Part Three of Three: Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation: More People Need to be Involved With Indigenous Policy Decision Making

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people–both indigenous and non-indigenous–do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my family, friends or associates.

Note 1: In this post, I will primarily be focussing on First Nations people living on- and off-reserves.  For brevity’s sake, I will not be covering Inuit- and Metis-related issues.  But when I include information about indigenous people generally, e.g., statistics, it sometimes incorporates Inuit and Metis.

Note 2: The nature photos, which I took during walks in my neighbourhood, have nothing to do with the content of this post.  I found working on this entry so mentally challenging, that I sometimes recharged by playing slideshows of these images.

Part Three – A       “Ordinary Canadians” Are Frequently Left Out of Decisions Regarding Aboriginal Policy

Although I do not agree with Sudbury lawyer, Peter Best, that all aboriginal rights should be eliminated, I concur with the point he made in his There is No Difference essay (2016)–available at–that decisions regarding indigenous issues are not, for the most part, being made in consultation with ordinary Canadians.

Best’s definition of “ordinary Canadians” is anyone who is not part of the “Indian industry.”  In the industry category, he includes “Indian band elites. . .politicians, civil service elites” and many in academia, particularly those in “native studies departments.”  Non-indigenous professional people who provide services to this industry are also on his list.  However, he acknowledges he is generalizing about a complex topic.

I agree with him that it is difficult to make sweeping statements regarding who makes up the industry.  This is because there are many people, who fall into the categories he lists, who are helping to improve the situation.  But, as I explained in the “Personal Journey” section of Part One, I have found there are individuals who promote the parallelism narrative, even when it does not make sense to do so, and these parallelists can often be found in the groups Best cites.

I also concur with Best that a lot of indigenous policy decision making is an “essentially private conversation amongst our courts, governments, governing classes, Indian elites and the Indian industry generally.”  Ordinary Canadians are not consulted about what is going on, but they need to be because they are affected by these decisions.

For instance, Supreme Court decisions regarding indigenous rights and resource development are causing many companies to not pursue projects in contentious areas.  This has negatively impacted thousands of people, including aboriginals working in the resources industry.

(See “Part Three – F       Indigenous Rights, Resource Development and Environmental Stewardship” for an expanded discussion of the above paragraph.)

I believe most ordinary Canadians agree it is best for the country to remain unified.  I also think the majority of citizens uphold the humanist and social democratic values this nation was founded on, which include freedom of speech and the rule of law.  Of course, there are many aspects of this country’s history that were detrimental to indigenous people, but this does not mean the fundamental principles are lacking in merit.  If anything, these principles, such as peace, order and good government, should be lauded.

There also has to be a greater emphasis on social democratic values such as equality and the rights of the individual, instead of the current stress on collective rights, when it comes to indigenous issues.  This is because when aboriginal lobby groups negotiate with their federal, provincial and territorial counterparts, grassroots aboriginals are sometimes left out of the conversation.

And when aboriginal lobby groups negotiate with government leaders, many non-aboriginal Canadians are left out of the conversation as well.  In fact, the last time Canadians had a say regarding indigenous policy was during the 1992 referendum following the failed Charlottetown Accord.  At that time, Canadians rejected the self-government concept, which was based on parallelism.

October shrubbery, October 11, 2015

Despite this rejection, the federal government ignored Canadians’ wishes and stated, in 1995, that an “inherent right” to self-government was now government policy.  Nevertheless, both the 1980s entrenchment of aboriginal rights in the Constitution and the 1995 statement still saw indigenous governments operating within the Canadian legal framework.

The federal government’s May 2016 support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) underscores their commitment to increased aboriginal autonomy.  Fortunately, a number of analysts are recommending that UNDRIP’s adoption include provisions to ensure that Canadian laws and policies are still adhered to.

The federal government is also planning to do away with the Indian Act and change the focus to Section 35 of the Constitution and UNDRIP.  This could end up being OK if indigenous groups do not want to separate from Canada.  But if some groups decide they want to break away, I think the federal government should have a referendum to get Canadian feedback on this.  In my opinion, separating from Canada is unacceptable, particularly if these groups still expect to get government funding.

Conrad Black made an important point when he said that Canadians have demonstrated respect for other cultures, but are “achingly slow to defend” their own.  He also said many radical activists promote a “process of self-hate” that demands almost all aspects of our past be renounced and rebuked.

