The Canadian Government has made a point of informing the public that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking them. One must always be aware of the possible repercussions of one’s action/inaction. This maxim has been codified in the Canadian Criminal Code “Ignorance of the law by a person who commits an offence is not an excuse for committing that offence.” The actual legal definition of ignorance of the law is, “A mistake of law in relation to a person’s rights or responsibilities.”
Relative to Bill C-10, the Canadian government is in fact contravening their own enactments as they take a position of directed ignorance concerning the sovereign rights and practices of the Mohawk Nation. The Harper Government has focused its energy on ridding itself of its Indian problem. Bill C-10 is an illegal action by the Government to justify the further cultural rape and destruction of the economic and political resurgence of the Onkwehon:we.
The Bill was first introduced under the precursor Bill S-16, then later added to an omnibus Bill C-10. The Bill has currently passed two readings in parliament. The implications of Bill C-10 are not yet recognized among the Onkwehon:we communities at large. This piece of legislation gives legitimacy to policing agencies entering our homes because we have a couple bags of rollies. Punishment for this new offence is a prison sentence. When did we Onkwehon:we give the government of the newcomers the right to administer their laws upon on our territories and our people?
Tobacco is the tool currently being used by the government to criminalize Onkwehon:we. The deliberate infringements of the Canadian government have long stalled all negotiations concerning the issue of land. This new focus by the government will work to effectively eradicate all of its responsibilities towards the Onkwehon:we people.
The government is well aware of the sacred relationship between the Onkwehon:we and tobacco. This relationship then does not negate the use of such for other purposes. The other side of the Two Row must remember they are the ones that established tobacco as a medium of pleasure and a commodity for exchange. Those that returned to the old world bearing gifts took tobacco as a luxury item worthy of the Kings and Queens of that age. All that follows from the usage of tobacco then is the result of the further misuse and disrespect shown to our culture. The smoking of tobacco by the Onkwehon:we was done for ceremonial purposes. The smoking of tobacco for the Non-Native was done for pure pleasure. Cigarettes have been sold in corner stores for decades. The Government saw a way of making money off the people and instituted exorbitant taxes. The Government is to blame for the resultant influx of Non-Natives to the reservations. The overtaxed populace simply wish to buy an affordable pack of smokes without going broke.
The Government of Canada and by proxy, the Queen, has a mandated policy which creates welfare states of the Aboriginal reservations. Racism is pervasive among Canadian society. The direct result of this environment has led to Onkwehon:we people taking initiative and creating a viable market for themselves.
Now, we are being attacked because we have been successful and the Government wants a piece of the pie. No-one should be surprised. After all, the tar sands out West and the hydro-fracking in New Brunswick, should put a fine focus on Government agenda. If the Native has something worth taking advantage of; write a new policy. Institute a new law. Criminalize the Native and put him in jail. Harper’s own contradictions can easily be heard in his recent speech to the Knesset in Israel. “The understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.” Harper is freely supporting a country that marginalizes the Palestinians, just as his country marginalizes the homelands of the Onkwehon:we. These obvious comparisons should not be overlooked.
The Two Row Wampum is an agreement that was put in place in 1613. When the Colonizers first arrived upon this continent and began cutting trees and encroaching upon our people, we knew we had to live two separate paths. This wampum is an agreement between the Onkwehon:we and the Dutch and later the British and French. The basis of this wampum is one of friendship, non-interference and respect. These core values were agreed upon for as long as ‘the sun shall rise in the East, the rivers flow and the grass grows green….’ We believe all these stipulations still exist. We travel along the rivers of life, living according to our own cultures, and we will extend help when needed. Neither will interfere in the vessel of the other. Bill C-10’s intrusion upon the sovereign territories of the Onkwehon:we is an act of war. We fervently hope that these trespasses will cease and Bill C-10 be acknowledged as the transgression that it is. Harper’s mistakes of law in relation to our rights are not ignorance but a part of his manifesto. Ignorance is not an excuse.