We today are mere twigs atop a vast human forest, whose roots are in a prehistoric past of which we still have very incomplete knowledge. This is a warning of how ephemeral we and our institutions and events today really are, soon in our turn to be tipped into the humus of a human past mostly already forgotten, or rarely acknowledged. – William Pfaff1
“A mongrel half-bred race.” – English author and poet Daniel Defoe’s satiric description of the “true-born Englishman.”2
Who was Babel? Where did he come from? He was an accident. We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We must make what we can of the conditions available. We must accept the mixture of life as we find it- the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it. -Saul Bellow 3
Assimilation is not a dirty word. For the Canadian state it should be an indifferent one, a choice we respect as much as the opposite…The argument raised by advocates of self-government is that the native nations were here first. That is demagogy. The aboriginals were not here. Their ancestors were… Collective rights are not inherited. If they were, we could justify special privileges for the French Canadians descended from the settlers whose ancestors were here second; the Anglo-Saxons who came third and so on, down to today’s arrivals who would have the fewest rights. –Julius Grey 4
Do you know or can you believe that sometimes the idea obtrudes…whether it has been well that I have sought civilization with its bothersome concomitants and whether it would not be better even now…to return to the darkness and most sacred wilds (if any such can be found) of our country and there to vegetate and expire silently, happily and forgotten as do the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. The thought is a happy one but perhaps impracticable.- Ely S. Parker, Seneca Iroquois sachem 5
Real Indian culture is just about dead on the reserves. -Aboriginal AFN founder and lawyer William Wuttunee, 6
Canadian Indian leaders wrongly say that their distinct, “traditional” Indian cultures still exist. Or, to the extent that they acknowledge that these cultures are dying or already gone, they wrongly blame non-Indians for this, as if we or our ancestors intended this to happen. The old cultures of the ancestors of Canada’s non-Indian populations are all dead and gone too!
History shows that all cultures naturally evolve out of existence, or into something different, or one way or another come to an end. It’s a basic fact of human life and history – a basic rule to which past Indian cultures have been no exception.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe:
…for now all the world is in
Motion and now, everything once conjoined is detached,
Basic laws of the mightiest states are coming undone,
Those once possessed are detached from their possessions,
Friend separated from friend, and love cut off from love.
True is the saying that man is but a stranger on earth.
Now more than ever, everyone has become a stranger.
We no longer possess the land. Its treasures are mobile;
Gold and silver are melted down from their ancient forms.
Everything’s moving, as if our structured world were sliding
Back into the night and chaos, to shape itself anew. 7
Indian spokespersons also wrongly say that the assimilation of Indian and non–Indian cultures was and is a bad thing. It’s not at all. In fact, it’s a very natural and positive thing. Assimilation, an aspect of biological evolution, is a process which has been occurring continuously since the beginning of life on earth and since the origin of humans. It’s been fundamental to the development, adaptation, progress and primacy of our species.
To bewail and decry it and to want to somehow opt out of it is really to want to be segregated from a healthy and natural life process that is inherent in being a part of life on earth – that is inherent in being human. It’s to want to be excluded from a fundamental evolutionary process – to step outside of history itself – which no one can do.
This point was very recently forcefully made by Historian Sir David Cannadine in his instructive and inspiring book, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond our Differences,8 “a wise and provocative call to re-examine the way we look at the past: not merely as a story of incessant conflict between groups but also of human solidarity throughout the ages” (from the bookjacket).
Mr. Cannadine wrote:
Civilizations were not hermetically sealed off from one another, but interacted creatively, and this borrowing and cross-fertilization was the key to progress…Human advancement is the outcome of the co-mingling of ideas through the contact of different groups…Civilization is everywhere the stimulus evoked by the friction of one group upon another.
One of the world’s most remarkable and resilient cultures in the world is that of the Jews, which has received, absorbed and survived as many shocks, slings and arrows as any culture in history. A key to its survival has been its adaptive, assimilationist nature.
Israeli writer and humanist Amos Oz:
What does Jewish culture comprise? It comprises everything we have amassed over the generations. Elements born inside it, as well as those we have absorbed from the outside, which become part of the family.9
The brilliant humanist/historian Erna Paris, in her important and inspiring book, From Tolerance to Tyranny- A Cautionary Tale From Fifteenth Century Spain, 10a great work of history and a paean to the benefits of human mixing of all sorts, (with a large focus on the historically-assimilationist Jewish culture), writing of Canada’s early years of development, which mistakenly and wrongly excluded our Indian peoples, wrote:
Canadian pluralism…grew not from ideology, or theology, for that matter, but from a pragmatic need to develop sparsely populated tracts of land. No matter the origin, the outcome was the same. Mixed populations ignited an explosion of raw energy and inventiveness.
