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Silence, Sacrifice and Shame
By Nokomis Opichi
March 19th, 2013
I believe we can do better. We must summon up the courage and vision for innovation in order to turn our economy around. I believe that for the sake of our planet and our children we need to find a better way to build an economy that doesn’t rely on extracting every single natural resource available to us. We can build a country with sustainable communities and ecosystems that leave a legacy for generations to come. I believe we can provide an excellent standard of living for all and that we have a duty to speak out and end our silence on economic matters.
We live in an economic model based on capitalism and competition and the myth of a free market economy. Adam Smith’s 18th century philosophy cannot help us in the 21st century. Smith told us that individuals pursuing their own interest will frequently promote the good of society more so than when they set out and intend to promote it.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self- interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”
The invisible hand that is supposed to guide the free market economy to societal good seems to have disappeared. We are hewing wood and drawing water as fast as we can with no end in sight. We are exuberantly seeking out markets for our raw natural resources. We want to provide China and the UK with uranium to fill their energy needs and we want the USA to buy our oil. We are keen on attracting foreign capital and investment to help us build the means for increased extraction. We seem to have a desire to open as many mines as possible and extract every last mineral for market and consumption. We are hell bent on wringing every last nickel out of the soil that we can in record time. We even go so far as to allow mine staking to be done online. One need not even set foot on the ground to stake a claim.
We did have relative means for value added manufacturing but we have watched that crumble. Indeed we have not moved very far since the days of the beaver trade, and the beaver wars. The economic gap between the rich and the poor is growing daily. I can see no evidence of an invisible hand except for the hand that keeps smacking the impoverished around.
The OECD says Canada’s economy is in a funk and may no longer be a leader among the other G7 industrialized nations in terms of growth. The federal government has long boasted that Canada’s growth was tops among the Group of Seven industrialized economies following the 2008-09 recession. But Canada’s growth has been losing steam amid declining prices for key resource exports as well as a slower real estate market and other domestic factors.
Predictions all point to a sluggish economy in 2013. For most of us this means watching and worrying about what the future holds for us. We wonder if we will have jobs, be able to make our mortgage payments, pay off that student loan and hold our cars together to fend off those interminable car payments. We worry about our children. We wonder what standard of living will be available to them. We wonder what climate catastrophes await.
I heard a story this weekend about farmers in the Alberta oil fields. Farms are being negatively impacted by the production of oil and the waste by products resulting from this activity. Many of the farmers remain silent and are reluctant to complain mostly because it is their very own children who work in the oil sector (due to the decline in farm income) and they are worried their complaints may jeopardize the only livelihood these kids will know. It is hard to imagine that oil development and farming could co-exist. One farmer however, did have the courage to speak out after being driven from his home due to contamination.
There are no regulations on heated bitumen products. The carcinogens coming off those tanks are just crazy,” says 50-year-old Carmen Langer, who worked in the industry for two decades.
His ranch, located 27 kilometres north of Peace River, is surrounded by hundreds of wells and hundreds of bitumen storage tanks.
“Three generations built this farm and now industry pollution is taking it away from us,” says Langer, who recently sold his cattle. “We’re done. I won’t sell my home contaminated. We’re not that kind of people.”
I admire his courage but yet I have to comment on the silence of the many. This silence and sacrifice by these farmers on behalf of their children is at the heart of something deep and difficult for all of us. These farmers will stand by today and watch quietly as their ground water systems are polluted in order that their children will work and put bread on the table today.
There are so many layers here, that I hardly know where to begin to explain how troublesome I find this. First, we have an industrial extraction threatening our food supply, we have a corporate driven threat to our personal relationships and we are bound and complicit in our silence. Secondly we are abrogating our responsibility to the seven generations yet to come. We are being pitted against one another in our struggle for survival today and this is anti-thesis to collectivity and cooperation for a sustainable future. We are all looking out for our own, but then again this is the basis for a capitalistic society which encourages individualistic approaches to wealth accumulation and private ownership of property, capital and the means of production.
