Saturday, 15 February 2014

Acknowledging the Past in Order to Move Forward: An APC Resolution to Officially Reject the 1969 White Paper

In less then a week, the 2014 Liberal Party of Canada Biennial will take place in Montreal, Quebec. With a rejuvenated party, excited members and supporters, as well as a new leader there is much to be celebrated when many in the Liberal family get together in less then a week – including policy proposals from all over what we in the Indigenous world refer to as ‘Turtle Island.’

Indeed, the Aboriginal Peoples' Commission is very excited for it has come so far since the current executive gave new blood to a commission that was close to being taken off of life support. I am proud to be apart of that executive, and even prouder that the APC has 10 policies to discuss – not to mention that the LPC has a specific section on Indigenous policy during this Biennial Convention (Big thanks to Maryanne Kampouris). Out of those 10 policies, there is one that has already been identified as a priority policy for the APC (, and this blog will assist to explain why.

The 1969 White Paper: Acknowledging the Past in Order to Move Forward:

For many Non-Indigenous peoples, the concept and correlation of the White Paper of 1969 to the Liberal Party is not fully understood or sufficiently acknowledged. Part of this relates to the fact that in western theory and philosophy progress requires always looking forward – no need to worry about past mistakes, to an extent. This is what happened with the 1969 White Paper in the early 1970s. Now, some of you may wonder why a policy from 1969 is of such importance to recognize. Well, this relates to embracing and understanding Indigenous philosophies and ways of moving forward. For many Indigenous nations/ethnic groups – to move forward requires understanding the past. To understand the past is of such importance in order to never forget of the past mistakes that occurred in order to guide and build stronger relationships.

In other words, to re-formulate a relationship, or as Justin Trudeau himself said at the APC event in Whitehorse, Yukon in July of 2013 – a broken relationship, it is important to consider both ways of thinking when trying to re-establish and heal a relationship that has long been degraded by colonialism and paternalistic policies such as the White Paper of 1969.

What is the 1969 White Paper?

            With the election of Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party to a majority government in 1968, the beginning of multiculturalism, integration, as well as the ‘Canadian identity’ was developing threefold in the Canadian context. Additionally, more people were noticing the issues many First Nations people were facing on and off-reserve/inside and outside of their communities. It was decided under the Trudeau government that there would be a cross Canada tour and consultation process with various First Nations in order to comprehend what the issues were that they faced and caused them to be in sub-standard conditions compared to that of Canadians.

            The consultations were quite amazing, in my point of view, as many First Nations peoples got to highlight what has been impacting them for years, decades and over a century. Many thought that this would be a turning point in the Canadian/Indigenous relationship – perhaps one that would lead us back to an understanding of mutual respect, friendship and recognition. However, that would not be the case in June of 1969 when the White Paper was introduced to the House of Commons.

            The White Paper, when introduced, was actually the opposite of what First Nations peoples told them during the consultations. The document introduced sought to abolish the Indian Act, as well as all treaties, treaty rights, Indigenous lands, and any recognition of the Indigenous nations. Originally, the policy was applauded in the House of Commons, with both the CPC and NDP speaking in favour of it. First Nations peoples became angry and this may have been one of the final attacks that assisting with mobilization and the re-emergences of concepts of Indigeneity as well as items like Indigenous organizations, Cardinal’s Red Paper, etc. Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging the mistake of the White Paper, the Liberals dropped it and moved on.

How does it Impact Indigenous/LPC Relations Today?

Although it is today acknowledged by some party brass, past-politicians, and so on, that by not adopting one should consider it as a sign of rejecting it - On many of the Indigenous points of view this is not acknowledged or accepted to be the case. This of major importance because Indigenous understanding is completely ignored on and in relation to what this policy did to Indigenous/LPC relations. While the party has tried to move beyond it, many Indigenous peoples never forgot and thus question the LPC’s commitments due to the fact it has yet to officially reject what the policy itself stands for, let alone acknowledge it as a mistake.

Over the last ten years that I have been involved I, and fellow Indigenous Liberals that I have met and worked with, have continuously heard about it. Whether the First Nations peoples I talk to are politically involved or not – many still speak of the 1969 White Paper as one that was meant to effectively wash away our recognition and what remnants, at the time, still existed. Even though the Liberals did not implement it the need to officially acknowledge it as a mistake is still needed to show First Nations peoples that the party institution and mentality itself has evolved.

People in the party may replace those who sat as Liberal MPs and Senators in the past; replace those elected to executive positions in the party, and may even replace past card carrying members – it does not necessarily change the connotation some have to the name of the political party itself. Thus, I do believe that if the party truly wants to work with the Indigenous nations and show the ability to work nation-to-nation and obtain a relationship based off of mutual respect and recognition, which Justin Trudeau himself has spoken of, the party needs to acknowledge publicly that the White Paper was a mistake and that the Liberals have learned from it.

