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A bouquet and a brickbat for the Harper government (part one)

Mon, September 10, 2007   |   Author: Ron Gray   |   | Share: Facebook | Twitter   

Since the Harper minority government was elected a year-and-a-half ago, some people have said, "You shouldn't criticize the Conservatives. At least they're better than the Liberals!" And I have to agree that, on a few points, they are better than the Liberals. One example is their recent announcement on Aboriginal land claims: indeed, their proposed solution could have been taken straight from the CHP platform of 12 years ago.

Back then, a dozen years ago, we wrote that for reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, Ottawa must relinquish the paternalistic attitude that has caused problems for a century and a half. We must stop approaching First Nations groups with an attitude that says, "Here is our solution to your problems" (the Liberal stance); and we cannot simply say, "That was then, this is now; get over it" (the old Reform Party stance).

Instead representatives of the First Nations and Ottawa (as the representative of the majority culture) must sit down together as equals and say, "Our failure to honor treaties-often rooted in racist attitudes-has created injustices; but together, we can find a solution that both parties will consider just: a solution that will allow us to proceed into the future as equals."

The creation of an independent claims commission, before which both groups will stand as equals, and with $250 million a year over ten years to use for agreed-upon settlements, is a stroke of statesmanship.

I commend the Harper government for this initiative.

We cannot assume that the creation of the commission is the end of problems; there are still pockets of racism within Canada, and the eradication of those attitudes is a matter of education. And on the First Nations side, there are pockets of bitterness, and the unresolved issue of who should speak for the Native people of Canada-the elected band councils or the hereditary leadership; that's a problem the First Nations themselves must resolve.

That's our bouquet. Watch next week's Communiqué for Part Two.



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