Little Fish in a Giant pond

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Well, after having made my last posting on a relatively minor subject, I think I'm warmed up enough to tackle something a little more important. And this time it's actually pretty near and dear to my heart.

I just received word, from my mom, who is a constable with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), that she is going to be heading to the closest thing this province has to a war zone (pretty pathetic compared to an actual war zone I'm sure, but a tense situation nonetheless).
I hope somebody will kindly set me straight if they know more about the situation than I do, but here is a little breakdown of it as I understand it to be, and frankly, I don't know very much about it.

I understand that the Six Nations aboriginals claim the land was ceded to them approximately 200 years ago in exchange for their assistance in repelling an American invasion. Evidently the government disputes this claim, and has taken their case to court, and won, which has prompted the natives in question to occupy the grounds, which were actually owned by a private developer at the time (though the government has since purchased them).

The courts have issued an order for the OPP to remove the natives from the land, by force if necessary, which they have attempted, and were not able to perform due to resistance. The local residents have repeatedly clashed violently with the natives, since they are not pleased with the blockade being erected in their town.

It seemed the situation had quieted down over the last couple of months, but recently there have been a few more violent meetings between the natives and local residents. To top things off, an Ontario judge has ordered the government to stop negotiating with the natives until they clear off of the land.

Once again, if I have gotten any of my facts wrong, or omitted anything, I hope someone will correct me. But here is how I see things, based on what I believe to be the facts of the matter. It seems to me that the natives in question here do not seem to believe that Canadian laws apply to them. But if the court decision had gone their way, would they not have expected the government to comply with it? It is Canada's supreme law, the constitution (via the charter) that guarantees aboriginal treaties. Was it not this very law that they were invoking in order to make their case in court? Could they not take their case to the Ontario Court of Appeals? Should that fail, could they not also appeal to the Supreme Court? I don't think that anyone should be able to pick and choose which laws they will obey.

I believe very strongly that if a treaty was signed that granted them this land, then it is rightfully theirs, and should be restored to them, but if this cannot be proven in court, then it seems unreasonable to me that it should be given to them now. Since they lost their case, it strikes me that this is probably not the case (though like I say, I may not have all the facts).

My first gut instinct is to say, "If aboriginal protesters are not prepared to obey the law, they must be prepared to face it". And as a matter of principal, it sounds like the right thing to do. But this is easier said than done.

Sure we could send in the OPP (and my 5'5", barely over one hundred pounds mother)... or possibly even the army if need be. But what next? After we have hauled them off and put them in jail, will there be room for them at Corrections Canada? And how long can we keep them there? And what's to stop them from coming back?

But we can't simply give in either. If we do, we're sending a clear message to aboriginal groups, "court battles take forever, and you might not win, but aggression is quicker and works every time".

I sure wouldn't want to be in David Peterson's shoes right now. He has a very tough job to do... if the court will let him resume negotiations.

The only thing I'm certain of, it that it will definitely take a wiser person than me to solve this one.


  • like i siad before, go fishing, it solves everything! oh wait, nvm, no fish, lakes were emptyed out by natives who are suppose to fish for survival, not to sell on black market...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:50 PM  

  • that and poachers

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 PM  

  • see, no one listens to laws anymore, only when its in their advantage

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 PM  

  • Tell your mom to bring a helmet.

    FYI, David Peterson quit after he got caught in one of the little scuffles on the barricades. The natives claim they got him fired.

    Here's the latest...

    By Blogger Neo Conservative, at 9:39 PM  

  • Brian, my understanding is that the government and the police forces are well aware that they ahve to avoid a "Oka situation" where police charged in and it created much more violence and misunderstanding. After a while though, they will have no choice but to intervene, but it all depends on HOW they intervene.

    By Blogger Marc-André Mongeon, at 5:49 AM  

  • Well, as I understand the process issues related to land claims with First Nations in Canada are very sensitive. While a court may rule that the land was handed over via a treaty and that the treaty sill holds true today, the First Nation involved is not likely to feel the same way.