There are many, and this is just one of the pressures that we live with, in this competitive, capitalistic, resource based economy. Fear of poverty, hunger and reprisals means we should just keep our mouth shut. We lock ourselves in a prison of silence because of our fear. Our love for our children is in this case our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. But we are looking at our children now only in isolation of other children and even with a view that excludes our own grandchildren and great grandchildren not yet born. We have a profoundly myopic view of who our children are. We act as if other children are not our children.
We are responding to the pressures of an economy based in resource extraction in the only way that we can, with fear. We know that resources are finite and we are afraid as we watch shovelfuls of our earth being hauled away. It is evident to me that this type of capitalism relies on excluding people from the lands and isolating people from each other. We need to be brave enough to cast off this cloak of shame and end our silence. If we are to sacrifice ourselves and our dignity for the benefit of the next generation we must have courage. We must have the courage to speak out and end the oppression of this silence that is motivated by fear. If we are going to sacrifice, let’s make it count.
“There’s a deep wound in people – that they have been so cut off from the source of their being, their mother, their Earth Mother.”- Francis Story Talbott II (Medicine Story), WAMPANOAG
Love you and hope to talk to you again soon, Nokomis Opichi (My Grandmother Robin)
LORRAINE REKMANS IS NOKOMIS OPICHI, A MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER OF ALGONQUIN AND FRENCH DESCENT. SHE LIVES IN OSGOODE WITH HER FAMILY.
SERIOUSLY? CAN WE TALK?
By Nokomis Opichi
I was born the year that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. That was 50 years ago. Her book was touted as the platform for the launch of the second wave of feminism in North America. Her book was an examination of the general unhappiness of women in North America and she theorised that women were generally unhappy because they were living lives unfulfilled and were cast only into roles of housewife, wife and mother.
Friedan shows that the editorial decisions concerning women’s magazines at the time were being made mostly by men, who insisted on stories and articles that showed women as either happy housewives or unhappy, neurotic careerists, thus creating the “feminine mystique”—the idea that women were naturally fulfilled by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers. Friedan notes that this is in contrast to the 1930s, at which time women’s magazines often featured confident and independent heroines, many of whom were involved in careers.
I am taken by the long period of time that this book has been around and I find I cannot let the anniversary of this book pass without comment. We have just celebrated International Women’s Day. The first national Women’s Day was observed in 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. That was 104 years ago. My how time flies, even Barbie is turning 54 this year.
I like many women who are of a certain age want to reflect on what this all means. What does it mean to celebrate being a woman, now in 2013, given the history over the last 100 years or so? There is certainly much that can be said about the successes and failures of feminist activism. There are blogs and blogs needed to explore this issue but I choose now to confine my comments to what I Know and see in my life at this time, now that I am nearer to 50. I will explain how I interpret what society is telling me through the media about who I am and what I should be concerned about.
Like many women who were born 50 years ago in North America, I consider myself to be the beneficiary of feminist activism. My role models were my mother, grandmother, Maude, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett. I could include Margaret Thatcher because she was a famous political figure in the news as I was growing up. I saw all these women as strong and capable women. They were smart, they were funny, they were savvy and tough and they walked in a man’s world.
I didn’t grow up reading the Feminine Mystique or any other feminist literature because it simply was not available to me. Most of what I learned about being a woman I learned from the women in my life, the women on television and the women in the news.
I like to look back nostalgically at those times and marvel at how strong those women were. My grandmother could chop wood, haul water, weave baskets and knead the fluffiest bread in the world yet I remember how soft the pads of her fingertips were when she touched me. But, when she had the axe in her hands and heaved down onto it as it sliced into a piece of firewood, I thought she was a fierce warrior to be reckoned with. I believed her and trusted her and saw what she could do.
