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Posted: May 8, 2013 in Michael Asch, News/Updates

FKP is proud to announce that Professor Michael Asch will be offering a 6-week open class starting May 15, 2013 715pm.

Between Canadian Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination:
Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada.

The class will be held at 768 Yates Street, Victoria at Cenote Restaurant & Lounge. The venue is NOT wheelchair accessible and space is limited to 50.

 

The City of Victoria is celebrating its 150th anniversary with what it’s calling “a wide range of events and projects that embrace Victoria’s proud history and its defining heritage characteristics, while maintaining a current and contemporary view of the future.”

In their promotions for the events, the organisers remind us that: “Victoria has been home to some of Canada’s most colourful characters… including architect Francis Rattenbury, painter and writer Emily Carr, newspaperman and ‘lover of the universe’ Amour de Cosmos, hanging judge Matthew Bailey Begbie…” And, one of the planned Victoria 150 activities focuses on the importance of Fort Victoria’s role in helping to build the city. To pay tribute to this history, the organisers have planned what they call a “fun event [that] will register the ‘universal appeal of forts’ while paying tribute to Victoria’s start as Fort Victoria, a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, which is the basis for the modern City…”

To take up the City of Victoria’s invitation to embrace Victoria’s heritage and history, with an eye to engaging the present and future, it is necessary to go beyond ‘celebration’ to raise the matter of our ‘obligations.’ It is necessary to ask probing questions about the past and about our relations today. Positioning the above characters as ‘colourful’ and framing the appeal of forts as ‘universal’ reflects a disturbing gap between unthinking celebration and engaged obligation.

We should ask whether the term ‘colourful character’ is appropriate in the context of a “hanging judge.” We can remember that Judge Begbie tried people outside of his jurisdiction, often finding defendants guilty after trying them without interpreters. Undeniably he is an important historical figure, the restored version of his courtroom resting in the Maritime Museum of BC, located in Bastion Square, the heart of the old Fort Victoria site and the site of planned celebrations is a testament to this fact; but what does it tell us about our celebrations when we denude the context of a hanging judge? Who did he hang and why? Or, what does it tell us about ourselves when we pass off the state’s executioner as “colourful?” What, who, and how are we celebrating?

In the most direct terms, the configuration of the fort as having universal appeal is delusional. It is important to acknowledge that ‘fort’ is a shortened word for fortification and to remember that fortifications are precisely built structures of contest, violence, and exclusion. They exist because of a desire to assuage fear and provide security through the physical separation of peoples, those inside who are safe and trustworthy but who see themselves as under threat from those outside who are dangerous because of their difference from those inside the fort (civilised v. savagery). It is important to acknowledge and remember that our Fort was a structure laden with cannons and directed the entire colonising force on the Island. It helped to organise and perpetrate quick and devastating and long-term acts of violence on people throughout the land – helping the forced removal of people from their lands, the confinement of peoples into ghettos, theft of resources, intensive missionizing efforts and sustained cultural suppression through school curricula and colonial history. Forts, by design, do not have universal appeal and ours is part of a militaristic and violent operation whose effects continue to this day. That the organisers of the City’s celebration could conceive of it so out of time and history — so out of context — that they would contend that a fort is for all is more than naïve, it helps to create the conditions of revisionist history and altered reality.

To celebrate our history and our place in Victoria is a worthy endeavour and the practice of building structures in downtown Victoria is a creative idea that will no doubt yield interesting, provocative, and artistic responses. In the most serious of terms, however, I wonder if we could valorise other institutions and other ideals. Could we think about and plan for what we need in Victoria, and in downtown Victoria specifically? Could we envision a safe injection site, mental health help, care and love for seniors, food, public toilets, and safe places for marginalised and vulnerable people to live and sleep? There is no doubt that the history of the fort is important and undeniably it is crucial to the city of Victoria, where I live and the community that I care about dearly. Nonetheless, could we celebrate and create something beautiful?

Clearly, with the desire to celebrate our heritage there come obligations to understand our past against what we know to be true and how we’d like to organise and live our lives today. That is, at this time of celebration and retrospection, we could ask questions about the past, examine different accounts of events, and reflect upon how these histories effect our relations today. In this way, with the coming Victoria 150 Celebrations, we could reflect on certain specific community building practices and ask how they might shape our lives. We could, then, remember that Fort Victoria is the site of the ‘signing’ of many of the so-called ‘Fort Victoria’ or ‘Douglas’ Treaties that took place in the early 1850s and we could do something daring and work to honour our treaty obligations.

To celebrate our history is to know it.

