In the News
Trudeau Government’s Indigenous Relations
Same Old Self-Serving Litany about “Renewing Relations” and “Self-Government”
– Philip Fernandez –
Prime Minister Trudeau recently provided “Mandate Letters” for the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, and the Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu (who also serves as minister for the Federal Agency for Economic Development of Northern Ontario). The letters pledge “renewing relations” and “self-government.”
And then there is real life: heavily armed RCMP invading Wet’suwet’en territory, arresting land defenders in the most brutal violent attacks so Coastal GasLink can drive a pipeline through their land. On the other coast, RCMP and Fisheries and Ocean’s Canada agents are at war against the Mi’kmaq for exercising their hereditary right to a livelihood from fishing. There are the endless government legal cases aimed at jailing Land Back defenders, quashing land claims, overturning compensation the government has been ordered to pay Indigenous children and families who have been victims of racist child welfare discrimination by the successive Canadian governments. The list is endless. Particularly egregious is government attempts to limit consultation to elected band councils which are created in the style of the government itself and part of its apparatus, beholden to the very state which committed genocide against the Indigenous peoples and continues to implement a constitution which upholds the Crown’s final say on all matters pertaining to what are called Indigenous affairs.
The “Mandate Letters” do nothing concrete to end racist colonial relations the Crown imposes on Indigenous peoples so what “new relations” is Trudeau talking about? Nation-to-nation relations must be based on equality and mutual respect. Far from establishing nation-to-nation relations, the stated aim to transition away from the racist Indian Act is a repeat of such attempts in the past whose aim was to resolve the “Indian problem” by eliminating the government’s fiduciary duties which stem from the theft of Indian lands in the first place and their placement on reserves deprived of a livelihood and counter to their right to be. Indigenous peoples as sovereign nations and peoples on Turtle Island have proven time and time again that no amount of attempts to exterminate them will change the fact that these are their lands and they are here to stay. Rights cannot be extinguished by conquest or forfeited no matter how hard the colonial authorities, in the form of the Crown or Government of Canada, may try to write them out of existence or make agreements with Band Councils to give them up. The conditions of oppression, criminalization and suffering must end. This is not what the “Mandate Letters” propose.
Canada needs a modern constitution that recognizes the right to be of Indigenous peoples, redresses the crimes committed against them in the past and present and enters into a free and equal union on the basis of nation-to-nation relations, as sovereign peoples on their own territories with their own thought material, laws and forms of governance. This historical juncture to eliminate Canada’s colonial legacy cannot be avoided.
(Renewal Update, posted January 20, 2022. Photos: TML)