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When Nations are Neighbours


When Nations Are Neighbours

When Nations Are Neighbours



This is a 2004 position paper for the Green Party of Canada on aboriginal affairs, written June 21, 2004, Aborginal Solidarity Day. It was based on the

official GPC "living platform" Aboriginal Peoples debate visible and editable on the web since 2004
and nonpartisan Aboriginal Peoples? debate at Living Platform itself. It is based on the
official GPC 2004 policies
but contains some unapproved policy commitments. See also position papers for the Green Parties of Niagara on "seven-generation social services." and City As Art.


the end of race


An era has ended. While only history can say when it ended, what Greens
can say is that it is over. The last five hundre years was a time of
great pain and trial for the First Nations of North America. The Ojibway
called it "the Sixth Fire", a time when native spirituality would be all
but lost, and people would forget their heritage. That time is over - it
is now time for "the Seventh Fire", a renewal and rebirth of those nations.
In this millenium we recognize the sovereign rights of the native peoples
of the Americas, as it has already done for the peoples of the Old World.
This millenium will see the end of racial prejudice, or the end of mankind.
We Greens choose the former, and in a hundred countries all over this world
we have rejected racism and race-based nationalism in all her languages. A
rich culture like Canada has an obligation to lead in remaking the world:


When contemplating the extinction of natives by the racial definitions in
use in the Canadian government today, which assign status solely by blood,
Thomas King, one of the most prominent native writers, asks Canadians
"what is it about us you don't like?" The Greens' answer is: nothing:


You are the soul of our culture. Without you, we are nothing unique or
important, merely a collection of refugees from elsewhere. It is you who
belong, who teach us how to belong. You who were from and of and part of
the land, who will work with us to restore the links of all people to it.


the start of sovereignty


"Canada's First Nations, Mtiss and Inuit people have always exerted their
aboriginal rights and sovereignty. As the Canadian government has not
upheld the integrity and rightful status of Aboriginal peoples, the Green
Party - when elected to government - will issue a full apology for the
decades of neglect. The Green Party will act to protect and preserve
aboriginal lands and cultures. We will work toward honourable settlements
within a "nation to nation" negotiations framework." - official policy 2004


"The Green Party will:



    • Honor Canada's fiduciary responsibility to Aboriginal peoples.

    • Legislate primary or "first use" hunting, fishing, trapping and
    logging
    rights for Aboriginal and Mtis peoples in traditional lands under Federal
    Jurisdiction, subject to mutually agreeable definitions of sustainable
    harvests.

    • Support a First Nations process that will address governance issues,
    legislative inconsistencies, policy inequities, reconciliation and the
    dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs, if so desired."

While other parties seek to reduce native peoples merely to municipal
governments, or retain them as federal dependents of a large self-
serving bureaucracy, the Greens seek rather to raise all intentional and
traditional communities to be self-sufficient and ecologically wise.


Greens have no need for false patriotism; We are loyal first to place,
to where we are, and to all life and all culture native to that place.
It is remarkable how closely the maps of "bioregions" that Greens use to
organize their political and legal work, match the maps of the native
cultures and languages and lifeways that were sustained by those regions
in the past - and will be again, at a new level of prosperity and wealth.


nations as equals


The foundation of respect is mutual recognition of each other as nations:
We envision a day when the Iroquois Confederacy will take its seat in
the United Nations, alongside Nunavut, alongside the Mi'kmaq, the Cree,
the Haida, and others. We envision a citizenship process by which the
First Nations take control of their own membership and even immigration.
We envision a raceless protocol much like that any modern nation uses to
determine citizenship, being applied by the First Nations themselves to
decide "who belongs". We see the movements in Chiapas, in Hawaii, to re-
asset native sovereignties, as the first steps to ending colonial abuses.


In the end, all invading peoples have been assimilated. The Europeans,
Africans, Asians, who have come to North America over prior centuries,
are no different. In the end, all people who come to a place come also
to see the special and unique nature of that place. They need the words
of the aboriginal peoples to describe its life, its cycles, its climate.
They need guides, else they are blind. Greens see aboriginal peoples and
cultures as leaders, not followers, of the permaculture and sustainable
lifestyles movements.


