Truth and reconciliation: those sound like good things. Who could be against either? Even better, the phrase is a reference to the successful process in South Africa of getting past the fearsome wounds of apartheid. Who’s against Nelson Mandela?
Hey, let’s strike a commission!
Confucius once said the chief task of government is making sure words mean what they are supposed to mean. It is too easy and too common to disguise something disreputable through a misuse of words to make it sound good. That is the path to all bad policy.
If you want to put something over on people, call it truth and reconciliation.
Truth? The Canadian Commission is mostly here to demonize the residential schools. “Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools,” as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. That it would find the residential schools an abomination was a foregone conclusion. That was the premise. The IRSSA already had. What if it had found nothing?
The main thrust of their criticism is that the residential schools were not sufficiently committed to apartheid. They treated Indian children too much as though they were like other Canadians. And so this crime called “cultural genocide.”
If apartheid was wrong, if Nelson Mandela and the South African Truth and Reconciliation process were right, then the residential schools, to the extent that this charge is true, were the right idea. Justice Sinclair and his commission are defending the views of P.W. Botha and Eugene Terreblanche, insisting that minorities must be kept separate from and treated differently from members of the mainstream culture. As long as the sun shines and the grass grows. Bantustans today, bantustans tomorrow, bantustans forever.
The commission does not seem confident that it knows what the word “truth” means, or that it has any fixed meaning. One witness, quoted in the summary report, asks the Commission, “When you talk about truth, whose truth are you talking about?” This is considered by the report “a critical question”--a tacit assertion that there is no objective truth. In other words, the meaning of “truth” seems up for negotiation. We can each manufacture, or invent, our own.
The Commission responds, “by truth, we mean not only the truth revealed in government and church residential school documents, but also the truth of lived experiences as told to us by Survivors and others in their statements to this Commission” (Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, p. 12).
It could be worse, I suppose. At least they accept official documents. But the commission is not promising here any attempt at actual objective truth. Whatever self-declared “survivors” say is to be simply taken as truth. No cross-checking, no cross-examination, and no promise to listen to both sides. By such standards, there is no such thing as a lie, and one cannot be wrong in one’s recollection. Of course, such a standard cannot work if allowed to everyone—in empirical science, say, or in a court of law. But it can be pulled off, in a superficial way, if the right is limited to those of aboriginal heritage who self-identify as “survivors.”
If I believe I am Napoleon, then, I am Napoleon. That is my truth.
This is actually a backhanded admission by the commission that the residential schools were not really bad. Had they stuck with objective truth, they almost as much as admit, they would have been forced to the politically incorrect conclusion.
As for “reconciliation,” the Commission is attempting the opposite: its mandate is to stress and exaggerate if possible the damage done by the residential schools. It is an enterprise well calculated to stir up ill feelings between Indians and “whites.” Where it can it makes the residential school experience out to be more awful than it was—most obviously by interviewing self-declared survivors and not, or rarely, those responsible for running the schools. This is an inversion of the methodology of the South African Commission, which interviewed mostly those responsible for apartheid, to hear their side. That would have been the reconciliation part.
The natural assumption, too, is that the Commission is intended for the betterment of aboriginals. Not so.
It is hard to find anything in the recommendations of the report that unambiguously does anything of the sort. Instead, the thrust of its demands is to expand the government bureaucracy. The commissioners are, in the end, bureaucrats, and they are acting, in the end, for the advantaged and toward the goals of their class and profession, not for Indians. They want more power for commissioners, bureaucrats, and professionals. This, it is to be understood, by happenstance includes some aboriginals—the band leaders, themselves career bureaucrats.
This begins with finding work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran for seven years. Nor was this the first Royal Commission to supposedly investigate the history of the residential schools. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal People had already done so by 1996, leading to the release in 1998 by the federal government of Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, which called for the settlement agreement, which called for the current commission, which calls for a new commission to be struck. A great deal of money spent, over twenty years, on bureacrats and what they do. As opposed to giving money, needed or not, deserved or not, to actual aboriginals.
If you spend money on Indians, people think it is a good idea. Not so much if you say you are spending it on more bureaucrats. So let’s say it is for the Indians.
A few examples from their “Calls to Action”:
“Requiring that all child-welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers.”
“We call upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases and includes principles that: ... Require all child-welfare agencies and courts to take the residential school legacy into account in their decision making.”
