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Time Bomb: Canada and the First Nations – By Douglas L. Bland

Time Bomb: Canada and the First Nations – By Douglas L. Bland

Impasse between First Nations and the rest of Canadians could lead to insurgency

It may only have pocket-book dimensions and is relatively brief, but this fearsomel titled little book may be helpful in avoiding a catastrophic social upheaval.

Time Bomb is one of a series of books published by Dundurn that inform Canadians about topics vital to the nation’s interests.

According to its author, a former lieutenant-colonel with a 30-year military career in Canada’s Armed Forces and past chair of the defence studies program at Queens University, the book was intended to be “a fact-based essay… meant to serve as a barometer warning of stormy days.”

Minor editing oversights and unnecessary hyperbole detract from an otherwise lucid and scholarly examination of the racial impasse between Canada’s indigenous population — especially First Nations people — and mainstream society.

Using data obtained from Oxford-based economist Paul Collier’s analyses of civil wars and from Rand Corporation’s studies of dysfunctional societies, Bland effectively defends the book’s theme: “Let there be no doubt, avoiding a First Nations’ insurgency is an urgent national security necessity.”

Bland is also the author of Uprising (2010), an acclaimed fictional account of an aboriginal insurrection which some critics viewed as a how-to manual, calling it the most dangerous book in Canada.

Bland explains why the competing concepts of sovereignty and self-government must be integrated if Canada and the First Nations are to co-exist peacefully. He likens the relationship between these two participants to a failed marriage, calling them “an old, long divorced couple… resentful of each other,” and forced by unchangeable circumstances “to live together in the same house forever.”

Reconciliation is hampered by the 138-year-old Indian Act founded on “the idea of European racial superiority” and which still dictates governance on reserves.

Government policies, he states, are aimed at assimilating First Nations into Canadian culture, and are far removed from the 1763 Royal Proclamation’s three key concepts meant to have guided relations: recognition, respect and consent.

Instead, violence (and, in some cases, fatalities) has marked the dysfunctional union: Oka, Que., in 1990, Ipperwash and Caledonia in Ontario in 1995 and 2006 respectively, and the more recent clash over fracking in New Brunswick in 2013.

Bland wonders when radicals within the still-peaceful Idle No More movement will exploit Canada’s vulnerability to armed blockades of its national east-west roadway and the twin railways that bind the nation together, and shows how Canada’s transportation systems are easily assailable by a focused First Nations campaign.

While emphasizing that a full-blown insurrection is likely years away, he quotes Justice Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who also foresees an urgency in addressing past wrongdoings: “Canadian society must heal the damage caused by the Indian residential school system or deal with the violence that will undoubtedly be unleashed against it.”

Bland reminds readers that First Nations’ culture rests on a deep spiritual connection with nature — where land, and all its forests, lakes and rivers has no economic value and cannot be owned or traded by an individual.

Until mainstream society grasps this concept, the Third World conditions on reserves, disproportionate numbers of aboriginals in penal facilities, and dismal graduation rates will go on, as will calls for a national enquiry over missing and murdered indigenous women, which gained some traction following the horrendous fate of Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg last year.

Disunity within the Assembly of First Nations that led to the eventual resignation of its national chief, Shawn Atleo, is giving the rest of Canada much-needed time to address long-held grievances and prevent an imminent insurrection.

What Bland considers most worrisome is Canadians’ willingness to accept the current impasse so long as most of the approximately 850,000 First Nations people remain out of sight on isolated reserves.

As he points out, “treaties concluded in the 1800s have yet to be honoured completely,” and there are growing numbers of young, digitally connected indigenous people who are tired of waiting.

Joseph Hnatiuk is a retired teacher in Winnipeg whose rural upbringing was in close proximity to the Peguis First Nation, a community forcibly removed from fertile soils near Selkirk to scrubland north of Fisher Branch.


 

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