Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Caledonia: "... no one’s hiding it. It’s racist."

Excerpt from this interview with Barbara McDougall, leader of the Federal negotiating team:

Evan: But boy, when you see the mayor’s comments, just being up there, I’ve been there and you’ve been there, you hear racial, the cars drive by and it’s just the white cars, the white people drive by and they throw terribly racist comments at the First Nations at the Six Nations folks and it is just nakedly obvious, no one’s hiding it. It’s racist.

Barbara McDougall: It’s chilling isn’t it but you know a lot of those people are not from Caledonia. There have been people, some of the loudest voices are from other areas so it’s become a place on occasion, where people come and vent there ignorance. It’s appalling. I think the Natives have been very disciplined actually, I really do. I think their leadership has been very good.

Evan: Incredibly so. I’ve seen it. One last question: what makes the Caledonia/Six Nations situation so unique to watch. Why is this something of a watershed?

Barbara McDougall: Well it’s a watershed for a number of reasons. First of all, the agreement with the crown, the fact that these are peoples that did support the British in the American Revolution. These are people who saved General Brock, if you will, won the war in 1812/1814. These are people who have a legitimate claim on our respect and our trust because they’ve been on our side in some very difficult situations so that makes it unique.

Evan: Those were defining moments because at issue was Canadian sovereignty.

Barbara McDougall: Those were issues of Canadian sovereignty and also defined the relationship between Canada and the US if you go back to the revolution so they were historically very important allies for us. The other important thing is that they have kept their traditional form of government and they have never agreed to give it up where some other Aboriginal groups have so that makes their culture different and different to deal with for the federal government. The federal government on its part under this Minister wants to break down some of the traditional barriers between Native peoples and the so-called rest of Canada, he wants to come up with some creative solutions and that gives us at the table a way of talking that we haven’t seen before.

Evan: Any examples of what one of these creative solutions might be that are different from what we’ve seen before?

Barbara McDougall: Well what we are seeing now is that the traditional government is working with the elected band council. Those are two groups that have not always been the best of friends and have had conflicted jurisdictions so they are coming together - the governance structure which the federal government can’t influence - they have to do that, the governance structure is being examined by the Six Nations and that’s good for them, that’s helpful for them and the other thing is that we are looking at things like the archaeological site, the Plankton road area which is part of the disputed area and we are moving along towards what could be a solution. I don’t know what the next round of discussions will bring but we’ve made more progress than I ever would have thought we would have in six months and I can tell you that as long as the Minister wants me there I’ll be there.

Evan: What could derail it? Obviously, people are looking at September 26th as a possible derailment date. The conclusion of what we’ll do about Judge Marshall’s decision and what will happen, some say there is a tinderbox waiting to explode there - what do you think?

Barbara McDougall: I hope there isn’t a tinderbox waiting to explode there and we’ve got to continue to make sure that the good will and the trust exists on the part of the Six Nations for the process. This is an historic opportunity for them. Their leadership certainly understands and I hope that the people of Six Nations do and I wish with all my heart that the people of Caledonia understand that this is in their interest.


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