The conference on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was a real eye-opener. There was no feeling of invading a temple as when I once dropped in unexpectedly at an anti-fur conference. The people who attended were from all over Canada and some dropped in from the States. This conference had its variety of people: government officials, corporate officers, lawyers, professors, anthropologists by the boatload (pun intended), students, eco-freaks, consultants, writers, journalists, politicians and last but not least… Natives. A mix of races and opinions gathered together to share their vision of a Canadian future involving Native Peoples.

Even though one person… a fellow journalist… at the end endured cries of “shame” to give his vision, I was glad he was there and spoke. After all it is one of the cornerstones of democracy that anyone may speak their mind, speaker and audience alike.

But this was only one of the reasons why I was glad he was there. It was because all people should know the other side of the coin, so to speak. Sun-Tse wrote in The Art of War that: if you do not know yourself or your opponent, your chances of victory or defeat are even. If you know your enemy but not yourself then you will know victory most of the time, but if you know both your opponent and yourself then you are assured of victory. Know your opponents well, for now they know the Native Peoples through the report from the Commission.

With such a mix of participants one got to know one’s opponents, allies and self quite well at this conference. With the many experts, self-styled and earned, one was bound to learn something.

One thing I learned was that people do want change and are willing to compromise to a certain extent but they get drowned out when the extremists talk and, as the “shamed” journalist put it during his speech, “…the angriest one wins.”

Let us hope that no one takes his words to heart and we have nothing but angry contests across the country. Rather, hopefully we all came away understanding our opponents a little more. Then not only are the chances of victory better but we just might find that our “opponents” are not the monsters we make them out to be. And they might find that Natives aren’t the stereotypes that polled Canadians think they are. Then we can work on improving Sun-Tse’s saying to include: when you know your opponent and yourself truly well there is no need for an art of