This is a guest post by Michael Harris, originally published on iPolitics.ca
Keep the Indians off the front-page.
That, in a phrase, is the Harper approach to aboriginal issues in Canada. With the exception of former prime minister Paul Martin, that has pretty much been the playbook for all federal governments — out of sight, out of mind. Mostly, he’s succeeded.
As every special event organizer in Ottawa knows, feathers, beaded shirts and drums are excellent grace notes on state occasions — provided there is no debate about who’s in charge in every part of the country or why aboriginals remain the poorest people in the land.
The current PM’s preferred method is to deal with native “leaders” in the posh, official backwaters of Ottawa — bureaucracy-to-bureaucracy. Nation-to-Nation exists only in nightmare form for Stephen Harper. After all, that notion implies equality. The PM prefers a venue where he gets to play with his own dice, a place far from the bad water, poor schools and third-world housing of reserve life.
Whether it’s Canada’s natives or its health ministers, Stephen Harper’s preferred place for his opponents is under his thumb. He has replaced the alternating current of democracy with the direct current of oligarchy. Ordinary people remain as invisible to him now as they have been since 2006.
For that reason, Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike has been a disaster for the man who doesn’t like to negotiate, let alone negotiate with a nobody, especially a nobody who has managed to put him under the gun. Remember, this is a guy who wouldn’t even talk to Canada’s premiers. Now they know the drill: stop eating.