Following violence this past week, the First Nations group is deserting camp at the site of disputed lands in rural Ontario. Although for one gleaming moment it looked like an agreement was on the way, what former Ontario Premier David Peterson has described as “heartbreaking” ( CBC News 2006) developments have once again stood in the way of reconciliation between Native and non-Native groups. The violence broke out this past Monday as a non-Native counter-protest group barricaded the opposite side of the line, pointing out that they were “just treating them the same way they’re treating us “? refusing them access to various things, like, ‘We’re not allowed over there? OK, you can’t come over here.’ ” (Ibid.). Police had to break up several resulting clashes between the protestors.
You may recall that several weeks ago (Gardner 2006), Clan Mothers involved in the land dispute made the demand that “The Six Nations are distinct original nations. We are to be dealt with on a nation-to-nation basis by the Crown and all other nations.” On first consideration, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable demand, since we all have drummed into our guilt-banks the fact that the state of Canada was forced onto the Native inhabitants of our land. They certainly deserve separate status on that count. But the counter-protestors raise an interesting point, is it fair for Natives to demand separate status from Canada while simultaneously demanding more support from the Canadian government? Canada gives Native groups land, money, assistance in building an economic structure and in fact has created the northern territories solely for the purpose that such indigenous people perceive their culture and heritage are formally protected.
The fact that our current and immediately previous governments have failed in their responsibilities to Natives is, for the moment, beside the point. Native groups in Canada are part of Canada and are Canadians, because they are (ideally speaking) woven into the vast fabric of a welfare country. Mother Canada provides. If you’ve been cheated out of your property, then by all means, protest and let us all know. But don’t pretend you don’t belong in our country just because you’re angry. That’s unfair. Maybe it’s time that we all get over being angry at the government and also the perspective that the best option is running away from the government. Natives, Newfoundlanders, Albertans, Quebecers — when are we all going to grow up and start working as a coherent team?
CBC news staff (2006, May 23). Aboriginal protestors remove Caledonia blockade. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/05/23/caledonia-monday.html
Gardner, M. (2006, April 28). Six Nations land claim dispute reaches climax after 156 years. The Voice, vol. 14, issue 16. Retrieved from http://www.voicemagazine.org/search/searchdisplay.php?ART=4677