The AFN (Assembly of First Nations) has proclaimed a National Day of Action, an event meant to draw attention to what University of British Columbia history professor Arthur Ray has called "Canada's biggest unresolved human rights issue."
Though Canada ranks among the wealthiest nations in the world and is often touted as one of the best places in the world to live, Canada's First Nations communities continue to live in third-world conditions in our own country. Indeed some, such as the Center for World Indigenous Studies, realizing that the plight of indigenous peoples is often worse because they are largely invisible, prefer the term 'fourth world' — "Nations forcefully incorporated into states which maintain a distinct political culture but are internationally unrecognized."
A National Post article I came across yesterday left me feeling truly disturbed and angry. In "Indian give and take", Peter Shawn Taylor writes that, though "there have been some dark corners in Canada's relationship with the First Nations… a fair assessment of the entire legacy requires at least some recognition that most government policy in Canada has been motivated by the urge to protect and improve the native condition." He claims that at one "time the British Crown of Canada was a refuge for North America's natives," and that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III "deserves as much attention from Canadians as the Declaration of Independence gets from Americans." He goes on to paint Canada as a benevolent safe harbour for beleaguered American natives. And furthermore, Canada vastly outperforms the United States in negotiation and abiding by treaties. The gist of the article seems to be that Canada's indigenous peoples need to stop whining about 'past injustices', stop ignoring Canadian governments' 'good faith efforts', and to stop asking for so much — "It's all take, no give."
I would not have been surprised to hear Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or even radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh spew this kind of insensitive, hot-headed, and, quite frankly, racist drivel. But I suppose I'm not quite used to this kind of unsympathetic, elitist, imperialist and utterly arrogant stance printed in one of our major newspapers. That the peoples whose land was invaded and forcefully wrested from them, whose populations were decimated not only by overt acts of war, but also by germ warfare and systems of forced assimilation, economic dependence and ethnocide, and whose treaties and land claims continue to be largely ignored or neglected, should learn to be quiet and give more is outrageous and unconscionable.
To gather other perspectives, I looked for articles published around the same time and on the same topic by several of our other major news sources and papers — CBC News, the Toronto Star, cnews Across Canada, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Sun. Most focused mainly on Prime Minister Harper's announcement, and how his plan may expedite land claim negotiations, currently extremely slow. Even the Toronto Sun, part of a family of papers that often caters to the lowest cultural denominator in its reporting of social and cultural issues, had a reasoned and sympathetic response. The National Post's decision to publish this imperialist rubbish says a great deal about the paper itself and its targeted audience.
The National Post article did one thing for me though, aside from inciting anger and outrage — it inspired me to wake up and read up, and to be engaged in supporting not only the particular issues surrounding the National Day of Action, but also other social and environmental justice issues. I thank the National Post for that. I hope others will be as stimulated by this as I to get out there and combat the wave of conservative, imperialist thinking that is projected by the current American administration and copied and adopted by various elements around the world, leading in many cases to the re-labeling of indigenous, or fourth world struggles, as terrorism.