Canada will produce reports and official sounding decrees that point to Canada’s continued efforts to manage and assist First Nations peoples in this country. Canada releases budget figures where many Canadians question the amounts “given” to Indians and their causes.
But behind the federal government’s statements and big money announcements is the truth. Canada created the problem and continues to fight an ongoing war against the Indians.
The facts contain these truths. Canada tried to change a historical law that allowed their statehood under the British empire. In 1867 the British North America (BNA) Act was enacted by British Parliament to create the dominion of Canada and grant legitimacy to a fledgling country within a British parliamentary system. Canada has retroactively renamed this founding document as the Constitution Act, 1867.
Why would Canada change the name of this document? To control the narrative and make Canada appear as a nation when it is a successor state, a colony with attitude, saying to Great Britain “you’re not the boss of me.”
In an effort to clear the west, numbered treaties were signed so that the railway could connect east and west. Canada created reserves and passed the Indian Act to restrict all Indian life. The genocidal effects of the Indian Act continue to this day, making South Africa’s apartheid look like a day at the Calgary Stampede.
Canada’s exercise of tyranny continues in their modern day treaty making processes. In an ongoing effort to dispossess Indigenous people from their lands, Canada has spent twenty years in talks with the Vuntut Gwitchin of the Yukon, setting up a “modern day treaty.” This community is currently contesting the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to their election regulations that state an elected official has to reside in the Old Crow community some seventeen hours north of Whitehorse. Canada says the Charter applies because this is a modern day treaty with Canada therefore Canadian supreme law is applicable.
The term ‘modern day’ is a euphemism that embeds and interprets treaty through the white supremacy of Canadian nationalism. It assumes extinguishment of all other rights and interests of Indigenous people, including governance in order to subsume the Indigenous nation under Canadian rule with the Canadian court system adjudicating outstanding problems or issues.
This means that current Indigenous laws of autonomy and governance are at the mercy of a court system that seeks to extinguish such rights. The current legal system does not understand and is not interested in Indigenous sovereignty, autonomy and self-governance. Canada will only ask these questions: Where do its laws apply? And how can they extend them into the sphere of Indigenous rights and sovereignty?
Is this reconciliation?
The exercise of autonomy and self-determination are at the core of Indigenous dealings with Canada. Indigenous First Nation peoples, their languages, ceremonies and cultural traditions are embedded in the land, so place and context are important. Ties to land mark the people’s place in Creation and their laws are written in harmony with the rivers and streams, with the mountains and valleys, and with their sacred places. Their ceremonies are their parliamentary procedures, their bundles and pipes govern their laws and provide legal frameworks for working and living together. At the center of communities is sharing. At the center of that sharing is the Creator.
For a Canadian system so far removed from principles of sharing and honouring one another, the ideological impasse is almost inevitable. A Canadian system of individualism and greed will never bow to an Indigenous system of sharing and caring for one another. One system will always be put ahead of the other.
The “Indian problem” developed because of Canada’s interference in traditional Indigenous governance systems. Canada rushed to pass the Indian Act to deal with their First Nation Indigenous populations, based on principles of extinguishment. They thought all the Indian people were dying off, so they were having a going out of business sale for Indian people and moving on after the looting.
Canada created reserves. Canada positioned Indian Agents in treaty areas or on reserves to maintain “peace and order”. Indian Agents issued passes that allowed Indians to leave their own lands. Indian Agents disliked the hereditary or specific governance systems they found because First Nation indigenous leaders were sovereign thinking leaders who questioned and pushed back against Canada’s restrictive legislation.
What is the result of Canada’s interference into traditional Indigenous governance systems?
The results are that dual governance systems now exist: one that operates as an arm of the federal government extolling the will of the Canadian state, the other representing the people and the traditional governance systems that tie people and the land together culturally, socially, economically, spiritually, and intergenerationally.
This result can also be seen in the issue of voting on/off reserve and within Indian Act made election systems. Canadian law commands the orderly application of known mainstream practices in First Nation elections. Matriarchal and hereditary systems that balance community interests and voices through co-governance with Elders is set aside for the principle of “one person, one vote.”
Canada created Indian Act councils to act as second tier federal agents. Canada has also hijacked national Indigenous organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (a national Indian Act council) to push half-assed superficial legislation like the Act “respecting” Indigenous Languages, the Act “respecting” First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families, and now the Act “respecting” the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. We, the First Nation Indigenous are learning that Trudeau’s federal acts and their definition of “respecting” means paying “lip service until we can get you people off your game.”
Canada does not have an Indian problem. The original people who have distinct names for their nations have ongoing problems with this settler upstart colony governed by corrupt thinking individuals who destroy land, waters, the climate, the environment and all life. That is how this issue should be discussed.