Tonight the CBC released a leaked copy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s mid-term report. The following is an introduction to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was struck on June 1, 2008, and is scheduled to complete its work by 2014. It is important to stress that reconciliation, in a broad sense, is conflated with the important but narrow apology to victims of residential schools. The TRC states that it

will build upon the “Statement of Reconciliation” dated January 7, 1998 and the principles developed by the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation and of the Exploratory Dialogues (1998-1999). These principles are as follows: accessible; victim-centered; confidentiality (if required by the former student); do no harm; health and safety of participants; representative; public/transparent; accountable; open and honourable process; comprehensive; inclusive, educational, holistic, just and fair; respectful; voluntary; flexible; and forward looking in terms of rebuilding and renewing Aboriginal relationships and the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

They go on to state, claiming that

Reconciliation is an ongoing individual and collective process, and will require commitment from all those affected including First Nations, Inuit and Métis former Indian Residential School (IRS) students, their families, communities, religious entities, former school employees, government and the people of Canada. Reconciliation may occur between any of the above groups.

Specifically, “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has a mandate to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools. The Commission will document the truth of what happened by relying on records held by those who operated and funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.”

The TRC states that “the Commission hopes to guide and inspire First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and Canadians in a process of truth and healing leading toward reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.” And that “the Commission views reconciliation as an ongoing individual and collective process that will require participation from all those affected by the residential school experience. This includes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis former students, their families, communities, religious groups, former Indian Residential School employees, government, and the people of Canada.” 

As a directive, the TRC will:

  • Prepare a complete historical record on the policies and operations of residential schools.
  • Complete a public report including recommendations to the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
  • Establish a national research centre that will be a lasting resource about the IRS legacy.
  • Host seven national events in different regions across Canada to promote awareness and public education about the residential school system and its impacts.
  • Support events designed by individual communities to meet their unique needs.
  • Support a commemoration initiative that will provide funding for activities that honour and pay tribute in a permanent and lasting manner to former residential school students.

The CBC reports that the mid-term report offers the following recommendations:

The commission calls for all provinces and territories to develop residential school education materials for public schools. Provinces and territories should hold education campaigns about the history and impact of residential schools in their jurisdictions, the commission says.

The report also asks the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s historic formal apology to residential school survivors, saying it should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country. The commissioners want the apology delivered to every known residential school survivor.

They recommend setting up a mental-health wellness facility in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, saying such a centre is “critically needed by residential school survivors and their families and communities.”

The federal government and the churches involved in residential schools should establish what the commission calls “an ongoing cultural revival fund” to pay for projects related to the cultural, traditional and spiritual heritage of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

According to the CBC, some other recommendations are:

  • Provinces and territories should review what is taught in public schools about residential schools and develop new materials to address any shortfalls.
  • The federal government should set up centres for grief and trauma counselling and treatment.
  • The concerns of former students who feel unfairly left out of compensation programs should be addressed.
  • The federal government should work with the commission to make sure it has adequate funds to complete its mandate on time.
  • All levels of government and those party to the settlement agreement should use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for ongoing reconciliation work between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
  • The federal government, churches and other agencies should hand over all relevant documents to the commission so that it can continue its work.

I have been reflecting on these recommendations and I want to raise a few points. I find the idea of delivering Stephen Harper’s framed apology to every residential school survivor a poignant token.  And, I find the delivery of the apology to every secondary school in the country a wonderful idea. The prospect is haunting and provocative. But this token, sent to these schools, all of these schools, has to be part of a meaningful public education campaign. How will these plaques be received and displayed? How will they be taught and understood?

In this way, I raise a challenge to the first recommendation that “all provinces and territories to develop residential school education materials for public schools. Provinces and territories should hold education campaigns about the history and impact of residential schools in their jurisdictions.” To me, it seems much more important to know about the conditions that permitted the logic and action of the state and its citizens to create residential schools and maintain them for more than a century. The history of residential schools is highly important but not sufficient to begin to deal with the issues that created them. It might be part of the path of reconciliation, but it does not address the underlying problems that created the schools in the first place.

Why were young Indigenous people taken from their homes and families and institutionalized? I will raise two points. First, the schools were conceived of as a civilizing project. That is, the state in consort with church missions took themselves to rooting out what was considered savage and instilling what was considered proper. In the realm of thinking savagely, it presupposes that there are gradations of human social groups and the level of Indigenous peoples is one characterized by lack, want, and need. How that story plays out is interesting and important, but it is crucial to stress that the civilizing projects that permitted the institutionalization of Indigenous children continue to this day. In fact, the very definition of aboriginal rights in current Canadian law is a project for assimilation.

Secondly and closely related, children were taken because of demonstrations of power, acts of sovereignty, and claims to jurisdiction. In places like the coasts of what is now called British Columbia, colonial powers led with cannons and small armies, clearing village after village after village. And soon thereafter many people from the remaining communities were infected with smallpox, a process that seems less than accidental and not entirely natural.