Indian leaders who oppose legal integration and further assimilation with their fellow countrymen are fighting these stimulating, natural and beneficial processes, and by doing so are actually hurting their people rather than helping them. They’re ensuring further segregation and cultural loss, and further stagnation and decline overall, rather than real and meaningful progress.
They’re also acting, no doubt inadvertently, in a bit of a racist way, because a logical assumption underlying their opposition to integration and assimilation is, quite arguably, that to them, persons of other races aren’t good enough, or at least are somehow inappropriate, to mix with. Because, as Tom Flanagan, in First Nations? Second Thoughts, suggested, isn’t assimilation the opposite of belief in racial inferiority?
Humans have always been a wandering species- for 100,000 years constantly migrating from one place to another- these migrations expanding our (apparent) hegemony over all the other species of life on earth- always in a state of flux- forever mating, mixing and matching with new peoples.
Fundamental to all the different types of collectives that humans have formed and been part of has been the ever-present reality of change– transforming from one cultural, ethnic, economic, social or political state to another. Whether the collective is or was a clan, a tribe, an ethnic, linguistic, religious or racial group, a nation or an empire, this constant, impersonal, grinding, stimulating process of change, adaptation and assimilation has always been at work.
Canada itself has a vastly different culture than it had fifty years ago. We’ve changed – assimilated – from a French-English dominated polity to a multi-ethnic one. Those of us who claim French or British heritage can justly say that we have “lost” our old dominant culture. Indeed we have, but we didn’t lose it in the sense of losing something we “owned.” We didn’t lose it in the sense that we lost it as the result of the unjust actions of others or because we mistakenly or otherwise allowed ourselves to be dispossessed of it such that, now that we are aware of our ‘loss,” we can somehow recover and then resume living it.
No, that “culture,” such as it was, is now irretrievably past and gone. Beneath our eyes, unsuspecting or not, under the influence of inexorable and timeless factors like migration and technological change, it imperceptibly morphed – assimilated – into something different.
Today the old order of fifty years ago is lost, just as whatever social and political order we have today will be lost and unrecognizable to any of us still alive fifty years from now.
British culture itself, as it existed at the time the first English migrators came to Canada, was itself the final product of an “aboriginal” culture first existing in Great Britain around 12000 BC, which was then continually transformed by a series of later influxes of new peoples- Celts, Romans, Saxons, Danes, Vikings, Normans and countless others. New migrators merged, mixed – assimilated – with indigenous, “host” populations (each of them the product of the same phenomena) – to create a new, usually more dynamic, stimulating culture for both.
This same universal historical process of change took place in France, our other European founding country. Sixteenth century France was the end result of a long series of migrations, invasions, alliances, and other types of cultural fertilizations , cross-pollinations and assimilations, voluntary and otherwise, involving the “aboriginal” tribes of original Gaul, themselves original migrators from the east, and firstly, Romans, and then Goths, Huns, Franks, Vandals and numerous other tribes and ethnic groups from far and wide.
The cultural result of all that time, movement and commotion in Europe-all those migrations, mergers and cultural exchanges- all that stimulation and assimilation – by the time of Europe’s first contact with the Americas, was the Renaissance! – one of the most creative and dynamic watershed periods in the relatively short history of the human race, and a prime example of how social assimilation leads to good and progressive ends.
Writer Simon Leys argues that it is all these changes and exchanges that create this kind of higher form of culture:
Culture is born out of exchanges and thrives on differences.
And unfortunately the opposite is true. As Mr. Leys says:
The death of culture lies in its self-centerdness, self-sufficiency and isolation. 11
This means, in the case of Canada’s Indians, that the less they socially assimilate, and the more their elites try to segregate in any way their peoples from the rest of Canadians, ostensibly to “preserve their culture”, the more they ensure the death of it.
“It is not possible to renew without days of old, and days of old cannot exist without renewal.“12
The Roman Empire was one of the longest-lasting empires, in terms of staying essentially intact, in world history. Edward Gibbon, in Decline and Fall (above), attributes this partially to its “genius” of always following an assimilationist policy. He writes:
The narrow policy of preserving, without any foreign mixture, the pure blood of its ancient citizens, had checked the fortune, and hastened the ruin, of Athens and Sparta. The aspiring genius of Rome sacrificed vanity to ambition, and deemed it more prudent, as well as honourable, to adopt virtue and merit for her own wheresoever they were found, among slaves or strangers, enemies or barbarians.
Rome’s deliberately assimilationist policy brought about such a secure, beneficial and permanent social peace that Canadians should unapologetically emulate this important lesson from history.
