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Harper and First Nations

By: 
Valerie Lannon

April 17, 2012

April 13-15 in Victoria BC saw two amazing events in support of First Nations’ rights. One would have been supported, at least rhetorically, by Stephen Harper, the other not so much.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (www.trc.ca), holding hearings into residential schools, made its stop in Victoria April 13-14. Thousands of people attended. The strength and courage of survivors who told their stories were moving and inspiring. These hearings were demanded by First Nations for many years and are, therefore, long overdue. The Commission’s report will not be available until 2013, while hearings and further research continue.

The Commission is funded by the federal government and it will be “interesting” to see how Harper responds to the Commission’s recommendations next year. The Harper government has been better than the federal Liberals in terms of symbolic gestures at least, with actions that the Liberals refused to undertake e.g. a formal apology for residential schools and signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But in terms of substantive support for First Nations, the record is dismal and Harper would not have been so thrilled with the April 15th event in Victoria, a rally of nearly 1,000 people to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

First Nations Elders headed the march. Post-rally workshops discussed strategies for fighting the colonialism embodied in Enbridge’s plans to endanger the lands and waters used by 50 First Nations along the pipeline route and the ocean passageways that would be used by super-tankers.

If Harper thinks he can placate First Nations with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he is dead wrong

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