The Great Peace


There is little that can be invented, much that can
be recovered. The Green Party seeks to renew the relationship with lands,
with languages, and with self, that led to the Great Peace of the Iroquois
(or the Gayanashowaga of the Haudenosaunee, to call it by its correct
name).


It is this event, which is now widely thought to be August 31, 1142, but
in any case long predates Confederation or the patriation of the Constitution,
that we should revere as the beginning of our culture of peace and ecology
awareness. It is this Great Peace that we Greens seek in the larger world.


This is fine rhetoric. What is it worth? Perhaps nothing but a head
start: Greens believe aboriginal peoples, whether in urban or rural
communities, should be first in line to build these sustainable
communities, which will support their culture, and renew their lives:

sustainable societies


On the foundation of Peace, we seek to next create Ecological Wisdom:
"The Green Party will support policies that make a sustainable and
independent society possible for Aboriginal peoples. Economic reforms are
needed to share the resources and revenues within their individual
territories. A transition to social services that are provided for and by
Aboriginal peoples is needed. Making First Nations, Mtis and Inuit
cultures a part of the Canadian education system is another good step
toward achieving equality within our federation.


These social services will allow Aboriginal peoples to:



    • Make their culture and history a mandatory component of Canadian history.

    • Support the development of education curricula that are language and
    culture specific.
  • *Deliver heath care, education and other services in a way that
    incorporates traditional practices, recognizing the role of extended
    families and elders. "


deep justice


Of these "other services", the most important is probably justice. This
begins with Social Justice, one of the most basic Green Party principles,
which we will express fully in the Criminal Justice system as well. The
recent recommendations that arise from the tragic cases of Neal Stonechild
and Dudley George will be followed. We will require implementation of the
measures that call for more aboriginal judges, mobile courtrooms and
anti-racism efforts in provincial police forces, especially in Saskatchewan
and Ontario. A Green government would not leave this up to the provinces
but would demand performance in its stewardship role vis a vis aboriginals.
But this is only a start:


Greens have a commitment to restorative and transformative justice (the
latter as championed by the late Ruth Morris). However, the primary
focus of the aboriginal justice initatives in a Green government will
be to reduce violence against women, and it will measure its performance
with that measure primarily.


respect for native women


Greens recognize that the degraded conditions which colonial regimes have
created have forced native women into shameful and vulnerable positions -
and that the federal government is obligated to:

  • "*Allocate increased funding to shelters for women.
  • *Fund programs to aid the victims of violence against women.
  • *Create a task force on sex trafficking.
  • *Provide counseling for workers seeking to quit the sex trade.
  • *Fund organizations that ensure the safety of sex trade workers."

All of these efforts will be undertaken first and foremost in the
extremely vulnerable aboriginal women communities in Winnipeg, Vancouver
and other cities. Similarly, the addiction treatment policies of Greens
are focused on pro-active intervention and prevention of the tragedies
that result when vulnerable rural people, especially women, move to the
cities, and become prey. In many cases there are emergencies that are
of national importance: the disappearance of native women for instance
has for far too long been ignored by police of uncaring administrations.


Justice begins with the weak, the victimized, and most of all with women.
Greens will end the pyramid of violence that puts officials and police
subordinating native men, and native men subordinating native women and
children, and children subordinating themselves through addiction and pain.


deep economics


But there are just as many emergencies which are economic in nature, and
which create destitute people who seek comfort in addiction or violence:


"Our federal government, being the level of government with the broadest
mandate and most resources, has a critical role to play in responding to
emergencies. In an economy that is increasingly open to trade disruptions
and financial fluctuations, government should be able to respond to
economic emergencies with swift and fair action." The Green Party will
"create a National Economic Defence Agency to implement contingency plans
and coordinate decisive action in the event of economic emergencies, such as:


  • Rising unemployment (above 10%).
  • Rising inflation (above 10%).
  • Housing shortages.
  • Regional economic disasters.
  • Economic disasters due to environmental disasters.
  • Epidemics" including addiction, HIV, Hepatitis and mental illnesses

Obviously, many native communities suffer from such circumstances now.
"The National Economic Defence Agency will guarantee fair and appropriate
responses to emergencies in all regions of Canada." This will imply some
resources that aboriginal communities can use to re-assert themselves and
some assistance in applying some management "best practices" that have
proven effective in creating economic opportunity on forward-looking
reserves:


For
instance, the ISO 9000 certification undertaken by Membertou in Cape Breton
and related certifications such as ISO 14000. Any First Nation that can be
consistently certified under the ISO 9000, 14000 and 19011 standards, and
which can meet the associated high standards of process, ecology, and
accounting, will effectively be able to govern their own affairs with very
little interference from Ottawa, other than the audits themselves. Those
who seek to undertake special projects can expect help applying methods
like Natural Capitalism and Natural Step, which focus on extreme economies
of energy and materials, and industrial competence through "biomimicry",
the imitation of life forms in engineering. This of course will not be a
cultural leap for native peoples, who have practiced the same for millenia.