I guess by telling you this, I am admitting to some cultural perspective (Indigenous) that I have on issues as they relate to women. I mean sometimes watching and listening to the debates about women’s issues is different for all of us depending on where we hail from. I will not discuss the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in this blog. But I do have to mention it to give some context to the world that we women live in. I will say though, that times are tough for women in this country today despite whatever gains were made through activism and perhaps my comments in this blog on society’s views of women will seem trivial given the fact that so many of our sisters have been taken from us. But nonetheless, I have to comment on how things are now for most of us.
Last year, the World Economic Forum revealed that Canada had slipped three spots compared to 135 other countries in terms of gender equality. In fact, we have dropped from the world’s Top 20 countries mainly because of low female representation in politics. Canada is now 21st – behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua.
There are many prongs to the discussion about women and their place in the world in 2013, but I only want to talk about one of them in this blog and I hope to keep it short.
So, let me begin. I suffer from hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. You can read about most of the symptoms and their causes on Google. That is exactly where I went when I wanted to read about hormones and how they change and what to expect, and how to mitigate some of the symptoms of menopause. Excuse me a minute, it feels like I am coming out of the menopausal closet. I am a little embarrassed. Okay, now I am fine. I am an adult and I am part of a growing population of women on this continent who are in menopause. There are currently 47 million women that are in the “menopausal” age demographic in North America experiencing varying symptoms of menopause.
Once, I went to the pharmacist who was a woman, and I asked for something to alleviate hot flashes. She did appear to be older than me, so I thought she would understand. Instead she whispered quietly, “I’ve heard that happens.”
I thought, to myself, “you have got to be kidding me lady. Don’t tell me that it’s still taboo to talk about, sleep deprivation, hot flashes, night sweats, dry vaginas and heart palpitations. “
It wasn’t so much that she was making it sound taboo, as it was that she was offering me some kind of sympathy for the fact that I was in menopause and my goose was cooked, my jig was up, and I was ready for a one piece day-dress with a zipper down the front.
I have to say I was as flabbergasted as Maude would have been. “Oh come on Mrs. Naugatuck, you don’t me to tell me that your vagina never felt like the Sahara desert after a sandstorm!”
Frankly, I was peeved. So back to Google I went. I searched high and low and read articles that made me see red. It was the only red I have seen in a long while since I stopped menstruating. Really, there were articles upon articles about how I could still be attractive, and sexual and hot. Seriously, I am tired of being hot and was really looking for ways to cool down. There were creams and suppositories and patches with synthetic and bioidentical hormones and such. It went on and on and on and the entire focus of most articles was really only about how I could still be a sexualized woman. I felt really ripped off. I expected a lot more in this day and age of information. I felt ripped off and expected more after 100 years of celebrating women.
I thought to myself, that menopause is more than about sexuality. I wanted information about my body and how I was going to live with my new body now that it is changing. In puberty, we are told that our bodies change and that we are getting ready to reproduce. I wanted to know what my body was getting ready for now. I am assuming that my body is not getting ready to die. I am assuming that as a woman, my body is preparing for a new woman’s role, however, according to the articles I found, the only thing I should be getting ready for was a man hunt in a competition with some 20-year old woman.
I went to my doctor and talked about menopause. My doctor suggested some sort of cream. I read the list of side effects and was alarmed. It seems that these estrogen creams increase the chance of endometrial cancer in women who have been through menopause. I dug out my magnifying glasses to read the long list of side effects which include, ovarian and breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, dementia, deep venous thrombosis. I had to say, “no thanks.”
Okay, so fine. Right now there is a ton of information about menopause, and how to still be sexy. Ironically you can be “hot” during menopause and you can douse yourself with death inducing creams to lubricate your vagina. Another thing you can be is riled. You can lack patience for idiocy and you can see bullshit a mile away. You have the wisdom and experience to see right through the superficial and materialistic garbage that is being sold to you. Right now, I want information. I want inspiration. I want to get ready for the new and valuable role I can play as a woman. Assuring my sexuality at this point seems frivolous. As a woman who raised a family and had a career and worked for social and environmental justice, I want to know what can I do now to make this a better world for my grandchildren, and I suspect that the moisture levels of my vagina are not going to factor big into the work I am preparing to do.
