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Learned article on Bill C-45 and Idle No More; Race Relations and Canadian Nationalism

Learned article on Bill C-45 and Idle No More; Race Relations and Canadian Nationalism

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Bill c 45 and idle no more Document Transcript

  • 1. Bill C-45 and Idle No MoreDr. Trent Keough, 14 February 2013 Bill C-45 will likely be remembered for inciting the Idle No More protestmovement. Bill C-45 was given Royal Assent on December 14, 2012 and is nowthe Jobs and Growth Act, 2012.i The Act seeks to further the implementation of theMarch 2012 Budget. The Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 brings changes to some 64pieces of discriminate legislation tied directly to the fulfillment of the federalgovernment‘s Action Plan.ii Government‘s strategy for parliamentary expediency,i.e. using an omnibus bill, has inspired nation-wide travel disruption resulting inuntold personal inconvenience, work stoppage, and corresponding losses ofrevenue and income. These results hardly fit with an economic action planbenefiting Canadians. Idle No More is also presenting its own unintended results.iiiThe movement is eroding support for Aboriginal issues and is presenting evidenceof ongoing fracturing of Aboriginal leadership. Idle No More raises questionsregarding the legitimacy of leadership and the authenticity of intention. Idle No More was/is primarily concerned with a lack of consultation onlegislative changes to the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and theEnvironmental Assessment Act.iv Not all legislative change in Bill C-45wasrejected by Aboriginal leaders. There was dialogue and consultation with FirstNations and Canadians outside of parliament. There was some concurrence, too.When speaking of legislative change identified for inspiring Canada‘s economicgrowth Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Assembly of First Nations National Chief, said:―‗We struggle under layer upon layer of wasteful bureaucratic interference, uselessand expensive controls are piled upon our people – squandering tax dollars andfrustrating change. Now, we must turn this around . . . .‘‖v The National Chief ofwas literally calling for change, and change did happen.vi How much consultation is enough or adequate? Who legitimately speaks forAboriginals when there is clear division and growing resentment between theAssembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and the variousMétis nations?vii The division between the groups can be relegated to two areas ofquestion: who has rightful access to federal cash and who is entitled to indigenousland rights? Some changes in Bill C-45were welcomed by First Nations‘leadership, at least initially. There is little evidence of government‘s attempting toexhaust consultation on Bill C-45. The expectation is genuinely insincere to begin 1
  • 2. with. Exhaustive consultation resulting in global contentment is impossible due tocompeting interests. Regret and disagreement are anticipated in democraticprocesses. When is social protest an acceptable consequence of expressing regret? Bill C-45 was used to initiate change without parliamentary delay. It was ademonstration of government‘s legislative power.viii The opposition parties moanedabout government‘s unwillingness to change to their positions: ―‗[TheConservatives] have not accepted any amendments. Theyve not accepted anysuggestions. Theyve not accepted any improvements. Theyve made no changes. . .. .‘ [Interim Liberal Leader, Bob Rae,] said. . . . Despite hundreds of amendmentsintroduced by the opposition parties . . . every single amendment was voted downby government MPs.‖ix With the power of elected majority in the House ofCommons, the Conservative government did not feel obliged to negotiate for aprerogative to decide. Government‘s privilege to decide for Canadians wasdetermined by prior democratic process. Not surprisingly, some Canadians arequestioning the obligation of government to respond to Idle No More protestgroups. These groups are perceived to have no national mandate other than thecivil right to protest. The historical exclusion of Aboriginals from Canada‘slegislative processes is considered irrelevant, if it is considered at all. Not everyone is happy with what occurred in Bill C-45. Idle No More arisesfrom the federal government‘s strategy not to engage in extensive dialogue or tocompromise within and outside of parliament. Whenever there is inadequatecommunication there is resulting supposition and innuendo. Propagation of thesetwo leads to expression of fear, anger, irrational behavior, violence and protestmovements. The general public‘s ignorance of the Bill C-45‘s contents is not,however, just the result of poor consultation on its subject-matter. Where there isrefusal to dialogue there is also corresponding evidence of interpretative error,intentional misdirection, as well as unintended and unforeseen consequences.There is miscommunication associated with Bill C-45‘s changes to specific piecesof legislation, particularly as it relates to Aboriginal issues. Inaccuracy and biasinform part of the general public‘s ‗awareness‘ of the issues raised with Bill C-45. The general public responds negatively and positively to the Idle No Moreprotests. Neither the public nor the protesters share foundational knowledge of BillC-45. There is no universal understanding of specific reasons for why Aboriginalobjections exist. Even supporters of Bill C-45 are oftentimes incorrect in assumingwhat the legislation does. The issues affiliated with Idle No More are emotionallycharged and rife with human rights violations, political embarrassments andlongstanding grievances. These issues are always cast in the troublesome shadows 2
