All posts by meanderer007

The Honour of the Crown

 

I continued on my inferior trip to Lake Superior as I have called it.  I love northwest Ontario particularly with its magnificent little rocky islands. To me they express the wonder of this beautiful country. I saw a few fine ones on this little jaunt and could not stop myself from stopping to photograph them. Some people say this country is just rocks and trees. They find them boring. Friends have told me this. I think only boring people could be bored by the stunning beauty of the country.

 

Some people think the government should renege on contracts (treaties) it has made with First Nations even though it continues to enjoy the benefits of those treaties. Is this a viable option?

There is a critically important concept the courts have enunciated in explaining the constitutional relationship between the federal government and indigenous peoples. That is the notion of the honour of the Crown. The crown is expected to be honourable. The crown must be honourable.

The honour of the Crown must be the basis of the relationship between the Crown (the government now) and the First Nations? Would failure to honour our obligations to first nations people not amount to the erosion of the rule of law in this country? Is that really what we want?

People often ask me why does the government give so much money to First Nations? Well, in large part, because they entered into contracts with First Nations by way of Treaties, that obligate them to do that! It is not free money Canada is giving away. It is money it owes the First Nations for sharing the land with them. Don’t we think we should pay that? Should we renege on the bargain? Would that be the honourable thing to do? Would that not require us to give our right to share the land back to the indigenous peoples?

Although each treaty is different, basically those treaties legally require the government of Canada, in return for getting to use the indigenous land, together with the first nations, to provide those first nations with schooling, housing, health care, and education. In simplified terms that is what Canada as a sovereign nation agreed to. It is bound by those treaties. The First nations are also bound by those treaties. They are considered sacred agreements by First Nations peoples.

 

f Canada walked away from its legal obligations would it not, as Professor Bohaker asked, “invalidate our legal system?” Do we want to do that? I know I don’t want to give up ownership of my house. What about my lease for our cottage on land owned by the Buffalo Point First Nation pursuant to Treaty 3? I don’t want to give that up either. I had to rush this short jaunt because my family was gathering on Thanksgiving Weekend at Buffalo Point to sand and stain our deck. I don’t yet want to give that cottage away, though I could do without the work.

In the film Colonization Road, indigenous lawyer and activist Pam Palmater said, said this about the effect of treaties made between Canada and First Nations:

 

“Even after the Royal Proclamation why were so many treaties signed? Because they had to have our consent. There was no choice by law or international law. And that’s significant. Treaties don’t take away from any of that, it actually just bolsters that. And now that the treaties are constitutionally protected it means they are. Recognition of our sovereignty and nationhood is the basis of the legal legitimacy of this country. You take away that and Canada has no legitimacy whatsoever. They need to recognize our sovereignty and nationhood in order to even exist as a state. And every other country in the world is well aware of that. And all Canada has to do is make one stupid move and look how quickly Russia or the United States comes in to claim our territory.”

 

No. I think we need to maintain our treaties. They are part of the social and legal framework of this country. We are all treaty people.

 

 

Treaty-making

 

Some people think Canada’s boreal forest is boring. Nothing but rocks and trees some of them say.  I think only boring people find this country boring. In Particular I love the small islands on tiny outcroppings.  I think that is the essential boreal forest. This is the country I love.

I wasn’t really thinking about treaties and indigenous settler relations all the time as I drove though eastern Manitoba and North-west Ontario. But I was always at the back of my mind.

The process of treaty making began shortly after 1867 with the negotiation of what came to be called numbered treaties. The first treaty successfully negotiated was right in the area I travelled through on my jaunt. This was Treaty One Land. It is beautiful land. It is valuable land. It should be cherished. I also drove through a substantial portion of Treaty 3 land where I happen to have a cottage on land the  Buffalo Point First Nation has developed and offered to people like me with a long-term lease. Thanks to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 declared by the British King George  no one could purchase land from First Nations, but one could acquire a leasehold interest like we did.

