I am writing to express my severe disappointment in the views expressed by Hugh Holland in his commentary, SNC-Lavalin has overshadowed earlier concerns with JWR’s extreme views on indigenous rights, published on Doppler earlier this week. The commentary piece, which reiterates the arguments of Conrad Black in his article, SNC-Lavalin is a sideshow to the real Wilson-Raybould issue, contains an objectively racist, extremely damaging, and misinformed commentary on the issue of indigenous territorial rights. Holland’s commentary on the root cause of the SNC-Lavalin scandal being Jodie Wilson-Raybould’s “extreme views on indigenous rights” has no factual basis and is merely the reiteration of the bigoted musings of one of Canada’s most distinguished convicts, Conrad Black.
Before discussing the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Holland’s commentary commences by stating that “the idea that perhaps 200,000 native peoples who travelled nomadically through a largely vacant land actually owned that land is ludicrous.” As western property laws (obviously) did not “exist when the Europeans arrived [in Canada],” Holland argues that indigenous people do not have any legitimate claim to their territory. The very argument that Canada’s indigenous peoples are not entitled to having any say over their ancestral lands because they have no western-recognized “legal ownership” over them is ignorant, incorrect, and reinforces the extremely damaging “white saviour complex” that colonial and western societies and norms are “right” while indigenous societies and norms are inherently “wrong” and “backwards”.
Holland continues to reinforce the illegitimacy of indigenous people’s territorial claims by stating that Canada was built into “one of the greatest nations on earth” solely because of the “settlers who arrived.” While Canada prospered into one of the world’s wealthiest nations in the 19th and 20th century largely due to immigration, this statement dangerously discounts any contribution of indigenous people to the Canada that exists today. Moreover, the article as a whole neglects to mention the fact that Canadian “settlers” who purportedly allowed our nation to prosper also conducted: a systematic campaign of cultural and ethnic genocide against Canada’s indigenous peoples; took 150,000 indigenous children from their families and assimilated them into “Western culture” in residential schools where they were subjected to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; and established a number of oppressive and racist institutions that continue to exacerbate the social, economic, educational, and political obstacles disproportionately faced by indigenous people today.
The racist undertone of the article aside, the central argument of the article—that Wilson-Raybould was attempting to “give” all of Canada’s natural resource development control to Canada’s indigenous people by amending Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—is simply untrue. The Liberal government’s proposed Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework giving Canada’s indigenous people the rights to “self-determination and self-government,” would not entail 1.5 per cent of all Canadians (Canada’s indigenous people) monopolizing all of Canada’s natural resource development as erroneously stated by Black and Holland. The purpose of the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework is to provide further recognition of indigenous rights in legislation and in no way explicitly gives Canada’s indigenous people the governing rights to all of Canada’s natural resource development. Further information on the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework can be found on the Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s website.
The ignorant and racist tone of this misinformed commentary that portrays indigenous reconciliation as something that is “naïve” to undertake and calls recognition of the cultural and ethnic genocide committed against Canada’s indigenous people “extreme” is disheartening and demonstrates that rather than moving forward in reconciling the injustices committed against Canada’s indigenous people, many Canadians are moving backwards.
Nathan Forestell is a Huntsville native who is studying International Development at the University of Ottawa
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.