A Tiger's Stripes Don't Change . . . Even When its Name Does
"Stephen Harper and the so-called new Conservative Party,
do not offer Canadians a truly reasonable,
or acceptable alternative to
the federal Liberals"
News and Comment - Copyright
Tehaliwaskenhas - Bob Kennedy, Oneida
Publisher, Turtle Island Native Network
June 1, 2004
Facing Facts is Not Fear Mongering
A few days ago I visited the web site of the Conservative Party of Canada to find out what their policy is on Aboriginals. There was only a paragraph.
Today I re-visited their web site, hoping they had taken the time to expand on this important subject. In fact, what I found was nothing. Even the sparse reference I read previously, had now disappeared altogether. There was a large list of issues of concern, but nowhere did they mention Aboriginals or First Nations.
Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is wearing a mask. However, for Aboriginals it is a transparent one.
The fact he leads a political group bearing a different name, cannot shroud his history and that of his far right-of-centre followers, or their philosophy on how the country should be run.
Stephen Harper was with the Reform Party, then became the leader of the Canadian Alliance, the successor to the Reform Party.
It's important to keep an eye on members of Harper's new right-wing team, and what history they bring with them. For example, Walter Robinson, who is running in the riding of Ottawa - Orleans. He has most recently served as the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
We know what that group stands for - assimilation, thanks to their Aboriginal Centre's call for the elimination of reserve communities, by transferring ownership of reserve land to Indian band members, and then have them pay taxes. They also favour referendums. (Remember BC's anti-aboriginal Treaty Referendum).
As well, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is responsible for pushing a petition for a plebiscite, on the issue of setting up of an Urban Reserve in Winnipeg. The CTF wants to halt the creation of any more reserves in cities. This also is the group that forcefully fought against Treaty 8's court case to protect their treaty and tax exemption rights. [Read what the National Chief said to provide these people with a First Nations Reality Check.]
LET'S NOT FORGET!
To appreciate what's really going on in the country's political arena these days, we must reflect back on Canadian politics of the past ten years. To help us do this, I offer you some fascinating, and revealing notable notes, and quotable quotes.
Remember what the Canadian Alliance said just four years ago? (before it bulldozed its way into becoming the new Conservative Party, and slipped into the disguise of a reasonable alternative to the Liberals).
During the 2000 federal election campaign, courtesy of the Alliance Hall of Shame, we learned that Canada's ignorance of self, knew no bounds. Witness the following frightening comments by some right wingers who wished they ran this country.
MP David Chatters on Aboriginal people: "The Europeans came to this country 300 years ago and opened it up and settled it and because we didn't kill the Indians and have Indian wars, that doesn't mean we didn't conquer these people. If they weren't in fact conquered, then why did they allow themselves to be herded into little reserves on the most isolated, desolate, worthless parts of the country." David Chatters is seeking re-election.
Chateauguay candidate Ricardo Lopez: "I think that all the Indians should all be sent to Labrador, to all live together in peace and leave us in peace."
In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a Canadian Alliance candidate Brian Fitzpatrick, said he was just trying to break the tension at an all-candidates' forum, when he joked that he didn't have to worry about being scalped, because he was bald. Fitzpatrick is hoping to be re-elected.
THEY SAID WHAT?
Intolerance is something that has stuck like crazy, to the personna of the political 'right' in Canada.
Consider the fact that AIDS in Aboriginal communities is spreading, unfortunately faster than the necessary information that would aid in its prevention.
Garry Breitkreuz, the Alliance MP for Yorkton - Melville, Sask., said AIDS education programs should be stopped on the grounds that AIDS education causes AIDS.
In the 2004 federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada is fielding a complete set of Candidates in all 308 ridings in the country, including Garry Breitkreuz who thinks he should be re-elected.
Flashback to the year 1994 when some Canadians elected Reform Party members to represent their interests. One of my favourite nominees to the Hall of Shame, was Reform MP Herb Grubel, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University.
