Wednesday, December 2, 2020

First Nations are not Canada's 4th level of government

When discussing Canada's poor relationship with First Nations, Canadians like to discuss John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister.  This makes them comfortable as they can claim it was in some distant past, a Conservative PM, a drunk, or other thing that they can use to distance themselves from it.

I have come across Russell Diabo work in a "Truth Before Reconciliation" campaign.  An article sparked my interest, and Russ tweeted a slideshow that provides additional details.


I was born in 1968, and thus a story of 1969 to today is entirely within my lifetime. Even Canadians who think of themselves only as individuals, and thus pluck themselves out of time and don't see their link to the past or future, should be able to recognize this as a story about the present.  It is also a story of Liberals including P.E. Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, Justin Trudeau and Carolyn Bennett.

A bit of the history many Canadians apparently don't know


One of the myths of North America (Turtle Island) is that Europeans invaded and won a war against the existing nations. And thus, in their mind, history was made and completed in some distant past which has nothing to do with them.

What actually happened is that treaties were formed between various European Nations and Turtle Island Nations.  These Turtle Island nations were not "savages" as some extremely biased historians like to claim, but diverse civilizations. While pretty much all European explorers, colonists and settlers were merely subjects of Christian European monarchies, many First Civilizations were advanced democracies.

As  Europeans were regularly at war with each other, those wars extended onto Turtle Island. Agreements that nations such as the Haudenosaunee made with the Dutch were later made with the British, because the British believed they should have at least as good an agreement as was made with the Dutch.  The same happened with Spanish and French treaties, and after several European initiated wars it was largely the British colonies that remained of the Europeans (Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the remaining part of New France)

The American Revolutionary war separated some of these colonies from the rest of British colonies, but even there the treaties made with First Civilizations were key to ensuring that the allies were able to stop the northward expansion of the United States of America.

Believing that the British alone stopped the United States expansion into what later became known as Canada makes about as much sense as believing the British alone won the "Second World War" against the Germans. In both the First and Second World Wars, First Nations were allied with the British and fought (as volunteers, as they had no conscription) in those wars -- partly to honor the treaties.  It was the allies who won that war.

It is a treaty between the United States and Britain/Canada that defined the border between those countries. 

The subsidiary that Britain called "Canada"

In 1867 (less than 3 times my age ago) the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the British North America Act.  This created a subsidiary government of the UK, and created other subdivisions known as provinces. The concept of a municipality had already been created by the UK parliament and derivative in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada back in 1849.

While the treaties which allowed the settlers to peacefully coexist with First Civilizations were with the British Crown, the 1867 UK acts started the process of Britain trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility to treaty partners. Every time that a treaty partner would communicate with the Crown over any dishonoring of the treaties, this would be referred to the British subsidiary of Canada. This less-than-honest technique should be familiar with corporations, where subsidiaries are created to try to externalize liabilities and debt away from the parent corporation. The British Crown, and thus Canada, owes quite a bit (including money) to First Civilizations.

With a push by P.E. Trudeau, the UK parliament passed the Canada Act 1982 (I was 14) which enabled the subsidiary of Canada to modify its constitution without changes needing to be passed by the UK parliament.  Putting that into the context of the White Paper, it is hard to avoid thinking there was an ulterior motive when it came to Trudeau's desire to push First Nations to become subservient to the Canadian government.

The appropriately named White Papers

There are many problems with the 1969 and new 2020's era white papers. Obviously the clearly racist and genocidal aspects of the Indian Act should be removed. The residential school system which was only recently abandoned is only one among many extremely problematic policies.
The recognition by Canada of First Nations being separate treaty partners, as confirmed in Section 35 of Canada's constitution, must not be removed. This concept of making First Nations subservient to Canada appears to be a "final assimilation" solution to the alleged "Indian problem".  The problem I see is a lack of honor demonstrated by Europeans, their descendants, their governments and subsidiaries.

Anyone aware of and respectful of our treaty relationships with First Nations should recognize that First Nations exist at the same level as Britain as treaty partners. They exist in parallel as described in the 2-row wampum, not intruding on each other's jurisdiction. The hierarchy on the colony side then goes Britain --> Canada --> Canadian Province --> Provincial Municipality.
First Nations are parallel with Britain, with Canada being a subsidiary of Britain below that. First Nations should never be considered subservient to Canada, and the notion expressed by the white papers that First Nations should be thought of as subservient to provinces is unconscionable. This concept is in direct contradiction with the treaties that founded Canada, and thus should be recognized as un-Canadian.

As I continue to read about these white papers, and the governments that produce them, there is a dictionary definition that constantly comes to mind.

"the social, economic, and political systems that collectively enable white people to maintain power over people of other races" -  Merriam Webster definition of White Supremacy

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