  • 3. of the Indian Act and administrative practices of the federal Department ofAboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. As Canadians, Idle No More should lead us to ask startling questions of ourselves. Why are Canadians expressing sympathy/antipathy for Idle No More? Whatwill be the unintended consequences of Bill C-45?x The answers to these questionsare not always flattering. The questions force us to decide on what will be the tone,tenor and direction of the relationship between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals inour country. Circumstance has presented us with events demonstrating a shifting inthe expression of Aboriginal public consciousness in mainstream Canadian society.There are emerging changes in the Canadian public‘s attitudes to the authenticityof Aboriginal leadership and claims to that privileged identity. What is otherwise asilent structural intolerance of Aboriginals is beginning to elicit a vocal, socialresponse from Aboriginals. How long will it take non-Aboriginals to respond in-kind and publically own their intolerance? How long will it take for opendiscussion to define the reasons for the indifference Canadians have for Aboriginalissues? What dangers and benefits will these discussions and statements ofownership bring to us as a nation? The ‗us‘, however, assumes an identifiable Canadian ‗people‘ with definingvalues, customs and history. These are the imaginary Canadians defined only in theforeigner minds of Americans and Europeans. These cultural Canadians are alsooccasionally figured by Canadians travelling abroad as means to inter-culturalexpediency. Who are these ‗Canadians‘ in relation to Canadian Aboriginals?Answering this question is not as simple as posing an ‗us‘ set in opposition to anAboriginal-them or vice versa. Both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals are alignedwith the us-and-them groups. There is growing dissatisfaction within and outsideof Aboriginal groups with government policy sustaining welfare cultures on Indianreservations. There is shared anger over further incursion of the federalgovernment into Indian reservation management and decision-making. Bill C-27,now the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, will bring a new level oftransparency and accountability to reservation management, but at whose expense? Bill C-27 also enables the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and NorthernDevelopment Canada to lead key decision-making on reserves, not the BandCouncils elected by their constituencies. There are 21st century evocations of the‗Indian Agent‘ here. People on both sides welcome and reject this change indecision-making power. Other dramatic changes are also taking place contiguousto Bill C-45. Métis and non-Status Indian entitlement to equivalent treaty rights as 3
  • 4. ‗Indians‘ under the Canadian Constitution will erode the financial benefits ofTreaty Indian status.xi The recent federal court decision recognizing that Métis and non-status Indians in Canada are "Indians" under the Constitution Act could put a financial squeeze on the government, some experts say. . . . ‗Theoretically its billions and billions of dollars,‘ Robert Lovelace, a global development studies professor at Queens University in Kingston, Ont., and retired Ardoch Algonquin First Nations chief, told CBC News. . . . . ‗Theres always been concern that theres not enough money to go around, so if you add people to the pot, the meals going to get thinner. I hope that can be overcome,‘ Lovelace said.xii Idle No More also suggests that First Nations‘ ownership of indigenousprivilege once protected by treaty is in serious danger.xiii It was Bill C-31 (1985),an amendment to the Indian Act, that returned some one hundred thousand personsback to their Indian Status. It did not, however, herald the cessation of so-calledIndian emancipation, i.e. assimilation policies. Bill C-31 was named the ‗AbocideBill.‘ Aboriginal leaders anticipated that its change would lead to the eliminationof Treaty Indian Status. Harry W. Daniels said that Bill C-31 would ―acceleratethe extermination policies—the integration of Canada‘s Indian population intomainstream society—that have always been at the heart of the federal Indian Actregime.‖xiv Daniels was identifying a form of systemic racism built into federalgovernment policy and bureaucratic systems, specifically those used for namingStatus Indians. It is doubtful if government officials will admit it, but the federalgovernment‘s losing the recent court case isn‘t the strategic loss it first appears tobe. While the Federal Court did not assign a financial obligation to theConstitutional Indian status of Métis and non-Treaty Indians, the government willeventually comply with meeting its financial obligations. This funding will be atthe expense of current and future Treaty Indians. The complete loss of funding to reservation Indians is only a matter oftiming. Popular intolerance for stylized Aboriginal welfare cultures will strengthengovernment‘s counter position into the future. There will be ensuing arduousdebate over Canada‘s historical obligations to Indians. Images of impoverished 4