More forms for bureaucrats to fill out; and another profitable layer added to the child-welfare bureaucracy. In real terms, this means tax money taken away from the actual needs of abused children, and put instead in the pockets of bureaucrats.
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children … who are in care, compared with non-Aboriginal children, as well as the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies, and the effectiveness of various interventions.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by: … ii. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.”
“iii. Establish, as an important priority, a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children into temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate.”
Money ostensibly going to orphans actually going to bureaucrats. In the meantime, the new regulations would ensure that fewer children are adopted, and more stay orphans.
Can anyone explain why taking childen away from their families and putting them in residential schools is wrong, but keeping children in orphanages instead of placing them in a family is right?
Yep—say it’s going to widows and orphans. That ought to work.
Yet how does it help abused children? They are to be left to be abused if their parents are aboriginals? How does it help aboriginals? Aren’t the children aboriginal too?
“We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess longterm trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services.”
Another layer of bureaucracy, and tax money supposedly going to the sick really going into the pockets of bureaucrats. If we know there is a gap in health outcomes between aboriginals and other Canadians, why do we still need to “identify” it? Isn’t this a stall, an effort to avoid any help for actual Indians? Perhaps because there is no real problem; perhaps because it is not really soluble by government; perhaps because it is not really in government’s interest to solve it.
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.”
Again, nothing here for Indians. Aboriginal people already get free, and tax-free, health care. The only objective here seems to be to stir up bad feelings and prevent reconciliation, to force a claim that Indians have been badly treated in the absence of evidence. The public declaration that it has been so, true or false, becomes the evidence.
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.”
“We call upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in custody over the next decade.”
More money to bureaucrats, in this case lawyers, judges, and probably band leaders. It might also give some advantages to aboriginal criminals. But, even if racial discrimination is a good thing, does that help aboriginals? The usual victims of aboriginal crime are also aboriginals. Reduce the deterrent, and you are likely to increase the rate of crime—if imprisonment is of any deterrent value in the first place. The guilty get a better deal at the cost of the innocent.
This also subtly denies any agency to the individual, who is not to be held accountable for his or her acts. This encourages a culture of dependency. But lots of detailed annual reports to keep the bureaucrats in charge and in change.
“In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada”
This gets down to the nitty gritty. When we say, as in the US Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal,” the bedrock of our concept of human rights, or indeed of morality generally, what we mean as a legal issue is equal protection before the law. There must not be different laws or penalties based on race, creed, or colour. This is exactly what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here demands: an extreme apartheid of the courts. They call for two separate legal systems, one for aboriginals and one for other Canadians.
Would this be better for aboriginals? Only if aboriginal law is superior to Canadian law. If it is, why do we not all adopt it?
But it is better for adding a lot of new jobs for lawyers and bureaucrats, at taxpayer expense.
Of course, it is always the case that, if Indians among themelves wish to observe their own rules, they are at liberty, like the rest of us, to do so. This is called a contract.
“We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles: i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies”
More public money to bureaucrats and already-wealthy band leaders, with no tangible payoff for any living Indians.
“Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”
The surest way to do this is to do nothing. The free market would ensure that employment is equitable. If company A insists on employing less-competent staff based on race, company B gains a competitive advantage. Enforcing hiring policies that might go against this principle, besides being inevitably inequitable, makes all companies less competitive. At best, this additional cost of doing business will be passed on to consumers. At worst, businesses will shut down, and aboriginals along with the rest of us lose jobs and services. Moreover, any extra regulation raises the bar for entering the market, reducing competition and making discrimination more likely.
But who benefits from extra regulation? Bureaucrats. Regulation and dealing with regulations is their job.
“We call upon the federal government to prepare and publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves, as well as educational and income attainments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada compared with non-Aboriginal people.”
Money supposed to go for “education” going instead to more bureaucrats. With a troublesome demand that the government keep detailed records based on race.
There must also be money to teachers to teach other teachers to teach. Tail, meet dog. Dog, meet tail. Obviously, we need more bureaucracy in education.
“Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.”
“Or higher.” My guess is, poor and needy Indians need not apply.
“We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles: i. Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation”
“Improving education attainment levels and success rates.”
This is subtly totalitarian, as bureaucratic thought is bound to be. It assumes that variance in educational achievement and success in life is due to only one factor: government involvement. Everything is up to government and nothing can be done by the individual. Along with other problems, this is a perfect plan to keep ordinary Indians eternally dependent.
“Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.”
“Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.”
“Developing culturally appropriate curricula.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.”
It is colonialist, paternalist, and demeaning, surely, to suggest that aboriginal people cannot do this for themselves, without government help. We do not expect the government to design culturally appropriate materials for Mormons, Portuguese Canadians, Jews, or any other minority group. Are we saying Indians are not competent to manage their own culture?
Note too the disturbing undertone of cultural relativism. If aboriginal teaching methods are effective, they are just as effective for non-aboriginal as for aboriginal children. Why not share them with everyone? Why would this not naturally happen in the natural course of events? Or are we, rather, forcing Indian children to accept an inferior education for the sake of employing a few more bureaucrats?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission seems very keen on education. Or, more precisely, re-education:
“Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools.”
“Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.”
“Provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals. “
“We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations.”
“Provide education for [corporate] management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism”
“We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.”
Cumulatively, this must mean a massive expenditure of public funds. But, if there is any benefit here to anyone, it all remains within the professions.
It is darkly ironic, but typical of the territory, that these re-education and self-criticism sessions are said to include a segment on “anti-racism.” Because nothing could be more racist than their other assumptions, or the assumptions of the Commission report as a whole.
“We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation”
More gravy for another station along the route: the academics. Lots of meeting time and jobs with the vague term “liaising” in the job description. Nothing for Indians, unless they happen also to be academics or bureaucrats. Note again the usefulness of the word “reconciliation.” That sounds good, but how does one actually research “reconciliation”?
“We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation. The legislation would establish the council as an independent, national, oversight body with membership jointly appointed by the Government of Canada and national Aboriginal organizations, and consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members.”
Another permanent layer of bureaucracy. Nothing for ordinary Indians.
And their chief role would be to hand out pork to also-well-heeled buddies:
“We call upon the Government of Canada to provide multi-year funding for the National Council for Reconciliation to ensure that it has the financial, human, and technical resources required to conduct its work, including the endowment of a National Reconciliation Trust to advance the cause of reconciliation.”
With this tax money, it will “Develop and implement a multi-year National Action Plan for Reconciliation, which includes research and policy development, public education programs, and resources.”
This reconciliation, apparently, will always be intended for the future, always worked towards, but will never arrive.
As to reconciliation, the Commission insists on seeing Indian groups as fundamentally apart, independently sovereign, not Canadian. That does not sound like reconciliation.
“We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation would include, but not be limited to, ...”
That sounds good. Indians are not real Canadians, just as Africans are not real Americans and Jews are not real Germans.
Indians do probably have a right to sovereignty in international law, if they want it. Since the Treaty of Versailles, we have all more or less endorsed the notion of a right to self-determination of peoples, that is, racial groups. But let’s be clear: said sovereignty is not now the case. There is no existing nation-to-nation relationship. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara were not, as here claimed, treaties between sovereign nations. The Royal Proclamation made it plain, above all else, that all sovereignty over North American soil resided in the British crown, and the Indian bands were the King’s subjects. In introducing the concerns of the Indians, it begins:
“And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest, and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them. or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.”
One might say there is a government-to-government relationship involved, but it is like the relationship of the national to a provincial or municipal government, not to a foreign power.
This sovereign power has, of course, since been passed to the Crown of Canada.
Aboriginal groups might prefer to renounce the Royal Proclamation and its cession of sovereignty. But that would mean renouncing, at the same time, the legal basis on which Indians were acknowledged to have an ownership interest in the land. In law, they had it because King George gave it to them.
Nevertheless, the Commission inconsistently demands that any and every body they can think of, in and outside Canada, must:
“Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples...”
If Indians want to proclaim sovereignty, as we say, they have that right, but this would be a change from the present situation. Why then should a Canadian National Council for Reconciliation, or Canadian tax money, be involved? Let them run their own affairs on their reserves, and lots of luck to them. One they have assumed their fair share of the national debt.
Moreover, it is conspicuously contradictory for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on the one hand, to insist on Indian sovereignty, and on the other, to demand money from Ottawa to commemorate “the Indian contribution to Canada”:
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to: i. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.”
“Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.”
“Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.”
“Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.”
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, and the Canadian Museums Association to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017 by establishing a dedicated national funding program for commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.”
Nice cake. I wonder if I can eat it now, then save it for later?
