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More than empty promises: Canada's military still fighting Indians today

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Why is it that Indigenous peoples are always accused of creating an us vs. them dynamic in Crown-First Nation relations, when in fact it is the opposite that is true. Our treaties were negotiated so that we could move forward cooperatively, yet Canada (which includes Canada includes ALL federal departments, agencies and commissions as well as the provinces and territories) has broken every promise it has made. Given that our treaties were to maintain peace and friendship, Canada has breached the treaties at every step.

We wanted to maintain our connections to the land and Canada wanted to assimilate us. When we exercise our "Canadian" right to peaceful assembly and protest, Canada sends in the military to take us down. It seems that no matter what we do, Canada's answer always seems to be to "get rid of the Indian problem" and it does so by very strategic military means.

Canada has long used military tactics against us to accomplish its goal of taking our land and resources. In the beginning, it was blankets filled with small pox and scalping laws. Even the treaty "negotiations" consisted of brutal force to sign treaties:

Their quarrels and wars were not for ambition, empire or bloodthirstiness but to defend their property and bounds...
Their injuries have been very great, as divesting them of their land by force or fraud, first making them drunk and then to sign what they knew not what...

Ad to this our inhumanity to them ... We vilify them with all manner of names, and opprious language, cheat abuse and beat them, sometimes to the loss of limbs, pelt them with stones and set dogs upon them ... too often an Article of Peace has run in one sense in English and quite contrary in Indian, by the Governor's express order... (T. Bannister to the Council of Trade and Plantations, Calendar, vol. 28).

We all know what happens when a First Nation protects its traditional lands from destruction -- we have the RCMP, the police and the military come in and take our people down -- even to the point of shooting and killing us. In between military manoeuvres against us, Canada has adopted an ancient military tactic of starving us off our lands. Our people are the poorest in the country and thousands of us die pre-mature deaths directly related to the chronic and purposeful underfunding of critical and essential life services like food, housing, water and health programs.

Of course, there is also the other military tactic used around the world -- that is, to jail the political opposition. No one can argue with the current incarceration statistics highlighted for many years by Canada's own Correctional Investigator. Our people are arrested, detained, and jailed far more often, for longer, and with less rehabilitation programs or likelihood of probation than non-Indigenous people. In some prisons out west, the women's detention centres can be 80-100 per cent filled with Indigenous women.

How is it that all this happens in plain sight and with the passive acquiescence of democracy and equality-loving Canadians? It is because it is in their vested interest to criminalize every aspect of our lives so that Canadians can continue to enjoy the benefits of stolen lands, resources and power. Hunting and fishing has been our traditional means of providing for our communities since time immemorial -- now doing so can land us in jail, or worse risk being shot at or run over by enforcement officials. Similarly, preserving the balance on our territories and making sure the land is cared for in such a way that it continues to sustain us and our people seven generations into the future -- can land us in jail.

Why then, does Canada continue the facade that it wants to "reconcile" and develop a better relationship when we all know that its actions speak otherwise. Why bother apologizing for the assimilatory foundations upon which residential schools were developed if the plan is to continue assimilation under the Indian Act? Why does Canada promise to apologize for calling us terrorists or spying on us whenever it gets caught doing so, when we all know those apologies will never happen -- nor will the spying ever stop.

When news of any of this hits the media, there is usually some uncomfortable word-smithing by federal representatives and occasionally a promise to apologize at some point in time in the future. Always in the future... Yet, treating us like domestic terrorists and spying on us continues. Don't bother making more empty promises, just admit you are at war with us and let the chips fall where they may. If you are going to be our enemy, have the backbone to admit it.

Why am I ranting about this today? Well, it's because once again Canada got caught spying on us.

And that made me think back to the promise by the military to offer us a now long overdue apology for calling us terrorists -- which has never happened.

And because despite Canada agreeing to support but not endorse or implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Conservatives have ramped up their spying efforts with INAC (now AANDC) as the lead.

Canada seems to have a great deal of time and money to spend spying on our people and keeping us in poverty. Since I will no doubt be labelled a "radical," I guess there is no harm in sharing some of my radical ideas: why don't we put that extra money into providing lawyers for those granted standing at the murdered and missing Aboriginal women inquiry? Or perhaps invest some in First Nations schools to close the education gap? Or, even more radical, why don't we provide equitable funding for child and family services, housing, water, and sewer on reserve...

I think it's time we all got real about what is happening here and stop promising to make future apologies for military actions against our people when we all know it will continue. It is no longer other distant countries we can point to and sit in judgment over how their militaries treat their citizens. It's time to put the focus back on our own country and stop the war against our people once and for all.

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