Canada’s Double Speak & Betrayal of Indigenous People

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Canada’s Double Speak & Betrayal of Indigenous People
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About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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While I am not in the least surprised by Trump’s blatant disregard over the rights of indigenous people on matters pertaining to the construction of the North Dakota pipeline, I was more than a little taken aback by Justin Trudeau’s reference to this betrayal as a victory for Canadians, especially given the vehement opposition of our own indigenous people to this project.

I mention this only because I believe it is important to keep our national smugness in check and know that ‘Double Speak’ is not just an American phenomenon. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a better example of ‘fake news’ than the Liberal government endorsing the Alberta Tar Sands project, at the same time as carrying on the farce that this is in alignment with meeting our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Unless I am missing something, the science on this topic is quite emphatic. The development of the Tar Sands project is by far the single largest contributor and fastest growing source of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Just to put into perspective, the tar sands generate more green-house gas emissions in Canada than all our passenger cars combined! And this is even before the pipelines are constructed.

Granted, the Tar sands will generate jobs, as well as bring in extra revenue for governments. Or so we are told. And yet, if one stops to consider that the fossil fuel industry receives $ 34 billion dollars a year in support from our governments according to a recent International Monetary Fund report, it certainly isn’t everything it is made out to be. In fact, the renewable energy sector is a larger employer than the fossil fuel industry in Alberta.

Could this be yet another instance of Canadian fake news?

Still, this isn’t so much an economic issue, as it is about social justice. Moreover, it is important to put in its historical context. It was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, afterall, in the 1860’s that prompted the Republicans to renege on their peace treaty with Sitting Bull. This seen as a necessity since the economy was in the midst of a deep malaise caused by a corrupt and unregulated financial sector.

Sound familiar? It should, albeit, with one notable exception. Canada did not pop the champagne at the betrayal of the Sioux nation. On the contrary, Alberta of all provinces offered a safe haven for Sitting Bull in his last ditch effort to save his people. All of which brings me to our 150th Anniversary during which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is well underway.

And it is here I cannot help but wonder of what use it is to atone for past evils inflicted on indigenous people at the same time that we continue to violate treaty rights and engage in activity that will render their land all but uninhabitable. Does our word as expressed by our Prime Minster count for nothing? Do we really want to have the dubious distinction of being the proud home of Mordor of the North?

Besides which, are we that blind that we cannot see the seeds of our own destruction contained in our callous disregard of indigenous peoples’ just concerns about the land and water. Knowing that at the end of the day, there is nowhere to run when it comes to issues such as climate change, depleted and contaminated water sources.

Quite aside from all the flag waving and hoopla marking this year, I cannot help but wonder if this might be a time to rewrite our script from that of exploiters of natural resources (who send them to other countries to make something and sell it back to us) to that of wise stewards that craft a truly sustainable way of living in which all essential goods and services are home grown.

Now that would be something befit of a true celebration!


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