Great article from the National Post bybthe always balanced Anthony Sowan.
When it comes to speaking out about the Idle No More protests that have been spreading across the country, I’ve been Idle Too Long, and I feel the need to express my point of view without disrupting innocent travellers on highways, or cargo-carrying freight trains.
First, allow me to clarify that I am a Cree man with full status. I have family in positions of political power in my home province of Alberta, and should declare that my opinions are my own. While everyone needles over the finite details of the current situation, I’d like to paint my thoughts for you with much broader strokes.
I am so very proud of my culture. The way the plains Indians lived on this land was a fantastic example of community, art, respect for our environment, ingenuity and spirituality. I’m proud of the native-inspired tattoos that I sport permanently on my body. As a father, I’m teaching my son that same respect and understanding of where his blood derives from, in the hopes that his pride will outshine the prejudice he will inevitably experience growing up, or at some point in his life.
I’m also very proud to be Canadian. Our vast mosaic of cultures, languages and beliefs make up this welcoming land of opportunity for all. Whether you like it or not, we all have the same citizenship, but some have a different view on the value of it.
I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the government bills, documentation or policy that is driving the current protests, but I’ve intently watched news stories, read columns and have regularly monitored the comments being made on Facebook. Based on all of this, I feel the need to break my silence on this issue.
It’s embarrassing how the Idle No More protest is being handled.
– Blocking major traffic thoroughfares does nothing to bring support and awareness to your cause; it creates immediate animosity towards you. Protesting freely in parks or in front of government buildings seems like a much more productive way to attract the attention of those you seek: the politicians, not the regular Joe who’s just trying to get to work. Hold him up and cost him money? See how much support you’ll get out of that guy.
– Clarify what you are protesting for, or against. I’ve never seen such a passionate group of people go forward in protest in such disarray, and without clearly stating what it’s all about. If it’s generally about your need to be consulted, respected, to redress past grievances or to preserve your culture, then let’s start a constructive discussion.
– Understand that you do not need to be consulted for anything, any more than the Canadian sitting next to you does. Your opinion on things doesn’t count “more” than anyone else’s. Respect is earned, not given.
– There’s no question that the native people of yesterday were brutalized, hunted, tortured and humiliated for decades. It’s awful, and no one should ever have to suffer like that. The elders of the time signed those treaties to bring peace, and offer what they hoped would be a leg-up in a new world that they realized couldn’t be held at bay. But those days are long over. It defies logic to have the current population pay for the tragedies committed by people that came so long before them.
– The preservation of your culture is your job, not anyone else’s. For example, Polish, Irish and Ukrainian societies thrive all over the country with little or no support from government coffers. They celebrate traditional dance, language and food all by simply passing it down from generation to generation. Native communities can do the very same thing (and generally do), but without financial support.
Some Idle No More protesters argue that, “The movement is about the whole environment, not just about the treaties. The government’s omnibus budget bill removes protection for the rivers, lakes, forests, land, etc., so we need this bill to further protect our children’s futures. Thanks to the Harper government, rigs and development will pollute the air and water.”
It’s no secret that our Canadian economy is driven by the oil and gas industry. Yes, there have been some awful environmental blunders due to a plethora of different reasons. I heartily agree that we need to protect our natural areas that support wildlife, but I also know that there is aggressive legislation, and powerful government offices in place, that already have that very same mission at heart. Millions of Canadians support green technology and research, as well as lobbying for stronger federal policy. So if that’s what this is all about, there’s no need to blockade anything; a majority of people would already agree with you.
Others argue that, “This is about the 480-page omnibus bill that the government has passed without you knowing about it. It went through the House of Commons and the Senate in two weeks. Do you think that was enough time for many people to read it? The bill says that underage criminals can be punished as adults. It makes more budget cuts. School librarians are on the chopping block. It is about a lot more than aboriginals, it’s about all Canadians. The aboriginals were just the first to realize the bill was going to do permanent damage.”
Back in the days of copying notes off a blackboard or projector in school, I’m certain I’ve hand-written 480 pages in two weeks; I’ve certainly read that many. In a political world where a high level of literacy is demanded and expected, I’m willing to bet that most could plow through that many pages in a very short period of time. I suppose the content would be laden with bureaucratic jargon and would need time to fully interpret, but that’s why legal teams exist.
Quite frankly, I agree with underage criminals being tried as adults, and I’m willing to bet that a majority of Canadians will agree with me.
Budget cuts are a reality of our democratic world. I’m not sure if the omnibus bill intends for librarians to be removed from schools, or the library itself, but the fact of the matter is, our schools rely on a healthy economy for funding. When money gets tight, things get sacrificed. I truly hope that the readily available knowledge in a library would be the last to go.
Still other Idle No More supporters argue that, “It’s not about the aboriginals. That is what they are doing to distract you from what this is really about. It only affects the aboriginals first, then it will affect all of us!”
This is very confusing, but seems to sum up the general knowledge about what is going on. Who is “they”? Are we going into conspiracy theory depths here? Do people not realize that we have an official opposition in place as a natural government watchdog to debate everything that the government of the day is trying to enact? If there were truly earth-shattering implications in the bill in question, the opposition would be whistle-blowing and screaming into any available microphone available so fast, it would make your head spin.
First and foremost: I am a human being, just like you. I believe in equality. Across the board equality. Our country is so multicultural, that to give any specific group levity over everyone else is completely ridiculous. I’m not familiar with the particulars of old treaties signed, but I get the gist of it because I have used some of the special privileges provided to me. I do not pay for health care. I did for awhile in my youth, but then the government discovered my native status and sent me a huge apology letter, and a cheque for every dime I had put into the system.
Odd. I lived just up the street from my fellow truck-driving friends, did the same job, paid the same taxes. Yet there I was, with this benefit because of my racial background and some papers that were signed all those years ago. I’ve used it for eye wear. This was particularly handy when I was in dire straits financially, but had broken my glasses welding. Here’s the thing, though: Why should I have an advantage over a co-worker who might be in the exact same situation? It’s not fair, and it needs to stop.
Horrific things have happened to groups of people throughout history, and although I’m not condoning or supporting it, I do not feel that they should be given anything more than anyone else. The atrocities committed, in this instance, happened a long time ago to people, and by people, who no longer exist. I agree that they should never be forgotten, but it makes no sense to have the innocent Canadian citizens of the present pay for crimes committed by someone else in the distant past.
I move that Canadians start their own protest seeking coast-to-coast equality, or at least the serious discussion of it. Our country should offer no free rides to anyone. No help for those who refuse to help themselves. No quarter for those who would inhibit the lives and the success of others. No limit to what anyone can accomplish with a steely resolve and a great idea. It doesn’t matter who built the first camp fires and communities on this land, it’s those who work hard to continue to stoke the flames of collective well-being that matter.
As a man who stands by his word, I pledge to never again use my native status to further myself in a way that isn’t available to every other Canadian. I will leave my son unregistered, and will teach him the importance of keeping it that way. I am a proud native man, and a hard-working, forward-thinking Canadian who believes the opportunities and advantages this country has to offer should be available to everyone equally.
The first step toward healing is putting the past in its place. Only then can you work on your own personal lives, which will then naturally stem into becoming whole as a community. The healing you want and need can come from no government program, and no external source.