Thursday, 17 October 2013

Promoting Lies and Misconstruing Facts: The CPC Government’s 2013 Speech from the Throne

            On October 16, 2013 the Harper government introduced their plans for the next year and on. Some important items relate to balancing the 'fiscal books' by 2015 to reeling back spending. These points, as well as the problems that exist with these goals, have, and are, being pointed out already by major Canadian media outlets. However, what is also deplorable, and not mentioned by the majority of media outlets is the fact this government claimed, through its throne speech, that prior to European settlement there were no established nations.
            My first reaction was a resounding ‘WHAT THE HELL?!?!” Before going further into the many issues that the statement “they were undaunted. They dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers, then few in number, reached across a vast continent. They forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed” creates, lets look at the sections that relate to Indigenous nations and peoples.

What the Throne Speech Says about Canadian/Indigenous Relations:

 Point 1:
“…we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation. This extraordinary document is part of the legal foundation of our country. It recognized the rights of [Indigenous] people in Canada for the first time and established the basis of their relations with the Crown. (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
Where do I even start.  First, they express Indigenous people as if we are all one (highlighting the lack of recognition of our ethnic differences as well as the differences in relation with Canada and the Crown). Secondly, the Royal Proclamation did not recognition, for the first time, in Canada – Canada didn’t exist – there were tiny colonies not even equal to the size of present day Ontario or Quebec.  Lastly, the Royal Proclamation did not, for the first time, establish the basis of relations with the Crown – relations had been ongoing long before 1763.
The Royal Proclamation, 1763, was designed to alleviate tensions between English Settlers, the newly acquired French colony of Quebec, and to bring forth peace and friendship with the various Indigenous nations who fought alongside the French Empire, as allies and separate individual nations.  Peace was sought after decades of feuding that was brought over from Europe by the two major empires and encompassed various Indigenous nations as independent allies  - on both the English and French sides. The Royal Proclamation would be followed by the Treaties of Niagara, 1764, to further entrench ‘peace and friendship’ as separate and individual nations. In closing of point one – I have no clue what Royal Proclamation they are celebrating or speaking of, it doesn’t exist.

Point 2:
“Our government will take further steps to see that those traditionally under represented in the workforce, including people with disabilities, youth, and [Indigenous] Canadians, find the job-training they need.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
“Our government recognizes the tremendous potential of Canada’s First Nations, Metis, and Inuit populations to strengthen the growing Canadian economy. It will continue working with First Nations to develop strong, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
Job-training is indeed important. However, how can job training be achieved when this current government is ‘maxing-out’ the paternalistic views in how this can be achieved for Indigenous peoples? Top-down approaches have not work and still do not work. Telling Indigenous peoples in isolated communities that, in order to obtain social assistance, requires you to take job-training courses is problematic and stereotypical. Furthermore, controlling what types of education Indigenous peoples are allowed to access, while preventing proper and equal funding to elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students, will not fix the issues.
Work with our nations rather then trying to control us – its not 2003, 1969, 1942, or 1876.

Point 3:
“Canada’s natural wealth is our national inheritance and our Government will ensure that the jobs and opportunities it brings are available to all Canadians. In particular, Canada’s [Indigenous] peoples must have every opportunity to benefit.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
“Our government recognizes that the future prosperity of the North requires responsible development of its abundant natural resources. Northerners must benefit from this treasure. Our Government will work alongside Inuit, First Nations, territorial governments, and industry to ensure that Northerners are well trained to take their full place in this new economy.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
How is this properly achievable for Indigenous peoples (and I specify it this way because Canada’s Indigenous peoples expresses ownership – To the Harper government: You do not own me or any other Indigenous peoples – stop with the paternalistic terminology) when this government has imposed legislation after legislation – especially the Omnibus Bill in December of 2012 that infringes on Indigenous rights over lands?
Respect the treaties and stop being paternalistic – Canada has been told this since confederation and many documents highlight this.

Point 4:
“[Indigenous] women are disproportionately the victims of violent crime. Our government will renew its efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered [Indigenous] women.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
How can this government express this when it is simply focusing on the issues of abuse that impacts Indigenous women in their communities? Don’t get me wrong, it is important to deal with all violence and murder – but what about outside of the communities? What about in Canada’s cities, towns, villiges and along its roads/highways? How can this be achieved when this government refuses to, despite the call of International forces, the provincial governments, Indigenous organizations, Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous governments, to hold a public and national inquiry?
Establish an Inquiry and actually deal with the issue, the inaction of doing so only leads to an increase in missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Point 5:
“Our government will continue our dialogue on the treaty relationship and comprehensive land claims.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
“Our government will continue to work in partnership with [Indigenous] peoples to create health, prosperous, self-sufficient communities.” (Governor General, Throne Speech, October 16, 2013)
What dialogue? Since 2006 the Conservative government has unilaterally made decisions on its own, through the specific use of ideology from Tom Flanagan, Manny Jules, Patrick Brazeau and the  C.A.P – most specifically when Brazeau was in charge, to bolster their continued colonial and paternal mentality. If the dialogue the Conservative government refers to means lacking proper consultation, forcing legislation upon the Indigenous nations and peoples, infringing on Indigenous jurisdiction and rights, as well as ignoring the treaty/nation-to-nation relationships – then yes that is ‘dialogue.’ In 2013, it is clear this government has not, and is not willing to learn from past mistakes.

However, one must wonder why they would bother to move past colonialism and paternal mindsets? Especially when they just expressed in the Throne Speech that Indigenous nations didn’t exist?

