The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Proverb
We want men of original perception and original action, who can open their eyes wider than to a nationality, namely to considerations of benefits to the human race, and act in the interest of civilization. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Skin colour was not a definition in his eyes…Mr. Mandela came from way up in the hierarchy of traditional African society. But unlike others on that ancestral level, he did not see that reverence and respect for this meant distorting its relevance by opposing the laws of our democratic Constitution with traditional law…You do not emerge from the isolation of racism to confine your country to some other, chosen isolation.- Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, on Nelson Mandela1 (italics added)
Humanity learns as identities alter to become less aggressive and more open, so that networks can connect individual capacities more effectively and join our resources together. (italics added)-Philosopher Leif Wenar 2
One must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him… To my mind, it is less a question of an exalted or shrewd intelligence, than of good sense, goodwill, and a certain sort of courage to enable one to rise above both the pressure of one’s environment and the natural inclination to close one’s eyes to facts, a temptation that arises from our immediate interest and from the fear which problems inspire in us. – Victor Serge3
On some future morrow identity questions might seem incomprehensible, or beside the point, when globalization is further advanced. But for the moment, in too many places, we will have to endure divisions of identity and myth: divisions that are frankly undeniable because people believe them even as they must be resisted.- Robert Kaplan, In Europe’s Shadow, above
Nothing is irreversible except death. -Amoz Oz4
Anyone proposing to adopt new laws to end the reserve system and legally integrate Indians into all aspects of Canadian society will, strangely, be attacked as an ignorant bigot. The ad hominem attacks will come fast and furious.
They already have in my case. I had the section of this essay relating to the signing of the Robinson treaties published in the Espanola Mid-North Monitor, in December of 2010, in response to an earlier comment by a local Indian chief in the same paper to the effect that Canadians had “stolen” the lands comprising Northern Ontario from Indians. I felt compelled to defend my ancestors. The paper published a response to my article written by a gentleman described as the “Director of Communications” of the Ontario Union of Indians, in which he used such words and phrases, clearly intending them to refer to me, as “hate speech,” “feeble minds,” “hate-mongers” and “Eurocentric.” And, notwithstanding that he offered little or no relevant particulars and did not refute one of my points, he decried my article as that of a basically ignorant person who should stop writing such “inaccurate, incomplete and ill-humoured prose.” (Unable to debate me, he decided to kick me.) His dehumanizing, irrational, mean and bullying response read like something from Pravda in the 1930’s.
In 2015 my own Law Society of Upper Canada, in response to complaints about this essay from three Indians, opened a file on me in this regard, wrote me, and asked me in to in effect explain myself or justify what I had done and said. (The first stage of a possible disciplinary proceeding against me.) They alleged that;
The complainants presented enough materials to cause the Law Society to say that you:
May have engaged in discriminatory conduct; and
May have acted in a manner that reflects adversely on the integrity of the profession and/or the administration of justice.
My response to them was to the effect that I was, in as respectful and fact-based manner as I could muster, exercising my right of free speech on an important public issue.
I also asked them for specifics of the allegations i.e. exactly what part or parts of this essay (as it then was) caused them to conclude that I may have committed those ethical offences, for which I might possibly face disciplinary proceedings and possible punishment. (The complainants asked that I be disbarred.)
Although eventually dismissing the complaint after hanging it over my head for well over a year, my Law Society never provided me with the particulars and specifics requested.
This is antithetical to everything lawyers and the law are supposed to stand for.
One wonders if the Law Society of Upper Canada would agree or disagree with what Canadian lawyer/law professor Benjamin Perrin wrote5, about the social virtue of dissent in a democracy:
Dissent serves a valuable social function: it moderates, brings internal accountability and leads to better decisions because of the value of diversity and the contest of ideas.
It’s unfortunate that these three short-sighted Indian complainants didn’t also realize that the right to dissent-the right of free speech generally- protects them, members of a minority, more than anyone in society. As writer David Cole wrote in The Trouble With Yale,6 an essay on the troubling phenomenon of the suppression of free speech at universities:
It is a mistake to suppress free speech in the name of equality. Free speech and association are rights of special importance to minorities. The freedom of speech empowers them to express their views, to dissent from majority policies, and to organize politically to advance their interests, just as before them, it lent protection to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and other civil rights activists. The last thing a minority group should seek is the suppression of nonviolent free speech.
As stated well above, short-sighted or not, such is the seeming fate awaiting anyone in Canada today who dares to exercise his or her right to freedom of speech on this taboo topic, however reasonable, conscientious, fact-based and respectful he or she tries to be.
The present jurisprudence relating to the situation of Indigenous persons and groups in Canada today is the law, but it’s bad law, morally wrong, based on a skewed view of history and life experience, and disastrous on policy grounds for everyone, especially the vast majority of Indians.
And with any bad law- any law supporting oppression- some (including me) reasonably believe:
You do what you think is right, and let the law catch up.
(This spoken by Thurgood Marshall, distinguished American black lawyer- the architect of the legal strategy that led to Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, (See The Separate But Equal Doctrine, above), the case that ended the era of official racial segregation in American public school systems. He went on to become a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Suggestions have been made that Mr. Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is Canada’s equivalent of Thurgood Marshall. But Mr. Marshall stood for racial integration in all respects. Mr. Sinclair does not.) 7
Canada’s moral hero in this field, Indigenous lawyer William Wuttunee, is the closest thing our country has ever had to a Thurgood Marshall.
The status-quo hugging consensus among our elites on this subject is wrong and harmful to Canada. They seem to be stuck in a wooden-headed, mental rut. Inexplicably, and tragically for our Indigenous peoples, they can’t or won’t imagine any alternative to this highly injurious status quo. Our unique history seems to have laid down a mental template that has twisted their thinking on this subject and prevented them from seeing it for what it is.
We need to break that template and completely re-think the situation.
The Gambler and his non-Indian counterparts, and at least one of the Gambler’s descendants, William Wuttunee, once saw that there was no essential difference between Indians and the rest of Canadians. They once envisaged, however tentatively, a shared, integrated future based on true equality.
We need to think about and perceive the situation in the old-fashioned, enlightened way expressed by the Gambler and William Wuttunee, by great and inspiring movers of men like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, and by great thinkers like Edmund Burke, Sir David Cannadine, Marilynne Robinson,Tony Judt, Octavio Paz and Amartya Sen.
Canada needs to start out on a different path in order to better the disgraceful position of Indigenous peoples in our country today – in order to achieve true progress for them.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples need to become partners again, like we were in the early years of first contact, only this time, inevitably and necessarily, as citizens of Canada under the aegis of social and legal equality and ultimate Crown sovereignty.
Indigenous people are suffering! All the present approaches we are adopting to improve their situation – more money for education, more money for “self-government,” more money for everything else the Indian Industry wants – are all failing and sure to keep failing. The effect of everything they are doing and saying is disastrous for their people.
If serious solutions were being attempted, would not someone hold them to the standard of their effect, and suggest a reconsideration? 8
We need to admit this and embrace the proposals set out in this essay as the best and only rational ones there are.
Lawyers, academics, jurists – the Indian industry generally – are all dancing on the head of the pin of aboriginal law, busily ascribing new rights to Indigenous bands, without taking into the account the larger consideration that, whatever the finer points of that law may be, whatever those newly pronounced rights might be – however correct in technical law they may be – those legal pronouncements and those new rights will serve no ultimate benefit, no greater, progressive purpose, for the great majority of individual, powerless, marginalized Indigenous men, women, boys and girls, those Janices, all of whom, even partly because of those pronouncements and newly declared “rights,” are being and will be further left behind and left out in the ever-more urbanized, assimilated, interconnected, racially indifferent, high-tech Canada of the 21st century.
A brochure advertising a February, 2012 two day seminar in Toronto on aboriginal law – Aboriginal Law, Consultation and Accommodation – listed all the seminar topics: Understanding the Definition and Scope of the Duty to Consult – Consultation with Metis Groups – Achieving Successful and Efficient Interaction between Federal and Provincial Governments – Key Legal Developments on Consultation and Accommodation Surrounding Environmental and Archaeological Issues – and many more.
All the topics were about legal mechanics only. Not one of the seminar topics dealt with the larger, more profound and consequential moral, social and economic issues at play here – the discussion and consideration of which should have been a key part of any gathering of Indian industry professionals – of any gathering of responsible Canadian elites generally.
