Monday, 10 June 2013

The People Who Own Themselves, & solidarity for Cindy Blackstock

I really appreciated reading this report this morning, adding a layer to my ongoing informational database, a cross-country sampling of Métis peoples and perspectives on both history and identity, on the one hand, and jurisdictional gerrymandering on the other. Much as i appreciate my insecure identity, for all the art that has flown forth through my veins and processes, it would be good at a certain point to be able to relax, in a deeper way, inclusive of both my ancestors and the progeny. Who we are, how we fit, whether that is solely a cue for abuse and exclusion, or if that is in fact a route to both a larger social inclusion and a celebratory affirmation of being... 

Only once do i recall one of my elder women taking me to harvest berries. Do i or my children need harvest rights? Would we know how to implement them if we had them? What was important to me to read in this report will be different from others perhaps-- an affirmation of guitar culture, for one; a wider list of languages, for another; the specificity of history, for a third (farm families or fisher families); the lack of information and the racist elements of that as an ongoing function of racialized oppression, for a fourth. At a certain point, it is time to stop saying too bad, about the requirements for information versus the paucity of it in forms acceptable to settler society/ongoing colonizing forces. It is time to interrupt the systemic hostility, sometimes expressed as a lack of interest, unfunded priorities, sometimes (see Cindy Blackstock, below) much more overtly.

How is it that so many of my relatives have succeeded in registering, in BC and in Manitoba, and yet none in my immediate sibling set have the necessary information? How does what we know through oral tradition fit with what is required from the variety of legitimized organizations? In terms of doing one's own research-- providing information online is a good step, however, it is also the excuse leveled to obscure a policy of hoarding information within organizations, and government bodies, and keeping the numbers low by excluding the impoverished (whether informationally impoverished via scoops and silence or financially impoverished via being visually caste Métis but travelling without papers).

One of the genealogists in the family compiled a huge amount of information going back many generations to Scotland, however, once she received a photograph of the supposed grandmother, and shared it with living elders, the entire line of association collapsed: the actual grandmother was much more brown. Another family member went to the Red River Rolls and found our grandfather, and on the basis of this early research I and several siblings registered with the old Louis Riel Métis Society (BC). Then, word arrived that despite our wholly Manitoba-centric identity, and despite the presence of a same name person in our very region, we were not proven related to either of these, but to an Ontario-based family and fellow. For decades we have known that we are related to a Mohawk family from Fenlon Falls, but the proof remains elusive. In the meantime, I have passed the half-century mark, my eldest has passed the quarter-century mark, and the extreme sensitivity remains: where is your proof?

While there are many points of pride for me in being a Métis and a mixed-blood person with prairie roots and Ontario ancestry, there is also for me a visceral inability to just do the obvious thing, and move back. In a child and woman way, no degree of love or family ties would persuade me to return to a social context that on a body level i equate with high levels of risk to life. I would not encourage my children to return to a place that I am still afraid of, on a body level, despite the many reasonable arguments for reconciliation within the human self and within the human being. I know who my people are. I know where home is. I love to visit my people and my place. But until such time as I can be reassured that I will not be destroyed because of that love and that affiliation, I am much preferring to continue the process of becoming rooted in the territories of the Salish people, and to continue to work to be a good neighbour here. 

There are plenty of Métis around here, and plenty of other diasporic indigenous persons, and if no one ever speaks for us at all, within the official realms of Canada, within a legal and legitimized perspective, if no one ever calls a roll upon which my name is inscribed, well, I can live with that. If my children and I have a possibility of life without untimely and fatal interference; if there is a chance that someone will hire us, that we will succeed in finding mates and growing through our time on the earth with loving connections on "individual," family, community, and other social levels, that is what is important to me. If we can gather enough food and fresh water, fundamentally and as is true of all of our neighbours and our forebears, that is enough to be going on with. We truly do own ourselves.

Is identity a luxury? 

Is it enough for the federal government to say, you may have the scars, but we will fight you tooth and nail through the courts, and we will use the money we pay our lawyers and bureaucrats to obscure the war, to soothe the conscience of Canadian do-gooders, and to enrage the Canadian racists... who do go on, and on, very public in their attacks on indigenous people and groups of Canada, part of a race-capital game that has transformed the simpler racisms of yesterday.


I would like to object formally to the federal government's attacks on Cindy Blackstock. 

On a day when most of Ottawa was justly riveted on the Tom Mulcair-Stephen Harper Senate spending showdown, a chilling report by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart was buried in the news cycle, but it was confirmation of a story Blackstock has been telling since 2011 and an indictment of the way in which the Conservative government is dealing with aboriginal injustice.
Blackstock had become, in essence, an enemy of the state.
In 2007, her organization, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, filed a human rights complaint against Ottawa, alleging discrimination was behind a policy that has Ottawa providing 22 per cent less than the provinces for aboriginal child welfare services.
As the case lumbered through the judicial system, Blackstock first found herself shunned by official Ottawa, then, she alleges, the government began to stalk her in retaliation for her court action, monitoring her personal Facebook page, appearing at her public appearances and repeatedly accessing her Indian status report without reason.
Stoddart rejected the status report complaint and found that no personal information was being accessed by officials monitoring Blackstock’s speeches.
But there was no question in Stoddart’s report that two government departments, justice and aboriginal affairs, accessed Blackstock’s personal Facebook page, even making a formal request with their IT departments to circumvent security and get on the page.
“The question here is whether Canadians are comfortable with the government of Canada going on to your Facebook page in search of information,’’ Blackstock says, “This is not a 17-year-old hacker, this is the Government of Canada and it wasn’t a rogue department, because it crossed two departments.’’

Read the full article:

Conservative government found spying on aboriginal advocate: Tim Harper

MAY 30, 2013

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