August 4, 2000 Halifax Herald

CA doesn't deny First Nations assimilation policy

On July 28, Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney had a letter published in this paper's opinion page that was motivated by my July 21st column, "Day would head good government - but tolerant?" In it, Kenney doesn't make much effort to deny his party's policy of fostering assimilation for First Nation Peoples. In fact, he addresses everything but the nuts and bolts of the questions I posed.

In what seems to be an attempt to divert attention from the issues, he opts to leave the impression that the Alliance is in the midst of a love-in with every visible racial and religious minority group in the country, except, of course, First Nations. From this omission, one can only assume an acknowledgement that his party has had no meaningful intercourse with First Nations leaders. The probable reason for this is the Party's Indian Affairs policy.

This policy, which I can assure Mr. Kenney and colleagues that I've read, if implemented, would lead to the assimilation and extinction of First Nations cultures, an accomplishment outlawed by the United Nations. The reason for my dire prediction is that the policy does not recognize the distinctness of First Nation cultures or accept any moral obligation to preserve and make them secure. I pointed out these omissions to the Party's former leader, Preston Manning, several years ago. I'm still waiting for a reply.

As for Kenney's statement that Reform and now Alliance have maintained a strict policy "of expelling racists and bigots," I beg to differ. For example, after Herb Grubel got up in the House of Commons and made his racist lazy Natives statement in 1994, he was not expelled; as I recall, he suffered no reprimand whatsoever.

Then there is the fact that Tom Flanagan, an influential Alliance party policy advisor, has not been expelled from the party for advocating the assimilation of our Peoples in his book First Nations, Second Thoughts. He even goes so far as to assert, because First Nation Cultures are not identical to European cultures, that they were not civilized. Alliance party brass have not reacted in horror to his outrageous suggestions. I'm sure, if I made the effort, I could fill this column with such examples.

My advise to the Alliance is to forget any thoughts that they have about attempting assimilation. They should be aware that since the English first had the unmitigated gall to make assimilation a colonial policy in the early 1700s, that all of these illegal and immoral attempts to exterminate our cultures have been successfully resisted. We haven't overcome these best efforts of colonial, and, later, Canadian administrations to exterminate our civilizations just to suddenly and meekly submit to such now. All who advocate assimilation can rest assured that every means at our disposal will be used to prevent such from ever occurring!

Before moving on to a related subject, I will state that, as a person with an open mind, I'm perfectly willing to set down with Stockwell Day and other members of the Alliance at any time to discuss this matter. Then, if they can overcome my concerns and fears about the Party's perceived tendency to be intolerant, I would then join the Party and give it my unconditional support.

I RECENTLY REVIEWED two short National Film Board films, entitled Patrick 's story and Deep inside Clint star. Both honed in on the problems encountered by modern-day First Nation youth when grappling with the lack of self-esteem caused by trying to survive in a hostile foreign social environment.

Patrick's story is about a young boy who, in his preteens, suffers sexual abuse and abandonment caused by parental alcoholism. He goes from one unfriendly foster home to another, until he is moved to attempt self-destruction. He then meets a mentor (she later adopted him) whose guidance, love and support help him to begin the process of implanting within himself the knowledge that in the Great Spirit's scheme of things, he and his people are not inferior to any other race of human beings.

Deep Inside Clint Star explores issues of identity, sexuality and intimacy. One of the most telling experiences exposed in this film is one that relates the social experience of a young Native woman with her blond-haired, white boyfriend. During their nine-year relationship, he has never once agreed to be seen in public with her. Yet, in spite of him being shy of decency, she loves him!

The National Film Board has available an extensive inventory of short films of this nature. In addition to being entertaining they provide enlightenment about the ongoing difficulties encountered by First Nations People when trying to live productive lives while surrounded by an alien culture. If you're interested in educating yourself and others in regards to how the negative consequences of racism dim the hopes of its victims, you can access these excellent, informative films by contacting: Judith Nicholson, Manager National Institutional Promotions, National Film Board of Canada, PO. Box 6100, Station Centre-Ville, Montreal, Que., H3C 3H5; Phone 514-283-9453.

Daniel N. Paul


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