Justin Trudeau has allowed himself to fall into a never-ending cycle of trying to make a deal where none is possible when trying to deal with First Nations on a nation to nation basis. The makings of any deal between the Canadian government and First Nations must include both sides understanding and agreeing on what “Nation to Nation” means, in this circumstance.
First Nations’ leaders are blowing a real opportunity to improve their relations with the rest of Canada and get a realistic deal with real teeth in the areas of self-determination and self governance. Justin Trudeau has championed their cause in a way no other prime minister has before and will ever due again for some time. First Nations have failed to agree on anything as a nation besides the fact that they are not being treated fairly by the Canadian government. This fact diminishes their ability to be taken seriously and makes them a political ticking bomb for any political leader to deal with.
First Nations’ leaders who cling hopelessly to a past and look to a future that has their people owning once again the land air and sea that is now Canada, are leading their people down a path that leads to endless battles, needless suffering and a hopeless future. Saying that their land was never ceded to the European colonizers repeatedly will not make everything that was once theirs, belong to them once more. This dream that First Nations’ leaders sell to their people is cruel, because it is a dream, that can never be realized…like the carrot placed strategically in front of the mule working a grinding stone. These leaders need to face reality and acknowledge that:
- there was a war fought;
- in one way or another, First Nations lost that war;
- colonization whether through treaty, or war cost First Nations their right to self governance and autonomy;
- no Canadian government will give them back control and allow them to make decisions for Canada based on their being the guardians of the air, land, or sea;
- no government in Canada will give them total autonomy, or total self governance, giving First Nations equal power to that of the Canadian government;
- depending on the United Nations resolutions, or the British Crown to help them in their fight, is ludicrous and proves how naïve some of these leaders are.
First Nations are in no position to take any of what was taken from them back, through war like it was taken from them, so putting up road blocks to more autonomy and some aspects of self governance, through negotiation is counter productive. Sit ins, demonstrations, marches, boycotts and other forms of protest, make great news stories, gets the people riled up for a couple of weeks, but do nothing to improve the lives of those living in poverty on reserves, or improving the future and empowering young First Nations people. Unfortunately, the types of tactics being utilized by First Nation’s leaders, only serve to keep the talking and negotiating going on endlessly, while any chance of meaningful action slips through their fingers, and out of reach.
As horrible as what happened to First Nations was, they were not the only people in the world to experience European, or foreign forced colonization. Most of the world was colonized by the Europeans or other peoples, at one point or another. First nations were not the only genocide of that time, and certainly, not the last. Everyone knows it was wrong, but it is time to state clearly what it is they want as one group, pick leaders that will represent them, negotiate in good faith and accept agreements signed between both sides as binding. My fear for them is if they lose or waste this opportunity presented to them by the first and only prime minister willing to risk and stake his political future on trying to right the wrongs of the past in their case, they may never get such an opportunity again.
What is becoming increasingly clear to Canadian politicians is that it is a waste of time and very dangerous politically to consult, negotiate and sign agreements with First Nations. Too often after months and years of consultations and negotiations that end with a signing of an agreement, turns out to be nothing more than a waste of time, energy and money. The only guarantee that any Canadian government can count on when trying to negotiate, consult or settle disputes with First Nations, is that one First Nation group or another will say that the First Nations group that negotiated the agreement did not represent them and declare the process flawed and demand a do over, starting yet another round to the increasing costly court battles.
Kinder Morgan Pipeline is such an example.
- After years of protesting the pipeline now 10 First Nations leaders representing First Nations and Metis have signed a letter stating, “As the indigenous communities surrounded by Alberta’s oil sands development, we agree that this project is in the national interest.”
- The Cheam Indian Band is a First Nations band government of the Stó:lō people in the Upper Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, Canada, located near the community of Rosedale. Their chief who has been a vocal supporter of the project, says his Nation is talking about trying to buy a stake in the pipeline.
Settlement for the Sixty Scoop, the enquiry into lost and murdered indigenous women and girls are other examples of months and years of consultations, court battles and negotiations that have led to settlements, only to have those settlements challenged as mentioned earlier in this post.
It is hypocritical of First Nations’ leaders to tell anyone who will listen that they are the guardians of Mother Earth when they and their people:
- arrive and leave anti-pipeline sit ins and rallies in campers, cars and other motorized vehicles that run on gasoline, instead of on environmental friendly and pollution free horse back;
- take to the water to fish in gasoline fueled motor boats instead of the traditional canoes, knowing the damage that gasoline residue does to the water, the wildlife that lives in it and around it;
- hunt with high-powered weapons to hunt instead of their traditional bow and arrows, showing to the hunted respect with their skill.
- use nets made for maximum capture instead of best for preserving the resource;
- have not converted their housing and business to green energy, like wind and solar energy;
The hypocrisy does not stop there though. In almost everything both in the past and present First Nations’ leaders blame everything on the white man and European colonization. First Nations’ leaders act as though it is okay and their people are not impacted negatively when they:
- take huge salaries, live in big houses, while they watch their people live in sub standard housing;
- do not ensure that their children receive the same quality of education as children living off the reserve, because of inadequate funding from the federal government;
- do nothing to stop the sexual abuse and murder of women and young girls, by male members of their own bands, preferring instead to keep blaming such atrocities being committed by their own male band members on the horrors of European colonization.
- do nothing other than to demand more money to increase the good life for themselves and their 1%;
- block every effort to make money of Canada’s natural resources that could go towards helping to better the lives.
If tomorrow the Canadian government said you are sovereign nations within the borders of Canada, what is it that First Nation’s leaders see as providing their nation’s’ GDP, if the cultivating and selling of Canada’s natural resources are off the table? I ask this, because if they are suggesting that they and they alone should be able to determine which, how and when Canada’s natural resources can be cultivated and sold, they will have proved themselves guardians of nothing and just plain greedy and naïve.
Houses, schools, water filtration systems, hospitals, and roads will not be built for free. These things and all the things that determine a nations quality of life need to be paid for and the money needs to come from somewhere.
Any deal takes opposing sides to first want it. It is impossible to make a deal with someone or a group who cannot even agree amongst themselves what it is they want and who represents them at the negotiating table. This is the story unfortunately for the First Nations and why nothing will change for the better for them.
Instead of throwing up road blocks to the reconciliation process, First Nations’ leaders need to get their act together and agree amongst themselves, what the term, “Nation to Nation” means in away that can be brought to the table and through negotiation put into law that binds all First Nations and the government of Canada to the term.