Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Six Nations Occupation

An occupation is underway in Caledonia. Individuals from the Six Nations have blockaded a construction site in a subdivsion development.

Thus far I haven't been thrilled with the media coverage. I'm not one to cry conspiracy whenever the news isn't wholly sympathetic to my cause. These things should be balanced - we shouldn't want it any other way. Nevertheless, the Spec's coverage has raised questions that should be answered.

Right off the bat, the subtitle is irritating: "We View This Land as our Own Mother..." Pretty typical stuff. The demonstration is immediately framed in some sort of spiritual terms. Readers file this with the Islamic cartoon protests and switch off - this protest is not driven by any reason they can hope to understand. While there may be a serious spiritual element to those involved, the core issue is simply rooted in law. The Six Nations occupy about 4% of the land guaranteed to them in a legal property document. This is a grievance that anyone can understand.

The Spec has also emphasized in a number of its pieces that this protest does not have the blessing of the band council. We saw this at Ipperwash and just about every other First Nations demonstration. However it may be intended, it reads as robbing the protestors of legitimacy. In actuality it is a moot point, for two reasons.

Firstly, the band council is a political institution that serves to mediate between its people and the provincial/federal government. Those relationships are essential to its existence and purpose. It is not simply a representative community organization, free to lend its support to potentially illegal activities. If we rioted in the streets of Ontario in response to an odious federal government initiative, it is unlikely that Dalton McGuinty would join in and break some windows. That doesn't mean we'd be wrong.

Secondly, there is the question of the band council's legitimacy. This protest does have the support of the herditary chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy. Don't misunderstand me - I'm not playing any post-modern games here. I am completely unconflicted in my belief that democracy is better than no democracy everywhere for everyone. However - in this particular case it is worthy to understand the nature of the Six Nations band council. It was established as a punitive measure in 1924 by the federal government. When the Confederacy referred its land claim case to the League of Nations, Canada responded by establishing - at gun point with a small army of RCMP- an elected band council. Should the band council be elected? Yes. But because of this troubled history, the council is removed from its constitutents to some degree.

As for the developer, he's got it right. This is an issue between the federal government and the Six Nations. As soon as it is considered a dispute between two private entities, we have lost the context.


Post a Comment

<< Home