As for Aboriginals, he described them as spoiled: "All of us - it is a human condition - dream about having a rich uncle who pays us a guaranteed, generous income so we can retire somewhere on some south sea island and be happy ever after...We have refused to give in to our children, yet we have been misguided when in the past we have given in to the demands of the native community to give them more physical goods, to allow them to live on their south sea island equivalent." [June 9, 1994 House of Commons.]
Then leader Preston Manning, asked Grubel to publicly apologize for his remarks but said at a subsequent Reform meeting, "You know if you listen closely to what Herb said you'll see that there's nothing I nor any other reasonable person could disagree with."
As a Member of Parliament, Grubel said Canada's immigration policy was bad for the country. Grubel is an immigrant. Before coming to Canada, he had worked for the apartheid government of South Africa during the 1980's, consulting on how to get around international sanctions. As a consultant more recently, he has provided advice to the Fraser Institute, one of Stephen Harper's policy guides.
Imagine if these people were running the government in 1995 when Dudley George was killed during the Ipperwash assault by police. At that time Reform MPs repeatedly demanded more force be used at the Ipperwash protest. Hyping the situation, Reform MP Dick Harris said on October 19, 1995, the protestors had "drawn arms against our country", even though a subsequent court case found the protestors were unarmed, and a police officer was convicted of negligence causing death. Harris is running in Cariboo-Prince George, as part of Harper's team.
In fairness, outrageous remarks, and stupid statements are the exception, and not the mainstay of Stephen Harper and friends. In fact, they do have strategic policies, and I believe those policies are what constitute the really scary tale, about what these guys have to offer Canadians.
It might be argued that the Conservative Party of Canada is not the Canadian Alliance, so we should not be fearful.
However, my fear is that the new party's policies DO mirror those the Alliance promoted in 2000. "No more affirmative action quotas. For seventy years the federal public service hired on the basis of merit. But in 1995 the Liberals introduced a system of preferential hiring based on gender, race and ethnicity quotas. Such practices run counter to the values of fairness and equality cherished by Canadians."
Is that really true?
Stephen Harper is quick to refer to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when he promises to deal with concerns about equality, for people living on reserves of First Nation communities. If he paid attention, he would know this issue is being addressed by First Nations themselves, in their self-government agreements. [For example, the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement that recently became law. It apparently is a deal Harper can live with, at least during an election campaign.]
At times it might seem to the unitiated, that the position of the new conservatives is confusing and rather muddy, even amongst themselves.
[We've this scenario before. They really do want to end any special status for aboriginals, but for now they'll settle for mixed messages.]
Surprisingly, in the House of Commons, Harper voted in favour of the Westbank agreement.
The bad news was that the only MPs opposed to it, were from his own party. They attacked the agreement, but true to form, their arguments were based on misinformation, and wrong assumptions about First Nations. All those naysayers from BC are seeking re-election. Obviously, they have their own agenda.
I believe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an integral aspect of the Canadian Constitution, is threatened by the Conservative Party of Canada and their mantra of Equal Rights.
Their plan is to get rid of affirmative action programs, and multiculturalism programs.
Do you think Stephen Harper really doesn't know, that under the heading of Equality Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights specifically protects Affirmative action programs?
Here's a reminder, Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law, " 15.(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. [Affirmative action programs](2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."
*The philosophy of Reform/Alliance/Conservative Party/ of equal treatment for all Canadians, also means that as a government you should not do anything to deal with inequality. Huh? It is an argument of economists - there always will be winners and losers in the free marketplace championed by right-wingers.
If we attack the 'right', we are accused of fear mongering. However, I believe Canadians, and Aboriginals especially are threatened by the 'new' Conservative Party, because if they form a government, they will take big shears to Canada's social safety net.
Earlier this year, Statistics Canada reported the gap between rich and poor has continued to widen, with Aboriginals, recent immigrants, and single-parent families at the greatest risk of living in poverty. The report showed that the top 10 per cent of the country's wealthiest families had a substantial gain in pre-tax income - to an annual average of $131,000 in 2000 from $111,400 in 1980. In sharp contrast, Canada's poorest 10 per cent of families, saw average income rise just $800 - to $21,700 in 2000 from $20,900 two decades earlier.