This self-hate has got to stop or it will literally destroy this country and everything it stands for.  It is perfectly acceptable to reach compromises that will contribute to both indigenous and non-indigenous well-being.  But Canadians should not forget the many sound principles this country was founded on, and if these views are challenged, they should make their opinions known.

Part Three – B       Scapegoating/Betrayal of Some Non-Aboriginals

Since 2007, I have been networking with non-aboriginals who are concerned with some aspects of the way that indigenous policy is being handled in this country.  For the most part, those of us who feel this way are not part of the decision-making apparatus of this country.  But we still want to publicly express our views on what we see is wrong with the way the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments often respond to indigenous issues.

Earlier in our lives, we were very much involved with the aboriginal situation for one reason or another.  In some instances, this commitment extended back one or two generations in our immediate families.  As previously mentioned, my primary involvement was working in aboriginal organizations.  Others were connected with the residential schools in some way.  Still others are professional people whose employment intersected with the indigenous community.

But around the late 1980s/early 1990s, many of us felt scapegoated and/or betrayed.  Some of us spoke out initially, but later backed off, due to the harsh criticisms we received.  However, now quite a few of us are semi-retired or retired, and are advocating once again that our side of the story gets more attention.

I saw what I consider to be scapegoating occur with some non-aboriginal residents of Caledonia, Ontario.  They were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a land claims dispute ignited in 2006.  Although the situation there has been comparatively better since 2014, there are still many unresolved differences between some non-aboriginal residents and aboriginal occupiers involved with the land claims dispute.  For more information regarding my views on Caledonia, click on the “Caledonia” label in the right sidebar.

Wildflower, March 9, 2016

Those who worked at residential schools have had a particularly troubling plight.  Although there is no doubt that abuses happened at some schools, this was not the case with them all.  There were many staff members, including aboriginal ones, who did the best they could under the circumstances.  And up until the early 1990s, it was quite common for numerous residential school attendees to praise the support they got at the schools.  But since then, it has become politically incorrect for most attendees to do so.  Consequently, since the late 1980s, most people who worked at the schools have been reticent about even acknowledging their role.

I suspect why some of the scapegoating/betrayals occurred in the late 1980s/early 1990s, was because aboriginal rights were entrenched in the Constitution in the early 1980s.  In my opinion, this caused some aboriginals and their supporters to develop too much of a cavalier attitude towards anyone whose lifestyle or views did not advance their “cause.”  This was the case even if the falsely accused had tried to do their best to support aboriginals in the past.  In other words, some people became expendable for political reasons.

But I contend that, if indigenous leaders want to ensure justice really happens, they should acknowledge those who helped them along the way, rather than regularly throwing them under the bus.

Part Three – C       “Hemispatial Neglect” = One-Sided Analysis of Aboriginal Issues

There has to be more attention given to the entire story, rather than the current emphasis on blaming everything on colonization and the residential schools.  As National Post columnist, Barbara Kay, noted, some radical leftists (she called them “blind progressives”), particularly on Western campuses, frequently oppose any Western icons, “especially if they are dead white males of European provenance.”  Kay provided the example of Wilfrid Laurier University’s February 2016 decision to abandon a privately funded Canadian prime ministers statue project.  Their pronouncement was based on opposition from some people on campus, who thought the project would offend indigenous and other groups.

Kay said that those opposed showed signs of having a neurological condition called “hemispatial neglect.”  This condition made them think that any argument from what they perceived as the “right” should be suppressed.

But, as Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald pointed out, former prime minister, Paul Martin, has championed aboriginal causes since his retirement.  He would have been one of the former prime ministers included.  This is just one of many arguments for why disapproval of the project lacked objectivity.

Because radical leftists often judge the past by today’s standards, their analysis of historical events should be challenged.  Yet their “hemispatial neglect” dominates most of the discussions about aboriginal issues.  It frequently contends that all indigenous people suffered cultural genocide.  In other words, it takes a very complex situation and reduces it to collectivist rhetoric.

Part Three – D       Need for More Administrative Fairness

Am grateful to a colleague who made me aware of administrative fairness guidelines, specifically the ones assembled by the Alberta Ombudsman.  I suspect many “ordinary Canadians” would agree that indigenous policy does not always adhere to these guidelines.

For instance, Guideline #6 is “Reasonable Apprehension of Bias.”  This means that the process must demonstrate the “impartiality and independence” of the decision maker.  My view, and that of others, is that some of the policy makers in this area have demonstrated a distinct bias towards the parallelism position, at the expense of other options.

