One Day There Will Be An Indigenous Prime Minister

And I couldn’t care less.

✎  Wayne K. Spear | January 23, 2018 • Politics

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OMEWHERE ON THE INTERNET there’s a video of Bill Wilson telling Pierre Trudeau that Wilson’s two children, “for some misguided reason,” want to be Prime Minister. His children, he adds, are both women. It’s worth a watch. Trudeau, not surprisingly, has a clever retort and draws approving laughter. And there it would have ended, for most who went one-to-one with Trudeau the Elder—but Bill Wilson is not most people, as his riposte (and Trudeau’s telling reaction) show.

I met one of Wilson’s daughters years ago at an event where she gave a speech, and I left with no ambiguity concerning her ambition. She was going somewhere, probably a place with a name that rhymes with Schmottawa. Bill Wilson hadn’t said only that she wanted to be Prime Minister, he said lawyer as well, and as it happened Justice Minister and Attorney General were in her future. In 2015 Jody Wilson-Raybould became the first Indigenous person to be named to this position, in a year when a record number of Indigenous Members of Parliament were headed for Ottawa. She may yet become Prime Minister, adding another first to her account, to the cheering of many Indigenous people. But I will not be one of them.

Everyone remembers the firsts, or at least they should. Firsts are history’s way of provisioning a word to the wise. The gates parted for the reception of Canada’s first Indigenous Attorney General just as the first Inuk cabinet minister, Leona Aglukkaq, was being told by her constituents not to let the door hit her backside on the way out. Some of my Indigenous friends were given to rapture when Wab Kinew became leader of the Manitoba NDP, as if every time a charismatic Onkwehonwe wins a vote, an Indigenous angel gets its wings. But who knows, maybe Kinew will be a brilliant champion not only of his constituents broadly, but of Indigenous people in particular. Or, another Leona Aglukkaq. The point is that you should cheer only after the points are on the board and not at the first sighting of the ball.

This week St. Anne’s Indian Residential School was in the news, again. For years Canada denied the existence of evidence disclosing abuses, until an OPP investigation made this claim untenable. The government refused to release documents in its possession, with the result that former residential school students could not prove their claims of mistreatment and deprivation. (St. Anne’s is the residential school most known for the electric chair used by its administrators on the children in their “care.”) When the government was at last forced to release their files, Justice Canada fought efforts of survivors to re-open their cases, and the government won. Now Canada wants them to pay the government’s legal costs.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Minister of Justice, superintends the administration of matters such as the preceding. In this capacity she has prevailed over a small and powerless group of Indigenous people who say they are victims of abuses in an Indian residential school, and that the evidence which proves it, and which was long hidden by government, is now available and should be considered. Although much of the St. Anne’s story happened under former governments, these late decisions, to shut down the Independent Assessment Process and to pursue government costs from the claimants, belong to the administration of Mr. Trudeau.

Beginning in January of 2016, or in other words with the onset of the Trudeau regime, the Attorney General has so far spent over $700,000 fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that says Canada discriminates against Indigenous children, by providing health and social services funding below the amounts allotted to their non-Indigenous counterparts. It’s the residential school system all over again: Indigenous children suffer and in some cases die, and what does the government do? It lawyers up, naturally. The government has lost its appeals and is in violation of three compliance orders, and with each passing month the legal bill goes up, all in the service of denying equitable care to Indigenous children.

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Federal Justice Minister Jody-Wilson Raybould was asked to provide the legal costs spent fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order. (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Today, from sea to shining sea, frustrated Indigenous people resort to fighting Canada in a colonial judicial system whose face is the mottled Kwakwaka’wakw visage of Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Many of them are going to lose, and if the Minister of Justice has her way then Canada will prevail at every turn, because it’s her sworn duty to make it so. Under Section IX.128 of the Constitution Act, every Member of Parliament (and every senator and every member of a provincial parliament) must “take and subscribe” an Oath, stating, “I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.” Keep her faith and true allegiance in your mind, my Indigenous friends, when you hear this servant to Her Majesty talk about the “Indigenous-Crown relationship.” And for the love of god don’t cheer when she, or someone like her, for some misguided reason, becomes Prime Minister.

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First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada versus the Attorney General. Cindy Blackstock took Canada to court over discriminatory policies, and won. Canada refuses to comply with the ruling to this day.

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