The Roman Empire brought peace to the civilized world for two centuries. Nothing like it has been seen since…Speaking generally, the mighty Roman Empire meant prosperity for the world; and within it, peoples of different race and religion and custom learned to live happily with one another. 13
Tenth and eleventh century Moorish Spain had, at the time, the most civilized, tolerant and sophisticated culture in Europe. The key to its success was the promotion of social assimilation. Erna Paris, from From Tolerance to Tyranny:
Accomplishment grew from a foundation of cultural pluralism, which welcomed new people, new languages, and new ideas; conversely, the exclusive ideology of Christianity set roadblocks in the way. The intellectual, artistic and cultural brilliance of Arab Spain was the harvest of an open cross-fertilization unimpeded by religious rejection.
As Robert Kaplan wrote in In Europe’s Shadow, (above), the over 400 year-lasting Ottoman Empire showed the same assimilationist genius, “treating all creeds and races as one”, thusly creating “an extraordinary civilization”.
Ottoman soldiers and administrators hailed from the western Balkans, Poland and Ukraine; the harem at Topkapi numbered women from Greece, Russia and Circassia: the Ottoman system provided the opportunity of rapid social advancement for those taken initially away by force from their families, however obscure their origins. As the historian Arnold J. Toynbee puts it, the Ottomans “served a positive political purpose by providing the Orthodox Christian world with the universal state which it was unable to achieve for itself.”
Empires were cruel in their way but also allowed a mechanism for intercommunal existence, where borders and identities built on race, language and religion mattered less, since everyone obeyed the same sovereign. The horrors of the twentieth century had as their backdrop the collapse of empires and the rise of modern, uni-ethnic states…We still live in the aftershocks of that nightmare. No solution has as yet been found in the Middle East for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Just as no “solution” (except, ultimately, the Final Solution) was found for the Jews when the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed as the result of World War One. The brilliant historian and intellectual Tony Judt, wrote: 14
For the shtetl Jews especially, as Sperber notes, the Emperor Franz Josef meant more than he did for anyone else. He was the guarantor of their civil rights, their only shield against the coming of hatred and despotism, As Sperber’s own father lamented in 1916, upon hearing of the old emperor’s death, “Austria has died with him. He was a good emperor for us. Now everything will be uncertain! It is a great misfortune for us Jews!” It was.
Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens-A Brief History of Mankind, 15 a stimulating, long-view, cliché-busting, overview of man’s history -(“Sapiens” meaning thinking man)- described the empire as the world’s most common form of political organization, and contrasted the negative and harmful ethnic exclusiveness typical of tribal culture, now usually manifested by an independent nation state, with the inclusiveness (forced or not) of the imperial/strong-state ideology:
Even though it (imperial ideology) has often emphasized race and cultural differences between rulers and ruled, it has still recognized the basic unity of the entire world, the existence of a single set of principles governing all places and times, and the mutual responsibilities of all human beings. Humankind is seen as a large family: the privileges of the parents go hand in hand with responsibility for the welfare of the children.
Canada exhibits this inclusive, assimilationist genius as well, (without the empire’s often autocratic nature), except for all aspects of Canada that relate to our aboriginal population!
Canada’s recent immigrant peoples have all been subject to these same stimulative-assimilative, change-forcing “mongrelizing” processes. The cultures they’ve brought to Canada, each the end product of hundreds and thousands of years of the same movement and mixing of peoples, the same old world conflicts and assimilations, became subject to further instant change in Canada, causing many of them also to decry the diminishment and “loss” of their respective cultures of origin. But like Canadians of British and French origin, like Canadian Indian would-be purists, they decry in vain.
The process of cultural change- metamorphosis- and assimilation – the result of millions of individual, personal, selfish instincts, thoughts and decisions – acts out as a virtually unconscious, automatic, unstoppable, old-culture pulverizing, 16collective, vital force.
Novelist Jhumpa Lahiri writes:
One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes. The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch- of the entire universe and all it contains-is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still. The moments of transition, in which something changes, constitute the background of us all. Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments we tend to remember. They give a structure to our existence. Almost all the rest is oblivion.17
The backward, bigoted Muslim father who murders his daughter for the sake of his and his family’s “honour” is the ultimate perverse expression of the senseless and destructive rejection of the assimilation principle and of the hopelessness of resisting the tide of cultural change and loss.
In any event, in all the above cases, the long-term “loss” allegedly suffered was often not one that actually diminished in any way the humanity or dignity of those affected. It just changed them and, objectively viewed, more often than not for the better.