 

Treaty negotiations were a means for Canada and the First Nations to work out trade relations between them in a peaceful manner. First Nations though did not see what they had done as “ceding” land to the settlers. They saw it as a means of agreeing to share the land and thought each party would learn from the other. Neither would dominate. They would be partners on the land.

The Royal Proclamation was issued by King George III after concluding the 7 Years War with France.  As a result, he wanted to establish rules for how the land England had acquired would be governed.

As Pam Palmater, a brilliant Canadian indigenous lawyer has  said,

“All of our rights are inherent. That means they were here before anyone else came. And we had those rights because we were nations. And we had our own laws and our own territories. These things all belonged to us before anyone else came here. All the Royal Proclamation did was recognize that. If you read the Proclamation they say why they had to recognize those rights. It was the only way their colony could be secure, or have any justice, is if they recognized and protected those rights because we weren’t giving them up.”

 

Some people think Canada should just walk away from its obligations under those treaties. But those are contracts made between sovereign nations.  How can the government which is presumably law-abiding walk away from its own legal obligations? How can we even have the rule of law in this country if we did that? Would people who live here respect the law if the government didn’t? Those obligations and those rights Canada received as part of the bargains with First Nations were to exist “as long as the sun shines and the rivers flow.” Canada still has those obligations to this day pursuant to those treaties.  Many people think Canada is always “giving” money to First Nations people but to pay money Canada has promised to pay in return for substantial benefits which Canada continues to enjoy is not a gift.  It is the fulfilment of an obligation.

Does Canada want to give the right to share the land back?  I doubt that too many  Canadian would be in favour of that.

I know i am very happy the first nations of this wonderful country agreed to share it with Europeans.

 

The Doctrine of Discovery: Who owns the land?

 

As I said earlier. I stopped at Lyons Lake right on the Ontario and Manitoba border to photograph the lake, the trees, and the autumn.  This is a photograph of a mountain maple. It is a lovely little spot.  The mountain maples of Manitoba are not as spectacular as the red and sugar maples of Ontario, but I like them. It is a more plain Jane maple, so I gussied up this photograph a bit with a double exposure of the same image in the computer. With some adjustments to each photo I like the effects you can get. Reality in art at least, in the eye of the beholder.

In the documentary film  Colonization Road I saw about this area, Professor Jeff Denis explained the Doctrine of Discovery this way in the documentary Colonization Road:

in the 15th century papal decrees of the Roman Catholic Church decreed that the first European nations to discover new lands, uninhabited by civilized people, by which they meant Christian people, or people who were not using the lands in an efficient manner as determined by Europeans, that the European nations who discovered those lands would have first dibs and sovereign ownership.

 

Really this idea was not that dissimilar from Mennonites and other settlers of the land in Canada, who believed indigenous people were not using the land so they could just take it.  Plain and simple. To them the notion of land in the natural state, without subjecting it to cultivation as in the case of grasslands, or draining wetlands, was an anathema. It was their duty to change the land and make it useful. It is part of the European attitude that nature is there for humans to dominate.  It has Biblical origins and has had powerful effects on the landscape of North America as a result. That doctrine has led to a lot of ecological harm. The indigenous people of Canada had a very different attitude to nature.  I intend to blog about it.

Eventually that doctrine of discovery was disavowed to some extent by the Catholic Church, but that did not diminish its profound influence on European colonialism. It has been cited in numerous court cases in North America. Even though it made no sense.

Here is what the doctrine provided with clear references to the fundamentals of Biblical doctrine in Psalm 72:

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust… Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.”

 

In the documentary,  Professor of History Heidi Bohaker said that this doctrine was “the source of full legal title for Canada after Confederation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada. We may have forgotten in the secular age just how predominantly Christian, overwhelmingly Christian, Canada was.”And some parts of that Christianity Canada inherited was downright ugly. There really is no other way to describe it.