    One thing that we have to remember in all of this is that the people negotiating today (both for the First Nation and for the government)are not the people initially involved with the treaty. Often, even when legal documents are available and all the evidence points to one direction these negotiations become a "he said, she said" debate. It has been my experience that today, most aboriginal groups fighting for land they claim is theirs argue that while signed treaties may exist, it is not possible for their ancestors to have signed them without having been tricked or forced somehow. The government of course will hold to the notion that they were negotiated in good faith.

    Claims for land are usually submitted to Indian and Northern Affairs as a land claim. During this process, investigation is conducted by both the First Nation and the government to determine what negotiations took place and what the end result should have been. You can bet that lawyers are always involved. If it is found that the treaty was not negotiated fairly (for a reason as simple as no interpreter being present to explain everything to the negotiating parties) the government will accept the claim and then negotiate with the First Nation from there. Since most of the land in question is occupied now, settlement is usually in the form of monetary compensation paid to the First Nation over an agreed period of time. If the treaty is found to have been fairly negotiated the government will reject the claim and things are left at that.

    Now, I'm not %100 farmiliar with the details surrounding the claim in question but I think it's fair to say that it would fall into the second category. The First Nation in question does not seem to want to accept the ruling and they feel that an occupation is the only way to be heard.

    What we need to keep in mind is that for these groups it's not just about this particular claim. For them this is a crusade to right all the injustices that were brought against them in the last 2 centuries. The laws that govern are the laws of white men and you are right to say that they feel as though these laws do not apply to them. The problems between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in Canada today are not new. They are rooted deep in the history of both peoples. I fear that there will never be resolution as we cannot right all the wrongs that were done in the past - we can only move ahead and try to make the future better. Until all parties involved come to this realisation, this conflict will not be the last.

    As for the present situation; You are right, they should stop the occupation as the courts have decided. And yes, the government should not give in because we are sending the wrong signals and we are allowing a group to place themselves above the law. Because of historic precedent (OKA for example), the government is afraid to stand firm and force this to end. If the First Nation involved is not willing move - as decreed by they courts - then they will have to be moved. Canada belongs to everyone now - armed movements taking land by force is not something we want to start to allow. We can negotiate to settle compensation where it is due but we cannot go back to the way things were 200 years ago.

    While I understand what these First Nations feel they are up against and I understand how they feel they were wronged, I think that their present actions make them no better now than they claim the white man has been to them in the past. Being frustrated by the process does not warrant taking the law into one's own hands.

    It's unfortunate that your mom will be caught up in all of this. She needs to know, and anyone else involed needs to know that this conflict isn't just about this particular situation. It's about so much more and it's very complicated.

    I don't know if this helps you at all but I hope that it at least sheds a little light on the situation. I'll keep your mom in my prayers.

    By Blogger Rach, at 7:22 AM  

  • Gee Fish, I dunno, I have to somewhat agree that at all cost another Oka has to be avoided.

    But as you said, if you won't obey the law, then you have to face it. The army will be used as a last resort, I think they'll get the RCMP involved first.

    But should the army be called, the natives will have no one else to blame but themselves. We said please, they said no, we said move, they said. Now we make them.

    No more sucking up.

    By Blogger Vicky, at 4:01 AM  

  • Humm, well, natives expect the government to give them everything free in certain areas, e.i. northern ontario, and what they obtain, houses, schools, etc, is destroyed within the first 5 years of contrustion and they then expect the government to build them another house. Indian reserves are in pretty bad shape. Also when they receive help, they complain that its not enough.

    That said, it is a "stereotype" that cannot be applied to most natives. It only takes one rotten apple to spoil the basket.

    On the other hand, the government seems to only negociate in "goof faith" with the natives when the piece of land in question holds no value. Example, le barrage LaGrande au Québec, the government refused to negociate until he eas ordered to by a judge, but then again, they maxamized the speed of construction so they could do as they wanted before the treaty was negociated. There are countless more examples, like establishing reserves in flood plains where every spring those reserves have to be evacuated... etc...

    So it will remain a nasty subject for years to come

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 AM  

  • Caledonia is a complicated issue. I'll grant you that.

