THE RON GIESBRECHT story is an everyone-saw-it-coming affair, and that’s among the reasons why the First Nations Financial Transparency Act has engendered both its champions and detractors. “This is the greatest piece of legislation passed by our parliament, I believe, in a long time,” Derek Fildebrandt (of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) has been reported as saying. You can imagine him salivating these recent and delicious months, in anticipation of the handful of uncloseted Chiefs à la Giesbrecht, just as you can imagine the few rueful and disgraced Chiefs lamenting a lapsed age of innocence.
AS THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION Commission of Canada hosts its national event this week, in Edmonton, the topic of genocide is once again surfacing. Usually the topic is posed as a question: is Canada “guilty of genocide”? Over the years, I’ve had many conversations that began with this question, and I’ve done a fair amount of reading and thinking. Here are my notes toward an informed conversation about Canada and genocide.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS reported this week that Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson will host a two-day roundtable with twenty people who were part of something now known as the “Sixties Scoop.” For some of you this will be a new and unfamiliar phrase, and you’ll wonder why adopted aboriginal children are calling for an apology from the federal government of Canada. This essay will attempt to inform you on these and other points.
IT’S BEEN ONE YEAR since the Attawapiskat First Nation housing crisis became a widely deliberated point, and perhaps that Attawapiskat itself became a known point on the map of Canada. It thus happens that the current hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence is among other things an anniversary marker of a sort.
WHEN THE politician and aspiring poet Nicholas Flood Davin visited Captain Richard H. Pratt’s Carlisle Barracks, in Pennsylvania, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was only weeks along in its operations. Nonetheless, in March of 1879 an enthusiastic endorsement of this American Indian industrial and boarding school reached the desk of the Minister of the Interior, who happened also to be the author’s patron, John A. Macdonald.
TOMORROW MORNING I will get on an airplane and fly to Halifax, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is hosting its latest gathering. Already the event has produced headline material, derived from the statement yesterday of University of Manitoba President, David Barnard. Toronto Star Reporter Louise Brown characterizes this apology to Aboriginal people “an unusual move,” and so it is. Yet Canada’s universities, and indeed the entire education system, have good reason to feel the bite of conscience. Please allow me to expand upon that theme.
I now have unchallengeable objective proof that I’ve lived too long in Ottawa, and it’s this: I caught myself today wondering how the bureaucrats are going to say the new acronym AANDC, the stand-in for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. For over a century, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (known also as the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs) was Diane or Diand, or even at times Diana. Now I imagine it will be Andy or Andick, both of which lead me unavoidably to the conclusion that gender reassignment has taken place and The Man now really is that.
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