With that in mind, we need to acknowledge that these right wing "Conservatives" are only interested in championing the political needs of their friends, the well-to-do members of society, who likely form the nucleus of party membership.
Compassion for human beings is not a value enunciated by Stephen Harper and those who embrace his kind of policies.
For example, in response to a motion in the House of Commons regarding more Native housing, MP Mike Scott once said, if people on reserves didn't like their housing they should move, and that all kinds of people wanted to live in nicer housing but they "pursue their own dreams and aspirations using their own resources." Scott is seeking re-election.
At the same time as they promise to negotiate self government, and respect Aboriginal Rights, the right-wing conservatives say they would legislate that individuals own the land and not the First Nation community. "Aboriginal Canadians on reserves live with the corruption and economic desperation that accompanies insecure rights to property."
Stephen Harper said recently, "As a concrete measure, I would seek to expand the use of “Certificates of Possession” for Aboriginal home ownership."
Considering all the documented put downs and remarks, there is much irony in the charge by the 'right' that it is racist policy to try to level the playing field for Aboriginals, by so-called race-based programs such as an Aboriginal Fishery. Of course, they fail to recognize their own real racism, and their denial of Constitutional rights, Canadian law and court affirmed rights. MP John Cummins, one of those adamantly opposed to Aboriginal Rights, is seeking re-election.
Jerry White, Chair and professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario warns, "The biggest change would probably come if the Conservatives come into power. They talk about reviewing the funding relationship between government and Aboriginal Canada. The party has a history of wishing to move away from special relationships or rights for Aboriginal peoples. They argue that special treatment is unequal treatment which has raised the concerns of First Nations particularly concerning treaty rights."
According to our friend Tony Hall of the University of Lethbridge, the Aboriginal policies of 'the right' are not based on ignorance. Far from it. He contends there is a great degree of delibracy in their efforts to rid Canada of Aboriginal Peoples.
"Tom Flanagan, who was born and educated in the United States, is one of the leading advocates of importing into Canada of some of the main legacies of the American Indian wars."
"Flanagan is the author of First Nations? Second Thoughts, a volume sponsored by the right-wing Donner Canadian Foundation. Throughout the text Flanagan defends those chapters of US and Canadian Indian policy based on the historic paradigm of civilization's ascent over the imagined Aboriginal savagery of North America. He thus defends and promotes all schemes right up to the present day that treat First Nations communities as backward anachronisms whose most positive fate would be to break up and disappear in the natural course of progress. This position leads Flanagan to laud the Indian residential schools and the various forms of enfranchisement legislation designed with the explicit aim of terminating the distinct existence of Aboriginal societies. These instruments of assimilation were necessary, Flanagan argues, because "the Old World was five thousands years ahead of the New World on the path of civilization."
Flanagan is a University of Calgary Political Scientist who was the chief policy advisor to the Alliance leader, Stephen Harper. Flanagan is Senior Advisor to the Conservative Leader and National Campaign Chair for the Conservative Party. (It is just a matter of months since the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties merged).
Old Habits Die Hard
February 27, 2004 newspaper headline, "Harper letter mistakes aboriginals for Indo-Canadians 'Columbus made the same mistake, but that was 500 years ago'." This referred to a letter from Harper sent to the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, "Greetings on the Occasion of India's National Day". Stephen Harper chalked it up as a minor clerical error. Because of Harper's apparent interest in U.S. style taxes and policies, perhaps we should remind him that July 4th is not Canada Day.
Reform, Alliance, New Conservatives? Let's face it, a tiger's stripes don't change . . . even when its name does.
Do you want someone who thinks the way these reformers do, to be in charge of Canada?
Stephen Harper and the so-called new Conservative Party, do NOT offer Canadians a truly reasonable, or acceptable alternative to the federal Liberals.
Even Joe Clark, who led the former Progressive Conservative Party for more than ten years, has appealed to members of his former party to vote for Paul Martin . . . not Stephen Harper. He warned that a Harper victory would pull the government back from the defence of equality, and the defence of aboriginals.
Joe Clark sees through the Harper mask. I hope Canadians will too.