Opinion

Idle No More divide doesn’t feel like a good thing

The Idle No More movement has raised more questions for me than answers.

These questions range all over the map — some of them policy and governance oriented, and some very personal.

The biggest and most troubling is: How do I have a relationship with a collective, or a group of people who set themselves apart as different?

If I were the one setting them apart as different and acting on my perception of that difference, I strongly suspect I was would be labelled as racist.

Yet, what I am hearing is there are several hundred thousand people across the country insisting they are different.

I have a close friend who is a status Native (his term) whose race, or mine, rarely comes up when we talk.

I relate to him as an individual who happens to have Native heritage, just like I happen to have Ukrainian heritage.

He is proud of his ethnic roots, as am I. He lives his life as a unique individual, as do I, not as some expression of genetic history.

There is no “us” versus “them” in our relationship.

But everything I see from the Idle No More movement creates a huge divide between Native people and other Canadians

The protest signs that use the term “whites” as a pejorative jump out at me. Some threaten to crash our national economy — “bring it to its knees.”

What do I do with that?

Am I supposed to stand by as less than two per cent of Canada’s population blackmails the rest?

Am I impressed that various anti-development and anti-Harper factions are hijacking the Idle No More movement for their own political purposes; free-riding on a movement protesting legitimate Native issues?

What should happen? There must be accelerated efforts to end the egregious poverty that exists on far too many reserves.

But, everyone involved has to be prepared to look for comprehensive solutions — not just more money dumped on small groups of people ill-equipped to manage millions of dollars in handouts.

Treaties must be concluded in B.C. — it is past time to get the job done.  Treaty making has become an industry unto itself and the folks involved have to transform themselves in treaty concluders.

Governance is a pressing issue.  What we have seen during the past weeks shows that there is no one First Nation.

We have a collection of groups of people, but they critically lack the capacity for speaking with one voice.

There is the Assembly of First Nations but leaders of provincial Native groups openly defy the national chief and issue thundering calls for “warriors” to prepare to take the fight to the streets. All of this scares me.

I feel ill at ease when I go downtown. I pass someone on the street and wonder if this is one of the “warriors” who wants to put my livelihood at risk to achieve his or her demands.

I don’t like feeling this way.

Patrick Hrushowy is the president of the Cowichan Valley constituency association of the B.C. Liberal Party. Email him at phrushowy@shaw.ca

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