So far, the only thing I have read that gives me hope is Dr. Christine Northrup’s book The Wisdom of Menopause and her discussion about hormones and our shift from Maiden, to Mother to Crone. In her book she talks about the change from a caregiver role to one of an inward focused assessment of life and its meaning. She explains that this is a stage where women re-examine the agreements surrounding their relationships with colleagues, friends, and family members, and society. She begins a real discussion about menopause and a woman’s emotional and spiritual development and gives me hope that we are growing and maturing.
Dr. Northrup explains that this stage is a mind/body revolution that brings the greatest opportunity for growth since adolescence. I am excited. I say bring it on and give me more information. In her work she references Celtic cultures where, the young maiden was seen as the flower; the mother, the fruit; the elder woman, the seed. The seed is the part that contains the knowledge and potential of all the other parts within it. It seems the role of postmenopausal woman is to go forth and reseed the community with her concentrated kernel of truth and wisdom. Ladies, I think things are gonna start heating up around here and I am not talking about climate change. With 47 million women in North America coming into their age of wisdom, things could get really exciting. It’s nearly spring and I have some gardening to begin.
Love you and hope to talk to you again soon, Nokomis Opichi (My Grandmother Robin)
LORRAINE REKMANS IS NOKOMIS OPICHI, A MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER OF ALGONQUIN AND FRENCH DESCENT. SHE LIVES IN OSGOODE WITH HER FAMILY.
It seems that sometimes colonial thinking and indoctrination clouds our view of the past and the present. I was at a Pow Wow recently where the community offered recognition and honour to a number of different flags. Of course the Canadian Flag was there along with the Union Jack. The announcer explained that the Union Jack was the first flag of this land.
I wanted to jump up and shout “no”, because we must remember our complete history as Anishnabek. If we want to honour flags, and our history we should also be flying the French flag at our Pow Wows to acknowledge our history and all of our relationships including those that Anishnabek had with the French. Our history does not begin with the advent of British colonialism. Our history predates this colony and the Union Jack and the French flag too for that matter, however, perhaps rediscovering our own true history as Anishnabek means peeling back layers of historical information like an onion, just one layer at a time. If we go back one layer just past the Union Jack we will find the Fleur- de-lis.
In the beginning of the 1600’s Champlain made contact and formed friendly relations with the Huron, the Algonquin, the Montagnais and the Etchemin, but before that we can safely assume that Canada’s first flag was flown by the Genoese explorer, John Cabot, in 1497. Since he was financed by a British syndicate, England’s banner (St. George’s Cross) flew over the new land. Just a few decades later, Jacques Cartier, arrived bearing the Fleur-de-lis of France. The Fleurs-de-lis was the first heraldic emblem raised in Canada. On July 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier landed at Gaspé and erected a cross, affixed with the symbol of his sovereign and the royal house of France. For centuries thereafter, no one could foretell which flag would grace Canadian flag poles.
It is these missing centuries before the Union Jack that we must also remember. Our history of relationships did not begin with the British. In Quebec and Montreal, we are all reminded by the slogan, “Je me souviens”. They do remember. That is what makes them distinct. They remember the Fleur-de-lis and Samuel Champlain and so should we. We shouldn’t forget this story of this remarkable man who dreamed of humanity and peace in a world driven by violence. He was a man that dreamed of a Canada that would be founded on harmony and respect.
In Champlain’s Dream, writer David Hackett Fischer tells us the story of Samuel de Champlain and how he grew up in a country bitterly divided by religious wars and as a result became a powerful advocate for tolerance. In the place he called Quebec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, he founded the first European settlement in Canada, where he dreamed that Europeans and Indigenous peoples would cooperate for mutual benefit. He dreamt of building a relationship that was equitable and cooperative unlike the relationship Anishnabek now have with the British Crown.
Champlain traveled through six Canadian provinces and five American states, negotiating with more than a dozen Indigenous nations, encouraging intermarriage among the French colonists and the original peoples. He tried constantly to maintain a balance of power among the Indian nations and his Indian allies, but, when he had to he took up arms with them and against them.