  • 5. children and wasting seniors will emotionalize and charge the politicalenvironment but not win over sympathy for increased taxation. Government willbe empowered by Canadians to end Indian welfare culture. Erosion of Treaty Indian status is part of the conditioning of Canadians tobecome insensitive and intolerant to preferential status and financial benefits givento Treaty Indian status. In the recent federal court case, First Nations haveeffectively been co-opted (first by use of federal legislation defining Aboriginalstatus, e.g. Bill-31), into a social group in which they will have eventual minoritystatus. Treaty privilege is being eroded by First Nation assimilation into an‗Aboriginal‘ status dominated by Métis and non-Status Indians. If money logicallyfollows people, then we automatically see who will receive the lion‘s share offederal dollars into the future. The movement to make Treaty Indians a minoritywithin the definition of Aboriginal is tied to the strategy of reducing monies toreservations. In 2004 when Tom Flanagan was a political advisor to StephenHarper‘s government he advanced a new assimilation theory: reduce the amount ofmoney going to reservations.xv We see that this strategy is actually being realizedin the contemporary. When the Métis and the non-Status Indian population exceed thegovernment‘s financial ability, and/or the public‘s willingness, to sustain ongoingfinancial support, the end of the Indian Act era will occur. Is this assimilation byAboriginal status really a conscious strategy or a series of un/fortunate,un/intended, or portentous events? Are we giving circumstance a conspiracytheory? Commentators, Aboriginal and not, have said that elimination of Treatiesand Treaty Indian status is an objective of the federal government; governmentconsistently denies it. It is not ironic that the Federal Court‘s decision to extend‗Indian‘ status to Métis and non-status Indians is in compliance with recognition ofhyphenated cultural existence in Canada, e.g. African-Canadian, Italian-Canadian,Aboriginal-Canadian, Indian-Métis, Indian-First Nations. Hyphenated or attenuated social identity is today foundational in Canadiancultural consciousness. Hyphenation was however a strategy of Canadianmulticulturalism to rid Canada of its ‗Indian issue.‘ Multiculturalism isassimilation by acknowledgement of equality, not unique status, created byacceptance of diversity as a nation building principle.xvi This focus on equality notdistinction is a critical assumption in Canadian nation building policy andlegislation since 1972. Within this historical strategy for developing a Canadiannational consciousness there is nothing perceptually wrong with Métis and non- 5
  • 6. Status Indians being referred to as ‗Indians‘ under constitutional law. Each alreadyholds the status of being (named in legislation) an Aboriginal people. By further collapsing the unique distinction of First Nations peoples fromMétis peoples, i.e. avoiding the indigenous designation and timeline arguments forand against First Aboriginal peoples, the federal government laid the pathway forthe federal court to determine that Métis and Non-Status Indians have equivalent ifnot equal constitutional rights afforded to Treaty Indians. We have arrived at along-awaited climatic end-result anticipated in multiculturalism: there is no oneunique indigenous people in Canada identified by the label ‗Indian.‘ The legitimateright of First Nations to claim charter Canadian status is ‗forever‘ denied. If our progress forward is as contorted and as seemingly conspiratorial as itappears, there is a social problem with ethical, legal and moral consequencesevident in our country. Canadians and Aboriginals want greater transparency. Bothgroups seek increased honesty in expression of the others‘ intentions. Aboriginalsand Canadians want evidence of respect in policy framework development. Theyexpect honesty in the administrative practices of the federal government andAboriginal administrations. Yet, both the federal government and Idle No Moreactivists fail to demonstrate clarity of purpose in their actions and remain reluctantto speak of true agendas.xvii Not surprisingly some ‗Canadians‘ and some Aboriginals are confused aboutthe dissatisfaction with the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012. There is mixed messagingfrom Aboriginal groups and their leaders on both the Act and the Idle No Moreprotest movement.xviii Is the Idle No More movement highlighting failedAboriginal leadership? Is Idle No More simply a manifestation of Aboriginal socialanomie? Neither Bill C-45 nor the Idle No More protest movement has singularcoherence; yet, there is written clarity of purpose in both. Bill C-45 was proposedto ―implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29,2012 and other measures.‖xix Idle No More‘s mission statement calls: ―on allpeople to join in a revolution which honors and fulfils Indigenous sovereigntywhich protects the land and water.‖ xxIdle No More vehemently claims Bill C-45erodes ―indigenous rights.‖xxi The romanticized notion of indigenous sovereignty protecting land andwater likely belongs to an era when ‗Aboriginal‘ peoples didn‘t litter, pollute orcause harm to the environment in any way. Indigenous sovereignty presupposesCanadian Indians won‘t ever litter, pollute or mismanage natural resources in thecontemporary, too. It‘s a difficult image to reconcile with the reality of litter, burnt 6
