Canadian Flag

The story behind the adoption of the Canadian Flag by Canada's Parlament, February 15, 1965, is one of believe it or not. The country was wealthy, had a high standard of living, but flew another Nation's flag - Great Britain's. Yet, a large minority of its politicians, and citizens, fought the efforts of Nobel Peace Prize Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to give the country a distinctive flag of its own tooth and nail. That Pearson finally succeeded in overcoming the roadblocks his opposition imposed is testament to his patriotism, and love he had for Canada.

However, the flag does not truly represent the country's First Nations, because Canada's First Nations Peoples do not have self-government. When we have then the federal flag will represent all Canadians. Who knows, perhaps self-government for our Peoples will arrive before the twelfth of Never?


Canada was born March 8, 1867. It was created by a law enacted by Great Britain's Parliament: "The British North America Act." When it was passed many British MPs were not in the chamber for final reading, but they rushed in immediately afterwards to vote on a bill to place a tax on dogs. Their action vividly displayed that the welfare of Canadian colonials were not a priority for them.

The Act federated the British colonies of northern North America into a country consisting of four provinces, with two levels of government, federal and provincial. Under the provisions of the Act, both levels have their respective responsibilities and powers clearly defined. Responsibility for the welfare of Treaty Indians, and the security of their lands, was placed firmly in the hands of the federal government.

Section 91(24) of the Constitution reads:

91. It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; and for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section, it is hereby declared that (notwithstanding anything in this Act) the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,...

(24) Indians and Lands reserved for Indians.

The federal government assumed its trust responsibilities for "Indians" and "Indian lands" with all the enthusiasm the former colonial governments had and, like its predecessors, was just as neglectful in carrying them out.

The most significant change for the First Nations was that they now had to look to Ottawa, instead of provincial and territorial capitals for subsistence allowances. The immediate benefit was that the assistance from Ottawa was high enough to end starvation. The biggest negative was that communication with the remote Great White Father was very difficult for a largely uneducated population.

Communication was made even harder for First Nations Peoples because of the federal government's habit of passing its new responsibilities from department to department. Until Indian affairs was finally anchored to a static home by the creation of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) in the 1960s, it was switched at random from one department to another: Secretary of State; Energy, Mines and Resources; Citizenship and Immigration.

In retrospect, placing our People in the hands of Citizenship and Immigration was very offensive. Today, it seems like a cruel and tasteless joke that the First Nations peoples, rendered destitute and landless refugees in their own country by the English, were placed under the control of the department responsible for immigrants to Canada. What made it even more atrocious was that Registered Indians were not accorded the same rights and privileges enjoyed by immigrants.




What Then Must We Do?

I sit
on a
man's back
choking him
and making
him carry me
and yet assure myself
and others that I am sorry for him
and wish to lighten his load by
all possible means-except by
getting off his back. (Leo Tolstoy, 1886)

When Tolstoy wrote this poem he probably had people other than Canada's First Nation Peoples in mind. Yet the ode fits our story to a tee. It describes how governments and society can oppress a people while pretending to be compassionate. Canada has proven to be most adept at this. Today, with piety, it holds us responsible for the dire straights we're in because of the racial sins it committed.

I wrote several newspaper columns about government paternalism and its devastating effects, they can be found at the following URLs:

December 29, 1995 - Halifax Herald: O Canada, our home and intolerant land: http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1995/Canada-IntolerantLand.html

May 17, 1996 - Halifax Herald: Paternalistic "solutions" underlie natives' plight http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1996/PaternalisticSolutions.html

December 13, 1996 - Halifax Herald: First Nations Report: expensive exercise in futility http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1996/FirstNationsReport-ExpensiveExercise.html

May 1, 1998 - Halifax Herald: Self reliance: the key to success http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1998/SelfReliance-KeyToSuccess.html

July 9, 1999 - Halifax Herald: Government to blame for band council problems http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1999/GovernmentToBlameForBandCouncilProblems.html

October 24, 1999 - Not Published: First Nations Peoples Canadian Citizenship: second class at best! http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/1999/FirstNationPeoplesCanadianCitizenshipSecondClassAtBest.html

January 19, 2001 - Halifax Herald: National parental responsibility program needed http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2001/NationalParentalResponsibilityProgramNeeded.html

May 14, 2004 - Halifax Herald: Unilateral schemes won't work for natives http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2004/UnilateralSchemesWon'tWorkForNatives.html