Posts Tagged ‘government’

Re: Let the objections finally cease

March 16, 2007

I wrote and sent this letter to the editor at the Globe and Mail:

As a Canadian who takes as fact the First Nations’ responsibility for their own lives and communities, I’d like to answer John Ibbitson’s question, “So what are you doing to help them reach that independence?”

First and finally, I’m not suggesting we take away their autonomy regarding self-education. Integration is not, as he writes, “the only solution.” The last time Ibbitson made this suggestion (Dec. 21/06) Phil Fontaine (national chief, Assembly of First Nations) replied, “our dedicated leaders and educational professionals have developed a plan that will more effectively meet our needs.”

It wasn’t printed.

Just as a note, I use “we” (italicized in the letter) very self consciously. Ibbitson draws his readers into this “we.” He writes:

Let’s say to each other: We will bring status and non-status Indian, Inuit and Métis high-school completion rates up to national average in this generation, and we will not let jurisdictional disputes, funding shortfalls or anything else keep us from reaching that goal. And we will hold our politicians, our native leadership and most important ourselves to account.

I am a part of this we, and bothered by the inclusion. I become an actor in a conspiracy, a conspiracy I want no part of, and must respond with “we.” And there is a conspiracy here. “Integrating native schools into the provincial school systems is the only solution,” A conspiracy against First Nations autonomy.

Another note, When Fontaine writes “our dedicated leadership” and Ibbitson writes “our native leadership” the same possessive pronoun refers to different groups.

And another note: Ibbitson writes:

Those close to the issue are shaking their heads. They know the federal government would never surrender jurisdiction, the provincial governments would never agree to assume it and native leaders would never give up control.

We’re shaking our heads in Ibbitson’s mind because of what we know? But he’s proposed the solution, what he goes on to call the only solution:

The solution would be for Ottawa and native leaders to let provincial governments — who actually know how to run an education system — assume full responsibility for native schools.

For the record I’m not shaking my head, but if I were it wouldn’t be for the reasons Ibbitson puts forth. First is the repeated proposal of integration that Ibbitson is making. There’s a question; What are his intentions? The last time he made the suggestion the native response was clear, they’ve got it under control. So this second proposal, essentially ignoring the First Nations response, has got to be questioned. I don’t have an answer, just a question; What are his intentions?

Next, the interjection, “who actually know how to run a school system,” might provide the answer to why Ibbitson ignores the First Nations response. The First Nations are obviously not “who” for Ibbitson. This is actually offensive. All the more so, when you consider the influence the provincial education systems have had in the north. The provincial education system doesn’t work for low income kids.

And third, why wouldn’t the federal government want to drop this hot potato? Why wouldn’t the provincial governments take the money? Most kids fly out for high school already, integration wouldn’t be much of a change. These two objections are fabrications to make it look like the First Nations aren’t the only ones who don’t want this.

The First Nations are in an excellent position to experiment within education and find different practices that work in their many different communities, languages and cultures. There can not be an “only solution” when it comes to education in the north.

I now know why the question “How Canadian are you?” bothers me.

Remember This

November 11, 2006

I read this blog regularly. She’s a part of this blog every day in November group, and well if you’re going to blog every day, you’ve got to write something. Sometimes I think it’s better to write nothing. Sometimes I do what I don’t think is better. Oh, call me a hypocrite.

I wasn’t going to write about Remembrance Day. I wasn’t. And then I read her post. It’s inoffensive, almost fence sitting, maybe leaning a little to the peace-nik side of the war debate. But that’s what the debate surrounding today usually comes down to: do you want to glorify war or are you fascist bait? Because I’ll tell you, you’d be licking Hitler’s boots if our boys didn’t go over there to fight this war for you.

So this is part of what I wrote:

I don’t wear a poppy. It’s hard. I see these creaky old men welling up with remembrance, I want to respect them, but they’ve got it so wrong. Walking around without a poppy says “I don’t remember.” At it’s most innocent it says that. But I do remember and the symbol lies.

The idea that we’d have no freedom if the soldiers hadn’t fought the good wars is a lie. People have fought for our freedom, that’s true, but it wasn’t soldiers, and in a lot of cases soldiers were used to oppose the freedoms we enjoy.

No soldier fought for a woman’s right to vote. Where were the soldiers during the civil rights movement? Who fought for equal pay for equal work? Who fought for labour laws? Most of our freedoms come of controls wrested from our governments. And soldiers are the tools of government.

Pick up Pierre Berton’s The Great Depression. You’ll see that Canada worked to keep out Jews; that Canada had its own burgeoning fascist and anti-semetic movement. And that Canada was doing its best to squash its workers’ movement.

There were civil movements all through Europe opposed to fascism; opposed to the crushing of their freedom. Again, all the freedoms we speak of are freedoms won by people out of uniform fighting our government. If the fascists had won the war, they’d have lost the civil war, just like our government has.

Our freedoms are always under threat, and if we can’t remember how they were actually won, we may one day lose them, or at least have to fight for them, out of uniform, once again.

Over on her blog I used one for won. God Hates Homonyms. That’s a joke. But Homos are another group that had to fight their own battles. And really our battles aren’t over. Right here in Canada, the homeless need homes. Children need to be fed and better schools need to teach those well fed kids properly, whatever that means, but the battle should be waged. We need to fight to build that foundation so we can get back to fighting for human dignity and freedom.

Every year at this time we’re asked to remember that our government’s soldiers gave us our freedom and keep us safe. How are we supposed to remember something that isn’t true? Are our homeless safe? Are the internet surfing class safe from the homeless? Are we free from our government? Free to act as a community? Free to speak as an individual? What we need to remember is the tenuous freedoms we have are gifts from people, strong people, out of uniform, people like ourselves, people who did it for themselves, for their sisters and brothers, and for their own and their neighbours’ kids. We need to remember that their struggle isn’t over and that their struggle is now our struggle.

Remembrance Day is the perfect day to remember the less fortunate, to remember that it’s our duty to pick up where the freedom fighters of the past left off. It’s not like I’m trying to change the meaning of a festive day like Christmas, showing you images of starving children in Africa you can do nothing about. We can solve our problems here in Canada, and today is a good day to remember that.