For 4 days on this jaunt, from Manitoba to North-west Ontario,  I drove through and photographed this land I love—Canada. It struck me that this doctrine was a pretty wobbly foundation for claiming dominion over the country over the objections of people who inhabited the land before the first Europeans arrived. Later King George III in England claimed a large portion of this land for the English crown in 1763 through a Royal Proclamation, (now called “The Royal Proclamation) but admitted indirectly that the rest of this land, basically all the land west of the Mississippi and outside of land already occupied by Europeans in 1763, belonged to indigenous people. He also said no Europeans could acquire title without acquiring it by way of agreement between the first nations involved and the English crown.  All people could then only acquire land from the Crown and were forbidden to buy land directly from indigenous people.

 

It is also a fundamental principle of English law, inherited by the country of Canada when it became an independent country in 1967, that no one could convey better title to land than he or she had. That has been a fundamental principle of Common law for centuries. So what really is the basis for Canada claiming dominion over this wonderful land? I submit the basis is shaky, except to the extent that title was obtained from the people who owned it by voluntary agreement with them. This is thorny stuff.

Yet as Professor Denis said, “That is really at the root of the Canadian legal system, the American legal system, the Australian legal system, any of those former British colonies.” I taught real estate transactions for 10 years at the Law School, and always felt the legal basis of our title at least when not based on treaties was shaky. Surely just taking it was not enough?

The fact is that Canada realized all along that this root of title in Canada on which it was relying was dubious. It was not a sound basis of developing Canada.  Canada needed a firmer legal foundation for its society. Canadian government officials saw how the Americans were struggling with this problem too and basically how they decided to base their claims on power. That is how Americans have traditionally operated. Canadians saw how that led to Indian wars in the United States. They saw how at one time that country was spending 25% of its annual revenue on these Indian wars. Canada thought it could not afford to spend so much as its wealthier neighbour to the south could spend. So, Canada sought a better way. They decided to negotiate treaties with indigenous people as a sounder and firmer foundation for title to the land. Frankly, this made a lot of sense, but there were problems with this approach as well.

The land I drove through on this trip was subject to Treaty No. 1 and Treaty No. 3 the first and third treaties negotiated by the new government of Canada.

Our Home on Native Land

 

The Idle no more movement raised some instances of racism in Canada. For example, in Fort Frances, which I drove through on this trip, a white person drove a truck into a protester. Thunder Bay another city I visited on this jaunt, an Anishinaabe woman was raped. What generates such hate? What generates such hate in a country like Canada which prides itself on being reasonable, polite, and hate free? In the incident in Thunder Bay one of the white rapists said to the woman, “you people don’t deserve your rights.”

 

Some people don’t like it when indigenous people start to rock the boat. It seems like Canadians expect them to know their place and behave. But is some obnoxious behavior not justified when people have suffered more than a century of abuse? How long are they expected to just “take it”? Yet as soon as they starting talking or complaining about colonization, or treaty violations they are not as welcome in Canadian society any more.

 

As Jeff Denis, professor of Sociology said, “What is distinctive about settler colonialism as opposed to other forms of colonialism, is that the settler come to stay. They make this their home on native land.”

 The fact that the national anthem of Canada refers to Canada as “our home and native land,” seem deeply ironic in this context. Don’t you think?

 

 

 

Why Can’t You be Just be Like US?

 

Still thinking of Manitoba

 

The Thunder Bay area where I stayed my first night on short autumn jaunt has a deep history of racism and residential schools. It is beautiful country with a very dark past. After I arrived after my first day’s drive I checked into a hotel and immediately proceeded to a local restaurant. There were many indigenous looking people in the restaurant, but of course that is not always easy to discern who is first nations and who is not. It didn’t matter. At a table next to mine I watched two indigenous men with 2 young girls. Everyone was having a fine time. Life was good.

 

I recently watched a documentary called Colonization Road. I highly recommend it to one and all for some interesting points of view.