Not one seminar was devoted to such questions as Tony Judt might ask: Is this right? – Is the shockingly new state of the law in this area actually good for Indians? – Is it good for Canada? – Does it promote the welfare of the nation? – Does it not clash with our fundamental liberal values? – Does it not dangerously and unhealthily offend the “settled customs” of the people? – Will it help or hurt the Canadian economy? – Can we afford it? – Does it mean a two-tier justice system? – Does it not further promote segregation? – Does Crown sovereignty matter? – Does it encourage and tolerate lawbreakers? – If laws are not ends in themselves, but rather means to achieve just, civilized and progressive ends, do these new laws promote or frustrate those ends?
Not one seminar was prepared to debate – and so far not one of our politicians, judges, academics or journalists is prepared to ask or debate, as Professor Terborgh did in his review of The Unconquered:
On a more civilized level, do we want to keep people in a “cultural museum”, a time warp as it were?…Is it the morally right thing to do?…Would any of us prefer to return to our ancestral condition, rather than to live in the modern world? Few of us would say yes.”
Not one seminar was prepared to debate and no member of our elites is prepared to ask or debate another one of Professor Terborgh’s questions i.e. whether, in order to ameliorate the economic and social demoralization and dependency experienced by Indigenous peoples, there is any better, more moral, realistic and permanent option than completing the already well-underway and irrevocable process of integration and assimilation. For Professor Terborgh, and for this writer, there is not.
Not one seminar was prepared to ask or debate whether Janice (see Why Bother? above), and all those other poor, tragic, victimized souls like her, would have had a better chance of living if their lives had not been so essentially and negatively defined by the Indian Act and the reserve system.
Not one seminar was prepared to ask or debate, and not one of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous elites, even today, is prepared to engage with, much less try to answer, the question- “the Nelson Mandela question“-Why is Nelson Mandela’s “one set of laws for all races” goal for apartheid-ridden, “separate but equal”-ridden South Africa, which we all lauded him for, not the right goal for Canada?
In most sociological works the ideals advocated, which are almost always unattainable in the present…are of little significance; what is important is what, on the path to their attainment, is seen as the question. 9
Distressingly to me, none of the above questions, or anything like them, are being asked or debated by any of Canada’s elite, well-heeled, business lawyer class. Absorbed into and increasingly dependent upon the Indian industry, they are seemingly unconcerned with Enlightenment issues and ethics. Among them you will only find lawyers who are content to merely understand the law in order to make money off it- not change it.
The St. Andrews conference this writer attended in late 2016, An Update on Aboriginal Law, (referred to above), was a repetition of the omissions and avoidances of the 2012 conference, and in fact distressingly and depressingly revealed that the Crowns of Canada intend to double and triple-down on all the wooden-headed, illiberal, already demonstrably-failed process-without-end policies and philosophies outlined in this essay. To repeat Joe Wild, speaking on behalf of the federal government (above): “For the past 40 years we have been plowing money into programs- We have no evidence that it’s working.”
My avowed goal for this book is to help to create public, political and social engagement with this Nelson Mandela question- with this book’s themes generally – to make them “possibilities to be argued over rather than taboos to be shunned”- to help to move them into the “realm of the plausible” and thusly give them some “momentum toward becoming real”- to maybe help speed history up a little on this.10
The quotes are from Adam Gopnik’s so-apt essay on Anthony Trollope, Trollope Trending.11 The following extract from his essay exactly encapsulates my hopes for There is No Difference:
Trollope is a reformer, at times a radical, who also knows that radical reform without some kind of social consensus is dangerous.
He has one of his characters in his novel Phineas Finn, Mr. Monk, a prominent radical parliamentarian say:
Many who before regarded the legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible; then among the things probable;- and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made.
The movement for gay marriage is almost a textbook case of Trollope’s idea of how political reform happens: an impossible idea becomes possible, then becomes necessary, and then all but a handful of diehards accept its inevitability.
“The job of those trying to bring about change is not to hector it into the public agenda of the necessary, but to move it into the realm of the plausible. Once something is plausible in a semi-democratic society, it has a natural momentum toward becoming real”
Surely if we Canadians can so raise our game so as to recognize gay marriage, then we can undertake the same process and achieve the same positive end with respect to realizing William Wuttunee’s and Nelson Mandela’s vision and goal of all peoples of all races within a nation living in equality under one set of laws.
Why the refusal to ask the “Nelson Mandela” question?
Why this double standard?
We expect our legal best and brightest – our political, legal, bureaucratic, academic and media best and brightest – to be posing and debating fundamental public policy questions- fundamental morally serious questions- like these, on all our behalves.
It ill fares our land that sadly and unfortunately they’re not.
All the speakers listed in the brochures for the aboriginal law seminars discussed above (and the phenomenon continues to the present) appeared to be highly successful, well-meaning but oddly complacent insiders, all seemingly content to outwardly ignore the bigger picture with all its downsides – and all the real and serious moral and civic issues ordinary Canadians are so concerned about in this area of Canadian life.
Nobody from Frontenac Ventures, Platinex, Solid Gold Resources, Northern Superior Resources, Mackenzie Valley, Enbridge, Energy East or Kinder Morgan was invited to speak and give his or her views on consultation and accommodation. Nobody from Caledonia was invited to speak. None of the corporate or personal casualties of this new legal order was invited to give their perspective. Better to leave the real world out of it I guess.
And so the “private conversation” referred to at the beginning of this essay continues.
For myself, as a lawyer (definitely outside the Indian industry), and as a citizen, with obligations to society arising from both capacities, I feel obligated to register my dissenting legal and civic view of this profound issue, with the view to try to “pry open the lid of a suppressed debate with this essay.12” The main muscle of democracy, freedom of speech, which is atrophying in this area of Canadian life, must be used and exercised frequently to avoid democracy itself weakening, and I exercise this muscle, in a very small way, however fruitlessly.
As Victor Serge, above, wrote:
I am all too aware of the appalling powerlessness of accurate predictions.
Nonetheless, the fact that a message may not be received, or, if received, will likely not be listened to- “Nations seldom listen to advice from individuals, however reasonable. They are taught less by theories than by facts and events” 13– is no reason not to send it:
Let us perform the sacrifice and leave the blame on the doorstep of the spirits. 14
And the fact that the message is a hard one, which will be fought by the powers that be, and which seems impossible to achieve, is no excuse for not setting out on the path, come what may, towards achieving it.
An avalanche changes its course
Depending on the stones it encounters as it forces its way through.
And, as someone used to say,
If you can, alter the course. 15
For example, on July 4, 1829, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first anti-slavery speech at a church in Boston, and so launched his emancipation campaign, with the words: “Since the cause of emancipation must progress heavily , and must meet with much unhallowed opposition- why delay the work?” 16
Our governments and politicians – our non-Indigenous governing classes generally – our uncritical, undiscerning, increasingly shallow and ahistorical media – our beleaguered and survival-obsessed institutions of higher learning – the Indian industry and our Indigenous elites – they all ill serve our democracy and ill serve our Indian peoples by, for one reason or another, failing to rise above the pressures of their own particular environments- by merely serving their own short-term interests- and by looking the other way and driving on by as they daily witness the ongoing car crash that is the current Indigenous reality in Canada.
On a daily basis these people make use of moral heroes like Gandhi, King and Nelson Mandela, and the ideals of equality and reconciliation they stood for, but tragically for our Indian peoples, they consistently fail to serve them. If they were to actually serve the ideals of these moral heroes they would adopt and advocate the ideas set out in this essay.
I am not an expert or a professional in many of the areas, historical, legal and otherwise, touched upon in this essay and on this ground and on many others my views are easily able to be ignored or dismissed. This issue needs to be taken up by people of stature and power in our non-Indian governing classes.
The corporations, large and small, being victimized by the consult and accommodate shakedown system, need to band together, start to apply political pressure – go public with their fears and frustrations – and lobby for change.
The comfortable need to start to be afflicted, so some politician, lawyer, academic, businessman, retired civil servant (the active civil servants are under a de facto gag order) or some respected journalist must end his or her silence and take up this issue on a “J’accuse” level of substance, volume and intensity.
Gandhi saw the issues of imperialism, racism and religious hatred that he confronted his entire life in terms of humanity as a whole. Sir David Cannadine writes that “…he believed in forgiving his enemies, in the underlying connectedness of life, and in a single shared authentic humanity.”
Martin Luther King drew on the Christian teachings of the unity of mankind – “God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.17”, and sought absolute equality across the board between blacks and whites.
In August of 1963 he declared, in Washington D.C. (from Cannadine):
Many of our white brothers have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. I dream of a time when the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood…when little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers…when there will be a redeemed America encompassing all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics.
