Beyond Caledonia

“Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?”
-Les Misérables

If you only got your information about the Caledonia land-rights dispute from the news, you might get the idea that the government owns the land that’s in dispute, and that the native protesters were a bunch of rogues with no rationale for their position.

If you traveled to the non-native side of the barricade, you’d have to acknowledge that this country still has a lot of racism to deal with. One man carried a sign that said “Where’s John Wayne when you need him?” A woman on the radio news a few weeks ago reasoned that “these people have already said they’re not Canadians, and if you’re not a Canadian you’re a terrorist.” Makes you wonder what comments were deemed too stupid or offensive to broadcast.

You may also have started to get an idea of why the UN continues to criticize Canada for the way we treat Aboriginal issues.

It’s only when you travel beyond Caledonia to the Six Nations reserve that you start to see a more complete picture. That’s what I did about a week after this latest dispute became inflamed. I learned that the Six Nations have hand written records of meeting minutes going back to the 1800s, clearly documenting that the banks of the Grand were leased, not sold, to the government. (As far as they can tell, at one point someone in the government unilaterally decided the agreement was a sale, not a lease.) They also have a strong cultural context indicating the near impossibility of the elders at the time agreeing to a sale. I also learned that many of the natives at the barricades aren’t uneducated rogues, but rather treaty experts.

Now that the barriers are coming down in Caledonia, we have to remember that this is far from over. As the Green Party of Ontario recently outlined, and as John Ibbitson further explains today, urban sprawl means that we are encroaching on more and more treaty land, with little regard to the agreements of our ancestors. Beyond today, there are hundreds more Okas, Ipperwashes, and Caledonias waiting to be encroached upon.

Our choice is clear. We can either deal with (ie, acknowledge and respect) treaty rights at the provincial and national levels, or continue like this, case by case, barricade by barricade.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Caledonia

  1. Stephen Harper was speaking yesterday at a noon-time event in London, less than an hour away from Caledonia, and made no comment on the affair except to say that it was of provincial interest and was not a federal matter. Were these treaties signed by the federal government at the time? (Was there a federal government at the time? More likely a Governer General). He did not visit Caledonia.

    Harper also announced yesterday that he will no longer be addressing the national press gallery. Because they were biased against him… and no longer asking him questions… you know, the questions that he had approved before hand. Damn people were sticking to the script.

    National Post #1 online news story amid this press hubbub? “Harper’s Crime Crackdown: Getting tough against street racing and meth labs.” Biased indeed.

    Perhaps they should start posting Harper news stories in the “Reuters: Oddly Enough” column. So much for the Conservative accountability platform. Though I suppose we threw that out on day one with Emerson.

  2. I must admit I do find the racial biases coming out of this issue disheartening. When the Mayor of the town is told not to speak anymore because of a racially insensitive remark, you know the roots of that prejudice run deep.

    As for Harper, I mean this guy is hilarious. His nominee gets rejected and he refuses to nominate any others. The press walk out on him and he refuses to meet with them anymore. These tantrums are getting a bit much.

    And as for the National Post. I am tired of trying to defend them.

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