Friday, September 20, 2013

Harper, The UN and Aboriginal Issues

Once again, we find The Harper Government (which, I am more and more convinced is not a Canadian government), squabbling over the UN's initiatives to review Canada's treatment of our Aboriginal population.

Countries have their rights records reviewed every four years by the Geneva-based UN forum, but the Harper government has been skeptical of it in part because it allows countries with dubious rights records to criticize Canada.
Recommendations from Iran, Sri Lanka and Cuba were among the 40 out of 162 that Canada chose to reject.
Frankly, Canada's relationship with its Aboriginal peoples is less than ideal, and arguably subject to quite a lot of very legitimate criticism.  While we have begun to take steps to address the wrongs done such as the Residential Schools, we keep uncovering other evils carried out by past governments, or for that matter accusations of negligent or sloppy investigation is missing native women and the ongoing crisis conditions at Attawapiskat.

To be honest, I find the "what to do" with respect to the wrongs that have been perpetrated on native peoples by our governments - past and present, a very complex and unsettling puzzle.  More recent abuses such as the seemingly negligent approach to investigating missing persons cases involving aboriginal women on the part of the RCMP have some fairly obvious remediations.  But, older wrongs, including those which are contained in treaties that are now hundreds of years old are more complex.  Is it reasonable to hold today's generations "to account" for the problems that the treaty system created?  I am less sure that is constructive.

However, I'm not going to attempt to untangle the complexities of Aboriginal issues in Canada here - that is a topic which is probably worthy of a book of its own, not a mere blog post.

The issue that the Harper Government is creating here is profoundly troubling.  Harper has very little difficulty with complaining loudly about being judged by the very countries which he is so quick to condemn for their human rights record.  Harper seems to think that he is only subject to criticism by countries which he perceives as being his peers.  

Reality check time.  I don't give a damn if Harper thinks that Iran is "lower on the totem pole" than Canada when it comes to human rights.  The fact is that at the level of the UN, all countries are peers.  Just because Iran or Cuba might have something to say that you don't like, that doesn't automatically make it an invalid commentary.  

In my opinion, Harper's actions in this case reveal two things about Harper that are profoundly offensive to Canadian sensibilities.  First, it reveals an excessively thin skin on Harper's part with respect to any kind of criticism.  (Arguably, he has used Prorogation of Parliament to avoid being held accountable).  Second, it also reveals the subtle bigotry that has always been just below the surface of Harper's politics.  While Harper has had Jason Kenney running around courting the various ethnic populations, he has quietly worked to undermine women, aboriginals and other groups in Canada through a series of program cuts.

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