The best way to describe this article is a book review of a book review. It goes like this… Reader’s Digest, at least its Canadian counterpart, recently printed a story by freelancer Robert Nielsen entitled Giving Canada Away Claim by Claim. In the bold outtake it reads, “Our timid response to aboriginal militancy is doing the country great harm, a best-selling book argues.”
Right off the bat I could see that Nielsen, and by extension the Reader’s Digest editorial board, agreed with Melvin H. Smith’s book called Our Home or Native Land? What governments’ aboriginal policy is doing to Canada. Melvin by the way is a Queen’s Council and a former deputy minister of some sort.
In the book, Melvin quotes former Prime Minister Pierre Elite Trudeau writing in the infamous White Paper, “The time is now to decide whether the Indians will be a race apart in Canada or whether they will be Canadians of full status.” Holy Third Reich, Batman, I guess to be of a different race in Canada means that you are a second-class citizen who doesn’t enjoy the full status of being Canadian. It is indeed a sorry read to see that those thoughts are still being expounded today, never mind that this book made the Globe and Mail best-seller list. Conrad Black missed this beauty rag. Sorry for this obvious bias but I would say that the Native people are a race apart and I believe this is one of the things mentioned in the Constitution and by science.
But what exactly is in the book? Reader’s Digest freelancer Nielson writes, “What is going on, Smith contends, is a reckless mishandling of native politicians’ demands and pretensions, in ways that fragment Canada’s territory and divide its people along racial lines, while laying huge financial burdens on present and future taxpayers.”
Indeed this seems to be one of Melvin’s big points… The money spent on Natives. Nearly $9 billion a year. “That’s an average cost of $15,000 annually for each of the 565,000 status Indians and 35,000 Inuit,” is one of the points. You can tell neither Melvin nor Nielson have done their homework. Non-Natives get an average of $17,000 per person for services from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. It is just because the Aboriginal services come from one source that it is an easy target for these might-is-right gunslingers.
Indeed they do believe might is right. Look at it from the way they write about land. The Melvin himself talks about the huge land giveaways such the four land claims done in the Northwest Territories, saying the land (505,950 square kilometers) is over half the size of Ontario for “just
24,000 aboriginal people.” I would have to say that, like it or not, Indians and Inuit were the traditional occupants of the land. How do you occupy the land without Native consent? Do numbers justify theft? I was taught that they don’t.
All in all the arguments presented in the book review are the standard scare tactics Natives across Canada have seen before. I should ask: What Melvin, Nielson and Reader’s Digest are afraid of? Maybe that some day you’ll be the Indians? Never fear of that, we’ll never treat you that inhumanely. As always we’ll be willing to share.
According to Melvin, “It was no accident that Natives cast the largest No vote of any defineable group (in the Charlottetown referendum). Ordinary Natives feared the enormous concentration of power that would result in the hands of ambitious leaders.” This wasn’t the case. Crees did vote for it as we were well informed by our leaders and trusted them. Perhaps too many others worried when Ovide Mercredi said he’d try to “sell it” to his people. For the majority, the Charlottetown deal simply wasn’t enough.
Melvin talks as everyone else of the Indians “lacking.” People have hung on them a lack of education, a lack of employment, housing or any of a number of faults but the truth is sadder. It is a lack of resources that the newcomers simply took without Indian consent or knowledge.
It is not surprising that Canadians such as Melvin, Nielson or Reader’s Digest can understand and sympathize with the attempts by Jewish people to get back the money in Swiss banks as a result of the atrocities of World War II, but they do not see the Indian claims in the same light. Perhaps these Canadians have gotten used to having taken the land away.
But when all is said and done there are two concrete actions I can do: never buy or fully review Melvin’s book and never subscribe to Reader’s Digest. When we talked to Reader’s Digest about this article they sent us their book called Through Indian Eyes to show us they weren’t racist. One of the staff said it was interesting but it still didn’t prove their case. To have such a publication that made an enjoyable common-man’s read print such a slanted article is a disappointment and one would hope not a sign of the times. I recommend neither the book nor the Digest for your bookshelf.