Substitute “Indian,” or “Aboriginal”, or “Indigenous”, if you will, for “black” and you have what I passionately believe and near-hopelessly espouse. (Yes, tragically here, “What a body might hope for just ain’t in the way of things, most of the time.”) 18
Sir David Cannadine described Nelson Mandela as follows:
He espoused harmony between all persons in conversation and operation across the boundaries of racial identity, and in the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in post apartheid Africa…He recognized the greater and more compelling identity of the entire human race, and he personified it with such charisma and moral force that he became someone who transcended colour and was above race.
Unfortunately so far there seems to be no Canadian equivalent, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi or Martin Luther King, or anyone like them, now in our political midst.
We have no modern William Wuttunee, Canada’s Thurgood Marshall.
We have no Abraham Lincoln.
We have no prominent “fanatical dreamers trying to push history to higher moral ground.” 19
The media gatekeepers, by and large, will not allow the ideas expressed in this essay to be seriously discussed, thus dangerously and irresponsibly ceding discussion of this crucially important national issue, which is on the minds of all caring Canadians, to the (carefully censored) Readers Comment sections of their websites, the excesses and unreason of the blogosphere, and the Tim Horton’s coffee shops. Their journalists usually only pay attention to what the self-interested Chiefs and other Indian industry talking-point specialists are saying, abjuring Gandhi’s exhortation to look to the bottom rungs of society to see what is really happening.
In the 1840’s and 1850’s, under the ownership and control of George Brown, the newspaper the Globe, which later became the Globe & Mail, published articles and editorials attacking slavery in the United States. Mr. Brown helped form the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada.
But today, the Globe & Mail, eschewing its distinguished history of fighting legal impediments to complete racial equality, very much epitomizing the sad death of principled, disciplined “small l” liberalism in Canada, defends and supports the apartheid-like reserve system and the separate but equal status quo. 20
Christopher Hedges, with some justification, said that “the established press is always a reactive force despite its claim about being vanguards of truth.” 21The consequences of this can be dangerous. Former B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh (Canada’s first non-white provincial premier) :
The silencing of most good white men has provided an opportunity for the Trumps of the world to rise. That is what happens when we suffocate or silence rational debate. 22
We have no Emile Zola or Upton Sinclair in our timid, world- weary or simply undiscerning journalistic midst – no Woodward and Bernstein looking for a Deep Throat in the Indian industry -almost no one showing, on this crucial and profound national issue, any idealism, signs of moral courage or seriousness, or what Victor Serge called “rebellious intelligence.”
I say “almost” because, for the first time in a major newspaper, to my knowledge, a major journalist finally showed the insight and the courage to publicly describe “the diseased root of the suffering of 10 generations of aboriginal Canadians”, to wit, “the reserve system- apartheid in all but name.”
The National Post’s Michael Den Tandt, (as he then was), in We know what lies behind the killings,23 a commentary on the January, 2016 La Loche Saskatchewan shootings, where a mentally disturbed 17 year-old native boy shot and killed 4 people and wounded 7 others, wrote:
Audit after audit, inquiry after inquiry, have made it starkly clear: The edifice of the reserve system-apartheid in all but name-needs to be uprooted and replaced, beginning with the settlement of all outstanding land claims…Where is the political party with a concrete plan to push this forward, even on a grandfathered basis, over an extended period?
There is tinkering, and there are heartfelt expressions of goodwill and reconciliation. Canada’s original sin remains untouched.
Mr. Den Tandt said that only this could “make it right”.
He then asked, (as I ask in this essay):
Does anyone in Parliament today have the stomach for this fight?
Since then, despite the daily accumulation of more evidence for the truth of what he wrote, not one prominent non-journalist Canadian has publicly agreed with him, and only one other journalist: Scott Gilmore of MacLean’s , (see Indian Reserves- Canada’s Gated Communities, above) has expressed a similar opinion.
But inexplicably, since then neither Mr. Den Tandt nor Mr. Gilmour, despite the mounting suicide toll on the reserves, has not mentioned it again! It’s as if, like the media in general, they might embrace and extol the surface facts and the ongoing logic of their argument, but then, ultimately, internally rule inadmissible the natural and inevitable conclusions to be drawn.
It’s as if many writers feel that to confront actuality might be dangerous to their social sympathies, and they do not let the facts gather freely about their superior reality, such as it is. 24
This is dispiriting and a real blot on our media. These profound truths should be a regular drumbeat from these ladies and gentlemen, and from the media as a whole!
Does anyone, not only in the media, but in our federal Parliament and in our provincial legislatures, in academia, the private sector- does anyone- anywhere- have the stomach for this good fight?- Will no one put their all-precious career and pride aside and stand up for Janice?
No one? Anyone?
Without a Righteous Person No Village Can Stand! 25
Tragically for our Indigenous peoples, most of our distinctively un-righteous media seem beset with the mind-set of what Harper’s Magazine essayist Rebecca Solnit called “naïve cynicism”- a mind-set inimical to moral heroism- a mind-set that inhibits hope, engagement, and the striving for moral and social progress, all of which “paves the way for passivity and defeat”.
In The Habits of Highly Cynical People 26 she wrote:
Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over appearance, attitude over analysis.
…Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities…
Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent.
…Naïve cynicism loves itself more than the world; it defends itself in lieu of the world. I’m interested in the people who love the world more, and in what they have to tell us, which varies from day to day, subject to subject. Because what we do begins with what we believe we can do. It begins with being open to the possibilities and interested in the complexities.
Timothy Snyder also aptly writes in this regard: 27
If the sin of intellectuals in the twentieth century was to propose utopian visions, that of the twenty-first is to deny all possibility of change. …An abandonment of the search for truth…brings the bottomless skepticism that makes political action seem pointless…We cannot give up on the difference between fact and fiction. Some things are true, and some things are possible.
The great journalist Walter Lippmann wrote that “the way in which the world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do”. 28
To me, the media has a moral and intellectual duty to challenge the present fundamentally-status quo imaginings in this area of Canadian life- “to confront their readers with the underlying implications of their traditional assumptions and received beliefs”- 29and to imagine and publically reflect the alternate possibility of the more perfect world that is Nelson Mandela’s vision and goal of racial integration and complete legal equality for Canada’s indigenous peoples, which duties they are completely failing to carry out.
Unfortunately so far the only academics writing on this topic are advocacy historians, cultural “anthropologists,” law school writers and other such academics 30 offering only past-looking, complaint and grievance-oriented, blinkered, academically biased, self-serving and selective scholarship. Their backward and harmful view, like that of everyone else in the Indian industry, is that ” a parallel, communal society can be, and must be maintained in this country”, (quoting Gordon Gibson in A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy, (above).
Mr. Gibson, in relation to these academics, referred to:
…the vein of sentimentality that influences many otherwise serious scholars in this field, (see, for example, John Ralston Saul and his book, Comeback, in The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada, in chapter 12 above), perhaps seeking somehow to atone personally for what they perceive is a history of white guilt.
They offer no solutions or hope for the Janice’s of the Canadian Indigenous world – no solutions or hope for the all the innocent, helpless, Indigenous victims of the oligarchic cronyism too much present on the reserves.
Our politicians, the ones most responsible for speaking out, are noted in this area only for their senseless and damaging embrace of the separate but equal status quo here, or for their demoralizing and dangerous political timidity, even cowardice, and obfuscation. They refuse to lift a finger to really help these victims. It must be the water of power-seeking and power-keeping they drink.
These mainly sentimental, uselessly handwringing, no-doubt caring academics, journalists and politicians, immersed in the warm bath of their cheaply and easily-obtained knock-off, luxurious moral indignation- sometimes hampered by their own intellectual vanity- offer only a purely comfortable (to them) mental and remotely–emotional commitment to the faraway sufferings of marginalized aboriginal Canadians, but a mental and emotional commitment totally without rationality or responsibility- “strong on indignation- devoid of positive measures”,31– strong on high-sounding words and emotionally effective but empty concepts- but really, only “gently ruffled” by this tragic situation “as an aspen is ruffled by the breeze”,32-and too much characterized by “tags and labels that substitute an easy moralism for critical thought and judgment.”33
Empathy without consequence…their angry and anguished utterances are merely the manipulation of the rhetoric of conscience on behalf of a policy without a trace of conscience. 34
These true, damning thoughts, for me, also came from Leszek Kolakowski’s essay, The Heritage of the Left, contained in Is God Happy?- Selected Essays, (above), referring to Western intellectuals, never having known “fire, hunger and the sword”- “never having undergone the experiences that teach men how relative their judgments and thinking habits are”- “Their resultant lack of imagination is appalling.“35– expressing solidarity with Stalin’s “workers revolution” taking place in the Soviet Union, from the comfort and vantage point of their Oxford pubs and café tables on the Left Bank.
