Referendum Circus Coming Soon to Your Town

By Lloyd Dohla

Gordon Campbell has declared that he will not tolerate any civil disobedience.

If he and his party persist in the stupidity of a referendum he will have to learn tolerance. The battle of the hustings is over.

The long struggle to protect our rights and our identity from yet another government will continue. The hill will simply be steeper and the obstacles higher. The battle will be fought on the streets and in the media as the political party that has control of the legislative assembly will not, can not understand the very nature of treaty rights and negotiations. The battle will be fought with the traditional methods of civil disobedience.

I hope that it will be confined to sit-ins, peaceful protests, marches etc. but expectations were raised and the frustration level is being elevated. No matter, I think that Mr. Campbell will be a very tolerate man by the time he leaves office.

The call for treaties in BC is the recognition that the lack of a treaty between two nations is an intolerable and unworkable situation. Consider the extensive and complex treaty web that exists between the Government of Canada and the United States. These treaties are essential, for no two nations can live side by side without agreements on how each is to be treated and how it will treat the other.

We might also note that the BC Liberals are not calling for a referendum to settle the Soft Wood Treaty dispute. The first step in the treaty process is the recognition that The First Nations are what the title says, here first and a nation. It is therefore impossible to put the treaty process to a referendum.

A referendum can only take place within the same political entity. The First Nations may have been smothered by the Whiteman but they have never given up their unique culture and political identity.

The approach taken by the BC Liberals reminds of a sales technique I was taught when I sold encyclopedias. It was called sale by assumption. From the time I entered the home I assumed that the occupants were going to buy. The BC Liberals assume that they are dealing with a minority group of Canadians and that we can be treated as such under the laws of Canada. I myself take umbrage with our acceptance of being called Canadians.

The Duke of Wellington once said that simply because a man is born in a stall does not make him a horse. Our being born in what the white power structure calls Canada does not make us Canadians. I am Dene.

They speak of bringing the First Nations in line with the rest of Canadians. Therefore they can decry the provisions that release us from income tax and other treaty rights that give us “free services”.

There was a leader from Northern Saskatchewan, whose name I am sorry to say I cannot recall, who said “We gave them the land, how much more do they want us to pay.” The BC Liberals fail to see that the treaties process is to set up the rules and framework the First Nations are to live by as a nation within the nation of Canada.

We have no choice but to work out treaties that allow us to take advantage of this country’s economic possibilities without losing our cultural and political identities. We must then make sure that the foundations of the treaty process are laid with the recognition that the First Nations are nations that were here first and must be dealt with from that perspective and not as a minority group of Canadians.

A second class minority group of Canadians The BC Liberal attitude is racist in the extreme. We should not listen to the measured tones of the party leadership for the real opinion of the party but the strident and ugly tones and statements of the rank and file.

The rank and file the conciliatory sounding leaders have sworn to listen to. The majority opinion was best expressed in a letter published by The Province whose writer stated that the Indians weren’t using the land when the Whiteman arrived and didn’t fight for it when they had a chance.

The writer didn’t see any need for treaty talks because everyone was Canadian now anyway. This is the real voice and thoughts of the ruling party. This is the attitude the struggle is against.