Canadian Indian culture as it existed prior to contact with European migrants, like European Renaissance cultures that existed then, like Canada’s culture of fifty years ago, for the same reasons, has almost totally disappeared. Little of it remains. Why should it? Indian societies, being so fundamentally and typically human, were and are naturally subject to the same implacable laws of migration, mixing, change and assimilation as were and are all other social groups that make up the human family. (In fact present-day Indian Canadians and non-Indian Canadians have far more in common with each other than either group has with their respective ancestors!)18
Indian peoples too, like all other world peoples, in the millennia before European contact, experienced these same typically-human transformative processes. Clovis, Adena, Arctic Mongols, Shield Archaic, Woodland Trend, Dorset – these are only a few of the exotic names given by anthropologists to the many extinct forbearers of the Indian tribal groups that existed in Canada at the time of contact. This adds to the absurdity of Indian elites blaming non-Indians for the loss of their pre-contact, “traditional culture.”
This basically blameless phenomenon was happening on a regular basis in North America long before European migrators arrived, and, after their arrival here, and all elsewhere, has continued to the point where there are no authentic, pre-contact-like, “traditional” cultures left here in Canada, or anywhere else in the world.
Yuval Noah Harari wrote in Sapiens:
Today almost all humans share the same geopolitical system (the entire planet is divided into internationally recognized states); the same economic system (capitalist market forces shape even the remotest corners of the globe); the same legal system (human rights and international law are valid everywhere, at least theoretically); and the same scientific system (experts in Iran, Israel, Australia, and Argentina have exactly the same views about the structure of atoms or the treatment of tuberculosis…
…We still talk a lot about “authentic” cultures, but if by “authentic” we mean something that developed independently, and that consists of ancient local traditions free of external influences, then there are no authentic cultures left on earth. Over the last few centuries, all cultures were changed almost beyond recognition by a flood of global influences.
Despite this obvious reality, Canadian Indian elites constantly talk about their supposedly distinct “traditional cultures.”
To this, Edward Gibbon writes, in Decline and Fall, referring to the tendency of many nationalist, ethnic and racial propagandists, for present political purposes, to exaggerate glorious attributes or deeds of their ancestors:
On a narrow basis of acknowledged truth an immense but rude superstructure of fable has been erected.
To this mainly sentimental worship of a pre-contact past that never was- this “invention of tradition” tendency- the great Australian-born historian and art critic Robert Hughes writes:19
Nationalism always wants to have myths to prop itself up…And if you ask what the aim of these efforts to roll history and myth together was, in every case the answer is the same. Self-esteem…But the desire for self-esteem does not justify every lie and exaggeration and therapeutic slanting of evidence that can be claimed to alleviate it. The separatism it fosters turns what ought to be a recognition of cultural diversity, of real multiculturalism, generous and tolerant on both sides, into a pernicious symbolic program.
Aboriginal writer and lawyer William Wuttunee, in Ruffled Feathers, (above) is scathing and takes no prisoners on this point, describing some of the “touristy” aspects of Indian cultural displays as being partially invented traditions- “museum pieces in buckskin and feathers” and “endless hopping around near a bunch of teepees.” (Ouch! Not political. No wonder he couldn’t get along with the new Indian powers-that-be.)
(To Mr. Wuttunee’s list of overdone, fixed-frozen-smile inducing, mandatory-enduring, touristy, native cultural displays I would add, for me, mandatory smudge ceremonies where the often forced participation in them basically amounts to the mere “courtesy that reason pays to superstition”,20 endless drumming, more than two minutes of throat singing and a great deal of the overly-sentimental programming on the famously-unwatched, government-mandated Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.)
Except insofar as Indian people experience on average a larger degree of poverty and social misery than all other Canadian racial or ethnic groups, there’s no credible evidence that, aside from that, any distinct or “traditional” Indian culture exists today anywhere in Canada. Merely declaring that unique and distinct Indian cultures still exist doesn’t make it so.
A culture is a particular form or type of civilization, (“Civilizations: styles of living and dying.”)21which manifests itself in actual, demonstrable human behaviour. 22If what is merely talked about is not practiced, that’s not evidence of a distinct culture.
Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize-winning Mexican intellectual, in his most famous book, The Labyrinth of Solitude, 23 challenged his countrymen to see themselves as:
a cosmic race… where the old plurality of cultures, postulating various and contrary ideals, and offering various and contrary views of the future, has been replaced by a single civilization and a single future…
and to regard themselves as bound by the idea of living inter-racially, as absolute equals, in a new form of creative participation. This is a hopeful and inspiring thought indeed, one that provides a new way for Canadians of all races to view ourselves going into the future together. (See It’s Not Impossible. (Nelson Mandela Proved It), below)
These days what is said about Indian culture being somehow distinct is usually just a form of politicking – mouthing a very general, “I say it therefore it’s true and I dare you to openly disagree with me,” rote line in pursuit of some political, economic or legal goal. Nowhere do you see distinct or traditional Indian cultures demonstrated in the way Indians act out their ordinary lives – the only true test.