    I think we should make a clear distinction between two things: The issue at hand, in this case a land claim and the mean to get their end, in this case a barricade.

    It's clear the mean to get attention is working (or else we wouldn't be talking about it) but this kind of behaviour should not be tolerate in either case for the aboriginals of the Six Nations or the anglo community that used violence to react to the barricade.

    What's not clear is how they lost their land claim. It's often appropriate to revise decisions concerning these issue (especially if it was made a long time ago) to settle this claim appropriatly. The cree nations in Quebec had a revision to their role by the Quebec government (la paix des braves) to settle what the natives saw as a raw deal. Several similar claims are made throughout different aboriginal communities in Canada. I think we should focus more on what needs to be resolve in land claims in general so we can prevent another Oka or Caledonia.

    By Blogger Léo Bourdon, at 7:18 AM  

  • Well, it appears that we can all agree on one thing. If the natives protesters in this case refuse to obey the law, then they will eventually have to be removed by force. However as MA pointed out, any force used by the police (or military) must be proportional to the resistance they meet. This much, I can agree with very easily.

    My only question is of a practical nature, what then? Do we position armed guards around the area so that they can't come back? Do we keep those aboriginals that were removed from the area locked up indeffinately?

    At any rate, it seems to be unanimous that the government cannot send the message that aggressive tactics will be rewarded. The real challenge seems to be preventing another Oka or Ipperwash.

    By Blogger Fish, at 6:38 PM  

  • Perhaps Fish, but don't forget the reason why they are doing this in the first place. If we don't give them at least a guarantee that we will revise the decision, they may set up a barricade somewhere else. Who knows what it can lead up to.

    By Blogger Léo Bourdon, at 11:26 PM  

  • If you give a mouse a cookie...He will want a glass of milk.

    This saying rings so many bells when we discuss land claims issues.

    To be quite frank, to this day we are an occupying force in this land. We conquered them for these lands - and it is natural for them to continue to seek ownership over the lands that were once theirs. Now since it takes the government takes so long to process these claims, they are backed up by thousands of claims. To expect a group of "pissed off" people to sit around for decades for an answer is a bit unrealistic - they are going to take matters into their own hands.

    Although I will agree with many of these people in their demands for some of their lands back, I cannot agree with their methods. These situations are in essence an insurgency against the government. These people need to work through the legal system to get their claims properly heard.

    This problem stems way beyond 200 year old land claims. The war of 1812 did not resort in the the hellish squalor many aboriginals experience living on reserves. The government needs to work to help re-invigorate reserves to return a sense of habitability to these regions. There is also a need for the First Nations to partner with government in economic development programs, for as long as these partnerships do not exist, Aboriginals will never fully participate in the economic growth potential of Canada.
    Aboriginals have special cultural status in Canada, however this is no reason for them to not be able to actively participate in the Canadian economy.

    Caledonia is an extreme case, but it can become a precedence. Look at the rail stoppage that occurred near Ganonaque in support of Caledonia. We cannot give in to these demands, or everyone will be thinking the same will go for them. However, we must work to prevent another Ipperwash.

    What is really, truly sad?? Is that it takes acts of violence and intense protest (to the point where it disrupts the livelihood of ordinary Canadians) for the news to step in. Not many people are proud of Paul Martin as a Prime Minister, but I will give him credit for putting Aboriginal Canadians near the top of the government's agenda and for signing the Kelowna Accord.

    God willing [That was for you Hedonist ;)], the current Conservative Government will honour this Accord and that Provincial governments will begin to take a more proactive approach to aboriginal affairs (yes, I know it is a Federal Responsibility - but the Kelowna Accord was a step forward to partnership building).

    By Blogger UofOLiberal, at 11:27 AM  

  • Hey Fish,

    This is just to let you know that my personal blog is back up and running.

    To everyone that has been posting here, please feel free to check out the university of ottawa young liberals discussion forum (AKA the UOYL Blog haha) Fish has it linked on the side, but it is

    Take care all, and Happy Blogging!

    By Blogger UofOLiberal, at 7:14 PM  

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