History tells us that he was a war-weary soldier with a dream of humanity and peace in a world of cruelty and violence. He envisioned a new world as a place where people of different cultures could live together in amity and concord. This became his grand design for North America. This is worth remembering when we take up flags.
Champlain was not a solitary dreamer. There were a number of French humanists who came to North America with him. It is the essence of Champlain’s dream that we must remember when we begin to fly the Fleur- de-lis. Aside from the dream, our historical realities are wrapped up in this particular flag. It is a reminder of our economic relationships with the French and our role as key players in the fur trade and in the founding of a nation. We must remember our equitable positions as players in a world of commerce, trade and networking. We must remember the alliances between the Algonquin and the Montagnais. We must remember that we are not only the hunter/gathers acknowledged in the British treaties, but we must remember our history as world traders and negotiators and strategists in a new world of commerce.
The Algonquin first met Europeans when Samuel de Champlain came upon a party led by the Kitcisìpirini Chief Tessouat at Tadoussac in eastern present-day Quebec, in the summer of 1603. The first Algonquian encountered by the French were the Kitcisìpiriniwak (“Ottawa River Men”; singular: Kitcisìpirini), whose village was located on Allumette island in the Ottawa River. The French called this group La Nation de l’Isle. Today they are known as the Kichespirinni Algonquin.
Champlain wrote about his encounters with the Algonquins at Allumette Island on the Ottawa River. The Algonquin were collecting tolls from the people who passed along the river which was a long-important highway for commerce, cultural exchange, and transportation. They would charge people such as the Hurons for going up or down the Ottawa River. No one was allowed to pass without paying tolls. The tolls would be such things as furs or corn. Champlain wrote extensively about the lucrative trade that the Algonquin’s had with the other nations. The history of charging tolls demonstrates jurisdiction, governance and advanced institutional practices in international relations.
Champlain also wrote about the agricultural practices of the Algonquin society and encouraged the colonists to plant and cultivate corn, beans and squash, the famous Three Sisters of Indigenous horticulture, in order to ensure the survival of the colonies. The agricultural practices that colonists tried to mimic were an Algonquin contribution made in the spirit of sharing and coexistence to the founding of what is now called Canada. The French understood the necessity of a symbiotic relationship with the original peoples and advocated for ways to live together that were mutually beneficial. That is what this flag should symbolize.
Archaeological sites on Morrison Island near Pembroke, within the territory of the Kitcisìpiriniwak, reveal a 1,000-year-old culture that manufactured copper tools and weapons. Copper ore was extracted north of Lake Superior and and distributed down to today’s northern New York. The evidence of copper artifacts, trade, commerce and innovation in our ancestral communities breathes life into a flag that flew when our ancestors were free trading partners with the French. I think that is something worth remembering at our Pow Wows when we raise the flags.
August 10th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
August 10th, 2010, Ottawa - Yesterday marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day was flagged every year during the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples beginning in 1994 as declared by the United Nations. This occasion was to be used by the UN to draw attention to indigenous issues and societies. It represents an opportunity for Governments, non-governmental organizations and other interested groups to organize activities which raise awareness about indigenous peoples and their cultures.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo marked August 9, by calling on Canada to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work with First Nations peoples to implement the Declaration.
“I am surprised that the newly appointed Minister of Indian Affairs, John Duncan did not make any public statements acknowledging the day, especially since the government of Canada announced in its Speech from the Throne in March, that it would consider signing the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted in his speech yesterday that there is no room for complacency when it comes to acknowledging the rights of Indigenous peoples. The lack of any public statement by the Honourable John Duncan yesterday does seem complacent,” said Aboriginal Affairs Critic for the Green Party, Lorraine Rekmans.
“Indigenous peoples in Canada are still living under historical patterns of oppression which infringe on basic human rights. The long delay in this government’s efforts to comply with the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling is a prime example,” said Rekmans.
