If you have attended any public meeting recently, you have been greeted by the main spokesperson acknowledging the meeting “taking place on the un-ceded territory of the (insert a Frist Nation name here).”
I am curious as to how this seems to have become the mandatory way to begin a meeting.
This happened at the Canada Day picnic in Summerland. Another speaker thanked the Syilx nation for “sharing their land with us.”
Realistically, the Syilx people are not voluntarily sharing their land. There were not many First Nation people attending the Canada Day celebration commemorating the founding of the nation that took their land away.
So what is the point?
Reconciliation between provincial/federal governments and First Nations rings hollow. Most of the land taken is not being ever being returned. The idea of sharing the land would be as if I let you share my tent for the night and you take it home in the morning.
We non-Indigenous do not understand our official relationship with First Nations. On reservation land we have no idea if Canadian law or First Nation laws apply. A Canadian federal court ruled the recent Penticton Indian Band byelection results could be appealed. Was there not a First Nation method of making the same ruling?
We also have a notion that reservations are a money pit for taxpayer funds. Speaking for myself, I do not begrudge helping First Nations towards obtaining adequate water, housing, electricity and education most of us take for granted, but why is it so hard?
First Nations are often viewed as a mono-lithic group. There were grumblings in the press about a First Nations group seeking to buy a share of the Trans-Mountain pipeline supposedly with taxpayer’s money. In fact, there are over 600 First Nation communities in Canada, many of them well off. Some want to buy into Trans- Mountain, others would like to block it. Does a First Nation in the pipe’s path have a veto?
Former prime minister Stephen Harper was correct on two items.
If a First Nation receives federal money, it should be accounted for. He also said an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women would be a giant “feel-good” exercise that would not solve any cases, take a long time and cost a lot of money best spent elsewhere. Harper could not have foreseen that the report would come to the misguided conclusion of genocide.
The purpose of reconciliation should be to hold a people or government to account and right the wrongs. Although Justin Trudeau seems to be continuously apologizing on our behalf, I do not have a sense that conditions for First Nations are improving at a reasonable rate. Indigenous land claims in British Columbia are dragging on for decades, resulting in some very rich lawyers but little else.
My single hope is for the education system to teach students the true history of the mistreatment of the original inhabitants of our nation. Reconciliation seems to be the exercise of acknowledging that our European ancestors did bad things to the aboriginals and we promise not to do it again.
John Dorn is a retired tech entrepreneur living in Summerland.