  • 7. tires, and garbage left at some blockade sites. Nature conservation andenvironmental protection is not what makes indigenous governance on reservationsso uniquely identifiable throughout Canada. Use of the term indigenous is alsoproblematic as it points to a difference between Aboriginal peoples based on theirbeing either autochthonous First Nations or ‗landed‘ Métis.xxii We shouldn‘t be too harsh when criticizing Idle No More for an expressionof idealism first popularized in a white man‘s myth of the noble savage livingwholesomely off the land. After all white man‘s welfare system has assumed theresponsibility for Aboriginal self-reflection-- as cultures and as individuals.Without personal accountability there can be no authentic social consciousness.xxiiiHow can our non-Aboriginal ears be opened to the possibilities of indigenoussovereignty, if it indeed exists, when Canadians have so depreciated the value ofAboriginal cultural contribution to nationhood? The federal government also has agrossly exaggerated self-image and self-confidence. It has unbridled expectationsfor its legislative capacity to orchestrate positive economic change. The federalgovernment believes in its own capacity to lead First Nation communities whencompetent First Nations leaders have themselves failed. Neither Idle No More, the Indian Act, nor individual treaty rights give anyAboriginal group a sovereignty position in Canada, Neither protects rightsidentified with achievement of a sovereignty position. And, neither Act nor treatyrights anticipate geo-political sovereignty; in fact, they preclude discussion of thispositioning by restriction of decision-making and administrative powers. Let us beclear. There is no nation here but that of Canada. To claim otherwise is to bedelusional. Aboriginal sovereignty is a matter political posturing serving anunending frustration. First Nations ‗claims to ‗first nationhood‘ are a response tofederal government assimilation strategies, and denial of Charter Canadian status.Consequently, Bill-C45 also needs some accounting in the historical frustrations ofthe desire for wholesale amendments to the Indian Act.xxiv The Indian Act’s original intention was eventual extinction of Indians whileliving on their respective reservations. Expectations for reservation genocide had tolater give way to hope for off-reserve assimilation. Getting rid of Treaty Rights hasproven historically difficult, if not impossible for the federal government. Federalpoliticians, and most recently with Aboriginal leadership support, have beenchipping at the Indian Act in a piecemeal fashion. Bill C-45 is a minor reflection ofthis larger activity. It also serves as a contemporary flashpoint highlighting it. 7
  • 8. Changes to the Indian Act in C-45 came about, at least in part, because ofconsultation with Aboriginal leaders: ―Even the lawyer representing the Assemblyof First Nations cautiously endorsed the substance of the amendments whileopposing their passage, saying there hadn‘t been adequate consultation with firstnations.‖xxv Lack of consultation is also a key theme in the Idle No Moremovement and a mantra for those participating in it. The average Canadian mightlegitimately come to ask, ‗Who speaks for Aboriginal peoples in Canada? And, ifconsultation is the equivalent of inclusion, guess what? Canadians might not havebeen adequately consulted either.‘ Changes to the Indian Act in Bill C-45 are intended to expedite the ability ofreserves to lease lands. They also increase the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs andNorthern Development Canada‘s ability to use majority decision-making atpossible odds with Band Council preferences: The amendments would allow First Nations communities to approve a land designation by a majority of votes from those in attendance instead of waiting for a majority from all eligible voters, in essence putting the onus on First Nations to show up to vote at meetings or referendums. . . . The aboriginal affairs minister would be given the authority to call a band meeting or referendum for the purpose of considering an absolute surrender of the bands territory, and to accept or refuse the land designation after receiving a resolution from the band council.xxviIronically we can attribute the land lease option changes in C-45 to successful golfcourse building, casino complexes, and vineyard developments on Aboriginallands. These are signals to economic action and plans for more. Bill C-45‘s‗wholesale‘ change to the Indian Act flows directly from the successful negotiationof previous change based on sectoral interests of localized Bands, like those foundin the: First Nation Property Ownership Act (FNPOA), First Nations Fiscal andStatistical Management Act (FNFSMA), First Nations Oil and Gas and MoneysManagement Act (FNOGMMA), and the First Nations Commercial and IndustrialDevelopment Act (FNCIDA). Who says the Indian Act can‘t be changed or impacted to suit the localinterests of Aboriginals without a national consultation with all Aboriginals? Once 8
