Years ago when I was living in England a satirical television show conducted a poll of public opinion that exploded the myth of the objectivity of polls. By cunningly phrasing the questions to obtain the results they wanted, they managed to get a huge majority of people to agree with the proposition that they were opposed to post-marital sex. You got that? Most people, according to this poll, oppose sex after marriage! The idiots who framed the questions for the British Columbia referendum on treaty negotiations have evidently studied this UK experiment, because the eight questions they have sent out for voters to respond to are framed in exactly this way — to produce inevitable answers. As even a Globe and Mail editorial suggested, “who could possibly object to maintaining parks and protected areas for all British Columbians?” For that matter everybody is in favour of hunting, fishing and recreational activities. And your average unthinking guy, uninformed about history, will certainly favour abolishing tax exemptions for Indians. So will he probably favour restriction of Aboriginal-style governments to having municipal powers exercizing delegated authority from the province.
But, what about Aboriginal rights, guaranteed under the Canadian constitution. What about Aboriginal title, a concept that has been many times upheld by the courts? And what about justice? As the British Columbia bishops have pointed out, it is an injustice to subject the rights of a minority to the opinions of a majority.
The government certainly doesn’t seem to really know what it is doing. B.C. Attorney-General Geoff Plant now says that the results of the referendum won’t necessarily be binding on the provincial government. But the Globe and Mail reports that the B.C. government will treat the results as binding: they said that B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, in a meeting with their editorial board, “argued forcefully that having a strong mandate will improve the negotiating climate.” In a pig’s eye, it will. Most of the positions the public will be conned into approving are non-starters with B.C.’s Aboriginal people, especially the invitation to restrict Aboriginal governments to municipal-style powers. In fact, if the policy implications of these eight questions were put into action, that would be the end of Aboriginal rights in B.C. Why is it that the rights of Aboriginal people can be violated in this way, while those of other minorities are never subjected to such indignities?
B.C.’s history in relation to the rights of Aboriginals has been abysmal, and Gordon Campbell is bidding fair to become the worst B.C. leader of all in this regard. How this guy can call himself liberal beggars belief.
Already native people have begun to ceremonially burn the ballots, and one hopes that everyone in the province will follow their lead. This is a shoddy procedure, unworthy of Canadian politics.