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Idle No More -- a Canadian issue!

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by LKD, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    Idle No More is a protest movement in Canada being spearheaded by Native Canadian groups (some call them Indians, some call them Aboriginals, the term First Nations also comes up, as does Metis, and each one has slightly nuanced meanings – especially Metis, which I might get to in a later post.) In any event, it’s big news here in Canada, and might make some waves in the U.S. if some organizers get their way.

    The whole protest seems to me to have been initiated by a woman named Theresa Spence. She is the leader of a tiny, remote northern reserve called Attawapiskat . There has been a lot of fuss made about the living conditions on this reserve, which in some cases approach Third World standards of living. The immediate response of many has been that the Federal Government has been ignoring and neglecting the unfortunate inhabitants of this reserve, which of course highlights the fact that Canada in general is terrible in its treatment of Native Canadians.

    Well, the Government record on funding to this reserve indicates that millions of dollars has gone to this reserve, an astounding amount considering the tiny population there. The Feds asked for an accounting of how that money was used, and the Reserve leadership immediately accused them of racism. A forensic accountant of some sort was sent up there to review their books, and they booted him off the reserve.

    So Spence decided to go on a hunger strike until the Prime Minister meets with her for weeks on end to discuss Native relations with the Canadian Federal Government and with Canada as a whole. Her demands were not met. Her credibility has taken a lot of damage due to the fact that an audit showed tremendous problems with her money management, and the fact that HER house on the Attawapiskat reserve is really posh, complete with big screen TVs etc.

    In the meantime, the Feds have decided to push through some legislation regarding land usage and waterways regulation. Some Natives claim that this is an effort to poison the environment in the name of fast bucks, and additionally kill Natives living on reservations all over the country. The government claims the changes actually give more autonomy to individual Natives rather than to Native Leaders. They also claim that the waterways legislation will not lead to more pollution. They didn’t dignify the genocide comments with an answer.

    Many Natives are now holding protests across the country to raise awareness about Native issues. Most of the protests have been peaceful and law abiding, but some have involved blockading rail lines, and there have been threats of blocking major roads and in one case a vital border crossing between Canada and the U.S.

    My take on it is this – statistics show that Natives suffer a great deal in Canadian society. Death rates, incarceration rates, disease rates, high school completion rates, earning rates, etc – across the board the statistics are grim. I agree that something needs to be done, but the question is what? More importantly, is the problem 100% the big bad White man?
    I guess it’s easy to see that I don’t think it can all be blamed on the Government. There are many Natives who disagree with their leaders, and given that SOME (note the emphasis) of those leaders are very obviously misusing the funds that are supposed to be helping their band members, it’s easy to see why. I see these protests as orchestrated by some Native Leaders who want to maintain the status quo. They like having free reign to use the money they receive from the government without much oversight. They are just as venal as the White oil company executives. Their consideration for the plight of the everyday Native is suspect in the extreme.

    I have lived in Canada for over 35 years, and I do not see any systematic discrimination against them. No signs that say “No Injuns”, no segregated washrooms, no government policies that exclude Natives from employment. In fact, all I’ve seen are programs that are aimed directly at supporting and assisting Natives. The school I currently work at is very intent on supporting Natives. I’m not sure what else we can realistically do. I can also say that neither I nor any of my friends have ever physically assaulted a Native or committed any crime against one, and we have never turned one down for a job based on his Native heritage (heck, I’ve never been in charge of hiring anyone in the first place). I get a little frustrated when I am told that I am part of the problem when I have never done anything to hurt a Native.
    I also get aggravated by the idea that because they are Native and playing the victim card they have the right to break the law. It’s the same problem I had with the Occupy movement – protest all you want, but the law is for everybody. I often ask supporters of this sort of thing if they would be OK with a group of anti-abortion protestors closing off a major roadway. If not, and you’d want the police to go in and move them out, I don’t see why you want to give another group the right to break a law.

    Where I work, there are several Native people on staff. They are successful teachers and administrators. It’s not like a Native cannot succeed in this country – I’ve seen many do so. I have no problem with working with these people, any more than I have with working with any other person, so I absolutely refuse to take seriously any accusations of racism made against me. I’m a pretty thoughtful person and not a moron who does not engage in self-reflection.

    I want to hear what you folks think about this, especially fellow Canadians, but also Americans who also deal with these sorts of issues.
     
  2. Rotku

    Rotku I believe I can fly Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    I wasn't going to comment, but this line here caught my attention. I know I'm picking on line out of many, but it's interesting. New Zealand has always faced similar issues, which have come more and more to light since a Maori cultural movement in the '80s. There is a lot of similarities between what you say the situation in Canada is like and what it is like here.

    Interestingly though, that approach that you mention (give power to the individuals, not the leaders) was exactly what was tried here to weaken the various Maori iwi (groups) after the Land Wars in the late 19th century (realising that NZ was not even 100 years old at that point). Maori land was traditionally owned (controlled, at least - ownership is not really the best term there) by the wider iwi rather than individuals. A court was set up with the sole purpose of going into these different communities and assigning land deeds to the individuals. It was advertised as giving power to the individual Maori and assuring their rights (so no European could come and just take the land, as they had the legal deeds to it). The result, however, was the opposite. By giving land to the individuals it provided real easy access for the European settlers to purchase. It was one of the key events that really lead to a downward spiral in Maori wellbeing.

    Now a days, the opposite approach is generally taken. In the late '80s a tribunal was set up to hear out old grievances against, usually relating to Maori land-rights. The general approach, when the government pays out settlements, has been to put trust controlled by the elders (Kaumātuas) of the tribe. There have been some great success cases. A local example, after winning a large payment against the Bishop of Wellington for a large land 'theft' in the 1890s, the local iwi have set up a tertiary education institute to serve local members, leading to a real increase in education for the local iwi (and has done Pasifika in the region a great boon too).
     
  3. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    It's going to be a couple of days before I have time to properly address this, but for now I'll just respond to this:

    Discrimination doesn't need to be systematic in order to exist.

    True, but they face a lot more hurdles than you or I.
     
  4. pplr Gems: 18/31
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    I agree with Rotku's point.

    I would be cautious about plans that are supposedly going to expand "individual" rights yet leave an individual weak and alone when facing a bank or corporation (the latter of which may be interested in mineral rights to an area).

    This does mean tribes or other groups can end up facing corrupt or greedy leaders. I recall an black state senator here who ran somewhat on reverse racism to get himself re-elected. It was rumored among political circles that he stole from his own constituents by a check cashing place he and his ran. While he was never arrested in relation to that he was caught in a kickback scheme and ended up spending a little time in a federal prison.

    I wonder if the best end result would be with continued management by tribe but with transparent accounting rules and budgets open to the public.
     
  5. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    There are plenty of well educated Natives who believe that the current system simply allows Native elites to exploit the workaday Natives.

    On another tangential note, I take great issue with the mindset that just because I, a White man, disagree with a Native, that makes me a genocidal racist bigot. Even if there is a sizeable group of Natives who agrees with me, I'm still a bigot according to this PC nonsense.

    The movement has simmered down, but I have a feeling that come summer there will be an explosion of blockades and disruptions. This disturbs me, and it angers me, because I and the millions of Canadians like me don't go out of our way to make lives difficult for people. In fact, I go out of my way to make things easier for them. And I don't think it's too much to ask others to afford us that same courtesy.
     
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