  • 9. the volume of the sector and band agreements bury the Indian Act by volume ofnegotiated exception it will become impossible to uniformly apply it. The IndianAct will become ceremonial and archaic much like the Canadian Queen in whosename original Treaties were signed. But should we even dare propose that theseActs will assimilate the Indian Act? The question arises as to which Treaty holders,Bands or special interest groups, outside of representatives of the Assembly ofFirst Nations, were at the table with the federal government when the newestchanges to the Indian Act were proposed? Métis weren‘t there (?) as outside ofAlberta they have no land status. Some First Nations groups are clearly unhappy by what gets negotiatedaway in the process of amendment by rule as opposed to exception.xxvii Part of theargument for protest because of lack of consultation gets reduced to absurdity inconsideration of Idle No More‘s issue with the Navigation Protection Act. Changesto navigational regulations seem to have disproportionate impact, if not anexaggerated one, on Aboriginal use of Canada‘s local waterways. Bill C-45renames the Navigable Waters Protection Act governing all bodies of water to theNavigation Protection Act governing but (a mere!) three oceans, 97 lakes and 62rivers. Changes to the Navigation Protection Act are being widely misrepresented:―Under the act, major pipeline and power line project advocates arent required toprove their project wont damage or destroy a navigable waterway it crosses, unlessthe waterway is on a list prepared by the transportation minister. Idle No Moreclaims the amendments remove that protection for 99.9 per cent of lakes and riversin Canada.‖xxviii Claims that pipeline and water power projects are withoutenvironmental accountabilities and that 99.9% of Canadian waterways areunprotected from abuse are as alarmist as they are fatuous, erroneous. It‘s aChicken Little statement that is fast becoming urban legend/fact. Why such blatantmisrepresentation of fact? Well, the threat to waterway conservation was firstbrought forward by members of the opposition parties in the House of Commons.And, they have never been known for use of exaggeration, slanted focus orrhetorical filibuster to gain media attention! The misstatement has become a mediasound bite, albeit a false one. The newly named Act does not replace the Canadian EnvironmentalProtection Act, 1999 or provincial or territorial environmental protectionlegislations. No one is able to alter the course, destroy or negatively impact anotherwise navigable waterway (or even one not navigable) without sanction ofauthority from the appropriate province or territory and/or Government of Canada. 9
  • 10. Individuals or corporations choosing to act outside of compliance are subject topenalty and /or criminal charges. Nothing has changed yet we are led to think thesky is falling. Outside of the newly designated federally monitored waterway jurisdictions,the Act no longer applies in some environmental assessment impact statements andconsultations. Think of the difference between the environmental protection andnavigation Acts‘ jurisdictions as rules for building bridges over navigablewaterways and rules for the pipeline industry‘s traversing a now federally excludedriver. Recent changes to the Navigation Protection Act could exempt certain―pipelines and interprovincial power lines [or parts thereof]. . . so thatenvironmental assessment hearings for them would not have to consider whetherthey would affect or interfere with [navigation in a specific body of] . . . water inCanada. Pipelines and power lines will [however] continue to be subject to otherfederal and provincial approvals protecting waterways.‖xxix The CanadianEnvironmental Protection Act, 1999 as well as local legislation remains in effect,as appropriate. To say that Bill C-45 eliminated environmental responsibility forwatercourse management is irresponsible and incorrect. Why is the public being misled? Well, let‘s be clear on answering thisquestion; there is no expressed intention to mislead or evidence of anyonechoosing to lie directly. Here there is simply evidence of a lack of due diligenceand failure to investigate for factual detail. People want to believe the negative;and they assume decisions were made with ulterior motives in mind. There‘s awhole culture of suspicion and mistrust defining the government‘s relationshipwith Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Adjacent to the culture of mistrust is a growingculture of disrespect, derision and historical discrimination. Unknowingly, both theIdle no More and Bill C-45 are directly contributing to the growth of these twovery ugly cultures. Some Aboriginal communities want change to the Indian Act while othersdo not. Some individuals like to dissent and blame while others do not. Some leadby expression of suspicion, hatred and unbridled emotion. Others lead by balancedcare, reason and intellect. Some attack challenges directly with ethics grounded inpersonal/social responsibility. Others approach challenges as bandits only can.Perhaps they have been denied historical empowerment. These people have beendesignated as historically lesser ‗others.‘ They form and define cultural valuepropositions incidentally and accumulatively. Ultimately, they prevail on thepremise of justice deserved, and finally served. Initially they are perceived as being 10
