Friday, December 28, 2012

Let's Look Behind the Veil of IdleNoMore

I'm honestly trying like hell to not blog about Twitter on Bad Company anymore. That's what High Noon is for. But the impetus to write this particular post came over approximately two days of battling it out with "Idle No More" fanatics on Twitter.

As it turns out, the three individuals I spent the last couple of days trouncing, all three were essentially lifelong professional students. So at least as it pertained to these three individuals, apparently "idle no more" means that they're really still idle and just pretending not to be.

Moving along.

Idle No More enthusiasts made a pretty big deal when the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy announced that it would not recognize or enforce Bill C-45. "Good for them!" all the fanatics declared. "They're standing up for their rights!"

What rights were they standing up for? Well, when you examine their press release in further detail, you discover that the Chiefs are standing up for their rights to deny rights to their people. They specifically refer to Bill S-2. the Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Rights act, which is part of Bill C-45.

Just what is the Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Rights act? I'm so glad that you asked. It's essentially a bill that will establish the rights of aboriginal women in the case

This was something that was brought up, in all places, at by, of all people, consummate aboriginal 1%er Pam Palmateer. So you just know hilarity is about to abound. I'll give you the Colesnotes version of it: she insists that Bill S-2 is bad. She also repeats the claim that First Nations were never consulted about the bill.

As it turns out, this is patently false.

Apparently Pam Palmateer never bothered to consult a primer written on the bill by the Canadian Bar Association. It was written two years ago when this bill was known as Bill S-4. But as it turns out, the recommendations embodied in the bill were actually made by a committee that included the Assembly of First Nations. To whit:

"The federal government, in collaboration with the Native Women’s Association Canada (NWAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), commissioned a series of consultations, resulting in a 2007 report by Wendy Grant-John. That report concluded that the simple application of provincial and territorial MRP law to reserves would be insufficient to deal with current deficiencies, and instead recommended a concurrent jurisdiction model like that proposed by Bill S-4."

The CBA lamely notes a lack of "consensus" among First Nations about specific remedies, but also notes the urgency for action:

"The issue of [Matrimonial Real Property] on reserve has been the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny in recent years, as noted in the Legislative Summary to the Bill. The main concern is a 'jurisdictional gap' in the Constitution Act, 1867. Property and civil rights fall under provincial power by virtue of section 91(13), and under territorial jurisdiction as delegated by the federal government, giving provinces and territories jurisdiction over the division of matrimonial real and personal property. At the same time, real property on reserve is exempted from the application of provincial and territorial law under section 91(24), which provides for federal jurisdiction over 'Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians'.

The Indian Act does not address MRP issues on reserve. While the First Nations Land Management Act provides a mechanism to address MRP issues, it is a statutory regime to which First Nations voluntarily chose to subscribe. Its provisions are not mandatory for First Nations in Canada."

So in other words, First Nations bands can essentially make up their MRP rules as they go along. And apparently Pam Palmateer is entirely comfortable with a situation in which a non-status individual living on reserve in a marriage or common-law relationship promptly becomes a "trespasser" on reserve should that marriage or relationship break up, leaving the non-status individual (not necessarily a non-aboriginal, BTW) with right to nothing.

It leaves non-status women in violently abusive relationships with remarkably few options. Domestic violence is a scourge anywhere it takes place, and it takes place on reserve with greater frequency than it takes place anywhere else in Canada. Yet non-status women accepted onto reserve as part of such a relationship are very much second-class citizens on reserve -- let alone within Canada -- and based on what she has to say it doesn't seem particularly uncharitable to conclude that Pam Palmateer intends for it to remain that way.

This is just one group of people Bill C-2 extends protections to. It also extends legal protections to individuals of status as well. So why, specifically, would the COPC refuse to acknowledge or enforce it? Because if you liberate their second-class citizens, if you take away their right to make up the rules as they go along, you're taking an awful lot of power away from them.

Which is what Idle No More is really about. It's not about standing up for the rights of First Nations -- unless the "right" they're standing up for is the right to actually have no rights. No. It's really about maintaining the power of aboriginal 1%ers over the aboriginal 99%ers. And don't be shocked if it's ever discovered that any number of chiefs have coerced some of the protesters into participating by leveraging whatever social assistance they receive against them. This is something that happens on-reserve quite frequently -- on some reserves with far greater frequency than on others.

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