Is Bill C-15 the New Smallpox Blanket

The political agenda of Trudeau’s government is clear, rushing through Bill C-15 as one of their top priorities because this will severely restrict the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations when it comes to self-determination.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen several attempts to curtail the rights of Indigenous people. Whether through the limiting of rights of assembly and protest under the guise of “critical infrastructure defence” (legislated specifically against Indigenous people, in Alberta), or to the introduction of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act after only six weeks of ‘engagement’ with select Indigenous ‘stakeholders’. This rushed legislation avoids substantial discussions on the implications of this legislation to Treaty and Inherent Rights of self-governance, proving that reconciliation is colonial-speak only. The government has still not learned that their paternalistic approach will only set off more legal actions and legislative rot.

In 2016, the United Church of Canada adopted UNDRIP into its institutional framework. The United Church did not put it through sterilizing wrangling legal analyses thus changing UNDRIP into what they were willing to accept. Full adoption and implementation is ongoing work.

The Government of Canada, on the other hand, in its infinite wisdom wants to do the opposite. They are sifting through the articles in order to determine what they are willing to adopt as they water down the spirit and intent of the document.

This is calculated. By rewriting UNDRIP into what the government says it is willing to accept, it is clouding the arguments and selling a new set of beads and trinkets to Indigenous leaders. Most, like the Assembly of First Nations, will dutifully follow suit because they know which hand has been feeding them, and which is broadly empowering their organization to act as the voice of Indigenous people without an actual mandate.

But make no mistake, Bill C-15 is our new smallpox blanket.

In Amherst’s smallpox germ warfare initiation, a biological weapon was used against the Indians at Fort Pitt in 1763 in an attempt to wipe them out during Pontiac’s War. This sickness eventually caused the death of millions and was our first encounter with this brand of nihilism and hatred. What we see today is the dual hit from a biological disease and the effects of a systemic inequality that significantly worsens the result.

In our remote and on most reserve communities, families live in substandard conditions, often sharing households intergenerationally with Elders, adults, and children all sharing space in aging homes without amenities or the basic income to conduct repairs and upkeep.

So we are being “locked down” in our communities that are dealing with the generational effects of substandard living conditions, high unemployment, restricted movement, and lack of adequate resources and food security.

This matters because while people are trying to put food on their tables and feed their children, grandchildren, and Elders, they are unaware and unable to deal with the government’s attempts to curtail, eliminate and redefine their inherent First Nation Indigenous rights to govern themselves.

Instead, First Nation Indigenous people continue to be treated as wards of the state, unable to care for themselves: when in fact they have been systematically debilitated, disenfranchised, and disempowered through a lack of representation and accountability of Federal Government defined “Indian” leadership. The kowtowing of First Nation Indigenous leadership in the Assembly of First Nations, lawyers, tribal governments, church bodies, and bureaucrats in the departments of the federal government act on the same formula as those intermediaries who took the infested blankets from Captain Simeon Ecuyer and delivered them to the Indian people.

As Commander William Trent noted: “…we gave them Two Blankets and a Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.” (- W. Trent, May 24, 1763)

This all means that Trudeau’s government, with his slapdash consultation framework and legislative wrangling can effectively dictate how generations of Indigenous people will live after Covid, without ever having consulted actual people in the communities about what is being done. Once again, the intentions of those in power are assumed benevolent where there is every indication that this is setting up yet another line in the sand in the battle for our sovereignty.

The smallpox infection of Bill C-15, much like the disease itself, will be handed-off to dupes willing to carry water for the Trudeau government, as it gets slammed through parliament while everyone is busy just trying to survive. This makes this process inherently one-sided, punitive, and evil.

One of our recourses is to remain vigilant: to question “our leaders”, to guide with our advocacy and activism, to work toward educating the next generation in what we know today because they will need those tools to protect their children tomorrow.

We know that our people, our Elders, and our ancestors relied on the guidance of the Great Spirit to maintain balance and harmony. The will of the Creator guides all our decision-making and understanding of the way things are and the things that are to come. This has helped us to survive in our times of greatest need, and we draw from that stronghold today.

It is encouraging to see more and more young people turning to those teachings in order to understand who they are, who we continue to be, as they seek to find purpose at this time. These lessons will echo throughout their lives. As they grow and as they learn our oral history and our cultural ways, they will find that having true First Nation Indigenous hearts is the best form of inoculation against the effects of colonialism, assimilation, and despair. By knowing our people, knowing our history, knowing who we are and how we are meant to live, guided by the Creator, we will continue the proud legacy of governance and adaptation that has held us together despite all that we have been forced to survive.

So while it would have been so much easier to just work with First Nation Indigenous people, to embrace the nation-to-nation doctrine of our people, the Trudeau government, and subsequent provincial governments including the Kenney government continue their work to destroy our people.

We must maintain our integrity; listen to our Elders and those First Nation Indigenous who raise questions. We must speak for the land, or the land will be speaking to us. It is up to our people to right the fiasco for future generations and all life to survive.

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