It’s as if these academics, journalists and politicians deliberately, through an effort of will, cut off any line of thought, enquiry or exposition just short of the point when that thought or enquiry or exposition would obviously and inexorably have to lead to the conclusion- “the heavy cross of sober knowledge”-36 that it is the Indian Act, the reserve system and the fundamentally illiberal and unworkable separate but equal regime, the latter now being augmented by talk of “nation to nation” relationships and UNDRIP, which they are all labouring so mightily and self-righteously to maintain and expand, that are the root causes of this tragedy-ridden problem.
It’s as if, as stated above, they shrink from this heavy, sober knowledge- “knowledge that would cause them both political and emotional difficulties.” 37
The self-censorship- the abandonment of individual judgment and initiative in favour of political correctness- the coping with reality by denying it- is sadly evident. As is the phenomenon of “cognitive ease” referred to in chapter 34 above, and the all-too prevalent intellectual irresponsibility in merely “reflecting and echoing in the most conventional way the political and cultural fissures and conflicts around them, rather than contributing to the redirection of national attention on to other, more promising tracks.”38
Michael Ignatieff, a brilliant, deeply learned and cultured man, who, in his mid-Atlantic man intellectual phase, wrote Blood and Belonging,39 an excellent portrayal of the social and political evils of clan and tribal thinking – of “ethnic nationalism”- of upholding group rights over individual rights – when he became a Canadian politician, inexplicably failed to walk his talk and became just another propounder of safe, anodyne clichés on this issue, every one of them supporting the “blood and belonging” nature of the Indigenous status quo -every one of them antithetical to the maintenance and enhancement of the “civic nationalism” that he correctly argues is the essential basis of civilized, orderly and progressive life- and every one of them having the effect of condemning our Indigenous citizens to a state of further dependency and dysfunctionality.
To his detriment he missed an opportunity to courageously stand apart from his opponents on a great moral issue and to be seen to stand for something. It might have made a significant difference for him.
Ironically, he accurately penned his own political epitaph on this issue in an article he wrote about Vaclav Havel, The Hero Europe Needed 40. He wrote:
Heroism is essential to politics. We live for an hour when a politician stands up in (the) dusty arena and we recognize, with astonishment, that here is a person prepared to take risks, tell us what we don’t want to hear, face possible defeat for a principle, tackle insuperable odds, and by doing so, show us that politics need be not just the art of the possible, but the art of the impossible…Heroism is in fact a social virtue, nurtured by loyalties to people you know you must defend if you are to live with yourself afterward.
We think of people like King, Gandhi and Mandela as exemplars of these words, as people “who are loyal in their lives and their behavior to an understanding of what is right and good, and who will honour it even at considerable cost to themselves.”41
We think of Yitzhak Rabin, in Israel, “who stood up and acknowledged that the occupation of the Palestinian territories was killing his country. All hell broke loose. People forget what a reviled figure he was. That’s leadership!” 42
Tragically, no present-day Canadian leader comes to mind when we read of these examples of moral heroism- no prominent Canadian yet who would “press for a world in which his own power (would) be inexorably lessened.” 43 And they certainly didn’t apply to Mr. Ignatieff himself at any time during his brief go at Canadian politics.
Ordinary Canadian live in the constantly unrealized hope that such persons, who Mr. Ignatieff describes as having the courage and capacity to “live in truth, outside the propaganda bubble”, will come along. The vast majority of vulnerable, powerless, dependent Indigenous Canadians live in desperate need of such persons.
One of Mr. Ignatieff’s former rivals, Bob Rae, now one of the most senior and respected members of his party (and, very disappointingly, after he left government, a highly-paid functionary in the Indian industry), missed the same opportunity in December of 2011. His stale response to the Attawapiskat housing crisis attracting national attention then, causing eyeballs to glaze and roll all across Canada, was to put all the blame on Ottawa. True to out-of-touch Liberal form on this issue, he vacuously declared, “It’s a continuation of the colonial attitude.” (See my discussion of Mr. Rae’s book, What’s Happened to Politics? dealing with the tragic waste of Mr. Rae’s potential to be a true Nelson Mandela-like aboriginal champion, in The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada, c. 12, above).
Mr. Rae, like all other members of the non-Indigenous elite that had knowledge of the corruption on that reserve that contributed to the housing crisis, like all our other non-Indigenous elites do every day in all the similar situations that arise across Canada, chose to look the other way on that and not mention it, as if he and they all think that Indigenous Canadians don’t deserve the same kind of good, transparent governance as do all other Canadians.
This moral abdication gives rise and relevance to aboriginal writer Calvin Helin’s question in Dances With Dependency:
Where is the Canadian government while these gross abuses of power and fundamental human rights are taking place? At the very least, knowledge that such activities are taking place is a scathing indictment of a supposedly advanced G-8 country! How are Aboriginal people supposed to move forward when their own federal government-sanctioned elected officials-are enforcing the poverty and attendant corruption that is the causal link to most of the problems in the first place?
This political obduracy and/or cluelessness on the part of the federal Liberals continued unabated after that, displayed in 2013 by their demonstrations of solidarity with and support for the “hunger strike” of former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence, and the anarchistic conduct and anti-Crown sovereignty goals of both the Idle No More movement and Canadian-Indigenous elites generally, and in 2014 by their opposition to the passage of the federal First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which had imposed a small measure of public accountability on Indigenous band elites and, in doing so, had revealed many instances of unconscionable financial self-dealing on the part of many of them.
Revealing his too-thoughtless, devoid of tragic realism, “sunny ways” tendency to suck up to band chiefs, as a group, no matter the issue and no matter how wrong and harmful their demands and behavior might be, then merely third party leader, and now Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, declared that the manner of and the fact of the passage of that Act in the form it was in was not “respectful” to this, to him, automatically and presumptively respectworthy bunch of selfless Indigenous leaders. He promised to repeal it if he were elected Prime Minister.
Now that he is Prime Minister, with the power to carry out this reckless and harmful promise, what a great shame on him and his government that he did just that!
On December 18th, 2015 his then Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, described by Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson as “the echo chamber for the Native Women’s Association of Canada”, (See chapter 6, Pre-contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New), announced that the government was lifting all sanctions and suspending all court actions against those Indian bands that did not comply with the law. (More two-tier justice and more erosion of respect for the law). As Ms. Bennett, employing par excellence the usual, agitprop bureaucratese that Canadians must regularly and mind-numbingly endure, and showing herself and her Prime Minister to apparently be the echo chamber for the Assembly of First Nations chiefs as well, (who had lobbied incessantly against this transparency law since the day it was passed), chillingly and emptily blathered:
These initial steps will enable us to engage in discussions on transparency and accountability that are based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership and that builds toward a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples. 44
What a big plum Mr. Trudeau handed to the band chiefs “and the old boys clubs that run the reserves”. 45 What a devastating and unconscionable attack he carried out against the best interests and welfare of the vast majority of ordinary, vulnerable, powerless, reserve residents!
For, as Calvin Helin wrote in Dances With Dependency:
There must be real accountability in the management of Aboriginal assets and resources in Canada. Many governments squander enormous amounts of resources that could otherwise be put to good use. If there is an abuse of power or corruption, Aboriginal wrongdoers should face the same criminal sanctions that anyone else in Canada faces. To argue otherwise is tantamount to contending that Aboriginal people in Canada don’t deserve the transparency, accountability and careful fiscal management that ordinary Canadians take for granted. Leaders who are abusing the system and resisting constructive reform will continue to condemn their communities to poverty and the abuses of lateral violence.
How demoralizing for them to see the two governments that have the most direct effect on them- the federal government and their band governments- colluding together to, in effect, deprive them of transparency rights that all other Canadians take for granted. How demoralizing for them to see the federal government abandon them so, and prefer the selfish interests of the chiefs and councillors over their best interests. As former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Jack Major said, revealing that perhaps he is one of those prominent righteous men that Canada and Canada’s Indigenous peoples need so desperately:
Can you make any sense out of the Trudeau Gov’t immediately on taking office discontinuing the need for any accounting for funds received and in the meantime the majority living on reserves live at the whim of the Chief and cannot own their own house? 46
Mr. Trudeau, in his pre-power opposition years, made other rash and thoughtless promises to Indian elites. 47
With little or no demonstrable critical aforethought, he promised to implement all 94 recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, despite the fact that many of them are beyond the purview of the federal government, and many more of them will be, in implementation, clearly harmful to the national interest.
