Dr. John Ralston Saul speaking about “Aboriginal Peoples and the Law”

Saul is a public intellectual, author and mischief maker.

John Ralston Saul 1

He spent 1.5 hours talking about the first nations and settler relationship in Canada and around the world.

Osgoode Law School

At Osgoode Law School at York University in North York on February 26, 2013.

John Ralston Saul 3

His 2008 A Fair Country is simply brilliant.

I paraphrase Dr. Saul:

The Supreme Court of Canada: In case after case after case, the Court has ruled that the written record or treaty is only a fraction of the entire context of the agreements made with First Nations, FN. Much more important are the purpose, intent justice and ethical issues surrounding the agreements. Navigating this oral versus written heritage is simply fascinating. The federal and provincial lawyers, however, continue to act as if the only “agreement” was that which was written down or within the “four corners of the contract”. New realities frequently never get in the way of solid professional practice.

Federal and provincial governments acted badly (eg. stole land & children) from 1870s to about the 1960s. All land claims could be solved in 10 years if there was a will to get on with it and to act in good faith. Instead, it’s a “hectare by hectare”, unbelievably expensive, tooth-extracting process that is inevitable anyways.

The present-day Settler Canadian hollow sympathy (alligator tears, words without deeds) toward FN is akin to an American faux-emoting (ie. Jerry Springer?) Might  be the lowest grade of Christian guilt groveling.

Linear v. Circle Society Views: Unencumbered by Plato and the Enlightenment, FN have never left Eden.  To them, there is no up or down. Describing Queen Victoria as “Grandmother” was not an admission of subservience but one of inclusiveness. The perversion of these intended relationships was based on racism and  greed because the men were not stupid.

Peace, order and good government is a misleading myth. For the bulk of our history “Peace, welfare and good government” with welfare being a clear lift from FN was the way we saw ourselves. Single tier health care, the Wheat Pool, the co-operative movement: all expression of FN-derived concept of egalitarianism.

Important CDN history is not taught in Canada: CDN universities are churning out derivative pap from Europe and the U.S. as if there weren’t any relevant or interesting or original CDN thought or philosophy. Who studies Harold Innis, the most important social scientist in the world in the second 1/2 of the 20th century?  Nobody. Who has ever read the B.C. Chiefs address to the Prime Minister in 1910 (Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier, 1910, pdf)? We are trying to make a political process imported from France or Britain to fit a Métis nation called Canada. This is why our elites are so dysfunctional: they don’t have the language or understanding to actually solve our indigenous (of this geography) problems.

FN Population Fall and Rise: 2 million aboriginals in 1600s, 1900-1910 about 175,000, start to come back , now: 1.2 million with large families. FN were the highest percentage of enlistment in WWI and WWII and those were an intentional statement of existence (eg. being alive, being a people). In 1961 aboriginal peoples were given the right to vote in CDN elections.

Who is a Treaty Person?: Everyone is: the blue-eyed, the brown, the new the old CDN. We all exist here because of an agreement. By thinking of “us” and “them” we are being willfully irresponsible.

FN Children education: over 1 million children receive at least 25% less for education per capita than non-aboriginals do. Does this matter to you? What are you prepared to do about it? Does that make you angry?

There are now 2,000 aboriginal lawyers in the Aboriginal Bar Association. There is a new aboriginal elite in Canada in law  medicine, education, media: they’re as motivated as any refugee usually is because they have a lot to prove. Take a look at the unknown eloquent speakers arising from Idle No More: who are these people and what do they want?

Desire to meet with Governor General: If you and your people had been screwed over for 150 years by a federal department, would you want to only meet with the same officials? The Governor General and PM are symbolic of authority and power, which are different but complementary terms. No one asked for the Governor General to replace the political process: his presence would simply make things more interesting and might go some way to acknowledge the history of bad faith and unfair dealings. Refusing to accommodate is another retrograde colonial act of a fearful impotent elite [the last sentence is mine].

…and now about Springwater Park…

Parks and First Nations:  A BC aboriginal community has a contract with Parks Canada to run a national park. They make money from it and teach an aboriginal perspective along the way and it seem to work for everyone.

Dr. Saul thought it just might work for Springwater Provincial Park as well.


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