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”.