Why Should You Care/Why Should you Support This Policy?

I, as well as others I know, can heavily attest to the change in Liberal mentality – most noticeable being Martin’s push for the Kelowna Accord, National Child care and Kyoto; Dion’s commitment to environmental stability and protection of the earth; Ignatieff’s commitment to revamp education funding and remove the caps currently imposed; and, most recently, Justin Trudeau’s commitment to a respectful relationship where he agrees we must work together. Even Trudeau himself said at the APC’s event in Whitehorse, July of 2013, that no party is clear of the historical pasts in Canada’s history. The key, in my view, is who has learned and which political parties acknowledge it.

Despite some of these commitments, some Indigenous peoples still look to the Liberals in a weary way, with even more not casting a ballot period (See the source section and my M.A Thesis which touches on this).  For many First Nations peoples the fact that the party itself has not yet acknowledged the pain such a policy as the 1969 White Paper inflicted means that trusting the LPC and extended a hand out in friendship is a hotly debated and contested thing throughout ‘Turtle Island.’

Thus, I urge you all to support the APC’s push for officially recognizing the 1969 White Paper as a mistake to which the LPC will never repeat again. Many Indigenous peoples in touch with their Indigenous nations and fellow peoples have heard about this for years. It is time, at the LPC Biennial Convention of 2014 to make it a reality and acknowledge the mistake of the 1969 White Paper.

Sources To Consider:

Banducci, Susan, Todd Donovan, and Jeffrey Karp. "Minority Representation, Empowerment, and Participation." The Journal of Politics 66, no. 2 (May 2004): 534-556.
Barsh, Russel Lawrence. "Canada's Aboriginal Peoples: Social Integration or Disintegration?" Canadian Journal of Native Studies 14, no. 1 (1994): 1-46.
Barsh, Russel Lawrence. "The Nature and Spirit of North American Political Systems." American Indian Quarterly, (1986): 181-198.
Borrows, John. Canada's Indigenous Constitution. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.
Borrows, John. "'Landed' Citizenship: Narratives of Aboriginal Political Participation." In Citizenship in Diverse Societies, by Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2012): 326-344.
Borrows, John. "Seven Generations, Seven Teachings: Ending the Indian Act." Research Paper, National Centre for First Nations Governance, Ottawa, 2008.
Cowie, C. (2013). Validity and Potential: Dual Citizenship and the Indigenous Vote in Canada’s Federal Electoral Process. Masters of Arts Thesis, University of Manitoba, Political Studies.

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
Fournier, Patrick and Peter John Loewen. Aboriginal Electoral Participation in Canada. Government of Canada, 2011
Gordon, Todd. Imperialist Canada. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2010.
Government of Canada. Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy (The White Paper, 1969). Ottawa: Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1969
Kulchyski, Peter, D. McCaskill, and David Newhouse (1999). In The Words of Elders: Aboriginal Cultures in Transition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Ladner, Kiera. "The Alienation of Nation: Understanding Aboriginal Electoral Participation." Electoral Insight, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2003: 21-26.
Ladner, Kiera. Peace and Good Order: A Treaty Right to Parliamentary Representation? Ottawa: Carleton University, 1996
Ladner, Kiera, and Michael McCrossan. "The Road not Taken." In Contested Constitutionalism: Reflection on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by James Kelly and Christopher Manfredi. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, (2009): 263- 283.
Mecredi, Ovide and Mary Ellen Turpel. In the Rapids: Navigating the Future of First Nations. Toronto: Penguin Books. 1993.
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, Vol 1. Ottawa: Canada Communications Group
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, Vol 2. Ottawa: Canada Communications Group
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, Vol 3. Ottawa: Canada Communications Group
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, Vol 4. Ottawa: Canada Communications Group
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, Vol 5. Ottawa: Canada Communications Group
Schouls, Tim. “The Basic Dilemma: Sovereignty or Assimilation.” In John Bird, Lorraine Land and Murray MacAdam, Nation to Nation: Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Future of Canada. Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 2002, 15
Simpson, Leanne. Dancing on Our Turtle's Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011.
Sherwin, Allan. Bridging Two Peoples. Waterloo ON CA: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2012
Tobias, John. “Protection, Civilization, and Assimilation.” In Sweet Promises: A Reader on Indian-White Relations, by J.R. Miller, 127-144. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.
Young, Iris Marion. “Two Concepts of Self-Determination.” In Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Minority Rights, eds S. May, T. Modood and J. Squires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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