Canada’s own Sir William Stephenson (“Man Called Intrepid”) trenchantly observed that there is a profound difference between being high-minded, and being soft-headed. And, relative to the undoubted tragedy of Colten Boushie’s death and the related court case, our “illustrious” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has once again shown his commendable willingness to at least aspire to the former while exhibiting a worrisome tendency to succeed only at the latter.

More specifically, both our Prime Minister and our Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at least genuflected in the direction of a high-minded commitment to justice, but this CBC article hints at some problematic flies-in-the-ointment on the soft-headed score: 

Trudeau’s first response on Friday night was to acknowledge the personal loss and send his “love” to the Boushie family. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould offered empathy and a vague opinion.

“As a country, we can and must do better,” she wrote. “I am committed to working every day to ensure justice for all Canadians.”

“Do better” suggests something or someone has failed. And so, on Saturday morning, Trudeau was asked whether he and the attorney general were questioning the judicial process.

“I’m not going to comment on the process that led to this point today,” Trudeau said. “But I am going to say that we have come to this point as a country far too many times. Indigenous people across this country are angry, they’re heartbroken. And I know Indigenous, and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better.”

One might seriously wonder how much self-awareness Trudeau has if, in the face of a pointed query as to whether he was “questioning the judicial process”, he more or less dismisses the challenge and then proceeds to do precisely that.

In addition, adding insult to injury, he later states:

“When Indigenous adults make up three per cent of our population but 26 per cent of our incarcerated population, there is a problem,” the prime minister said. “When Indigenous Canadians are significantly under-represented on juries and in jury selection pools, we have a problem.

“We have much we need to do together to fix the system. In the spirit of reconciliation, that is exactly what we are going to be doing.”

No doubt there is a problem, and no doubt there is a not inconsiderable amount of racism directed at “Indigenous Canadians”, and it is certainly commendable that Trudeau takes a “high-minded” approach to roping everyone – one assumes – into “fixing the system”. 

Though one might be forgiven for some cynicism in asking whether he thinks those “Indigenous Canadians” are to be totally absolved of any and all responsibility for the supposed misapplication of that “system”.

And there’s some evidence, as a case in point, that there are some serious problems with the governance of First Nations bands – and for which one might reasonably lay some of the blame at the doorsteps of Trudeau, his Justice Minister, and the entire Liberal government. 

In addition, as the whole issue of native rights – though “Indigenous Canadians” seem not clamour quite as loudly for responsibilities – seems like a dog’s breakfast and an unsolvable Gordian Knot, one might reasonably ask, given the decades of effort and untold treasure thrown at the “problem”, whether we’re barking up the wrong tree, whether it might be wise to reassess the premises that have motivated an attempted solution.

And while it is no doubt a complex issue with many contributing threads, a significant one seems to be that the entire concept of the reserve system is flawed from the get-go, that the inevitable consequence is to turn each reserve into its own economically untenable ghetto, a breeding ground for the manifest and egregious ills that lead, as sure as night follows day, to “26 per cent of our incarcerated population” being “Indigenous Canadians”.

In addition, there is what more than a few have called the “reverse racism of the Indian rights industry”, and, more broadly, one might suggest that, to a not inconsiderable degree, aboriginal communities – not just here in Canada but elsewhere too, are the authors of their own misfortunes. For instance, during the recent Australia Day celebrations, an aboriginal woman threw a few stones, apparently with some justification, at the “victimhood narrative” that seems to mar the positions of so many native activists:

I don’t begrudge any Aboriginal person a desire to fill in the blanks in their histories with romanticism, particularly given the rewards on offer. The story of white injustice and black tragedy has become the most acceptable Aboriginal tale to tell and is now the only perspective on Aboriginal history – despite that dearth of documented accounts – that could possibly be accepted as authentic and true. To suggest that our story is not all about victimhood is bad enough; to suggest that modernity was in any way a blessing is double-plus ungood crimethink.

Indeed. One might suggest that more “Indigenous Canadians” give a bit more weight to the value of modernity, and to the value of the education provided – more or less gratis even if poorly delivered in many cases; and put less reliance on the ways and trappings and values of an “ancient way of life” that, in their naked “glory”, very few seem in any rush to return to.

But even more broadly, one might also suggest that the paternalism of the entire Indian Act is, at its worst, rather decidedly debilitating – it can’t do a person’s self-respect any good at all to realize they’re perpetual wards of the State. Although that modus operandi seems of a piece with the worst aspects of the “modern” educational system in which everybody gets a participation prize, nobody gets more than 51% on their exams, challenges to accept personal responsibility are anathematized – Eleanor Roosevelt championed the importance of governing ourselves, the very concept of merit is swept under the rug, and all just to ensure nobody’s “feelings” are hurt.

High-minded, and soft-headed, indeed; a sign of the times, and our “illustrious” Prime Minister one of its chief “exemplars”.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. The pro9blems of natives with the judicial system has nothing to do with systematic racism, but that FAS rates among natives is so much higher than Canadian rates because of repeated generations of chronic alcoholism. This has led to the murdered and missing native women, their forays into prostitution and the high number of natives incarcerated, although considering the crimes there should be more incarcerated natives and for longer sentences.

    • Doubtful that there’s any “systemic racism” in the judicial system itself, but there’s some evidence to suggest problematic levels of racism directed at aboriginals, some of it from members of that system such as policemen. For example, see CBC’s: “result of ‘centuries of oppression,’ says prominent civil rights lawyer”.

      Certainly there seems to be some disparity in the FAS incidence between aboriginal & non-aboriginal communities, but the differences don’t seem as large as one might expect. But it’s not easy to track down clear statements of those differences, and some argue the evidence is generally “inconclusive”. For instance, the apparently reputable National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health argues:

      As Tait (2003) suggests, a large proportion of Canadian research on FAS is focused on Aboriginal peoples and supports a commonly-held belief that substance abuse during pregnancy occurs more frequently among Aboriginal women compared to their non- Aboriginal counterparts. However, the true extent of FAS and FASD in Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal populations is not known and thus no assessment of higher prevalence is possible.

      While there certainly seems to be evidence of serious problems on some reserves – for example see Fetal alcohol syndrome epidemic on Manitoba reserve – the question is to what extent that is more or less typical of other ones. But this interesting – if far too long for reading – overview from The Aboriginal Healing Foundation Research Series titled Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Among Aboriginal People in Canada at least suggests the issue is more than a passing concern.

      In any case, while FAS seems a not insignificant problem on some native reserves, the economic and medical/social ones may have a much greater impact and greater contribution to that “26 percent” disparity in incarceration rates.

  2. So is Trudeau going to go after the natives for not reporting for jury duty? Perhaps if more of them actually showed up there would be more on the juries. It’s time to hold natives to the same standards as the rest of Canadians.

  3. He opened his big mouth when he should have shut up! There might have been an appeal to the verdict, but with dickhead’s comments…he basically said the system is broken, suggesting the verdict was wrong and the “white” farmer is guilty. What a loser.

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