Angie Hutchinson (left), Ka Ni Kanichihk, Family Support Coordinator and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Coalition member, listens in as Sandra Delaronde, Executive Director of the Indigenous Women’s Research Institute, MMIWG Coalition co-chair expresses her concerns about the national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls in Winnipeg, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)
This after more than 30 advocates, indigenous leaders and family members wrote the chief commissioner last month suggesting the two-year, $53.8 million inquiry was in “serious trouble,” that there was broad and deep concern over poor communication and slow progress.
Having crossed swords with Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s over aboriginal amendments to Canada’s Constitution, and won, Justin Trudeau’s government should pay heed to Wilson.
Instead, the younger Trudeau’s government has blithely ventured into the murky politics of aboriginal affairs and its maladroitness deserves Wilson’s rebuke.
However, there’s no mistaking aboriginal issues in this country have long been politicized and divisive.
It’s even fair to suggest there are those who feel the entire aboriginal affairs file is mired in politics and is a bloody farce.
On one side are the hapless elected officials who really cannot bring themselves to act decisively and on the other, the astute and increasingly aggressive aboriginal leaders who sense and exploit “white guilt”.
Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and an experienced politician, has said repeatedly “Canada is our (aboriginals’) land.”
Bellegarde cites the numbered Treaties that were negotiated, and amended as they were negotiated, the Constitution, as well as the United Nations (unfortunately now dominated by venal, corrupt dictators) Declaration of Indigenous Rights as evidence.
There’s no question colonial powers (Britain, France and Spain) expanded their empire in what was a new land occupied by aboriginal tribes.
European powers also frequently went to war with one another to supplant the territory of other nations.
The aboriginal tribes who lived in what is now Canada and the United States before the arrival of the Europeans, had done the same thing — fighting and displacing one another for territory.
Canada and the U.S. took different approaches to aboriginal “reconciliation”, though the Fathers of Confederation and their American counterparts like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were all ruthlessly single-minded in their determination to forge a unified nation from one coast to the other.
However, whereas the Americans decided that actual genocide was the only way to success, John A. Macdonald concluded assimilation through education was a better alternative.
In Canada, Christian churches were given the responsibility of educating aboriginals in the residential schools.
Some of these clergy abused their authority, despite the initial intention to “integrate” Canada’s aboriginal population.
Tragic consequences followed.
As historian Desmond Morton has said: “Macdonald opted for the best instrument he or his age could conceive for helping the people of our First Nations to gain access to the European cultures that had and would dominate the country he had helped to create and unite.”
As a consequence of the bigotry of the time, Canada’s aboriginals were viciously subjected to shameful atrocities.
But, should the current, continuous political theatre and stage-managed public hearings to dredge up the painful past be our prime focus?
Or, would it be better to deal with the current tragedies that make daily headlines?
That is, the poverty, third world living conditions, lack of infrastructure and economic opportunity, drug and alcohol addiction and unacceptable suicide rates that afflict too many reserves, too many First Nations’ families.
Would it not be better to focus on consolidating these communities closer to services, improving infrastructure on remote ones and educating the next generations so they can successfully participate in the Canadian mainstream?
The aboriginal experience has been, and remains, a tragedy that has, unfortunately, descended into a political farce.
It is ironic, as well, that some self-proclaimed public intellectuals advocate ancestral language and cultural retention for a sense of identity, but have personally abandoned them, and fully integrated and immersed themselves in one or both of Canada’s official languages.
Another instructive serving of hypocrisy and hubris from on high.
Yes, it’s time to stop this “bloody farce”!