  • 11. selfish for use of disruptive strategies, the unexpected blind-side, the hit-and-hide,the skirmish. Who are these people? Are they the Idle No More? Canada‘s assimilation policy for Aboriginals is grounded in the rationalismof the Indian Act. The Act is cold, self-serving, calculated and disrespectful ofAboriginals. The Act’s assimilation agenda sits beneath the ruse of respectinghonorable treaties which were unfortunately made in bad faith. After more than150 years, Idle No More has decided to change the rules of Aboriginalengagement. Who can blame them? Acceptance of lot and tolerance fordiscrimination has its human limits. Perhaps revolution is the only logical way out?There is the other side, regardless of however it reflects one side‘s bad behavior. Bill C-45 is the federal government‘s attempt to change expectations forAboriginal reserve leadership and simultaneously curb dependency on reserves.The federal government needs to become blunt about its covert agenda as it oncedid with the White Paper in1969. At that time and increasingly thereafter thefederal government lost its verve for speaking truthfully about its expectations forAboriginals. This silence on intention is attributable to: a) belief in the assimilationstrategy embedded in the multicultural policies shared by successive Canadiangovernments since the 1970s, b) fear of voter reprisal for owning the social shameoriginating with government‘s human rights transgressions and structuraldiscrimination against Indians, and c) the political correctness of not addressing thefailure of multiculturalism to define the nation. Today, however, the federalgovernment is being sensitive and responsive to the simmering resentment againstusing taxpayer money to pay reserve welfare bums. An ironic twist tomulticulturalism is an emerging unwillingness to accommodate stereotypes ofAboriginal difference based on social dependency. Canadians will respect Aboriginal difference mirrored in their nationaldiversity but they are no longer willing to permit tax dollars to pay for thosedistinctions. Aboriginals are free to become whoever they desire to be, butCanadians are no longer tolerant of paying for that search for identify. No socialgroup, however distinct in its varying cultures, deserves receiving more than 150years of welfare payments, regardless of the implied purpose of that welfareassistance, without a social review of outcomes achieved to date. NeitherCanadians nor Aboriginals are happy with these outcomes. A distinction, however,is that some Canadians and some Aboriginals wish to continue with the existingprocess of paying for welfare maintenance versus movement to economicengagement. 11
  • 12. As the historical English and French elites, the so-called charter Canadians,increasingly become minority Canadians there‘s less and less sympathy forhistorical grievances and wrongs committed by these groups in the early settlementactivities of the nation. Aboriginal discrimination is institutionalized in Canada‘spolitical system and it will readily absorb any social intolerance for Aboriginalprivilege or distinction. The Idle No More social protests will bring thesesentiments further into the open of Canadian socio-political consciousness. Hyphenated-Canadians and Aboriginal-Canadians are weary of talking aboutnot being what each wants and tells the other to become: that is, to be genuinelyresponsible. Hyphenated-Canadians do not want ongoing financial, social or moralresponsibility for the well-being of Aboriginal-Canadians, let alone sovereign FirstNations operating within the borders of Canada. Canadians have been shoutingthrough legislation and governance practices: We don’t care! We will not changefor you! You are a social and cultural deficit to the nation! In witnessing the IdleNo More movement we can see there is a visceral, public acknowledgement ofabdication of responsibility emerging before our very eyes. Thankfully,Aboriginals are responding back, too: We know you don’t care! We recognize youhave never cared! You will never care!xxx Now that we‘ve said the dreadful ‗it‘ publically to each other, what do we donext? We have to act. We can start by acting like responsible human beings, nothyphenated caricatures.i In this essay I use Bill C-45 to reference the Act in its Bill and current formats. While the Act isn’t the Bill, mostCanadians know the Bill.ii http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/blog, 20 January 2013. Canada’s Economic Action Plan is anindirect cause of the Idle No More protest movement.iii Canadians are also seeing that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Metisnations are eclipsing the Asembly of First Nations as the voice for Aboriginalleadership in Canada. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/01/08/pol-cp-metis-indians-federal-court-challenge.html23 January 2013iv This focus is not meant to be exhaustive. But concern for these changes is sharedby other Aboriginal organizations. Don MacKenzie, Director of IntergovernmentalAffairs with the Mikmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. , says, ―‘We are very concerned.Changes are being made to legislation affecting matters such as reserve lands,waterways, the environment, the fishery and the Indian Act. They are matters that 12