On those rare occasions when Indian spokespersons have been pressed to actually specify what it is that is presently unique and authentic about their culture they usually descend into evasions, generalities and saying well-phrased, high-sounding things about their culture that are actually very bland, obvious things that are common to every human culture. Or they obfuscate, or say something like, “it’s too complex to describe in words,” or in some other way completely fail to answer the question in any logical, satisfactory fashion.
There’s an example of this in Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry,24 an excellent and, given the politically correct times in which we live, rather brave, book by Albertans Frances Widdowson25 and Albert Howard.The authors described a federal government-mandated Environmental Assessment Review of a diamond mine near Yellowknife, where aboriginal “traditional knowledge,” one highly touted aspect of aboriginal culture, was ordered to be considered. When Indian spokespersons were asked to describe this traditional knowledge they were unable to offer even one cogent and coherent example of it! As the authors wrote:
As disinterested observers, we were astonished at how the panel, BHP (the mining company), the government and aboriginal groups were so confident that traditional knowledge was essential to the environmental assessment process when they didn’t even seem to know what it was or how it could be used…. Aboriginal groups giving presentations also were unable to answer questions concerning the methodology of traditional knowledge or how it differed from scientific research. They gave long rambling pontifications about the still unspecified but nevertheless important “cultural context” of traditional knowledge, and stated that its “complexity” made it difficult to describe.
The panel’s hearing exemplified a well-known pattern of behaviour in the North; publicly, everyone declared unconditionally that traditional knowledge was a valid and essential source of information for environmental assessment and that it could enhance the scientific research that was being undertaken. When questions were asked about what this information was, or how it could be incorporated with scientific methods, however, no clarification was available…Reflecting on our experience at the panel meeting, we were reminded of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”….
And in a recent Ontario court decision, Brown vs. Canada,26 the Ontario Superior Court was asked to certify a class action brought by a 16,000 Ontario Indians against the federal government who, as children living on Northern Ontario Indian reserves in the early 1960’s, after being assessed by child welfare authorities as being in need of state protection, had been taken out of their dangerous (to them) and dysfunctional reserve homes and eventually allowed to be legally adopted by non-Indian couples.
In 2015 the Ontario Court of Appeal made a procedural ruling in it which contains a useful discussion of the “fiduciary principle” as it applies to Crown-Indian relations, which is referred to in Rethinking the “Honour of the Crown’ Principle (below).
In their lawsuit they were trying to claim, (ultimately unsuccessfully on this particular pleadings point)27 that by allowing this to happen Canada had committed “identity genocide” against them, for which they wanted compensation. One of the persons who swore an affidavit in support of the Indian plaintiffs was “Urban Elder” Vernon Harper, of whom the court said as follows:
Vernon Harper, who is employed by the Aboriginal Services Program Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, is an “Urban Elder.” He deposed that much of the therapeutic work he does involved treating Indians who had a breakdown in their relationship with the non-Indians who raised them. He deposed that the loss of identity emerged as the trauma of trying to reclaim one’s identity and culture, traditions and spirituality that comprised that identity.
As to his evidence and the evidence generally provided to the court in support of the existence and nature of a distinct aboriginal culture the court wrote:
Urban Elder Vernon Harper deposed that all Canadian First Nation tribes have unique ways and traditions of family life and the rearing of children, but in aboriginal communities there is no concept of adoption or wardship because all children are regarded as a communal responsibility. Urban Elder Harper deposed that the concept of removing a child from his or her place of birth and traditions, culture and spirituality is a foreign concept to aboriginal peoples, where the tradition is a communal expression of collective responsibility for children….beyond Urban Elder Harper’s testimony , neither the statement of claim nor the evidence provided define any particular ancestral practice, custom or tradition of Ontario’s aboriginal peoples. During his cross-examination, Mr. Harper testified that the customary law of aboriginals varies from culture to culture and that the various laws and cultures were very sophisticated. (italics added)
A court case is the ultimate forum in which a proponent of a proposition central to winning the case really does have to “put up or shut up.” It’s telling and significant that in this case, where the proponents were asserting the proposition that they had distinct traditions and a distinct Aboriginal culture and spirituality in the 1960’s that Canada had wrongfully killed, Urban Elder Harper could depose virtually no facts describing how that rural culture of theirs was actually a distinctive Aboriginal culture.
I argue well below that distinctive, pre-contact Indian culture was pretty well lost by the late 1800’s, and that things like the residential schools were a response to the loss of that culture, not a cause of it. (See The End Times of Indian Culture in Canada, and Setting Indians Free From Their Past, below.)
In the Brown case the plaintiffs alleged that Canada breached its fiduciary and common law duty to these then Indian children, and was negligent towards them, by failing to “preserve and protect” each of these 16,000 children’s “Indian culture and identity,” resulting in “psychological problems associated with a loss of culture, self-esteem and identity.”28
In February of 2017 the Superior Court of Justice, on a summary judgment motion, (meaning that there was no “live” trial with witnesses called to testify in the witness box and be cross-examined), and despite the presentation of little or no evidence of the existence of a distinct aboriginal culture in 1960’s Ontario, (it was merely presumed as a fact), ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, finding that in substance, in the circumstances of the case, the Crown did in fact have a common law duty to preserve and protect the Indian culture and identity of these 16,000 persons.
