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LITTLEJOHN: How to get First Nations onside for independence

We have a strong case to make that Ottawa’s rule is unfair to Westerners and Alberta First Nations alike.

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If the West or Alberta breaks from Ottawa, would its First Nations choose the old nation, or the new? First Nations harbor no great love for Ottawa, but several Western First Nations leaders have come out against independence. In November 2019, Treaty 8 issued a press release stating: “As chiefs, with our united voices and on behalf of our 22 member nations — with clear conscience — declare we are strongly opposed to the idea of separation from Canada.”

At the Value of Alberta Conference in Calgary, Danielle Smith posed the question: “If Alberta held a referendum on independence and the vote came back ‘yes,’ would the province look like Swiss cheese with various First Nations rejecting independence?” Grand Chief of Treaty 8, Jim Boucher, nodded and Grand Chief of Treaty 6, Billy Morin, stated that it would result in: “Wet’suwet’en, times 100.” In short, without First Nations buy in, Western independence is dead in the water.  

At first glance, this is somewhat surprising given the federal government’s historically backward relationship with First Nations. As Stephen Buffalo, head of the Indian Resource Council, expressed in a Financial Post column:

“The Liberal government cancelled the Northern Gateway Pipeline without consulting properly with indigenous peoples in the region. The government unilaterally imposed a ban on tankers along the West Coast, again without discussing the economy-destroying impact of this decision on Indigenous peoples. The same is true of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters. And Ottawa’s management of the Trans Mountain Pipeline again has privileged the views of environmental groups much more than oil- and gas-producing nations, putting at risk a project that had the potential to bring great benefits to our communities.” 

Roy Fox, Chief of the Kainaiwa, added: “There are 26 oil-producing First Nations in Western Canada. The current economic situation in Alberta has cost the families of oil and gas producing nations several thousands of dollars a year.”

Policies that are bad for the West are bad for Western First Nations. Additionally, if the First Nations seeking to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline are successful, their frustrations with Ottawa are likely to grow.

But given the history of broken promises and paternalistic policies, no one can blame First Nations for having doubts about Western independence. The treaties are far from perfect, but they have legal status and years of Supreme Court decisions offering a degree of certainty. To walk away with only a hope and a prayer for something better would be foolhardy. 

Those supporting independence will have to engage in consulting and negotiating with all 45 First Nations in three treaty regions in Alberta, the 70 First Nations across seven treaty areas in Saskatchewan, as well as Métis communities. It would require time and effort, but they have a right to be heard, and this could be a grand opportunity both for First Nations and all Westerners. A new relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and a partnership working together to confront modern challenges would be beneficial for all. 

Here are a few ideas that might entice more enthusiasm from First Nations for independence.  At a minimum, there should be an acknowledgement of the right to self-government and respect for the treaties. 

  1. Land.  Alberta is 661,848 sq.-kms – larger than central Europe – with approximately 8,127 sq.-kms of reserve land. Some – if not all – First Nations would be interested in increasing the size of their lands. Alberta is a big place and holds many Crown lands in reserve that could be shared with First Nations. 
  2. Resource revenue or royalty sharing.  Many First Nations are already deeply involved with oil and gas companies. The Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation own a 49 per cent equity interest in the Suncor East Tank Farm. A group of First Nations are seeking to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline from the federal government. 

    Sharing royalties more widely makes sense as all First Nations are looking for ways to reduce poverty and help their people. Royalty sharing would be a concrete step towards reconciliation, reducing poverty and integrating into the broader economy of the West. 
  3. Seats in a Western Parliament. For over 150 years the Maori in New Zealand have had designated seats in their parliament to ensure representation. Maori are able to register to vote in regular constituencies, or the Maori seats. Despite the fact that Alberta First Nations have self-government, they too are affected by laws passed elsewhere. Dedicated seats in the legislature would lead to more collaboration and respect.

The idea of holding a referendum on independence without first engaging in dialogue with First Nations would be counterproductive. But we have a strong case to make that Ottawa’s rule is unfair to Westerners and Alberta First Nations alike. Independence could be an opportunity for a substantively better partnership between First Nations and other Westerners, but it would require time and work. For good or for ill, all Westerners are in this together.

Tessa Littlejohn is a columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: Eco-ideologues at the ready to profit from crises

In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realised eco-nirvana.

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When professors around the country were busy figuring ways to deliver their classes online, two faculty members at the University of Alberta wrote a letter and enlisted the endorsement of some 200 of their leisured colleagues at 33 universities in Canada. A crisis must not be wasted.

From the privileged positions of publicly paid jobs, the Alberta authors urge Ottawa to stall the COVID-19 help to the oil industry with an old idea minted in bureaucratic hell: they want the prime minister to start a new cycle of consultations.All other aid should be expedited. Only aid to oil companies need be trapped in nightmare. 

Their dream is to shut everything down that can be shut down in the oil patch, start an endless process of consultations while oil workers are sent to retrain. The recommendation does not include training camps for oil workers. 

