Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Harper's QP gaffe

I look forward to this afternoon's hansard record to appearing online. It will include a stunning punchline delivered by our Prime Minister, which I can only now transcribe from memory. In response to a Dion question about Defence Minister O'Conner's penchant for... well.. lies, Harper cried (approximately):

"The minister wore a uniform and served his country in the armed forces. Maybe when you do that we'll be interested to hear your opinion."

Bravo!, cried his colleagues. Raucous laughter squeezed out in the place of groans. Clapping all Conservative MPs could do not to slap their foreheads.

Ignatieff did manage to get let off a shot at the economist's personal service record. But the Liberals can be excused if they were caught flat-footed. This is quite a development. Afghanistan policy is open only to those parliamentarians who have personally served in the armed forces. This will be an intimate dialogue: 4%, or exactly 16 of the 399 MPs and senators, have served. O'Connor is the only member of cabinet with any.

This is not mean-spirited partisanship. It's just a really dopy, petty thing to say when you are getting beat. He was as shaken as I've ever seen him.

The actual quote is:
"The minister of national defence is a veteran of the Canadian Forces. He has served this country courageously in uniform for 32 years. When the leader of the Opposition is able to stand in uniform and serve his country, then I'll care about his opinion of the performance of the minister of defence"

A better treatment than mine from Macleans.

Massive developments at Caledonia and Ipperwash

[Back from a very long hiatus, with none of my already fickle readership intact. Doesn't mean I can't talk to myself]

I'm compelled to post today because I want to emphasize that this is a big news day in the world of Aboriginal politics. First, the federal government announces a settlement offer with Six Nations. $125 million to lay to rest 4 of the 27 outstanding land claims, and end the reclamation at Caledonia. By my estimation, the specific claims targeted amount to approximately 39 000 acres. (I may be off here - I only know what I've read in the paper at this point, and the last claim identified in the Star could be one of a number of claims.)

Six Nations will probably not accept the offer. The protest has been about land and not money from the very beginning. Also, the land claim most pertinent to Caledonia is inexplicably left out. However, this is a hugely important development because of this simple admission on the part of federal negotiator Ron Doering:

"Canada has done an assessment and feels there was a breach of some lawful obligation."

The statement stands in stark contrast to previous federal positions:

“[Caledonia] isn’t a land claims matter. The actual root of the problem is not a land claim," for instance.


"Our position is that we have no outstanding responsibilities to Six Nations."

So what has changed? The 'assessment' is now complete? Well - it's pretty unlikely that the federal government knows anything now that it didn't know last February when the occupation began. These claims were researched for decades, and presented to the federal government between 1984 and 1992.

Instead, the feds have finally come to appreciate Six Nations resolve. They have grudgingly accepted that no other solution is forthcoming.

Imagine how much anguish - on the part of both Natives and non-Natives - would've been saved if the federal goverment had simply acted on what it knew was true, legal and just in the beginning.

I wish to make one more small point. All you conservative types who have argued so heartily with me over the last long months about how Six Nations land claims are bogus, make-believe, irresponsible: the actor you were trying to protect has capitulated. There's no debate left. You were wrong. Just wrong.

Meanwhile, in Forest, the long-awaited Ipperwash Report is released. Chief Justice Linden concludes that ex-Premier Harris did indeed dabble in racism. Absorb that, Ontario - especially in light of the current PC leader's shocking position on Caledonia. I think the strongest aspect of the report is that it recognizes that this really was never a policing issue.

I ought conclude with this important, nearly historic passage from the Report's Executive Summary:

"Building a better relationship with Aboriginal peoples requires that governments and citizens recognize that treaties with Aboriginal peoples are the foundation that allowed non-Aboriginal people to settle in Ontario and enjoy its bounty... These treaties are not, as some people believe, relics of the distant past. They are living agreements, and the understandings on which they are based continue to have the full force of law in Canada today." (emphasis added)