The reckless and irresponsible Trudeau federal government immediately stated that it would not appeal the decision. And then, in October of 2017, the Trudeau government entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs involving the payment to them or on their behalf of $800 million of taxpayers’ dollars.
Surely there was and is a real issue as to whether, in 1960s Ontario, there was any distinct “Indian culture and identity” still in existence that was capable of being “lost”, and surely that issue deserved a live trial! Especially in view of the earlier judicial criticisms of the evidence of Urban Elder Vernon Harper on this very issue!
Surely, in our modern world characterized by constant multi-cultural contact and exchanges, resulting in constant change and more change, there is a strong and compelling argument that the “loss of cultural identity”-an abstract, fluid, malleable, totally-subjective, intangible, unmeasurable concept if there every was one- and which happens to us all!-(See Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New, chapter 6, below)- is not compensable at law!
Surely there is a strong and compelling argument that the law of negligence and duty of care should not be extended to this type of vague and nebulous situation, where the situation and story of each of these 16000 individuals would be unique and different.
Surely there was a significant damages issue with respect to each and every claimant. It’s trite law that even though you may suffer a compensable breach of a duty of care towards you, if you don’t suffer a loss, you have no damages, and no legal case. Here, it may be that the lives of many of the “legally injured” claimants ,(as found by the lower Court Judge), objectively viewed, were at least as “good”, in their adoptive home, as they would have been had they been left by social welfare authorities in those what-they-considered- to-be dangerous homes.
Consider in this latter regard what indigenous author Tanya Talaga wrote about this in her 2018 book All Our Relations- Finding the Path Forward:29
The (Child Welfare) workers compared how children were being raised in First Nations homes to their own Euro-Canadian ways and values. So if they entered homes where the food was all wild game, berries, and vegetables, where they saw the poverty, addictions and other social ills of reserves, they assumed the kids were in danger and took them away– often without informing anyone in the community. (italics added)
We’ll never know because the Trudeau government, in a slap in the face to all those well-intentioned Child Welfare workers and good people who adopted these kids, simply deemed them all to have been harmed.
Surely the federal government should have appealed this decision, to attempt to avoid the establishment of a dangerous, quasi-racist, (oh yes, but always with the best of intentions), and financially ruinous, (to the Canadian taxpayer), floodgates precedent!
Another example of an Indian asserting a distinct indigenous culture but failing to prove it is the legal case involving Kenneth Hill, a multi-millionaire, native-cigarette kingpin operating out of the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario. He makes an annual income from his reserve-based cigarette operations, that we know about, of about $2,000,000, tax-free! (As to the immoral and unfair nature of this no-tax situation, see Chapter 35, Indian Reserves as Tax Havens, below.) He fathered a child out of wedlock. The mother is suing him for child support and, alleging a common law relationship, spousal support. If he were a non-Indian he would be ordered to pay about $33,000 per month in child support and at least $50,000 per month in spousal support.
This gentleman, Mr. Hill, argued that as an “Haudenosaunee person” and a member of the Six Nations reserve, the Ontario courts had no jurisdiction over him in this matter, and that his child and spousal support obligations, if any, should be decided on the reserve, (where, because of his immense kingpin wealth and power everyone is beholden to him), “according to the governance system, laws and protocols of the Haudenosaunee.”
But what was this family law “governance system”? What were those “laws and protocols”? Apparently they don’t exist, because this multi- millionaire, real gentleman, with all his money and power, and with access to all the “experts” on this his tax-free money could have bought, when push came to shove, came up with nothing! Said Madam Justice Chappel, who decided the case:
In the absence of even basic specifics regarding the Haudenosaunee laws and protocols that (Mr. Hill) is relying on, these assertions are akin to an empty shell. 30
The mainly baseless cultural posturing of present-day Indian elites might be merely irritating or mildly, eye-rollingly humorous, and causing no real harm, but for some of the recent tragic and dangerous consequences emerging as a manifestation of it in the area of native children’s public health care, where these elites are actively supporting and endorsing Indian children having science-based medical care taken away from them in favour of some kind of superstition-based, totally unknown, unproven “traditional native healing practices”. By offering support for this kind of absurdity, these elites, mainly for power and propaganda purposes, are knowingly and willingly putting these children’s lives at risk.