He promised to provide increased federal funding for quasi-segregationist “Indigenous only” schools, in amounts far greater than the Harper government promised, and with far less accountability than the Harper government was insisting on, thereby, in a show of politics again prevailing over the best interests of Indigenous children, condemning those children to the general likelihood of both inferior academic and inferior life outcomes. (See A “First Nations” Education, above)
Very alarmingly, as if the Supreme Court had not eviscerated federal and provincial Crown sovereignty enough, he promised to add to that evisceration process himself, by giving Indian bands an express veto over new projects taking place on their “territories”, meaning, as stated above, basically all of Canada, thereby, if such a dumb promise were ever somehow fulfilled- (apparently he is on his way to fulfilling it, as evidenced by his decision to order the National Energy Board, (to be renamed the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada), in pipeline and natural gas regulatory proceedings, to undertake additional consultation with Indian bands, (including hearing all about their supposedly unique (but hitherto undisclosed) “traditional indigenous knowledge”, which is to be given a virtually even footing with science), and to let stand, without protest, the judicial killing of the Enbridge pipeline project) -removing the last shreds of whatever ultimate and “last resort” sovereignty the Supreme Court, in cases like Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in , may have left our federal and provincial governments.
These no doubt well-intentioned but essentially nihilistic actions are driving nails into the coffin of the Canadian economy- I think, into the essence of Canada itself-of what has made us the great country we are)- and, most fundamentally, for all the reasons stated in this book, shamefully condemn our Indigenous peoples to further and increased quasi-segregation, dysfunction and despair.
One of the ways the Justin Trudeau government proposes to accomplish this fool’s goal is by formally adopting into the law of Canada the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, aka UNDRIP, (one of the big recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), which, if done, according to noted author and journalist Gordon Gibson, in A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy, (above), would cause “legal chaos” (as if we didn’t have enough of that already48), and would be harmful, not beneficial, for Canada’s Indigenous peoples. About the Declaration, Mr. Gibson writes:
The concepts of “indigenous peoples” and “inherent rights” are central to the Declaration itself. No definition or listing is given. In common parlance this is signing a blank cheque. In the Declaration, indigenous rights are not merely individual; they are collective. No provision whatsoever is made for democratic or even good governance of the collective. Indigenous tyrannies may apply for UN blessing. Article 3 implies potential separation rights for indigenous peoples, though this is carefully obfuscated. Article 4 requires taxation (of the mainstream) without representation. Articles 5, 20 and 33 provide for a parallel society. Article 11 provides for retroactive compensation for things done “in violation of their, laws, traditions, and customs.” Article 18 provides for reserved seats in mainstream decision making bodies. Article 22 is so deliciously politically correct that it really is worth citation: “Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.” Middle-aged indigenes have a complaint. Article 26 again is worth citing because it is (apparently was- author) the main concern of the government of Canada: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired”. Ottawa says (apparently, used to say -author) this would over-ride established and ongoing processes. (It would Tsilcot’inize all of Canada! –author) …Adherence to this Declaration would immensely complicate a developing pattern of Canadian accommodation and should be resisted. Recall again that our Supreme Court is prone to importing international law to guide and that this Declaration is not in the usual “aspirational” language but rather the “rights” language of Conventions. Signing this would be a recipe for legal chaos and the bad, not the good, of Canadian Indians.
Or, as stated, as Indigenous leader and businessman John Kim Bell more succinctly put it, (c. 46 above): “implementing UNDRIP would likely paralyse the entire Canadian economy.”
Canadians have now lost hope that what was, because of his father, hopefully bred in Mr. Trudeau Junior’s bones would out in his flesh, and that, on this issue, he would have by now lost his immature and unrealistic, Panglossian “childlike confidence in life’s benevolence”, and would have stopped being, on this issue, the seeming “cheerful, chatty innocent who meets but never comprehends the dark forces at work in the world.” 49We hoped in vain that this Prime Minister, on this issue, would have taken on some of the respect for law and order, intellectual maturity and gravitas, hard-edged principles, sense of tragic realism and constitutional discipline, characteristic of his late father.
(Mr. Trudeau, it’s hip to be a real, old-fashioned grownup. Try it. And that involves more than growing a beard.)
As Stephen Harper was too much dark night, so is our present Prime Minister too much bright, sunny day, with his tendency to throw gobs of borrowed money into empathic, political “no-lose” Indigenous social projects and programs, while failing to protect the legal well-springs of the economy, the taxes from which economy pay for those social engineering projects and programs. Traditionally great Canadian leaders- great leaders everywhere- have always been a judicious, Manichean blend of both light and dark.
His former Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, declared that in this area of Canadian life, “laws need to be changed and policies need to be re-written.” 50
Former Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould (she was transferred out of the job in January of 2019) is exactly, literally right, for the reasons stated at length in this essay, But very unfortunately, even tragically, based on her record as a long-standing apparatchik, and, in office, as an agent, of the Indian industry, with all its “nation to nation” talk, the half-aboriginal Ms. Wilson-Raybould, (her mother was a “white” schoolteacher), did not mean those words in the way I wish she did. She actually meant handing substantial control of the Canadian economy to the Assembly of First Nations and Indigenous interests generally.
Mr. Trudeau had installed an AFN “nation to nation” fox in the henhouse of Canadian sovereignty.
Taking the nation to nation talk of the Indian industry literally, (as they intend it to be taken), her having sworn an oath to the Queen when she was appointed, did she not have divided loyalties? Was she not in a conflict of interest? Did she, who, until she decided to run for Parliament, was a Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, have it in her to fight for the Queen’s interests- for Canadian sovereignty- when it was required? Decidedly not, as her behavior in office clearly showed! (She should have at least been politely asked these questions, but our fawning and quiescent media didn’t .)
Her appointment as Justice Minister called to mind Gordon Gibson’s concern in A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy (above) about representatives of group power sitting in Parliament:
Clear issues of group power arise when parliamentarians are seen as group representatives rather than impartial seekers of the common good.
She said 51that the Liberals “must move forward with vigour” on implementing all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and that there must be “an overarching cross-government reconciliation framework that would guide all departments and ministries, and be supported at the highest levels of the prime minister’s office”, to put into operation “what has been directed by the courts and set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The fact that the courts have directed nothing whatsoever in this regard, or that the UN Declaration is a mere non-binding, statement of good intentions by an extra-territorial, voluntary association of nations, (many of which nations are totally corrupt dictatorships which would laugh at the notion of actually implementing the utopian Declaration in their own countries), appear to be of little interest or concern to this former Minister of Justice, (or to her boss, Mr. Trudeau), suggesting that in fact she may be and always was a mere representative of the Assembly of First Nations “group”, with a view to preferring their agenda over any other, and that in fact she doesn’t have and never had the wherewithal to either properly protect the Queen’s interests or to be an impartial seeker of the common good.
To her minor but only temporary credit, despite the above, in July of 2016, at the AFN annual meeting, (a convention boondoggle devoted to the strengthening of our apartheid-like status quo and to the destruction of Canadian Crown sovereignty, completely paid for by the Canadian taxpayer), some semblance of rationality on her part on this issue revealed itself, when she seemingly partially qualified herself by announcing to her former AFN co-elites that notwithstanding that Canada adopting the Declaration “without qualifications” was “incredibly important”, actually implementing it “as being Canadian law” was “unworkable” (duh!) and that the goals and intentions of it would be implemented, more or less on a case by case basis, through specific legislation and policy initiatives.52
But a year later, in July of 2017, she confirmed that Unreason was the sole and permanently seated occupant of her mental throne, and that politically, she was still firmly situated in the back pocket of her first love, the Assembly of First Nations.
In an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail, 53 inspired by a “gathering of canoes” she had attended not long before in Vancouver, she despaired that the Crowns and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada were still in “denial”. She complained that “Indigenous peoples have to prove their rights in court even though they are recognized by section 35 of Canada’s Constitution”, seemingly blissfully unaware, as Bob Rae said, ((See The Haida Nation Case, chapter 23 above), that when section 35 was passed nobody knew what it really meant! Our highest Crown law officer apparently thought that Indian bands should simply be allowed to declare what their rights are, and the rest of us should just shut up and accept that. To do otherwise, in her mind, would clearly be “racist.” During her tenure as Justice Minister, with Prime Minster Trudeau’s express approval, she basically carried this destructive policy out.