  • 13. go to the heart of aboriginal and treaty rights.‘" http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2012/12/14/pei-first-nations-protest-bill-584.html 20 January 2013v http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/page/r2d-dr2/what-responsible-resource-development, 20 January2013.vi All Bill C-45 changes were intended to reduce costs to government, cut red tape,unblock reserve administrators‘ decision-making, streamline environmentalapprovals, and create economic opportunities for growth. Certain of the changeswere mere house cleaning and normal legislative upkeep activities. Other changeswere intended to eliminate regulatory bottlenecks slowing economic growth. It isalso clear that some of these legislative changes were made in favor of resourcebased industries.vii ―The [Assembly of first Nations] AFN, which claims to speak for all aboriginalCanadians, is a collection of chiefs from the more than 630 First Nationscommunities in Canada. But well over 50 per cent of aboriginal Canadians dontlive on reserves, and according to [the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples] CAP, theirinterests are not adequately represented by the AFN. In addition, the vast bulk ofthe $9 billion that the federal government spends annually on aboriginal programsand services goes to the reserves, another bone of contention between the twogroups.‖ http://ca.news.yahoo.com/patrick-brazeau-anatomy-senate-appointment-085556765.html 14 February 2013viii http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/12/05/pol-tempers-flare-omnibus-budget-bill.html 21 January2013.ix http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/12/05/pol-tempers-flare-omnibus-budget-bill.html 21 January2013.x Are we behaving responsibly as government (e.g. inadequate consultation) and asdemocratic citizens (e.g. disruptive behavior)? What is the individual‘sresponsibility to understand the facts inspiring social upheaval associated with IdleNo More, but not directly a part of it? How many people inspired by Idle No Moreactivism have actually read the 444 pages of the Act? How many non-AboriginalCanadians can connect Idle No More to Canada’s Economic Action Plan? Howmany Canadians whose lives have been disrupted by Idle No More protestsunderstand its historical origins in the original Indian Act? How manyunknowingly support the Idle No More indigenous sovereignty agenda? AreCanadians sympathetic to Aboriginal issues equally supportive of claims forAboriginal sovereignty? Who of us fully comprehends the broader political 13
  • 14. implications of the confused and complicated social dialogue unfolding before us?What are we doing to locate the Idle No More protests into the context of ongoingAboriginal disenfranchisement? What are we doing to identify the weight given toIdle No More by its adjacencies, i.e. hunger strikes, Federal Court decisions,accountability legislation, etc., ? Are we approaching a seminal, shoe- droppingmoment in the history of Aboriginal relations in Canada? How will these Idle NoMore protests resonate into the future of Canada? How has Idle No More advancedthe mis/understanding of the challenges facing Aboriginal peoples andcommunities in Canada? Are we to witness an Aboriginal revolution and the birthof true Aboriginal nationhood in Canada?xi The contemporary version of the Indian Act of 1867: Bill C-31, An Act to Amendthe Indian Act (1985): fails to address real cultural differences among First Nationspeoples by classifying them as being Aboriginal. Further, Bill C-31 fails torecognize the ethno- cultural differences reflected in the Indigenous status of bothTreaty and non-Treaty Indians, and it does not differentiate Indians fromAboriginal Métis. Métis are original to the country of Canada, but they are notindigenous to the land Canada now occupies. To use Aboriginal to refer to Indiansand Métis is to deny the privilege of both charter and Indigenous status to Indians,as the one true ‗original‘ peoples of the lands claimed under British imperialismlater becoming Canada.xii http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/09/f-metis-non-status-decision-costs.html 22 January 2013.xiii Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, who is former national chief of theCongress of Aboriginal Peoples, [says] . . . that the courts decision and the Idle NoMore protest movement are part of a national discussion he sees as an opportunity.. . . "‗Whether its appealed or not, it will be a negotiations process between non-status organizations and Métis organizations with the federal government," he said.Again, its all part of an ongoing dialogue thats taking place.‘"http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/01/08/pol-cp-metis-indians-federal-court-challenge.html 22 January 2013.xiv (Daniels) “Bill C31: The Abocide Bill‖xv ―[In 2005] Harper himself had not said much about where he stood on thereserve versus the non-reserve question. But his senior policy adviser and former 14
