There is some concern among Tibetan solidarity activists that First Nations in Canada are being used to help China legitimize their ongoing campaign to extinguish the Tibetan People.
According to a recent article on Tibet Truth, “In August 2010 a delegation of Chinese government officials and businessmen representing ‘tourist enterprises’ from so-called Qinghai Province (actually a region comprised of Tibetan lands known as Amdo and Kham) were part of a trade mission that targeted a group of Canada’s native peoples. The delegation visited the Stó:lo Nation in a cynical effort to see how profit could be maximised from exploiting native culture through tourism.”
“In a calculated political move”, the article explains, “communist China’s regime has often sought to link the issues and challenges experienced by first peoples of North America with Tibetans, using the history of the oppression of native peoples as a rebuke to criticism from the United States over the plight of Tibetans under Chinese occupation.”
The irony is almost too much to bare, since there are many similarities between Tibetans and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. For instance, in both cases the original inhabitants’ lands were occupied by colonialist powers and the people themselves were/are subjected to a full-spectrum assault that includes: forced sterlization, segregation camps, the prohibition of cultural practices, the banishment of Traditional governments and direct violent confrontation (such as the one that took place one week ago, when the Chinese military opened fire on a crowd of peaceful Tibetan protesters, killing four and wounding at least 30.)
However, there is one telling difference and it turns out to be China’s “Golden Truth:” The Tibetan people still want to eject the colonizers from their homeland and reclaim their rightful independence; where Canadian First Nations have largely accepted the colonizer be it as neighbour, employer or business partner.
China would like nothing more than to be viewed like this by the Tibetans. But it would also be ok if they just didn’t exist; because then they could take all of Tibet’s mineral resources without any resistance (instead of lying that there’s no resistance).
The Article concludes, “It is a grave error of judgment and highly troubling in terms of moral principal that some within Canada’s First Nations appear willing to engage in business with communist China’s regime, whose violent oppression and exploitation of Tibetan culture has caused colossal suffering and tragedy. It is to be hoped that wiser counsel will prevail within the leadership of the First Nations and that they can show solidarity with their brothers and sisters inside occupied Tibet whose traditions and freedoms are brutally denied and abused by China.”
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time a Nation State has tried to win First Nations hearts and minds and for much the same reasons.
In 2006 Canada’s largest First Nation lobby group, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), was convinced that it should establish a diplomatic mission in Israel. At the time, the Canadian Jewish Congress had organized an educational mission so an AFN delegation could travel to Israel to learn “how their Israeli counterparts preserve their historic languages and culture,” said an AFN press release.
Speaking about the trip, then-National Chief Phil Fontaine commented, “Indigenous people in Canada have much in common with the people of Israel, including a respect of the land and their languages. This mission is an excellent opportunity for us to share our values and our traditional ways of life, in the hope of building greater understanding, awareness and respect for our similarities and differences, both at home and abroad.”
While it was a good opportunity for the delegation to learn about the Jewish People–especially in light of the unfortunate comments of David Ahenakew, another former AFN Chief—for Israel it was a chance “to justify and cover up not only the Israeli atrocities and war crimes committed against the Palestinian people but also Israeli support for racism and oppression against the peoples of Africa, Asia, central and south America,” said the Canada Palestine association in a widely endorsed public statement.
The diplomatic mission would have all but sealed the deal. And had it been established, Israel would still be talking about it as “proof” that their actions are justified and that, like Canada’s First Nations, they are only trying to defend themselves from Palestinians, otherwise known as “non-Jewish communities” in occupied Palestine.
Given Canada’s own ongoing push to assimilate First Nations people–that is, to turn them into ethnic minorities with the exact same rights as any old Canadian–we can be sure that there will be more inversion campaigns like the two mentioned here. Maybe the next one will be to establish an embassy in Colombia or maybe Iraq?
There’s really no telling as long we rely on lobby groups, wannabe think tanks, and most of all, anyone connected to the Canadian government. However, If we inform ourselves and turn to those who will tell us the cold hard truth (without any spin or embellishment) we will be greater for it. And then no longer will colonial states like China be able to use as scapegoats to make their crimes look like acts of love and compassion.
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.