Monday, 20 July 2015

Thomas Mulcair and the NDP’s ‘New Relationship with Indigenous Peoples:

On July 7th both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau delivered a speech at the Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Montreal. In both speeches, the leaders outlined how they and their parties would approach a future with Indigenous peoples. Now, some of you will claim I am bias because of my long-standing support of the Liberal Party (despite the fact that I have on many occasions called out my own party on mistakes it has made – with the most recent being Bill C-51, despite my post in support specifically of Indigenous Liberal candidates).

Thus, in reviewing and watching both speeches from Mulcair and Trudeau I would argue Trudeau did the best: speaking of nation-to-nation relations, the need to re-establish and revamp the relationship to one that is positive, outlining in fuller details what the Liberals would do in government; committing to continue an open dialogue with our nations whether he is Prime Minister, Leader of Official Opposition, or neither. To be more specific, here are some reasons I felt Trudeau was 1) More Respectful; and 2) Offering More Specifics (I suggest looking into the video of the speech – which can be found with the AFN or the Liberal Party of Canada’s website):

1.     Trudeau was on-time and started his speech on time – Mulcair did not;
2.     Trudeau was the only one to recognize the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (specifically the Mohawk) – Mulcair did not;
3.     Acknowledged the Indigenous wing of the Liberals, the Aboriginal Peoples Commission – Mulcair did not recognize the NDP’s,
4.     Kept specifying the ‘nation-to-nation’ relations – Mulcair focused on ‘a new relationship,’
5.     Acknowledged the mistake of C-51 in relation to Indigenous peoples, promising to rescind the parts that impact us – stating: “Indigenous peoples standing up for their rights are not terrorists,”
6.     Using the term ‘Indigenous peoples’ rather than “Canada’s Indigenous peoples, etc,
7.     Acknowledged the failure of all past provincial and federal governments in treating Indigenous peoples and nations respectfully – including Liberal governments - Muclair has not in relation to NDP and its previous names when in the HOC or forming Provincial Governments;
8.     Went into further detail about how the Liberals will renew the nation-to-nation relationships as well as fairness and equality for Indigenous peoples;
9.     My one criticism: No time left for questions to be answered and asked openly ‘on-air' - instead they were done one-on-one with attendees as he walked around the place the AGA was held

Mulcair, although talking about establishing a new era of relations did not offer much specific or in detail. Furthermore Mulcair arrived late to his speech and also did not acknowledge the traditional territory that he was on whilst addressing the AFN AGA. To make matters worse, his answering of questions was generic, with little insight, and on one occasion getting defensive with one person when he got their name wrong.

Despite the positive and negatives highlighted above, I would argue that speeches from any federal political party at the AFN occurred for the first time in its history that July 7th – in my mind highlighting that both do see and realize the impact the ‘Indigenous vote’ could have. Both Trudeau and Mulcair highlighted this by reaching out to the delegates at the AFN AGA, agreeing on the need for more proper funding of items from education to infrastructure, as well as the need for an Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). I also do appreciate that both leaders, in their own wording, talked about ways to move forward in hand with our nations – Trudeau speaking of nation-to-nation relations and Mulcair about a ‘new era of relations.’ However, and this is where I become critical, how does Mulcair’s new era of relations look when you compare it to his and the NDP’s standing on the Sherbrooke Declaration – the NDP declaration that allows Quebec to separate from Canada and formulate its own modern-state despite the sovereign integrity and recognition of the Indigenous nations whose land (which is inherently still Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Wendate, Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Nehiyaw, and Innu) Quebec is built upon?

Mulcair’s ‘New Relationship’ vs. “Quebec’s Rights to Separate:”

Following Mulcair and Trudeau’s speeches, I began to wonder more fully what Mulcair’s ‘era of new relations’ really reflected because of his party’s stance on Quebec’s ability to separate. Mulciar on many occasions has stood steadfast in supporting the Sherbrooke Declaration. The Sherbrooke Declaration was the NDP’s response to the Clarity Act, with the NDP’s declaration agreeing that for Quebec to separate a simple majority was all that was needed. Neither the Clarity Act nor the Sherbrooke Declaration reflected or included notions of Indigenous sovereignties and nationhoods. In other words, when it came to Quebec’s separation, the recognition of Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Wendate, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaune, Nehiyaw, and Innu territory was left to the peripheries of the debate around Quebec’s right to separate.

Yet, as the NDP continued to grow in strength and as they continue to court the Indigenous vote, despite their delays in support of Idle No More, Chief Theresa Spence as well as Thomas Muclair’s lack of apology for endorsing Harper’s working relationship with our nations, the NDP’s stance around Quebec’s right to separate with land that is inherently Indigenous continues to be ignored and they continue to ignore questions regarding it. They refuse to answer questions I, and others send – instead playing partisan politics and calling mine, and other peoples questions as Liberal fuelled (despite the fact that many I know asking these questions are not supporters of any federal party).

I have witnessed questions sent to Nikki Ashton, Romeo Saganesh, and other high-profile NDP MPs – with them utilizing Conservative methods to attack back and demean the person asking the questions. Questions as simple as: How can you build a new era of relations with Indigenous peoples while your party would allow Quebec to separate with land that is Indigenous; How do Quebecers have such a right to separate with stolen Indigenous land; Etc. The NDP, as they have traditionally done over their actions, deflect and attack rather then offer answers (thats all I would like to see - answers to quell my fears as an Indigenous person).

Fast-forward to the last seven days and the NDP candidate in Papineau: Beatrice Zako. At the end of last week it came to fruition that Zako had supported a separatist party in the past before turning to the NDP. Mulcair and the NDP’s response was complete support for Zako who had come to realize that Quebec is best served in the NDP. However, since then it also came to fruition that Zako compared Quebec to a colonized Africa. Again, Zako compared Quebec to a colonized entity and, although she resigned as of today the NDP did nothing to reprimand her or remove her. Instead they expressed support for her.

Thus, again I ask: How does such mentality truly reflect a new era of relations between Canada and Indigenous nations under the NDP who had a candidate (one they supported and defended) who refers to Quebec as a colonized entity – completely ignoring the reality of the Indigenous nations. Such comments and defence of such comments would be like defending the Dutch of South Africa to that of English control while forgetting about the Africans who have called those lands home for millennia.

Thus, again – how does such mentality and such staunch support of such ignorance truly represent a new era of relations with our nations? Add this to Muclair’s past comments about willingness to sell Quebec’s water for a profit (despite Indigenous rights); his party’s stance and flip flop in 2009 on the MRP legislation, as well as his continued lack of apology for endorsing Harper’s working relationship with our nations (January 2013), and his current tour in Ontario defending Quebec's right to separate and you truly have to wonder: How?

Thus, to all of you reading this I ask you, and beg you all, to do more research. The NDP is not as picturesque as you may think when it comes to Indigenous peoples and our nationhoods. They have many of the same issues the other federal parties reflect and, unfortunately, they have spiralled into typical rhetoric on Indigenous peoples. Thus, I ask you all to do research and truly understand that the Quebec separation situation is tantamount to how they will work with us – as an afterthought to the needs and wants of the provinces and second to Quebec’s distinctness. 

Unless, the NDP and its MPs are ready to actually answer the questions being asked instead of playing ‘political-roundabout’ and ‘political chess.’

For Additional History on the NDP Please See:

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