Stephen Harper must feel he has dodged a bullet. Theresa Spence has left the island; and all appears calm along the banks of the Ottawa River. Now, as he did with the premiers on healthcare, Harper is dictating terms to Canada's First Nations. Michael Harris writes:
Senior Idle No More sources have told iPolitics that bands are in turmoil over a debate about whether to sign this year’s contribution agreements with the federal government. The issue is an appendix of conditions attached to the documents.
The appendix allegedly requires the bands to support federal omnibus legislation and proposed resource developments as a condition of accessing their funding. Some bands have already signed the funding agreements out of necessity, noting that they did so under duress, and at least two others allegedly did not. “As of April 1, 2013,” one source said, “they will have no funds because they did not sign the agreement.”
As has been the case all along, Harper wants to turn back the clock. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who watched Harper tear up the Kelonwa Accord, says:
“The great tragedy of Kelowna is that the fundamental problem has only gotten worse as Harper has gone back to the old way of doing things that has been failing since the 1920s … There is great tension now because the Harper government has reversed wheels on the issue.”
Consider what has happened since Harper burned the accord:
- Two of the key people Harper once depended on to guide him through the issues on the table with Canada’s First Nations, Senator Patrick Brazeau and former political mentor Tom Flanagan, are in disgrace.
- The high level meetings that were supposed to jump-start the new relationship are still just a gleam in a bureaucrat’s eye.
- The Harper government has taken the Metis to court to argue that Ottawa is not responsible for them after a lower court ruled that it was.
- The Harper government fought a case in the federal Court of Appeal to sustain the current system of child welfare underfunding on reserves.
- The Harper government has been taken to court for refusing to provide documents by its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into the residential school tragedy.
Canada's First Nations have learned what Quebecers learned early into Harper's tenure: When he says he has their interests at heart, he is totally insincere. What drives Idle No More is the movement's totally accurate take on the prime minister. You can't believe a word he says.
And that is the reason why, if Harper thinks he has put native unrest to rest, he is sadly mistaken. Aboriginal anger continues to grow.