On the second anniversary of the founding of the Idle No More Movement, Irvin Studin writes:
There can be little doubt that the aboriginal question is by far the most important moral question of Canada’s early 21st century. No other public question in Canada has its historical weight, inertia and complexity.
But what is the aboriginal question for this century? Are we talking about standards of material well-being for aboriginal people? Is it about social status and professional opportunity? Or does the question turn fundamentally on the vindication of specific legal and constitutional rights?
The answer must begin with the brutal premise that the aboriginal people in Canada still live as history’s losers; that is, most of the aboriginal people in Canada are descended most recently from people who in their legal, social, economic, organizational and geopolitical interactions with non-aboriginals — principally European settlers and their own descendants — were over time and for a variety of reasons stripped of territory, prestige, rights and the underpinnings of social and material well-being.
The answer must also take note of the fact that the government which tore up the Kelowna Accord has done nothing to advance the well being of Canada's native peoples. If anything, the Harperites have moved to ensure that Canada's First Nations remain trapped in and enslaved by a long history:
To this day, the aboriginal people have generally not been relieved — in their own minds or in the minds of the winning majority — of the status of Canadian history’s losing people. This is not a merely formal status; it is a properly psychological-spiritual one. It means that to a large extent the negative drag of the aboriginal question today continues to be psychological-spiritual in nature, and that a good part of the answer to the aboriginal question must deal frontally with this reality.
Studin writes that French Canadians used to be seen as a conquered people. The Quiet Revolution changed that perception -- for both French and English Canadians:
The creation over time in Canada of a properly bilingual, bicultural and binational state points the way forward on the aboriginal question. Canada’s great success in responding to the challenge to internal unity and cohesion posed by the linguistic and cultural differences between the English-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority has been premised on the idea that the endgame consists not in perfect harmony or amity between the tribes, but depends instead on how a historically victorious majority can rehabilitate and resuscitate defeated minorities into political and even cultural co-equals — co-equals who are equally invested in the continued existence of the state.
That change, of course, presumes a generosity of spirit -- something that is missing in the Harperite DNA. If Canada's native peoples are ever to take their place in the national firmament, the Harper government will have to be removed from its place in that firmament.