Finally, some grant programs from the federal government will be restructured
as direct payments for ecosystem services, so that those bands that
restore and protect natural ecosystems can expect steady funding for the
future, based on that good stewardship. Bands that violate both tradition
and sustainable practice to do damage to "their" ecosystems will soon find
themselves economically disadvantaged, a further incentive to cooperate.


deep stewardship


The Greens also support bioregional stewardship measures that are interwoven
with forestry, fishing and agricultural activities in each of the bioregions
of Canada. With First Nations fully trained in the modern methodologies of
stewardship and management, they can take the lead in these bioregional
bodies and also take the lead in defending their long term survival in the
courts of the land.


Ultimately, we will create aboriginal seats in
Parliament and recognize bioregions as first-class entities in law and (in
the case of larger bioregions) political representation for municipal and
regional bodies. We expect aboriginal representatives to be perhaps even
the majority of these representatives, by the time they can be negotiated,
especially if 1,000 aboriginal people can be trained in regional ecology,
and 1,000 more in the technologies that seem best to serve the long term
thriving of those ecosystems. This would be a reasonable objective that
would complement thousands more trained in sustainable trades and the ISO
and "Natural" management practices. Beyond that, up to 10,000 more would
be trained in health, education and social services. 15,000 fully trained
aboriginal ecologists, managers, teachers, doctors, social workers, is an
effective core to renew the First Nations as real functioning sovereignties.


mobile health


While mobile courtrooms help, they are ultimately only treating a symptom.
Mobile hospitals that spend a few weeks a year in native communities would
allow long term conditions and simple surgeries to be dealt with without a
difficult and expensive trip, and would help also deal with dental and gum
health problems. Dental care should be much easier for natives to receive.


Every remote First Nation post in Canada should receive a state of the art
nursing station in the first term of a Green mandate - this would allow
for remote diagnosis via satellite or Internet communciation to connect
patients with remote specialists. This would double as an educational
pipeline for the richest possible multimedia material from the rest of
the world, as all its off-time would be used to download the Green's
proposed Free Online Library. This would decrease the isolation and
despair, and reliance on satellite TV for young peoples view of the
world. In creating "health networks", we'd invest in new funding, staff
and
facilities in larger centres, but always focus on solutions that could be
moved closer to home. Medical evacuations we would seek to make far less
frequent.


magnets, not prisons


Housing and infrastructure programs in aboriginal communities are, as noted
above under economic emergencies, a high priority. However, programs that
simply replace housing without considering the form of community created,
have proven ineffective. Community centres, common spaces, parks and
recreation opportunities, and traditional structures will all be part of
the renewed community space. Native communities will become magnets, not
neglected as if they were prison or refugee camps.


In keeping with our commitment to restorative and transformative methods,
we'd expand the use of traditional aboriginal justice in the criminal
justice system, and seek every alternative to imprisonment possible. A
detailed review of every single case of aboriginal imprisonment will be
conducted to determine which root causes were inadequately addressed in
the community. This will continue until the number of aboriginals who
are imprisoned is reduced to be proportional to other racial groups in
Canada - Greens consider the high rate of imprisonment among aboriginal
males to be a sign of failure of Canada, not of any of the First Nations.


deep reflection


To restore goodwill and address historical grievances mostly completely,
we'd abandon any appeal of court decisions on Indian residential schools,
negotiate fair settlements with abuse victims, and conduct a deep review
of the stewardship role of the federal government w.r.t. First Nations.


