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Trudeaumania and the politics of reconciliation in Canada.

THE LATEST DECISION by the federal government to approve further pipeline construction, in addition to the Pacific Northwest LNG project, is an affront to the "new relationship" it professes to have with Indigenous peoples.

As the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota resist the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline by taking their case to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Canadian government has approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG project in British Columbia--one of many controversial Canadian industrial projects planned with blatant disregard for both Indigenous rights and the environment. The switch from the hard right-wing Harper government to the Trudeau Liberals has thus far ushered in merely an illusion of reconciliation, healing and transformation.

Malcolm X's depiction of the oppressive relationship between the United States and the African-American community seems apt:

"If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress. If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven't even pulled the knife out much less healed the wound. They won't even admit the knife is there."

Progress, reconciliation and healing?

After Harper's residential school apology and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the Transitional Justice Process for Indigenous people who survived generations of human rights abuses in residential schools, the Canadian government continues to stab Indigenous peoples in the back by dishonouring historical and current agreements. The prevailing global Trudeaumania masks and distracts from the reality of the ongoing betrayal of Indigenous peoples.

This is true both at home and abroad.

In addition to declaring that "there is no place for BDS on Canadian campuses"--contrary to provisions in the Charter Rights of Freedoms in Canada --Trudeau voted against six resolutions introduced by the United Nations with a view to ending the colonization and occupation of Palestine, making Canada one of only seven of the 155 members of the international community to oppose the resolutions.

During Trudeau's visit to New York University in April 2016, he boasted that one of the reasons for Canada's success on the international stage in matters such as UN peacekeeping was its lack of "colonial baggage," but he belied that claim virtually in the same breath when he spoke critically of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples, referring to "colonial behaviours." To return to Malcolm X's point, not only is the knife not acknowledged, its partial removal is not progress: under Trudeau it amounts to promoting the false hope that the knife will be recognized so that true reconciliation can begin to take place.

Some Indigenous leaders reject the unreasonable expectation that they should participate in reconciliation relationship-building when so many issues between Canada and its Indigenous peoples remain unaddressed. For example, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs declined to participate in a reconciliation ceremony with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to Canada, declaring it a "public charade."

The Liberal Party and UNDRIP

Under the veil of honouring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Liberal government so far has done just the opposite. In light of the latest approval of the new Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipeline construction projects, as well as the isolating stance Trudeau's Canada has taken toward the United Nations Resolutions aimed at securing Palestinians' right to self-determination, the government's renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples is proving little more than an extension of the politics of the Harper regime.

It is not enough for the Liberal government to simply remove the objection status to UNDRIP and recognize as "a full box of rights" rights that are already incorporated into the Constitution, especially since the Constitution offers limited recognition of Indigenous peoples' rights. It is crucial that Canada adopt the Declaration into law in order to make genuine progress towards reconciliation with its own Indigenous peoples and also to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples internationally. Legislation such as Bill C-262, a private member's bill introduced by Romeo Saganash, NDP critic for intergovernmental indigenous affairs, would be a big step in the right direction. If passed, the bill would codify UNDRIP in Canadian law and require the federal government to create a national action plan to implement the Declaration. This would enable Indigenous peoples to hold Canada accountable for any infringement of their rights and would thus begin to do justice to the Liberal election promise of "Real Change." The lack of any real change is the knife that remains in the backs of Canada's Indigenous peoples. The ongoing denial of the rights of the Palestinian people likewise relegates reconciliation to the realm of illusion.

Caption: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa, from the, Oct. 16, 2014.

Caption: Artwork in solidarity with Standing Rock water protectors, by Leila Abdelrazaq, posted on, Sept. 10, 2016.
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Title Annotation:Short CHANGE
Author:Moussa, Ahmad
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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