I have just finished reading The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Indigenous land rights.
There are many important points in this book. One is that modern treaties are aimed at taking away title to even the 0.2% of Canada’s land area that Indigenous people currently have. Think about that: they’re at least 5% of the population but they have 0.2% of the land. No-one can sustain a living on such a tiny amount of land, and they certainly can’t achieve self-determination on that amount.
That’s why Russ Diablo and others have been sounding the alarm about those treaties for a long time. They are aimed at granting legitimacy to the theft of the land.
It’s also clear that Canada is constantly and massively violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both on the issue of land, and in the way they constantly interfere in Indigenous people’s lives. UNDRIP states, among other things, that every people has the right to self-determination and the right to manage its economic resources.
And despite rulings like Delgamuukw, if Indigenous people fish or hunt outside the tiny amount of land they’ve been allocated, they risk having their catch taken away.
If they protest against pipelines on their own land, they get arrested and imprisoned. Arthur Manuel’s daughter Kanahus was imprisoned for protesting. She is currently protesting against the Kinder Morgan pipeline with the Tiny House Project.
Indigenous children are still being stolen by the government. There are 11,000 kids in care in Manitoba alone; 90% are Indigenous. This is not because the parents are incapable — it’s because they are kept in poverty — the welfare they get is much smaller than the rest of Canadians.
And then (some) Canadians complain when the government makes even the tiniest gesture of reconciliation, such as a proposed program to help restore Indigenous languages. Or the Truth and Reconciliation Program in schools (cut by Doug Ford).
Indigenous people get considerably less money per head from the government than Canadians.
And the government spent millions trying to deny dental surgery to an Indigenous kid (because it’d establish a precedent and they’d have to do it for other Indigenous kids too).
Arthur Manuel sets out a path to real reconciliation — not merely the cosmetic version of reconciliation offered by Justin Trudeau, which is merely colonialist business-as-usual. He shows how Canada could be restructured so that Indigenous peoples would have their fair share of land, and self-determination. He also points out the levers to press to get this to happen (because you can be sure that no colonialist government will do this out of the goodness of its heart).
Before anyone dismisses this as mere dreams, Ecuador recently reorganized itself to give Indigenous peoples there self-determination and a viable land base.
The land and the waters cry out for justice for Indigenous peoples. But the government can’t hear them, which means that people need to make more noise about this.
I highly recommend this book to all interested readers. It is very well written and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how a path to genuine reconciliation might happen.