Current events show the indigenous people of Turtle Island are fighting many battles. The indigenous stance is based on protection and stewardship. Are these values relatable to mainstream Canadian values?
Recently a young native man was killed in Saskatchewan. The RCMP report alluded to “ongoing theft investigations” which was then sensationalized by mainstream media. Social media erupted into indigenous voices questioning the mishandling of this tragedy. Then social media became a cesspool of online hate messages directed at the First Peoples. Even Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was forced to post a Facebook page calling for the cessation of possible hate crime activity.
It is interesting to note that the initial report of the RCMP included taking occupants out of the vehicle (where one man lay dead) into custody for questioning. This documented police action shows that the traumatized vehicle occupants were not offered health or safety options, but were in fact treated as suspects or wrongdoers.
Policing First Nations is a current issue. Turning to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry (MMIW), policing was repeatedly flagged for further follow-up. In the pre-inquiry, policing problems included inadequate investigations, the lack of information or cultural sensitivity and poor communication with the affected families. Recently further allegations of aboriginal women abuse surfaced against the Süreté du Quebec. Therefore, policing is the threshold issue.
MMIW Inquiry will not necessarily include police investigations. These “possible” investigations would fall under the commissioners’ discretion as defined by the Federal Government’s terms of reference or lack thereof. So it will not happen. There will likely be repeated reminders that policing is outside the scope of the inquiry and that a further recommendation is the best that can be done.
In the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) that lead to the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) recommendations, special “processes” were set up to deal with residential school victims. This included adjudicators and practicing mainstream lawyers advocating for the thousands of adults who endured abuse under the guise of education in the residential school system.
The IAP process was meant to be an alternative to court like circumstances however, the harms for wrongdoing had carefully created monetary grids and Canada set up crown lawyers to counter each claim.
How was this different from a courtroom proceeding?
Mainstream thinking lawyers (who mitigate harms in the Canadian law system) set up the IAP process to address individual residential school harms. Each claimant was re-traumatized in the process and received a one-time payout for proven harms. The IAP process failed to recognize that the First Peoples are communal peoples. The IAP process failed to accommodate the intergenerational impacts that victims brought back to their home communities. The IAP process was designed by non-FN lawyers who have specific definitions of justice that fit within the boxed parameters of mainstream colonial law.
How does a process that is designed by mainstream thinkers, work to mitigate or “prevent” violence when it is unwilling to understand First Nation harms?
This is the underlying issue that is never addressed. To “fix” the problems with First Nations, it is necessary to understand the worldview of the First Nations. This continues to be the resounding voice in every report, inquiry or inquest.
The key factor in addressing First Nation issues is the relationship of the people to the land. This tie to the land is a spiritual component. Where is mainstream’s comparator to effectively understand this component? There isn’t a comparator. Mainstream measures success in terms of wealth and accumulation. First Nations measure success in terms of humility and sharing or in the “give-away”. Can these two distinct outcomes be reconciled?
No. It is impossible to undertake an inquiry, inquest, report or study without understanding the First Nation worldview. When First Nation issues arise, national media coverage, or government will host non-Indigenous “experts” to discuss the “Indian problem”. This paternalistic and colonial view keeps the “Indian problem” going. Still Canadians ask: what is the Indian problem?
Canada, the government and the people cannot continue to ask this question if they do not want the answer. Canada says it is addressing FN poverty, high suicide, health and education issues through dialogues, memoranda of understanding, renewed relationship building, and other PR campaigns. How effective have these one sided processes been? After the Penner Report, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and now the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, there is usually a big announcement with some nebulous monetary figure stating, “we will now find solutions”. How can there be any solutions when Canada’s willful blindness sees only their understanding of the problem.
MMIW Inquiry commissioners and appointed elders will release recommendations for policing and possibly a new organizational structure (controlled by the Federal government). This will add to the pile of existing recommendations that gather dust on Ottawa’s shelves.
Lack of First Nation thinking representation from prairie treaty provinces is troublesome. If Minister Bennett, Minister Hadju and Minister Wilson-Raybould had paid attention in the pre-inquiry they would know the majority of missing or murdered Indigenous women are First Nations from the Prairie Provinces. This necessitates First Nation representation from the Prairie treaty areas to be an active voice on this so-called “inquiry”.
Why? Because if the Ministers (one who is “aboriginal”) do not understand that First Nation women have relationships to the land and role responsibilities to their communities, they have once again misunderstood or willingly refused to give First Nation treaty women a voice.
First Nations are tied to the land. When the land suffers harms, it is directly related to the harms the First Nation women experience.
Better to have a commission of legally trained mainstream thinking “aboriginals” without indigenous thinking ties to the land, so that this recommendation never comes up. After all, the initial settler plan was to take and benefit from this land without consequence. Once the spiritual connection to the land is seen as the central issue, then the ensuring work will counter mainstream thinking, values and solutions. This cannot happen.
If the First Nations actually have their own solutions implemented, they would continue to exist. Federal government continues to promote their agenda of land termination and assimilation through veiled language, appointments and inquiries of pretence. It is up to our indigenous thinking stewards to respect and uphold Creator’s laws against Federal Government’s costly co-opted repeating processes. The “Indian problem” will continue because there are still original people who think and follow through on their ancestral responsibilities.