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June 23, 2010

Harper hijacking the Native agenda

The Canadian Charger

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Who speaks for native Canadians? Chief Kenny Blacksmith appears to be a candidate, albeit self-anointed. He organized the National Forgiveness Summit held in Ottawa from June 11 to 13, and he served as master of ceremonies at the event.

There were some sparkling performances, with a grand entrance of warriors, women, and children, a variety of dances, and loud music.  However, there was also another agenda.  It is unclear who paid for this three-day extravaganza, but one can make some guesses.  

The front row of the event was heavily populated with Tory MP’s.

The Summit cost a lot less than a serious effort to eliminate native malnutrition, dilapidated housing, unclean water, and poverty. 

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, charges that child welfare agencies on reserves receive 22% less money than off-reserve child welfare agencies. 

For that reason, a complaint has been lodged with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 

The Harper Tories agreed to give qualified support to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Yet, when that matter was raised before the Tribunal, Attorney General Rob Nicholson argued that the Declaration “is non-binding, has no legal effect in Canada and that its provisions do not represent customary international law.”

During the procedures at the session, a Charter of Forgiveness was given to Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.  

The Charter is in response to Prime Minister Harper’s apology for the residential schools two years ago.  A feathered headdress was placed on his head and a variety of gifts were presented to him for the Prime Minister.

Blacksmith’s message was that the solution to native people’s difficulties lies not so much in money as in relationship. 

That relationship with the government is a matter for individuals and coalitions of individuals.  It appears to suggest that his movement is such a coalition, as opposed to existing native organizations. 

He is an Evangelical preacher, and it showed.

The main event opened with Christian prayer, and there were Christian testimonials throughout, with Indian leaders from different tribes who “found Jesus”. 

While Statistics Canada finds that around two-thirds of native Canadians are Christian, that leaves a third who are not. 

Many of these adhere to an aboriginal belief system.  Buffy Sainte-Marie is a Bahá’í.  An imam once related that he was told to go back to where he came from, a demand that he found incongruous because his grandmother was a Mohawk. 

The National Forgiveness Summit was a gathering that had no place for a native non-Christian religious presence. What change was called for? From the natives, not the government, it appears.

Forgiveness was proclaimed without any call for dealing with the appalling conditions in which Indians, Métis, and Inuit live, in large part because of the Canadian government’s past behavior, present lack of action, and because of the residential schools and their aftermath. 

The Evangelical message comes through clearly on the web site, with a link to a report of First Nations people going on a trip to Israel, seen as vitally important because—it was said—we are in the Last Days. 

That is Christian Zionist talk. 

According to this theology, the world as we know it is soon to end in a great battle at Armageddon in Israel, a battle between good and evil.  Good will vanquish evil and the Second Coming of Christ will occur.  This event, so the story goes, requires a return of all Jews to Israel for the final act.  Hence, the Zionism.

Kenneth Deer was recognized this year with a National Aboriginal Achievement award for his work in journalism. 

He is founder and past editor of the Kahnawake newspaper The Eastern Door.  During his editorship, the paper was a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.  The support for Palestine is easy to understand.

Like the Palestinians, the native Canadians were occupied by foreign, technologically more advanced, newcomers. 

There would be no place on the stage of a Blacksmith extravaganza for Deer or for Buffy Sainte-Marie.

On the other hand, there might be a place in the Senate for Blacksmith.  Not for Deer or Sainte-Marie.

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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