Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Natives, again

I'm sorry, Peter. You're not going to like this one.

As I write, over a hundred Caledonia (Ontario) residents, together with their mayor and some of their town council, are engaged in a "rolling blockade" of the Queen Elizabeth Way, en route from their town to Toronto, where they hope to get the attention of the provincial minister for aboriginal affairs.
Caledonia residents have been under siege for fifteen months now, by what can only be termed terrorists. The fact these terrorists are natives of Canada (even if they say they aren't) is irrelevant...or at least it should be. But because these terrorists are in fact Natives (the capitalization is important), two levels of government and the Ontario Provincial Police seem powerless to intervene in any meaningful way.
Natives have illegally occupied disputed land in Caledonia for over a year, now. They say that land was stolen from them two centuries ago, and they want it back.
Two centuries ago, eh? Wow, but those Natives do have some impressive lifespans. Why, some of them still look to be in their twenties. With sole access to that kind of eternal youth, I really must question why they aren't all billionaires by now.
That this group is so concerned over events of their great-great-great-great grandparents' time is merely silly. That they are willing to hold a town hostage, to cut its power, to block railways and highways for weeks, to pelt residents and peace officers with rocks and beer bottles, and to threaten escalation besides...that, by federal law, makes them terrorists.
There was a railway "blockade" mounted by another group of Natives a couple of weeks ago, midway between Toronto and Montreal on Canada's busiest rail line. They parked a decrepit school bus astraddle the tracks for thirty hours. This, too, is illegal, and it goes without saying that if I tried something like that my ass would be in jail before I could say "two-tier justice system". The town police negotiated with these criminals and they begrudgingly moved their bus at the thirty hour mark. Their claim was not settled, of course, and they threatened further actions, of course, and the government breathed a sigh of relief and pretended the crisis was over. Of course.

That's not how I would have handled it.

In a contest between a CN freight train moving at 120 km/h and an old stationary bus, my money's on the train every time. And if that bus was loaded with people (it wasn't)? I'd bet they'd get off in an almighty hurry!

Of course, this would further enrage our Native population...but since they're already enraged and we haven't done a damned thing to deserve it (whatever our distant ancestors did), I figure the least we can do is earn some of that anger. It's kind of like the faithful husband whose wife constantly accuses him of adultery. Sooner or later he's bound to decide if he's going to be labelled, he might as well gain the benefits of the label.

All that said, I do think Native land claims ought to be settled. Our government needs to determine what these people want, and decide if it's in their power to grant it. This should be a high priority for our government, ranking just behind the protection of its citizens. In other words, deal with the transgressors to the fullest extent of the law, make it clear that any future criminal acts will be treated as such (our anti-terrorist act really does define what these people have been doing rather well)...and then, and only then, can negotiations begin.

Meanwhile, we have this "rolling blockade" of Caledonians. I generally don't support such things, but I will say that at least their protest is moving. It's a shame they probably won't get anywhere, as the minister they seek has already said he won't meet with them for lack of a formal appointment...and besides, "it's a federal responsibility". This kind of political buck passing is the biggest reason I feel we have too much damned government in this country. You say it's a federal responsibility? Fine. As provincial Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, what's your job description, Mr. Ramsay?

(One of these days I'm going to actually sit down and write up a proposal for a completely different form of government for Canada. It would involve the dissolution of all provincial governments, for a start. And yes, I'm sure that's unconstitutional. I don't care.)


jeopardygirl said...

I always found it interesting that this disputed land claim only came under dispute when a development company purchased the land...

Peter Dodson said...

No worries Ken. I don't think that those at Caledonia are doing the right thing. The Mohawk at Oka were well in their right to blockade the pines, but this time? I just don't buy it.

But in their defence, First Nations are a scarred people with alot of anger and hate to work thru (not all, but many). This is just another manifestation of it. If the government would get these issues back on the agenda and start to take claims seriously, we might see some breakthroughs.

granny said...

Canada has been flouting the law for decades, illegally accessing and selling aboriginal land and resources.

The claim to the Culbertson Tract at Tyendinaga is valid. The government wants to give them money instead. They want the land because they need it for their fast growing population.

Canada has tried unsuccessfuly to break their connection to the land, thus breakiing their aboriginal traditions and rights. They have not been broken and their land rights are intact.

What is Canada goinjg to do now?

I don't know, but I do know that more illegal acts by Canada is not the answer.

Ken Breadner said...

I'm sorry, I'm still having trouble understanding how events of 1837 can possibly have any bearing on the Canada of today. Title to land does not pass automatically to firstborn sons or some such; otherwise I'd own quite the tract myself.
You speak of 'illegal acts' by Canada. Would those include uttering death threats, assaulting peace officers, things of that nature? I thought not.
My understanding of Native culture is that it reveres the land for the Spirit within it. Is it not true that the very notion of "owning" a piece of Grandfather Earth is ridiculous, according to Native beliefs?