Thursday, 4 July 2013

The New Democratic Party's Hypocrisy on Indigenous Peoples: A Not So Shiny Past, or Present

In light of recent actions since January 2013, I thought it would be interesting to give some insight to the historic darkness that exists within the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada. I decided to do some research. This research is specifically on the NDP and the hypocrisy it espouses when it attacks another party for policies that are decades old. (Pay close attention to their actions over the last 10 years)

            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, official opposition, or as a third party, can be free from guilt of past policies and legislation that has been implemented.

Therefore, Did You Know that:

1920s & 1930s: 
Originally known as ‘Labour’ , they helped approve the ‘Old Age Pensions Act’ of 1927. The legislation that stated “an Indian defined by the Indian Act is ineligibly,” and was not considered of any importance to the Labour members when they voted in favour of the legislation.
·      During this time both the Labour and Progressive factions existed and did little in stopping, or showing opposition, to the removal of legal representation for Indigenous peoples, the policies of Duncan Campbell-Scott, or the consistent removal of Indigenous children from their homes, families, and communities.

1940s & 1950s:
·      The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of Saskatchewan (and this is important as the NDP always tout their breakthrough in Saskatchewan through the CCF) implemented policies that pushed for the Indigenous peoples to be under provincial jurisdiction (which explicitly goes against the nation-to-nation relationship).
·      The CCF would enact policy that infringed on Indigenous jurisdiction and nation-to-nation relationships.  Pitsula stated in an article, an “examination of Saskatchewan policy reveals congruity with the basic principles of the 1969 White Paper.”
·      In 1946, at the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons, hearings on revisions to the Indian Act, the CCF pushed for integration of Indigenous peoples. They believed that such integration was only achievable through education. These suggested changes by the CCF were introduced in 1950 and obtained the support of the CCF in passing these amendments. Interestingly, Indigenous peoples expressed heavy opposition to these changes but were ignored.
·      In 1951, CCF MP William Bryce expresses “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.”
·      CCF Leader MJ Coldwell: “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.”
·      CCF MP Joe Noseworth stated: “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.”

1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s:
·      New Democratic Party comes into existence via the CCF in 1961.
·      At the first NDP convention of 1961, there was no discussion, attention, or policy documents in relation to Indigenous peoples.
·      In 1963, at the NDP’s second annual convention, the NDP adopted a policy paper that advocated “the repeal[ing] 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 from Indian Affairs to provincial governments [and] launching an aggressive program for educational integration.” – In other words, “White Paper,” NDP Style.
·      Upon the introduction of the White Paper, 1969, the NDP originally endorsed and applauded it. NDP Indian Affairs Critic 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.”
·      Although the NDP, and the Liberals, would rescind their support of the White Paper of 1969, 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.”
·      During discussion on Constitutional Amendments and Indigenous Rights, the Provincial NDP of Saskatchewan stated that Indigenous peoples “were best left to the realm of politics and dealt with by people, as represented by their provincial and federal politicians.”
·      During the constitutional discussions in the early 1980s, Ed Broadbent, leader of the NDP at the time, admitted that a ‘split’ over the unilateral patriation of the Constitution had more to do with an increased dislike of Trudeau in the prairie provinces, where the NDP held a majority of their seats and thus feared losing them by supporting the unilateral patriation, rather than with the failure to define Indigenous rights and proper consultation with the Indigenous nations.
·      While Indigenous peoples protested the Canadian government’s actions, as well as the lack of support from the opposition parties, Roy Romonow, a future NDP Premier of Saskatchewan, reiterated, with agreement, a comment by Saskatchewan NDP Attorney General and Deputy Premier of Saskatchewan” “the Indians’ antagonistic conduct before the joint parliamentary committee was being re-enacted in a public battle in London.” (In other words, they disagreed with the Indigenous peoples petitioning the British government to hold Canada accountable to the treaty agreements.”
·      During the Meech Lake Accord discussion and approval process in the provinces, the BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba NDP, as official opposition, voted in favour of the Accord – despite the heavy opposition of the Indigenous nations and peoples. It would be Elijah Harper who would defy the provincial NDP in Manitoba, and prevent it from final passing in the Manitoba Legislature.

1990s – Present:
·      In the 1993,1997, and 2000 elections little was presented by the NDP in their platform for Indigenous people. In fact, nothing existed in 1993.
·      In 2005, the NDP opted to put an increase in votes and obtaining an additional 8-10 seats over passing and implementing the Kelowna Accord (Which, for the first time in Canadian history, saw unified agreement between the Federal Government of Canada, the Provincial Governments, as well as Indigenous organizations and governments). The Accord was to help in bringing Indigenous peoples to the same level of funding for housing, infrastructure, health, and education – Indigenous people have fallen further behind since.
·      In 2005, the NDP opted to put an increase in votes and obtaining an additional 8-10 seats over the passing of a National Child Care Act and further implementation of the Kyoto Accord.
·      In inquiring to NPD MP Linda Duncan in 2012 about the NDP’s lack of assisting in the passing of the Kelowna Accord, her response was “that opinion is obsolete and not important.”
·      In 2009, the NDP opted to play politics rather then assist the Indigenous nations in protecting their jurisdiction rights – the LPC introduced a motion that would have effectively killed the MRP bill. The NDP, instead of supporting it opted to vote against it in order to prevent “the LPC from looking good.” (Muclair was an NDP MP by this time)
·      In regards to the NDP decision to protect the bill, NDP MP Denise Savoy expressed that the bill must be allowed to continued and be discussed in committee.
·      With the rise of the #IdleNoMore movement, the NDP were delayed in their involvement and support – in fact, NDP Leader Muclair would not show an endorsement of the movement, despite fellow NDP MPs Libby Davies and Paul Dewar doing so, until after The Liberal Caucus, via a letter from Dr. Carolyn Bennett, showed the LPC supporting the #IdleNoMore calls of action. Additionally, the Muclair endorsement came after further involvement/endorsements of LPC leadership candidates Justin Trudeau, Joyce Murray, Martha Hall-Findlay, etc.
·      Lastly, in January of 2013 Thomas Muclair, Leader of the NDP, endorsed Harper’s “Working Relationship” with the Indigenous peoples and has yet to retract such an endorsement, despite the consistent attack on the Indigenous nations and peoples since forming government in 2006


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 Studies17.2 (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)

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)

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)


  1. Check out what the Manitoba NDP Gov. is doing in regards to Manitoba's indigenous peoples... There's a 21st century version of taking children from their parents on reserves and integrating them into "white" society... 2000 aboriginals are still living in hotels 4 years after the NDP gov. flooded them out...

  2. Your point is important - especially in highlighting how provinces, whether NDP, Liberal, or PC have also added to the problem - My apologies for not including this in the discussion on items when I first wrote this in 2013 - I do bring up the example of manitoba on a regular basis now though. Chi-Miigwetch again for highlighting this.