Recognizing aboriginal self-governance as a fundamental component of a
modern federal state is a simple first step. Greens would require very
similar provisions by Quebec in case of separation, so that no rights
would be lost in that case, and would retain the federal government's
role as guarantor of the Queen's treaties with the First Nations. We
reject absolutely the "terra nullius" doctrine by which aboriginals were
deprived of land. We would recognize the Haida Gwai as holding the full
aboriginal title to Vancouver Island, without requiring absurd "proofs".


The Greens would however review the stewardship status of provinces,
and corporations they have entrusted with control of large tracts of
land, to see if "terra nullius" does indeed justify disenfrachising
them for their abuses, nullifying all contracts made of the colonial era.
This is a high legal standard and would very likely only be symbolic, but,
it would provide a last resort for very abused and marginalized peoples
who have had their lives destroyed by poor stewardship of nearby lands.


first in line


The Green Party of Canada views aboriginal communities as the front-line
that get the first opportunity to take advantage of innovative building
and social support projects, by definition: the federal goverment acts
as a sort of "toolbox" to provide ways for these communities to improve,
according to their own priorities.


It is long past time to get all the historical grievances out of the way,
and let First Nations take their place among the great peoples of the
world. Canada is, in the end, merely a medium to allow that to happen,
and to let other peoples and communities come into being alongside, not
on top of, the aboriginal peoples. This is our vision of the future.


become the dream


Mohandas Gandhi said "you must become the change you wish in the world."
So, we call on native Canadians to become what they wish others to be.


Grey Owl, who was born as the Englishman Archie Belaney, once met two
Native American chiefs in London. He was full of trepidation that they
would consider him an imposter, a fake, and expose him to ridicule. But
their response was simple, and brotherly:


"A man becomes what he dreams. And you have dreamed well."


So, too, does the Green Party of Canada dream of a world where we are no
longer defined by racial categories, but by our stewardship and protection
of the lands and waters where we belong. We are one country, many nations,
all neighbours. In time, we seek to make the Earth an Empire of Neighbours,
not of rulers and ruled. In this we seek the help of all the First Nations.


In a single term of government, only the merest first steps can be taken.
In a generation, the foundations of respect and brotherhood will be laid.
In two generations, we will all accept the autonomy and uniqueness of the
communities we have inherited, and created, and renewed, and will become
comfortable again with the old languages, mingled with some new words to
express our subtle new regard for the land. In three or four generations
new languages, perhaps even new Nations, will arise that are so deeply and
fully connected with the places they live in, that we smirk and laugh at
the idea of being ruled from faraway capitals. In seven generations, we
have many Nations, and the First Nations among them, speak first in the
assembles, but there is no longer any need to mark us out by our races.


This is the world we seek to dream into being. This is the world we are
growing in our hearts. With your help, we will grow it also on the ground.
And the land will sing, with the voices of all life, and all our peoples -
who will, in the words of Martin Luther King, be judged no more by the
colour of their skin, but only by the content of their character.



(the above is a draft position paper of the Green Party of Canada, 2004)

references



  • seven generation
    social services
    , a position paper for the Niagara Greens
  • on
    National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2004
    , according to CUPE,
    "Stephen Harper is spending the day holed up with his advisors, likely to
    include his senior advisor and Conservative campaign chair, Tom Flanagan.
    Flanagan has outraged Aboriginal leaders and their communities with what
    Assembly of First Nations head Phil Fontaine has called his "antiquated,
    ill-informed, regressive and offensive writings" in his book "First
    Nations, Second Thoughts". Flanagan believes that European colonization of
    North America was inevitable and justifiable, given the "tremendous gap in
    civilization". Flanagan advocates outright assimilation and dismisses the
    legacies of displacement and colonization as mere "social pathologies"
    which Aboriginal people "must shed to become prosperous, self-supporting
    citizens"


adapted


Adapted under CC-by-nc-sa from an unofficial position paper(external link) that supported the Aboriginal peoples?, health care and other GPC Platform 2004 planks.

The original paper was released only to candidates going into meetings in BC, and contained some unapproved commitments. However, it closely follows GPC published positions and was reliable enough to use as a briefing or a source of sound bites and general information, as long as it is not published as the official position of the party.

Some candidate Answers to Questionnaires from native groups will hopefully appear prior to a Canadian federal election, 2005.

Another such paper, City as Art, covers urban culture and its relation to urban economics. Please note that more aboriginal people live in urban than rural areas now, and so there is probably a need to relate the two very closely.


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