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The announcements underscore the Harper government’s
messaging that the best route out of aboriginal poverty
is economic and resource development instead of social
OTTAWA — Canada could face an Arab Spring-style “uprising” if Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t give a clear indication in his meeting with aboriginal leaders here Tuesday that he’s prepared to take their concerns seriously, a B.C. native leader warned Monday.
“We must do better. The honour of the Crown and the very integrity of Canada as a nation is at stake,” said Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in a news release issued by the Assembly of First Nations’ B.C. wing.
“Otherwise, an aboriginal uprising is inevitable.”
An estimated 400 chiefs from across Canada, including 47 from British Columbia and 22 from Alberta, have gathered here for their first face-to-face meeting with Harper since the Conservatives formed government in 2006.
Harper was to meet with a select group of chiefs late Monday afternoon, then meet again until lunchtime Tuesday before departing for Davos, Switzerland, to take part in the World Economic Forum gathering of global political and business elites.
Some participants are optimistic in advance of their meeting with Harper, who won accolades for his residential schools apology and endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
But others remain skeptical.
George Stanley, the AFN’s regional chief in Alberta, said he suspects Harper is simply trying to get a “photo op” to prove he consulted with aboriginal Canadians. “That is a very tainted picture in my eyes,” he said.
The meeting comes in the wake of national and even international interest in the plight of Canada’s aboriginal population following reports of Third World-style poverty at the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat.
“The gathering provides the prime minister with an opportunity to demonstrate that he is a true Canadian” by making substantial commitments on education, health, governance and land claims, said Jody Wilson-Raybould, the AFN’s regional chief in B.C. “The world is watching.”
Phillip cited the handful of violent confrontations involving aboriginal groups starting with the 1990 Oka crisis in Quebec, which included the shooting death of a Quebec police officer and the non-lethal showdown between Canadian soldiers and armed Mohawks.
Phillip said aboriginals from across Canada engaged during Oka in various demonstrations of solidarity across Canada, including a roadblock near Penticton, B.C., in which participants had a single “two-handed” cellphone.
“You needed two hands to hold it” due to its weight and size, Phillip explained.
He predicted a largely peaceful uprising along the lines of the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, but through using social media. “In today’s world that response will be more instantaneous.”
Wilson-Raybould said chiefs have a range of views — ranging from angry to optimistic — and she said she’s holding out hope the Harper-First Nations summit will lead to substantial progress.
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/23/canada-could-face-aboriginal-uprising-if-harper-doesnt-listen-chief-threatens/