister or the governor in council.” This comments clearly show that paternalism and eurocentric ideals were alive and well in the CFF. I  could rattle on with additional quotes from CCF members in regards to their support for integration and ‘educating Indigenous children the same way as white children,' but I would like to fast forward to the 1960s now and bring attention to the current leftist-party in Canada: The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP).

The Birth of the NDP and the Eventual Rise of ‘Understanding’ … Or Was It?

            By the early 1960s there was discussion of a unification of the ‘left side’ of the Canadian political spectrum. This would lead to the birth of the NDP by its first official Convention in July/August 1961 (With its first official member – Walter Pitman - being elected in a by-election, in my home riding of Peterborough, in 1960). Throughout the 1960s, with former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas as its leader, there was little attention given to Indigenous issues and/or rights. For instance, at its first Convention in 1961 there was virtually no attention in the policy document in relation to Indigenous peoples. By its next Convention in 1963, this would change.

            At the NDP’s 1963 convention the party and its delegates passed policy and constitutional provisions that would clarify and introduce an NDP view on Indigenous people.  This policy paper that the NDP would pass advocated “the repeal of the Indian Act and the elimination of all government activities which place Indian people in separate groups; introducing self-government to reserves; the transfer of responsibility for Indian Affairs to provincial governments [and] launching an aggressive program for educational integration …” Additionally, cautionary language accompanied most of the commitments. The repeal of the Indian Act was to take place at a pace commensurate with the needs and desires of Indian people, and the transfer of responsibility to the provinces was to take place providing such transfers accords with the desires of the Indigenous peoples. Other then this policy, the NDP would have nothing to say or add on Indigenous rights, recognition, or policy until the introduction of the White Paper in 1969.

            As already stated, the White Paper was brought forth by the Liberal government  of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The astonishing thing when you compare the 1969 White Paper to that of the NDP’s 1963 ‘Indian Policy Paper’ is that they are pretty much identical. Both papers pushed for assimilation and integration into the Canadian state with all services coming through the provinces as is done for Canadians. One would think the NDP would have been happy to see their idea being implemented by the government of the day would you not? However, today the White Paper is consistently used against the Liberal Party of Canada by the NDP and others on the left. But wait, how could this be when the NDP had suggested the same actions in 1963. They must have changed their opinion prior to 1969 then you may think. The answer: not at all.

            When the White Paper was introduced in 1969, the NDP applauded it. Responding to the Bill The NDP Indian Affairs Critic, Howard, stood up and stated”

“The Honourable Member and I had the opportunity in 1959, 1960,
and 1961 of participating in the joint Senate and House of Commons
Committee on Indian Affairs … the report of which committee contained
the same ideas and concepts that the Minister has now outlined. Even
though it has taken some period of time to get a Cabinet Minister to agree
with those concepts, it is still welcomed.”

By the next day, it became apparent that Indigenous leaders and Indigenous people – specifically First Nations, were heavily opposed to the White Paper. Had the NDP done their own consultation in the 1960s, they would have found this out during their own policy developments of 1963. However, they had not done any form of consultation or meaningful assessment at that time. With the increasing opposition of Indigenous leaders the NDP position on the White Paper now had grown quiet and frosty. This did not stop some NDP from showing a paternalistic viewpoint, as in any party at the time. The NDP MP for Winnipeg North, David Orlikow, stated

“I hope to see the day when the Indian Affairs branch as we
have known it, and more sadly the Indians have known it, will disappear.
But none of these things can take place unless and until the Indian people 
themselves want them to take place and are prepared to give their
co-operation and support”

This mentality is no different then other politicians of the time who, at points of due stress over the topic have uttered "what do you want from us" and "why cant you just integrate," etc. However, due to demand from Indigenous voices the NDP did a 180 degree change on its viewpoint and turned against the White Paperesque policies. This was a good thing, however one must acknowledge the fact it wasn't until after the White Paper was introduced that they started to think more when relating to Indigenous policy - per se.

Conclusion of Part 1:

            I will give credit to the NDP for learning some of the lessons on Indigenous rights, nations, and jurisdiction the day after the White Paper was introduced in 1969. However, it must be acknowledged that by 1971 the Liberals began to also distance themselves from the White Paper – permanently shelving it in 1973 following the legal ruling of the Calder Decision.

With this review I must express that when pulling up the nasty history of a political party: Those who live in glass houses, should be wary of casting stones. The standpoint of the NDP on assimilationist policy for Indigenous people had changed after the White Paper event – with the Liberals dragging their feet at first. However, did the NDP truly come to the ‘light-bulb moment’ on Indigenous people post-1969? The Answer again, as was the case for the Liberals, is not entirely and will be further detailed in Part two of this write-up – The Constitutional Crises: 1979-1992.

Sources For Part 1: (As this is a blog I did not directly cite or list specifics other then the source of my Information):

Kieth Archer and Alan Whitehorn, Political Activists: The NDP in Convention (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Laurie Barron, Walking in Indian Moccasins: The Native Policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997)

J. Brennen, ed., Building the Co-operative Commonwealth (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1984)

The Federal Programme of the New Democratic Party, Adopted by its Founding Convention, Ottawa, 31 July – 4 August 1961.

The Federal Programme of the New Democratic Party, Adopted by its Founding Convention, Ottawa, 31 July – 4 August 1961, and by its Second Federal Convention, Regina, 6-9 August 1963

Gad Horowitz, Canadian Labour in Politics (Toronto: Univeristy of Toronto Press, 1968)

House of Commons, Minutes, 27 February 1951

House of Commons, Minutes, 2 April 1951

House of Commons, Minutes, 15 May 1951

House of Commons, Minutes, 6 March 1969

David C. Hawkes ed., Aboriginal Peoples and Government Responsibility: Exploring Federal and Provincial Roles (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1991)

D. Laycock, Populism and Democratic Thought in the Canadian Prairies 1910 – 1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).

James M. Pitsula, “The Saskatchewan CCF Government and Treaty Indians, 1944-1964,” Canadian Historical Review LXXV. 1 (1994): 21-52)

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)

Sally Weaver, Making Canadian Indian Policy: The Hidden Agenda 1968-1970 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981)

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