The Canadian Aboriginal world has a new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I wish that it could really mean something to me. It used to mean something to me. I’m not talking about the fact that incumbent Matthew Coon Come lost or that Roberta Jaminson didn’t become the first woman to take the lead for Aboriginal Canadians. I’m not even talking about the fact that Phil Fountaine will be walking the corriders of power and politics on Parliament hill with a hopeful smile on his face.
It’s the fact that it is all an illusion. It is an illusion that there is or ever will be a hope that the Native Peoples in Canada will ever achieve meaningful or real self-government in any form.
Look at it. Is the AFN a meaningful lobby group? Coon Come calls Canada racist at a UN meeting and arrives back in Canada to find the Canadian government has unilaterially slashed his budget in half. The Canadian government’s message- “Bad, bad Indian. Now you pay for making your great White Father look bad. You damn fools really thought that there was free speech that included you?”
That was when I knew that the days of being a ward of the state weren’t really over and wouldn’t be for a long time to come.
Take Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault… please. Burlesque joke intended seriously but look at his actions. Coon Come was right to call his government racist. He has introduced legislation that affects a race that has not been allowed to take a hand in crafting that legislation. Thus it becomes fundementaly flawed. The fact that it might even contain good points in it means nothing. It becomes another piece of paper shoved down the throats of Aboriginal people whether they like it or not by the dominant society.
The entire leadership of the First Nations, all elect chiefs are against it.
Nault and his people don’t care. They know what’s good for the Indian in this land and they expect use to get down on our knees and praise god they have picked up the Whiteman’s burden once again.
All illusions that Native self-government or governance is real lies shattered on the floor. We have no choice but to accept what Nault thinks is good for us.
What we think is good for us does not matter and never has. At Nault fingertips lies the power to put any band into third party management based on deficit limits that no non-Native community has to adhere to. He has the power to crush any law or by-law that Aboriginal communities create.
Native governments are and continue to be something that was created by the federal government. As such they are flawed as they did not come from the native people that have to use them. This form of government will continue to be flawed as long as they are used.
And yes, they are able to be abused by those in power, Native and non-Native. There is corruption on both sides of the balance sheet. But to enact legislation on Governance is nothing more than a red herring.
Natives will fight because they have to in order to protect their rights. In the meantime Canada has dropped to eighth place in the world because of the continuation of native poverty. This has continued for decade upon decade. The deplorable conditions of Native housing remain unchanged also. The economic conditions upon reserves continue unabated. The residential school problem remains with us.
Yet we have to fight a piece of paper.
Native self government…whose definition.