It’s hard to imagine such a rushed petition from level-headed people during a national emergency. In what seems a lack of awareness of the consequences, they advise to get on it right away because “we have no time to lose.” The classic let’s-hurry-up-and-wait!

It is radical ideology at work. Ideologies are grids of interpretation (and we all use them). In radical cases, however, ideology descends into zealotry and induces the adopter into a self-inflicted disconnect from reality. There is no greater evidence of a mind infected with a radical ideology than when ideologues subordinate all things to their awaited goal, including human lives and their welfare. 

Radical ideologues are prepared to inflict pain and suffering for the sake of accelerating the advent of the future they expect to arrive soon. Some skilfully use crises to rush their goals. Typically, they see the misery they unleash in the process as the price to pay for the application of the ideas to create a new world, a new society, or a new natural equilibrium – in the case of eco-radicals.

The Twentieth Century is littered with examples of enlightened creatures who have unleashed unfathomable suffering upon more than 100 million people. 

Some great works of literature have depicted the inner workings of ideological systems. They make excellent quarantine reading.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston and Julia fall victim to extraordinary indignities at the hand of the state apparatus, are subjected to constant surveillance, abuse and torture, to enforce a status quo of squalor and oppression that had long betrayed the society of equality and prosperity the enlightened revolutionaries once promised. 

In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler depicts the experiences of Nicholas Rubashov, a Communist party official charged with enforcing ideological purity, until the repressive machine he helped to build turns toward him. Slowly, he becomes aware that the compassion he now hopes from others has been replaced by the conviction of ideas, discernment has been replaced by the dreams of the future, and decency thoroughly eroded by ideology. 

In both novels, people who belong to a group deemed politically or economically undesirable are sacrificed by the designs of a few enlightened figures, who claim to know and speak for the collective good of all. Only the final goal mattered.

In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realised eco-nirvana. Earth First!ers once relished the thought of millions of people dying of HIV, viewing people as parasites. Today, with similar impulses, Extinction Rebellion seeks to place environment ahead of all things and replace governments with eco-sensitive assemblies to rule over us.

It is not that concern for the environment is bad. It is no worse than the Communist concern for workers. But deep-ecology ideologues favour “Nature” to the detriment of human welfare (as though humans were not natural) in the same way that communists sacrifice workers to create a “New Man.”

To be clear, I am not suggesting UofA academics want oil patch workers exterminated. They only want oil workers’ job to disappear by incantation. But I am saying they want to use the COVD-19 crisis to push their agenda of ecological purity at the expense of human welfare in Alberta. Their position is radically ideological. It demonstrates three disconnects in certain corners of academe: an unusual disconnect with compassion, with the socio-economic realities of the present crisis, and with the sentiments of the common Albertan, who is wisely capable of simultaneously supporting environmental concerns and responsible energy extraction.

Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, the President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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MORGAN: Supply management is bad policy in good times. It’s terrible policy in bad times.

We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system.

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My wife grew up on a small farm near Rockyford, Alberta. Her father had a small dairy operation with a dozen cows. Cream would be separated from the produced milk and sold. Remaining milk would be used to feed the household and supplement livestock feed. There would still be a large amount of milk remaining every day as the family could only consume so much. That milk would be poured into a nearby ditch. 

Why would a farm family with limited income pour away a product which other families have to pay dearly to purchase? 

They had to. It is was, and still is the law. The family farm only had a government-issued quota to sell cream. It would have been illegal for my wife’s father to sell a single drop of milk. 

Welcome to Canada’s supply management system. 

As the world enters an unprecedented economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are going to have to find ways to reduce the cost of living for struggling families. Canada’s Soviet-style supply management system on dairy and poultry products adds nearly $600 per year to the average family’s grocery bill in order to benefit a small number of producers, primarily in Quebec. It is time to examine why we are punishing consumers with this terrible system. 

The government controls the number of producers and the amount of product they may produce through a rigid quota system. If a farmer is found to have 301 chickens on their farm without having a state-issued quota for them, the farmer can be charged. The same applies to turkeys, geese, eggs and dairy products. 

It is not an exaggeration to compare this system to that of the former Soviet Union. This is exactly how the USSR managed their agriculture, with predictable results. 

Currently, Canada’s dairy farmers are pouring milk down the drain as the Coronavirus shutdown has decimated demand for dairy products, and it is illegal for them to drop their prices in order to adapt to the change in demand. Families are literally rationed in how much expensive milk they may purchase right now, while producers are not allowed to sell them more.

Just ask any senior citizen of Ukrainian descent how well a centralized food supply management system served them in the 1930s. Governments manage pretty much everything poorly. Food is one of the areas where we least need their intervention. 

A diverse local food production system with a myriad of producers throughout the nation is the best way that consumers can avoid price and supply shocks due to global market incidents. It is impossible for producers to diversify their production under the current supply-managed system. 