But there is another bit of a logical contradiction here. Why it is that, if the Canadian government teaches Indian children about the majority culture, it is cultural genocide, but if the Indians teach majority children about Indian culture, it is their right? Even at the latter’s expense?
The project of racial apartheid is of course vastly aided if the two groups speak different languages. Accordingly, the Commission is strong on the need to nurture aboriginal languages, at the expense, of course, by and large, of English and French speakers.
“We call upon the federal government to enact an Aboriginal Languages Act that incorporates the following principles: i. Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.”
“The federal government has a responsibility to provide sufficient fund for Aboriginal-language revitalization and preservation.”
“Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.”
“We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.”What, in the end, is language, and what is its use to man? It is a tool for communication. It follows, therefore, that the value of a language is directly proportional to the number of people with whom you can communicate using it. For English, that would be about one billion. For French, about 300 million. For most aboriginal languages, a few thousand.
To be fair, of course, we also need to count the dead; written language allows them too to communicate with us.
Very well, then. For English or French, we have great libraries of writings dating back perhaps a thousand years. For Indian languages, perhaps at most a hundred years, and not in any quantity.
In sum, sentiment aside, it is probably against the real interests of any individual who does not already know it to spend much time learning an aboriginal language. Lead young aboriginals down this primrose path, and you are leading them away from their own best interests.
I suppose this opens up an easy major to a few aboriginals who already speak the languages. But that is still a primrose path. Get their degree, and whom are they going to teach? Looks a lot like a pyramid scheme.
“We call upon the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights.”
Well, of course. Everyone has the right to speak their language. What they do not have is a right to government services in their language, or to government subsidy. And that is surely what is meant here.
“Aboriginal language rights are reinforced by the Treaties.”Aboriginal “language rights” are not in any treaty. The commission probably put this in precisely because they know it is not true. Now, anyone can cite the Commission report in an attempt to make this wild assertion stick. “According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission...”
As a practical matter, a demand for government services in native languages is not especially sane. There are perhaps sixty different “aboriginal languages” in Canada. To provide services in all, the civil service would have to grow exponentially. For the sake of a few thousand speakers, almost all of whom can also speak English or French. Besides benefitting so few at such expense, how probable is it to find speakers of all these languages who are competent and qualified to do the needed jobs?
We would need a civil service rivalling in size the total population. All to provide a special and mostly symbolic privilege to one minority group.
“We call upon the federal government to appoint, in consultation with Aboriginal groups, an Aboriginal Languages Commissioner. The commissioner should help promote Aboriginal languages and report on the adequacy of federal funding of Aboriginal-languages initiatives.”Nice job for some top bureacrat, probably a full department of bureaucrats, doing nothing of any use to anyone.
But so long as Indians are encouraged to stay in their own linguistic and cultural ghettos, unable to interact with their neighbours, there will be lots of secure jobs for bureaucrats and band leaders taking care and control of them and profiting in their name.
Wishing to find anything in the commission’s recommendations that would actually be in the interests of ordinary Indians, advocates might point to the claim by the Commission that Indians have special rights to natural resources:
“We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following: i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.”This is all against treaty. The treaties made clear that the various Indian groups ceded any claim to natural resources outside their reserves. It is based on the Romantic noble savage notion that Indians are “one with the land.” And, perhaps, by implication, racially unique beings, natural creatures, beasts not men.
But it is wrong to think that any of this helps Indians. What it means is another level of bureaucracy to be satisfied and to be paid off, and another heavy tax on economic development, especially in areas near where Indians live. The extra work, and most or all of the money, will go to lawyers and bureaucrats. In the meantime, development will be less likely to happen—lands where Indians live will remain underdeveloped. Fewer jobs, less money, less opportunity, for ordinary Indians.
“We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”Again, money claimed to go to education and jobs really going to bureaucrats, instead of to building schools or businesses.
“Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements.”This suggests a parity between Canadian law—even the Canadian constitution--and rules set by aboriginal bands. On an individual level, such group rights mean that one Indian has the same legal status as perhaps a hundred thousand non-Indian Canadians. Even if this were not so, there is a further problem: the notion of an indigenous legal tradition is mostly a fiction. There are no written records; all is hearsay. In practice, it would be the law and the legal traditions of Canada, and of the English-speaking world, against the say-so of any given individual chief. This would give Indian leaders dictatorial powers, over other Indians and perhaps over the rest of us as well.