  • 15. campaign chairman, Tom Flanagan, a political scientist at the University ofCalgary, had said a great deal in 2000 in a controversial book called First Nations?Second Thoughts. . . . According to [Tom] Flanagan, [a senior Aboriginal Advisorto the Harper government] the reserve system [is] . . . ‗anomalous anddysfunctional.‘" He believes that the only way of getting rid of reserves is to starvetheir inhabitants and administrations of cash. In First Nations? Second Thoughts(2000) Flanagan states that giving reserves more money ―‘would encourageunsustainable growth in the number of residents.‘"http://ca.news.yahoo.com/patrick-brazeau-anatomy-senate-appointment-085556765.html 14 February 2013xvi The preponderance of the cultural ghetto in Canada is symptomatic of the failureof Canadian multicultural policy and not an assessment of a weakness inmulticulturalism as a nation building strategy itself.xvii There is, however, another twist to this knot of culpability in oppositionalpositioning. Piecemeal, catch-bag, seemingly contradictory, the Act and themovement are evidence of a larger social ambiguity rifled with hypocrisy andignorance. Wholesale confusion about the two is further exacerbated by weakinvestigative reporting, media hype, unstated political interests, fracturedleadership, and a growing popular dissatisfaction with sustaining welfare cultures.xviii Here is the real windfall for the federal assimilation strategy. Some Aboriginalsare using the language of cultural evaluation and depreciation to mirror thedominant culture. Those Aboriginals engaged with the economic action plan ofwork and reward, independence and consumerism, are speaking up against publicprotests when there‘s round-dancing in honor of what they reason to be socialdependency. It is perhaps the first official signal of an anti-reservation mindsetonce marginally associated only with off-reserve Indians. Could Treaty Indianspossibly want individual ownership of their reservation lands?xix http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-1/C-45/ 20 January 2013.xx http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/04/f-idlenomore-faq.html 20 January 2013.xxi http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/04/f-idlenomore-faq.html 20 January 2013.xxii It differentiates between First Nations and Métis; the latter is not an indigenouspeople. The Supreme Court of Canada states: ‗Métis ―does not encompass allindividuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather, it refers to distinctive 15
  • 16. peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, andrecognizable group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and Europeanforebears. A Métis community is a group of Métis with a distinctive collectiveidentity, living together in the same geographical area and sharing a common wayof life.‖ http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2076/index.do?r=AAAAAQAWbWV0aXMgYW5kIGZpcnN0IG5hdGlvbgAAAAAB 20 January 2013.xxiii Aboriginal cultures are welfare stereotypes or novel, spiritual primitives inCanadian cultural consciousness. They are not respected cultures. Apple Indiansare the favored bands in this country. Bill C-45 is legislative hope to makeAboriginals like us, whoever the ‗us‘ in Canada is. One attribute of the ‗us‘ iseconomic engagement to be sure.xxiv http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1323350306544/1323350388999 20 January 2013xxv http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/bill-c-45-simply-makes-it-easier-for-first-nations-to-lease-land/article6780103/ 20 January 2013xxvi http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/10/18/pol-omnibus-budget-implementation-bill-part-two.html 20 January 2013xxvii Moreover, how do the latest changes to the Indian Act precisely impact theMikmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.?And, which members of the confederacy are okaywith the current changes? To what degree, if any, does the Assembly of FirstNations care for the Mikmaq Confederacy‘s unhappiness with Bill C-45 when theAssembly itself gave voice to influence the federal government‘s choices? Shouldwe assume no consultation was undertaken by the Assembly?xxviii http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/04/f-idlenomore-faq.html 20 January 2013.xxix http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/10/18/pol-omnibus-budget-implementation-bill-part-two.html 20 January 2013. We can reframe ‗it‘ in even more stark and simple language. Ordinary Canadiansxxxdon‘t care about Aboriginals. They never did, and they never will. Why wouldAboriginals assume then, that legislative practice will give Aboriginal peoples ortheir reserves preferential places in Canadian democracy? Legislative practices willnot create respectful relationships. 16