As one indigenous Canadian Chief of the Rainy River First Nation and writer, Al Hunter,  asked on the documentary, “We hear it a lot over and over—why can’t you just be like us? What does that mean?” The question of course is rhetorical. The answer is obvious. That means why don’t you assimilate with us? Become like us, because we are better than you. Those really are the suggestions of such a question. But  Hunter had an answer however in the film

 

“We want to be who we are. We want our culture to be strong. We want them to know that the past and the future and the present are actually alive. And we want respect, for wanting that for ourselves.

 

Is that too much to ask? Is it really so obvious that we whites are better than our indigenous neighbours?

 

We have no history of colonialism

As I drove on my trip along the Trans-Canada highway I was thinking about colonization. That was partly because the country I drove through was particularly affected by it and also because I had recently been alerted to some new issues.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an astonishing statement on colonization:

“We are one of the most stable regimes in history. There are very few countries that can say, for nearly 150 years they’ve had the same political system without any social breakdown, political upheaval, or invasion. We are unique in that regard. We also have no history of colonialism.”

 

This is one of the most profoundly ignorant statements I have ever heard. It only made sense because he really believed—as do so many other Canadians—the colonization was benign or benevolent. Compared to other countries such as the USA there was much less violence.  But it was still deeply oppressive to the original inhabitants of this continent and their offspring.

As Haydong King said about Harper, he believed we had

“…peaceful colonization where very nice European settlers came and met with very nice but savage native people. And we helped them through Christianity and religion and we taught them how to farm, and we paid for their school. So that has been colonization and it has been a very benevolent one.”

It was certainly benevolent if you are the right side of the issue.

The Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister made a very similar remark about settler coming to Manitoba. They did not come to bring violence. They were builders not destroyers, he said. Pallister rightfully got in a lot of trouble for that wooden-headed remark.

When Canada’s political leaders make such comments, it is obvious that they don’t understand the relationship of indigenous people and the governments of Canada and the provinces. They are looking at that relationship through the lens of a descendants of those colonizers, or their successors.

This summer Christiane and I with our granddaughter Nasya spent a few days in Gimli.  I remember driving by Colonization Road.  It is always a bit shocking to see a road called that. Would Germany or Poland have a Holocaust Road?  I saw another such road later on my trip in Fort Frances. There are roads like that in many other towns in Canada including Kenora, Dryden, And Emo.  It shows how successful colonization has been. People see it as natural. Certainly not anything to be ashamed of or concerned about.

Patrick Wolfe one of the theorists who has studied settler colonialism, said, “settler colonialism is a structure not an event. It is something we reproduce every day through our actions.”

If we want to achieve reconciliation with indigenous people we must learn to understand colonization. Ignorance like that from our Prime Minister and Premier just won’t cut it.

 

 

Beautiful Manitoba 

 

Many people think Manitoba is dull and boring. They are wrong!

 

My trip turned out to be amazing. The scenery of autumn was glorious, but then I encountered something unexpected.  I listened to a strange CBC radio podcast that described a series of incidents in Thunder Bay. I was going to stop there my first night so my ears perked up, where I would stop on my first and second night. I had also recorded a film based on the same series of incidents although when I recorded it I did not realize that. It was a happy coincidence. Benign forces perhaps. Finally, a friend of mine sent me a link to another film in response to a post about reconciliation.  These forces created a perfect storm of beauty and darkness. What could be better?

 

The first thrill of the trip was—get ready for this—Manitoba. I tend to forget, that Manitoba is also beautiful in the autumn. The autumn leaves were stunning. Not many reds, but the colours were jumping. This was a wonderful start!  I could not resist stopping and taking a few photographs from beside the Trans-Canada highway. This was aspen gold at its finest.

 

My next stop was Lyons Lake near the Ontario Border. This is a lovely gentle spot. No power boats allowed. Many years ago, Christiane and I used to go here early in the year to try to catch trout. Always without success, even though the lake was stalked. We just tried to fish from shore and used corn kernels as bait. Someone told us that was good bait, but it never worked for us. But we loved the spot.