She complained that federal laws and policies around land and resource decision-making “do not properly consider Indigenous rights” (!), giving the clear impression that, for the past 30 years, an era of sensational, non-stop and country-changing Indigenous court victories, slavishly respected and followed by governments and industry to the point of self-harm, only partially dealt with in this book, she has been out to permanent lunch.
This former AFN Regional Chief, then charged with defending the federal Crown’s rights, powers and prerogatives and with defending the revenue, urged us all on to the next great task:
…”to work with Indigenous peoples to decolonize federal laws, policies and operational practices, and to ensure that all aspects of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples become rooted in recognition of rights”, and “to act in partnership with Indigenous peoples to recognize Indigenous rights of self-determination and self-government, and to implement the UN Declaration.”
And in February of 2018 the definitely still Panglossian Mr. Trudeau announced that his sovereignty-giveaway government would be pursuing a ” new recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights framework that will include new ways to recognize and implement Indigenous rights…Going forward recognition of rights will guide all government interactions with Indigenous peoples.”
In other words, his plan is that Indian bands will no longer have to prove they have rights in any particular situation. Rather, the federal government will start off with the presumption that the band in question already has whatever country and economy-wrecking right they are asserting, and the onus will be on government or the private sector entity affected to prove the opposite. A classic reverse onus situation. Again, John Kim Bell: “ …this will likely paralyse the entire Canadian economy.”
Quite simply, the overall conduct of the Justin Trudeau government in this area of our national life, now, after being in power for several years, able to be fairly judged, is sabotaging the national interest- putting Canada on a course of serious social disunity and economic suicide.
In April of 2017 Canada, at the United Nations, formally retracted objections to UNDRIP to the effect that it would be seen as giving a veto to Indian bands to new development, and therefore, (under the old line of thinking), could not be reconciled with Canadian law. Said our lightweight, Crown sovereignty-averse, destructive and delusional Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett:
This is about making decisions together, from the inception…It means not putting some fully baked project in front of people and getting them to vote yes or no. (italics added).
Putting icing on the cake of a fractured and seriously weakened Canada, the very well-meaning but apparently oblivious Ms. Bennett also added that Canada “unequivocally supports” Canada’s Indigenous “governments” being given representative status in the UN General Assembly!54
It looks like ordinary Indians aren’t going to get much meaningful help or exhortation from the merely well-intentioned (at best) Mr. Rae, the Trudeau government, or in fact from anyone in the ahistorical, morally timid, intellectually vacuous, non-Indigenous political establishment generally.
On the provincial level, the unbearable lightness of being exhibited by the insanely Crown sovereignty-destructive, near bankruptcy-inducing McGuinty/Wynne Liberal governments, (the clearly destructive and failed model of government that the Justin Trudeau federal government is determined to emulate), typical of all of our governments, continued merrily and heedlessly along, as evidenced by Premier Wynne’s “political accord” with Ontario Indian band chiefs, (above), and then Wynne Cabinet Minister Zimmer’s inane and childlike praising of the Tshilcot’in decision while, feeding the flames of already outsized Indigenous elites’ expectations even more, cheerfully chatting on about “government to government” agreements.
(Why shouldn’t the Mattawa Tribal Council have demanded to be involved in the Ring of Fire sale talks between Cliffs and Noront Resources. They were a “government” after all, and they therefore had a right to be involved! A tip of the hat to the Ontario government for this state of affairs!)
Generally, our political and bureaucratic elites, federal and provincial, constitute one giant jamboree of fiddlers, all sawing away haplessly and obliviously on their out-of-date, out-of-tune instruments while our Canadian Rome burns.
Indigenous peoples are going to have to start looking to within themselves for someone to lead them out of this unholy situation- some fearless, ubuntu, modern-day William Wuttunee- some Indigenous Moses who will lead his or her people out of their present bondage into the Promised Land of legal equality and social integration with their fellow Canadians. They’re going to have to start speaking up – to start finding the courage to speak out against the wishes and official orthodoxy of their own leadership -short-sighted and unwise (at best), or oppressive and self-serving (at worst).
The prospects of this, like in all other aspects of this tragic situation, are not encouraging. Poverty is endemic on reserves and amongst the Indigenous population of Canada generally. Surprisingly, poor people are generally conservative in nature. To them, change often signifies the risk of losing the little they already have. John Kenneth Galbraith, in a 1965 lecture, Underdevelopment and Social Behaviour,55relating to alleviating poverty in Third World countries, (perfectly apt here), put it as follows:
It has often been observed that very poor communities are intensely conservative-that, far more than the more fortunate, these people resist the change that is in their own interest. Illiteracy, and the limited horizons it implies, is a partial cause of this; so is the inertia resulting from poor heath and malnutrition. But poverty is an even more direct cause of conservatism. If there is no margin to spare, there’s no margin for risk…Since there is a measure of risk in everything that is untried, it is better to stick with the proven methods- the methods that have justified (their) survival to this time… The instinct of a poor community is to resist change, and to suspect even beneficial change.
Thus the responsibility, and moral and civic obligation, on the part of the well-to-do, privileged and fully assimilated (which is all of them) Indigenous elites, to raise their game, to raise and carry the William Wuttunee/Martin Luther King/Nelson Mandela torch, is that much higher and more acute.
Somehow, against all present odds, aboriginal Canadians are going to have to find their own modern-day moral heroes- their own Gandhi, King or Mandela- “someone with the guts to say no to tribe, yes to universal nation, no to divisions and fences”56.
The civil rights movement in America that ultimately brought about the end of the separate but equal status of Negroes there only really gained momentum and political power when black organizations and black leaders like Medger Evers and Martin Luther King got actively involved and started people marching. The same will have to happen in Canada.
One of our numerous, prominent, successfully integrated Indigenous citizens – some modern day William Wuttunee- someone who can stay out of the siren-like clutches of the Indian industry- someone still proud of his Indigenous heritage- someone who knows and is finally willing to publicly proclaim that one can, at the same time, successfully self-identify as an Indigenous person, a Canadian and a person of the world- will have to break his or her silence, talk his or her walk, and publicly declare that unity and integration with the rest of Canada is best, and that further, it’s very possible – in fact it’s certain! – that any Canadian Indigenous person, without the crutches of the Indian Act, reserves and special race-based laws, just like any other Canadian from any other background, can succeed in modern-day Canada.
Someday, there will be an aboriginal Obama, a transcendent figure of unity and hope. 57
And what a boon for us if all that would happen! Think of all their immense human potential that would be released! Think of the benefits we would all experience! We would all be so much the richer for it!
For my part, I think of some of the harshnesses of modern civilization: its decreasing sense and fact of human community, its aggressive, contact-sport nature, human isolation, persistent anxiety about both the present and the future, depression in the midst of (and partially caused by) incredible affluence, spiritual flatness, persistent and increasing financial insecurity and inequality , physical indolence, (we have to manufacture physicality in the form of jogging, gyms, and things like “spin classes” to merely approximate the daily, natural, physical output of our ancestors), workaholism and other compulsions relating to “having it all”, (sometimes resulting in alcoholism), the internet and all the other types and manner of coping-mechanism addictions and fantasies that ensnare us.
“The economic and marketing forces of modern society have engineered an environment…that maximizes consumption at the long-term cost of well-being,” a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders concluded in 2012. “In effect, humans have dragged a body with a long hominid history into an overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, competitive, inequitable and socially-isolating environment with dire consequences.” 58
Amidst all this I wonder if some of these corrosives of modern Canadian life- “the precariousness of modern existence”59-might not be softened and tempered somewhat if our Indigenous fellow Canadians were more a part of our daily lives.
The great David Brooks writes 60 in this regard:
We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.
I wonder if the burdens we think we have to shoulder to survive in this fantastically complicated, highwire world we have created for ourselves might be easier to carry if that occurred. I feel it would be a consolation for the rest of us if our Indigenous fellow citizens were everywhere side by side with us. They have so much of value to share.
The late, great, unjustly neglected, Indigenous Canadian moral hero, William Wuttunee, (the kind of moral hero Michael Ignatieff was writing about), no doubt branded a “red apple” Indian, (red on the outside but “white” on the inside), by all the race-obsessed shouters and dividers who feared him in his day, and by all the same types who would fear him and put him down today, loved his people and his cultural heritage as much, or more, (because his love and concern was an adult love– a love based on hard-life experience, extensive knowledge, a regard for what was best for his people rather than his people’s elites, and on superior intellectual and moral principles), wrote in Ruffled Feathers:
Indian culture does not mean wearing feathers and hopping around on one foot; It means the belief in the Great Spirit who inhabits the sun, the stars, the wind, and all of nature. It means that one is honourable, brave, generous and kind. It means that one has a sense of responsibility to his immediate family and to the other members of the community with whom he is in contact.
