Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Idle No More: Canada's dirty little secret

I woke up on this crisp Christmas morning thinking about Chief Theresa Spencer and her hunger strike. She's not looking for the new Wii or PS3 under a fake Christmas tree. All she wants on this day is a meeting with Stephen Harper to discuss the plight of Canada's indigenous people.

Not too much to ask, I say. This kind of real dialogue should have happened a long time ago.

But our Prime Minister won't meet with her to talk. He's probably saying in that George Bush way he has that he doesn't negotiate with terrorists...or mothers on a hunger strike.

Really what he's thinking about is Canada's dirty little secret, the metaphorical abused child locked in the basement of our posh custom made house. To open that door would expose our country to the world and leave us open to charges of neglect and abuse, passive aggressiveness in times when action is needed.

This morning on reserves and in cities across Canada, men, women and children will be freezing in the dark, bleeding to death from a thousand cuts, both self-inflicted and committed by outside forces. We Christians talk about hope; our indigenous brothers and sisters can only talk about hopelessness in the face of addiction, disease and lack of even basic services. At the same time, some of their own leaders will be vacationing abroad after having cooked the books. They tuck into mighty feasts, wearing thousand dollar suits. They have no respect for their own people.

I say shame on them. And I say shame on us for allowing a few to dance while the many suffer.

Something smells. And it isn't the cooking.

I cannot pretend to have any answers. Like most people, I only have questions. What I do know is that Chief Theresa Spencer is right. We need an open discussion. We need to do the right thing. That's not about bandaids. It's not about throwing money. It's not about leveling blame. It's about digging in, opening the books, getting our hands dirty.

Telling Canadians what's really going on.

Why is this so difficult? When a foreign nation abuses its children, we do not hesitate to send in the troops, talk about reconstruction, sing around the campfire. It makes us feel good about ourselves to help those who live away. As a collective, we are quick rush to the rescue sending in supplies, blankets, food, construction workers, health care workers.

Why can we not look in our own locked basement, air it out, refurbish it?

What are we afraid of, exactly?

Some may argue that we've done enough. Maybe, just maybe, we've done too much, wrongheadly. Like the guilty husband who abandons his children, we prefer to write big cheques, then look the other way.

That's not the answer. Everyone needs to be made accountable. Problems need to be fixed for real this time, in a manner that is respectful to all, mindful of everyone's cultures and beliefs.

I can't talk about treaty rights. All I know is that all reasonable reparations need to be made. I don't care how it's done; just make it right and fair for all.

As an individual Canadian, I cannot be blamed for what happened in the past. I played no part in it. But what I will take blame for is my own ignorance and perhaps indifference.

I thank Chief Spencer for her sacrifice on behalf of her people.

Now that it's finally in our faces, maybe something can be done.

Prime Minister, get up from the table. Put down the remote.

Chief Spencer is starving just down the road.

Take the meeting.

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