 

I listened to some very interesting podcasts including one about Freedom Road which I passed along the way my first day. The road is very near the Ontario border. I will blog about it later. It is a story of Canada at less than its finest. I ended up staying in Thunder Bay for the night. I have always enjoyed Thunder Bay even though I had heard disturbing stories of racism there, including a special report by Justice Murray Sinclair the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It was an unsettling first day of my short and puny and inferior jaunt. But I was on a high. I was ready for adventure.

 

Steinbach Manitoba to Thunder Bay Ontario: A perfect storm of beauty and darkness

 

 

I was thinking about an autumn trip for weeks. Maybe months. I am an admitted travel slut who has not travelled for more than 2 years. I was a-hankering. Bigly.

Autumn is my favourite time of the year to travel.   My original idea was a trip to the east coast of North America perhaps for 4 or 5 weeks.  It is astoundingly beautiful there in the fall. I don’t know if any other place in the world has such a beautiful autumn.

But malign forces were at work.  Other matters kept encroaching on the available time.  First, I got sick. Then Christiane got sick. A few work-related matters and cottage repair issues interfered. How can work interfere with  the life of a retired person?  Available time was shrinking. Malign forces remember.

Then I down -graded my plans to a trip around Lake Superior. It is a spectacular place.  This would still be good.  Michigan is considered by many the best place in North America to see fall colours. But every state and the province of Ontario around it are spectacular. The boreal forest of Canada and the US are magnificent.  I could hardly wait.

Then even that puny trip encountered obstacles.  Malign forces again.  For a while I thought I would not go at all. Then after I recovered from a cold, which I passed on to Christiane, who was not impressed, I decided to abandon all reason and light out for the territories as Huck Finn would say. I went on my own for a very short jaunt as far into the Superior region as I could get, before I would have to turn around and get back in time for duties that were calling.  Isn’t a short jaunt better than nothing?  I thought so. Chris was happy to have me leave (imagine that).

As a result of these forces my superior tour turned into a puny inferior tour.  But I tried to make the most of it. I thought I did that. Parts of the story are truly amazing. These are the parts for which I can’t claim credit, but I think they are worth the trip and I hope some faithful readers of my blog follow me on this journey of discovery. It was far more than pretty pictures. I came for pictures; I found truth. A dark truth.

Steinbach plays instrumental role in protecting trans-gender rights

 

This headline may shock you.

Canada has now banned conversion therapy and Steinbach has played an odd role in the resolution of this issue. But not the role you might think. After three tries the government of  Canada formally banned conversion therapy by amending the Criminal Code of Canada.

Those techniques can range from talk and behavioral therapy to medical treatments. These treatments though widely endorsed by conservatives have been discredited by major medical associations in many countries as well as the United Nations, World Health Organization, Amnesty International and other groups. Critics  of this so-called therapy, say it causes harm to its victims and is based on the faulty assumption that sexual orientation and gender identity can or should be “cured.”

Many conservatives believe that people really are cisgender and should be left that way. Cisgender is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. In other words, God never makes mistakes so humans should not intervene. Except that humans can intervene to keep people heterosexual. After years of debate, Canada has entered the fray with legislation.

As Christine Hauser reported in the New York Times:

“This is an incredibly important step to making sure queer and trans people in Canada feel valid and deserving of full protection,” said Michael Kwag, a policy director at the Community-Based Research Center in Toronto, which researches the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders.

“It also sends a strong message to the entire country that any attempt to change, deny or suppress the identity of queer and trans people is wrong,” he said in an interview.

 

The Code has a very specific and  interesting definition of conversion therapy as follows:

Definition of conversion therapy

320.101 In sections 320.102 to 320.104, conversion therapy means a practice, treatment or service designed to

  • (a)change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;
  • (b)change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;
  • (c)change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
  • (d)repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;
  • (e)repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or
  • (f)repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.

For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration or development of an integrated personal identity — such as a practice, treatment or service that relates to a person’s gender transition — and that is not based on an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.