In May of 2014 a 10 year old girl from the Brantford Six Nation Reserve, “J. J.”, receiving chemotherapy for her leukemia, was taken off her chemo treatments in favour of some undefined and unexplained “aboriginal traditional medicine,” again, a clear example of Indian elites, with the passive, demoralizing and cowardly condonation of our craven non-Indian elites, putting so-called “aboriginal rights” and petty political aggrandizement ahead of the best interests of a child. When pressed for specifics of the exact medicines being used the family “refused to elaborate.”31
Shockingly, a Provincial Court Judge, in November 2014, rejected McMaster Hospital’s physicians’ request for an order requiring the local Children’s Aid Society to place the child under government protection so that her chemo treatments could be resumed, ruling in effect that it was a constitutional right, protected by section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (see below), for aboriginals to opt for “traditional healing methods” for an Indian child in the place of science-based medical care, which boiled down to a constitutional right of Indian parents to sacrifice the best interests of their children in favour of irrational superstition and Indian industry power-seeking. 32
Another little Indian girl, Makayla Sault, from the nearby New Credit First Nation, also suffering from leukemia, was, over the objection of the same McMaster Hospital physicians, (the only adults in the tragic story, the only ones to show true care for Makayla, and the only ones in the situation with any courage and selfless principles), taken off her chemo treatments by her parents, again, with the vocal support of Ontario Indian band elites, who warned that the “wrath” of Canada’s First Nations would be aroused if Makayla was forced back onto chemotherapy.33 Her parents said she was going to take a traditional native treatment called Ongwehowe Onongwatri: yo (Sic. Correction, sick). She did, and she died.
As the National Post reported:34
“I’m very saddened for this girl…it’s tragic and it was probably preventable”, said a Western Canadian pediatric oncologist who asked not to be named because of the case’s “political sensitivity”. The decision by Makayla’s family (and J.J.’s) to reject conventional treatment prompted widespread outrage in the non-native world, but support from many aboriginal people. This was reflected in a statement by Ontario’s First Nations leaders, who voiced their “deepest sympathies” for the Saults, but praised the 11 year-old’s stance. “She was full of spirit and a young warrior who fought her disease on her own terms to the very end,” said Stan Beardy, Ontario’s regional chief.”
Shameful and disgraceful.
Non-Indian Canadians readily admit the obvious fact that we are complete strangers to the lost cultures of our ancestors. This doesn’t mean that we don’t partially self-identify as Canadians by celebrating our respective racial, ethnic or linguistic heritages. We do, and it’s wonderful and enriching. What it does mean is that we don’t wholly define ourselves by who our ancestors were or how they lived. We don’t pretend that we live in the same world as them or that, in any real, present-day sense, we are acculturated in any way like them.
The earth has been united into a single ecological and historical sphere…The social order has been completely transformed, as have politics, daily life and human psychology. 35
To achieve success in modern Canada- to realize their potential as human beings- Indians have to admit this same obvious fact about themselves- that they too are complete strangers to their distant ancestors’ lost cultures- that they too are essentially modern beings with modern sensibilities living in the modern world, essentially, like the rest of us, as part of the single global macro-culture described by Yuval Noah Harari.
But that’s no real loss, in fact it can be regarded as a gain, because they too, like the rest of us, can still keep and celebrate their racial and cultural heritage and still partially self-identify by it, while at the same time living in the present in a clear-eyed, forward-looking way.
- William Pfaff. The History Beyond History, The New York Review of Books, 6 Dec 2012.
- Daniel Defoe. “The True-Born Englishman” (1701) published in Lapham’s Quarterly, Foreigners. American Agora Foundation, Winter 2015. Would that all Canadians, of all “racial” backgrounds, including our Canadian Indians, acknowledge the truth of this healthily self-deflating, humbling and thus inherently positive thought.
- Essay, On Jewish Story Telling, from There is Simply Too Much to Think About, Penguin Books, 2015. He marvels that Isaac Babel wrote in Russian, not his native language, not the language of his imagination and his soul: Yiddish. A positive example of willing, compulsive, deeply human “cultural appropriation.”
- The distinguished Montreal constitutional and civil rights lawyer, quoted in A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy- Respect the Collective- Promote the Individual, by Gordon Gibson, Fraser Institute, 2009
- From Native American Wisdom, Running Press, Philadelphia, 1994
- Ruffled Feathers, above
- From Rudiger Safranski, Goethe. Life as a Work of Art, above.
- Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013
- From Dear Zealots- Letters From a Divided Land, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2018, (italics added.)
- Cormorant Books Inc. 2015
- From The Paradox of Provincialism, an essay in The Hall of Uselessness, above.
- Amoz Oz, from Dear Zealots-Letters From a Divided Land, above, (italics added.)
