Wednesday, June 03, 2015

It Will Take Another Government


Yesterday, Justice Murray Sinclair tabled the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The report's 94 recommendations are wide ranging. Tim Harper writes:

The commission has called on the federal government to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, something to which the Conservatives now merely “aspire.”

It wants a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation, it wants Pope Francis to come to Canada within a year to issue an apology for the role of the Catholic church in the residential schools, it wants all levels of government to provide annual reports on the progress toward reconciliation. It wants the prime minister to issue an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report. It wants a monument to the survivors in Ottawa and all provincial capitals and a national holiday honouring survivors and victims.

The report recommends:

a change to the oath of citizenship to include respect for treaties with indigenous people, a requirement that all law and journalism students in Canada be taught the legacy of residential schools and a requirement that medical and nursing schools make aboriginal health a required subject,

as well as an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women. We know how the Harper government has reacted to that suggestion. 

The government's reaction to the report in general has not been encouraging. Ryan Maloney, in the Huffington Post, reports that the Harperites were unmoved by the report:

On Tuesday, the TRC released a long-awaited report on the shameful legacy of the residential school system. The push for a national inquiry and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People were both included among 94 wide-ranging recommendations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has previously ruled out taking both actions and, in question period, hinted its position was unlikely to change.

The truth is that it will take another government to act upon the report's 94 recommendations. The prime minister is good at offering apologies. But, as Canadian veterans know, he refuses to put his money where his mouth is. Talk is cheap. And Stephen Harper is full of talk.

As long as he is prime minister, there will be no action on the TRC report. It will take another government to change conditions for Canada's native peoples.


Rural said...

Indeed change at the top must happen before any progress is to be made on this issue, Owen. Our aboriginal peoples do not usually vote in large numbers, and one can perhaps see why, but if they truly want to change the status quo then this is a very good reason to participate in both the upcoming election and the public discussions leading up to it.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Rural. And, for those of us who are appalled by what the TRC report lays bare, there is even more reason to throw the present government out of office.

ron wilton said...

How painful as a Canadian to witness `our` minister of Aboriginal Affairs remain seated while the rest of the world 'stood up' for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

More afraid of risking rebuke from his master than suffer the revulsion that will now be felt about him and his ilk by the people of Canada.

Owen Gray said...

Valcourt reminded us of the lumber Harper uses to build his cabinet, ron. It's rotten.

Anonymous said...

Okay so Owen if the good Pope Francis comes to Canada will he be arrested on charges of Antisemitism? Good question he is very out spoken about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. So by Harper's fresh new laws that is a criminal act.

So let me get this straight it is okay for Israel to steal Palestinian land boycott them fence them in and fire rockets into their compound killing men woman and children. Also blockading their harbors. But in Canada now it is illegal to criticize such violent and apartheid behavior. Also if you don't buy Israeli goods services and merchandise that is illegal too. Harper's mind is Tiffany twisted he got the Mercedes Bends [sic on purpose] and he got a lot of pretty pretty boys in short pants he call fiends [PMO] we have entered the Twilight Zone.

Pope buddy if you do come here you got another thing coming. The Harper one man band steam roller turned dictator oh gosh I've done it now I have made it into Harper's 'the enemies list'...


Owen Gray said...

I'm sure his enemies list keeps getting longer, Mogs.

Dana said...

The whole exercise has been a Potemkin event. Harper never had any intention of taking any action at all and I find it nearly impossible to believe that any political party we currently have would take any significant action either. The NDP already demonstrated their commitment to First Nations when they threw the Kelowna Accord under the electoral bus. The Liberals won't commit to anything at all except quality hair cuts for all. The Greens will commit to anything because why not.

If the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures ever really come to terms with this country's racist history and present and deal honestly and fairly with it's historical and current victims the social fracturing will rip the federation to shreds.

Owen Gray said...

That's always been the fundamental Canadian challenge, Dana. How do you deal fairly and justly with diversity without bringing the house down?

Pamela Mac Neil said...

It is very important Owen to teach the real history of First Nations in our schools. Then we will have generations growing up and understanding why First Nations are demanding reconciliation. The abuse against First Nations is so entrenched , it has effected every part of their lives including land claims. They have shown enormous courage and strength in resisting forced assimilation and holding on to their language and culture. What a different country we would have if, starting with confederation, the government would have shared power with them, instead of trying to destroy them.

Owen Gray said...

John Ralston Saul has written a great deal about how First Nations perspectives are at Canada's core, Pam. The problem is that the majority of Canadians do not understand how their ideas have defined this country.

And, by the way, their ideas have been categorically rejected by the Conservative Party of Canada.

Dana said...

This particular issue runs a wee bit deeper than mere diversity, Owen.

White people, us, our ancestors, came to their home and stole it from them. In the process we poisoned them, infected them, massacred them, de-humanized them, raped the women and emasculated the men. Then we shut them away in mostly infertile rocky locations out of sight and patted ourselves on the back for our foresight and christian fucking hypocrisy. That cursed book has caused so much trouble in this world.

Then other immigrants came and we eventually found out what the word diversity meant but by then we had patted ourselves on our backs so long and so hard that we couldn't turn around and see our own history any more.

We stole everything we have from them, came close to killing them off entirely and now we won't do a fucking thing other than mouth empty platitudes to try and make it right.

What do thieves, rapists and murderers deserve?

In our case we assigned ourselves the wealth of the country as our punishment.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Dana. It's about a lot more than diversity. The irony is that our First Nations bequeathed to us the notion of the ever widening circle -- which we have relied on to make room for newcomers. But we have done everything in our power to ensure that those who were here from the beginning have no place in that circle.

Our treatment of the First Nations begs the question: Do we have the right to call ourselves a nation?