…There is a great deal that Indians can give to the Western way of life. There is a sense of relaxation in their concept of time, and there is an appreciation of living close to nature without polluting one’s surroundings. Indians show a warmth for family life; they express a deep concern for their fellow members in the community; and they show a sense of humour even in dire circumstances. They can endure great pain without apparent emotion. Theirs is a culture which could emphasize peace and contentment.
Sebastian Junger wrote in Tribes, (above):
Thomas Paine, one of the principal architects of American democracy, wrote a formal denunciation of civilization in a tract called Agrarian Justice: “Whether… civilization has most promoted or most injured the general happiness of man is a question that may be strongly contested,” he wrote in 1795. Both the most affluent and the most miserable are to be found in the countries that are called civilized.
When Paine wrote his tract, Shawnee and Delaware warriors were still attacking settlements just a few hundred miles from downtown Philadelphia. They held scores of white captives, many of whom had been adopted into the tribe and had no desire to return to colonial society. There is no way to know the effect on Paine’s thought process of living next to a communal stone-age society, but it might have been crucial. Paine acknowledged that these tribes lacked the advantages of the arts and sciences and manufacturing, and yet, lived in a society where personal poverty was unknown and the natural rights of man were actively promoted.
In that sense, Paine claimed, the American Indian should serve as a model for how to eradicate poverty and bring natural rights back into civilized life.
From my personal experience, I cite their soft, slower voices, their calming tendency to under-verbalize,61 part of their quiet, sly, “trickster” sense of humour, their slower pace, their warm humanity, their graceful personal ways. When, through my work, I associated with Indigenous Canadians one on one, especially the older ones, I almost always felt that grace and calmness and “the survival of older virtue in the midst of (historical) indignity”.62Sometimes when in their presence I am suddenly struck with and startled by their “Founding Peoples” reality, and I become more conscious of being Canadian and of what that means to me. I think of how we got to where we are today, and of the wildness, endurance and danger in our history.
I try (unsuccessfully) not to romanticize Indigenous persons. But to me, romanticized or not, they represent a key centrality of our history and national being, and the courage, resilience, toughness, and the living, natural genius, it took and takes to survive in our country.
When, in their presence, I often think of my own ancestors and of their struggles, and of my own, now lost, wild, tribal, ancestral origins. (We were all there once.) I think of our species’ migratory ways, deep time, our common humanity and all the shocks of the new it has absorbed and endured, and how we are already, if we could only see it, a budding, intermingling, integrated “cosmic race”. All of these are consoling thoughts and feelings -salves for the cuts and bruises of modern life.
I think all Canadians would be similarly richly affected if our Indigenous population, instead of being isolated from the rest of us, became an omnipresent, integrated, ubuntu part of our daily lives, where they experience their being- their daily, active living present- on equal terms with their fellow Canadians- if that “double consciousness” described by W.E.B. DuBois, (see Introduction, above), greatly and tragically exacerbated by the divisive events of the past 30 years, became a fundamentally singular Canadian consciousness, springing from “heart-unity”- if they lived in our “composite culture”63neighborhoods instead of so apart from us, (people don’t really care what their neighbors race or ethnicity or political or religious views are , as long as they’re good neighbors), and thus could better “share in the common inheritance of life’s best goods”64– if their cultural traditions, instead of being perceived by Canadians as a brandished fist, –nothing comes from blame but evil tempers- 65, rather than an open hand of greeting- as advocacy instruments in their elites’ constant, relentless, separatist-like power and money claims- were shared with other Canadians in the context of daily, commingled community life, and thus experienced by all Canadians as a positive, felt part of our Canadian community’s day to day life- our great country’s rich, rainbow reality. This commingling as neighbours, in neighbourhoods, where people live their daily lives “on the far side of policy” 66 is the only way that all Canadians will positively experience the full measure of our country- is the only proper and true path to “reconciliation”.
Father Raymond de Souza:
Reconciliation is only possible when the aggrieved decide to cease putting grievances- even legitimate ones-in the face of the other. That is not forgetting and not even forgiving in the deepest sense, but it is required if there are to be advances in the road to reconciliation. Reconciliation is better left to civil society. It is too important a task for politics. 67
David Brooks wrote a beautiful, apt column in The New York Times, Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts,68 in which he says that religious tolerance will only be lessened if we can develop a “Theology of the Other: a complex biblical understanding of how to see God’s face in strangers.” He further writes:
The answer to religious violence is probably to be found within religion itself, among those who understand that religion gains influence when it renounces power.
The same applies to our so-called racial differences, which, I have argued, doubtless to the point of tedium, are fundamentally illusory. We need to take the best of the religious/spiritual inclination that is in all of us, focusing on, rather than Old Testament-style anger and blame, New Testament humility, empathy and forgiveness, and put it to good civic use.
We need to remind ourselves of “the healing power of courtesy and consideration”.69We need to dispense with all the meaningless abstractions here, like “the land”, (and “stewards” thereof and “special relationship” with), “colonialism”, (and “deconstruction” thereof), and “cultural genocide”, which only serve to make our elites’ consciences “perfectly easy in doing what satisfied their own egoism”, 70i.e. conference and opine earnestly and endlessly, while relying on the “great safeguard of society…that their opinions were not acted upon”, 71and under the dispiriting and progress-free auspices of which Indigenous youth are, in increasing numbers, falling behind, suffering in all kinds of ways that we would never so-passively tolerate off-reserve, and, in the worse cases, killing themselves.
We all, especially our elites, need to heed the words of the brilliant cultural appropriator, Miss George Eliot, as they apply to our relations with each other and to our ancestors, who lived faithfully their now-hidden lives, and “rest in unvisited tombs”:72
I will not believe unproved evil of you: my lips shall not utter it; my ears shall be closed against it; I, too, am an erring mortal, liable to stumble, apt to come short of my most earnest efforts; We are each tempted and have a hard lot. Let us help each other to stand without more falling;- to have done this would have demanded courage, deep pity, self-knowledge, generous trust- would have demanded a mind that tasted no piquancy in evil-speaking, that felt no self-exaltation in condemning, that cheated itself with no large words into the belief that life can have any moral end, any high religion, which excludes the striving after perfect truth, justice, and love towards the individual men and women who come across our path. 73
Just as Simon Leys asserts that culture is born out of exchanges and thrives on differences, (Assimilation and Cultural Loss, above), so it gains influence when it renounces egoistic power and power seeking.
Renouncing segregation, reserves, the Indian Act, UNDRIP- the whole status quo generally- would be liberating, and would cause a celebration- an unforced welcoming into the Canadian family -of Canadian Indigenous traditions and culture.
But this won’t happen if the status quo persists, if Indigenous elites continue to elevate their minor cultural differences from the rest of us into impassable barriers, if the timid careerists, the naïve cynics, and the shouters, graspers and dividers continue to prevail- if this tear in the moral fabric of our country is not mended.
And that will continue to be a great loss to us all.
William Wuttunee, still not crazy, still bang on, after all these years, wrote:
Indians can work with the white man in partnership to develop a country which will provide for each of our children a legacy of great value. It is not necessary to separate from the white man, either physically or spiritually. The long period of separation of the two races has now ended.
Let us then unite in spirit, so that each of us can look forward to a peaceful old age in which we can see our children effectively participating in the creation of a new society. Many Indians have already taken the road ahead, to live in the land of the white man. They have paved the way for their brothers and sisters on which they must learn to walk without fear.
The hard knocks of history are pushing the Indian into a new way of life, and he must learn to accept this new challenge with faith and with hope. History has taught a hard lesson, but history will vindicate itself one day when the Indian finally finds his place in Canadian society.
I sincerely hope and pray, for the sake of my Indigenous fellow citizens, that other ordinary citizens, that people and forces in Canada more influential and articulate than me – people who are leaders in their fields – people with the prophecy and the power 74– will start voicing some of the ideas and concerns expressed in this book, sooner rather than later, with the positive and inspiring goal of re-inventing Canada in this profound area of our national life, by putting us all on the path of realizing the Gambler’s and Nelson Mandela’s vision of universal human equality, so as to finally bring our Indigenous population into our greater Canadian family as fully equal members.
To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one us is intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country.
