Idle No More: Aboriginal lawlessness and police cowardice

“We are like two canoes together in the same stream, each separate but sharing the same current.” – Aboriginal activist.

“If aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians are like two canoes, how come we non-aboriginals largely paid for both canoes and do most of the paddling in each, too?” – Lorne Gunter, Toronto Sun.

This is my first article on the “Idle No More” issue other than “Cowardly police won’t enforce Ontario Supreme Court order” posted on January 8th.  With “aboriginals” blockading roads, highways, and even border crossings, there is such a profusion of media coverage that it can all become very confusing.

There are a number of underlying problems that need to be addressed, and the importance of them is easily lost to the public in the deluge of media reports which dramatize the self-indulgent antics of the publicity-savvy protesters, in order to increase circulation.

I wanted to fully analyze the situation before venturing my own thoughts, and then found myself looking for a “key” news item to anchor an article onto.  I found it in Lorne Gunter’s Toronto Sun column “Two canoes? Uh, no: Non-aboriginals largely paid for both canoes and do most of the paddling in each, too”, see the opening quotes above.

Gunter draws attention to the massive expenditures made on Canada’s so-called “First Nations”.  Obviously this generosity achieves little, as long as so many band chiefs set their own salaries out of their no-strings-attached grants, and engage in rampant nepotism.  The Chief’s driveway is always paved…

And while the band chiefs are mostly, if not all, elected by the band members, something seems to be lost along the way; far too many chiefs have used their power to divvy-up  federal funds as a means of putting family and friends into positions of power, and to consolidate control over their small fiefdoms using the ‘power of the purse’ to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

And while I appreciate that there are many valid reasons why it costs far more to provide essential services to band members than it costs southern towns and cities on a per-capita basis, there is no possible excuse for the many, many expenditures for which there is inadequate or even non-existent records and receipts.  None whatsoever.

In the Toronto Sun story “Lessons from Ipperwash need to be applied now, expert says”, Ken Roach, a U of T law professor, is quoted as saying that “This is a perennial problem with the relationship between police and government… It’s not always clear who is in charge.”

It certainly isn’t.  In my opinion, for the Ontario Provincial Police to refuse to enforce a court injunction ordering them to clear a recent blockage of railway tracks east of Toronto on the grounds that it could not be done safely, is both a dereliction of duty and an admission of cowardice.

More to the point, it encourages further similar actions, and may eventually result in frustrated rural civilians taking the law into their own hands.

Professor Roach also offers the opinion that “I think the police instinct to ask for guidance is the correct one… One of the things the Ipperwash Inquiry thought was important was that governments be more proactive and the advice that they give to the police would be more transparent.”

I’m not sure what to make of Roach’s desire for ‘pro-active transparency’, but I still find it offensive that the police should have to “ask for guidance” as to how to carry out their responsibilities.  They are required to uphold the law and to act without fear or favour.  Simple as that.

To draw a parallel, I filed many hundreds of grievances while serving as a union officer, ‘policing’ the collective agreement.  If I found that the rules were making it difficult for me to do an effective job, I would submit a report to the bargaining committee requesting changes that I wanted made to the collective agreement.  I never, ever, refused to file a grievance, or witheld my services, simply because I didn’t like the rules; I continued doing my job, and tried to get the rules changed.

If the police are unwilling to risk their precious backsides upholding the law in certain circumstances, then they should make that known to the government rather than simply indulge themselves in a self-righteous abandonment of their responsibilities.

There is always the military, which has far more firepower, and was called in to quell aboriginal protests in Oka, Quebec, in 1990.  As a result of the military intervention, Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Gagnon of the Royal 22nd Regiment (the “Van Doos”) negotiated a settlement, effectively ending the face-off.

And to my mind, we are well past the point where the military is needed again.  Somebody has to put a stop to this disgraceful anarchy, and the OPP is obviously unwilling, incapable, or both.

The aboriginals blocked the Peace Arch border crossing in British Columbia recently, in an effort to cause international embarrassment to Canada, and to interfere with public travel and cross-border trade.

If repeated, such actions could have nasty repercussions: The Americans have a long-standing intolerance for instability within what they consider to be their “sphere of influence”, and they certainly won’t put up with it on their own border for very long, trust me.

Another unwanted side-issue is the pouring in of massive support, both in bodies and cash, from environmentalist groups not just in Canada, but also in the U.S. and elsewhere.

They are backing “Idle No More” in hopes of causing disruption to gas, oil and mineral extraction, particularly in the far north.  I’m not against environmentally-conscious resource extraction, but I don’t think we need such massive and well-financed interference from outside Canada, particularly as it encourages the aboriginals to claim more and more land, a lot of it just coincidentally happening to be land containing mineral and oil deposits.

In my ungracious opinion, it also encourages the chiefs to try to further fatten their wallets – already bulging with taxpayer money – by holding the mining companies and other resource developers to ransom.

And finally, there is mounting evidence that public opinion is against the protesters and their disruptive and illegal activities, and that our politicians at the provincial and federal levels can expect considerable negative blow-back unless things change both quickly and dramatically.

Ipsos-Reid reported last Tuesday that around two-thirds of Canadians think that aboriginals are given too much money, and that aboriginal problems are largely self-inflicted.  Essentially speaking, the Assembly of First Nations has around 51% public support, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a little less than 50%, and phony dieter and drama queen Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence received a 70% disapproval rating.

It’s time for us to tell our politicians that we will not tolerate anarchy and lawlessness by the aboriginals, that we do not want outside interference by environmental idealogues taking advantage of the situation and worsening it, and that the police must be made to carry out their duties and enforce court orders as required.

This latter concern is the most important, as police unwillingness to undertake such actions – unless they consider it to be “safe” – jeopardizes not just the public, but also threatens our continued existence as a civilized society.  We have already had a taste of that with the disgraceful exhibition put on by the Toronto Police at the G20 riots two and a half years ago.

I will be writing further, on the position of the Crown in aboriginal disputes with the federal government.

This is a good time to make your views known, and contact information is provided below.  When directing your messages, remember that the federal government is responsible for the Criminal Code, but the provinces are responsible for enforcing it.

Jeff Goodall.

See Lorne Gunter’s article here.

Contact information – the links lead to contact forms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper here:

Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan at

Bob Rae, Liberal Leader at

Thomas Mulcair, NDP Leader at

Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader here:

And –

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty here:

Tim Hudak, Conservative Leader at

Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader here:

And –

For contact information for your local MP and MPP, see here and here.

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