Dana said...

Yes someone with some power or authority should insist on that question being examined. I'll keep breathing.

You're familiar I'm sure with the First Nations concept and principle of All My Relations. The following was written by Richard Wagamese. I'll leave it you to look him up. This was published in the Kamloops Daily News on June 11, 2013.

Imagine, just imagine, what the North American continent might be like today if instead of that vicious dead old desert religion our moral lives were mediated more by this. It is this that Harper rejects.

"From our deck the world reveals itself slowly detail by detail these summer mornings when morning becomes the ultimate painter. There's a sublime elegance to the way things come together. Light chases shadow into recess and what emerges stands stock still in the slow spill of sunlight as though surprised at its properties and definition.

To be here as morning breaks is to feel unity. It's to feel connected to everything around you and to absorb it, bring it into the very fiber your being, like learning to breathe all over again. It's to come to understand that you are alive because everything else is. It is to comprehend what your people mean when they say "All my relations."

It means everything. It's not uttered in a casual way nor is it meant to be. In its solemnity it is meant as a benediction, a blessing and a call to this unity you feel all around you in the depth of morning. This phrase, this articulation of spirit, is a clarion call to consciousness.

It means that you recognize everything as alive and elemental to your being. There is nothing that matters less than anything else. By virtue of its being, all things are vital, necessary and a part of the grand whole, because unity cannot exist where exclusion is allowed to happen. This is the great teaching of this statement.

"All my relations," means all. When a speaker makes this statement it's meant as recognition of the principles of harmony, unity and equality. It's a way of saying that you recognize your place in the universe and that you recognize the place of others and of other things in the realm of the real and the living. In that it is a powerful evocation of truth.

Because when you say those words you mean everything that you are kin to. Not just those people who look like you, talk like you, act like you, sing, dance, celebrate, worship or pray like you. Everyone. You also mean everything that relies on air, water, sunlight and the power of the Earth and the universe itself for sustenance and perpetuation. It's recognition of the fact that we are all one body moving through time and space together.

To say these words is to offer a doorway to that understanding to those who hear you. It's to proclaim in one sentence that this experience of living is a process of coming together and that it was always meant to be.

When you offer that doorway, you offer the most sublime truth. You offer the essential teaching.

Your people say these words as an act of ceremony and here in this majestic light of morning you feel that ritual glow within you like an ember from a fire. All things connected. All things related. All things grown equally out of the one single act of Creation that spawned us. This is what you feel and this is what you mean.

You come to realize too, that if we could all glean the power of this one short statement, we could change the world. We could evoke brotherhood and sisterhood. We could remind ourselves and each other that we need each other, that there is not a single life that is not important to the whole or a single thing that is not worth protecting and honoring.

Here in the splendid light of morning you come to this truth again and seek to breathe it into you, to become it even for a fraction of a second. Truth requires only an instant from which to grow."

Owen Gray said...

We're still caught in a world of Cartesian opposites, Dana -- rural and urban, good and evil, us and them.

I'm drawn to this passage:

"Not just those people who look like you, talk like you, act like you, sing, dance, celebrate, worship or pray like you. Everyone. You also mean everything that relies on air, water, sunlight and the power of the Earth and the universe itself for sustenance and perpetuation. It's recognition of the fact that we are all one body moving through time and space together."

It begs the question: Who is truly ignorant? Who is the savage?

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the American Constitution was based on: "The Iroquois League was, and still is, the oldest participatory democracy on Earth." we could learn allot from the "Iroquois Confederacy's Great Law of Peace"


"When the first Europeans swept into the northeast of the New World, far from finding a organizational blank canvass on which to create a brand new system of government, it should be part of the curriculum for students in the Americas to understand that they instead encountered a highly organized, very powerful alliance of six nations that controlled a giant expanse of territory, from the St. Lawrence river south into Pennsylvania and west into Illinois."

So much for them being 'savages' and residential schools was the dirtiest meanest and painful trick the savages from Europe could have inflicted to steal land resources and try to destroy a way of life thousands upon thousands of years old.

Now in BC we are an anomaly compared to the rest of Canada. The British Territorial settler government refused to make treaties with the First Nations calling them 'savages and not worthy of treaties. The British Government urged them to do so they refused. Now they have never ceded their sovereign territory to the British Crown or Canada or BC. Uh oh Ottawa and Victoria we have a problem here...


Owen Gray said...

I'm aware of the place the Iroquois Confederacy in has in American Constitution building, Mogs. But I'm not sure many Americans are aware of its influence.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Hi Owen. I agree about John Ralston Saul. I have his latest book on First Nations. I have to say that Paul Martin is a genuine supporter and acknowledges First Nations rights to self determination. He has said that the longest period of racism up to present day is directed at First Nations. I listened to him on the Agenda one night demolish all the myths and stereotyping of First Nations. The early settlers prior to confederation when they first arrived in Canada met with First Nations who welcomed them into their inclusive circle, traded with them and First Nations literally showed these settlers how to survive Canadian winters. Saul has said that the First Nation concept of inclusion is what gave rise to our multicultural Act. There is so much to know when it comes to learning the truth. The tragedy is we are not taught First Nations history, we have to learn it on our own. I am also amazed at the benevolence the FN show to non-natives. Considering the abuse they endured and still are, at the hands of non-natives that's an incredible achievment. Time to reclaim the truth about our history.

Owen Gray said...

Martin has been committed to improving the welfare of the First Nations for a long time, Pam. It was he who signed the Kelowna Accord -- which Harper tore up almost immediately after he took office.

Steve said...

CD Howe institute moves the pension goal posts for Harper. Its a think tank, never audited.

Owen Gray said...

His friends are coming to his aid, Steve.