Young first nations people are largely poor, uneducated, prone to crime and live near vulnerable resource areas, ex-Forces officer argues
By Barbara Yaffe
Douglas Bland, a former lieutenant-colonel in Canada's Armed Forces who chairs defence management studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says conditions are ripe for a major uprising by first nations people.
He told a luncheon audience of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg last week that "the typical federal or provincial politician in Canada has no idea what to do with this matter. They only see it as a difficulty for themselves."
In turn, aboriginals are "emboldened by the prevailing political reluctance to act."
In a speech titled, "Where Are Aboriginal Affairs in Canada Headed?," Bland answers the question by noting that Canada is particularly "vulnerable to a national disturbance, given its economic dependence on the export of oil, gas, natural gas, hydro power and other commodities to the U.S.
"Aboriginal communities are sitting on those supply chains. At any moment they can turn that system off, which would pose a danger to the economy and to Canadian sovereignty."
Canada has witnessed several instances of the sort of aboriginal unrest Bland is talking about.
First nations groups have staged roadblocks on Highway 401 near Kingston and put up barricades on major railways. A crisis over disputed land occurred in Oka, Que., in 1990, and in Caledonia, Ont., in 2006. Another standoff took place in 2009 near Cornwall, Ont., between Mohawks and border services personnel who had planned to start carrying firearms.
If Canada's Native youths do something, I'd suggest symbolic acts rather than "real" ones. Hurting people or destroying property will only turn potential sympathizers against you.
Many of us have noticed how energetic the Native activism is in Canada compared to the US. As I indicated, I'm not sure an actual "uprising" would be good. But showing people that you're "mad as hell," and threatening an uprising, may be effective. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
I'm not sure how Canadian Natives are doing compared to US Natives. Superficially, it seems their activism has produced results. The Canadian government has apologized publicly...it featured Native cultures at the 2010 Olympics...it funds the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)...etc.
No doubt it isn't doing enough to settle land claims, fund government services, and recognize tribal sovereignty. But acknowledging the presence of Indians is a first step. It's something we don't do enough of here.
For more on the subject, see 2010 Olympics on "Unceded Territory" and Torch Blocked on Canadian Reserves.