More Indian Problems


I wrote about this some time ago and decided it was time to do a bit of a follow up. Let’s take a look at two situations. In one, you have people trying to stop a government from putting a highway through their neighbourhood. In the other you have people trying to stop a developer from making money building some badly needed houses.

In the first case, we have a bunch of rich, non-natives blockading a parking lot where the government’s contractor parks his construction equipment. They have been there for five weeks and the police the other day read them the Riot Act. Most of the protesters walked away and left about 20 or so of their mates to be arrested. The arrests were carried out peacefully, with those arrested being processed in a nearby police trailer and made to sign forms that said they would show up in court on their appointed date. No one actually went to jail, but they certainly did go through the gyrations involved in this sort of mess. No one actually blockaded the road and kept others from traversing it.

On the other hand, we have a bunch of natives who blockade a road for over seven weeks, forcing others to drive miles out of their way, tear down hydro transmission towers, force local businesses to the point of bankruptcy and then bring in backhoes to tear apart the road they squatted on. Did any of them go to jail? Not a chance. After all, they are ‘natives’.

There are those who defend these people. I wonder why there are one set of rules for them and another for the rest of us. One columnist wrote, “I am astonished by how little sympathy there’s been for the protesters and how quickly derogatory stereotypes have been dredged up to dismiss their cause.” Perhaps derogatory stereotypes have been dredged up because for the most part, they are true. I have worked with natives on the reserve in question and can attest to this. It is not true in all cases, mind you, but the majority fit the description. She is right when she says the months-long dispute has pulled back the curtain on governmental incompetence, ugly racial biases and a widening gulf between First Nations people and non-natives. Perhaps the non-natives are just tired of two-tiered justice.

Our constitution says there is one set of laws for Canadians. Except when it comes to ‘natives’, I guess. Acts of civil disobedience have always been unpopular, even when they’re effective, which in this case, they are not. As another columnist wrote, “In some cases those laws are different for aboriginals and so they should be. Fishing rights, for instance. Least we can do to make up for all that conquering is let them take a few lobsters and pike. This does not extend to holding a town hostage.” I can go along with that up to a point. Take all the lobster and pike you want for your own consumption, but don’t go selling it to make a dollar when the season is closed to me.

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