Well, as predicted, the Idle No More demonstrations have escalated (in this case from circle dances in shopping malls to brief blockades of the border) and the mainstream media has suddenly, magically started to take notice. And, as also predicted, they have dusted-off the old #Occupy playbook in order to make out that the movement has no clear objective. Thankfully, on this subject, I’ve already done the heavy lifting for the erstwhile members of the fourth estate, but I can see why they weren’t able to do it themselves; after all, it took nearly three minutes of googling.
In any case, by far the saddest entry in the current glut of OMG-What-Are-These-Natives-Complaining-About-Can’t-They-See-That-The-Government-Knows-Best-For-Them-Why-Don’t-They-Just-Get-With-The-Twenty-First-Century editorials is this one by Andrew Coyne, who is usually a competent journalist, but who, like so many of my fellow white Canadians, appears to adopt a reflexively condescending attitude towards this country’s Aboriginal population.
Writes Mr. Coyne:
The movement, with its vast and ill-defined agenda, its vague and shifting demands, its many different self-appointed spokespersons, is open to any number of different interpretations. But the absolutist rhetoric, the dismissal of dissenting opinion as so much “racism,” and above all, the rigid insistence on adhering to the same approaches that have so signally failed to date, do not suggest a happy future for aboriginal relations.
Now, of course, this is idiotic; the protestors manifestly are not interested in maintaining the status quo: that would be why they’re protesting. And I’m not even going to bother addressing the assertion that accusations of racism are levelled as a means of silencing “dissent,” because it completely overlooks the possibility (or rather, reading the comments on the article, the certainty) that many, many criticisms of the movement actually are racist. But I am intrigued by Mr. Coyne’s idea of a “happy future for aboriginal relations.” What does he suppose that that would look like?
Exactly the way the Harper Government wants for it to look like, apparently!
And indeed, the longer Idle No More has gone on, the more it has become clear it is not so much a dispute between aboriginal Canadians and the Harper government, but between rival factions in the aboriginal community: between modernizers such as former chief Manny Jules, chairman of the First Nations Tax Commission, or Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, who are prepared to work with the Harper government, and what one might call the fundamentalists, such as Palmater.
The fundamentalists represent the traditional agenda of aboriginal activists, focused heavily on the legal and political arena. In this model, the advancement of Aboriginal Peoples is at heart a collective matter, based on treaty rights, land claims and reserves under communal property ownership.
Now, of course, there’s that niggling little fact that the Assembly of First Nations actually supports the Idle No More movement*, but far be it for Andrew to allow mere facts to undermine his narrative.
And what is his narrative? Well: that there are good Natives and bad Natives, and the good ones can be readily distinguished by the fact that they’re all on board with Harper’s agenda, of course! You see, Andrew Coyne knows the One True Way Forward for aboriginal people, and (miracles of miracles!) it just so happens to be the way that is most ammenable to corporate interests and the existing power structure. Really, the whole thing reads like Thomas Friedman’s usual Lexus-and-Olive Tree bullshit, but with every incidence of the word “Arabs” replaced with the word “Aboriginals.”
In any case, what we are left with is the spectacle of a white commentator telling natives that they don’t know what’s good for them; but don’t call it racist because that would be dismissing dissent.
*That took me about two seconds of googling there, Andy: what the fuck is your excuse?