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This is awkward, Stephen. But I think we both need to stop tiptoeing around the issue and just bring it up. When you pass legislation that basically assumes that all the band councils and chiefs in Canada are corrupt, entitled freeloaders, your most visible indigenous spokesperson about the pressing need for legal reform should probably not be Senator Patrick Brazeau. Points for irony, though.
However you feel about Mr. Brazeau — maybe he’s your best bud, maybe not — even you have to admit he has some spin issues: Twit spats with reporters, alleged accusations of sexual harassment, losing to Justin Trudeau on a technical knockout, asserting that we don’t need a national enquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal woman in Canada, having a guaranteed six-figure income for life and not having to show up to work to collect it. The latest incident at the legion fundraiser where Mr. Brazeau mocked Theresa Spence for being fat and the other Conservative guy joined in by saying the Idle No More movement isn’t brown enough for his taste risk being construed as, at the very least, size-ist.
You’ve talked about the economy and the need to keep it humming by pushing for easier resource extraction. We get that. But, you know, your messenger is hampering the message. Is there no one else in the Conservative ranks that could respectfully present your arguments to and about Native people? Anyone? I personally would love to see more of the sartorial boldness Jim Flaherty displayed on Power and Politics. Not many finance ministers can pull off fluffy outerwear with such aplomb.
We’re all a little tense and defensive these days. Come on, we’re all Canadian, aren’t we? You love hockey; my family loves hockey and tells me that I have to love hockey, too. I really love Gaetan Soucy’s oeuvre, but I don’t know if he loves hockey. He might be a Habs fan. But I digress.
When the UN and Amnesty International and Oxfam are writing you terse letters and issuing incensed press releases about the treatment of your indigenous citizens, it may be fine to pooh-pooh their findings. But when Iranian news analysts are posting their outrage about the human rights violations in Canada, you know you’ve got a fairly steep international image issue. Canada, the racially-tolerant democracy is being re-branded as Canada, the land where dreams of living in racial harmony go to die.
Come to think of it, Senator Patrick Brazeau may not be your biggest spin problem, but he certainly isn’t helping. Hope your first week back to work was okay. Peace, love and oolichan grease, Stephen.
Eden Robinson is a novelist with her tongue firmly in her cheek. She is a proud member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk first nations, who are definitely hockey lovers, most of them going for the Canucks, but some of them still cheering for the Leafs and a rebel few who love Boston.
This article was originally published in the National Post and is reprinted here with permission.