Each time one of us touches the soil of this land we sense a personal renewal.
We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us. -Nelson Mandela 75
February 20th , 2020
Dedicated to my late, dear father, Donald Best, (1916-2016), to the late Darryl Stretch and Tony Judt, and to William Wuttunee’s and Nelson Mandela’s vision of legal equality and racial unity.
- Nadine Gordimer. “Nadine Gordimer: Mandela Put the Lives of Others First. The Globe and Mail, 6 December 2013.
- Is Humanity Getting Better?– New York Times, February 16, 2015
- Victor Serge. Memoirs of a Revolutionary. New York Review of Books, 2012.
- Dear Zealots-Letters From a Divided Land, above.
- The Benefits of Disagreement, The National Post, January 19, 2016)
- New York Review of Books, January 14, 2016
- The quote is from Black Leaders as Obituaries Portrayed Them, Sam Roberts, New York Times, January 18, 2016.
- Marilynne Robinson, Puritans and Prigs, in The Death of Adam, above.
- Alexander Herzen, from The Discovery of Chance, above
- “The mills of God grind exceedingly slowly.”– Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom. (above)All we can do it try to help to power these mills and speed them up a little.
- In the May 4, 2015 edition of The New Yorker,(referred to above
- Tony Judt in Thinking the Twentieth Century.
- Frederick Douglass-Prophet of Freedom, above
- African novelist Chinua Achebe, (author of the great Things Fall Apart-see The End Times of Indian Culture, above), from his 1998 lecture, Africa is People, delivered to the World Bank, excerpted in Lapham’s Quarterly, Philanthropy, Summer 2015.
- Czeslaw Milosz, from his poem A Treatise on Morality, from Milosz, A Biography, above
- From an historical plaque in front of Park Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Acts, chapter 17, verse 26.
- Marilynne Robinson, Lila(Harper Perennial, 2015)
- Frederick Douglass, above
- This truth hit me as I was reading the historical plaque about Mr. Brown in front of his former home on Beverly Street in Toronto, which is now a designated National Historical Site.
- Chris Hedges, Talks with David Talbot about the most forbidden topics in America, Hot Books, 2016
- Tristin Hopper,Did liberal excesses buoy the Trump wave?, National Post, November 12, 2016
- January 26, 2016
- From Saul Bellow’s essay, The Sharp Edge of Life, in There Is Too Much To Think About, above
- Russian proverb, quoted in D.M. Thomas’ Alexander Solzhenitsyn, above.
- Harper’s Magazine, May 2016
- In The Wars of Vladimir Putin, The New York Review of Books, June 9, 2016, about Putin’s war on the rule of law, freedom, and dissent.
- Quoted in David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg, When reportage turns to cynicism, The New York Times, November 14, 2016
- From The Discovery of Chance- The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen, above
- …lyrical, mystical…uniformed literati.
– Victor Serge, above
- The Discovery of Chance, above
- From Anton Chekhov’s short story, Gooseberries, in The Lady With the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904, Penguin Classics, 2002
- Robert Hughes, The Culture of Complaint, above
- Leon Wieseltier,Passive action is the genuine Obama doctrine, National Post, December 21, 2016
- From Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind, Vintage Books, 1990
- Alexander Herzen, The Discovery of Chance, above
- From the essay by Tony Judt, The Jewish Europe of Manes Sperber, in Reappraisals, Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, The Penguin Press, 2008, referring to Sperber, the formerly idealistic-utopian communist, refusing to accept the evidence of his own eyes that both Stalin and Soviet communism were hopelessly corrupt, fraudulent and murderous.
And Victor Serge, in The Case of Comrade Tulayev (above) describes the natural tendency of truth to always be trying to break out of the “captive mind”- in this case the captive mind of the character Romachkin:
He lost his peace of mind. “The trouble is that I think…or rather, there is a being in me that thinks without my being aware of it, and then suddenly raises its voice in the silence of my brain, and utters some short, acid, intolerable sentence. And after that, life can’t be the same” Romachkin was terrified by his twofold discovery-that he thought, and that the papers lied…The terrible consciousness that feared itself, that pretended to ignore itself, that struggled to disguise itself before the mirror within, now stripped off its mask.
- From Tony Judt’s The Burden of Responsibility -Blum, Camus, Aron and The French Twentieth Century, The University of Chicago Press, 1998, (italics added.) Mr. Judt referring to the moral and intellectual irresponsibility and incompetence of French elites that contributed to the numerous debacles experienced by France between the 1920’s and the 1970’s. I love his phrase, “the gauchiste fantasies of the late sixties”, which pretty well sums up what I wrote in chapter 3,The Separate but Equal Doctrine, about the counterculture/identity politics movements which arose at that time.
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994
- Michael Ignatieff The Hero Europe Needed, The Atlantic, March, 2015
- Marilynne Robinson, in Puritans and Prigs, from The Death of Adam, above.
- Christopher Hedges, Talks, above
- Adam Gopnik, Trollope Trending, above.
- Quoted in Liberals Halt First Nations Sanctions, National Post, December 19, 2015
- The less obvious election winners and losers, Mark Milke, The Sudbury Star, October 22, 2015
- Email to author July 17th, 2019
- See Trudeau’s big promises to First Nations feared to be unachievable, Gloria Galloway, The Globe and Mail, October 23, 2015, the basis for much of the information, but not the argument,on this point, in the succeeding paragraphs.
- And for British Columbia, welcome to your UNDRIP “legal chaos” nightmare, with your Government’s late 2019 announcement of its adoption of UNDRIP into law there.
- The quoted phrase from a commentary by the brilliant, incendiary Camille Paglia on an Emily Dickenson poem,Because I Could Not Stop For Death, in Break, Blow, Burn, Pantheon Books, New York, 2005.
- Sean Fine,Residential School Deals Need to be Probed, The Globe and Mail, November 18, 2015.
- Justice minister’s blogs reveal her views on major legal issues, The Lawyers Weekly, November 20, 2015
- UNDRIP- Blank Chequevow- The Globe and Mail (editorial), July 21, 2016
- Indigenous reconciliation requires recognition, July 19, 2017
- From Gloria Galloway, Ottawa drops Indigenous consent concerns, The Globe and Mail, April 25, 2017
- From The Lost Massey Lectures, Anansi Press Inc, 2007
- David Brooke, The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism, The New York Times, October 3, 2017
- Jeffrey Simpson, The State of the Nation, The Globe and Mail, July 1, 2016
- Sebastian Junger, Tribes, above
- Roger Cohen, The Rage of 2016, The New York Times, December 5, 2016- “…fears and resentments building over the impunity of elites, the dizzying disruption of technology…the distance between metropolis and periphery growing into a cultural chasm…many things becoming unsayable; even gender becoming debatable.” “Truth blurred, then was sidelined, in an online tribal cacophony.”
- The Next Culture War, New York Times, June 30, 2015
- This was noted and commented upon by the first Europeans who had intimate contact with them. Father Jean de Brebeuf, in his 1637 Relation,(fromThe Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents- A Selection (above), warned his fellow Jesuits to generally shut the “f” up during the endlessly-long and arduous canoe trips they would be experiencing as part of their missionary work:
It is not well to ask many questions, nor should you yield to your desire to learn the language and to make observations on the way; this may be carried too far. You must relieve those in your canoe of this annoyance, especially as you cannot profit much by it from the work. Silence is a good equipment at such a time.
How different from some of today’s very modern, clever, verbally manipulative, fast-talking Indigenous leaders, such as the motormouth Perry Bellegarde!
- Patrick Leigh Fermor, from his essay, A Greek Gentleman in a Straw Hat, on the great, softly lamenting poet of tragic and historical destruction and irrecoverable loss, C. F. Cavafy, in Words of Mercury, above
- “Beingon equal terms”, “Heart-unity” and “composite culture” from Gandhi-The Years That Changed The World, 1914-1948, above.
- From David Brooks, The Jane Addams Model, The New York Times, April 25, 2017
- George Eliot-The Mill on the Floss
- From Ojibwe David Treuer’s 2020 Vision, cited in Chapter 1, Introduction, above. The phrase “full measure ” is also from 2020 Vision.
- From his column, Israeli-Polish Friendship may be Dying, The National Post, February 22, 2019
- November 17th, 2015
- Rudolph Safranski, Goethe, Life as a Work of Art, above
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
- George Eliot, Middlemarch
- From The Manitoulin Treaty, above
- From The Mill on the Floss
- Phrase from Arthur Miller’s Timebends- A Life, above
- Inauguration Speech, May 10, 1994