Former Crown attorney Rupert Ross developed insightful perspectives for understanding, and helpful analytical instruments for navigating the profound differences between the First Nations peoples' beliefs system and that which our ancestors bequeathed us.
He illuminates, in a coherent and easily understandable fashion, the complex set of values, principles, goals, and practices of an aboriginal justice system. Citing the efforts of Ontario’s Hollow Water community to deal with sexual abuse, Ross concludes that such a system can be practical and effective. Ross’s work gives insight into the skillful blending of aboriginal and Western thought that is guiding the development of contemporary native institutions, pointing out, along the way, native precedents for many issues the Canadian justice system is currently grappling with. Ross’s work can be interpreted as an illustration of the results that can be achieved through thoughtful interpretation of traditional aboriginal teachings, and as a critique of the European legal system as a major contributor to the continued social disorder of Western society [my emphasis].On Friday evening I had the privilege of attending a gathering in honour of a group of Innu who traveled to Ottawa to meet with Chief Theresa. It was an amazing opportunity for hearing about the significance of Idle No More from the folks stoking, in the best possible way, a powerful and pacific surge of activist fervour.
As I stood in line to welcome this group of weary travelers from Sept-Îles, I looked into the eyes, and held the hands of the descendants of people whose great kindness had allowed my ancestors to survive.
During the evening I sat with women from Uashat/Maliotenam who generously explained their views and posed difficult questions to me.
Evelyne St-Onge and her sister Marcelle observed that in the past, many companies had exploited the raw resources found on Uasha/Maliotenam lands, then claimed they had lost money, and thus refused to give the people their legal share of the profits.
Devious corporate accounting practices may have diverted and/or hidden evidence of revenues. Thorough forensics accounting investigation would allow a determination of how the Innu were cheated of their rightful share.
The Globe and Mail** Jeffrey Simpson's smug, High-Church morality - the typically self-righteous and abused standard for judging and condemning First Nations peoples actions - is very much on display here. Imagining it read aloud, I can hear the scornful, yet plummy, tones of the Entitled Class:
Much of the rhetoric surrounding Chief Spence is of the usual dreamy, flamboyant variety, a mixture of anti-capitalism and anti-colonialism, blended with the mythology (blasted by the reality of what one actually sees on too many reserves) about environmental protection and the aboriginals’ sacred link to their lands.Ah yes, the "the driving thrust of all public policy" which, in the crudest and also the most *refined* manner, has always ensured that those with religious and political power were those who controlled deadly weapons and the biological equipment necessary for compliance and punishment - in brutal economical, political and physical ways. Rape and plunder in all its manifestations.
To this is then added a desire to protect “traditional” ways, which in some cases means hunting, fishing and trapping, noble ventures that can lead economically to something only slightly better than subsistence. Without a wage economy beyond these “traditional” ways, the path lies clear to dependence on money from somewhere else, namely government, which, in turn, leads to the lassitude and pathologies that plague too many aboriginal communities.
Of course, there are some communities that offer the antithesis of dependency. They benefit from participating directly in the exploitation of natural resources near their communities, which should be the driving thrust of all public policy.
One-percenters didn't earn their wealth through ethical means, nor was it divinely bestowed upon them - though various theological constructs seemingly support their familial corporate mythology - and their unrelenting opportunism.
They got rich the old-fashioned way: by lying, cheating, grifting, stealing and exploiting. Just as "old money" was founded on the labour of people forced into slavery, systemic genocide and ethnocide enabled the robber barons of the "New World" to establish their empires and maintain it.
It takes political and legal collusion - supported by religious ideology - to create and perpetuate systems that deprive human beings of rights the wealthy flaunt so very freely, and that deplete the material resources which would justly be theirs to enjoy.
To paraphrase Mark Steyn, it must be CONvenient to have an ideological imperative that obliges all your greed and ill-gotten gains.
More about Innu traditions, here.
Excellent additional reading resources; The treaty relationship must evolve, What is the Idle No More Movement ... Really?, First Nations: The Long Shadow of Assimilation.
Photograph of Evelyne St-Onge from here.
**corrected earlier version said NatPo. Funny how rightwing Globe has become... merci for spotting that, AZ!