December 6, 2009
An interesting book was recently published by Alex Cameron, entitled Power Without Law, but today was the first time that I had heard about it – “N.S. Mi’kmaq urge removal of ‘unacceptable’ lawyer, CBC News, November 2, 2009, www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/11/02/ns-treaty-book-complaint.html. The book is available from the publisher, McGill-Queen’s University Press (http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=2417), as well as www.amazon.ca.
The book promises to be a fascinating read because Cameron represented the Nova Scotia government in the legal battles prompted by the Marshall decision, where the Supreme Court ruled that that aboriginal people had a right to fish commercially. Cameron evidently believes that the decision provided “a false beacon to native peoples”, as well as being “constitutionally unsound”. He also argues that the decision exacerbated conflict and brought violence to formerly peaceful communities. Furthermore, the book reveals the ubiquitous presence of the Aboriginal Industry, which negotiated many agreements worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the basis of the Marshall decision.
Because of Cameron’s book, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs is demanding that he be removed from the position of representing Nova Scotia in constitutional cases involving the Mi’kmaq. Membertou Chief Terry Paul has stated that “there’s no way we can see where the process would be fair and objective, where he has these very strong views”. But Cameron is not a judge in the proceedings; he would be putting forward arguments on behalf of the Nova Scotia government. Should the lawyers for the Mi’kmaq also be prevented from presenting a case that would be favourable to them? It will be interesting to see if the provincial government caves into this political pressure.
It will also be interesting to see how the conflict in Nova Scotia parallels the cases of Caledonia and Ipperwash. Was the conflict and violence that occurred due to the problems of trying to incorporate tribal forms of politics into a national political system?
December 2, 2009
If you scroll down to the post on this blog entitled “Caledonia: A glimpse of aboriginal self-government” (November 23, 2009), you will find a lengthy comment by Mark Vandermaas, the editor of www.VoiceofCanada.ca and co-founder of CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality). I recently became acquainted with Mr. Vandermaas and his organization after he sent me a message in appreciation of Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry. Vandermaas noted that, while not mentioned specifically in our book, other circumstances that we had documented were eerily reminiscent of what had transpired in Caledonia and Ipperwash (interestingly, Albert Howard and I had followed some of the media coverage and hearings pertaining to Ipperwash, and were disturbed by the inconsistencies and subterfuge that we observed. For example, it was maintained that the aboriginal people involved were not in possession of guns, but one person was told by their lawyer to retract their testimony about participating in target practice with a rifle earlier that day).
One of the most significant aspects of Vandermaas’ post is that he notes that “[Caledonia: A glimpse of self-government”] makes an excellent point about non-natives having no expectation of justice under an aboriginal system…” but there should also be the reconition that “native people themselves have been badly victimized by native extremists and by the refusal of police to enforce the law”. Vandermaas then provides the following links that document the problems of lawlessness for vulnerable members of aboriginal communities: http://voiceofcanada.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/voc-speech-at-remember-us-march-oct-0807/ and http://voiceofcanada.wordpress.com/victimizing-native-people/.
This was an unfortunate omission of my previous post. It should be stressed that both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are harmed by lawlessness. As we pointed out in chapter six, “Justice: Rewarding Friends and Punishing Enemies”, in Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry (pp. 129-159), lawlessness in aboriginal communities results in the continued oppression of the most vulnerable members of aboriginal communities – especially women and children – because no mechanism exists to protect them from powerful abusers in the community. “Justice” is kinship-based, and those not related to powerful families in aboriginal communities can be oppressed with impunity.
Some might question how my support for the rule of law in Caledonia is consistent with the historical materialist analysis that informs Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry. How can someone who claims to be on the “left” be supportive of the laws enforced by the Canadian state? Such an argument fails to recognize that equality under law is a progressive principle, and is an advancement over kinship-based “justice” systems. Although the wealthy can often gain advantages in a modern legal system by, for example, hiring highly skilled legal help, we pointed out in Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry that “modern laws serve the interests of society in common, and so, have the general support of all citizens. Equal, objective and impersonal application of the law makes sexual assault of anyone and everyone illegal, regardless of social position” (p. 140).
It should be recognized, therefore, that the non-aboriginal supporters of the “Mohawk Warriors” are right-wing, not left-wing. They are right-wing because they advocate a return to tribal politics, where entitlements are determined by kinship (blood and marriage), not laws that apply universally to the citizenry, regardless of their status and/or ancestry. Accepting the views of the pseudoleftist supporters of the “Mohawk Warriors” would make Canada more unequal than it is right now (and inequality is the essence of right-wing ideologies). In fact, current demands for “aboriginal nationalism” and “sovereignty”, because they connect land to ancestry, have more in common with the ideology of Nazi Germany than left-wing ideas.
Support for the “Mohawk Warriors” exists because it is mistakenly assumed that this criminal gang, which is often acting to protect its drug and gambling turf, represents socialist ideals. Therefore, any argument put forward is accepted, regardless of the implications that this has for working class people in towns like Caledonia and marginalized members of the aboriginal population. Although left-wing thinkers should support those who are struggling for social justice and equality, achieving this will mean challenging the romantic reactionaries that have turned Caledonia into a tribal war zone.