Idle No More: Semiahmoo First Nations Water Issue Exposes Much Bigger Issue

I have provided the news link above for clarity on the background of this specific issue, but in short, the Semiahmoo First Nations Band currently gets its water supply from the nearby town of White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. All that is about to change imminently, after heated negotiations between to the two parties and as a result, the band has been given 18 months to find a new supplier before the taps are shut off for good.

This situation exemplifies that despite the last residential school closing for good in Manitoba in 1996, our federal, provincial and local governments and Canadian society as a whole don’t seem to have exhausted their quest to mistreat First Nations people and relegate them to the status of second class citizens.

For my American friends unfamiliar with the Canadian government’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples, this process is governed by what is called The Indian Act. For those Americans who can’t wrap their heads around outdated legal documents from hundreds of years ago that desperately need to be revisited and either revised or abolished – surprise! – we have one of those too. Among other backward rules, it and subsequent other legal arrangements stipulates how the Reservation System, a form of modern day slavery, works and makes a lot of promises our federal government never really intended to keep.

The Reservation System is a great example of a controlled psychological and human behavioural experiment where you take human beings and until recently forcibly separate them from society, treat them like animals (although no animal should be treated in this way either) and then somehow present them as the villains to the rest of Canada. In many ways, its failures are its successes. Many people in my country view First Nations people exactly how past governments had hoped – like “welfare babies.” Yes, Canada has its red-necks too, sadly.

The results of the Indian Act, Reservations and, thankfully, the former Residential School System (where, for those unaware, Aboriginal children were sent to special schools run by the Catholic Church to be “assimilated” into white culture where they faced constant physical, sexual and psychological abuse and torture at the hands of their instructors), resulting in a clogged and underfunded mental health system, addiction and crime. It’s a curse white people put on others, the effects of which are still visible to this day. The government also made a series of promises to various First Nations leaders – promises it had no intention of honouring. To this very day, whether it’s in the form of toying with water supply to homes or reservations themselves, where many people live damaged lives fraught with psychological, sexual and drug abuse, we have to have someone to mess with, even in our seemingly “compassionate” and “t0lerant” society.

A teary-eyed, seemingly sincere and newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau teared up in his apology to Aboriginal people for what our government put them and their families through recently. He then declared he was “committed to nation-to-nation reconciliation.” Here we go again. Where have these people heard that before? More empty promises?

The problem is that, speaking as a modestly-informed white male, we seem obsessed as a country with giving First Nations people everything except what they really want – to be treated with the same respect as every other Canadian is afforded. Instead, our governments have acted like the absentee father who only on rare, momentary visits, stops by to drop off an envelope full of money followed by an insincere “so how ya doin’, kid?” before turning around and promptly leaving, presumably to do more “important” things.

On a positive note, I believe the vast majority of people in my country recognize and acknowledge this and that it doesn’t have to be this way, but the politicians on both sides, in their lust for obtaining and maintaining power, have seen fit to divide us.

Aboriginals are the Mexicans of Canada. At least, that’s how the government treats and encourages us to treat them. They are reduced to the stereotype of being lazy and drug addicted and with their hands perpetually out for the prospect of freebees.

Those are not the First Nations people that I personally know or know of. When the government sells us and our environment out to corporate and monied interests, they’re the first and only people who have the courage of conviction to take a day off work (believe it or not, the vast majority have or want to work) to fight for the really important things in life – and many of us give them nothing but ridicule and slander and threats of violence in return. Haven’t we done enough?

Forget self-government. Our federal government and many Canadians still have to figure out how we are going to treat our friends as equals. Haven’t we put these people through enough? We dare to elect governments that maintain the status quo of absentee father who just signs cheques – and then we blame them (First Nations) for it. Like it’s their fault their government and ours screwed them and we allowed it. And we are all just supposed to accept this because “well, he’s decent to his other, white kids!” Not good enough.

Obviously, we are going to have to invest a lot of public money into mental health and counselling services for many of these people, but the first thing we can do now is just stop. It doesn’t have to be this way. The first step to sobriety is not shooting up, and checking into rehab instead, as hard as that is and will be. If we don’t abolish the Indian Act and the Reservation System and eventually the Aboriginal Affairs Department (which is necessary short term so we can make sure people get the help they desperately need right now), we’re just continuing to do damage to fellow human beings. We are all better than this, aren’t we?

On a basic level, a human being shouldn’t have to worry about where their next glass of water or shower are coming from. We can transfer blame to whoever we want all we want, but in the end someone has to take responsibility and be accountable (non-aboriginal) for what is going on right now and start solving some problems. I’ll volunteer. Will you? We can start by ending the feigning of ignorance. Calling Aboriginal people “Indian” is an insult to Gurjeet who deserves his racial and cultural identity too. He owns a convenience store, has spent years in medical school his home country (with a diploma to prove it) and barely makes enough to feed his family. It’s also an insult to the guy fighting a false stereotype that says he’s culturally cursed and destined to be a jobless drug addict on government assistance.

We all deserve better than this. But, who will stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves? Forget whose fault it is, FIX THE PROBLEM. I know that’s not as easy as it sounds and it will be a long process, but doing the same thing we’ve been doing and expecting different results is inhumane and asinine. People are getting angry, and they should be. Nobody is listening to them. What our prime minister did recently is a great first step, but that’s all it is. Our government recognizes we have a problem. Great. But what are we going to do about it? You’re a human being, too. You figure it out. It’s about time we were all Idle No More.

Thoughts? Am I wildly off-base or missing something? Please let me know in the comment section and set me straight if I am wrong or you have something to add. Thanks!


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