The residential schools and the civilizing projects were set up because it was claimed and then attempted to be maintained that Indigenous communities did not have sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over their lands and resources – nor could they as savages. The state could fill the void of the lacking humanity of the common savage Indian by taking control of all resources, limiting those who had come before it by claiming that none had come before it.

The Commission recommends that an on-going cultural revival fund be established. If we understand cultural here to mean something like taught and practiced way of life, it behooves us all to understand that a way of life has a relationship to sovereignty, jurisdiction, control, relations, and freedom. It is one thing to apologize; it is quite something else to make  changes to affect the relationships. I believe we need a more daring and robust notion of reconciliation.

Marc Pinkoski

I am canvassing to see if there is an interested audience for another, different free class.

I am thinking of offering something like a reading course on the “History of North American Anthropology.” I am expecting that this class would be smaller and have a different level of commitment than the previous public classes. (I am working on the next public classes and hope that we will have information to share about them soon). Of course, even if the class is limited in size no one will be refused participation; and it will be free.

Marc

FKP on Facebook
freeanthropology@gmail.com
 
 

On Sunday, November 6, 2011 we will be presenting the following resolution at Centennial Square. We need support in numbers at 2pm.

The Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, 6 November 2011

RESOLUTION, Statement of Intent and Action for Decolonizing Victoria & Memorandum of solidarity and support with Indigenous peoples of this land and all Indigenous peoples in what is commonly known as British Columbia and Canada.

WHEREAS, that as a signal to the “Occupy Together” movement and Indigenous peoples here who have felt excluded by the colonialist language of occupation used to name this movement, we meet under the name: The Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.

WHEREAS, we acknowledge that we are on Lekwungen land, territory that is shared in ways with WSANEC and other Indigenous communities but has never been ceded and is illegally occupied by British Columbia and Canada.

WHEREAS, we acknowledge that despite great colonial pressures Lekwungen, WSANEC and other Indigenous communities from the area remain sovereign nations and we will endeavor to build open and supportive communication with members of these communities.

WHEREAS, we recognize that much of the wealth and its distribution being protested in the Occupy-Together Movement is derived from the past and continued theft of Indigenous peoples’ land and resources and an unsustainable exploitation of the Earth.

We, The Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria do hereby declare it:

RESOLVED, that we will take greater responsibility to learn the histories of Vancouver Island and surrounding area, including colonial legal history and the Douglas Treaties.

RESOLVED, that we will be open to cultivating political and social relationships with Indigenous peoples that will effect meaningful change to address historical and contemporary injustices.

RESOLVED, that we will create a standing working group focused on living up to these commitments and developing further actions in the spirit of addressing the problems of colonialism.  We respectfully seek a pathway to prepare ourselves to build non-colonial relationships with Indigenous peoples and their lands. We are open to benefiting from the involvement, knowledges and participation that Indigenous peoples and communities want to offer this standing working group.

RESOLVED, that moving forward, we are open to potential forms of alliances, mutual learning, action and solidarity with local Indigenous peoples, when, and if, they view such cooperation to be appropriate and constructive for achieving change to our relationships.

Extending an open hand of humility and friendship, The Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria respectfully recognizes the protocol breach of not approaching Lekwungen before convening this assembly on their land. We take this opportunity to ask for permission now.

We offer these gifts as a token of the Assembly’s sincerity to address colonialism and all of our relations.

A story running on Canadian newswires this weekend concerns the on-going Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the relationship of the RCMP to Indigenous communities and state programs, such as the residential school system. The CBC’s headline states “RCMP ‘herded’ native kids to residential schools” and reports that:

The RCMP released the report Saturday at a Halifax session of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is looking into how 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families over more than a century. The 463-page report found that the RCMP had a major involvement in bringing students from First Nation communities to the residential schools. The report says that at times, RCMP withheld information from parents of residential school students about what was happening with their children, and at times they acted like truant officers to schools.

“Students saw themselves herded like cattle and brought into RCMP cars and taken into school. What they say is that these stories have come out throughout the years, but what this does today is validate those stories and show that they were true,” CBC reporter Michael Dick said in Halifax.

The truth and reconciliation commissioners have been listening to powerful testimony from people who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the schools and who were forced to give up their native language and customs. Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair chairs the commission, established as part of a landmark $4-billion agreement reached in 2007 with survivors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government and the churches that ran the schools. “It is for the purpose of establishing a national memory around this so that future generations of people will be able to understand not only what happened but why it happened. And that will ensure that it does not happen again,” Sinclair said.

This story made me think of this incredible report by Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak (June 7, 2011) “First Nations Under Surveillance: Harper Government Prepares for First Nations ‘Unrest.” Their article begins “Internal documents from Indian Affairs and the RCMP show that shortly after forming government in January of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the federal government tighten up on gathering and sharing intelligence on First Nations to anticipate and manage potential First Nation unrest across Canada.”

