In his book, A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul argued that Canada owed its existence to three founding nations -- Britain, France and its First Nations. But he took the argument further than that. What was best about us, Saul wrote, was what we unconsciously inherited from our First Nations. That inheritance has made us a "Metis Nation."
In his latest book, The Comeback, Saul argues that Canada is in the midst of a Quiet Native Revolution. Lawrence Martin writes:
What’s happening today is comparable to the Quiet Revolution in 1960s Quebec, he says. Our indigenous peoples are about to impose themselves the way Quebec nationalists did then. Few understand this because the focus has disproportionately been on the suffering and the failures – the rapes, the poverty, the residential schools, the Attawapiskats.
There’s a new aboriginal elite. We have Inuit and Cree corporations. Supreme Court victories are giving aboriginals more control over the commodity-rich lands of the North. Climate change is playing to their agenda. The aboriginal population is rapidly increasing, as is aboriginal youth enrolment in universities and colleges. “They are smart, intellectually lean and rightfully angry young people,” he says – their clout was felt with Idle No More and will soon register more tellingly.
Never mind some of the negative stuff in the media, for example, the stories about some delinquent chiefs being overpaid. Indeed, some are, said Mr. Saul, speaking recently to a packed hall of 700 in Ottawa. But, “did anyone bother to compare the percentage of overpaid chiefs with the percentage of overpaid CEOs in the private sector?”
Indeed, Canada's natives people are putting the brakes on runaway corporatism:
Our Western model put few brakes on commercial development. Governments have too often run the Canadian North, where two-thirds of our resource wealth lies, “like slum landlords.” With the native peoples’ legal victories, their philosophy, which sees the human as integral, as opposed to a dominant part of the whole, will take hold.
Certainly, the revolution has been quiet. And the Harper government has done everything in its power to stop it. But, if Saul is right, the First Nations may -- as they have done in the past -- lead us back to our better angels.