It is noteworthy that consent of the patient is no defence! In other words, the government of Canada considers that it should be an offence to commit any acts that are “designed” to make such changes in gender. Everyone who knowingly causes another person to undergo such “therapy” is guilty of the offence. As well everyone who knowingly promotes or advertises such “therapy” is guilty of the offence as well. Finally, everyone who receives a financial or material benefit from the provision of such services is also guilty of the offence.

The bill that enacted the new law said such “therapy” harms society because “it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, including the myth that heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” Wow! Canada has come a long way!

But the most amazing thing was this new law received unanimous consent in Parliament! How was that possible? Where was Steinbach’s Member of Parliament Ted Falk? It turns out he was asleep.

Falk was concerned about the effects of this legislation on religious freedom, such as whether a pastor could be charged if asked to speak to a person about gender identity. I don’t complain about such concerns, I just wish Falk also showed some concern about the long history of discrimination against trans people by members of the religious community. On that he had little to say. Frankly, I think that is much more relevant.

Falk knows where his voters come from in the Bible belt of Manitoba.  I was surprised by the international attention shown to this as evidenced by reporting of National Public Radio and the New York Times in the US. The Times even mentioned Steinbach’s Member of Parliament Ted Falk. Wow! The Times noted that the bill was passed through a unanimous consent motion in the House of Commons on December 1, 2021 followed by the Senate on December 7th.

Amazingly Conservatives who had opposed previous versions of the bill then embraced the 3rd version. Yet “our” Ted Falk was not happy about what happened. This is how the New York Times reported on Falk’s activities:

“But some legislators were dismayed. Ted Falk, a Conservative member of Parliament from Manitoba, said he and other conservatives were “blindsided” by the fast-tracked bill that disregarded written viewpoints and concerns.

In a Facebook post on Dec. 17, he said there was no sign of a consensus or final decision had been reached before the motion was unexpectedly presented just as everyone was rising, giving no time for objections.”

“There were about four seconds in which any one of us could have voiced an objection and, in all honesty, before I could process what was happening, the motion had been passed,” he wrote on Facebook.

 

I am not so sure that Falk and the other Conservatives were blind-sided. Perhaps Falk was just trying hard to spin a narrative that his supporters in our Bible Belt might accept. Perhaps Conservatives voted for the motion thinking it would be passed anyway and wanted to rush home for Christmas. How could both the House of Commons and the Senate give unanimous consent with Ted Falk as our representative? Personally, I found this aspect of the case highly amusing. I would like to know what really went on.

In any event, thanks to the conservatives napping on the job, Canada joined at least a dozen countries banning this heinous practice much loved by evangelicals. Those countries included France, Germany, Malta, Ecuador, India, and 20 American states!

I love it.

 

 

The Eagles have Landed

 

 

Thanks to a post from a birder on a web group called Manitoba Birds, and a friend of mine who made sure I saw the post, Christiane and I saw more eagles than we have ever seen before.  We had been told there were numerous eagles near New Bothwell.  I decided to try a favourite spot of mine instead. Not near New Bothwell but near Kleefeld.  There we found a small forest with about 7 bald eagles. It was near the end of the light for the day so we had no time to waste.  Thanks to my theory and Chris’ keen sight, we found a patch of bush filled with bald eagles. We enjoyed the sight for about 15 minutes.

We soon noticed that more and more eagles were arriving all the time.  Sometimes one eagle would land scaring another one off a comfortable perch, but the entire congregation of birds  was conducted with remarkable decorum. No one appeared to claim the system was fraudulent.

By the time we left we counted more than 20 bald eagles and strongly suspected there were many more in that small clump of trees. This appeared to be an agreed upon rendezvous. My images are not great or even good, as even with my massive 200-500 mm Nikon lens coupled with a 1.5 multiplier was insufficient, but we enjoyed the event immensely.

The photo not even mediocre but the experience was everything.

Sometimes—no often—nature provides abundant joy. We were blessed.