The politically correct here are stymied, they want to help the Mohawks because they are downtrodden victims and they are good for the mulitcultural business, but they themselves purportedly don't even believe in the existence of race or in racial discrimination. They have got to take a stand.
Canada and the Charter are about civic nationalism, not ethnic nationalism-which expressed itself in a very ugly way in the former Yugoslavia a few years back.
The Mohawk affair is an affront to all - The Globe and Mail
The Mohawk affair is an affront to all
The Canadian Press
Why would Quebec and Canada tolerate the trampling of people's basic rights by a policy based on bloodline?
Published on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 8:24PM EST Last updated on Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 1:33PM EST
Is it ethnic cleansing or downright racism? In either case, it has no place in Canada.
The band council of Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve south of Montreal, has given 10 days to 26 non-Mohawks to leave the reserve. Most of them are non-native men living with Mohawk women. Families will be broken up and husbands and fathers expelled from their homes – unless the women follow their partners off the reserve. But if they do so, they – and their children – will lose their family homes and their ancestral rights. (Interestingly, aboriginal men married to non-native women are not subject to orders of expulsion, proving that racism and sexism often go hand in hand.)
Why would Quebec and Canada tolerate the trampling of people's basic individual rights by a policy based on bloodline? The Quebec government is looking the other way on the pretext that Indian affairs is under federal jurisdiction, and no one raised a question in the National Assembly. Last week, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl lamely said that, even though he didn't like the band council's decision, he couldn't do anything since the move is legal and the first nations are “sovereign” on their lands.
The NDP's Thomas Mulcair washed his hands of the controversy. He said he understands the Mohawks who want to preserve their culture, and he understands the “other Canadians” who dislike racial discrimination. So, presumably, he believes both sides are right and there's no problem.
Michael Ignatieff was the only party leader who clearly disapproved of the expulsion orders. “It is unacceptable to divide already established families,” he said in a written statement. (The formulation is ambiguous, though. Would the Liberal leader accept a band policy that would forbid aboriginals from establishing families with non-natives? His director of communications told me Mr. Ignatieff would condemn such a policy, too.)
The only group to publicly protest against the expulsion orders at Kahnawake was Quebec Native Women. Its president, Ellen Gabriel, herself a Mohawk living on the Kanesatake reserve near Montreal, said the Indian Affairs Minister has the power to invalidate the council's decision – an opinion corroborated by several jurists interviewed in the media. Ms. Gabriel insists that disallowing intermarriage is not part of the Mohawk tradition: “Adoption of non-Mohawks was, and still is, a common practice,” she told the Montreal Gazette, “and includes ceremonies to welcome non-residents who have committed to learn the Mohawk language and uphold Mohawk traditions.”
The Kahnawake Mohawks have been trying to expel non-natives since 1981 on the grounds their culture will disappear if too many non-natives settle on the reserve. They're in a special situation, as compared with those groups whose reserves are far from cities. Since they live close to Montreal, they have easy access to a large job market and have become quite prosperous while benefiting from fiscal privileges granted to reserve residents.
Since they charge no taxes, they've been running successful small businesses selling underpriced cigarettes for years. They also own several casinos and a golf club. On the other hand, their proximity to Montreal makes them more exposed to the “risk” of meeting and falling in love with non-natives. But, as Ms. Gabriel said, integration – not rejection – is the solution. In any case, the concept of “racial purity” is completely obsolete in today's world.
Of course, the affair is quite murky, if only because the federal government itself is the prime culprit for having maintained an apartheid-like system of reserves based on ethnicity. And all provincial governments live in terror of seeing a group of aboriginal militants erect barricades on roads or bridges. What Quebec politicians see in their nightmares is the Mercier bridge, which links the island of Montreal to the southwest part of the province – via the Kahnawake reserve.