“We call upon the federal government to establish multiyear funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices.”It almost sounds like this money would go to youth. But would it? They would presumably be given “programs on reconciliation.” What does that mean? Might it be harangues on how evil the white man is? Do young Indians need this or want this? Is it to their benefit? Isn’t the money really going to the bureaucrats or academics employed to give these programs, who might use it to promote their own power? Some of this money, perhaps most of it, would explicitly be spent on “sharing information and best practices” among bureaucrats.
“We call upon the federal government to ensure that national sports policies, programs, and initiatives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples, including, but not limited to, establishing: i. In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, stable funding for, and access to, community sports programs that reflect the diverse cultures and traditional sporting activities of Aboriginal peoples.”Equity for aboriginal athletes sounds good. This is the opposite. This is more apartheid. Special funding for traditional aboriginal sports (unlike, say, hockey, football, or lacrosse, all of which have aboriginal roots?) is pushing young aboriginals into a sports ghetto. Are non-Indians too dirty to play with Indians, or are Indians too dirty to play with non-Indians? Why this insistence on segregation? It might be a way to short-change Indians for funding, or a way to short-change “whites.” It has no other obvious purpose. Except that it provides more opportunities for graft, and keeps young Indians thinking of themselves as different and dependent.
Many of the commission’s demands imply cultural relativism. For example,
“An elite athlete development program for Aboriginal athletes. iii. Programs for coaches, trainers, and sports officials that are culturally relevant for Aboriginal peoples.”When you play baseball, does it make a big difference whether you are Cherokee or Japanese? While the provision of such courses might make a cushy job for some academic or bureaucrat, is it really going to do anything for any kid on the sandlot?
“Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.”
“We call upon all levels of government to: i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.”
Why should it matter to the average aboriginal whether the local dentist is Dene or Danish? That is, unless we are saying that only aboriginal doctors are competent to treat aboriginals. So--is there a “Jewish physics,” too?
“We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
“We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.”If there is no good evidence that “Aboriginal healing” works, this is throwing public money away to no benefit to anyone but the practitioners. If there is, it is criminal to withhold it from the rest of the population. Surely the only plausible argument here is extreme racialism: Indian bodies work differently from non-Indian bodies.
What else might that assumption imply?
“We call upon the federal government to provide funding to the Canadian Museums Association to undertake, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, a national review of museum policies and best practices to determine the level of compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to make recommendations.”More make-work for bureaucrats and academics, surely. More thick reports, no other action specified.
Oddly, because so evidently irrelevant, the commission report calls for the abolition of the “spanking law”:
“We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.”It allows parents and teachers to administer physical punishment, so long as it is commensurate with the offense.
What on earth does this have to do in particular with aboriginals? Nothing—the law applies and always applied to all Canadians. But its repeal gives lots more work and power to lawyers and social workers, at public expense, instead of leaving such judgements unprofitably in the hands of the family.
The Commission is especially keen on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“Full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“We call upon the church parties to the Settlement Agreement, and all other faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”
“Engaging in ongoing public dialogue and actions to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Issuing a statement no later than March 31, 2016, from all religious denominations and faith groups, as to how they will implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”As the current Liberal government, previously enthusiastic, has now admitted, this is not possible in a democracy, without overturning the democracy. The Declaration offers a lot of other problems, but the insurmuntable problem is this passage:
Article 19: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”Any law passed by any Canadian government almost necessarily affects Indians, just as it does other Canadians. This article gives aboriginals a veto over all legislation. Canada would become an oligarchy, not a democracy, with aboriginals as the ruling class.
This might be of advantage to Indians, although obviously injurious to everyone else. Neverthelesss, it is perhaps here not for their sake, but for the obvious benefits to bureaucrats on both sides needing now to constantly “liaise.”
Aside from the family and the electorate, another possible source of power to be passed over to the bureaucrats is that most venerable of voluntary associations, the church. It must accordingly be brought under government control.
“We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement, in collaboration with Survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations, to establish permanent funding to Aboriginal people for:
Community-controlled healing and reconciliation projects.
Community-controlled culture- and language revitalization projects.
Community-controlled education and relationship building projects.
Regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self determination, and reconciliation.”Money donated to one church and religion must be given instead to a different “religion.” But not really a religion at all—to the bureaucrats running the Indian “communities,” who are free to say what Indian “spirituality” is or is not as it suits them. To the benefit of ordinary Indians? No; most Indians, you may recall, are Christians. They are paying for this, but not benefitting. And “community-controlled” means the churches will have no say in how the money is spent.