They write:

Information obtained by Access to Information requests reveals that almost immediately upon taking power in 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was given the lead role to spy on First Nations. The goal was to identify the First Nation leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests, and to closely monitor their actions.

To accomplish this task, INAC established a “Hot Spot Reporting System.” These weekly reports highlight all those communities across the country that engage in direct action to protect their lands and communities. They include Tobique First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) First Nation, Six Nations, Grassy Narrows, Stz’uminous First Nation, the Likhts’amsiyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Gitxaala First Nation, Wagmatcook First Nation, Innu of Labrador, Pikangikum First Nation, and many more. They include bands from the coast of Vancouver Island to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

What we see in these documents – from the hot spot reports themselves, to the intelligence-sharing between government and security forces – is a closely monitored population of First Nations, who clearly are causing a panic at the highest levels of Canadian bureaucracy and political office.

They explain that as result of this oversight that:

Aboriginal people who are defending their lands are now treated on a spectrum from criminals to terrorists. On either side, under Harper, an intensification of intelligence gathering and surveillance procedures now govern the new regime.

Also telling here is the cozy cooperative relationship between INAC and the RCMP. The INAC briefing to the RCMP is almost indistinguishable from a presentation one would expect to see from security forces, rather than from a government ministry. Contrary to their claims, Indian Affairs is not an institution of reconciliation and negotiation, but rather appears to be a management office to control the costs of Native unrest, and they are willing to work closely with law enforcement to accomplish this task.

Two points immediately come up. It is clear from examples such as these that the relationship of state military force over Indigenous people’s lives is not a technique of the past. And, the notion of Reconciliation offered in the CBC article is seriously undermined by the actual practices of our political relationships detailed in the second piece. This exercise of truth and reconciliation is not nearly sufficient to address the concerns at hand.

If anyone is interested in doing an hermeneutic of the present through a reflection on these issues and their place in them, consider reading this facebook post by Ian Ki’laas Caplette and the commentary that follows.

Here are some responses to his meme:

what a load of crap. No one is trying to rob anyone of Identity or lands.   Native lands have been growing quickly for decades. We are giving beautiful campgrounds, parks, beaches… etc. to Natives all the time. We share all Canadian land but yet if a Caucasian goes on Native reserve land they usually get confronted with aggression. We show off the Native traditions in our Olympic ceremonies even though the ones against the Olympics the most are most native tribes. We proudly display the native jackets. Totem poles… etc. Lets also look at history and war. How many lands invaded and conquered were returned back then. And who alive today was alive back then to rightly complain about it now? I have never heard Jews complain and I have rarely heard Blacks complain. NATIVES HAVE TO STOP BLAIMING PEOPLE OF TODAY FOR SHIT THAT HAPPENED BEFORE ANY OF US WERE BORN. Let’s co-exist together fairly and as equals. GET RID OF NATIVE RESERVES… THEY ONLY SEPERATE US AS CANADIANS. WE ALL USE CANADIAN ROADS, FUEL, UTILITIES SO LETS ALL PAY TAXES TOGETHER AND BE A MORE UNITED COUNTRY. ENOUGH WITH NATIVE RIGHTS FISHING AS IT IS DEPLEATING THE WORLDS SALMON SUPPLY ( catching millions of spawning salmon every year before they can lay there eggs while also trudging through the streams destroying where some eggs have already been layed. NATIVES AND CANADIANS WILL NEVER BE TRULY CANADIAN TOGETHER UNTIL WE START LIVING AMONG EACH OTHER WITH EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY AND WITHOUT BLAMING THE LIVING FOR WHAT THE DEAD HAVE DONE. Move forward, stop dwelling on the past stop passing blame.

I am not one of the ones who have hurt you, never will I be!!!! So, as far as racisim go, especially as far back as it goes….when none of us that are here NOW, has been part of what you are saying…….many generations ago………..why is it WE have to pay for their mistakes? Then, or now, I, personally, would never hurt any one who is not of my race, don’t let the way back pass hurt your future, as far as God goes, WE ALL ARE ONE, please remember that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

maybe starting a campaign to stop your brothers from indulging in such extreme alchoholism might be a more constructive use of your time than just wallowing in the past. I would love it if, rather than getting drunk in the streets every day, the local native population did more constructive things with their time.

The other day a native american who was drinking in the streets near my house climbed an electrical pole and got electricuted on the transformer.. You should be more concerned with this than you are with “your plight”.

indigenous people… your ancestors simply immigrated here before the rest of us. if your ancestors had encountered others living here i’m not sure that your people would have treated them any better. there is a myth of a kind of utopia existing before the european settlers arrived. i owe you no apology because i have done nothing to you. there are people in many areas of the world that would do just about anything to gain the freedom and rights of a canadian or u.s. citizen.

If anyone wishes to raise any questions from the discussion that is taking place, we can try to facilitate it here.

Marc Pinkoski