When dairy supply management began in 1971, there were approximately 145,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today there are less than 10,000 and it is dropping as large operations continue to buy up limited quotas and push their competitors out of business. The average dairy farmer has a net worth of over $5 million. It’s pretty easy to prosper when the government literally makes it illegal for people to compete with you. 

In shedding our archaic supply management system, we would give agricultural producers a means to diversify their outputs while solidifying a more localized food supply. It would provide opportunities for increased local employment on these farms and competition will spurn innovation which would lead to entirely new value-added products for agricultural producers to sell. 

Dairy and poultry cartels jealously protect their monopoly through aggressive and effective lobbying of federal politicians. It was embarrassing to watch Andrew Scheer groveling to the dairy cartels as he was obligated to due to their propping up his leadership bid for the Conservative Party of Canada. The cartels have their hooks deeply embedded into the flesh of politicians in every (major) federal party and it is going to take a strong public call for an end to supply management in order to break these politicians loose. 

Federal Liberals have even begun musing about extending supply management to other agricultural sectors, citing the present crisis as their excuse. The Tories would have few legs to stand on in opposing its expansion into other sectors, since they so vigorously support its mandatory application in dairy and poultry. 

New Zealand and Australia used to have supply management systems like ours. They shed those systems and producers prospered despite the fear-mongering of their local cartels. Our agricultural producers will flourish with the constraints of supply management lifted as well. 

We are entering difficult times as a nation. We need to examine every possible way to help citizens recover from the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Food is a need and it must be kept as affordable as possible for citizens. We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why we haven’t done this already.

Cory Morgan is a columnist for the Western Standard

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QUESNEL: Northern B.C. Should Leverage the Buffalo Declaration

Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province.

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Talks about Western independence and the release of the well-timed Buffalo Declaration should be leveraged by marginalized northern regions in the West to place their issues front and centre in the national conversation.

Within the wider discourse of Western alienation exists the reality of northern alienation that has existed for quite a while without finding an appropriate vehicle. For example, northern British Columbia has long felt marginalized within British Columbia politics and ignored by provincial politicians. After all, only about seven percent of B.C.’s population resides in the northern half. 

The province tends to prioritize the southern half of the province when it makes large infrastructure investments. Despite automation and changing technologies, the northern B.C. economy is still largely dominated by resource industries. Forestry, mining, and the energy sector still serve as a backbone for the rural northern economy, despite economic diversification efforts on the part of northern rural municipalities.

In terms of economic structure and attitude, northern B.C. residents are more like northern Albertans. People in Kitimat feel alienated from the latte-drinking urbanites in B.C.’s capital city of Victoria. Granted, however, that the  B.C. Premier has stood up for major projects that would benefit the north, such as the Coastal GasLink project. However, this doesn’t change a basic alienation that the north feels from the core of political power in the province. 

A similar situation has occurred in northwestern Ontario where large communities such as Kenora have felt ongoing neglect from a distant and unresponsive government in Queen’s Park and have seriously discussed joining Manitoba. Many felt that on issues such as the forest economy and on healthcare, Ontario seriously neglected them. At one point, a disgruntled community in southwestern Manitoba wanted to join Saskatchewan. 

This might be the perfect time for northern British Columbians to raise the stakes in the discussion by raising the “S” word. The real possibility of separation might be what the out-of-touch B.C. provincial government needs to prioritize northern concerns. 

In November of last year, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy released a major policy paper that discussed redrawing the provincial boundaries of Alberta and Saskatchewan to provide tidewater access to both provinces. 

Residents of Northern B.C. – both from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – should consider and perhaps leverage such proposals, such as joining Alberta. First Nations in northern British Columba might have more success in forwarding their issues of self-government and nation-to-nation dialogue, especially with the focus on reconciliation.  

If residents of northern B.C. entertained the possibility of joining Alberta, Alberta would need to extend an offer to northern British Columbia residents explaining the benefits of joining Alberta. Northern B.C. would need to inform the Alberta government of the problems they are facing which propelled them to leave British Columbia. Alberta could then address those problems and offer residents of Northern B.C. a better deal. 

During the Quebec secession crisis, there were some Quebec Indigenous leaders who did not reject the sovereigntist cause completely, instead, asking the leaders of the Quebec sovereignty movement what they would offer them. Being pragmatic, they realized that if they could not stop or fight the secession vote, they would settle for a better deal from a sovereign Quebec government than the one they had with a united Canada. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in northern B.C. should adopt a similar attitude and posture. 

A very attractive element of northern B.C. joining Alberta would be the promise of permanent coastal access for Alberta’s energy sector, which would greatly benefit many communities and First Nations of northern B.C. 

Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province. This could finally force the province to adopt a serious plan for the north, that includes investment in necessary infrastructure.  

Mayors in northern B.C. communities should be able to get the premier on the phone and receive attention on pressing matters. Industries such as forestry, mining, and energy should receive as much attention as issues that concern Metro Vancouver and among suburbanites in the Lower Mainland. 

Raising the spectre of redrawn borders might just be enough to force the province to deal with its Northern Alienation problems.

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