How many natives were encouraged to vote in the last federal election? Trudeau and his team of vetted “aboriginals” were standing together against the tyranny of the Conservative Harper government. Many First Nation analysts and traditionalists stood against voting in the system because we are nations and we are to respect the nation-to-nation (in Canada’s case, the successor state) relationship that is to exist for all time. Other Indians felt that Harper’s outright hatred for aboriginals called for unprecedented trips to the polls to “make a change”.
So strong was the push for aboriginal voting that Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde advocated for the aboriginal people to get out and vote but then said he would not be voting. Called on this hypocrisy, Bellegarde voted in the federal election. While this seems like an ordinary Canadian exercising his right to vote, it is symbolic in that the AFN has been elevated to represent all First Nations in Canada. So did Perry Bellegarde vote or did the National Chief vote? If Perry Bellegarde voted, that is his right as an individual Canadian. If the National Chief voted, then that is a break in the nation-to-nation protocol.
Following the vote and the success of the Liberals becoming the federal government, has anything changed for the “aboriginals”?
Trudeau immediately appointed key cabinet aboriginals.
Again, there was a rallying cry from the aboriginal people across Canada. First Nation analysts and traditionalists maintained that our people would be subjugated to roles as tokens and silenced within the Liberal party ranks.
Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett immediately embarked on a nation wide “pre-inquiry” tour to fulfill the Liberal election promise of holding a national Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s (MMIW) Inquiry. Alongside Justice Minister Jody Wilson- Raybould (aboriginal) and Minister of the Status of Women Patty Hadju, Bennett talked to the families of MMIW.
The pre-Inquiry had one overwhelming recommendation — to look at policing. Police approaches or lack of approaches have lead to the high number of unsolved aboriginal women deaths. While the Minister and the pre-Inquiry insists there are other factors, it is notable that the terms of reference and MMIW panel were delayed due to a federal-provincial inability to properly include policing. Bennett has now sloughed this off to the “would be” MMIW panel. It is also noteworthy that although a high number of First Nation deaths occur in the Prairie Provinces there is no First Nation representative voice from the grassroots on this panel. There is one legal co-opted, displaced voice and there is no western First Nation Treaty Elder. The terms of reference specifically do not mention policing, so what the Federal Ministers could not accomplish has now been placed within the scope of the panel for further lip service.
Trudeau’s rise to power on the backs of aboriginal voters also insisted that the Liberals would be implementing the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Since this initial announcement, aboriginal Justice Minister Raybould has stated that the UNDRIP is “unworkable” in Canadian law. Raybould then passed the buck back to the First Nations saying she needs their input. This is some extreme political dance with posturing by an aboriginal minister.
Trudeau’s rise to power on the backs of indigenous voters also stated that site C damn and other resource development would have full First Nation consultation and participation. The Liberals have given the go ahead to the Site C damn in British Colombia. Minister Raybould, the aboriginal Justice Minister from British Colombia stated that the Liberal government was following through on the previous government commitments (all Indian governments know this trick – blame the last chief and council before you start anything or if you are following in their footsteps). That is a blatant lie because only recently did the “Liberal” government issue permits to Transport Canada and Fisheries Canada to complete the dam’s destruction of First Nation fishing and ceremonial areas.
Trudeau’s rise to power on the backs of aboriginal voters also stated resource development would only happen with the consent of the First Nations. Yesterday, Trudeau approved the British Colombia LNG project, which essentially negates First Nation consent, further ruining the climate with more fracking and carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, south of the Medicine Line, the Standingrock Sioux Oyate (people) are standing against Dakota Access Pipeline to protect the land and water. A huge encampment has formed at Sacred Stone Camp with thousands of indigenous peoples standing against an ancient prophecy to “stop the black snake”. They are also walking with all nations and global people as allies to complete the rainbow people prophecy, which says all nations will come together to protect the earth and waters.
The analysis of the Trudeau government to date in respect of the original people can be summed up, as there is no respect. There is continuous political pontificating on the economy versus the environment. Jobs and business are paramount in keeping the capitalist machinery spinning. Corporations own the developments, they in turn give money to political parties so in fact, if governments do not adhere to corporate wishes, they will have no financial backers or no dollars to fight big business in court. This floodgate reasoning does not impair the Canadian government from fighting First Nation land or rights issues through court challenges.
Returning to the question, has anything changed for the aboriginals who voted?
Well hopefully the rose coloured glasses have fallen off. Hopefully our people can decolonize and see that our ways of governing – that is living in proximity to one another and caring for the good of all is the correct way to live.
In our close societies, we nurtured and mentored leadership, we did not vote. In a society where people think only for themselves, where the individual matters more than the community, is voting working? Corporations have also been given personhood or may be seen as “individuals” so an individualistic society will only benefit individuals. It will not benefit the whole, the earth, the waters, the people or all the parts of Creation. Can we all see this now? Can we all see what our ancestors foretold? The global stakes are too high for the original people to stay in their colonized bunkers. It is time for the original people to remember their teachings and to help change the systems to protect all life.