Readers who do not know a great deal about Aboriginal peoples could, but should not, be forgiven for being taken in yet again by a major media personality's misdirection about First Nations and land claims. I have reproduced the article below so you can see the actual words that John Ibbitson uses. In the article the lack of settlement of land claims is blamed completely on First Nations. Ibbitson says that " The Assembly of First Nations is a weakening force. If the chiefs don’t reach deals on settling land claims, sharing resources and reforming education now, they may not get a chance later." and then "If the first nations want a share of revenues from resources on lands they claim, or from oil or natural gas lines traversing those lands, they should make a deal while they still can. In the future, no deal may be available." Apart from his bully boy threats which are so obvious he blames the chiefs for not settling land claims. Do you think the chiefs have not actually been trying to get settlements for years? Can the chiefs settle alone? Of course they can't. They have to work with the invisible entity in Ibbitson's article: the federal government. Notice how Ibbitson does not mention the fact that the Canadian State has used every sort of legal and political delay to ensure that land claims are not settled. Notice how Ibbitson does not say what the results of those conscious state delays are? The results have been great for gov't and corporations who have been able to rape the disputed lands of their resource wealth making untold fortunes as a result of gov't delays in treaty negotiation. Nope, Ibbitson continues the time honoured strategy of colonial oppressors which is blaming the victims while letting the victimizers, Settlers, off by omission. Lastly, Ibbitson talks about how immigrants won't have the education of the Cdn context to appreciate FN issues. Well, with the kinds of things Ibbitson writes it is unlikely they will ever get even the most basic balanced understanding of FN issues. What kinds of political decisions will they make because of this? Flex
Native leaders risk missing their moment of greatest influence
We’ll learn on Wednesday whether any of the challengers can coalesce opposition to Mr. Atleo’s more co-operative approach. But the chiefs assembling in Toronto this week could be missing a larger truth, which could lead them to make bad choices that will deepen the poverty and pain that too many people living on reserves endure.
The chiefs think their influence over federal and other governments will increase as the native population increases. It won’t. The ability of Canada’s first nations to influence the national agenda is likely to diminish, not grow. The Assembly of First Nations is a weakening force. If the chiefs don’t reach deals on settling land claims, sharing resources and reforming education now, they may not get a chance later.
According to Statistics Canada, 361,000 people self-identified as North American Indian were living on reserves in 2006. Most are young: half the population is 25 or under. That’s because native women used to have a lot of children. Note the words “used to.” Around 1970, as the baby boom ended, the fertility rate among Canadian women in general had declined to 2.1 children per woman, which is the level at which a population stabilizes with as many births as deaths. But the aboriginal birth rate (Indian, Métis and Inuit) was 5.5 children per woman, which is why there are so many young native Canadians today.
Since then, the aboriginal fertility rate has dropped like a stone. By the middle of the last decade, it had reached 2.6 children per woman. That’s still considerably higher than the non-aboriginal fertility rate of 1.5, but it is close to stabilization. This means that, a generation from now, the on-reserve Indian population will peak at around 550,000 and will then level off or even start to decline.
But a generation from now, Canada will be a very different place. Every year, about 250,000 immigrants arrive. The entire on-reserve first nations population equals considerably less than two years of immigration. Very few of the new arrivals have European backgrounds. By 2031, two thirds of the population of Toronto will be what Statistics Canada calls visible minorities. Natives will represent less than one half of 1 per cent of the city’s population.
These new arrivals can empathize with the treatment of Canada’s native population by the European settlers and their descendants because their ancestors also suffered under colonial masters. But they bear no responsibility for the maltreatment of aboriginal Canadians. They are not the descendents of the oppressor; they themselves are the descendents of the oppressed.
For that reason, as the years pass, new Canadians are likely to become increasingly impatient with demands from the first nations. Native leaders will find an ever-diminishing appetite among the broader Canadian population for apology and redress. There simply won’t be the same sense of guilt.
The first nations will, of course, be able to turn to the Constitution and the courts. But experience suggests that a small and shrinking minority has little hope of defending its claims if there is ever-lessening support for those claims among the general population. This is what native leaders face.
If the first nations want a share of revenues from resources on lands they claim, or from oil or natural gas lines traversing those lands, they should make a deal while they still can. In the future, no deal may be available.
And the chiefs should also bear in mind a future of steadily diminishing influence as they choose the next leader of their assembly.