One example of this is the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), which was established in August 1991, and which tabled its final report in 1996.  The original RCAP composition was four aboriginal and three non-aboriginal commissioners, one of whom was Allan Blakeney, the former NDP premier of Saskatchewan.  Jeffrey Simpson described Blakeney as the only non-aboriginal who had “hands-on experience” with the topic, “not as some abstract idea or legal theory.”  But in April 1993, Blakeney resigned because he felt the other commissioners were “dreaming up unworkable non-solutions.”

Mallard Duck, May 9, 2016

The RCAP report is frequently held up by some aboriginal spokespeople as the “blueprint” for how to “fix” the “relationship.”  In a December 8, 2015 CBC Radio/Unreserved interview, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Chair, Murray Sinclair, acknowledged that quite a few of the “calls to action” were “echoed” in other reports, such as RCAP.  I think this underscores why the TRC executive summary, which was released in June 2015, often falls into the same rut as the RCAP report.  This is because the RCAP recommendations, which revolved around parallelism, did not always apply to the 42 per cent of aboriginals who lived off-reserve 20 years ago.

Now, 20 years later, the number of aboriginals living off-reserve has increased to 56 per cent (although some indigenous spokespeople say it is more like 70 per cent).  Since parallelism primarily addresses the reserve situation, this means it should not be trumpeted as a blanket solution to native woes.

Part Three – E        Governance and Accountability on Reserves

Many aboriginal leaders contend that on-reserve poverty is the result of misguided government policies.  This is certainly the case in quite a few instances.  But there are just too many reports of mismanagement, resulting from poor governance, for it to be blamed solely on non-aboriginals.  John Reilly said in Bad Judgment he had been told by a source he considered reliable that “aboriginal policing had evidence of millions of dollars going into offshore accounts.”

In Dances With Dependency, Calvin Helin lamented “Aboriginals’ unhealthy focus on the federal government,” which had contributed to a deeply engrained “‘culture of expectancy.'”

Phyllis Sutherland is a Peguis Band member who supports better accountability on reserves.  In 2012, she said that attempts to get financial information from her band leadership were ignored, and members were “subjected to intimidation tactics, such as fearmongering, public attacks and attempts to destroy a person’s credibility.”

Reilly’s, Helin’s and Sutherland’s accounts are just a few of the ones I have read that address lack of accountability in some aboriginal governance systems.  Despite many indigenous leaders’ protests to the contrary, there does seem to be a pattern here that I do not think can be solely blamed on colonization and the residential schools.

As mentioned earlier in Part Three, Peter Best thinks that “ordinary Canadians” need to participate more in indigenous policy decision making.  I agree with him that these ordinary Canadians are often grassroots aboriginals who are negatively impacted by poor reserve governance.

Autumn tress and shrubs, October 16, 2015

Part Three – F       Indigenous Rights, Resource Development and Environmental Stewardship

I am all for sustainable resource development that will preserve the environment, but I think some “green initiatives” are being implemented too hastily, without enough concern for the burden they are placing on, not only the economy, but the individual ratepayer.

I have been astounded by the steady increases in my Ontario hydro bills over the past few years, and am consequently not surprised the province has reportedly the highest rate on the continent.  It concerns me that one of the main reasons for these increases is the Ontario government’s environmental stewardship program.

I contend that some environmentalists are going overboard in their push to get Canadians off fossil fuels.  Considerable work has been done and is being done to make fossil fuel extraction, transport and manufacture safer and more environmentally sound.  It would be better to slow down many of the green programs, so they are more economically sustainable, rather than implementing them too fast, as is happening in Ontario.

Part Three – G       Conclusion

I agree with Jeffrey Simpson that parallelism is a “re-creation of a long-ago past in modern idiom,” which has not met with much success.  I do not believe it is entirely the fault of the non-aboriginal community that this has occurred.

In my “Caledonia and Six Nations. . .” post, May 21, 2012, I observed that “many of the best recommendations for improving the aboriginal situation originate with natives who recognize that changing things for the better is a two-way street.  They acknowledge that all the blame cannot be placed on non-natives’ shoulders.”

The “two-way street” individuals are helping to make Canada stronger, each in their own unique way.  Some of these talented people may not see themselves as integrationists, or, indeed, want to be classified that way.  But their multi-faceted, creative approaches to moving the dialogue forward are a huge improvement over the parallelist spin that frequently shuts down constructive discussion.


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