The government was ordered to correct a law that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in April 2009 that two sections of the Indian Act discriminate against aboriginal women. The court gave the federal government an extension to comply with their order by July. Now the federal government has asked for another extension until January 2011. The B.C. Court of Appeal has agreed to that request, but warned the federal government that a violation of the Charter of Rights is a serious matter that must be dealt with quickly.
“I hope Minister Duncan’s silence yesterday is not indicative of things to come,” said Rekmans. “This portfolio is one of the key issues in Canada and Indigenous leaders are anxious to hear what this new Minister’s thoughts are.”
“This international day is a reminder of how far there is to go to bring justice and dignity to the lives of Indigenous peoples. It’s also a reminder that Canada appears reluctant to move forward on these issues by its silence and refusal to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Rekmans.
“I marked the day by reflecting on the gaps in Canadian policy. I hope that Canada is faithful to its commitment to human rights and decides to fully implement the Declaration. This must be the focus of the Minister’s attention.”
August 10th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
I watched with interest as people lined up in cities across Canada to purchase their new iPhone 4. In the US more than 1.7 million iPhone 4’s were sold in the first three days.
Without rare earth elements, we would have no iPhones! Rare Earth Elements (Dysprosium – Makes electric motor magnets 90% lighter, Terbium – Makes electric lights 80% more efficient, Neodymium – Used in motor magnets, Lanthanum – Used for hydrogen storage, Praseodymium – Used in lasers and ceramic materials, Gadolinium – Used to manufacture computer memory, Erbium – Used in the manufacture of vanadium steel, Ytterbium – Used to make infrared lasers) are mined from the earth in dirty mining operations.
What consumers don’t realize is that they are part and parcel of a system that participates in environmental degradation and social injustice. As of April 2010, Apple, Inc. sold 50 million iPhones and 35 million iPod Touches. The owners of these 85 million devices are now standing in line waiting to buy the new technology creating a demand for the purchase and security of these Rare Earth Elements (REE). I imagine their used iPhones will likely end up in landfills as well.
“Coming primarily from China, rare earth metals like dysprosium and terbium are mined largely by criminal gangs who dominate the heavy metal mining industry. Because nearly all of the world’s supply of these metals is contained in China, the industry lacks any significant regulation. Gang owners are known for savagely tearing apart large swaths of land and leaving behind destructive acid solvents that ruin farmland and pollute rivers, streams and lakes.” – Natural News, Februray 14th, 2010
In 2012, China will stop exporting REEs and Canada will need to find alternative sources. This will create environmental burdens and pressure on local ecosystems. My experience tells me it’s usually Indigenous forest based peoples in rural areas of Canada that will have to shoulder the burden for this insatiable demand for what some have called, “the new uranium.” They will be digging in our territories looking for REEs to fill the insatiable need for new toys. Get a grip people.
12 March 2010 – 3:41pm OTTAWA — The Green Party of Canada is pleased that the government is about to introduce Bill C-3 to address gender inequity in the Indian Act. “This legislation marks the first time the Indian Act has been opened in 25 years but it comes again after pressure from Aboriginal women to end discrimination in the Act,” said Green Leader, Elizabeth May. “The Act was amended by Bill C-31 in 1985 when women pressured Indian Affairs to end discrimination.” This new amendment is the result of a 2009 ruling by the British Columbia Court of Appeal that determined that the Act discriminates between men and women. The government was given until April 6th 2010 to make amendments to the Indian Act. The courts ruled that Bill C-31 violates the equality rights guaranteed by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “These changes are needed to ensure that the numbers don’t continue to diminish, but this doesn’t go far enough,” said Lorraine Rekmans, Aboriginal Affairs Critic for the Green Party of Canada. “The Act to determine Indian status needs more than just tinkering. It requires a complete overhaul because it does nothing to address the issues of citizenship or self determination for Indigenous people. Nations have inherent rights to determine their own citizenship in accordance with their own laws, customs and traditions. The irony of this is that the Act is not only steeped in gender discrimination but is in its entirety a racist piece of legislation. So this really is a small change.” It is expected that approximately 45,000 additional persons will become entitled to registration under the Indian Act if Bill C-3 is enacted. “The government needs to ensure that funding is in place to address the needs of these additional people. This amendment will create pressures on the existing resources of First Nations’ communities to provide federal programs and services. This has to be addressed when implementing this amendment,” said Lorraine Rekmans. “While Bill C-31 was initially meant to ensure that many women and their children were entitled to be registered as status Indians, it also created different classes of Indian status, known as 6(1) and 6(2) depending on the section of the Indian Act that applied to a person’s particular situation. “This system was steeped in gender discrimination. It’s a step in the right direction to address inequities but it should be just a beginning,” said Elizabeth May. “This amendment should bring to light the broader issue of the many deficiencies in the Indian Act.” – 30 -
Canada is currently receiving a major dressing down in the international community. This small nation state is the subject of humiliation and ridicule in international forums.
