Thursday, August 07, 2008
More Harper hypocrisy
Stephen Harper made his phony apology to Canada's first nations back in June: at the time, I pointed out what a ludicrous example this was of not putting his money (or support) where his mouth is. It was an arrant act of hypocrisy in the context of his government's prejudicial acts against indigenous peoples, and its on-going pattern of neglect.
And indeed the shame goes on. I didn't get Cameron's memo, so I came to this issue fairly late and have little to add to the excellent commentaries already made. Briefly, the children in the Cree community of Attawapiskat just want a school. They've been fighting for one for eight years, and have been neglected by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. Recently, Indian affairs minister Chuck Strahl nixed it.
Strahl has, frankly, no time for aboriginals. A sampling of his comments, made before Harper gave him his current portfolio:
On gravel excavation by the Cheam Indian band: "I do not even think the land they scalped the gravel from is theirs." (The Canadian Index, May 17, 1999, Volume: Vol. 10, No. 14)
On aboriginal fisheries: "In a recent Chilliwack Progress article, Strahl compared Cheam band members to 'children.'" (Canada News-Wire, September 13, 1993)
On concerns that aboriginal programs for substance abuse, anger management and family violence were not being offered at a prison: "Strahl said he has little empathy for [this] position. Strahl said there is plenty of attempts to be sensitive to aboriginal culture in prison to the point at which other inmates, who are not aboriginal, are bitter about it. "If I got a letter like that, I wouldn't put it on my high-speed to do list." (Chilliwack Times, November 22, 2002)
On aboriginal fishing rights: "The government has an obligation to all of its citizens, not just to select groups," said B.C. Reform MP Chuck Strahl. "It cannot allow the courts to draw racial boundaries through Canada's national resources." (Windsor Star, October 16, 1999)
On the Nisga'a agreement: "Let us look at this Nisga'a treaty one more time. First of all it creates a state within a state, an idea which I think the Bloc Quebecois would find fairly palatable. This is sovereignty association in the heart of British Columbia." (Chuck Strahl, Hansard, May 4, 1999)
Indeed, it's worth mentioning that the Liberal record on "Indian affairs" is a disgrace to this country. But the Cons, as always, have gone one better, making a person bitterly opposed to aboriginal rights the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. This is of a piece, of course, with his retention of Maurice Vellacott in his caucus, although his attempt to shoehorn Vellacott into the chairmanship of the Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development met with failure.
These appointments add context to the frankly racist policies of the current government. Canada was one of only four countries in the world that voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, upon the instruction of the Harper government. That adds even more context to Strahl's contemptuous thumbs-down approach to Native schooling.
How many white kids have to demonstrate to get a school? The kids in Attawapiskat are just more casualties of a government that must never be permitted to obtain a majority. Indeed, they are not alone: forty other first nations communities have no schools for their kids.
This blogburst is a fine idea, Cameron, and you'll have near-unanimous support in progressive ranks for your stance. But my question is--where are the bloggers on the other side of the room? Aren't they always yakking about how first nations should get educated and stand on their own feet? And yet, when barriers are erected against Native people who want to do just that--
Come on, Darcey, step up and set an example.
UPDATE: Cameron suggests ways that you can help.
UPPERDATE: Darcey, bless him, has risen promptly and smartly to my challenge.
Posted by Dr.Dawg at 10:24 AM