Discrimination sucks… (redux)

Newsrooms across Canada are all a-twitter with that story out of Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in southern Quebec. (We’ve already dealt with it here.) Why? Well, it has all the elements the mainstream media (msm) loves. It’s got Indians, racism, discrimination, and a “twist” in the story that gives it “legs” (staying power). If it only had a little sex and drugs why it’d be just so perfect. It almost leaves me breathless. (pant… pant)

This story has been out there since the beginning of February though. That’s more than a week. It’s been difficult to keep interest going, what with the Conservative Government on self-declared parliamentary holiday until next month. But intrepids that they are, reporters finally managed to track down Chuck Strahl, the Conservative Indian Affairs Minister, and Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff. Sadly, I almost wished they hadn’t, given the  pablum both issued on this subject, adding next to nothing to the debate.

Strahl washed his hands of the affair, something Indian Affairs ministers almost always do unless it gets white votes then they can’t wait to take credit.  Iggy called the evictions un-Canadian, and an unnecessary move to preserve a culture or group in this Canadian society.Well, duh. Thanks for nothing guys.

Strahl didn’t bother to explain his department’s long and disgusting history in setting the ground rules that this and other band councils must play by, not to mention the truly disgusting example that Indian Affairs has set for band councils to follow when it comes to local administration.  But then, why would he?

Iggy’s comments revealed a remarkable lack of knowledge on his part, an ignorance of his country’s role in developing and imposing more than 150 years of forced assimilation policies on Indigenous peoples in Canada. Canada – his Canada – has created a one-way street to cultural oblivion for many or even most of the original cultures of this country. There are way too many official and academic sources to offer in this limited space, but consider just one of the many studies (for an overview) that predict the death of Indigenous languages (and their cultures), including the Mohawk language.

Instead of merely pointing out the inane comments made by those two, I’d like to add to the conversation. Consider, dear reader, that reserves in Canada are not just like the small towns or cities where most of you live. Reserves are not municipalities open to anyone who wants to live there. That’s because Canada doesn’t want those pieces of land that Indians live on (reserves) to actually belong to them. That’s why the Federal Government designates “reserve land” as “Crown land.” Therefore, it falls under federal jurisdiction – not under provincial municipal laws.

There are other examples of similar arrangements. Consider military bases. People can’t just wander onto a military base and decide to establish residence there. The military has rules against that kind of thing. If anyone did try to squat on a military base, or in a national park, I doubt reporters would be jumping all over THAT story.

Band councils, acting on the expressed will of their community, may create and impose rules about who can – and who cannot – live on their territory, just like the armed forces, the administration of a national (or provincial) park, and any number of other examples. But when it comes to Mohawks… Well, that’s a different story. Ain’t it.

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