Thursday, 18 April 2013
The Rosedale Club: A Symbol of Why Indigenous People Must Influence the Canadian Process
Early Wednesday morning it was brought to my attention that an event was going to be held on April 18, 2013 – an event that would discuss Indigenous issues. Usually I would applaud such an event occurring, however, this ‘event’ turned out to be more of the same colonial mentality that has persisted in Canada since its inception, even prior to that in fact.
It turns out that the Rosedale Club is a ‘club’ that brings ‘friends’ and others together to discuss Canadian issues and policy. One of the club's founders is none other then Zach Paikin, who writes a lot and ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberal Party of Canada’s National Policy Chair in January 2012. This event was dubbed a Scotch and Cigars event where the men attending were expected to wear a jacket and tie or be deemed unfit to partake in the discussion. Additionally this event included speakers – Former Premier (2002-2003), and former Ontario Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves & National Post Editor Jonathan Kay.
As many of us, especially in ‘Indian Country,’ remember, Eves was in the Harris government, which botched the Ipperwash situation and led to the death of an unarmed Indigenous protester – Dudley George. Additionally, Jonathan Kay is known for his recent and rather one sided article “Native Dignity Will Come Only From Self-Sufficiency, Not Grand Gestures in Ottawa.” In other words, both speakers of this event come from a very one-sided and oblivious opinion.
To make matters worse the event does not have an Indigenous speaker, or a speaker with an understanding of Indigenous history or issues, in attendance. The first question I had for such a ‘discussion’ group is why there were not varying viewpoints being represented. Reading the comments that were posted in the event’s facebook page, which has since disappeared, we quickly see concern and anger from Indigenous people about the event. Some expressed that it was another example of a bunch of ‘white guys’ sitting around making decisions. Questions were asked for why Indigenous people were not included, especially since it dealt with them. One planned-attendee’s response was that this is a discussion about policy, not race and that she had spent the last five years travelling around the country and hearing from Indigenous people (albeit she admits not many). Another response was that it wasn’t a white peoples event, nor planned by white men. Although I agree that Zach and his buddies who formed the Rosedale Club are not of European descent specifically, there is still some issues that are noticeable (which I will get to in a bit).
As some of my good friends, who happen to sit alongside me on the executive of the Indigenous wing of the LPC, learned about this via our VP Communications, we were struck with shock that someone of such education, access to literature, as well as people with an understanding of the topic area would be so oblivious. Many of us questioned the logic of the Rosedale Club. One of us actually got through by phone to Paikin. On the call he defended the right of the club to do such an event and that all were welcome to attend. Myself and another individual heavily criticized it on facebook, to which Paikin’s response was that we were welcome to attend. The problem with such action is it was done within 30 hours before the event. I am based in Winnipeg, another one of us is in Whitehorse, another near Saskatoon, and so on. In other words, those he had access to politically were left out of the loop until Indigenous people made it clear this was not ok – sounds a lot like this current government and many before it if you ask me.
What Does This Mean?
For some of you, you may wonder why this is a big deal. To me it is a shining example of just the problems Indigenous people and Canada face on Turtle Island. History has shown that for decades Non-Indigenous males have formed groups and policy to dictate to Indigenous people how best to progress, assimilate, or make themselves better – the best example of this would be the Constitution Negotiations in 1980-1982 and 1987-1990. Other examples riddle Canada's history and present day structure and mentality too. The problem, however, is that these were past generations. We are supposed to look at future generations as being more progressive, more educated, and more understanding. Yet, when it comes to Indigenous items it is far more slower – even when looking at teenagers and those who are in their early 20s. This is exactly what Paikin, his co-founders, and those attending, represent via this event.
This is an event planned through a club that was formed by three privileged males who then invite a very one sided roster of individuals to speak on an issue that is more then just policy – a topic that includes legal rights, jurisdictional issues, culture, historical problems and Indigenous nationalism. Thus one must ask why such an event, being held in Toronto, would not extend an invite to Pam Palmater (An Indigenous Lawyer who teaches at Ryerson), Susan Hill (The Department Head of First Nations Studies at Western University), or Stan Beardy (The Regional Chief of Ontario). Why not extend an invite to non-Indigenous people like Carolyn Bennett (The LPC Aboriginal & Northern Affairs Critic) or Bob Rae (Former LPC Interim Leader) – or Indigenous people from the middle viewpoint: David Newhouse (Head of the Indigenous Studies Department at Trent University) or John Borrows (A well known Indigenous academic and lawyer in the field of Indigenous people). Unfortunately, traditional mindset prevailed and a group of people, headed by three privileged men, opted to have an event with its guest speakers being considered controversial on Indigenous items.
To make it worse, if an individual who wanted to attend the event but would only wear traditional garb, or what is more commonly worn by those who practice their traditions, would they be denied? It is clear that this event has been reeking of a narrow minded understanding where it expects people to assimilate into what its founders believe is adequate – even when it relates to something that discusses more then policy.
In conclusion, Zach Paikin, his buddies who helped form the Rosedale Club, and those who attended the event tonight, are not helping to make Canada a post-colonial state but are in fact continuing the perpetuation of dominance and ignorance when relating to Indigenous people. It is a shining example of why we as Indigenous people need to influence Canada’s political system. Influencing the political systems, provincially and federally can impact education curriculum, social policy, as well as reminding Canadians about what the Indigenous/Canadian relationship is truly to be: One of respect and understanding rather then one of perpetuating ignorance. This needs to be done before the youth of today and tomorrow continue along the tarnished path we are on today - the path of ignoring the Indigenous population when it relates to them and their belonging.
NOTE: I want to express that I am in favour of free speech. One-sided discussion in such a forum and on a group of people without them being able to counter is not free speech but rather limiting discussion and thought. Additionally I want to express that the Rosedale Club does not represent a political party or the mindset of the majority of a political party. I wish I could have included direct quotes from people in the page of the event to show the concern, and skepticism, that many Indigenous people expressed