This blog has never been a political rant, although it has taken a stand on one or two previous occasions when silence was simply not an option. I fear Canada is presently engaged in an issue that demands comment so here goes.
I don't know how pervasive this is but I'm thinking the ignorance displayed by the Canadian public over the aboriginal population is profound. Most of us know very little about the lives of native people. Most Canadians have never been to a reserve. In fact, most Canadians have never spoken to a native person. Yet many of the well heeled types I've spoken to over the years (white people with good jobs and plentiful opportunities) seem to know a great deal about how the native population lives and what should be done about it. (If we're going to have a public enquiry, let's have it on that subject.) This ignorance has been polluting the air on Parliament Hill these past few years like a fart in an elevator. It then pawns itself off at the cocktail party over wine and hors d'oeuvres as distorted truths, also best described as stereotypes. Oh yes, that's one thing we're all really good at...embracing stereotypes and calling them truths.
The Canadian establishment, from the minute the white people landed here has treated Aboriginals like shit and it's time to finally do something about it. It's going to require a new mindset in government which means it's going to require a new government. It's going to require more money... a lot more money. I agree with Andrew Coyne that a public enquiry is not necessary. We already know what the problem is and the why's and the how's. As Mr. Coyne wrote recently in The National Post...
"It (is not) clear what matters a public inquiry would cover that are not already well-trodden ground. What questions would it ask that have not already been asked, and answered, a dozen times or more? From the RCMP report, we have a good idea who their murderers are: in more than 90% of cases, they are known to or indeed related to the victim. We know why they did it: in more than half the cases, as a result of an “argument or quarrel” or “frustration, rage and despair.” We know where: three-quarters of the time, in a residence. We know how: beatings (32%) and stabbings (31%) predominate.
More broadly, the surrounding social circumstances identified in the RCMP report will surprise no one: from unemployment to substance abuse to chronic violence and abuse. The dysfunction that afflicts many (but by no means all) aboriginal communities has been amply documented, as have its causes, from economic deprivation to the devastating legacy of the residential schools to the cultural trauma of colonialism generally.
The broad project of repairing that social destruction should absolutely be among the first of our concerns as a country, with aboriginal people themselves very much taking the lead. It is not evident what contribution another public inquiry would make to that end."
The irony in all of this is not lost on John Ralston Saul, one of Canada's greatest thinkers. He's written about this in his book, "A Fair Country, Telling Truths About Canada". According to John, we owe a debt of gratitude to our first nations.