Somewhere, somehow, other nation states got the idea that this small country had bigger britches. We are being held to account for our claims that we were leaders in doing what was right. We are being asked to ante up after making promises too big for us to keep.
This country of just over 33 million had set pretty lofty expectations that we have failed to deliver on.
Andrew Cohen, points out in his book While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World (2003), the various ways in which we have been losing ground in the international community, including the scaling back of international development aid and our meager offerings in peacekeeping forces around the world. In the 1950’s Canada had a robust peacekeeping force which provided missions to the UN and to NATO but that was 60 years ago. In fact today, we have an embarrassing reliance on the US military forces to provide airlift capability for our troops. Without the US, Canada could barely get a contingent out of the country.
Canada’s foreign missions total 164 compared to Germany’s 230. Ten years ago, our Foreign Service department was called “gravely ill”. Today Foreign Service officers are still the most poorly paid professionals in the federal government. It seems we haven’t produced a decent diplomat since the 1950’s, notwithstanding Gary Doer’s appointment to the US embassy. We have been riding quite a while on the coattails of our past international achievements. We have to admit we did get a lot of mileage out of them, but it seems that ride is long over. It just took a while for the citizens to realize how much ground we’ve lost.
Just recently the federal government announced it would end the 35-year history of cooperation between CIDA and KAIROS and its predecessor organizations and quit funding human rights work in the developing world. This follows on the heels of Canada’s refusal to sign the UN International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is topped off with accusations of Canadians being knuckle draggers in the climate change negotiations. We can only hope these negative images don’t last as long as the idealist views that we and others had of us.
The way its citizens view Canada differs greatly from the international perspectives. Canadians hang on, to the Pearson-era vision of Canada and its role as human rights champion. That diplomatic intervention into the Suez crisis, today, seems like the stuff that created the legends of the Knights of the Round Table. We today are really a legend in our own mind.
Canada has lots to be embarrassed about. It was a land filled with promise. This was the place where people dreamed of peaceful co-existence. There is a history that we have forgotten. It is the history of the founding of Canada prior to the sovereignty assertions of the British Crown. But sadly, we have no nationalist or collective vision of our history because its been hived off into provincially run curriculum development. We are the owners of a collection of regional histories that we don’t understand.
John Ralston Saul writes in A Fair Country, that we all need to learn to imagine ourselves differently. Maybe that means seeing ourselves through the eyes of others for a change.
We lived in a land of hopes and dreams and somewhere we got off track. We were ready to be a model for the rest of the world and then we got busy with other things, but not one of us could say what they were. These things that we busied ourselves with were more important than demonstrating the concepts of peace between nations, yet we cannot name them.
Maybe he is right and we need to peel back the layers in order to find ourselves. The rest of the world has taken off its colonial covered glasses and had a real close look at us and we are naked. Our treaties between Canada and the original nations were trampled and ignored, while we pretended to hold the world’s promise at the United Nations. We practiced diplomacy externally but not internally. Samuel Champlain was a master of both.