Pre-European Encroachment:
            Despite the claims made by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, (re: the challenges settlers faced were “[undaunting]. [But] dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers, then few in number, reached across a vast continent. They forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed,”) there were vibrant and highly developed societies (nations) on Turtle Island.
            I will not go into detail because of how long this blog already is – but I strongly suggest taking the time to look into it. For instance, Kiera Ladner has done some amazing work on Nehiyaw and Blackfoot governance; Taiake Alfred, Patricia Monture-Angus, and Susan Hill on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; Leanne Simpson, John Borrows on the Anishinaabeg nation; to name but a few (see below for sources on various nations). In fact, Indigenous nations comprised anywhere between 30-40 different and unique establishments – some who had federated with one another and others who had not.
            Most interestingly to point out is that many Indigenous nations had a form of governance that was representative of its population and spoke of forms of democratic values long before European states deposed of absolute rule by a King and/or Queen. They all had their own laws, citizenship codes, and spirituality. However, in some way this, in the eyes of the Conservative government, entails the mentality that there were no nations or ‘countries, in a more modern context’ prior to European encroachment. Then again, no one claimed that to become a politician means you must understand the true formation of the Canadian state.

Responses/Reactions Post-Throne Speech:
            As I mentioned, I was shocked when I learned of the Conservative government’s blatant ignorance on Indigenous nations pre-European encroachment. However, I have not been the only one – many people from the various Indigenous nations, as well as non-Indigenous allies, took to social media to express a massive ‘WTF.’ Unfortunately, while following the reactions on twitter the only one I saw deplore this clear violation of history and Indigenous nationhood and recognition was the Liberal Member of Parliament for St. Paul’s (Carolyn Bennett). I did not see anything from CPC MPs Leonna Algukkaq, Rob Clarke, Shelley Glover, or Rod Bruinooge; Nor did I see anything from the NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic. So, I thank Carolyn Bennett for pointing this out to the social media – allies like her are important.
            It doesn’t help that many non-Indigenous peoples did not even second guess or call into question what the Governor General, on behalf of the Conservative government, said about pre-European settlement. It also doesn’t help that almost all media outlets ignored it as well.  Even worse, the current Canadian government continues to use this ignorance to its advantage in its ‘divide and conquer’ mindset for keeping control.

            This morning, there was still a lack of discussion on what the governments comments entailed and how it negatively impacts every other point relating to Indigenous peoples that they said in the Throne Speech. However, what did make the news was the ‘twitter feud’ between Green Party Leader, and MP, Elizabeth May and CPC Minister, and MP, Jason Kenney. May mentioned there were no monuments to victims of Capitalism.  Kenney’s response: “Or perhaps that’s because free societies didn’t murder tens of millions in gulags, planned famines, etc.” (Kenney October 17, 2013).
            To Jason Kenney I say: This is true, it was not done in gulags when relating to Canada. To Elizabeth May, I express it wasn’t entirely done based off of capitalism. For the genocide and atrocities committed in Canada it related to racism, imperialism, religion, and colonialism.
            Additionally, to Kenney, I express that ‘free societies’ do murder  - they murder when its government refuses to recognize history (such as John A. Macdonald’s restriction on food to Indigenous groups in the prairies to starve many to death in order to prevent uprisings against Canada’s oppression and the pre-existence of nations before Europeans coming to North America).  Free societies murder when they try to assimilate and steal children away from their families. Free societies murder when they ‘beat the Indian’ out of the child. Lastly, free societies also murder when their government looks the other way as Women and girls go missing in their cities and towns as well as along their roads and highways.
            What may be the worse of this entire situation? That Conservative MPs Leona Algukkaq, Rob Clarke, Shelly Glover and Rod Bruinooge (who claim Indigenous background) sat idly by as these misconceptions were perpetuated in their governments Throne Speech of 2013.

References and Suggested Readings:

Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2008
Alfred, Taiaiake. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.
Borrows, John. Canada's Indigenous Constitution. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.
Borrows, John. "Seven Generations, Seven Teachings: Ending the Indian Act." Research Paper, National Centre for First Nations Governance, Ottawa, 2008.
Borrows, John and Learnard Rotman. “The Sui Generis Nature of Aboriginal Rights.” Alberta Law Review 36, no. 3, (1997): 9-45
Epp, Roger. “We Are All Treaty People: History, Reconciliation, and the “Settler Problem.” In We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays, by Roger Epp, (2008):121-141
Gordon, Todd. Imperialist Canada. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2010.
Henderson, James Youngblood. “Empowering Treaty Federalism,” Saskatchewan Law Review 58, 1994: 241-300
Ladner, Kiera L., “Governing Within an Ecological Context: Creating an Alternative Understanding of Siiksikaawa Governance”, Studies in Political Economy, (2003), pp. 125-152.

Ladner, Kiera. Peace and Good Order: A Treaty Right to Parliamentary Representation? Ottawa: Carleton University, 1996
Ladner, Kiera. “Treaty Federalism: An Indigenous Vision of Canadian Federalisms.” In F. Rocher and M. Smith’s New Trends in Canadian Federalism, 2nd Edition. Peterborough: Broadview Press, (2003): 167-194
Mecredi, Ovide and Mary Ellen Turpel. In the Rapids: Navigating the Future of First Nations. Toronto: Penguin Books. 1993.
Montour-Angus, Patricia. Journeying Forward: Dreaming First Nations Independence. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1999.
Simpson, Leanne. Dancing on Our Turtle's Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011.

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