“We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.”The point of having a denominational school is the right to teach your children the beliefs and teachings of that denomination. This demand requires them instead to teach the beliefs of other religions. It is a direct assault on religious liberty. Bureaucrats—“Aboriginal Elders” and others--are to be given final say on the content of all religious education.
“We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.”“Spiritual violence”? That’s even better than “cultural genocide.” According to Merriam-Webster, violence means “the use of physical force to harm someone, to damage property, etc.” Accordingly, “spiritual violence” is a contradition in terms, like “cold heat” or “dark light.” Presumably what they actually mean is disagreeing with someone—here, presumably, some government functionary. This cannot work otherwise: both parties to any disagreement would then be equally guilty of this crime of “spiritual violence,” making the change moot. Violence is, proverbially, a government monopoly. The government bureaucrat must be completely free to disagree with the mere citizen without being charged with “spiritual violence.”
In other words, no more freedom of thought or of speech.
Most remarkable is this demand placed specifically on the Catholic Church:
“We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”Nothing is any more to be beyond the government’s reach: its writ now extends to Rome and to the hereafter. Even if an apology is warranted, why does it matter where the apology is made, or when? Whom does that benefit? Only the bureaucrats, in establishing power over the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church in particular must be brought to heel and humiliation, presumably, precisely because it is so influential among common Indians. It therefore rivals the bureaucrats in its influence and prestige among them. This must be destroyed.
A good reason, not incidentally, for the attack on the residential schools in the first place.
If we have not yet slipped into parody, there’s more.
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to recognize as a high priority the need to address and prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and to develop, in collaboration with Aboriginal people, FASD preventive programs that can be delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work with Aboriginal communities to provide culturally relevant services to inmates on issues such as substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and overcoming the experience of having been sexually abused.”
“We call upon the federal government to develop a national plan to collect and publish data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal people, including data related to homicide and family violence victimization.”Do the commissioners not realize they here give strong evidence that the residential schools were a blessing, not a curse, and that abolishing them was a lousy idea for Indians? They are admitting that alcoholic parents are a special problem for aboriginal children. Granted that, in the matter of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the worst damage is already done by the time of birth, even after birth, an alcoholic mother is not a happy thing to grow up with. The commissioners are admitting further a special problem in aboriginal communities with substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Surely the poor children might be better off elsewhere, at last for part of their childhoods.
Note too that the Commission wants to reduce sentences for aboriginal criminals while demanding the government do something to reduce aboriginal crime. These seem to be contradictory goals. They cry out for paternalism and colonialism: they take it for granted the white man bears all responsibility, and can work magic if he chooses.
“We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include: i. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. ii. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools”There is no plausible link between the disappearance of aboriginal women and the residential schools. So, the commission simply requires the government to find one… Again, everything is left up to the white man, and he is assumed to be able to work magic.
Or rather, perhaps, it is in the interest of the bureaucracy to set intrinsically impossible goals. This means the jobs, and the work, will never end. The worst thing that could happen to a government bureaucrat, in terms of sheer self-interest, would be ever to solve a problem.
More magic is proposed:
“We call upon the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and the courts to adopt the following legal principles: i. Aboriginal title claims are accepted once the Aboriginal claimant has established occupation over a particular territory at a particular point in time”
As worded, this suggests that, if someone of “aboriginal” status, however legally defined, can prove they once visited Niagara Falls, they own Niagara Falls. The impossibility of this criterion, at a minimum, offers endless work to lawyers to work out what it really means. It cannot possibly be applied, even if limited to aboriginals, because aboriginal claims would conflict.
And how will these proposals help?
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
“We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”In every capital city—even in provinces that hosted no residential schools. Perhaps such public sculptures would be decorative. Even so, they are not being erected where Indians concentrate, are they? Rather than helping Indians in any tangible way, they seem intended to institutionalize the culture of grievance, in an effort to ensure that reconciliation not occur, and to offer employment to more committees.
“We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
No words suffice.
The good news is, the present Liberal government is pledged to implement all the Commission’s recommendations.
Say it’s for the benefit of Indians, and you can get away with anything.
For this reason, it is in the self-interest of the bureaucracy never to do anything that will actually substantially help Indians. Were they not in constant apparent crisis, the money and the powers might dry up.