- Botsford and Robinson’s Hellenic History, Revised by Donald Kagan, 5th ed. The MacMillan Company, 1971(italics added)
- In his essay, The Jewish Europe of Manes Sperber, contained in Reappraisals-Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, The Penguin Press, 2008
- McLelland & Stewart, 2014
- This apt, aggressive word from Thomas Hodgkin’s The Barbarian Invasion of the Roman Empire, The Folio Society, London, 2000, as in, with reference to the “barbarian” tribes that came within its sway, “…the pulverising, assimilating character of the Roman dominion…”
- From Teach Yourself Italian, The New Yorker, December 7, 2015
- “You may think of yourself as sharing an ethnic or religious identity with ancestors who lived centuries ago, but this is a delusion. All you have in common is the “label”. Indeed, you probably share more habits of the heart, not to mention DNA, with a next-door neighbour who adheres to a different religious tradition than with distant ancestors who bore your beloved label”- From The Identity Illusion, by Stephen Holmes, a book review of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity: Creed, Country, Class, Culture, by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Liveright, 2018, New York Review of Books, January 17, 2019
- The Culture of Complaint- The Fraying of America, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993
- From his essay Shock and Awe, in Lewis H. Lapham’s Age of Folly, American Abandon’s its Democracy, Verso, 2016. Mr. Lapham’s full quote, relating to politicians phonily going to Church:
Brought up to admire the founders of the American republic as men defined by the energy of their intellect and the courage of their experiments, for the last fifty years I’ve been content to regard the bows that politicians make to an alter or a cross as a courtesy that reason pays to superstition.
- Octavio Paz, The Other Mexico, Grove Press Inc. 1972
- Or, as one worldly humanist wrote: “what’s left over when everything else is forgotten.”
- Grove Press Inc. 1985
- Frances Widdowson & Albert Howard. Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008.
- Professor Widdowson has now published an excellent follow up book, Separate But Unequal-How Parallelist Ideology Conceals Indigenous Dependency, (University of Ottawa Press, 2019), in which she expands on the themes of Disrobing. She describes and strongly criticizes “parallelist ideology”, the idea of “Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities travelling side by side, coexisting but not getting in each other’s way”, which she clearly demonstrates only leads to more Indigenous dependency. Her research is deep and her references extensive and invaluable. Separate But Unequal has the same basic outlook and theme as There Is No Difference, and covers the same and more of this important general subject, albeit in much more professional and traditionally academic fashion. Unfortunately, while she accurately describes the destructive irrationality and intellectual fraud permeating this entire subject, she suggests no real, practical solutions for remedying it other than the lunch bag letdown solution of “research that openly and honestly investigates the causes of Indigenous dependency and social dysfunction,” which research and ensuing debate on it she says will possibly “take a number of generations.” But her book is a masterwork of research! Please, enough “research!” Our Indigenous peoples do not need more kick-the-ball-down-the-road “research”. They need concrete, foundational reforms- now. Kids are dying. “An infinitely remote end is just a perpetual prison for the present.” (Octavio Paz, below.) They need to be out of their prison. They need a cure from “the sickness of the reserves”- now. (Gordon Gibson, below), which the brilliant, brave but too-cautious Professor Widdowson sadly fails to offer.
- Brown v. Canada 2010 ONSC 3095, May 26, 2010
- Others, in similar cases, thanks to an amazingly ill-considered, inappropriate statement by former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, in a speech to a private group, to the effect that Canada committed “cultural genocide” through the Indian residential schools, will likely attempt to re-visit that argument. See Setting Indians Free From Their Past, below.
- See Brown v. Canada, 2014 1 C.N.L.R. 1 OSJ, Belobaba J.
- House of Anansi Press Inc. 2018
- Reference for all, Michael McKiernan, (Indigenous) Challenge of (Family Law) Act heading to OCA, Law Times, June 18, 2018
- Connie Walker. “First Nations Girl Chooses Traditional Medicine Over Chemo.” CBC News, cbc.ca 16 May 2014.
- See Andre Picard’s column, Court’s no place to resolve gut-wrenching medical issues, Globe & Mail, April 28th, 2014, discussing the Judge’s belated “clarification ” of his ruling to state that a child’s best interests are paramount, and are not to be trumped by “aboriginal rights”. Mr. Picard writes:
They should all be ashamed that it took a prolonged dispute, an asinine court ruling that needed to be “amended” and the suffering of a child before common sense prevailed.
But common sense, in this area of Canadian life, is taking a real beating.
- Christie Blatchford, Lest you imagine the death of Makayla Sault will galvanize someone, somewhere, give your head a shake (the title referring to the stupefying passivity and fear on the part of our non-aboriginal elites in the face of selfish, aggressive, aboriginal-elite political threats and posturing) National Post, January 20th, 2015
- Tom Blackwell, Makayla Sault likely died from rebounding cancer, not chemotherapy effects: specialist, National Post, January 21st, 2015
- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens (above)