Aboriginal people in Canada are moving further and further down the scale in the human development index raking at 63rd, compared to Canadian citizens who rank 4th. That is quite a gap. It’s so big that the international community can see the gaping holes. What moral authority could we ever hold in an international forum when we can’t seem to do the right things at home? Canada should be ashamed.
December 16th, 2009 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
In Vision Green we outline where we stand so that Canadians can see we are focused on the environment and the economy. Vision Green presents leading-edge thinking and rational, realistic solutions for all the issues facing Canadians.
Green Party solutions are rational because the Green Party, unlike other parties, understands the scientifically verified limits to growth set by the carrying capacity of our planet. We must work within these limits. Otherwise, we will exhaust resources, degrade our environment and put our economy, health and children’s future at risk.
Our solutions are realistic because they follow “best practices” already in place in parts of Canada or other countries. These practices are cost-effective, deliver results and benefit people, the economy and the environment.
We believe in sound fiscal management and strengthening our economy while ensuring that it is sustainable.
Our shift in attitude will mean true nation-to-nation dialogue and negotiations. It will mean a just accommodation of aboriginal peoples’ aspirations and an equitable sharing of Canada’s natural resources. It will mean full recognition of the cultural, political and economic contributions of First Nations, the Inuit, Innu and Métis people to Canada and an end to the prejudice.
The health of Canada’s population today and in the future depends on the environmentally sustainable production of wholesome food. We must restructure our agricultural markets to sustain farming and provide farm families with a fair share of the consumer food dollar. We want to expand local small-scale agriculture and support a rapid transition to organic agriculture rather than subsidizing costly agro-chemicals, industrial food production and genetically modified crops.
The Green Party will achieve actual reductions in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) through in green tax shifting. We will reduce income taxes and payroll taxes by shifting to pollution-based taxation. A carbon tax is a critical step to getting the prices right, but a Green Government will not rely solely on tax-shifting. We will remove subsidies from the fossil fuel industry, cap extraction levels of coal, oil and gas, and instead offer significant tax incentives and support for energy conservation and renewable energy development
The Green Party believes that we must foster a Green, low-carbon tourism industry and market it responsibly throughout the world. We believe that we must provide exceptional tourist experiences by having the finest National Park system, the best museums and cultural events and the most hospitable service. To do this we as a government will coordinate and guide efforts across the entire country.
Two-thirds of Canada’s plant and animal species live in forests. Large expanses of forest must remain intact to maintain natural habitats and biodiversity. Forests also sustain subsistence hunters and those who seek recreation in the wilderness. Canada cuts about one million hectares of forest a year. We must improve our logging practices and become a world leader in sustainable management of this renewable resource. We must extract more economic value from every tree cut and move quickly towards eliminating raw log exports. Green Party MPs will work to renegotiate trade agreements to encourage more domestic value-added manufacturing by restricting the export of raw logs with a substantial whole log export tax.
The Green Party believes that triple bottom line analysis, measuring social, environmental and economic costs and benefits, must be conducted before approval is given for a mine. We should not be mining products in Canada, like asbestos and uranium that are highly toxic to our environment and to human health. The Green Party will require mine reclamation plans to include detailed plans to deal with acid mine draining and are in place before active mining begins. The Green Party will also provide tax benefits to reward full recycling of metals.
The Green Party of Canada believes it is time to begin important dialogue on a major policy initiative — the use of a negative income tax, or Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) for all. The use of a GLI could eliminate poverty and allow social services to concentrate on problems of mental health and addiction. The essential plan is to provide a regular annual payment to every Canadian. The level of the payment will be regionally set at a level above poverty, but at a level to encourage additional income generation. The Green Party believes it is time to advance bold and controversial ideas, such as this. Nevertheless, it needs time for study, reflection and greater support from all three levels of government. We are committed to opening dialogue on the idea, while pursuing measures to make progress in the near term.
Canada needs effective east-west links in communications, in energy delivery and in transportation. Green Party MP’s will re-establish Canada’s National Dream and re-invest in our national rail systems, building more train cars in Canada, and create green transportation and energy infrastructure corridors in key regions.