Constructs, models, theories, and policies while never offering universal truths, serve humans in that they guide our emotions, thoughts, and practices as we move forward. All human groups need them. To be without them, is to exist in chaos and thus go nowhere.
After years of participating in the Algonquin land claims and self-government process in Ontario where experts were guiding the process, eventually it became apparent to me that I was situated in an awful context. Assisting state nationalism as they were, these so-called experts offered no real discussion, commentary, or teachings on the difference between the treaty process and the land claims process. Rather, they cleverly employed terms such as “government to government” versus “nation to nation”. Some even promoted the land claims and self-government process and the pitiful settlements through comparing the process to class action law suits against an employer such as the grocery store FRESHCO for example. Eventually, I realized these lawyers, anthropologists, and so called friends of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg were really serving Canada’s colonial agenda. I realized that the land claims and self-government process is about the government of Canada gaining access to and exploiting Indigenous lands and resources while at the same time giving Indigenous Nations mere crumbs and dirty water to subsist on. Canada does this, I learned, through unilaterally constructed and genocidal polices such as the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and the Inherent Rights Policy. I was floored, as I had so hoped that the Algonquin land claims and self-government process would result in viable and meaningful self-government for the Algonquin. Not so. Recently the offer was tabled: 1.3% of our land and a $300 million one time payment.
Eventually I found I had to do something constructive with the knowledge that I gained from this awful experience and so I once again pulled myself off the floor, gathered some of my thoughts, and compiled them into my Ally Bill of Responsibilities. I felt the people assisting the Canadian state’s agenda needed to know that I knew full well that they are not really allies, but rather they are agents of a genocidal colonial agenda. I compiled my Bill quite some time ago, publishing the first version in Canadian Dimension magazine. Many allies have emailed me since this time to let me know that they found the Bill useful, and to tell me that they rely on it to guide them in their emotions, thoughts, and practices of allyship. Many Indigenous people have also informed me that they find the Bill affirming and useful in their work. Still further, students have emailed me to let me know that my Bill was a reading in one of their university courses.
While I know the issues put forward through the passing of Bill C-45 into law are not just an Indian matter, in my need to offer something constructive to the IdleNoMore movement I have taken the time to post a more recent and accessible version my Ally Bill of Responsibilities on many Facebook event walls as well as in groups. In my decision to do this I really have to credit Barbara Low for instilling in me the value of my Bill and for encouraging me to give it more currency. For this I am grateful. Posting my Bill on Facebook is a reasonable and constructive practice in that, after all, we have experienced a social media revolution. In fact, it is the social media revolution that is credited for the Canada wide, America wide, and now global wide IdleNoMore movement. Through this effort, once again I have been receiving positive feedback from both allies and Indigenous people who are finding the Bill useful in guiding their emotions, thoughts, and practices. Some people have even requested permission to translate the Bill into other languages. This makes me very happy and through this heart knowledge a flicker of hope is birthed. My Bill is available here at this link:
Other people, though, have pointed out that they do not like the words “behind” and “secondary” that are in my Ally Bill of Responsibilities. I address these concerns through explaining that in any social stratified society, people on the lower rungs of society – such as young Indigenous mothers and persons with disabilities − require allies to stand behind them in the process of collectively challenging oppressive regimes. Let’s face it, in a socially stratified society people are not equals, and real and effective change will only happen when people understand that those who are worse off require allies to stand behind them in their movement forward. It is my view that those people most denied need to lead the way forward, that is if emancipation for all is the desired outcome. I then point out that to stand behind and secondary to others is indeed a place of honour, and that they should reconsider their process of ascribing negative meaning to these words.
Further, although I do not use the terms “settler ally” and “descendant of settlers ally” in this Bill, I do hear these terms and I rely on them too. I have found that some people do not like these terms. I find this interesting and wonder why they once again ascribe negative meaning to these terms. Many people offer that they were born in Canada and that they are proud to be Canadians. They also say that their family has been in Canada for many generations. I do hear what these people are saying, and I do value what they are saying. In response, though, I also offer that when I hear people use these terms to describe their location in the Canadian mosaic, I attribute to them as having a critical perspective. That is a critical perspective of state nationalism, its limitations, and the propaganda that the Canadian state and its education system has so carefully planted in the hearts and minds of everyday Canadians as a measure to control their emotions, thoughts, and practices. I further interpret the use of these terms to also mean the door is still open for these people to return to the rituals and ceremonies of their ethnicity and their Indigenous knowledge. After all we are all Indigenous to the earth and we all have our own Indigenous knowledge that we can draw from to guide us forward. This interpretation of mine makes me feel very happy and helps me move forward to a dreamed future. These people who think of themselves as “settler allies” or “descendants of settler allies” offer me hope, and they lift me off the floor that Canada’s genocidal policies and practices have thrown me to.
When I think critically about how the Canadian state continues to undermine Indigenous people and our treaty rights, I realize that in passing Bill C-45 Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken on the action of an agent provocateur where his goal is to disrupt the ally relationship between Indigenous people and the average Canadian. What I mean by this is that while certainly Harper has passed legislation that will harm all Canadians, he has strategically placed Indigenous people and their ally relationship with settler allies at risk. In doing this Harper has shifted the real focus of Bill C-45 to being an Indian thing where consequently Indigenous people become targets of anger and racism. Through this process, Harper gains angry and reactionary support in fulfilling his economic political agenda.
I have learned there is the need for Indigenous people to nurture our relationship with allies. In my needfulness and hope that more and more Canadians are waking up to the methods of propaganda that the Canadian government uses to control their emotions, thoughts, and practices, I asked “allies”, “settler allies”, and “descendants of settler allies” to send me their photographs as IdleNoMore supporters. I offer this collection here for others to experience.
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