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The Politics Of Aboriginals In Canada – OpEd

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The recent imbroglio involving SNC Lavalin, the Liberal Party and several of its high profile women Ministers associated with the management of the Aboriginal Question has revealed again the national quandary about the place of First Nations. The spectacle of Canadian politicians exploiting the Aboriginals for political influence and sway is atrocious but far from new. Aboriginals cannot depend on such moral frailty as that which the white man has shown them throughout their existence of this continent.

My message to the Syrian opposition fighting the brutality of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria was the same – you can only count on yourselves. Many nations will watch you die for your principles and do nothing. Some will offer help but with the proviso that they are to be reimbursed in some way. The vehicle for revolution and change must not be some external political elite.

The democratic transition in Spain is a glaring example of what happens when the liberated content themselves with supporting a political elite (the monarchy) in order to secure a sustainable democratic regime and consciousness. Spain has never severed definitively with the legacy of Franco and his henchmen. The Catalans, who have been stripped of their liberties and the right to self-determination, can testify to this. The presence of a most eloquent Constitution cannot alone protect and promote the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Democracy is not just about high-sounding documents, it must become a way of life. Forcing unity on Catalonia using the Constitution as a legal instrument is the height of hypocrisy and authoritarian rule. It is illegitimate.

We know the past from the Metis leader Louis Riel’s hanging in 1885 to the pervasive rebuff of land claims, some before duly constituted courts, to the despicable 20th century separation of Aboriginal families based on the white man’s justice and strategic aims. The past cannot be a harbinger of the future. It should be remembered but not revered.

In 2015, the newly elected Liberal government of Justin Trudeau struck a national commission of reconciliation as bait to entice Aboriginals to vote for his party. And that they did. However, the Commission has been hampered by senior resignations and is now wallowing in trivialities. The Liberals, who historically have never been unable to hold a truly creative policy convention, fall back on a leader whose knowledge of the issue is far from complete. ‘Reconciliation’ is different for the white man and the First Nations making the Commission’s mandate a ‘chateau de carter’.

As long as the Aboriginal groups and tribes remain divided over their political allegiances, they will be used by the white man’s political parties. Aboriginal interests will be subverted to political expediency. In response, the current Aboriginal leadership has attempted to put its votes behind one of the three main political parties. This policy has been an abject failure.

The Aboriginals of Canada could, however, take a page out of the Bloc Québécois playbook. Instead of having to subvert policy depending on white man’s strategic interests, the Aboriginals could found a new political party. This would have several results: the new Party may win a number of ridings where Aboriginals already live and are a majority or a significant minority. The MPs, and they alone, could focus on issues affecting Aboriginal populations in the federal parliament in Ottawa. Second, the existence of a Canadian Aboriginal Party could help focus other political parties on Aboriginal issues and how they might be delivered in an efficient and humane fashion. Ideally, on the bureaucratic side, a Canadian Aboriginal political party ought to fight to abolish the Indian Act and decentralize the Indian and Northern Affairs department budget with the objective of dissolving it.

There will be obstacles to the creation of such a political party not the least of which is the veiled opposition of the three main political parties. However, their continual misiling of Aboriginal peoples has won them international scorn and disdain. There will be jealous Chiefs and regional Aboriginal figures tied to the white man’s purse strings to build this or that pipeline or to make false promises about jobs and development. The biggest obstacle is the one Tecumseh faced during the war with the Americans during the first half of the 19th century: how to unify the distant and distinct Indian nations of North America? Tecumseh’s failure was the white man’s pleasure and we are still living in its shadow.

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Bruce Mabley

Dr. Bruce Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat having served in the Middle East, and is the director of the Mackenzie-Papineau think tank in Montreal.

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