We’re into the final week of the Federal election season and no matter how many scandals Harper has had thrown at him nothing seems to be sticking. Like the last two posts we are focusing on what First Nations in Canada really need from our absent government. Late last year the Harper government finally lived up to one of their promises, which was to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights on of Indigenous Peoples. Now that it’s done I feel that it was an empty gesture: Harper’s policies over the last 5 years have shown no respect for Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Instead of respect we have gotten disrespect, and the cuts to so many important programs and groups have begged the question… what was the point?
In 2006, 2 weeks into his mandate, Harper killed the Kelowna Accord – a process that took over ten years to build gone because “it wasn’t fiscally responsible.” Since then the cuts have been numerous and hurtful: the Montreal Native Woman’s Shelter, Native Healing Foundation, First Nations policing, Action travail des femmes, First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying), Sisters in Spirit, and the list goes on.
Harper can say that he now endorses the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples because he’s already done enough damage to set us back for awhile. And people ask why there’s such apathy among voters! Just recently Chris Alexander, the Ontario Conservative candidate for Ajax-Pickering, said during a March 17 forum on poverty that Canada had wiped out Third World-levels of poverty. The comment caused a small flurry of controversy during the opening days of the election after they were posted on YouTube, but Alexander stood by his statement. You can chalk this up to another one of the many Conservative denials about what is really going on in this country.
In September 2009 Harper made this statement: “We also have no history of colonialism…” This outrageous comment is a shocking testament to his own profound ignorance and to the pervasive racism-fuelled historical amnesia and denial in Canadian society. Yet he claims to endorse the Declaration. Then there’s Conservative Peirre Poliveres’ comments during a radio interview which came on the same day as the Residential School Apology. “Now along with this apology comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years. Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask, ‘Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?” If I ever meet Mr. Poliveres I will tell him that we are sorry that the abuse we suffered at the hands of the church is costing the Governemnt so much money.
Everyone that I have spoken to about the Declarartion has given pretty much the same answer: Canada is not doing enough – which leads us into our crtique of the NDP and the Green party. We’ll start with Jack Layton and how fortune has finally turned in his direction, especially in Quebec. Layton’s popularity has surged in Quebec which has Bloc boss Gille Duceppe scrambling, and the Conservatives and Grits mired at the bottom. It seems to me that people have begun to see the NDP as a viable alternative to the same old parties. Layton was the only one who spoke up about the issues faced by first nations communities in the debates. The Greens have made similar promises but I don’t expect them to make much of a splash this time around – like the NDP, the Greens have to be patient.
On a final note, get out there and Vote! Young and old, rich or poor, get out there and vote, it may not feel like much but in this election every vote counts!