As “pressure” mounts on Stephen Harper to meet with aboriginal leaders to discuss treaty rights or face hunger strikes, blockades and other disruptions, it is worth asking why someone would blackmail a person into doing something they’re already doing.
As the Harper administration has repeatedly pointed out, they held exactly this sort of meeting in 2012. Indeed, there have been many such gatherings since the mid-1980s, often ruined by cosmic demands that furnish no possible constructive starting point. But there have also been decades of detailed meetings and negotiations on more specific, reasonable points to do with making treaties where none existed and dealing with proper implementation of treaties that do exist. Over 250 claims have been accepted for negotiation and dozens have been settled including 17 self-government agreements. In B.C. alone over a hundred bands are engaged in 48 separate negotiations over treaty rights.
So you want to talk? Fine. We are talking. Constantly.
I have no use for blackmail. But I also think it’s very sad to see aboriginal leaders who should know better demanding either everything under the sun, which they can’t have, or else things they’ve already got, which they don’t seem to know what to do with. It’s bad enough that they convince young aboriginals that other Canadians will not talk to them when we are doing so, and that we have no sympathy when we do.
It’s far worse to portray one more round of this sort of rhetoric to aboriginal youth as the dawn of a new hope. It can only raise expectations that must soon crash down again, creating further bitterness and frustration.
Whatever that is, it’s not leadership.