Most of us new going in that Friday’s meeting between Harper and the AFN wasn’t going to amount to much. Of course, we all hoped that we would get everything we wanted, but we also knew that it was just one meeting. Centuries of systemic and constitutionally-entrenched problems can’t be resolved over night.
However, the outcome of Friday’s meeting was not what we had it mind–not even close. In fact, if we take in everything that came in the days leading up to it and everything that followed immediately after, it was nothing short of a redwash.
To be sure, some positive things did come out of the meeting. Most importantly, Canada committed to a high-level process on treaty implementation. That has been one of the main goals of INM since the beginning.
There were a few more things Canada agree to; but that’s where the ground gets awful muddy. As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, Canada agreed to:
Canada partially agreed to:
Canada did not agree to:
Now for the tough question: of all these agenda items that AFN brought to the table, which ones were INM calling for?
There is only one: the omnibus bills (C-48 and C-38)—and that was flat out rejected by Harper. The rest is all AFN.
In other words, the AFN used the meeting to advance its own agenda, exactly like they did during the big day of action in 2007, using us as leverage.
Things became even worse after the meeting. Atleo straight up lied on APTN when he claimed that progress was made on Bill C45. There was no progress whatsoever. AAND Minister John Duncan said it himself at a press conference following the meeting, stating that Canada is now satisfied it has fulfilled the constitutional obligation to consult, to which he added , they see no reason to change anything.
There’s a small hiccup there. When making these points, Minister Duncan didn’t explicitly mention the omnibus bills–he simply said “the bills”. That could be an important distinction given the fact that Canada has at least 7 more bills/acts on the table right now. To recap, the most troubling ones are:
If Canada is satisfied that it has consulted First Nations vis a vis the AFN, then we can expect these bills to be passed just like C-45.
TO the best of my knowledge, Atleo has not talked about any of this legislation. Not once has he mentioned the FNPOA. More than anything else, he has talked about economic development, which has been his main agenda since he was elected as National Chief (the official representative of all federally-recognized Chiefs in Canada).
Economic development is also Canada’s primary interest. But, unlike AFN, which is desperately trying to end poverty on reserve, Canada’s goal is to enfranchise First Nations into Canada’s economy–in other words, to turn First Nations into everyday Canadian citizens.
Why else do you think Canada started all those major funding cuts? It was, in part, an act of attrition meant to impoverish us even further and make us more desperate–enough to accept whatever Canada decides to offer.
It’s no different from the Draconian “Results Based” questionnaire that is being used to determine the future of all 93 Modern Treaty/Self-Government negotiating tables across the country.
As Russell Diabo pointed out in late November, should the Harper government take favour in anyone who fills out the questionnaire, they will be “prepared… to terminate their Inherent, Aboriginal or Treaty Rights in exchange for compromising their section 35 protected and internationally recognized rights.” Any agreements that follow, he continued, “will then be used as precedents against other First Nations”. However, should the Harper government be displeased with a respondent, then the Harper government will terminate negotiations.
The goal here is enfranchisement/integration and gaining access to lands for industry.
The AFN’s vision of economic development has been, first and foremost, for first nations to partner up with industry.
Another side of this debacle has been the sudden turn on Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. I don’t think I need to go into any of the details except to say that the attack was an obvious attempt to divert the public’s attention, discredit her and undermine INM. It’s the kind of thing the Canadian government does best.
Indeed, historically, the international community has viewed Canada as America’s naive–and for the most part, innocent–little brother, but it is a seasoned colonial beast that all but wrote the book on social engineering and citizen management. It is also a master in the art of propaganda. The juvenile strategies employed during WW2 pale in comparison to those employed today. The fact that most people don’t realize that is the proof.
At first Canada’s strategy was to simply ignore INM in the hopes that it would play itself out. But when the stakes were raised, after INM emboldened the AFN who promised to support Chief Spence and her goal of a meeting with “leadership”, Canada was forced to action.
Harped finally announced that a meeting would take place; but still, it ignored INM. As far as Harper was concerned, the meeting was nothing more than a continuation of the Crown-First Nations Gathering, a meeting that Canada was more than happy to organize.
As soon as Friday’s meeting ended, that changed. Suddenly, the government was taking about INM, but only in the context of the Sarnia blockade against which, you may recall, an Ontario Superior Court judge recently issued an injunction order. It was a warning that the media quickly followed up labeling many of the people who kept protesting after the meeting “hard-liners” and predicting that protests would intensify.
This was in part designed to build resentment against INM, to establish a basis for police action, and encourage the divisions that appeared after the press started shaking their finger at Chief Spence (and earlier than that, when people started trying to figure out who was leading INM).
More divisions appeared on the day of the meeting, but that was all on the AFN. They weren’t up to the challenge of dealing with Canada, and many of us knew it. That’s why people tried to blockade the meeting.
That deserves a second remark. On Thursday, Atleo was asked about the leadership dispute and the AFN’s role in the meeting. He responded by chiding INM, saying, ‘well this is what they wanted’ (paraphrasing). I don’t know about you but I never supported or agreed to AFN sitting at the table. I wanted fair leadership representation. More to the point, I wanted a group of people who wouldn’t settle for less.
One meeting may not be able to accomplish much, but, in the very least, it could’ve brought an end to C-45. Canada just had to say yes and follow through. Instead, they said No, and the AFN let it slide.
I can think of just one more thing to say: since Idle No More’s concerns were not addressed by this recent meeting, it’s best to act like the meeting never happened and instead strengthen and nurture the core of the Idle No More movement. If it’s to become radicalized than sobeit, but we have to keep a firm eye on our purpose, the whole reason we have stood up: our rights, our needs, our customs and traditions, our economies and our ability to live as distinct Nations.
It may also be a good idea to define a specific list of demands that require action on part of the government like a moratorium on the passage of any further bills; modification of any of the bills that will infringe on constitutionally recognized rights and the implementation of the recommendations that came out of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Really though, we can ask for ANYTHING we want. We’re only limited by our creativity, our hopes, and our pure strength of will.
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