Se­na­tor way off base on ‘ad­vice’ to First Na­tions

We’ve been Cana­dian cit­i­zens since the 1950s, and pay taxes

Regina Leader-Post - - OPINION - DOUG CUTHAND

This week so­cial me­dia in In­dian coun­try lit up with news sto­ries of Con­ser­va­tive Se­na­tor Lynn Beyak and her ad­vice to Canada’s First Na­tions. Beyak’s ad­vice was that we turn in our treaty cards and be­come Cana­dian cit­i­zens.

It is a sim­ple so­lu­tion, but she’s late. The In­dian Act of 1951 ex­tended Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship to First Na­tions. In fact, dur­ing the 1950s In­dian Af­fairs was a branch of the fed­eral depart­ment of cit­i­zen­ship and im­mi­gra­tion. In 1960, the Diefen­baker govern­ment ex­tended vot­ing rights to sta­tus In­di­ans. It also ap­pointed James Glad­stone as Canada’s first Indige­nous se­na­tor and his pic­ture is on the new $10 bill. But, I di­gress.

In any event, Beyak feels that if we had a ne­go­ti­ated cash set­tle­ment we could join the main­stream and stop cost­ing tax­pay­ers bil­lions each year. What she fails to re­al­ize is that every Cana­dian ben­e­fits from tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars for ed­u­ca­tion, health, wel­fare and so on, and First Na­tions peo­ple are tax­pay­ing cit­i­zens.

Beyak came from north­west­ern On­tario where her late hus­band owned Gen­eral Mo­tors deal­er­ships in Dry­den and Rainy River. Her po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence con­sists of a failed bid to get elected for the Con­ser­va­tives in a pro­vin­cial elec­tion. She was ap­pointed to the se­nate by Stephen Harper who had no use for the Se­nate and used it as a dump­ing ground for party hacks and syco­phants.

So the con­tro­versy rages on. The may­ors of both Win­nipeg and Edmonton have asked that she re­sign her se­nate seat. Nat­u­rally, she has ig­nited a firestorm in In­dian coun­try.

But I re­call the many ex­pres­sions and mal­a­prop­isms of movie mogul Sa­muel Gold­wyn who once stated of some­one he held be­neath con­tempt, “Him, I don’t even ig­nore.” So rather than work my­self into a lather when it comes to Se­na­tor Beyak, “Her, I don’t even ig­nore.”

John A. Macdonald was an Orange­man, a states­man, a racist and a prodi­gious lush who was Canada’s first prime min­is­ter. To­day, there are streets, build­ings and stat­ues to him all over the coun­try. There is also a grow­ing body of in­di­vid­u­als who would like to see an end to this hero wor­ship and a more cir­cum­spect honouring of our found­ing fa­ther.

John A. was prime min­is­ter from 1867 to

1891 with a brief hia­tus from 1873 to 1878. His dream was a na­tion and a rail­road from coast to coast. To com­plete this task he had to se­cure sovereignty over Western Canada, which meant sign­ing treaties with the First Na­tions. Once that was com­pleted he went af­ter the strag­glers and those who re­fused to sign the treaty such as Big Bear, Lit­tle Pine and oth­ers. The pol­icy of the day was to send the First Na­tions farther north and starve those who re­sisted.

Mean­while, the Mi’kmaq in Nova Sco­tia have been protest­ing the statue and recog­ni­tion that the City of Hal­i­fax has for Gen. Corn­wal­lis, the founder of the city. The his­tory of the city ig­nores the fact that Corn­wal­lis is­sued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in or­der to clear the sur­round­ing area of Mi’kmaq peo­ple. The city is split as to whether the statue should go.

This story is re­peated over and over. For­mer he­roes are be­ing ex­am­ined from the point of view of those who were op­pressed. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton drove the Mo­hawks out of the Mo­hawk Val­ley in Up­state New York. Lin­coln, the great eman­ci­pa­tor, or­dered the pub­lic hang­ing of 38 Sioux men in Min­nesota in 1862, an act that John A. Macdonald would re­peat in 1885 with the pub­lic hang­ing of eight Cree war­riors at Bat­tle­ford. Both were the largest pub­lic hang­ings in both na­tions’ his­tory.

It’s true that his­tory is writ­ten from the point of view of the con­querors and that in­cludes stat­ues, place names and a white­washed view of his­tory.

Se­na­tor Mur­ray Sin­clair waded into this topic, re­cently sug­gest­ing that we be­come aware of the check­ered past of Canada’s he­roes and name streets and roads af­ter First Na­tions and Metis he­roes. It’s time to erect stat­ues that re­flect our past that in­cludes First Na­tions and Metis peo­ple and other im­mi­grants other than the French and Bri­tish con­querors.

The stat­ues of Chief White Cap and Gabriel Du­mont in Saska­toon are a good place to start.


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