Chief Theresa Spence missing yesterday’s meeting did nothing for Attawapiskat
By Bruce A Stewart
She’s now yesterday’s news, and by her own choices.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, she of the sort-of hunger strike (tea and fish broth diets are actually weight-loss and detoxification regimes, not a true hunger strike), continues to sit on Victoria Island pretending she’s an important player on the national stage.
Yesterday, the meeting she insisted had to happen did. The government even bent over backwards to be accommodating.
For its trouble, it didn’t get Chief Theresa Spence. Every time one of her positions was met, she’d change the goalposts so that she could continue the litany of “no one cares, boo hoo”.
Understand, of course, that none of this is doing thing one to improve her community at Attawapiskat, the ostensible reason she started this effort in the first place. They have become the forgotten people in Spence’s little dream world of power politics.
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She’s not alone, of course. Across the country there’s no shortage of peoples of the First Nations who live in precisely the same dream world — so much so that the native leaders who went to yesterday’s meetings are in danger of losing their positions and ability to act as a result.
Being there yesterday was the responsible thing to do. Change has to start somewhere — and whether the hot heads like it or not, it’ll come back to Ottawa. Even “getting out of the business” of Aboriginal Affairs will require legislation. That, in turn, will require discussion.
Whether you want Ottawa to do more, or you want Ottawa out of the game, doesn’t matter.
There are those this morning thumping tables and whinging on social networks because the Prime Minister didn’t immediately throw new billions of dollars on the table and bow and scrape his way out of the room backwards in recognition of the moral superiority of Canada’s native peoples. Money without strings, Kelowna Accord-style (or as Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae thinks would be appropriate).
(Of course, if he had, they’d be whinging that his bows weren’t low enough, the money was insufficient, and that he should have taken the opportunity to resign his position as Prime Minister.)
Prime Minister Harper, as we all know, detests meetings where groups of people can gang up on him. One-on-one is fine; masses on the other side of the table are not.
Yet he did it for Canada’s First Nations, where he won’t do it for Canada’s Premiers.
There are two other issues to be sorted out in the next few days, that won’t have come up at the table, but that his government needs to deal with tout de suite.
The first is the police reaction (or lack of reaction) to Idle No More.
Apparently Canada’s police have decided to take the law into their own hands. Injunctions will not be enforced. Public order will not be maintained.
That has to end. Everywhere in the country except Ontario and Québec, the policing force is the RCMP, a federal body.
It’s time the Commissioner got the word that the police must do their job. Period.
There are police officers who have said they’re standing aside to “avoid a bloodbath”. Well, if you take the attitude that the choice is a simple dichotomy between “do nothing” and “kill everyone with massive firepower”, perhaps that’s so.
But since when did our police see the country as a combat zone and themselves as in the military? Hell, if you put the Canadian Forces out there they wouldn’t approach the mission like that!
Police insurrection — and that’s what it is — has to end. (Premiers Marois and McGuinty owe it to their citizens to bring the Sûerté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police into line as well.)
The free-riders at Idle No More won’t like that. Tough kitty toenails. As Gandhi would have told them, civil disobedience is breaking the law, and the penalties for doing so apply. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protest, but there’s no immunity to policing involved.
The other big issue to be dealt with — and it will require repeated efforts — is to get the notion that somehow the Crown is an independent actor in the political process off the table and out of the minds of native leaders.
Prime Minister means “The Queen’s First Minister”. Premier means “The Queen’s First Minister”. There is no separation here: the Prime Minister isn’t the leader of the Legislative Branch while the Queen is the leader of the Executive Branch. We’re not Americans with separation of powers.
The Queen advises her First Minister, who leads Her Government. When bills are passed, the Queen then gives Her Assent to them, making them law. But her First Minister, in leading that government, is responsible for acting in Her name. Likewise, Cabinet Ministers, who are given permission to serve by the Crown.
When you meet with the Prime Minister or the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, in other words, you are meeting with the Crown.
Many of Canada’s First Nations leaders carry on the myth that somehow the government in Ottawa or a provincial capital is “the white man’s government” and that they have some direct connection to the Crown they can exploit. Not true.
The granting of Dominion Status — we call it Confederation — the Statute of Westminster — and the patriation of the Constitution in 1982 collectively ensure that the Crown as a treaty signatory is embodied in our government, not in the Monarch (or her representative Governor-General or Lieutenant-Governor) directly.
So let Chief Theresa Spence shed a few pounds quietly. She’s out of the picture.
That’s what dreaming in colour does to you…
Category: First Nations