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Indigenous Politics

Harper & Co.‘s failing math

Of course, we’re all familiar with the sometimes fawning, sometimes begrudging accolades for Harper & Co.’s tactical strategies: its PR manouevres, its playing of images, its essential ‘gaming’ of our political system. By attempting to jump on certain issues, policies and files with their own spin and aggressive marketing stance, they’ve tried to corner the market on uncritical pro-Israel supporters and military superfans. They’ve adeptly played the fear game in suggesting that if they don’t have complete fiat over economic and fiscal policy, the Canadian state will burn to the ground.

With its obvious base in the tar sands oil conglomerates (now interestingly supplemented by Chinese state capitalists) and its successful wooing of the Canadian ruling classes in the wealthiest families and corporate boards of directors, Harper & Co. has added its own stamp to the Canadian state through its ‘gamesmanship.’ From implications and associations with robocalling campaigns to the strategic assault on scientists and non-profit organizations that emanate messaging contrary to their own, Harper & Co. has proved willing and able to do anything it can to shout out over opposing voices and agendas, and where possible to snuff out those voices entirely. Add to this the slick, taxpayer-funded commercials celebrating ‘Canada’s economic action plan’ (whatever that is – ‘responsible natural resource management’ and the tar sands being oxymoronic) to downright smearing and ridiculing their opponents through Republican-style attack ads, and you get the general impression that the game is definitely on. Harper & Co. have successfully changed the political landscape, transforming it into a carnivalesque, prepackaged fearfest where anyone outside the clique is to be vilified, ridiculed or both. The Canadian public, by and large, was even prepared to swallow the prorogation of parliament itself on the basis of whatever half-baked scaremongering lines proferred. They play the old Wesleyan card on a regular basis, delivering fiery sermons from their pulpits and promising deliverance through only their brand of management.

When members of their inner circle have been implicated in wrongdoing, such as those making sweetheart, backroom deals to enrich constituents who support them under the guise of G8 meetings or otherwise, or in the case of cabinet ministers flaunting the will of parliament relating to support for American war resisters, or using the military as a private chauffeur, they still rebound. Time and again they manage to pry our well-tamed eyes away from the half-hearted mention of these alarms and remind us how assuredly prudent their management style really is.

Yes, it’s sort of a mantra-style, propaganda approach. And since May 2011, they’ve been able to bank on the coveted majority status in parliament to, without standing on ceremony, shove their agenda down our throats. As it turned out, this went too far….

When Harper & Co. killed the Kelowna accords upon first being etched in minority governmental stone, the whole matter was looked on a bit askance, but without too much shock. Morally outrageous, yes. Cold, yes. Wrong, yes. But all of this fit with the public’s perception of the Harper brand to that date.

Friends, let’s be clear (don’t they love that euphemism? They really mean ‘herd’ or ‘dollars’..). Attacking Indigenous peoples is callous. When more than 100 reserves lack proper water for sanitation or consumption, when health and education infrastructure for indigenous peoples is so disproportionately inadequate vis-à-vis that for non-Indigenous peoples, when child poverty is 60 persent more likely if you’re Indigenous, when the prisons house a disproportionately high population of Indigenous peoples…all of these uncomfortable facts add up with historical injustices and outrages to equal a cold, hard truth for Harper & Co. It’s bad press to gang up on Indigenous peoples. And voila! Some promoted young staffer or well-paid focus group yields the mother of pearls; A truth and reconciliation commission! A public apology! We’ll own the file! We’ll be untouchable! We’re the unassailable friend of indigenous peoples – we’ll steal the Liberal votes from right under their dysfunctioning noses!

Well, turn out Indigenous people of Turtle Island don’t want to be gamed.

Only Indigenous people of Turtle Island and thier various nations, cultures and communities have the moral wherewithal to disrupt Harper & Co.’s hitherto uninterrupted agenda. Protesters in Toronto at the G20? Toss ‘em in jail! Indigenous youth blocking a rail line? I don’t think so.

There’s that oh-so-uncomfortable and ever-present fact that our forebears really tried hard to destroy Indigenous people and cultures. Ripped children away from their families and attempted to forcefully eradicate their customs, culture and language, their sense of belonging on the planet. Couple this with the capitalist stampede over indigenous communities to exploit any and every natural resource (consultation? Whatever). No apology, no commission, nothing can ever come to account fully for the destruction that arrogant, racist, Canadians have inflicted on indigenous cultures that lived on Turtle island for thousands of years before we even imagined the place.

Everyone knows that.

And if they don’t, it only takes a cursory amount of education to arrive at the conclusion. Read some Jeanette Armstrong. Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Tomson Highway. Some Thomas King. Read Geoffrey York’s The Dispossessed. Or the book Stolen Continents. Chomsky’s Year 501: The conquest continues. It only really takes a few paragraphs. I grew up 40 minutes from Oka and it took until university, outside the curriculum, to come to grips with it. That’s when I met the remarkable Robert Lovelace, but that’s another story.

Harper & Co. were ever-so-prepared to ram their clever omnibus wrecking balls down our collective throats. Indigenous peoples are standing up and saying no. They’re calling on non-Indigenous people to do the same. For cultural self-determination. For climate justice, for inequality. For a better life for all, not just the wealthy.

Let’s stand up with them, because too much is at stake.

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Linda McQuaig, columnist and author

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