Opinion

Letters to the editor

One of our readers writes about being an Indigenous Canadian.

Indigenous people are Canadians

Let me paint you a picture; the year is 1969 and a new, innovative and ‘just’ policy was introduced by Minister Jean Chretien. By the Canadian government standard, this groundbreaking policy was designed to redesign the Canadian / Indian (That was the preferred noun of the time) relationship. The name of the policy you ask? Well, it was called the White Paper (No, I am not kidding). The intent of the white paper was aligned with Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s concept of a ‘Just Society’. For the sake of time, I am not going to get into the policy specifics (I would encourage you to google it) but know that it was unequivocally denounced by all groups of indigenous people.

The White Paper was so out of touch with the realities of First Nations people, that it is often attributed to being the catalyst for birth of the modern day Indigenous Rights movement. As such, national organizations were developed in response to it; the most notable being the National Indian Brotherhood now known as the Assembly of First Nations.

Now let’s fast forward to the present day, almost half a century later, you would think that society would learn from their past mistakes. You would think that government officials would learn too. That is not the case for the Conservative Senator, Lynn Beyak. Ms. Beyak has stirred up a fair amount of controversy over the summer because of her ill-informed comments regarding Residential Schools and her most recent post on her website regarding what I could only describe as an enfranchisement policy as well as her pro White Paper stance.

As such, I am writing this to express my concern about the most recent comments made on her government website dated, September 1st, 2017, entitled, “More of the Same is Not the Answer”.

To provide context for you, here is a quote: “Trade your status card for a Canadian citizenship, with a fair and negotiated payout to each Indigenous man, woman and child in Canada, to settle all the outstanding land claims and treaties, and move forward together just like the leaders already do in Ottawa.” (Beyak, 2017)

Initially enfranchisement, was the government’s policy to have Indians sell their rights and assimilate into mainstream society and in return the individual would get the rights of citizenship, particularly the right to vote. However, when the government realized that there were only a few First Nations members willing to enfranchise, the government amended the Act to enable automatic enfranchisement. For example:

• 1880 amendment declared that any First Nations member obtaining a university degree would be automatically enfranchised.

• 1927 amendment forbid fundraising by First Nations for the purpose of pursuing a land claim without the expressed permission of the Department of Indian Affairs. This amendment effectively prevented First Nations from pursuing land claims of any kind.

So if this is your proposed solution, good Senator you need to understand that history has already made a ruling on this matter. I would encourage you to make use of the Library of Parliament

Senator, not only are your comments ignorant, they are highly offensive. Your comments demonstrate your lack of understanding of the history of the discriminatory policies implemented by the Canadian government and the impact those policies had.

I am an Indigenous and I am Canadian. I have two Indigenous children, and as a father I do not want them to grow up in a Canada where their status and citizenship is questioned by a politician whose view of the nation and history is clouded by ignorance and bigotry.

I implore all of the local federal riding associations to express my concerns to their party leader and then to our Prime Minister. I would also encourage each riding association to make a formal statement denouncing the Senators comments. The indigenous people of St Catharines, and Niagara as a whole need to know the Canadian government and our local politicians do not approve.

 

Sean Vanderklis

St. Catharines

 



Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »